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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Supreme Court Hears Case That Could Reshape U.S. Election Laws; Rep. Fred Upton, (R-MI), Is Interviewed For His Retirement, Republicans, Speaker; Upton: McCarthy Has "Uphill Climb" To Becoming Speaker; Trump Dealt New Blows As Legal Probes, Political Pressure Mount; Republicans Point Fingers After Walker Loses Georgia Senate Race; Dems Take Victory Lap After Securing 51-49 Senate Majority; Investigators Narrow Motives In North Carolina Power Attack. Aired 5- 6p ET

Aired December 07, 2022 - 17:00   ET



JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Teachers should have the final say on election procedures and redistricting, not state courts.

NEAL KATYAL, AMERICAN LAWYER: The blast radius from their theory would so elections chaos forcing a confusing two track system with one set of rules for federal elections and another for state ones.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): North Carolina Republicans who lead the state legislature are challenging a ruling from their state Supreme Court striking down a redistricting map they drew. They're relying on the independent state legislature theory, the idea that state legislature should have unchecked power to control election procedures and that state courts and state constitutions have no role in checking that power. It's a concept that was first raised by Chief Justice William Rehnquist in the Bush v. Gore decision. And while four conservatives on the court have previously expressed interest in the issue, Justice Brett Kavanaugh seem to push back on it as too broad of an expansion of state legislative power.

BRETT KAVANAUGH, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT: Your position seems to go further than Chief Justice Rehnquist's position in Bush v. Gore where he seemed to acknowledge that state courts would have a role interpreting state law.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Some Trump supporters seized on the theory in 2020 to argue state lawmakers in battleground states have the power to override the will of voters and choose presidential electors who favored Trump. The Supreme Court's ruling likely would not extend to the issue of electors, but some are warning it could be a slippery slope if the court finds in favor of the Republicans here.

ELI SAVIT, PROSECUTING ATTORNEY, WASHTENAW COUNTY, MICHIGAN: It would make the election related decisions of legislators effectively unreviewable by state court judges, cutting neutral arbiters out of the process. And it would allow politically motivated legislators to engage in extreme disenfranchisement of voters.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The hours long debate centered around what the Founders intended when they wrote the Constitution. And the meaning of the elections clause that says the times places and manner of holding elections are for the legislature to determine."

ELENA KAGAN, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT: I think what might strike a person is that this is a proposal that gets rid of the normal checks and balances. Legislators we all know have their own self-interest. They want to get reelected. And so, there are countless times when they have incentives to suppress votes.


SCHNEIDER: And Justice Kagan wasn't the only one asking skeptical questions. The Chief Justice, John Roberts, along with justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett on the conservative side, they all push back on a broad reading of this independent state legislature theory.

And Jake, it really suggests that this court might try to find some middle ground if they do, in fact, end up embracing this theory. Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Jessica Schneider, thank you so much.

Joining us now to discuss this Josh Stein. He's the attorney general in North Carolina, which is the center of this dispute.

So you're in charge of elections in North Carolina. Can you give us some examples of how if the court ultimately rules in favor of letting Republican legislators, let's say hypothetically, but state legislators take over elections in North Carolina could change. Like what's the real risk here? What's the worst case scenario?

JOSH STEIN, (D) NORTH CAROLINA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Far and away the biggest issue for North Carolina has to do with how we redistrict every decade. The way our democracy is supposed to work is people are supposed to choose their representatives, not the other way around. But what our Republican legislative leaders have done is abuse the redistricting process to try to cement themselves into power, no matter the will of the voters. And that is the gravest part of this this case, because, for instance, just in the last decade --

TAPPER: Right.

STEIN: -- we had 13, Congress people, they drew a map that had 10 Republicans and only three Democrats. The court struck that down as partisan gerrymander ordered new maps. And under these new maps in these elections that just happened a few weeks ago, a 50-50 state, which North Carolina is, we elected seven Democrats and seven Republicans. So the people's voice was heard. The people spoke and not the politicians.

TAPPER: And this would loop State Supreme Courts out of the -- out of being able to do that. For instance, that happened in New York on the other side where a Democratic legislature put together a gerrymandered, very greedy gerrymandered district, and the court there said no way and they got rid of that. So I mean, it doesn't matter the party, you're saying the just -- the court needs that be able to overrule the legislative branch.

STEIN: Correct. We learned in civics class, we have checks and balances in our government, we have three branches of government. And what the state legislators in North Carolina are asking the Supreme Court to do is truly radical. They're saying that even though they're a creature of our state constitution, they are not subject to it, that they exist somehow above and apart and can pass whatever redistricting they want, even in violation of the will of the people as expressed in our Constitution and as interpreted by our state supreme court.


TAPPER: So, the case does appear and maybe you disagree with this interpretation, but it does seem as though in this conservative court there are at least four votes in favor of what you describe as a radical interpretation and unconstitutional interpretation, as Governor Cooper says. And it does seem to hinge on Justice Amy Coney Barrett and what she's going to -- how she's going to vote. Here is one of Justice Barrett's questions towards the petitioner. Take a listen.


AMY CONEY BARRETT, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE TO THE SUPREME COURT: I was just going to ask, is your formalistic test just a way of trying to deal with our precedent? Or are you rooting that in the Constitution itself? Because you do have a problem with explaining why these procedural limitations are OK, but substantive limitations are not.


TAPPER: OK. So, first of all, translate that for us because I don't speak legalese. And second of all, where do you think she's leaning?

STEIN: I can't prognosticate. I'm just not a tea leaf reader. And I don't think that they're necessarily for solidly in the camp to uphold the North Carolina legislature's position. I heard three justices, I think there are others who are in play.

But what she's getting at is, there is no constitutional grounding for the theory that these folks are espousing. And so, he's trying to draw -- the state was trying to draw -- the legislators, excuse me, were trying to draw a line that said, there's a difference between substantive restrictions on election rules and procedural ones. And that's just a distinction without any difference.

TAPPER: And -- so you think that probably Alito and Thomas, and what, Gorsuch, are ready to go along with the legislate -- North Carolina legislature?

STEIN: I'm really bad at this, but that's my guess.

TAPPER: That's your guess. And you think that Roberts and Kavanaugh and Barrett might be in the middle right now.

STEIN: Searching.

TAPPER: And then Sotomayor and Kagan are against it, right? Is that --

STEIN: Yes. And Jackson.

TAPPER: And Jackson. All right, Judge Ketanji, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Roberts, some people are saying, and Jessica seem to suggest, might be trying to find like some sort of middle ground on this, which he tried to do with the Dobbs decision and failed, did not get the other justices to go along with him, the conservative ones. What do you make of that? Is there a middle ground to be had here? I know you don't support one. But theoretically, what would one be?

STEIN: I don't think there is one. In our democracy, who possesses political power? Is it the people or is it politicians? Because what the state legislature is asking is, they should be able to control and write whatever districting map they want without any control or oversight by our state constitution as interpreted by our state Supreme Court. And that is radical, that's never really happened before.

And for the Supreme Court to affirm what they are seeking, they are going to be overruling a state Supreme Court interpreting its own state constitution, which never happens.

TAPPER: And the Association of State Supreme Court Justices weighed in on your side of this --

STEIN: That's right.

TAPPER: -- opposing it. But not your specific state Supreme Court Chief Justice in North Carolina. He didn't join.

STEIN: Where it came from the association, I don't know that he embraced the argument that was made by the association.

TAPPER: You don't know why.

STEIN: Well, he was in the dissent on the state Supreme Court decision that said our state constitution prescribes partisan gerrymandering. Partisan gerrymandering offends our constitutions because our state constitution has words that are not in the federal constitution, like free elections and popular sovereignty, which means that all political power rests with the people and the people only, not the politicians in the General Assembly who are trying to draw lines to dictate the outcome of an election. The people should be choosing who represents them in Washington, the politicians in our general assembly should not.

TAPPER: North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, thanks for being here. Really appreciate it. Coming up, dozens arrested in a violent coup plot involving far right extremists. This time, thankfully not here in the United States, in Germany.

Then sources say investigators are looking into possible motives in North Carolina power attack. A look at the extremist behavior at the center of both of these theories. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Topping our world lead, a far right coup attempt in Germany halted by a massive raid across Europe today and what a top German official calls a, quote, major anti-terror operation. Investigators say that more than two dozen suspected members or supporters of the so called Reich Citizens' Movement were plotting to violently overthrow the German government and replace it with their own order. CNN Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen is in Berlin for us.

Fred, officials say this relatively new group followed QAnon ideology and even tried to stage their own January 6 style insurrection in Germany?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, yes, they certainly did and they seem to be plotting right now. They're called the Reichsburger or Reich Citizens. And essentially what they want to do is they want to overthrow the government and the democratic order here in this country and replace it with a monarchy of the style of the German Empire before 1970.

Now, all of this on the face of it, Jake, sounds kind of comical. The guy who's in charge of it is a guy called Heinrich Prince of Royce VIII (ph), he's 71 years old. But the Germans are saying they're taking this very seriously because this group has about 21,000 people following it in total, that's just the Reichsburgers themselves. And they themselves are also affiliated with groups like QAnon with ultra- right extremists.

And the Germans are saying that they've been observing this group for months now. And for them, the point where they said that they needed to act was when the group not just was putting in place what they called Shadow State Structures, but they were also arming themselves, they were forming what they said was a military arm of their groups. There were people who had legally armed themselves, some apparently illegally as well. And that's where the German government now has said that they felt they need to stop this because they believe that this plot was actually taking hold.

And now, one of the things that we have to keep in mind, Jake, is that these conspiracy theorists, groups like QAnon, groups like these that Reichsburger as well, they are pretty big here in Germany. And what happened in the U.S. on January 6, 2021 almost happened here in Germany with these Reichsburger in August of 2020. They had a big demonstration here in Berlin, 10s of 1000s of people showed up. And they tried to storm the German parliament, and they actually nearly made that happen.


So the Germans are saying they're taking this very seriously. They understand that from this group, German democracy is under attack, Jake.

TAPPER: And Fred, how is the German government, how are the prosecutors handling the arrest and the prosecution for these far right suspects?

PLEITGEN: You know, it's absolutely high profile, and it's certainly something that's on the highest security level as well. You know, one of the things that you don't have very often in Germany is these kinds of high profile arrests, it's gigantic raids like this. If you look at what happened today, 3,000 police officers in action, more than 100 objects were searched here in Germany, 25 people taken into custody, some were going to remain under arrest. And a lot of those suspects being flown in choppers to the Central Prosecutor's office here in southern Germany.

The Germans are treating this as state terrorism. They are treating this as people who are trying to overthrow the state as a terror group trying to undermine German democracy, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Fred Pleitgen in Berlin for us. Thank you so much.

Coming up, he's the only person in history who voted to impeach two different U.S. presidents. We're going to talk with Republican lawmaker Fred Upton as he prepares to leave the seats. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, Republicans are pointing fingers after Herschel Walker's ignominious defeat in Georgia last night, capping an extremely disappointing midterm election cycle for the GOP in which Democrats made historic gains in the Senate and governor's races even though it's a midterm year and Joe Biden's in the White House. Republicans did gain of course, a narrow majority in the House of Representatives, but their Leader McCarthy is facing strong resistance from some members of his own party in his effort to win the speaker's gavel. While Donald Trump, who many say, is largely responsible for many of these losses has already announced another run for the White House. So where does the Republican Party go from here?

And joining us now for an exit interview of sorts is Congressman Fred Upton of Michigan who is retiring after 18 terms in Congress. Thanks so much for being here.

REP. FRED UPTON (R-MI): Yes, good to be with you.

TAPPER: There are a lot of people out there that don't want you to retire.

UPTON: They (INAUDIBLE) from some --

TAPPER: Yes. Well, they think --

UPTON: -- all around the country.

TAPPER: They think it's a bad omen for politics, because you're bipartisan and you work across the aisle for the kind of Republican you are, like kind of like a Gerald Ford Republican, right, in that story.

UPTON: I represent part of his old district.

TAPPER: Yes. So do you think your retirement is foreboding for that reason, kind of like, are we ending an era where bipartisanship is coming to a close? Or were your kind of rational Republicanism is coming to an end?

UPTON: I share hope not. And, you know, we have -- I mean, you know, this better than anybody else. We have such a divided government today, Senate, House, I mean, president. The only way you're going to get things done, it's not messaging bills. The only way that you're going to get things done, so whether it's immigration, whether it's, you know, energy, whether it's a debt ceiling, the only way you're going to get things done if you're talking to both sides and you get some unity there. And that was the Reagan model.

You know, I worked for President Reagan before I ran for Congress. I was there at the White House for four and a half years. And his model was a Republican president, democratic Congress, a lot of people in 1980 was like, both hands to vote for him to fill in that circle. But four years later, he won 49 states, all but Mondale's Minnesota. And that's what the country, I think, wants to see.

Forget the R&D next year name, get things done. And the only way you're going to get things done is the Problem Solvers Caucus. It's, you know, a whole bunch of different people working together. And if we don't get that, nothing will happen in the next two years. So ultimately, we got to get there.

TAPPER: You're also a member of the Republican governance group, generally moderate Republicans, but not only, some conservatives --

UPTON: Yes, yes.

TAPPER: -- who just want to get this.

UPTON: There's no litmus test for.

TAPPER: And your group sent a letter warning some of the far right members of the Republican caucus who are threatening to vote against Kevin McCarthy saying don't do this. How do you see this playing out? Or how concerned are you that Kevin McCarthy will not be the next speaker and that there will be just real chaos?

UPTON: Well, of course, the issue is this, little bit of an inside baseball game, but you have to get a majority of those voting for speaker to vote for Kevin. So, we have 434 members who we got one vacancy, one death. So you need 218 if everybody votes for somebody or votes present.

When we had our caucus a couple of weeks ago to elect Steve Scalise is the new majority leader and Tom Emmer is the new Republican whip, Kevin only got 188 votes --

TAPPER: Right.

UPTON: -- out of 222. That meant there was 30 some that voted for somebody else. And he's got to get all but four --

TAPPER: Right.

UPTON: -- on a record -- and that was a secret ballot. And so he doesn't necessarily know who they are. And he can only lose four of them to vote on January 3 --

TAPPER: So you are worried? You are worried?

UPTON: Yes, I am. He's got an uphill climb. It's, you know, he needs every day to try and get there. Just in you know, we had a failure before, Newt Gingrich, when he lost, quote, "lost the speakership," he could not get the 218 votes.

TAPPER: So what does that -- what happens to Republican Party?

UPTON: And so that's how Denny Hastert became speaker because he realized he couldn't 218 rather than suffer an embarrassing losses that, you know, the incumbent speaker, he --


TAPPER: He step down.


TAPPER: So, do you think McCarthy might be forced to do that? And if so --


TAPPER: -- who would --

UPTON: He's going to push hard. And I'm a McCarthy supporter. I, even though I'm not a voter in this thing, because I'm not --

TAPPER: Right.

UPTON: -- going to be in the next Congress, but I've encouraged him and I'm convinced that he will, he'll go to the finish line. He will demand that they may have multiple ballots. And if it fails, if he doesn't 218 and, you know, it's a little bit less than that, because people vote for somebody else, Andy Biggs or whoever it's going to be, they'll have to -- it'll be like the sound of music at the Salzburg Festival. TAPPER: Yes.

UPTON: The von Trapp Family singers.

TAPPER: They never come out.

UPTON: Yes. They never come out. So, we'll have to read caucus down in the bowels of the Capitol and, you know, little arm twisting and they'll come back and maybe they'll vote another time or two.

TAPPER: And I'm not really even sure what the issue is for all of the 30 somethings that did not vote for him to be the minority leader.

UPTON: Whole bunch of different issue.

TAPPER: Well, some of them are people who probably don't respect how much he's deferred to Donald Trump, but some of them probably think he hasn't deferred to Donald Trump enough. Donald Trump's shadow casts a pall on the House Republicans.

UPTON: Yes, yes.

TAPPER: Senator Mitt Romney, just today, called the Trump endorsement, the kiss of death. The last few days of this just been --


TAPPER: -- disaster after disaster. He met with Holocaust deniers, the Trump Organization, you know, was convicted on 17 counts. I don't have time to list all the offense.

UPTON: How about throwing out the Constitution?

TAPPER: Right. He wants to get rid of the Constitution.

UPTON: Good grief.

TAPPER: In your view, is a time for the party just to move on from Donald Trump?

UPTON: We have to. You know, you saw what happened this week in Georgia. I mean, you saw what happened in some races that we should have won. Frankly, the Ohio race.

I mean, Ohio is a red state. Tim Ryan in Cali, he made it really close. But Arizona has been traditionally --

TAPPER: Well, also Michigan, you had a bunch of election liars.

UPTON: They should deny (ph). We can go there too. But I mean, it's the whole top of the ticket, let alone we lost the statehouse in the state Senate for the first time in 40 years. In my own State Rep., I think for the first time is now a Democrat in Central Michigan.

TAPPER: Lastly, Sir, what's next for you? You're going to stay involved? You're -- UPTON: I'm going to be involved.

TAPPER: Good. That's good. And that's what people want it to be.

UPTON: Yes. I'm not quite like Hamilton, you know, I'll be back.


UPTON: You know? But yes, I'm going to be involved.

TAPPER: How? Do you know?

UPTON: I don't know yet. I'm going to be involved with the Problem Solvers Caucus with no labels. I'm going to be in both places, Michigan and back in D.C. I got a lot of friends at both sides of the aisle. And I'd like to think that I can be part of the glue to actually see progress made in the next couple of years.

TAPPER: Well, we're going to want you to come back even without the --

UPTON: I will.

TAPPER: -- title and I will then call you, Fred.

UPTON: All right. You can.

TAPPER: You're always insisting on us calling you Fred.

UPTON: I know.

TAPPER: And I always fight it because your congressman up to today.

UPTON: I got Dana to call me that.

TAPPER: You got Dana to go.

UPTON: You're next. You're next in line.

TAPPER: I'm next. Maybe when you're out of office?


TAPPER: Congressman, it's been an honor. Thank you so much. Good to see you.

UPTON: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina proves even losing will not make him question his loyalty to Donald Trump. Stay with us.



(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: I think the facts support a potential charge against the former president. And, you know, the Justice Department, in my view, needs to hold, you know, everyone equally responsible before the law, and that includes four presidents when they engage in criminality.


TAPPER: That was January 6 committee member Congressman Adam Schiff, Democrat from California earlier today on NPR saying that he believes that the panel should make a criminal referral for Donald Trump to the Justice Department. Let's discuss.

And Nia, let's take a step back and look at what's happened just since Donald Trump declared his candidacy for 2024 last month. Since that declaration, his company was found guilty of criminal tax fraud, he dined with two well-known anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers, he called for the constitution to be terminated, or at least part of it, his tax returns were turned over to a House committee, his attorneys found yet more potentially classified documents in his possession, and Herschel Walker, his handpicked candidate lost the Senate race in Georgia State where every other Republican running statewide won. Pretty remarkable few weeks there for Donald Trump.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. In some ways, none of this is really surprising. This has been who Donald Trump has been for many, many years, dining with anti-Semites, that wasn't really a surprise. The Constitution, saying that it should be terminated, that's what January 6 was, an attempt to, you know, sort of overthrow the Constitution and overthrow our free and fair election. We will see what Republicans sort of reaction to this.

We have seen them essentially say, well, maybe Donald Trump will fall on his own weight, right? They're not necessarily going to push him over, but they at this point, are essentially signaling that he might not be able to get to the finish line. I think that's what Mitch McConnell said more recently. But so far, they're not really to put any sort of active effort into shoving him out the door in over the bridge. Even given you've seen in 2018, how horribly they did in 2020, he lost in 2022, they obviously did horribly, too.

The recent data that I have seen suggests that roughly 45 percent of Republicans still want him to be the nominee, about 45 percent said the same thing for Ron DeSantis. So we'll see how he's able to move forward, if he will, eventually just peter out among Republican voters.

TAPPER: Sarah, for most politicians, one of those things --



TAPPER: -- I listed would be disqualifying and career ending at least for the idea that they would be the party's leading nominee, candidate for president. But Donald Trump does seem to have some immunity for some reason.

LONGWELL: He does. And look, this is the weakest he's been in a long time, though. And -- but we've seen him fight his way out of these corners, right?

You think after January 6 for staging -- you know, attempting a coup, people were abandoning him left and right. But the Republican Party came back to him. We remember how Kevin McCarthy went down to Mar-a- Lago resurrected him. OK.

This is why Republicans cannot do what you're talking. If they just sit back and ignore it, if they hope that he just falls apart on his own, that is -- they have -- they made this mistake over and over again, they have to go on offense against him in these moments when he is weak, otherwise he can sort of regain power. We don't know if these indictments come whether they have a rally round Trump effect from the base, whether Republicans then have to come out and say, oh, no, Trump is being you know, unfairly maligned, like that is how Trump pulls himself back up. And so, they have got to unequivocally start condemning these things. Their silence is the thing that allows him to continue to have life.

TAPPER: And Francesca, there are others, though, who are blaming Mitch McConnell, who are saying the reason Herschel Walker lost is because the Republicans had offered no agenda for him to run on. Senator Marco Rubio tweeted this, "We have a historically unpopular Democratic president, record inflation, a violent crime wave and total chaos at the border and not only did we fail to win a majority, we lost a seat. And the Senate GOP response is going to be to make no changes."

He seems to be suggesting, I don't want to put words in Senator Rubio's mouth, but he seems to be suggesting that they should have a new leader or some sort of shake up when it comes to the Senate Republican Party, not Donald Trump, even though Mitch McConnell did not seem early on to be an enthusiastic supporter of Herschel Walker's candidacy.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: So, what I've been hearing today from sources, though, was that Herschel Walker was the problem, that there was just thing after thing that came out about him. And even his own campaign didn't know about these allegations, I was told by one person close to the situation that they were behind the eight ball constantly, because they didn't even know about these things. And how do you defend someone for something when you don't know that these things are going to be coming out. And as far as Donald Trump is concerned, the same person telling me that at least he didn't come down and hold a rally for them, but that he certainly hurt them by just being Donald Trump himself.

TAPPER: This is the first time since 1934 when the party and control of the White House picked up seats in the Senate and the governor's office. Do you think, as the Democrat on the panel, that we are under estimating how much this is because Democrats did well, ran good campaigns, have a popular agenda and on and on, despite polling that might be to the contrary. What do you think? DOUG THORNELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that Republicans did run flawed candidates, but Democrats ran great campaigns. You know, Warnock raised a lot of money, look at Mark Kelly in Arizona, you look at Maggie Hasson, these folks raised a lot of money and ran really good campaigns. And they turn the campaigns to be referendums on the Republicans in this crazy terrible environment that everyone said the Democrats had. Democrats were able to go 14 and O in the Senate, pick up three seats, three governors, lose one. And they made all the challenges that we thought we were going to have about the environment about historical trends about Biden, it all ended up being these more of a contrast election, more of a choice election where it was Herschel Walker's record that was on, you know, that was being discussed.

It was it was Blake masters in Arizona, it was his record. It was Dr. Oz. So, even though there were issues at the top of the, you know, at -- you know, with economic issues with President Biden, even though all that stuff, all of these campaigns, were able to run very sophisticated efforts where they registered a lot of voters in Georgia, thanks, Stacey Abrams, and also made it about the Republicans which is unbelievable in a midterm where everyone thought we were going to be dead (ph).

HENDERSON: Yes, I mean, it was sort of an -- it was a continuation of the anti-Trump coalition that we saw in 2020, young voters, African American voters, AAPI voters, college educated white voters, suburban voters, that's what they were able to do in state after state. Trump was essentially on the ballot again, because there were these handpick candidates who were speaking like Trump, Trump would come into these different states, whether it was Arizona or Michigan, and they were really able to do it.

And I think if you're a Democrat, particularly if you're looking at Georgia, Democrats have been looking at Southern states to see if they could turn one of those states purple, less red, at least. And in Georgia, it was a perfect storm, Raphael Warnock, a rising star, I think in the Democratic Party --

THORNELL: Absolutely.

HENDERSON: -- we're going to be talking about him for 2024 if Biden doesn't run or certainly 2028. And he was really able to pull it together. And incumbents were just strong.


CHAMBERS: On the Republican aside, though, going back to what you asked about the Republicans who are speaking out against Donald Trump, OK, more and more distancing themselves from him. But how many of them who are considering presidential elections are actually going to run in 2024? And I think that's where this conversation moves now, which of them are willing to challenge him on a debate stage? And we certainly just don't know the answer.

TAPPER: You know, every -- and talk about Georgia, every Republican running statewide in Georgia, except for Herschel Walker won and won handily, David French has a column out today basically saying that Governor Kemp has shown that there is a path for conservatives to distance themselves from Donald Trump and win elections.

LONGWELL: Yes, but the thing is, is that Republicans are boxed in now, right, because their base wants these very Trumpy candidates in these primaries. But then they get these candidates that can't win general elections and the gap between what the base voters want and what general election swing voters, Independent voters and soft Republican voters will accept, is just getting bigger and bigger for the Republicans.

But I don't want to take anything away from Democrats. But I will say in part of that coalition that defeated so many of these candidates included a lot of Republicans, in Arizona 11 percent of the people who voted for Katie Hobbs over Kari Lake were Republicans. And so, Republicans are rejecting these candidates at significant chunks. And that's a big part of what's making the difference.

THORNELL: Can I just say one thing on that? You're absolutely right there were Republicans crossovers. But if you look at a lot of these Democrats who ran from start to finish, they didn't have to change their messaging. And if you look at an Arizona, if you look at some of these places, you had Republicans who were so far out there on the right. And then by the time they won and got to the general, they couldn't pivot back to the middle.

TAPPER: They tried to.

THORNELL: They tried to, but they couldn't do it.

TAPPER: Like Blake Masters.

THORNELL: Blake Masters tried to, Oz, but it was too late. And that's a big -- and I think if you look at how Democrats ran it, they were able to run from start to finish as these candidates that were accessible in --

LONGWELL: They were normal enough.

THORNELL: Normal enough.

LONGWELL: The Republicans would vote for that.

THORNELL: Absolutely. And --

LONGWELL: Hundred percent.

THORNELL: -- they didn't have the extreme label that Republicans, you know, had on them, so.

TAPPER: All right, thanks one and all. Appreciate it.

North Carolina is now offering a reward for information in the power substation attacks as investigators zero in on possible motives. We'll talk about that next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In North Carolina, investigators are zeroing in on two possible motives behind the attack on the power stations that left more than 40,000 people without power. The first is the writings of extremist groups in online chat forums encouraging attacks on critical infrastructure. The second, the recent disruptions of LGBTQ events across the country. This comes as the state is now offering a $75,000 reward in the case for information leading to the arrest of whoever did it.

Joining us now to discuss is Chris Krebs. He is a former Cybersecurity Director for the Department of Homeland Security.

Chris, thanks for joining us. You noted to us that in the last three weeks there have been six incidents at substations, this one in North Carolina, the others in the Pacific Northwest. Do you think that they're possibly related?

CHRISTOPHER KREBS, FORMER DIRECTOR, DHS CYBERSECURITY: It's possible. It's still in the early days of both in our all the investigations. But what's important to notice of those six, two have included gunfire, others were vandalism and arson. So -- and that's just since November 17. So, it's been a pretty active threat space.

And, you know, notably North Carolina has the most significant outage, 40,000 residents, plus the hallmarks of a coordinated intentional attack. Two substations, very intentional targeting of critical equipment on the site. So, that tells me that this is much more than just a, you know, a local hunter or something that taking potshots at equipment.

TAPPER: Yes. And it would seem just based on conversations we've had about this, substations are -- they tend to be remote, they tend to be places that people don't even necessarily know about, so there would seem to be, you know, more strategy and conspiracy --


TAPPER: -- to do such a thing.

KREBS: Well, look, there are about 55,000 substations, energy substations throughout the United States. I would suspect most of your viewers see so many of them throughout the day that they actually kind of, you know, glaze over --

TAPPER: Right.

KREBS: -- they don't really notice how kind of present they are. This one in particular, though, rural county, more counties, it's fairly rural. It was actually a write off a highway, but you know, still up against a wooded area. So, it was secluded, yet probably accessible. It was, I will note though, a lower voltage substation, and when you think about critical substations, it's the higher voltage substations that may be a fed, you know, Raleigh or Charlotte in the state of North Carolina that would have been larger, that would have had probably a much more robust security presence.

TAPPER: So, what do you make of the two motives investigators are narrowing it down to far right extremism and anti LGBTQ extremism?

KREBS: Well, on the first on the far right, we know through doctrine, through planning documents that have been posted online, and prior convictions and admissions of guilt by far right extremists, including white supremacist, that this is part of their plan. That they intend to target the grid, take, you know, communities offline, create civil unrest. And then in some cases lead to actually race wars.

And that was the case in February of 2022, this past February, where three men pled guilty to planning an attack on substations throughout the country. So, we know it's part of their doctrine. We've seen it happen over the last several years.

On the second piece, the LGBTQ community, that was some of the early speculation online. There was a group that had, you know, kind of issued a soft call to action in Moore County. So, it lines up, I think, with available information. Again, too soon to say and there's still a long way to go in the investigation.


TAPPER: How do we protect our critical infrastructure from these kinds of attacks, given how many targets there are?

KREBS: Well, I think the real concern here, the real challenge is that the threat matrix, so to speak, for the grid is it's increasing unfortunately. You've got extreme weather events, you have these human driven domestic extremist events, you have cyberattacks, right? So it's incredibly complicated and complex.

Utility groups are spending a significant amount of funding. It's actually one of the best coordinating groups with the federal government, law enforcement in the agency that I run, CISA, as well as Department of Energy, but those threats are so diverse. And this one, specifically, domestic extremism, I think this is where the federal law enforcement and state law enforcement are really going to have to step up and intervene, left of boom, which means before the event or incident happens so that we can stop the bad thing before it actually happens. And you know, I personally, I find it hard to believe that energy companies need to, you know, should be responsible for shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars to protect a bunch of you know, crackpots that are trying to bring down society.

TAPPER: So you're saying go after the crackpots before they get to the substation?

KREBS: Deterrence in a way like that impose costs and pose consequences. And I think that's really one of the most critical aspects of this event is we need the caller and the perp walk to send a strong message to the community to these people that are planning these events that it's -- that we're not going to tolerate it.

TAPPER: Chris Krebs, thanks as always. Good to see you, sir. A major highway not being threatened by lava from the erupting volcano in Hawaii. Mother Nature could make conditions even worse.

But first, a programming note.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sunday, it's the time of year to be inspired and honor some of humanity's best.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have found homes for almost 3,000 dogs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our communities, my center used to be the community drug house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want my grandchildren to have it better than what I have it today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just always wanted to serve other people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Human suffering has no borders. People are people and love is love.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Join Anderson Cooper and Kelly Ripa live as they percent of the 2022 Hero of the Year.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CNN Heroes, An All-Star Tribute, Sunday at 8:00.




TAPPER: Lava from Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano has crept to less than two miles from a major interstate highway on Hawaii's Big Island. All areas adjacent to the Daniel K. Inouye Highway near the lava flow had been closed, although the highway itself remains open in both directions as of now. There's also a 50 percent chance of rain which might create dense fog and make driving hazardous.

In our national lead, jury deliberations are underway in the Los Angeles sexual assault trial of disgraced former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Weinstein faces two counts of forcible rape and five counts of sexual assault involving four women. The 70-year-old is already serving prison time for a 2020 rape and criminal sexual act conviction in New York. CNN's Natasha Chen is following this current trial in California.

And Natasha, bring us up to speed and what each side has argued? NATASHA CHEN, CNN NTIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, prosecutors are describing this Hollywood Titan using his power to prey on and silence women. The prosecutor in the closing statement said, quote, it is time to bring the kingmaker to justice.

Now you're thinking he's already been brought to justice in the New York trial where he was convicted sentenced to 23 years in prison, well, he's appealing that case, which then makes this L.A. case extremely critical. There were actually more women who testified in this trial compared to the New York one. And the sentencing range is far greater as well. If convicted here, he could get 60 years to life.

The prosecutors kept describing a pattern of behavior here. As you mentioned, seven charges involving four women, one of whom is the wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, two of the other accusers describe incidents that happened allegedly one day apart from each other in 2013. Now, the defense on the other hand, tells the jury that the prosecution is asking them to simply take the women's word for it without a whole lot of evidence, the defense also called the accusers, quote, "fame and fortune seekers" and said that they benefited from what they call a transactional relationship.

The jury has been deliberating since late Friday. So we'll see what they come up with, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Natasha Chen, thank you.

Today marks 81 years since Japan's surprise attack on the U.S. Navy's Pearl Harbor base in Hawaii, the U.S. lost more than 2000 lives when the Japanese Imperial Navy destroyed American battleships and airplanes.

Frank Emond survived that attack. He was a French horn player and was getting ready to play the Morning Colors on December 7, 1941. Emond is now 104 years old. Just last month, he broke his own Guinness world record as the world's oldest conductor. Emond led the U.S. Air Force bands rendition of In the Mood here in D.C.

Video of Emond's accomplishment has now been viewed online more than 3.7 million times. We salute him and we salute all of his colleagues and his former shipmates. May their memories be a blessing.

Our coverage continues now with, one, Mr. Wolf Blitzer in a place next door that I like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'll see you tomorrow.