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Don Lemon Tonight

GOP California Candidate Spreads Lie; President Biden Supports Governor Newsom; Republican Governors Pushing Against New Vaccine Mandates; Former President Trump Abused His Power; U.S. Capitol Police Bracing for Protests. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired September 13, 2021 - 22:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST (on camera): Look around and see what did different people who want you to listen to them, what do they want to own?

"DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts with its big star, D. Lemon right now. D is very familiar with this idea. You know, what do you want to own? Do you want to own that the vaccine was bad? I don't think so. Not long term. It is sketchy, which is why Trump doesn't own the vaccine the way he could. He could say hey, I brought it to you. Everybody should bring it. Look how good everything is. Take it, take it.

He doesn't because he got booed in Alabama and he knows that there are too many in the base he doesn't want to upset. Do they want to own removing Roe v. Wade and telling women from 8 to 80 you don't get to decide on your body? Let's say from 18 to 80 because voting age.


CUOMO: You don't get to determine, we're talking about freedom of choice when it comes to the vaccine, not for you, ladies.

LEMON: Yes. Well, and do you want to own this sort of end run around the legal system and what is should be constitutionally correct and possible when and if Democrats one day want to do a similar law for taking guns? Or people who are anti-guns? What if they say we can do this in our state for guns? So why don't we do that? And then the Supreme Court won't be able to challenge this and we can go around and getting your guns.

I'm just saying, you know, it's a hypothetical. But that's what conservatives should really be concerned about is what does this -- what does this set for a precedent for? Are you setting a precedent in the future? I know you think it's a win when it comes to Roe v. Wade, but it is also a win for your opponents when it comes to other laws that you may not like and that you're trying to get an end run, they're trying to get an end run around.

That's what -- and do you want to something that has to do with exactly what is happening now. Do you want to be and we have a big, a big in-depth investigation on it on our show now? Drew Griffin is going to do it.

The party who cries foul every time an election doesn't go your way. It's rigged. You know, the guy out in California now, the talk show guy who is running, who is, you know, who is trying to have -- who is the leader in the recall setting up an election fraud hot line already.


CUOMO: He's losing -- hold on a second. He's the leader except for anybody else.

LEMON: Yes, but that guy.

CUOMO: OK. It's 69 percent is anybody else.


LEMON: But that guy --

CUOMO: He is not Schwarzenegger.

LEMON: No, not at all. He's a Twitter troll. He's always like trying to goad me and me and anybody else. He wants to get on the show. He wants -- I just -- people like that who should be ignored and that's what I do. I don't know about other people. But for years this guy has been trying. I'm like who is this guy? Why does he keep like --


CUOMO: It says something. It says something that he's leading the pact on the right.


CUOMO: It says something about where they are.

LEMON: Yes. Amen. I agree with that.

CUOMO: It says something about where they are. And I think it makes the answer to a lot of your questions, yes.

LEMON: That's what they want to own?

CUOMO: Yes, because they do want to be the ones who say the elections are all rigged. Yes, they do want to play short ball and get the wins when they can. You know, this was the same argument they used with the Democrats about the filibuster, right? And the Democrats at this point don't have the votes to blow it open and see what happens.

It would be interesting to see what the Republicans would do. Now people will say well, that's not fair. The Republicans could have done it and they chose not to. They didn't need to.

Have they ever shown that they won't do what they need? Look what they're doing with the vaccines. The same people who are telling you it's a freedom of choice for you to get it as if there will be no consequence --

LEMON: It's not --

CUOMO: -- are all vaccinated.

LEMON: Yes. All vaccinated and their places of unemployment have vaccination rules and policies. And they are saying my body, my choice but they're not saying that in Texas, they're not saying that when it comes to that law.

CUOMO: They're saying at the same time how dare you fine us for this?


CUOMO: And DeSantis wants to fine schools that tell kids to put on masks. Look, I'm telling you --


LEMON: This is not that hard, Chris.

CUOMO: What did you say?

LEMON: This is not that hard. It's just a little piece of -- and you know you can hear me. Don't try that craziness. It's not that hard. What are you going to -- is it that hard to put a piece of cloth over your face?

CUOMO: It's your choice.

LEMON: It's my -- OK, let me tell you this.

CUOMO: It's your choice.

LEMON: No, it is my choice. You know what is my choice is that I have a co-worker who has a compromised immune system. So my choice is to be a real person, a citizen, someone who cares about other people and to wear this mask into the office even though I'm fully vaccinated.

CUOMO: Amen. Amen.

LEMON: Even though I get tested all the time. That is my choice. It's not my choice to compromise that person.

CUOMO: Amen.


CUOMO: And if it is, it is your choice. Nobody is saying you must take the vaccine. You don't get to go where we're going to be.

LEMON: I agree. You know what?

CUOMO: You don't get to go where we're going to be because we don't have to, the majority, people who did the right thing don't get to live at the behest of the minority. LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: It's not how it works.


LEMON: Well, you know I've been saying that since the beginning. I got a whole lot of gut for it saying hey, if -- maybe you shouldn't be doing that and that there should be vaccine mandates, but you know what I got called. But I stand by that. And there should be. Just as you can't go to school, you can't send your kids to school. You have three kids who have gone to school, they have to be vaccinated for bunch of things.


CUOMO: Look, we've already had --


CUOMO: -- not us, but I'm saying the society has decided.


CUOMO: Mumps, polio, rubella, smallpox. I don't even know how effective any of those vaccines are.


CUOMO: I just do it, because I know that's how my kids go to school.

LEMON: I do it because the science tells me that it's --


CUOMO: But I'm saying, look, if I thought there was no science for, that would be different.


CUOMO: But we've all accepted this already.


LEMON: You know, you need to --

CUOMO: This isn't a new issue.

LEMON: Can we -- I'm going to -- I wish I had her number. I would give you Nicki Minaj's phone number so you could text her after this to talk about science and what it really means. And you know, I don't if you've seen the whole thing.


LEMON: Go check it out. CUOMO: You know me better than that.

LEMON: I got to run.

CUOMO: I had to figure out who that was for a second. I thought she was playing for the Ravens. Is that who (Inaudible) voters were talking about tonight?

LEMON: See you later.

CUOMO: I love you, D. Lemon.

LEMON: I love you, too.

This is Don Lemon Tonight. We got a lot to talk about.

President Joe Biden in California at this hour campaigning for governor Gavin Newsom to hold on to his office. The governor is up in the polls. And that's got Republicans threatened with losing an election, crying foul, they're doing it already, does that sound familiar to anybody? Foul. It's rigged. If I lose, it's rigged.

I mean, that's an old one. If I lose it's rigged. That goes back to '15, '16. It is the big lie all over again. Bogus claims of voter fraud yelling about mail-in ballots refusing to accept the results if they don't go your way. The big liar himself calling California's election rigged.

And a giant scam. You know, I hate -- it's so asinine and so juvenile and so ignorant. Like, it's just, it feels beneath the dignity of journalism to report on that. It's almost like it should be another like conspiracy theory realm that you just go why we even bothering?

Controversial talk show host Larry Elder flat-out claiming Democrats will cheat.


LARRY ELDER, CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: We have lawyers all set up all ready to go to file lawsuits in a timely fashion. They're going to cheat. We know that.


LEMON (on camera): At this point we know election denialism is baked into the GOP platform. In our very new CNN poll nearly 6 in 10 Republicans and Republican leaning independents say believing the former president won in 2020 is an important part of being a Republican, what it means to them. That's what it means to them. It's very important part.

It's incredibly damaging to our democracy. Nearly 60 percent of Republicans think part of being a member of their own party is blindly accepting a big lie, the big lie that our free and clear election was fraudulent and that the loser actually won. Remember, it was the most secure election in American history. Even --

there is absolutely no evidence of widespread voter fraud and case after case has been thrown right out of court. Even though the big lie of bogus election fraud is what fueled the insurrection at the capitol.

And then there are all those governors playing politics with the pandemic of the unvaccinated. Today, it sort of -- again, Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis seems determined to build his political brand around opposition of vaccine and mask mandates. Now he's threatening to fine communities in his state for requiring government employees to get vaccinated, $5,000 for each violation.

So, what happened to freedom? How is fining counties and cities potentially millions of dollars, how is that freedom?


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): So, if you look at places here in Alachua County like the city of Gainesville, I mean, that's millions and millions of dollars potentially in fines.


LEMON (on camera): Yes. Leave it up to the people, right? Freedom. I guess it's just freedom for the vocal minority to walk around unvaccinated while politicians play to the base while they pander to their voters and ignore the facts. And in the face of all this, the warning lights are blinking red. And there is no excuse this time for being taken by surprise.

Here is what a source is telling CNN, that police are bracing for violence during Saturday's justice for J6 rally, OK, whatever. Justice for J6 rally in preparing for some of the protesters attending the event to be armed, right wing rally at the scene of the crime eight months after blood thirsty rioters stormed the seat of democracy, a rally in support of rioters jailed after the insurrection on January 6th.

One of the darkest days in American history when lawmakers were forced to run for their lives, when rioters savagely beat police officers trying to defend the capitol. Capitol police issuing an emergency declaration which goes into effect about the time of the rally. Temporary fencing will go back up just like it did after January 6th.


And it's not just talk, OK? A California man arrested today with a bayonet and machete in his truck, which had a Swastika and other white supremacist symbols painted on it. The truck had a picture of an American flag in place of a license plate.

Remember when people used to block out their license plates when they would do those Trump rallies? So, he blocked out his license plate with the American flag. What's old is new again. By the way, he was parked near the Democratic National Committee headquarters around midnight. All that happening right now right under our noses. That's why what one former president said about another former president is something that we all need to pay attention to in this current moment.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: In the weeks and months following the 9/11 attacks, I was proud to lead an amazing resilient united people. When it comes to the unity of America, those days seem distant from our own. Maligning force seems at work in our common life that turns every disagreement into an argument and every argument into a clash of cultures. So much of our politics has become a naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment. That leaves us worried about our nation and future together.


LEMON (on camera): A naked appeal to anger, fear and resentment. Look, however you feel about George W. Bush, he wasn't, when he was in office he wasn't really known for his eloquence. He wasn't a great orator like Barack Obama. But what he said right there was the truth or as they say facts. He didn't even mention the former president's name. He didn't have to. Even though many people wish that he had done it. Me, included.

We need to -- we all know who he's talking about. The utterly unpresidential former occupant of the White House who isn't part of the president's club and probably wouldn't want to be -- will actually, I take that back. He would really like to be part of the president's club but he is an outcast. And deservedly so.

Confronted with what President George W. Bush said he railed, he winced, he attacked in a statement if you can call it that. Really, it's just a collection of insults. OK. Always.

Former President George W. Bush was in office on 9/11, he knows the deadly toll of the violent extremism, of violent extremism of foreign and domestic extremism. And he has a warning for this country 20 years after that terrible day.


BUSH: There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But then there is disdainful pluralism in their disregard for human life in their determination to defoul national symbols. They are children of the same foul spirit and it is our continuing duty to confront them.


LEMON (on camera): So, foreign terrorists on 9/11 attacked us for our freedom, for our democracy, the terrorists on January 6th did the same thing, attacking our capitol, attacking our freedom and our democracy.

Listen, the number of deaths is completely different. It's not exactly apples to apples. But the principles behind it, same. They were our fellow Americans, though, trying to overturn our free and fair election, trying to stop the peaceful transfer of power and as President Bush said, children of the same foul spirit. It is our continuing duty to confront them.

So that said, the next on this program, the inside story of just how close we came to a coup in this country and just how much danger there is to our democracy even today, how the big lie is still alive and well right now.



LEMON (on camera): Right now, we're going to talk about a dangerous and pivotal point in American history. How the actions of former President Trump and his supporters could damage our democracy. Trump not only insists that he won the election, his lies made millions of Americans doubt the U.S. election system.

He relentlessly pressured local election officials and the Justice Department to help reverse the results of the election. And when that didn't work, his supporters turn to changing voting laws all across the country. To understand just how dangerous this is for our democracy, you have to look at the entire scope of the actions by Trump, his inner circle and Republican politicians who are clinging to his lies. It started on election day and is still going on right now.

Here is CNN's senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Donald Trump's attempt to subvert the election started long before anyone voted.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're not going to lose this except if they cheat.

GRIFFIN: Continued on election night.

TRUMP: We want all voting to stop.

GRIFFIN: Sparked an attempted insurrection.

TRUMP: We fight like hell.

GRIFFIN: As disgraceful as Trump's public words were, behind the scenes Trump and his inner circle were using all the powers of the presidential office to cheat, not to stop the steal. But to start it.

UNKNOWN: It was an attempt to undermine the will of the people. It was profoundly anti-Democratic and potentially criminal.

GRIFFIN: The 45th President of the United States tried to coerce the Department of Justice to lie on his behalf while also strong-arming state and local election officials to overthrow the election.

UNKNOWN: There is no question that our democracy is at a breaking point.

GRIFFIN: In the weeks following the election, Trump and his inner circle would wage a high-pressure campaign.

TRUMP: Hello, Francis. How are you? Hello Brad and Ryan and everybody.


GRIFFIN: At least 30 contacts between Trump and Republican officials in crucial states, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Arizona.

UNKNOWN: This is the White House operator.

CLINT HICKMAN, FORMER CHAIR, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: I was out to dinner with friends and a phone call came in from Washington D.C. of a number I did not recognize.

GRIFFIN: Clint Hickman a Trump supporter who was then the chair of the Maricopa County, Arizona board of supervisors couldn't believe it.


UNKNOWN: I was calling to let you know that the president is available to take your call if you're free.

GRIFFIN: Hickman let the call go to voice mail. Days later, the White House operator called back. Hickman again refused to pick it up.

HICKMAN: Obviously I thought it was going to be something to do about election and operations and I was not prepared to talk about that. The governor of Arizona had already certified it. The attorney general of Arizona and the secretary of state had certified it.

GRIFFIN: Records now reveal dozens of text messages and multiple phone calls from the White House, from Rudy Giuliani, and also the head of Arizona's Republican Party.

KELLI WARD, CHAIR, ARIZONA REPUBLICAN PARTY: I just talked to President Trump and he would like me to talk to you.

GRIFFIN: Trying to put pressure on the Maricopa County Republican supervisors to intervene in a free and fair election that Joe Biden won. Supervisor Bill Gates believes it was an attack on the Constitution.

BILL GATES, SUPERVISOR, BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA: I saw that a voice mail had popped up. It was just unbelievable to hear, you know, instantly I knew who it was, I knew that voice. You know, Rudy Giuliani America's mayor.

GIULIANI: Bill, it's Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's lawyer. I have a few things I'd like to talk over with you. Maybe we can get this fixed up. GRIFFIN: The Maricopa County board of supervisors had this subpoena

demanding election officials hand over millions of ballots to state Republican politicians who were launching fraud investigations.

GATES: He wanted us to turn over the ballots as soon as possible so that the state Senate could get to work.

GRIFFIN: Get to work doing?

GATES: One of the objectives is to get their hands on the ballot before the January 6th hearing in the capitol. They wanted evidence to support decertifying the election.

GRIFFIN: It's Constitution be damned really.

GATES: Right. One of the main reasons I became a Republican in the 1980s was I thought the Republican Party was the party of the rule of law, the party of the Constitution.

GRIFFIN: In Michigan, a Wayne County Republican election official voted to certify the election, then changed her mind after a call from Donald Trump.

UNKNOWN: I have provided them with a copy of my affidavit rescinding my vote.

GRIFFIN: In Georgia, Trump not only called the state's top election investigators.

TRUMP: Whatever you can do, Francis.

GRIFFIN: But in what is now being investigated as a possible crime, Trump tried to convince Georgia's secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger to change the vote count.

TRUMP: There is nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you've recalculated.

RICHARD L. HASEN, LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE: It seems clearer and clearer that Trump was actually trying to steal the election. He was actually trying to create conditions where he would be declared the winner even though he actually lost the election. It is incredibly dangerous and destabilizing.

GRIFFIN: And perhaps most dangerous of all, President Trump even tried to use the United States Department of Justice to pull off his attempted coup. In the notes of a December 27 phone call now handed over to congressional investigators, Trump told his acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and his deputy, Richard Donoghue just say that the election was corrupt, leave the rest to me and the r congressman.

Both men refused Trump's request and both have testified before the Senate judiciary committee chaired by Senator Dick Durbin.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: What was the most shocking to you? SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Just how directly personally involved the

president was and the pressure he was putting on Jeffrey Rosen. It was real, very real and it was very specific.

GRIFFIN: Trump tried to pressure Rosen to file a lawsuit in the Supreme Court to declare that the Electoral College votes cast cannot be counted. His chief of staff was repeatedly emailing top DOJ officials at least five times asking they investigate conspiracy theories about voter fraud.

MATT MASTERSON, FORMER SENIOR CYBERSECURITY ADVISER, CISA: It's an attempt to use the Department of Justice in order to influence the election that's run at the state and local level. So, it's dangerous, it's inappropriate and it should be inacceptable.

GRIFFIN: And Trump had been secretly working with someone inside the Department of Justice, an official from the environmental division named Jeffrey Clark who was pushing allegations of voter fraud despite all the evidence against him. Clark urged his bosses to sign a letter to Georgia's governor containing a lie.

It falsely claimed that the Justice Department identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election and advised the governor to convene in special session. Acting Attorney General Rosen and the deputy A.G. Donoghue said no.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): The country came very close to a coup.

GRIFFIN: It was the violence of the insurrection on January 6th that finally ended Trump's plans to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as president.


Yet, with no proof, with no facts, with no evidence at all that fraud played any role in his defeat, Trump has convinced his base of support that the electoral system of the United States quite is corrupt. Former Republican New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman who started a group to safeguard U.S. democracy says this is a threat to the country.

FMR. GOV. CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN (R-NJ): Abraham Lincoln said if the government falls, it will fall from within and we have to remember those things because it can. It could happen.


GRIFFIN: One thing that Bill Gates that Maricopa County supervisor told me, Don, is that if it weren't for Republicans who were willing to risk their careers and were standing up for what's right, there might have been a very different outcome and some of those elections officials are dealing with threats to their own lives. Don?

LEMON: All right, Drew. Well, Trump's big lie damaging our democracy and now it's embedded in

the GOP party platform. Where does our country go from here? I've got Preet Bharara and also Amanda Carpenter to talk about it right after this quick break.



LEMON (on camera): Back now covering CNN's new reporting about Trump's efforts to overturn the election, a perfect example of how the big lie is living is California. We go live now the president of the United States speaking because of the recall in California, recall election of Gavin Newsom. Gavin Newsom's opponent already claiming election fraud before the election already happened.

So, let's bring in now CNN senior legal analyst and former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, and CNN political commentator Amanda Carpenter.

I mean, what's happening there, the president speaking is a perfect example of what we're dealing with to this today because of the big lie.

Good evening to both of you.

Preet, there's been a huge effort to try to shove what the president did, right, with this coup, with this attempted coup down a memory hole with elected Republicans. Why is that such a big mistake?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Because for the reason you're describing. There is a lot to be concerned about, upset about and even angry about with respect to what that segment showed. That you had a sitting president who went out of his way again and again and again to weaponize his power, abuse his power with respect to the Justice Department and other officials to try to steal an election that he had lost.

So that's something that's in the past and was averted. The concern you have is not only was that attempt and attack on the Constitution, it was also an attack on truth and it also planted the idea in the minds and hearts of people like Larry Elders and others. Well, that's not a bad ploy for me. If I win, I win. And it was justified. And if I lose it must have been fraud.

And it also causes people to realize there's a reporting on what happened to the Justice Department. There were a few people at the top who resisted the entreaties of the president of the United States.

The lesson that people will learn from that who do not want to act in good faith and want to follow in Donald Trump's footsteps, is make sure you put power in the hands of people who are more liable and who can be persuaded to do terrible things like that Jeffrey Clark character who also came up in the segment, rather than have people who are adhere to the rule of law and doing what's right. So, the future harm both in the California election and in the 2022

midterms and the 2024 election and elections all over the country, the concern is that people will do what Donald Trump did because they think it might help them and that's the thing to be concerned about the most, I think.

LEMON: Yes. Amanda, you're shaking your head in agreement. Why is that, what do you have to say?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, because I absolutely agree that this is an ongoing event. I was so glad to see CNN sit down with those Republicans in Arizona who have really been on the front line of this ongoing attack on democracy. I mean, they have had their elections. Elections that withstood three professional audits but through this process a lot of Trump supporters have discovered that there is a lot of power in Republican state legislatures.

The kind of power that allows just a hand full of extremely partisan actors to seize ballots, turn them over to other partisan actors that results in the destruction potentially of election equipment and there is still -- you know, no report, the answer to no one in these kinds of investigations aren't to produce evidence. They serve it as my belief to keep the big election lie going.

And you have this kind of sham audits spreading to other states as we speak. Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Texas. And so what these partisan Trump supporters are learning as a test run for future elections is what these state legislatures can do, and so while I am very concerned about their rhetoric, about rigged election, there is a lot of action happening on the ground that deserves a lot of attention, concern and scrutiny to prepare for what is absolutely coming in 2022 and '24.

LEMON: I -- right on. And I appreciate both of your comments. And I want you both to stick around, Preet and Amanda. The fallout of the big lie now leading to the hollowing out of election administrations across this country and some officials are fearful for their lives.



LEMON (on camera): One of the dangerous consequences of Donald Trump's big lie is that tens of millions of Americans mistakenly believe Trump won the 2020 election. Some of them are threatening violence against election officials for just doing their jobs.

Once again, here is CNN's senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin. And we have to warn you here the story you're about to see contains graphic language.


GRIFFIN (voice over): In Milwaukee, elections executive director Claire Woodall-Vogg has been bombarded by hate ever since an extremist right wing web site Gateway Pundit published lies about her. UNKNOWN: You rigged my fucking election. You fucking piece of shit.

You're going to try you and we're going to hang you.

UNKNOWN: We're coming for you, Claire.

UNKNOWN: I really sincerely hope you get what's coming to you. You fraudulent fuck.

GRIFFIN: What was your immediate reaction to what was on that machine?

CLAIRE WOODALL-VOGG, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MILWAUKEE ELECTION COMMISSION: It is frightening because there are crazy people out there and while that might just be them blowing off steam, I think it's clear that they believe it and I think only someone who truly believed it would act on it.

GRIFFIN: How many threats do you think you have gotten?


WOODALL-VOGG: I think over 150.

GRIFFIN: A 150 threats?

WOODALL-VOGG: Yes. So I received a letter very colorful language to my home, which did make me very frightened and that I have a three month old and a four-year-old to think about and all because I did my job and made sure that all of the city of Milwaukee's ballots were counted.

GRIFFIN: What did that letter say?

WOODALL-VOGG: Am I allowed to tell you the swear words on camera?


WOODALL-VOGG: It said you are a fraudulent cunt. A lot of the e-mails called me a cunt, a bitch, a whore. Common threat was that no one also has any respect for women in the world.

GRIFFIN: What happened in Milwaukee is happening all across the country. In Phoenix, Republican Bill Gates and his fellow county supervisors faced their own threats every single day.

GATES: Just last Friday, my colleagues and I all were treated to an orange jump suit that a gentleman sent to us and, you know, declared that we will end up in jail some day because we are traitors in the minds of these people.

GRIFFIN: This could lead to a damaging loss of experienced professionals who know how to conduct elections. A report from the Brennan Center for Justice found one in three election officials feel unsafe because of their job. Matt Masterson was the lead cybersecurity advisor for the Department of Homeland Security in the 2020 election and says it's all creating an alarming situation. MASTERSON: Local election officials are going to leave. And then that

opens the door to adding less professional, more political actors into the election space which again is incredibly dangerous.

GRIFFIN: Woodall-Vogg says she is staying but she closed the elections office until she can beef up security.

WOODALL-VOGG: And so, it made me really concerned how powerful conspiracy theories have become that my job would became dangerous, that election administrators and our very well-established democracy has lots of checks and balances as now a dangerous profession.

GRIFFIN: The danger isn't just the obvious threat of violence, but the threat to democracy. Experts say Donald Trump and his Republican allies have injected enough doubt into the election process to threaten its stability.

HASEN: It's going to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. He is undermining the system in a way that is going to cause the system to deteriorate.

GRIFFIN: Some Republicans are also undermining the system with new unnecessary legislation. Across the United States, Republican state lawmakers are passing law after law aimed at fixing a problem that does not exist, mass voter fraud.

UNKNOWN: This bill, I'll say it one more time will make it easier to vote and harder to cheat in Pennsylvania.

UNKNOWN: Easy to vote and harder to cheat.

UNKNOWN: In Arizona we want to make it easy to vote but hard to cheat.

GRIFFIN: At least 18 states have enacted 31 laws with new restrictions on voting methods since the beginning of the year. The most concerning are being called election subversion laws. Impacting how elections are run and who is in charge.

WHITMAN: They didn't like the fact that they lost those states and so now they're rewriting the rules for the future but they're doing it in a way that will make it extremely problematic because they make it very partisan.

GRIFFIN: Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman a Republican is part of a group working to safeguard U.S. democracy.

WHITMAN: What you have with local officials, secretaries of states and others are people who are trained to oversee elections. That's their job to do that. Now what you see in these states like Texas, Arizona, Georgia, is they are trying to pull that back and put it in the hands of the legislatures, the political legislatures.

GRIFFIN: Case in point, Georgia's Election Integrity Act of 2021 98 pages long, it was signed into law in March by Governor Brian Kemp repeating that Republican mantra.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): This bill makes it easy to vote and hard to cheat.

GRIFFIN: Among its provisions, it strips power from the Georgia secretary of state and allows lawmakers to intervene in how counties administer and count the vote.

It sounds like it makes it easier for the politicians to cheat.

TONNIE ADAMS, ELECTION SUPERVISOR, HEARD COUNTY, GEORGIA: You can have that perception. You're going to have your I.D. with you.

GRIFFIN: Tonnie Adams is Heard County, Georgia's election supervisor.

ADAMS: I believe it's a massive power grab. The secretary of state is removed as a voting number of the state election board.

GRIFFIN: Basically, tossing the secretary of state aside for a political person.

ADAMS: Exactly.

GRIFFIN: In Arizona, Republican legislators have made the power grab blatant passing a law that strips some election oversight powers from the Arizona secretary of state, currently a Democrat, and gives them to the Arizona attorney general, currently a Republican. It expires in less than two years, making sure it's a Republican who oversees any disputes in the important midterm elections.


Gates says his party's big lie about vote fraud is getting way out of hand.

GATES: I'm worried about the people who look at this now. They've listened to their leaders, their Republican leaders and they're now convinced that our system is corrupt, that there is this large conspiracy and we've yet to see many Republicans speak out and tell people no, the election was fair. It's time to move on. Enough is enough.

GRIFFIN: In Texas, which Trump won, Republican legislators passed a law that bans drive-through and 24-hour voting favored in heavily minority Houston and creates new hurdles for mail-in voters. The Texas legislation also makes it a crime for election workers to interfere with partisan poll watchers.

CARL SHERMAN (D), MEMBER, TEXAS HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: We're at a tipping point as a nation and our democracy is at stake.

GRIFFIN: Democratic legislators like Carl Sherman fled the state trying to prevent a vote on the bill and the standoff ended after 38 days.

SHERMAN: It matters because we've got a long history of cherry- picking who can vote and who cannot vote.

GRIFFIN: If all these election laws being surfaced in Republican led states seem like a coordinated effort, that's because it is.

UNKNOWN: We have honed in on these eight specific focused states.

GRIFFIN: A former Trump administration official who now heads up the conservative Heritage Action for America said the group had made recommendations to several states, which ended up in election related bills.

UNKNOWN: From there, as we create this echo chamber, we're working with the state legislators to make sure they have all of the information they need to draft the bills. In some cases, we actually draft them for them or we have a sentinel on our behalf and give them the model legislation so it has the grassroots, you know, from the bottom up type of vibe.

GRIFFIN: Donald Trump's big lie and his party's willingness to go along with the facade is now the biggest threat to free and fair elections we face.

HASEN: It used to be unthinkable to contemplate election subversion in the United States. It's now not only become thinkable but become something that we need to spend the next few years guarding against, it is the greatest danger facing American democracy today.


GRIFFIN: It's dangerous, Don, because it's destabilizing according to all the elections officials and experts we talk to. A democracy depends on the losers agreeing that the election was conducted in a fair way and agreeing to fight another day. If you don't have that acceptance, you don't have a democracy. Right now, with Donald Trump and his followers, we don't have that. Don?

LEMON: Drew, thank you very much for that. Our election officials helped prevent a coup attempt in 2020 but what if they're not able to stop it if it happens again?



LEMON (on camera): We're back. I want to bring back in senior CNN legal analyst Preet Bharara and CNN political commentator Amanda Carpenter.

So, hello once again. You heard the second part of what Drew reported there, the threats, Preet, against election officials are horrifying. State Republicans are passing laws to strip away power from non- partisan election officials. What happens next time when they can't put the brakes like they did, put on the breaks like they did in 2020?

BHARARA: You almost don't want to contemplate it. And that's why we should be contemplating it in advance to see what we can do about it. This program shines a light on it. People go to the polls and make their positions clear. You know, that election official in Georgia warned people about

potential violence because it's not just about the lie. It's not just about frivolous legal claims that are getting thrown out of court, you know, scores and scores of them, lawyers of the former president being sanctioned, Rudy Giuliani losing his license, at least temporarily, in two jurisdictions, other fines being brought against Sidney Powell and others.

It's not just about those things but it's about violence that have culminated at least on one occasion in the insurrection we saw on January 6. And that could happen again. So, I think you're right to raise the issue and right to sound the alarm.

And it's -- I think the place for good people to keep talking about it, to try to talk some sense and to reasonable minded people and officials in government because the next time around, we might not have people who push back against their own party and put party over country. So, that worries me a lot.

LEMON: Amanda, as Preet mentioned, the threat of violence, capitol police issuing an emergency declaration ahead of a rally this Saturday in support of the 6th, January 6th rioters. I mean, we're learning that police are preparing for armed protesters. We saw exactly what people are capable of when they believe that big lie. Are you worried that we can see another incident, another attack like the one in January?

CARPENTER: Yes, I'm worried about the U.S. Capitol. I'm worried about capitols all over the country that have become targets for political violence. I mean, we had January 6. We had, you know, in just -- in recent weeks a guy having a bomb threat, more people, you know, a guy getting caught with a machete. I mean, this is -- this is bad news that's happening here.

And you know, when we talk about what happened and what can be done on a federal level, I do think too much attention is really paid to the voter suppression side, because the real threat that caused the violence on January 6 was on the overturning the vote side, the election subversion aspect of it. And that what is what many Trump partisans on the ground are exploring, ways to overturn elections. And in some cases that bar is pretty low.


I mean, look at what happened on January 6. All it took to object to the results of millions and millions of votes was one senator and one member of the House. That's it. And that stopped proceedings and allowed a lot of bad actors to come in, to storm the capitol, because they believed they had an opening there.

And so, we are going to have a big discussion about voting rights and ways that we can protect election workers and all these good things, but the threat I see right now is on the election subversion side, overturning elections with the threat of violence.

LEMON: Amanda, Preet, thank you so much. I appreciate you joining us. Hours away from the California governor recall election, Governor

Gavin Newsom pulling out all the stops to save his job tonight, campaigning with President Biden.



LEMON (on camera): We are now just hours away from California's recall election. President Biden in California tonight, campaigning with Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom who is hoping to rally supporters to vote no so he can hold on to his job.