Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Trump's High-Pressure Campaign to Steal the Election; Big Lie, Threats and New Laws Could Destabilize Election System; North Korean Regime Claims Successful Launch of New Long-Range Cruise Missiles. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired September 12, 2021 - 20:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And tonight a dangerous and pivotal point in U.S. history. How the actions of former president Donald Trump and his supporters could damage American democracy. Trump not only insisted he won, his lies made millions of Americans doubt the U.S. election system. He relentlessly pressured local election officials and the Department of Justice to help reverse the 2020 results, and when that didn't work, his supporters turned to changing voting laws across the country.

To understand how dangerous this is for America's 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 even to this day.

Here is CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Pamela, CNN spoke to more than a dozen state and county officials involved in elections for this special report, many of them Republicans, and they all expressed concerns about the future of the United States, and that Donald Trump's big lie could change this nation forever.


GRIFFIN (voice-over): Donald Trump's attempt to subvert the election started long before anyone voted.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: 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.

RICHARD L. HASEN, LAW PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE: 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 strongarming state and local election officials to over throw the election.

MATT MASTERSON, FORMER SENIOR CYBERSECURITY ADVISER, CISA: 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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the White House operator.

CLINT L. HICKMAN, 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.

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

GRIFFIN: Hickman let the call go to voicemail. 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 the 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, ARIZONA GOP CHAIR: 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, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: I saw that

a voicemail 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 thing fixed up.

GRIFFIN: The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors had just received 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 can get to work.

GRIFFIN (on-camera): Get to work doing?


GATES: One of the objectives was 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 dammed 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 (voice-over): In Michigan, a Wayne County Republican election official voted to certify the election, then changed her mind after a call from Donald Trump.

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

GRIFFIN: In Georgia, Trump not only called the state's top elections investigator.

TRUMP: But whatever you can do, Francis.

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

TRUMP: And there's nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you've recalculated.

HASEN: 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 27th phone call now handed over to congressional investigators, Trump told his acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, and his deputy Richard Donohue, just say that the election was corrupt, leave the rest to me and the R congressmen.

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

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: What was the most shocking to you?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Just how directly personally involved the president was, 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 e-mailing top DOJ officials at least five times asking they investigate conspiracy theories about voter fraud.

MASTERSON: It's an attempt to use the Department of Justice in order to influence the election that's run at the state and local levels. So it's dangerous, it's inappropriate and it should be unacceptable.

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 it. Clark urged his bosses to sign a letter to Georgia's governor containing a lie. It falsely claimed 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. Donohue 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 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.

CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN, CO-FOUNDER, STATES UNITED DEMOCRACY CENTER: Abraham Lincoln has said if this 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 is that if it weren't for Republican who were willing to risk their own careers for standing up for what is right, there might have been a very different outcome, and some of those elections officials, Pamela, are dealing with threats to their very lives.

BROWN: Yes, that is chilling. Drew Griffin, thank you.

And coming up, we're going to have much more of that reporting on those threats that he just mentioned.


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


GRIFFIN: 150 threats?


BROWN: You're going to hear some of the chilling voicemails, physical threats to election officials and threats to American democracy.

But first, former attorney general Alberto Gonzalez will join me to discuss Trump's pressure campaign on the Justice Department. Stay with us.



BROWN: Welcome back. Right now American democracy is at a crossroads. After former president Donald Trump's elaborate attempts to steal the election. His lies sowed the seeds of doubt for millions of people who questioned the integrity of our election system even to this day. Some tried to in their words stop the steal by storming the Capitol to prevent Congress from certifying the election.

Well, former attorney general Alberto Gonzalez joins me now. He served in President George W. Bush's administration.

Attorney General, thanks for joining us tonight. First, if you would, set the stage for us. Explain what the role of DOJ is and the strain it was under with the pressure coming from the very top and even within the department.

ALBERTO GONZALEZ, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, the Department of Justice is there to protect the Constitution and to enforce laws passed by Congress, and of course, enforce the requirements of the Constitution. That is the responsibility of the Department of Justice. As a general matter, the department, the attorney general, they don't represent the president as a person. They do represent the institution of the presidency but even in that representation, it's got to be consistent with law and has to be consistent with the Constitution.

[20:15:10] BROWN: And what about the strain then it was under with the president of the United States putting pressure on the department and its top leaders to essentially overturn the election results. I mean, as you heard in Drew's earlier report, Trump was basically telling his acting AG to say that, you know, the election was corrupt and to leave the rest to him and Republican congressmen. What is your reaction to that?

GONZALEZ: At the beginning of every administration there is a discussion between the Department of Justice and White House Counsel's Office limiting the amount -- describing the amount of contacts, limited contacts that are to occur between the White House and the Department of Justice because you don't want -- even the appearance that the Department of Justice is in any way influenced by politics, again, their job is to enforce the law, to protect the Constitution.

So in this particular case, communications from senior officials, communications directly from the president, the senior officials at the Department of Justice is extremely unusual and extremely dangerous, quite frankly. That is something that should not happen. Any communication between the White House and the Department of Justice should be -- should occur between the White House Counsel's Office and perhaps the deputy attorney general. But the kind of communication that apparently was ongoing here with respect to doing something about the election is unheard of and can be dangerous.

BROWN: And what do you think would have happened if you didn't have a few people at the top, in leadership roles at DOJ that had the integrity to not just follow what the president wanted them to do? What do you think could have happened?

GONZALEZ: I don't know. I don't know what might have happened. I think we would have moved into uncharted territory, quite frankly. But listen, I have heard a lot of people say that we were on the precipice of disaster, a coup. I don't know if that's true or not. What I know is that individuals in charge of the Department of Justice, they did their job, and going forward, I think this is going to be a lesson for the Senate chamber, the people that they confirmed in these positions, and in court agencies like the Department of Justice.

You want to make sure you have people that are courageous, people that have integrity and they would do the right thing even under extreme pressure from the president himself or senior officials at the White House.

BROWN: Right, because you had the president reportedly considering firing his acting attorney general and placing Clark, Jeffrey Clark, who was also spreading conspiracy theories and election lies, into the top job. So should there be greater barriers, clear walls that make this kind of behavior illegal?

GONZALEZ: Well, that will be a decision that Congress will have to make based upon their review of what happened on January 6th, and of course, this reporting is covering a lot of what happened with respect to January 6th and the election. And Congress will have to decide whether or not additional laws have to be passed. As a general matter again what the system worked here. We had individuals with integrity in senior positions at the department and stopped this thing from moving forward.

So as to whether or not, you know, additional legislation is necessary, that will really depend upon Congress. You know, the question here is, we have institutions. We have guard rails, and they work, but the reason our democracy works is primarily because of the individuals that we have in positions of power. And once you have people in positions of power that don't have integrity, that don't respect the Constitution or the laws passed by Congress, that's when trouble arises for the people of this country.

BROWN: And that is the big concern, right? As we also see states across the country changing election laws, giving more power to, you know, politicians and so forth to perhaps overturn the results and just in some states.

I want to talk about what one of the election expert said in the piece, that it wasn't just profoundly anti-democratic, it was potentially criminal. You were attorney general. Would your department launch investigations into the people involved in the scheme to over throw election results.

GONZALEZ: We probably would at least look at this. Obviously this is a high-profile matter with very serious consequences. And so of course we would look to see whether or not there should be a formal investigation launched in this particular case. You know, again, I think it's -- I don't know, I haven't studied carefully the election changes and, say, in Texas or in Georgia, and as a general matter, as a former Texas secretary of state, I give a great deal of deference to the decisions by state officials in terms of what is necessary, what is right within a particular state. And as we all know no election is perfect.


There are always irregularities, there are always mistakes that are made, but from my perspective, my vantage point, it appears that there was not massive fraud that occurred in this election in these various states. And you had that confirmed by the Attorney General Bill Barr, the director of cybersecurity Chris Krebs. You had Republican officials say so. And so it does beg the question, why are these changes of law being made at this particular time, and I think that does raise a serious question and concern that the Department of Justice probably are going to be looking at.

BROWN: Right. There was no widespread fraud, full stop, and judges weighed in on that, too. Not just the officials you pointed out, Republicans, Trump appointed officials. I mean, you know, I've said it so many times. It's just -- there is nothing to back it up.

There is little to no doubt the people who stormed the Capitol on January 6th were there for President Trump. I mean, yesterday former president George Bush alluded to the insurrectionists during a speech, condemning extremists at the 9/11 memorial service. Have a listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But then there's disdainful pluralism and their disregard for human life. And their determination to defile national symbols. They are children of the same foul spirit and it is our continuing duty to confront them.


BROWN: Attorney General, are you concerned about the direction the U.S. is heading in from people within the U.S.?

GONZALEZ: No question about it. I am concerned about domestic terrorism, domestic extremists, no question about it. You know, 20 years ago the terrorists, they were foreigners, and they spoke different language, they were trained overseas for the most part. Today the next terrorist attack is probably going to come from someone that looks like you or I, speaks perfect English, is trained over the internet.

And that really presents some unique challenges for law enforcement. Because -- primarily because of those facts but also because here within our borders we have constitutional rights that come into play that does (INAUDIBLE) into some degree the ability of our government to detect and prevent another terrorist attack.

BROWN: All right. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, thank you very much for joining us and for offering your perspective on this very important topic.

GONZALEZ: Thanks for having me.

BROWN: Well, Donald Trump's lies have convinced so many people there was major voting fraud that election officials nationwide have been threatened and harassed just for doing their jobs. Listen to this voicemail.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You rigged my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) election, you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED). We're going to try you, and we're going to hang you.


BROWN: It's frightening and it's real. Coming up, how Trump's ongoing lies are affecting America's election system. We'll be right back.



BROWN: One of the dangerous consequences of Donald Trump's big lie is that tens of millions of Americans mistakenly believe that he won the 2020 election and some of them are threatening violence against election officials just for doing their jobs. Once again, here is CNN's senior investigative correspondent Drew


GRIFFIN: Pamela, there are two things happening all across the country at an alarming rate. Both are dangerous to democracy. Threats against election officials, which are causing some to quit and laws in more than a dozen states that change the rules on voting. We have to warn you some of the language you're about to hear is very graphic.


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.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You rigged my fucking election, you fucking piece of shit. We're going to try you, and we're going to hang you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're coming for you, Claire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really sincerely hope you get what's coming to you, you fraudulent fuck.

GRIFFIN (on-camera): What was your immediate reaction to what was on that machine?

WOODALL-VOGG: It's 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: 150 threats?

WOODALL-VOGG: Yes, I received a letter, very colorful language to my home, which did make me very frightened in that I have a 3-month-old and a 4-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 thread was that no one also has any respect for women and the world.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): 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 a

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 adviser 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's staying but she closed the election's 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 become dangerous, that election administrators now and our very well-established democracy has lots of checks and balances is 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.

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

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Easy to vote and harder to cheat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.

TODD-WHITMAN: They didn't like the fact that they lost those states and so now they are 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.

TODD-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're seeing in these states like Texas, Arizona, Georgia, is they're starting to pull that back and putting 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), GEORGIA: This bill makes it easy to vote and harder 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.

(On-camera): Sounds like it makes it easier for the politicians to cheat.

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

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Tonnie Adams is Heard County, Georgia's elections supervisor.

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

GRIFFIN (on-camera): Basically tossing the secretary of state aside for a political person.

ADAMS: Exactly.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): In Arizona, Republican legislators have their 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), TEXAS STATE HOUSE: 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. 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 seemed like a coordinated effort, that's because it is.

JESSICA ANDERSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, HERITAGE ACTION FOR AMERICA: We've 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.

ANDERSON: From there, as we create this echo chamber, we're working with these 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 give them the model legislation so it has that 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: Pamela, it's dangerous because it is destabilizing. According to all the elections officials and experts that we talked to. A democracy depends upon the losers agreeing that the election was conducted in a fairway and agreeing to fight another day. If you don't have that acceptance, you don't have a democracy, and right now, with Donald Trump and his followers, we do not have that -- Pamela.

BROWN: Drew Griffin, thank you for that reporting.

And Trump, by the way, is showing absolutely no sign of backing off his big lie about the election. Even yesterday on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, he falsely claimed again that the election was, quote, "rigged."

Our conversation continues after this short break with election law expert David Becker and CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero. Stay with us.



BROWN: Welcome back. Donald Trump's toxic and relentless big lie. Threats of violence against election officials and new state laws that could make elections vulnerable to partisan influence. That combination amounts to an assault on America's democracy.

Joining me now, David Becker, he is executive director at the Center for Election Innovation and Research, and CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero.

Thank you both for joining us. This is something, David, we've talked about extensively and it's just hard to believe this is where we are so many months after the 2020 election. In Drew's story, we heard this law professor sounding the alarm on election subversion. He called it the greatest danger facing American democracy today. Is he right?

DAVID BECKER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR ELECTION INNOVATION AND RESEARCH: Absolutely. And I feel as if, you know, especially now we're over 10 months since the election. We're still talking about this. There are still people actively working both the losing candidate in the presidential election and the circle of grifters that have surrounded him are spreading these lies and trying to profit off of this effort to delegitimize American democracy.

We're seeing it spread now, there's even talk in the California recall by candidates who apparently think they're going to lose. They're trying to plant the seeds of doubt already in voters that the state of California might keep its Democratic governor in a state that's overwhelmingly Democratic. Those kinds of things are toxic to a democracy and I honestly believe it's a national security issue.

I mean, this creates a situation of void in which our adversaries, autocracies all around the world who've tried to delegitimize democracy as a form of government, they're now seeing this opportunity because of people working within our country.

BROWN: And not to mention the insurrection that we saw from the threat from within.

That election expert, Carrie, also talked about election subversion that it used to be unthinkable in the U.S. So what do you think? Did Donald Trump change that all by himself or did he just throw a match onto the gasoline?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the country has had a history of times where there had been voter suppression, times where there have been efforts to limit certain communities from being able to vote. I think what's different now is that we have a former president and now he has inspired really a movement amongst his political followers to not just try to prevent people, certain people from voting but try to overturn the election. That's the key.

I think of what Professor Hasen in the piece was trying to explain is that this wasn't actual attempt to change the election outcome, and now with all of the states, the various states -- Drew Griffin said 18 states, 31 different laws that have been passed around the country, these laws are intended to try to make it possible for state legislators to overturn the correct results of a future election and that's where the real threat is.

BROWN: And we've talked about that, David. That is your big concern when you look at these laws across the country and these states. It's the fact that politicians can then step in, have the power to step in and potentially, in worst case scenario, overturn valid results.


And amid all of these, you have these election workers who are receiving death threats. They are receiving -- I mean, you have this lady in Milwaukee Drew talked to that has been threatened more than 150 times just doing her job. The same situation in Maricopa County, Arizona. They get threats every day. There was this Brennan study -- survey that found a third of election officials feel unsafe because of their job.

Your nonprofit has launched a defense fund to help election workers. Tell us about this.

BECKER: Right. So you see things like the recent Texas law which actually allows partisan -- hyper partisan poll watchers to roam anywhere in the polling place and interfere with the process potentially intimidating voters, and efforts by election officials, professional election officials to try to restore order actually criminalized, and then you also see these threats. And so last Wednesday, my nonprofit, Center for Election Innovation and Research, partnered with Bob Bower, former Obama White House counsel and Ben Ginsberg, longtime Republican election lawyer who worked for the George W. Bush and Mitt Romney campaigns, to form the Election Official Legal Defense Network, it's

And what that is going to do is form a network of attorneys all around the country who are going to be available for the professional election officials at the state and local level who might find their efforts criminalized, who might find themselves and their families subjected to death threats. I'm still talking to election officials all around the country. They are very worried about this. Some are still under protection to this day. And so they were forming a network of election -- lawyers, rather, who will be available to consult, to advice and even defend election officials in this hyper partisan environment where both Republicans and Democrats are finding their lives put at risk.

BROWN: Right. I mean, that's key. It's Republicans and Democrats receiving voicemails threatening them, their families for just doing their jobs. I mean, it's like you can't wrap your head around it. And meantime, when you look at the prosecutions of those making these threats and Reuters has this report out there that only four known arrests and no convictions in the wake of these threats.

So that of course raises the question, should DOJ be doing more to prosecute, to send a louder message on people making these threats and also on the attempts to subvert the election?

CORDERO: I do think that election and the sanctity of the elections is a priority for this Justice Department. They're going to look at each case. When it comes to the individuals making the threats, they're going to look at each individual case and look to whether the evidence to prosecute those cases, but in the bigger picture I think where the Justice Department is also focusing its effort is with respect to these state laws and what it can do to challenge potential these individual state laws, what it can do to support efforts in Congress to pass legislation that is going to try to counter some of these state laws.

But these threats are incredibly important and they have covered a range of officials, the threats against election officials have ranged anywhere from the head of cybersecurity, the former head of cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security, who himself and his family were subjected to threats, down to state elected officials who have been subjected to threats, down to regular people who are working as election officials.

BROWN: Working long hours. I mean, I saw it when I was covering the election. They are working overnight, not sleeping.


BROWN: And this is what they get?

CORDERO: Well, and in your interview earlier with former Attorney General Gonzalez, he talked about how institutions are important and how the people who work in them, the integrity of the people who work in them is important. Well, that's true on not just at the Justice Department but the entire election system. If we can't have an environment where people are safe whether they are federal government bureaucrats or whether they are people volunteering their time to work at a poll, then the system is not going to work if these people can't feel that they're safe.

BROWN: All right, well, Carrie Cordero, David Becker, thank you for helping us put this all into perspective. Such an important issue. We appreciate it.

And tonight, we're following some breaking news out of North Korea. The country claims it has successfully test-fired long-range missiles. We're live in Seoul with the latest right after this break.



BROWN: Breaking news out of North Korea tonight. The state-run news agency there says the regime has successfully test-fired a new type of long-range cruise missiles.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Seoul, South Korea. Paula, what are you learning?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, the state-run media is saying that these were newly developed weapons and that they had spent the past couple of years developing them. So certainly a concern that they are testing a new type of weapon but not really a surprise.

We did hear earlier last month from the sister of the North Korean leader, Kim Yo-jong, and she had said that there would be repercussions for the U.S. and South Korea holding joint military drills so we have been expecting something from North Korea, but it is interesting that this does not appear to have been attended by the North Korean leader himself Kim Jong-un. We don't understand from the state-run media that he was even part of this.

Now, usually when North Korea wants to make a big statement, then he is front and center. We heard from the South Korean side, as well. They say that they are looking into this but they also said that there have been a couple of these kind of cruise missiles shorter range earlier in the year that they had detected but they hadn't announced. So they are also downplaying this somewhat but certainly any time North Korea does test any kind of weaponry, there is concern in the region.


The U.S. -- according to one U.S. official is aware of the reports. They're also looking into this. So the fact is, we know that in the past couple of parades, not the one last week, but the one in January and October of last year, there were new weapons unveiled, and we knew and experts were telling us that at some point North Korea would need to test those weapons systems. So this appears to be what we have seen over the weekend -- Pamela.

BROWN: All right. Paula Hancocks, thank you so much for bringing us the latest there.

And thank you for joining me this evening. I'm Pamela Brown and I'll see you again next weekend. And be sure to stay with CNN. Jake Tapper asks the tough questions about America's longest war. "WHAT WENT WRONG IN AFGHANISTAN?" This new CNN Special Report begins next, and here is a quick preview.


ANNOUNCER: $2 trillion. Thousands of lives lost.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Was the war worth it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before I go to my grave, I want that question answered.

ANNOUNCER: What went wrong in Afghanistan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think we had a good definition of winning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Corruption was one of the reasons of how things turned out.

TAPPER: Was Pakistan our enemy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. But Pakistan was not our friend.

ANNOUNCER: The tough questions that still need answers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If everybody gets an A but the overall effort is still an F, who do we hold accountable?



ANNOUNCER: The following is a CNN Special Report.