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Gov. Newsom Easily Survives GOP-Led Recall Effort; CNN: 50 Percent Of Americans Say Democracy Under Attack Or Being Tested; Police Say Prominent SC Lawyer Arranged Failed Hit On Himself So Son Could Collect $10 Million Life Insurance Payout; SpaceX To Launch First All-Civilian Crew Into Orbit Tonight. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired September 15, 2021 - 13:30   ET




ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Governor Gavin Newsom can stay. That is what California voters decided in Tuesday's recall election.

CNN projects that Democratic governor has easily fended off an effort to run him out of Sacramento with nearly two-thirds of the votes rejecting the idea of ousting him.

Just a few weeks ago, it looked like Newsom's COVID policies had put his job in jeopardy. But a combination of the Delta variant, a controversial Republican challenger, and a robust turnout among California's deep-blue electorate helped him keep his job.


CNN's Kyung Lah is joining us in Sacramento.

This wasn't even close, Kyung.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana. You could also call it a landslide. It really was the governor just sending a clear message that this state is indeed a deep-blue state. He will retain his job as governor of California.

I want you to take a look at the current vote count. This was what we are currently tracking. With 70 percent of the vote counted, the no, which is rejecting the recall, keeping Newsom in office, is at 69 percent, yes at 36.1 percent.

Those are astonishing numbers and a heck of a turnaround for a campaign that a month was telling us they were worried about Democratic enthusiasm, that Democrats weren't paying attention.

But since that time, the governor cast this as a matter of life and death, that this was about COVID principles, this was about base core Democratic principles and the agenda.

And in the final days, talked about came down to truth over the election process. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): I think about, just in the last few days, the former president put out, saying this election was rigged.

Democracy is not a football. You don't throw it around. It's more like an, I don't know, antique vase. You can drop it and smash it in a million different pieces.

That's what we're capable of doing if we don't stand up to meet the moment and push back.


LAH: After retraining his job, the governor tweeted, Ana, "Let's get back to work" -- Ana?

CABRERA: Kyung Lah, thank you.

The California recall election is being seen as a bit of a test for the Democratic Party's message ahead of the national midterms next year.

It also comes as many Americans are worried about America's democracy.

New CNN polling show that most people think it's under attack and are losing confidence that elections reflect the will of the people.

Our Chris Cillizza joins us now.

Break down these new polling numbers for us, Chris.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & EDITOR-AT-LARGE: All right, Ana, let's just jump in here.

This is the most basic question. American democracy is? And 56 percent of people say democracy is under attack. Another 37 percent say being tested.

That's the fragility Governor Newsom was talking about. That democracy is not a self-sustaining thing. You have to do its care and feeding. And we haven't been treating it that way.

Now, you might think, oh, 56 percent under attack, OK, that's probably a lot of Democrats because Donald Trump and the Big Lie and they worried about that.

Not so much, because 75 percent of Republicans say that the country, the democracy is under attack. Which there's more numbers we'll get to in a minute.

But what that tells you is that lots of Republicans have believed the Big Lie, Ana. They think that Donald Trump did win the election and democracy is under attack because that would reflect the exact opposite is true.

CABRERA: It's not hard to answer the question, you know, what does this stem from?

CILLIZZA: Yes. It's not that complicated, right? At least, I don't think it is.

Confidence that the U.S. elections reflect the will of the people? Normally, there's not that many slam-dunk questions you ask in a poll.

But look, in January -- we're not talking about 20 years ago. In January, this was plus-19. That's a terrible, 19. But plus-19 right here. More people saying, yes, elections reflect the will of the people. Now, minus-four.

The reason is simple, the Big Lie. It's working, unfortunately. Donald Trump has eroded -- this is a 23-point swing in between January and now.

I want to show you one more slide here. Is it likely that U.S. elections will be overturned for partisan reasons? Again, this is the kind of question that, in the past, you might hear 75 percent no, 25 percent yes.

Now, likely is 51 percent. A majority of the country, Ana, believes it is likely that a U.S. election will be overturned for partisan reasons.

This is not a partisan problem. This is a "problem" problem for the country.

CABRERA: You mentioned this all started with the Big Lie put forth by former President Trump and his allies.

CILLIZZA: It continues to get more and more traction, unfortunately.

OK, first we asked, did Biden legitimately win enough votes for the presidency.

Ideally, this number would be 100 percent, right, because the fact is Joe Biden won eight million more votes than Donald Trump did. That is 63 percent, and we're saying that's pretty good, speaks to where we are.


But I want to go inside the numbers more. Here it is by party. I almost -- I've lost my circling tool. So 78 percent of Republicans say Joe Biden did not win enough votes to legitimately be the president.

Again, it is 100 percent true that Joe Biden won enough votes to be the president, 100 percent.

There's no proof of any widespread election fraud. All 50 states have certified their results. The result has been certified by Congress.

And 78 percent, eight in 10 Republicans, believe something that is factually inaccurate. That means we have a big problem in this country -- Ana? CABRERA: It's detachment from reality.

Chris Cillizza, thank you.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

CABRERA: Listen to this next story. A lawyer in South Carolina is said to have admitted to hiring a man to kill him after surviving a shot to the head. But why would he do that? The explanation is stunning.



CABRERA: Right now, at the Whtie House, President Biden is meeting with business leaders over the new federal vaccine rules in the workplace.

Now, the administration wants to highlight support for these new requirements after announcing the mandates for larger companies as well as federal employees and contractors.

We're told the president will underscore positive results in companies that already have mandatory vaccine policies.

Top executives from Microsoft, Disney and Walgreens are among the companies expected to be at this meeting.

Now, a really bizarre legal case is unfolding in South Carolina. Police say it involves a murder-for-hire plot that was cooked up by the intended target. Are you with me?

Attorneys for this guy, this is Alex Murdaugh. They say he had a 20- year opioid addiction, which may help explain why he asked a man to kill him after his wife and son were murdered.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is in Charlotte for us.

Dianne, Murdaugh is a prominent attorney in South Carolina who survived this plot he apparently orchestrated. This is so bizarre. Explain how this came to be.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Ana, look, according to an affidavit, this was basically a way for Murdaugh to take care of his only surviving son. Because the motive here seemed to be getting a $10 million life insurance payout for that son.

Now, follow with me here because it is a bit confusing. Alex Murdaugh, a prominent attorney in South Carolina, was shot in the head at the beginning of this month on the side of the road while he was basically dealing with some car trouble.

It turns out, according to authorities, Murdaugh admitted on Tuesday that he had set the whole thing up.

That he had asked a former client, a man that he had represented as his attorney in the past, 61-year-old Curtis Edward Smith, to shoot him in the head and kill him so his only surviving son, Buster, could get that $10 million life insurance payout.

Now, obviously, as you said, Murdaugh survived there. Murdaugh, according to authorities, gave him that gun.

This is what his attorney told NBC's "Today Show" when asked. He said, look, his opioid addiction that had gone on for 20 years worsened when his son and his wife were killed back in June.

Murdaugh found their bodies. That case is still unsolved, Ana.

Take a listen to the attorney.





UNIDENTIFIED NEWS ANCHOR: He didn't murder them. Does he perhaps know who did? And why?

HARPOOTLIAN: I don't think he does. I don't think he does. But Jim Griffin and I are working on and investigating an individual or individuals we believe may, may have some culpability.


GALLAGHER: Again, investigators say that is still the case, it is open that they are looking into.

The attorneys say their client is simply just another person whose life has been devastated by opioid addiction.

Ana, Murdaugh has not been charged yet, but his attorneys expect that he will be.

CABRERA: Well, there's a lot of twists in that story.

Thank you, Dianne Gallagher. Appreciate it.


A three-day mission in space and not one pro astronaut on board. This milestone flight just hours away from liftoff. We'll have much more when we come back.


CABRERA: First dueling missile tests in one of the most volatile areas on earth and now North and South Korea are exchanging testy words.

Just a few hours after North Korea test fired two ballistic missiles this morning, South Korea fired a new submarine-launched missile.

South Korea's president saying his country's missile arsenal should be a deterrent to North Korea.

The sister of North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, warning those comments could destroy relations between the two countries on the Korean peninsula.

Today, four people are set to boldly go where no four civilians have gone before. SpaceX plans to spend them on a three-day trip around the earth, about 80 miles above the International Space Station.


The window to launch opens around 8:00 Eastern tonight. This will be the fourth time Elon Musk's company has sent a crew into space but this is the first with private citizens rather than trained astronauts.

Joining us now is retired NASA astronaut, Ron Garan. He is the author of the new book, "Floating in Darkness, A Journey of Evolution."

Good to see you, Ron. Thanks for being here.

We're talking four civilians, zero space travel experience. How dangerous is this?

RON GARAN, RETIRED NASA ASTRONAUT: Well, that's a good question. They have zero space travel experience, but they have been training for the last five or six months.

And they have been through a very grueling, very extensive program, both given by SpaceX. And the commander came up with his own portion of the training as well. From what I've seen, it's been very, very comprehensive.

CABRERA: The recent Richard Branson, the Jeff Bezos trips in total lasted in minutes. This group is going to be in space for three days. They're going past the International Space Station.

How significant is that?

GARAN: It is very significant.

You know, this has been an exciting summer for commercial space flight. We had the flight of Richard Branson on Virgin Galactic. We had the flight of Jeff Bezos. Those were suborbital flights.

And 50 miles for Richard Branson, about 60 miles for Jeff Bezos. These guys are going hundreds of miles.

But more important how far, is how fast they're going. Right behind me is the rocket. In a few hours, it will go from zero miles an hour to 17,500 miles an hour in 8.5 minutes. That's five miles a second.

So it's a lot more energy, a lot more complexity, a lot more challenge.

As you said, these guys are going to be in space for three days instead of a matter of minutes. So they'll become residents of space. They'll live there and work there. And it's going to be really exciting.

They're breaking the door open, I think, to commercial space flight.

CABRERA: You've flown to space twice. What's your advice to these individuals?

GARAN: My advice to them would be to take in every moment, to savor every moment. It's OK to take pictures but try to take mental pictures, too.

Try to think about the feelings and the sensations. Try and bring as much back home with them as they possibly can.

Because when they get back, it's going to seem like a dream. It's so surreal.

There's no context to compare it to. There's nothing to compare it to. There's nothing in daily life to compare what they're going to experience.

So to do everything they can to savor those moments and to take it all in would be the advice.

CABRERA: You already described some of what they will experience. A few more details that caught my eye is that they will have to share a zero-gravity friendly toilet. They'll all be sharing that.

No showering will be available. They'll all have to sleep in the same reclining seats that they'll be riding in during the launch.

We're talking about these four individuals, which include a billionaire, who is one of the passengers.

There's also a 29-year-old cancer survivor, who works as a physician's assistant. A geologist and a teacher, a Lockheed Martin employee, who's a former space camp counselor.

How does this mission exactly move the ball forward when it comes to space tourism, do you think?

GARAN: Well, I think the bottom line is there are no passengers on this mission. They're all crew mates. They have all been trained. They all have unique roles on this.

You brought up one of the challenges. One of the challenges on this mission will be to live and work in space. Even simple things like sleeping and eating and going to the bathroom, as you mentioned, those are things that they're going to have to learn.

Usually, on a space mission, there's at least one or two people who have been at space before that can serve as mentors on orbit, to say, you're doing that, here's a better way to do that that I learned on my previous missions.

They're not going to have that because none of them have been to space before. But they're going to figure it out.

And I think it will be a really exciting time.

CABRERA: And I think the last question is, when could an everyday American go that doesn't have to pay millions and millions of dollars? This one funded by a billionaire, just as the others have been so far.

GARAN: I think what we've seen this summer in particular is the dawn of a new era of space travel. An era where space travel becomes as commonplace as air travel.

If you think back to the early days of aviation, back in the beginning, it was not commonplace for people to fly on an airplane.

It was a very rare occurrence by select people. They were held up as heroes.

And I think today we don't think twice about getting on an airliner or flying anywhere in the world.

I think these are the baby steps that are going to blossom into this new industry where people will be able to fly in space.

It won't be just space tourism or going to orbit. It will be flying from point A to point B on the planet where a part of that flight path takes you outside the atmosphere.


CABRERA: Retired astronaut, Ron Garan, great to have you with us. Thank you.

That does it for me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Victor Blackwell and Alisyn Camerota take over right now.