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Government Begins Shutdown Preparation As Lawmakers Fight Over Funding; Interview With Rep. Nikema Williams (D-GA); Group Of NYC Teachers Wins Temporary Injunction Against Vaccine Mandate Enforcement; The Big Lie Isn't About Overturning The 2020 Election, It's About Winning The Next One; Ex-Insider To NYT: Listening Device Put In Britney Spears' Bedroom. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired September 25, 2021 - 18:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice over): Hard sell on the Hill, as President Biden's signature legislation hangs in the balance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I see us in a position where failure is not an option. It is not an option.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The big lie isn't about overturning the last election, it is about bringing the next one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The big lie, this idea of election fraud was not some passing storm for American democracy, it is the climate right now inside the Republican Party.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A raw look at the intensive surveillance Britney Spears was under while a court ordered conservatorship controlled her life for years.

MAX FOSTER, CNN LONDON CORRESPONDENT: Prince Andrew officially acknowledges he has been served in a sexual assault lawsuit brought by Jeffrey Epstein accuser, Virginia Giuffre.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Hi, I'm Pamela Brown in Washington, you are in the CNN NEWSROOM and it's great to have you along tonight.

Let's start in Washington where government agencies are preparing to shut down as the nation inches closer to a debt default that could trigger a recession that impacts nearly every American.

Now at the center of this doomsday scenario, a sharp division among Democrats. The President's own party over his massive $3.5 trillion budget. Moderates say it is too expensive, progressives say that price was negotiated down and they have made enough concessions.

So with that massive budget in doubt, progressives are threatening to kill the President's infrastructure bill Monday in a House vote. The White House and top Democrats are desperate to break their party's paralyzing stalemate before Federal funding runs out in five days. There is a lot to break down, and if you're a little bit confused by all this, that's okay because we have some great reporters to help us better understand it.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is on Capitol Hill and Arlette Saenz is at the White House. So Sunlen, let's kick it off with you

Democrats have been meeting behind closed doors, and Nancy Pelosi today warned her colleagues quote, "The next few days will be a time of intensity," what's going on?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, there certainly is an intense amount of pressure in the next few days as Speaker Pelosi outlined are going to be critical because they are facing these three huge deadlines. And as of now, there are no signs of progress.

Now notably, in a rare Saturday session, just a few minutes ago, the House Budget Committee, they marked up and passed through the reconciliation bill as it stands right now, that $3.5 trillion massive economic social spending plan through the committee, but very notably, one Democrat on that committee voted against the bill and was speaking to the challenges ahead and the notable differences among Democrats over this bill, over what should be in the bill.

Now this was a largely symbolic move that they made this afternoon, trying to show momentum and forward progression for this bill. It will be amended, it still needs to be agreed upon in the Senate. Notably the top line numbers still is not set in stone, so a lot there.

But this was a move by Pelosi to appease progressives who have been calling for progress on this bill and may still have threatened to tank the infrastructure bill that likely will be voted on at some point next week if they do not show an agreement, if an agreement is not made over the larger economic bill.

So Pam, still a lot left in the air and as the Speaker underscored, so much work left to be done.

BROWN: And we're right there, getting very close to the deadline for all of this. Arlette, President Biden is at Camp David today. What is he doing to advance a compromise?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, President Biden said he would remain engaged and in contact with top congressional leaders as it is really reaching crunch time for his legislative agenda.

Just before leaving the White House yesterday, the President had a phone call with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as well as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, where they talked about that bipartisan infrastructure proposal as well as trying to get Democrats together on that more massive sweeping economic plan that is totaling around $3.5 trillion.

Now, the President could possibly have lawmakers back to the White House at the start of this week, similar to what he did on Wednesday when he hosted some of those Democrats, both from the moderate side and progressives to hear their concerns relating to this bill.

Now, yesterday, the President did acknowledge that they are at a stalemate when it comes to advancing this legislative agenda, but he also told reporters that he has a better sense of what moderates are looking for. He wouldn't exactly detail what that was, saying he was negotiating with those lawmakers and not with the press.

But so much of the President's legislative agenda hangs on what happens over the course of the next week. There also those crucial deadlines when it comes to funding the government and also raising the debt limit which could have enormous consequences on the economy overall.


SAENZ: So the President is hoping that Democrats will stay united on his legislative agenda, as he's also hoping for this policy win, then Democrats could take it into the 2022 midterm elections to show Americans what they were able to offer. But right now, there's no exact deal on that larger spending package or the fate of that bipartisan infrastructure proposal.

BROWN: There's a lot at stake for everyday Americans and a lot at stake for the White House as you laid out there.

Arlette Saenz and Sunlen Serfaty, thank you both.

And joining me now is Georgia Democratic Congresswoman Nikema Williams. She is also a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Congresswoman, thanks for spending some time with us on this Saturday. How confident are you that you and fellow progressives can be won over in time for Monday's planned vote on the infrastructure bill?

REP. NIKEMA WILLIAMS (D-GA): Thank you for having me, Pam to have this conversation. And I think what people are missing is you should never count Speaker Nancy Pelosi out. I support her long term vision of advancing reconciliation along with the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

And until we are at the last minute and can't get it done, I'm sticking with my Speaker and I know that she is working behind the scenes and continuing to have those conversations to get it done.

We can't have an infrastructure package that doesn't include people, and so I will continue to talk about how we need to make sure that we're building our roads and our bridges, but we have to do this with the vision of the Biden administration, which is building back better and that includes people as a part of this infrastructure package and I'm not willing to leave the people that I represent behind.

BROWN: So to be clear, now that Speaker Pelosi is saying that the Build Back Better package, the $3.5 trillion spending bill will be brought up for a vote on the House floor next week, maybe a couple of days after the infrastructure bill, because of that, you're willing to get on board on Monday's vote, a vote in favor of the infrastructure bill, correct?

WILLIAMS: So, I have -- we have not had our caucus meeting so that I could get the details. As you know, the Budget Committee just finished our markup process, and so, I need more information on this since I've been out in my district today, working with the people here in Georgia, and so I'm looking forward to having a conversation when I get back to Washington on Monday to figure out exactly where we are and how we move both of these bills forward simultaneously.

BROWN: So, I'm wondering, are you and your progressive colleagues having conversations with your more moderate Democratic colleagues about how to move forward this week on these bills?

I mean, on the markup, you had a Democrat siding with the Republicans. This is a Democrat, who is more moderate voting against the $3.5 trillion bill. What are you going to do to make sure you have enough -- Democrats have enough votes, so it passes?

And then of course, you have Kyrsten Sinema and Senator Manchin saying they're not going to go for $3.5 trillion?

WILLIAMS: Well, I'm not going to guess what will happen in the Senate, because I serve in the House, and when it comes to the members that I serve within the Democratic Caucus, I know that we are all focused on serving our districts. And so, I have no doubt that we'll get both of these bills passed because we need them both, and it's not one or the other.

And so I have confidence in the leadership that I serve under in the House of Representatives that we're going to get this done, and we'll get it done in time to advance things next week.

BROWN: But how can you have no doubt when the moderates are saying it's too high? What are you doing, and other progressives doing to talk to them to try to figure out a way forward?

WILLIAMS: So, it's not up to me to figure out how to move them along, because there are things that I want to see in this bill and it is about compromise. And so while I'm not going to get everything that I want in the $3.5 trillion infrastructure package, the same thing is not going to happen on their side.

And so when we write legislation, it's about coming together for the greater good of our entire country, and that's exactly what you're going to see us do as a caucus next week in the House Democratic Caucus.

BROWN: Well, another crisis for the Biden administration is of course, what's been going on at the border, and specifically the Haitian immigrants, do you think the White House has been doing enough on that front? How do you think they've handled it so far?

WILLIAMS: Well, first of all, what we saw at the border with the Haitian migrants was unacceptable. It should have never happened and it can't happen again. I know that the Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Joyce Beatty met with that administration and was at the White House talking about how we move forward to make sure that the Haitian people who have suffered so much over the last decade, especially in the last month are being treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve and are giving the opportunity for asylum in this country.

And so we're continuing to work with the Biden administration to make sure that what happened doesn't happen again, and we're holding accountable for the actions that happened. And so I am giving this administration the grace that they deserve so that we can make sure that we're getting policies in place that treat people at our borders with the dignity and respect that all humans deserve, because what I saw happening was not acceptable and cannot happen again.


BROWN: And we know the D.H.S. Secretary has said it's all under investigation and that we would still wait for all the facts to come out before we really understand the full picture there.

But I mean, you have asylum laws on the books that are very clear and very narrow. So, what is the administration supposed to do when these asylum laws say basically, it doesn't matter if you're fleeing violence or poverty, what only matters essentially, is if you're fearing persecution, because you belong to a social group, what is the administration supposed to do?

WILLIAMS: So, what the administration is supposed to do is continue to treat people with dignity and respect. And regardless of what the asylum laws are, what we saw happening with people on horses and reins going after migrants at the border is unacceptable, regardless of the law.

We are a country that welcomes immigrants. We're a country that was built by immigrants. And so we should make sure that we're treating people with the dignity and respect that they deserve. And no human should be ever treated the way that we saw at the Southern border. If that means that we need to change some laws, then that's what I'm in Congress to do, and we'll get to work on that.

BROWN: I want to talk to you about a cancer that seems to be spreading in this country, and that, of course, is the big lie. Polling shows most Republicans believe there was widespread voter fraud and that Biden was not legitimately elected.

The big lie is alive and well, it is working. What is the danger when American citizens no longer believe in a fair election process?

WILLIAMS: Pamela, all of this would be funny if it wasn't our democracy that's at stake, because we saw what just happened in Arizona when they recounted their ballots or the sham of a process that they had, and actually, Joe Biden ended up with more votes. And we're seeing the same thing over and over again, people are just not willing to accept the truth. But in Georgia, we counted the votes not once, not twice, but three times and Joe Biden continuously came up the victor, and the same thing happened in Arizona. We are going to have to continue to move forward in this country in a way that continues to not put a partisan lens over what it means to have a representative democracy.

And there are some Republicans who have called out their party to tell them that they need to stop spreading these conspiracy theories and this lie, and I am moving forward to make sure that we continue to do the work of the people.

I can't convince people who are following Donald Trump blindly that he didn't win the election, but the numbers speak for themselves.

BROWN: All right, Congresswoman to Nikema Williams, thank you for joining us today.

WILLIAMS: Thank you, Pamela.

BROWN: Well, the nationwide manhunt for Brian Laundrie is intensifying and the reality TV star known as Dog, the Bounty Hunter has now joined the search as you see right here.

Meanwhile, rewards totaling $30,000.00 are being offered for information on Laundrie's whereabouts. CNN's Nadia Romero is in Venice, Florida where authorities are scouring a vast nature reserve. So, what's the latest there -- Nadia.

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, this is quite an effort. We're talking about 25,000 acres roughly of this reserve behind me, but to be honest with you, we haven't seen a lot of police activity today especially compared to earlier in the week. But we were told by North Port Police Department that they would be back out here this weekend resuming the search, so that's what's happening here.

As you mentioned, not far from here is the Brian Laundrie home where his parents live and that's where we saw the man who appears to be Dog, the Bounty Hunter knocking on their door, not getting an answer. So then leaving and then being stopped by police. He was questioned and then released.

So we've reached out to his representatives to try to figure out what his role is here, if he has a role in what he was doing in front of the Laundrie home.

Now, we know that this story spans a lot of different states. Her body, Gabby Petito's body was found in Wyoming and there was also a domestic dispute that was called between Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie in Moab, Utah and that police department now under investigation for how those officers responded to that call.

Of course, hindsight is 2020, and they believe that their officers acted appropriately, but there is an investigation to people who are questioning why someone wasn't arrested. Utah being one of about 20 states where someone has to be arrested in that dispute. Tonight, there will be a memorial and butterfly release here in Florida for Gabby Petito and tomorrow, Pamela, on Sunday, there will be a memorial in Long Island, New York as well -- Pamela.

BROWN: All right, Nadia Romero, thank you for bringing us the latest there from Florida.

And coming up tonight, a raw look at the intensive surveillance Britney Spears was under a while a conservatorship controlled of her life for years.

And the vaccine mandate that was supposed to take effect Monday for New York City teachers is now in legal limbo. The latest on the court wrangling when we come back.



BROWN: A major blow to vaccine mandates in the nation's largest school district. A federal judge has issued a temporary injunction preventing New York City from enforcing a planned mandate Monday on all city school workers.

CNN's Alison Kosik joins me now from New York. So Alison, how did we get to this point?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pam, the mandate requiring that all New York City School teachers and staff have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by midnight on Monday, it is now on hold, at least for now and will not go into effect as planned.

That, as a group of New York City educators want a temporary injunction against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's vaccine mandate that requires those members of the school district do to show proof of at least one dose of the vaccine.


KOSIK: Unions representing classroom teachers, principals, and supervisors said the mandate's introduction has been so poorly handled that many school employees will be suspended resulting in unsafe schools. And before it got to this point, they had called on de Blasio to delay the mandate.

The concern was that thousands of New York City teachers may not be in the classroom come Tuesday morning because they haven't been vaccinated. About 10,000 New York City School teachers, they've yet to upload proof of their vaccinations.

Now, de Blasio did have a contingency plan in place saying he had thousands and thousands of experienced substitute teachers ready to go in and step into different roles as needed. But Pam, for now, it looks like it is business as usual on Monday, at least for the moment.

BROWN: And we have to emphasize, too, the word temporary here. I mean, this could all change in a matter of days. Right?

KOSIK: Yes, you're absolutely right, in which, just moments ago that we learned that the city's attorneys have requested a hearing as soon as possible. So, the situation changing pretty quickly.

It is possible that there could be in theory, a ruling issued before midnight on that Monday deadline, but ultimately, city officials don't really think there will be. Keep in mind, this is the second time in a week the union's requested an injunction.

A judge on Thursday denied the request, and on that same day, lawyers appealed the request to a higher court. And on Friday, the injunction was granted.

So what's happening now, a three-judge panel is reviewing the case on an expedited basis with the Appellate Court set to review the case on Wednesday. Once again, this is after the deadline would already have passed.

Now according to court paperwork and Department of Education officials, there is confidence, Pam that the mandate will continue to be upheld, but this is to be continued -- Pam.

BROWN: All right, Alison Kosik, thank you so much.

And up next on this Saturday evening, how the big lie isn't really about overturning the last election, it is about winning the next one. We'll be right back.



BROWN: A warning tonight from senior Brookings Institution fellow and "Washington Post" columnist, Robert Kagan. "The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown in federal authority and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves."

Now, Kagan says distractions, denial, and wishful thinking are all it takes to drown out the alarm bells, until it's too late.

Well, those alarm bells got louder this week with the release of a six-part wild legal fantasy by one of former President Trump's advisers, John Eastman.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That memo again is a blueprint to overthrow an election. I mean, that's what it is. It's a blueprint to overthrow the results of an election handed to the Vice President of the United States more or less in the Oval Office.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: Now, nearly a year after the election, the big lie is deeply rooted in the Republican Party's identity. In a recent CNN/SRSS poll, six in 10 G.O.P. voters said supporting Trump and believing he won in 2020 are a somewhat important part of what being a Republican means to them.


BROWN: To most of his diehard supporters, the violent insurrection on January 6th was actually an attempt to save democracy, even though more than 600 people have been charged with crimes tied to the attack, not to mention just all the violence we see here in this video.

The sham Arizona audit didn't give Trump the win that he wanted either, but it did succeed in deepening distrust in the entire election system and it set off a rash of other audits in battleground states, even though their elections were deemed free and fair by the courts.


BILL GATES (R), MARICOPA COUNTRY, ARIZONA BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: We know that the people who are involved, the Cyber Ninjas, they came into this with preconceived notions. They've already stated they believe that the election was stolen from Donald Trump back in November of 2020, and they're going to continue forward with these type of allegations that are baseless.


BROWN: And now, there is going to be an audit in Texas after Trump demanded that Republican Governor Greg Abbott investigate election fraud without any evidence. By the way, Trump won Texas.

Another sign of the power that the ex-President has over Republicans whose political survival is tied to his good favor and the support of his base.

Meantime, Trump and his allies are working behind the scenes to put loyalists in charge of future elections. Reuters reviewed statements by 15 declared Republican candidates for Secretary of State in five battleground states and interviewed nine of them. Ten of them said they believed the election was stolen or called for the results to be invalidated, and only two said that Biden won the election.

Donald Trump is the leader of the Republican Party. He is flush with cash and if he does run in 2024, he will be better positioned than ever to contest electoral results, not in his favor.

So take a moment to really step back, connect the dots on how our Democracy is under attack from within.

For the record, the big lie isn't about overturning the last election. It's about winning the next one.

[18:30:13] So how serious is this threat to our democracy and what would it take to stop the big lie brainwashing? We've got two experts weighing in tonight, including legal scholar Richard Hasen. I'm going to get his take in just a moment. We'll be right back.



BROWN: And picking up where we left off, could false claims of fraud really destroy faith in our election system and what will it take to beat it?

Joining me now is Richard Hasen, a Professor at UC Irvine School of Law and Co-Director of the Fair Elections and Free Speech Center. And Ian Bassin, Founder and Executive Director of Protect Democracy. Thank you, gentlemen, for coming on. This is a topic that I'm really passionate about and frankly concerned about as we look ahead, particularly when I read what you just wrote recently, Rick, in a law review article.

You said, "The United States faces a serious risk that the 2024 presidential election, and other future U.S. elections, will not be conducted fairly, and that the candidates taking office will not reflect the free choices made by eligible voters." I mean, that is alarming. That is what democracy is all about that whoever is elected represents the will of the people. What do you see, Rick, as the biggest threat to our democracy and our elections at this point?

PROF. RICHARD HASEN, UC IRVINE SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, I never expected to write those words about the United States. I never thought in our lifetime, we would worry about elections being subverted, about elections being stolen. But ironically, the Donald Trump false claims that the last election was stolen and the claims that are now believed by millions of people have greatly increased the chances that the next time around one way or another, we could see a stolen election in 2024.

If elected officials and election officials believe the big lie and they're willing to do something to counter what they see as the big lie, such as by changing the rules or by ignoring the rules, then we're in really serious trouble in this country. Because as you say, a democracy depends on conducting a fair vote and for the winner to actually be declared the winner, it's really the very basis of what a democratic system is.

BROWN: And you say, Rick, that the fact that former President Trump has repeatedly and falsely claimed the 2020 election was stolen from him is actually markedly raised the potential for an actual stolen election. How strong of an impact do you believe the big lie has had on our democracy?

HASEN: Well, I think that the entire Trump campaign which if you remember back in 2016, he claimed that there was massive voter fraud in the election that he won. He has undermined millions of people's confidence in the election system. He has caused these audits to take place, these fake audits to happen. Even after the Arizona fake audit it couldn't reach the results that Trump won in Arizona, they're still trying to do this.

They're trying to undermine people's confidence in the process and they're installing people in office and they're trying to elect people in office who endorsed Trump's views. I mean, do you really want someone counting the votes in the state of Arizona, the state of Georgia who believes or states that he or she believes the false claim that the election was stolen? How can we trust that they're going to fairly count the votes next time?

BROWN: Ian, I want to bring you in because you tweeted this, "Something dangerous and terrible has been unleashed in this country. Typically normal people are threatening school boards, journalists, neighbor. Trump poured the gasoline before the pandemic, which set it on fire. I fear the explosion is yet to come."

Sort of echoing what Rick was just saying there. What do you believe brought us to this point? You mentioned both former President Trump and the pandemic, what else?

IAN BASSIN, FOUDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PROTECT DEMOCRACY: Well, if you look around the world, democracy is actually in the midst of a grave recession. In the last quarter of the 20th century, democracy spread to more countries and improved in the countries that it was in pretty consistently. And according to all of the major international indexes that study this, it plateaued around 2005, 2006 and has been in retreat.

And you see in countries like Hungary, and Poland and Venezuela, they're no longer really democratic, although they still purportedly hold elections. And now three of the four largest democracies in the world: India, Brazil, United States have been governed by autocrats in recent years.

And what is the thing that is going to stop us from falling down that path is if we recognize that we are not immune to this global trend. It's only by thinking that it can't happen here that it could.

BROWN: So how do you combat it? And by the way, that is why on this show, we shine a spotlight on this on a pretty regular basis, because it's so important to recognize it before it is too late. But how do you combat it when you now have, according to the latest CNN poll, 78 percent of Republicans saying they believe the election was stolen.

We just talked about another poll earlier that it's really such a big part of their DNA now, their identity as a Republican. There's so much misinformation. People just looking online saying in their little echo chambers and misinformation and when you have leaders spewing the lie or staying silent, what do you do?

BASSIN: I mean, first we have to understand what has happened in the past because past is prelude as the Yale Historian, Timothy Snyder, has said.

[18:40:05] A practiced coup or a failed coup is practice for a successful coup. And so we have to look at what happened last time. It was a six-step attempted coup by former President Trump. Step one was make it harder for people to vote. Step two was prematurely and falsely claim victory and claim that any late votes being counted mail ballots were fraudulent and not legitimate.

Step three was gum up the courts with thousands of frivolous suits to make it seem like there was something to those fraud claims and to delay certification. Step four was then get state legislatures to step in and appoint their own slate of electors. Step five was then get the Congress on January 6th to accept that other slate of electors. And then step six, if all else failed, was send a violent mob into an insurrection at the Capitol.

And we need to make sure that we stop all of those things for happening next time. And I'll say one thing that could happen right now, which is the Congress could pass the new freedom to vote act, which has provisions in it that try to make it less likely for those things to succeed the next time. And the last piece and we can let them off the hook, Republicans in the Senate need to band together with Democrats to protect our republic.

BROWN: Rick, I'm going to go to you about this Washington Post reporting that was out just this last week. You have Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee both reviewing Trump's claims of election fraud back in January and determined they were bunk, yet they have still refused to separate their party from Trump and both voted against a bipartisan commission to review the January 6th Capitol riot. What does that say to you?

HASEN: Well, I think that we have a very narrow window here. This is not going to be led by Republicans. Republicans are still afraid of Trump or they're trying to ride Trump's coattails. We know that Lindsey Graham embraced Trump when he was running for re-election and he and Mitch McConnell, they backed off a little bit on January 6th after the insurrection.

But that moment of bipartisanship has passed. So one of the things I think we need to see is if Democrats have to go it alone, they're going to have to blow up the filibuster to pass election reforms like requiring paper ballots, not things that are partisan, things that should help ensure a fair election. Setting the rules for how you decide when you can send in a different slate of electors, all kinds of technical things.

And hopefully, there'll be some Republicans, some Republicans who listen to what Mitch McConnell said on January 6th who will go along even if there are 10 of them. This is the moment that this has to happen before it's too late.

BROWN: Yes. It's just terrifying. I'm wondering, Ian, just going back to like how do you combat it, because I want to feel like there is a solution to this or something can be done. What do you do when so many now have reached this point where it's kind of like they say they like democracy, they support democracy, but they don't really because if the elections don't go in their favor, they just say the election was stolen. I mean, that seems more authoritarian than democratic.

BASSIN: Democracy is a rarity in human history. It's sort of a miracle that for 244, some odd years, the United States has been able to preserve it, because it is tempting for people over the course of history to feel like the slowness and the frustrations of democracy make it that they want something simpler. They want a strong man form of government, an authoritarian form of government. But that always comes back to bite them in the end.

And I think it's important, look, I agree with Rick, we can't count on Republicans, but I don't want to let them off the hook. But at the end of the day, if the Republicans in the Senate want to roll the dice on our Republican, our democracy with someone like Donald Trump, then Democrats need to do it themselves.

And it's worth remembering that the 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution after the Civil War were passed with only one party support, it was the Republican Party at the time. And if it takes only one party to save our democracy this time, then the Democratic Party needs to do that.

BROWN: All right. Ian and Rick, great conversation. Thank you both. Hope to have you back on soon.

HASEN: Thanks.

BASSIN: Thank you.

BROWN: Shocking revelations about the surveillance Britney Spears was reportedly under during the conservatorship she is now fighting to end.



BROWN: A new explosive report appears to backup the belief that superstar Britney Spears was living under conservatorship that had too much control. The New York Times spoke with a former high-level member of her security detail who says that her father who oversees the conservatorship has surveillance of Spears' phone, text and get this even bugged her bedroom. The former employee told the times he was directed to delete data from the device.


ALEX VLASOV, FORMER EMPLOYEE, BLACK BOX SECURITY: Edan and one of the agents working with him came into my office and handed me the audio recording device and a USB drive and asked me to wipe it.

I had them tell me what was on it. They seemed very nervous and said that it was extremely sensitive that nobody can ever know about this and that's why I need to delete everything on it so there's no record of it. That raised so many red flags for me and I did not want to be complicit in whatever they were involved in. So I kept a copy because I didn't want to delete evidence. (END VIDEO CLIP)


BROWN: Wow. Joining me now is CNN Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter, who also anchors RELIABLE SOURCES on Sunday.

Brian, this New York Times story shows that Spears' father reportedly also constantly monitored her relationships with men even probed her fans who criticize the conservatorship.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: That's right and the word the Times uses is surveillance, which is a word that conjures up privacy violations that Britney Spears was and is possibly to this day constantly surveilled by her family members, by these business partners who are making a lot of money from her and that's the core of the argument in this New York Times documentary.

One of several projects coming out in the next few days leading up to Wednesday's key hearing in a California courtroom about the conservatorship. The man you just heard from, his name is Alex Vlasov. He says the impression he received working security for Britney Spears for years was that she was essentially in prison, that there was a prison set up. The walls were around her using a combination of surveillance and other tools to try to control her.

I think the word control really gets to what we're talking about here, Pamela. How was one of the biggest stars in the world controlled through this legal conservatorship system and then through these individuals in her life who were wielding it over her. That's what The New York Times has new reporting on CNN as well, Netflix on Tuesday. We're seeing all of these new reports coming out.

And frankly, it's the best example of journalism competition being a good thing for the public, because different people are now coming forward, given interviews to different news outlets, about what they saw, what they experienced, what they witnessed inside Britney Spears' inner circle. Now finally, after more than a decade, people are blowing the whistle.

BROWN: And you're so right, I mean, we're going to be learning a lot just in the CNN documentary which - the Britney Spears, it's going to air tomorrow. And other people who used to work in her world say they saw nearly every aspect of the singers life restricted somehow.



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: There were reports that on the circus tour, she couldn't read certain books, she couldn't have a cell phone.


CAMEROTA: Is that true?


CAMEROTA: What books can she read?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She could only read Christian books.

CAMEROTA: Says who?


CAMEROTA: She couldn't have a cell phone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At times, she did have a cell phone. Her phone was monitored. The text messages were read. The call logs were there. I don't know whether or not calls were recorded, but the use of the phone was very tightly controlled.


CAMEROTA (voice over): CNN cannot independently confirm these allegations. Britney says her doctors and therapists were also carefully controlled.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The conservatorship dictated her who her doctors were going to be, which doctor she was going to see, how often she was going to see them, how long those sessions would be, every aspect of her medical care and not just her medical care, was extremely, extremely controlled.


CAMEROTA (voice over): As was who she could see.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who she could date, who she could be friends with was very, very tightly controlled.

CAMEROTA (off camera): The conservatorship told her who she could be friends with.


CAMEROTA (off camera): Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there was a concern that a third party might introduce something to the mix that would be detrimental to the overall structure that was restoring order in her life and I think the conservatorship did a good job of doing that in the beginning.

CAMEROTA (on camera): Do you think they were trying to keep out the riffraff or they were trying to make sure they were protecting the bottom line and this commodity could keep performing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, she was treated as more of an object than a human.



BROWN: Well, Jamie Spears declined to comment on the record about the specifics, but his lawyer did tell us that he loved his daughter and dedicated his life to helping her reach her goals. So Brian, tell us the latest in the fight for Britney Spears to end her conservatorship.

STELTER: Yes. This new report from Alisyn Camerota and Chloe Melas is really important, because it shows this sense of control that surrounded Britney Spears. And by the way, all of this financed by Britney Spears, the concerts, the performances, the music royalties, all of the money coming into the bank accounts for Britney Spears was then being spent to create this control, this environment, this prison like environment around her, whether it was monitoring her text messages in her cell phone or affecting the relationship she had with her children and that's one of the most emotional parts of all of this.

Britney Spears, her relationship with our two boys and how her relationship with her children was sometimes controlled. Now, as you said, Jamie Spears not saying much, if anything right now. The people who put this conservatorship into place and who have defended over the years, they are barely saying a word. But now you have these other people on the other side speaking out, trying to tell their story saying why they are so concerned about what's happened in the past and what could happen in the future.


And this is not just about Britney Spears. There are conservatorships in place for many individuals. We're talking about more than a million people, whether these are used the right way or whether they are abused is something that the Britney Spears case is breaking wide open.

So as you said, Pamela, the CNN documentaries on Sunday night, Netflix also coming out all ahead of this Wednesday hearing, this Wednesday hearing where Britney Spears could be on the precipice of securing some form of freedom, but we will see on Wednesday.

BROWN: All right. Brian Stelter, thanks so much.

New reporting tonight from "The New York Times" on how the FBI got an inside view of the insurrection, the journalists behind that reporting joins me next hour.