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A.G. Garland Stands Firm On DOJ's School Board Protection Memo; 1/6 Committee To Subpoena Lawyer Who Told Pence To Overturn Election; GOP Lawmakers Attempt To Downplay & Justify Jan. 6 Attack; COVID Vaccines For Kids 5-11 Closer To Emergency Use Approval. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired October 27, 2021 - 14:30   ET



JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Now, the attorney general has essentially been under attack since he issued this memo October 4th.

But today, he is forcefully defending it, saying that he's not targeting parents and saying that parents are fully protected by the First Amendment to engage in vigorous debates. It just crosses the line when it gets to the threats.

But he's still getting major backlash from Republicans. Take a listen.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (D-TX): Did you consider the chilling effect your memorandum might have on parents exercising their constitutional rights? I think you can answer that yes or no.

MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: What I considered, what I wanted the memorandum to assure people that we recognize the rights of spirited debate and --


CORNYN: Mr. Attorney general, you're an accomplished lawyer and judge, you can answer the question.

Did you consider --

GARLAND: I do not --

CORNYN: -- the chilling effect that this sort of threat of federal prosecution would have on parents exercise their constitutional rights to be involved in their children's education?

GARLAND: I don't believe it's reasonable to read this memorandum as chilling anyone's rights. It's about threats of violence. And it expressly recognizes the constitutional right to make arguments about your children's education.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHNEIDER: The attorney general has been answering questions like this all day long since the hearing started at 10:00.

He rejected an allegation from some Republicans that he was acted under the directive of the White House to issue this memo.

And despite those repeated calls from Republicans to rescind the memo, Garland saying he stands by it.

But Alisyn and Victor, this has really become the key talking point for Republicans, both in the House and the Senate.

Of course, they're using it in election races, like we're seeing in the gubernatorial race. This is a big issue on parental choice and the education system -- Guys?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Yes. Conservative media, too, talking about parental choice.

Jessica Schneider, thank you.

Lawmakers investigating the insurrection signal that they are going to subpoena a lawyer who worked with President Trump's legal team.

Now we've got new footage of that lawyer discussing his attempts to convince the former vice president, Mike Pence, to overturn the election.



BLACKWELL: The House Select Committee investigating the capitol insurrection is expected to issue another subpoena today. This one is for John Eastman, the conservative lawyer who worked for Trump's legal team.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: The committee said Eastman tried to convince then-Vice President Mike Pence that he could overturn the election results.

And now in a conversation caught on camera with a Democratic activist posing as a Trump supporter, Eastman explains the problem with Mike Pence.


UNIDENTIFIED DEMOCRATIC ACTIVIST: All your legal reasoning is totally solid.


UNIDENTIFIED DEMOCRATIC ACTIVIST: Anyway, like, you know, supporter to supporter, why do you think that Mike Pence didn't do it?

EASTMAN: Because Mike Pence is an establishment guy at the end of the day.

And all of the establishment Republicans in D.C. bought into this very myopic view that Trump was destroying the Republican Party.


BLACKWELL: CNN reached out this morning to Eastman's office for comment but we have yet to hear back.

Joining us now is CNN's legal and national security analyst, Asha Rangappa, and CNN's Dana Bash.

Good to have both of you.

Asha, let me start with you.

This video is important because, for those Republicans who say -- and we heard this from Secretary Rice over the weekend -- it's time to move on from January 6th.

The same people who sold the lie leading up to the insurrection are still selling that lie to people who are believing that, pushing that narrative forward.

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, Victor. I think lawyers are leading the charge. Eastman is one of those lawyers.

This is especially dangerous for two reasons.

The first is that when lawyers provide a baseless legal theory as Eastman did in this case to essentially overturn the election, his idea was that Mike Pence could basically throw out the Electoral Count Act, which he cannot do, and override the Constitution, which he cannot do.

When lawyers present a baseless legal theory like that, they're giving legal cover and permission for other people to follow along.

Secondly, they're weaponizing the law against the principles it's meant to protect.

We've seen this before, for example, with the torture memos by the former head of the Office of Legal Counsel, John Yoo.

These are very dangerous for our democracy. I think the legal profession has a reckoning on what to do with these lawyers who are violating their legal professional responsibility to uphold the rule of law and misusing their skills and credentials and authority.

CAMEROTA: Dana, we've learned from the leaked Facebook documents that when people in positions of authority, like John Eastman, but particularly politics, say misinformation and say crazy things, they're given more weight and the public believes them more than they believe their neighbor saying something like that.

And then we see it catch fire. And, by the way, this happens all the time.

What we're seeing now that politicians are trying to do is whitewash what happened on January 6th. And keep pretending that it was no big deal. It was just a protest.

Here's just little bit of sound.


REP. ANDREW CLYDE (R-GA): If you didn't know the TV footage was a video from January 6th, you would think it was normal tourist visit.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): By in large, it was peaceful protests except there were a number of people, basically agitators, that whipped the crowd and breached the capitol.

I knew those were people who love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break a law. So I wasn't concerned.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): January 6th was just a riot at the capitol. If you think about what our Declaration of Independence says, it says to overthrow tyrants.


CAMEROTA: They're just going on and on.

It started in May, that sort of whitewashing has continued. You hear the freshman congresswoman from Georgia just coming up with her newest angle on this.

BLACKWELL: Just a riot.

CAMEROTA: It's just also from the Declaration of Independence that you're supposed to do that.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You do see the evolution or the differences.

It does seem that Marjorie Taylor Greene's argument, as out there, and as outlandish as it is, is different from the other ones who are saying the images you're saying and what you experienced firsthand, and never mind our friends and colleagues in the press corps, didn't actually happen.

What she is saying is actually, it did happen. There was a riot. There was an insurrection. That was their constitutional right to do that. That's exactly what was encouraged by and since the founding of America.

Which is also just kind of mind blowing. It does seem as though that argument is the one that is -- still has a

lot of resonance with the people that she is speaking to. And they're the same people that the former president is speaking to.

And there are a lot -- and there really is a good amount of support for that in the Republican base, which is driving a lot of decisions by local lawmakers in these states, which I know we will talk about, to change some of the things we do in the future.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about the debate. What we've seen and heard at this Q&A, this is with the founder of Turning Point yesterday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're living under a corporate and medical fascism. This is tyranny. When do we get to use the guns?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'm not -- I'm not -- that's not a joke. I'm not saying it like that.

I mean, literally, where is the line? How many elections will let them steal before we kill these people?

CHARLIE KIRK, FOUNDER, TURNING POINT: No. I -- no. Hold on. Stop. Hold on.

Now I'm going to denounce that and tell you why. You're playing into all their plans and they're trying to make you do this.

I'm saying we have a fragile balance right now in our current time where we must exhaust every single peaceful mean possible.


BLACKWELL: Now, CNN has been unable to identify who that audience member was.

And when contacted for comment, Turning Point wrote, their founder, Charlie Kirk, "immediately and unequivocally denounced any violence and pushed for peace means to engage politically, as any political leader or activist on either side of the political spectrum should."

That's what we heard from that organization.

But when you hear what we heard from Marjorie Taylor Greene in this contest who says what you saw on the 6th is what the Declaration of Independence says that we should do against tyrants, and you have people who still believe the work is undone, I want you to pull that thread of the danger of what we're hearing from leaders.

RANGAPPA: Yes, Victor. Listen, if your goal is to overthrow the government, even if you think they're tyrants, if your goal is to overthrow the government, it's not a protest or tourist visit. It's a coup. Legally speaking, it's also a crime. It's called seditious conspiracy.

If you're organizing people to use arms and violence to do it, that would be considered leveeing war against the United States. And it is treason.

So, I think that Marjorie Taylor Greene should really familiarize herself with these legal definitions.

Because, you know, as someone who reportedly helped in the planning of the rally at the Ellipse, you know, I think, at some point, the FBI will question her about her participation, what she knew, how she was involved.

The goal that she just stated will be very relevant in terms of what the intentions were of the people who planned the rally that day and what they anticipated happening afterwards.

I think what she said was very telling.

CAMEROTA: I don't know if she does a lot of reading homework, but I take your point, Asha.

Dana, all of this plays into your special tonight, which is just, you know, the roots of the Big Lie and the real-world consequences of it.

So let's watch a portion of what you'll be showing tonight.


STATE REP. JAMES WHITE (R-TX): Poll watchers are already there. OK?

BASH: They have a lot more leeway now.


WHITE: Poll watchers are there, OK? And we --

BASH: Is it fair that they have more leeway? Do you agree with that?

WHITE: No. I don't.

BASH: You can look voters in Texas, particularly voters of color, in the eye and promise them that this new law that you voted for --


BASH: -- will not suppress their vote? Will not make it harder for them to vote?

WHITE: Absolutely. I can look them in the eye. I can make that case.

BASH: Houston's mayor told us, with Texas flare, that he doesn't buy it.

MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER (D-HOUSTON): Don't tell me it's not raining. Don't tell me you're not engaging in voter suppression.

I'm concerned that people have not fully -- they don't fully understand the dynamics that they are putting in place.


CAMEROTA: Tell us more, Dana.

BASH: The context of this is one of the many changes that the Texas Republican-led legislature passed and the Republican governor signed was to allow more freedom of movement by partisan poll watchers who do already exist.

But have them -- allow them more freedom, I should say -- again, that's the key word from their point of view -- in these election facilities.

And actually have criminal penalties against election workers where if they're seeing things untoward, to remove them. That is a possibility.

And all of this relates to the conversation we were having because this kind of change is a direct result of the conspiracies and the lies that people, like the guy at Turning Point stood up and said, that the election was fraudulent. So we want to have our people in these voting places.

The most remarkable thing about having conversations, particularly with Republicans in Texas and also in Georgia, as part of this special is that nobody said that they believed the Big Lie.

They did not believe -- they do not believe that Donald Trump should still be president. They believed that Joe Biden was freely and fairly elected.

But they all pretty much to a person said they're getting a lot of pressure from their constituents who are being lied to, to make changes.

CAMEROTA: That's really remarkable. It doesn't make it right.

You have to, at some point, tell your constituents that's not true. That's not what happened. That's not what they're doing.


CAMEROTA: Asha Rangappa, Dana Bash, thank you both very much.

Be sure to tune in for Dana's new CNN special report, "STOP THE VOTE: THE BIG LIE'S ASSAULT ON DEMOCRACY." It airs tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

BLACKWELL: Children as young as 5 years old could get their first dose of the COVID vaccine as soon as next week. But trying to convince some parents to get their kid in line, that's easier said than done.


CAMEROTA: The U.S. is one step closer to green lighting a COVID vaccine for kids aged 5 to 11 after an FDA panel recommended emergency use authorization of Pfizer's vaccine for that age group. It is now up to the FDA and the CDC to sign off.

BLACKWELL: The country is seeing a drop in the number of people getting their shots. And there's growing concern over whether parents will get their young kids vaccinated.

CNN national correspondent, Nick Watt, has the latest.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First shots going into American arms, that number is falling. Now at a record low since the CDC started tracking that stat.

But around 28 million kids could become eligible for a vaccine as early as next week.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It could have an impact on the trajectory of the pandemic.

WATT: FDA advisers voted 17-0 to recommend the Pfizer vaccine for kids 5 to 11 in trials over 90 percent effective at preventing them getting sick and safety.

DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINE ADVISORY COMMITTEE: When we make these kinds of decisions, it's all based on one thing, would we give this vaccine to our own children. No one would have said yes if they weren't willing to give it to their own children.

WATT: But only about a third of parents plan to give it to their 5 to 11-year-olds right away, says one poll.

DR. MARK MCCLELLAN, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: We have seen over close to two million infections in this age group, more than 8,000 kids hospitalized.

This is a very important option especially with so much COVID around, and so many kids trying to go back to school, and prevent spread within their families, and in their communities.

WATT: Meantime, in New York, protests and lawsuits. City workers have until Friday, 5:00 p.m. to get at least one dose. As of this A.M., just 73 percent of the NYPD meet that bar.

Their boss blames politics.

DERMOT SHEA, COMMISSIONER, NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT: Wouldn't it have been a nicer situation if you had President Trump and President- Elect Biden standing next to each other and saying everyone should get vaccinated right now.

But we had it as a political issue, and now, like it's just festering in this time we're in.

WATT: One of former President Trump's COVID has told a congressional subcommittee that around 130,000 lives could have been saved during the pandemic's first wave with optimal mitigation across this country deployed by the White House and more governors.

Later in the year, says Dr. Deborah Birx, they were actively campaigning and not as present in the White House.

Another issue now comes to light. Leaked internal Facebook reports suggest the social media behemoth was ill equipped to stamp out vaccine misinformation.

"Our ability to protect vaccine hesitancy comments is so bad in English and basically nonexistent elsewhere," reads one report from about three months after the vaccine rolled out.


DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: We were seeing that this this misinformation was costing people their lives.

I believe these companies have a moral responsibility to stand up and address health misinformation. They have, to date, failed in that responsibility. And it's ultimately costing us as a society.

So they really need to step up and do so now.


WATT: And we have some updates in the whole mask mandate situation. Broward County, Florida, just voted to lift the mask mandate for high school kids starting Monday.

Some districts in Ohio are going to lift it K through 12. Other districts across the country thinking about it.

But the CDC still says wear masks in schools. And the CDC says they have no plans on changing that guidance -- Guys?

BLACKWELL: Nick Watt, thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: OK. CNN has just obtained a new affidavit from the deadly movie set shooting involving actor, Alec Baldwin. We have a live report on these new developments from Santa Fe, next.