Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Rupert Murdoch To Trump On 2020: "The Past Is the Past"; Bill Maher On 2024: If Trump Runs, Whether He Wins Or Loses, He'll Say He Won"; RNC Chair On Cheney: "She's Still A Republican"; Rep. Gosar Censured, Stripped Of House Committee Posts Over Violent Video; Bannon Makes First Appearance Before Judge, Pleads Not Guilty; Closing Arguments Underway In Charlottesville "Unite The Right" Trial; McConnell & Schumer Meet To Discuss Debt Limit. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired November 18, 2021 - 14:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Conservative media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, is sending a public message to former President Trump: Move on.

Murdoch, whose family controls FOX's parent company, said this at the News Corp. shareholders meeting.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: And here it is. He said, "The current American political debate is profound. It is crucial that conservatives play an active, forceful role in that debate."

"But that will not happen if President Trump stays focused on the past. The past is the past, and the country is now in a contest to define the future."

CAMEROTA: OK, let's talk about this and more with Olivia Troye, an advisor to former Vice President Mike Pence.

Olivia, great to see you.

I want to be very clear. This was to News Corps. There's no marching orders like this at FOX, I'm certain.

Rupert Murdoch goes along with whatever gets ratings. So FOX can continue to be as fawning for President Trump as they have been and want to be. This is not some sort of edict that he's issuing.

And, as we know, they are -- if he throws his hat in the ring in 2024, they will be all in for him.

And, Olivia, I want to talk to you about something that Bill Maher has brought up that I think a lot of people have been concerned about.

And that is if President Trump gets into the race again in 2024, whether he wins or loses, he will say he won, and you know, then what?

So, listen to what Bill Maher said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": The Republican Party, as much as I keep hearing about, oh, Trump, he's not as relevant anymore, trust me, he's going to run. Absolutely. He's going to get the nomination.

And I certainly wouldn't be surprised if he just won the election. But even if he doesn't win the election, he will say he won the election. There's no doubt that he will say he won.


CAMEROTA: So, Olivia, then what? What will Republicans do that time? Are there -- will there be guardrails in 2024 to stop that kind of steal?

TROYE: Well, we haven't seen any guardrails to date, right? We've got basically two unwavering people who believe in the truth and that's Adam Kinzinger.

And Liz Cheney and they have pretty much been ousted by the Republican Party. It's definitely what we've seen going on in Wyoming with Liz Cheney most recently.

So I don't think that the Republicans will do anything to take a stand against this.

I think that they will accept, you know, their sentencing, so to speak, because they have all enabled this moment, possibly, to happen again.

BLACKWELL: Well, let's talk about that. You bring up the vote in Wyoming to not even recognize Liz Cheney as a Republican. That happened this week.

We've heard now from Ronna McDaniel, who is the head of the RNC, asked, "Is Liz Cheney still considered a Republican?"

Here's what she said.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you still consider Liz Cheney a Republican?

RONNA MCDANIEL, CHAIR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: You know, the Wyoming GOP took their actions. Obviously, she's still a Republican. She's a Republican in the conference. She's still got an --




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. MCDANIEL: I wish she was talking about electing ours more. But, yes.


BLACKWELL: This is the conflict that the party is going to see trying to -- her job to get more Republicans elected but also this fealty to following through with the former president's vendettas.

What do you see here, this fight between the state party, the national party, on even if a conservative congresswoman is considered a Republican?


TROYE: Look, I think the struggle is real. They understand that the base of the Republican Party right now is Trumpism. And they cannot win elections without drawing that base.

And so I think for any candidate, and especially the RNC right now, the Republican National Committee, they're going to have to figure out how to cater to that base.

And yet, try to figure out a path forward that includes others, like people like Youngkin, who recently won an election in a more, you know, measured way.

But let's be honest. Youngkin also ran on a platform of lying about certain aspects. Such as critical race theory, so to speak, which we know was a baseless, baseless thing. But it worked to his benefit.

CAMEROTA: Olivia, what did you think of Congressman Paul Gosar being censured yesterday in the House of Representatives? Do you think that will curtail any sort of inflammatory rhetoric or violent imagery?

TROYE: No, I don't think so. We only had two Republicans, again, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, vote in favor of it.

They voted to hold this person accountable for threats against a sitting president of our country and threats against other members of our -- of the congressional leadership here. I mean, the leaders of our country.

And so, I think, as long as they continue, the Republicans continue to allow for these types of actions to take place and they turn a blind eye to it, they don't hold these people accountable, this will continue going forward.

And this is a very -- it's a dangerous trend. These are the leaders of our country. And what is it saying to the rest of -- what is it saying to Americans that threats against others in the workplace, is that OK?

I think that this is something that is fundamentally still ongoing. And I don't see an end to it any time soon.

And look, the ongoing disinformation by Kevin McCarthy, that he, again, exhibited yesterday in that speech, is just certainly appalling.

And I think it's -- you know, it shows where the Republican Party is right now in terms of what they have decided to adopt as their platform.

BLACKWELL: And McCarthy's out again today talking about potential retribution. Let's listen to that.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): This isn't about threats. But it's about holding people accountable. I think the majority is going to have to approve any of those members on the committees of which they could serve.

So, yes, we hold our members to a high standard. It's interesting to me how the Democrats want rules for thee but not for me. That's not right. And we'll change that when we're in the majority.


BLACKWELL: What do you think about that, potentially, you know, he's threatening there that he will go after some of the members of Congress that he mentioned in his remarks yesterday?

TROYE: But you know, the bullying and the intimidation continues here in the Republican Party.

You've got what happened in terms of the -- the Republicans that voted for the infrastructure bill, a bill that would benefit their communities. And what happens? They get threatened by members of their own party and they get death threats to them and their families.

This is sort of the -- this is the environment that Kevin McCarthy, as the leader of the Republican Party right now on the Hill, has cultivated and embraced.

And so, you know, I see Kevin McCarthy sort of playing the double standard here, going forward.

And I am concerned about what it would mean if they do come back into power and Kevin McCarthy is in charge of giving out committee assignments and things like that.

And what will it mean for the environment there for these congressional people who are, you know, serving their districts in an environment that right now is full of bullying, intimidation and threats.


Olivia Troye, always good to have your perspective. Thank you.

TROYE: Thanks for having me.

[14:38:52] BLACKWELL: Steve Bannon is back in court today after pleading not guilty to criminal Contempt of Congress charges. Up next, new details on the former President Trump aide's legal strategy and what we know about the judge in this case.



CAMEROTA: Former Trump advisor, Steve Bannon, made his first virtual appearance before the federal judge who will oversee his Contempt of Congress case. The former Trump advisor pleaded not guilty.

He was indicted for refusing to testify in front of the January 6th House committee. Today, his lawyers made it clear they plan to slow walk this case.

BLACKWELL: CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, is in Washington.

So, Jessica, how'd they make that clear, that they're going to slow walk this?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: They asked for a lot more time here, Victor and Alisyn. And the clash between Bannon's lawyers and government lawyers because of that is already emerging.

So Bannon's lawyers, they want their own chance to investigate Bannon's decision to defy that congressional subpoena. They say that this process could take a while to play out.

But lawyers for the U.S. attorney's office, they told the judge that this was a straightforward case that shouldn't be delayed.

Ultimately, the judge here took the middle ground. He ordered the parties to meet and discuss how this case will proceed.

He set another court date relatively quickly for December 7th. And already the government is handing over grand jury testimony that Bannon's team can review.

But really, today's hearing, it demonstrates at least one strategy for Bannon's legal team here. They want to drag out this process.

And, guys, they also say the arguments that we're going to hear on executive privilege at the appeals court in D.C. on November 30th, they say that will factor into their case.


Bannon's lawyers telling the judge that there are complex constitutional issues at play.

The attorneys for the government here argue instead these are just charges about Bannon not showing up when he was subpoenaed and that it should be a simple matter. So, this could all be a preview of the fireworks we could see in the

coming weeks.

The Justice Department wanting this to be a quick criminal proceeding, Bannon's attorneys might make that difficult with their demands here. They want to talk to witnesses who might help the case. They also want more documents from Congress and the executive branch.

And you know, Victor and Alisyn, this case is all unfolding before a federal judge who was appointed in 2019 by then-President Trump.

Judge Carl Nichols, he was actually a government lawyer during George W. Bush's presidency. He actually pushed for sweeping arguments in favor of shielding an ex-presidential advisor from congressional testimony.

But of course, it's important to note, that was his stance in his capacity as a lawyer.

And, guys, the judge, so far, at least in this first appearance, he does appear to be playing it right down the middle. December 7th -- Alisyn and Victor?

BLACKWELL: All right, moving pretty quickly there.

Jessica Schneider, thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, closing arguments are under way in the federal civil trial for organizers of that 2017 deadly Unite the Right rally. We are live in Charlottesville with an update, next.



BLACKWELL: Closing arguments are now underway in the civil trial against the white nationalists who organized the deadly Charlottesville rally in 2017.

Their protest against a removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee devolved into chaos.

John Fields, one of those white nationalists, drove his car through a crown of counter-protesters. Dozens were injured. And 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed.

CNN's Jason Carroll is in Charlotteville.

Jason, what are the big takeaways here?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A little bit to unravel here. One of the defense attorneys, James Kolenich, he's the one that represents Jason Kessler. He's the one that got the permit for the rally.

He summed it up in many ways. Basically, what he did was he started out his closings by acknowledging the plaintiffs, saying how brave they were, talked about the extent of their injuries.

But basically saying, at the end of the day, the plaintiff's attorneys did not do their part to say that there was a conspiracy to commit violence here.

He said the only thing they did prove was that the defendants agreed to get together for a fist fight.

He went on to say, quote, "The fact is these guys knew each other, they talked to each other, and they say all kinds of things, ridiculous things, and believe all kinds of ridiculous things."

"Not even ridiculous, offensive, deeply offensive, even dangerous things, but none of that proves a conspiracy."

Then right after that, Victor, then you had a different defense attorney get up there. Remember, there are a number of different defense attorneys. They're all doing closings.

And this one represents James Fields. And he basically said there was a conspiracy to plan the Unite the Right rally. But he said his client wasn't part of that conspiracy.

So there's a lot for jurors to unravel here.

The plaintiff's attorneys, they've already completed their closing arguments.

They told jurors that over the course of this three and a half-week trial, that they presented overwhelming evidence that showed a conspiracy. They showed text messages. They showed social media posts.

Karen Dunn, one of the plaintiff's attorneys, she reminded jurors of a text message between Chris Cantwell -- he's a Neo-Nazi -- and Richard Spencer, a white nationalist.

The text message said the following from Cantwell: "I'm willing to risk a lot from our cause, including violence and incarceration. I want to coordinate and make sure it is worth it for our cause."

Now, at the end of the day here, jurors have to consider a preponderance of evidence.

So basically, what that means is jurors have to ask themselves, is there a 51 percent chance or greater that they heard enough evidence to convict these defendants on these particular types of charges?

And so that gives them a lot of wiggle room here. Just 51 percent leaves the door really wide open here.

Guys, back to you.

CAMEROTA: Yes, a lot of important trials going on right now that the country is watching.

Jason Carroll, thank you for the report from Charlottesville. [14:53:52]

We have breaking news. More than half a century after the assassination of civil rights leader, Malcolm X, two men convicted in his killing have been exonerated. We're live outside that courthouse.



CAMEROTA: This is just into our newsroom. We're learning about an important bipartisan meeting to discuss a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, entering the office of Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, which is a sign that both sides want to avoid a standoff like the last one.

BLACKWELL: The new deadline is December 15th. And if no deal is reached, it would be the first time the U.S. has ever defaulted on debt. Economists say the consequences would be devastating.

Let's go to CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

What do you know about the meeting?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is much different than the standoff that happened in October. At that time, we went right up to the brink. There was a possibility there could be the first ever U.S. default.

And ultimately, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, suggested that he would be open to allowing a short increase of the national debt ceiling. That would only extend for about two months.


He supplied the Republican votes. Democrats voted with it. And ultimately that led to the situation where we're in right now, where there's that December 15th deadline to raise the national debt limit.

Up until now, though, there has been no real clear path in order to avoid a potential default next month.