Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Judge Recommends GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Should Not Be Disqualified for Reelection; Esper: Stephen Miller Wanted to Sen 250,000 Troops to Border; Vehicle Found in Hunt for Escaped Inmate, Former Corrections Officer; Stewardship of Supreme Court Under Justice Roberts Scrutinized. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 06, 2022 - 15:30   ET



RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And in this decision that Beaudrot put out today, he said, quote: Challengers have produced insufficient evidence to show that Representative Greene engaged in that insurrection after she took the oath of office on January 23rd, 2021.

So, what happens now is this recommendation is then handed over to the current Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger who will make the final decision as to whether or not she can stay on the ballot ahead of their primary on May 24th. Now Raffensperger ultimately has the final say here. But it is very unlikely that he would overrule the recommendation that's been handed down by this judge.

Now, these activists that are still working to try and remove Greene from the ballot. They do have other options. They could appeal to the state court to another judge to try and have another hearing and have this process continue. But again, the clock is ticking now, Victor, with the primary approaching by the end of the month. It is likely that this is the end of the road.

And the other part of this that's important, Victor, is that this is not the only example of activists trying to remove Republican members who they believe were involved in the insurrection from the ballot across the country. We've seen similar challenges in places like North Carolina and others. They've all been unsuccessful to this point. So, this is an important decision that was handed down by this judge in Georgia, and it likely shows that these attempts will be unlikely to succeed even if they continue to push forward -- Victor.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Nobles on the breaking news on Capitol Hill, thank you, Ryan. Let's bring in now CNN senior political correspondent and host of "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY," Abby Phillip. Abby, good to have you. This judge says in his 19 page recommendations the challenges have produced insufficient evidence to show that Representative Greene engaged in the insurrection after she took oath of office on January 3, 2021. Your first reaction -- first thoughts on the breaking news.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and I think that the line that they needed to cross in order to sort of prove that she should be disqualified was whether she engaged in the insurrection. She was certainly supportive of the causes behind it, but I don't know that they really proved that other part. And so, I think this is not necessarily surprising. These efforts are kind of long shot efforts in the first place. It is a little bit surprising that it got as far as it did.

But as Ryan just pointed out, the Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, though he is not supportive of, you know, the overall big lie pushed by former President Trump, he's also not -- he's a Republican. And he's -- I don't think he's going to go so far as to overrule a judge on this particular issue when there doesn't seem to be the evidence that the people pushing -- wanting to push Marjorie Taylor Greene off the ballot said that there is, that she was actually engaged in the insurrection itself.

BLACKWELL: All right, let's move on now to what we're learning about former President Trump's Defense Secretary, Mark Esper. This new book, "New York Times" reports that Esper writes in this new memoir that when ISIS leader al-Baghdadi was killed in 2019, Trump's senior adviser Stephen Miller proposed dipping al-Baghdadi's head in pig's blood and parading it around to warn other terrorists. Esper says he told Miller that would be a war crime. Miller denies the account. We should say that Stephen Miller has a record of some, let's say, extreme proposals. What do you make of what Esper writes?

PHILLIP: I mean, Stephen Miller has really a long history in the Trump administration as being one of the most provocative forces, even within the Trump administration. Putting his hands in all kinds of other agencies, the Department of Homeland Security, it appears here the Department of Defense. And that kind of relationship that Esper describes is one that I heard about reporting on the Trump administration from sources about Miller wanting to push the envelope to the most extreme places, about what the Trump administration should be doing.

I think everybody watching probably remembers the so-called Muslim ban when they tried to actually codify Trump's election proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. The person behind that was Stephen Miller. And so, it's not surprising to me that these types of stories would emerge. Although as you say, Stephen Miller denies that it even occurred. But Esper points out in the book, Miller was one of the people that he believed was pushing Trump to be even more erratic than Trump was already inclined to be, and I think that that says a lot.

BLACKWELL: Well, let's take this to the southern border now. This interview with former Secretary Esper on "60 Minutes." This was about a plan to deal with migrants at the southern border. Let's watch.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who suggested that we send a quarter million U.S. troops to the border? MARK ESPER, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Yes, Stephen Miller. We're in

a meeting waiting for the president to come out, we're standing around the resolute desk and he's behind me. And this voice just starts talking about the caravans are coming and we need to get troops to the border, and we need a quarter million troops, and I think he's joking. And then I turn around and I look at him, and these dead pan eyes, it's clearly, he is not joking.


BLACKWELL: Esper goes on to describe how he went to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Milley to find out is this actually happening. Milley actually found an operational plan on paper. It is unimaginable, really, that the White House would go around the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in sending a quarter million troops to the border?

PHILLIP: Yes, it's an extraordinary allegation. But in the context of this administration -- the Trump administration, Stephen Miller was the most staunchly anti-immigration force within that White House. And it wasn't just that he was -- he was happy to just do executive orders from the executive part of it, he tried to engage with other agencies. And as Esper is alleging here, the Department of Defense to go around them. That's an extraordinary allegation, and it also kind of fits in with what was happening in that latter part of the Trump administration.

The Trump White House getting very frustrated with the Department of Defense, that they weren't doing enough about protests on the street, these protests against racism that were breaking out across the country, they weren't doing enough about the border, and all of this culminated in Trump firing Esper in the days after the election but those tensions had been building for quite some time, and it was really, it seems, all about how much DoD was pushing back against proposals that many people in that agency viewed as unconstitutional, as things that the Department of Defense just shouldn't be involved in.

BLACKWELL: Abby Phillip, good to see you, thank you.

Breaking news we have for you now, the manhunt for a former Alabama corrections officer and an inmate. The sheriff just briefed reporters, why he says they are back to square one. Next.



BLACKWELL: Some new developments now in the hunt for an escaped Alabama inmate and the former corrections officer who's apparently on the run with him. A car they used in their getaway has now been found. CNN's Ryan Young is with me. So, Ryan, we just got an update. What's the sheriff saying?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we did. Look, we've been working this story since last week, and you think about the pieces they put together. This car was found several hours after they ditched it. Apparently, they believe it broke down. The idea is when it was found on the side of the road, no one could put two and two together. It was all the media coverage that basically highlighted the idea that maybe this orange vehicle that was found, this Ford Edge was a part of this investigation.

Then the sheriff's department in Tennessee went out last night and they were able to confirm with the vin number that that was indeed the vehicle they were looking for. So, we do know that because the car was locked, they are going to do a search warrant at some point and to start processing that car to see what was left behind.

We just received some pictures that we can't share just yet but apparently, they tried to spray paint the back end of this orange car with green spray paint. It was done very hastily, so you can see, like, they must have been in a rush. But due to the fact of where this car was left behind, they believe it probably broke down at some point.

Victor, I want you to hear from the sheriff himself because he was just talking in the last few minutes about this case and the new piece of evidence they just found.


SHERIFF RICK SINGLETON, LAUDERDALE COUNTY, ALABAMA: We're sort of back to square one as far as a vehicle description right now. As I said, we're working on trying to see if there are any stolen vehicles in that area. I'm hoping that we will get a break in that.


YOUNG: Yes, Victor, when you think about this, they were back to square one because now they have to figure out exactly what kind of car they went away in after this situation. That's a two-hour drive away from this location. When you think about this, both the U.S. Marshal Service and the sheriff's department have been very open with us about this investigation. Because every time we show the pictures of these two and the fact of talk about this story, they get more tips. So, we know hundreds of tips have come in so far.

One of the things that we also want to highlight is the fact that you think about this, it was two hours after they probably left that first location that this car was found. But now you're talking about days later. It was just yesterday, late last night that they found this.

Now we do know there are several teams working in that area and also, the sheriff's department is getting more phone calls in. So, when you think about the attention that's been put on this story, Victor, you understand more calls could be coming in. But did they hitchhike? We also asked about whether or not there were any buildings in the nearby area where there might have been a ring door camera that would have caught them moving out of that car. So far, we haven't been able to figure that out.

We did also confirm the place where Vicky stayed the night before all of this happened. It was apparently a Quality Inn, a hotel that was near the jail before they moved on. So, all of this information is free flowing right now. As we get more, Victor, of course we'll pass it on to you.

BLACKWELL: All right, Ryan Young on top of it. Thank you, Ryan.

So, there's new focus on Chief Justice John Roberts after the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would strike down Roe v. Wade, questions about the control he has or has lost over the court. More on that, next.



BLACKWELL: Tennessee just made it a felony to send abortion inducing drugs through the mail. Now this new bill signed into law criminalizes the act, but only for the sender, not the recipient. It does allow a qualified physician to provide the drugs in person but not in elementary, secondary, or post-secondary school facilities.

In Louisiana, lawmakers there just advanced a bill to classify abortions as homicides. A potentially criminally charged woman as well who terminates her pregnancy, the bill would redefine a person to include an unborn child from the moment of fertilization.

And that leaked Supreme Court draft that's causing all these changes on the state level has put the court's Chief Justice, John Roberts, under scrutiny. He's launched a full investigation. He called the leak appalling. Joan Biskupic is a CNN legal and Supreme Court analyst. Joan, there's some court watchers who are wondering if Justice Roberts is losing control of the court.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Good afternoon, Victor. And, yes, in a couple ways he has. First of all, a significant area of the law involving women's rights and privacy, and also over the operations of the building. First on the contents of this draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, the Chief is unlikely to be on it. We don't know for sure yet because things are still in development behind the scenes. But at this point, this is not the kind of opinion John Roberts wanted to sign given what he said during the oral arguments in this Mississippi abortion case.

Samuel Alito would completely overturn half a century of abortion rights and women's privacy rights. The Chief did not want to go that far. The Chief was willing to uphold the Mississippi law that's in question right now that would prevent abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. But the Chief had signaled that he very much wanted to wait to take on Roe v. Wade until later.

So, this shows the five justices to his right-wing going further than he would go. And then secondly, Victor, in terms of the control of the operations of the building, as Chief Justice, he's supposed to have control over how the building operates, the security, the secrecy, and just the way that this opinion has burst forth through this leak to Politico really shows a lack of control over the work product and workforce at the Supreme Court.

BLACKWELL: Yes. How much will this leak affect his reputation, undercut his message about the integrity of the court?

BISKUPIC: You know, Victor, there's hardly an opinion that the Chief writes or a speech that the Chief gives that he doesn't talk about how the justices are not like elected politicians, they're impartial on the law, that they have integrity. He's all about the institution of the court. And the way we see this initial draft opinion, it looks like it's going to be the five most conservative Republican appointees against the three liberal Democrats and with the Chief somewhere in the middle.

This opinion, and likely in the end, this case will only reenforce the notion of the justices as political actors, not as impartial. Because look at what appears that they're doing. And I want to stress to the audience that we do not know yet how this case will definitely come out. There are several weeks left in the term, things could change. The Chief himself could turn the game around and it would be a more modest ruling in some ways.

But right now, look at what it does. It just turns away, as I say, a half century of privacy rights and a ruling from 1973 that was upheld in 1992 after careful consideration by justices, Republican appointees, as a matter of fact, who said we might not have voted for it the first time around, but it's been the law of the land and we have to respect it. So, the Chief's message is seriously undercut by where this is headed, and again, with all of the chaos surrounding this disclosure. It just looks like another branch of government is really losing its moorings and its institutional status -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: And these weeks of uncertainty until the actual opinion is publishes. Joan Biskupic, thanks so much.

CNN has new polling on what Americans think about abortion rights in the wake of this leaked Supreme Court draft. We'll bring that to you ahead.



BLACKWELL: Anti-Asian hate crimes have surged in the U.S. since the onset of the pandemic. This week, CNN Heroes salutes Michelle Tran. She's a Chinese and Vietnamese American whose nonprofit Soar Over Hate. Provides self-defense classes and personal safety devices to Asian Americans.


MICHELLE TRAN, CO-FOUNDED, SOAR OVER HATE: The day of our distribution, the line surpassed four blocks around the neighborhood where people waited almost two hours to obtain a personal safety device from us.

TRAN: To make the noise, you pull out the pin, and it scares people away and alerts people around you.


TRAN: It was simultaneously heartbreaking and also motivating to see so many people come out. I think it highlighted the need and the fears that many folks like me are experiencing right now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.

TRAN: Stay safe. Bye.

TRAN: I hope that our work saves lives. That's our only hope moving forward.


BLACKWELL: For more, go to And "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts now.