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January 6 Committee to Probe How Trump Election Tried to Cast Fake Electoral Ballots to Overturn 2020 Election; Texas Republicans Rally Around Series of Radical Resolutions; American Fighters Purportedly Held by Russian-Backe Separatists Students Sue School District Demanding Tougher Safety Measures. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 20, 2022 - 15:00   ET


HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Usually done by the opposition parties. So now next week a vote will be brought to the parliament to dissolve it. And when that passes, Yair Lapid who's currently the Foreign Minister will then become Prime Minister of Israel and it will likely send Israelis to the polls. This will be their fifth elections in just under four years, an endless cycle of election that's not even guaranteed to get them and established a result with any kind of clear majority going into the future.

But what this also means, Victor, is that Yair Lapid will actually be the one to welcome U.S. President Joe Biden when he arrives in Israel for his visit next month. And as far as we know from the White House, we do understand that despite this political shake up, despite everything that is happening here, despite the new prime minister, Joe Biden still plans to make that visit as planned. Victor?

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Hadas Gold with the reporting from Jerusalem there, thank you very much.

It's the top of a brand new hour here on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to have you along.

We are on the eve of another hearing on the Capitol insurrection. This time tomorrow, the Committee investigating January 6 plans to focus on former President Trump's efforts to pressure state officials to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Georgia elections officials Brad Raffensperger and Gabe Sterling are expected to testify about that pressure campaign, along with Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers.

The Committee is also promising to reveal new evidence that shows Trump's involvement in a scheme to overturn Biden's win in battleground states.


REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WA): We'll show evidence of the president's involvement in this scheme. We'll also again show evidence about what his own lawyers came to think about the scheme and we'll show courageous state officials who stood up and said they wouldn't go along with this plan to either call legislatures back into session or decertify the results for Joe Biden. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: CNN Senior Crime and Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz is with us now. So what else should we expect?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Victor, Tuesday this public hearing it's going to be all about the states, specifically the battleground states that Donald Trump lost. We know, as you mentioned, there's going to be three people lined up to testify publicly. They would be representing the Trump campaign, Trump White House and Donald Trump's efforts himself in Arizona and Georgia.

So what those two states do is they give us a window into two different areas of this pressure campaign, the one Brad Raffensperger and Gabe Sterling from the Georgia Secretary of State's office, they're going to be able to speak to this direct pressure campaign that Donald Trump was putting on in Georgia to try to find votes. That's what he said in that phone call to Raffensperger in January '21.

And then Rusty Bowers in the Arizona State House, he can speak to something a little bit different. He would have a window into the Trump campaign's usage of electors to supplant Biden electors at the end of the - after the election. So we will be hearing quite a bit from a lot of different people who's who were in touch with Donald Trump and others.

But the one thing the Committee is going to be doing is they're going to be keeping their focus on Donald Trump himself. Here was Rep. Adam Kinzinger. He was - he's on the Committee - here's what he was saying yesterday about their findings so far.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): I certainly think the president is guilty of knowing what he did; seditious conspiracy, being involved in these kinds of different segments of pressuring DOJ, vice president, et cetera. Obviously, you know we're not a criminal charges committee, so I want to be careful in specifically using that language. But I think what we're presenting before the American people certainly would rise to a level of criminal involvement by a president.


POLANTZ: Now, we know this issue of fake electors is one that we're going to be hearing a lot about on Tuesday. It is something that members of the Committee are signaling we will have more information about, that would tie Donald Trump directly to the efforts to use fake electors in these states, so we're going to be watching for that.

And also, there are very likely to be criminal investigators also watching what the Committee's findings are. We do know there are at least two criminal probes right now that are looking at this usage of fake electors by the Trump campaign, both the federal government's looking at it and prosecutors in Georgia, Victor?

BLACKWELL: Yes. And we know that AG Merrick Garland says he watches these hearings. Katelyn Polantz, thank you very much for the latest.

All right. GOP Congresswoman Lauren Boebert issued this warning to those Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over the insurrection. "You impeach the ultra MAGA King, you get the boot." The so-called impeachment 10, the 10 Republicans in the House who voted yes on impeachment are now either retiring or fighting for their political lives. One of them Congressman Tom Rice of South Carolina just lost his primary, a sign of what it means to cross Trump in today's Republican Party.


CNN's Capitol Hill Reporter Melanie Zanona is with me now. Melanie, what is the political fallout for these 10?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: I think it's going to be really tough, Victor, for these remaining impeachment Republicans in the House. They are all facing Trump back to primary challengers. Trump has made defeating them a top priority.

And after watching Tom Rice lose and lose by a big margin, we should point out, they are all now wrestling with their own political futures and questioning whether they can cross Trump and survive in today's GOP. Now, I will point out that at least two of the candidates Jaime Herrera Beutler in Washington State and Peter Meijer in Michigan have quietly gotten some help from GOP leaders because they do represent swing districts that are going to matter to the House GOP's efforts to win back the majority.

But I think it's pretty clear that an impeachment vote is an unforgivable sin in Trump's eyes. I think the question is whether it's also an unforgivable sin in the eyes of the voters.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about Liz Cheney. She, of course, is the vice chair of the 1/6 Committee investigating the insurrection. She takes on former President Trump very publicly in her campaign. Cheney is focused on the local issues, though, back in Wyoming. What do you make of this strategy?

ZANONA: Well, I think it's really telling that the first two campaign ads from Liz Cheney were both focused on hyper local issues and not on Trump and not on her work on the January 6 Select Committee. Now, whether this is a strategy that's going to save her in Wyoming, I don't know. But I do think there is some evidence that at least in other races, keeping your head down and avoiding Trump has been a successful strategy for people who have crossed Trump.

David Valadao, for example, in California, he's a Republican who voted to impeach. He looks poised to edge out a far right challenger in a race that hasn't been called yet. But he was not facing a challenge endorsed by Trump and his district is a lot less conservative than racism than Cheney's.

BLACKWELL: All right. A lot more to watch this midterm season. Melanie Zanona, thank you. Let's move now to state level politics. This is what came out of a

Texas Republican state convention over the weekend, a resolution rejecting President Biden as the legitimate winner of the 2020 election, a ban on teaching sex ed in schools while urging that students learn about the humanity of the preborn child, labeling homosexuality and abnormal lifestyle choice and opposing medical treatments and therapies for transgender Americans. The party platform also demands the repeal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Joining me now is CNN Political Commentators, Republican strategist, Alice Stewart and former U.S. Congressman Charlie Dent. He now is the Executive Director of the Aspen Institute Congressional Program. Welcome back to you both.

Charlie, let me start with you. What is happening in Texas? Let's just start there. What is going on? What did you see out of this convention this weekend?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Victor, this is not the first time the Texas GOP has made ridiculous resolutions. Good thing is that most Republican elected officials don't pay a whole lot of attention to sometimes at the party platforms on some of the state committees. What they've done is essentially demonstrate an intolerance.

And if the Republican Party hopes to be a national governing party, it has to become much more socially tolerant. And this is no way to do it. It's as if they're not even speaking to young voters. It's offensive to people who are in the LGBT community to be sure, but again, this is the - there just seem to be a certain detachment from reality. And certainly, they're not connected at all to people who must run in swing districts where they have to be able to appeal to people beyond the most fringe elements of the base. And that's what the Texas GOP seems to be doing, just appealing to a very fringe element at the expense of a broader electorate and frankly, it's going to be harder to win elections, if that kind of thing gets nationalized what they just did.

BLACKWELL: Alice, calling for the repeal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Republicans at the state level spent months trying to convince Texans, the rest of the country that the new voting laws were not designed to discriminate against people were supposed to expand access to the ballot. That's hard to sell when your party platform includes a repeal of a law that was enacted to prohibit racial discrimination in voting.

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It doesn't make sense, Victor. And look, Texas has been a very red state for a long time, but it's becoming more purple. And if the GOP in Texas wants to continue with these far-right policies and platforms, they're going to lose a lot more than they think they're going to gain by doubling down on these policies.

In the last primary election, they made gains with the Hispanic community and others that have traditionally not been on board with the GOP and with such a fall right philosophy. They're going to lose that ground. And look, it's really important that more than anything at the state level the GOP and every state in this country, we need to stop with delegitimizing the election. We need to acknowledge the fact that Joe Biden is the duly elected President, Donald Trump lost the election.


We have free and fair elections and restore credibility and confidence in our election process and policies like this and platforms like this that discredit the election process we've seen is not a winning formula. It did not work in Georgia and it's not going to work in Texas. And the GOP there in the Lone Star State needs to focus on broadening the base if they want to continue to be the red state that they are.

BLACKWELL: Charlie, you said that elected officials don't pay too much attention to what was written in this platform. They heard also from John Cornyn, senior senator there in Texas, he was booed. I want you to see his reception when he spoke to the delegates at the convention.


CROWD: Boo. Boo. Boo.


BLACKWELL: He, of course, is the top GOP negotiator on gun reform. What do you think the impact could be on getting to a deal?

DENT: Well, that was certainly discouraging that they would boo their senior senator. Hey, but I want to mention one thing, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Go ahead.

DENT: The last time the Voting Rights Act reauthorization was signed into law, it was signed into law by a Republican president from Texas named George W. Bush in 2006. I voted for that reauthorization, it was needed to be done and that's just shows you how detached from reality the Texas GOP has become on that issue, the Voting Rights Act crazy. You might need to reform it a bit, but the repeal is just insane.

John Cornyn, here he is negotiating what seems to be a rather narrow, small deal. I think it's significant. I mean, it doesn't go as far as I would like. But I mean, I'm glad that John Cornyn has stepped up. He's a serious, conservative, thoughtful and pragmatic member. And he's just trying to do his job by denouncing him this way. You understand why so many members don't want to engage in compromised, there'll be punished for it.

He's being booed for just doing his job and there are a lot of members of Congress, sadly, who are very good at telling you all the things they can never do. Look, no is the default position and that's why we're in a perpetual state of stalemate.

STEWART: Yes. And if I can, Victory, just quickly. BLACKWELL: Go ahead.

STEWART: Texas of all places who just survived and went through the horrific shooting in Uvalde, Texas, you would think they would understand the need for some type of common sense regulations that would prevent gun violence. And Cornyn is making a good faith honest, bipartisan effort to reduce this gun violence and he is not just talking and looking at gun legislation, he is looking at the bigger picture, school - access to schools, red flag laws, mental health, the big picture that can get done on a - in a bipartisan way. And the fact that they're booing him for making a good faith effort, it's really concerning.

BLACKWELL: Charlie, let me get your reaction, too. I'm sure you've seen it on social media, we're not going to show it here. But this new ad from Eric Greitens, Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, released today, going after what he calls RINOs. Of course, Republicans In Name Only. He says it's RINO hunting season. You see him here with a rifle. In this ad, a SWAT team uses a battering ram to break through a door, there's a flashbang, he goes in and says there's no bagging limit, no tagging limit, it ends with get your RINO hunting license. Your reaction to this type of rhetoric, this imagery in his campaign?

DENT: Well, I guess no one should be surprised about this. I've been called a RINO, a squish (ph), a bed wetter. All these people would call us names because we weren't doctrinaire enough. And here's this guy with all the problems that he has in his election. I mean, there's a lot of opposition research on him that's quite public about the problems that he has, and that this distracts from his problems that are very, very real.

And so, frankly, in the Republican Party, we're all RINOs now. Everybody is a RINO who simply does - who diverges from President Trump, who diverges from these so called (inaudible) ...

BLACKWELL: But calling someone a RINO is one thing, I apologize for the interruption, but specifically on the use of the weapon in the ad saying it's time to hunt RINOs.

DENT: Oh, yes. Well, it just shows, again, a total disconnection from what's happening in this country. He wants to hunt RINOs, okay. Has he not noticed that there have been several mass shootings over the past few weeks and that people are alarmed by this and they want Congress to do something about it and here he is talking about shooting RINOs, the just Republicans who don't agree with him.

I mean, that's the sad state of affairs of where we are in the GOP right now. There's no - it's just - there's such an intolerance right now, Victor, that it's really hard for many of us who've been Republicans our whole lives, who grew up in a tradition of people who would get elected who were broadly - had broad appeal to a large segment of our population to see this type of narrow fringe and at time bigoted outreach is just beyond comprehension.

[15:15:11] BLACKWELL: Well, we saw a tweet from Congressman Adam Kinzinger over

the weekend, a letter that was sent to him at his home threatening his life, the lives of his wife and child. This is a very, very dangerous time and we're seeing this ad from a candidate for the Senate.

Alice Stewart, Charlie Dent, thank you.

STEWART: Thanks, Victor.

BLACKWELL: We're getting new details out of New York City where a cab jumped a curb and hit several people.

We'll bring those to you. And Ukraine's President warns Russia could again start ramping up attacks to try to gain more ground. We'll tell you what's behind their new attacks. That's next.



BLACKWELL: Two American volunteers fighting in Ukraine are being detained in Donetsk by pro-Russian separatists after they were captured last week, that's according to Russian media. They went missing on June 9th during a battle north of Kharkiv.

CNN's Sam Kiley is in Kharkiv. So Sam, you spoke to a former U.S. service member fighting in Ukraine who witnessed that battle in early June, what did you learn?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So this was a man whom - who calls himself ' 'Pip', that's his code name. He didn't want his name or his face or indeed his voice used in a broadcast interview, which we brought to our viewers 48 hours ago. But what he did say was that he did witness a tank opening fire against these two soldiers, volunteers for the international brigade during the fight just outside of Kharkiv.

Now since then, they've been interviewed on Russian television and also on Serb TV. And it's in this Serb TV interview, and of course, Victor, we're not going to be broadcasting those interviews because they concern prisoners of war and therefore under duress. But they do say in these interviews, one of them, Andrew - Drueke says that he was beaten, that he was beaten by his abductors, that he was beaten up a few times. He added that on balance, he'd been treated better than he had been treated badly. Remember, this was a man being interviewed in captivity.

And then one of the interviewers very significantly let slip that they were in Donetsk. Now, this is highly significant, Victor, because it's in Donetsk where two British volunteers for the international brigade and one Moroccan where at the beginning of this month sentenced to death on terrorism charges and charges are being mercenaries by the unrecognized government and legal system in the so called Donetsk People's Republic. That's a breakaway region here in Ukraine that's recognized by the Kremlin. They're certainly not recognized under international law. They are now appealing that sentence. But clearly, at least one of the people being interviewed and from the

video, it looks like both of them because the locations look identical. Both of those American prisoners of war are now in Donetsk. It's not clear, though at all from Russian authorities or Russian backed authorities, what the next stage for them is going to be but from the family's perspective, this at least is reassurance that they didn't die on the battlefield.

BLACKWELL: Yes, they are still alive there. Sam Kiley in Kharkiv, thank you.

A group of Michigan high school students just filed a lawsuit demanding increased safety across the Oxford School District after last year's mass shooting. I'll speak to the attorney and one of the students involved next.



BLACKWELL: Another deadly weekend in America. In New York, investigators say nine people was shot early this morning after a fight broke out between two groups at a barbecue. One victim died at the hospital. There had been no arrests.

In Washington, a 15-year-old boy was shot and killed, three others injured after a shooting Sunday near a concert. Now, one of those wounded is a police officer.

A group of Michigan students who survived last year's deadly mass shooting at Oxford High School is suing the school district along with school officials, as students are demanding the implementation of a host of safety measures and they're asking for an independent investigation into the school's actions leading up to the tragic shooting that left four students dead. A 15-year-old student from the school, Ethan Crumbley, is charged in their deaths. His parents are also facing charges.

CNN National Correspondent Brynn Gingras joins me now. So tell us about the lawsuit.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so this is a federal lawsuit that's filed by the students. And if you remember that day of the shooting, Victor, there was this - all this stuff has come out through the investigation, essentially saying that if you remember Ethan Crumbley was brought into a counselor's office because a teacher spotted a disturbing drawing. Well, his parents were brought into that counselor's office. Between the school officials and the parents they decided he should seek mental health treatments and basically he was sent back into the classroom with a book bag which was never checked.

And so what these students are essentially saying in the lawsuit is, these school officials they could have done a lot more. Let me read an excerpt from it. It says, quote, "By releasing Doe," who would be Crumbley in this case, "from the safe confinement of the counseling office into the greater school environment, school officials compounded the danger to all students at Oxford High School. By returning Doe's unsearched backpack which contain the deadly weapon and ammunition Doe used to carry out his suicide and/or homicidal plans, school officials acted with deliberate indifference and created and/or increased the risk of a school shooting."

So essentially they are saying that we are filing this lawsuit because we want change. They're not looking for money. They just want the school to open an investigation or have a separate investigation. Look into what could have been done better and make some changes, be transparent about it.


Maybe have a more - the teachers having more counseling, understanding of what they need to be doing in these sort of situations, maybe they should be checking the backpacks, all of these things they want change.