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Kansas Votes To Preserve Abortion Rights; Republican Primary Sends Message; Cipollone Subpoenaed By DOJ; Renato Mariotti Is Interviewed About Cipollone's Subpoena; China Conducts Military Exercises; Pelosi Visits Taiwan. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired August 03, 2022 - 09:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A good Wednesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto. Poppy is off this week.

This morning, primary results in five key states as voters hit the polls Tuesday with fewer than 100 days until the midterms. There were big victories for candidates who still deny the legitimacy of the 2020 president election. And in what could be a major precursor to November, voters in one very red state surged to protect abortion rights there.

In Michigan, Republican Congressman Peter Meijer, one of the ten Republicans who voted to impeach former President Trump, lost to former Trump administration official John Gibbs. Gibbs has been known to peddle 2020 election lies touted by Trump as well.

In the Arizona, House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who delivered emotional testimony to the January 6th committee, he is projected to lose his bid for a Senate seat. The winner of that race claimed, quote, the devil himself meddled in the 2020 election. The devil.

And in one of the largest rebukes to the Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade, voters in Kansas, a very red state, have rejected an amendment that could have led to an abortion ban in that state.

CNN's Nick Valencia is in Topeka, Kansas, following this story this morning.

Nick, the voter turnout here really highlighted the importance of this issue that seems to have driven voters to this - to the polls, and they voted no.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Good morning, Jim.

Voter turnout turned out to be a huge factor here in Kansas. A state where there is nearly twice as many registered Republicans as Democrats. But a huge swath of unaffiliated voters.

And that's what Kansans for Constitutional Freedom, the main coalition of abortion rights advocates here in the state trying to protect abortion access, that's what they were counting on. And they worked tirelessly in recent months and recent weeks to try to educate voters and to get out the vote.

They believe they were fighting an uphill battle, Jim, not only because of the ambiguous wording of this amendment where a yes would have stripped abortion rights and a no would have kept the status quo.

But I mention also, this is a deeply conservative state and it was on a Republican primary ballot. So they had to educate voters that were non-Republican that they could actually vote in this primary. And they really did a lot to go door to door to get out the vote.

We talked to voters as they exited the polls yesterday. And, clearly, this was a deeply personal issue for those that headed to the polls.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just think health care is a fundamental right, not just for me, but for any person in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anybody who actually believes in the Bible knows that, you know, this is something that goes against everything.


VALENCIA: The vote here does not only impact Kansans, but it also impacts the region here. It was recently that I spoke to an abortion clinic director. They have four clinics here. That abortion clinic director told me that there was nearly 60 percent of their patients that they've seen recently are from out of state.

Places like Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, where abortion rights have been stripped. So, this message was one not only for Kansans, but also for the region. And really, as the country as a whole, the referendum that would have weakened abortion rights here in the state failed handing a huge victory to abortion rights advocates.


SCIUTTO: No question. Could be a possible indicator for the fall.

Nick Valencia, thanks so much.

Well, Kansas' neighbor, Missouri, also held consequential votes overnight.

CNN's chief national affairs correspondent Jeff Zeleny, he is in St. Louis this morning.

So, Jeff, big picture there and in all five states that had primaries yesterday, Republicans sent a pretty resounding message embracing election deniers. I wonder, how significant are these losses for Republicans who stood up for the facts in 2020 and denied those election lies?


There is no question the results from last evening's primaries in several states said one big thing, the election of 2020 is still going to be essentially on the ballot this November in the election of 2022.

Several of the candidates who won last evening, let's start in Arizona, particularly have not only embraced but really ran on the idea of the election lie from 2020. Of course, all backed by former President Donald Trump.

We are now projecting a new projection this morning that the Republican nominee for the Arizona secretary of state, the top election official in the state, is Mark Finchem. He is an Arizona state legislator who is a lead proponent of election denialism. We are also projecting this morning that Blake Masters will be the Republican Senate nominee in Arizona.


He will go head-to-head with Senator Mark Kelly in one of the closest Senate races in the country, we believe. That certainly could help determine control of the U.S. Senate come November.

So, certainly those are two big findings from Arizona.

But if you look at Michigan last evening, the Republican nominee, the winner of that contest, is Tudor Dixon. She has been much softer in her denialism, if you will.

She said, yes, there are questions about the 2020 election, but she's going to go head-to-head with Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, in a very important race in November as well.

But Congressman Peter Meijer, of course one of 10 House Republicans to vote for the impeachment of a President Trump, he is defeated by a big election denier, John Gibbs.

So, certainly that was a running theme throughout the primaries last evening as, Jim, now we are just less than three months before the midterm election.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and softer in election denialism is still not stating outright Biden's the legitimate president.

You're where the battle of the two Erics, as it came to be known, between Eric Greitens and Attorney General Eric Schmitt for Senate primary nomination for the Republican Party. Tell us where that came out.

ZELENY: Indeed it turned out to be not much of a battle at all between the two Erics at least. But Eric Schmitt is the Missouri attorney general and he was running for the Republican Senate nomination here, of course. This is to replace retiring Republican Senator Roy Blunt.

Republicans have been nervous about this seat because they fear that Eric Greitens, he is the disgraced former governor of Missouri, resigned four years ago amidst a sex scandal.

He was trying to fight for a comeback here and had the tacit support of the former president that led to the endorsement on the eve of the election for the two Erics, Eric Greitens and Eric Schmitt.

Well, Eric Schmitt, the attorney general, easily won this race here, also defeating six term Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler.

So, Eric Schmitt will be the Republican Senate nominee. He will be running against Trudy Busch Valentine, an heiress to the Anheuser Busch fortune here.

But Republicans breathing much easier that Eric Greitens, the disgraced former governor, will not be on the ballot.

So, Missouri, a deep red state. Both sides expect that to be the case in November. But, of course, we'll see.

But, Jim, now we are less than three months before the fall elections.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Mitch McConnell was worried about him being the potential nominee as well.

ZELENY: He sure was.

SCIUTTO: Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much.

All right, and the latest sign Justice Department investigators are looking directly at conduct related to the former president, Trump, CNN has learned that a federal grand jury has now subpoenaed former Trump White House Council Pat Cipollone.

That grand jury, investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Here is January 6th committee member Adam Kinzinger on CNN this morning on what that Cipollone subpoena means for Trump.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): I'll say this is probably bad for former President Trump. I mean this is - if he goes in front of the grand jury, it shows that this is more than, you know, what did John Eastman do, the attorney that basically came up with that crazy scheme to overturn the election. And it probably is a very deep interest on what the president did.


SCIUTTO: CNN's senior crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz has been following.

So, to be clear, you have the January 6th investigation. This is the DOJ investigation. He's already testified for the January 6th committee. This will be to a grand jury as part of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department. What do we know?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: That's exactly right, Jim. This is a very significant step in this Justice Department investigation that operates in secrecy essentially with the grand jury.

But we do know Pamela Brown was able to confirm that Pat Cipollone did receive a federal grand jury subpoena.

And this is part of this aggressive drum beat that the Justice Department has had in recent weeks trying to lock down not just what was going on, on January 6th on Capitol Hill, they've prosecuted all these writers (ph), but also trying to talk to people that testified to the House about what happened in the White House.


POLANTZ: And potentially what Donald Trump was even saying. So, what we know so far with other that have gone before the grand jury from the office of the vice president is that they haven't been able to say what Trump had said to them because of executive privilege concerns.


POLANTZ: There's this gearing up for a court fight that the Justice Department is doing. And we do know, with this Cipollone reporting, is that he and his attorneys have been in discussions about executive privilege.

We know he wasn't able to share much about Trump himself, what he witnessed Trump saying, what Trump said to him, to the House Select Committee. So, we're going to have to watch and see if that is something that comes up in this grand jury proceed proceeding where Cipollone just can't touch that yet but it may be something the Justice Department goes after.

SCIUTTO: No question.

CNN is also learning more about more missing texts. And, by the way, there's a pattern here. Missing texts from DHS, from the Secret Service around January 6th and now from senior Pentagon officials.

What's CNN's reporting?


POLANTZ: That's right. So, there's a pattern that is raising a lot of questions now. This is all breaking in the course of just a couple weeks, well into this House Select Committee investigation where they've been trying to get text messages.

And the new reporting from our colleagues, Tierney Sneed and Zach Cohen, is that text messages were lost from the phones of Department of Defense top officials. Chris Miller, who was the acting secretary at the end of the Trump --

SCIUTTO: Lost or removed?

POLANTZ: Deleted. SCIUTTO: Deleted.


Chief of Staff Kash Patel, Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy. And what we know, the reason that we know this is because this group, American Oversight, was trying to get access to these federal records in court.


POLANTZ: And they were told during this litigation that DOD and the Army were wiping the phones of these officials as they were leaving the government at the end of the administration.

Now, no one is saying that the individuals themselves were deleted text messages.


POLANTZ: It does appear to be an institutional thing at this point. But, as you said, there is a pattern. What happened at DOD appears to be exactly the same thing as what was happening at DHS where the secretary and his deputy at the end of the Trump administration also had their phones wiped when they turned them in. And then that's separate from the Secret Service issue where there's all these agents that had a data migration that lost their data too.

SCIUTTO: There are laws about protecting federal records.

POLANTZ: Indeed.

SCIUTTO: Were they broken?

Katelyn Polantz, thanks so much.

So, let's figure that out. Let's talk to a lawyer. Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti.

I do want to get to you about Pat Cipollone's subpoena now. But before, just since we were speaking about those text messages here, there are federal laws about record keeping and now you have three agencies, the Secret Service, the DHS, latest, the Pentagon, who deleted these. Any potential laws broken by doing that?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, there are potential laws broken. The consequences, unfortunately, for those are not very stiff. I think the real question is whether or not there was any deletion that was purposeful or done with a mind to an ongoing or future investigation.

We do know there is, I believe, a criminal investigation open at DHS by the OIG. That, I think, is, you know, something that could have some real legs. You could -- I think it's also fair to say, Congress is very interested in conducting some aggressive oversight in that. SCIUTTO: OK, let's talk now about the former - and, by the way, this

is hugely significant. The DOJ has now subpoenaed the former White House council, Pat Cipollone, a part of its broader criminal investigation related to Trump's efforts to overturn the election.

While he was speaking to the January 6th committee, there were areas that he walled off and would not answer questions on based on claims of executive privilege. Is this different? Will it be different when he's speaking to the grand jury to federal prosecutors?

MARIOTTI: Yes, this is an incredibly different context. And there is binding court precedent on this issue. Bruce Lindsey, who is the deputy White House counsel during the Clinton years, in the Clinton White House, who's sitting White House counsel, fought the grand jury subpoena in that context during the Kenneth Starr investigation.

He lost before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Basically government lawyers have a special duty to provide evidence of potential wrongdoing. So I expect that to be a loser if Mr. Cipollone tries to challenge the subpoena on the grounds of either attorney client or executive privilege. But I do expect that there could be a court fight about that issue.

SCIUTTO: How long is that court fight go?

MARIOTTI: Could take months. But, you know, the Justice Department has time. I suspect Mr. Cipollone will be - will, you know, will certainly pursue that. But, in the end of the day, he appears to me to be somebody who's going to answer the questions if ordered to do so by a court.

He's just going to, you know, make sure it's clear that he's compelled to give that testimony rather than voluntarily giving his clients (ph) testimony.

SCIUTTO: A pattern we've seen before.

Renato Mariotti, thanks so much.

Still ahead, I'm going to speak live with Senator Tim Kaine about his bipartisan proposal to codify abortion rights into federal law. Details on how that can work. Also, whether it can pass.

Plus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on her way to South Korea right now after her visit to Taiwan that sparked outrage from China. But some bipartisan support from home. What did it accomplish?

And later, a community grocery store destroyed. Just one of the signs of the daunting recovery efforts in Kentucky. We're going to take you there live where people are now just facing oppressive heat as they try to clean up.


[09:18:48] SCIUTTO: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has now departed Taiwan and she did so with a firm message, underscoring, quote, iron clad support for Taiwan's democracy.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Today our delegation, which I'm very proud, came to Taiwan to make unequivocally clear, we will not abandon our commitment to Taiwan and we're proud of our enduring friendship.


SCIUTTO: The message from Beijing and to some protesters in Taiwan aligned with the Chinese Communist Party is that this trip was an attempt at humiliation. A so-called farce that China says would have a severe impact on relations with the U.S. The Chinese military has now launched live fire military drills around the island as Pelosi arrived. And those drills still active.

Joining me now, CNN national security correspondent Kylie Atwood.

Kylie, interestingly, and we should note this, that Pelosi got bipartisan support for this trip. A couple dozen Republican senators, along with Mitch McConnell supported it. You heard that from members of the House as well.

Where does the State Department stand on this? Do they see substantive change between U.S. and China relations, or do they see this more as a rhetorical pushback from China in light of political pressures at home?


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think it's a good question, Jim, but I don't think we have a definitive answer to it yet because as you said, the military exercises are ongoing right now as we understand it. So, China announced that they were going to carry out these military exercises over the course of the next few days.

And, of course, what they look like right now is pretty significant. So, I do think we should expect some pretty clear condemnation of these exercises from the Biden administration that would be rhetorical in nature. But what we are looking for is what these exercises actually do. How close they actually come to Taiwan, to their territorial waters.

The Taiwan government has been warning that what they see in terms of what is planned would actually come into their territorial water. So, that's what we're watching for. And does the U.S. government just condemn these exercises because they had been very clear in saying they didn't want China to escalate things if they did?

They said that would be on China, or do they try and push the envelope here and send some warplanes into the area while these exercises are happening, or after they are concluded. We don't know, of course, if they're going to do that. But those are things that we're still watching for right now.

SCIUTTO: No question. We should note that all -- those are all things that China has done before, you know, to show its interest in Taiwan.

Kylie, stay with us.

CNN's senior international correspondent Will Ripley, he is in Taiwan.

And, Will, you know, there were a lot of consequential steps in this visit. She met the president. She went to parliament. Spent the night there. How has Taiwan seen this visit now that she has left?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And she also met, you know, with the leadership at TSMC, the world's number one chip manufacturer, vital to the global economy and tech industry.


RIPLEY: So, yes, it checked many boxes for - for President Tsai Ing- wen and her administration to have the -- basically the third most powerful politician in the United States on the ground here in Taiwan meeting and engaging with the members of this government, giving them that legitimacy that you cannot -- you cannot give someone better legitimacy than to have, you know, a well-established and well- respected politician from the United States, like Nancy Pelosi, you know, speaking with you and talking about your democratic system.

You know, she was - she was speaking with people, some of whom were, you know, meeting illegally when they were trying to form their political party, the DPP, and now they're the leaders of this country.

It is truly, you know, an astonishing story of a democracy that rose from a dictatorship. And Nancy Pelosi is here to send the message to Taiwan that, you know, America has Taiwan's back.

Now, do people here in Taiwan, does the government here actually believe that fully? Do they believe that the United States would come in and really fight and put American lives at risk if China did try to make a move on Taiwan?

This whole policy of strategic ambiguity has been really questioned in recent months, you know, even by the former - the late Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, saying it's time for America to be more clear.

Nancy Pelosi, you know, was pretty clear with the message that she - that she gave at Taiwan's parliament saying that, you know, she is going to not abandon, meaning America is not going to abandon its commitment to Taiwan.

Now, the commitment is Taiwan is to supply arms to Taiwan and to train, you know, the Taiwanese how to defend themselves. So that is the commitment. But does the commitment go further than that? Should it go further than that?

And will these lawmakers, you know, and Nancy Pelosi, what they saw on the ground here in Taiwan, will that push them to force legislation to do - to do more for Taiwan if and when the time comes that China isn't just conducting exercises but the real thing potentially?

SCIUTTO: Well, it's a good point you make there, Will, that this is a homegrown Taiwanese democracy. And that is part of the thing that makes China uncomfortable, right? China very much undemocratic.


SCIUTTO: And to see that so close to their shores is a challenge to the Chinese Communist Party.


SCIUTTO: Will Ripley, in Taiwan, Kylie Atwood, in New York, thanks so much.

Coming up next, the Democrats revived effort to get a climate and health care bill passed hinges, this may sound familiar, on one senator. This time it's Kyrsten Sinema. So far silence, at least in public, from her. I'm going to speak with one of her colleagues, Senator Tim Kaine, on that and many other topics coming up.

And we are moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Stock futures pointing higher this morning as investors anticipate earnings reports from major companies such as CVS and Moderna.

And just in, OPEC has agreed to increase its oil production by 100,000 barrels a day in September. Today's meeting the first since President Biden visited Saudi Arabia. That was going to be one of his asks there.

There's also news from the Federal Reserve that inflation is now contributing to soaring consumer debt.


U.S. credit card debt jumped by $100 billion, or 13 percent, last year, the biggest increase in more than two decades. People are spending.