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Interview With Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS); More January 6 Text Messages Go Missing; Kansas Voters Deliver Win For Abortion Rights. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 03, 2022 - 14:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. Victor is off today.

Any moment, President Biden is expected to sign an executive order -- this will be his second -- to help ensure access to abortion. This follows the political earthquake in conservative Kansas, where voters overwhelmingly came out in favor of protecting a woman's right to an abortion.

This marked the first time the issue was on the ballot since the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade.

CNN's M.J. Lee joins us now from the White House.

So, M.J., what does the administration say about the outcome in Kansas for abortion rights nationally?

M.J. LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, there's no question that the White House is celebrating this news overnight from Kansas, basically saying that this isn't just about the state of Kansas, but that there is a bigger message about the rest of the country,

President Biden saying in a statement, in part: "This vote makes clear what we know. The majority of Americans agree that women should have access to abortion and should have the right to make their own health care decisions."

Now, this, of course, comes as the White House continues to deal with the fallout from the Supreme Court overruling Roe v. Wade. And in just any moment, we are going to see the president virtually address this new executive order that he has issued. This is the second time that he has done so since that historic decision.

So let me just tick through some of the top headlines. For one, he is directing the HHS to consider actions that would support women who now need to travel out of state to get some of these reproductive health care services, including through Medicaid. And another big one is directing the HHS to consider actions that would ensure that health care providers comply with federal nondiscrimination laws.

Another one that's not on the screen is ordering the HHS to improve data collection that is related to maternal health. Alisyn, I will tell you, I just got out of the White House press briefing. And it is clear that, for a lot of these, the details are still forthcoming.

The language that you see in the fact sheet from the White House says that he is directing the HHS secretary to consider what the possible actions are. So, we're clearly still at a point where the White House and this administration is figuring out what actually is possible across the country, as so many women and families grapple with the different ramifications that are really just differing based on where you live in the country, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK. We will be watching when this happens.

M.J. Lee, thank you very much.

So Kansas voters turned out in droves to reject a ballot measure that would have allowed lawmakers to ban abortion in the state. One pro- choice activist said she worked across party lines to protect the abortion rights in her deeply red state.


RACHEL SWEET, KANSANS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL FREEDOM: During the last year, we built a nonpartisan coalition of organizations and voters from all walks of life and all across the state of Kansas.

Kansans turned out in historic numbers for a primary election to reject this change to our state Constitution. They did this because we found common ground among diverse voting blocs and mobilize people across the political spectrum to vote no.


CAMEROTA: With us now is Democratic Congresswoman Sharice Davids of Kansas. She's also a member of the Pro-Choice Caucus.

Thanks so much for being here, Congresswoman.

Were you surprised by the overwhelming margin in Kansas to protect abortion rights?

REP. SHARICE DAVIDS (D-KS): Well, I don't know that I would say I was surprised necessarily by the result. But I was -- I can tell you I'm absolutely encouraged by the number of people and the huge turnout that we saw.

I'm encouraged for so many reasons. This -- last night was a win for Kansas. It was a win for Kansas families and for our rights. And it was also our demonstration that we're going to -- we're going to be pushing back against these extreme measures and extreme politicians who are trying to -- who are trying to interfere in our reproductive health care decisions.

CAMEROTA: Well, let's talk about that. Is this a model that can be used in other red states?

In other words, what did activists do there in Kansas to pull this off?

DAVIDS: You know, I think there -- I imagine that, as the analysis and the post-election analysis continues, that we will probably learn a lot about the ways that our community came together.

I mean, I can tell you, the grassroots organizing that was going on out here in Kansas for a really long time, it absolutely paid off, because, as I think we have heard folks talk about, there was a lot of confusion about what people were voting on.


And pushing back against an extreme measure to change our state's Constitution to remove protections that we have had enshrined in our Constitution for so long is something that's -- it's a step too far.

And we have too many -- too many politicians who have been trying to -- who've been trying to take that step too far.

CAMEROTA: And so do you see this as a bellwether for the midterms and for Democrats' success as a whole? Or is this just specifically an abortion rights in Kansas vote?

DAVIDS: You know, I think that's -- that's a really good question.

And I can tell you from a couple of things. From the energy that we had last night, people have been since -- the Dobbs decision, so many people have been scared and anxious, and rightfully so. And we saw a lot of that energy turn into action with the results we saw yesterday here in Kansas.

And I think what I expect is going to happen is that we're going to see that continue on through November, because, I mean, if you look at my race, for example, I have an opponent, Amanda Adkins, who is -- she's too far out there on this issue. She supported the amendment. She supports a total ban with no exceptions for things like rape or incest.

And I think that -- I think what we're going to see is people continuing to make sure that, especially on this issue, that people are -- they're going to hold folks' feet to the fire and make sure that they know, are you going to protect my rights or not?

And I think that that is going to be something we see -- we see carry through all the way to November.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about another state and another issue.

So, in Michigan, last night, the incumbent Republican Congressman Peter Meijer lost the primary to a Trump-backed election denier who was boosted with Democratic DCCC money because they think that the election denier will be easier to beat in November.

But, obviously, that is a gamble. Are you comfortable with that?

DAVIDS: Well, I can tell you that I'm not here to tell other -- like, other people how to run their campaigns, and that sort of thing.


CAMEROTA: Well, actually, no, it's not that. It's just the Democrats putting money into an election denier's race.

I mean, are you comfortable with Democrats using that tactic?

DAVIDS: I mean, I will tell you what I what I would be really comfortable with is making sure that folks are -- whether they're Democrats, if it's the DCCC, or I have got tons of people here in my district helping me, I think -- I think it's a good use of our of our time, energy and resources to be supporting good candidates who are fighting for their districts.


But what about supporting election deniers?

DAVIDS: Well, I think we need to be supporting candidates who are going to be good for democracy.


Congresswoman Sharice Davids, thank you very much for your time.

OK, so here are some other headlines from yesterday's primaries. In Arizona, CNN is projecting that to Trump-backed election deniers will win. Blake Masters is set to face off against Democrat Mark Kelly in the fall Senate race, and State Rep. Mark Finchem is -- an organizer of the ironically named Stop the Steal movement, will be the Republican nominee for Arizona secretary of state.

That's a position that would have him overseeing the state's elections. In Michigan, CNN projects that Trump-backed Tudor Dixon will be up against incumbent Governor Gretchen Whitmer later this year. And in a closely watched House race, Peter Meijer, as we just said, is now the second Republican to lose his seat after voting for Trump's impeachment. CNN projects Trump-endorsed election denier John Gibbs will win that race.

Let's discuss all of this and more with CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp.


CAMEROTA: So much news.

CUPP: Yes.

CAMEROTA: So much to get to.

So, S.E., what is your big takeaway from last night's races?

CUPP: Well, Kansas was a big story. And I think the lesson there is read any poll about abortion attitudes over the last, like, 40 years, and you won't be surprised that a majority of people didn't want Roe overturned and want abortion rights protected with some restrictions.

I'm willing to bet that not all of those voters were Democrats. I'm willing to bet some of them were Republicans. And so, instead of Democrats throwing blood money at Trumpy candidates, they should be spending money to make that their number one top issue, I think.

CAMEROTA: You think that abortion -- they should make abortion their number one top issue?

CUPP: Look at the -- we just had a test case, and the turnout is the huge story of that. I couldn't think of another issue that was going to be a greater turnout driver than this one.


And that just proved correct last night.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about what I was just talking about with the congresswoman in terms of the ballot. Let's look at Arizona, for instance.

CUPP: Yes.

CAMEROTA: All of these different election deniers, so for Senate candidate, for secretary of state, for governor, for attorney general, they are winning their primaries.

What happens in Arizona or Michigan or the United States...

CUPP: Yes.

CAMEROTA: ... if these folks win in November?

CUPP: Yes.

And, mostly -- and you noted this, because you get it too -- the secretary of state is so alarming, because that person literally will be in the driver's seat for overseeing elections. These are a lot of people, in some cases, including Finchem, who've talked about wanting to overturn elections they didn't like, wanting to make it easier for people to not certify elections.

That's really scary stuff if those people are literally driving the car. So I'm very concerned by these elections. Hopefully, they're not over.

CAMEROTA: I mean, there are also people who say that, if they themselves don't win, obviously, there's some sort of cheating going on.

CUPP: Yes. Yes.

CAMEROTA: I mean, they're rigging it from the get-go.

CUPP: I think we have a candidate in Michigan who's in fourth place and will not concede. This is crazy. But Trump sowed these seeds. He made it permissible to challenge results that you see in front of you and just call the whole thing rigged.

CAMEROTA: Well, that's what I was wondering. So does last night's results show us how much influence Trump himself still has in terms of endorsements or in terms of his tactics?

CUPP: Yes.

I think it's Trumpism. I'm not sure how influential Trump himself is. And I don't think he even thinks he's that influential, which is why he endorsed the Erics, instead of actually picking one.

So -- but Trumpism has infected all of politics. And so that impulse to call an election rigged, the impulse to see what you can get away with, and dare someone to stop you, which is what Trump did throughout all of his first term, that's still around. And it's because the Republican Party hasn't put the hammer down on it.

CAMEROTA: Speaking of something interesting with the Republican Party is doing, Viktor Orban, Viktor Orban, the Hungarian president, is coming here and has a vaunted spot in CPAC later this week in Dallas.

And there are so many leading Republicans who have embraced -- he's a white nationalist.

CUPP: A hundred percent.

CAMEROTA: He's a -- let's just call it what it is.

CUPP: Yes.

CAMEROTA: He's a white nationalist, and they have embraced him. They like him.

Tucker Carlson, Donald Trump, they're fans of his.

CUPP: More than fans. I mean, Tucker's done a -- I will use air quotes -- a documentary praising Viktor Orban. He's visited Hungary many times. He's come back to say, Hungary is great. They have got the order. They are doing it right.

Meanwhile, Hungary, we should tell you, was just downgraded from a democracy to a partial democracy. It's because it is acting out this white nationalist fantasy, this anti-migrant, anti-minority fantasy and fever dream that is absolutely in the hearts of minds of a lot of Trump Republicans now.

CAMEROTA: It's also because Viktor Orban believes that a country is based on race and ethnicity, not ideals, not ideals or principles. He believes it is based on ethnicity.

CUPP: There's no ambiguity in what he said. He said, we don't want to be like the rest of Western Europe with the races mixed.

That's really powerful, hideous stuff to invite that to CPAC. CAMEROTA: And what does that tell us about CPAC and those


CUPP: To invite that to Bedminster, yes...

CAMEROTA: What is that?

CUPP: Well, they're not dog whistling that that's what they want anymore.

Matt Schlapp, who runs CPAC, is saying, look, this is about free speech. We invite people you may not agree with and we might not agree with, except they never go ahead and disagree with them. They do agree. They had a CPAC Hungary for no reason other than to shine a spotlight on Viktor Orban and really wrap their arms around these autocrats, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. They had a CPAC Brazil.

So they're not really hiding what they want to do and where they want to take the country.

CAMEROTA: S.E. Cupp, always great to see you.

CUPP: Is it? I don't know.



CUPP: I bring the bad news.

CAMEROTA: No, even with the tough topics, it's great to see you.

CUPP: OK. You too. You too.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much for being here.

OK, meanwhile, the Justice Department's investigation is continuing. It is getting closer into the White House. It's looking into Trump's efforts to overthrow Joe Biden's 2020 election win. A federal grand jury has now subpoenaed former White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

And there's new reaction to a story first on CNN. Key Trump Pentagon officials had their phones wiped of text messages related to the January 6 insurrection. So, what the January 6 Committee is going to do about that -- next.



CAMEROTA: The Justice Department has now prosecuted more than 800 people for the January 6 Capitol attack. Now there are new signs that they are closing in on the Trump White House.

A source tells CNN that a federal grand jury has subpoenaed Pat Cipollone, the former White House counsel. Joining me now to explain, we have CNN's Jessica Schneider and CNN

legal analyst Elliot Williams, a former federal prosecutor.

Jessica, let me start with you.

What do we know about this subpoena to Pat Cipollone?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: This is big, Alisyn, and very significant.

So it's a subpoena for testimony and documents from the former White House counsel, and it's a major move by DOJ, because this is the most high-ranking former White House official to be subpoenaed.


So we know that, last month, two of the top aides to Vice President Mike Pence, Marc Short, Greg Jacob, they did appear before the grand jury for testimony under subpoena. But this particular subpoena, really putting the former White House lawyer potentially in the hot seat in front of the grand jury, this will really put to the test any of Trump's executive privilege claims.

Our team, we have already reported that the DOJ is gearing up for what could be a big court fight over executive privilege. And it's coming at the same time that the attorney general has made quite clear that he believes no one is above the law, including the former president.

So, Alisyn, we're really seeing this aggressive move -- several aggressive moves really by DOJ to get people who were close to Trump around January 6 to talk to a grand jury. And it does show that prosecutors are looking into Trump's actions when it comes to all of these things, the fake electoral plot, the Capitol attack itself. It's all on the table, it seems to be, for DOJ.

CAMEROTA: But, Elliot, what about that?

Can Cipollone executive privilege to avoid answering some questions?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he certainly can. He can exert executive privilege and, to some extent, attorney-client privilege. It's a little bit complicated, because what you have is the president of the United States, who's also an individual, but who's also a candidate for office.

And so what's the relationship of the White House counsel to all of those things? You have to work it out in court. But, look, to pick up on Jessica's point, the Justice Department has already said, and CNN reporting on this last week indicated that they are preparing to challenge some of these complicated privilege questions in court.

Now, if his January 6 testimony is any guide, he's likely to assert privilege on any number of matters. But there's other witnesses who can help fill in the gaps. The committee showed Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony as well. But, in all likelihood, it would appear that the Justice Department would attempt to get some of this information. But, again, it's just -- you got to go to court for it. There's no other way to get it.

CAMEROTA: So, Elliot, I also want to ask you about these texts from top Trump officials connected to January 6 that mysteriously keep disappearing.

Now there's new court filings that reveal that the Defense Department wiped the phones of some top Trump officials after January 6, thereby losing any texts that could have been connected to the violence. But former Defense Secretary Mark Esper this morning explained what he thinks could have happened.


MARK ESPER, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think it needs to be looked into. But I think what we will find is that this was just a circumstance of people leaving government two weeks or so after January 6, and their phones being wiped and cleared for the next person to take them.


CAMEROTA: Your thoughts on that?

WILLIAMS: I think this is a -- well, an invitation to people in the world that text messages just aren't saved as evidence, right?

And, at a certain point, people think that the Internet is permanent, but text messages go away, number one. Number two, it's often up to individual law enforcement officers to decide whether to back up their own data or not. And that is a huge problem.

And, number three, leading us to point three, it sort of invited this whole mess here. So, yes, he's right that it might have just been completely benign. But it's also a little suspicious that, on the day, literally perhaps the day in American history where we most wanted -- America most needed to see the text messages of people at the highest ranks of the military and law enforcement, they just managed to disappear.

So Congress needs to get on this by, number one, investigating the Justice Department -- pardon me -- the Defense Department, number two, the Department of Homeland Security, and, number three, the Secret Service, to find out, what is your data retention policy? Did anyone break the law? And how do we ensure that this material gets saved, so that we don't run into this problem again?

CAMEROTA: Jess, what does the January 6 Committee say about this? Did they know about these particular wiped texts from the Defense Department?

SCHNEIDER: Well, so they say that they were blindsided.

And Elliot just touched on it here. He said, Congress needs to get on this. And just in the past few minutes, Dick Durbin, the chair of the Judiciary Committee, he just sent out a statement saying that he is now asking the Department of Defense inspector general to investigate these missing texts, because it just adds to this growing number of government agencies whose text messages are gone from that crucial period around January 6.

We have been seeing the back-and-forth with the missing Secret Service texts. Now we know the Defense Department wiped these phones of the top officials. So there are a lot of questions. To Elliot's point, though, committee members were blindsided. But members of Congress are now saying, look, we need answers on this as well, and the I.G. for the Department of Defense should investigate now.

CAMEROTA: Jessica, I also want to ask you about election workers.

So we have learned from a Senate hearing on election security that the FBI is seeing a huge volume of threats against election workers. Tell us about that. What's happening?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, a huge volume.

But the problem here that we're hearing in this hearing is that officials really aren't getting a clear picture of just how wide- ranging these threats are. And that's because we have learned that the FBI process for actually receiving these reports, whether they're violent threats or harassment against election officials, it's actually not built to handle this huge volume of reports that's coming in every day.


So what we know is that the DOJ started this task force last year. It handles this issue about election threats against election officials And the reporting so far is that there have been about 1,000 contacts that were hostile against workers. But the problem is, given free speech considerations, the FBI says that only about 11 percent of those really meets the thresholds for crimes.

So there's a disconnect into what's being reported, and then what officials can actually go after. And officials in testimony today, they really warned that the lack of the ability to take these threats and deal with them could mean that problems and maybe even violence could be worse for the midterms.

Here's the Michigan secretary of state talking about that.


JOCELYN BENSON (D), MICHIGAN SECRETARY OF STATE: We cannot have a secure democracy if we do not protect the security of the people who administer our elections.

And, right now, we are facing an unprecedented wave of continuous, unrelenting harassment and threats. There is an omnipresent feeling of anxiety and dread that permeates our daily lives and those of our families. Not long ago, my son, standing in our driveway, picked up a stick

turned to me and said: "Don't worry, mom. If the bad guys come again, I will get them with this."

He's 6 years old.


SCHNEIDER: And Benson isn't the only official who's broken down in tears about the kinds of threats either that they have faced or that the people around them have faced here, Alisyn.

And one of the things that these officials who are testifying are also saying is that social media companies, in their view, needs to do a lot more to monitor these threats and then report them to law enforcement so they can be taken care of, because, as you heard, even Jocelyn Benson, the secretary of state for Michigan, she has faced a lot of aggression, a lot of threats because of the way she oversaw the 2020 election.

It could be even worse for the midterms coming up just a few months.

CAMEROTA: No one should have to face that for doing their job.

Jessica Schneider, Elliot Williams, thank you both very much.

All right, so first on CNN, some lab techs are refusing to draw blood from patients who may have monkeypox. Why?

We look at the myth vs. reality next.