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Right-Wing MAGA-verse Gathers At Conservative Conference; Senate Democrats To Pass Inflation Reduction Act; Interview With Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE); Jury: Alex Jones Needs To Pay $45.2 Million Over Lies About Sandy Hook; Indiana Passes Near-Total Abortion Ban Post- Roe; Chinese Embassy Official Warns Of "War" With U.S. Over Taiwan. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired August 06, 2022 - 16:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.

Happening now, Senate Democrats are on the brink of advancing a sweeping climate, tax and healthcare bill after painstaking negotiations. This is a major moment for the Biden agenda. One that comes with fierce Republican opposition. The bill would represent the largest climate investment in U.S. history. It would give Medicare the power to negotiate certain prescription drug prices and extend Obamacare subsidies.

We're keeping an eye on the Senate floor action right now. You can see some of it unfolding as we speak, and we'll talk to a top Democratic senator, an ally of President Biden, later this hour.

In the meantime, former President Trump is set to close out the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas tonight. It comes as the Department of Justice ramps up its investigation of January 6th.

And the insurrection fallout is front and center at CPAC. This year's most buzzed about booth is this. A fake jail cell. What you're watching actually happened at CPAC. It features a convicted January 6th rioter doing performance art, if you want to call it that, in a cage wearing an orange jumpsuit. Also on display, cultural wars and election denialism.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER ADVISER TO TRUMP: We're at war. Think about after high noon on the 20th of January of 2021 when an illegitimate imposter took over 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and took over the administration.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): In my job, it's like the old Roman coliseum where you slam on a breast plate and you grab a battle axe and you go fight the barbarians.

SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): We're going to secure our border, build the damn wall, and when we finished it, we're going to name it after President Donald J. Trump.


ACOSTA: CNN's Michael Warren is there.

Michael, a lot of this sounds very familiar, but the hits, I guess they keep the folks coming in there. What are you hearing from the attendees there?

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, in just a few hours, as you said, Donald Trump will take the stage. The final speech here at this three-day event CPAC Texas. He'll be proceeded by two Republican candidates for governor that Donald Trump supported who won their primaries earlier this week, Tudor Dixon of Michigan and Kari Lake of Arizona. But Trump is the big star here. He is ending things in just a couple of hours in the ballroom behind me.

We talked to a few attendees about what they were expecting from Donald Trump tonight and whether they want to support him in 2024 if he decides to run for president. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump really stands for kind of that he's against the establishment, right, but these days, you know, ever since 2016, a lot more people are anti-establishment. A lot of people have asked DeSantis, especially, but the reason why I always go for Trump is because Trump really has the abrasiveness that nobody else has really quite captured yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I look forward to just about everything he says whether it be talking about securing our borders or talking about refunding the police and supporting them. I'm very passionate about that as well and about going against censorship. There's a lot of things about our freedoms that are being infringed upon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm more in favor of Ron DeSantis. I think Ron DeSantis got like new ideas and he's, you know, younger, definitely more in touch with the people than I would say Donald Trump is.


WARREN: And that last gentleman was really an outlier here, Jim, at CPAC. You see a lot of Trump 2024 stickers, T-shirts saying things that the 2020 election was stolen. It really is a common theme here at this CPAC. Sort of Trumpified CPAC as we've seen over the past couple of years. And you mentioned that jail cell featuring someone who was arrested for their involvement in the January 6th riot at the Capitol doing that performance art there.

You've covered enough of these CPACs, Jim, you know, there's always some dash of spectacle. And we'll be seeing probably more of that tonight from Donald Trump in just a couple of hours -- Jim.

ACOSTA: Right. And apparently, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene paid a visit to that jail cell. It's quite something. Michael Warren, thank you very much.

Let's discuss this with a pair of former Republican congressmen, "White Flag" podcast host, Joe Walsh is with me in the studio, and CNN political commentator Charlie Dent is with us as well.

Joe, I have to take you back to that bizarre piece of video we were just looking at a few moments ago. I guess some kind of symbolic January 6th rioter in a fake jail cell doing fake snowflake tears here. I don't know if this is CPAC or Summer Shakespeare, to coup or not to coup, that is the question.


JOE WALSH (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FROM ILLINOIS: Jim, I always love being on with you because we're always talking about my former political party and I think we're all just having a hard time wrapping our arms around the fact that this is who this party is. I mean, that was a crazy thing, right? A January 6th defendant in a mock jail cell, but what does that mean? That means everybody at CPAC, they don't believe January 6th was a big deal or a bad thing. And that's where the base is.

And again, we go through this exercise every week or two. The country needs to understand that my former political party is fully anti- democracy. It is a fascist political party. It is a political party that embraces authoritarianism. We've got to move on now and just defeat them.

ACOSTA: But, Charlie, moving on is the trick here. I mean, the party doesn't seem to be doing that at this point. As we were hearing from Michael Warren just a few moments ago, this is a Trump CPAC as if, you know, we were looking at the year 2020 or 2019, as if January 6th and the insurrection hadn't really happened. Doesn't this speak in part to kind of the victim complex at the heart of the Trump movement?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, there's no question about that. I mean, Trump is the ultimate victim if you just ask him, but I think we should try to separate what goes on at CPAC, which has frankly become a freak show over the years. And it really is not representative clearly of the country and I would even argue not of the Republican Party, even today.

I think many Republicans and many Americans do see that Donald Trump is a diminishing, yet still a dangerous figure. Look what just happened in the recent Kansas referendum vote on Tuesday. Clearly a lot of Republicans were uncomfortable with where the party is going. I mean, lots of Republicans apparently voted against the constitutional amendment on abortion. They want to make sure that's still legal.

And so I think there are a lot of Republicans out there, I'm guessing at least 30 percent, you know, who are not comfortable with where this party is and want something better. But look where CPAC, though, is. They've got all these illiberal, populist nativists, Steve Bannon, Viktor Orban, and Mike Lindell. What is he there for? I mean, of course Bannon had just been convicted, you know, for defying a congressional subpoena.

So you have to wonder what they're doing there. They should change their name from CPAC to ill-PAC or liberal PAC or ill. This is sick what they're doing.

ACOSTA: Yes, well --

DENT: And you always have these (INAUDIBLE) straw polls over the years where the polls would always win and they were going to win any primaries but that's where CPAC is these days.

ACOSTA: Joe is shaking his head. Joe, you want to respond?

WALSH: Jim, I love and respect my former colleague Charlie Dent.


WALSH: No, this is where the Republican Party is. Look who's winning Republican primaries. Election deniers left and right. All you've got to do is tune in to Tucker Carlson every single night if you want to know where the typical Republican voter is. Hateful, bigoted, authoritarian, nationalism. This isn't just CPAC. This is the Republican Party base now.

ACOSTA: And Charlie, you mentioned Viktor Orban, the autocrat wannabe leader in Hungary. Every year, CPAC seems to be more and more about political theatre, but we saw the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban as this conference. He opened it up. It's opening up with a dictator wannabe, it's closing with a dictator wannabe in Donald Trump. But let's listen to what Orban had to say.


VIKTOR ORBAN, HUNGARIAN PRIME MINISTER: Hungarian state institutions are obliged to protect the Christian culture of Hungary. Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.


ORBAN: Family ties -- family ties shall be based on marriage or the relationship between parent and children. To sum up, the mother is a woman. The father is a man. And leave our kids alone. Full stop. End of discussion.



ACOSTA: And Charlie, we just heard you a few moments ago say this is not what the Republican Party is all about. But here you have American conservatives cheering a pro-Putin democracy-suppressing, strongman- spouting nationalist rhetoric, anti-gay bigotry. I mean, it is a dominant force in the party, though, is it? Is it not?

DENT: Well, look, there is an illiberal populist nativist movement in many Western countries. Viktor Orban, the manifestation of Hungary, we see the Le Pen movement in France, Five Star in Italy, Alternative for Germany in Germany, UKIP for the Brexit, and of course Trumpism in the U.S. This is a dangerous trend. It is illiberal, and I would agree that these people have authoritarian leanings and, you know, do admire autocrats.


This is a major problem for the Republican Party. I am not trying to diminish that. What I'm trying to suggest is not all Republicans agree with this. And I've always sensed that there's a significant --

ACOSTA: Nor there are enough Republicans, Charlie, to stop this movement inside the GOP, because it looks as though Trump is waiting in the wings.

DENT: Not yet.

ACOSTA: And perhaps Trump light is right behind him.

DENT: Yes. But not yet. Look, do I think the Trump wing is dominant in the party at the moment? Yes, I do. And that's deeply regrettable and I think shameful. With that said, you know, we need to empower those, the Liz Cheneys, the Adam Kinzingers, the Peter Meijers, and there are plenty of other regular Republicans out there with whom I speak on a regular basis, who do not like where this party is going.

Yes, they are the minority, but the party establishment, the party leadership as it is now, and that's the Trump wing, you know, they want to continue to lose elections, they should continue down the path that they're on because Trump has brought nothing but defeat to the Republican Party in recent years and so I think we have to, as a party, we have to, you know, reevaluate where we are because we are leaving a lot of members.

ACOSTA: And Joe, you know, Trump had this rally last night and he was playing up these primary wins. You know, these election deniers were winning in a lot of these races. Let's watch what Trump had to say.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You probably saw that the Trump-endorsed candidates. Blake Masters easily won nomination for the U.S. Senate in Arizona. Kari Lake won the nomination for Arizona governor. Tudor Dixon won the nomination for Michigan governor. John Gibbs, great guy, defeated RINO congressman Peter Meijer this week. We're 45 wins and no losses. Is that good?


ACOSTA: Joe, some hair-raising comments there from Trump. But you have to admit, he is on a roll.

WALSH: It's his party. Respectfully to my friend, Charlie, the Republican Party is no longer conservative. It's authoritarian. Victor Orban is popular. He's an actual authoritarian. Trump and DeSantis are wannabe authoritarians. Tucker Carlson is one of the world's biggest cheerleaders for authoritarians and they echo the Republican Party base. And we better as a country, get our arms around this because the job now, Jim, is to defeat them.

ACOSTA: No, and I agree with that, Joe, and you know, a lot of folks might be looking at their TV screens right now and saying why are you showing Trump? Why are you showing this stuff? You know, sticking your heads in the sand, it's not going to make it go away.

WALSH: Absolutely.

ACOSTA: Joe Walsh, Charlie Dent, thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.

Right now, the Senate is on track to vote on the Democrats' healthcare and climate bill. We're keeping our eyes on all of that. We'll bring you up to date in just a few moments. And a top Democratic senator, he'll join me live, next.



ACOSTA: We're closely watching Capitol Hill right now where a major part of President Biden's agenda could be moments away from passing the Senate. Despite Republican opposition, Senate Democrats appear ready to send the Inflation Reduction Act as it's called to the House for final approval.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We have a bill before us that can win the support of all 50 Democrats. I'm happy to report to my colleagues that the bill we presented to the parliamentarian remains largely intact. The bill, when passed, will meet all of our goals, fighting climate change, lowering healthcare costs, closing tax loopholes abused by the wealthy, and reducing the deficit.


ACOSTA: If it passes, it would be the biggest legislative climate investment in U.S. history and make major changes to health policies.

CNN congressional correspondent Jessica Dean is up on Capitol Hill for us.

Jessica, we're watching this all afternoon I guess. Tell us what's in this bill and are we going to get there? Do you think we'll get to passage by this evening?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is the big question, Jim. And we have entered the portion of this day that is just the holding period. We knew this would come, but right now, we are just waiting. Senators are just waiting. Everyone is waiting for this to move forward. The hang up right now, they're waiting on CBO scores from the Congressional Budget Office, that's a nonpartisan office, to see how much some of these provisions will cost and what they will do to the deficit.

We're also waiting on some final rulings from the parliamentarian. And in that time, we now all just kind of sit and wait, but this is a bill that Senate Democrats, a lot of them, didn't think that they could get this much done. When talks collapsed earlier this summer with Senator Manchin, it didn't appear this would all get done.

What's in the bill? You mentioned it's the largest investment in climate policies that we have ever seen come out of the U.S. Senate. Some $369 billion in there. There's some tax incentives to try to boost renewable energy. There's also a number of provisions that they hope and think will bring down carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030. There's also some healthcare initiatives in there that would extend the ACA, the Affordable Care Act subsidies by another three years, and also for the first time Medicare would be allowed to negotiate drug prices for some drugs.

There's also some tax revisions in there. That's how they're going to pay for all of this including a 15 percent corporate minimum tax and a 1 percent excise tax on stock buybacks. So Democrats are hopeful and it will likely pass out of here, it's just matter of time. They just have to go through this very complex process. So we are waiting for them to kick that off with what's called a motion to proceed.

And what follows that is 20 hours of debate on either side in something that's known as a vote-a-rama, that's where Senate Republicans who are united against this can really exact some pain on Senate Democrats by making them take some kind of painful, controversial votes on amendments that they put in here.


Here's Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, explaining what that will be like. Take a listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): So what will vote-a-rama be like? It'll be like hell. They deserve this. As much as I admire Joe Manchin and Sinema for standing up to the radical left at times, they're empowering legislation that will make the average person's life more difficult.


DEAN: So, again, because they only need Senate Democrats to pass this, this thing is going to pass. It's just a matter of time, Jim, and that is the answer we just don't have right now. We have to wait and see how this will progress throughout the evening -- Jim.

ACOSTA: OK. Jessica Dean, thank you very much.

Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, he joins me now.

Senator, I guess this is what they call the sausage making and it's in the form of a vote-a-rama today, which I'm sure some of that terminology just flies over the heads of a lot of our viewers out there. But can you -- do you think you can guarantee by Monday morning that the Senate will have passed this bill?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Jim, I am very optimistic that by Monday, this bill will be headed to the House and from there to the president's desk. This is just the latest in a string of significant accomplishments by Congress and our president. He's going to be voting on -- excuse me, he's going to be signing into law next week two big bills that we just voted out of here. One, the burn pit bill that provides for veterans healthcare. Billions of dollars to care for veterans harmed by burn pit exposure in their service in our military, and another, the so-called CHIPS Act, to bring manufacturing back to the United States.

I think it will be a very long night here tonight and tomorrow. The rules of so-called vote-a-rama are that we keep voting on amendments until everyone agrees to stop. So this process only ends by exhaustion and given the makeup of the Senate, that can take quite a while. We have a few members determined to keep us here through the weekend, but, Jim, all 50 Senate Democrats have agreed to the core of this bill. I am confident it will be making its way to the House and the president's desk by next week.

ACOSTA: And you know, this is called the Inflation Reduction Act. I have to ask you how confident are you -- you were talking about being confident about the bill's prospects, but how confident are you that Americans are going to feel the effects of this, that they are going to see inflation go down as a result of this legislation being passed?

COONS: Well, Jim, some of the things that your colleague, your fellow reporter just put up on the screen make sense to average Americans, to American families, that it will reduce the costs they're seeing. Capping out-of-pocket costs. Competing the cost of prescription drugs so that they come down. Investing and making sure our clean energy transition lowers average household energy costs and reducing the costs of healthcare.

This bill also will put $300 billion in new revenue from making the most profitable companies pay their fair share, a minimum tax rate. It's going to put $300 billion into reducing the deficit. That is also a downward pressure on inflation.

Jim, five former secretaries of the Treasury, folks like Larry Summers and Hank Paulson who served for both Democratic and Republican presidents support this bill. There are independent nonpartisan analyses that say it will bring inflation down. I think this is going to prove to be one of the biggest accomplishments of the first two years of President Biden's term.

ACOSTA: And, you know, Senator, I have to ask you this. We've learned that Republican senators are expected to try to kill the insulin provisions in this bill. Do you believe that that Medicare insulin cap will stay in the legislation? You know, there are a lot of folks out there dealing with diabetes. I mean, this has been an issue that stirred up a lot of passion in the Democratic Party. They want to see that piece of the puzzle remain in place. COONS: I hope it will. I've had personal experience with this. I have

family members who are diabetics. This is a bill that Senator Warnock of Georgia has been championing to cap out-of-pocket costs to $35 a month. Anybody who's watching, among the millions of Americans who rely on insulin, a life-saving medication, know that it can cost thousands of dollars a year and that cap on the out-of-pocket cost for insulin would critically contribute to making sure folks take the medication they desperately need and to making it affordable.

So I for one certainly am going to be voting to keep it in the bill. I'm surprised if Republicans are seriously going to try and take that out of the bill, but they intend to fight us on all of this. To fight us on combatting climate change, to fight us on making companies pay a minimum tax, the most profitable, biggest companies in America, and to fight us on making prescription drugs subject to competition.


So it's going to be a long slog this weekend. But I think the clear distinction between our parties in terms of who wants to help lower costs for Americans and who doesn't could not be sharper than in this bill this weekend.

ACOSTA: But are you going to have to just to make some compromises along the way? We just heard some sound from Senator Lindsey Graham a few moments ago, saying that this vote-a-rama process is going to be hell, as he described it. If they try to turn up the temperature and make it hell for Democrats, are you going to have to let things go by the wayside to get this to the finish line?

COONS: I suspect not. Look, Jim, this becomes an exercise where Republicans try to right and force us to vote on, get us to vote on more and more extreme provisions. So we'll be taking votes on issues like abortion and gun control that really don't directly relate to prescription drug prices or climate change. And they're trying to do that so that vulnerable senators up for re-election who are Democrats are on the record voting on something.

In most cases, uniformly our caucus will vote against amendments and that will throw them out, but we may be here very late into the night as we vote on a range of things that aren't directly related to trying to reduce the costs facing the average American.

ACOSTA: And we just learned this afternoon that President Biden has tested negative for COVID. It's been about 17 days since he last left the White House, but he's had a number of political wins in that time.

Senator, you're pretty close with the president. Was COVID the best thing that's happened to him in a while?

COONS: I would really hesitate to say COVID is a great thing for anybody.


COONS: I am so grateful the president has come through COVID safely. But, you know, look, he's been every bit as engaged, in some of these more engaged by phone because he's had time on his hands in the last couple of days while he's had COVID. He's had a number of big wins both here in Congress and globally. You know, he just came back from a successful overseas trip. We just ratified an expansion of NATO to include Sweden and Finland, a key, strategic defeat for Putin and Putin's aggression in Ukraine.

We've also, as I mentioned, just passed a big veterans health bill and a significant bill to return to the United States the manufacturing of semiconductor chips and strengthen our competition with China. So the president's on a roll and I am confident that by the time we get to Monday, we'll be sending another bill to his desk.

ACOSTA: All right, Senator Chris Coons, we'll be watching. Thanks so much. Appreciate your time.

COONS: Thank you, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. And coming up, the jury tells conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to pay up $45 million in punitive damages to the family of a Sandy Hook victim. Will it end his lies for good?



ACOSTA: What does a lie cost you if you're a conspiracy theorist? Alex Jones, who has lied repeatedly about the Sandy Hook massacre, causing misery to a grieving family?

It almost cost $50 million. A jury found Alex Jones should pay a whopping $45 million in punitive damages to the parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, who was killed in the Sandy Hook attack.

That's on top of the $4 million in compensatory damages that have already been awarded in that case.

That lawyer for Jesse's parents delivering this emotional closing argument.


WESLEY BALL, PLAINTIFFS' ATTORNEY: Truly, you have the ability today to stop this man from ever doing this again, from continuing to tear the fabric of our society apart for the great monetary gain that he has received thus far, and to send a message again to those who desire to do the same.

Speech is free. Lies, you pay for.


ACOSTA: And joining me now, senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin.

You know, I can't think of a lie that has caused more pain for a family than the lies Alex Jones has spread about Sandy Hook.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Just utterly disgusting. And, Jim, you know, he went on for years, which is why these parents finally said enough, I'm going to sue you.

They had begged him to stop. They had written letters. They had, you know, tried to get him to just stop talking about their children.

But he went on and on saying that not only that the whole thing was a hoax, but these parents were crisis actors, that their kids didn't exist.

So that's why you have these lawsuits that were filed. And that's why, today, Alex Jones is being held accountable.

ACOSTA: I want to talk about Alex Jones' finances because it is a mystery. Because he's told his fans throughout this trial that he's broke. He needs the money to stay on the air.

Let's listen to this and talk about it on the other side.


ALEX JONES, CEO & HOST, INFOWARS: Now, listen, we're in bankruptcy right now. We're maxed out. We can barely keep the crew employed. We are fighting hard for your First Amendment, your Second Amendment.

We have a plan to stay on air through this bankruptcy. We have a reorganization plan. But if you don't fund us, if you don't buy products,, we will shut down.


ACOSTA: He's begging for money. Plugging his Web site. It's hard to believe really anything that Alex Jones says. He's such a horrific liar.

We also heard from an economist who uncovered some usual things going on with Alex Jones' money. What a lot of people don't realize is he rakes in a lot of money.


GRIFFIN: Yes. Anywhere between $55 million to 75 million and even northwards of that million dollars a year for this small media empire.

That economist hired by the parents, he only got some of the record. He doesn't have a full picture. He said the value that InfoWars empire, somewhere between $135 million and $270 million.

And the revenue really just keeps pouring in. It did not drop when Jones was kicked off the social media networks. And unbelievably, Jim -- he sells these fear products -- he may have had an actual boost because of COVID.

ACOSTA: Wow. And I want to revisit this extraordinary moment from the trial when the mother of the 6-year-old killed in Sandy Hook who's at the heart of this, spoke with Alex Jones face-to-face.

Let's watch that.


SCARLETT LEWIS, MOTHER OF JESSE LEWIS: My son existed. Jesse was real. I am a real mom. There's records of his birth. Of me. I mean, I have a history. And there's nothing that you could have found. Because it doesn't exist. That I'm deep state. It's just not true.


ACOSTA: You know, I wonder, Drew, as much your heart goes out to that mother there -- and it certainly does -- you know, does this breakthrough, does this puncture the Alex Jones, you know, conspiracy theory fog that he puts out there to all of his listeners?

What do you think?

GRIFFIN: I don't think so, Jim. He is so invested in this garble. And quite frankly, his core listeners are with him. They go to the conspiracy before they believe the facts.

That was a tremendously powerful moment. And to show you what kind a coward he is, the only reason he was actually sitting in there was because of a scheduling mistake. He had avoided the father of Jesse Lewis, and mistakenly was in that chair when Scarlett Lewis was up there.

It created a very powerful moment. The jury saw her pain and saw him, you know, just Alex Jones sitting in court. I don't think he showed much affection for her at all.

ACOSTA: And, Drew, what about that moment when Alex Jones' lawyer, it was revealed, accidentally handed over years of his clients texts to the other side.


ACOSTA: Now the January 6th committee wants to look at these texts. I mean, what a blunder.

GRIFFIN: I mean, throughout this trial, Jim, Alex Jones has been so on point that the judge had to remind him, this is not your show, Mr. Jones.

But that moment just caught him. He was gob smacked. He didn't know what to do.

And I don't think his attorneys knew what to do because they were realizing in their own mind what is a screw up they had committed.

But Alex Jones, two years of text messages, including about Sandy Hook, which he had said, under oath in a previous deposition, that he did not have, suddenly are in the hands of plaintiffs' attorneys. So he's looking at possible perjury. The January 6th committee is

possibly going to be looking at this stuff. And his attorneys are looking square in the face at a massive screw up on their end.

ACOSTA: Maybe another conspiracy theory for Alex Jones to delve into.

Drew Griffin --

GRIFFIN: No doubt.

ACOSTA: -- thanks, as always. Appreciate it. Terrific work --

GRIFFIN: Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: -- exposing Alex Jones. Just unbelievable.

Be sure to catch Drew's special, "MEGAPHONE FOR CONSPIRACY," the Alex Jones story, tonight at 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN.

We'll be right back.



ACOSTA: Anne Heche is in intensive care this weekend after a fiery car crash in Los Angeles. This as Heche was speeding behind the wheel of a car when it ran off the road and crashed into a house.

The car and home then caught on fire. Crews were able to pull Heche from the wreck and thankfully nobody else was injured. But her injuries are said to be very, very serious.

It took firefighters more than an hour to put out the flames. Anne Heche is known for her work in films, such as "Donny Brasco," "Six Days and Seven Nights" and "Wag the Dog."

Indiana is now the first state after Roe v. Wade to pass a law banning most abortions. One of the state's largest employers, drug maker, Eli Lilly, announced it would be forced to grow their company elsewhere.

CNN's Carlos Suarez joins me now.

Carlos, very important development here. Even among the bill's supporters, there appears to be some division.

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right, Jim. Some Republicans joined Democrats in saying that the final bill was too restrictive.

Some others expressed overall concerns, mainly among Republicans, who said that, in the end, because it wasn't an outright bill, they were going to say no.

The bill ended up passing the state legislature and the governor wasted no time in signing it into law. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)


SUAREZ (voice-over): Over the chants of protesters, lawmakers in Indiana passed a bill late Friday night that would ban most abortions. The first state to pass such a restrictive law since Roe v. Wade was overturned this summer.

The move drew outrage from Democrats and some Republicans who felt the measure went too far and others who felt it did not.

STATE SEN. GREG TAYLOR (D-IN): If you're pro-choice, you can't be happy. All I know is people need to go vote in November.

STATE REP. ELIZABETH ROWRAY (R-IN): I held my pro-choice views until the first ultrasound I had of my planned first child. And in that instance, when I saw her heartbeat, I couldn't believe that I ever felt like it would be OK to kill that child. I switched then, that instant.



SUAREZ: The bill was signed into law minutes after the vote. The law, which goes into effect on September 15th, provides exceptions when the mother's life is at risk and for fatal fetal anomalies up to 20 weeks post-fertilization.

It also allows exceptions for some abortions if the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.

The vote came days after voters in Kansas overwhelmingly rejected an effort to remove abortion protections from their state constitution.

On Saturday, the White House blasted the vote in Indiana. Quote:

"Yesterday's vote, which institutes a near-total ban in Indiana, should be a signal to Americans across the country to make their voices heard. Congress should also act immediately to pass a law restoring the protections of Roe, the only way to secure a woman's right to choose nationally."

Caitlin Bernard, the Indiana Ob-Gyn who provided abortion services for a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim, who crossed state lines in June, says she worries, even with exceptions, doctors fear they could be prosecuted for providing an emergency procedure to pregnant woman.

DR. CAITLIN BERNARD, OB-GYN: You know how to save their lives AND yet you're wondering, well, who's going to -- who do I have to check with? Who's going to second guess me?

Do I call my lawyer? Do I call the county prosecutor? You know, is this going to go to the state attorney general? Which we know can be incredibly dangerous for physicians as I've experienced. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SUAREZ: And as you said, Jim, pharmaceutical giant, Eli Lilly, which employs about 10,5000 employees in the state, said they're going to start looking for talent elsewhere.

That is coming as the company tries to expand its health care coverage for employees that might be seeking reproductive health care services out of state.

ACOSTA: They're a huge and important employer in the state.

Carlos Suarez, thanks for breaking it down for us. We appreciate it.

Coming up, China retaliates, warning the U.S. of potential war as it carries out new military exercises dangerously close to Taiwan in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip there.



ACOSTA: China's military exercises around Taiwan is not letting up. Today, Taiwan's defense ministry said 20 Chinese warplanes and 14 vessels were operating in Taiwanese waters.

Meanwhile, a top official at the Chinese embassy has warned that Taiwan may be one of the few issues that could take China and the U.S. to a, quote, "conflict or even a war."

CNN's Blake Essig is in Taipei.

Blake, analysts say these exercises look more like a simulated attack on the island. And I have to wonder how much of this is just China thumping its chest because it feels like it has to in this case.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Jim, I mean, look, we heard about the fiery rhetoric not only from the call that President Biden and Chinese leader, President Xi Jinping, had in the buildup to Nancy Pelosi's surprise visit to Taiwan.

It almost seems like China had to act and act in a big way. And as you mentioned, those drills, they're going to continue again in just a few hours.

China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is blaming the United States for starting this crisis surrounding Taiwan and as a result of what they call a provocative visit to Taiwan by the speaker of the House.

Beijing has not only announced that sanctions are going to be levied against Nancy Pelosi for her visit.

But also they've announced that they're suspending cooperation with the United States on a number of issues including climate change talk, anti-drug cooperation, and have canceled future talks between Chinese and U.S. defense officials. And in response to China's ongoing military exercises, essentially encircling Taiwan, the White House has summoned China's ambassador to condemn China's, quote, "irresponsible" military activities. Of course, the Chinese ambassador rejected that condemnation.

Recently, U.S. Secretary of State Blinken weighed in on Beijing's attempts to change the status quo, saying that the situation needs to be resolved peacefully.

Take a listen.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: So let me be clear. The United States doesn't believe that it's in the interest of Taiwan, the region, or our own national security to escalate the situation.

We'll keep our channels of communication with China open with the intent of avoiding escalation due to misunderstanding or miscommunication.


ESSIG: Now, Jim, on Friday, during the second day of exercises, China sent 49 warplanes into Taiwan's air defense zone.

And on Thursday, launched nearly a dozen ballistic missiles. Some flying over Taiwan. Some landing in Japan's exclusive economic zone.

So it seems escalations are just heating up.

ACOSTA: All right, Blake Essig, thanks. We know you'll stay on top of it. Appreciate very much.

On tomorrow night's brand-new episode of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA," W. Kauma Bell looks at issues of racism and representation with Asian- American friends in the film and television industry.



W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST, "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA": And to keep my cool during this game of Hot Potato, he's going to show me some meditation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Out to the side. Good. Use your body.

BELL: Right here?


BELL: Mine doesn't make that noise you're making.




BELL: I don't want to kick you. That seems disrespectful.

For the love of Jesus. And buddha.



BELL: Thank you for this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much.

BELL: It's been a true pleasure. I mean, I did get tricked by the producer and director, but that's cool. That's between me and them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hang out with the monk, oh, yes, that sounds great. You want to do some training with him? I'm kind of tired, getting old. How about some meditation. Sure, no problem. Just meditation.


ACOSTA: W. Kamau Bell there.

Catch "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" tomorrow night at 10:00 here on CNN.