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Herschel Walker Strongly Denies Report He Paid for Abortion; Trial Resumes in Alex Jones Case After Emotional Testimony; FAA Mandates More Rest Time for Flight Attendants Between Shifts. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired October 04, 2022 - 10:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. New developments this morning in the Georgia Senate race, where Republican Candidate Herschel Walker, a staunch abortion opponent, is denying a report that more than a decade ago, he urged a woman to have an abortion and reimbursed her for the procedure. This is a Daily Beast report, and they report the woman said she became pregnant while she and Walker dated in 2009, and that the woman supported her claims with a receipt, a record of a bank deposit and a get well card signed by Walker. Walker calls this a lie and a political attack.


HERSCHEL WALKER (R), U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE IN GEORGIA: I have no idea but it is a flat out lie. And now you know how important this seat is. This seat is very important. They'll do anything to win this seat, lie, because they want to make it about everything else except what the true problems that we have in this country is.

I can tell you right now, I never asked anyone to get an abortion. I never paid for an abortion and it is a lie.


HARLOW: Joining me now is our CNN National Political Reporter Eva McKend. Eva, Walker has campaigned as staunchly opposed to abortion, even being supportive -- multiple times, he said he's supportive of a national ban on abortion. And he's been clear when he's been asked, well, any exceptions, he said no exceptions. So, there is a real question here about truth and hypocrisy.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, Poppy. That is exactly right. That is why this is getting so much attention because it suggests hypocrisy. Walker is an anti-abortion hardliner who even resists terminating a pregnancy in the instances of rape, incest and life of the mother. And he's facing a steady drum beat of stories that cast doubt on his credibility.

[10:35:04] But this one seems to be the most explosive. He holds starkly different position on abortion than his opponent, Incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock. When asked about this last night, Warnock again reaffirmed his pro-choice views. But here is how Walker talks about abortion on the campaign trail. Take a listen.


WALKER: I believe in life. You never know what a child is going to become. And I've seen this people that have -- they've had some tough times but always said, no matter what, tough times make tough people.

REPORTER: So, no exceptions?

WALKER: No exceptions.


MCKEND: Now, an added a challenge for Walker is that his son, Christian, a conservative activist, has been really vocal on Twitter. Christian has made a host of damning allegations about his father, characterizing him as a liar.

Now, quick thing to note, not a lot of pylon from Georgia Democrats, I've been talking to my source this morning, no statement from the party today. They really seem to be treading lightly, Poppy, and appear not wanting to overplay their hand on this very sensitive issue.

HARLOW: That is interesting. Eva, thank you very much for your reporting on this.

Well, with just five weeks to go until Election Day, federal officials say that the threat against election workers across America is high. The FBI reports an unusual number of threats in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Wisconsin, most key swing states where election results were challenged after the 2020 election.

I'm happy we're joined this morning by Lawrence Norden. He is a senior director of Elections and Government Program at NYU's Brennan Center for Justice. It's sad that this is why we have you on but I'm glad you're here to talk about it. Look at what the FBI says. Look at those state and these are folks that are not getting rich off of helping secure elections.


HARLOW: They're doing their job to help protect democracy.

NORDEN: Yes. In fact, for most of our history, these are people who did their jobs in the background and they were doing it because they wanted to serve their neighbors, their community because they wanted to serve our democracy. And, you know, since 2020, what election workers have been facing are unrelenting threats. It sounds like it is getting worse during this period right before the election. But we're talking about people having their -- sometimes their homes invaded, their cars damages. They're being threatened sometimes at home, followed at home, and in some cases, having their children threatened for the work that they're doing for their communities.

HARLOW: You released a poll back in March and it showed nearly one in three election officials know at least one election worker who has left the job partly due to safety concerns, increased threats and intimidation. What can be done about that? I mean, you've got federal officials jumping in to help train people to deal with potential violence on Election Day.

NORDEN: Yes. This is very troubling and I think one of the most troubling parts to me is that many election workers right now feel like nobody has their back. In our survey of election officials, 80 percent said they felt the federal government was either doing nothing or not enough. A majority said they thought that their state governments weren't doing enough.

There are things that can be done to help election workers feel more secure. We can offer them privacy protections. We can offer them resources. It sounds terrible to say but some offices have asked for things after consulting with experts, like bulletproof glass in their offices, panic buttons, and they don't have the resources for that right now.

HARLOW: So, extra money, you're saying, extra resources to provide this protection is needed?


HARLOW: So, The New York Times had that fascinating piece over the weekend about the -- very disturbing piece about all of the increase in threats and violence after Trump was elected in 2016. The number of reported threats against members of Congress rose more than ten times in 2021. That's according to Capitol Police figures. Republican Senator Susan Collins told The New York Times, I wouldn't be surprised if a senator or house member were killed.

Just think about that and combine it with these threats to election workers, and I just wonder how much that increases your level of concern.

NORDEN: Well, I'd say a couple of things. First of all, you made the point, election workers, for the most part, they are not doing this for fame or fortune. They're not getting fame or fortune. They're used to being in the background. They don't have the resources that many members of Congress do. So, while the threats are very similar, I think they're often left feeling in a much more vulnerable position.

And election officials -- one of the things that worries me the most is election workers leaving the field. In our poll of election workers, one in five said that they plan to leave before 2024. So, in the short-term, I think we're going to make it through this election.

[10:40:02] Election officials, election workers are very resourceful. But if you think about what it means to lose one in five, think about another field that you know, like health care, if one in five doctors and nurses said they were going to leave in the next year, what would that do to the kind of care that people got?

HARLOW: That is exactly right. But we're talking about protecting human patient, we're talking about protecting American democracy, by the way, in that analogy.

I want to ask you finally about something that is not getting a lot of attention and should, and I think increasingly will, and that is the independent state legislature doctrine or theory. The Supreme Court is taking up this case, Moore versus Harper, and it's essentially about whether or not state courts have oversight over election rules, that state legislatures that can pass about federal elections, okay? Who has got the power, what courts, how much power do states have -- legislature have over how federal elections run.

I should note that a very prominent retired conservative federal judge, Michael Luttig, just yesterday, who testified in the January 6 hearings, wrote a piece about this here in The Atlantic, writing, quote, such a doctrine would be antithetical to the framer's intend and to the text's fundamental design and architecture of the Constitution. You know this case well. What do you want people to know about that and the theory?

NORDEN: Yes. Well, Judge Luttig also said yesterday this is the most important case maybe that the Supreme Court has about American democracy and in its 250 year history. So, it is important that people know about this case.

HARLOW: Thank you. I totally missed the headline on that one. Thank you for bringing that --

NORDEN: And it is potentially extremely dangerous. Basically, the theory that the plaintiffs are running with in this case is that there are no checks on state legislature from the state courts --

HARLOW: That is right.

NORDEN: -- from public referenda, so the public totally loses its voice in how federal elections are going to be run and the state legislature has full say and can do essentially whatever they want. And that is extremely dangerous for the way elections are run potentially in the United States.

HARLOW: Thank you very much. We'll follow up much more closely. We appreciate your time. Good to have you.

Up next, gut-wrenching testimony from the parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. They're now suing Alex Jones for lies he told about that mass shooting.


ROBBIE PARKER, EMILIE PARKER'S FATHER: How dare you? You're talking about my daughter. She was killed. Who do you think you are?




HARLOW: Plaintiffs are calling their final witnesses in the damages phase of the defamation lawsuit against Alex Jones. It is not clear if Jones himself will take the stand in this phase of the trial to defend his lies about the Sandy Hook shooting.

Our Jean Casarez has a look at some of the very emotional testimony.


JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The damages trial against Alex Jones resumes today after more than a week of emotional testimony from the victims' families. Robbie Parker's daughter, Emilie, was murdered in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School. He testified he was accosted by a man in Washington State in 2016 venomously cursing at him, accusing him of being a crisis actor who is faking his daughter's death and profiting from the government.

PARKER: For years, I've been dealing with this. And everybody who's online or everybody who was in the comfort of their studio in some other state, and I never had a chance to tell anybody how I felt or what I thought. And I turned around I looked at him and just -- I'm paraphrasing at this point, but just like how dare you. You're talking about my daughter. She was killed. Who do you think you are?

CASAREZ: It was this video of Parker the day after the shooting played by Jones repeatedly in slow motion that served as the launching point for his false claim the mass shooting was a hoax.

PARKER: I already felt like I failed Emilie as a dad when she was alive because I -- because we sent her to school. And I was especially starting to feel like I was failing her in her death because of what people were saying about her and what they were saying about me trying to remember her.

CASAREZ: The Sandy Hook victim's families have won their defamation case against Jones. This trial is to determine how much in damages Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems, will pay the 15 plaintiffs in this case.


CASAREZ (on camera): Before the jury entered the courtroom this morning, the plaintiff's attorney stood up addressing the judge, saying, your honor, we understand that Alex Jones may, in fact, take the stand and we want to, today before he does that conceivably, outline the perimeters of his testimony, because there are boundaries and he cannot just say anything on the stand.

And they have this experienced before when the plaintiffs called him as a witness. The defense said they disagreed they didn't think that was necessary. It looks like they are going to address it before the end of court because the judge has said this is not a political trial. You cannot discuss the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, elections, furthermore, the liability portion has been established. This is the damages portion.

I do want to say, Francine Wheeler is on the stand right now testifying. Her son, Benjamin, was killed in the massacre.


HARLOW: We will remember him and all of them. Jean, thank you very much.

We'll be right back.


HARLOW: Welcome back. The FAA has announced a new rule mandating more rest time between shifts for flight attendants.

Our Pete Muntean joins us live this morning from Reagan National Airport for details. I know they've been, the unions especially, pushing hard for this.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Hard for this for years, Poppy. In fact, Congress passed this back in 2018 but the Trump administration simply did not act on this. What this deals with is the downtime that flight attendants are entitled to after a shift, as long as 14 hours, the current rule states, that they're entitled to nine hours of rest.


The airline, in some cases, can drag that down to only eight hours of rest before they go back on the clock. Now, this new rule that is going to place mandates ten hours of rest for flight attendants.

It is so critical because flight attendants have been protesting at airports across the country. They say that they're really pushed to the limit because airlines are pushed to the limit, 55,000 flight cancelations this summer.

I want to you listen to Sara Nelson of the Association of the Flight Attendants who says the fatigue out there is real.


SARA NELSON, PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: The issues from the pandemic and the operational issues made the implementation of this new rule all the more urgent right now. Flight attendants were facing a whole new round of short nights because of those conditions in the worst times, at a time when they should be getting the most rest.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MUNTEAN: This does put some new pressure on airlines, especially that this goes into effect in the next 90 days. It is a competitive hiring environment. Airlines are hiring more flight attendants all the time, 3,000 added at Southwest Airlines just this year, Poppy.

HARLOW: Okay. Pete Muuntean, thank you for the reporting, live from Reagan National.

Thanks to all of you for joining us. We'll see you back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy harlow.

At This Hour with Kate Bolduan starts after this.