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CNN This Morning

Voting Tech Firm: OAN Execs Might Have Broken Law; Ex-Judge: Trump Engaged In Insurrection But Should Stay On IL Ballot; Biden Reaches Out To Black Voters In South Carolina: Kim Jong Un Oversaw Cruise Missile Test; Biden to Black Voters: You're Why Trump Is A Loser; Biden Urges Congress To Pass "Toughest" Border Reforms; Chiefs, 49ers Face Off In Super Bowl 58; Protests Of French Farmers Blocking Roads To Paris; Taylor Swift-Travis Kelce Romance Adds To The Mystique. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 29, 2024 - 08:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well, first on CNN This Morning, the voting technology company Smartmatic alleges that executives at the pro-Trump network One America News or OAN may have quote, engaged in criminal activities, while promoting lies about the 2020 elections. Smartmatic is currently suing OAN, Newsmax and Fox News for spreading false claims about their voting machines and voter fraud during that election.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's Marshall Cohen joins us now. Marshall, I'm going to be honest, I'm not surprised by a lot, but these were kind of wow allegations when I read them. What more can you tell us about these from Smartmatic against OAN?

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Hey. Good morning to both of you. This is a pretty wild story, I will admit. I got to agree with you. According to court filings, after the 2020 election, the President of OAN, Charles Herring, sent a spreadsheet to former Trump lawyer, Sidney Powell, claiming to contain passwords of Smartmatic employees. This came at a time when OAN and Powell were promoting those baseless conspiracy theories that Smartmatic had rigged the 2020 election. The details about this spreadsheet have not been made public before. We pieced together the story from three different court cases stemming from the 2020 election.

In one of those cases. Smartmatic is suing OAN, as you said, for defamation. And in a recent filing, Smartmatic referenced this email between Herring and Powell. It's unclear how Herring got the spreadsheet or if the passwords were actually real. But Smartmatic says, this means OAN executives "may have engaged in criminal activities" because they appear to have violated state and federal laws regarding data privacy.

Now, I want to be clear, OAN denies wrongdoing. Their Attorney, Charles Babcock, said in a statement to CNN that "this vague accusation is a clumsy attempt to smear OAN and to divert attention from Smartmatic's own misconduct". Now, guys, the timeline here is crucial. The email was sent in January 2021, one day after the voting systems in Coffee County, Georgia were breached by some of Sidney Powell's associates. They were looking for evidence that would back up their fraud claims. And Powell, as you know, has pleaded guilty to state charges in Georgia, stemming from that breach.

HARLOW: Marshall, fascinating, and significantly important reporting. Turning to a different case, something important happened in Illinois over the weekend. There's a retired judge there who's been overseeing this case about should Trump be on the ballot or not because of engaging in an insurrection. That judge found, yes, he did engage in an insurrection, so that finding of fact, but at the same time said he should stay on the ballot. Can you explain what happens next?

COHEN: Fascinating decision and mixed recommendation from that retired judge who, by the way, is a Republican.


COHEN: He was on the state bench for 20 years, highly respected Republican. He held a hearing on Friday. Both sides made their case and he issued his recommendation over the weekend. The State Election Board will meet tomorrow to vote on his recommendation.


As you spelled it out there, he said that, yes, Trump engaged in the insurrection, but no he shouldn't be removed from the ballot, because based on his analysis of state law and state court precedents, the election board does not have the power to adjudicate complex constitutional questions like these about the 14th Amendment.

But he made it clear that if a court does eventually weigh this -- state courts in Illinois, that's where any appeal of the election board decision would go. If a court weighs this question, they should take him off because they would have the power. And in his view, based on the evidence, Trump did engage in the insurrection. That's also the same conclusion that was drawn in Colorado and Maine. Other states reached other decisions. And as we all know, looming over all of this is the US Supreme Court, next week they will hear oral arguments on this key question, is Donald Trump eligible to run for President.

MATTINGLY: Yeah. All eyes on Nine Justices. Marshall Cohen, great reporting, as always, my friend. Thank you.

COHEN: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: Well, there is a lot going on today. Here are five things you need to know. President Biden says he vows to hold every group responsible for the drone attack on a US outpost in Jordan that killed three US soldiers. The President blamed Iran-backed militant group. Iran denies any involvement.

HARLOW: Also, just in today, Catherine, the Princess of Wales, has returned home from abdominal surgery. Kensington Palace says she returned to Windsor after staying in the hospital for 13 days. The planned surgery was unexplained but we are told that it was not cancerous.

MATTINGLY: Well, former House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi facing some criticism for suggesting without evidence that some pro-Palestinian protesters are connected to Russia. She urged the FBI to investigate the Council on American-Islamic Relations called the statement, quote, downright authoritarian.

HARLOW: There is a hearing scheduled for today to determine if Alex Murdaugh will get a new trial. Murdaugh was found guilty of killing his wife and son. His attorneys allege that a court clerk told jurors not to trust Murdaugh when he testified.

MATTINGLY: And X is limiting search results for Taylor Swift after explicit AI-generated images of her spread across social media last week. X says it has no tolerance towards such content and is removing identified images. More on these stories all day on CNN and And don't forget, download the 5 Things podcast every morning.

HARLOW: The Biden campaign trying to smooth over some cracks in their coalition, one that was so crucial to Biden winning in 2020. First off, South Carolina, as he turns to black voters to try to shore up their support.

MATTINGLY: (inaudible) North Korea's state news agency says Kim Jong Un oversaw a cruise missile test Sunday. It was launched from a submarine off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula. This is the latest in a recent series of escalations by the rogue nation. We'll be right back.







HARLOW: President Biden speaking to voters at a black church in Columbia, South Carolina yesterday as he tries to defend and really shore up one of the most reliable voting box for him and Democrats, a black coalition, propelled Biden to victory in 2020. South Carolina has saved his campaign during the primary, Biden highlighted that fact as he campaigned over the weekend.


BIDEN: And you're the reason Donald Trump is a defeated former President. You're the reason Donald Trump is a loser. And you're the reason we're going win and beat him again.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARLOW: Polls have shown a crack in support for the President among

black voters. Joining us now is the co-founder of Black Voters Matter, Cliff Albright. Cliff, it's great to have you. It's not that a majority of black voters in these polls are turning to Trump. It's that more of them are, right? You look at The New York Times in November and you see that in the crucial swing states, you have 22 percent of black voters saying they would back Trump. It was 8 percent last time around. Why is there this weakness?

CLIFF ALBRIGHT, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK VOTERS MATTER: Yeah, thanks for having me, Poppy. I think, I don't want -- I don't ever really give polls this far out a lot of credence. Interestingly enough, I went back and looked at polls from July of 2020. And President Biden or then Joe Biden was still at 71 percent, literally the exact same number that this poll (inaudible).

The thing we got to keep in mind is, polls can say one thing, but if you look at the way that black folks have actually voted, these estimates -- this is not the first time we've heard estimates of 20 percent from Trump. We already did -- Herschel Walker might get 20 percent in Georgia, that didn't happen. We are -- Trump will get 20 percent before, and that didn't happen.

In fact, if you look at black men, interestingly, in 2016, he got 14 percent of black men. In 2020, he only got 12 percent of black men. And so, the number is actually going into reverse. But you're seeing a lot of talk about these polls.

HARLOW: Right.

ALBRIGHT: But if you look at the way that we vote, it's not going to happen. It's not a massive shift. The bigger question, though, is whether or not folks actually turn out to vote at all. There's always that third choice of not voting for either candidate.

HARLOW: Sure. And maybe that is who you were speaking to, when you talked to The Washington Post. I thought that was fascinating reading over the weekend, your comments to the post, saying, look, it's -- the sky's not falling for the Biden campaign. But you did say Cliff, it just might be drizzling. How do they turn this around?

ALBRIGHT: Yeah, exactly. It's not all doom and gloom. But there are some signs. The main thing is -- and to answer your question, how they turned it around is, you've got to talk to people, you got to give people good information about what's been done.


The most common question we have is, well, I don't know exactly what he's done, right? And so, they got to improve the message. And a lot of times when people say that, they're just talking about the message itself. But when we talk about it, we mean, you got to improve the message, meaning the substance. You got to improve who the messenger is, there's got to be a trusted messenger.

You got to improve where you deliver the message. He was in a church these past couple of times when he's come to South Carolina. Yes, you got to go to churches, but you also -- you got to invest in black media, you got to stream things, or the things that younger folks watch, you got to put it wherever people go at the club, barbershop or whatever, that you got to improve, where you go. And then, most importantly, you got to improve how frequently that message is delivered.


ALBRIGHT: But the good news for them is that, there's actually some substance there about things that have been done.

HARLOW: I was just having the image of President Biden at the club, speaking to black voters, that would be quite a campaign stop. I'll wait for that one. But in all seriousness, on younger voters, that's actually -- and polls aren't going so far, but that's actually where most of his weakness is, that I think is concerning to the campaign is among younger black voters. How much of that, Cliff, do you attribute to particularly this President not calling for a ceasefire and the mounting civilian casualties in Gaza? We saw him interrupted by protesters over it just this weekend in South Carolina.

ALBRIGHT: Yeah. No, that is definitely a major issue. I told a high- ranking person within the administration, that is got to be their most concerning issue. When you look at the poll numbers, black voters in general are disappointed with the President's policy, disappointed to be generous with the President's policy in Gaza.

But when you look at the younger black voters, it's around 70 percent, 75 percent, 80 percent, who are not just disappointing, but just outright mad about it. And that can be an issue. I mean, wars have changed presidencies. I mean, ask Lyndon B. Johnson. And so, they really have got to look at that policy.

But the other thing that they've got to do is, talk to young folks about the things that they have done, the things going on with police accountability, which had a lot of young people in the streets back in 2020. And this administration has actually done things, but they haven't talked about it enough.

HARLOW: Right.

ALBRIGHT: Talk about gun reform, talk about climate change, which young people care about, that won't eliminate the concerns and the outright anger about Gaza. But folks have got to hear something that at least gives them some kind of balance to what they are really upset about in terms of the policy in Gaza.

HARLOW: You bring them out, police reform, just to end on that. It's a guarantee that the President made at the beginning of the administration, police reform and voting rights. And those are two, like, the John Lewis Voting Rights Act didn't see that get through, major police reform didn't get through. How much does that weigh on their support?

ALBRIGHT: I mean, it definitely weighs. Even we, to be honest, at Black Voters Matter are critical throughout 2021 saying that the administration didn't do enough, but they did eventually come out and he came out saying, we've got to modify the filibuster to pass voting rights.

So, it's things like that, things that they try to do but didn't exactly get done. That -- some people were very upset about it --


ALBRIGHT: -- in terms of criminal justice, yes, the George Floyd Act didn't pass laws because it was sabotaged by Tim Scott. But when you look at that the -- the fact that the cops that killed (inaudible) were prosecuted federally. When you look at the people that killed Ahmaud Arbery were prosecuted federally, Chauvin, who killed George Floyd, was prosecuted both locally and federally, when you look at no- knock warrants being banned federally, when you look at (inaudible) being banned.

There are things that were actually done, but nobody really knows that because there's been talk about if folks -- if young folks were in the streets for these issues in 2020, it's hearing that something's been done on that, short of the George Floyd Act, but still that things have been done. That can also encourage people to go vote.

HARLOW: This is fascinating conversation. Cliff. I hope you come back soon. Thank you for your time this morning.

ALBRIGHT: Thank you.

MATTINGLY: Well, this morning, a key negotiator says a deal has been reached on a new border security package and could be ready for the Senate floor in just the coming days, but in an effort to sync a policy win for President Biden, former President Trump is pressuring Republicans to block the deal, saying they'll be more than happy to take the blame if it fails.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Please blame it on me, please, because they were getting ready to pass a very bad bill. And I'll tell you what, a bad bill is -- I'd rather have no bill than a bad bill.


MATTINGLY: CNN's Lauren Fox joins me live on Capitol Hill now with more. They're saying the quiet part out very loud. To some degree, I guess, I appreciate the acknowledgement there. Well, Lauren, in terms of what the former President is saying about this legislation, if there is no bill, what happens at the border?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. I mean, this is certainly something that Republicans who have been negotiating this deal and Republican leaders have been making this case to their conference privately that they have to do something and that you can't just look at the political landscape, the reality that Donald Trump wants to use the border as an area to go after President Joe Biden in the election as a reason or an excuse not to do something.


And this bill does make significant policy changes on the southern border. It's not just an investment in border security. It is expected to make concrete changes to the way that immigration policy works, with the goal of trying to reduce the number of pull factors that are encouraging migrants to come across the southern border. Some of those areas are increasing the threshold, the credible fear standard for people who are seeking asylum coming across the border.

It's also an effort to try and speed up how quickly those asylum claims are processed in court. Sometimes those cases drag on and on for years in the immigration system. This is an effort to try and fix that. But still, obviously, it is not going to be enough for some conservatives, and it may not be enough not just because of the policy in the bill, but because Donald Trump is very clearly using his megaphone against it.

MATTINGLY: Right. And that megaphone could also sync not just the border deal to the extent we see the text of it, but also Ukraine funding, Israel funding, Indo-Pacific funding as well. Can we kind of cut through the usual back and forth here? And just between me and you, as if we were always going back and forth when we were both on the hill, what -- is this going to get through? Like, what is the pathway here? Do you see this having a real chance of getting done beyond the kind of political atmosphere?

FOX: A major test is going to come this week in the United States Senate, Phil, and that is because it's not clear what the Republican vote count would actually be in the Senate right now. In fact, there was sort of this illuminating moment over the weekend, where James Lankford who has been the key negotiator on this, he said that they don't really know what the votes are, right now. Here's what he said.


SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): Do not have a vote count yet on this, because everybody's got to be able to read it to be able to go through, but I do feel very positive about it, because even the initial feedback has been good.

SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): So, I think James is -- he's smart. He's hardworking. He knows the issue. He's on a suicide mission. The Democrats do not want to secure the border --


FOX: And you see there the tension within the republican conference. And this tension is going to reveal itself this week. One of the things that Thom Tillis, a Republican who's been supportive of this effort, told me repeatedly last week and the week before, is that this bill in order to actually move the minds of some Republicans in the House, it would have to get a majority of the Republican conference in the Senate. I think that that is going to be an extremely heavy lift right now, given the comments we've seen so far, given Trump's role right now in trying to attack and assail this legislation.

Again, we just don't know. The bill text expected to be revealed sometime early this week. We don't have it yet. We'll see where the votes stand after that. Phil?

MATTINGLY: And then people put their cards on the table. Lauren Fox, appreciation my friend. Thank you.

HARLOW: Super Bowl, it is a throwback to 2020 that Chiefs face the 49ers, thanks to an historic comeback and a celebrity good luck charm.

MATTINGLY: And you're looking at live images outside of France where a group of farmers is blocking highways around Paris. They're protesting for higher pay, better working conditions, and less regulations. We'll keep you posted. We'll be right back.




HARLOW: The control arm was just playing Beastie Boys in there.

MATTINGLY: And you labeled it right away. What a party it will be. That was Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce with the Beastie Boys reference. We're going to try and continue that thread a little bit, celebrating a 17 to 10 victory over Baltimore to punch their ticket to Super Bowl 58. The Chiefs got their (inaudible) in the first half against the Ravens and never looked back. They're sure to get no sleep till Vegas --

HARLOW: Vegas.

MATTINGLY: -- where they'll be taking on the 49ers, who seem to be sabotaging themselves after falling behind early against the Detroit Lions, but they eventually shook their heads. We were able to get there.

HARLOW: Who wrote this script? It's magnet -- San?

MATTINGLY: Yes, of course, Sam, the brilliant San Fernando (ph).

HARLOW: 17-point deficit at halftime, and they turned it all around. Harry Enten, our senior data reporter, with us now. How historic was this comeback?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yeah, San Fernando (ph), a master of scripts. All right. Top NFC Championship Game comebacks. 17 points versus the Lions yesterday, that ties a 17-point comeback that the San Francisco 49ers had against the Falcons back in 2013. So, the 49ers historic comebacks all over the place.

Apparently unless they come back, they're not making the Super Bowl, but they did it yesterday, and I feel so bad for the Detroit Lions. When did the Lions last win an NFL title? It was back in '57. I believe I calculate this correctly. That's 24,137 days ago. The top TV show was Gunsmoke, the top song was Elvis' All Shook Up, and the President was Dwight Eisenhower. That is a long time ago. I am so sorry Lions fans, the Bills fans, my heart goes out to you.

HARLOW: That's just mean.

MATTINGLY: (inaudible) Can you talk about the important things, Taylor Swift?

ENTEN: Yeah. So, there was this whole thing about how often is Taylor Swift shown in games. In fact, there was sort of this looking on her where she said, get the camera off of me. But how often is she actually shown? Alright, telecast. This is my conservative estimate. I kept count of it yesterday. There were five appearances that she made, not including halftime.

Her airtime was 33 seconds. Post-game, she shared a lovely kiss with her lovely bow, Travis Kelce. And, of course, there's all this question, will she make it back to the Super Bowl in time because she has to get from Tokyo to Vegas, the last Tokyo concert ends February 10 at 5 a.m. Vegas time. A Tokyo to Vegas flight is 11.5 hours.