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House of Representatives to Vote on Impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas; Texas Authorities Arresting Illegal Immigrants as Part of Operation Lone Star; Donald Trump States Congressional Republicans Should Not Make Immigration Deal with Biden Administration; FBI Director: Chinese Hackers Preparing to Wreak Havoc; Big Tech CEOs to Testify at Online Child Safety Hearing; New Book Details Prosecution of Georgia Election Fraud Case. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 31, 2024 - 08:00   ET





REP. MARK GREEN (R-TN): Secretary Mayorkas's actions have forced our hand. We cannot allow this border crisis to continue. We cannot allow fentanyl to flood across the border, criminals to waltz in undeterred, and we cannot allow a cabinet secretary with no regard for the separation of power and the rule of law to remain in office.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): The impeachment of Secretary Mayorkas is a baseless sham. And the few rational Republicans left in the House know that.

REP. DAN GOLDMAN (D-NY): The real reason we are here, as we all know, is because Donald Trump wants to run on immigration. And you don't have to take my word for it because he said it himself.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. It is the top of the hour. Glad you're with us. I'm Poppy Harlow with Phil Mattingly in New York.

And new this morning, the stage is now set for the House to vote on impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas as soon as next week. After midnight, House Republicans approved those articles of impeachment against Mayorkas over the crisis at the southern border.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: At the same time, those same House Republicans are lining up to kill the most substantial bipartisan border security deal in decades over on the Senate side, the same Senate that won't actually convict Mayorkas if he is impeached, and they're doing so at the behest of their likely presidential nominee Donald Trump. Just hours from now, Speaker Mike Johnson set to speak on the House floor about that border battle, a significant speech. He's pushing back on the notion that he's trying to block any border deal just to help Trump in his presidential campaign.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you simply trying to kill this to help him on the campaign?

REP. MIKE JOHNSON, (R-LA) HOUSE SPEAKER: No, Manu, that's absurd. Our majority is small. We only have it in one chamber. But we're trying to use every ounce of leverage that we have to make sure that this issue is addressed. I have talked to former President Trump about this issue at length, and he understands that. He understands that we have a responsibility to do here.


HARLOW: Meanwhile, we are getting a reality check on the border and the escalating battle between the state of Texas and the federal government on all of this. Ed Lavandera is live in Eagle Pass where so much attention has been paid because of this standoff, despite what the Supreme Court ruled. What is the situation this morning?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you have all of the issues there raging in Washington here on the ground, Eagle Pass, as most people well know, has become the epicenter of this fight between the state of Texas and the federal government. We decided to take a closer look at what is called Operation Lone Star, Governor Greg Abbott's efforts to try to control the border.


LAVANDERA: Gaston (ph) Santaderd (ph) fled Venezuela and crossed into Texas in the summer of 2021, just a few months after Governor Greg Abbott launched the state-funded border security plan called Operation Lone Star.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I cross the river. There was the Texas police.

LAVANDERA: Instead of being detained by Border Patrol agents, he was arrested by Texas state troopers. Part of Operation Lone Star involves arresting migrants for trespassing onto private property. Governor Abbott has argued these arrests would deter migrants.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): And when people start learning about this, they're going to stop coming across the Texas border.

LAVANDERA: Gaston (ph), you were handcuffed, arrested, charged with criminal trespassing. You spent more than a month in jail in Texas.

Santaderd (ph) says the experience was hell. He spent his life working as a human rights lawyer and now was seen as a criminal. The trespassing charge was dismissed by a judge, and almost three years later, Santaderd (ph) is now in Colorado awaiting his asylum hearing. The state arrest did nothing to derail that. Kristen Etter is a lawyer who has worked with groups that have

defended thousands of migrants snagged into the net of Operation Lone Star.

KRISTIN ETTER, ATTORNEY: It's really just a political stunt, and has no real effect on immigration.

LAVANDERA: The state says they have made nearly 10,000 trespassing arrests since 2021. Etter says many of those misdemeanor cases are simply dismissed.

ETTER: Operation Lone Star has essentially been a $10.5 billion temporary and harsh detour to the asylum system. It doesn't actually prevent a person from being able to request and receive asylum in the United States.


LAVANDERA: Since Operation Lone Star started almost three years ago, Governor Abbott has continued to escalate the number of state troopers and National Guard soldiers deployed to the border. State officials say Operation Lone Star has turned over nearly 500,000 migrants to Border Patrol and has led to over 35,000 more serious felony charges.

ABBOTT: We have deployed more National Guard, thousands of National Guard than ever before in the history of the state.

LAVANDERA: But according to federal immigration data, the number of migrant encounters along the Texas-Mexico border has increased overall since Operation Lone Star launched in March of 2021. But the Texas governor's office points out that other states on the southern border, like Arizona and California, have seen much sharper increases in migrant encounters than Texas.

Democratic State Representative Eddie Morales once supported Operation Lone Star but now says the $11 billion price tag hasn't been worth it.

STATE REP. EDDIE MORALES, (D) TEXAS: The numbers have continued to increase. We have to answer to the Texas taxpayers. I don't think that it's enough what we're doing. As a matter of fact, it's only gotten worse.

LAVANDERA: Morales represents Eagle Pass, the border city that's become the epicenter of the ongoing fight between state and federal authorities over immigration. State authorities have taken over a public park and are limiting Border Patrol access to the area. The state has also installed miles of razor wire along the Rio Grande. Texas sued the Biden administration to prevent Border Patrol agents from cutting wire to apprehend or rescue migrants. But the Supreme Court has ruled that border agents can remove the wire while the case plays out in court.

MORALES: This is all political theater. You walk a mile down that way or a mile down that way, and it's completely open.

(END VIDEO TAPE) LAVANDERA (on camera): And we should tell you, CNN teams over recently weeks and months have seen migrants cross underneath and over the razor wire that is installed here through parts of Eagle Pass. But despite all of this and the controversy surrounding this border initiative by the Texas governor, the governor is really rounding up support not only from Republican governors and attorney generals from across the state, but also Republican lawmakers here in Texas that have passed more security, border security measures trying to increase the criminal penalties for entering the state illegally. All of that continues here in Texas. Poppy and Phil?

MATTINGLY: Ed Lavandera for us, thank you for that piece.

And as Trump inserts himself into the immigration debate, we're learning more about how donor money Trump is spending to defend himself in the 91 criminal counts he faces. Sources tell CNN, the former president spent about $50 million in not his money, donor money, on legal bills and investigations related expenses in the last year. The exact numbers will come out later today when he has to file records with the Federal Election Commission.

HARLOW: On top of that, Reuters sat down for an interview with Trump megadonor, Robert Bigelow, who said he's given $1 million to cover the former president legal bills, planning to give the president a lot more money as well in his reelection bid.

Former Trump White House communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin is here. We'll get to the Trump FEC filing in a minute and just how much money is going to his lawsuits. But on immigration, the question that Manu asked Speaker Johnson that was so crucial, people heard at the top of the show, are you House Republicans torpedoing this immigration deal because of Trump, at the behest of Trump? Johnson suggesting that is absurd. It is not absurd. The question is, does Trump prevail here, and what is he trying to do knowing that if he wins it's going to be near impossible to get a deal better than this for Republicans.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. Donald Trump is the de facto speaker of the House. We know this. We know that Mike Johnson spoke to him. We know that he did not want to support this border deal.

HARLOW: Truthed out.

GRIFFIN: Truthed out. And the fact is this -- this is the best border deal that Republicans and Democrats are going to be able to collaborate on. And I think that it's just very craven and, frankly, transparent to the voter when you say there is a crisis, which I believe that there is. We saw over 300 apprehensions in the month of December alone.

HARLOW: It was 300,000.

GRIFFIN: But we're going to wait until January of next year when a new president might be sworn in. That just goes against everything that we have been running on. And the border is an animating issue with voters. They do care about it. But I think it's much harder to make the case that you're serious about addressing it if you're going we're to put it off for another year.

MATTINGLY: Yes, but they're impeaching the Homeland Security secretary. That's going to change everything.

Can I ask you. You were involved in these debates and types of negotiations in these very, I think, visceral fights on immigration from the base side when you were on Capitol Hill. Could you have ever imagined Democrats going as far as they have gone on the policy?

GRIFFIN: That's a great point, Phil. That's what's stunning. Democrats are actually coming around to what is an objectively good bipartisan deal that even the most rightwing Republicans get some wins in. This is not a John Boehner era deal. This is really the Biden administration, the White House acknowledging there is a crisis and we have to do something. So I think it just shows, frankly, how right wing the House Republican conference has gone that they can't even come around and get on board on this.


Listen, there's a chance that you might see some quiet whipping for this vote of Republicans in the House, hoping it will pass with some Democratic support. But it's looking like it's dead-on-arrival in the House.

HARLOW: If Trump wins, if he's in the general, if he wins, he inherits this without having measures in place that empower him more to do what Biden is saying, give me the power to do this now on the border.

GRIFFIN: That's what's pretty stunning is I think that he's going to put himself in a position of having to act almost unilaterally through executive authority rather than --

HARLOW: Which only goes so far.

GRIFFIN: Only goes so far. And by the way, again, if you believe it is a crisis, which I do believe that it is, this is going to be incredibly hard to fix if it keeps going at the pace that it is a year from now. Donald Trump is tying his own hands if he does think he's, in fact, going to win. And by the way, his team is also talking about going a lot further, tweeting out day one, the deportations begin. They're talking about doing the biggest deportation plan that we've ever seen in American history. I feel like that's not something that's getting nearly enough attention.

MATTINGLY: Can we talk Nikki Haley?

GRIFFIN: Yes, always.

MATTINGLY: Because we mentioned the donor money, and I'm just very struck, and I wonder if you see the same thing. Her posture, her tone, how she's operating right now is just very different. She seems almost released a little bit in the wake of New Hampshire. The donor money numbers came out, and Nikki Haley tweeted over the top of it on X, you can't beat Joe Biden if he's spending all his time and money on court cases and chaos. She said yesterday that she trusted the jury in the E. Jean Carroll, didn't weigh in on the case specifically. There's a very lengthy memo from the Trump campaign laying out all the reasons that she had no path forward, none of which I can really dispute, to which the Haley campaign responded, Betsy Ankney, the campaign manager, with a "Mean Girls" gif, why are you so obsessed with us? I got a kick out of that. They're different right now than they were two weeks ago.

GRIFFIN: I love this Nikki Haley. I questioned her strategy early on of not going hard enough against Trump. And it's very clear to me now that she was waiting for it to become a two-person race. I think if she went full Chris Christie early, her concern is she wouldn't get enough Republican base support.

Now, she's still struggling to do that. Her numbers are still lagging Donald Trump's. But now that it's head to head, she's trying to draw this stark contrast of his issues are going to be being in courtrooms, defamation cases, sexual abuse liability, and he's going to be spending donor money to pay his legal bills, whereas I'm going to be running a 50-state campaign. She's talking about going after the popular vote, something Republicans have basically given up in 20 years. To me as a Republican, there's not a more clear contrast and opportunity here. But for some reason, the strength of Donald Trump is still there, and he's still very much the front runner.

HARLOW: Apparently our reporting this morning is that she's going to start targeting Trump and Biden in ads and things as grumpy old men. A great movie. We'll see how it is for her there. Look at this. This is my first time seeing this. That's amazing.

MATTINGLY: It is a great movie.

HARLOW: It is a great movie. All right, Alyssa, thank you.

A new warning from FBI Director Christopher Wray. His concerns about China and the threats to American infrastructure next.

MATTINGLY: And top tech leaders in the hot seat on Capitol Hill. The questions the leaders of Meta, TikTok, Snapchat, and more will face about protecting children online. We'll explain next.



MATTINGLY: This morning, FBI Director Christopher Wray is expected to issue a stark and very direct warning about the threat posed by Chinese hackers on critical infrastructure in the United States. He is expected to testify to House lawmakers that "China's hackers are positioning on American infrastructure in preparation to wreak havoc and cause real world harm to American citizens and communities if or when China decides the time has come to strike."

HARLOW: Let's go to Katelyn Polantz. She joins us now. What more do we know about what China is targeting?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE SENIOR REPORTER: Well, Director Wray here is being very public and direct about what he is saying and what he is planning to tell the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party at this hearing today is that there are very specific things that the US government, US intelligence believes there could be the hackers from the Chinese government targeting.

Those include water treatment plants, the electrical grid, oil and natural gas pipelines, and transportation systems -- essentially infrastructure, the type of things that in the belief of the FBI and what the message Wray will be delivering is, is that those hackers are looking at potentially disrupting infrastructure in a way where they could be positioned if there needs to be some sort of blowback from China, where they would want to hinder a US response to some sort of Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

So there's a lot of things at play here on the National Security front that that Ray is warning directly about in the context of military operations and National Security. But he's also saying that it is not just hacking in tech that there should be a warning about, that the American public should be aware that the Chinese Communist Party, they are targeting our freedoms reaching inside our borders across America to silence, coerce, and threaten our citizens and residents. That is another portion of what Wray plans to say today.

MATTINGLY: Katelyn, it's striking, not just the words, but also that it comes the day after our colleagues, Sean Lyngaas and MJ Lee had this great scoop about how in a private conversation, President Xi promised President Biden the Chinese will not interfere in the 2024 election. How aware are American officials about election meddling when it comes to China right now?

POLANTZ: Well, American officials are always going to be wary about it because there have been several elections where there has been foreign interference, maybe not hacking in the last election. But in 2016, there was the Russian hacking of the Democratic Party. And then what we were talking about with what Wray is warning today that is about technology and hacking related to technology.

But on the election front, there are a lot of other ways that there can be influence. And so Sean Lyngaas and MJ Lee were able to report exclusively at CNN, that President Biden and Xi Jinping were able to have a discussion about this in November, at that very high stakes meeting in California.

It was a very delicate moment where they were trying to build the relationship between China and the US. And at that time, China was saying and Xi Jinping was saying that Beijing was not going to be meddling in the American election this year. That's been really reiterated to the National Security adviser in recent weeks in the US from China, but still, it's going to be a concern.

And there are some US officials that continue to be wary, does Xi Jinping of China even have full understanding of everything that the National Security apparatus in China is doing and may want to do in the US election?


There is always going to be a lot of concern here, not just related to hacking, but also more subtle ways that there can be foreign influence in American elections and toward voters.

HARLOW: For sure, Katelyn Polantz, thanks for all the reporting.

Also today on Capitol Hill, the Senate Judiciary Committee will question the CEOs of five major social media companies --TikTok, Meta, Snapchat, Discord, and X. They are expected to testify at an online child safety hearing, and this comes his efforts to regulate online platforms' really ramp up across the United States and lawmakers accuse companies of really failing to protect kids.

MATTINGLY: Joining us now, CNN senior media analyst and AXIOS senior media reporter, Sara Fischer.

Sara, I always love these hearings, because you realize what kind of prep and what law firms prepped these individuals going into them, but also what lawmakers actually understand about the technology itself.

What are you watching? And who are you watching specifically?

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: I mean, it's a great point.

Senator Dick Durbin is the one to watch here today. He's the one championing a set of bills around child protection. The thing, though, Phil is that these bills have been introduced in the Senate so many times, and they've gotten nowhere. And so I expect these senators to feel a little bit exasperated when they're probing some of these tech firms.

I also expect that we hear from some of the more hawkish people around China to chime in. You have Senator Hawley who has been very hard on TikTok and the safety measures that it's been doing with data and privacy. So it won't just be about kids, you'll hear a little bit things that are wider.

Expect these tech CEOs to be pretty prepared. One of the interesting things is that because these bills have been around for so long, they have a pretty good sense of what they're going to get asked and what response they should have.

In fact, some companies like Snapchat and Meta have already started implementing changes from some of these proposed bills, like the Kids Online Safety Act, to get ahead of any proposed legislation and to get ahead of today's hearing.

HARLOW: So you mentioned TikTok, the CEO, Shou Zi Chew is obviously going to be on the hotseat when it comes to questions about China. But I'm also really interested to hear testimony from Linda Yaccarino, the only woman who's going to be up there, the CEO of X.

What should we expect them to be pressing her on today? And what are you looking for there?

FISCHER: Yes, so it's interesting, Poppy. Linda, and the CEO of Snapchat, Evan Spiegel, the CEO of Discord, Jason Citron, this is their first hearing ever in front of Capitol Hill. So first and foremost, I want to see how postured they are. I want to see how comfortable they are.

Mark Zuckerberg has done this eight times, so I'm not so concerned.


FISCHER: You know, Shou from TikTok has already done this. I think from Linda, you're going to expect her to hear about some of the reforms that they introduced over the weekend, including building a 100-person safety team in Texas to be able to monitor this type of thing. But I'd expect Democrats to come down very hard on her, Poppy, about other measures that X is taking to you know, prevent abuse.

Over the weekend, we saw viral images of Taylor Swift on X, you know, using AI to make it look like she was doing sort of sexually promiscuous things. X had to sort of block all Taylor Swift searches. It got really messy so expect her to have to answer to that.

I also want to see what she's going to say about X's broader efforts on content moderation given that they've cut so many people over the past few months.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's going to be fascinating to watch on several different fronts and we know Sara, you'll be watching all of it. Appreciate it, as always.

Well, new insight into the pressure campaign Trump and his team launched on Georgia to find more votes to overturn the 2020 election. A new book reveals who recorded that infamous call and why, that's next.



MATTINGLY: The embattled special prosecutor in Donald Trump's Georgia election interference case has reached a temporary divorce settlement just one day before a hearing where he would have had to answer questions about an alleged inappropriate relationship with Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis.

Now, Donald Trump and his attorneys are pointing to this alleged affair trying to have the sprawling case against the former president dismissed.

HARLOW: So this comes as we get a lot of new insight into that infamous phone call that Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, asking him for votes to try to help overturn the 2020 election.

The recording of that hour long call kicked off the criminal election subversion case in the state against the former president that led to this also infamous mugshot.

A new book uncovered how that recording even came to be, revealing that Raffensperger's deputy, Jordan Fuchs secretly recorded that call without Raffensperger's knowledge in order to protect him, without permission from anyone.

It is a fascinating veteran investigative journalist, Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman credit her with doing more than anyone to really deliver justice writing: "Fuchs did what was arguably the single gutsiest and most consequential act of the entire post-election battle."

They are the authors of the new book, "Find Me the Votes: A Hard Charging Georgia Prosecutor, a Rogue President and the Plot to Steal an American Election."

We're so happy to have them at the table this morning. Welcome.



HARLOW: Let's just start with -- let's start with Jordan.


HARLOW: And the fact that she's in Florida when she records this.

ISIKOFF: Absolutely.

HARLOW: Which is a two-party consent state.


HARLOW: So, she is risking legal jeopardy.


HARLOW: And she doesn't ask her boss for permission. She certainly doesn't get permission from Trump and she hits record and that leads to all of this.

ISIKOFF: I mean, look, absent that, we would not have the most compelling evidence of Trump's pressure campaign to alter vote totals, something that is front and center, not just in the Georgia case, but also in Jack Smith's election interference case in Washington, DC.

HARLOW: Can we just play a little bit for people to remind them. Here we go.



DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.


ISIKOFF: Yes, so look, here's the backstory of this and it's pretty fascinating.

The Trump people had been trying to get in touch with Brad Raffensperger for weeks now, and Raffensperger was ducking the call because the Trump campaign is suing him. And you know, they're in ongoing litigation. They don't want to get on the phone with Trump and knowing Trump's habit of perhaps distorting what would get said in any conversation between the two of them.

But Mark Meadows reaches out finally to this young woman, Jordan Fuchs, Republican strategist who gets hired at the age of -- she was 28 when she got hired. She was 30 years old at the time who is serving as the chief-of-staff to Brad Raffensperger and says the president really wants to talk to the secretary.

She finally relents, gets Raffensperger to relent. It's a direct call, a request from the president of the United States, but she knows the risks that Raffensperger is facing and she is determined to protect the boss.

She is on that call, but you never hear her voice. She put herself on mute and she taped the whole thing and you know, it was -- I mean, I've talked to colleagues of hers who said they would never have had the guts to do what Jordan did, but you know, as we say, we write in the book, it was the most consequential act of the post-election battle because it delivered the actual evidence of Trump's extent of Trump's pressure campaign.