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New Book on Trump's Attempt to Stay in Power; Jason Furman is Interviewed about the Fed Meeting; Trump and Biden Vie for Union Vote. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 31, 2024 - 08:30   ET



MICHAEL ISIKOFF, CO-AUTHOR, "FIND ME THE VOTES": She got hired. She was 30 years old at the time. Who was 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 request from the president of the United States but she knows the risks that Raffensperger is facing. And she's determined to protect the boss.

She's 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 who've said they would never have had the guts to do what Jordan (ph) did but it, you know, as we say right in the book, it was the most consequential act of the post-election battle because it delivered the actual evidence of Trump's -- the extent of Trump's pressure campaign.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: There's such value in this book I'm -- sorry, I'm actually touching the book right now, because there are so many disparate elements, right? You have that as kind of the most consequential or significant, but it has felt like there's 50,000 different pieces of all these investigation that have been moving and uncovered at various points. And you guys are able to kind of bring it all together. And what was striking to me, Danny, is the role that Qanon, in the backdrop of all of this, played in that through line to some degree, which I don't know that people necessarily recognize.

DANIEL KLAIDMAN, CO-AUTHOR, "FIND ME THE VOTES": Yes, I think that is an underappreciated part of this story. You know, people knew that some of the players involved in this were involved in some extent with Qanon, but not to the extent that they were, not to the extent that this cult conspiracy really drove the steal of -- the, you know, this whole enterprise.

So, we focused, for example, on Lin Wood, who is a celebrated lawyer, people remember him from the '90s, you know, the JonBenet Ramsey case, the Richard Jewell case. A few years ago he goes down the QAnon rabbit hole. He is a full-on QAnon devotee. Tweeting that Mike Pence is going to be executed by firing squad. That Chief Justice John Roberts is involved in pedophilia and the trafficking of -- sex trafficking of children.

It's not that long after that, that the Trump campaign brings him into the inner sanctum of their legal battle in Georgia. He is the face of that legal - that quixotic legal battle. And, you know, Trump -- and we have audio of this. Trump is calling him on a, you know, a regular basis and cheering him on, and it's - it's extraordinary. You know, it's not just -- you know, it's colorful in some ways and exotic, but it's also dangerous because Lin Wood and some of these other people are flooding social media with these crazy conspiracy theories and dangerous stuff that's riling people up, riling up other QAnon devotees. That's leading to these horrendous threats that, you know, going - you know, racial and sexualized and terrible threats, terrorizing average people in Georgia. And that's an important part of this story, which is the human dimension of what was happening in Georgia.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I love, and I know that was a motivating factor for you in writing this was really the human element of all of it, the reporting on Lindsey Graham in this, who fought as hard as one can fight to not have to talk.

ISIKOFF: That's one of the great stories here.



HARLOW: But the - just tell everyone. He finally has to. So, he goes. And then there is a literal embrace of the DA, Fani Willis.

ISIKOFF: Yes. Yes. That - you know, so, you know, Graham, you know, defending the president, fighting the subpoena, get -- finally has to testify before the special purpose grand jury. According to one source familiar with his testimony, he throws Trump under the bus, talks about how, you know, if you told Trump martians stole the election he'd believe you. He also suggests that Trump cheats at golf.

And then after his testimony, he walks out, he sees Fani Willis, who comes over to thank him for testifying, which she sometimes did, and he says, oh, thank you for having me - for having me testify. That was so cathartic. And then he hugs Fani Willis. I mean the prosecutor who's pursuing Donald Trump, the guy he's out then, you know --

KLAIDMAN: She's a little perplexed by that. Our source -


KLAIDMAN: Who saw it says her reaction was, whatever, dude.

HARLOW: OK, guys. OK. There's that. His office, here's what they say.


HARLOW: "Senator Graham never spoke to the authors," you guys, "and what they're selling is pretty much total and complete BS," their words, not mine. "At the end of the day, this is all just trash for left wing cash."

ISIKOFF: I did speak to Senator Graham, by the way, and we had -- HARLOW: You did?

ISIKOFF: Yes, I did. And we had - we had an eyewitness to the scene.

MATTINGLY: Before we go, the body double story.


MATTINGLY: Which is fascinating to me.


MATTINGLY: Can you explain that?

KLAIDMAN: Yes, so, in the days leading up to the indictment, these terrible threats are intensifying for Fani Willis. She's getting them on her cell phone.


Guys calling, computerized, disguised voice threatening her with rape, with lynching, pronounces the names of her daughters and indicates that he knows where they live.

A couple of days before the indictment, her security team sees on a dark web MAGA site an assassination threat. The best time to shoot her is when she leaves the building is what this threat said. So, they set up an elaborate decoy operation. Fani Willis, right after that midnight press conference where she announces the indictment, she goes to a back office. The press is all there. We have no idea that this is happening. She changes out of her work clothes, her black, you know, business suit, and changes into sweatpants, a t-shirt, baseball cap.

Meanwhile, the body double, who's an investigator on her staff, you know, about the same size, puts on clothes resembling what Fani Willis had - had been wearing, the black suit, a string of pearls, pumps, even a wig to look more like Fani Willis. And the body double and -

ISIKOFF: And that Kevlar bullet proof vest.

KLAIDMAN: And importantly a Kevlar bullet proof vest.


KLAIDMAN: She -- the body double puts on -- and some deputies posing, people -- men posing as her deputies, they walk out the front of the courthouse. They get into official black SUVs and they leave.

Meanwhile, Fani Willis, and her team, posing as civilians, sneak out the back of the courthouse, get into civilian unmarked sedans and leave for an undisclosed area.

ISIKOFF: She was smuggled out of her own office.

KLAIDMAN: Smuggled out of the court.

ISIKOFF: Out of her own office.

KLAIDMAN: Out of her own office.

ISIKOFF: Because of an assassination threat.

KLAIDMAN: One of the more dramatic stories in this book.

HARLOW: Wow, what a read. Congratulations to you two.

ISIKOFF: Thank you.

HARLOW: We're so you were with us.

MATTINGLY: Also, by the way, the idea that Lindsey Graham wouldn't have spoken to two veteran investigative journalists and the issues that these two have covered is one of the funnier things that I've ever heard.

HARLOW: Michael Isikoff, Daniel Klaidman, thanks very much for joining us.

MATTINGLY: Thank you, guys, very much.

ISIKOFF: Thanks for having us.

HARLOW: The Fed and your finances. Today we're going to find out what - well, maybe we'll find out what they're going to do with interest rates. We'll see what Jay Powell says. What economists are looking for, that's ahead.

MATTINGLY: And an assault scandal rocks professional hockey. Five players now charged in a case from Canada six years ago. We'll explain, next.




JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL RESERVE: We still have a ways to go. No one is declaring victory. That would be premature. And we can't be guaranteed of this progress. So, we're - we're moving carefully in making that assessment of whether we need to do more or not.


HARLOW: That was Fed Chair Jerome Powell just last month sounding cautiously optimistic about the Fed's progress fighting inflation. Today, once again, we'll get an update from him on what the Fed may do with interest rates this year. The Fed has raised rates at the fastest pace in four decades. Rates being its sole weapon in trying to really bring down inflation.

So far, so good, according to the latest GDP and jobs data. No cuts are expected to be announced today by most. But the big question is whether the Fed could signal more cuts starting in March. That, of course, has big implications for you at home, your finances, economy at large, politics a bit.

Joining us now, Harvard economist Jason Furman. He served as the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama.

Welcome. Good to have you.

Did we stick a soft land?


I think it is. Look, Jay Powell is rightfully cautious. He's the Fed chair. He needs to be super duper careful. I only need to be somewhat careful. And so I'm going to say we've had a soft landing. The unemployment rate is --

HARLOW: Do you mean because, Jason, it - in December of 2022 you said it was most likely not going to happen?

FURMAN: Oh, yes. No, this is a surprise to me. And it is a delightful surprise. I was overly pessimistic. I was wrong. I'm thrilled that that's the case.

HARLOW: All right. If only every politician spoke the way you do, I was wrong and moving on.

Is -- what about a recession? Are we -- can we just, no recession, or is that still somewhat of a risk in 2024? Because I wonder if people are giving too much credit to the good GDP reports we're seeing.

FURMAN: Yes, look, you should always be nervous. I took a moment to be happy there. You've now got me back to the nervous mode.

HARLOW: Great.

FURMAN: We could have a recession. You can always have a recession. There's issues in the commercial real estate sector. Borrowing rates for things like mortgages have come down in anticipation of Fed cuts later this year, but they're still high. There's dramatic events around the world, especially in the Middle East. So, there's a lot of risks to the economy. Inflation could come back. Wage growth remains pretty high. I think wage growth is going to moderate, and we saw some data showing that this morning, and it's going to be consistent with slow price growth, but we could still get inflation coming back. So, there's always risks.

I think the important thing for the Fed, though, is right now those risks are roughly balanced. And I don't think either of those risks are abnormally high. And that's why they can be starting to prepare the ground for a rate cut at the next meeting, or the meeting after.

HARLOW: This is an economy that is still hard for many folks to afford. This is the least affordable housing market since 1984 according to one measure. Why can't the Biden administration seem to get it right on their

messaging on all of these good economic factors? And by right I mean resonating with the people they need it to resonate with.

FURMAN: Yes. First of all, one thing to understand is inflation really was very high in 2021 and 2022. Wages have outpaced inflation for the last year, but we were in a deep hole, and we're still digging out of that hole, and we're still somewhat in that hole. And so I don't want to tell people that everything's perfect. The soft landing I do think has happened. But it's going to be a while before all the damage from the inflation is repaired. And that's real. And that's legitimate.

The other thing I'd say, though, is the latest numbers on confidence and sentiment are consumers are actually more optimistic and more positive about the economy. They are seeing that good news. I think they're feeling that good news. And they're feeling a little bit less bad or a little bit better than they were a few months ago. And I hope, you know, that's what continues to happen.

HARLOW: We all hope so. Thank you for the sunshine this morning, Jason Furman. A little bit of good news. Appreciate it.

FURMAN: Good to see you.

HARLOW: You too.

MATTINGLY: Well, this week, President Biden and Donald Trump, they're in a battle for the union vote. How Trump is trying to make a play for a traditionally Democratic base. That's next.



MATTINGLY: Well, it is a busy Wednesday morning. Here are "5 Things" to know. The House Republican effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas moving to the full chamber after Republicans voted to advance it out of committee overnight, but the effort is going to fail in the Senate.

HARLOW: President Biden will make his first visit to East Palestine, Ohio, next month, one year after a train derailed and triggered an environmental disaster there. The White House says he'll meet with residents and leaders.

MATTINGLY: The fist of as many as 100 babies and children injured in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war have arrived to Rome. Nineteen more children will be flown to Italy in the coming days.

HARLOW: An assault case in professional hockey. Four current NHL players and a former player accused of sexually assaulting a woman in Canada in 2018.


All five players denying those accusations. MATTINGLY: And California is bracing for the strongest storm yet this

winter fueled by El Nino. The storm could bring up to 10 inches of rain and three feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

We'll have more on these stories all day on CNN and Don't forget, download the "5 Things" podcast every morning wherever you get your podcasts.

HARLOW: Donald Trump will be back in Washington, D.C., today. He is talking to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Tomorrow, President Biden goes to Michigan to meet with United Autoworkers after getting the union's coveted endorsement last week. It is clear the union vote matters a lot in crucial swing states.

How important is it going to be?

MATTINGLY: Well, CNN's senior data reporter Harry Enten is going to tell us.

HARLOW: Good morning.

MATTINGLY: Harry - so, Harry, just how important is the union vote for Biden, for Trump going forward in '24?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, I think, you know, there's a lot of belief that the union vote traditionally has voted Democratic. But I want you to take a look here in the swing states. These are Ariona, George, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin.


ENTEN: I think this might be a bit of a surprise to some folks. This is among union members in the key swing states. Joe Biden at 47 percent. Donald Trump at 47 percent. This is a clear movement from what we saw in 2020. The recall vote on that was Biden plus 8. So, this is a movement towards Donald Trump. Donald trump gaining among union members, as he has gained nationwide as well.

And, of course, those key swing states that we're talking about here, where union members are 10 percent or more of workers, again, the key swing states, Michigan, 14 percent, Nevada, near 15 percent. I think a lot of folks forget that, of course, union members make up a lot of those workers in those casinos out there and often times get out the vote drives are driven by those union members. And, of course, Pennsylvania over here at 14 percent. So, two places you keep an eye out on, the Great Lake battleground states, as well as in the southwest, where those union members, specifically those casino workers, are a big part of the Democratic coalition, at least traditionally speaking.

HARLOW: What about the trend line for union workers over time?

ENTEN: Yes, that trend line. So, let's look nationally. We were looking at the key swing states. Let's look nationally. So, this is the union vote nationally in presidential elections. Members have absolutely trended Republican. Recall back in 1948, although I was not alive back then, a huge union vote. Sixty-two points Harry Truman won that vote by over Thomas Dewy. Sixty-two points. It was a big reason why he won. And, of course, union members back then made up a much larger share of the vote.

You jump forward to 1992, what do we see here. We see Bill Clinton won that union vote. I don't know why that didn't go. There we go. Won that union vote by 31 points.

Then, in 2020, Joe Biden carried that vote but only by 22 points nationally. And I was looking at some of the national polls there. And we're also seeing that trend line more towards Donald Trump this time around. So, union members, a big part of the Democratic coalition, but fewer and fewer of them and again fewer and fewer of them are voting Democratic.

And, why is that? What is going on here? Well, union member vote in 2020, among college graduates, look at this, Joe Biden won union members by 46 points. But look among no -- with no college degree, Donald Trump won that vote by 6 points. So, often times we think of unions, we think of blue collar workers. But, in fact, there are a lot of white collar voters in unions. And the fact is those voters are going overwhelmingly for Biden. But you look at those blue collar workers, they are much more in the Trump camp.

MATTINGLY: And Trump's been able to pull the rank and file away from where their leadership has been on endorsements.

ENTEN: Exactly.

MATTINGLY: Which is why I think Shawn Fain is so fascinating in his role here.

Harry, I could have sworn you took the picture of the Dewy defeats Truman newspaper. That wasn't you in '48?

ENTEN: It might have been me in sort of my other life.

MATTINGLY: I would hang out with that Harry.

ENTEN: Absolutely. I'd hang out with that Harry too.

MATTINGLY: Harry Enten, my friend, we appreciate you. Thank you.

ENTEN: Thanks, buddy.

MATTINGLY: Well, Elmo asks us one simple question, but it triggers a existential crisis online, people dumping their trauma on the muppet and open a window into despair many of us feel.




BIG BIRD: Hi, Elmo. ELMO: Hi, Big Bird.

BIG BIRD: Ah, what's the matter?

ELMO: Well, Big Bird, Elmo was trying to show what sad looks like. Elmo tried and tried, but no matter what Elmo did, Elmo could not find anybody who feels sad.


HARLOW: But he did. Elmo learned an important lesson this week, I guess be careful what you wish for. Everyone's favorite furry red monster posted a simple question on X on Monday, quote, "how's everyone doing?"

Here's what happened.

MATTINGLY: People decided to unload their very real problems on to poor Elmo. Posts ranging from, I'm depressed and broke, to, the world is burning around us, Elmo. Just a day after the Lions' playoff loss, "The Detroit Free Press" weighing in with Elmo saying, quote, "we've been better." Actress Rachel Zegler writing, "resisting the urge to tell Elmo that I'm kinda sad."

HARLOW: It's not all jokes, though. Elmo's question and the avalanche of responses really underscore the worsening mental health crisis in this country. A Gallup report from last year found one in six adults in the U.S. say they're depressed and receiving treatment for that depression. That is a 7 percent increase from 2015.

MATTINGLY: But while Elmo may have unexpectedly sparked a thread of gloom and doom, it wasn't all bad. Some of his best friends, well, they stepped up in a big way. Ernie telling Elmo, quote, "if you ever need some cheering up, let me know, I love making others smile." Burt, saying, quote, "I'm here if you ever need a shoulder to lean on." Adding, he will make a warm cup of tea for both of them. Abby Cadabby told Elmo to stop by her garden if he ever needs a reminder of how magical he is and if he ever needs to talk. Cookie Monster, he'll be there to supply the cookies.

HARLOW: Hey, even President Biden weighed in, telling Elmo, quote, "even though it's hard, you're never alone."

Elmo responded to the overwhelming popularity of his initial post, saying he was glad he asked that question. And he, quote, "learned that it is important to ask a friend how they are doing before saying he will check in again soon."

He also added a message that "Sesame Street" fans know all too well.


ELMO (singing): Most of all, yes, most of all, Elmo loves you!


HARLOW: This is how I feel about Elmo.

MATTINGLY: It's also how I feel about Harry Enten.

HARLOW: Who's here with us.

What do you think about this?

ENTEN: I don't know. Sad. No.

HARLOW: That was good.

ENTEN: Thank you.

I would say this, Eelmo is finding out what a difficult job it is to be a pollster. He went out. He took a poll of his constituents and found out that a lot of folks down the street of sesame are not exactly thrilled with the way things are going in this country. And I don't think it's necessarily a big surprise.


You know, you put up those depression numbers. We know a lot of people think the country's on the wrong track. So, I think that Elmo is just learning the way of the American public. Folks aren't happy. And I guess we learned about it in a slightly different forum than we're used to. But the fact is, Elmo has always been there for us, and hopefully he will continue to be there for us.

HARLOW: Ask your friends how they're doing.

MATTINGLY: Ask your friends. Polls are just a snapshot in time. That snapshot is very clear right now. But, ask people how they're doing. Hopefully it can get better.

"CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts right now.

HARLOW: Thanks, Harry.

MATTINGLY: Thanks, buddy.