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Sen. Cotton On Failures Of Democratic Presidents; Katie Hobbs On Why She Refuses To Debate Opponent Kari Lake; Dem Rep. Running On Abortion Rights In Tight Re-Election Fight. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired November 03, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: I hope you go out and vote for them.
The news continues. Want to hand it over to Jake Tapper and CNN TONIGHT.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT WITH JAKE TAPPER: Welcome to CNN TONIGHT. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington.
And tonight, the United States of America versus a far-right militia, accused of trying to overthrow the government. In perhaps its biggest test yet, federal prosecutors, today, rested their historic case, against five alleged leaders of the Oath Keepers, including its founder, for their role, in the U.S. Capitol attack, on January 6, 2021.
Over the last month, the Justice Department presented witness testimony, and shocking videos, and damning text messages, and more. All of it evidence, that prosecutors say, proves the five defendants, attempted to carry out, a coordinated conspiracy, to stop the legal and lawful transfer of presidential power, and keep Donald Trump in the White House.
Now, why is this case so different than the hundreds of other cases facing alleged January 6 rioters and insurrectionists? Two words. Seditious conspiracy. That's a rare charge.
It's one that was put on the books around the time of the U.S. Civil War, when the Confederacy declared war, on the U.S. government. It's a charge reserved for only the gravest of threats, to the U.S. government. And these five alleged Oath Keepers are the first to stand trial, for this accusation, in more than a decade.
To really understand this case, you got to first understand who and what the Oath Keepers are. The group was founded, by this guy, Stewart Rhodes, in 2009. Rhodes is an anti-government extremist, an Army veteran, and a disbarred lawyer. He accidentally shot out his own eyes several years ago.
And according to its former website, the Oath Keepers is a quote, "Non-partisan association of current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders, who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic," unquote.
But translated, what that means is, they think they don't have to follow any orders, from any government that they think is illegitimate, such as our current democratically-elected one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEWART RHODES, OATH KEEPERS FOUNDER: You got to declare everything that comes out of King Biden's mouth as illegitimate and null and void from inception because he is not a legitimate president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, let's go inside the courtroom now, and examine the case so far.
Prosecutors say that Rhodes, along with Kelly Meggs, Jessica Watkins, Kenneth Harrelson and Thomas Caldwell, planned, for an armed rebellion, long before January 6, and that they were prepared to do anything necessary, to keep Joe Biden out of the White House.
Prosecutors allege that members of the Oath Keepers, attended rallies, in D.C., in November and December of 2020 as, quote, "Dry runs."
And here's what Rhodes said, in December 2020, at one of those events, as he tried to encourage President Trump, to fight, to stay in office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RHODES: That if he does not do it now, while he is Commander-in-Chief, we're going to have to do it ourselves, later, in a much more desperate, much more bloody war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: "A much more desperate, much more bloody war." They were dressed for that bloody war, the next month, January 6.
Oath Keepers decked out in full battle gear, seen, moving through the mob, purposefully, and entering the Capitol. Prosecutors say that Meggs, Harrelson, and Watkins, were part of this stack formation, which joined a mob of people, some of whom were attacking Police officers.
Rhodes also allegedly entered the Capitol grounds, and mentioned having a "Quick Reaction Force," a QRF, that's what it's called in the military, at a hotel, outside Washington, D.C., with other members, carrying firearms, standing by, to join his bloody war, if necessary.
Prosecutors say, those QRF teams were coordinated, in part, by Thomas Caldwell, the fifth defendant on trial right now.
Today, the defense began to present its case, and we've gotten a glimpse, into their strategy, already.
Defense attorneys argue that the Oath Keepers never had a specific plan, on January 6, and that Rhodes never explicitly instructed the group, to enter the Capitol. The defense attorneys also say that the Oath Keepers were not violent, during the riot, and they themselves never called in, their Quick Reaction Forces, their QRFs.
Obviously, prosecutors disagree, and think the Oath Keepers were conspiring, for much more than they actually carried out on that day, hence, the charge of seditious conspiracy.
So, what does that mean? What is this statute in U.S. federal law? Why does it exist? Well, as I told you, it dates back to 1861, and the U.S. Civil War. Congress made it a crime to conspire to overthrow the U.S. government, or to conspire to use force to, quote, "Prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States."
The Confederate insurrectionists failed, though it took four years to stop their armed rebellion. And the seditious conspiracy charge has rarely been used since. It was used notably, in 1954, against terrorists, pushing Puerto Rican independence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ruthless fanatic, violence erupted in the halls of Congress. Three men and a woman believed to be members of the Puerto Rican Nationalists gang that in November 1950, attempted the assassination of President Truman, opened fire, from the Visitors' Gallery of the House of Representatives. Estimates of the numbers of shots fired range from 15 to 30. And each bullet hole found is a grim reminder to those who were present of the terrible surprise attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: In that attack on the Capitol, five congressmen were shot and wounded, but thankfully, all survived. And those suspects were convicted on charges of seditious conspiracy.
The last time, the Justice Department, brought those charges, and won the case, was in 1995, when an Egyptian cleric, the so-called "Blind Sheikh" and nine of his followers, were convicted, in a plot, to blow up the United Nations, and other buildings.
But look, experts say the broad nature of the seditious conspiracy law can be difficult to sell to a jury.
In 1988, a jury acquitted a group of white supremacists, accused of plotting to overthrow the government, and establish an all-white nation. And 10 years ago, a judge just dismissed a case, against a Michigan militia, accused of plotting an attack on law enforcement.
All of that raises the stakes, for the Justice Department, today, in this trial, against the Oath Keepers, and its upcoming trial against a different far-right group, the Proud Boys.
Now look, January 6 was clearly an effort, to stop the peaceful transfer of power. But prosecutors are going to have to prove, and convince a jury that it was coordinated.
As evidenced, by the attack, on Paul Pelosi, last week, or the attempted attack, on Supreme Court justice, Brett Kavanaugh, a few months ago, domestic extremist violence is a real threat.
A study from earlier this year, by the Anti-Defamation League reveals, quote, "Right-wing extremists were linked to at least 26 extremist- related murders in the United States in 2021 and have been responsible for 75 percent of such murders in the last 10 years," unquote.
So, this has been building for years. Remember the "Unite the Right" gathering of racists and extremists in Charlottesville?
Now look, back in 2020, at the first presidential debate, our own Chris Wallace, directly asked then-President Trump, if he was willing to condemn white supremacists, and far-right groups, such as the Proud Boys.
Do you remember Trump's response?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: "Stand back and stand by."
Justice Department prosecutors say the evidence shows that these far- right groups were standing by, they were waiting for a green light, to undermine democracy, and allow Trump, to hold on to power.
As the January 6 Select House committee has proven, there were connections, between members of these far-right groups, and folks, in Donald Trump's orbit, people like Roger Stone, or Michael Flynn.
I asked Trump's former Communications Director, Alyssa Farah Griffin, why?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: The only reason you would be talking to those groups is because you wanted a violent presence at the Capitol that day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Donald Trump could today, right now, issue a clear and unequivocal condemnation, of the Oath Keepers, and the Proud Boys, and what they tried to do that day. You'd think condemning would-be terrorists, charged by the U.S. Department of Justice, with seditious conspiracy, would not be difficult. Ask yourself, why hasn't he?
Do you remember what the former spokesman, for the Oath Keepers, told the January 6 committee, a few months ago? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JASON VAN TATENHOVE, FORMER OATH KEEPERS SPOKESPERSON: If a president that's willing to try to instill and - and encourage, to whip up a civil war, amongst his followers, using lies, and deceit, and snake oil, and regardless of the human impact? What else is he's going to do if he gets elected again?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Opening statements in the Oath Keepers trial were given exactly one month ago. One person, who's been covering every step, in this trial, is CNN's Sara Sidner, who joins us right now.
Sara, thanks so much for joining.
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Happy to be here.
TAPPER: So, how compelling has the case been that the Department of Justice has been trying to make that this was actually a conspiracy against the United States government?
SIDNER: Very compelling. There are mountains of evidence.
We have heard from about a half dozen FBI agents, talking about everything, from where their phones were, and having to ping the phones.
We've heard from Capitol Police officers, like Harry Dunn, who talked about the fact that like, while the Oath Keepers' defense is trying to say that they were trying to help him that that was not the case, in any way, shape, or form.
Some of the most compelling has been from former Oath Keepers themselves, one of whom was there that day, and has pleaded guilty, himself, to seditious conspiracy, who basically said, "Look, I'm sorry. Now looking back," and this is a quote, he said, "I was acting like a traitor against my own country," and taking that upon himself, as a member of this group that went in to the Capitol.
And he said, look, the three people that he knows went into the Capitol, from this group of Oath Keepers, thought of it, it was like a Bastille Day. So clearly, they were trying to do something, to stop the government, from going forward, starting their own, if you will, revolution, in their own minds.
But I think the star witness, just from my time, watching this case, is the words of the defendants, themselves. Because, they have it on Signal, they have it on their social media accounts. They have it in their text messages.
And they have secret recordings, of the group, talking about what they're going to do, as this date marches closer, and even after January 6, what they wanted to tell the president, the leader himself, Stewart Rhodes, and it was a very sort of violent-filled rhetoric, about what they thought of Joe Biden, winning the election.
TAPPER: So interesting. You've been covering hate groups, for CNN, for years and years and years. It's a tough beat to cover. I know. You and I have talked about it.
How significance was - how significant was the election of Donald Trump, and Donald Trump's refusal, to concede, how much was that a pivot point, for these groups?
SIDNER: So, it really does go back. And I hate to say this, but we saw really a spike in kind of rhetoric and hate crimes, actually, when President Obama, especially in his second - his second election, we saw those numbers start to march up.
The Oath Keepers themselves, for example, they were founded in 2009. What was that year? It was the year after the first Black president got into office. And there are a lot of groups that look at extremism, and can correlate that with why this group suddenly emerged, in the way that it emerged, with the kind of backing that it emerged from its members.
That being said, Pandora's Box was already there. These feelings were already there.
SIDNER: President Trump just helped open the box. Maybe he blew the lid off the box. And then, you saw a culmination of that on January 6.
But all of those feelings? They're still there. This is not over. That might have been the beginning. We don't know. But it's still part of the rhetoric that I see, every day, on all kinds of different social media sites that these very far-right ideologues are on.
TAPPER: All right. Sara Sidner, thanks so much. Appreciate it. Excellent reporting, as always.
A prominent Republican is going to join us, in a moment. Senator Tom Cotton, he just wrote a book about reversing what he calls the left's plot, to sabotage American power. The left after we just addressed the far-right's clear attempt to sabotage the balance of power and the transfer of power on January 6.
We have a lot to talk about with Senator Tom Cotton, including 2024. That's next. Stay with us.
TAPPER: With five days, until the midterm elections, candidates, around the country, are making their final pitches to voters, the ones who haven't voted already, early.
Among those hitting the trail for Republicans, GOP senator, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who's been campaigning with Dr. Mehmet Oz, in Pennsylvania, and Herschel Walker, in Georgia, J.D. Vance, in Ohio.
Senator Cotton also has a brand-new book out, called "Only the Strong: Reversing the Left's Plot to Sabotage American Power," where he gives his take on how Democratic presidents, all the way back to Woodrow Wilson, have been steering the country, down the wrong path, when it comes to military and foreign policy issues.
He writes, for example, quote, "America's recent decline isn't an accident. It's decline by design. For more than a century, liberal Democrats have plotted to sabotage American power. These Democrats believe a strong confident America brings war, arrogance and oppression - not safety, freedom and prosperity."
And Senator Cotton joins us now, here in studio.
Thank you so much for being here. Good to have you here.
SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: It's a pointed book. It's a very pointed - is that fair to say, you think, it's a pointed book? I mean, you had--
COTTON: I had a lot to get off my chest, right?
TAPPER: Yes. There's - it's very sharp criticism, about Democrats. And I don't - I knew you were very conservative. I don't think I knew fully, or realized fully, how - is contempt an OK word to use, how much contempt you had--
TAPPER: --for these policies. And I wonder does it make it difficult to work with Senate Democrats, given how strongly you feel that they stand for all these wrong things?
COTTON: No, not at all. I mean, look, you got to deal with senators, every day. One day a senator is going to be your adversary. The next day, they're going to be your ally. That's not an issue.
But yes, I mean, going back 100 years, to Woodrow Wilson, as I outline, in "Only the Strong," he was the first president to openly repudiate the Declaration and the Constitution at home that meant that he and the progressives wanted to create this vast administrative state, of unelected bureaucrats, trying to set the course for our country.
TAPPER: Segregated too. He was a horrible racist.
COTTON: Well, he was a virulent racist as well.
TAPPER: But I'm just saying, he like - didn't he like re-segregate the government?
COTTON: He did. And - but the - you can - the left can take his name, off the buildings, because of that, but they can't take his ideas, out of their movement.
And you still see that today, domestically, and you see it abroad, as well, like when he went to - and when he declared war, on Germany, shortly after his re-election, it wasn't for any of the many good reasons, to declare war, on Germany that the Founding Fathers have presided, like Germany conspiring with Mexico, to seize territory, in our Southwest.
COTTON: Or killing Americans, by sinking the Lusitania, or interrupting our economy, here in America, because of unrestricted submarine warfare.
It was on behalf of abstract ideals. And he famously said that we're going to make the world safe for democracy. And I would suggest there's one word missing from that. And I think our Founders would have suggested there's a word missing, from that as well.
COTTON: We should make the world safe for America's democracy.
TAPPER: America's democracy.
So, it's a lot of pointed criticisms, of Democratic presidents, dating back to Wilson, all the way through to, today, to President Biden. Just FDR and Truman were president during the Allies victory, in World War II.
TAPPER: Obama OK-ed the mission to go kill Osama bin Laden. You cite that to criticize Biden for not agreeing with him. But you don't really give Obama the credit. I mean, there are some things, Democratic presidents have done right (ph)?
COTTON: Yes. They don't get everything wrong, obviously. And the older presidents, in the 20th Century, are better than the more recent ones, especially the post-Vietnam Democratic presidents. But even with FDR and Truman, they cut the defense budget badly. I mean, our army was smaller than Portugal's army, before World War II.
TAPPER: Well, and then they cranked it back up.
COTTON: Same thing before the Korean War. I mean, we deployed our troops, into the Korean War, woefully unprepared, and undertrained.
But really starting with JFK? And it's misnomer, to think that JFK was a strong president. He was a disaster, as a foreign policy president.
But then especially after Vietnam, when the left turned, not just on American - America's founding, but on America itself, then you begin to see a steady erosion, of American power, throughout Democratic presidencies, of Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and especially Barack Obama. TAPPER: So, one thing that I was interested, since you bring up Vietnam, I was interested to read your criticism, of The New York Times, for publishing the Pentagon Papers, which were leaked to The Times by Daniel Ellsberg, who thought that the war wasn't winnable, and that the leaders were hiding this, from the public, and the public had a right to know. He first tried to bring it to members of Congress. They didn't want to do it. So then, he went to the press.
But here's the thing. You're also so critical, and I'm not saying, you're wrong, of JFK, and LBJ, and how they waged the war, in Vietnam.
What's wrong with The New York Times bringing, the failures, of these Democratic administrations, two of them, to the public, so they could see what was really going on?
You're a veteran. You know, how many Americans died in Vietnam, when the generals didn't think the war was winnable, but they didn't have the guts to tell the Commander-in-Chief or to tell the country.
COTTON: Well, it's just another example of The New York Times putting itself in the position of judging what classified information should and should not be revealed, which is not its position. Yes, the - but the New York--
TAPPER: Supreme Court sided with them.
COTTON: Well, they said that The New York Times couldn't be subjected to a prior restraint. They said that you could have consequences after the fact.
TAPPER: But didn't the public have a right to know of all these failures--
TAPPER: --you criticize?
COTTON: Well, about the Pentagon Papers itself, I would say, there wasn't a lot of new revelations there. A lot of it was already well- known to the public. And it didn't show that the war was unwinnable.
Because, once Richard Nixon became president, and he took the handcuffs off of our Military, we in effect had the war won, by 1973. We had stabilized that situation. The Viet Cong had been destroyed, as a fighting force. Ho Chi Minh's army had no longer gained purchase in the South.
It was only when he was weakened, by Watergate, Democratic Congress has begun to cut funding, including a very young senator Joe Biden, that we had the absolute disaster, in South Vietnam, when we had helicopters, lifting off, our embassy there, in 1975.
TAPPER: Well, on that subject, you compared that to the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, under the Biden administration.
I want to share with you something that fellow veteran, Republican congressman, Adam Kinzinger, tweeted. He said, "I blame both Trump for this moment coming, and Biden for this botched ending. I'm not picking sides, because both sides have failed you. It's the truth about Afghanistan."
Do you hold President Trump accountable at all for that Peace Treaty that he and Secretary Pompeo negotiated, with the Taliban, which Biden inherited? And you might remember Trump wanted to have the Taliban leaders, come to Camp David, right near the anniversary of 9/11?
COTTON: No, it's President Biden, who's responsible for what happened, last year, in Afghanistan.
As I write, in "Only the Strong," that agreement was not without flaw. But it was based on conditions, on the ground, which the Taliban was not meeting, in 2021.
I think a lot of what happened in 2021 is that Joe Biden had a chip on his shoulder, going back to 2009, that Barack Obama had sided with Military advisers, like Stan McChrystal, and Dave Petraeus, and added troops to Afghanistan in 2009.
TAPPER: And Bob Gates, the Secretary.
COTTON: And Bob Gates, and Hillary Clinton, and everyone else.
COTTON: And Joe Biden was the one person, 2009, who kept kind of poisoning the well, between President Obama, and a senior Military leader, saying, "You got to get out. You can't do this." And he wanted to--
TAPPER: He thought the generals were jamming him, yes.
COTTON: --and he wanted to prove - he wanted to prove that he was right.
And we had numerous instances of testimony, after the collapse, in Afghanistan, last year, of Secretary Austin, and General Milley, and General McKenzie, and others, saying that their best advice is that we keep a small contingent, in Afghanistan that we keep Military contract - or I'm sorry, civilian contractors there, to keep the Afghan Air Force, flying, so they can provide air cover, for the Afghan troops.
Even most of the advisers, my understanding is in the White House, and the State Department, advised Joe Biden, against this course of action.
TAPPER: Right. But you don't hold Trump responsible for that. You say it's a flawed treaty but?
COTTON: I think - I think, in the end, it was Joe Biden's decision--
TAPPER: OK. COTTON: --as the Commander-in-Chief, last year.
TAPPER: So, first of all, this underlines why you should be coming on CNN more, so that we can have these conversations, because it's good for people, to hear from you. Not just on Fox or in Arkansas.
I know you're not going to announce on my show that you're running for president, in 2024.
But two quick questions. Does Trump's decision, as to whether or not he's going to run, will that play any role, in whether or not you decide to run? And do you think you'd make a good president?
TAPPER: Those are - come on?
COTTON: I'll just say two things. First, we have an election, five days from now.
COTTON: And that's where my focus is. There'll be time, after that election to think about the 2024 election.
COTTON: But anyone who thinks they can be president, and wants to run for president, should check out a copy of "Only the Strong," so they can learn how to restore American power, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, your publisher is going to be very happy with that! I'm interested to see what your Amazon rank is!
Please come back. It's good to see you, Senator.
COTTON: Thank you.
TAPPER: My best your wife and your boys. Really appreciate it.
Coming up, some very serious question, still need answering, after another deadly school shooting. A teenage gunman, who shot up a school, in St. Louis, last week, was once blocked, by the FBI, by the background check system, from buying a semi-automatic rifle.
So, why was he eventually able to purchase one? Why wasn't law enforcement informed that he had tried to do this? How did so many warning signs go missed? We're going to investigate. That's next.
TAPPER: Two people, one student, one teacher, shot and killed, at a school, in St. Louis. This is the 67th school campus, terrorized by gunfire, this year alone, in the United States, been. In our now far- too-routine analysis, one part we don't pay enough attention to is this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF WENDELL FRANKLIN, TULSA POLICE: The information that we have at the current time is that they were legally-purchased firearms.
CHIEF MARIS HEROLD, POLICE CHIEF OF BOULDER, COLORADO: It was legally purchased in a gun store.
ASHAN M. BENEDICT, EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT CHIEF OF POLICE, METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: All indications are they were purchased legally.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Once again, in St. Louis, the suspect was 19. He was legally an adult. He had no criminal record. You might hear that and think, "Of course, he's allowed to buy a gun. There's nothing that could have prevented this from happening." But that's not accurate.
As CNN Contributor, and Founder of the website, The Reload, Stephen Gutowski, points out, by the Police department's own telling of events, it certainly appears the St. Louis shooter committed at least two crimes, before he opened fire, last week, at the Central Visual and Performing Arts High School, crimes that should have led to Police actions that could have prevented the shooting.
For the first one, the shooter tried to buy a gun, but he failed the federal background check, likely after lying on the background check form. That's a crime.
The St. Louis Police Commissioner, Michael Sack, gives the likely answer, as to why he failed the background check, despite his lack of a criminal record.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL SACK, INTERIM COMMISSIONER, ST. LOUIS POLICE: He has no prior criminal history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Multiple involuntary mental health commitments would have flagged the shooter as a prohibited person, in other words, someone who cannot legally buy a gun.
And federal law makes it a crime, for someone, not allowed to own a weapon, to even attempt to buy one. Local Police should have been alerted, as soon as he was flagged, on October 8, for failing that background check, while trying to buy a gun.
You see, there's a new federal law, passed in March. It requires the FBI, to report every failed background check, to local Police. That does not appear to have happened here.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the shooter initially tried to buy a gun, from a licensed dealer, in nearby St. Charles, Missouri. But he was turned down. The St. Charles Police, they say they were never notified, about a failed background check. The FBI never told them.
Might they have done something different, if they had heard that someone who failed a background check was trying to buy a gun? We don't know. But we do know the FBI apparently dropped the ball here.
It appears the shooter was able to buy a gun, through a private sale, which does not require a background check, in Missouri. And that brings us to the second crime likely committed before last week's attack. The shooter had the gun, when Police were called to his house, earlier this year, by his own family, who was worried about his having that weapon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SACK: They were aware that he had acquired a firearm. They worked with our department to transfer that to an adult who could legally possess one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: The St. Louis Police officers, earlier this year, could have arrested the shooter, then, for even having a weapon, because he was on the Prohibited Persons list. But they didn't. We don't know if they even knew about him failing the background check, when they got to his house. But we know this trail of missed warning signs is all too common.
There were red flag laws in place that should have kept a gun out of the hands of the suspect in that Buffalo racist attack, on that grocery store, in May, which saw 10 innocent people, shot, and killed. Just like there were background check laws in place in Highland Park, Illinois, where the shooter nonetheless got guns, legally, and murdered seven people, on the Fourth of July.
Time after time, the laws appear to be there. The tools appear to be there. But they're not being used by law enforcement. All these warning signs are falling through the cracks. It's an area, where there needs to be vast improvement. Lives literally depend upon it.
We have five days, until the midterms. We're going to take you to one of the biggest battlegrounds, Arizona. The Democratic candidate for governor, Katie Hobbs, is here. Will her decision, to not debate, her opponent, Kari Lake, cost her, on Tuesday? And should Hobbs recuse herself, as Secretary of State, from overseeing her own election? That's next.
TAPPER: The Democratic nominee for Arizona governor, Katie Hobbs' message, to voters, is clear. Democracy, she says, is on the ballot. It's a message, former President Obama, tried to drive home, while campaigning with Hobbs, yesterday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And if you've got an election-denier serving as your governor, as your senator, as your secretary of state, as your attorney general, then democracy, as we know it, may not survive in Arizona. That's not an exaggeration. That is a fact.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I mean, he's right.
But just days out, from the midterm elections, Hobbs is locked in a statistical dead heat, with her opponent, election liar, Kari Lake. The race has led many Democrats, to wonder why Hobbs has given, Lake, an opening, by refusing to debate her, and call out her lies, face-to- face.
And Katie Hobbs, is Secretary of State of Arizona, joins us now.
Secretary Hobbs, thanks for joining us.
I get not wanting to amplify Lake's rhetoric, or provide her a platform. But she has a platform. She got one anyway. Even if you don't debate her, she still got one, from the TV stations. And she's branded you a coward, for refusing to take the stage, with her.
Doesn't standing up for the facts and truth, doesn't that require debating?
KATIE HOBBS, (D) ARIZONA GOVERNOR NOMINEE, (D) ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't agree with that. I have been continuing to stand up for the facts and truth, during my tenure, as Secretary of State, pushing back on all this election denialism, since the 2020 election, and on the campaign trail.
The fact is, at this point, in the game, we're five days out from the election. I'm not second-guessing any decisions we made. I'm really proud of the campaign that we're running that I'm confident in the campaign that we're running. And, we knew this race was going to be tight. It is not surprising to me that we're in a dead heat. And it's going to be a close outcome.
TAPPER: You're receiving criticism, from some, in your own party. Congressman Tim Ryan, who's running for Senate, in Ohio, he's a Democrat.
He was asked about your refusals, to debate, your opponent. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): Have some guts. Have some guts. Look, you got - you have to lead. This moment, right now, is calling for leadership. It's calling for citizenship.
You need leaders, who can go into an environment, like a Fox News town hall, as a Democrat, and say, "Look, we got to love each other. We got to care about each other. We need forgiveness. We need reconciliation. We need reform. We need some grace."
And it starts by leaders going into those environments, saying, "I understand you have concerns. Let's talk about them."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Is he wrong?
HOBBS: Well, if Kari Lake showed any inclination to actually have a substantive conversation, about the issues, perhaps he would be right. But she's only interested in creating a spectacle.
And I've made the decision to make my case directly to the voters. I've done several town halls, and I've done several in-depth interviews, with media. And we're continuing to take it on the road, and talk directly to voters. That's the choice we made. And Tim Ryan can run his own campaign. And we're running ours.
TAPPER: So, I mean, she has said that if she had been governor, in 2020, she would not have certified the results, in Arizona. And you had a Republican governor, at the time. You still do. Governor Ducey. And he did certify the election.
She says so many false things, wild, untethered, crazy things. She's telling almost half of Arizona, "I don't respect your votes, if you don't vote for me, if you don't vote for Republicans."
Why is it so close?
HOBBS: Arizona is a battleground state. It means every single race is a battle. Every single statewide elect nominee is, on the Republican side, is an election-denier. And every single statewide race is close, even Mark Kelly's.
TAPPER: This week, a federal judge, in your state, in Arizona, imposed new restrictions, on this one right-leaning group, blocking members from openly carrying guns, or wearing body armor, within 250 feet, of voting drop boxes, and speaking to, or yelling at voters, who are dropping off their ballots, in the state.
How concerned are you about the impact these so-called activists might have, on intimidating voters, from actually casting their ballots?
HOBBS: Well, I think that's exactly the outcome they're looking for.
So, we are incredibly concerned about it. We were preparing for the possibility of this, and have acted on every referral that's come to our office, making sure we're referring it to the proper authorities, for investigation. It's critical that these matters are investigated and acted on quickly. I'm grateful for the judge for implementing the restraining order on these activities. But we're still vigilant, and making sure that voters know what the options are, to vote safely, to make sure that they can cast their ballot, in a way that's free from intimidation or harassments. And thankfully, in Arizona, we have a lot of options.
We continue to have a reporting form, available on our website. And we'll continue to report these incidents as we learn of them.
TAPPER: So, in addition to being the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, you're the Secretary of State of Arizona, which means you're in charge of supervising this election.
There are calls that you should recuse yourself, from overseeing the election, given the fact that you're running for governor. It's not just from wackos. Recently, two former Arizona Secretaries of State, a Democrat and a Republican, said that to avoid even the appearance of a conflict, you should recuse.
But in addition to that, we know Kari Lake, insanely says she's only going to accept the election results, if she wins. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARI LAKE, (R) ARIZONA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: I'm going to win the election, and I will accept that result. Because, the people will never - the people of Arizona will never support and vote for a coward, like Katie Hobbs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, I realize she's out there. But given all the insanity, out there, might the election results be tougher, for her to challenge, if you do, in fact, recuse yourself, from your Secretary of State duties, specifically, just having to do with the governor's race? Might that be the most prudent thing to do?
HOBBS: Elected Secretaries of State, in Arizona, have overseen elections, where they're on the ballot, since statehood. This has never been an issue until now.
And I'm not going to recuse myself from the job that the voters elected me to do, and for which I took an oath of office, to uphold the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution and laws of the State of Arizona. I have done that throughout my tenure, as Secretary of State. And I will continue to do that, until I leave office on January 2nd.
TAPPER: All right.
HOBBS: Kari Lake is the one who is - oh, go ahead.
TAPPER: Go ahead. HOBBS: Oh, Kari Lake is the one who's based her entire campaign, on these false premises, of election fraud. And she's making these calls, for my recusal, to distract, from her extreme positions, and to distract from the fact that she's actually the one, who wants to dismantle democracy, in our state and country.
TAPPER: Secretary of State, Katie Hobbs, thanks so much for joining us. Enjoy your next five days on the campaign trail.
HOBBS: Thank you.
TAPPER: Did Democrats get too comfortable, banking on "Roevember?"
My next guest pulled off a big upset, in his special election, this past summer, after seizing on the uproar, over the overturning of Roe v. Wade. But that doesn't appear to be on top of voters' minds anymore. At least not enough voters. The economy is the number one issue.
So, does Congressman Pat Ryan still think he can win Tuesday, with Roementum fading? That's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAT RYAN (D-NY): When the Supreme Court ripped away reproductive freedoms, access to abortion rights, we said, "This is not what America stands for."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: It was barely two months ago, when Democrat Pat Ryan pulled off what seemed a surprising special election victory, in a New York's swings district. This fueled Democrats' hopes that abortion rights could be a winning issue, in the midterm elections, since Ryan made it the focus of his campaign.
But in the weeks since, we've shown you repeatedly, how voters' concerns have shifted far more toward the economy and fears of a recession.
So, can Congressman Ryan win with the same message, in his newly-drawn congressional district? Let's bring him in and ask him.
Democratic congressman, Pat Ryan, of New York joins us now.
So Congressman, four months, Democrats were hopeful about a blue wave, in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, what some called Roevember. But that seems unlikely. It seems highly out of reach.
Do you think your party, the Democratic Party, has been too comfortable, banking on that issue, and the issue of democracy, when this much more salient issue of the economy, and inflation, and recession fears was obviously more, on voters' minds?
P. RYAN: Thanks for having me, Jake.
Look, what I'm hearing is people can be worried about multiple things at once. And right now, what Americans want us to deliver on are to fight for their rights, their fundamental rights, including reproductive rights, but voting rights, LGBTQ rights, and also to deliver relief.
And it's not talked about as much by the press. But we had both of those messages, at full steam ahead, in our special election, fighting for your rights, and delivering relief. And so, that message has continued to be really resonant, not just here, but across the country. And I think we will continue to see that momentum.
Look, when a fundamental American freedom, is ripped away, from half the country? Americans stood up, in Kansas, and New York, and Alaska. And they are going to do it again, in November. I'm confident of that.
TAPPER: But you've seen the polling, indicating that a lot of the voters that I would think somebody like you, and a lot of Democrats, need to turn out for you, specifically, white suburban women, have been shifting, independent women, shifting to the Republican camp, at least according to polling.
P. RYAN: I've got to say, with all respect to the pollsters, they were so far wrong, in my race. And they've been consistently wrong for years and years and years now. We've got to actually start listening to people, on the ground, which is what I've been doing, and candidates, across the country, not the pollsters.
In my special election, everyone said we were going to lose. We never were leading in any of the dozen-plus polls. And we won. Because, we stood up, and said, "We are fighting for something. We're fighting to protect shared American freedoms." And my opponent stood for absolutely nothing, except for fear, and division, and delivering no results. That is what we have to continue, to keep our head down, talk about delivering relief, and fighting for rights.
TAPPER: Your new opponent, Republican State Assembly member, Colin Schmitt, has joined other Republicans, in pushing a tough-on-crime message. He's tried to tie you to New York's contentious bail laws, which limit the ability of judges, to set cash bail, for accused criminals. It's what the GOP and even some Democrats have blamed, for the rising crime rates.
What's your counter argument?
P. RYAN: Well, look, we always see this, a desperate attempt, to divide us, and to incite fear, rather than to be for something, and to be talking about delivering and bringing us together. And I think people see through that.
In my special election, once again, we were outspent four to one, the same message, these lies and deceptions about records on crime and public safety. [21:55:00]
Look, I've worn the uniform, in combat. I'm a proud West Point graduate, served two deployments in Iraq. I know what it means to keep people safe. I know what it means, both in my last job, as a local elected official, and in Congress, to increase funding, to law enforcement, as I've done.
And, I think, people see, right through this BS, and this division. And again, it's about being, for something, giving people, to come out, something, to come out for, rather than to continue to be so cynical, and negative, and divisive.
TAPPER: All right, Democratic congressman, Pat Ryan, thank you. Enjoy your next five days on the campaign trail.
P. RYAN: All right, thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: We'll be right back.
TAPPER: Thanks so much, for joining us, tonight. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, @jaketapper. That's right, I deleted TikTok. I did.
Tomorrow, actress Kerry Washington is going to be here. She's working to get voters out to the polls. The midterms are now just five days away. Tomorrow, they'll be four days away. That's tomorrow, at 9 PM Eastern.
Our coverage now continues with luminous Laura Coates and awesome Alisyn Camerota.
Laura and Alisyn, I deleted the TikTok. I did it. And I did it because national security experts, kept coming on the show, and saying, "Delete the TikTok.