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CA Gov. Newsom Confident 4 Days Out From Recall Vote; Remembering The September 11th Terror Attacks. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 10, 2021 - 12:30   ET



ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Because the Pfizer vaccine has not been fully approved for kids ages 12 to 15, it's only for folks 16 and up. Parents of 12 to 15 year olds could make an argument that, well, you're requiring my child to take a vaccine that isn't fully approved. What the L.A school district will say and probably when is that, look, if you don't want to take the vaccine, you can opt in to this virtual learning program and that sort of saves them from saying that they're forcing anybody to take a vaccine that I don't want to take.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And for those who say, maybe the President should do even more. Is there a legal case? Can you require a vaccine to get on Amtrak? Can you require a vaccine if I'm going to get on a plane to fly to New York, Los Angeles, Boston?

WILLIAMS: Yes, you can require a vaccine for most things. Now, the question is what political costs do the President want to assume for that? The far easier thing is to start dealing with funding for entities like Amtrak or businesses if they don't comply with the vaccine guidance, right? You just make the hammer from the federal government like the carrot versus the stick, but no, the power to do so is quite broad, John.

KING: Meaning it's sort of like the traffic laws back in the day. You states once highway funding, you have to raise the drinking age, or you have to, you know, have tougher charge of drunk driving laws.

WILLIAMS: That exactly it.

KING: Things like that. Elliot, thanks for coming in. I really appreciate it.

The final weekend of the California recall, Governor Newsom says things are looking up. The leading Republican says things are looking fishy.



KING: Just four days left now in the recall campaign out in California and Governor Gavin Newsom says he is feeling confident and this might be evidence that his confidence is well placed. The leading Republican candidate is absent, a whiff of evidence now casting doubt on the integrity of the vote count. With me now, POLITICO, California Playbook author, Carla Marinucci and CNN Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash.

Carla, I want to start with you. You had an interview with the Governor in which he voices his confidence. I just want to read a little bit from it. I've been out in every part of this state, and you sort of feel, you don't intellectualize, you feel where you are, you get a sense. And I feel like we're in a really good place right now.

Do you get a sense from your own reporting and checking around the state that the Governor's confidence is well placed despite, despite, I was just looking today, our new CNN poll shows, you know, people in the country are in a funk. And sometimes when people are in a funk, they take it out. The politician in power becomes the pinata.

CARLA MARINUCCI, SENIOR WRITER, POLITICO'S CALIFORNIA PLAYBOOK: Yes, that's right. And, you know, look, a few months back, Gavin Newsom was nail biting on this thing. He was very tense. He had tough relations with the media. You can see a big differences in his demeanor today. But I don't think he's taking anything for granted. It looks a lot more confident with these polls that are showing him 18 points, 19 points up and a whole route -- roster of them in the last week.

It's all about Delta. And, yes, people are angry, John, about an uptick in crime, homelessness, high taxes, and a lot of other issues in California. But the bottom line is COVID. And that is the issue that has -- it has come to the four -- in the final days. That's the whole thing that got him into this recall back in November, anger about COVID and shutdowns of businesses.

But now California is on the vanguard of keeping this thing under control with high vaccination rates and low positivity rates, some of the best in the country. And I think Newsom is using that as bragging rights. That is the issue that voters are citing as the number one issue as they fill out those ballots here in California.

KING: I may circle back to COVID in a minute but to the point about the climate, you know, Trump gets elected president in 2016, Dana Bash, when everyone says he can't win. You look at a poll and you do see the country in a funk still, because everybody's exhausted.

Everybody has every right to be exhausted. You had a conversation with Arnold Schwarzenegger who won of course back 18 years ago in a recall where a lot of people thought Democratic governor, not as big as an advantage now but still an advantage for Democrats in voting. Gavin Newsom still should worry to the end, right, given the volatility?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's what the guy who, as you said is the only one who has won in a recall in California history, Arnold Schwarzenegger said. And I should say that, yes, he's a Republican but he is somebody who considers himself Gavin Newsom's friend. He's not endorsing any of the candidates but he has a very, very, very clear point of view and that is the anger that you just talked about that is showing up and CNN's new poll is palpable.

It is palpable in California as we just heard. And it is COVID but it's so many other things. People are having trouble buying houses because housing prices are so high. That's true across the country, but it's even more acute in California it seems. Homeless -- the homeless issue, fires, these are things that 18 years ago allowed Arnold Schwarzenegger to take out Gray Davis, very different candidate a different set of circumstances. The one through line is that people were pissed off, forgive me, and they took it out on the guy in the governor's mansion.

KING: And so, Carla, you're now living the California edition of what I call it the big lie. Larry Elder, the radio talk show host very controversial guy in his own right for some of the things he said over the years. But he is the leading poll getter now if we get to question two. Question one is do you recall the governor? If the answer is yes, you get to question two in the California's pick between 40 plus candidates who gets to be the next governor.

Larry Elder, listen here, he must think he's going to lose or not going to be the next governor because he's already getting Trumpy and saying, don't trust the count.


LARRY ELDER (R-CA), GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I don't believe the election was won fairly and squarely there. There are sorts of reasons why the 2020 election, in my opinion, was full of shenanigans. And my fear is that they're going to try that in this election right here in recall. So I'm urging people to go to and whenever you see anything, hear anything suspicious, go to my website, we have a battery of lawyers. We're going to file lawsuits in a timely fashion this time.



KING: Correct me if I'm wrong, there is zero evidence in the public sphere of anything going on wrong that California is conducting an election. Yes, so preponderantly by mail ballots, we'll see what happens on Election Day. No evidence of anything, right?

MARINUCCI: Absolutely no evidence of anything. And yet, Republicans have been raising this flag now. People like Rick Grenell for the former Trump appointee, suggesting that the holes in the envelopes of the mail-in ballots somehow designed to allow people to look at your vote. No, the holes are there so that visually impaired people can feel where to sign the back of the ballot before they mail it in.

That's the kind of thing that we've been hearing from Republicans. And, yes, we're seeing the start of the big lie again already in California with Larry Elder saying they're going to cheat. We know that. He said that this week. And of course, President Trump suggesting that the election here is possibly been rigged. California has have a system here where we can check online to see if our vote has been counted. So at this point, we're going to watch how that turns out.

KING: We'll count the votes Tuesday. I suspect we may have this debate going on after, there we go, Carla Marinucci, grateful for your time, Dana Bash as well.

And this quick programming note, you can hear much more from Dana on California's recall election with our new podcast Total Recall: California's Political Circus. Get it wherever you subscribe to your podcast.

And up next for us, 9/11 20 years later, the big questions that chaotic morning included this one. Was it safe for President Bush to return to Washington and to the White House?


ANN COMPTON, FORMER ABC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Peter, I think the most striking thing about today was the sense of being traveling with the President of the United States who was running with no place to hide.

KING: Wolf, as you watch Marine One land here on the South Lawn, we have just been allowed back into the White House. We were evacuated as well earlier today. First, let me read you a statement from the President. This, during his travels back to Washington, the President telling his National Security Council quote, we will find these people and they will suffer the consequences of taking on this nation. We will do what it takes. No one is going to diminish the spirit of this country.




KING: President Bush you will remember was in a Florida classroom when terrorism changed everything 20 years ago tomorrow. The commander-in- chief wanted to get back to the White House ASAP but the Secret Service in the Pentagon worried there might be a second even a third wave of attacks. ABC's Ann Compton was with the President that fateful morning.


COMPTON: We took off in Air Force One from Florida where he first got word of this. And we literally, Peter, had been flying at well over 40,000 feet. So we are leaving and --

PETER JENNINGS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Where are you going Ann?

COMPTON: Peter, I have no idea.


KING: Think about that. Think about that. I have no idea. Vice President Cheney at that moment at the White House rushed to an emergency command bunker. White House staff and reporters were ordered to evacuate, told to run.


KING: And I'm standing in Lafayette Park directly across from the White House perhaps about 200 yards from the White House residence itself. The Secret Service has pushed most people all the way back to the other side of the park, trying to avoid having to attend to me at the moment.

And in the last five minutes people have come running out of the White House and the old Executive Office Buildings. There was a white jet circling overhead. Now you generally don't see planes in the area over the White House. That is restricted airspace, no reason to believe that this jet was there for any nefarious purposes. But the Secret Service was very concerned pointing up at the jet in the sky.


KING: That was a day that tested, tested and changed just about everything. The legendary White House ABC reporter Ann Compton was in that Florida classroom aboard Air Force One as it made its path two stops back to Washington. And I am blessed, grateful she is in the studio with me today. It is great to see you.

COMPTON: Thank you.

KING: That is fantastic to talk about a very sad day. And I just want to go back to the beginning of it. You're not what you think is a routine White House trip. President Bush is in Florida. He's doing an education event. He's in a classroom. He's talking to children. In walks the White House Chief of Staff.

COMPTON: It stunned me. No one interrupts a President even in front of a classroom of second graders. And I wrote down in my reporter's notebook 9:07 a.m., Andy whispers. What stuns me now 20 years later, how little we knew. But what the President knew at that moment, he had already asked the intelligence community what could al-Qaeda do? What could Osama bin Laden do against Americans on U.S. soil? He had already asked that question. Of course, the look on his place, he found his face at everything.

KING: It did. And so I want to get to some of the chaos of that day. You're in Florida with the President. I walked into the White House, got through the gates just moments before they evacuated. We didn't know where the Vice President was. But let's focus on the President for a minute.

He leaves that classroom. As you told Peter, you're calling it as a White House pool reporter, Peter Jennings. We're going I just don't know where. And so the idea was Bush was emphatic. I want to get back to the White House. I want to get back to the White House. But you made two stops along the way, Louisiana and then Nebraska because A, they weren't sure it was safe to bring him back and B, get it how changed, including presidential communications. He was having a hard time.


COMPTON: A terrible time and remember President Bush had been in office less than eight months. And here was what he knew was an incredible crisis. And he knew that to show leadership and to reassure the American people, he wanted to be back in the White House. And his chief of staff, his -- the Secret Service, the pilot of Air Force One said, when we took off from Florida, the Pentagon was then hit, there was no way we were going back in.

When the plane at 10:55 a.m., Air Force One suddenly went up several thousand feet, his communication lines failed him. He was really angry. We didn't see that in the back of the plane. But the frustration for the President that way, how little any of us knew except for the bulkhead television et cetera chatter, shady, hazy picture from the ground.

KING: And so, on the White House and I remember, literally, you could see shoes in the driveway, people were running so fast to get out of the White House because they thought that plane turned over Ohio went across Pennsylvania, was coming for the White House, was coming for the Capitol. And then from Lafayette Park, you can see the smoke rising. We didn't know what it was at the time. It was the Pentagon. It was the plane that hit the Pentagon.

The Vice President is rushed to the bunker. We all learn the term PEOC, the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. It's an old Cold War thing. It's deep beneath the White House. Vice President Cheney, Karen Hughes, Mary Matalin, Stephen Hadley, the National Security Adviser, and there was a lot of questions remember those early hours. I don't mean who's in charge in a bad way, the President was in charge of the country, the Vice President.

But who's making minute to minute decisions when the President is on Air Force One. And among the conversations that day, I remember just being stunned by this of all the things that stunned you that day, conversations about should the Pentagon be authorized to shoot down commercial planes if they do not land even if those planes have everyday Americans on board.

COMPTON: And that communication probably midmorning was the toughest because Vice President Cheney who is technically not in the chain of military command, told the military officer in the PEOC, yes, these jet fighters have permission. The President went along with that, but it's unclear who gave the order first. By the time they gave the order and it reached those two fighter jets up already in the air, the plane had already crashed. But the idea of shooting down a civilian aircraft, nobody could believe it.

KING: I was looking at the clips of you and the clips of me back inside the White House in the evening, they finally let us back in the President addressed the nation. We sit here 20 years later, everything has changed. We don't have time to talk about that. But from security, access to President's, terrorism, everything, just your reflections 20 years later, you have your meticulous notes that's what makes you a great reporter. Of just what this did, what this did to you and to the country?

COMPTON: Americans had never felt that sense of vulnerability. Our generation, George Bush's generation, our parents, grandparents might have but an attack on civilians just going to work. What from Air Force One where we couldn't communicate, except when we were back on the ground.

All I could think of was the moms and dads that people who are gone to work in New York and at the Pentagon that day. Americans vulnerability is something that I think still keeps us on edge. And that's what the next generation, our kids, your kids, my kids, and my eight grandchildren, baby grandchildren, they have no concept of that. That sticks with me every day.

KING: Just last week, I was talking to my two older children, second grade and kindergarten on that day about their recollections, which of course are vague, perhaps gratefully so. Ann Compton, grateful to see you in this very important moment.

COMPTON: Thank you John.

KING: It's fantastic to see you.

Now, and I recall Joe Biden was in the Senate back then. He was on Amtrak heading to Washington, when his wife Jill called twice to tell him about the planes, the first then the second crashing in to the World Trade Center. We spoke a decade ago on the 10th anniversary of the attacks. And then Vice President Biden recounted heading from Union Station to the Capitol.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I got off the train, I walked out of Union Station I could see off to at, in my case, 1 o'clock, and this big flume of smoke was the Pentagon.

And everybody said, was a car bomb, it's a truck bomb. No one knew what it was. And then we got up and everybody had been evacuated from my office. I wanted to make sure everybody was out. And we were standing out there in that park alongside the Russell Office Building.

And I said we got to go back into the Senate. I mean, I don't think it looks good us leaving the Senate. And I started walking back up and that's when a law enforcer said, Senator there's a report of an incoming, an incoming aircraft, we got to get out of here. And it was just, you know, it was almost unbelievable.


KING: It was unbelievable.


This quick programming note, join us, join Jake Tapper, Wolf Blitzer, Paula Reid as we remember 9/11. And our live coverage begins tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. Eastern. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Just a short time ago in New York, an associate of Rudy Giuliani pleading guilty to a single charge related to campaign finance violations. Igor Fruman and another Giuliani ally Lev Parnas were charged back in 2019 over allegations they funneled foreign money into U.S. campaign conferences. Fruman's plea did not include an agreement to cooperate with the government. He faces up to five years. Fruman apologized and said he regrets his actions. You may remember President Trump denied knowing Fruman and Parnas before this photo, you see it right there surfaced.


Thanks for your time today in Inside Politics. I'll see you this weekend as part of our special 9/11 coverage. Hope to see you Monday as well right back here. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.