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Inside Politics

Biden Gains Votes, Trump Losses Some in AZ GOP's Sham Audit; Even Pro-Trump Audit Confirms Biden Won Arizona; Four Trump Loyalists Subpoenaed in Jan 6 Probe; Arizona Audit Rejects Trump's Fraud Fantasy; Bannon Admits he Spoke With Trump on Jan 5th to Discuss how to "Kill" Biden Presidency. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 24, 2021 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

A deathblow to Donald Trump's election fraud fantasy, six months and $6 million later, the sham Arizona audit Trump said would prove corruption instead reaffirms the truth Joe Biden won. Plus the January 6th Committee makes a big opening salvo sending subpoenas to four of Trumps closest advisors, including his White House Chief of Staff.

And millions of Americans can get COVID vaccine boosters starting today. This top White House priority got a green light after the CDC Chief overruled advisors who wanted a more focused booster plan.


DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: I think Dr. Walensky and the FDA is understands how upset the public is, especially those who are willing to get those first two immunizations, and they're terrified of getting breakthrough COVID. I think the CDC Director was in a tight, tight spot. And I think she had to make the best judgment call based on both the data and the sentiments of the American people.


KING: Much more on that important COVID news in just a few minutes. But we begin with the power of truth, and a big move in an important search for the truth. Donald Trump and his cancerous big lie are central here. Late Thursday, the January 6th Committee issued four subpoenas for documents and testimony on the receiving end for close Trump advisors who know just what the former president was saying and just what he was doing on January 6th, and in the important days leading up to the assault on the Capitol, the assault on American democracy.

Remember, Trump called the riot is patriots objecting he said to a stolen election. Well, that dangerous fantasy is exposed again today by the very people Trump promised would prove him right. Instead, we're going to move out to Arizona here you see it's blue on our map.

Joe Biden won it. Yes, the draft report from the company Trump allies paid to find 2020 election fraud in Arizona found none and get this. In that audit they actually found more votes for Joe Biden. Remember, Donald Trump said this was a fraud.

It was close in Arizona 10,457 votes. He demanded action. Republicans paid a firm to come in that never done this before to conduct an audit. Trump said it would prove him right that this state should be red. That audit is now done.

This state will remain blue. Importantly, as you pull it all out, Trump said it happened in Arizona it didn't. He said it happened to Georgia. It didn't. He said it happened in Michigan it didn't. He said it happened in Pennsylvania. It didn't.

The map is as it is. Joe Biden is your winner. That was the math in the end. It was the math in November. It is the math today. We begin our coverage with our CNN National Correspondent Kyung Lah and our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid. And Kyung to you first, cyber ninjas were supposed to prove Donald Trump right? He was wrong.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely wrong. And before I get into this, I do want to urge people to look at everything that are being presented by the cyber ninjas with a healthy dose of skepticism.

I was able to watch this process up close for many months, and it was riddled with absurd problems. The draft report that we've been able to review is filled with errors and it looks like a lot of misinformation. But let's get to the headline.

Given all that, at what the hand recount by the cyber ninja showed it did indeed show that Joe Biden got 99 more votes than what the official canvass of Maricopa County found and that Donald Trump got 261 votes less than what happened in 2020 the Official Canvass here in the county.

But it is not over there is going to be a final report that is issued in just about four hours of presentation before the Arizona Senate. And that is a big concern here when it comes to the battle of the big lie here in Arizona. I want you to listen to Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates. He is a Republican and bucked his party in the battle against the big lie, take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL GATES, MARICOPA COUNTY SUPERVISOR: We have to continue to tell the truth. We have to continue to push back against the big lie. Those behind this they don't have reverence for democracy. They are trying to sow doubt so that down the road, they can again question elections if they don't turn out the way they wanted them to.

LAH: So what is down the road? Well, we can tell you what's happening in Texas. Now just yesterday, Donald Trump sent a letter a public letter to the governor Greg Abbott saying that he wanted in the special session legislation added to allow for Arizona style audits in the State of Texas.


LAH: And just hours later, the Secretary of State in Texas then announced that the four largest counties would conduct a recount of sorts. So, you know, John, it may be the clown show packing up here in Arizona, but it is nowhere near being over anywhere in this country.

KING: Nowhere near being over. But you mentioned Joe Biden did win Arizona as we watch it play out in those other states. Donald Trump won Texas and he still wants to recount the votes there. Kyung Lah a very important reporting. I appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Let's turn now to our Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid. Paula, the January 6th Committee issuing its first subpoenas, and this is a big deal a big escalation in this investigation.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: A very significant step John these subpoenas. As you noted the first issued by this committee, they mark a sharp escalation in this investigation.

Now the committee has specifically targeted individuals they believe would be uncooperative. They include Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, Former Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, and Former Adviser Steve Bannon and Kash Patel, a Former Chief of Staff to then Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller.

Now a letter send to these for Trump loyalists reveal investigators are seeking information about what was known within Trump's orbit about the planning leading up to the interaction and the decisions made that day.

Now importantly, they also want to know what Trump and those around him attempted to do to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election. The committee is looking for a quick turnaround here all four Trump associates are directed to produce relevant documents by October 7th, and do appear for depositions the following week.

Now CNN has reached out to Meadows, Scavino and Bannon and for comment. Patel said in a statement late Thursday that he was disappointed but not surprised that the committee had subpoenaed him before seeking his voluntary cooperation.

And the committee is prepared for resistance. And if any of these folks refused to comply, the committee can refer them to the Justice Department and try to get the matter into court. But that can take quite a while.

But the committee believes that the Biden Justice Department will help them potentially pursue criminal contempt where it's justified John.

KING: Paula Reid again grateful for the live reporting very important issue. With me to discuss more deeply and share their reporting and their insights Jackie Kucinich of "The Daily Beast", CNN's Eva McKend Margaret Talev of "AXIOS" and CNN Legal Affairs Analyst Carrie Cordero.

Let me start where apologists left off right there. Is there any standing, Steve Bannon did not work at the White House, he has no executive privilege. Is there any standing for Patel, Scavino or Meadows to claim executive privilege? And if they say yes, what happens?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, here's the thing, John, the executive privilege belongs to the president. And there was only one president right now. That's President Biden. So it is now his authority to exert if he wanted to.

So far, the administration has indicated that they are not going to assert privilege that in this particular matter, the January 6th Committees' investigation, individuals should cooperate. And so then the next question goes to what Paula was talking about, which is that if these individuals choose not to comply, not produce documents, or not appear for their deposition, will the Justice Department potentially prosecute them for criminal contempt?

KING: And so in these officials are critical. These officials are critical again, we're talking today about truth. We'll come back to the Arizona sham audit in a minute.

But truth the search for the truth of this committee, Adam Schiff, Democratic member of the committee says these four are critical because they know - they know not only what were President Trump doing, then President Trump doing on January 6th, but the day before? Who was he talking to? What was he doing? And sometimes the question is what was he not doing?


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): They're all very close to the former president. Somewhere in direct communication with him on January 5th, on January 6th, they are reportedly in communication about how to overturn the results of the election. Mark Meadows, for example, involved with the Justice Department trying to get the Justice Department to put pressure on Georgia to decertify the results of the election.


KING: And Margaret, those are just some of the questions. So what was the president doing when he found out the Capitol was being stormed and his own vice president was in peril? What was he doing when people wanted the Pentagon to move more quickly to move the National Guard? Was he saying yes? Was he moving along? Or was he slowing it down?

What was he doing the day beforehand? How much did he know about who was coming to Washington and what their intentions were?

MARGARET TALEV, MANAGING EDITOR, AXIOS: I think that committee is trying to build a historical timeline - a timeline for the record as part of a formal investigation, and I don't know whether you know, Adam Schiff thinks he's going to get Steve Bannon or Kash Patel to cooperate with them, but what choices do you have but to ask them?

And then if they push back declined to turn things over, or where to where to come in and testify or be deposed, but not be cooperative. Then the committee could fall back on the media accounts of which there are many we have reported a lot of the timeline to the best of our ability, so have many other news organizations.

The committee will have to put into the record of their investigation, the best timeline that they can ascertain. And they have to ask the principals what happened and go through that process and see what they can get that way before they fall back on background reporting off the record, you know, reporting in other ways to put that account.


KING: And belief in the big lies what brought most of these people to Washington. Peddling the big lie is how Donald Trump makes them angry and agitated. Today from this sham, Arizona audit, it was a fraud to begin with Kyung Lah makes a very important point. Even what they did will be criticized for the process.

But in the end, in the end, the people hired by Republicans to make Donald Trump's point said sorry, we can't do it. We can't do it. Joe Biden, won Arizona says even this Republican "Audit". Remember Donald Trump promised back in July, this would be the proof.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: And I predict when the votes come in, and that's her in the Senate. I think they're going to be so horrible that she's going to go three steps further than she ever thought she'd have to. But is everyone here fully understands the 2020 election was a total disgrace if you don't find out how they cheated with hundreds of thousands and even millions of votes, because you won't win anything.


KING: The she; the former president references' there is Arizona Secretary of State a Democrat who said that this was BS and who today is right. This was BS Joe Biden won.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, right. And we knew - we knew how the story ended. But that doesn't mean that what Former President Trump says is going to be any different going forward or nor those who are around him and who believe in him. We've seen this on several different fronts. We've seen this with QAnon believers, they'll do anything where you know, Trump was going to ascend back to the White House on this day on that date. There they - there's a way that they try to augment reality. So that things still be true because they're so invested in it. They've gone so far into this. Why stop because the truth certainly isn't stopping any of that.

KING: So I guess that's the question. Will anything break the fever? Will anything break the fever? Will the truth out of Arizona, the handpick company you pick to prove your point says no. Joe Biden one actually found more votes for Joe Biden a little bit of an irony there.

As Kyung Lah was saying, Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin are states where Republicans at Trump's bidding are saying we want to still look at the results. Joe Biden won the election, will anything break the fever? Will this slap in the face from the company you hired help break the fever?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: No, because there is an appetite for this not only in Arizona, but in other states across the country. We are seeing this kind of questioning of the 2020 election. I will note though, you know, while this is being done for an audience of one while we are seeing this production play out to appease the former president, you don't hear Senate Republicans are championing this effort, right?

You don't hear Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, engaging in this conversation of questioning the 2020 election. And that tells me he and other Republicans in Congress don't believe that this is a winning strategy.

KUCINICH: Well, they thought that'd be a winning strategy in Georgia already. Because Republicans who didn't show up to vote in those special elections, because they were being told that these elections were a sham. This is not a winning strategy long term for Republicans.

KING: And yet, from a legal perspective, you see the impact because Republicans in so many states have changed the election laws, because they've done it based on the idea that there was massive fraud, when there was not.

CORDERO: Well, there was not fraud, and it is affecting legislation all across the country. And I think we have to start with the premise that January 2021, was not a peaceful transfer of power in the United States. And these state election laws are connected to that, because what they are doing is they are laying the groundwork to be able to prevent a future peaceful transfer of power.

They are laying the groundwork and the belief in the fact that the 2020 election was not the result that it actually was the fantasy which I think you used the exact correct word, that the election result was not accurate. That is all connected to their ability to challenge lawful, correct accurate results of a future election.

And that's why the work that the January 6th Committee is doing is important to be able to explain what happened?

KING: Absolutely. Today's truth helps the bigger truths would be even more helpful as we continue this conversation and we will. Up next, two big questions that are related, will Donald Trump finally accept the truth and can you keep us in a circle from cooperating with the January 6th investigation? Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times" joins us next.



KING: There are some real world truths today challenging Donald Trump's alternate reality. How, for example, will the former president process word the so called audit he promised would expose the Democratic fraud in Arizona instead came to the conclusion that Joe Biden won and that he won fair and square?

Joining our conversation now Maggie Haberman with "The New York Times". Maggie, on the one hand, this could be a wake-up call the evidence to convince the former president OK, drop it, but I suspect the reaction will be quite different.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far, John, the reaction we've seen has been quite different. He's been issuing statements saying there's "Fake news" reports about this. Don't believe what you read the reports coming at it for the report is coming out at four. So we'll see what it says.

But based on what we've learned about what was in the draft. It does not say what Trump is saying that it said I don't think that's going to deter him. I think it would basically take every single state that he's trying to call into question saying, yes, there's nothing here and then he would you know, revert as if he hadn't been saying this all along.


HABERMAN: I think we have to see what the details are. But this is a blow John, he has been talking about this, this and it's not an audit, but this is investigation, whatever it is. He has been talking about this effort for months since April, as if this was going to be a holy grail and just based on everything we know so far that's not quite in fact; it affirms reality, which is that Biden won.

KING: And if it were just a retired Donald Trump whining about this, we could mostly ignore it. But it is a Donald Trump who plans a comeback, who is making doubts about the election system central to his political message.

And obviously the big lie was a big part of what happened on January 6th? There was a statement from the former president last night at word that four of his closest advisors are getting subpoenaed. And I'm not even going to read the whole sentence because it's a long sentence. But this statement, the unselect committee, he calls it a highly partisan politicians. He goes on and on, we will fight the subpoenas on executive privilege and other grounds for the good of our country. I think you just heard Carrie Cordero our Legal Analyst here saying executive privilege is in the hands of the current administration.

What happens? What happens when these people who know what the president was doing on January 6th who know who he talked to not only that day, but the day before the days before? They may not have that privilege?

HABERMAN: That's right. There are two things here, John, look, I mean, we have to see what the Biden White House does? But by all accounts, the Biden White House is leaning toward transparency on this issue, because of how Biden views the events of January 6th.

I think this administer - current administration, and President Biden have described this just as a as a shameful event, January 6th and a stain on the country. And so I think that you are going to likely see them lean toward, you know, not exerting or extending privilege in a way that could impact these advisors.

What they know, we would have to find out? You know, there's still a huge gap as much as has been reported by all of us about the events that day, there is still a basic gap in what was happening between the hours of say, 1 pm and 3 pm on that day, specific to Donald Trump.

And then what a lot of what was happening still in the lead up to that day, and all of these people in his hear about Mike Pence, some of these advisors, one of them, Steve Bannon was not part of the administration. The rest were Kash Patel was at the Department of Defense. He could speak to that.

Dan Scavino was ever present with Donald Trump. Mark Meadows was in the Oval Office. So they could say a lot. We'll see what they actually do. I think the likelihood is even if executive privilege is not granted, I still think you're going to see efforts to try to block the testimony in court.

KING: Right. One person who would have no privilege is Mr. Bannon, who you mentioned long since left the White House when this happened, but he acknowledges on his podcast "The Warm" that on January 5th, the day before that he did - that he did have a conversation with the former president listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steve Bannon on the phone, he's telling Steve Bannon over at the Willard Hotel, we need to kill the Biden Presidency in the crib. That was the phrase based on our reporting in that conversation.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: Yes, because his legitimacy just let this go with this illegitimate regime is doing. It killed itself. OK, but we told you from the very beginning, just expose it, just expose it, never back down, never give up. And this thing will implode.


KING: In the back half there, Maggie, he's talking about the big lie essentially. He's still calling President Biden legitimate, based on his belief for his at least alleged belief in the big lie. But at the first part where they're playing the interview with Bob Costa and Bob Woodward about their new book, and he says, yes, because of legitimacy he does confirm there that he spoke to the president until January 5th.

The question is why was Donald Trump talking to his fighter, if you will that brought back into the circle Steve Bannon the day before that big rally?

HABERMAN: Right. It may not mean anything, John. I mean, I do want to be clear here. I don't want to suggest that we know more than we do. He's been - he's been talking to Bannon, Trump for many days in the lead up to January 6th, and he was talking to him after that.

There was this effort people around Trump in the furthest right leaning circles of the Republican Party saw what was happening in terms of Trump's unwillingness to acknowledge Biden's legitimacy as a chance to try to tag Biden and to try to damage his presidency from out of the gate.

The question is whether there is then a direct correlation between was there a plan? And was there an effort to try to organize around January 6th and that's what the select committee is trying to figure out.

KING: Right. And you just framed it perfectly. And that's why we should pursue the truth have an open mind about where it takes us. But the testimony should be critical Maggie as always grateful for the reporting and the insights and we'll continue to cover this story as the committee continues its work. Coming up, for us next very important COVID news, millions of Americans now as of today, eligible to get a Pfizer booster we'll break down just who qualifies next?



KING: President Biden today celebrating what he sees as an important COVID firewall. The decision now to allow millions of vaccinated Americans to get booster shots.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This week is planned we took a key step in protecting the vaccinated majority of Americans who were fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine are now able to receive the booster shot six months after they've received their second shot.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: The White House endorsed booster shots of course weeks ago as new COVID cases were surging. The CDC Director authorized this new plan last night and in doing so she overruled an Agency Advisory Board that recommended a more targeted booster plant. As of today, the new CDC guidelines recommend boosters for adults 65 and older adults in long term care --