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Cheney Faces Trump-Backed Challenger In Wyoming Primary; Poll: Nearly 3 In 10 Americans Think They May Soon Have To Take Up Arms Against The Govt; Russian Trial Of Brittney Griner Underway In Moscow. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 01, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: A lot of time left. It was one of Trump's best states. The question is, is any of this breaking through whether it's the trials about the insurrection, whether it's the January 6th Committee hearings, the testimony from people who are loyal to Donald Trump who are these damning things about it. "The LA Times" quoting a voter out there says, it's time for change. Liz has taken on a kind of vendetta against Trump, and she's forgotten the things that are important today. That's one, former Cheney voter, but then we were talking about this during the break, if you go to her campaign website, and it has a little frequently asked questions, how do I change my party affiliation to register as a Republican so I can vote for Liz? That tells you that Cheney understands she's in trouble.

ASTEAD HERNDON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, we don't have like real formal polling in this race. But I think that's a sign, anytime you have a Republican seeking out Democratic votes in the way that she has been. I think it's a pretty good sign that they know internally, they're going to need some help, otherwise.

I would say it's not just the test on whether the January 6th Committees are breaking through but breaking through any Trump's state. I mean, this is breaking through in the opposite way for her, right? It's not just this -- it's not just that these committee hearings are being dissected for its factual basis, and conservative media, they are being dissected for those exact reasons her opponent lays out saying that folks are looking backwards and not forwards that they're not focusing on issues that are more pressing to Wyoming voters.

That is the hurdle that Liz Cheney has to overcome. She also has to overcome the personal vendetta of Donald Trump. There is a segment of her Republican base that is singularly driven by leaving out his grievances and match. And they share his grievances also. And so that is going to be a slice of voter that she will not get. The question is whether she can mobilize a new or someone who switches their party or a different coalition to overcome that, because that is a hardened base that is ingesting kind of Liz -- anti-Liz Cheney propaganda and that kind of closed bubble right now because that Trump world media is mobilized completely against that January 6th Committee. KING: And so, you could argue that politically, the smartest thing for her to do would just be, be quiet, go home and talk about land issues, go home and talk about taxes, go home and talk about traditional Republican issues. But she has decided that she's willing to lose her job over this, including going to the Reagan Library and saying, I'm sorry, Republicans, I know it's easier either to go along with Trump or just hope he goes away, but you need choose.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution. At this moment --


KING: She also said something else. And if you read that speech, it was a long speech, but if you read it and condense it, you can find a 12-minute stump speech in there, that would be a candidate for president. And that's what many believed that if she win or lose in the House race that she may run for president, the piece that stuck out to me, was this part, thinking -- this is Liz Cheney, think about this as a presidential candidate.


CHENEY: And let me also say this to the little girls, and to the young women who are watching tonight, these days, for the most part, men are running the world. And it is really not going that well.


KING: That part to me is not a congressional candidate in Wyoming, that's someone who's thinking she might be on a bigger stage soon.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: Well, and there could be a potential lane for that, right? There's a number of Republicans who are trying to find the anti-Trump Trumpism lane that she could have to compete with for that. But, you know, this race was different for her. I think that some of the other -- of the people that Trump had grievances against is they did go back and do exactly what you were suggesting. They focused on the local issues in their states.

You know, you saw someone like Nancy Mace, who was able to overcome a primary opponent, whereas in this particular situation, Liz Cheney isn't, as you said, doing that. She's going back and she's doubling down on this one argument. And even if you look at Adam Kinzinger, he's not running for reelection. So there is no other test or comparison I think when you look at some of their Trump's like grievance endorsements to be able to compare this one specifically too, to see how this is going to turn out.

And like you said, we don't have polling since the January 6th Committee hearing started to be able to really know how that's been affecting her in the state, though. KING: We assume on this day that Donald Trump is running in 2024. We don't know, it's a long way off. But the question is, will someone forcefully whether he's on -- whether he's there or not taken the anti-Trump banner. Again, if you read through that speech, you've covered presidential campaigns as well, that was like, oh, this is not a congressional speech.

HERNDON: No, no. When I hear her talking, even in the Committee hearings, I think you do see a national candidate there either the question is the primaries, right? The question is either on the Republican side or even her reach out to Democrats. These are, you know, bases control the primaries, and that is going to be anywhere she might have more difficulty in. But I think that what she's making us a legacy play, which has a longer life, you know, when you talk about the people who Trump has reached out and had grievances against previously, some of them have had to be quiet to kind of win those races returned back to those local issues, Representative Mace as you're saying, she is leaned into this question.

And I think that is partly in terms of creating a national brand that is about democracy in the lower D, democracy. I think that that is an -- obviously that's an issue that is going to continue to have a lifespan after this Committee. And she is going to be frankly the face of that. And you know, whether that is in the national primary, whether that is in a book, whether that is whatever, that has a long lifespan.


KING: I think this set has wheels on it. Maybe we can wheel it out to Wyoming by August. Everybody, hold on. We'll wheel it out to Wyoming and be there for the primary. Up next for us, to WNBA star Brittney Griner on trial in Moscow. Her wife says she has lost trust in U.S. officials.



KING: The Fourth of July is supposed to be an all American and all Americans celebration, but some new polling we'll share with you right now offers some fascinating and, yes, some troubling insights on our nation's deeply polarized political divide. Get this, a majority of Americans see their government as corrupt and rigged against them. Nearly half of Americans say they feel more and more like a stranger in their own country. And look at this, nearly three in 10 Americans overall agree it may be necessary at some point soon for citizens to take up arms against the government.

Forty-five percent of those who describe themselves as strong Republicans feel that way, 35 percent of Independents do. And 21 percent of strong Democrats say, yes, it may be necessary soon to take up arms against their government. This poll was conducted for the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. Two of the best in the business, you see them right there, Republican Neil Newhouse and Democrat Joel Benenson collaborated on this project. They are with us live now.

Neil, I want to start with you. Because the most alarming number in that it may be necessary to take up arms, the entire number is alarming. Twenty-eight percent of Americans overall, but 45 percent of people who identify as strong Republicans, nearly half of people who identify as strong Republicans say it may be necessary to take up arms against their own government. Where does that come from?

NEIL NEWHOUSE, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: Well, I mean, these are stunning results. I mean, they really are. When Joel and I embarked on this, and we put together the questionnaire, we knew the mood of the country was not positive. But it is so much worse than we thought it was. And so you look into that question on taking up arms against the government. You know, it's 45 percent of strong Republicans.

But John, it's 33 percent of NPR listeners, 26 percent of very liberals, 37 percent of those with guns in their households. It really demonstrates the extraordinary polarization in the country right now. And there's a pandemic of mistrust between Americans and their government and their media.

KING: And so Joel, I was reading this and thinking about, you know, disaffection we saw going back to the Perot campaign in 1992, where people thought, you know, the government didn't get them, didn't understand globalization. These findings seem to tell me people think the government is out to get them, doesn't just understand them but is somehow after them.

The government is corrupt and rigged against people like me. Sixty-six percent of Republicans agree with that, 46 percent of Democrats. I generally trust our elections to be conducted fairly and accurately counted. Fifty-six percent of Americans agree with that, but four in 10 Americans overall disagree with that. And you see among Republicans, 62 percent, 41 percent of independents. Disaffection, disillusionment, what's the word for it? And how do you fix it?

JOEL BENENSON, PRESIDENT & CEO, BENENSON STRATEGY GROUP: Well, look, I think it has to do with partisanship in the media they consume, you know, if you look beyond some of those top line numbers, and consider the fact that, you know, since the year 2000, Republicans have held the White House for 12 years, with Bush eight years, Trump four years, Democrats, so far only 10 since the beginning of this century. What are they watching and hearing that make them think that elections aren't free and fair?

You know, we've had Republicans control the Senate, significant number of times since 2000. And they are winning elections. So I really don't understand how this can be anything other than misinformation and disinformation coming from the media that they consume most assiduously, which tends to be "Fox News," and some other websites that tilt very strongly to appeal to conservative voters.

And when you look at ideology on the people who say government is rigged against them, it's not only highest among conservative, 66 percent. But when you look inside the data a bit, you're going to see it's very high among white men, the group that most sociologists and analysts would say the people who benefit the most in society, but for some reason, white male conservatives feel very aggrieved.

KING: Well, so Neil, Joel brought up the point.

NEWHOUSE: But hey, Joel, you know, wait a second, the same point in time, 51 percent of very liberals feel the same way. This -- it's -- it may be it's too easy to kind of pin this on, on Republicans versus Democrats. It is across the board, they're feeling like this.

KING: Well, it's --

NEWHOUSE: And it is -- this is sobering data.

KING: Right. So this is the way we resolve these things. You have two guys on T.V., you know what they're doing politely talking about it. This is the way it should be done. But that's not what's happening. That's how you see in the country, which is part of the problem. To Joel's point, what voters think the people who create news content are trying to do essentially what am I thinking when I come to work every day? Thirty-seven percent of Americans think we are here to present facts, but 48 percent, that's half, that's nearly half of Americans, think that most people creating news content are trying to get their own views across and then again as people gather for Fourth of July parades and barbecues over this weekend what voters believe is the root of disagreement on political issues.


Thirty-five percent say, oh, that's an honest disagreement. We just disagree. Should taxes be higher or lower? Where should regulations be? But 50 percent believe, Neil, it's from misinformation. How do we get people out of their silos to listen to the other side?

NEWHOUSE: Yes. Hey, John, Joel and I can help explain what's going on. But the prescriptive aspects of this are beyond our abilities. This is sobering. It is very tough data. And truthfully, I think it may have to get worse before it gets better. And this is, I mean, you read through this data, people don't -- Democrats don't trust Republicans, Republicans don't trust Democrats. Democrats think Republicans are getting disinformation. Republicans said the same thing about Democrats. There's no middle ground here whatsoever. You know --

BENENSON: Well, the one --

NEWHOUSE: I mean, quoting Liz Cheney from the previous section, men are running the world not going that well and it's not going that well.

KING: Joel, you got a following word.

BENENSON: Yes, the one thing I would add, yes, and as a former journalist myself, we have a fractionalized media environment where people can find and seek out media outlets, major ones that they agree with. We're not having common conversations. We don't have three network anchors who were extremely respected. People are listening, reading, consuming news, whether it's on radio, television, the Internet that they agree with. And you have to know that there is an increasing number of people, a large number of people who are now getting their news from the internet. And they will say sites like Facebook, Instagram, those have become sources of news, which are social media, it is not filtered, it is not fact checked. So we're in a very treacherous area here for democracy, I think, and with a cherished First Amendment, which we have to be mindful and respectful of. I think we have to also think from the media side, how can we do a better job to not partisanized (ph) the news as much as we have been.

KING: Amen. I agree with that last point. We need to listen, and we need to be careful. Joel and Neil, grateful for your time we will continue this critically important conversation. Thank you, gentlemen.

NEWHOUSE: Thanks for having us on.

KING: Thank you both gentlemen. Appreciate it very much.

When we come back, live to Moscow, the WNBA star Brittney Griner appearing at her trial today. What are U.S. official they're saying about how she's doing?



KING: Today Brittney Griner's trial began in Moscow. The WNBA star was detained you will remember back in February and accused of smuggling drugs. The Biden administration says it is working hard doing all it can to bring the two-time Olympic gold medalist home. CNN's Fred Pleitgen joins us now live from Moscow. Fred, what happened in court today?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, John. Well, this first hearing today took about and say about two and a half hours. She was led, Brittney Griner, was led into the courtroom in handcuffs. There she was read the charges and asked if she understood the charges against her from what we know she said that, yes, she did. She was then given the chance to comment on those charges. But she said she would not do so and will do so actually at a later time during the trial. There were two witnesses that were questioned today.

Actually U.S. officials who were inside the courtroom were asked to leave when the second witness was being questioned. Just to give you an idea about what this is about, John, during the trial came up at apparently two vaping cartridges were found with Brittney Griner. One containing 0.25 grams of cannabis oil and the other one a little bit under 0.5, about 0.45. So in total we're talking about 0.7 grams of cannabis oil that the Russian say were found with Brittney Griner.

And again, the maximum sentence for this could be up to 10 years in prison. Now, the Charge d'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy here in Moscow was inside the courtroom and said she was able to speak with Brittney Griner on the sidelines. Let's listen into what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ELIZABETH ROOD, CHARGE D'AFFAIRES OF THE U.S. EMBASSY MOSCOW: The U.S. Embassy, the American government, cares very deeply about this case, and about Ms. Griner's welfare as to millions of Americans, as well as we care about the welfare of all U.S. citizens in prison overseas. I did have the opportunity to speak with Ms. Griner in the courtroom. She is doing as well as can be expected in these difficult circumstances. And she asked me to convey that she is in good spirits and is keeping up the faith.


PLEITGEN: So that you have the Charge d'Affaires of the U.S. Embassy here in Moscow. I was actually able to also speak, John, with one of the lawyers for Brittney Griner and asked him whether or not he thinks an acquittal is something that could be possible in this trial or whether or not he believes or he's confident that he could reach one. He said he did really didn't want to comment on that.

However, he did say that Brittney Griner while she is somewhat concerned is still keeping fit and is obviously in a fighting spirit. Next hearing is set to happen, John, on July 7th.

KING: July 7th. Fred Pleitgen, appreciate the important live update. Thanks so much Fred. You heard the Charge d'Affaires there saying the State Department is very -- trying to be very helpful here. An exclusive conversation with CNN Brittney Griner's wife, Cherelle, disputes that somewhat. She questions the commitment of State Department officials to the case, she says for example, that Brittney Griner tried to call her on their anniversary, but no one was at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to connect the call.



CHERELLE GRINER, WIFE OF BRITTNEY GRINER: I do trust that they're -- that the persons working on this are very genuine people, that I do believe. But I don't think the maximum amount of effort is being done because, again, the rhetoric and the actions don't match, you know, when you have a situation where BG can call our government, the Embassy 11 times and that phone call don't get answered. You don't have my address at that point until I see actions that are in BG's best interest.


KING: Thanks for your time today. Try to enjoy your Fourth of July weekend. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage after a quick break.