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Texas Sending Voting "Inspectors" To Dem-Leaning Harris County; Trump Considers Allowing Investigators to Search Mar-a-Lago Again; Pence Warns Of "Apologists For Putin" In GOP. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 20, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And then you have Senator Ron Johnson in Wisconsin who's running for reelection. And he has a new secure elections website, you see it here, election integrity incident reporting, essentially telling people, watch people when they cast their ballots. Again, Democrats would say this is simply not necessary that that state is among the states that were scrubbed pretty closely after 2020. And there is zero evidence of any widespread fraud.

MICHAEL SCHERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: What's changed since 2020 is that election integrity, election fraud concerns are now a base motivator for Republicans. So this is -- they are governing actions, right? You know, the Secretary of State in Texas has an ability to oversee elections at a local level. But it's also sort of a governing by media prank.

And we've seen a lot of this happen across the country. You know, Ron DeSantis is constantly, you know, picking fights with various constituencies. What he actually does in those cases aren't actually often what they seemed to be, but he gets a lot of attention for it as he goes. I think you're probably going to see a lot more of this as we get closer to the election. Because for Republicans, the more they can talk about this walking into the election, the more they can, you know, identify their voters and get them out.

KING: Right. I would love to sit in this chair 20, 22 days from now and be able to say, nothing happened. Yes, some people send some people into watch because they are skeptical, they have questions about election integrity. But they didn't harass anybody. The vote was counted. We can all say whoever wins, Democrats, Republicans, independents, the vote was fair. I hope to be able to sit in the chair in 20 days and say that.

One of the reasons these suspicions are out there is because Trump continues to say the election was stolen, there is zero evidence of that. And Trump allies like Steve Bannon continue to say things like this.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP CHIEF STRATEGIST: They understand judgment day is coming. They understand now, we're going to be ahead of this, they're not going to be able to cheat or steal. If you can't cheat, you can't win. And your days of cheating are over. So you can sit there and you can pull your hair out. But no, we're flooding the zone with poll workers, poll watchers, election judges, people in the room.


KING: He was part of the team that tried to cheat. And he's accusing other people of cheating. And for any Trump supporter out there says, how can you say that the facts support that. Steve Bannon had the war room around Election Day, continue to tell, just declare victory, it doesn't matter, just declare victory. He's part of the team that tried to cheat in 2020. Now saying the other guys are cheating.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, in some ways, the Republican Party has long had this fantasy that there's been all of this cheating in Democratic cities and Democratic precinct. So in many ways, it's just a continuation of that. It's very much on steroids at this point, because of Donald Trump and the big lie, all of these suspicions.

And all these things that Republicans are doing now is to try to make the suspicions true, right? To suggest that there really is something going on in Harris County, this big diverse Democratic county, not in Republican counties, right? They're not telling their voters or, you know, in their supporters to go to their own precincts in their own counties, they're telling them to go elsewhere.

And that's essentially what the big lie was. It was that the cheating was going on in Detroit. It was going on in Philadelphia. It was going on in these diverse Democratic areas. And I think one of the big problems with this is the sort of threat of violence that could come with it, right? I mean, we saw what happened on January 6th. We saw the kind of language that Steve Bannon often likes to use around war. And so that's a real danger, I think, and this is why some of the security has had to be --

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and that's something that I really wanted to hit on, which was I was just talking to a data expert, whose tracks chatter that increases across Truth Social, across Parler, across all these platforms where a lot of right wing voters are on. And that they are very concerned that there could be political violence, and there's an increase in chatter about Civil War, all based on the fact that if who they support, if Republicans do not win, then it must be a fraudulent election.

And that comes from people like Bannon who repeat that over and over again, the former president who repeat that. And, you know, there's 62 percent of the GOP candidates that are on the ballot in November are election denier.

KING: Right. Among them is the Republican candidate for governor of Arizona who when approached and asked about this Maricopa County, and so if someone was going to -- go to a drop box and drop their ballot, and they say they were harassed and followed, as they tried to do, though. Kari Lake says this.


KARI LAKE (R-AZ), GUBERNATORIAL NOMINEE: I haven't heard anything about it. I haven't, you know, it just shows you how concerned people are though. People are so concerned about the integrity of our election. And this is another reason, hey, this is another reason we have to restore integrity.


KING: That's the problem right there, Michael. We have to restore integrity. The 2020 election, independent analysts have looked at this, it was free, it was fair, more people voted. There's nothing to restore. It was well done.

SCHERER: Yes, that's right. And now you're in a situation where election administrators are taking de-escalation training. And it's not just what the officials are saying or the candidates are saying or operatives like Bannon are saying, it's what individuals who are out there who we know are often pretty crazy might do and that's not controlled at this moment. So I do think there's a lot of insecurity right now.


KING: And a lot of Republican voters believe it because Republican politicians have for years repeated what is a lie. There are no facts to support it. The record supports that.

Up next, a CNN exclusive, sources say Trump's legal team is considering inviting the FBI back to Mar-a-Lago for a second search for government documents.


KING: We're bringing you a new CNN exclusive now. Sources telling CNN that Donald Trump is considering, allowing federal investigators to search Mar-a-Lago again. Trump perhaps open to a less adversarial approach with the FBI to get this legal headache behind him. The Justice Department, of course, still believes the former president has failed to return all of the sensitive documents he took from the White House despite the FBI taking, recovering nearly 22,000 pages from his Florida resident when it served a search warrant back in August.


Let's get some insights from CNN's Sara Murray, who broke this reporting, and the former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers. Sara to you first, history tells us Donald Trump cooperates at the last minute that he fights and fights and fights. If they are open to this now, perhaps, why?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I think that there are a couple of things going on. One, this is an option on the table. It's a possibility. It's not something they've decided. And two, this is not an option on the table out of the goodness of the former president's heart. This is because the Justice Department is saying to them, look, we don't believe you guys complied with the May subpoena. Obviously, we found a lot of documents that were marked classified in our August search.

And frankly, they still believe that the former president is in the possession of sensitive government documents that they want back. So this is left Trump's legal team trying to figure out, look, how do we get the Justice Department off of our back? How do we satisfy this legal conundrum? How do we make sure that the former president faces the least amount of legal Jeopardy possible?

And frankly, how do we make sure, we, the lawyers around him don't continue to put ourselves in legal jeopardy trying to litigate this case with the Justice Department.

KING: So Jennifer Rodgers chime in with your federal prosecutor perspective here. Some are surprised if the FBI truly believes this and has evidence to back it up. Why not serve another search warrant already? And when you hear about possibly reaching a compromise come to Mar-a-Lago again, should that compromise if it is reached include Bedminster, includes other Trump properties where maybe documents moved?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, to take the second part, first, John, it depends on whether they have solid information to believe their documents in these other places. I think that if they do, they certainly will demand to search there. And you know, the first part I mean, listen, they have the legal cause to go back to court and get another search warrant. But that is very adversarial. Just think about what happened after the first one was executed. Trump was complaining about a raid on his property. The MAGA world went wild.

Then as the facts came out, it became very clear that he was stonewalling them and lying to them. They recovered a lot of classified documents. But that's why they won't go back to avoid that adversarial process, if at all possible.

KING: If at all possible. We'll see how that plays out as we wait. I want to turn your attention both of you to this remarkable ruling yesterday by Judge David Carter. This is in the e-mail controversy. The January 6th committee wants more e-mails from John Eastman, one of the president's lawyers who are helping him push the challenge to the election. Judge Carter's decision actually sides with Eastman about most of the documents saying that they're either covered by lawyer- client privilege, or they might have been written in preparation for litigation which protects them.

But he insisted that four e-mails be turned over to the Committee. And those e-mails are damning. The judge right this, the e-mail show President Trump knew the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong, but continues to tout those numbers, the court finds that these e- mails are sufficiently related to and in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Jennifer Rodgers to you first, Judge Carter is again, this is the second ruling in which he has said clearly that the evidence presented to him suggest that the president of the United States at the time, former president now, may have committed a crime?

RODGERS: Yes, that's huge, right? I mean, it's not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. We're not yet at a point where Judge Carter or anyone else is saying that there was a crime committed here that ought to be charged. But it's a big deal. It's a big deal. And I think prosecutors obviously will be looking very carefully at these documents now that they are no longer protected by any sort of privilege and can use them in a case.

I mean, fraud is not just a false statement. Fraud, you have to prove knowledge and intent with that false statement. And that's effectively what these documents show, which is why they'll be very valuable down the road.

KING: And Sara Murray, Donald Trump continues to say these things. In this case, it has more meaning because he sent it in a legal document, he sent it in a document presented to our court of law, but Donald Trump continues to say this, and even John Eastman, who pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed says in this e-mail quoted in this ruling, Mr. President, those numbers are bogus.

MURRAY: That's right. And, you know, the damning part is what you said, it's, you know, not that the former president is out there lying to the American public, you know, he, politicians do that. It's dangerous. But they do that. But that he said this in a court document, and there was this paper trail where John Eastman is saying, you know, he actually knows now that these numbers are not accurate. So I don't think that he should sign off on this again, and Trump goes ahead and does it anyway.

KING: This draws you right back to the previous conversation we had about Republicans believing there's an election integrity question, and you wonder why. Sara Murray, Jennifer Rodgers, grateful for the reporting and the insights.

Up next for us, Mike Pence and a complicated question.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Pence, if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president in 2024, will you vote for him?



KING: To his credit, Mike Pence takes a lot of questions. He enjoys the town hall format. And he often visits college campuses. Some questions, though, are more complicated, like whether he would support Donald Trump if his former boss wins the Republican nomination in 2024.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PENCE: Well, there might be somebody else I'd prefer more. What I can tell you is I have every confidence that the Republican Party is going to sort out leadership. All my focus has been on the midterm elections and it'll stay that way for the next 20 days.


KING: Our great reporters are back with us. In some ways, it sounds like he's saying nothing. But he actually he says quite a bit there. There might be somebody else I'd prefer more.


HENDERSON: Mike Pence.

KING: Mike Pence. I think the Republican Party will sort out its leadership. He seems to think no Trump, right?

SCHERER: Well, and a competitive primary, I mean, he's clearly leaning into not just handing the crown back to the king and actually fighting over it. It's amazing because Mike Pence was defined for five years as the most subservient person in Trump's orbit, the guy who always stood two feet behind him nodding his head, echoing whatever he said. And he's really, I think people haven't really appreciate how far out he's gone against Trump since January 6th.

And I think we're going to be surprised, right after the election, the midterm elections, you're going to have other candidates announcing maybe not Pence right away. But when Pence does come out, he's going to be arguing for a very different kind of Republican Party in the one he represented before you.

KING: To that point, let's get this in. Your right, he served Donald Trump loyally for four years plus the campaign. Now, among the places he's trying to pull the party back to where it was before Trump, including on the question of Ukraine. And there are a lot of Republicans, they might watch another network where they're told, you know, Russia is not the enemy. Ukraine is not our friend. Listen to Mike Pence talking about the need for Republicans to stand with Ukraine.


PENCE: There can be no room in the conservative movement for apologists for Putin. There is only room in this movement for champions of freedom. Now, I know there is a rising chorus in our party, including some new voices to our movement, who has disengage with the wider world and abandon the traditional values in the heart of our movement. But appeasement has never worked, ever, in history.


KING: It's interesting because of the timing in the sense that Kevin McCarthy and interviewed Punchbowl the other day, the man who might be Speaker said he didn't say they would cut funding completely. He said Republicans are going to write Ukraine a blank check. Paul Gosar, who's a member of the House Republican Conference tweeted out, Ukraine is not our ally, Russia is not our enemy. Mike Pence saying you're wrong.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes. And if Kevin McCarthy gets what he wants, it would be a major shift in geopolitics. I mean, it would be huge, right? And Pence, he has some allies like Congressman Adam Kinzinger, but he's not going to be in the House, you know, next year at all, Kinzinger, also Liz Cheney, they're not going to be there. So many of these Republicans that were either willing to stand up to, you know, these pro-Russian forces within the conservative movement within Republican -- within the Republican House are not going to be there anymore. So again, whether it's on election denialism, or also on, you know, Ukraine versus pro-Russian forces within the party, Pence is outnumbered right now.

KING: And, you know, Rand Paul's chief strategist, Doug Stafford, tweeted after this is such horse, you can fill it in, neither has fighting everyone's wars. He's saying we shouldn't do that. Rand Paul may run for president again. It's interesting that Mike Pence to your point, so subserving for four years, he doesn't, look, sort of a quiet language way. He's not provocative language, but he is stirring the big fights in the Republican Party.

HENDERSON: He is stirring the big fights. He talks about this as sort of a rising chorus. It's the main chorus, right? And the lead singer is Donald Trump, in terms of cozying up to Putin in terms of criticizing, in terms of not criticizing his efforts in Ukraine. Listen, I think if you look at a lot of the data, Trump's approval rating much higher than Pence is. And in Pence's approval rating actually declined after January 6th, right? As much as he tries to push away from Donald Trump, the Republican Party is pushing Pence away as well.

KING: Right. That's the fascinating complexity of it to me, and we'll watch as it plays out, there might be somebody else I'd prefer, he means himself. But the question is, if you're an anti-Trump Republican, are you going to pick Trump's vice president. And if you're a pro-Trump Republican, Trump has already said I'm pushing Mike Pence off to the sidelines. It's fascinating -- we'll watch it play out.


Up next, some more from the campaign trail, the midterm campaign trail, some new ads plus, a rising Republican store from the east embraces a rising MAGA force out west.


KING: Topping our political radar today, first for the Georgia Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, the incumbent now using ads to target Republican Herschel Walker's abortion controversy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For you, Herschel Walker wants to ban abortion. HERSCHEL WALKER (R-GA), SENATE CANDIDATE: It have no assumption in my mind I guess I believe in life. There's not a national ban on abortion right now. And I think that's a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before himself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Herschel Walker paid for an abortion for his then girlfriend.

WALKER: I've been very transparent about everything I've ever done. You know, I wrote a book about the things that I've done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another lie from Herschel Walker.


KING: A spokesman for the Walker campaign responding in part Senator Warnock is quote, desperate and it shows.

In Iowa a tighter than expected race for the Republican incumbent Senator Chuck Grassley, who is out today with a new ad, the focus the president and inflation.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe Biden is leading us into another recession. And Mike Franken wants to use Iowa Senate seat to help pass Joe Biden's radical recession agenda. In Iowa, cost of living is draining wallets to pay for gas and groceries. But Mike Franken thinks --

MIKE FRANKEN (D-IA), SENATE CANDIDATE: President Biden is doing a fabulous job.



KING: Out west, a big name Republican stumping for an election denier. The Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin campaigning in Arizona for the Republican running for governor there Kari Lake. Youngkin just fine apparently putting his sweater vest behind her.


GOV. GLENN YOUNGKIN (R-AZ): You need a fighter and you got one. That's what you've got. You need a leader who's going to understand that she works for you. And let me tell you, I think you should hire her.


KING: Thanks for your time today. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.