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SpaceX to Launch First All-Civilian Crew into Orbit Today; Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) Easily Survives Recall Election in Blowout; Trump Calls on Milley to be Tried for Treason over China Calls. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired September 15, 2021 - 07:00   ET




We all know that flying on a rocket ship is dangerous. But how dangerous are these flights?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no risk or danger in what we do. We've flown 1,700 passengers over the last 16 years, not one injury and not one issue. So we have all the same regulations safety, everything as that United Flight does.

CRANE: Oh. Wow. Oh. This is amazing.

Unlike Jeff Bezos or Richard Branson's flight, this plane isn't on a rocket aimed at space. An air space of 10 miles by 100 miles is cleared for G-force one flight.

There's lot of talk about these suborbital flights democratizing space, but is this experience the closest thing that a normal person --


CRANE: -- will ever experience?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. The price point -- I mean, no one would say $7,500 is cheap.

CRANE: Cheap but --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it's accessible.

CRANE: It's a lot less than $28 million.

What is the value of the weightlessness experience like? Is this just for thrill seekers or is there real research value to these flights?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, I would say half of it is research and then the other half is consumer facing. We have done things that are literally on the cutting edge for space, testing out how to do 3D printing in micro gravity. We've done experiments in how to animate freeze-dried blood to go out and test things in zero gravity or micro gravity in space, prohibitively expensive and not realistic.


CRANE (on camera): Now, Brianna, the mission is set to be in orbit for three days and the crew, they'll be orbiting the earth 15 times a day. And that was just a little glimpse of the training. They've been training for six months. That training included climbing Mount Rainier so the crew could bond, also mission simulations and centrifuge training. Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: Rachel Crane, you are brave. Thank you so much for that report.

New Day continues right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. It's Wednesday, September 15th.

And, overnight, landslide in California. Governor Gavin Newsom crushed a Republican recall bid that could have cost him his job, Newsom's aggressive coronavirus policies validated by Democratic voters by a nearly two to one margin. The California governor thanked his supporters and warned about efforts to undermine democracy.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines. We said yes to ending this pandemic.

We may have defeated Trump, but Trumpism is not dead in this country. The big lie, January 6th insurrection, all the voting suppression efforts that are happening all across this country, what's happening, the assault on fundamental rights, constitutionally protected rights of women and girls, it's a remarkable moment in our nation's history.


KEILAR: Republican frontrunner Larry Elder, who pledged to repeal Newsom's coronavirus restrictions, was quick to acknowledge his loss despite vowing to fight the result in the days before the vote.


LARRY ELDER (R) FORMER CALIFORNIA SPECIAL ELECTION GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: My opponent, Governor Gavin Newsom, come on, let's be gracious in defeat. And, by the way, we may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war.


KEILAR: Now, Elder is not going away quietly. He is already hinting at a run for governor in 2022.

Let's bring in Phil Mattingly at the magic wall. Phil, break this down for us. PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So, let's start with the baseline. For the yes votes to actually have a shot at winning, they needed an absolute perfect storm. This is a state where Democrats are registered at a two to one margin compared to Republicans. So that's a tough hill to climb to begin with. They needed apathy from the Democratic side, a surge in Republican voters and they needed independents to break their way rather sharply.

None of those things happened. Right now, at 70 percent reporting, 2.5 million vote lead for the no group, for the Newsom group. And look at the top line percentage, 63.9 percent. Go back. The state obviously very Democratic. What happened in 2020, Joe Biden, 63.5 percent, less than that. What happened in Gavin Newsom's last race, 61.9 percent, so overperforming on a percentage basis.

And you can go county by county and see where the apathy didn't happen, the surge didn't happen. You could pull up the counties where Newsom underperformed, what he did in 2018, you see one, and that is a very small county.


You see where he overperformed, six counties. He overperformed more than underperformed. That is the story of why Gavin Newsom had a shellacking of a victory over the course of the night.

But there's also the issues themselves. We obviously have voter data in here, but I want to pull up some of the exit polling data we had. You heard Governor Newsom when he was talking in that sound you played really focused on the pandemic, focused on vaccines. And in that exit polling, you understood why, the most important issue for facing Californians, COVID, 31 percent, above homelessness, economy, wildfires and crime. When it came to Gavin Newsom's COVID policies, about 45 percent said they were about right, 18 percent not strict enough, 32 percent too strict.

Now, getting the vaccine, we start to dig into those policies itself, 63 percent of those in the exit polls said it was a public health responsibility. 34 percent said it was a personal choice. And then this one was what really stuck out to me when I was going through the exits last night, mask policies. School mask requirement, 70 percent of those in the exit polls supported it, only 25 percent opposed. If you want to know why the Newsom campaign really focused on this issue, they were looking at data that really correlated with the data that we saw in the voters themselves. Brianna?

KEILAR: All right, thank you so much for that, Phil. We'll be checking in with you throughout the show this morning, Phil Mattingly.

BERMAN: All right. Joining us now, CNN Politics Reporter and Editor at Large Chris Cillizza and author of The Washington Post Power Up Newsletter Jackie Alemany.

I want to talk about what California might mean for the rest of the country and what it might mean going forward. I get that every state is its own unique animal and not every state is going to have a two to one Democratic majority advantage. However, Chris, what we saw there was Gavin Newsom able to animate Democratic voters in a special or off-year election. That's a big deal for the in-party. And they did, he did it two ways, right?


BERMAN: COVID, leaning in to COVID mandates and masks and things and also Trumpification.

CILLIZZA: Yes. So, let me take the second one first. Because I think that there was a time, six weeks ago, where Gavin Newsom looked like he might be in a little bit of trouble, right? The recall was in the low 50s. His people were worried. And what did they do? They did everything that they could smartly to elevate Larry Elder and say, you want this guy? This is a Trump acolyte.

Now, as you say, it's a hugely Democratic state. So that argument works better than it would in plenty of places. But it does show the power still of Trump to animate the Democratic base. One of the best things that ever happened to the Democratic base was Donald Trump, gets them animated, gets them into it, which may be a key going into 2022 when we're talking about the midterm elections and the base.

I was surprised even when Phil was running through this stuff. I was surprised about the extent to which COVID drove voters' interests, concerns, and it was an affirmation of Newsom's policies, right? 63 percent in favor of a mask mandate. Again, some of that is California. This is not -- we're not talking about one of the swing states in the 2024 election, right?

But I do think that gives another maybe argument for Democrats to make the competence argument. Hey, look, it's not perfect. We want zero deaths. We want zero people affected by this but we are the party that can competently deal with this in ways that will make your life go back to normal. So if I had to take away, those would be the two, yes.

KEILAR: Do you see, Jackie, other Democrats looking at that as a lesson learned in using it in upcoming elections?

JACKIE ALEMANY, ANCHOR, WASHINGTON POST, POWER UP: Yes, Brianna. I think that we need to be careful about using this as a microcosm for the political landscape at hand and drawing too much from it looking ahead to the 2022 midterms. I talked to Joe Biden's chief pollster, John Anzalone, a few days ago who said that he's actually and more honestly admitting that he's looking towards a place like Virginia's gubernatorial race as more of an accurate bellwether.

But there are still lessons to glean from California for Democrats and Republicans on the Democratic side, as Chris pointed out, you know, it's that Biden's more aggressive approach towards the coronavirus in recent weeks, implementing a vaccine mandate, federal government might actually be more winning message as a majority of voters are more concerned about the coronavirus. And that message could, in fact, resonate in swing year states, as it did in California. But, again, as you and Phil noted, there are simply more Democrats in California than Republicans. But, on the Republican side, I think that there are some serious lessons that they could learn here, which is that these foe Trumpy candidates might not fly.


Of course, Larry Elders is no Arnold Schwarzenegger, but, you know, the Herschel Walkers, these candidates that we're seeing that are winning Republican primaries are probably not going to be likely to beat more moderate Democratic centrist in vulnerable Democratic states with these anti-vax, anti-mask mandates.

And I think that as we saw Elder double down and continue to forcefully defend these Trumpian policy positions, that didn't sit well with the California electorate and might not sit well with swing year states.

CILLIZZA: Can I just quickly add to that? I think that Jackie makes a really good point. The reason that the 2003 recall worked for Republicans was two things, Gray Davis was extremely unpopular, much more unpopular than Gavin Newsom ever was in this race. So, that one, we don't have. But also because they had a candidate in Arnold Schwarzenegger who people wanted to see as governor.

There was an opportunity that existed here for Republicans. Republicans are very unlikely to win the California governorship in a regularly scheduled general election for all the reasons we've just outlined. It's an overwhelmingly Democratic state. But in a recall like this, an opportunity did exist, but they had no candidate who could rally both the Republicans and win independents and even some Democrats, which you need to do in California.

And that speaks to Jackie's point, the fundamental issue with the Republican Party. Larry Elder is what the Trump base wants, but Larry Elder has no ability to run competitively against Gavin Newsom or appear as a credible alternative to Gavin Newsom.

BERMAN: Phil mentioned at the end of his report just there that the Newsom team was seeing data which supported vaccinations, and if not vaccine requirements. The idea of leaning into vaccinations, and one of our earlier guests called the results here, to an extent, the revenge of the vaccinated.

ALEMANY: Yes. It's actually really interesting because the Republican position that they have taken lately on vaccination is actually anathema to the interests of some of their traditional -- some of the traditional bases of the Republican Party, like the business community, who wants to see a vaccine mandate in order to see the economic recovery that we have seen so far but that has stalled out most recently as vaccination rates have stalled out and can be potentially worrisome going into the fall here.

But, look, the Newsom campaign, I was speaking with people all day yesterday, they were not actually worried at the end of the day and in the last few weeks about the polling that they were seeing. And I think you know, it's -- again, I think we need to be careful how far we take this California race in terms of looking ahead at 2022 midterms.

CILLIZZA: He should have never gotten in this place, right? The truth of the matter is if Gavin Newsom doesn't go to the French Laundry, a very fancy restaurant, and get photographed in the middle of the pandemic when he's telling everyone they need to wear masks, if he never goes and is shown in a big party without a mask on, I don't know that the organizers get the signatures they need to get on.

It was a self-inflicted error the middle when everyone was paying attention to him. It never should have gotten to this point. But I do still think when we put all the caveats aside, there are still lessons to be learned particularly -- as Jackie mentioned, particularly on the Republican side, about what kind of candidates you can run and win.

BERMAN: Look, a Democrat shouldn't lose in California like this, but I will note that a Republican should never have lost in Alabama when Doug Jones won that Senate race in an off-year. So, strange things can happen.

CILLIZZA: Massachusetts has a Republican governor.

BERMAN: Yes. In an off-year special election, strange things can happen and a win is a win. And Gavin Newsom won huge in this race.

Jackie Alemany, Chris Cillizza, great to see you. Thanks so much for being with us.

So, Larry Elder made no mention of election fraud after last night's defeat after baselessly raising the possibility of shenanigans in the days leading up to the final vote.

Joining me now is former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. He also served as White House Counsel in the George W. Bush administration. He's now the dean at Belmont University College of Law in Nashville. So great to see you and I appreciate you being with us.

Look, Larry Elder conceded the election defeat last night. What's notable about that is that it was notable, right? It's a stunning admission about where politics is now that when a candidate, a Republican candidate, let's be honest, admits defeat after saying that he thought the election was rigged going in, that it's something of note. So what's your take away there?

ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, you know, I laughed but it's really a sad commentary. If people don't have confidence in the results of an election, one must wonder why have elections. And, of course, that undermines who we are as a country. And the thing that I'm most concerned about with respect to pushing the lie, you know, it formats, I think, the domestic extremists that we have in this country today and that President Bush spoke about so rightfully, so truthfully on Saturday.


And so that's the real danger about continuing to talk about what happened in the 2020 election. You know, it's -- we have such difficult problems in this country. And it's hard for people to come together and reach compromise when you can't even agree on what the truth is. And so we've got some challenges here. And it's a challenge for the leadership of our country but it's also a challenge for all of us individually as citizens to truly try to understand what is going on here and appreciate that there is a real danger in not accepting what is clearly the truth.

BERMAN: We had a CNN poll that came out over the weekend that showed that 59 percent of Republicans, this is 59 percent, basically 60 percent of Republicans say that believing that Donald Trump won the election in 2020 was an important part of being a Republican. So the majority of Republicans say that that's now part, a foundational part, of being a member of the Republican Party.

GONZALES: Well, I don't know who all was included in that poll. But I think it's important for Republican leadership, people in office, to talk about the importance of accepting the truth here and moving on. We have got some serious issues and problems to confront. And, you know, as I said before, unless we're willing to reach agreement on what is true in this country, we're never going to make much progress in solving very serious issues that confront all of us.

So I worry about that. I worry about our party. But, you know, both political parties over periods of time go through difficult stretches. What I'm most concerned about, as I said earlier, is that to the extent that there is belief in this lie that Donald Trump won the election, it has fomented this domestic extremism and that is a real danger for our country.

BERMAN: Look, there's a demonstration taking place at the U.S. Capitol just a few blocks from where I am Saturday in support of the January 6th insurrectionists. That's actually happening. The fact of it happening speaks volumes.

I want to ask you about January 6th here because there's this new book coming out by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, and we received a little bit of a sneak peak here. One of the things that happened since is reporting that Mike Pence wouldn't concede to Donald Trump. He wouldn't use the certification of the Electoral College votes from around the country wouldn't stop it midcourse and people saw that as Mike Pence standing up to Donald Trump.

Apparently, according to this book, at least, it wasn't a slam dunk for Pence. He was looking for a way out or maybe a way to buckle to Donald Trump. And he called Dan Quayle. He called the former vice president of the United States and basically asked the former vice president who had to sit in the same chair after George H.W. Bush lost and due to the election. And he asked Dan Quayle, he is there any way I can get out of this? Quayle says to him, Mike, you have no flexibility on this. None, zero, forget it, put it away. How do you see that episode?

GONZALES: Well, I think it's just as likely that Mike Pence felt very confident in his position that he had no flexibility here. But, nonetheless, because it was such an important decision and because the president of the United States was pressuring him, he just wanted to get confirmation from someone who has sat in that chair.

So, you know, I have confidence in Mike Pence. I think he did the absolute right thing. And I give him the benefit of the doubt. I think what he was doing here was simply calling someone who had been in that same chair and just reaffirming his position, at least I hope that that was the case.

BERMAN: It was relentless pressure from the president of the United States. According to this book, Donald Trump told Mike Pence, we can't be friends. We can't be friends if you don't overturn the election on January 6th.

GONZALES: Well, so be it. You got to do what you have to do.

BERMAN: Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, I appreciate you being with us this morning.

GONZALES: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Up next, the top U.S. general who secretly reached out to China over fears about Donald Trump, the explosive allegations coming up in this brand new book.

KEILAR: And breaking overnight, the Biden Justice Department's new move to block a Texas abortion law.

And later, the lawyer who police say planned his own shooting.



KEILAR: Former President Trump calling for Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley to be tried for treason after bombshell revelations in a new book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. The authors here write that General Milley feared that then President Trump would go rogue and launch nuclear missiles after the January 6th Capitol attack and that he called his Chinese counterpart to assure them the U.S. would not strike or start any war. Here is the former president's reaction.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT (voice over): If it is actually true, which is hard to believe, that he would have called China, and done these things and was willing to advise them of an attack or in advance of an attack, that's treason.

For him to say that I was going to attack China is the most ridiculous thing I heard.


KEILAR: Joining us now to discuss this is CNN's Military Analyst Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. He is retired as commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe and the 7th Army.

General Hertling, there has been a lot of controversy around whether Milley did the right thing, assuring, kind of assuaging concerns here of his Chinese counterpart.


Some see this as actually him tipping off an adversary. How do you see this?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I don't see it at all that way, Brianna having been in that role both in the Middle East and in Europe with hand holding of allies when things are going on in the U.S. government. But it's amazing to me first how many people are suggest to include the former president and are suggesting General Milley resign or be committed for treason before reading the details in the book, not understanding how senior military leaders always talk to their counterparts, friend and foes alike, and, in fact, that's a beneficial part of our national power equation and who don't understand the role of the chairman of Joint Chiefs.

From what I understand the book also says, are that the Pentagon also related that not only did General Milley talked to the Chinese People's Liberation Army leader, General Li, but he also talked to many government officials in Europe, several ones that are very -- that were very concerned after the January 6th insurrection about what was going on in Washington and could they depend on the stability of the United States government.

KEILAR: You know, and I know a lot of people look at this and they say this is -- they think it's unusual, right? They maybe disagree or they do disagree with you on the assessment of this, but this also raises questions about why Milley was worried about a military confrontation with China or why the CIA director was worried about a possible military confrontation with Iran. What concerns does that -- do those revelations raise for you?

HERTLING: None at all. Because what I'll tell you is Milley probably did not just pick up the phone and say, hey, get General Li on the phone. I need to talk to him about how the United States is not going to attack. He was likely getting intelligence from the National Security Agency and from the CIA, saying that various countries were probably very concerned about what was happening and the instability of the United States.

How do I know this? Because I had to do the same thing. I often got phone calls from allies in Europe saying, what the heck is going on in the administration, to include during the Obama administration when the phrase pivot to Asia was used by some Obama administration officials. I got a deluge of phone calls not just from the military members of NATO nations but from leaders of government. One I recall, (INAUDIBLE) of Georgia said what is going on in Washington that you're pivoting to Asia, where we still have the Russian threat.

So this is something that military commanders do. They talk to friends and foes alike. And a little secret, Brianna, I'll tell you, don't tell anybody this, but I actually talked to my Russian counterpart, military counterpart on several occasions, much the same way General Milley did to his Chinese counterpart.

KEILAR: But I think we have to set the scene for some of these discussions that were going on before we discuss whether this was the correct way to address some of this, but one of the things had to do with this was the situation where after the election, Donald Trump had actually signed a military order doing an end run around the whole national security apparatus with the assistance of, really, to sycophants that would have withdrawn troops from Afghanistan by January 15th, so five days before he was leaving office. That would have just objectively been nuts, right? That would have been a bad idea. That would have been dangerous and bad idea and chaotic. Milley knew this.

And so then that is the scene that is set really for him saying to military commanders, hey, if there's going to be a military strike, just remember we have to loop me in, right? He's going seems like around the table telling them this. Can you just walk our viewers through the process of a strike or a nuclear code process?

HERTLING: Well, I can't because that's classified. But I will tell you that from --

KEILAR: I tried.

HERTLING: From my understanding of the book, as the authors reported, General Milley pulled his generals together, and that was the first thing that I questioned of which generals is he pulling together. Is he pulling together the members of the joint staff, the various service chiefs, the commander of strategic command, which actually launches the buttons, or was he pulling together the one-star generals in the national military command centers who are there 24 hours a day that are required to transfer orders from people in the White House?

Now, these are young brigadier generals usually in their first assignment. And my thought was that he probably pulled them together and said, hey, look if you get any direction from the White House, make sure you let me know, pull me into this. Because -- who is it coming from in the White House? Is it coming from the president? Is it coming from a couple guys who drafted this notice that the secretary of defense or the national security adviser didn't even see?


Hey, let me know because those new one-star generals could be intimidated by a call from the White House.

So, we don't know who --