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Bill Kristol is Interviewed about Pence's Advice Request; Lawyer Accused of Arranging his Own Shooting; Katie Hobbs is Interviewed about Election Fraud Claims; Xavier Becerra is Interviewed about Health Plan Enrollment; Justice Department Seeks to Block Texas Abortion Law. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 15, 2021 - 08:30   ET



BILL KRISTOL, FORMER CHIEF OS STAFF FOR VP DAN QUAYLE: I was thinking also, you know, if Al Gore succeeded Dan Quayle as vice president, Al Gore behaved very honorably in December of 2000, when he accepted the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision and urged national unity and we had to support George W. Bush as the next president. Quite a contrast with Donald Trump.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, our friend, Chris Cillizza, said that Dan Quayle may have saved democracy in that phone call with Mike Pence. Maybe. But it's also such an unbelievably low bar.


BERMAN: It's such a low bar. You know, don't overthrow the results of an election here.

KRISTOL: I mean, it's a low bar, John, but two-thirds of House Republicans voted to overthrow the results of at least one state, let alone two states, and who knows if they would have also voted for other states. So it's a low bar but an important bar.

And, you know what, it also should remind us that character matters. You know, the laws are not self-executing. The Constitution is not self-executing. People have to obey the law and also support the law when there's temptations to -- to break it in important ways. And essentially Vice President Quayle, I think, (INAUDIBLE) -- did a service to the country here just a few months ago as Vice President Gore did back in December of 2000. So it reminds us of the character of people in public office really does matter.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: What does it tell you, Bill, that they went back and forth? If you read the actual exchange in the book, it's like over and over Pence is asking Dan Quayle kind of a, well, what can I just maybe do a little -- and Dan Quayle is unequivocal. He's like, no, no, how many different ways can I say no is basically what you read between the lines there. But the fact that Pence -- does that trouble you that he was looking for some kind of fig leaf?

KRISTOL: Of course. And I think what it tells us, Brianna, is that he was under a lot of -- he felt he was under a lot of pressure. I don't know how much pressure is it really, you know? But it shows what the mood must have been in the Trump White House, the degree, as Jim Sciutto said just a few minutes ago with you, you know, the degree to which there really was an attempt to overturn the results. A combination of mob force and intimidation on the one hand and bending and going around the law on the other, first at the state level when they pressured the state legislators and state officials, like Brad Raffensperger and then, obviously, the things he tried to do with the Justice Department and the Defense Department.

I mean that's the context I would put this in. It's a kind of funny and interesting story, an important one. But remember the letter from the secretaries of defense that was what, I think just two or three days before January 6th. Every living former secretary of defense, Republican and Democrat, signed a letter reminding the military, this is very consistent with General Milley incidentally, reminding the military of their duties, reminding the Defense Department civilians too of their duties to obey the law and the Constitution.

The degree of alarm, and I was slightly -- involved in this is not quite the right word. I was sort of aware of what was happening at the time. The degree of alarm of very serious and senior people, Leon Panetta, Bob Gates. These are not, you know, people on Twitter getting hysterical because of one tweet, right? They knew what was happening. They were talking to people at the most senior levels. The degree of alarm that Trump was going to do something really reckless, really irresponsible, that was not appreciated at the time. And I think we now see more in a -- in a fuller way, you know, that that alarm was justified.

KEILAR: Yes, that's the context as we evaluate some of these exchanges that we see in this book as well.

Bill, great to see you this morning.

Bill Kristol, thank you.

Coming up.

KRISTOL: Good to see you, Brianna.

KEILAR: Great to see you.

Coming up, his wife and son were murdered. And then, months later, someone tried taking his life. Who shot him? The scheme, the motive, next.

BERMAN: Great to see you.



BERMAN: A suspect has been charged in the shooting of prominent South Carolina Lawyer Alex Murdaugh and law enforcement officials are now calling this a case of conspiracy to commit insurance fraud.

Martin Savidge joins us now.

Martin, we were talking the other day and I said I'm exhausted by all the twists and turns in the case. Here's a new one.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly what I was saying, that at that time when we talked Monday night, we thought, there's no way this case could get any more involved. But, what do you know, it has significantly as a result of an arrest that was made overnight.

First of all, a little background here. Alex Murdaugh, a very powerful lawyer, came from a very legally prominent family that was the district attorney for decades in a very rural part of South Carolina. They have a lot of money. And then comes the revelation of his wife and son were murdered, brutally so, on their property back in June. The question was, well, who could have done it and why? Was there a connection to the law past of that family?

And then the next thing you know, Alex Murdaugh had been let go from his own family law firm under allegations that he had stolen millions of dollars. And then, on top of that, he also admit to a long-time battle with opioid addition.

OK, then, September 4th, after all of that has come to life, he says he's changing a tire at the side of the road due to a leak and some man pulls up with a pickup truck, talks to him briefly, and then man shoots him in the head.

Well, now we find out that all of that, what looked like attempted murder, was actually a conspiracy and that Alex Murdaugh now has admitted to South Carolina's law enforcement division that it was a plan for hiring this man to shoot him in the head to kill him so that then he could have his family collect on the life insurance.

I'll just read this brief statement from SLED in the arrest warrant. They say Mr. Murdaugh provided a statement to SLED admitting to the scheme of having Mr. Smith, that's Curtis Smith, murder him for the purpose of his son collecting a life insurance policy valued at approximately $10 million.

The plan unraveled, of course, because Alex Murdaugh did not die. He wasn't killed by being shot in the head. Instead, he was taken to the hospital and he was released two days later.

So he has now apparently admitted the insurance fraud scheme to law enforcement. But the question on everyone's minds is, if he lied about something like this, could he also be lying about something as important and as tragic as the deaths of his wife and son?


BERMAN: I have to say, every day some new bombshell in this story. You've been all over it, Martin. Thanks so much for joining us today.

KEILAR: New details this morning about the white supremacist arrested near the DNC after U.S. Capitol Police caught him with multiple knives, a bayonet and a machete in his truck outside DNC headquarters. Unsealed court documents revealed that he asked the officers, quote, why are you all pulling me over when there are brown people hurting white people? And he added the words, death to others, white power.

Let's talk now with Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.

You know, Secretary, important to note here, look, we don't know all the details, but it's clear that potential threats against elected officials are continuing here. Something you know all too well, unfortunately.

President Trump is continuing to lie about the 2020 election and, you know, we've got this other rally coming up this weekend which is something that you have officials worried about armed folks at. Are you concerned about this lie leading to continuing violence?

KATIE HOBBS (D), ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: Absolutely. You know, election officials around the country did our jobs in 2020, overseeing a secure election that saw historic participation. And time and time again the results have proven accurate. So, these continued allegations of fraud, these conspiracy theories are dangerous because they're continuing to promulgate these threats against not just elected election officials like myself, but the workers that work in our offices. And it is -- it is really dangerous. And despite that, we're going to keep doing our jobs and making sure that -- that we're overseeing elections that have integrity.

KEILAR: You've seen the big lie play out in Arizona, the sham audit there, the challenge to your authority over oversight of the election. And then we just saw the specter of the big lie raised in the California recall election this last week by Larry Elder. Look, in the end, he conceded, but he was playing with the possibility that he wasn't going to.


KEILAR: How persistent do you think the big lie is going to be in multiple elections moving forward?

HOBBS: I mean, absolutely this is a challenge that's going to be faced by election officials around the country. And I think one thing that's really concerning is that we have elected leaders who -- many of whom I might say won in the election, the very election that they're contesting or trying to contest in 2020, who are continuing to promote these conspiracies. And then we have elected leaders who are allowing them to continue by remaining silent.

And, you know, Arizona really is in the grip of these conspiracy theorists leading the state and that's part of the reason I'm running for governor because Arizonians are tired of these partisan games and they want leaders who are going to tackle the real issues that they're facing. And if folks want to join me in that, they can go to

But -- but, yes, I think these -- these conspiracies are going to continue as long as they continue to allow a political agenda to move forward.

KEILAR: I want to thank you for being with us this morning, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.

HOBBS: Thanks.

KEILAR: So, next, a new report suggesting that hospitals in Michigan are allowing employees to be exempt from the vaccine if they have proof of one thing. What is it?



BERMAN: Just in to CNN, nearly 3 million Americans signed up for health coverage during President Biden's special enrollment period that ended last month.

Joining us now on this and other subjects, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for being with us.

You see these numbers, signing up for Obamacare basically. What's your takeaway?


Well, first, great news. Another 3 million Americans who have the peace of mind that they can take their child to the hospital and not go bankrupt because they did.

BERMAN: And the impact to the system, what will this do to premiums and costs going forward?

BECERRA: Well, I'd rather talk about the impact for Americans because what we ended up seeing was that these 3 million Americans who joined the other 10 or so million Americans who had insurance under the Obamacare program, guess what, half of those new enrollees are paying $10 or less a month in their premium payments. That's probably less than you spend in three days of coffee. And so, think about that, a month of coverage for you, for your family, for less than what it costs to have coffee for a week. That's tremendously good. For the system it's great because that means you're using the system early, preventing health incidents from becoming really bad and costing everyone a lot more money. Good all around.

BERMAN: To be fair, I wake up at 3:00 a.m., so I drink a lot of coffee. That bill is expensive.

Listen a hospital system in Michigan, Spectrum Health, says it's going to exempt employees with, quote, natural immunity, those with previous COVID infections, from their vaccine requirements.

So does that fall outside the administration's vaccine mandate for all health care providers who participate in Medicare and Medicaid? [08:50:07]

BECERRA: Well, we're going to make sure that everyone understands that getting vaccinated is the way to go. It's the way to stay safest when 99 percent of the people who are dying of COVID today don't have a vaccine, that's perfect proof that you need to be vaccinated. When employers tell their employees to get vaccinated, we support that. When health care workers, as the president said, are not vaccinated, they're a danger to their patients and to their fellow employees. So we'll take a look to make sure that everyone who's supposed to be vaccinated is, and that every employer that is supposed to make sure their workers are vaccinated does.

BERMAN: But previous infection, that is not something that you intend to count for this or other aspects of vaccine requirements around the federal government or elsewhere?

BECERRA: Well, we'll make sure that they are vaccinated. And we'll make sure that there's protection. We'll take a look and the scientists, as always, will guide us in how we handle these situations.

But no employer should try to play games because this is too serious. It's not about trying to skirt the law, skirt the government's requirements. It's about not protecting the American people.

BERMAN: So, can I ask, nearly eight months into this presidency and there is still no permanent FDA commissioner, no nominee. Why not at this point?

BECERRA: Listen, we've got an acting commissioner who has done a tremendous job. Dr. Janet Woodcock has been a member of the FDA workforce for a long time at the highest levels. We have continued to see the leadership at FDA not only perform, but keep America safe. We'd like to have a permanent person as commissioner, and we hope that Congress will help us move fast once we put that name forward to make sure that we do. And so all I can tell you, John, is that Congress has been busy. Everyone at FDA is continuing to do their work, and that includes Acting Commissioner Woodcock.

BERMAN: This is one of the cases, though, where this isn't on Congress. I mean there's no -- there's no nominee at this point. And what could be more important given that COVID is the priority for this administration, booster shots, other things, there's so many issues at play here.

BECERRA: Well, again, first, there's not been a heartbeat missed here in trying to make sure the FDA is working. The fact that we have seen the different vaccines out, the fact that we've gone down to 12 and over to get vaccines. The fact that we're on the verge of probably calling for boosts and allowing children under 12 to get vaccinated is all because the FDA continues to be on the clock 24/7. And so we have to give them credit for that.

But, you're right, there is a dance that takes place to get anyone confirmed. It took me several months to get confirmed. We'll get through the process and then we'll make sure that FDA continues to move forward without missing a beat.

BERMAN: Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, we appreciate you being with us this morning. Thank you very much.

BECERRA: Thank you.

BERMAN: So all next week on CNN, our special "Champion for Change" series will spotlight everyday people who maybe don't make headlines all the time, but they still smash barriers and inspire others to do the same. Here's a quick preview.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Join your favorite CNN anchors for a special night.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Immigrants enrich our country and they're proving it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sharing stories of change makers.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is one of the most devastating and yet preventable issues of our day.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: He hopes the defenseless learn to defend themselves.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Theater teaches courage, confidence, trust.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: She saw a need and every day she sets out to fulfill that need.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: He is using scuba diving for a better environment.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: She is a trail-blazing, black woman.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Preserving the ocean for our children.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Empowering women for financial independence.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: No one should drown because they don't know how to swim.

Very good. Very good. Very good.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Small steps can lead to a big impact.

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WHITFIELD: A champion.

CABRERA: She's a champion for -- BLACKWELL: Change.

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KEILAR: Change.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Champions for Change," Saturday at 8:00 on CNN.




KEILAR: In its boldest move yet, the Justice Department is asking a federal judge for a temporary halt to the new Texas law that bans essentially abortions. Abortions past six weeks. The department argues that Texas adopted the law to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights.

CNN's Ariane de Vogue is joining us now.

Explain to us what's happening here and what this means.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Right, this is the most aggressive move we've seen so far. They're asking them to halt this law immediately. They've already, the Department of Justice, sued Texas. But now they want these clinics to be able to resume doing this procedure after six weeks while the legal challenges play out.

And, remember, this law was expressly written to make it really hard to challenge, right? Anybody can bring suit against anyone who they think might be assisting in abortion. So the Department of Justice is going, it's moving aggressively, calling this law a scheme.

This is what it said in the court papers last night. It said, there can be no dispute that S.B. 8 is contrary to the decades of precedent prohibiting state from banning abortions before fetal viability.

And they also laid out some of the harms they're seeing on the ground. Out of state clinics are getting panic calls. Women who do have the means to travel are worried about traveling because of COVID. So now everything could move quickly here. There is a scenario where it could go, again, to that appeals court, again to the Supreme Court on its emergency docket. And the Supreme Court did allow this law to go into effect, but that was a different challenge that was brought by the clinics. This one might have more heft in the eyes of the justices because it's brought by the Department of Justice.

BERMAN: So the Supreme Court decision to allow it to go into effect on the previous suit doesn't stop this suit necessarily?

DE VOGUE: Not necessarily. That one was brought by the clinics. The majority there said we're not ruling on whether this law is unconstitutional, we're just not sure you can bring this particular challenge.

Now, of course, it's the Department of Justice bringing the challenge.

BERMAN: It would be a heck of a thing if the Supreme Court steps in now and stops it after allowing it to go forward, but bears watching to be sure.

Ariane de Vogue, great to see you. Thank you so much.


KEILAR: And CNN's coverage continues right now.