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Court Documents show Trump Campaign Knew Their Allegations against Dominion Voting Systems Baseless; Former President Trump Suing His Niece Mary Trump and "New York Times" over Release of Tax Information; House Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D- WA) Interviewed on Progressive Caucus Withholding Votes for Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Until Reconciliation Bill Also Ready for Vote. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 22, 2021 - 08:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know. I feel like he gets minus 1,200 for that one.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: NEW DAY continues right now.

KEILAR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Wednesday, September 22nd. And breaking overnight, former President Trump is suing his niece, Mary Trump, and three "New York Times" reporters.

He's alleging that a, quote, insidious plot happened to obtain his private tax records. Now, Trump's lawsuit filed in New York state claims that up to -- it is climbing up to $100 million in damages, and it's alleging that Mary Trump's disclosure of the tax information to "The Times" amounted to an illegal breach of a 2001 settlement agreement among the Trump family.

The three reporters won a Pulitzer Prize, mind you, for their 18-month investigation of Trump's finances, which found that Trump helped his parents evade taxes, including, quote, instances of outright fraud.

BERMAN: Also new this morning, according to a report in "The New York Times," newly released court documents show that the Trump campaign knew, they knew allegations against Dominion Voting Systems were baseless within weeks after the 2020 election, and yet Trump's legal team continued to peddle the false allegations against Dominion.

The memo had been prepared by the time Giuliani held that off the wall news briefing on November 19th where Trump's legal team laid out their imaginary case for widespread voter fraud in the election.

I want to bring in Harry Litman, former U.S. attorney and legal affairs columnist for "The L.A. Times," Kasie Hunt is also with us. Harry, I just want to ask you, the knowledge within the Trump campaign that this was bunk, what does that mean? What is the significance of that when these lawyers then went out there and spread misinformation and really the entire Trump machine was peddling lies, actually, frankly, until this day?

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, so that's right. So at the level of the Trump machine, it's just a whole operating mode of raising shameless lies. And, of course, they were not innocent lies, not only in the sense that they knew what they were doing, but they've had a really toxic effect because they have gained purchase in the country, and you have to this day people who believe them ardently and are part of our toxic politics where there is not even agreement on truth or falsity. That's the Trump campaign overall.

Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Mike Lindell of My Pillow have very different and very keen problems because they've been sued in defamation, meaning that they knew or recklessly disregard that they were lying or making false statements about Dominion.

And we now know all of it, all of it completely baseless, as you say. And of course, they never did have evidence as they asserted, but we also now know the campaign had memo and chapter and verse showing everything about Dominion and Smartmatic, Venezuela, Antifa, all made up out of whole cloth, and simply to try to convince people that he had in fact won the election.

So it couldn't be more brazen. And for them, it's really significant liability in the defamation suit. And one last point they are also as lawyers ethically bound not to be lying to the public about a case they're working on, so that also means their licenses are at stake.

BERMAN: It turns out the big lie, Kasie, was a big lie.

KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. And everybody knew it, too. That's the other upshot. And we have been talking about this, that the campaign, the Trump campaign was aware that there was nothing to back this up. There were court case after court case in state after state where people who were filing lawsuits whose faces that we don't know, those lawsuits, one by one, thrown out.

The reality here is that we are living in a scenario where the people who are the most hardcore supporters of the former president, they literally only listen to him, and they only listen to these people like Sidney Powell and others who, as Harry rightly points out, part of why we're learning more about this is because there are legal problems for people who said these things about a company that does business in voting machines and that has been materially harmed by what has happened here.

And the challenge, I think, from a broader political perspective, is figuring out how to combat that type of misinformation. And it is something that the former president from the day he stepped -- frankly from the day he started campaigning, he was pretty honest about this, Lesley Stahl of CBS has recounted the time that he told here, why do you think I attack the media all the time. It's so that when you read a story that I don't like, I can convince people that they shouldn't believe it. [08:05:09]

And what we're seeing are the very real life consequences of exactly that strategy that has now played out in our politics for years and that, as you had that extensive and very good conversation with Bob Woodward and Bob Costa about their new book "Peril," the peril, yes, maybe it peaked on January 6th, but it's not over. We are still in the middle of this for all the reasons that we're discussing.

BERMAN: The peril remains. The last two words of the book, and the big lie was the big lie then and it's the big lie now, and just as many people who are peddling it know it. That's the thing. And, Harry, to you, you were talking about lawyers who do things that lawyers shouldn't be allowed to do, or they know better. John Eastman, who is a law professor, for God's sake, right, John Eastman wrote this memo that was given to Mike Pence and others, and the idea was it was a blueprint to overthrow the election. The mere fact of that memo, the significance?

LITMAN: Yes. So stunning, again, especially from a lawyer, an officer of the court, someone sworn to uphold the Constitution. It's, again, completely indifferent to the rule of law, completely indifferent to democracy, and a really shameless, and from point one, with Pence, the entire six-point memo is just a tissue of, you know, tearing up the Constitution.

These are lawyers. And I just want to underscore what Kasie says. They might have thought they were kind of playing games at the time and trying to be loyal to the president who had lost the election, but it really has taken hold, and I think has sort of affected and polluted our whole political life in a way that is really different from before.

The lie didn't pass with the election but hovers over us and has people antagonistic toward one another on the most basic terms. So there is not even an ability to agree on today is Wednesday or today is Thursday. It is really a sorry state, and it traces exactly to these brazen lies.

BERMAN: One more legal question to you, Harry, and then Kasie, I've got another political one for you. So the former president is suing Mary Trump and three "New York Times" reporters for this 2018 tax article. "The Times" has a bunch of tax stories. This one was the 2018 tax story. Does it have legal legs?

LITMAN: I don't think so. What he's really trying to say is that "The New York Times" helped Mary Trump break her agreement with him. I think the agreement itself might be void for public policy, but in any event, you're not going to be able to get the First Amendment folks for that.

All the time you have the press basically getting people to push on their obligations, and there is really good reason. In fact, now we know this as we otherwise wouldn't. So I think it is a nonstarter meant to harass Mary Trump and just to kind of have a news flash. BERMAN: Harry, I'm being told I have to let you go. So thank you,

Harry. Kasie, I do have one other question to you, which just emerged overnight.

HUNT: Sure.

BERMAN: Which is that George W. Bush, the former president of the United States, we have learned is going to hold a fundraiser for Liz Cheney. Now, a Bush holding a fundraiser for a Cheney, four or five years ago, people would be like, that's nothing. That would happen, right. The issue now is that the former president Donald Trump is endorsing people who are running against Cheney, wants nothing more than to get Liz Cheney out of her Wyoming Congressional seat. So we have this direct Bush v. Trump battle going on here.

HUNT: Right. And Cheney's response to the former president supporting one of her opponents has been to say, bring it on. But this shows you that they know they're in for a fight here. And Cheney has done very, very well on fundraising since she stepped out in the wake of January 6th, voted to impeach the former president. The challenge for her, of course, is how much of that is national, from the sizable constituency that she has, that now seems to include more Democrats than I imagine Liz Cheney ever thought would think highly of her.

But the reality is, it's going to be Wyoming primary voters that are going to decide what happens here. And this clash between George W. Bush and former President Trump, it's one that Bush was very cautious about engaging with throughout the Trump presidency, and that's why it's so noteworthy that he's willing to take this on here.

Now, my question is, I have two questions, one, will he ever campaign for her at a rally where we're going to get sound bites and pictures of him doing it because that would be another significant step. But, two, does Cheney think him doing something like that would actually be helpful.


Clearly, I thought it was -- we talked extensively about the address that the former president gave on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. It was so touching. It was also a direct rebuke to the former president of the United States. And I think it's one that resonated with a lot of people in the center of the country.

But the reality is, again, Republican primary voters, incredibly loyal to Donald Trump, and a lot of them actually don't like George W. Bush very much. In a lot of ways former President Trump getting elected, winning the Republican primary was a pretty direct rebuke to Bush and the policies and the way that he and the part, frankly, of the Republican Party that he comes from. So I think there is a little bit of that at play as well. But certainly some high human drama there for these scions of the Republican Party.

BERMAN: Indeed. Fun fact, I was with George W. Bush covering him when he campaigned in Wyoming in 2000, introducing his vice president nominee Dick Cheney, picked by Dick Cheney. So 20 years later he's going to go back and campaign in Wyoming once again. Kasie, Hunt, thank you so much for being with us.

HUNT: Thanks, John. Nice to see you.

KEILAR: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi under pressure as progressive members of the Democratic Party announce they will not vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill without a vote on the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package aimed at enacting the president's economic agenda. Here's what the speaker said when asked whether a vote was still on course for Monday.


NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) HOUSE SPEAKER: We're going to get our work done our reconciliation bill as we have always said.


PELOSI: That's the plan. That's the plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Pramila Jayapal says she will vote against this with half of her caucus if it is not passed by Congress by then --

PELOSI: No, no. You know what, we'll all cross these bridges when we come to them. This is called the legislative process.


KEILAR: Joining us now to discuss this legislative process, House Progressive Caucus Chair Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. Congresswoman, thank you so much for being with us. We're seeing these divisions in the Democratic caucus. Is there any wiggle room on this pledge not to vote for the bipartisan bill unless you see a vote on the larger bill the Democrats only are championing?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): Brianna, thanks so much having me on. I actually think about it as we're seeing the tremendous unity around the president's agenda. That's what the progressive caucus is about, is making sure that we deliver the entirety of the president's agenda to his desk for his signature, so that we can make sure that women are able to get back in the workforce, so that we can make sure we can have healthcare and housing.

Those are the things -- fighting climate change -- that are in the reconciliation bill. They're the things that the president came and outlined to us in his bill build back better agenda when he spoke to Congress.

So this is the Democratic agenda. And anyone that doesn't want to vote for the build back better plan is, frankly, halting the promises that we made to voters when they elected us. For the progressive caucus, the most important thing is we deliver the whole thing.

And so when the deal was made coming out of the Senate that the bipartisan infrastructure bill would pass, the deal was also made that the reconciliation bill would pass at the same time. We are just holding to that promise and saying that we will not be able to vote for the bipartisan bill until we have got the reconciliation bill passed.

And I think you heard the speaker say, we're all working very hard to get the reconciliation bill done, we hope that can happen. But obviously we need the Senate to do its part as well, because this is going to be one preconference bill as they say. So we're not going to do separate bills in the House and the Senate. We need everyone to agree.

KEILAR: So everyone hasn't agreed. You know that certainly in the Senate. And you know that when it comes to some moderates in the House, there is a concern about how big the second bill is. Just to be clear, two bills here. One has bipartisan support. The other one does not. It's a bill that Democrats are pushing. It's $3 trillion.

Are you to the point, I know you're stressing unity, but there is disunity in the caucus. And I wonder if once you come to that moment, as the speaker was talking about, will you issue an ultimatum that it is either two bills or it is no bills, that progressives are either going to say, hey, get on board with both of these, or we are not on board with the smaller bipartisan bill?

JAYAPAL: We have done that already. And in fact, we did it three months ago. We have been saying that consistently that we will vote for the bipartisan bill even though many of our members do not like what is in the bipartisan bill.

But we have to get the reconciliation bill done at the same time. We have got to be able to say to the American people that we are not going to wait on childcare, we're not going to wait on paid leave, we're not going to wait on healthcare. It isn't enough just to do this much smaller roads and bridges bill. We have got to get the other pieces done, as well, that are so urgent.

So we've already told the speaker that over half of our caucus has said that they would not be able to vote for one bill without the other. And so we are doing everything we can to get the work done before this deadline, which I just want to say was imposed by conservative Democrats who wanted to see the bipartisan bill come up first and so they put this deadline on of September 27th. That is -- we said at the time that deadline was made, that that's great, but if we don't have the reconciliation bill we will not be able to vote for the infrastructure bill. At the end of the day, our commitment is both bills to the president.

KEILAR: So, you're saying -- you're saying you're willing to take nothing because it may come to that?

JAYAPAL: Well, I'm actually saying that other people are willing to crash the entire Democratic agenda by refusing to come together on the reconciliation bill, which was the promise that was made.

So I want to be very clear, we are the only people in the room right now that have said we want both bills done. There are other people in the Democratic Party who are saying we only want the infrastructure bill and maybe or maybe not we'll get to the other bill. We are saying let's stick to the deal that was made, both bills so that we can deliver real results.

KEILAR: Look, we know that was part of the agreement, but in Washington promises are made and promises are broken.

What do you say to moderates who say, look, we're the ones who gave you the House majority and this is too tough of a pill for us to swallow?

JAYAPAL: Well, you know what's really interesting, I didn't contest the description of moderate, but so many of the front liners and the most vulnerable districts are perfectly fine with everything that is in the bill and in fact they have been real champions on this, and they call themselves moderates and they say, make sure that if you go on TV, you tell people that actually the vast majority of moderates are on board with this.

There are a couple of people, I don't know if you call them moderate, if you want to vote against paid leave or child care, to me, that is not a moderate position. So there are very few people who don't want this whole thing done. But, yes, they are holding it up right now.


KEILAR: But your margin is so slim that you need those people. And without them, nothing gets done. They need you certainly.

JAYAPAL: That's right.

KEILAR: So, you're willing to take -- you're willing to take nothing.

JAYAPAL: No, they would be willing to take nothing. Let's remember, this is the president's agenda.


KEILAR: You would both -- they would be willing to take -- they would be willing to take -- that's not true, they would be willing to take something, which is the bipartisan bill. You would be willing to take nothing other than both.

JAYAPAL: The reality, Brianna, is that we are willing to deliver the entirety of the president's agenda to his desk.


KEILAR: Why is it all or nothing?

JAYAPAL: Well, because if we don't do the rest of the package now, we will not have child care, we will not have paid leave, we will not have any of those things. You know how Washington works.

We are now at the end of the year. Very little gets done at the end of the year, and nothing will get done next year. So if there is no -- the speaker says it best, the children have the

leverage. Let's keep the leverage with the children because at the end of the day, we have got to deliver something that is going to make people feel differently about their lives.

And we have been very clear about this, nobody should be surprised, it has been 3 1/2 months since we put out this position, we didn't want the bills to be split into two in first place, for exactly this reason. We wanted to make sure that we're delivering the roads and bridges, the child care, the paid leave, the healthcare, the free community college, the fighting climate change, the things that are urgent, necessary, and can be done, by the way, with zero dollars because everything is paid for through taxes on the wealthiest individuals and corporations.

That is the beauty of this. There is plenty of money in order to invest in these transformational policies that lift people's lives up, and that's what we're going to fight for.

KEILAR: I want to ask you, because -- about something separate, which is the Iron Dome, which is the missile defense system that Israel uses, joint effort between Israel and the U.S. and last night when the House voted on a bill to avert a government shutdown and to suspend the debt ceiling, there was actually initially going to be an Iron Dome -- the payment essentially it keep it going. In that bill, it was stripped because this was something the Democrats could not see eye to eye on.

Moderates are saying this is irresponsible. They're saying this is just a way to do something that is anti-Israel, and that it doesn't make sense because it is a system that protects civilians from incoming rockets.


What do you say to that?

JAYAPAL: The entire conversation around the debt limit and the continuing resolution was about those two things. When you have a very narrow margin in the House, and somebody tries to slip something in, literally six hours before the bill is to be drawn without telling any of the caucus --

KEILAR: Isn't that what you're doing to the senate? Isn't that what the house is doing to the Senate?


KEILAR: Inserting things that may make this difficult, right, inserting, for instance, disaster relief?

JAYAPAL: No, I'm talking about us as a Democratic Party, we knew we were not going to get Republican votes on this for the CR and the debt limit. That's unfortunate because it has always been a bipartisan thing to raise the debt limit, and all of a sudden even after Republicans have created so much debt in our country with the GOP tax scam, they are unwilling to raise the debt limit. Let's see what happens in the Senate.

But this bill was always supposed to be a CR and the debt limit and all of us in the Democratic caucus worked to get people to a yes on it because we knew we likely wouldn't have Republicans. At the very last minute, unfortunately somebody in our leadership made the decision to put this Iron Dome funding in, literally six hours before the bill was going to be released.

And that just isn't the way things work around here. There was no discussion about it. No, you know, discussion about whether we would lose votes as a result of putting that in, and it was completely different from what everyone in the caucus was expecting to vote for.

But, listen, I'm not focused on that, we all voted for the CR, all voted for the debt limit and that's the important thing. We got everybody there.

KEILAR: Before I let you go, I do just want to revisit this issue of these two bills, and the fact that progressives, yourself included, you're saying all or nothing on this. And I hear what you're saying, you're saying moderates would be willing to take nothing there, but the reality is that if the progressive caucus continues with the hard line here, there could be nothing, right? There could be nothing, there could be no bipartisan infrastructure bill, you say the children have the leverage. Also, you know, in that bipartisan bill, you're talking about something that affects everyone, including children.

Are you willing to risk that?

JAYAPAL: We are willing to vote for both bills. We look forward to voting for both bills. We look forward to sending them to the president's desk.

This is the president's agenda. It is the Democratic agenda. And anyone standing in the way of the reconciliation bill is standing in the way of delivering on the Democratic agenda.

That's what we look forward to, voting for both bills. I hope it happens on Monday. I hope it happens very, very soon. But the reality is we're going to vote for both bills, not just one.

KEILAR: And if moderates do not agree to that, it is nothing.

JAYAPAL: All I'm going to say, Brianna, that's up to them. What they do is up to them.

KEILAR: That's the fact, if moderates don't come around to your point of view, of voting on the larger $3 trillion bill, then it is nothing.

JAYAPAL: Brianna, if moderates don't stick to the deal that was made to actually enact the Democratic agenda, then that will be a problem. Not just, by the way, in terms of right now, but in terms of what we go back and tell voters in a year, when they say to us, where is the child care you promised? Why did you say and get us to vote for you when you can't deliver on free community college, when you can't deliver on paid leave, all of these things, on climate change, as fires and floods are ravaging the country?

Are we going to step up and do something? Or are we going to lower the scope of our ambition simply because a couple of people, let me be very clear, not the vast majority of the Democratic Party, but a couple of people are saying that they're not going to do what the president has asked us to do, what he came to Congress to ask us to do over seven months ago.

So we are in the fight, we're working very hard to get it done and we have actually given tremendous concessions all along the way and now the deal has suddenly been changed on us. And so, no, that is not appropriate, we are going to continue to fight for people to get what we promised.

KEILAR: You say a couple of people, or maybe this is certainly a minority of the Democratic caucus, but you need them. You need them to have the majority --

JAYAPAL: And they need us.

KEILAR: And they need you.


JAYAPAL: And they need us. Tat's right.

KEILAR: As you're aware, they're the ones on the chopping block, right? You're not. They're the ones on the chopping block come this election.

JAYAPAL: That's -- that's not true. And that's what I've been trying to say. The vast majority of people who are in front line districts want both bills.

So if you look at the list of people who are in the toughest districts, I promise you, the vast majority of them are with us. And not all of those people that are, you know, want only one bill to go forward right now are in vulnerable districts. Some of them are in Democratic districts.

So the reality of this is that at the end of the day, we want both bills and we're ready to work on both bills and we want to deliver both bills to the president. This is the president's agenda.

Anyone that stands in getting the reconciliation bill done and through is standing in the way of what the president proposed. This is not just some -- a small group of progressives that want something that nobody else wants. These are all transformative things where people will wake up in the morning and say, America finally has paid leave. America finally has universal child care. And pre-K and community college and can invest in people getting back in the workforce.

So that it is truly an equitable recovery out of these tremendous crises that we have been in.

KEILAR: And some of these moderates, you know, they would say to you, you're saying, hey, this is popular, this is a winning strategy in their district, you know they're going to tell you with all due respect, Congresswoman, I know my district, I know my district better than you do.

So my question to you is if, and, look, you're saying -- we can talk about whether it is moderates or progressives who are willing to take nothing, but the fact is Democrats may get nothing here. And that may mean -- that may mean you end up with nothing in your hand and you're in the minority in the House. Is that something that you can stomach?

JAYAPAL: Well, you're going to a place that I'm not at. We are saying let's get this done.

Look there are plenty of people in the progressive caucus who do not like the bipartisan infrastructure bill. It was not negotiated with us. We didn't have a say in it. We were not a part of that process at all. It was sent down and people expected to just have it be taken.

The reality is when you have a narrow margin, we all have to remember we're playing on the same team. And so what I have said to our caucus and what they have all agreed to, despite not liking the bipartisan bill, given the chance, they would vote no on it, they not only think it is too small that -- but they think it really has some bad provisions in it that go counter to fighting climate change.

But, if we get the reconciliation bill with the majority of the president's priorities, then every single member of the progressive caucus will vote for the bipartisan deal. And that is the way that this has to happen. I understand that there are some people that don't like some parts of the reconciliation bill, but, you know what, we just got to be big men and women, big boys and girls, and got to understand that we are a team, and this agenda is the entirety of the president's agenda that we intend to deliver to him.

KEILAR: You said some Democrats are standing in the way, you also said some of the Democrats are not moderate. Of these Democrats that you see standing in the way, is the speaker one of them?

JAYAPAL: The speaker has been terrific. We have been working very closely with the speaker. The speaker wants to get this whole thing done. She's working to get this whole thing done. I had a very good meeting with her yesterday. She has known and, again, this hasn't been a surprise. You know, she has known for months that this is where we are as progressive caucus, but also frankly there are a lot of people not within the progressive caucus who are in the same place as us.

And so when we talk about what this bill is about, I just want people to understand that almost every single one of these priorities we have actually worked with those people that are in the most vulnerable districts, what you would call moderates, they have been some of our best friends, people like Susan Wild and Cindy Axne and Conor Lamb, these are all people who want to deliver on the entirety of the Democratic agenda and these are people who are in very tough districts.

But you know what? They understand that if we don't deliver on these things as well as this much smaller infrastructure bill, then we will lose and we probably will deserve to lose because we haven't been able to deliver on the things that we promised to our base.

And so, you know, it has been a great pleasure to work across the caucus with some of the people in the most vulnerable districts.