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Biden Actually Gains Votes in Arizona GOP's Sham 'Big Lie' Audit; Texas Governor Obeys Trump's Demands, Orders Baseless Audit in State He Won; First Subpoenas Issued in January 6th Probe; Bannon Admits He Talked to Trump about 'Killing' Biden Presidency. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired September 24, 2021 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar on this NEW DAY. We've got breaking news all over the place.

No one has lost the state of Arizona more than Donald Trump. He keeps losing again and again and again, even worse than he thought.

For months, the former president has claimed that the sham partisan audit in Arizona's Maricopa County would reverse the results and somehow declare him the victor.

But overnight, a draft report of the so-called, air quotes, "audit" by a group calling itself the Cyber Ninjas found that not only did Donald Trump lose Arizona, but he lost by even more votes than previously realized. In other words, they found he was an even bigger loser than the first time around.

But here's the thing. The news here isn't that this proves Joe Biden was the legitimate winner in Arizona. He already was and didn't need confirmation or affirmation by the Cyber Ninjas. It was based on sham questions, this audit, and sham concerns, and the results of which, and maybe the goal all along, was to raise doubt, to make people believe that something might have been stolen when it was not.

And that quest continues. Donald Trump demanded that Texas, a state he won, investigate its election. And overnight, just eight and a half hours after getting his marching orders from his leader, Governor Greg Abbott complied with his leader. The state will now audit the 2020 election results in four counties.

And one result of all this intentional doubt, violence. We saw it on January 6th.

And also this morning, the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection has issued its first subpoenas for documents and testimony for four of Trump's closest advisers. BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Now, there is also breaking news in the

search for the fiance of Gabby Petito. A federal warrant issued for Brian Laundrie, but it's not connected to Gabby's death.

We've also new -- we also have new information about the last time that Laundrie saw his parents before he vanished. And we have reporters covering every angle of this story this morning, beginning with CNN's Kyung Lah in Arizona.

Tell us the latest there with this confirmation that really didn't need confirmation, Kyung.

KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what you're talking about, Brianna, there is the draft report. This is something that was released overnight. It had been floating at the county level for a few hours when, you know, suddenly local press started to print it out, and we also had access to this.

It is the draft of what we are expecting will be a final report presented to two Arizona Republicans in the Senate. And that will be the final report. So that's what we're expecting in just hours.

But let's go over what's in this draft report. It is a hand count that you guys are talking about. And that bigger loss for Donald Trump. Joe Biden picked up 99 votes per the Cyber Ninja count, versus what Maricopa County officially found. Donald Trump lost 261 votes.

So you hear John talking about being a bigger loser. That's that he's talking about.

This immediately drew a statement from the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, the chairman, Jack Sellers, saying this: "This means the tabulation equipment counted the ballots as they were designed to do. The results reflect the will of the voters. That should be the end of the story. Everything else is just noise."

Now, I read through this entire report, and I can tell you that the rest of it, the depths of it is really a lot of conspiracy spaghetti thrown up against the wall. And that's what they are expecting later today when that final report is presented.

I want you to take a listen to another member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, Bill Gates.


BILL GATES (R), MARICOPA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: I call it a show trial. I mean, that's what all these have been up to this point. It's a Soviet show trial.

Democracy is not the word I would use. But a theater show of an attempt to steal an election, or at the very least to sow significant doubts in our election system.


LAH: And so that's what we're anticipating to hear later today. But it will be that final presentation, the end note of the Arizona audit.

KEILAR: All right. The end of a period of theater there in Arizona. Kyung Lah, thank you for that report. We're going to be coming back to you throughout the show.

Donald Trump's campaign to destroy confidence in America's elections is also taking hold in Texas. Governor Greg Abbott caving to Trump's demands. The state now auditing four counties covering cities like Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and Plano.

And Sarah Murray is joining us now to talk about this. Why does Donald Trump want audits in a state that he won?

SARAH MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, that's a great question. I mean, obviously, none of these audits are actually going to change the election. In this case the president, former president is still throwing these temper tantrums.

And this is, you know, a pretty quick turnaround from him sending this letter to Texas Governor Greg Abbott just last night. This press release kind of came out of blue from the Texas secretary of state's office, essentially saying, oh, we've already begun. We've already begun audits in four counties. Those would be Harris County, Dallas County, Tarrant County, and Collin County. Three of those went for Joe Biden. Only one of those counties went for Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

And I want to just show you how the former president is still spinning this big lie. In this letter that he sent just yesterday to Greg Abbott, he says, "We're quickly running out of time, and it must be done this week. Texans know voting fraud occurred in some of their counties. Let's get to the bottom of the 2020 presidential election scam."


And what he was asking for was for the Texas governor to consider -- put legislation in the special session to say we're going to move forward with these audits.

And it kind of seems like Abbott went one step further and said, you know, essentially, these are already under way.

I think the worrying thing is we're 10 months out of the election. There's a lot of time to relitigate the results if there were actual concerns. You know, around the election, the Texas secretary of state's office said they ran a fair and secure election.

And we're just seeing this continue to proliferate and be pushed by Republicans. You know, we're seeing it, of course, in Arizona, where they're announcing their big results today. But we're also seeing it happen in Pennsylvania. We're also seeing it happen in Wisconsin.

This is really a big line for Republicans right now, and it's also a way for them to sort of show their loyalty to the former president.

KEILAR: It's very revealing about what this may actually be about. Sarah, thank you for that report.

BERMAN: Joining me now, CNN legal analyst and Republican election lawyer Ben Ginsberg.

Ben, thanks for waking up for us. You call what happened in Arizona overnight a crippling low for the claims that the former president has made.

BEN GINSBERG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, absolutely, John. In Arizona, they brought their partisans in to do an audit. They created rules that shredded the normal credibility that you give to audits. They took money from partisans.

And still, they could not prove that the election was fraudulent or rigged or that Joe Biden didn't win.

So all in all, this was the state where Donald Trump had his best chance to prove the outlandish theories that he's had about the elections being fraudulent or rigged, and they swung and missed yet again.

BERMAN: You know, they keep on auditing like this, maybe they can get Alabama to flip to Joe Biden at the rate they're going.

Look, in all seriousness, though, Ben, I think if one is discussing this as if it is an affirmation or confirmation of Joe Biden's win, we're doing it wrong. And that's not what you're doing or I'm doing here.

The issue here is that this audit had no grounds to begin with. This was a sham from the very beginning.

GINSBERG: It was. But it was their best shot.

So here's the silver lining in this audit and in what the other states are doing. I think it's crazy for Republicans in other states to see what happened in Arizona to do their own audits.

But there is a silver lining, which is 30 percent of the electorate does not believe our election results. They are believing Donald Trump. That's not sustainable in a democracy.

Every time they're going to try one of these sham audits in the state, they're going to find the same thing, which is the results are accurate. And that's the way you're going to get Trump people to stop believing the big lie. Give Trump his chance to prove it. They've swung and missed every time so far.

BERMAN: Maybe. Although I happen to think that the questions themselves are what perpetuates the big lie. Because the questions are baseless, by and large. The way that they raise it. The fact that they did the audit is what helped foment these questions in people.

So the audit, to an extent, has already served the goals of the people who are behind it, which was to create the questions that never should have existed to begin with. GINSBERG: It has. But as more people see that the audits are, indeed,

shams, that they don't prove what Donald Trump said, in fact, they refute what Donald Trump has said, then that's the way you get the 30 percent to take a second look at -- at the whole idea.

And, look, there have been some really effective studies in Maricopa County on the vote. And it shows that it was Republicans who abandoned Donald Trump at the top of the ticket. Republicans won down ballot. Did not win for Donald Trump. Did not vote for Donald Trump.

And so that's the phenomenon where the Republican Party eventually says, We're losing our base. We're losing our supporters with this crazy talk. We may be appealing more to Donald Trump's base, but we're going to start losing elections.

So this is ultimately a ballot box decision to get rid of the big lie.

BERMAN: Ben, it took eight and a half -- in Texas, eight and a half hours, eight and a half hours for Donald Trump to write a mean note saying that Texas should audit its election, and then Greg Abbott buckled. Eight and a half hours. Now they're doing a forensic audit of four counties.

It doesn't seem like Republicans are willing to stand up to the pressure.

GINSBERG: Not yet. Like I said, it's an election that -- that causes it. They're not. But if this audit, which is to two Republican counties and two Democratic counties comes up as empty as the Arizona audit, which I think it will, then that again is a ringing confirmation that the only thing fraudulent going on here is the claims of rigged elections and fraud.


BERMAN: Ben Ginsberg, appreciate you being here with us this morning. So great to see you.

GINSBERG: Thank you, John. Good to see you.

BERMAN: Also breaking this morning, the first subpoenas issued by the January 6th Committee. Who is on the list and how lawmakers plan to make sure that they get answers.

KEILAR: Plus, the FBI stepping up their efforts to track down Brian Laundrie, the fiance of Gabby Petito. They've issued a warrant for his arrest.

BERMAN: And the CDC director making a bold and rare move to officially authorize COVID booster shots for certain groups.


BERMAN: This morning the first subpoenas issued by the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. The committee is asking for documents and testimony from four of the former president's closest advisers.


Joining me now Elie Honig, CNN senior legal analyst and former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Who's on the list? What does it tell us?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: John, this is a bold first step by the committee. It tells us they're looking squarely at the White House and squarely at the former president, Donald Trump.

Four subpoenas went out, each of them interesting in its own way.

First of all, Mark Meadows, former chief of staff to former President Donald Trump. Obvious pick. He was by the president's side during the lead-up and during January 6th. The committee is going to want to know every single thing that happened that day, every conversation, every phone call. That's what they're going to ask him.

Then Dan Scavino. Now, he was the communications director in the White House. And what's interesting here is they're focusing not only on what happened January 6th. He was there. But also the communications strategy of former president and his supporters leading up to the events on January 6th. They want to know was this preplanned? They know this was coming.

BERMAN He's also the tweet master, right?

HONIG: Exactly.

BERMAN: They want to know what his tweets were and what they were designed to do in the days up to January 6th.

HONIG Tweeting away, doing those videos, that kind of thing.

Steve Bannon, he's back. This one is also really interesting. What they're focusing here is a meeting at the Willard Hotel in D.C. on January 5th, the day before, during an effort to persuade members of Congress to block the certification of the election the next day.

So, again, what went into the planning here? What was the intent?

And a really interesting one, Kash Patel. He's a Pentagon official at the Department of Defense. And they want to know about his involvement in discussions with senior defense officials regarding planning for security at the Capitol on January 6th and responding to events that followed the attack.

So they're going right to the inner circle here.

BERMAN: So talk to me about the next legal steps, how that's going to play out.

HONIG: Yes. So we know Donald Trump is going to try to get in the way here. He's already said he's going to invoke executive privilege to try to block the committee. But there's a really interesting legal question: who gets to invoke

executive privilege? Is it the current president, or is it the former president whose communications are at issue?

Now, no federal court has ever ruled squarely on this. However, there is precedent telling us that it's the current president. For example, George W. Bush very early in his presidency got a subpoena for the prior administration, the Bill Clinton administrations communication, and it was George W. Bush, the then-current president, who made the decision on executive privilege, not the prior president.

Of course, executive privilege is meant to protect the presidency, not any one individual.

Also, let's not forget the Fifth Amendment. Any of these folks has a right to say, My testimony might incriminate me. Therefore, I take the Fifth Amendment. People have taken the Fifth Amendment in Congress before.

If they do that, there's very little that Congress can do to force them to testify.

And finally, John, keep an eye on the calendar here. These subpoenas have a very quick turn-around date. The committee wants documents on the 7th. That's about two weeks from today. They want testimony from Patel and Bannon on the 14th. And then Meadows and Scavino on the 15th.

BERMAN: So in the past, people in the Trump orbit have just refused congressional subpoenas, refused to go testify. There's a twist now.

HONIG: Yes. There's -- Right. So what Congress can do, if they want, is they can -- if they decide to hold these people in contempt, right, if they don't comply -- and I think it's a safe bet they won't comply. Congress can say, We hold you in contempt, and now we refer you over to the Justice Department.

Merrick Garland is going to have a huge decision to make there. If he wants, the DOJ can issue criminal charges for contempt of Congress. Big decision by Merrick Garland. And it will allow them to speed up this calendar quite a bit.

BERMAN: It's a tool Democrats did not have during the Trump administration, because it was the Barr/Sessions Justice Department.

HONIG: That's right.

BERMAN: If Merrick Garland wants to do this, if he wants to press criminal charges if people don't comply with Congress, he can.

HONIG: Exactly. And if he doesn't, by the way, this has to go to the courts. It's going to take months. We know that. We've seen that before.

So that's the way the committee can shortcut having to deal with the courts and delay. BERMAN: Elie Honig, thank you very much for that.

HONIG: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: Brianna.

KEILAR: One of those targets, a long-time close adviser to former President Trump, Steve Bannon.

As Bob Woodward and Robert Costa report in their new book "Peril," on the night before the January 6th riot, Bannon told Trump, quote, "We are going to kill the Biden presidency in the crib."

And this week Bannon appeared to confirm it on his podcast. He played a clip of Costa on TV talking about this reporting, and then Bannon responded.


ROBERT COSTA, CO-AUTHOR, "PERIL": "We need to kill the Biden presidency in the crib." That was the phrase based on our reporting in that conversation.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER ADVISOR TO DONALD TRUMP: Yes. Because of his legitimacy. Just let's look at what this illegitimate regime is doing. It killed itself. OK? But we told you from the very beginning. Just expose it. Just expose it. Never back down. Never give up. And this thing will implode.


KEILAR: So what are the implications of this for Bannon, the House Select Committee, and for Donald Trump?


Let's talk about it with CNN legal analyst and former House Judiciary special counsel in Trump's first impeachment trial, Ambassador Norman Eisen.

OK, Norm, let's talk about what this does mean for Bannon. Because on one hand, he's got this plan, very detailed in this book "Peril." But he seems to be saying, well, look, the Biden administration is illegitimate. We just exposed it.

What are the ramifications here for him?

NORMAN EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Brianna, thanks for having me back on the program.

The ramifications are serious for Bannon and even more serious for Donald Trump. Don't accept that after-the-fact spin on Bannon's podcast. We're going to kill it in the crib. And his public statements like all hell is going to break loose.

It's very clear to prosecutors, congressional investigators who are looking at this, that these are fighting words.

And we know that Bannon, now we know that Bannon was meeting with, talking to those around the January 6th insurrection in its run-up, including, the day before, Donald Trump.

So I think that this really puts a bullseye on Bannon for congressional investigators, and it makes him a critical witness in possible criminal prosecution of Trump. We know that that is percolating, for example, in the state of Georgia.

KEILAR: Well, can you speak to that? Would this be something that would prompt grand jury proceedings?

EISEN: Well, Brianna, we were talking on the break about the relative likelihood of federal prosecution where there's been -- there should be federal investigation, but there's been no signs the DOJ is looking at this.

But state investigators like D.A. Fani Willis in Fulton County, Georgia, has been very active. And this evidence goes to potential crimes by Donald Trump.

In a brand-new report that's out -- it's in "The Atlanta Journal- Constitution" this morning -- myself and my co-authors at Brookings have explained that Donald Trump is a substantial risk. We don't predict what's going to happen. But we go through the crimes, Brianna. We explain he is at substantial risk of prosecution.

And guess who one of the key witnesses is? None other than Steve Bannon. So this is bad news for Donald Trump.

And we know that congressional investigators subpoenaed Bannon, and they are talking to the Fulton County D.A. So storm clouds ahead for the ex-president.

KEILAR: So we're seeing those four former advisers who are being subpoenaed. Let's talk about how executive privilege may or may not play into Congress's investigation of what happened on January 6th.

It seems like Trump and his allies think of it as, like, a lawyer/client privilege, you know, something that always persists over time. That's not what executive privilege is. It is not in place to protect former presidents and cloud wrongdoing that they may have been a part of while they were president.

And the Biden administration right now is leaning towards really, you know, not going so far in asserting executive privilege for these communications between Trump and his advisers as they proceed with Congress in the investigation.

EISEN: Brianna, as we've talked about many times, the law of Donald Trump bears no resemblance to the actual law of the land in the United States. And the law of executive privilege is that there's only one president at a time that executive privilege belongs to the presidency, not to any individual.

Now, courts have said that there's a desirable practice of consulting with the former president, and the White House intends to do that.

But the Biden administration has already signaled that it is going to waive executive privileges, because it allowed two top Trump aides to testify to Congress. His acting attorney general, Mr. Rosen, and Rosen's deputy, Mr. Donahue.

That's the most valuable. That's usually the thing you fight the hardest against, is human testimony. Now the fight is going to be about documents.

I think the administration is going to turn those documents over. Rightly so.

And, again, what's going to happen with those documents? Evidence of possible criminal conduct by Donald Trump as state prosecutors look at these documents to help build their case talking to the January 6th Committee.

KEILAR: Yes, you're right. Because it will be available to them, as well. Norm, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

EISEN: Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: A federal arrest warrant issued for Gabby Petito's fiance, Brian Laundrie. What it means as the manhunt for Laundrie intensifies.

BERMAN: Plus, a gunman opens fire inside a grocery store in Tennessee, killing one, injuring 14. We're live on the scene with the latest, just ahead.



BERMAN: Breaking overnight, a federal arrest warrant issued for Gabby Petito's fiance, Brian Laundrie.

Now, it's not directly connected to Petito's death but concerns Laundrie's actions after she was killed. He allegedly used a debit card that was not his and charged more than $1,000 between August 30 and September 1.

Also, a source close to the Laundrie family tells CNN that Brian left his parents' home in North Port, Florida, last Tuesday without his cell phone and his wallet and the parents were concerned that he might hurt himself. He is still missing.

Joining us now, retired homicide detective and co-host of "Reasonable Doubt" on Investigation Discovery, Chris Anderson.

Chris, thank you so much for being with us. This warrant, what does the fact that they issued it tell you?

CHRIS ANDERSON, CO-HOST, INVESTIGATION DISCOVERY'S "REASONABLE DOUBT": So for me, as a retired homicide investigator, it lets me know two things. No. 1, that they don't have the probable cause to charge him with her murder as of yet.