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Texas Governor Obeys Trump's Demands, Orders Baseless Audit in State He Won; First Subpoenas Issued in January 6th Probe, Targeting Trump Advisers; Federal Arrest Warrant Issued for Gabby Petito's Fiance. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 24, 2021 - 07:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: Which affirms that this isn't really about making elections secure at all.


Just hours after Trump demanded Texas start bogus audits without any evidence or basis, Governor Greg Abbott obeyed.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Eight and a half hours it took Abbott to bend there.

In Arizona, the draft report of the so-called air quote audit, it found that Donald Trump actually had fewer votes in Maricopa County than previously thought, a bigger loser than the first time around. No one has lost Arizona more than Donald Trump.

CNN's Kyung Lah is live in Maricopa County with this. This is the report from the Cyber Ninjas, this group with partisan ties. If anyone was going to find more votes for Donald Trump, the thinking was among some people, it was going to be the cyber ninjas. It didn't happen.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At least not in one part of the report. You're talking about the draft report, John. And the headline that you're talking about is in regards to the hand count. Now, that hand count found that Joe Biden increased his lead. He picked up 99 votes and Donald Trump lost 261. So it is essentially negligible. It didn't impact anything.

But we really need to view this entire report with some healthy skepticism, because having been there, having seen this process go through, it has been riddled with problems despite that skepticism. We are seeing the Republicans in Maricopa County, who have been questioning this process the entire time, the ones who oversaw the county election jump on this dataset.

And we are seeing from Jack Sellers, the chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors releasing this statement saying, quote, this means the tabulation equipment counted the ballots as they were designed to do and the results reflect the will of the voters. This should be the end of the story. Everything else is just noise.

The noise is expected to continue later today when the final report is presented before two Arizona senators. And I want you to listen to this word of caution from another Maricopa County supervisor.


BILL GATEZ (R), MARICOPA COUNTY SUPERVISOR: 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: So, in hours, when that final report is presented, it will be in a Senate hearing room here in the state of Arizona. It's going to look like a hearing. But the full expectation, john, is that this is going to be a lot of misinformation.

BERMAN: Kyung Lah, you have been covering it since the very beginning, helping us really understand all along what's been happening there. You say it needs to be treated with healthy skepticism. I think, sadly, this is unhealthy for the American people. It has produced sickening results already in the body politic that will linger for some time.

Kyung Lah, thank you for your reporting. Keep us posted throughout the morning.

Joining is CNN Senior Political Analyst John Avlon and Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten.

John, Ben Ginsburg was on with us earlier and called this a crippling low for the claims that the former president has been making.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's crippling low to the extent that even hyper partisans who bought into the conspiracy at the very beginning and did this fraudit without any experience seemed to have not been able to doctor results. They had to confront reality in a hand count, no matter how much they didn't like that.

The real deal though it's never just been about overturning an election. It's been sowing seeds of doubt in our democracy. And that effort will continue apparently as the president's own insistence occurs and Greg Abbott rolling over, being asked to jump -- he is going to do whatever Donald Trump tells him to do in this case. And that is a fundamental problem for our democracy. This whole process has been a sham. Don't take total skepticism in the results but recognize the real game is to diminish people's faith in democracy.

BERMAN: That's exactly right. If one is covering this as if Joe Biden's Arizona victory was confirmed or affirmed, they're doing it wrong because it didn't need it from the Cyber Ninjas. There was never any proof. There were never any legitimate questions the likes of which they were raising about it.




BERMAN: It may very well be that the goals of the audit were achieved anyway.

ENTEN: Right. They've sown doubt in the election process. And there should be no doubt. Joe Biden won legitimately. The elections across the 50 states were conducted legitimately. Yet, if you look at the polling data, what do you see? You see that the vast majority of Republicans do not believe Joe Biden won enough votes to win this election legitimately.


So, Donald Trump is accomplishing his goal ahead of 2022 and ahead of 2024. You can see the polling on your screen, which shows that Republicans already don't believe the results that they're being showed for no reason. It is all B.S. This support or not, it's all B.S., yet 78 percent of Republicans believe that Biden didn't win the election legitimately.

What the heck are we doing? I look at these numbers going back since 2004, in all the elections, the candidate who lost, their supporters accepted the results of the election. Here, this is unique. This is crazy. What the heck?

BERMAN: The poll numbers shows what? What does the number show, about the evidence, as it were?

ENTEN: Oh, yes. Did Biden legitimately enough votes for the presidency? Is there solid evidence of that? 54 percent of Republicans say that there is solid evidence that he did not win the election legitimately. Where the hell is that solid evidence? Are they making it up in their minds? Are they believing the garbage that Trump is spewing out there? It's all B.S. I just -- I'm getting so animated because people are believing a lie that has no basis in fact.

BERMAN: And it's because of things like the audit is because they existed.

ENTEN: Yes, yes, yes.

BERMAN: It's because they existed at all. It's not the results of them --

ENTEN: You're asking a question.

AVLON: They've been lied to from the level of the president. Democracy depends upon the losers accepting the legitimacy of the result. This is basic. This doesn't need to be checked. This is fundamental but it has been undermined intentionally. And here is another question. If any of the people who invested their faith in this carnivalesque fraudit actually are operating in good faith, will they admit that there is no fraud in this election and will they just project and deflect on to the next one? I'm betting B.

BERMAN: He already did it. He already asked Texas -- the former president of the United States demanded an audit in Texas, and within eight and a half hours, Greg Abbott --

ENTEN: A state he won, by the way.

BERMAN: State to state to state to state. There was a guest in Kyung Lah's piece. She spoke someone who called this a show trial, performance art.

The thing is, Harry, mime never killed anybody, as far as I know. And so I don't want to make light of it but you have the insurrection. I mean, these lies lead to violence.

ENTEN: That's exactly right. Donald Trump was questioning the election before it even occurred. That made a lot of voters -- we asked a great question in August that the election night turned into election week because we knew all these mail ballots would not that make you less confident in results. The majority of Republicans said, yes. Then all of a sudden we had election week. That made them question the results more, even though there shouldn't have been any questions in the results to begin with, and that led to January 6th.

What might happen next time? That's what this is all about. It's about setting up future so that Trump can claim whatever the hell he wants to claim and his voters are so into him that a majority of them tend to believe it.

AVLON: Remember that key quote. Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

BERMAN: We saw it January 6th. And this all plays into, John, it turns out, a new digital series that you have.

AVLON: Absolutely. So, we have taken Reality Check, our daily segment here on New Day. We're building it out into a new CNN digital series Reality Check Extremist Beat. And it's where we do a deep dive on some of these issues, drawing in the history that you know I love to do. For example, the first initiative looks at the roots of QAnon.

Actually, a lot of the synoptic stuff that resonates for folks in QAnon actually is an echo of old anti-Semitic and anti-catholic tropes. The way that in some ways they draw on some of the structures of Christianity that has pastors really concerned about what's happening in their congregrates.

So, we're having those conversations. We're drawing on the deep reporting of some of the unbelievable reporters on the extremist beat here at CNN, Donie O'Sullivan, Elle Reeve, Sara Sidner. And so it's really exciting and I'm looking forward to it. BERMAN: Looking forward to watching it, John. Thank you very much. Do not forget to subscribe to Harry's new podcast, while you're at it, it's called Margins of Error.

AVLON: Look at that photo.

ENTEN: That's a good-looking guy.

AVLON: I'm telling you. It's amazing what airbrushing can do.

ENTEN: They're amazing, the technology they have.

BERMAN: All right. Harry and John, thank you both very much. Brianna?

KEILAR: Overnight, the select committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol issued subpoenas to four Trump loyalists.

And joining us now with more on this is CNN Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid, as well as former Republican Virginia Congressman Barbara Comstock, who is with us here as well.

Paula, let's start with you first in your reporting on this. What do we know?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning. The subpoena is more of a sharp escalation in the two months' old committee's investigation. And members have said they are very interested in what information was known within Trump's orbit about the planning leading up to the insurrection and the decisions made that day.

Now, these are the first subpoenas. And the committee has specifically targeted individuals they believe would be uncooperative. And they include Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, former Adviser Steve Bannon and Kash Patel, a former Chief of Staff to then acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller.


Now, the committee is looking for a pretty quick turnaround here. All four Trump associates are directed to produce relevant documents by October 7th and then appear for depositions the following.

And CNN has reached out to Meadows, Scavino and Bannon for comment. Patel, in a statement, said that he was disappointed but not surprised that the committee had subpoenaed him before seeking his voluntary cooperation. The committee is though -- prepared for resistance. If these folks refuse to comply, they can be referred to the Justice Department to try the get the matter into court. Well, that can make some time but the committee has said it believes the Biden Justice Department will help them pursue criminal contempt where it's justified

KEILAR: And, Congresswoman, it's so interesting, Paula is reporting here they know they're going to get fought on this. They know that these confidantes of the former president don't want to disclose information even if it isn't protected, even if they should disclose it.

You accompanied law enforcement officers who were there who suffered what happened on January 6th. You accompanied them up on the Hill. What do they and the American public deserve to have come out?

FMR. REP. BARBARA COMSTOCK (D-VA): Well, I also in a prior life was a chief counsel on the investigative committees during the Clinton administrations. And what we always argued, these are Republicans obviously making this argument, is that Congress' power, investigative power, is strongest when there's fraud, abuse and maladministration of justice. And that's what our maladministration and agency. And that is what is alleged here. And that is why these individuals who are very close to the president are being rightfully targeted, I would say.

And if they don't cooperate and don't turn over those documents, they are not going to have any valid claims or executive privilege, and they will be able to quickly move that process through. I think the committee should already be firing up and writing those contempt reports.

But, secondly, if they do not agree to testify and if they take the Fifth Amendment, you don't have to just take the Fifth Amendment. Thanks to one of the bills that we passed in the '90s, Republicans passed at the behest of Newt Gingrich, you have to come before the committee and take that Fifth Amendment oath, claim that Fifth Amendment on camera, you know, in front of the committee.

And then what the committee can do is they can take all those other documents that they have gathered and all the other testimonies that they have already had, testimony like that from the Justice Department officials, Jeff Rosen, the deputy attorney general, who said Mark Meadows was calling him, asking him for those things.

And while that witness is sitting there, you say, Mr. Meadows, isn't it true that you said, and you read all those things into the record. You can read if you have his texts and his emails and other documents. You can read them into the record, ask them questions. And then at that point, the only thing they're doing, I guess, would be sitting there saying on the advice of counsel, I'm not -- I'm taking the Fifth Amendment, which will look very incriminating and rightfully.

So the committee does have all of these opportunities and information to inform the public about the abuse, the maladministration that went on during this whole process. And as they continue to get documents, which they should get by holding them in contempt, they will be able to provide a lot of information about the corruption that went on.

And I would also point out that you don't have to just send it over to the Justice Department for contempt. There's another method that hasn't been used in a long time but has been upheld by the court where you bring them before the House of Representatives itself, you try them and vote on contempt on the House floor. And then if they tonight testify or provide documents, you take them into custody. And if they are held in contempt, you can get up to $100,000 fine and a year in prison -- up to a year in prison.

So these aren't pleasant outcomes. I think the committee is serious. And they will also have a lot of other lower level witnesses who aren't going to want to spend that money on lawyers, spend that money on fines and probably are already cooperating and will have information on their own in addition to all the books that we have seen.

KEILAR: One of the folks getting subpoenaed here is Steve Bannon. We learned recently in the book, Peril, from Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, hat he was very much the one pushing Donald Trump to make January 6th the day of reckoning. He talked about killing it in the crib, killing the Biden presidency in the crib by making -- convincing people that it is an illegitimate presidency and should essentially just be ignored.


And Bannon basically confirmed this on his podcast. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to kill the Biden presidency in the crib. That was the phrase based on our reporting in that conversation.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes, because of its legitimacy. Just let's this go what this illegitimate regime is doing. It killed itself, okay? But we told you from the very beginning, just expose it, just expose it, never back town, never give up and this thing will implode.


KEILAR: Okay. But, Paula, he knew that actually this regime, as he puts it, was legitimate. He knew that the win was legitimate. All the folks around Trump actually knew this. And yet here he is painting this picture. What type of problem does that create for Steve Bannon?

REID: It's a lot. It creates a huge problem for all of these witnesses. Because not only are they looking at what was happening in the days leading up to January 6th and on that day, they are also looking at these efforts to pressure the state election officials to overturn their election results, to sort of meddle with those election results.

This is a broad inquiry here. And if you look at the letters that have been sent to these individual witnesses, there's a lot of concern in terms of these folks actually opening their mouths and answering questions before this committee, potential legal, potentially even criminal liability here.

So, comments like that, efforts like that, an enormous liability and enormous risk not only for Steve Bannon but, according to this letter, potentially for Mark Meadows as well

KEILAR: All right. Paula, you're going to be busy. Paula Reid, thank you so much. Former Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, thank you so much for your insight here.

We have some breaking news here in the search for answers in the Gabby Petito case. A warrant now out for her fiance's arrest, but it doesn't have to do with her death.

BERMAN: Plus, a rare and maybe even unprecedented move by the director of the CDC, what she just decided when it comes to COVID booster shots.



BERMAN: Breaking news. An arrest warrant issued for Gabby Petito's missing fiance, Brian Laundrie. A federal grand jury in Wyoming indicted him for use of unauthorized devices after Petito's death. The indictment alleges that Laundrie used a debit card for accounts that did not belong to him for charges of more than $1,000. He has not charged at this point been named as a suspect in her killing. And the charges do not relate directly to her killing.

Joining us is Casey Jordan, HLN Contributor and Criminologist and Behavior Analyst, and Andrew McCabe, CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst and former Deputy Director of the FBI.

This warrant, Andy, what does it tell you that the FBI is doing?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It tells you that the gloves are off, right? The FBI is now utilizing every tool in their toolbox to try to not only locate Mr. Laundrie but to also develop evidence that could be used in this case. So, we now know they have impaneled a grand jury. They have gone to the grand jury and secured at least one indictment over the credit card issue. But that doesn't mean they can't bring other witnesses in front of that grand jury.

So, this could be helpful if you have witnesses who you think maybe knows something about where he is, people who might be involved in supporting him while he's on the run. Those folks are now going to have to come in and explain telephone calls, strange charges on their credit cards, travel, things like that. So it significantly steps up the heat.

BERMAN: Casey, the behavior behind the allegation, making a big withdrawal on someone else's credit card, what is that about?

CASEY JORDAN, HLN CONTRIBUTOR: Or a series of withdrawals. We just know that it is at least $1,000. It could be a lot more. But you just need $1,000 for a felony.

So I think what we see is that he is trying to get cash to try to remove any financial footprint he might leave behind about where he was on any given day, paying cash for gas, paying cash for tolls, paying cash for hotels, if possible. He is trying to buy time to figure out what he's going to do next. And the idea that the last people who saw him, two people said they picked him up while hitchhiking on the 29th of August, he was clearly freaked out. That's in their words. And you see that he is trying to make a plan for what he is going to do next. And he eventually, of course, went back to Florida. But I think he needed the cash to do that.

BERMAN: And, Andy, this plays into other CNN reporting that came late last night, which is sources telling CNN that the family was concerned because Laundrie left the house. When he left the last time, he left, they say, without his wallet and his cell phone. I suppose there are some different possibilities as you extrapolate why that might be.

MCCABE: Yes. The cell phone seems pretty clear, right? I guess it's possible that he was going hiking and didn't want to be disturbed. But it is more likely that he didn't want to carry that device, which, through several different means, could be used to locate him wherever he was going. It could ping off cell towers. There are apps on your phone that collect locational data that can be accessed by law enforcement. So, leaving the cell phone seems pretty clear.

Leaving the wallet could kind of go in either direction. It certainly indicates that he didn't think he would need anything in that wallet, cash, credit cards, that sort of stuff, to support himself independently for any period of time. It also might mean that he wasn't expecting to be gone long. Maybe it means that he was anticipating taking his own life. So there's a couple different ways we can interpret that. But the bottom line is he's probably -- he left the house knowing he was not coming back.

BERMAN: Casey?

JORDAN: Agreed. No 23-year-old leaves the house without a cell phone. And it's interesting because, of course, in the chest cam footage of the police from Moab, he said he doesn't have a phone. So, now, he has a phone. He leaves it behind with his wallet. Presumably, he doesn't have any cash, any credit cards.

I happen to believe it's a red herring to make people think that he's going off into the woods to commit suicide or harm himself because he is so despondent over the loss of his girlfriend.


I think that it was intentionally left behind. Again, as Andrew says, there's no pinging, but also to make us think that he might be gone. And when I say gone, think in terms of Gone Girl and think in terms now of Gone Guy. I think he may have just completely manipulated and engineered this entire situation so that he could disappear without a trace.

BERMAN: Again, at this point we just don't know. We just don't know one way or the other. We do know that the search continues, Andy, and we haven't been told there's been any physical progress in locating him out in this swamp. Do you have a sense that the FBI or investigators are closing in, in any way, if not, physically, at least on the parameters of the case?

MCCABE: Very hard to tell, right? So, our best indicator for that would be our folks who are on scene who are looking at the scope of the resources that are being brought into that preserve every day. But at this point, it's very tough to tell.

Let's remember, John, go back to Eric Robert Rudolph, who was the Olympic Park Bomber. We spent -- I say we, I mean my colleagues from the New York field office here and the FBI, folks on the SWAT Team, spent months walking through the woods in North Carolina looking for Eric Robert Rudolph. That search went on and on and on. We never found him. We didn't find him that way. At least, of course, a very aware police officer found him one night as he was going through the trash trying to find something to eat.

BERMAN: And McCabe, Casey Jordan, thanks so much for being with us. I really appreciate it.

JORDAN: Good to be here.

BERMAN: Brianna?

KEILAR: Breaking news just ahead. We're about to talk to the police chief investigating what led to deadly gunfire inside a Tennessee supermarket.

BERMAN: And former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta with some advice for progressives in the House. Will they listen?