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New Day

Trump Now Targeting Republicans Who Voted for Infrastructure. Aired 8-8:30 am ET

Aired November 17, 2021 - 08:00   ET



CHRISTIE PERDUE, HUSBAND DIED IN PLANE CRASH WHILE PROTECTING DAUGHTER, 11, WHO SURVIVED: Thank you for including us and for helping us to share this amazing story. And I just want to thank everybody who has donated and who sent letters and cards. And Laney reads every card. She loves it. And it gives her such strength, and I just want to thank everyone at the hospital, and everyone in the world, and all the dads out there who sent us notes that -- the dad and daughter story. So thank you, all. It means so much. And it lifts our spirits.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And before I let you go, I do want to make a note, because I know our viewers are going to ask, you do have a GoFundMe called Prayers for Perdues, and that is up. And I know that that is something that is greatly assisting your family. And so hopefully that's something that people may be reaching out to you with. Christie, thank you so much.

PERDUE: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: He was a good hugger. And I have to say, those hugs will be eternal. Those hugs will last forever. But now the community, and it sounds like they are, everyone needs to step in to give these hugs to Christie and Laney right now and be there for them.

KEILAR: Yes, it's -- you know, it's so awful. It is so tragic. But I think one of the reasons that so many people are drawn to this story is because I think as parents we always ask ourselves, or we think that's what we would do, of course, for our kids. But so rarely would you actually be in that position. And Mike being in that position, he really just showed what a beautiful person he is.

NEW DAY continues right now.

A very good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. I am Brianna Keilar with John Berman, and it is Wednesday, November 17th. We're learning more about how dangerously close the United States of America came to a successful coup. And you know what a failed coup is.

BERMAN: Practice. Which is why all the revelations matter not just for posterity, but for what they mean going forward. So we knew a conservative lawyer working with then President Trump crafted a memo outlining a scheme to persuade Mike Pence to overturn the election, a blueprint on paper. And this week Jonathan Karl of ABC News reported on the existence of a second coup memo, this one sent by Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to the vice president detailing how Pence could send back the electoral votes from six states. After that, Karl reports that a Trump aide sent another memo to Pence's office pushing the vice president to thwart the election.

KEILAR: While all of this was going on, Trump tried pressuring secretaries of state both publicly and privately. He called them, he wrote them letters, and he publicly asked election leaders to not certify the results or to just find imaginary fraudulent ballots. He also tried pressuring state legislatures, tweeting about Republican state houses to intervene and declare him the winner. And he then turned to the courts, enlisting his legal cronies to challenge results in battleground states. Well, it didn't work.

BERMAN: So the Supreme Court, with three justices, after all this, nominated by Trump himself, rejected the election challenge cases. Members of Congress were in on it, challenging the election results even after big lie rioters raided their workplace.

KEILAR: The military played a role here, according to Karl's book, or at least possibly was tried -- some people tried to enlist it, like Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, who was pressuring the Defense Department to help overturn the election by seizing ballots, which obviously they did not do. And the crazy continued as Flynn's former lawyer, who was giving legal advice to Trump, called up the Pentagon with a conspiracy theory. Sidney Powell insisted that Director Gina Haspel, CIA Director Gina Haspel, had been abducted in Germany, that she was on a secret CIA mission to seize a computer server related to the election. Powell demanded a special ops mission to get her. Obviously, that wasn't true. Gina Haspel was and is fine.

BERMAN: Overall, military leaders were so concerned that Trump might use the military for his coup attempt they tried to put guardrails in place. Book after book reveals the efforts of General Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

KEILAR: And Trump also got help from propaganda outlets, including FOX. The network along with other rightwing channels are being sued over election lies on their airwaves. Fiona Hill, America's point person for Russia, said all these examples are essentially a checklist for how the U.S. judges coups in other countries.

BERMAN: And the important thing is it's not over, not at all. Many big lie backers are campaigned to control the election systems in their states, including a candidate in Michigan who pedals conspiracies and lies.


Here's Sara Murray.


SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: A vocal critic of elections now wants to be in charge of them.

KRISTINA KARAMO: It is completely criminal.

MURRAY: Kristina Karamo has not been shy in insisting there was widespread cheating in the 2020 vote, touting debunked claims.

KARAMO: It is not right that hundreds of thousands of votes are allowed to be considered as lawful votes when we know they're illegal.

MURRAY: And saying Donald Trump was the true winner in Michigan.

KARAMO: Donald Trump won Michigan.

MURRAY: Unsurprisingly, she now has Trump's backing in her bid to become Michigan's next secretary of state.

KARAMO: Yes, I have President Trump's endorsement, which is massive.

MURRAY: Karamo has never run for statewide office but gained some national notoriety after making unsubstantiated claims that she witnessed election fraud in 2020.

KARAMO: I was a poll challenger at the TCF center.

MURRAY: As Trump eyes a potential 2024 comeback bid, he's backing candidates like Karamo and others who have spread election falsehoods, looking to replace the battleground state officials who stood up to Trump's attempts to overturn the results in 2020.


MURRAY: A CNN review of Karamo's podcast and writings on her now defunct personal website, reveal previously unreported comments that show extreme views beyond just the 2020 election results and reveal barbed criticism of both parties.

KARAMO: They are a bunch of traitors in the Republican Party.

MURRAY: But her most inflammatory language is aimed at Democrats.

KARAMO: They party has totally been taken over by a satanic agenda.

MURRAY: Including Michigan's current secretary of state.

KARAMO: She's an evil woman. She's a very, evil, evil, evil woman.

MURRAY: Karamo's staunch conservatism intermingles with her religious beliefs.

KARAMO: Ultimately the culture war is really the most important war to fight.

MURRAY: A community college adjunct professor, Karamo has a master's degree in Christian apologetics, traditionally the defense of Christianity. Among her concerns, evolving norms around gender and sexuality, views she often takes to the extreme. KARAMO: There is no such thing as a person with two mommies and two

daddies. That is just factually incorrect.

MURRAY: In an August, 2019, blog post, she called transgender women trying to play women's sports mentally ill adults playing dress-up. She suggested in a podcast that premarital sex paves the way for society condoning pedophilia.

KARAMO: We normalize people fornicating and we normalize people living together with their boyfriends and girlfriends, all this stuff, we open a door to us to get to the point where we have people who want to normalize pedophilia.

MURRAY: She has called public schools indoctrination camps.

KARAMO: You're forced to have your child exposed to all types of things that these Democrats and liberals want to teach.

MURRAY: And is against teaching about evolution.

KARAMO: Evolution is one of the biggest frauds that has been perpetrated on us.

MURRAY: She also referred to herself as an anti-vaxxer before the COVID-19 vaccines were authorized.

KARAMO: Guess what. I'm crazy. I'm an anti-vaxxer.

MURRAY: These views now under the spotlight as she seeks the Republican nomination.

KARAMO: One of the things that I try to be very cognizant of, I'm running a statewide race. And I understand I have to win the hearts and minds of people who may not necessarily think like me.


KEILAR: Joining us now to discuss this is Jim Acosta, CNN anchor and chief domestic correspondent. There is so much -- look, we don't need more evidence, right. We know there was an attempted coup, a failed coup, but just the headlines that are piling up here to support that, it seems endless.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we had a coup attempt in this country. We just have to come to grips with that, we have to deal with that reality. And we have to get to the bottom of it. I was talking to a couple of sources on the January 6th committee. One of these sources said unless Merrick Garland acts and compels these witnesses to testify, that is going to severely undercut the strength of the committee. And another source said to me about why these witnesses aren't testifying, this person said, why would they. They're not being forced to testify. And we have a mountain of evidence, a growing mountain of evidence there was a coup attempt in this country.

And Brianna, what we're dealing with right now I think is a cowardice pandemic. We have a pandemic of cowardice. We have Republicans who are unwilling to police their own ranks. And until we have that day come, we're going to be caught in the grips of the MAGA comeback. And they're coming back, and mainly because we're letting them come back. Not that there is anything wrong with a political movement rising up in this country, but when at the heart of it, when at the heart of it is a coup attempt and people who want to undermine our democracy, there is a very serious problem.

KEILAR: I have to talk to you about this Sidney Powell headline from John Karl's book, where Sidney Powell, who is a former Trump lawyer, fell for a conspiracy theory that then CIA Director Gina Haspel had been injured on a secret mission, she was taken to Germany to seize an election-related computer. This is part of what Karl says in the book, "The server, Powell claimed, contains evidence that hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of votes had been switched using rigged voting machines." Of course, she wasn't in Germany. She was fine. She is fine. But what does it say to you that these QAnon conspiracy theories were that close to the president?


ACOSTA: I was standing outside the White House around that time and remember seeing Mike Lindell on his cell phone outside the West Wing. And I was thinking to myself, why is the My Pillow guy hanging out outside the West Wing. And I called him that night, and he was there to drop off evidence for Donald Trump, and it was accepted by people in the West Wing.

This just goes to show you, Sidney Powell is another one of these characters, these circus-like characters, "Star Wars" bar like characters who were hanging around Donald Trump at the time. I talked to a Trump adviser after January 6th, and asked, what was Sidney Powell doing advising Trump, advising his team? And this adviser said, these are the types of people who are around the president of the United States right now. It's not the normal folks who are in the West Wing, or semi-normal, depending on your point of view. It's people like Sidney Powell, it's people like Rudy Giuliani, it's people like Michael Flynn, and Mike Lindell.

And it just goes to show you the kind of people Trump was surrounding himself with during that very critical point in our nation's history. It is frightening to think about it. But why is Sidney Powell running -- again, going back to the January 6th committee, where are the hearings? Where is the Justice Department? Why are they not hauling these people into Congress to explain what they were up to? Why aren't we seeing more indictments? I think there is a real serious hunger out there, Brianna, for justice. You and I remember all of those rallies where Donald Trump would talk about law and order. Where is the law and order? It does not exist when it comes to a coup attempt in this country. It's insane.

KEILAR: I wonder what you think about Mike Flynn's episode here that John Karl uncovered where he was trying to enlist help from the Pentagon to seize ballots.

ACOSTA: Yes. And Michael Flynn, who was already indicted once for lying to investigators --

KEILAR: He was fresh off a pardon when he did this.

ACOSTA: Fresh off a pardon, I guess wants to go for another one, not going to get it, obviously, from this president. But, again, we're going back to the insanity that we're all caught in the middle of at that moment. Michael Flynn is somebody who should have never been national security adviser. Barack Obama warned Donald Trump famously, don't hire Michael Flynn. And yet he brought him into the mix.

If Donald Trump becomes president again, what's to stop a Mike Flynn from becoming defense secretary? It's going to be a whole lot easier for a secretary of defense Michael Flynn to order people to seize ballot boxes if he's in charge of the Pentagon.

One of the things I experienced, Brianna, covering the Trump administration is that there were people at various levels of the federal government who were willing to sort of put the brakes on the crazies inside the Trump administration, and fortunately that's what we saw in this episode. There were people, in the Flynn episode, according to Karl's book who were basically saying no to Michael Flynn. People who were going over to the Justice Department and saying we need to go back and recount these ballots in various states. Fortunately, there were people at the Justice Department saying no. So thankfully, we did have people at various levels of the government who were protecting the Constitution. Who is to say that that's the case next time?

KEILAR: Look, this was a stress test. It revealed weaknesses. Is anything being done to fix them.

ACOSTA: Vulnerabilities are there.

KEILAR: They certainly are there. Jim, great to have you on. Thank you.

ACOSTA: Good to see you, thank you.

KEILAR: Sorry, not sorry, that is the message from Congressman Paul Gosar as he is facing a censure vote for posting a violent anime video featuring one of his colleagues, in the video he is killing her.

BERMAN: Plus, in the trial of the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally, white supremacists are taking the stand. Hear what they are saying.

And we are on verdict watch as the Kyle Rittenhouse jury enters day two of deliberations. Hear now the connection with the O.J. Simpson trial.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, this morning with the results Virginia, with the statements from at least one prominent Republican, is there a window opening for a 2024 GOP alternative to Donald Trump? John Avlon with a Reality Check.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Say what you want about Chris Christie. At least he doesn't retreat when asked if he'd run against Trump in 2024.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you run if Trump runs?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, so you'll run against Donald Trump?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's the camera? Put this camera on Chris Christie's face. You'll run against Donald Trump?




AVLON: It seems like every other potential GOP candidate falls like a cheap lawn chair when they get asked that question. They apparently think their loyalty will benefit them if Trump decides not to run. That's bananas. They should know by now that Trump's only loyal to himself.

Christie at least is applying experience to the problem. He's probably known that backing the Donald was a bad idea since his body language stole the show at this rambling 2016 press conference. Despite supporting Trump during most administration. Christie did speak up on January 6, and he hasn't stopped. But much of the rest of the GOP is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. They think their captor is their savior. He's not. By any objective measure, Donald Trump is a drag on the Republican Party. He's not strong. He's self-evidently weak, a two-time popular vote loser in addition to being a delusional seditionist, because Republicans are afraid of his base, they either can't see it or won't admit it.

Take a look at that much ballyhoo two-point win in Virginia by Glenn Youngkin. He refused to campaign with Trump, didn't want to be seen with the guy and he outperformed Donald Trump in every single county in Virginia. We went over suburban and swing voters who viewed Trump as toxic. Yes, Trump is deliriously popular with the base. But there's already evidence of a clear lane for a GOP candidate not named Donald Trump.

Take a closer look at this September poll from CNN. When asked whether Republicans have a better chance of winning in 2024 with Trump or someone else, 49% said someone else, have basically half the GOP just waiting for a compelling alternative. Brand new Des Moines Register poll makes the same point in starker terms, 61% of Iowa Republicans say they're more aligned with the GOP compared to the 26% who say they're primary loyalties to Trump. There's a clear opening here people and Trump's weakness as a general election candidate is already evident.


Remember, he's massively unpopular with the American people as a whole. He left office with a 34% approval rating. He's the only president in the history of Gallup to never hit 50%. And all that leaves a mark.

Get this, in October, the Grinnell College poll found that President Biden with had an abysmal 37% approval rate. Now that's an outlier, but you'd imagine that a credible GOP candidate would easily beat Biden in a hypothetical matchup, right? But that poll found Biden and Trump tied at 40% with 14% saying they'd vote for someone else. That's the political equivalent of losing money while owning the casino. Fear is what's keeping Republican officials from seeing this clearly. And that cowardice should be almost disqualifying for a potential commander-in-chief is trying to overturn an election based on a lie. That there are honorable exceptions like Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, Anthony Gonzalez, who spoken up clearly and consistency about the cult of personality that's taken over the GOP and its dangerous implications for our democracy. They've gotten excommunicated for their honesty.

Liz Cheney, remember that extremely conservative daughter of the former V.P. has even been officially kicked out of her home state GOP. But what if she and other red state never Trumpers ran his independence in the general election? There's every reason to think their name I.D. and principled independence would be rewarded outside those Republican primaries.

After all, that's what Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski did when she lost a primary to a tea party hardliner in 2010, and she won re-election as a write in candidate. That's one way to try to break the Stockholm Syndrome that's captured the GOP, because we need more principled independence in our politics, just as our country needs to sane parties to survive. And it is self-evidently insane to treat a failed ex-president who tried to overturn an election as the inevitable next nominee. Nothing's inevitable. And if conservative means anything, it means trying to conserve our basic system of government. So, we need candidates with the courage to stand up and tell the truth. Trump is weak. America is strong. And that's your Reality Check.

BERMAN: Look, what's telling is if and when another nationally prominent Republican, in addition to Chris Christie stands up and says a similar thing. And if ever, I think that really bears watching.

AVLON: There's a line there, stand up. Let's have a real race.

John Avlon, thank you very much.

So now President Trump is targeting Republicans who voted for the infrastructure bill. We have new CNN reporting ahead.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, President Biden and Democrats may soon have a messaging problem on their hands, what they're anticipating that may break one of his promises.



KEILAR: Former President Trump expanding his revenge to or beyond just Republicans who voted to impeach him. Now he's inserting himself into the middle of a West Virginia GOP primary to endorse the congressman who did not vote for the new bipartisan infrastructure law. CNN's Melanie Zanona is with us now. He's making it clear you do something for Joe Biden. It's against Donald Trump as far as he sees it.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: That's exactly right. This infrastructure bill, this bipartisan infrastructure bill has become the latest benchmark in the Trump loyalty tests. And Trump and his allies were furious that 13 House Republicans helped turn this bill into law and handed Joe Biden a victory on an issue that had long eluded President Trump, of course, when he was in office, he wanted a win in infrastructure, and he didn't get it. So now him and his allies are coming after those Republicans. And we're seeing that play out in a West Virginia primary race.

It's kind of unusual example, because it's a member versus member matchup after redistricting their districts got lumped into one. And most Republicans have been reluctant to pick sides in this awkward scenario, but not Trump. He waited in this week, he's endorsing Alex Mooney, a Freedom Caucus member who voted against the infrastructure bill over David McKinley who voted for it.

It's also worth noting Mooney also voted against the commission to investigate January 6, and against the certification of the 2020 election results. But I think on infrastructure, it's really interesting to see how this is going to play out because on the one hand, in West Virginia, Trump's voice does matter. He carried the state was 69% of the vote. Alex Mooney told me yesterday, he thinks that this endorsement will seal the deal for him. But on the other hand, West Virginia is ranked at the bottom of the totem pole for transportation and internet services, which the infrastructure law will help both of those areas. And both the senators in this state, Shelley Moore Capito, Republican and Joe Manchin, a Democrat who helped negotiate the bill voted for it. And so, you're really just seeing how this infrastructure bill has polarized and divided the Republican Party.

KEILAR: It's going to be fascinating. Who wins out infrastructure which West Virginia so dearly needs, or Donald Trump?

ZANONA: Exactly.

KEILAR: I guess we'll see. Melanie, thank you, great reporting.

ZANONA: Thank you.

BERMAN: So today, the House will vote to formally rebuke Congressman Paul Gosar and strip him of two committee assignments. Gosar is facing censure for posting a photoshopped anime video showing him appearing to kill Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Biden.

Joining me now is the House Democratic Whip, Congressman James Clyburn. And Congressman, thank you for being with us. Why is it important to you to hold this vote to censure Paul Gosar today?

REP. JAMES CLYBURN, (D) MAJORITY WHIP: Well, thank you very much for having me. I think that you have heard over the years, I've often referred to the House of Representatives, at least a hall of the House, as America's classroom. And I feel that very strongly, that we as members of Congress, ought to conduct ourselves in that hall and in our duties and responsibilities in such a way that children, school children all over, again, look to us to emulate the conduct and that is why we should hold every member to a high standard. And when someone sends out a tweet or any other -