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Report Reveals Michigan's GOP Plan; "Star Wars" Calls Out Racist Fans; Sussmann Acquitted of Lying; NFL's Top Quarterbacks Take to Golf Course. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired June 01, 2022 - 06:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: A new window into how Trump allies are organizing to make sure loyalists are in positions to potentially impact election results in Democratic precincts in Michigan starting this summer. Recordings and training materials obtained by "Politico" reportedly show Michigan Republicans, including officials in the state party, at meetings to train recruits as regular poll workers, not partisan poll watchers, poll workers, and put them in direct contact with party attorneys. The plan, to make sure they have more influence in some Democratic-led districts, both for midterms and for the 2024 election.

Here's one clip "Politico" obtained from a meeting in October 2021 where RNC Michigan Director Robert Yosaitis pushes baseless claims about election fraud to promote some of these efforts.


ROBERT YOSAITIS, RNC MICHIGAN DIRECTOR: That is what we are here tonight for, is to show the program that we are creating to create that safety net on the polls before Election Day, after Election Dy, to make sure that fraud does not happen again. I understand that we are upset with the 2020 results, but we cannot just look at the 2020 results or else the exact same thing will happen in 2022. We need volunteers on the ground on Election Day ahead of Election Day working so that that fraud does not happen again. If we only look at 2020, it just will happen again.


KEILAR: A Republican-led senate committee in Michigan investigated the 2020 election there, remember, and found no proof of wide-spread election fraud.

Joining me now is journalist Heidi Przybyla with new reporting in "Politico" on this.

We've heard, Heidi, about Steve Bannon promoting his so-called precinct strategy. You're really showing us what it would look like with these new recordings you obtained in Michigan. So, can you take us through what potentially it would look like on

Election Day in, say, Detroit with poll workers challenging votes all the way to legal challenges.


First of all, it's important to say that election legal experts who I talked to say that this is unprecedented, that a political party would be putting together this type of a network where they're actually recruiting folks, many of them who are election deniers, to get into the architecture of the election system, equipping them with training, as well as new tools, including, for instance, a hotline so that they are in constant contact with roving party attorneys.

Secondly, equipping them with a website that's being developed by a company called Zen Desk (ph). And you may or may not be familiar with it if you've ever had, for instance, a fashion emergency, right? You're on the website. You can't wait to talk to the person on the 1- 800 number. You can do a live chat. So they will have this live chat option while they're in these halls to be able to talk to party attorneys.

So, the election law experts who I talked to say that the concern, Bri, to get to the answer to your question is that on Election Day they could really kick up a haze of legal uncertainty in these primarily Democratic districts.

Now, the concern there is that if there are these legal questions in these primarily democratically districts, if they create this type of chaos that you raise questions about being able to certify.

Now, why is this important? Because just last week we saw from "The New York Times" President Trump talking about how he wants members of the state legislature to be more actively involved in elections.


So, if you kick up this legal dust at the grassroots level in Dem precincts and you have a massive failure to certify, what does that do? That potentially kicks it to the board of canvassers, potentially kicks it as well to the state legislature. And we're seeing this. They have these programs in 16 different states. We also know, Bri, that they're working with a group called the Amistad Project, which Rudy Giuliani referred to in the 2020 election as a partner in trying to overturn the 2020 election.

KEILAR: So, explain why this is unprecedented because, you know, the Democrats, for instance, the DNC did recruit poll workers in 2020. So why is this different from what was done there?

PRZYBYLA: That was a one-time thing to help fill these spots during a pandemic when you had older workers who just didn't want to work. The DNC says they do not do that and they certainly never train poll workers, train them, first of all, let alone train them to contest votes.

Now, it's important also to say here that the processes that are laid out here for contesting a vote --

KEILAR: And let's pull that up because you actually have -- we have a full screen of a graphic that they were using in the training of how to contest a vote.

Tell us about this.

PRZYBYLA: OK. So the - I think this is the - the other graphic. There you go.

So, these are not abnormal. As a matter of fact, they're completely legal. Now, the thing that's different is if you look at the bottom there, call the hotline.

Now, it is very unusual, I was told by the director of election administration in Michigan for 30 years, Chris Thomas, to have an actual inspector, a poll worker who's working at the polls, challenging an individual voter based on their ability to vote. That that would be very unusual. He told me, many of these people may be very disappointed when they show up and they don't see the fraud because they're all being told and ginned up, in his words, to expect to see fraud.

And if you listen to these recordings, as I listened to hours of them, Bri, these people really believe -- that was the thing that struck me -- they really believe that there was fraud and that they're going to come in and root this out. That they're going to come in and pilot these election clerks, particularly in cities like Detroit, who they just don't trust.

KEILAR: We should be clear, a lot of this, and as you pointed out in that graphic, is legal, challenging a voter.

PRZYBYLA: It's completely legal.

KEILAR: But what is the - what is the effect of it and where does it cross the line?

PRZYBYLA: Again, the effect there is - and that's - that's the question, where does that cross the line between legitimate poll watching and challenging and actually harassing voters and creating chaos in these precincts.

Now, Chris Thomas told me that if the election clerks feel that they've crossed that line they could get kicked out, and that is exactly what we saw in 2020 that created so many problems at the TSC Center where I was in Detroit, where you had all these poll challengers who were alleging, falsely by the way, that they were seeing fraud when, in fact, they were seeing camera equipment outside the absentee voting center.

KEILAR: All right, Heidi, well, we may see this in practice as soon as August in Michigan.

Heidi Przybyla, thank you so much for sharing your reporting with us.

PRZYBYLA: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: Actor Moses Ingram revealing a slew of racist messages after her debut on the TV series "Obi-Wan Kenobi."

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, as the world waits for a decision in the Johnny Depp/Amber Heard trial, Monica Lewinsky says the nation is guilty of courtroom porn.

KEILAR: And Georgia's Herschel Walker, the newly minted Republican Senate nominee, has a bone to pick with the man who endorsed him.


HERSCHEL WALKER (R), GEORGIA SENATE CANDIDATE: President Trump never asked me. I'm mad at him but he never asked, but he's taking credit that he asked.



BERMAN: Just days after "Obi-Wan Kenobi" premiered on Disney Plus, one of the show's stars, Moses Ingram, revealed she's received hundreds of racist messages on social media. In one example she shared someone wrote, quote, you suck, loser. You're a diversity hire and you won't be loved or remembered for this acting role. Other messages included the "n" word. The "Star Wars" franchise defended Ingram. Obi-wan Kenobi himself, Ewan McGregor, who's an executive producer on the show, released this message.


EWAN MCGREGOR, ACTOR: I heard some of them this morning and it just broke my heart. Moses is a brilliant actor, she's a brilliant woman and she's absolutely amazing in this series.

We stand with Moses. We love Moses. And if you're sending her bullying messages, you're no "Star Wars" fan, in my mind. There's no place for racism in this world.


BERMAN: With us now, TV critic for NPR, Eric Deggans.

Eric, so nice to see you this morning.

How surprised were you to see these messages?

ERIC DEGGANS, TV CRITIC, NPR: Unfortunately, not very surprised. As you guys noted in your own reporting, other actors of color who have joined the "Star Wars" franchise have also faced this kind of racism, including Kelly Marie Tran and John Boyega.

There is an element of the fandom that objects to attempts to diversify the characters in the franchise, and they always seem to react when an actor of color is given a prominent role. And it's harassing to the point where I believe Kelly Marie Tran said she quit social media because she had a hard time dealing with all of the abuse she was getting from racist fans.

I think it's time for Disney and for Lucas Film, the companies that are behind "Star Wars," to be more aggressive about handling racist fans and supporting actors of color when they join the franchise in prominent roles.

KEILAR: Yes, she talks about how it affected her mental health, Eric, right? She ended up in therapy because of it. Kelly Marie Tran, John Boyega, grade performances.


And here they are taking this incoming.

I wonder if you think the "Star Wars" franchise has any blame in this.

DEGGANS: Well, I do think that the franchise, when it originally started, was very white-centered. It didn't have many characters of color. And so I do think that these racist fans are reacting to attempts to move the needle on diversity, and they're rejecting it. And if there's any blame beyond the original films not featuring enough diversity in its casting, the other blame is that they -- Disney and Lucas Film, I don't think, have been aggressive enough in pushing back against fans and trying to figure out ways to make it easier for actors of color when they join the franchise.

Moses Ingram, the actor we're talking about now, said in an interview that Lucas Film warned her that racist fans would come after her, but they didn't make that public. They didn't talk about it before it happened. And it was left to the actor to decide to make this public and to have to deal with the -- all of the publicity surrounding it, almost by herself, before fans who disagreed with this and wanted to support her and loved her performance could react and before, you know, of course, her co-stars and colleagues could react.

I think it's time to be a little more proactive about these issues and it's certainly time for Lucas Film and the "Star Wars" franchise to be more aggressive about pushing back against racist fans and supporting the actors of color who take on these roles. They already have the pressure of joining a tremendous franchise. All the pressures that all the other actors have, but in addition to that, they have to deal with racist fans and they have to wonder if any of those fans will do more than just send messages on social media.

BERMAN: By coming forward she really did shine a light on it. It is a choice with consequences that may have an affect going forward.

Eric Deggans, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

DEGGANS: Thank you for having me.

BERMAN: A major blow to the case brought by a Trump era prosecutor who has spent years trying to prove wrongdoing in the Trump/Russia investigation. KEILAR: Plus, panicked parents still are not finding baby formula on

store shelves. Why the White House has few answers ahead.



KEILAR: A new, major blow in the Trump/Russia investigation. A Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer, Michael Sussmann, has been acquitted of lying to the FBI during a 2016 meeting in which he pass a tip to the FBI about Donald Trump and Russia. This is a major defeat for Special Counsel John Durham and his Justice Department prosecutors since the team has spent three years looking for wrongdoing in the Trump/Russia probe.

Joining us now is CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez, who has spent days - days and days on this, I should say.


KEILAR: Just a reminder, this is an investigation of the investigation. So, tell us about this.

PEREZ: Right. And it doesn't bode well for John Durham. Again, he spent 11 days on this. This is a false statements charge. And he relied on witnesses who had very crappy memories, frankly, of what happened back in 2016 during this meeting and thereafter. And, in some cases, some of these witnesses only landed on the prosecutor's theory, endorsed that theory after being essentially threatened with prosecution themselves. So, that's where we got -- and the jury decided very quickly after about six and a half hours of deliberations that this was not a case that they could -- that they could convict on.

Listen to Sussmann after the trial.


MICHAEL SUSSMANN, FORMER HILLARY CLINTON CAMPAIGN LAWYER: I told the truth to the FBI, and the jury clearly recognized that with their unanimous verdict today. I'm grateful to the members of the jury for their careful and thoughtful service. Despite being falsely accused, I'm relieved that justice ultimately prevailed in my case.


PEREZ: And, Brianna, this has been going on for three years. So the important questions now are for Merrick Garland and Lisa Monaco, over the leadership of the Justice Department, how much longer do they let Durham continue this investigation.

KEILAR: The Durham probe is this investigation of the Mueller investigation. So, contrast these two investigations for us.

PEREZ: Well, you know, Durham has lasted three -- over three years already, Mueller was under two years, a year and 10 months. Mueller cost about $32 million, but the Durham investigation is about $3.8 million.

But, you know, here's the deal. We've had three cases so far, one is a guilty plea, this one was acquitted, and he has one more trial in October of, you know, a Russian researcher who helped do some of the research behind the Steele dossier. In the case of Muller, you know, we had convictions of Paul Manafort, the chairman of the campaign, Rick Gates. You had a number of very high-profile, successful cases on the part of the prosecution. So that's the comparison we're facing here.

KEILAR: All right, Evan Perez, thank you so much for your days of work on this trial.

PEREZ: Thank you.

KEILAR: We appreciate it.

PEREZ: Thanks.

KEILAR: The NFL's top quarterbacks moving from the gridiron to the green, testing their golf skills and their ability to talk trash. We're going to preview the match, next.

BERMAN: Plus, the former treasury secretary, Larry Summers, who warned the White House early on about inflation ,will join us live to respond to one of his successors admitting she made a mistake.



BERMAN: From the gridiron to the green, some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL set to compete tonight in the latest version of "The Match."

Our Andy Scholes in Las Vegas with a preview.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the sixth edition of "The Match." I'm here in Las Vegas. It's all about the quarterbacks. You've got the grizzly veterans, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers taking on two of the brightest young stars in the game, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. And for the first time ever in the match, no pro-golfers are involved. These guys aren't going to have caddies out here. They're going to be all on their own, which should make it a lot of fun.


TOM BRADY, QUARTERBACK, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: Yes, I said, are there caddies out there? Is there anyone that can help us? He's like, nope, you guys are totally on your own. So, we're going to be reading each other's putts. I don't know if that's a, you know, a good thing.

AARON RODGERS, QUARTERBACK, GREEN BAY PACKERS: I'm not carrying us. We've got to kind of hold this thing together, man. This is - this is going to be interesting for sure. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: Yes. And making it even more interesting is going to be all the trash talk you hear between these guys out there on the course. And for the first time ever in "Match" history, fans will be in attendance, adding even more pressure.


And, John, Brady told me that he's going to be the most nervous on that first tee. If he can get through that without hitting anyone, he's going to be good to go. So, be sure to tune in early.