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GOP Witnesses Tie Trump Directly to Fake Electors Effort; Senate Advances First Gun Safety Bill in 30 Years after Deal. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired June 22, 2022 - 06:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It is Wednesday, June 22. I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman.


Fake elector schemes, harassment campaigns, threats against state officials. A compelling and chilling day four of the January 6th Committee hearings, and it directly linked former President Donald Trump to all of it. In the end, Trump's allies could not produce any evidence of election fraud, something they were not ashamed to admit.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): At some point did one of them make a comment that they didn't have evidence, but they had a lot of theories?


SCHIFF: And what exactly did he say and how did that come up?

BOWERS: My recollection he said we've got lots of theories. We just don't have the evidence.


KEILAR: The pressure campaign against state officials was relentless, and it was dangerous. It included ugly threats and intimidation by Trump supporters and the former president himself, leaving one Georgia election worker too scared to say her own name in public. A steep price for those who defended democracy and did their job.


SCHIFF: Why didn't you just quit and walk away?

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R), GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: Because I knew that we had followed the law, we had followed the Constitution; and I think sometimes moments require you to stand up and just take the shots. You're doing your job, and that's all we did.

BOWERS: I do not want to be a winner by cheating.

SCHIFF: Were a lot of these threats and vile comments racist in nature?

WANDREA "SHAYE" MOSS, FORMER GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER: A lot of them were racist. A lot of them were just hateful.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The committee also said that elected Republican officials in Congress pushed the fake elector scheme. The committee unveiled new information about previously unknown activity from Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson.

His aide offered to hand-deliver fake electors to Vice President Mike Pence on January 6. Now, Johnson claims it's a nonstory. CNN's Manu Raju pressed him on it.



SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): Because somebody delivered this to our office and asked to deliver that to the vice president.

RAJU: Who's the person that delivered it to your office?

JOHNSON: I have no idea.


BERMAN: CNN's Sara Murray here with us now on this dramatic and, in some ways, disturbing day, Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it was disturbing. We got an intimate look at this campaign of harassment, these threats that these folks who either stood up to President -- former President Trump or, you know, were just targeted by him, faced simply for trying to do their jobs.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are a tyrant, you are a felon, and you must turn yourself in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) immediately.

NICHOLAS FUENTES, FAR-RIGHT ACTIVIST: What can you and I do to a state legislator besides kill them? Although we should not do that. I'm not advising that, but I mean, what else can you do, right?

MURRAY (voice-over): The Select Committee Investigating January 6th again making the case that then-President Trump tried to undermine the 2020 election, this time highlighting the brutal and threatening attacks to state and election officials, all supported by the former president.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Mr. Trump was told by his own advisers that he had no basis for his stolen election claims. Yet, he continued to pressure state officials to change the election results. MURRAY (voice-over): Trump and his associates proposed putting forward

a fake slate of pro-Trump electors, saying he won in seven states that he actually didn't, to prevent Congress from certifying President Biden's victory.

SCHIFF: No legitimate state authority in the states Donald Trump lost would agree to appoint fake Trump electors and send them to Congress.

MURRAY (voice-over): Trump and his attorney, John Eastman, even took their plan to the Republican National Committee.

RONNA ROMNEY MCDANIEL, CHAIRWOMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: He turned the call over to Mr. Eastman, who then proceeded to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors, in case any of the legal challenges that were ongoing changed the result of any of the states.

MURRAY (voice-over): Even pressuring, threatening and cajoling election officials.

BOWERS: I didn't want to be used as a pawn. You are asking me to do something that is counter to my oath.

MURRAY (voice-over): The speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives testified to a pressure campaign by Trump and Giuliani to call a special session to overturn the election results.

Representative Rusty Bowers testified he was never provided with any evidence of these claims, despite asking repeatedly. Still, Eastman called Bowers again in January, asking him to decertify the results.

BOWERS: I said, you're asking me to do something that's never been done in history, the history of the United States, and I'm going to put my state through that? Without sufficient proof? No, sir. He said, well, that's -- my suggestion would be just do it and let the courts figure it all out.

MURRAY (voice-over): The committee unveiling never-before-seen text messages from an aide to Republican Senator Ron Johnson.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This staffer stated that Senator Johnson wished to hand deliver to the vice president the fake electors' votes from Michigan and Wisconsin. The vice president's aide unambiguously instructed them not to deliver the fake votes to the vice president.

JOHNSON: I had no involvement in an alternate slate of -- slate of electors. I had no idea this was even going to be delivered to us, got delivered staff to staff.

MURRAY (voice-over): The Republican officials who testified before the committee spoke of the repeated threats they received.

BOWERS: We have various groups come by, and they have had video panel trucks with videos of me, proclaiming me to be a pedophile and a pervert and a corrupt politician. We had a daughter who is gravely ill who was upset by what was happening outside. RAFFENSPERGER: Eventually my wife started getting the texts, and hers

typically came in as sexualized texts, which were disgusting. And then some people broke into my daughter-in-law's home.

MURRAY (voice-over): The committee heard from a mother and daughter that Trump explicitly maligned in a phone call with the Georgia secretary of state.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via phone): -- 18,000 voters having to do with Ruby Freeman. That's -- she's a vote scammer, a professional vote scammer and hustler.

MURRAY (voice-over): The two former Fulton County election workers' lives were turned upside-down because of Trump's claims.

RUBY FREEMAN, FORMER GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER: The FBI informed me that I needed to leave my home for safety. I felt homeless. I felt -- you know, I can't believe -- I can't believe this person has caused this much damage to me and my family.

MOSS: A lot of threats wishing death upon me, telling me that, you know, I'm -- I will be in jail with my mother. I second-guess everything that I do. It's affected my life in a major way, in every way. All because of lies.


MURRAY (on camera): In addition to that emotional testimony, we heard from a Georgia official, who publicly warned Trump to condemn the violence, condemn the harassment election officials were facing, and warned that someone could get killed.

We know that Trump did not do that, and a month later, rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol.

BERMAN: A real intersection between law and humanity in these hearings. Sara Murray, thank you so much.

MURRAY: Thanks.

KEILAR: Joining us now to discuss, CNN chief legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Jeffrey Toobin; and former Republican congressman Francis Rooney.

I'm curious, Jeffrey, what you think. How much more, if any, legal jeopardy is Donald Trump in today, this morning, than he was this time yesterday?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: A little more, but probably not a lot more. You know, you look at what Trump says, and it's always insinuations. You know, he didn't say, Go get Ruby Freeman. He just said her name enough times so that other people would do his dirty work.

I mean, a criminal investigation is very different from a congressional investigation. There obviously should be one here, but, you know, people should not get their hopes up or worry, depending on their perspective, that there is going to be a criminal prosecution of Donald Trump, because I think it is still a remote possibility in light of all this.

KEILAR: I'm curious, as a former member of Congress, when you hear Senator Ron Johnson saying, I didn't know about this, even though he also admits he knew about this ask for his chief of staff to deliver these Wisconsin and Michigan fake electors, is he believable to you?

FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FORMER FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN: Not at all. In fact, it's part of the problem with the people who serve in those jobs, is they throw the staff under the bus to protect themselves. I think it's absurd that he denied that he knew about it and sent the poor staffer to take that over to Pence's office.

KEILAR: Were you surprised when you learned that this went to that level?

ROONEY: Yes, I'm surprised about proposing alternate electors in the first place. I mean, that sounds like Chavez to me. And it seems to take Trump's actions from words to something actionable, but I'd have to refer to Mr. Toobin.

TOOBIN: Well, I also think the -- the whole elector scheme really came into focus yesterday. I mean, they used terms like "contingent electors" or "alternate electors." They weren't any of those things. They were fake government officials.

To be an elector in a presidential election is a government role. The Trump campaign just invented these people out of thin air. It's like saying I'm a United States senator. I mean, you can't do that. There are processes for becoming a presidential elector.

And the idea that they even created these so-called slates was just an example of their arrogance and, you know, disrespect for the rule of law.

Was it criminal? Again, I find it a hard -- hard to believe that anyone will be criminally prosecuted for it. But was it outrageous and was it false? Absolutely.


KEILAR: We did hear from one former fake elector, who thought he was a contingent elector and was angry to find out that he was involved in a plan that Trump campaign lawyers -- Trump campaign lawyers had said, This is not a good idea. I'm out. I'm not a part of this plan.

I wonder what you thought about the conversations that we heard about, congressman, where you have Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers detailing this conversation that he had with Rudy Giuliani, and he's taking it to mean that Giuliani was admitting he was concocting evidence.

Also a conversation that he had with John Eastman: Do it, let the courts decide. What did that tell you? ROONEY: That tells me that they would go to any length to destroy our

American institution of democracy. It's -- this reminds me so much of Chavez in Venezuela, when 80 percent of his precincts reported exactly the same vote. I mean, that's not what our country is all about. It's about respecting the elections and the process, win, lose or draw.

TOOBIN: And they have never had evidence. I mean, Donald Trump to this day, you know, files these long -- you know, big statement after the -- after the last day of hearings, not this day, the day before. I mean, there is no evidence that there was fraud in this election, but millions of Americans continue to believe it. If you watch FOX News, you'll believe it.

And, you know, ultimately, facts mattered in 2020, but will they matter in 2022, 2024? I think it's very unclear whether.

ROONEY: To that point, it kind of reminds me of Ceausescu's Romania, where he convinced the people of Romania that we didn't have food and we wandered around like -- wearing bear skins in the United States.

If the media has enough control over people's hearts and minds, really bad things can happen.

KEILAR: You know, let's talk about the big picture and the future here. Right? Where are we 18 months after the insurrection? Kevin McCarthy, who is poised, potentially, to be the next House speaker, depending on the outcome of these upcoming midterm elections, was defending President Trump yesterday. Let's listen.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): You know, the president always has a right to question an election, just as the Democrats question, just as Bennie Thompson voted against the electorate vote, just as Raskin who sits on this committee said President Trump should be impeached before the president was even sworn in.

So, look, I know you've got a lot of questions that hover directly to your -- to your viewers, but I think your viewers also care more about inflation.


KEILAR: Congressman, what did you think about what he said there?

ROONEY: Well, I think that some big lines were crossed that he's not willing to admit. I mean, it's one thing to say, I think the election was not right and another thing to propose electors, to create these alternate slates, to pressure poor public officials.

I mean, you mentioned the president of the United States pressuring just that poor citizen out there is pretty outrageous. And when you think back, you know, Nixon and Al Gore had a lot more things to argue about the elections than this guy anyway.

TOOBIN: And they conceded. Richard Nixon conceded in 1960. Al Gore conceded in 2000. Hillary Clinton conceded in 2016.

I mean, you know, the false equivalence between Democrats and Republicans is an epidemic in our media. And, you know, that -- Kevin McCarthy takes advantage of that by pretending that there's any sort of comparison between those -- the outcome of those elections and what happened in 2020.

KEILAR: Jeffrey, Congressman, thank you so much for discussing this really essential day in these hearings with us. Thank you.

ROONEY: Thank you.

KEILAR: Ahead, the fake Trump electors who were so determined to overturn the election they wanted to hide overnight inside a state capitol.

And history overnight. The Senate advancing the first bipartisan gun safety bill in 30 years. What's in it and when it could become law.

BERMAN: A passenger plane's landing gear collapses as the pilot touches down in Miami.



BERMAN: New revelations in the January 6th hearings. One Michigan Republican Party official, Laura Cox, told the committee that fake Republican electors wanted to hide overnight in the state capitol to sign fake elector certificates.


LAURA COX, FORMER MICHIGAN REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIRWOMAN: He told me that the Michigan Republican electors were planning to meet in the capitol and hide overnight so that they could fulfill the role of casting their vote in -- per law, in the Michigan chambers. And I told him in no uncertain terms that that was insane and inappropriate.


BERMAN: Joining me now former executive director of the Michigan Republican party, Jeff Timmer. Jeff what, do you make of that plan to hide overnight in the Michigan state capitol to submit fake electors?

JEFF TIMMER, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MICHIGAN REPUBLICAN PARTY: Well, I think Laura was being kind when she said it was insane. It's incompetent. It's crazy. And it doesn't surprise me, because I know the people who are involved in planning it.

BERMAN: What does the need for secrecy tell you about their state of mind?

TIMMER: Well, I think that goes to the intent. They knew what they were doing was wrong. They knew what they were doing was illegal, at some some of them did, the people who were masterminding it. And so that goes to the intent, that they knew they were breaking the law when they were making their plan and they're plotting their conspiracy.

BERMAN: It didn't work this time. What about next time?

TIMMER: Well, that's the danger. The danger is -- is that, you know, kind of looking at this incompetent clown monkey coup and thinking, How can these people overthrow the government of the United States?


Well, it could happen, and especially if we take it kind of with a grain of salt, saying, Well, you know, they failed last time. We don't need to worry about it anymore. Because they've continued plotting for the next time.

BERMAN: In Michigan, it is interesting. We talk about the impact of all these revelations surrounding January 6. Well, there is someone in Michigan who has been arrested and charged for his role in January 6, and that's Ryan Kelley, who happens to be running for governor in Michigan.

And look at this poll from "The Detroit Free Press" from just about a week ago. He's leading in the Republican field. What does that tell you?

TIMMER: Well, it tells you how far down the rabbit hole of delusion Republican voters have gone. When you're arrested for -- by the FBI for what amounts to sedition, trying to overthrow an election; and instead of ending your campaign, it catapults you to the front of the pack, I think that tells you the dangerous kind of precipice we're in right now.

But Ryan Kelley is just one of the Michigan Republicans who are facing legal challenges. The Republican Party in Michigan looks like an episode of "COPS," with several high-level Republicans under criminal investigation, including Senator Mike Shirkey, who testified yesterday.

BERMAN: What do you do about this, then? I mean, you're certainly not bashful. You're out here talking whenever you can, calling it crazy, insane, other things. Is that enough?

TIMMER: No, it's not enough. We need to break through. People need to listen. People need to pay attention.

And that's what I think the anti-democratic, with a small "D," forces are counting on, is the apathy of the majority of people in the country, the majority of people in Michigan, that will become so weary with all of these antics, all of this constant "who do we believe, what do we believe," that it will -- people will tune out and not vote. And that's what they're counting on so that their minority numbers can have a bigger impact, punching above their weight in November.

BERMAN: Jeff Timmer, great to see you this morning. Thanks so much for being on.

TIMMER: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: A major breakthrough for bipartisan gun legislation. It is now on track to become law, maybe even by the end of the month.

KEILAR: Plus, stunning new criticism of the police response to the Uvalde school shooting. What Texas's top public safety official is saying about the failed operation and who he believes is to blame. We are live from Texas next.



KEILAR: A major step forward, the Senate voting to advance the bipartisan gun safety bill. It is the first significant movement on gun legislation in nearly 30 years.

And joining me now is CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox to talk about this.

You know, last week when things weren't going so well, I wondered if, ultimately, a lot of this might be eviscerated, a lot of the measures they were talking about. That's not the case.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, this largely reflects that framework that they rolled out about a week ago now. And they were able to put it together, roll out this legislative text, later than we had expected, but then they had a very quick first vote to really show and shore up some of that support that they had already rolled out when they had the framework.

So yesterday, 14 Republicans joined Democrats to move this legislation forward. Now, they won't have that big vote until later in the week to break the filibuster. That's really going to be the one to watch.

But the fact that there were already more than ten Republicans willing to move this process forward, it's a good sign.

Now, things can always shift a little bit in upcoming days, as some of the criticism gets, you know, blasted out there from these gun groups. But I think one other thing to keep in mind is there were significant changes in gun legislation that's part of this package.

Not only is there millions of dollars for school security, for mental health; there is also an investment in, really, the way that 18- to 21-year-olds can buy a gun in this country.

And before they were just talking about making it so that when you went to a gun store, if you were between those ages and you wanted to buy a gun like an AR-15, it would change that process so that the juvenile records would be included in the NICS system.

However, now, it's all gun purchases for people between 18 and 21. That's a significant change. It also closes the so-called boyfriend loophole. Before, if you were

married, had a child with, or if you lived with someone and you committed domestic violence, you didn't get to have a gun. But if you were just a boyfriend or girlfriend of someone and committed that crime, you did get to keep your gun.

Now, that loophole is closed, Brianna. Very significant.

KEILAR: It's so interesting. And so many things that we can't ignore and we'll be talking about here in the days ahead as this moves forward.

Sixty-four, that's a big number. And the role of Senator Kyrsten Sinema also something --

FOX: Yes.

KEILAR: -- we need to talk about here in the days ahead.

Lauren, thank you so much.

Ahead, we'll be joined by one of the negotiators who worked on this bill, Senator Chris Coons.

BERMAN: An abject failure. That is from the top public safety official in Texas, describing the law enforcement response to the Uvalde school shooting, in sworn testimony.

CNN's Rosa Flores live in San Antonio this morning. A lot of finger pointing, a lot of emotion in this, Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, you know, John, frustration is boiling over in Uvalde, as well. The local mayor there saying that he is fed up with the leaks of information, with the lies, saying that the gloves are off and that he's going to start throwing people under the bus. Who's he starting with? The head of Texas DPS.


MAYOR DON MCLAUGHLIN, UVALDE, TEXAS: I'm going to be throwing people under the bus tonight.

FLORES (voice-over): Uvalde's mayor, Don McLaughlin, venting his frustration during a city council meeting on Tuesday, blasting the Texas --