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Kansas Votes to Protect Abortion Rights; Federal Grand Jury Subpoenas Ex-Trump White House Counsel; Pentagon Wiped Phones of Top Officials at End of Trump Administration; Speaker Pelosi Departs Taiwan After Controversial Visit. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired August 03, 2022 - 06:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It is Wednesday, August 3, and I'm Brianna Keilar with John Avlon this morning --



KEILAR: -- in for John Berman. Good morning to you.

And it is the morning after election night in America, where democracy was one of the things on the ballot. Primary races in five states setting the stage for what will be some of the most competitive races in November.

Also, another test of Donald Trump's grip on the GOP.

In conservative Kansas voters sent a dramatic message and a resounding defeat for efforts to eliminate state abortion protections. It's the first time since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade that voters have weighed in on the issue.

With 78 percent of the vote in as of Tuesday night, nearly 700,000 people have cast ballots in the primary, and that number dwarfs the voter turnout in the 2020 presidential primary election.

AVLON: And remember when ex-President Trump endorsed an ambiguous "Eric" in the Missouri Senate race on election eve? Well, one of the Erics won. CNN projecting that Eric Schmidt will win the GOP Senate primary, defeating Eric Greitens, former Missouri governor, who was trying for a political comeback after resigning in disgrace.

And in Michigan, CNN projecting Tudor Dixon has won the Republican primary for governor. Dixon, an election denier who received a late endorsement from Trump, will face Democratic incumbent Governor Gretchen Whitmer in November.

And Peter Meijer, one of the ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, has been defeated. CNN projects Meijer will lose his primary in Michigan's 2nd District to Trump-endorsed challenger John Gibbs after Democrats meddled in his primary.

KEILAR: In Arizona, where election deniers are all over the ballot, Kari Lake is leading Karrin Taylor Robson in the GOP primary for governor. Robson was endorsed by Mike Pence, while Lake was backed by Trump, and she is all in on the big lie. CNN has not called that race.

AVLON: Also in Arizona, CNN is projecting that Rusty Bowers, the longtime state house speaker who testified before the January 6th Committee, will lose his primary to David Farnsworth.

Bowers, you'll recall, refused to participate in Trump's effort to overturn Arizona's 2020 election.

All right. Let's bring in Abby Phillip, CNN senior political correspondent and anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY"; and Mark Preston, senior political analyst and host of "Full Stop with Mark Preston" on Sirius XM.

Great to see you guys in person. Election night in America. Five big states, five big races. Let's start with Kansas. Abby, this stunned a lot of expectations.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Yes, I think it's a really big deal. And I was reading the "Wall Street Journal" this morning, and a Republican strategist was quoted in there, saying the same thing: basically, wake up, guys. That if you think that this doesn't matter, you're not reading the tea leaves.

And that's because the turnout in that race was so extraordinary, and it seems to signal in a red state, mind you, that voters -- you can't get to almost 60 percent without getting some Trump voters, without getting some independent voters, without getting a lot of Republicans to come out and vote and to vote, basically, in favor of abortion rights.

So for Republicans down ballot -- governors, state legislatures, even senators and Congress people -- we're talking about a Congress that could be in a position to pass a national abortion rights law. It really puts them on notice that when you put this issue to voters, when it is on the ballot, it's not a slam dunk opposing abortion.

And the polls bear that out. A majority of Americans support some abortion rights in this country and do not support full-out, all-out bans on abortion.

KEILAR: So they may be chipping away at their own support when they're doing this, right?

Now, the next step is the legislature may decide what to do, and I wonder if this is a template for what happens in a number of states. Will the legislature follow what the voters want to happen in Kansas?

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think we have to take a step back, and as Abby is saying, we saw last night a turnout that we certainly wouldn't expect in Kansas, you know, on an issue like this, right? So that in itself -- if this was in a Massachusetts, a Maryland, somewhere in the Northeast it would be more understanding. This, I think, caught us all by surprise. But let's not forget that it's also going to embolden, you know, those

who want to strip abortion rights, you know, away from people. It is going to embolden them to go to the polls, because they're going to see what happened last night.

And they're going to say to themselves, wait a second. We need to raise more money. We need to get out the vote. And as we are looking at issues as we're heading now into the midterm elections, we now know that abortion is going to be a major issue to voters when they go to the polls.

PHILLIP: It does make me wonder, I mean, one of the things going on here is that the Republican Party has been driven on the issue of abortion by a very small minority that wants pretty extreme abortion restrictions. Either no abortion altogether or very strict restrictions.


How much do they continue to listen to those folks who have a lot of money? They're well-funded. Tons of money poured into Kansas. But those views are not reflective of where the center of this country are on that issue.

And I think this is a moment for the Republican Party to figure out how much do they continue to cater to that relatively small proportion of even their own base.

AVLON: Especially in states when people are trying to pass laws without exceptions for rape or incest. This really remarkable bellwether certainly of voter enthusiasm. You've got an off-cycle primary. Massive turnout repudiating an attempt to overturn the rights.

Let's move on to Arizona. And not only Arizona. Also Kris Kobach in Kansas. Election deniers really making gabs across the ballot.

Now, we want to be clear, CNN has not called a lot of the races, in particular in Arizona. Rusty Bowers has lost. That was a referendum on Trump, certainly.

But what do you make of this strength these election deniers are showing in Republican primaries, apparently, at the same time as the abortion effort has gone down in Kansas, and what it says about the matchups in the fall?

PRESTON: You know, I think a couple things. One is we look at these races and say that it is Trump and anti-Trump, right? I mean, like, we frame it, we boil it down to whether it's win or loss for Donald Trump.

Bottom line is, is that we're seeing something here that is going to surpass Donald Trump when he leaves. We are seeing election deniers that are going to be put into positions of power that are going to be able to change the law, or not enact the law, or cause havoc at worse case; that's going to force the state legislatures to get involved, eventually, down the road.

Because we're going to see -- I mean, look, they could be in place in some of these states for the 2024 election. And we saw the likes of Kari Lake say that, even if she loses, she's not going to accept loss, because it would be fraud. I mean, imagine that across the country.

PHILLIP: I mean, short of the guy who was accused of, you know, physically abusing his family, I mean, pretty much the election deniers won last night. And that really tells you a lot about what's going on in this Republican Party.

That it doesn't really matter what race you're running, what state you're running in. These folks are winning. And even the ones who are sort of trying to tamp it down a little bit and kind of wrap it up in a bow that says, you know, election security and election integrity, these are all people who don't accept the results of the last election, who suggest there was fraud where there was absolutely none, and who basically are trying to, you know, kowtow to a segment of the Republican Party that believes that Trump was legitimately elected in 2020, which he clearly was not.

I mean, the Republican Party, by and large, in the results last night, but in the results that we've seen over the last few months, this is the litmus test for being on the ballot, if you have an "R" next to your name. And that's a really sad statement. I mean, look at Peter Meijer.

KEILAR: Well, that's what I wanted to mention. Peter Meijer in Michigan voted to impeach Donald Trump, and he lost. Not only did he lose, Democrats, the DCCC, the election arm of House Democrats, spent big money to try to elevate his opponent on the far right, and here he is losing, Mark.

PRESTON: Here he is losing, is -- likely after that lost his reelection. And he'll be now two of ten who have voted to impeach Donald Trump who have lost their election. Four others have decided not to run.

And Liz Cheney comes up in a couple weeks right now, and if you look at the polling, she's very much in trouble.

So it really is -- as much as I try to say it is not Donald Trump's party, it is Donald Trump's party for right now. But when Donald Trump leaves, it's still going to be his ideals that push the party, whether it is election -- you know, the election fraud that we're talking about or just, you know, this level of MAGA that is so antithetical to what is really, you know, the establishment Republican Party.

KEILAR: Did Democrats step in it, though?

PHILLIP: You know, I think that I've said this before. It's a cynical play, what they did in Michigan. But we should remember, the voters are voting, right? And they're choosing to go with a candidate who is all in on the lies.

So, yes, it's cynical for the Democratic Party to, while they're running on, you know, people who are a threat to American democracy, trying to defeat somebody who is actually actively pushing back on that. But at the same time, I mean, wow, look at what the voters themselves are deciding in these races.

AVLON: Closed partisan primaries. No question we're waiting for the Washington results, where two other Republicans who voted to impeach Trump are coming up.

But one thing is clear: that margin in Michigan was pretty close. And so the DCCC buy could have made the difference.


AVLON: That's a sobering thing for us all to realize.


OK, Mark, see you on at Sirius XM.

Abby, we'll see you on Sunday, "INSIDE POLITICS."

PHILLIP: We'll see you guys.

AVLON: Great to see you.

KEILAR: So this morning the Justice Department investigation into the plot to overturn the 2020 election is taking a major step, and it's reaching deeper into the Trump White House.

CNN has learned that a federal grand jury has subpoenaed Pat Cipollone. The former Trump White House counsel has already testified before the House Select Committee on January 6th. Cipollone said that there was no election fraud and that Trump should have conceded.

Joining us now is CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig.

How significant, Elie, is this subpoena, and what does it tell us about the direction and the pace of DOJ's investigation?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Bri, it tells me that DOJ wants answers from Donald Trump's inner inner circle. You really cannot tell the full story of January 6 and the lead-up without Pat Cipollone, because so many times he was in the rooms where the key conversations were happening.

When Donald Trump was contemplating seizing voting machines, Pat Cipollone was there pushing back. When Pat -- when Donald Trump was being advised he should try to take over DOJ, Pat Cipollone pushed back on that.

On January 6, we know that Cipollone urged Donald Trump to do something, to take action. And we heard from one of the other witnesses in the committee, Cassidy Hutchinson, that as the Capitol riot was unfolding, Pat Cipollone said, We're going to get charged with every crime in the book if we don't do something, if Donald Trump goes down to the Capitol.

So he's really a central witness here. He's someone who's essential for DOJ to talk to.

AVLON: Is he so central that he could have a credible executive privilege claim, and if so, could DOJ challenge it?

HONIG: Well, so Pat Cipollone did claim executive privilege in front of the committee.

AVLON: Sure.

HONIG: He might try to do the same; or Donald Trump might try to step in and claim executive privilege in front of a grand jury. You can claim executive privilege.

But there's a difference between claiming executive privilege and actually winning on executive privilege. This is actually exactly what happened in the Richard Nixon tapes case back in 1974.

Richard Nixon objected to turning over the tapes to the Justice Department, and the Supreme Court said, yes, executive privilege is a thing. Yes, it could apply here. But when we look at the conversation, it does not.

Because it's meant to protect confidential communications between the president and his advisers as to legitimate policy and strategy discussions, but not as to potentially criminal discussions, not to just shield any manner of embarrassing or wrongdoing conversations. So we could be setting up for a legal battle here.

KEILAR: All right. We'll be looking to see how that plays out and how long that takes. Elie, thank you so much.

AVLON: Thanks, buddy. Be well.

KEILAR: So ahead, we're going to speak with Congressman Adam Kinzinger. Of course, he's one of two Republicans on the January 6th Committee. So what is he going to say about the primaries? What is he going to say about Cipollone being subpoenaed by a grand jury? We'll be getting that.

AVLON: And first on CNN, the Defense Department reportedly deleted a potential treasure trove of texts from key witnesses in the Trump administration surrounding the January 6th insurrection.

This follows reports of missing texts from key Trump officials at the Department of Homeland Security and in the Secret Service, all surrounding the Capitol riot.

Joining me now to dig into all of this is U.S. editor in chief of "TechRadar," Lance Ulanoff.

All right. Lance, it's great to have you here. We've got a lot of questions, particularly just about the technological know-how of this. These deleted texts, these alleged wiped machines, occurred after Freedom of Information Act requests were put in place.

That raises all sorts of questions about -- about the sheer number of -- of people who were in pivotal positions on January 6th who seemed to have abided not by the law.

What can you tell us about the technology behind this? Once a cellphone has been wiped, are those texts gone forever?

LANCE ULANOFF, U.S. EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "TECHRADAR": No, not necessarily. I mean, the thing is with any sort of storage that you have on a computer -- your phone is a mobile computer -- until you overwrite what was there, until you overwrite that space with new information, it could still be on that phone.

With the big caveat of, if the information is encrypted, it is incredibly difficult to access it. I mean, that's the whole point of encryption, for privacy.

AVLON: Presumably it's encrypted. We're talking about leading folks at DOD, DHS, Department of Homeland Security, the Secret Service.

But there's the question of this pattern. When you see this pattern of people in pivotal positions apparently defying, bureaucratically or not, you know, requests to hold onto records, what does that make you think?

ULANOFF: You know, I feel -- so there was this whole thing of this mobile device management process they were going to do, but it began to feel like a freight train. Nothing else mattered. We're going to do this migration. We're going to wipe your phones. Yes, somebody is asking for your data. We don't care. This is happening.

And all they did is tell Secret Service, listen, back up your phones.

So I don't know how you are at your work, you know, but if somebody from I.T. is reminding you to do something you're like, yes, I'll do that later. I'll do that later.

You can't leave it in the hands of individuals. It has to be done at sort of a corporate bureaucratic level. That was not done.


What's stunning to me is that we all knew that you would want this kind of information starting from January 6th on, and no one said, Give me your phones right now. Let's collect everything we need at this moment.

AVLON: In fact, potentially just the opposite; and I think that's what's so troubling here. There's an impulse to kind of blame the I.T. guy always, right? Say this is a sort of unfortunate bureaucratic SNAFU. Isn't it terrible that all the text messages from key players were deleted regarding January 6?

But of course, this is a matter of national security, election integrity, truly defending our democracy. So when people throw up their hands and say there's nothing to be done, it sounds like your message is even if it's encrypted, unless extraordinary actions were taken, which would presumably be deliberate, that this information could be retrieved. It's not gone.

ULANOFF It is -- I will say it's a small possibility. You know, there are a number of phones -- there's some confusion about whether they had, you know, sort of phones that were official phones, personal phones, which phones they were using.

The Secret Service is generally not using iCloud, so it's all either there or, if they backed it up to some sort of drive on the system. It sounds like they never backed it up to those drives.

But if those phones, which were all taken back from the Secret Service are now in the hands of somebody, unclear who, because it doesn't seem -- no one seems to know. You give them to a forensic scientist, and you let them try and go dig. No guarantees they will find it.

All they've gotten so far is what's called meta data, which is probably telling them who was texting whom but not what was in the texts.

AVLON: Well, that is the key question: what was in the texts? And you know, traditionally, we see that, you know, texting is the least secure means of communication.


AVLON: And certainly, in this case, the stakes could not be higher. Lance, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.

ULANOFF: My pleasure.

AVLON: All right. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ending her historic visit to Taiwan. A live report from the Taiwanese capital, next.

And celebrations after a bill to help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits finally passes in the Senate. We're going to talk with two women who led the fight.

KEILAR: Plus, everyday items like toothpaste, deodorant and candy under lock and key at drugstores. What's going on?



KEILAR: Just moments ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her delegation were seen leaving Taiwan's capital.

Pelosi gave a powerful speech. She made it clear that the U.S. stands in support of the self-governing island.

China is calling Pelosi's visit to Taiwan a, quote, "complete farce" and responded with plans for military exercises around the island.

CNN's Will Ripley is live in the Taiwanese capital. Also joining us is CNN national security analyst Beth Sanner.

Will, what is the latest from there on what has been such an anticipated visit all around?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's two different story lines that we've been following.

One, of course, is Nancy Pelosi making this historic trip, giving a speech about democracy and friendship and solidarity with Taiwan and meeting with -- you know, from political leaders to business leaders like TSMC, the chip manufacturer; visiting sites, you know, that are significant historically here.

But then just -- literally, just miles off of the coast of Taiwan, you have the Chinese military assembling at six different locations around the island. And these exercises, you know, Taiwanese officials have basically called it tantamount to almost a blockade or a practice for a blockade to try to stop supplies from being -- coming into Taiwan. If there were some sort of a military conflict, a blockade is the first thing that you would see as a warning sign here.

So trying to essentially simulating that. And now as a result, Taiwan is renegotiating air travel routes, trying to find ways to get, you know, planes through the Philippines or Japan instead of trying to fly over the Chinese military.

Nancy Pelosi's plane actually had to take a three-hour detour arriving here to avoid the South China Sea and to avoid heavily-militarized areas that she might have to fly over.

So this is very serious business. Even vessels are being rerouted as a result of this. And I think the crucial thing to watch now, Brianna, is what happens now that Nancy Pelosi's plane has left? What does China do now? Because this is the time that these exercises are really due to kick off in large scale.

AVLON: Beth, that's where I want to take this for your analysis. Look, we've had past speakers of the House visit Taiwan. We -- recently, in April we had a bipartisan Senate delegation visit Taiwan.

But clearly the reaction to Nancy Pelosi's visit is different. She's been a long-time critic of the regime in Beijing. But what is your take on this announcement of military exercises and this encircling of the island that Will just described?

BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think we have to take this and put this into a broader context. On one hand, this is definitely about Speaker Pelosi's visit and the fact that she's such a high-ranking official. She's part of Biden's party. She and others can't separate what she's doing from us just poking a finger in their eye.

But the bigger context here is that this is about U.S.-China relations being at the bottom of the barrel. It is about China-Taiwan relations, and those are going nowhere. The idea of a peaceful resolution to unification looks far and -- you know, farther than it's ever been. And the fact that China itself isn't doing very well in the year that

Xi was supposed to have his best year ever.

So there's a bigger context here, and it's not just about Pelosi's visit.

KEILAR: Do you think, Beth, this is going to change how U.S. officials are approaching visits, are approaching outreach going forward? When they look at this -- this pretty overwhelming response, pretty dramatic response that we're seeing from China.


SANNER: I think that we will have to calibrate. I mean, I think about U.S. visits and U.S. meetings. These are instruments of power.

And so, you know, what I would say is that we have to be very calibrated in how we use these things and understand the consequences. Not that we should avoid what we want to do, but that we have to understand and do it purposefully.

KEILAR: It's a very, very interesting point there, and we'll have to see if that's how they proceed going forward, because every visit, certainly, China is approaching this as sort of a poke in the eye, as you said.

Beth, thank you so much. Our thanks to Will, as well.

The Senate has finally passed the burn pits bill, and next we're going to talk with a woman who fought so hard to get this to the finish line to honor her late son-in-law.

AVLON: And emotional testimony in the case against Alex Jones. A Sandy Hook mom says she forgives him for lying about her son's murder, but she's got to work at it.