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Voters in Kansas Reject Ballot Measure Allowing State Lawmakers to Ban Abortion; Eric Schmitt Defeats Former Governor Eric Greitens in Republican Missouri Senate Primary; Federal Grand Jury Subpoenas Former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone; Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) Interviewed on Pentagon Wiping Phones of Top Officials after January 6th Insurrection. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 03, 2022 - 08:00   ET



VIN SCULLY, SPORTS ANNOUNCER: And even to this day, when that crowd roars, I'm that little eight-year-old kid curled underneath the radio back in New York City listening to Alabama-Tennessee.


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


KEILAR: Good morning.

Overnight, what's being called a political earthquake, a resounding win for abortion rights in the state of Kansas. Voters there overwhelmingly rejecting a ballot measure that would have allowed lawmakers to ban abortion in the state. It was also a win for election denialism in several key primary races. In Arizona, Kari Lake is now leading Karrin Taylor Robson in the GOP primary for governor. Lake was backed by Trump, while Robson was endorsed by Mike Pence. CNN has not yet called that race.

Also in Arizona, CNN is projecting that Rusty Bowers, the State House Speaker who testified before the January 6th committee, will lose his primary to David Farnsworth. Bowers refused to participate in Trump's efforts to throw Arizona's 2020 election into doubt.

AVLON: And in Michigan, CNN projects election denier Tudor Dixon has won the Republican primary for governor. She will face Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer in the fall.

Also in Michigan, Peter Meijer, one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump, has been defeated by challenger John Gibbs after Democrats meddled in his primary.

And you might recall that Trump endorsed an ambiguous Eric in the Missouri Senate race, and one of the Erics has won. CNN projecting Eric Schmitt will defeat Eric Greitens, the former Missouri governor who resigned in disgrace.

KEILAR: Let's begin with CNN's Jeff Zeleny in St. Louis with the very latest. Jeff?


Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt easily defeated former governor Eric Greitens here in Missouri, really giving Republicans across the country a sense of relief. They had been watching this race with some anticipation and anxiety, fearful that Eric Greitens, the disgraced former governor who resigned just four years ago in a sex scandal, could come back and potentially become the Republican nominee. That gave Democrats some hope that they could potentially win the Missouri Senate seat, of course, something not happened in a decade.

But that did not happen last night. Eric Schmitt, the conservative Missouri attorney general, easily defeating Eric Greitens and Congressman Vicky Hartzler. So the endorsement from the former president at the end of the day clearly did not matter in this race at all. He was very ambiguous, and of course, now we know why. He simply did not know which Eric would win, but, of course, Eric Schmitt easily defeated him. And at his victory speech last night, Eric Schmitt did not mention the former president.

AVLON: Interesting. All right, but tell us about Kansas. What is your read on the impact of that?

ZELENY: Well, John, look, I think that was the biggest outcome from last evening. In all of the races across the country, voters overwhelmingly said that they do not want Kansas lawmakers to further restrict or ban abortions. And if you look at these numbers, really across the conservative state of Kansas, yes, in rural areas the outcome was the -- the answer via yes vote certainly won, which means they did they did want further restrictions. But the no vote was overwhelmingly successful.

And what that means broad terms, three months before the midterm elections, it literally is first time Americans are weighing in on this issue of abortion in the wake of this Supreme Court ruling. So it's going to give Democrats some heart in terms of how they're going to play this message.

And Republicans, now we know why they did not want to be talking about this. Mitch McConnell back in Washington, other Republicans did not want to have Roe versus Wade abortion front and center in any campaigns. And now we know there is energy on both sides of the race. So we will see how much we can draw from this in a bigger context. We don't know if voters are going to put abortion at the top of the list. The economy is still is at the top of the list in most surveys. But in conservative Kansas last night, this certainly was an earthquake. That is not an overstatement. And this will be studied and certainly for the next three months will be echoing throughout all midterm election campaigns until November. John?

KEILAR: All right, Jeff Zeleny, thank you so much. We're also going to have more on this here in a moment with John King and David Axelrod.

AVLON: New overnight, the Justice Department reaches deeper into the Trump White House. A federal grand jury has subpoenaed former White House counsel Pat Cipollone. He's already told the January 6th committee there was no evidence of voter fraud in 2020. But now the DOJ wants to hear from him.


CNN senior crime and justice correspondent Katelyn Polantz joins us now. Katelyn, what you got?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: John, this is a really significant step in this criminal investigation into January 6th. Pat Cipollone is the highest ranking person in the Trump White House that we know of who has received a subpoena from the Justice Department to testify to a grand jury, so our Pamela Brown was able to confirm this last night that Pat Cipollone has indeed received a grand jury subpoena to testify.

And this is a really drastic fact-finding step for Justice Department investigators to take. We already know that Cipollone testified to the House select committee, was speaking about what he witnessed up to a certain point about January 6th. He was unable to share with the House committee what he heard Donald Trump saying and was really trying not to speak about Trump himself.

But now the Justice Department is coming in and apparently trying to replicate that testimony and potentially even push it further. And the reason that we think that they may be trying to push it further is that Pamela Brown was able to add to her reporting that Cipollone and his attorney are in discussions over executive privilege. That means the Trump statements, what's protected by executive privilege, by the privilege of the presidency that Cipollone is unwilling to share with the grand jury. And we know that the Justice Department can try and fight those sorts of parameters, the witnesses, or Donald Trump himself are trying to put up.

And we know that already in this investigation, people from the office of the vice presidency have said they weren't willing to speak about certain statements, and that the Justice Department is getting ready to try and get access to those Trump statements. So that appears to be where this could be going, and it really is a big deal that the Justice Department wants to talk to Cipollone at this point.

AVLON: It is. High stakes testimony for sure. Katelyn, thank you very much.

KEILAR: All right, let's bring in Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. He serves on the January 6th committee. He's also on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Sir, thank you for being with us this morning. What is this signaling to you that Cipollone has been subpoenaed? What does that tell you about where DOJ is going here?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Well, I don't -- again, I don't know this -- you guys have reported it, I'm sure it's true. I haven't heard this from the committee's perspective. Just generally I'll say this is probably bad for president -- former President Trump. This is -- if he goes in front of the grand jury, it shows that this is more than, you know, what did John Eastman do, the attorney that basically came up with that crazy scheme to overturn the election, and it probably is a very deep interest on what the president did.

And so I think in terms of their negotiations, obviously the Justice Department knows better what they can in essence get around when it comes to saying executive privilege. And so I hope they go at that judiciously. I hope Pat Cipollone actually just tells the truth. I have no doubt he hasn't. But there's no reason to protect particularly criminal behavior, what could potentially be criminal behavior behind executive privilege. So we'll see where it goes. But there is no doubt that this investigation has developed further along than where we either knew it was or thought it was a few months ago.

KEILAR: Is Cipollone an area where the committee and DOJ are cooperating?

KINZINGER: I'm not going to get into that. We have shared 20 transcripts of DOJ. We have an open conversation with them, but I'm not going to get into the details of any of that.

KEILAR: So CNN right now is reporting the Pentagon wiped the phones of top departing officials at the end of the Trump administration. They deleted any texts from key witnesses. This is an initial court filing, of course, that was in March that was asking for this information. Why didn't the committee know about this before?

KINZINGER: See, I don't know. I think I'm almost more interested in why we didn't know than even why these messages were deleted, although, of course, we're quite interested in that. We've made it clear what we were interested in reading, particularly with the Secret Service. We knew that there were texts we needed to see. And we find out the inspector general knew months prior to even when he told us he knew about missing texts.

So I don't necessarily know if this is some massive cover-up. It certainly stinks to high heaven, but in the worst case it is just failure to follow through on records keeping, in which case that in itself is an act that needs follow through on.

So look, we have the one of the most intense days for the U.S. military and particularly for the Secret Service since 9/11. The idea that you would go through then a technology mitigation or migration and be, like, yes, I don't care if you delete all your texts from the two most -- one of the most important days as far as the Secret Service is concerned, it doesn't really make a lot of sense to me.

KEILAR: Where are you guys on working to try to recover some of that, working with forensic technicians who might have some insight into this? Have you made any headway there?

[08:10:07] KINZINGER: Well, we're certainly trying, but I think -- I think it's not something that we're going to let up on, but I'm not sure to what extent we can get this stuff back. I know we're asking the questions and trying to figure that out, as many are, but it is possible it is just gone. And if somebody intends to make something go away, it can go away. So yes, it's too bad.

KEILAR: You're not hopeful. You're not hopeful you're going to get any of this.

KINZINGER: Well, I don't know. I just don't know what to be hopeful on with this or not.

Here is what I am hopeful for, at least, is that somebody comes forward and tells us what they know. If there is somebody that knows for instance that these were intentionally erased, that is your duty as an American to come forward and say something. If you know, let's be honest, if you know that it was just an accident, then we need to know that, too. That's obviously something that seems kind of fishy, but it's possible. Let's be honest. So I'm a little more confident that somebody is going to come forward and tell us something that we don't know with that than I am that we're going to be able to recover it. But we're certainly trying.

KEILAR: I know you were closely watching these primary elections as we all were last night. You called it disgusting, here on this program, that Democrats were helping elevate election deniers in the hopes that they would be easier to defeat in a general against a more moderate Republican. One of the moderates in the race is Peter Meijer, lost his primary. What's your reaction?

KINZINGER: Yes, it's -- if Peter's opponent wins and goes on to November and wins, the Democrats own that. Congratulations. Here is the thing. Don't keep coming to me asking where are all the good Republicans that defend democracy, and then take your donor's money and spend half-a-million dollars promoting one of the worst election deniers that's out there.

The DCCC needs to be ashamed of themselves. Thankfully, some members of Congress, Democrats have spoken out and said they're disgusted. I respect it. I have spoken out against the National Republican Congressional Committee many times when they've done things I've disagreed with. And there are also people who say this is just politics, how cynical that is, and that's why the Americans are just sick of both parties, to be honest with you.

KEILAR: I also want to ask you about the speaker's trip to Taiwan. You're seeing China respond. What do you think?

KINZINGER: Look, I got to say, that was courageous of the speaker to do. She deserves credit. I was concerned that after this kind of pressure mounted that she would back off. And she went through, and she is tough in doing that. And she had to do it.

Look, China is going to try to look tough. I don't think they want to escalate. I think Mr. Xi is running again and he wants to basically send a message to the Communist Party. But look, this is important for us as a country to recognize. Strength, when you do something out of strength, it actually makes conflict less likely. And by Nancy Pelosi following through and going to Taiwan, she sent a message that we will not be intimidated. I wish, frankly, the administration had sent that message instead of saying we don't want her to go. But that said, she did, and it was, I think, a good moment for the United States.

KEILAR: After this visit, as you say, a good moment for the United States in your opinion, closer to any sort of confrontation with China? Do you think the U.S. is closer?

KINZINGER: I think we're closer every day. I don't think it is necessarily related to this. It is related to China's desire to take Taiwan. It is like Russia and Ukraine. And so, yes, I think every day we're closer. I think, frankly, conflict is very likely, not necessarily in the near future, but at some point in the future. This is why standing up with strength and making it clear that he will defend our friends I think is important to mitigate that possibility.

KEILAR: How are you seeing the U.S. yesterday taking out the leader of Al Qaeda in Kabul? Obviously a very successful operation, and yet there he was in Kabul, certainly sends a message to Al Qaeda they're not safe in Kabul. But what is the takeaway for you about the safety of the U.S.?

KINZINGER: I think the takeaway is we're a little safer with Zawahiri dead. I also want to say to any of the people I've heard in my party that are, like, somehow saying that this isn't a big deal, just shut up and be an American for one day. This is a good deal.

Now, what is the bad of this? Certainly, the Taliban or elements of the Taliban, completely unsurprisingly to me, and I guess completely unsurprisingly to the administration, I heard an administration official say yesterday, oh, yes, we knew that there was going to be a relationship, but obviously the Taliban and Al Qaeda are back in bed. We shouldn't be surprised at that. We have really been hampered in our ability to fight terrorism.


We can do very good tactical things like kill a man, if we know where he is. But the strategic implications of what we can do in counterterrorism, building alliances, denying area to an enemy, knowing what their plans are, that has been massively hampered.

So, look, let's celebrate this win. I'm glad he's dead. But let's go into this eyes wide open. You got to stay on the offense of the biggest terrorists. They have not changed their opinion. They haven't changed their mind. They still want to do to us what they did, you know, on 9/11.

KEILAR: Congressman Kinzinger, it's great to have you this morning. Thanks for being with us.

KINZINGER: You bet. Take care. AVLON: All right. Let's bring in CNN chief national correspondent and

anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS", John King, and CNN senior political commentator and former senior adviser to President Obama, David Axelrod, and he is, of course, host of "THE AXE FILES."

It is great to have you both on the morning after key primary elections.

Let's just get your takeaways, top line. John King, let's start with Kansas. How surprised do you?

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I -- surprised that I guess in some ways, but I think, look, the pillar of a democracy is you're supposed to listen to the people. Common sense conservatives in the middle of America essentially said to the Republican politicians looking state by state to ban abortion, whoa, slow down, slow down. We have seen polling for a long time that majority supported Roe v. Wade.

This is -- this is not Kansas saying we want to allow all abortions. This is Kansas saying we disagree with the Supreme Court and we want the politicians to slow down and listen to us. Let's have a nuanced, reasonable, compromised debate about this.

It is also proof in a primary election, a lot of people turned out. The Democrats believe this will help them in November, that this will motivate voters. If you look at the vote, especially in the suburbs, the Kansas City, Kansas area, Topeka, a lot of people turned out. Republican women, who are likely to vote Republican in the fall, might they come back now? Open question. But this was a shot to the politicians to stop and listen to the people.

KEILAR: What do you think, David?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I agree with John. I think turnout is the big word here. You look at a state like Michigan, for example, where there is a very competitive or important at least governor's race. The Republicans nominated a candidate yesterday who is ardently anti-abortion rights. There is an initiative on the ballot, issue on the ballot in the fall, that would enshrine abortion rights in the Constitution of Michigan. That could change the contours of that race.

So, look, Democrats have a lot of headwinds going into this election -- you know, economic head winds, general sour mood in the country, president's approval ratings are low, but this is something that could really alter the dynamic to the point where it may not be as bad as Democrats fear.

AVLON: Look, and we should say that that doesn't necessarily change the trajectory of the House of Representatives, right? John King, but, you know, one of the dynamics we did see particularly in Arizona is these election deniers winning these close partisan primaries, we haven't declared these races but they seem to be in poll position. We saw Chris Kobach pulling it out as attorney general in Kansas for the Republican nominee. Does that create a potential problem for Republicans in terms of

motivating the center to stop the far right or do you think those head winds will push some of these folks into office?

KING: I think that's a defining question, actually, John, heading into November, in swing states like Arizona. Georgia Republicans essentially told Donald Trump in his election to go away. Georgia Republicans said we're going to keep the establishment Republicans, the people who said no to Donald Trump, we won't help you repeat, that's Georgia Republicans.

In Arizona, it appears something different. So, the Republican Party is in a bit of a mess here. But Joe Biden won Arizona. People talk about the shifting of Arizona. Ax knows Arizona quite well, are Democrats going to succeed in winning the governorship, winning the Senate -- keeping the Senate seat, winning statewide office? That would be a big shift in American politics if Democrats that quickly make gains in a state that had been Republican for a long time.

It is an open question. But if you have a slate of election deniers, it certainly gives Democrats, you know, a unified focus on whether it is the secretary of state's race, the Senate race or the race for governor.

AXELROD: I said this before, but I think Donald -- if the Democrats retain the Senate this year, Donald Trump will be the most valuable player for the Democratic party because he has nominated candidates in Georgia, in Arizona, in Pennsylvania, who are vulnerable to Democrats, even in a very difficult year.

And so, I'm sure there are a lot of Republicans who have some heartburn about that.

KEILAR: David, Congress has actually been doing stuff, have you noticed?

AXELROD: Yeah, it is weird.

KEILAR: They have achieved some things, in a bipartisan fashion no less. Is this real life?

AXELROD: Well, it is for the people like the -- people who benefit from the burn pit bill. It is real life for them. And that's really what we should keep focused on.


But, you know, Joe Biden has been attacked and ridiculed by a lot of people for his belief that perhaps there could be bipartisan action on a series of things. Well, now that is coming to fruition and, you know, the question is whether this will be a benefit or not.

AVLON: Well, I think that's the key question. Looking at this list, I mean, the CHIPS Act, infrastructure, postal reform, the burn pit, the PACT Act, Emmett Till anti-lynching law, on and on and on, some major bipartisan accomplishments. How come you think this has not benefited Joe Biden in the polls? It

shows you can govern from the center, there is some indication of progress, but he's under 40 percent. Where is that disconnect?

AXELROD: I think there are three reasons for it. The first is the aforementioned economy. The fact that we have this huge problem with inflation has colored people's attitudes about the direction of the country.

The second is he himself and his administration set such high expectations, the new New Deal, the new FDR and so on, that really sizable accomplishments now seem like compromises that are less than they really are.

So he's done himself -- and the third, John, is just performative. It is not about performance in office. It is about performance in front of the camera.

And, you know, the president is not stellar in front of cameras now. He appears old to a lot of people. That has hurt him. But the fact is the record is really, really impressive.

KEILAR: Debate in the -- in a New York house race last night that had an incredibly interesting moment. It was hosted by the way there, dear friend of the show, Errol Louis, and this is what happened when the candidates were asked if Joe Biden should run for re-election.


ERROL LOUIS, DEBATE MODERATOR: Should President Biden run again in 2024?


LOUIS: Mr. Nadler?

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Too early to say. Doesn't serve the purpose of the Democratic Party to deal with that until after the midterms.

LOUIS: Ms. Maloney?

REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D-NY): I don't believe he's running for re- election.


AVLON: Mic drop.

KEILAR: John King, what do you think?

KING: Interesting to me that the younger candidate, the next generation Democrat trying to breakthrough is the one who said yes. Because that is the -- that is the piece of the party that would like generational change. They would like Mr. Nadler and Congresswoman Maloney to step aside as well. There is this festering energy among younger -- especially progressive

side of the Democratic Party, saying please get out of the way, no disrespect, thank you for your service, we want our generation to come forward.

Jerry Nadler is right. This is a conversation best put off until after the midterms to David's point about communicating. If you're trying to communicate good thing, you don't want to be talking distracting things. But you had Congressman Philips of Minnesota say last week he didn't think Biden should run. Now you have this coming up in a debate in New York.

It will be part of the Democratic conversation. I've been at this a long time. David was a reporter before he was a strategist. Democrats often have trouble communicating and keeping their focus.

The infighting, the infighting is one of the things that has undermined them. That list you showed, John, think about the lack of the -- the lack of ability in Washington to get things done in recent years because of polarization.

It is an impressive list. But Democrats promised the moon, stars and beyond when they won those two Georgia Senate seats. They delivered maybe just the moon here and still a lot of anxiety in the Democratic Party.

It's also hard to breakthrough to voters in a time they're exhausted, after COVID and then getting -- still in COVID, and then getting hit with inflation.

AXELROD: So , there is your message. The moon is good. The moon is good.

AVLON: We have the moon. Don't worry about the stars. I want to return, though, and get your take on the comment, because it seemed like a classic Washington gaffe, telling the truth out loud unintentionally.

AXELROD: I have no idea why she did that. Maybe she felt she was identifying herself with the younger voters who want older politicians to move on. But she's up in years herself. I'm not sure that was a very helpful message.

AVLON: Certainly not for the Biden administration. Gentlemen, John King, David Axelrod, thank you very much.

And, John, we'll catch you at "INSIDE POLITICS" right at noon.

KING: I'll be here.

AVLON: All right.

So, Speaker Nancy Pelosi unleashing fury by China over her trip to Taiwan. Will it be worth the risk? We're going to speak to former CIA director, General David Petraeus, about that and more next.

And, prices at the pump hitting a milestone overnight as they drop for 50 days straight.

KEILAR: NASA releasing new dazzling images from space, this time of a galaxy more than 400 million years old.



AVLON: New reporting overnight on the death of bin Laden's successor Ayman al Zawahiri.

"The New York Times" reporting that decades of intelligence gathering led the U.S. to the al Qaeda leader's balcony, where he liked to read in the mornings. The intel presented the opportunity for a clear missile shot that could avoid collateral damage.

Joining us now, former CIA director and former U.S. and NATO commander of troops in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus.

General Petraeus, it's great to see you.

We're going to around the world here, starting in Afghanistan. The U.S. suggests the Taliban knew al Zawahiri was in Kabul. This makes a mockery really of that core plank of the DOHA agreement saying the Taliban wouldn't give shelter to terrorists. That always seemed naive.

The question now is, do you think the U.S. should hold the Taliban accountable for sheltering Zawahiri and if so, how?

DAVID PETRAEUS, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, certainly we should. I think we have probably already started by we will now slow the pace of the release of that $3.5 billion of frozen Taliban assets, now Taliban assets, Afghan assets, really, that the discussions had been to release through some mechanism that would get to the Afghan people without enriching the Taliban. I suspect that's going to move very, very slowly now.

Beyond that, while this is an extraordinary achievement by our intelligence and counterterrorism communities, it is also very, very concerning. As you noted, this indicates the Taliban completely went back on their agreement, and at Doha, where they were not going to shelter or allow safe haven for international extremists and here you have the leader of al Qaeda.