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GOP Nominee Abruptly Reverses Support for Election Lies After Win; Jury Shown Videos of Alex Jones Mocking Sandy Hook Parents; Chicago Needs to Face Facts on Crime Crisis. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 16, 2022 - 06:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, an abrupt about face by New Hampshire Senate candidate Don Bolduc, who won the Republican nomination on Tuesday, the retired Army General campaigned on claims that the 2020 election was stolen. But he seems to have changed his mind. Listen to this.


GEN. DON BOLDUC, (R) NEW HAMPSHIRE SENATE CANDIDATE: I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying that Trump won the election and dammit, I stand by my letter.

I've come to the conclusion and I want to be definitive on this. The election was not stolen, was there fraud? Yes, President Biden is the legitimate president of this country.


BERMAN: Still with me now, Senior Political Correspondent for Puck, Tara Palmeri, also with a CNN Political Commentator and New York Magazine Columnist, Errol Louis, I guess we don't do subtlety anymore, Errol.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. In fact, reality itself is one of these things that will you maybe have to tack a little to the left, maybe tack a little to the right. Now, this is extraordinary. This is somebody who put his credibility on the line for 120 generals to sign a letter saying that they think there's something seriously wrong with a presidential election. It's really pretty heavy stuff. For him to think that he could just walk away from it now, the voters of New Hampshire obviously will decide but what a moment in American politics for something like this to happen.

BERMAN: And look pivots, Tara, they're not unusual people pivot from a primary to a general but this is, you know, there aren't even -- this is different than a pivot.

TARA PALMERI, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, PUCK: Absolutely. This was the core of his campaign during the primary season. But what he's realized now is that in the general election, this really turns off swing voters, independents, even Republicans who are just done with Trump and had this very visceral feeling about election denialism, which is January 6, chaos, violence. And this is a state that Biden won decisively in 2020. So, if General Bolduc is going to win, he needs to moderate his tone. And we're seeing this across the country. Blake Masters, same, you know, he had a very hardcore stance on abortion, and he's moderated it. He's also, you know, Adam Laxalt, was an election denier. Now, he's not saying that very often. And it's because they know that election denying is translated with violence and unrest.

BERMAN: So that's interesting. So, what does this tell us about the potency of election denial in a general election environment?

PALMERI: It's just not viable, because you can't win a general election with just the president, former President Donald Trump supporters, which is less than half of the Republican primary base. So, all of these -- all of these candidates are kind of in a pickle. And I think that's why you're seeing the races tighten up in the Senate, particularly, where you're seeing what looked like was going to be great gains for Republicans now starting to shrink, based on what Mitch McConnell said, candidate quality, but really what you're seeing is extreme candidates winning primaries and not being able to translate into general election audiences.

BERMAN: Which is why you see Republicans who want to take control looking at Donald Trump a little bit differently in these months, perhaps leading up to the November election Errol, and which is why they may look askance at comments like this that I want to play from the former president. He did a radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, and Hugh pressed him on sort of what would happen if you were indicted. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I think if it happened, I think you'd have problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we've never seen before. I don't think the people of the United States would stand for it.


HUGH HEWITT: What kind of problems Mr. President?

TRUMP: I think they'd have big problems, big problems I just don't think they'd stand for it.


BERMAN: All right. Well, as a New Yorker, how do you translate that?

LOUIS: Well, that's a threat. I mean, that is a threat of violence, you know, gee, nice democracy you've got here, it'd be a shame, if anything happened to it. You know, that kind of thing. This is Donald Trump, I think tried to bolster perhaps his legal defense, on some level, sort of trying to maybe, say to the legal system, if you come after me too hard, we could overturn the whole table, we could see more chaos that January 6, could be a dress rehearsal for something much worse. And this is what by the way, President Biden was talking about not that long ago, saying that this is, you know, with the implied threat of violence, you're going down a dark path, you're walking away from democracy, you're presenting a threat to the system that we have to both recognize and do something about. This is just an early stage. I think, to the extent that people don't necessarily hear this message. He's going to say it again, and again, it's going to get louder and louder. And right now, we already have hundreds of election officials around the country that are under threat.

We have people doing crazy things. What they think is at the behest of Donald Trump. And here he is, you know, using the airwaves or whatever platform you can get on to start it all over again.

BERMAN: To Tara's point, how do you think Mitch McConnell feels about comments like this?

LOUIS: Well, look, Mitch McConnell made his bed a long time ago, he's going to have to lie in it. You know, I mean, on January 6, itself, he spoke, you know, clearly, decisively and with great anger about what Donald Trump was doing to the system. He's now sort of trying to sort of figure out a way to hold on to power and a little bit of integrity at the same time. It's very tough thing.

BERMAN: But Tara, if you want a majority, McConnell wants a majority of the comments like that helped get the majority?

PALMERI: I think that Donald Trump might help some candidates win in primaries, but I'm not sure how it works with general election voters who hear things like that. And they get flashbacks to January 6, as you said, which is something that, you know, a large part of the GOP -- not a large part, but a sizable chunk of the GOP has abandoned Trump because of that. And if they see these Trump aligned candidates running for office, they may think these people are extremists. We don't need more violence right now. And I could see them abandoning him, but he has a -- Trump has a very palpable message though, to this core that he can rile up as we saw on January 2, he can incite unrest and that is I am fighting for you, and they're going to come after me and if they don't come after me, they're going to come after you. And that's a very strong message that he's been exploiting as if this is, you know, a big fight against the powers that be.

BERMAN: Tara Palmeri, Errol Louis, great to see both you this morning. Thank you.

PALMERI: Thank you.

BERMAN: To the jury in the case against Alex Jones has now seen video of him mocking grieving families after the Sandy Hook massacre. Senator Lindsey Graham's abortion bill dividing Republicans ahead of the midterms, why sources it was supposed to do the exact opposite ahead. And there's this.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: A Whitney Houston biopic is coming this winter, details on the film about one of the most -- one of the best singers of all time, ahead.



KEILAR: He's accused of lying about Sandy Hook families for money. And now Alex Jones on trial to pay potentially again for those lies. Testimony set to resume this morning against the InfoWars host. The jury in the hoax case seeing clips of him mocking families and telling his audience the children were still alive. CNN's Erica Hill joining us now. I can only imagine how they're reacting to these moments they're seeing?

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I mean exactly as you would imagine, Brianna. It was quite a moment yesterday as that happened in court. Not all that we saw as we saw on the stand a representative for Alex Jones company was the person who was there once again, answering the questions.


HILL: InfoWars views and merchandise sales soared after Alex Jones claimed the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax. Those profits a clear focus on Thursday and the civil damages trial against Jones and his company, free speech systems. Corporate representative Brittany Paz on the stand for a second day. The plaintiff's attorney zeroing in on the numbers with help from Google Analytics to show online engagement with skyrocketing with those lies. Paz denied any knowledge that free speech systems used Google Analytics internal company emails presented in court showed otherwise.

CHRISTOPHER MATTEI, PLAINTIFFS' ATTORNEY: You said InfoWars does not use the bill of right, correct?

BRITTANY PAZ, ATTORNEY & CORPORATE REPRESENTATIVE FOR FREE SPEECH SYSTEMS: Right. Based on my conversations with the employees, yes.

HILL: But when it came to the money.

MATTEI: Are you able to testify as free speech systems corporate representative, that between the years 2012 and yesterday, free speech systems have made more than $100 million?

PAZ: I think that's fair.

HILL: Thursday's questioning included several InfoWars videos showing the lengths taken to push the disturbing lie that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was staged.

Including a video that was live streamed on June 3, 2015, showing InfoWars employee and former pro wrestler Dan Bidondi as he talks and harasses the town's former police chief at a Freedom of Information Act hearing.

MATTEI: Attacking police chief of New Town calling him a fraud, correct?

PAZ: He says that on the video, yes. MATTEI: Give me a crooked, corrupt piece of (bleep).

PAZ: He did say that, yes.

HILL: Jones hasn't appeared in the Connecticut courtroom this week instead of blasting the proceedings on his show with a "show trial." While on the stamp the company's representative responded to several clips of Jones and calling them actors.


ALEX JONES: You got parents laughing hahaha watch this, and then go on method acting. It just is the fakest thing since a three-dollar bill. And you better get ready for more on that, folks.

PAZ: Is Ben Wheeler an actor?


PAZ: No free speech system doesn't contend that he is.

MATTEI: Is Avielle Richman an actor?

PAZ: No.

MATTEI: Dylan Hockley an actor?

PAZ: No.

MATTEI: Is Daniel Barden an actor?

PAZ: No.

MATTEI: Is Emile Parker, an actor?

PAZ: No.

HILL: The families in the gallery visibly emotional as the names were read.


HILL: In keep in mind, we know of course that Alex Jones has already been found liable and a default judgment from the judge. So, this again, Brianna, this is part of the decision that will be made in terms of punitive damages that could have.

KEILAR: Just can't imagine what they're going through watching this in that courtroom. Erica, thank you for that.

Chicago is struggling so much with crime right now. McDonald's is sounding the alarm and sending a blunt message to the city.

BERMAN: Sex after COVID, the warning health officials are delivering this morning about an alarming trend.



KEILAR: Alaska is bracing for a storm system that could bring 50-foot waves today. Coastal residents they're being warned to prepare for the worst. Officials say this can be the strongest storm seen there in more than a decade. So, let's get now to meteorologist Chad Myers for the latest on this. Chad.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: This is a big storm in the Bering Sea, you know the Bering Sea like you always hear about from Deadliest Catch and all that. And this is right through the fishing grounds here and the coastal flooding along the west coast of Alaska will be significant. This weather brought to you by Safelite your vehicle glass and recalibration experts.

So, let's get to it. This was an old dying typhoon in the Western Pacific. Well, it didn't die. It continued to strengthen in fact, and it will move on to the Nome area, the western Alaska not so much down here or even for Anchorage, but along the west coast. You're talking about 9-to-13-foot storm surge, a storm surge with a storm in Alaska. You don't usually get there. Winds are going to be between 60 and 100 miles per hour and the waves in the water could come on land over 13 feet tall. That's into most villages there along the Alaska coast for sure.

KEILAR: Why did it pick up steam, Chad? It seems odd?

MYERS: Well, Coriolis force, the farther you get to the north, the more Coriolis force there is and the water isn't very cold up there right now where this came from. So, you get that interaction with colder air, cooler air and then warmer water. And it just did a nor'easter kind of thing.

KEILAR: All right. All right, Alaskans will be watching this very carefully as well. Chad, thank you.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: The CEO of McDonald's sounding off about violence in the company's hometown of Chicago. He says the city's crime problem is making it hard to attract corporate talent and to convince employees to come back to the office. CNN's Rahel Solomon joins me now with this. Rahel.

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, John, some strong words and oblique message from the CEO of McDonald's Chris Kempczinski saying that Chicago and crime in Chicago is seeping into every corner of our city. McDonald's is based in the Windy City and Kempczinski said that everywhere he goes, he's asked what is going on in Chicago.

In an event Wednesday, he said that restaurants are witnessing violent crime, homelessness and drug overdoses. And that's making it difficult to not only operate the 400 McDonald locations in Chicago, but also to recruit at the corporate level, suggesting that some people may not want to move to Chicago anymore. Now, stats on crime in the city for the first half of this year point to a mixed picture with some declines actually for the most violent crimes, but more robberies and carjackings. But you might remember that Starbucks too, has come out recently to say that it's actually closing a very small percentage of stores 16 stores to be exact in Seattle, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Portland, the coffee chain also citing a high volume of challenging incidents that they say make it unsafe to continue to operate.

BERMAN: Rahel, on a different subject, Uber is responding to the story about a big hack within their data. What does this all?

SOLOMON: Yeah, talk about challenging to operate. So, we got this information overnight. We learned about this on Twitter, Uber posting about nine hours ago that we are currently responding to a cyber security incident that we are in touch with law enforcement. And we'll post additional updates here, here being Twitter as they become available.

The New York Times was the first to report this and what we're learning at least from that reporting, is that it appears that these hackers have access to Uber's internal systems including communications, like Slack and get this, this all started with a hacker posting a message on the Slack system for employees saying I announce I'm a hacker and Uber has suffered a data breach. So, lots of questions here, is it just internal is external to lots of questions and more to come?

BERMAN: Oh, wow, I like that message. All right, Rahel Solomon, thanks so much for the reporting.

Republican governors DeSantis and Abbott amping up the fight over record migrant arrivals at the border. President Biden's response, ahead.

KEILAR: Plus, the first look at the Queen of the Night.




WHITNEY HOUSTON: My dream, sing what I want to sing, be how I want to be.

KEILAR: The story of Whitney Houston coming to the big screen. Actress Naomi Ackie shines as the legendary vocal powerhouse in the upcoming biopic, I Want to Dance with Somebody. This is produced by Houston's manager and sister-in-law Patricia Houston and her mentor recording executive Clive Davis. Many of Houston's hit songs are in the film which focuses on her career highlights and also her setbacks.

BERMAN: So, Amazon Prime's first Thursday night NFL game didn't disappoint as the chief's rally from down by 10 to beat the Chargers. Andy Scholes has more in this morning's Bleacher Report. ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Hey, good morning, John. You know Amazon paying a billion dollars a year to have Thursday night football now on Prime Video. Great for those who already had Prime, maybe not so great for many trying to explain to your parents or grandparents how to get the game on their TVs. But now, Michael is now on Thursday nights with Kirk Herbstreit. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was on hand sitting with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for this one. Now, there were extra feeds of the broadcast including where you could watch the entire field with advanced stats third quarter chiefs were down 10, Patrick Mahomes finds some time here eventually finds Justin Watson for 41.