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CNN TONIGHT: Expert: Election Subversion Most Immediate Threat To Democracy; Sen. Josh Hawley, Leader Of January 6 Objections, Unironically Claims "Democrats Don't Accept Elections" That They Don't Win; Former Fox News Reporter On Republicans Pushing "The Big Lie" Ahead Of Midterms. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 21, 2022 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The news continues, here on CNN, with Brianna Keilar, and "DEMOCRACY IN PERIL."


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST, DEMOCRACY IN PERIL: Anderson, thank you so much.

This is DEMOCRACY IN PERIL, our series, on the ongoing threats, to American democracy.

And tonight, we take you to key battleground states, where Republican and Democratic election officials, who ensured a fair and secure election, in 2020, are quitting, left and right, and where others, are going to extraordinary measures, to protect themselves. They have to!

Not only are some officials facing the possibility, of felony convictions, for honest administrative errors, or for helping voters, who run into problems, with their ballot applications, the traditionally drama-free work, of serving voters, has turned dangerous, from bomb threats, to countless threatening phone calls.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You rigged my (BLEEP) election you (BLEEP) piece of (BLEEP). We're going to try you and we're going to hang you.


KEILAR: The Justice Department's Election Threats Task Force made its first arrest today, in connection, with these actions, and says, it's received more than 850 referrals, on such possible crimes.

Tonight, we're also looking into a newly-uncovered plot, by Trump campaign officials, to put forward fake GOP electors, in seven states that President Biden won.

Sources tell CNN it was led by Rudy Giuliani. He and other Trump aides, reportedly, lined up supporters, to fill elector slots, then circulated drafts of fake certificates that were ultimately sent to the National Archives.

One of those fake electors, the Co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, boasted, at a recent event that the Trump campaign directed the operation.


MESHAWN MADDOCK, CO-CHAIR, MI GOP: He (Matt Maddock) fought for investigations into every part of the election we could. He fought for a team of people to come and testify in front of the committee. We fought to seat the electors. Um, the Trump campaign asked us to do that, under a lot of scrutiny for that today.


KEILAR: It is, by the way, a crime, to submit false documents, to a federal entity, though no one has been charged, in this scheme, so far.

And this week, as Democrats, failed to push their voting rights bill, through the Senate, we're also taking a look at voter subversion, efforts to effect an election, after the ballots are cast.

Trump supporters, are actively working, to get elected to positions, where they could influence an election result, after the fact. At least 163 "Big Lie" Republicans are now running for state or national office, urged on, by former President Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to be a lot sharper the next time when it comes to counting the vote.

Sometimes, the vote counter is more important than the candidate.


KEILAR: Think back, to Joe Biden's win, in Georgia, when Trump then hit up the state's top election official, to pull votes, out of thin air.


TRUMP: I just want to find 11,780 votes.


KEILAR: Georgia's Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, on the other end of that call, held the line. Trump has now endorsed a Republican, to primary Raffensperger.

That candidate, Jody Hice says, Trump would have won the 2020 election, in Georgia, if it were, quote, "Fair," even as a special grand jury has just been requested, by a Georgia D.A., as part of an investigation, into Trump's efforts, to overturn the results, in the Peach State.

And, in Arizona, after Democrat Katie Hobbs, shepherded a fair and secure election, in 2020, A Trump-endorsed QAnon adherent, who attended the January 6 "Stop the Steal" rally, is now vying to be Secretary of State.

And, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, another January 6 rally attendee is now a local judge of elections.

Let's talk about all of this with Rick Hasen. He is a Professor of Law & Political Science, at the University of California, Irvine. He is also the Author, of the upcoming book, "Cheap Speech: How Disinformation Poisons Our Politics and How to Cure It."

OK, Rick. I think, you know, I know that you think election subversion is really the most immediate threat, right now. So explain, first, what election subversion is, versus, say, voter suppression.


The question is, are our votes going to be fairly counted? Is the winner going to be declared the winner? Or is the loser going to be declared the winner? That's a lot harder, for people, to wrap their heads around, because we, in the United States, don't have experience, with elections, where the results are fraudulent.

And so, what we saw, in 2020, was an attempt, to try and turn the loser into the winner. And unfortunately, it has kind of provided a roadmap, to try and do that again, in the future, even when it wasn't successful, in 2020.

KEILAR: So, why is that the biggest threat, as you see it?


HASEN: Well, I think the - if you think about, what the very basic premises, of a democracy are, is that you hold a free and fair election, and that the person, who gets the most votes, under the rules that are set up, is declared the winner.

If you don't have a fair vote count, if you look at countries, around the world that tried to transition to democracy? They have to put in fair election counters, so that ballot boxes are not stuffed, and all of that.

This is just - it's just a kind of a baseline idea, of how you run a democracy, is that you can fairly count the votes. And if that's what we're struggling with? We've got problems, even bigger than the problems of voter suppression that I've been talking about, for many years.

KEILAR: So, we were highlighting the embracers of the Big Lie, who are running for state and local election positions. What do you believe happens, if they do end up, overseeing, or being able to influence elections, in 2022, and 2024?

HASEN: Well, I mean, the worst-case scenario is that they actually try to manipulate election results. But even if they don't, even if people are watching, over their shoulders, or they're trying to do the right thing, are people going to believe what they say?

So if, Jody Hice, becomes the Secretary of State, of Georgia? And he has claimed, falsely that the last election was stolen. Suppose Trump wins - runs again, and he wins? He beats Biden by a little bit, according to what Jody Hice says? Why would Democrats believe him?

And so, all of the people, who now are on the Republican side, who doubt election results, will be joined by Democrats. And so, it'll be a further cycling down, in terms of people, accepting the legitimacy of our democracy, which is yet another bedrock.

A thing you need in a democracy is losers' consent. The losers agree, "The election was fairly run. But we've lost, and we'll have to run again next time, in fair conditions."

KEILAR: I mean, we've already seen, with 2020, how damaging the perception, of an election being unfair, or inaccurate is.

So, let's talk solutions. How do you fix this?

HASEN: Well, the Democrats tried to get through a very large bill, in the last few months. That has not succeeded.

But there are at least four Republican senators, who've said that they're willing to talk about making some changes, to an arcane 1887 law, called the Electoral Count Act. It's basically the rules of the road for Congress, as they figure out whose Electoral College votes should be counted.

So, there are at least four Republican senators, who are in talks, with Democrats, to try to make changes to that. And I think we could add that to a list of other things that could really make it harder, for someone, who's unscrupulous, to try to change the results, of an election.

KEILAR: So, last go-around, in 2020, it seemed like there were scruples lacking, in Congress, with some Republicans. The state officials, really, they held the line.

What if you saw the flip, say, in 2024, where you have these Big Lie candidates, who are vying for these positions, of influence, in their state? Would that tweak, actually, inadvertently insulate them from oversight?

HASEN: That's a really smart question. And yes, always have to be careful, you're not fighting the last war.

So, as we think about how we might try to fight subversion, you have to think about, is the problem more with Congress? Is the problem more with the states?

One possibility, which was contained in one of the versions of the bill that the Democrats were trying to get through, would let federal courts have a role, in determining, who the fair winner of an election was, in the state, if there's a dispute, either in the state or in Congress.

I think we have to think creatively, and think, not just for now, but for future generations, as to how to assure that when you have bad- faith actors, which you could have, at any point in the process, that they're not going to be able to flip an election result.

KEILAR: Up next, Rick, we actually have a pretty eye-popping report, on what it is, to be a local election official. It is downright scary.

So you mention, limiting state takeovers of local elections, and some of your prescriptions, on election reform. But you also mentioned increasing criminal penalties, for those, who tamper, or commit, violence, or intimidation.

Tell us about that. What are the consequences for that now? And what needs to be done?

HASEN: Well, I think we need federal law that specifically makes it a crime to attack an election official, to try to interfere with their ability, or to threaten them.

CNN has been one of the leaders in reporting, on these local election officials, who have gotten really terrible threats. And many of them, according to one survey, up to a quarter of them, are potentially going to retire, by 2024.

And so, it's not just about the threats to them, which is terrible enough, in itself. But it means that we're going to be losing people, with experience, people, who have integrity, who've been running our elections, who knows who's going to replace them.

So, we need federal law, to provide greater protection, for these election officials, and also greater penalties, for those who would threaten election officials, or poll workers, or voters, or anyone, who's trying to count votes.


KEILAR: If there are no reforms that are passed, in trying to ensure, a fair and secure election? And instead, what you have is these laws, in states, led by Republicans, where they're trying to fix a voter fraud problem that doesn't exist? Where does that leave us?

HASEN: I think it leaves us, in a place where, first of all, it's a state-by-state battle. And, in every state, it's important to marshal the forces of businesses, unions, church groups, civic organizations, to stand together, for the rule of law, and for fair elections.

And to, for example, when Texas tried to pass, as part of its election law, a provision that would have made it easier, for a state judge, to throw out the results, of an election? There was pressure, and that provision was removed. So, I do think that even on the state-by-state level, there's the ability to do that.

And we have to agitate, for transparency, so that we can assure that votes are counted fairly, that we have real audits, to make sure that the machines are counting the votes properly, and that there is a bipartisan opportunity, to observe the whole process, and make sure that our votes are being counted fairly.

KEILAR: Rick, thank you, for being with us, tonight. I have thoroughly appreciated this conversation with you. And I hope that our viewers learned a whole lot about it. Thank you.

HASEN: Thank you.

KEILAR: So, it shouldn't be dangerous, we were just talking about this, to help run elections, in America. It didn't used to be a potentially life-threatening job, to be an election worker.

But election lies have spawned serious threats. We have our report, next.



KEILAR: The threat of the Big Lie is an abstract.

Today, a Texas man, was charged, with making death threats, against election workers, in Georgia. The DOJ says he called them, quote, "Lawless treasonous traitors."

And it's those types of threats that have election workers, around the country, quitting, in droves. One survey finds one in four election administrators plans to retire before 2024.

Our CNN's Senior National Correspondent, Kyung Lah, went to talk to some of these workers, about just how scary their jobs have become, because of the Big Lie.


JANICE WINFREY, DETROIT CITY CLERK: This is a 22 Automatic. I have a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): You are a legal gun owner?

WINFREY: I'm a legal gun owner, a legal gun carrier.

LAH (voice-over): This is not a remarkable admission until Janice Winfrey explains why.

WINFREY: I'm Detroit City Clerk. I've been the Clerk for 16 years. At most, I thought I'd get Writer's cramp from signing my name, in 2005. LAH (voice-over): Fast forward to the 2020 election. The 63-year-old grandmother had received threats, on her social media accounts, and phone, at public events, and protests, outside of her home.

But it was a moment, weeks after the 2020 election.

WINFREY: So, I'm on, right here, and this guy, I see him coming off the car.

LAH (voice-over): As she walked near her home, Winfrey, whose job is non-partisan, says, the man began yelling

WINFREY: "Why did you cheat?" And I'm like, "What are you talking about?" And I said, "I need you to get back." He said, "I need you to tell me why Trump lost."

LAH (voice-over): Her neighbor chased off the man. Police say, shortly after this encounter, a bomb threat was then called, to her home.

WINFREY: When somebody is at my house, when somebody's looking, at me, come from my porch, when somebody knows my routine, when they know I have a dog, and they don't live around here? That makes me think I need protection.


LAH (voice-over): America's democracy is now a hazardous workplace, from voicemails left, on this Wisconsin election worker's phone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You rigged my (BLEEP) election you (BLEEP) piece of (BLEEP). We're going to try you and we're going to hang you.

LAH (voice-over): To this, for a former Republican Michigan Election Administrator.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will (BLEEP) take you out. (BLEEP) your family, (BLEEP) your life.

LAH (voice-over): Messages like these are what election workers fear will only intensify with the 2022 midterms.

DAVID BECKER, FOUNDER, CENTER FOR ELECTION INNOVATION AND RESEARCH: This is domestic terrorism, let's call it what it is. These are designed, to terrorize these officials. Whether they actually result in the violence that's promised or not, it's designed to make these officials' lives, unbearable, and chase them out of office.

LAH (voice-over): David Becker is the founder of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation and Research, working with election administrators, across the country.


LAH (voice-over): After the 2020 election--

(PROTESTERS CHANTING) LAH (voice-over): --where the country witnessed local election offices become targets, rage and protest?

The left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice says, Ohio and Pennsylvania lost around 30 percent of county election workers. And Michigan and Wisconsin also saw workers quit. COVID, retirements, and threats, all leading to a critical shortage of workers.

BECKER: If we lose all of this election administration experience, what's it going to be replaced by? Because the passion, right now, is amongst those, who have been lied to, who've been told that someone stole their democracy, which did not happen.

And they are now seeking out some of these positions. And they think their job is to deliver an election, to the candidate, they prefer. And that's exactly the opposite of the professional election administrator.

LAH (voice-over): That passion is palpable.

At a recent rally, for Donald Trump, in Arizona, thousands gathered, fed lies, about the 2020 election.

TRUMP: The same people, who have been lying, about everything, for four years, claim 2020 was the most secure election, in history? Give me a break! Give me a break! Those are bad people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her shirt says "We the People Know Trump won."

LAH (on camera): Do you blame the election workers?

KATHY BOWERS, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Some of them. Absolutely. Some of them. Some of them were caught cheating.

ROSS HAGER, TRUMP SUPPORTER: We're very involved. My wife and I.

LAH (on camera): Oh, so you've - you called to complain?

HAGER: Yes. Yes.

LAH (on camera): And why did you call?

HAGER: It's because it's like the one movie, one said, "I'm as mad as hell, and I can't take it anymore."

LAH (on camera): This is a midterm election year.

HAGER: Yes. Yes. It's going to be crazy.


LAH (on camera): So, what's going to happen, to some of these election offices, across the country?

HAGER: Well I think you're going to have a lot more Republicans, and a lot more conservative people, standing up, to make sure the elections, nothing happens like what happened, a year ago.

LAH (voice-over): In the battleground state of Wisconsin, where Joe Biden edged out Trump, by roughly 20,000 votes, Madison City Clerk, Maribeth Witzel-Behl, is bracing, for what lies ahead, this year.

MARIBETH WITZEL-BEHL, MADISON CITY CLERK: You question, is it taking a toll on me that I can't even see? Am I going to drive myself into having a stroke and then not be able to do anything at all?

LAH (voice-over): Witzel-Behl loved the relative anonymity of being a nonpartisan city clerk, and helping her community, until a right-wing website posted her name, as an election worker.

WITZEL-BEHL: In the comments, there was types of ammunition, to use on me, types of guns, talk of lynching. Just the other day, I got a message, somebody sent me an article, about a shooting, and said, "Coming soon to a home near you."

LAH (on camera): How long do you think you can keep doing this?

WITZEL-BEHL: My answer to that question would probably change every day. So, I just try to stay really busy. So I'm not ruminating over everything.

LAH (on camera): Well what do you mean by, you try to stay busy?

WITZEL-BEHL: Well, I got the mayor's (ph) position, to take a second job, and work retail. So I'm not sitting at home at night, or on the weekend, just thinking about all the hatred being sent my way.

LAH (on camera): Is that how you're coping?

WITZEL-BEHL: Yes, definitely.

LAH (voice-over): With many of these threats, being anonymous, or protected, under free speech, many are never prosecuted.

Police are still looking for the man, who threatened Detroit City Clerk, Janice Winfrey. She and other election workers, are left to take their own safety, into their own hands.

WINFREY: I like to call myself, "The Keeper of Democracy."

LAH (on camera): And is that what has kept you on the job?

WINFREY: Absolutely.

LAH (on camera): What do you want to tell the public, about how hard your job is, right now?

WINFREY: My job is so hard that one would think it's not worth it, and why are you doing it?

It's intrinsic for me, right? We have to protect democracy. I can't say it enough, you know? One person, one vote. Is it worth it? Is it worth my life? Apparently, it is, because I'm continuing on that path. (END VIDEOTAPE)

LAH: The U.S. Department of Justice says, historically, these cases, have fallen to state and local jurisdictions, but not anymore, especially as these cases have grown across the country.

Just six months ago, the DOJ formed a multi-divisional Task Force. And this taskforce is designed to train election workers, but also to find and prosecute those making threats, against them.


KEILAR: Kyung, thank you so much, for that report.

147 Republicans voted to overturn the last presidential election, on the basis of nothing. One of the ringleaders, Missouri Republican senator, Josh Hawley, who is now insisting, it is Democrats, who don't accept election results.

When DEMOCRACY IN PERIL returns, we roll the tape.



KEILAR: Senator Josh Hawley, the first senator, to announce that he would be objecting, to the results, of the fair and secure 2020 presidential election, went on national television, and said this, with a straight face, about Joe Biden.


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): He's already making excuses, for why, he's going to lose, in November. And Pete, that's what this is all about. Democrats don't accept elections--


HAWLEY: --that they don't win.


KEILAR: Oh, irony! But more on that, in a moment.

First, an explanation, of how Missouri's junior senator, came to make this comment. He was criticizing President Biden, for saying this, Wednesday.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Speaking of voting rights legislation, if this isn't passed, do you still believe the upcoming election, will be fairly conducted, and its results will be legitimate?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Well, it all depends on whether or not we're able to make the case to the American people that some of this is being set up, to try to alter the outcome of the election.


KEILAR: The correct answer, from a President, especially one, whose predecessor, undermines the legitimacy of elections, more than he plays golf, is "Yes, I expect the upcoming election to be fair and legitimate."

But Biden shanked the ball, big-time, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tried to quickly clean up the mess.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He is not questioning the legitimacy of the 2022 elections. But it is also his responsibility, and the Vice President's too, to be very candid, and clear-eyed, and communicate with the American people, about what is at risk.


KEILAR: So now, to the irony of Josh Hawley, even touching this issue, of the legitimacy of elections.

Flashback, to early January 2021, as Hawley anticipated, his shining moment, on C-SPAN, where he would object, to the results, of a fair and secure election, as he pushed the Big Lie.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: I just want to pin you down, on what you're trying to do. You know, are you trying to say that, as of January 20th, that, President Trump will be President?

HAWLEY: Well, Bret, that depends on what happens on Wednesday.


KEILAR: On Wednesday, Wednesday, January 6th, that's the day that he was talking about. The day that Trump supporters surrounded the Capitol, as Congress, including Hawley, gathered to certify the election results.


The junior senator, from Missouri, made sure, to pay them a visit, outside. His clenched fist, held high, to show solidarity, with those, who would soon storm the Capitol, as Hawley, and his colleagues, fled the Senate Chamber.

Hawley's campaign, by the way, fired off a fundraising plea, as the ransacking began, because, he saw "Opportunity." His words, in the day.


HAWLEY: My view is this that this is my opportunity to stand up and say something.


KEILAR: Four people died that day, four Trump supporters. 140 police officers injured that day, defending the Capitol. Five died, in the wake of the attack, including by suicide.

But even after the attack, Hawley went ahead, with his C-SPAN moment.


HAWLEY: This is the place, where those objections, are to be heard, and dealt with, debated and finally resolved. In this lawful means, peacefully, without violence, without attacks, without bullets.

And so, Mr. President, let me just say now briefly, in lieu of speaking about it later, a word about Pennsylvania.


KEILAR: Objecting still, to the outcome of a fair and secure election, even after the attack.

Later, when given the chance, to join his colleagues, and honoring the service, of the Capitol Police, and the D.C. Police? Hard pass from Josh Hawley, who takes issue, with calling the people, who stormed the Capitol, "Violent insurrectionists."

Instead, he dined out at CPAC, on his role, undermining the election.


HAWLEY: On January, the 6th, I objected, during the Electoral College certification. Maybe you heard about it?


HAWLEY: I did.


KEILAR: Sounds like a Tinder profile, doesn't it? Enjoy short walks, outside the Capitol, making money, off of attacks, on democracy, looking for a partner, who also likes to rewrite history.


HAWLEY: I never said that the goal was to overturn the election. That was never the point. And it was never possible.

I was very clear from the beginning that I was never attempting to overturn the objection - I was - the election.


KEILAR: OK. The problem for Hawley? It's all on tape. Let's play one of Hawley's Greatest Hits again.


BAIER: I just want to pin you down, on what you're trying to do. You know, are you trying to say that, as of January 20th, that, President Trump will be President?

HAWLEY: Well, Bret, that depends on what happens on Wednesday.


KEILAR: As Hawley did, this week, he likes to say Democrats did the exact same thing that he did, objecting to election results.


HAWLEY: It happened in 2000. It happened in 2004. It happened in 2016. Now, it's going to be 2022.


KEILAR: Let's head back in time, shall we?

In 2017, several House Democrats, tried to object, to the certification, of the vote, in a number of states. No Senator joined them. They were ruled out of order, time and time again, by someone, whose personal preference, was obviously not for Trump to become president.

And yet?


BIDEN: Debate is out of order.

There's no debate.


BIDEN: Objection cannot be entertained.


KEILAR: 2005, this time, two Democratic lawmakers, including a senator, this time, objected to Ohio's electoral votes. It went nowhere.

And then, all the way, back in 2001, when a dozen members, of the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as some other House Democrats, objected to the certification of Florida electoral votes? They were silenced, by the Democrat, who had lost that election.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: George W. Bush, of the State of Texas, has received, for President of the United States, 271 votes.

Al Gore, of the State of Tennessee, has received 266 votes.

May God bless our new president.


KEILAR: There's a reason those objections made news, at the time. They were unusual, controversial.

There's also a reason, you probably don't remember those objections happening. And that's because what Hawley and his pals did is different, more than a symbolic protest. They objected to the certification of electoral votes, after an attack, on the Capitol, and at the same time that the sitting president, was refusing to concede.

After the 2000 election, Bill Clinton welcomed the Bushes, for the perfunctory visit that a president-elect makes to the White House.

After 2016, the Obamas welcomed the Trumps, for that perfunctory visit.

After the 2020 election?

Nada, right? There's no video, because it didn't happen.

In fact, in 2020, the sitting president, and his allies, were concocting a far-fetched, but earnest plan, to overturn the presidential election, laid out, on paper, in the Eastman memo.



PETER NAVARRO, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: The plan was simply this. We had over 100 congressmen, and senators, on Capitol Hill, ready to implement the sweep. The Sweep was simply that. We were going to challenge, the results of the election, in the six battleground states.


KEILAR: And then, President Trump, had been working the phones, to urge state officials, to just pull votes, out of thin air.


TRUMP: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.


KEILAR: His resistance, to reality, championed by Hawley, and many others, in the Republican Party.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Trump has not lost. Do not concede, Mr. President. Fight hard.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): At this point, we do not know.


KEILAR: But we did know. Ted Cruz knew. Lindsey Graham knew.

And so did, Josh Hawley. He's a lawyer, did you know? Yale Law School, clerked for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He is one smart Missouri cookie, betting on his supporters, buying his lies.

And up next, Republicans, across the country, are campaigning, on the Big Lie, and they're raking in millions, for it.

We've got the man, who was once among the most respected political reporters, at Fox. Carl Cameron, on deck, as DEMOCRACY IN PERIL continues.



KEILAR: The Big Lie, is hugely resonant, with Republican voters. Just check out the numbers here.

62 percent of Republicans say they believe there was widespread voter fraud in 2020, even though there was not. And 59 percent say, believing that Trump won, is important to how they define themselves, as a Republican.

It pays to sell the Big Lie. And it's factoring into campaign ads, this year, big time.


BERNIE MORENO, (R) OHIO SENATE CANDIDATE: President Trump says the election was stolen. And he's right.

REP. BILLY LONG (R-MO): He made America great. But the Democrats rigged the election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want total control. So, they lie, waste our money, rig our elections.


KEILAR: And joining us now, is Carl Cameron. He is the former Fox News Chief Political Correspondent, who left the network, because of, quote, "Partisan misinformation."

Carl, it's always great to see you, and to have a conversation with you. Why is the Big Lie so big? Why is it so popular? CARL CAMERON, FORMER CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT AT FOX NEWS, CO- FOUNDER OF FRONT PAGE LIVE: Well, it really is all about the politics. And, for the last 25 years or so, it has gotten, on television, and in social media, all over the place.

And what's - it's not just the mis- and dis-information, frankly. It's Republicans, who have kind of lost their way, in terms of making policy, and have instead, followed a president, who is - a former President, who is really testing our democracy, in ways that are extremely dangerous.

The bottom line is, it's time, for people, to really understand that the Republican Party is beginning to fall apart. And it's because of following Trumpism.

And our system depends upon a two-party system. And if one of them is constantly lying, and constantly trying to break down things, like voting rights, and/or trying to accelerate infrastructure attention, there's something desperately wrong with that.

And it's because Republicans are playing a horse race. Too much news about just who's up and who's down, and always about the money, and their own personal power, that's not what a democracy can do - can stand.

KEILAR: So, explain this. If they're falling apart, explain how you see them falling apart.

Because it's entirely possible, right, that Republicans reclaim power, of the House, that they reclaim power of the Senate? And yet, it's so interesting for you to frame it that way that they are falling apart? That's the long game.

CAMERON: The Grand Old Party, one that had opinions, and principles, has been completely erased. There are still some moderate Republicans. It will be interesting, to see how they vote in the upcoming midterms.

But the reality is, when a new president is elected, the upcoming midterms are generally a disaster. And this one looks like it could be a tsunami, for the Republicans - for the Democrats. And the Republicans could really take charge.

And if their goal, is to stop things, like voting rights, and fixing the country's infrastructure, they are clearly not working, in the country's best interests.

For 200 years, there was a word called "Comity," C-O-M-I-T-Y (ph), which refers to the need, and the responsibility, to mutually help each other, as part of the government.

Republicans and Democrats have to play nice together, occasionally, or things break down. That's what's happening. And it's a consequence of Trump's term in office, wherein all he did was break things down. He didn't really create anything. And that wall has never been finished.

KEILAR: Well, so, and that's the thing is, it does require people - we're living in the same house, right? Everyone's living in the same house. So, Democrats and Republicans, I mean, the way I think about it is, if it's on fire, that's bad for everybody, right?

Do you think Democrats are doing enough?

CAMERON: No. I think that there's - there's got to be some regulation, in social media, to stop so much of the dystopic lying, falsehoods about America. We're a laughingstock, across the world now.

And it is no coincidence that Putin is taking advantage, of his military buildup, against Ukraine, right now. And the world's terrified. And Putin is laughing his butt off, because he knows that the U.S. is tied up with one party that has lost its way, the Republicans.


KEILAR: Do you think, if your former employer, Fox News, and other right-wing media, stopped pushing the Big Lie, that it would take the air out of it, or no?

CAMERON: People, who watch cable and, go to particularly partisan organizations, whether it's Fox, or Newsmax, or half a dozen other that you can find way down on the other end of the cable channels? They are doing it for the money, and for the attention, and the power that they might gain.

It is not about policy. It's about memes. It's about name-calling. It's about degradation of the other. And it has nothing to do with the problems that America faces, and trying to solve them. It is literally the degradation of the GOP. And those few, who are trying to fight it, are getting ostracized, by those who were their compatriots. Cheney is an example of such.

And so, the information that we're getting, from the Congressional investigation, and what we're already learning, from a variety of additional sources, is that Trump, and a whole bunch of his henchmen, were right, on top of everything, before, during and after the Insurrection.

And sooner or later, this is going to go, from the Congress, to the DOJ. And we'll see, if it can get real traction, before the next presidential election. We still got three years before that.

KEILAR: Yes, we sure do.

Carl Cameron, it is always great to see you. Thank you.

CAMERON: Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: Up next, John Avlon will be here, to look at the revelations that Rudy Giuliani oversaw a plot, to install fake electors, around the country. Plus, new reporting, on how the Trump White House, prepared to order the Defense Secretary, to seize voting machines.

Tonight's Reality Check, next. [21:50:00]


KEILAR: As election law expert, Rick Hasen, noted, at the top of our show, we came incredibly close, to a subverted election, in 2020. And it wasn't just because of former President Trump's exhaustive efforts, to pressure courts and state officials.

We've learned about some intricate plotting that was happening, at the time. Rudy Giuliani, allegedly, orchestrating a scheme to push fake electors, and forge documents, to overturn Biden's win.

And then, there's this, a never-before-seen draft executive order, first obtained by "Politico." And the order, which Trump considered, signing in December of 2020, would have directed the Pentagon, to seize voting machines, in key states, and hunt for fraud.

A Reality Check, on what all of this means, John Avlon, joining us tonight.

And to start, first, here, John, you worked for Giuliani, once upon a time, a while back, right?


KEILAR: Tell us what you make of this scheme that he was reportedly concocting?

AVLON: It's just another layer of disgrace, in the eyes of history that he has brought upon himself, for trying to overturn, our democracy.

And what makes it tragic, from my perspective, is that it really shows the decline, of a man, I knew, and worked with, and who was one of the most respected lawyers, of his generation, one of the youngest Deputy Attorney Generals, in our history, U.S. Attorney, Mayor of New York.

And to see someone who had such respect for the law, beclown himself, consistently, in this way, from membership, to a cult, to try to overturn an election, desperately, seditiously, consistently, in coordination, is a hideous thing to watch.

And all the good things that he did, in his career, I'm afraid, will be overshadowed, by this, because there's nothing bigger, or more basic, than trying to overturn an election, and our democracy. And that is what he did. That is what he tried to do.

KEILAR: Beclown himself, I think, that is such a good verb, right, for what he has transformed into?

I do want to look at the language that is in this draft executive order that I mentioned, that was obtained by "Politico."

It says, "The Secretary of Defense shall seize, collect, retain and analyze all machines, equipment, electronically stored information, and material records required for retention. The final assessment must be provided no later than 60 days from commencement of operations."

Goes on to say, "The appointment of a Special Counsel to oversee this operation and institute all criminal and civil proceedings as appropriate based on the evidence."

What stands out to you there?

AVLON: The entire memo!

Just put this - try to see it - and it's difficult, to see this through the lens of history.

This is a memo, presented to the President, in his name, to get the Secretary of Defense, to seize all election records, to suspend the counting of an election, and to conduct an audit that would extend beyond Inauguration Day.

This is a memo that, along with the Eastman memo, is designed clearly. It is more evidence of a coup d'etat that was being attempted, by the President, and his flunkies, in and around the White House.

And while there's a lot, we don't know, about the details, who wrote this, who he would appoint? Make no mistake, this is out of a dystopian nightmare vision, of what could happen, in American society. And it happened, in real-time, on our watch, on Donald Trump's watch.

The fact that the Secretary of Defense, and the Pentagon, was being asked, to seize all election records that they were apparently willing to blow through the constitutionally-mandated Inauguration Day? And it's all part and parcel of what we see along with this effort, these alternate slate of electors that we just discussed?

These Eastman memos were not one-offs. This was a coordinated attempt, by the President, and his lawyers, and his flunkies, and his campaign, and his apparatchiks, in the States and elsewhere, to try to overturn our election.


There are a bunch of seditious snowflakes. They were - could not deal with the reality, of losing an election, so they made up their own reality, and tried to force-feed it to folks. And some people still believe it. And that's how it's still damning our democracy, to this day.

But that is a frightening memo, when seen with any sense of perspective.

KEILAR: Yes. It certainly is frightening.

John, thank you so much.

AVLON: Thank you.

KEILAR: And Happy Friday to you.

AVLON: Happy Friday, to you too, Bri.

KEILAR: We'll be right back.


KEILAR: Coming up, on Monday, on DEMOCRACY IN PERIL, communities redefined, by gerrymandering. Democrats and Republicans, tell us, how it's wiping out hope of Congress, working together, for you, the American people.

Thank you so much, for watching. "DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts right now.


DON LEMON, CNN HOST: OK. So, Brianna Keilar, a week of doing DEMOCRACY IN PERIL, I'm sure, there has been a lot that you have learned. It seems you are not at a lack of stories, trust me.

What was the big takeaway, this week?