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CNN Live Event/Special

Inside The Mind Of An Alleged Insurrectionist; Far-Right Website Falsely Claims Wisconsin Moved To Withdraw Its Biden Electoral Votes; Kara Swisher On Social Media Companies. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 28, 2022 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Today, the City of New York, and the country, paid their respects, to a fallen police officer, Jason Rivera. Thousands of his fellow officers, turned out today, for a service, to honor Officer Rivera. Many came from all around the country.

We just want to pause, on that scene, for a moment. A sea of blue, all in appreciation, of a man, who made the ultimate sacrifice, in the line of duty.


COOPER: Officer Rivera and Wilbert Mora were killed, a week ago, when a suspected gunman, opened fire, after the officers responded, to a 911 call, at a Harlem apartment. Rivera's wife, whom he'd married, in October, also spoke, saying she'd be lost, without him.

That's it for us. The news continues, here on CNN, with Jim Acosta, and "DEMOCRACY IN PERIL."


JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST, DEMOCRACY IN PERIL: Anderson, thank you very much for that.

I'm Jim Acosta. And this is DEMOCRACY IN PERIL.

And, all week, we've been shining light, on what's being done, overtly and covertly, to undermine our democracy, since the birth of the Big Lie.

With the crucial midterm elections, fast-approaching, there is great concern, not only about voter suppression, but wheels being put into motion, to clear a path, for the potential subversion, of a future election. We ignore the threats at our own peril.

So tonight, we have someone, who can take us inside the mind, of an insurrectionist. How did the people, who attacked the Capitol, get to that point?

How did they completely lose faith, in our political institutions, to try to make us an autocracy, with violence and bloodshed? There are still people, who are out there, who are thinking like this. The FBI still rounding up those responsible, for January 6, to this day.

So, we're going to turn to the wife, of the most high-profile suspect, charged yet. She's actually the estranged wife of Oath Keepers' Founders, Stewart Rhodes, who was ordered, to remain jailed, on Wednesday, while awaiting trial, for seditious conspiracy, and other charges.

He is among 11 charged, with plotting to oppose, by force, the execution of the laws, governing the transfer of presidential power, on January 6. Rhodes has pleaded not guilty. But, we know, investigators have loads of evidence, laid out in his indictment.

He says he didn't step foot, inside the Capitol that day. But he was allegedly using Signal, to communicate with other members, of his group.

And listen to him, on November 10th. After the election was called for Biden, the Oath Keepers founder boasted about having his team positioned, and prepared, to engage in violence, on Trump's command.


STEWART RHODES, LEADER, OATH KEEPERS: We have been already stationed outside D.C., as a nuclear option. In case the attempt to remove the President, illegally? We will step in and stop it.

We'll be inside D.C. We'll also be on the outside of D.C., armed, prepared to go in, if the President called us out.



ACOSTA: So, so nutty!

Tasha Adams testified, before a judge, this week that she fears for her safety, and for the safety of their six children, if her estranged husband, is released. She calls him a dangerous man, a sociopath, who would brandish guns, inside their house.

And she also told the court, about elaborate escape tunnels, her husband built, in their backyard. These are not the photos of them, but of some spider holes, Rhodes apparently dug, to use as some kind of training.

Tasha Adams joins us now, by phone.

Tasha, thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate your time.

You testified in court, earlier this week that Rhodes had been abusive, towards your kids, and would regularly brandish guns, inside the house. How is your family coping, with everything that's happened? And what's your reaction, to Stewart, being charged with sedition? VOICE OF TASHA ADAMS, ESTRANGED WIFE OF JAILED OATH KEEPERS LEADER STEWART RHODES, HELPED STEWART RHODES START OATH KEEPERS: Well, it's definitely been a roller coaster week. There was this huge relief, when he was charged with seditious conspiracy.

And then, there was the nail-biting, when what I thought was no chance at all of bail. And then suddenly, reading the article, in the case, it looked like maybe that was a real consideration.

And it was suddenly, the most terrifying thing I could ever imagine. And I called in, and asked if I could make a statement. And they went ahead and reconvened, and allowed me to say my piece.

ACOSTA: And what were the early warning signs that you saw, before January 6? You say that social media posts started to change, more pro-Trump posts, by him. But you were also talking about tunnels being dug, and so on. Tell us about that.

ADAMS: Well, I mean, the tunnels, I mean, this is the lifestyle of his. I mean, this is our everyday life. This is how we lived.

He lives in constant fear. He's a very - his entire personality is very fear-based. And he lived in terror of the Feds coming in for him, one day. And this was every day for us. This actually did not even seem that unusual to me. I was so used to living like that.


And so, sort of surprised, when it didn't seem to come up, in his bail hearing, what an incredible flight risk he was. And I realized this is just such a huge case. And there's so many people working on it. And no one really thought to ask us, what living with him was like. And I realized I needed to call in, and let them know.

ACOSTA: And what was it like, during your marriage? I know that you're both estranged now. But did this build up over time? Did it just go off, like a light switch that he started to become unhinged, in this way that you're talking about?

How did this evolve over time?

ADAMS: Well, he had always been controlling. He had always been abusive. It was always a struggle to keep everyone safe. But his behavior certainly took a downward spiral. And I don't know if it was one or the other.

Was it, his mindset was spiraling, and so, he took Oath Keepers into more and more dangerous road? Or was he sort of absorbing the energy of the times, and just following a more and more violent path? And then, he was just more free to behave that way at home.

But certainly, when you see the rhetoric of Oath Keepers, changing, over the years, every time, you see more violence, out in the open, with his behavior? That was absolutely mirrored in the way, he acted at home. And he was just becoming more and more unhinged, and more violent, and more dangerous, in the house. ACOSTA: And so, in your mind, it would be a mistake, for the authorities, to, while he's awaiting trial, to allow him to be released, on bail, or something like that?

ADAMS: Yes, I think he would have taken off. I really do. It's his whole life was built around that. I'm not sure what his mindset was at the time that he chose not to run. He's just so volatile. And it's really hard to understand what he's thinking at the time.

He believes he's right. He believes in himself. He believes he's a great man. He almost believes in himself as something of a religious figure or, a person of myths, and stories, and legends. And he takes that serious. He takes that very serious.

ACOSTA: And I have to ask you, what was going through your mind, on January 6, when you saw those Oath Keeper patches, Oath Keeper uniforms, and so on, as they were marching up the steps, of the Capitol, going inside, inside the Capitol?

I guess, you might have known some of those folks, who were there that day. I can only guess. I know you were involved with the group, early on, as it was being formed. What can you tell us about January 6? And what was going through your mind, that day?

ADAMS: Like I didn't recognize, and haven't been able to recognize anyone, around him. He's a difficult person to be around, until he burns through people very quickly. And, in fact, there wasn't a single person, in his group that I had ever seen before. At that point, I had been--

ACOSTA: Oh, Interesting!

ADAMS: --completely separated from him, for about three years.

It was I knew he was going to be there. And I assumed it would be something like another Berkeley-type event. But then, I, watching him, online, like I often did, to just sort of know where he is physically, because I'm here in Montana, with my children, and he is in Texas.

But I was - always have, one eye, on the social media, just to see, is he hitting the road? Is he doing an event near us? Do we need to be careful? And I saw his rhetoric change. I wasn't the only one that noticed it. Some other folks, who specialized, in extremism, also noticed his rhetoric changing, a few months before. So, I was pretty nervous.

But the second I saw that military stack, the second I saw that, with those hands on the shoulders, I knew that it was Stewart. I knew nobody else would do that. And I knew that they - it was something serious.

This was not a protest. This was not riots, and fights, in the streets. This was something far more sinister. And you can tell, just by looking at them, they are doing something completely different, with the people around them. They're doing something very different than you've seen at any other riots. They're on a mission. They were on a mission. And I knew Stewart was behind it, the instant I saw them, before I even zoomed in, to see the Oath Keeper patches. And it was like getting hit. It was just like, it was a horrible, horrible feeling. And it was a horrible, horrible event.

ACOSTA: It absolutely was. Tasha Adams, thank you very much, for calling in, and sharing your story. We appreciate it. Thanks for your time.

ADAMS: Thank you very much.

ACOSTA: And we just got some insight into one of the leaders, on the far right.

Now, let's take a closer look at the right-wing media bubble, and why even the most outlandish conspiracy theories, are able to thrive.

As CNN's Tom Foreman, shows us, right-wing media personalities have perfected the art of stoking political rage, and peddling lie after lie.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get ready to hear the truth about America on a show.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Way past mainstream news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That our government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your host, Dan Bongino.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Well beyond conservative talk.

MARK LEVIN, "THE MARK LEVIN SHOW" RADIO HOST: Now broadcasting from the underground command post.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Right-wing radio, podcasting and webcasts are grinding out a daily message of outrage, fear, and resistance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to defend your civilization, against the onslaught, of this cancer of progressivism, liberalism, and globalist brainwashing.


FOREMAN (voice-over): Professor Emeritus Lewis Friedland has studied what he calls this, propaganda, for years, and says, it's unlike almost anything seen, in America, before.

A. FRIEDLAND: And I think that that's an important thing, to understand, is that it runs end to end. And it's a very, very different, and very dangerous, ecosystem, for a civil society, in the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The views expressed by the host of this show ought to become federal law.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Spawned by the late Rush Limbaugh, and others, who were free to build right-wing broadcasting empires, after the Fairness Doctrine, was dumped, in 1987, such conservative programs have now outpaced liberal counterparts, nine-to-one, by some estimates. The top programs give tens of millions of listeners an earful, every day.

DANIEL JOHN BONGINO, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, RADIO SHOW HOST: If masks work, why aren't they working? If boosters work, why aren't they working? If vaccine mandates work, why aren't they working?

FOREMAN (voice-over): Among the more common themes, the pandemic and suspicion about health officials.

LEVIN: I mean, think about what they're doing to us, twisting our minds, into pretzels here.

FOREMAN (voice-over): There is nonstop denial that Joe Biden won the presidential election.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Trump won. You're illegitimate. The American people know it and feel it.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Comments about the sitting president are bitter and relentless.

OWEN SHROYER, COMMENTATOR: You just watch, this creepy old pervert, sitting up there, pretending to be the President of the United States of America, pretending like he had the most votes of all time.

FOREMAN (voice-over): And on, it goes. "The insurrection was a noble attempt, to defend democracy. The border is lawless and wide open. The economy was great, under Trump. It is collapsing now. Any establishment news sources calling any of that a lie, can't be trusted."

JOHN BONGINO: These are political partisan operatives with an agenda.

FOREMAN (voice-over): And underlying it all is a revolutionary drumbeat. All opponents, especially Democrats, are un-American, evil, the enemy.

LEVIN: Try and take your guns, they try to take your school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are an occupied country under enemy forces. They are targeting the popular and outspoken dissidents, to the American empire, and they're trying to destroy them.


FOREMAN: There is nothing unusual about any of this, in that echo chamber. Listen for just a couple of hours, you will hear everything you heard there, magnified more and more and more.

And it's not just going on for a couple of hours. This is going on virtually 24/7, in that environment, again, to tens of millions of people, an environment that is often free of facts, but almost always full of fury.


ACOSTA: And fear and paranoia. Tom, a great piece.

One of the figures you highlighted is Dan Bongino. And what is interesting is that even though YouTube banned him, from the platform, a couple of days ago, for spreading COVID misinformation, that's not likely to make a very big dent, in his audience. He has a huge audience.

FOREMAN: Yes. If you're not listening to these shows, and many people watching, right now, probably haven't been listening to them, it's easy to underestimate how big they are.

Yes, Dan Bongino, YouTube can say, you're not on there, it will really make little more than a scratch, in his following, because there are so many millions of people, who have found ways, around here.

And increasingly, what you're seeing in this, again, this echo chamber, is that they're finding ways, to get platforms, where their sense of the rules, what they want to do, are not only tolerated, but gladly accepted. Because this is also a big money-making machine, for an awful lot of people, on that side.

This, Jim, has become an entirely separate universe, from the legitimate information networks out there. It's not to say that they don't sometimes have some legitimate things. But it's heavily, heavily seasoned, with conspiracy theories, and this furious anger, and this sense, again, that if you're not in their group, you are an enemy and have to be stopped.

ACOSTA: All right, very disturbing stuff. Tom?

FOREMAN: Yes, sir.

ACOSTA: Tom Foreman, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Big developments, on that fake elector scheme, we told you about, led by Trump campaign officials, to try to steal the election. And the biggest lie of the week, is just ahead, with our Fact-Checker in Chief, Daniel Dale.

There he is. He'll tell us all about that, in just a few months.



ACOSTA: The January 6 committee is digging further, into the Trump campaign scheme, to subvert the Electoral College process, in 2020. Today, the panel issued subpoenas, to the 14 Trump supporters, who tried to cast themselves, as electors, in seven states, Biden won. Remember, they went so far as submitting fake certificates, to the National Archives. The scheme did not work.

But even as the Justice Department looks into this effort, there's yet another concerning front, where Trump-backers are trying to work reality, by claiming this that Wisconsin legislators voted to withdraw its 2020 electoral votes, for Joe Biden. That's right!

Here to debunk the lie of the week, as we're calling it, is Fact- Checker in Chief, Daniel Dale.

Out of all the lies that we've heard this week, this one is a whopper!

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: It's a doozy, Jim. I'll give you the three- point brief debunking, before I get into where all this nonsense came from.


DALE: So number one, Wisconsin did not vote to withdraw its 10 Joe Biden electors. Number two, Wisconsin did not actually have any vote, on such a proposal. And number three, this is impossible anyway. You cannot withdraw your 2020 electors, in 2022.


So, where did this come from? Well, like a lot of election-related nonsense, it started on a far-right conspiracy peddling website, called "Gateway Pundit."

Now, "Gateway Pundit" came out with an article, claiming that it had huge breaking news that Wisconsin had voted to withdraw its 10 electors. This was completely false, as I said.

But it was quickly repeated by a bunch of Republican figures, with big followings, on social media. And they include a Trump-endorsed governor candidate, in Arizona, named Kari Lake, who just repeated it, word for word.

Now, soon after that, "The Gateway Pundit" revised its headline, softened its headline, to claim that Wisconsin had voted, to advance, to move forward with a proposal, to withdraw the electors. It claimed it was a unanimous vote. They claimed they had video of this. Now, that is completely false too.

Here is what actually happened. There was one Republican state legislator, who stood up, in the Wisconsin assembly, in advance, of an entirely unrelated vote, and introduced a proposal, to withdraw the electors.

Now, the presiding officer, in the chamber, at the time, a Republican, immediately referred that proposal, that resolution, to a committee, where it's going to die. And he did that, because under assembly rules, you have to refer such resolutions, to committees. So, there was no vote at all. The video that "Gateway Pundit" posted showed the entirely unrelated vote that the assembly then moved on, to have, as planned, after that referral, to committee.

Now, before I could fact-check this, Jim, a leading Republican, in Wisconsin, fact-checked it for me.

The Assembly Majority Leader, a man named Jim Steineke, posted a series of tweets, dismissing "The Gateway Pundit's" claim, saying that's not what happened. He made clear there was no vote.

And he also, before "The Gateway Pundit" article was published, he posted a tweet, saying that this resolution, attempting to withdraw electors, is illegal, is unconstitutional. You can't do it.

And I think that's important to emphasize. We can get lost in the retelling of "The Gateway Pundit" conspiracy nonsense. The most important thing here is that these proposals, to decertify the election, to withdraw electors, is completely ridiculous.

There is no constitutional mechanism, more than a year, after President Joe Biden was inaugurated, fair and square, winning the election, there is no mechanism for taking back the electoral votes that were cast in mid-December 2020.

So Jim, nonsense, just from start to finish here.

ACOSTA: Yes. It sounds like this bonkers reinstatement stuff. It's pure fantasyland. And they would just be better off, going to amusement park, or something like that.

Daniel Dale, thanks so much, for fact-checking this one. It helps when they fact-check them, for you, in the halls of State Legislatures, like this person did.

DALE: It does.

ACOSTA: But thanks so much. That was great. We appreciate it.

DALE: Thank you. Thanks, Jim.

ACOSTA: And the misinformation universe goes far beyond radio or TV. Ahead, we'll take a deep dive, into how social media plays a role, in tearing our democracy apart, where the Big Lie lives on. Next.



ACOSTA: As we examine the threats, to our democracy, we talked about the role of radio, Fox, and podcasts.

But you cannot ignore the role, played by social media, in the words of Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen. Here's what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: I believe Facebook's products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy.

They have put their astronomical profits before people.


ACOSTA: We know, on January 6, Facebook staffers acknowledged, what should have been obvious, writing, quote, "We've been fueling this fire for a long time," and "History will not judge us kindly."

The Mueller investigation showed the power of social media, as a weapon, used by our adversaries, to weaken democracy.

Since then, the danger posed by social media, now threatens lives, according to the FBI Director.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Terrorism today, and we saw it on the 6th, moves at the speed of social media.


ACOSTA: Flip through any of the hundreds of court records, from the DOJ investigations, into January 6, and you see the role social media played. You see how members of the extremist Oath Keepers, used Facebook, and other platforms, to plan what federal prosecutors, now call a "Seditious conspiracy."

My next guest has asked everyone, from Mark Zuckerberg, to Jack Dorsey, about their role, in our elections. Kara Swisher, is the host of "Sway" for the New York Times.

Kara, great to see you. Thanks for joining us.


ACOSTA: We appreciate it.

SWISHER: Thanks, Jim. No problem.

ACOSTA: Yes, the Big Lie, it's still big business on social media.


ACOSTA: Nobody knows that better than you. What should these companies be doing, at this point? Is it just - is it beyond our control?

SWISHER: It's beyond their control, in a lot of ways. I mean, what, the problem is, it's morphed into such a huge amount of information that's flowing over these things.

The numbers are so massive, almost as big as their profits, actually. These companies, if you've noticed recently, they're reporting this week. And they're making enormous amounts of money. But one of the things they did is architected it in such a way that it's very hard to control this stuff. And, even for themselves, they hit one place, and something else happens, or they go somewhere, they close down one thing, and they pop up somewhere else.

The architecture is one of the - one of the many problems here. And it's very hard, when malevolent players, really want to game you, on systems that people use, every day for, communicating about, I don't know, cooking, or sports, or whatever people are using these social networks for, which are very good purposes.

ACOSTA: And we noticed that after Trump, and other folks, were banished, from places like Facebook, and Twitter, because of all the lies, and so on, that they went to alternative, conservative, social media sites, like Parler, Gettr, that sort of thing.

Those business models seem to be attracting people, looking for more extreme views. And they're finding them there.

What can be done about that? I mean, that is just sort of another side of this, I guess, this spectrum that a lot of us aren't paying enough attention to.

SWISHER: Well, you can't prevent people from doing startups, right?



SWISHER: These are funded startups, and things like that. You don't want to. They do have actually dealt with white supremacist issues, on some case, moderation, hacking, the same problems that these other big sites have.

I think what's interesting is the most interesting site of all of them, and they're all in - I've interviewed all the CEOs, from those sites, is it's really hard to create a social network, for one.

The most interesting to me is Rumble, the video site, where certain people are doing really, really well. That's where Dan Bongino decamped to. He's been there. He's an investor in it also. But he's really doubled down on it, since--

ACOSTA: Right.

SWISHER: --he just got kicked off of YouTube. But Russell Brand is on there. There's all kinds of interesting things going on there, as an alternative to YouTube.

So, in some ways, it's a great thing, if you feel like there's too many big companies, to be able to create innovative startups, to do your own thing.

On the other, it creates all these sort of silos of disinformation. Not sure we could do much about that. Honestly, if they want to create businesses, like that, they can create businesses like that, as long as it's not illegal.

ACOSTA: And, this is a question, I've been wrestling with. And I think this is something we're all going to have to deal with. I mean, it is a huge question, moving forward. And that is, what do Facebook and Twitter do, if Trump runs for president again?

I mean, Trump, and his people, the Republican Party, if he's the nominee of the Republican Party, they're going to say, how can we be banished, from these sites? What happens then?

SWISHER: It's a big deal, actually. Because the lot of people that are on Twitter have some autocratic problems, in other countries.

So, I don't know how they can keep certain people on, in other countries, and not put Donald Trump on. That said, he is a persistent violator of their rules, or was, for a long, long time, and got away with a lot, before they finally kicked him off.

And so, those other people don't violate the rules. I know, it's kind of a weird situation that a small group of people is determining what the rules are, and whatnot, but these are private - these are private companies. They can do whatever they want.

ACOSTA: Right.

SWISHER: And so, it'll be - it'll be an interesting issue, because he clearly violated rules, compared to other people.

But when you let other people, around the world on, and not him, it's going to be a difficult issue for - I think, Facebook will probably bring him back on. Twitter, maybe not. We'll see.

ACOSTA: And, I keep coming back to this one, too, Kara. Can there really be a real conversation about fixing this? As long as Republicans complain about being canceled on Twitter and Facebook?


ACOSTA: They talk about the tyranny of Big Tech and so on.


ACOSTA: And then, just this week, we're seeing books being banned, about the Holocaust.

SWISHER: Yes. It's a little ironic, isn't it?

ACOSTA: Give me a break!

SWISHER: Yes, give me--


SWISHER: Well, give me a - it's just, everyone has their own little story or narrative, they want to tell, depending on what they want to do. Sometimes, I used to say that people that are - the noisy, the people that complain the most about being banned are the noisiest people, I've ever heard, in my life. They're everywhere. And they have lots of - they have lots of alternatives.

I think what's hard is that, that Republicans, and Democrats, do agree on the power of concentration, in these companies, the enormous profits, the ability not to be regulated.

This industry is not regulated in any way. There's lots of things they can do that don't run into the free-speech problem, which a lot of it centers around, which is not really the issue.

The issue is concentration of power by a very few number of companies. Privacy issues, data issues, hacking issues, transparency, there's all kinds of things that other industries get regulated, and it works out just fine.

This industry has never been regulated. And there's things we can do that don't violate the ability of people to say what they think. And it can happen. It's just gotten sucked up into this emotional political thing that's hard to overcome.

ACOSTA: And we were talking to our friend, Scott Galloway, last night, about podcasts, and the issue with Joe Rogan, and Spotify, and Neil Young saying "Hasta la vista. Keep on Rockin' in the Free World, but do it without me."

What do we do about Spotify? I mean, do we allow that site, that service, to police itself? If other artists want to join Neil Young, and try to develop some kind of leverage there, then so be it? Is that - does the free market work itself, out in that kind of situation, do you think?


ACOSTA: What are your thoughts?

SWISHER: Joe Rogan has a lot of fans, like 11 million. So, it's a very important person, to Spotify. And Neil Young is - doesn't have his - he has fans. I'm a huge fan. But, I mean, in terms of their business.

We can't make them do anything. I mean, it's an interesting way you put that. What should we? We can't do anything. The market has to work itself out here.


SWISHER: If they violate things? That's a different thing. But this is the choice they've made. This is the person, they've decided to back. And that's the way it's going to go. And consumers can decide, in their own ways, whether they want to be affiliated, with a company, or pay for a company that does that.

But this is not a new thing, you know? It goes back to orange juice, and Anita Bryant. This is not a fresh new issue, for consumers, right? ACOSTA: Right. Yes.

SWISHER: In that case, it worked. In this case, it's hard. It's going to be really hard.

But luckily, Neil Young got a very nice ad, from Apple today, saying "We stream Neil Young, and we love him." And that was, of course, Apple wanted to stick it to Spotify, because they're in competition with each other. But we'll see where it goes.

ACOSTA: That might have been part of it. That might have.


ACOSTA: But Neil Young is pretty great.

SWISHER: He's pretty great.

ACOSTA: Kara Swisher, great to - great to talk to you. Thanks so much. We appreciate it.


SWISHER: Thank you so much.

ACOSTA: All right.

And some members of Congress bear responsibility, for the disinformation poison. 147 of them voted to overthrow Biden's resounding victory. And, to this day, some of them aren't letting up on the Big Lie.

You're about to hear from one constituent though, that let one of them have it. You're going to want to hold on for that, next.


ACOSTA: It hasn't exactly been a peachy week, for Georgia Republican congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who appeared on a public-access call-in show, in her district, a few nights ago, and got an earful.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank God for Joe Biden. She is an embarrassment to the State of Georgia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, we all have our opinions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Amen to that. And I've got mine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All righty. Thank you.


ACOSTA: "All righty. Thank you."


Greene, who helped lead the right-wing charge, to overturn the 2020 election results, learned that people, back in her home state, have been paying close attention, to her ridiculous antics.

Another listener, during that call-in show, took Greene, to the woodshed, over her refusal, to work with President Biden.

Now, this piece of sound is a little long. But it is so worth it!


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We accepted Trump for four years. You all refuse to accept Biden. You refuse to do it. And we, you know, maybe we didn't like Trump. But he won. And so, that was it.

You are - you all are not, you will not, accept the fact that Joe Biden won. And that is the whole thing. You're not going to accept it. You're going to keep on, and keep on, and just peck, peck, peck.

And you won't get anything done. If you're not going to respect the man, and realize that he's the President, you're not ever going to get anything done. You've got to work together. And you are not doing it.

You're not doing it. And neither are the Republicans. They're just going with Trump. "No, he didn't win it. He didn't win it." And wasted that all the money in Georgia, had to count the votes three times, because he said he won. And he didn't.

And, to me, it was everything in Washington would be - would settle down. It's every - if those Republicans were just saying, "We didn't win," it's like Alabama and Florida, the Alabama, people, "Well we didn't - we really should have won."


ACOSTA: Bless her heart!

The look on the congresswoman's face, as she listened to all of that!

It's a little early for Valentine's Day, but I think I'm in love, with that nice lady on the phone! In part, because it's a sign our democracy stands a chance, after all, and because it's a reminder that when you peddle the worst kinds of conspiracy theories, sometimes, reality bite you back.

Greene has become a rising star, in the GOP, even after embracing, other big lies, and conspiracies, like blaming Jewish-owned space lasers, for the California wildfires, and comparing congressional COVID restrictions, to the Holocaust.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): This woman is mentally ill. We can look back, in a time, in history, where people were told to wear a gold star, and they were definitely treated like second-class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains, and taken to gas chambers, in Nazi Germany. And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.


ACOSTA: We should point out Greene later apologized.

But Greene is not alone, on the January 6 Karma Watch. North Carolina GOP House member, Madison Cawthorn, is now facing a challenge, from some of his constituents, who filed a lawsuit, arguing that he should be barred from Congress, for speaking at the "Stop the Steal" rally, just before the attack on the Capitol.

Those North Carolina citizens note the section in the Constitution stating that "No person shall serve in Congress, if they've engaged in an insurrection."


REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): The Democrats, with all the fraud they have done in this election? The Republicans hiding and not fighting? They are trying to silence your voice.


ACOSTA: Cawthorn, who recently was caught, on camera, cleaning his gun, during a virtual congressional hearing, has repeatedly talked up the prospect of civil war, in this country, for months.


CAWTHORN: If our election systems continue to be rigged, and continue to be stolen, then it's going to lead to one place. And it's bloodshed.


CAWTHORN: And I will tell you, as much as I'm willing to defend, our liberty, at all costs, there is nothing that I would dread doing more than having to pick up arms against a fellow American.


ACOSTA: Now, Cawthorn is blowing off the notion that he could be disqualified from Congress.


CAWTHORN: This is just another impeachment of President Donald Trump. It's just that he's not in office right now, so, they're not capable of actually being able to do it. So instead, they're going after his fighters. They're going after the America First patriots.


ACOSTA: There is nothing patriotic about hinting at civil war. That's the opposite of patriotism.

But it's not just Greene and Cawthorn, who are facing January 6 blowback, these days. Consider the mounting legal problems, for the former President, and other Trump allies. They're piling up quickly.

But that nice lady from Georgia, who was calling on Greene, to work with President Biden, has put her finger on something important. Members of Congress are sent to Washington, to get things done, for their constituents.

You may have noticed that scary bridge collapse, in Pittsburgh today, the same day the President was touting his administration's infrastructure plan.

The President was able to bring a small number of Republicans, on board, for his proposals, to fix the nation's crumbling roads and bridges. The vast majority of GOP lawmakers though voted against it.


But there is another category of Republican, when it comes to infrastructure, the kind who takes credit for all of that money, coming back to the States, despite their opposition to the bill.

Iowa GOP congresswoman, Ashley Hinson, tweeted how she secured hundreds of millions of dollars, for a project, in her state, even though she opposed the infrastructure bill.

Democracy may be in peril. But hypocrisy isn't!

Perhaps some Republicans are just confused, given what's coming out of the State TV network, for the party, these days.


JULIE BANDERAS, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Back in June of 2021, he started talking about his bipartisan infrastructure deal.

There's something bipartisan about it. If it was bipartisan, it would have been passed by now.


ACOSTA: Wow! And that wasn't even Tucker!

Just to be clear, the Biden infrastructure bill, once again, was bipartisan. And once again, it did pass. Maybe that Fox anchor was thinking about all of those infrastructure weeks, during the Trump administration that never resulted in anything.

Here's an idea. Maybe for once, just once, give bipartisanship a chance, give democracy a chance. I guess, for some, on the far right, democracy is a bridge too far.

The good news, and why don't we end the week, on some good news, is that maybe we are starting to see the light, at the other end of the January 6 tunnel.

Citizens are finding a way, to send a message, to the freaks, on the fringe, roaming the halls of Congress. "You may be ride-or-die with Trump. But you might also be on a highway to hell!"

Many, who continue to push the Big Lie, who are trying to change laws, to suppress the vote, are doing so, under the guise of election integrity.

A Reality Check, with John Avlon, is on that, next.



ACOSTA: We cannot say it enough. There is no widespread fraud in U.S. elections.

In fact, comprehensive studies, of billions of ballots, over the years, have put the rate of voter fraud, at less than 0.0001 percent. And yet, Republican cries, about election integrity, only grow louder. Why?

John Avlon, is here, with our Reality Check.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST & ANCHOR, AUTHOR, "WASHINGTON'S FAREWELL" AND "WINGNUTS": We need to talk about integrity, because it's a word that's been used, and abused, in our politics, by backers of the Big Lie.

Now, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, integrity means the quality of being honest and fair. But honest and fair, is the exact opposite, of what it's being trotted out to defend.


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Now when Republicans, 74 million Americans, have concerns about election integrity, we are supposed to just sit down and shut up?

REP. JEFF VAN DREW (R-NJ): One thing that's important right off the bat is election integrity.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We've got to make sure there's integrity.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): We do need to look at election integrity. And we do need to see, if we can restore confidence in the elections.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): Election integrity, and election security, is a top priority, for the American people.

REP. ROGER MARSHALL (R-KS): This is an issue of election integrity.

We want election integrity.

That's what's at risk for me, right now, is maintaining the integrity of that election.


AVLON: Now it's easy to see why this became their preferred fig leaf. After all, election integrity sounds much better, than backing a lie, without any evidence, or "I'm afraid of telling the truth, because I might lose my primary."

But calling it election integrity, is Orwellian nonsense, counterfeit language, to back up a bogus issue.

Now, if you listen carefully, the most slippery of these senators, and congressmen, calling for election integrity, are using it as a dodge. They're saying that because of many of their right-wing constituents, have bought into Trump's lies, that there's now a need to address those concerns, with restrictive new laws that make it more difficult to vote.

So make no mistake, this is a Phantom Menace, the political equivalent of an arsonist, selling fire insurance, on the side.

That can't be said enough that none of the recounts and audits, conducted in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, pushed by partisan interests, have been able to find anything, resembling large-scale voter fraud.

14 months after the election, the right-wing Heritage Foundation's much ballyhooed database lists only seven cases, of voter fraud convictions, related to the 2020 presidential election, at least six of which are by Republicans. And those are only the ones that have been adjudicated to date.

But the facts haven't stopped many people from buying the self-serving lie, hook, line and sinker. Now they'll try to shade, in broad definitions, to keep the confusion alive, and use that as a pretext to conspiracy bootstrap.

With Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, even proposing a 52-member election police force, to investigate, detect, apprehend and arrest anyone, for an alleged violation of election laws, it's an idea also being floated by Republicans, in states like Georgia, and Arizona.

And of course, they're doing all this, to placate the massive, yet fragile ego, of Donald Trump, a seditious snowflake, of a man, who can't deal with the fact that he lost a free and fair election. But the cost of this cult of personality is devastating to our democracy.

The honesty is too much to expect, I guess, for a man, who told more than 30,000 false or misleading claims, over the course of his presidency. And fairness isn't in the vocabulary, for a guy, who thinks ethics are weakness.

But these words should have meaning for the rest of us, because they're at the heart of our civic religion. The honest truth is that there's no evidence of widespread voter fraud, in the 2020 election. It was free and fair. And I'm sorry, but those facts don't care about your feelings.

Many of the elected Republicans, who continue to push the Big Lie, behind this mantra of election integrity, know better. They're just afraid of Donald Trump. And they're afraid of what will happen, if they tell their base, the truth.


But that's weakness, not strength. That's being a follower, not a leader. And that's the opposite of embracing the values of honesty, and fairness, in our elections, the opposite of integrity.

And that's your Reality Check.


ACOSTA: Well said, John Avlon. Thank you very much.

And we'll be right back.


ACOSTA: And that's it, for us, tonight. Don Lemon starts right now.

Hello, Don?


ACOSTA: Yes, sir.

LEMON: What is the takeaway, sir?

ACOSTA: You know, the takeaway?

LEMON: That's a big question.

ACOSTA: Yes. It's a big question, especially this week.

I will tell you, the segment that we did earlier, where we showed the constituent really, tearing into Marjorie Taylor Greene? I thought that was a very healthy development, you know?

It shows you that people are paying attention at home. And they're not buying what some of these characters, on the fringe, are selling. And she's beclowned herself, with all these conspiracy theories, and so on. And there's good, decent people, at home.