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CNN TONIGHT: Rep. Schiff: Select Committee Will Show Evidence Of Trump's Role In 2020 Fake Electors Scheme; Texas Republicans Approve Platform Condemning Homosexuality, Rejecting 2020 Election Results; Pro-Gun Activist: "We're Not Gun Nuts, We're Liberty Nuts". Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 20, 2022 - 21:00   ET




ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: The news continues. Let's hand it over to Sara Sidner, and "CNN TONIGHT."


SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT: Anderson Cooper, thank you so much. Happy to be here.

I am Sara Sidner. And this is CNN TONIGHT.

For the first time, the January 6 committee's public hearings move beyond Washington, tomorrow.

Until now, the committee has really been delving into the actions of those surrounding, then-President Trump, what he knew and when he knew it. Now, it's what did Trump himself do? And was it a criminal act?

And you can be sure, this moment will be part of the focus.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have, because we won the state.


SIDNER: That is just a really short clip, of the one-hour call, between then-President Trump, and Georgia's Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, four days before the Capitol insurrection. It is key to the question of how far Donald Trump went, and how much of a role, he personally played, in the efforts, to overturn the election results, in Georgia, and six other states.

Raffensperger is set to testify, before the committee, tomorrow. So too is his Deputy, Gabe Sterling, and a third Republican, Arizona House Speaker, Rusty Bowers. He also resisted Donald Trump's efforts, to ignore the will of the voters. We will also see, what the committee is learning, about whether Trump was involved, in the scheme, by his allies, to submit phony slates of electors. Fake certificates were sent to the National Archives, as part of the failed attempt, to undo Joe Biden's victory.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We'll show, during the hearing, what the President's role was, in trying to get states, to name alternate slates of electors, how that scheme depended, initially, on hopes that the legislatures would reconvene, and bless it.


SCHIFF: I don't want to get ahead of what we will show you during the hearing.


SCHIFF: But we will show you what we know, about his role, in this.


SIDNER: Dana Bash, always asking the pertinent question.

The Justice Department will undoubtedly be watching, tomorrow. Federal prosecutors are still reviewing those fake Electoral College certifications, nearly six months, after CNN first learned, they were investigating.

We will also see the personal toll, at the state level, when former Georgia election worker, Shaye, testifies Trump and others falsely accused her, of carrying out a fake ballot scheme, herself, in Fulton County. She got death threats, as a result.

Between the DOJ probe, and the special grand jury, now hearing evidence, in Fulton County, tomorrow may help answer, whether the 45th President could be held criminally responsible. Yet, even with more than 800 people, prosecuted, since January 6, none of those charts to date, carry the name, "Trump."

I'm joined now, by Olivia Nuzzi, Ramesh Ponnuru, and Elie Honig.

Guys, thank you so much, for being here.

Like I said, I'm happy to be here. But this is serious stuff. The country is watching, in part. But the DOJ is definitely watching how this plays out.

Can I just ask you, first of all, what do you expect to hear? I'm going to start with you, Elie. How important is this, legally, to Donald Trump, and to the committee?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, Sara, so, I think what we're going to hear, tomorrow, is different from what we've been hearing, throughout these committee hearings, thus far, in two respects.

First of all, the sheer audacity, of what Donald Trump, and Rudy Giuliani, and John Eastman, were trying to do. They were contacting state and local officials, and telling them, "Even though your state voted for Joe Biden, I want you to throw it to me," with zero factual basis, zero evidence, to support the allegations of fraud, and contrary to the law and the Constitution.

The other thing that's going to be different here, is we're going to hear Donald Trump himself, on the phone, with Brad Raffensperger. We know that Trump called other state officials, in other states, as opposed to the way, he normally operates, by having, whether it's Rudy, or John Eastman, or before that, Michael Cohen, do his dirty work. This is going to be Trump, directly in his own voice.

SIDNER: How will the hearing - Trump himself, sort of pressure - I'm going to ask this to you, Ramesh, how will it pressure state lawmakers? And will it make them shift? Because there are some folks, who very much believe that 2020 was, you know, the election was a faked election, which is untrue.

Will hearing all this evidence sway any of these state lawmakers?

RAMESH PONNURU, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, I think that one thing that it's going to do is highlight the continuing threat of political violence, which has become an increasing part of our political landscape, in a way that's really dangerous. And this was a key moment in that.


The unleashing of this very potent lie, about the election, and the pressure that was made, to act on the lie, and the pressure brought to bear, against people, who were resisting, acting on the lie, I think, we're going to hear a lot about that. And that's not just something with relevance to 2020. It's something with potential relevance to 2024.

The other thing is when you hear Trump himself, it gives people, who are listening, a chance, to evaluate this - one of these key questions, in these hearings, which is, what was Trump's frame of mind?

How much of this - and I think this has been actually a genuine question. How much of this was delusion, on his part, and how much of it was conscious lying?

And when he says that snippet, where he said, "I need you to come up with 11,780 votes," that one, it's hard to come up with an innocent explanation for. That one, I think, helps make the case, maybe not beyond a reasonable doubt, but helps make the case that he knew that he was lying, and he knew he was involved, in a corrupt enterprise.

OLIVIA NUZZI, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: The other thing about that phone call, though, and I hadn't heard it in a while, and I was reminded of it, just now, is that his tone of voice. The tone that he strikes, in a rally, say, or talking to partisan media, it can be a bit jokey, a bit - it can be a bit difficult, to know, where exactly the line is, for him, if he's making a mockery of the whole thing.

He struck a very serious tone, on that call, for most of it. And I think, may be hearing that - my - if there - the committee has any hope of persuading anybody, if there are persuadable viewers, of these hearings, maybe that would be part of it.

I also think that seeing - hearing from people, who are kind of government functionaries, who were not, like, in Washington, who were not in glamorous jobs, who were just doing their duty, trying to do their part--

SIDNER: Duty (ph).

NUZZI: --do their jobs, if there is hope for the committee that there are people, who are persuadable, who are not set in their defensive, of the former president, I think maybe that will be where they find it.

SIDNER: We're talking about this, from the federal level. But there is a state case, going on, in Georgia, right now, as we speak. A grand jury is looking at some of this evidence, as well. How might this play? Because, it's going to be spilled out into the public sphere now.

HONIG: Yes. There's parallel proceedings, here. We know that, as the committee is having its hearings, the Fulton County, which is the Atlanta area, District Attorney, Fani Willis, has a grand jury going. And Brad Raffensperger, who we'll hear, tomorrow, has testified. And Gabriel Sterling, the second witness has testified.

And that call that Olivia talked about, is so key. I mean, I listened to it. It's - we've all heard that snippet, the "I need you to find."

SIDNER: It's evidence.

HONIG: It's 62 minutes long. And Olivia's right. When you listen to it, it is alarming.

Donald Trump is browbeating Brad Raffensperger. He is attacking him, personally. He threatens him. He says, at one point, "I'm telling you, there's fraud. And if you don't do anything about it, you might be committing a crime."

It is serious. It's frightening. And it reminds us that the people, who stood up to Donald Trump, Brad Raffensperger, and Sterling, and many, many others, again, like Olivia said, these are state and local officials. They're not big-time fancy D.C. politicians, and they're Republicans. And they said, "Absolutely not."


PONNURU: And Raffensperger survived, politically. And I think that that is also an important thing, about--



PONNURU: --the political context, of these hearings, that, they tried very hard, Trump and his most diehard supporters, to take him out, at the next election. He was thought to be just a dead man walking. And he won, and he won convincingly. And so, there's a message also being sent to Republicans, this is a possible path.


NUZZI: And one of the political goals, or the most obvious political goals, of these hearings, is for Republicans, Establishment Republicans, to kind of rid the party of Donald Trump.

I think the more Republicans, like you just described, who are heard from, it's probably, going to help them make their case better, than hearing from Democratic lawmakers, or people, for whom, those testimonies wouldn't have any effect.

SIDNER: They already think they're lies.


SIDNER: Olivia Nuzzi, you said something that I think it's important. You said "Well, of the people who are watching."


SIDNER: You did. You did, "Of the people, who are watching this."


SIDNER: Because I want to show you the polling. The polling says, public opinion has not really shifted much, even after the hearing started. And you can see, like now, 58 percent, should Donald Trump be charged for his role in January 6? April, 52 percent. 54 percent. So, we're all in sort of the margin of error, right?

And then, we also are going to look in a minute about, whether or not people are actually watching this. And a lot of people aren't watching every detail, as it comes out. But you are seeing, the numbers sort of lift a little bit.

What are you hearing? Because you've gone out, and been at some of these Trump - went to Trump's rallies, recently. What are you hearing, from people? Is this Donald Trump's Republican Party?

NUZZI: I think--

SIDNER: Still?

NUZZI: --a Trump rally, is not exactly the environment, where you're going to find people-- SIDNER: Right.

NUZZI: --who are questioning Donald Trump, and persuadable, to use the pundit parlance.


But I, anecdotally I hear from people, who say, "Well, this is in the past. Why is this being brought up now? Why are we talking about this now? This happened so long ago. Shouldn't we move on? Shouldn't we focus on gas prices, on baby formula, on any of the immediate concerns that are facing the country, that Washington could do something to change?" But--

SIDNER: And that's a valid point, right?

NUZZI: Yes. But--

SIDNER: I mean?

NUZZI: But, I mean, I think, in part, you could speak better to this than I could.

SIDNER: Right.

NUZZI: The audience, for this, seems to be, in part, prosecutors. And--


NUZZI: --independent voters are not the people, who will be potentially acting, on this, in the immediate term, right?

HONIG: I completely agree, I think.


HONIG: Of course, they're trying to do this, for history. The story needs to be told, and told fully. But absolutely, they're aiming, right at prosecutors. You can see it, in the rhetoric.

Couple months ago, when the members of the committee were asked, "Are you trying to build a criminal case, here?" They were very careful, "Not our job." Now, on a daily basis, they're using terms like conspiracy and fraud, and criminality. So, they're clearly aiming at prosecutors.

And there's an interesting, I think, sort of duality to this, which is, on the one hand, I think the committee is doing a very effective job, of presenting the evidence, in a way that's compelling. On the other hand, every day that passes takes some of the impetus, and the momentum, out of a prosecution.

And one of the criticisms, I've made of DOJ, is if you are going to charge, in this case, charge a former president, with trying to steal an election? It is the most serious crime that can be committed against our democracy. Yet, here we are, a year and a half out.

SIDNER: Right.

HONIG: You have to act--

SIDNER: It looks political.

HONIG: --concomitant with the moment, yes.

SIDNER: That's right. Yes.

PONNURU: I think the committee, is in danger, of allowing it to be set up, as a failure, if it does not result in a successful prosecution, of Donald Trump. And there are a lot of obstacles, to getting that successful prosecution.

SIDNER: Unbeknownst to a lot of people.

We have to wrap it up. Elie, Ramesh, Olivia Nuzzi, thank you so much, for being here.

NUZZI: Thank you.

SIDNER: All right, coming up, just days after the arrest, of dozens of men, who police say have ties to a white nationalist group, and plan to disrupt a Pride parade? I sit down with a mother, of one of those men. She's trying to figure out how to get him to leave the hate group.

We'll share some tools, we can all use, to try and mend relationships, in this time of deep societal divide, when CNN TONIGHT returns.



SIDNER: It's a scene that's hard to forget. 31 masked men, arrested, just over a week ago, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. All of them, police say, on a mission, to stoke chaos, at a Pride event, in the name of hate.

So, how does a person even turn to that? I spoke to the mother, of one of those folks, who was arrested. She told me, she's speaking out, because she is desperate to find a way, to help her son, who's now lost, down this rabbit hole, of radicalism.



SIDNER (voice-over): Karen Amsden wants her son back, the one she knew before, before the obsession with his online community, before the political arguments, before joining an alleged hate group.

She says, her first warning, her son, Jared Boyce, was not himself was a quick conversation.

AMSDEN: I went to go pick up my grandsons. And he just started to - I said - I may have said something about a quote by Anne Frank, or something. And he just said something about "That's not even real. The Holocaust isn't real" that - and I - I thought he was joking.

SIDNER (voice-over): He wasn't. She says, when his marriage eventually failed, he returned to her home.

SIDNER (on camera): How old is your son?

AMSDEN: Right now, he's 27.

SIDNER (on camera): And where is he living?

AMSDEN: He is living in my basement.

SIDNER (voice-over): She says, her son joined the group, Patriot Front, sometime around 2018.

Labeled a white nationalist group, by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the group was formerly known as Vanguard America. But the leadership changed the group's name, not long after this.



SIDNER (voice-over): The person responsible, for this deadly act of hate, in Charlottesville, in 2017, was photographed, with them, holding the group's shield, though the leadership later said, he was not a member.

Amsden says, the group's hateful ideals, do not reflect how her son was raised.

SIDNER (on camera): Did you teach him to hate?

AMSDEN: Absolutely not.

SIDNER (voice-over): She says, he has proof of who he used to be, printed on his own body.

AMSDEN: He got a tattoo of Buddha, on his arm. And he got this tattoo of saying "Don't get into hate and anger and rage." And--

SIDNER (on camera): Wait, hold on.

AMSDEN: It's on him.

SIDNER (on camera): Hold on.

AMSDEN: I know. It's there, yes.

SIDNER (on camera): He has a Buddha, tattooed on him? And he has "Don't give into anger"--


SIDNER (on camera): --"and hate"--

AMSDEN: Yes, yes.

SIDNER (on camera): --tattooed on his body?

AMSDEN: Yes. He's been forever trying to find his place, where he fits.

SIDNER (voice-over): So, it did not come as a surprise that he was among the 31 people, arrested, in Idaho, for conspiracy to riot, at a Pride parade.

AMSDEN: I was hoping after spending some time in jail that maybe this would be a wake-up call for him, like to question "Where - what is this group that I've been involved? Where is this really getting me?"

SIDNER (voice-over): Instead, he doubled down.

We tried reaching out to Jared Boyce. He did not return our texts.

AMSDEN: And so, that's when I said "You need to - I can't - we can't do this. You can't live at my house, and be doing this kind of stuff, and putting this kind of hate, out into the world, and putting yourself in danger. And I just - you need to - you need to move out of my house, if you can't give up the Patriot Front." And he--

SIDNER (on camera): And did he give up the Patriot Front?

AMSDEN: No, he didn't. He initially was like "No, I can't give them up."

I said, "OK. Pack your things. Get out of the house."

He started packing. He made a couple of calls. He couldn't find anybody that was willing to help him. So, he came back to me, in tears, and crying, and like, "I have nowhere to go."

SIDNER (voice-over): Ultimately, she says, he chose Patriot Front, over family.

SIDNER (on camera): What does it do to you, as a mother, and this is your only child, to have him choose Patriot Front, over you?


SIDNER (on camera): Over family?


AMSDEN: It's - it's so - man! It's a slap in the face, because I am the one that has bailed him out, all these years, all these--

SIDNER (voice-over): She has run out of answers, to help her son.

DR. JOSEPH MA PIERRE, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHIATRY, UCLA: One thing to do is to try to help yourself. Try to find a support group.

SIDNER (voice-over): Psychiatrist, Dr. Joseph Ma Pierre, has some answers.

SIDNER (on camera): What can a mother say, who says she's tried everything?

MA PIERRE: It's a very common question, these days, of course. And it's a tough answer, because sometimes, the answer's no.

I think if we're talking about family members, or loved ones, or that sort of thing, I think, the most important principle, is just to try to stay connected.

SIDNER (voice-over): For decades, he's been studying, why people join different groups.

MA PIERRE: We're seeing is that people, who fall into ideological movements, are there for a reason. And if we expect them to ever come out of the proverbial rabbit hole? We have to understand what brought them in there, in the first place.

SIDNER (voice-over): Amsden says, her biggest fear now, is that her son's hate is spreading to his young children, her precious grandchildren.

AMSDEN: They're both amazing kids.

But we'll be driving out, and we'll see a Rainbow flag, and go "Ah! The Rainbow flag! My dad hates the Rainbow flag! The Rainbow flag is bad, you know?"

And I'm like, "No that you don't" - I feel like I have to, "No, the Rainbow flag is not bad."

"My dad's going to just tear it down."

"Well, then your dad's going to get in trouble, because that is against the law. He can't tear down the Rainbow flag."

SIDNER (voice-over): Is your son teaching your grandchildren to hate?

AMSDEN: Yes. He is.


SIDNER: This kind of radicalization is impacting families, across the country. It's just one of the many extreme divides, in a nation that may be trading compromise, for all-or-nothing extremes.

We'll discuss with tonight's guests, next.


SIDNER: It isn't every day that parents find themselves, in the shoes, of a mother, like Karen Amsden, the woman that you just met, whose son is now tied to a white nationalist group.

But every day, there are parents, and children, family members, and friends, who are being wrenched apart, by polarization, and misinformation.

Olivia Nuzzi, and Ramesh Ponnuru, are back with me, as well as, the incomparable S.E. Cupp--


SIDNER: --is joining the conversation.

CUPP: Thank you.

SIDNER: I mean, I want you to come back. So, I'm going to be extra nice!


NUZZI: Very positive topic!


CUPP: Yes.

SIDNER: Curious from you guys, like when you see this mother? She is struggling. Are we not all struggling, with family member, and friends, or people, who are at each other's throats?

I'll start with you, Ramesh. What kinds of things are you hearing--


SIDNER: --just in your everyday life? And - because it seems, to all of us, right?

CUPP: Yes.

SIDNER: It seems to mirror what other people, in society, are going through?

PONNURU: Well, not a lot of white nationalists, in my family. I'm--


SIDNER: Mine either!

CUPP: Not yet!

SIDNER: For the record! CUPP: Not yet!

PONNURU: I'm happy to say. So, this is an extreme form of something that we do see other places, which is this, growing polarization of politics. And even those of us, who don't have this particular problem?


PONNURU: We do see this willingness to shut people out, based on what we think they think, based on the kind of people, they remind us of. And that is, I think, slowly infecting the family. The family used to be a kind of respite, from that kind of political division. And our divisions are now attaining the dimensions, where that's harder and harder to find.

SIDNER: S.E. Cupp, what do you think happened? Why are we here?

CUPP: Well, a lot of reasons. And it's been particularly disorienting, on the flip-flopping of political orthodoxy, is things that I used to think everyone in my party believed, were orthodoxy, I mean, Ramesh, you know, this as well as I do, now no longer matter, because one guy said they no longer mattered.

And so, to have friends, one-time friends, become political foes, almost overnight, has been incredibly disorienting and destabilizing. I will say, I mean, I grew up a conservative, in liberal Massachusetts. I went to liberal schools. I moved to Manhattan. I worked in liberal newspapers.

SIDNER: Were you attacked?

CUPP: If I - no!

SIDNER: Did you attack them?

CUPP: And if I didn't know, how to talk to liberals, I wouldn't have had any friends.

I never had this problem, where my politics put people off. Now, I have dozens of folks, some families, some friends, some colleagues, who won't talk to me, who think I have completely changed.

By the way, my ideas have not changed one bit. The party has changed. And the demonization, the personal demonization of politics, culture, values, has completely shifted underneath us. So, you don't have to have a child, who's a white nationalist, to feel the complete disorientation, of what the last few years, in politics, has been.

SIDNER: It's bubbling, in a different way. The polarization is--

CUPP: Yes.

SIDNER: --is impacting us, in many different ways.

Olivia Nuzzi, when you see this story? Obviously, not all families are going to have to deal with something that's this far down the rabbit hole. But what do you see, when you're out reporting and talking to people?

And again, I work for CNN. And so, I get it in spades, when I am out, in the field, which is where I normally am, from people, from everything, from fake news to cuss words. I mean, you know.

NUZZI: And people don't like CNN?

SIDNER: Apparently, sometimes they don't.

NUZZI: I'm just kidding!

SIDNER: Sometimes, they don't agree.

NUZZI: I mean, I - this anecdote, to me, is sort of, it's like a perfect metaphor, for where we're at, politically, in some ways, where this woman, is trying her best, to keep a connection, with someone, who's completely radicalized, who has dangerous ideas that he believes, who's at risk of doing something dangerous, perhaps, and she's keeping him in her basement.

And it's kind of like, how far do you go? At what point are you no longer just extending an olive branch? And at what point are you tacitly condoning behavior, by giving him a place to stay, I guess, probably giving him time, to explore these things, online, probably giving him WiFi, right?


But most people, I think, probably struggle with a version of this, which is how far do you go, to live out your ideals? And at what point are people, with whom, you disagree, no longer acceptable, for you, to associate with, right?

SIDNER: To be around, yes.

NUZZI: And I think it's a - it's a case-by-case thing. And, I think, in general communication, it's probably a good thing, and not allowing people to be to be on this, like, choose your own adventure, right? Every day, online, you can like create your own universe you live in--

SIDNER: Right.

NUZZI: --create your own information feedback loop. You never really have to be confronted with anybody else.

But anecdotally, I mean, for whatever it's worth, I find that people seem fearful of - it's almost like the extremes are so loud, and so entertaining. You don't see a lot of like centrists sitting around, on television, talking like we are all the time, right?

SIDNER: Right, right.

NUZZI: This is nice. Not calling anyone centrists, here. But I--

PONNURU: Thank you.

NUZZI: Don't worry.

SIDNER: Ramesh wants to be clear.

NUZZI: Don't worry. But I think that that leads to people, being fearful, of being harshly judged, by people that--

SIDNER: Right.

NUZZI: --they know that they disagree with. And--

PONNURU: They're created this fake version of community.

SIDNER: Yes. And patriotism.

CUPP: Yes.

PONNURU: He wants this connection.


PONNURU: He wants this belonging. And you can see that at least--

NUZZI: And yet, no one will give him a place to stay.

PONNURU: --poignantly.

NUZZI: Right.

PONNURU: Right? Because--


PONNURU: --they're not the kind of friends, who will do that. Maybe - they're not nearby. They're on the internet. They're not real.

SIDNER: No one opened their house when he was--

PONNURU: And we've seen--

SIDNER: --had nowhere to go.

PONNURU: --and we've seen, as people are losing this sense of connection, we've seen this increase in radicalization. We've seen an increase in mental illness, which I think is not unrelated to the kind of fever, and political atmosphere, we often seem to have. So, all of these things are going on. And they're--

NUZZI: But, to that point, just a big issue--


PONNURU: Yes, reversing (ph).

NUZZI: --I feel like, there's a - there's a decrease in stigma. And so, there's probably an increase, in people who are--

PONNURU: In reporting it, yes.

NUZZI: --being diagnosed, right? And so, it's hard to know exactly how - how on the similar trajectory, these things are in tandem, with each other, right?

SIDNER: It is hard to tell.

NUZZI: When--

SIDNER: It is hard to tell. But the internet is a place, where you can be whoever you want.


SIDNER: And so, some people are going down the rabbit hole. It's a difficult thing, and difficult place, where we are.

Thank you so much.

We're going to look at the new Republican Party platform, in Texas. It draws hard lines, denies some important recent history, and goes further than former President Trump ever has, when it comes to one of the groups of Americans. Coming up, next.



SIDNER: Welcome back.

The Republican Party, in Texas, had made some very divisive decisions, as of late. It is now openly and forcibly opposing homosexuality. Its idea of a Big Tent Party doesn't include the LGBTQ community. This is happening, while the Texas GOP boldly embraces the lie that the 2020 election was rigged or stolen.

The State Convention adopted a resolution, saying quote, "We reject the certified results of the 2020 Presidential election, and we hold that acting President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was not legitimately elected by the people of the United States."

The party is clear about its opposition, specifically, to being gay or transgender, calling homosexuality an, quote, "Abnormal lifestyle choice," standing against, quote, "All efforts to validate transgender identity."

It rebukes move, by the party's own members, to find bipartisan compromise, on gun legislation, by adopting a resolution, rejecting the gun agreement, negotiated, by Texas Republican senator, John Cornyn.

Let's discuss, what this says, about the path, of the party, with Olivia, Ramesh, and S.E. Cupp. All right, what does this tell you? I will start with you, S.E. Cupp. What does this tell you, about where the Republican Party is headed? Does Texas gives you an idea that this could spread?

CUPP: Yes. And no. This is particularly extreme, even for like Texas Republicans. To me, this feels like it's the farthest edge of the far- right, in Texas. I know that, because polling shows a lot of this stuff is actually unpopular, in Texas, like--

SIDNER: Republican voters don't like?

CUPP: Well, yes, I mean, the abortion ban that no one asked for, that effectively criminalizes abortion, in Texas, is unpopular, in Texas. So, I think, this says a lot, about where the Republican Party, is telegraphing, it might want to go there. But I don't think it completely represent, where most voters are.

And, to our last segment, that is the case, on name your issue. I think most people, in America, are squarely in the middle, of all kinds of issues.

Take abortion, for example. Most people are not on the far-right, crying for abortion bans. Most people are not on the far-left, saying no restrictions. The vast majority are in the middle. And yet, it is so weird that a majority of people, feel orphaned, by the political parties, and unseen, and unheard, because they don't fit into convenient politically-exploitable boxes.

The far-right is exploiting people on the right. And the far-left is exploiting people on the left. I don't think it's symmetrical. But it has left the majority of people, not represented by this platform, this crazy platform, regressive nonsense, in Texas, does not represent a majority of people, probably not even in Texas.

SIDNER: It didn't represent Donald Trump. I want to play something here, for you.

Here is what Donald Trump said about the LGBTQ community, in 2016.


TRUMP: As your president, I will do everything, in my power, to protect our LGBTQ citizens, from the violence, and oppression, of a hateful foreign ideology. Believe me.



TRUMP: And I have to say, as a Republican, it is so nice, to hear you cheering, for what I just said. Thank you. Thank you.



SIDNER: OK. So that tells you something, although that was just a snippet of time, in 2016.

Ramesh, I have to ask you, and I also ask you, Olivia, is Trump leading this party? Or is he looking for people, to follow, watching where things are going, checking the tea leaves, and deciding, "OK, that's - I'm going to jump on that because it's popular."

PONNURU: Well, I think President Trump - former President Trump, still using the honorific there, has always had a pretty cunning sense, of what matters, to Republican voters, where you could depart, from previous party orthodoxy, and where you had to stick with it.

I don't think anybody thinks that he adopted the cause of opposition to abortion, for example, because it was deeply heartfelt. But he knew that you could - you could cross the previous Republican orthodoxy, on things, like entitlements, because there weren't a millions and millions of Republican voters, who were diehard, in favor of that old Republican position.

CUPP: Or protectionism.

PONNURU: You couldn't - yes.

CUPP: Yes.

PONNURU: That's another example, NATO.

CUPP: Yes.

PONNURU: But you could have not switch on issues, like guns, or the right to life. And so, he adopted the standard conservative Republican positions, on these issues.

Now here, I think, he got something a little different, because as S.E. was saying, this is not a group of people that is representative, even of Texas Republicans.

CUPP: Right.

PONNURU: Right? I mean this they're--

SIDNER: But to--

PONNURU: I mean, one might even say, they're abnormal.

SIDNER: But to be fair, I mean, some of these politicians keep getting reelected, right? So it's?

PONNURU: Well, right. But John Cornyn, for example, he does very well, in Republican primaries, and he was booed there.

Ken Paxton, had a much worse showing, in the latest Republican primary, and he got a standing ovation.

This is not - this is - this is a group of people, who have always been out of step. Back in the - back when George W. Bush was--

CUPP: Yes.

PONNURU: --Governor of Texas, the state party was dominated, by a lot of people, who disliked him.

SIDNER: Olivia?

NUZZI: I think that we make a mistake, sometimes, as pundits, or when we're engaging in punditry, where we think, "Well, this isn't popular. This isn't politically popular. The party or this politician, in general, would do a lot better, if they assumed the point of view that the majority of people, in this area, or in the country, hold." And we forget that some people are purely ideological, and they are acting in service of a bigger ideology.

And when you look at the court, right, when we look at what's happening with Roe? We're talking decades in the making, people deliberately installing people, throughout the levels of the justice system, to make--


NUZZI: --to ensure an outcome, like this.

And some people are acting purely to execute on ideological beliefs that maybe people that they're - who are voting for them - and most people, not most people, but many people, when they're voting, when they're going into a voting booth, are not making a calculated political decision. "If I vote for this person here, this person might execute my view my view on this."

SIDNER: Exactly.

NUZZI: "This person"--

SIDNER: Republican or Democrat, right.

CUPP: Yes.

NUZZI: Right.

SIDNER: Right. They're not making up--


NUZZI: They're making, I think, yes--

PONNURU: There is a difference between taking unpopular stand--

SIDNER: I'm going to have--

PONNURU: --and being spiteful.

SIDNER: That's true.

NUZZI: Sure.

SIDNER: I'm going to have to wrap this up. Olivia Nuzzi, Ramesh Ponnuru, and S.E. Cupp, thank you guys for being here.

NUZZI: Thank you.

SIDNER: Coming up, going inside America's gun culture.


DON SPENCER, PRESIDENT, OKLAHOMA 2ND AMENDMENT ASSOCIATION: In my vehicle, I have an AR-15. I carry a firearm, on me, virtually everywhere I go.


SIDNER: Why some gun rights advocates are pushing for more freedom than ever before, especially now? Why? That's coming up next.



SIDNER: Yet another holiday weekend, turning deadly. From New York to Los Angeles, dozens of people, became victims, of gun violence, once again.

A 21-year-old basketball star, was killed, at a Harlem park. A 15- year-old boy, was killed, at a D.C. music festival. 47 people were wounded, in Chicago. A man was killed at a Las Vegas mall. All this as the Senate has yet to reach a deal on a gun bill.

And pro-gun groups are doubling down against any kind of reform. Here's Elle Reeve.


SPENCER: This, right here, that's an - Elle, like you to hold it. You want to hold it? That's a knife, right there. OK. You push your thumb up, and push that button up, right there. Just push it up. Come on. Toughen up. Come on. Come on.

ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Well, I'm left-handed.

SPENCER: Oh, yes? There you go.

REEVE (on camera): Whoa! OK.

SPENCER: Right? And then you pull it down, and it retracts.

Those were illegal, till 2016. And I made sure that there were legal to carry, and then carry them, in the state capital.

REEVE (on camera): Why?

SPENCER: Because that's for an act of self-defense.

In my vehicle, I have an AR-15. I carry a firearm on me, virtually everywhere I go. That is a 9-millimeter Compact, Smith & Wesson.

REEVE (on camera): And then you got a body cam?

SPENCER: I got to body cam.

REEVE (voice-over): Don Spencer took over the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association, in 2016. The group claims it's helped pass almost 40 different pieces, of pro-gun legislation.


SPENCER: We are not merely a Second Amendment group, a gun group. We are a Liberty group that realizes it may take guns to maintain that liberty.


REEVE (voice-over): Many Americans saw the second Elementary School massacre, in a decade, and thought there should be more restrictions, on guns.

We wanted to know why these guys saw the same thing, and thought there should be more guns, more openly, and everywhere.

REEVE (on camera): Can you explain like what are you afraid of?


REEVE (on camera): Because, to an outsider, it's like you have all the Republican state government, like, why, why?

THOMPSON: Well, "Afraid" is a wrong word.

REEVE (on camera): OK.

THOMPSON: Concern. It's not so much about guns. It's about our God- given rights. A good guy or gal with a gun is the only answer to a bad guy with a gun.

REEVE (on camera): I heard that said a lot. But I don't know that it's true.


THOMPSON: Can you give me a logical reason that it wouldn't be truth?

REEVE (on camera): It didn't work in Uvalde.

THOMPSON: It was a gun-free zone. It was in a school.

REEVE (on camera): There are police outside.

THOMPSON: Yes. There were 19 police officers, who had orders, from their bosses, to stand down.

REEVE (voice-over): We wanted to talk more with Thompson. So, we went to his hometown, the next day.

THOMPSON: I think I'm the only person, in OK, today with a Prius. I get kidded about it all the time.

Every time there's a shooting, the Left immediately starts beating the drum, "More gun control! More gun control! More gun control!"

REEVE (on camera): Is it possible, it's because they don't want there to be as many shootings?

THOMPSON: Yes, I'll admit that that is exactly their motivation. Our basic disagreement is how to stop the shootings.

There is no way that they can get all the guns. There's more guns than people in America. So, it's a problem that's going to be there forever, no matter what kind of gun control you put on. Unless you want a police state? You want people break - do you want authorities--

REEVE (on camera): But I feel like you're proposing a private police state.

THOMPSON: Not private police.

REEVE (on camera): With everyone everywhere is carrying guns all the time?


REEVE (on camera): You don't feel that's--


REEVE (on camera): --a type of police state?

THOMPSON: They're not out there, policing. They're out there prepared for self-defense, or to defend others.

SPENCER: If Joe Biden's world, I would not be able to defend myself.

REEVE (on camera): Is he proposing an elimination of all guns?


REEVE (on camera): Is he?


REEVE (on camera): I didn't - I didn't--

SPENCER: That's the - that's the--

REEVE (on camera): --catch that announcement.

SPENCER: That's the ultimate goal here. You know, it's the goal. I know it's the goal. Let's quit - let's quit kidding around.

REEVE (on camera): I don't know that.

SPENCER: Yes, you do.


SPENCER: Terry Thompson, right here, on the front row? Yes, he's a rock star.



REEVE (on camera): So, what would you do to stop mass shootings?

SPENCER: We got to quit blaming, what's used for the weapon, and these types of things, and go to deal with the person.

People are confused how many genders there are. They're confused on what bathroom they're supposed to use. They're confused on whether a life is of value, even if it's not been born.

REEVE (on camera): I mean, are you confused on what restroom to use?

SPENCER: No. But we had to pass laws, in Oklahoma, to make sure boys will use boys' restrooms, girls will use girls'.

REEVE (on camera): And what does that have to do with an AR-15?

SPENCER: Because if you don't respect life, you're not going to respect anything.

REEVE (on camera): OK. So, you see mass shootings, as a cultural trickle-down effect, from abortion and transgender rights?

SPENCER: Yes, actually, it's the breakdown of the family.

REEVE (voice-over): In several states, red flag laws allow courts, to temporarily confiscate the guns, of someone believed to be a danger to themselves or others.

Oklahoma passed an anti-Red Flag Law, in 2020.

REEVE (on camera): How do you propose, if not this Red Flag Law, keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally-ill?

SPENCER: By the mentally-ill being segregated, from society, if they're a threat to themself or society. We mainly have to go back to institutionalization, which was left back in the 80s.

REEVE (on camera): But like would it be before they committed a violent crime? Or?

SPENCER: Well, I don't know how you - I don't know how you would ever stop someone that's given no signal that just goes to decide, to commit a violent crime. I don't know how you do that.

REEVE (voice-over): You might be wondering, "Do these guys have a fear that their loved ones could be victims of a mass shooting?"

The answer is, yes. They think about it all the time.

SPENCER: By the way, my children were home-educated. We had drills at our own home, for someone, trying to break into our house.

REEVE (on camera): What were those like?

SPENCER: Well, they saw someone show up on our porch, at about 11 o'clock, or 12 o'clock, one night, unannounced.

REEVE (on camera): OK. And so, did your kids, in that moment, prepare your firearms?

SPENCER: Yes. Because, when I looked through the door, I said, "Gun up!" My wife goes to one room. She grabs the gun. The kids go back. My daughter had - she was, I don't know, 9 - 10 - 11. She had a 32- caliber, in her bedroom. And we had them gunned up, and prepared.

And we train them that if they hear my voice, obviously, it's time to lay the weapon down, before I went to that part of the house. If they didn't hear my voice, someone was going to get shot. Or, my wife's voice, or their siblings' voice.

REEVE (on camera): OK. So, part of the drill is you walk through the house, and what, you're saying like, "I'm walking towards your bedroom?"

SPENCER: Yes. I'm - and I'm waiting for their acknowledgement, because I don't get shot.

REEVE (on camera): Wow! See? That, to me, seems like a scary way to live.

SPENCER: Well, the scarier way to live is, what would it be like, had the person penetrated inside the house, and harmed me? What would that be? What would that psychology be, for my children?

REEVE (voice-over): We went to a gun range, to get the views of people, who shoot, but are not activists.

ANGELIKA ARNOLD, GUN OWNER: I have guns at home. I'm at the gun range, to go shoot guns, now. But I need to go back to before, when it was not as easy to get a gun.

KOLBY WILSON, GUN OWNER: We have two guns. We have a 20-gauge shotgun, for home defense. And then, we have - we just got an AR-15.


There's a lot of commonsense gun laws, and stuff that I support that a lot of people I know support. I've held the same kind of views, on guns, for a while, although I have never like necessarily had the strong desire, to go out and purchase and own a gun, until recently.

JAMES YORK II, GUN OWNER: There's so much division, in the United States, right now. And I don't know how you fix that. But you can't have people throwing gasoline, on the fire, too, you know?

REEVE (on camera): And you think gun restrictions would be gas on the fire?


THOMPSON: We're not gun nuts, we're liberty nuts. The only reason we're concerned about guns is that's the only thing that protects the rest of the constitutional rights. And that's why the Founders put it in there. And--

REEVE (on camera): Then why didn't they make it number one?

THOMPSON: Because free speech is number one. And free speech is being assaulted in America.

REEVE (on camera): Why isn't the Second Amendment stopping it?

THOMPSON: Because if it gets that bad, then it's going to be in the streets. That's why, I'm working so hard, politically, because we have to solve these problems.

REEVE (voice-over): Elle Reeve, CNN, Oklahoma City.


SIDNER: Like that gentleman said, our basic disagreement, in this country, is how to stop the shooting.

We'll be right back.


SIDNER: CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, starts right now.