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CNN Live Event/Special
CNN TONIGHT: Biden: Trump & MAGA Republicans Represent Extremism That "Threatens The Very Foundations Of Our Republic"; January 6 Panel: Gingrich Sent Email To Kushner, Other Advisers Seeking "To Arouse The Country's Anger" Over Election; Abrams Slams Gov. Kemp Over Closure Of Critical Atlanta Hospital. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired September 01, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: It has been a big night, however you look at it. And there's still more to come.
With that in mind, let's hand it over to Victor Blackwell and CNN TONIGHT.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT: All right, John. Thank you.
I'm Victor Blackwell. And this is CNN TONIGHT.
It is unprecedented, to hear a President of the United States, call his predecessor, a threat, to this country. That's exactly what we heard, tonight, from President Joe Biden, about Donald Trump, and Trumpism, in his renewed Battle for the Soul of America campaign, this time, ahead of the midterms.
What is happening in America today, he says, is not normal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.
They promote authoritarian leaders, and they fan the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country.
They look at the mob that stormed the United States Capitol, on January 6th, brutally attacking law enforcement, not as insurrectionists, who placed a dagger, at the throat of our democracy, but they look at them as patriots.
And they see their MAGA failure, to stop a peaceful transfer of power, after the 2020 election, as preparation for the 2022 and 2024 elections.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: On the same day, Biden delivered this fiery primetime speech, Trump heaped more praise, on those involved, in the violent attempt, to subvert the 2020 presidential election, on January 6th. The contrast between the two could not be more stark.
Trump says that he's actually giving money, to some of the Capitol riot defendants, and would pardon them, if he could.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I met with and I'm financially supporting people that are incredible, and they were in my office actually two days ago. It's very much on my mind. It's a disgrace what they've done to them.
I will look very, very favorably about, about full pardons. If I decide to run--
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Amen!
TRUMP: --and if I win, I will be looking very, very strongly about pardons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Joining me now, former Democratic congresswoman, Abby Finkenauer; and CNN Political Commentators, Alex Burns and S.E. Cupp.
Everybody, welcome to the table.
Abby, let me start with you.
ABBY FINKENAUER, (D) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE - IOWA: Yes.
BLACKWELL: This was a fiery speech, as I said. The White House said this speech was not about Donald Trump, but he called him out by name. And it was the first applause line of the speech.
FINKENAUER: Like that speech was Joe Biden. That speech was exactly why President Biden ran for president, in the first place. I still remember, talking to him, before he announced. And it was because he was worried about our democracy, he was worried about where our country was headed. And now that he is president?
And we've seen how Trump has continued to divide folks, he has continued to have the backs of insurrectionists, who went after our democracy, after my friends, in the Capitol that day.
And he is doubling down, making sure that the country knows that President Biden, is there, defending it, will do whatever he can, to keep fighting for them, keep fighting for this country, democracy. And again, who he is? He spent his whole life, in service, and for this country, and that, again, tonight is what we saw.
BLACKWELL: Who's the audience, for this, Alex? ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Look, I think that we've seen a clear shift, in the mood of the country, over the last couple months, in response to the Dobbs decision, striking down the right to abortion access, and certainly the aftermath, and the raid on Mar-a-Lago, the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.
There's clearly a window here, for Joe Biden, to get out, in front of the country, again, and remind them about the things that they liked about him, back in 2020.
But Victor, I do think it's important to stress here, all those forces that I just described, moving the political environment, more, in the direction of Democrats, almost none of that, has to do with Joe Biden, personally, driving a message, and shifting public opinion.
I think what you saw tonight, is at least from the White House, some kind of sense that he should be out there, in front of the American public, leading the charge, and carrying the flag, in a different way, than he has, up to this point.
S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: I think this was for everyone, who might be thinking about staying home.
I think Joe Biden was saying, "If you're mad at me, if you feel disappointed, you feel let down by me, or Democrats, things aren't going as well, as you thought, or we promised? These are the stakes. And so, it's not about me. It's not about the party. It's about America."
And this is why folks, like me, center-right folks, voted for him, because it was time to make America good again. And those are the things he talked about. It was important for him, to say these things, to call lies, lies, to call out violence, to talk about things, like the Constitution, and law and order. He had to say these things.
But this wasn't a conversion speech. He wasn't trying to get Republicans to leave the flock. This was, to remind moderates, independents, and anyone else, who might not come out, in November--
CUPP: --"This is why you must."
FINKENAUER: Well, there was hope in it again, right? And that's something that I would like to say, I think, is new for Democrats, in the last month, is a bunch of hope that we are feeling. And President Biden, tonight, reminded the country of that. I mean, yes, it was dark, at times, right, where we're talking about the dangers of Trump.
CUPP: I thought it was pretty dark.
FINKENAUER: Yes. But, at the same time, there were those moments of the American Dream, right?
FINKENAUER: Where he reminded the country of what does actually make America great, and what we can do from here, right? There was hope. And that was the thing that I think truly Democrats had been missing, up until the last month. And I thought it was great of him, tonight, to remind folks of it again.
BURNS: But that to me is sort of the one of the big challenges for Biden, particularly in the final two months, of his midterm campaign, is telling the electorate, on a positive vision of the future, right?
BURNS: That Biden is very, very, in his element, talking about the threat that Trump represents.
And talking about the American political tradition, the mainstream American tradition that he's talked about, in virtually the exact same language, going back to the very beginning, of his 2020 campaign, talking about "We never fully lived up to the dreams of the Founders, but every generation has opened the door of opportunity wider."
What we've not heard a whole lot of, from him, since he became president, is - now it's actually in the speech, where he's talking about lowering prescription drug prices--
BURNS: --and rebuilding the country, I think that is a crucial, crucial element of the Democratic midterm message. And I would bet that for the next 60-some days, we're going to hear actually quite a bit more of that than the sort of straight full-on double-barreled anti-Trump stuff.
BLACKWELL: House Leader, Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, he delivered this prebuttal, from West Pittston, Pennsylvania.
Let's listen to a bit of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): When the President speaks tonight, at Independence Hall, the first lines, out of his mouth, should be to apologize, for slandering tens of millions of Americans, as fascists.
What Joe Biden doesn't understand is that the soul of America is in the tens of millions of hard-working people, of loving families, of law-abiding citizens, whom he vilified, for simply wanting a stronger, safer and more prosperous country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Obviously, he did not do that!
BLACKWELL: But he did at the top try to, I don't know, if this was clearing up what people have been trying to make the semi-fascist comment into, saying that "All Republicans are semi-fascist," he said, "It's not all Republicans. It's not even the majority of the party."
But people who want to believe that that's what he was saying, will still do that, and those who don't, still won't.
CUPP: Look, he is not wrong, in his diagnosis, of the problem. I wish he'd leave the punditry to us, frankly.
But listen, Hillary took some heat for "Deplorables." He'll take some heat for calling, members of a political party, "Semi-fascists." But he isn't wrong. And I don't think he should back down, from diagnosing problems, and calling threats, what they are.
But it's good that he clarified, he wasn't talking about an entire party. I have to do that, too. When I say, listen, "The Republican Party, or Trump followers," it's not everyone. But listen, this party is led by Donald Trump, still, and it's definitely led by Trumpism. And so, it's parsing, to really try and contort your way, into identifying, the whole party is this, right now.
BLACKWELL: Yes. There's a new poll out that shows even beyond the economy, and jobs, and crime, and guns, and abortion, the democracy is the most important issue, facing the United States. Of course, we heard that was the focus of the President's speech.
But do you believe we're going to hear this on the campaign trail that this will make it to the topline topic for these candidates?
FINKENAUER: If we don't, we should. I mean, at the end of the day, when you're out there, and you're talking to folks, who are just trying to live their lives, and put food on the table, get their kids to baseball, soccer practice? They've got a lot on their mind. But they're also worried about the future of this country.
There are folks, who saw, maybe they fought for our country, or they saw their parents fight for it, and they're looking at - looking around, going "My god! Where are we headed from here?" when you've got the Capitol being stormed, on January 6th, 2021. I mean they're still terrified about that.
And so, I think, this is right, to talk about this, to talk about what's on the line. And I think it is on Democrats, but not just Democrats, people who, again, the media, everybody, to be talking about what is on the line, and what is at stake, in this election, but also in 2024, because it's a scary time.
BLACKWELL: Yes, the President certainly framed the next what, 67 days, 68 days, until the midterm election.
FINKENAUER: Yes. BLACKWELL: Abby, thank you very much.
Alex, S.E., stick with us.
The January 6th committee is now requesting testimony, from a former House Speaker. The question is will Newt Gingrich cooperate, and why does the panel want to hear from him?
A key member of the committee is with us next.
BLACKWELL: The January 6th committee, is seeking the testimony, of another major witness, former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich.
According to a letter, asking for his voluntary cooperation, the panel wants to learn more about Gingrich's advice, to Trump advisers, about spreading election lies, through TV ads.
The committee says it already has evidence of Gingrich doing this. They cite an excerpt, from an email that he sent, to Jared Kushner and others. The date of it is December 8th, 2020.
Quote, "The goal is to arouse the country's anger through new verifiable information the American people have never seen before... If we inform the American people in a way they find convincing and it arouses their anger, they will then bring pressure on legislators and governors."
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, from the January 6th committee is with me now.
Congresswoman, it's good to have you. What more can you tell us about the former speaker's involvement, with the Trump team?
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, I think it's laid out in the Chairman's letter. You've referenced his role in trying to get the election overturned, just before the Electoral College met. We also have information, about his efforts, to get the election overturned, even after the riot, on the 6th.
So, we would like to talk to him, and to hear from him, about these matters. And I'm hopeful that he will come in. I served with Newt Gingrich. And I would hope that he would come forward and sit down with us.
BLACKWELL: How close to fruition did this plan for these TV ads to arouse anger come?
LOFGREN: Well, I don't want to get into all the evidence, we've compiled. But there was a wide-ranging plot, involving many individuals, to overturn the election, after the election was held. And this was part of that effort. We know that there was an online effort, to arouse anger. We've been able to map-out some of the online efforts that promoted violence. And some of it was mainstream, on TV. Some of it was web-based. And we're getting a clearer picture, of really, a comprehensive plan, to arouse anger, and to use violence, to overturn the election.
BLACKWELL: Any early indication that the former speaker will, as the letter asks, voluntarily cooperate?
LOFGREN: The letter was just sent out, today. So, we're hoping to hear from him soon.
My first day, in Congress, was the day that Newt Gingrich was first sworn-in, as Speaker of the House. So, we go back a ways. And if he's watching, let me just say, I hope you come in, and we can have a discussion, about these important matters, for our country.
BLACKWELL: OK. I don't know if he's watching. I'd be surprised! But if Newt Gingrich is watching, you just heard there, from Congresswoman Lofgren.
Let me move on to some other potential witnesses. We've got new reporting, tonight, about Ginni Thomas, of course, the wife of Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas.
BLACKWELL: She now not only pushed Arizona lawmakers, to try to overturn the 2020 election results, but also sent some letters, emails rather, to Wisconsin lawmakers.
What is the effort, now, to get her to speak? The last time, we engaged, on Ginni Thomas (ph), specifically, the committee was considering subpoenaing her. Are you moving beyond just consideration?
LOFGREN: Well, let me just say that, when we have a subpoena, we announce it, and we don't usually discuss our deliberations, prior to that. But, a lot of people had opinions. That doesn't make them a witness.
But we would like to discuss with Ms. Thomas, her collaboration with John Eastman, and have a fuller understanding of the role that she played. She had said, when we mentioned our interest, in talking to her that she would look forward, to coming in that she would definitely come in, and looked forward to it. And I hope that's still the case.
BLACKWELL: Can you explain that distinction you just mentioned that a lot of people have opinions, it doesn't make them a witness? What's the relevance of that directly to Ginni Thomas?
LOFGREN: Well, I mean, there are people, who clicked on to websites, who forwarded emails, to their friends, and neighbors. That doesn't make them a witness, to an effort, to overturn the election, necessarily.
But we would like to talk to Ms. Thomas, about the connection she might have had, with Professor Eastman. And she said in her public statement that she would clarify everything that it was all fine. And so, I wish she would step forward, and do that for us. This doesn't have to be adversarial. She should come in, and do exactly what she said she could do, which is clear the air.
BLACKWELL: When you say, there are people who went online, and forwarded emails, are you suggesting that's what she did that she just sent something on?
LOFGREN: No. No.
LOFGREN: No, I'm not.
LOFGREN: And I've probably gotten too far down. And I don't want to confuse people. But we're looking for people, who have evidence about the plot, to overturn the election.
BLACKWELL: All right. Let's talk also about Tony Ornato, former Secret Service official--
BLACKWELL: --was a former Deputy Chief of Staff for the former President.
We know the committee interviewed him, twice, earlier this year. What's the effort to get him back in?
I know that you have said that what you've seen from the Secret Service does not correlate with what you're hearing from the Secret Service. What do you want to know from Tony Ornato? And how close are you, to getting some of those answers?
LOFGREN: Well, we do want to talk to him, again. And there are a lot of things that just don't add up, to me, on what the Secret Service has said, and the material that we're getting. Some of the testimony is inconsistent. So, his abrupt departure, from the Secret Service, is of interest. And we're hoping to be able to explore this, with, in the near future.
LOFGREN: So, I don't mean to suggest that he's unwilling to come in. There's no indication that's the case. But we're looking forward to further discussion with him.
BLACKWELL: What's your reaction to what we heard from the former President today that he is meeting with some of those, who were at the Capitol, on January 6th, offering, as he calls it, financial support? If he runs and wins reelection, he is going to - he's considering pardoning them, with an apology?
What do you think about what you heard from former President Trump?
LOFGREN: Every time I think I can't be shocked? I'm shocked!
Today, there was one of the defendants, who brutally attacked a Capitol Police officer, was sentenced to 20 years, in prison, for multiple violent felonies. And that the former President, would be talking about pardoning people, who engaged in that behavior, really is shocking, and that he would be funding people, who tried to, essentially, murder the Vice President, overturn the election.
And go back, and we - I think we have them on the committee website. Take a look at the first hearing, and the level of violence that was aimed, at the Capitol Police, who served us, so bravely, and who took such a beating, almost like a medieval war. And to say that that is patriotic, to say that those people should get an apology? I'm sorry, that is disgusting.
BLACKWELL: Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, always good to talk with you. Thank you.
LOFGREN: Thank you.
BLACKWELL: There are new developments, in the classified documents investigation. Donald Trump's lawyers, and DOJ prosecutors, came face- to-face, in court, today, for the first time, since the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago.
We'll tell you what went down, when CNN TONIGHT returns.
BLACKWELL: We could soon learn a lot more, about what was seized, from Donald Trump's home. A federal judge says, she's now considering releasing a more detailed inventory, of what the FBI took, from Mar-a- Lago, last month. We've only seen an abbreviated receipt, from the search warrant.
Neither side objected when Judge Aileen Cannon gave them the opportunity. This was the first time, since the search that Trump's lawyers, and DOJ prosecutors, made arguments, in court.
And we're now waiting, for the judge to decide, if she will grant the Trump team's request, for a Special Master. She says she's considering, temporarily blocking government prosecutors, from accessing materials, seized, and if she does, appoint that third- party, to review them.
Now, at one point, Trump's lawyers tried to downplay the seriousness, of what was found, at Mar-a-Lago, highly classified national secrets that one attorney has compared to a hunt for an "Overdue library book."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM TRUSTY, ATTORNEY FOR FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: That's the stuff of an overdue library book, and some people that are perhaps holding this president to a different standard than anyone else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: CNN Political Commentators, S.E. Cupp, and Alex Burns are back. Also with me now is CNN Legal Analyst, and former federal prosecutor, Jennifer Rodgers.
Jennifer, an "Overdue library book!" I just hand that off to you.
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, I got to say, I'm offended.
RODGERS: I mean, that's ridiculous. We have top secret documents, SCI documents, special programs documents, and Jim Trusty, who I know, and liked, at DOJ, but he wants to talk about library books? I mean, that's outrageous.
RODGERS: I mean, really, not only does it downplay the seriousness, of what we're talking about, here, but I think people will see that as the ploy that it is. I mean, they want to downplay in various ways they want to talk about, "Oh, this is a case about the Presidential Records Act," this and that.
But you just look at that picture that's on the screen, and you can tell, this is not about library books. You don't have to see what's in these documents, to know that if the government bothers, to classify them, at that level, it's more than a library book.
BLACKWELL: Does this make it worse, trying to downplay it, to this level?
CUPP: Well, I was going to make a Seinfeld joke, about--
BLACKWELL: Go ahead, make it.
CUPP: --"Is it Tropic of Cancer or Tropic of Capricorn?"
But listen, this is so dumb. All of it is so dumb. This is not an overdue library book. Another of his lawyers compared espionage to like just mundane charge. That's not mundane!
Nobody thinks this is how they found your office, Donald Trump, like anyone, who's seen any Forensic Files episode, ever, knows.
BLACKWELL: And he's offended by that!
CUPP: Yes. But it's insane.
CUPP: No one thinks that's how they found it. Everyone knows, they lay out the evidence, and they take pictures.
And he is obsessed with this, which is like being shown a picture of a body, and a gun, and saying, "That's not how I keep my guns. That's not how I keep my bodies."
BLACKWELL: Let's listen to--
CUPP: It's crazy!
BLACKWELL: Let's listen to the former President, on this point. Let's play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: A lot of people think that when you walk into my office, that I have confidential documents or whatever it may be - all declassified - but, I had confidential documents spread out all over my floor. And, like a slob. Like I'm sitting there reading these documents all day long, or somebody else would be. It's so - it's so dishonest when you look at it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUPP: The FBI wasn't trying to pull a fast one!
BLACKWELL: He keeps his - the classified--
CUPP: It's crazy!
BLACKWELL: --documents alphabetized, by the way. They're in a neat stack!
BURNS: He and his lawyers continue to litigate this, and to use a somewhat inappropriate verb, but litigate this, as though it's really a public relations battle, right? And if you can just sort of say enough times, as confidently as you can, that this is all a sort of unserious, sort of you-missed-a-stoplight kind of charge that then this goes away?
And, I think, I'm not the lawyer at the table. But I do think that's reflected in sort of the caliber, and seriousness, of the arguments that they have been making, in some of these court filings.
And when you hear the president - the former President, out there, saying that kind of stuff today, "No, my office, I'm not some slob. I'm not even reading these documents all day," it just makes you wonder like, does he fully grasp the gravity of what's going on here.
And I do think, and when you talk to Republicans, certainly in Washington, folks who are working in races, around the country, there is just this - there's no other word for it, but just this horrendous acid flashback to when he actually was the president.
And whatever it was that you were trying to talk about that day, he could decide that today's the day that he's going to feud with the Queen of England, or whatever, right? Today is the day that he's going to go out and defend the organizational capacity, of his personal office. And we've got to - just obviously, missing the point, in a pretty grand way.
BLACKWELL: Acid flashback?
BLACKWELL: That's sort of what's?
CUPP: He said that.
BLACKWELL: Yes? OK. OK.
CUPP: Yes, I heard it too.
BLACKWELL: All right. I wonder though, the attorney, Chris Kise, who just came on, the former Florida Solicitor General, says that "If you grant this request, for the Special Master, that'll bring the temperature down, across the country, people will then have confidence in this investigation."
You expect that will convince Trump or Trump's people?
RODGERS: I'm sorry, the temperature that they raised? That they are the ones, who have been throwing fuel on the fire. I mean, come on, this is ridiculous. The temperature is raised because they have raised the temperature.
And the Special Master, I mean, no one's really paying attention to those details. They went in. They executed the search warrant. People went bananas. DOJ responds, as they do, very calmly, very concisely, in writing only, in court only. And, it doesn't take the temperature down.
This Special Master thing, she appoints one, she doesn't appoint one, the person reviews what's already been reviewed, or not, no one's going to care about that. I mean, this is just rhetoric.
The temperature is up, because they want it up, because that's the way that they've decided to deal with this. They didn't have to go this way at all. They did this really under the radar.
It's Trump and his team that have gone out, pushing all this forward, really forcing the DOJ, to respond, with all of these factual corrections, and so on. This is really all on them, including the increase in temperature.
CUPP: Well and the temperature--
BURNS: I just think that's such an important point, the decision to raise the temperature and, really, the road not taken here, which - again, I'm not the lawyer here. But I am a political reporter.
And certainly, politically, a road not taken, would be to just keep it really quiet. You're not really going to talk about this. "Yes, we're working out some stuff with the Justice Department. And that's happening through this channel, over here. But former President's focused on his MAGA agenda," or whatever, right?
But the decision to say "No, actually, we're going to file tons of stuff, in court, challenging you to produce more materials," which of course, then the Justice Department does, "and we're going to be on television," making these sort of weigh out their arguments, every day? It's a decision to put this front and center in the public eye.
And even if Donald Trump finds that personally gratifying, it's obviously not helpful, to his party, not that he seems to care, and doesn't seem particularly helpful to his case.
CUPP: It's also just a straw man that the temperature has raised, like look at any - all the polling shows that most Americans think what the FBI did, was justified and right.
Most Americans are not worried that they're going to come to their house, and ask for those secret documents that they took from the White House, like that's not a thing. It's a narrative that has been created, in Trump-world, to threaten people, out of doing their jobs, or scare them out of pursuing this.
But most Americans, for most Americans, the temperature is not raised. They think this was the right thing to do.
BLACKWELL: Yes, and again, all that we are learning about this search, is because of Trump first announcing the search, and then asking for this Special Master. All of these details are his team's doing.
All right, everybody, thank you very much.
CUPP: Thank you.
BLACKWELL: We're, of course, waiting for the decision, from that Judge.
Ahead, the people of Jackson, Mississippi, are still struggling, without clean water. Despite claims of progress, we've seen these kinds of systemic failures before, in America.
What would Stacey Abrams do, to prevent this crisis, in her southern state? She's running for Governor of Georgia. And she is here, next.
BLACKWELL: City leaders, in Jackson, Mississippi, said they've made significant gains, their words, in restoring water service.
Yet, for roughly 150,000 Americans, in the State's capital, the largest city, this is what life is like there, waiting in line, for something you cannot just walk to your tap, right now, and get. Clean water. We've seen everyone, from church groups, to inmates, pitching in, to distribute bottled water.
But frustration is pointed directly at the people in-charge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are they doing with our tax dollars? You got to pay your water bill, but you can't use the water! That don't make no sense. I got a handout bottled (ph) water. But I just paid. And I can't use the water.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Listen, it's easy to see the situation, in Jackson, as happening somewhere else. It's not here. But just like it was in Flint, Michigan, there are cities across America, on the brink of having the same problem.
Anyone running for office needs to have an answer, for how they will help their community. And that includes my next guest. She's a Democratic nominee for governor, in Georgia, Stacey Abrams.
It's good to have you, tonight.
STACEY ABRAMS, (D) GEORGIA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
BLACKWELL: Certainly. Let's talk about Georgia. In 2017, a report found the state was the fifth-worst, for untested or contaminated water. And just last year, there were 941 EPA violations, by Georgia Water Systems. That's up from 650, to the year before, with 93 health- based violations.
What's the plan to make sure that no city, or town, in Georgia, becomes another Jackson or Flint?
ABRAMS: First and foremost, we have to realize that we are one Georgia, and that there should not be a discrepancy, based on racial inequity, or economic capacity. The provision of water, the provision of clean water, is a fundamental obligation of the state.
And as Deputy City Attorney, for the City of Atlanta, I worked with the Mayor of Atlanta, to ensure that we were able to deliver clean water. But across the state, local governments are being precluded, from taking the actions they need, because they're not getting the support, they deserve, from the State of Georgia.
I would take the revenue that's been generated, by the infrastructure bill, by the Inflation Reduction Act that will flow into the State of Georgia, as well as diverting some portion of the $5 billion surplus that Georgia has, on hand, to make certain that we are working with local governments, to address and resolve water sewer issues. These are fundamental and operational situations that can be addressed. Georgia has an antiquated and outdated system. And in fact, the City of McIntyre is celebrating, because they were finally able to get $6 million, through federal action, by Senators Raphael Warnock, and Jon Ossoff, to replace an antiquated sewer - I mean, sorry, septic tank system.
Throughout Georgia, we have both a water and sewer issue, and a septic issue. And it's going to require immediate attention, by the next Governor of Georgia. The current governor has refused to take action. And I will do so.
BLACKWELL: President Biden, today, in Philadelphia, he talked about infrastructure, of course, the bipartisan Infrastructure Act that became law, and the money now that's going to be dispersed throughout the country, and where that money's going to go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: I believed we could build a better America, so we passed the biggest infrastructure investment since President Dwight D. Eisenhower. And we've now embarked on a decade at rebuilding the nation's roads, bridges, highways, ports, water systems, high-speed Internet, railroads.
(AUDIENCE CHEERS & APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Of course, the concern always is making sure that money gets to the communities that need it most, often the underserved communities, unfortunately, usually Black and Brown communities.
ABRAMS: Absolutely. And we know, under the current governor, first and foremost, he opposed the legislation. While he has happily spent the money now that it's arrived, he has done nothing to guarantee transparency, to ensure that communities are being equitably treated.
And he was on the brink of actually opposing legislation, just a few years ago, that would have helped three cities, in the Metro Atlanta area, actually access clean water. He finally relented and signed the legislation, but did so with a fairly pithy response that said that he didn't think it was the responsibility, of taxpayers, to actually solve the problem, by giving those local communities, the ability, to tax themselves.
We know that was one of the challenges faced in Jackson that the state legislature denied them their ability, to actually solve, or at least address, their problems.
Taxes may not always be the answer. But the government, especially the Governor of the State of Georgia, the Governor of the State of Mississippi, has an affirmative obligation, to work with local governments, city and county, to find solutions. Because, the people have paid their taxes, and they deserve to have services that work every day.
BLACKWELL: I will say that in February, Governor Kemp awarded more than $422 million to more than 100 water and sewer projects. But as you point out, there's still more work to be done.
They're - and not just water. Roads, bridges, as we heard from the President. There's also the health care of the people of Georgia, and making sure they have resources, to clinics, to hospitals, as well. What's the plan?
ABRAMS: Well, let's begin with what's going to have to happen, in Georgia, because of the failure of Brian Kemp.
Yes, he allocated a bit of money, money he had nothing to do with securing, and money he begrudgingly accepted, and no money that he's willing to support, by actually making certain, it goes far enough, to solve the problems.
And his failure to solve problems, is why Georgia will lose yet another hospital under his watch. It will be the sixth hospital, to shut down, under the watch of Brian Kemp. And it is the Atlanta Medical Center. It's been around for nearly 100 years. It is one of the two Level I trauma centers, and it's going to shut its doors on November 1st.
This is exclusively and entirely the fault, of Republican leadership, over the last decade that has refused to expand Medicaid, and draw down what would this year be $3.5 billion. This money will only increase, over the coming years. And it's money that could have saved lives, and saved this hospital.
They have refused to do what's right. Brian Kemp has refused to bring our money home. And instead of paying for health care, here, in Georgia, Georgia taxpayers are being forced to pay for health care, otherwise, and elsewhere, without being able to take care of themselves.
As Governor, I will make expansion of Medicaid, my number one priority, to save lives, to save hospitals, to save jobs, and to make certain that across the State of Georgia, everyone has access, to the ability to thrive.
BLACKWELL: Democratic nominee, for Governor of Georgia, Stacey Abrams, thank you.
ABRAMS: Thank you.
BLACKWELL: All right, now to a new Police incident, making headlines, across this country. An unarmed Black man, fatally shot, in bed. The body cam video has been released. It provides a lot more context, as to what happened. But so many questions remain, as a young man's family demands accountability.
You're going to hear from a lawyer, for the officer, who pulled that trigger, next.
BLACKWELL: Donovan Lewis was shot and killed, in his bed, at 2, in the morning. He was 20-years-old, a Black man. The person who shot him? 30-year veteran, of the Columbus Police - Columbus Ohio Police Department. Lewis was not armed.
Now, this shooting happened, early Tuesday morning. Officers were looking to serve Lewis, with a warrant, for domestic violence, and assault, and improper handling of a firearm. They searched the apartment, for several minutes. They repeatedly called out for Donovan, and used a dog, during the search.
The next video is hard to watch. But you will see, on the body cam footage, how quickly Officer Ricky Anderson, goes from opening the bedroom door, to pulling the trigger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to send that dog in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hands! Hands!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coming in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 911--
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got something in his hands.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hands! Hands!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something in his hands.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: The only thing that was in Donovan Lewis' hands was a vape pen, according to Police.
Kaitlyn Stephens, is one of the attorneys, representing the officer, Ricky Anderson.
Thank you so much, for being with me, tonight.
What is the threat, of a man, in a bed, in that amount of time?
KAITLYN STEPHENS, ATTORNEY FOR COLUMBUS POLICE OFFICER RICKY ANDERSON: Well, so what the law says, Mr. Blackwell, is that in order to assess, what is going on, with respect to the threat, is that it has to be reasonable.
And when you look at a reasonable Police officer, with respect to analyzing the threat, you have certain risk factors, to look at. A, whether or not the suspect poses an immediate threat. Whether or not the suspect has attempted to evade arrest, whether the suspect is being compliant or non-compliant.
And so, what the reasonable Police officer standard says is that Police officers are in fact allowed to be mistaken, so long as that mistake is reasonable. The reasonable mistaken officer is in fact justified in his or her decision to use deadly force.
And so, actual possession of a weapon is irrelevant. And that's what the case law tells us, is that actual possession, of whether or not the person had a weapon, is not relevant, for the consideration, of whether or not a Police officer, reasonably perceived a weapon.
And so, with respect to the actual weapon, it's what it is, is an issue of mistake. And that's what this case boils down to, is if it was, in fact, reasonable, that Officer Anderson reasonably perceived a weapon.
Like I said, actual possession is irrelevant. And the law does not require, Police officers, to wait, until the harm is, in fact, inflicted upon officers, before allowing the officer, to perceive a threat.
BLACKWELL: But in less than a second, that door opens, and he fires that shot. Listen, I've seen more of the video than we're showing. Because of our network policy, we're not going to show the man being shot on television.
But in less than a second, when that door opens, he fires the shot, even before anyone says "Hands! Hands! Hands! He's got something in his hand." So, in that time, how does he even have enough time, to perceive what is there?
STEPHENS: And so, what the reasonable Police officer standard accounts for, is that officers are often forced to make split-second decisions, with respect to whether or not a person perceives a threat.
And so, I can't speak about the specifics, of this allegations, or this investigation, because it is an ongoing investigation. But what I can talk about is the law that surrounds Police officers, being forced to make split-second decisions, every day.
BLACKWELL: I hear that.
STEPHENS: And the calculus of the reasonable--
BLACKWELL: And let me read the law, just so we have just the same starting point, I'll read the law here, where it says--
BLACKWELL: --that for a force--
BLACKWELL: --to be used, there must be a "Reason to believe the response is objectively reasonable, to protect themselves, or others, from the imminent threat of death or serious physical harm." So, that's the law there.
Let me ask you, why does this keep happening, in Columbus? You represent several Columbus cases. Andre (ph) Hill, city just agreed to a $10 million settlement. Andrew Mitchell, who just got a second trial date for a 2018 case. This is the third officer-involved shooting, in eight days.
What is it about the Columbus Police Department?
STEPHENS: And so, I mean, I can speculate all day, as to why this is happening. However, I think, it's a combination of things.
I think certainly that there is an epidemic of gun violence that is plaguing our city, and our state. But I also think it's also attributable to the fact that Police officers are now able to account for the fact that Ohio is now an open carry, concealed state.
And so, every time a Police officer leaves his or her house, they are faced with the fact that a person may or may not be armed, and they don't have to have any training, for that or anything - or they don't have to have a permit--
BLACKWELL: So, is it your suggestion--
STEPHENS: --they don't have to have--
BLACKWELL: --that because it's an open-carry state that Police officers now perceive more items that are not guns, to be guns? Because, I want to remind people--
BLACKWELL: --Donovan Lewis didn't have a gun.
STEPHENS: Not at all. What I'm saying is that when Police officers, leave their homes, every day, that that is always in the back of their mind. And that's what has to be taken into account, with respect to the reasonable Police officer.
It's not asking a question of what an officer could have done, or should have done. but rather, it is what a reasonable Police officer could have believed, about the situational need, to use deadly force, in Ricky Anderson's shoes, standing in Ricky Anderson, as he stood, on Tuesday morning, with the knowledge of what he had, at that time, as existing as it was.
BLACKWELL: All right, Kaitlyn Stephens, listen, I know this is early in the case, and there's some things you can't discuss. I appreciate the conversation. I'd like to continue it, as we learn more, about this case.
Thank you so much, for being with me, tonight.
And we'll be right back.
BLACKWELL: That's it for us, tonight.
"DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts right now.