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CNN NEWSROOM

Case Involving Trump May Be Heading to Grand Jury Soon; GOP's Yellow Brick Road Pursuit Toward a Power Charade; Biden Trails Presidential Predecessors in Holding 1st Solo News Conference; Dr. Seuss Taking Over Best-Seller List after 6 Books Pulled; Markle Accuses Royals of "Perpetuating Lies" in Oprah Interview; Royals to Investigate If Markle Bullied Staff in Unusual Announcement; State Department Official Removed for Racist Post about V.P. Harris. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 4, 2021 - 13:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[13:30:00]

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And the other thing she said she's interested in is this sudden departure of this U.S. attorney here in this area, B.J. Pak.

You know, he said he was leaving due to unforeseen circumstance after former President Trump seemed to call him a Never-Trumper on the phone call with Brad Raffensperger.

So this will be pretty wide ranging.

And we don't know how exactly long it will last. In a recent interview, Bonnie Willis said she is essentially in no rush. She wants to peel back the onion and get to the bottom of it.

But the investigative meat of that could start as early as this week in Georgia -- Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right, we'll be watching with you.

Sara Murry, thank you so much.

Trump Republicans are wearing down their shoe leather following the Yellow Brick Road to Mar-a-Lago. One day, they may finally realize that the guy who has been impeached twice and kicked out of the White House after one term, is just a man behind the curtain.

But until then, they bound along, like the lion, shivering around every corner, afraid of great and power force that awaits them, the force that decides their fate, they think.

Like in Georgia, which flipped to blue in the presidential and Senate races.

After he lost the election, Trump used Republican Governor Brian Kemp as a punching bag.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wasn't happy with Brian Kemp. I wasn't at all happy.

Your governor and you secretaries of your state are petrified of Stacey Abrams.

(BOOING)

TRUMP: They say they're Republicans. I really don't think they are. They can't be.

(voice-over): They had electoral officials making deals, like this character in Georgia, who is a disaster. And the governor has done nothing. He's done absolutely nothing. I'm ashamed that I endorsed him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Trump said that Kemp would not admit that Trump won Georgia big. But Trump did not.

Then Trump falsely said that Brian Kemp could overturn his state's election results against the will of the people. Trump wanted Kemp to call a special session to do so. But Kemp refused.

Trump put a bull's eye on Kemp. What is Kemp doing now?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX HOST: If Donald Trump is a '24 nominee for Republicans. Would you support him?

BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): Absolutely. I'm going to support the nominee. As I said, again, I worked very hard for the president.

Republicans, we need to have a big tent. I mean, there's a lot of great ideas out there. We're not always going to get along. But I think the president deserved a lot of credit. And he's not going away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: He's not going away. And Republicans like Kemp are as afraid as they are ambitious. And so they sit in that tent with people that hate them, who think they stole the election. They sit in their tent with people who attacked the capitol.

Former Vice President Mike Pence was there, too, in this fearful faction of this party.

Despite his steadfast support for Trump for years, the former president put a target on his back, too, falsely telling his supports that Pence could stop the Electoral College certification.

And those supporters came for Pence on January 6th.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CROWD: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: The moral thing to do when someone wants to kill you because of a lie, the courageous thing to do when that lie threatens the values you profess to hold dear is to denounce the lie.

Instead, Pence is repeating the very lie that put his own life in danger. As he dreams of what? His on perch behind a curtain?

On occasion, some Trump-supporting Republicans show flickers of courage in the face of the undeniable reality of the forces that are strangling their party.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): There's no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the event of the day. No question about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: But then:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRET BAIER, FOX ANCHOR: If the president was the party's nominee, would you support him?

MCCONNELL: The nominee of the party? Absolutely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: There is safety in numbers but, oh, they are as cowardice as well. And right now, the Trump-supporting GOP has the monopoly on it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): You messed with my wife. You messed with my kids. That will do it every time. Donald, you're a sniveling coward. And leave Heidi the hell alone.

They want him to go away. Let me tell you this right now. Donald J. Trump ain't going anywhere.

NIKKI HALEY, (R), FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. & FORMER SOUTH CAROLINA GOVERNOR: Donald Trump is everything I taught my children not to do in kindergarten.

They beat him up before he got into office. They're beating him up after he leaves office. I mean, at some point, I mean, give the man a break. SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Do you know how you make America great

again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.

I think he laid out the clearest choice that a free people will ever have between two candidates, an unapologetic view of America by Donald Trump.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): I think the difference between us on some key issues are so different that I just don't plan to campaign. I have to run my own race.

We thank all of those great patriots in those boat parades, on behalf of the president.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Donald Trump is a delusional narcissist and an orange-faced wind bag.

I'm proud of the job that Donald Trump has done as president.

RICK PERRY, (R), FORMER ENERGY SECRETARY & FORMER TEXAS GOVERNOR: Donald Trump is the modern-day incarnation of the No-Nothing movement. He espouses nativism, not conservatism.

[13:35:09]

I said, Mr. President, I know there are people that say, you know, you said you were the chosen one. And I said, you were.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The GOP doesn't need to be turning away voters and isolating them. We need to be bringing them into the tent. Donald Trump is the last person who is going to do that.

Everywhere we go, the streets are lined with support, like I don't think any other president has had previously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: In the "Wizard of Oz," the lion asks: What makes the flag on the mast to wave. Courage. What makes the elephant charge his tusks in the misty mist or the dusty dust? Courage, his friends tell him.

And the lion follows the Yellow Brick Road to Oz to ask the wizard for some courage, just like Trump-supporting Republicans head to Mar-a- Lago.

But like the lion, they are mistaken about how courage works. Courage is theirs if they want it. They just can't bring themselves to summon it.

Next, President Biden has waited longer than a dozen of his predecessors to hold a news conference. So what is the wait?

Plus, a top State Department official is pulled from duty overseas for making racist comments about the vice president on social media.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:41:10]

KEILAR: Today is President Biden's 43rd day in office, and he still has not held his first formal solo news conference.

Biden is significantly lagging in this area when compared to his recent predecessors in the White House, all of whom held solo news conferences within 33 days of taking office.

I want to bring in CNN chief media correspondent, Brian Stelter, who is also the host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," to talk about this.

What is he waiting for when it comes to holding this solo news conference?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": We don't know for sure but I think he's probably waiting to get this COVID relief bill through Congress so he can pass it and then have something to celebrate, something to tout, and then hold a presidential press conference.

But I think it's important to pay attention to what the president is doing and is not doing, in this case, not holding a press conference.

This is great data from our colleague, Kevin Liptak, who when back and looked at 100 years of presidential presidents and found that every president, back to Herbert Hoover, held a press conference in the first 30 or so days. So Biden is an outlier.

I'm not claiming this is the most important thing in the world, but it does matter when the president is accessible transparent with the public. We know the former president was frequently accessible with the press but lied all of the time.

The public deserves both frequent access to the president and also accurate information.

KEILAR: Very good point.

Brian, I want to shift gears here, because Dr. Seuss books have been flying off of the shelves following the news --

STELTER: Oh, yes.

KEILAR: -- that six of his titles will no longer be published, because of racist and insensitive imagery that they contain.

What's interesting is that people who made this decision in the first place are now getting richer.

STELTER: Much richer because the Dr. Seuss empire, the folks who own the copywrites to these books, they're seeing sales for other Dr. Seuss books skyrocket on Amazon.

Here are the books that won't be published anymore. I have a lot of Dr. Seuss books at home for my kids, but I had not heard of most of these six titles.

These are some relative obscure, older titles in the Dr. Seuss collection that are being taken out of print because they have racist stereotypes and tropes in them.

This seems like a positive thing, not a negative.

But what we are seeing is a culture-war class and the conservative media freaking out about Dr. Seuss being taken off the shelves.

Of course, the vast majority of books are not being removed. And right now, more than 25 Dr. Seuss books are on the top of the Amazon best- seller list.

I think what is happened is, folks who are watching FOX or hearing about this controversy, they think Dr. Seuss is being canceled and so they're rushing out to buy copies.

But in fact, this is how the culture war and capitalism come together.

It is the Dr. Seuss copyright owners who are actually benefitting because all of these copies of "Cat in the Hat" are now selling off the shelves, even though nobody is suggesting that the "Cat in the Hat" is going to be canceled.

I mean, can you image "Cat in the Hat" being canceled.

KEILAR: I cannot imagine, Sam-I-Am.

STELTER: Yes.

KEILAR: I cannot imagine.

(LAUGHTER)

KEILAR: Brian Stelter, you walked right into that one, buddy.

(LAUGHTER)

STELTER: You were ready.

KEILAR: Brian, thanks so much.

STELTER: Thank you.

KEILAR: In the royal showdown, Meghan Markle accusing Buckingham Palace of spreading falsehoods about her and Prince Harry.

[13:44:12]

Plus, why the Justice Department declined to pursue an ethics inquiry into Elaine Chou for allegedly abusing her office as transportation secretary.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: The tense relationship between Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, and the British family has hit a new low.

In a new interview with Oprah, the duchess of Sussex accuses the royals of perpetuating lies about her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, FORMER TALK SHOW HOST: How do you feel about the palace speaking your truth today?

MEGHAN, DUCHESS OF SUSSEX: I don't know how they could expect that, after all of this time, we would still just be silent if there's an active role that The Firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us.

And if that comes with risk of losing things -- I mean, there's a lot that's been lost already.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: That interview was recorded weeks ago.

But "The Times" in the U.K. has just reported that the palace is now looking into allegations that Markle bullied the royal staff, accusing her of forcing two aides out of her household because of, quote, "emotional cruelty and manipulation.

Markle's team responded to "The Times," quote, "Let's just call this what it is, a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation. We are disappointed to see this defamatory portrayal of the duchess of Sussex given credibility by a media outlet."

I want to bring in author, Diane Clehane. She has written two books about Princess Diana and is the royals editor for "Best Life" magazine.

[13:50:05]

Diana, thank you for coming to talk to us about this.

I want to start with this Oprah interview. It's pretty extraordinary the way Meghan refers to the royal family as something maybe many people haven't heard. She calls them "The Firm".

DIANE CLEHANE, ROYALS EDITOR, "BEST LIFE" MAGAZINE & AUTHOR: Right. Well, thanks for having me, Brianna.

It's interesting because I think that's a very calculated gesture because that's what outsiders call the family. So she's distancing herself from that from the get-go.

But this whole thing is about to get a lot nastier once we know exactly what she's said on the interview with Oprah. And from the looks of it, she has no compunctions about saying anything.

So -- and Harry is sort of seeming just sort of along for the ride. He has a lot of things to say but the focus is really solely on Meghan's relationship with the royals.

And it's, frankly, not been great since they got married. It started then and it took a steady decline. And now it's just reached its peak.

And I think that everybody just is now going to do what they want to do. And it's going to be very, very tough for the royal family.

And I think, in the long-term, for Meghan and Harry. She's more of a short term. Like she thinks she's going to win in the short term. But the royals play the long game and they rarely lose.

KEILAR: Your sources tell you that Prince William is furious about this?

CLEHANE: Yes. I've been told that he, of all the royals, is incensed. He was incensed about the way Megxit happened. He's been very upset about the things that have come out in drips and drabs.

And he sees this as something that is very destructive to the family. He feels that they have done all they can for Meghan when she was part of the family.

And he realizes that, above all else, they're a family. They have a 99-year-old grandfather who had heart surgery yesterday. They have a grandmother who has just endured so much family drama that they -- it's inconceivable.

So he feels that, on the level of being a family, it's horrible. And also, it could damage the monarchy.

KEILAR: You know, you mentioned that the royals play the long game. There's also this other -- Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are here in the United States.

And you know, we think, from this interview, looking at some of -- parallels about what he's saying with Princess Diana.

CLEHANE: Correct.

KEILAR: I mean, if you're looking at the long game, with Princess Diana, she now -- and certainly before she died as well -- had a tremendous amount of sympathy for her, in the long run.

You know, I don't know if the royals won that long game.

CLEHANE: Well, in this case, there -- of course, there's sort of two sides to the story.

The people in the U.K. are done with her, I mean, for the most part. I'm not saying everyone, but the majority of people feel that she's been driving this train, has been extremely disrespectful, outside of protocol, the whole bit.

And they perceive Harry as someone who has just chosen to go along with it. And sadly, he's in the middle, where he had to choose between his family and his wife. But in terms of when I say, you know, win in the short term, this is

all good publicity for her. When she says, in the promo, that there's already been things that are lost, she doesn't care if these titles, whatever's left goes away. She's done with that.

She has gotten, I think, everything she could get out of this. So she's not looking behind.

But we know how these royal interviews have gone in the past. Diana's was disastrous for her, because it wound up getting her kicked out of the royal family.

And she has told friends that she regretted it. Later in life, she told friends she regretted it.

And then, of course, you have the Prince Andrew disaster.

This is not something that they're comfortable with. However, Meghan is an actress, first and foremost, so she's much more comfortable.

But in terms of the damage, I'm talking about really the relationship. Where's Harry in all of this? Can he go back to his family? Can he have good relationships with them when she's basically, you know, calling them out and calling them liars.

So it's very, very difficult.

But the royals, you know, they won't come out and talk for themselves. They'll send people out, like they did with this story.

The email originally sent in 2018, talking about this bullying, got leaked. There's no -- it's not a coincidence that this happened. This was something that someone thought, you know what, this has to come to light now.

And at least it casts a shadow over that interview. And I think that once they know what she said, they're going to really go for it.

KEILAR: Yes. Like you said, this isn't -- this isn't the end. It's the beginning.

Diane Clehane --

CLEHANE: Yes.

KEILAR: -- thank you so much for being with us.

New concerns over the potential for violence at the capitol. U.S. Capitol Police requested that National Guard support remain for another two months.

[13:54:44]

Plus, a top security official at the State Department removed for declaring the death of America after the election.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: CNN has learned today that the top State Department diplomatic security official in Afghanistan has been removed from his role after declaring the death of America and making racist comments about Vice President Kamala Harris.

CNN's Kylie Atwood is following this for us.

Kylie, what more are you learning here?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, this happened late last year after the election.

[13:59:55]

Nick Sabruno, who was the top diplomatic security official in Afghanistan, as you said, made this post on Facebook saying some very offensive things, calling President Biden a senile idiot, going after Kamala Harris with some racist comments.