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Dominion Sues FOX News For $1.6 Billion; Georgia Restricts Voter Access. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 26, 2021 - 15:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: And then I'll be seeing you bright and early in a few weeks.

Thank you so much, as always, for watching.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: OK, I have got to start with a huge congratulations for my friend Brianna Keilar.

I don't know if your ear is in still in and you can hear me.

I love you. Good luck. And we will be waking up extra early for you.

Now my turn. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN. Thank you so much for being with me.

We begin with outrage across the state of Georgia and really the entire country. Republican Governor Brian Kemp just signed into law one of the most restrictive voter laws in the country.

Among the blockades, limiting access to absentee voting and making it a crime to give voters water while waiting in line.

Now, critics argue this is payback for 2020, when voters flipped the state of Georgia blue, and that Republicans are using bogus claims of voter fraud in the new law. President Biden just released a statement calling the law a -- quote -- "blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience."

Speaking of the big lie, FOX News is facing this massive defamation lawsuit today. Dominion Voting Systems, which operates many of the touch screen voting machines you have used, they are slapping the network with a $1 billion suit, accusing FOX of falsely claiming Dominion had rigged the 2020 election.

Also today, deadly storms ripping through the South, 23 possible tornadoes. You see here video of the damage, the devastation. We will take you live to one of the cities hardest hit by the storms.

But we have to start with what's happening in Georgia. Activists are calling it Jim Crow 2.0. A quick refresher on what this is all about. Georgia is traditionally

a red state, but with voter record turnout in 2020, particularly among communities of color and women, those voters flipped their state for President Biden and then, of course, for those two Democratic senators in January.

This was all, of course, against the backdrop of President Donald Trump, who was making those outrageous accusations that the vote was rigged. And even though Republican election officials who voted for Trump said they found zero evidence of that fraud.

State Republican lawmakers introduced this sweeping bill, claiming that unprecedented process needed to be made more secure. And the whole thing was signed into law by Georgia's governor. There's the picture from last night behind closed doors.

A black lawmaker was on the other side of the door, arrested for knocking on Governor Kemp's office door. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The governor is signing a bill that affects all Georgians. Why is he doing it a private and why is he trying to keep elected officials who are representing us out of the process?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said you would give her one more time, like you're going to do something.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, you are not. Representative--

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, she is not under arrest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For what? Under arrest for what?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is she under arrest?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For trying to see something that our governor is doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is she under arrest?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our governor is signing a bill that affects all Georgian. And you're going to arrest an elected representative.


BALDWIN: This is Georgia state Representative Park Cannon being forcibly removed from the Capitol in handcuffs last night.

So, let's start in Atlanta with CNN's Dianne Gallagher.

And, Dianne, just do me a favor. Spell it out for us. What does this new law change about the way Georgia will hold elections just moving forward? DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, Brooke, this new

law changes Georgia elections from top to bottom.

Most of the focus, though, is on these very specific elements of the law that most people argue will make it more difficult for voters, specifically voters of color, and at least add some additional obstacles there.

And so we're talking about things like adding I.D. to absentee voting. Before this law, Georgia use signature matching. Making drop boxes more limited, making them only inside early voting locations during early voting hours, which for the most part are from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., making it a misdemeanor to give a voter waiting in line food or drink.

And then there's the one that's a bit more complex, but probably has some of the most lasting impact. And that's broadening the power of state officials over local election management, so far as to allow them to replace local election officials.

And, Brooke, many of the activists who have been out here protesting this, many of the Democratic lawmakers who spoke out yesterday as this bill just sped through and got to the governor's desk, well, they say that that in particular appears to target places like, well, where I am right now in Atlanta, your home, in Fulton County, which is more diverse and more Democratic than some other parts of the state of Georgia.


And that specifically seems to be tied to that big lie that was pushed by former President Donald Trump and many of his allies, who some of them voted for this bill yesterday.

BALDWIN: I appreciate you running through all these details, because the details matter here, especially when it comes to the voters there in Georgia.

I know that President Biden just released a statement about all of this. What did he say?

GALLAGHER: That's right, Brooke.

And he has mentioned what's going on in Georgia a couple times now, talking about it. But this statement just came out a few minutes before your show started. And I just want to read part of it from here.


GALLAGHER: It's very strong-worded.

He said: "This is Jim crow in the 21st century. It must end. We have a moral and constitutional obligation to act. I once again urge Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to make it easier for all eligible Americans to access the ballot box and prevent attacks on the sacred right to vote. And I will take my case to the American people, including Republicans who joined the broadest coalition of voters ever in this past election to put country before party."

Of course, Brooke, the For the People Act, you also hear it being called H.R.1 or S.1. That is that broad election overhaul bill that passed the House and is currently being talked about in the Senate right now. But, likely, without the filibuster rule being removed, it will probably die in the Senate at this point.

BALDWIN: Dianne, thank you very much.

I want to stay on topic.

With me now, two CNN political analysts, Astead Herndon with "The New York Times," Ron Brownstein, senior editor over at "The Atlantic."

And, Ron, let me begin with you.

And just so we're all crystal clear here, Republicans are restricting access to the ballot box that they themselves originally put in place. And now that they lost those two Senate races, they lost the presidency, they have created this law to roll back that access.

And, as a reminder, there was no election fraud. So they are creating a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. Do I have that right?


And not only that, but their justification for it is -- quote -- "voters losing confidence" in the results of the election, which was incompletely a result of Trump's unfounded claims that were rejected in court after court around the country, but are living on in kind of zombie fashion in driving this unprecedented wave of legislation across the country to restrict people's access to vote.

And as I have written, particularly in states like Georgia, and Arizona, and Texas, and Florida and South Carolina, what we are seeing very clearly is Republicans stacking sandbags against a wave of demographic change.

I mean, that picture spoke 1,000 words of Governor Kemp signing it surrounded by older white men under a painting of a plantation, a vicious slave plantation of the 19th century, because right now Republicans control all of these states because of their dominance among older, blue-collar and non-urban whites.

And they are all looking at the same dynamic. A majority of the under 18 population in these states are kids of color. A majority of the kids who turn 18 and become eligible to vote every year are kids of color, and they are trying to lock down their advantage before those younger voters change the electoral equation.

BALDWIN: Astead, I'd love also just your thoughts on seeing that picture of the governor there flanked by these six other white guys in ties, for lack of a better description, on a law that affects every single Georgian, A.

And I'm also wondering from you if Republicans are basically saying here, like, our strategy is, don't bring more people into the party, just preventing people from being able to vote, particularly people of color. Is that what they're saying?

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, the strategy here is one that leans into a concept of minority rule that does not look to kind of make the electoral majorities, does not say, hey, reach out to those communities of color who may have voted for a Democrat in 2020, and try to convince them to come to your side, but changing the rules of the game itself to kind of create a system that disproportionately benefits Republicans.

I mean, Republicans had a decent turnout and won down-ballot elections in Georgia. I mean, they had a kind of increasing inroads that they were able to make to hold onto that state legislature, to hold onto the state power, but they lost on that federal level. And that is enough.

I think it's important for us to put it in the long arc of American history, that we have seen consistently that, when communities of color, specifically black and brown voters, rise up, that there has been a backlash.

And so I think that fits in with this arc that we have seen, where, instead of kind of coming to them, and coming to these communities as full members of the democracy, they are more willing to change the rules of democracy itself.

BALDWIN: Even in 2021 in America, all of that history, still, it seems continues to repeat itself.

Ron, when you think of the images, obviously, we all talked so much during the election of last year. You think of the images of the unprecedented voter turnout, people bringing food, water to people who were in some cases waiting in line for hours and hours to cast their ballots.


And now, Ron, getting water, like, literally getting handed water in line is suddenly illegal.

BROWNSTEIN: John Roberts in 2013 opened the door for all of this with the Shelby County decision eviscerating the Voting Rights Act. He said voter discrimination is a thing of the past.

It may have been the single most incorrect and damaging assertion by a Supreme Court justice in a decision since when? You this is raw, unadulterated. And, by the way, Brooke, one big question, where was the corporate community in Georgia during all of this, who, as someone said to me, tweeted out lots of tweets during Black History Month about their commitments to black (AUDIO GAP).

Where were they about a black future? Coca-Cola, Delta, Disney? what will the MLB do? The All-Star Game is there. What will the PGA do about the Masters? Are they going to accept this? Or will they face pressure to force a reconsideration in Georgia?

BALDWIN: Astead, just now that this is law in Georgia -- and, by the way, we will wait to see if those companies say anything now.

But as for the Democratic Party, what can they do, if anything?

HERNDON: Yes, I mean, it's tough for Democrats, particularly in these state legislatures, where they have a lot of control over the electoral process.

And Democrats had such an erosion in the Obama era in these statehouses that they are playing catchup on this issue and playing catchup on some voting rights in general. But what we know is that H.R.1 and the John Lewis Act in Congress is Democrats' best shot of kind of using -- to kind of ridding the power of gerrymandering to kind of implement new election laws that they say kind of federalize and strengthen the Voting Rights Act.

But what we know is that this is currently a party that is not motivated enough to kill the filibuster to make it happen. And so it's going to be clear. Will the Biden administration prioritize voting rights? Will it recognize the threat that this holds to Democratic power across the country?

Or will they kind of be deferential to the kind of rules of Washington game and not prioritize and pass this? This is a key issue for the Biden administration, and not only that, for Democrats and their base, their core base, going forward.

BALDWIN: We're going to leave it. I know we're going to come back to this.

Astead and Ron, for now, guys, thank you so much. Great conversation, important conversation today.

Speaking of the big lie, the big lie is sparking another big lawsuit. This time, Dominion Voting Systems is suing FOX News, to the tune of $1.6 billion, for falsely claiming the company was involved in voter fraud during the 2020 election.

Plus: The United States reaches a new record when it comes to vaccinations, and hospitalizations and deaths continued to decline. Let's get into where things stand in the race to turn the corner in this country.

And tornadoes wreaking havoc across Alabama and Georgia. We will talk to a survivor who suffered damage to her home.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.




QUESTION: Have you invited President Xi and Putin to the climate summit?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven't yet, but they know they're invited. But I haven't invited -- I haven't spoken to either one of them yet individually.

I just got off the phone speaking with the British prime minister. And, yesterday, I spoke to all the members of the E.U., so -- but I haven't spoken to those two.


QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) the new Georgia election law, Mr. President?

BIDEN: Say again?

QUESTION: The new Georgia election law?

BIDEN: It's an atrocity.

The idea -- if you want any indication that it has nothing to do with fairness, nothing to do with decency, they passed a law saying, you can't provide water for people standing in line while they're waiting to vote?

You don't need anything else to know that this is nothing but punitive, designed to keep people from voting. You can't provide water for people about to vote. Give me a break.



BALDWIN: President Biden there just as he's leaving the White House heading to Wilmington.

Our Kaitlan Collins grabbed him and asked the question about what we were just discussing, this new voting law in Georgia. You heard him say it's an atrocity, an atrocity.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is joining me now on this.

And aside -- talked about it yesterday in that news conference, calling it un-American and sick; it's an atrocity.

What can the president do to take any action here?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, that is the central question, and that's what Democrats are calling on, President Biden to intensify his efforts to push for a federal law already passed by the House that would be passed by the Senate as well that would essentially supersede the state laws and protect voting rights. Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia, of course, one of those Democratic

senators who was elected in the run-offs back in January that changed the balance of power in the Senate, he is urging the president to get behind this voting rights bill.

Of course, that opens up a whole scenario of, how do you do that? And it includes there simply are not 60 votes for that. So, we talk a lot about filibuster reform. Would the president urge Democrats and others to change the Senate rules to allow this to happen?

That is the road we're leading down right now. But we are hearing President Biden speaking out forcefully about it.

But, Brooke, I was in Georgia last week talking to some of the activists. And they want the president to speak out even more forcefully against some of those corporations.


As Ron Brownstein was just saying, does he want to put pressure on Coca-Cola, on other companies from Georgia? You know them well, being from Atlanta. Is he going to put pressure on some of them to really bring about some change?

So, we will see what else the White House does. But, for now, this is a big issue. We will see how much priority it has with President Biden.

BALDWIN: Be great to be able to talk to the heads of some of those companies and ask them, wouldn't it, Jeff Zeleny?


BALDWIN: Thank you.

After serving as the target of baseless election fraud conspiracy theories for months, Dominion Voting Systems is firing back, suing FOX News, to the tune of $1.6 billion. This massive defamation lawsuit argues the network falsely claimed that the company was involved in voter fraud during the 2020 election, a lie that former President Trump peddled, along with his allies, following his decisive loss to President Biden.

So, let me show you first a statement from Dominion's CEO -- quote -- "The disinformation campaign waged against our company has caused a severe damage and undermined" -- excuse me -- "undermined trust in American democratic institutions. These lies also threatened the personal safety of our employees and customers. No amount of money will repair the damage done."

FOX News, they responded. Let me read you their statement -- quote -- "FOX News Media is proud of our 2020 election coverage, which stands in the highest tradition of American journalism and will vigorously defend against this baseless lawsuit in court."

Norm Eisen is the CNN legal analyst and chairman of the Voter Protection Program.

And then, Norm, here we are again. Great to see you back on the show.

I know what you have tweeted about this. I want to hear you say it, though, on TV, because you have read the lawsuit. What do you think this is going to do to FOX?

NORMAN EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Brooke, thanks for having me back.

I think this lawsuit is a knife aimed at the heart of FOX News. I heard what you just said, FOX's statement that they're proud of their coverage? Are they proud that they broadcast baseless claims that Dominion Voting was founded by Hugo Chavez to tamper with elections?

Do they take satisfaction that they maligned this company by saying they had rigged the election, that the algorithm in their software flipped votes?

FOX took a spark. We talked about Sidney Powell the other day. Her ravings would have been a tiny spark. They turned it into a forest fire. And this is a great danger to them, because they have, in my view, serious liability.



BALDWIN: But when you say -- hang on. Hang on, Mr. Ambassador, because when you say it's a knife to FOX's heart, I mean, what you said on Twitter was essentially you think they're done. Do you truly feel that way?

EISEN: Well, I feel that it's a substantial threat. It's a very large sum. It's a lot of damage.

And I think this is great jeopardy to FOX. They can't use this spin, like they put it out -- put out in their statement, in court. We saw that, Brooke, when the president tried those -- his usual -- the ex- president tried his usual spin, and was uniformly rejected in over 60 cases.

FOX now will have to face justice at the bar.

BALDWIN: Well, I have no idea how FOX will try to defend themselves. We don't know yet. But we do know that the lie -- scratch that -- we know how they defended their prime-time anchor Tucker Carlson, by saying he is -- quote -- "not stating actual facts" about the topics he discusses and instead engaging in, their word was exaggeration and non-literal commentary.

Again, that was FOX's defense. Can -- do you think they can use that same defense successfully again?

EISEN: I do not, Brooke. If you look at this complaint, it's over 130 pages of detailed,

factual assertions that FOX broadcast. They knew. They were on notice that these were not true. And they continued to share them with the country, to amplify them.

They have got one of the very best law firms in the country, Susman Godfrey. I know them well. This is a very, very serious threat to the future of FOX News.

BALDWIN: What about First Amendment rights? I know that the FOX -- that FOX network moved to dismiss a similar defamation lawsuit filed by the tech company Smartmatic last month, claiming the suit seeks to stifle debate and chill vital First Amendment activities.

This is the first time Dominion has actually sued a media company, but would FOX have First Amendment protections here?

EISEN: There will be a First Amendment analysis.

But, Brooke, the First Amendment does not allow libel, when you knowingly broadcast these lies again and again and again. The First Amendment allows you to be held accountable.


It's caused a lot of damage, as we heard in the Dominion statement. It's caused tremendous damage to this honest voting company. And it's of a piece, Brooke, with the president's big lie. It's the same as the first story you have covered, this shocking voter suppression, erecting all these barriers in Georgia.

They're all driven by the same falsehoods by ex-President Donald Trump. And I think it's about time that FOX faces justice in court for that terrible damage they did.

BALDWIN: Norm Eisen, thank you, sir.

EISEN: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: As more Americans get the COVID vaccine, there are more questions about how to gather safely, especially as we head toward the holidays -- what you need to know whether you have had the shot or not.

Plus: After deadly storms slam the South, one woman points to this cross and calls it a miracle.

Her story ahead.