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Rep. Matt Gaetz Sought Pardon; Lyft President John Zimmer is Interviewed about Georgia's Voting Laws and Corporate Tax Rate Increases; Lawsuit Blames Trump for Capitol Riot. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired April 7, 2021 - 09:30   ET

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


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[09:32:15]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: There are fresh signs this morning that Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz's problems, not going away any time soon. "The New York Times" is reporting that he sought a blanket pardon in the final weeks of the Trump presidency.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And as we learn more about the allegations involving sex trafficking and prostitution against Gaetz, many in the GOP are keeping their distance from him.

CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash joins us now.

Dana, so good to have you.

I should note that --

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Thanks very much for having me.

SCIUTTO: "The New York Times" says they do not know if Gaetz knew that this investigation was underway when he asked for this blanket pardon. So we should note that.

That said, under what circumstance does a sitting member of Congress seek a blanket pardon from the outgoing president? I mean should we look at that suspiciously?

BASH: Of course. If you are clean, if you did nothing wrong, why on earth would you ask a White House and a president for a blanket pardon? I mean it just -- it defies logic.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BASH: You are right, "The Times," which our friends at "The Times" did some excellent reporting here, says specifically he did not know -- they -- they do not know, based on their sources, whether or not he knew of the Justice Department investigation that we now know about. But he is -- it appears as though he must have known that he had done

some things that could have gotten him in trouble, otherwise you don't ask for a blanket pardon.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BASH: And never mind the fact that the idea that he thought it would be OK to ask the president for that. And the reason is because the former president was giving out pardons like candy at the end for people who were loyal to him.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BASH: So why not ask? He didn't get it. And, according to "The Times," it wasn't seriously entertained. But it is another fascinating twist in this mind-boggling story.

HARLOW: Dana, what's your reporting, speaking to other Republican colleagues of his, who are, for the most part, with a few exceptions, staying very far away and very silent on this?

BASH: The sound of silence is deafening, isn't it?

HARLOW: Yes.

BASH: And this is reporting from Jeremy Herb (ph) and Lauren Fox and many others on the -- on The Hill team about the fact that nobody is running to his defense, except for a very few notable exceptions.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

BASH: Jim Jordan, who happens to be the ranking member on Judiciary, which is important since Matt Gaetz sits on Judiciary and one of the open questions is whether he should be removed. Marjorie Taylor Greene, pretty much that's it.

And so the question is whether or not when Congress comes back from recess, because we also have to remember that this all happened, this all exploded when members of Congress weren't walking through the halls where reporters, our colleagues up there, could grab them and ask them questions.

[09:35:09]

That's going to change next week when they come back.

But to this point, the fact that the leadership has said not much except for Kevin McCarthy saying, if he is actually charged with a crime, then, of course, he would have to be removed from the Judiciary Committee.

One thing that I was told is that in a conversation that the former president, Donald Trump, had with an ally, the former president was kind of fishing about, you know, what this person thought about Matt Gaetz. And the response I'm told from a source familiar with that conversation was the advice was, Mr. President, stay away from this. Don't go near this Gaetz situation.

Now, what I haven't been able to find out is whether Gaetz has -- had formally asked Donald Trump to go -- come out publically and support him or not. But it is noteworthy that the advice I'm told that Donald Trump is getting is, stay away, despite the fact that Gaetz -- one of the -- the only reason we know who he is, he's a back bencher Republican, is because he has been so brazen and promoted conspiracies in the name of promoting Donald Trump.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and when the president walks away from close public allies, it's a big move.

BASH: That's right.

HARLOW: Dana, thank you very much.

BASH: Thanks, guys. Good to be here.

HARLOW: President Biden says it is reassuring to see businesses speaking up about restrictive voting laws, but Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says those corporations will face consequences. What does Lyft president and co-founder John Zimmer think? I'll ask him, next.

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[09:41:08]

HARLOW: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has issued an executive order aimed at mitigating the impact of Georgia's restrictive new voting law. She is directing city officials to implement several things focused on voter education, trying to counteract the newly imposed restrictions, but there's really only so much that can be done now because it already is the law.

What is does, key, limiting the use of ballot drop boxes, cutting down early voting hours, allowing state officials to overturn local election board decisions and makes it even a crime to give people water or food waiting in line to vote.

Well, Lyft is one of a growing number of companies speaking out against laws that limit the ability to vote, saying they are firmly opposed to any laws limiting voting by mail, reducing the number of days people can vote or pushing any other restrictions on access for eligible voters, particularly those disproportionately impacting black and brown communities.

Joining me now is John Zimmer, co-founder and president of Lyft.

Good morning, John, thank you for talking about this.

JOHN ZIMMER, CO-FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, LYFT: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

HARLOW: Simply put, to make it really clear for our viewers, does Lyft oppose the new voting law in Georgia and SB-7 that passed in Texas and similar restrictive voting laws across the country? ZIMMER: Yes, we do. We believe that elected officials should make it

easier, not harder, to vote.

HARLOW: But you oppose boycotts, which is interesting given the discussion now. So I think the question then becomes, look, if you just look at Georgia, Texas, Arizona, for example, you guys operate in 101 cities in those states. That's about 15 percent of your total market. What are you going to do to fight laws that are on the cusp of passing in those states and others?

ZIMMER: Yes, so this issue of voter access is not something new. It's authentic to us for the last five years. We've provided rides to the polls to increase voter access. When we looked at the 2016 election, it was the first election that we helped provide rides to the polls. We saw that studies showed up to 15 million people did not vote because they did not have transportation to get them to vote. So this is, again, core to what we've been doing for many years and that's the best way we can help our community.

HARLOW: Is it all you can do? I mean, that's really the question now because a lot of these most restrictive laws and bills have been proposed after the 2020 election. And you are pushing now publicly passing of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act that basically fills what was gutted from it by the Supreme Court in 2013.

Is there more you can actually do? Like would you consider pulling out of the city?

ZIMMER: We would not consider pulling out of the city. I think that is a double-edged sword. That hurts people that you're trying to help. So we have across the country millions of drivers and riders that depend on transportation from Lyft and we're going to be there for them. We're going to find the best ways to support policies that protect our community's right to vote, but we do -- we would not pull out of a city for this.

HARLOW: Well, Mitch McConnell said -- and I want to be clear, you're a Democrat who has been very supportive of the Biden administration. Mitch McConnell says there will be, in his words, consequences for companies that speak out against the Georgia law and others. He says that you are -- you guys, any company that does this, are, quote, irritating the hell out of a lot of Republicans and it's, quote, quite stupid to jump in the middle of a highly controversial issue.

What do you say to Mitch McConnell?

ZIMMER: I'd say, well, first of all, I have my personal politics and then I represent the company of Lyft, which is not partisan, but does support voting rights. And we will speak out on policies as a company that are needed to protect our community members of drivers and riders. And we've had to and will continue to participate in the political process.

[09:45:02]

I think it's important, not only as an individual, but that companies do as well, because for our business, having access to voting for drivers and riders on policies that can impact our business is also very important.

HARLOW: This really, I think, brings up the fundamental question, John, for you and every other, you know, president and CEO of a company out there right now, which is, what's the role of the CEO going forward? Sherrilyn Ifill, the head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said executives like you should be feeling discomfort right now. And she says, corporations have to figure out who they are in this moment.

Is it now your job as the head of a public company to use your power and your money to decide and push what you think is best for people, even outside of your core business?

ZIMMER: I think it -- I think it is part of our job. We have to represent our team members who care deeply about these issues. We have to represent our drivers and riders and the business. I don't think it's one or the other.

Specific to voting rights, again, our business has many policies that get voted on in the public that we believe are beneficial for society and so I think these things are all tied together and that's absolutely part of our job.

HARLOW: But do you think, right, you tweeted about this in the last five days, you came out very much in support of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. I wonder if you think using your voice louder and more CEOs speaking out sooner about this law in Georgia as it was making its way through the state legislature --

ZIMMER: I hope so.

HARLOW: Or as Texas, if that would have made a difference? Because there are some looking now and saying, why weren't you guys screaming at the top of your lungs a month ago?

ZIMMER: Yes, well, I hope it makes a difference. I mean there's, I believe, over 300 similar policies being looked at across the country.

HARLOW: Yes.

ZIMMER: And so I don't think it's too late to speak up. I think it's important to speak up and, again, support protections for our community members. And that's why we're doing it.

HARLOW: All right, John, thank you on all of that.

Let's talk about infrastructure. You have long been one calling at the top of your lungs for better infrastructure in America. You've talked about all the jobs it can create. So, bottom line, as the president of Lyft, do you now support President Biden's $2.2 trillion infrastructure plan?

ZIMMER: We do. I'm really excited that the country is talking about investing in infrastructure. Specific to the plan that we've seen so far, there are policies that help push electric vehicles more and more mainstream. I believe $174 billion investment in electric vehicles. $20 billion for safer roads. These are all really important to economic growth and do support our vision of improved infrastructure for transportation.

HARLOW: If only money grew on trees, like my four-year-old still thinks that it does, to pay for this, but it doesn't. So now the question becomes, John, the pay for, right?

And we heard -- we heard Jeff Bezos yesterday of Amazon come out and say, yes, they do support higher corporate taxes to pay for this.

Does Lyft, and do you support a 28 percent corporate tax rate to pay for it?

ZIMMER: I do. I think it's important to make investments again in the country and the economy. And as the economy grows, so, too, does jobs and so, too, does people's needs to get around. So I think it is a smart investment. Obviously, there needs to be more work done to get more specific on certain elements and for me to do -- go deeper into the policy, but, in general, funding it through this means makes sense to me.

HARLOW: Well, that's a big headline. You're one of the first, if not the only public company CEOs to say you support a 28 percent corporate tax rate.

We'll see what happens with the rest of them.

John, thank you, on both these issues.

ZIMMER: Thank you.

HARLOW: We'll be right back.

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[09:53:23]

HARLOW: Ten more congressional Democrats are now joining a lawsuit against former President Trump over the Capitol insurrection.

HARLOW: Joining a lawsuit first filed by the NAACP in February accusing the former president and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, of conspiring with the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, two extremist right wing groups, to incite violence on January 6th.

CNN's Jessica Schneider joins us now from Washington.

Jessica, this is a civil lawsuit, so this is seeking financial damages?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is. It's unspecified financial damages here in that lawsuit that was filed back in February. And today what's new is that these are ten Democrats who were all inside the House chamber when that mob broke into the Capitol, they're now joining the lawsuit. And this latest version of this lawsuit, it goes into great detail about how each one of these members scrambled to safety and they're still feeling the trauma from this attack.

Remember, this was the lawsuit that was first filed against the former president and Rudy Giuliani, as well as the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys in February by top Democrat Benny Thompson. And now ten of his Democratic colleagues are joining him.

They include several Democrats who have been extremely outspoken against Trump over the past several years. That's includes the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, also there Congresswoman Maxine Waters. She called Trump the worst president in the history of the United States before voting to impeach him for a second time this past January. She even says in the lawsuit that she's increased the number of security personnel on her team in the wake of January 6th.

So the new lawsuit -- the details in this lawsuit, actually, they describe how each of these members escaped to safety and how Congressman Steve Cohen, he describes -- he's of Tennessee -- he describes how he made it to his office where he sat in the dark for hours clutching a baseball bat just in case he needed to fend off any of those attackers.

[09:55:13]

So Cohen said this in a statement after the lawsuit was amended this morning. He said, as I sat in my office on January 6th with rioters roaming the hallway, I feared for my life and thought I was going to die. This invasion was a direct result of Donald Trump's rhetoric and words, his calls to gather in Washington on January 6th and his message to, quote, be strong thwarted the functioning of our Constitution.

Now, of course, Jim and Poppy, you know, this amended complaint and this lawsuit, it is still at the beginning stages and we haven't yet gotten a response from Trump or Giuliani about this particular amended complaint.

But Trump spokesperson, Jason Miller, of course, he has previously stressed that Trump did not incite the riots at the Capitol. And, guys, if this lawsuit moves forward, if it isn't dismissed, this could be big because it could force disclosure of details about maybe what President Trump or other White House staff knew leading up to the Capitol insurrection, guys.

SCIUTTO: Yes, big question, and what decisions were made the day of.

SCHNEIDER: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Jessica Schneider, thanks very much.

Just minutes from now, a use of force expert is expected to resume testimony in the trial of former Police Officer Derek Chauvin. We're going to bring it to you the moment it begins live. Please stay with us.

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