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Two People Including A Child, Injured In Times Square Shooting; Rocket Set To Crash On Earth Tonight Within Huge Risk Zone; CDC Reports Fewer Than Two Million Vaccine Doses Administered Over Past Week; Republicans Coalesce Around The Big Lie, Move To Oust Cheney; Gaetz And Greene Hit The Road For Trump Festival Of Lies; DOJ: Arizona Election Audit May Violate Voter Intimidation Laws; WAPO: Trump's DOJ Secretly Obtained Reporters' Phone Records. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 8, 2021 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: The world is watching as a rocket is out of control and hurtling toward Earth.
A piece of a giant 22-ton Chinese rocket is expected to reenter the atmosphere sometime tonight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's right now moving at some 17,500 miles an hour, about a hundred miles up and that's what makes the difficult question of where does this actually reenter and then where does it hit?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman Liz Cheney has lost a lot of her allies, has lost a lot of members who previously had her back. She's not staying silent about the big lie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The big lie helps Republican leadership shield themselves from accountability for these election losses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the first time since the beginning of October, the United States has a seven-day average of 45,000 new COVID-19 cases a day and hospitalizations are falling across the country, too.
The C.D.C. says it is monitoring a new coronavirus variant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. Great to have you along with us.
And we begin this hour with breaking news, just coming in to CNN, details coming in about a shooting that happened just a short time ago in New York City right in the heart of Times Square, Manhattan. I'm going to go right to CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro in Times Square right now. He joins us on the phone. What can you tell us, Evan?
EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well, Pam, as you say, I am standing on the corner of one of the most famous intersections in the world, Broadway and 45th Street, and tonight, it is covered in police forces that are in an active investigation for what early indications suggest is a shooting has happened down here.
Now, what we know so far is the worst case scenario appears to have been averted: no loss of life.
But this is all very, very fresh. This happened around 4:55 p.m. according to police, two females were struck by gunfire, police responded to a call for an assault call to come and figure that out.
And so now we're seeing police are milling around doing their investigations. That's where we are right now, but the two people who have been shot were moved to the hospital.
And just to put this in context for the viewers, this happened outside a Broadway theater, the Minskoff Theatre, which is the theater that is currently hosting "The Lion King." So it really is one of the most touristy areas, in the most touristy part of New York theaters.
To see something happen like this, early in the evening on a Saturday night is really jarring. And right now, we don't know a lot about what this case will mean and what we're going to learn about what has actually happened. But just the act of itself has people on edge here in New York -- Pam.
BROWN: Understandably, and just so sad that one of the people injured was a child. We're learning 7:30 tonight, there's going to be a press conference on this and we will update our viewers on the very latest. Thanks so much, Evan.
Well, what goes up must come down, but exactly when and where will this significant chunk of Chinese rocket, the size of three school buses actually hit Earth? That is the big question on everyone's mind right now.
These are images right here on your screen of more than 20-tons worth of space trash soaring above Japan a few hours ago. It could pose significant danger to some of us here on Earth, or if we're lucky, no one will be affected. Best case scenario by far is if any wreckage that survives reentry just falls into an ocean somewhere. That's what we all want, right?
Well, the time window for a rival is narrowing and so are potential impact locations. The Pentagon is just one agency paying very close attention to this.
CNN's Will Ripley has the very latest. So Will, what can you tell us? We're all kind of on the edge of our seat about this right now.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What's extraordinary, Pam is that we are possibly in the last six hours before they believe that this essentially 10-storey building in the sky that weighs about a fifth of the Statue of Liberty will reenter the Earth's atmosphere because it's traveling at 18,000 miles an hour, it becomes easier to pinpoint reentry as we get closer. But you're talking about a matter of maybe an hour or two before we
will actually know somewhat where this thing will go down and whether it will impact a densely populated area like here in Hong Kong, there in New York.
I mean, the possible impact zone still, as it stands right now stretches from New Zealand to New York. So you have a huge area of the planet. The vast majority of that area is open water. So if you're you know making a bet about this, and certainly, China's Space Agency probably making a bet they are hoping that most of this will burn up in the atmosphere and whatever shell of this you know Chinese Long March 5B rocket, this massive rocket will go down somewhere in the ocean, but still just hours away from possible impact. We just don't know.
BROWN: And if you would, Will, just remind us all how this is even happening, right? How we're just kind of sitting here waiting for this Chinese rocket to fall down on Earth. What is the Chinese government saying about it?
RIPLEY: Well, this is the first module that they launched of their space station that they plan for completion by the end of 2022. There were something like 10 more launches similar to this that are scheduled in the coming months.
China's Space Agency said on Friday through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that they do believe that there won't be a danger to flights in the air. They do believe that this is most likely to go down in an area without people, but because this is an uncontrolled reentry, the fact is, they really don't know. They are really betting on the odds here. The odds are that it goes down in the ocean.
But when you have an uncontrolled reentry, the largest that we've seen, possibly since 1979, when the American space station, Spacelab reentered the Earth's atmosphere and ended up scattering debris over parts of Western Australia. We haven't seen anything this big come down since then.
That's because more advanced space agencies like Russia and the U.S. try to do what's called a controlled reentry where they put space junk down in a remote area of the ocean as far away from people and shipping lanes as possible.
This is very different Pamela, because the Chinese chose a different design, and frankly, they're not sure exactly where it's going to go down. No doubt China watching this very closely and this is possibly the beginning of more clashes between the U.S. and China as China becomes more assertive in the space realm and we have this issue of space junk.
You know, there's so many pieces, hundreds of pieces of space junk that are floating relatively low in Earth orbit, most of that if it were to reenter could burn up when it goes down, but in this case, and in the coming hours, we will see what happens when it all possibly doesn't burn up and there are large chunks, potentially threatening populated areas.
BROWN: We are going to be tracking all of this closely. Will, thanks for bringing us the latest there from Hong Kong.
And joining me now with more is retired NASA astronaut, Leroy Chiao. You have spent a total of nearly eight months in space, Leroy, much of that aboard the International Space Station and that gives you this perspective that most of us lack, the majority of us lack.
So help us understand what's going on right now. How much manmade debris did you see, when you were orbiting Earth? I understand the ISS sometimes has to adjust its path just to avoid some of it.
LEROY CHIAO, RETIRED NASA ASTRONAUT: Well, that's true, orbital debris is the thing that we worry about the most in spaceflight. Frankly, you don't see any of it up there, and so you know, it's the ones that you don't see that that you worry about.
But all spacecraft have shielding for that reason, because there are a lot of pieces out there. Of course, the Defense Department tracks the bigger pieces and sometimes, we do have to maneuver the ISS or space shuttle when we were flying the space shuttle in order to give us a little more margin of clearance.
But it's the smaller pieces that you're concerned about, the pieces that are smaller than the size of the softball, and but you know, you hear strikes on the shield sometimes. And in the Space Shuttle Program, we would get literally grains of sand sized pieces of debris that would embed itself in the windows or in the heat shielding and we'd see that after every mission.
This is a lot different. This is a big huge piece of debris that's coming down and so, a different situation, but similar problem.
BROWN: Yes, it's the size of three school buses, but can you give us a little reassurance here, if you're able to. I mean, how much of that 22-ton object is likely to burn up on reentry? You heard Will there in his reports say the Chinese are saying that they don't believe it's going to pose a danger. Do you agree with that assessment?
CHIAO: The risk is low. The numbers are low because, you know most of the world is covered with ocean and there are a lot of remote areas. Historically, things that have survived entry like the Skylab, you know crashed in a remote area of Australia, not causing any damage.
More recently, the space station, Mir, the Russian Mir space station controlled entry, but it came down. There was some uncertainty, but it splashed down in the ocean away from shipping lanes. Some years earlier, Soviet era spy satellite crashed in northern Canada, in the tundra fortunately, uninhabited areas scattered some radioactive debris over there.
So not unprecedented, so the most likely scenario is this rocket, the spent core stage will reenter the atmosphere and most of it will burn up, but the pieces that's survive, most likely will splashdown in an ocean or in a desert area away from uninhabited people. But you know, there is a nonzero possibility it could strike an
BROWN: That nonzero possibility is what is so unnerving for all of us even though the chances are so low, it's just crazy to think.
All right, former NASA astronaut, Leroy Chiao, thank you so much again. We're going to be tracking this story for you guys all night long.
BROWN: And coming up, former White House counsel, John Dean calls it, quote: "Way beyond Nixon at his worst," after "The Washington Post" reveals Trump's D.O.J. seized their reporters' phone cards.
Also tonight, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs tells me why the election audit is making her state in her words, a national joke and why she is getting death threats for telling the truth.
And dozens of people are dead or wounded after an explosion near a girls' school in Kabul, Afghanistan. What we know about the cause later in this hour.
But for the first time since March, the number of Americans getting vaccinated against the coronavirus has dropped. So what does that mean for the U.S. reaching herd immunity? I'll ask White House senior coronavirus adviser, Andy Slavitt, up next.
BROWN: News from the fight against the coronavirus pandemic now in a clear sign that fewer people in the United States are showing up for a COVID vaccine. This, from the C.D.C. today showing the average number of Americans getting a dose of vaccine dropping over the past week to below two million people per day.
Andy Slavitt joins me now. He is the White House senior adviser for COVID response. Andy, so nice to have you back on the show. Lots to talk about today.
I first want to talk about what's going on in India, the crisis we see there. I hear from viewers the concern that the variant that is spreading wildly in India could make its way to the U.S. Do you know, is there any update on how effective U.S. vaccines are against that Indian variant?
ANDY SLAVITT, SENIOR ADVISER TO WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE TEAM: Well, thanks for having me on, Pam. It's a great question. It's an important question and I think we're going to see data come out even in the coming weeks on this, the coming week, I should say.
I have seen some early data, which actually is quite relieving and confirming that shows that this variant, while certainly causing more trouble is not that nearly as troublesome as say, for example, the South African vaccine -- I'm sorry, variant.
Therefore, it looks like we're going to get very good levels of protection from our current vaccines. I think we'll see that confirmed over the coming week. But Americans should expect that if they're not vaccinated, they're going to be more exposed if they are vaccinated, I think they can look at these variants and there is going to be very good levels of protection so far.
BROWN: So just to recap, we could see data soon in the coming week that shows the U.S. vaccines, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson that they are -- it is encouraging news that they are pretty effective against the variant that's spreading in India. Okay. Well, we'll be looking out for that data for sure.
SLAVITT: Yes, that's encouraging.
BROWN: Let me you about where we are with the vaccinations. And we're getting a better picture, right, of where we are in America and where we're headed. So far, about 34 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, and for the first time since early March, the average number of vaccine doses administered has fallen below two million.
Does the White House share the view that many health professionals do now that herd immunity won't be reached in the foreseeable future, but instead the virus will become a manageable threat, with a much smaller number of deaths and hospitalizations?
SLAVITT: Well, so it is true that vaccinations are slowing down, that's expected. I think we probably vaccinated the population more quickly than any of us anticipated, 220 million shots within the first hundred days.
But if you think about it, even if we're over two million vaccines in a day, you know, that's going to average something like 10 percent of the adult population every week.
So we have plenty of room to go, and I think there are a number of people who would describe themselves as sort of on the fence. And when they say on the fence, they generally mean one of two things, either they want to see the data. So they want to see what happens when other people are vaccinated. And there there's great news, because we've vaccinated so many people with such great results.
And secondly, they mean, you know, I want it to be a little bit easier because I am, maybe younger, and I'm probably not willing to jump through some of the hoops that people early had to jump through and that's why we have a new text line. If you want to figure out where to get vaccinated, you can just text your zip code to get vaxxed, and you can instantly figure out where there's a vaccine near you.
So I think we are feeling pretty bullish that we will continue, even if we're continuing at a slower pace.
BROWN: But what about reaching herd immunity? Is the White House of the view that the U.S. will not reach herd immunity in the foreseeable future? SLAVITT: So here's how I would answer that question. I think this is
really going to be community by community. So in three states, we are already over 70 percent of the adult population that has taken their first dose on their way to their second and they're still growing.
We have communities like San Francisco that have over 70 percent people have taken the vaccine and they are fewer than 20 cases a day. So I think what you'll see is many parts of the country where you have high vaccination rates will be virtually at herd immunity or close to it, very hard for the virus to spread.
But if we have other parts of our country, where we end up with 50 percent of the population having been vaccinated or something in that category, they will be at risk for future outbreaks and I think there's no two ways about that and if you live in one of those communities, then come fall or come a variant or come another wave, there could be coronavirus spreading.
This is why, now is the most important time. Americans are so fortunate to have access to vaccines. People around the world couldn't possibly understand how we could be looking at vaccines and now taking them given their lack of access to them. So if we just complete the task, I think we're going to be in very good shape.
BROWN: And you mentioned those three states and now have 70 percent of adult residents at least partially vaccinated, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Vermont. What do you think that is there and what states or parts of the country currently have vaccination rates that concern you, that could fall into that another category you mentioned?
SLAVITT: The place where they are lagging behind in general is the south east part of the United States. That's where I think we're seeing areas where the reporting, particularly in rural parts of those states that they're having difficult times finding more people to be vaccinated. That's where I think some of the myths around vaccines and vaccine hesitancy may have taken hold and may be present.
So I think we need to be very patient and continue to allow people in those communities to hear from people they trust. That's why we're talking to doctors in all communities, but those in particular, and pharmacists and others and giving them the facts.
If you're not sure if you want to get vaccinated, my advice is just ask your doctor or ask your pharmacist what they think or ask someone you know, who has been vaccinated and I think that will help you make a decision about whether or not you want to get vaccinated.
It is an individual decision, and I think those parts of the country there are people who are holding on a little bit longer.
BROWN: Let me ask you about this idea of individual decisions and what we're seeing play out, right? The C.D.C. has said, it is okay for fully vaccinated people to ditch the mask outdoors unless it's a massive gathering. We have seen President Biden still occasionally wear a mask outdoors,
some communities in Massachusetts, Brookline, Salem, Lauren still have an outdoor mask mandate in place. What do you say to critics that argue this kind of thing disincentivizes getting vaccinated?
SLAVITT: I don't believe it. I don't believe it. I don't think that people who aren't vaccinated are making their decisions based on that. What I think is that people who are vaccinated quickly are in a mindset if they want to figure out what more things they can do and that's understandable.
Once you get vaccinated, you really are -- people are often ready to put the pandemic behind them, and so they want to be able to do more things more quickly and they don't always remember the fact that we still have 42 percent of adults that still need to get vaccinated.
So if you're outdoors and if you're in most settings, most of the things -- and you're around vaccinated people and you're not around anybody who is at risk, of course, you can take your mask off.
But there are still settings and still situations where there are lots of people gathered, where there are many unvaccinated people and people aren't being careful. I think we're stepping our way through those things. The C.D.C. has just provided people a sense of where the risk is higher and where it's lower.
BROWN: All right, Andy Slavitt, thank you again for coming on the show and bringing us the very latest information on COVID and vaccine and everything and we hope you'll come back on soon.
SLAVITT: Of course, Pam. Thank you.
BROWN: Thank you. Well, the Republican Party looking to bake in Trumpism by purging anyone who dares to challenge the ex-President.
I want to know if former Congressman Charlie Dent still recognizes his own party and he joins me next.
BROWN: Well, a major power grab from the Trump wing of the G.O.P. set to take place next week, House Republicans expected to boot Trump critic, Liz Cheney, out of her leadership post and replace her with Trump loyalist, Elise Stefanik.
Well, today, Stefanik laid out the case for Cheney's ouster.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): Well, the role of the Conference Chair who is elected by all the Republican Members of Congress, you speak with a unified voice for the majority of Republican members and there has been significant frustration among the members of the Republican conference that she is no longer doing that. And we hear that frustration at home among voters.
When you no longer have the confidence of your colleagues, it is time for a new direction.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BROWN: Here to discuss, CNN political commentator and former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent, and "Washington Post" national correspondent, Phillip Bump. Great to see you both. Thanks for making time for us on this Saturday.
First to you, Congressman. What is your reaction to what we just heard from Stefanik?
CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I'm really very saddened by her comment. I know Elise Stefanik quite well. I was a co- chair with her of our Tuesday Group, a center right group of Members of Congress where she was very moderate, pragmatic, thoughtful, and you know, a millennial, spoke to young women and others very effectively and she has taken this very Trumpian turn and I feel what's happening is that they're going to find unification through the cancellation of Liz Cheney and a capitulation to Donald Trump. That's what's so bad about this.
This is a false sense of unity. There are many Republicans in the country who are in Congress who are not saying it publicly, but are saying it privately. They're very unhappy with this Trumpian movement and Trumpian direction the party as there are a significant number of Republicans around the country.
BROWN: And of course, the irony is that so many Republicans reel against cancel culture, but essentially, that is what they are doing here, canceling Cheney. You have cheered on Cheney this week. You have been hopeful the party will move on from this Trump obsession, like you said, there are many people who feel this way.
But is it time for Republicans like you to admit this is the party now. This is the party now and in the foreseeable future.
DENT: Well, it certainly is for the moment, there's no question that the Trump wing is ascendant and it has control. And again, but what's so disturbing about the whole situation is this man lost. He has been defeated in the popular vote twice. He's been impeached twice. He has been discredited and disgraced.
Why does anyone think embracing a failed candidate is a path forward to future electoral success? I think this is an enormous mistake long term for the party.
Hey, you know, Republicans may win back the House in the midterm, that's quite likely, maybe probable. But for the long term, I think this is a mistake.
I think this is an enormous mistake long-term for the party.
Hey, Republicans may even back the House in the midterm. That's quite likely, maybe probable. But for the long-term, I think this is a mistake.
BROWN: Is it because, Philip, there's such a fear of Trump that he will destroy Republican candidates, if they don't toe the line for him and show loyalty to him rather than thinking that Trump will grow the party? Is it more that fear than anything driving this you think?
PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. I think that's pretty fluid because, I mean, one of the things that we saw in '16 and in '20 was that Donald Trump was able to turn out voters who usually didn't turn out as much. We saw him not do that in 2018 when he wasn't on the ballot.
And it very much is, I think, a function less of trying to position oneself in the direction the party is headed and more in trying to salvage what you can out of what happened from the Trump presidency. I mean, I think it's really important to put a fine point on it.
What we're talking about here is Donald Trump lying incessantly about having not lost the election and no one from November 4th on having the willingness to stand up and say, actually, that's not true. I shouldn't say no one, there are sporadic voices, Liz Cheney included.
But so many in the Republican caucus have found it's so much easier, consistently, to simply go along with it and not buck the trend and not stand up for the accurate statement that Donald Trump did lose. It's much easier not to do that than it is to do that, as Cheney is finding. And as such, we end up in a situation where everyone just goes along with it and acquiesces even if many of them agree with Cheney's position.
BROWN: So that brings me to my next question, Congressman, Cheney is being ousted, we expect, from her position because she stood up for principles, stood up for the truth. She stood up for the fact that the election had integrity and that the insurrection was unacceptable and Trump, they're his responsibility.
But how does one survive in Republican politics now in this age if they stay true to that fact, to the basic facts that are the underpinning of democracy? If they stay true to that like we saw with Cheney and they have integrity, how do they survive in Republican politics this day and age?
DENT: Well, very sadly, many of them feel that their survival is by simply embracing Donald Trump to the greatest extent possible, which is very depressing. But I would also like to add that there are a number of us on the outside, who in the very near term will be releasing a statement of principles for the GOP for American renewal that we'll get back to basic truths. So I don't want to release just what those principles are now, because I don't want to steal their thunder.
But we are going to talk about what it means to be a Republican and to be an American, to believe in things like the rule of law, believe in the constitutional order, to believe in truth and democracy because enough of us have had enough of where this is.
It's sad that so many members of the House Republican Conference find it politically easier and safer to condemn and criticize and cancel the truth teller, Liz Cheney, as opposed to condemning the man spreading the lies, the former President Donald Trump.
BROWN: And just for a big picture look here, Philip, along the same lines of what I asked the Congressman, if this country cannot agree on a set of basic truths that are the underpinning of democracy and one of the political parties is the driver of the lies of conspiracies, how can democracy survive?
BUMP: I mean, it's a grim question. I mean, it's not one of those questions that I can simply be like, well, the answer is (inaudible) ...
BROWN: Right. Like you got 30 seconds, go. Right.
BUMP: Right. We don't know. January 6th was an alarming day. It showed a disconcerting trend. That trend has continued not with violence, but with rhetoric and I don't think anyone knows where it ends.
BROWN: To me as a journalist covering this as you well know, Philip, it's intrinsic. I mean, for us democracy, we are in the role we are because of the Constitution. We're protected by the Constitution and it is frightening to see sort of the direction potentially this country is going when it comes to democracy. Thank you both for coming on the show for that really interesting discussion. We appreciate it.
DENT: Thanks, Pamela.
BROWN: And up next, Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene take Trump's greatest hits on the road for a festival of lies.
BROWN: Well two of Donald Trump's top supporters in Congress are taking their show on the road this weekend. Their events in The Villages, Florida Friday night felt eerily like a campaign rally, full of grievance, call and response and, of course, the big lie that the election was stolen and Donald Trump is still the rightful President.
Donie O'Sullivan joins me now in Orlando. Donie, tell us what you've been seeing and hearing this weekend.
DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Pam. Yes, there might have been a time in the recent history of the Republican Party that events held by a person under investigation for sex trafficking and, which he denies, and another member who has pushed QAnon conspiracy theories holding an events claiming that the last election was stolen might have been considered fringe. But hundreds of people showed up at The Villages, a retirement
community here in Florida last night and they are representative of a lot of the Republican Party. It's not fringe anymore.
We saw last week in a CNN poll that 70 percent of Republicans believe the election was stolen. I spoke to a couple who were on their way into that event last night, have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
O'SULLIVAN: You guys both genuinely believe the election was stolen.
RITA WARD, ATTENDEE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
O'SULLIVAN: I mean, that's - if you believe that that's true, that is ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that horrible?
WARD: Yes. It is horrible.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know it is. Is it horrible that we would even be in a situation to even think that?
O'SULLIVAN: But it's false.
WARD: No, it's not. Why would they have all those ballots hidden under the tables? Why did that man drive that truck all the way across state lines with ballots?
O'SULLIVAN: But it wasn't like the ballots under table thing with Giuliani in Georgia, that's all been proven to be false.
WARD: It has not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
WARD: I watched it on TV.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'SULLIVAN: I watched it on TV. And look, Pam, as we know there is an entire ecosystem, a very profitable one, pushing misinformation on the right, the mega media, whether it's online or on cable television. And look, what that couple there mentioned, their conspiracy theories, this stuff about ballots under tables in Georgia, these are conspiracy theories that have been debunked for many, many, many months. Yet they're living on and they're continuing to perpetuate within the Republican Party. BROWN: Right. I mean, they have essentially been. That couple is a
victim of misinformation that is being pushed by leaders in the Republican Party and in the right-wing media. I mean, that's the bottom line. Donie O'Sullivan in Orlando, thank you so much for bringing us the latest there.
And up next, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs tells me why the election audit there is making her state, in her words, a national joke and why she's getting death threats for telling the truth.
BROWN: Let's to Arizona now where Republicans are still pushing a so- called audit of last year's election results hiring a private company to question Joe Biden's 10,000 vote victory in the state. Today auditors are backing down from a plan to contact voters in person after the Justice Department raise concerns it may violate civil rights laws against voter intimidation.
To discuss let's bring in the state's top election official Arizona Secretary of State, Katie Hobbs. Thanks for coming on the show. I want to start with this fact. Officials of Maricopa County have already conducted multiple audits that have shown the results of the election were indeed accurate. So this recount does appear unnecessary. What exactly is going on here?
KATIE HOBBS, (D) ARIZONA SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, this recount is not just unnecessary. It's completely intended to perpetuate the big lie. The folks running this show understand that they're not going to do anything to overturn the results of the 2020 election. They just want to continue to extend doubt about it and stoke those voters concerns about these election systems in our state. Not just in our state, but in the country.
BROWN: But how does that look practically? I mean, at the end of this, you're expecting a report. And I mean, they're going to have to show for something if they're going to make those claims. Could it have a different effect if they don't find anything? I'm just wondering if that could actually validate the fact that there is nothing to find here.
HOBBS: Well, I don't know what they're going to find or what the report is going to say. But what we've been able to do throughout this process is go to court and force transparency so that we knew what it was exactly that they were doing.
Not exactly, but as much as we could. So we forced them to release their procedures that they were following. We forced them to allow experts, election experts in the room to observe and we forced them to allow press coverage.
And so what we've been able to tell from all of these things is that the procedures are inadequate in any sense of the word when it comes to a post election audit, that there are irregularities that they are doing things that are consistent with the conspiracy theories that we've heard following the election. And nothing is going on in this room that will lend any validity or reliability to whatever result it is that they will find.
BROWN: So bottom line, are you saying that the Arizona Republicans are just blatantly undermining democracy with this?
HOBBS: Absolutely 100 percent that is what they are doing.
BROWN: Of course, as you know, they push back. They say people want to know we're just trying to be really thorough here. The Department of Justice this week wrote this letter to the state's Republican Senate leading the audit, raising concerns that their plan to contact voters could amount to voter intimidation. We know from Karen Fann, the Senate leader that they're not going to take those steps.
But as of now, you've been raising some of the same procedural concerns from the beginning and you mentioned some of them. But I want you to go a little bit more specific on what your big problem is with this, because the court said this could go forward. What is your main issue with how they're handling this?
HOBBS: Well, it was clear from the beginning that the Senate had no plan in place to actually conduct this audit and recount, and that the company that came in Cyber Ninja is also they're not election experts. They are not auditing experts and they also didn't have a plan. They're making this up as they go along.
And again, to just continue to undermine voters' confidence in the system, the best way to shore up that confidence is to stand up for the integrity of the election in the first place, which we conducted according to laws and procedures, that the legislators, the politicians who are pushing this actually approved.
And so they could have stopped from the beginning and said, no, our election was fair. We know that because there were nine court cases that found no evidence of any kind of fraud. We need to shut this down and instead, they're doing this.
BROWN: So let me ask you, DOJ in its warning mentioned the fact that this could violate federal law.
Not just on the voter intimidation. Do you want to see DOJ file a lawsuit instead of just a warning in this case?
HOBBS: I don't want to speak to what DOJ is going to do, but they certainly did bring up very valid concerns that we had already expressed in terms of the ballot chain of custody. And what the folks running this show have kind of dismissed those concerns and said, no, we have security, but it is far beyond the physical security of the ballots themselves, which already has shown to be inadequate.
But it's how they're handling the ballots and the ability to replicate any kind of audit that results that are found because they're not handling chain of custody appropriately. They're exposing the ballots to UV light, which goes against any type of document preservation standards.
I mean, there are so many concerns here just in that one little piece that was brought up by DOJ. And what is clear is that they are continuing to dismiss these concerns as not important.
BROWN: OK. Secretary of State of Arizona, Katie Hobbs, thank you so much for coming on the show to share your view of this.
HOBBS: Thank you.
BROWN: Well, as the last U.S. troops leave Afghanistan, at least 30 people are dead after a bombing outside a girls' school in Kabul. We're going to have details on that up next.
But first, here's a preview of the new CNN Special What's Going On: Marvin Gaye's Anthem for the Ages which premieres tomorrow at 8 pm Eastern.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marvin Gaye's groundbreaking What's Going On.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was the first time that I understood poetry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's one of greatest albums ever made.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And his melody were like a voice of cry (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He created something that lasts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fifty years later.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is it an anthem for a new generation?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is prophecy, man.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: What do you think Marvin would think about What's Going On?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CNN Special Report What's Going On: Marvin Gaye's Anthem for the Ages tomorrow at 8.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: A day of horrific and deadly violence in the capital of Afghanistan today after an explosion near a school for girls in Kabul while students were leaving that school. The latest information into CNN at least 30 people are dead more than 50 others are wounded. The Taliban, so far, denying responsibility.
And The Washington Post reports that the Trump Justice Department secretly obtained the phone records for three reporters who covered the Russia investigation. Marshall Cohen is in Washington following this story. Marshall?
MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Hey, Pam. The Washington Post says that the Justice Department secretly obtained phone records for three of its reporters as part of a leak investigation. They said this happened last year under then President Trump and it would have required the approval of Attorney General Bill Barr. Now, the stories that they published that apparently contained the leaked information, they were about Russian meddling in 2016.
Now, Pam, as you know, it is extremely rare for the DOJ to obtain records from journalists. When it does, it raises pretty serious red flags about the 1st Amendment and whether the government is trying to use its powers to crack down on reporters. So the Justice Department did defend the move. They released a statement. They said that they're going after the leakers who broke the law and not the journalists.
Specifically, their statement said this, "Seeking media records is only done after all reasonable attempts have been made to obtain the information from alternative sources."
Now, Pam, when we're talking about phone records, we're not talking about Big Brother listening in on anyone's calls. What this means is that the government got metadata, like the phone numbers that these reporters were calling and how long those calls lasted around the time that they were writing these stories about the Russia probe.
But still, this whole ordeal raises serious questions about journalistic freedoms and The Washington Post was pretty outraged. A top editor said in the statement that they were deeply troubled by 'this use of government power to seek access to the communications of journalists'.
But Pamela, I really do want to repeat the Biden ministration defended these controversial moves. They are standing by what the DOJ did under Trump and in terms of the federal government going after leakers and getting phone records from journalists, that's a practice that ramped up significantly under President Obama.
But Pamela, it's impossible to have this whole conversation without reminding everyone that Trump repeatedly used his perch with the bully pulpit to urge the DOJ to investigate stories they didn't like, to throw out journalists in jail.