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Middle East Cease-Fire Imminent?; Republicans Poised to Block Bipartisan Commission to Investigate Insurrection?. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 20, 2021 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:03]

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: We're learning more about what prosecutors took during the raid of his home and his office last month.

Let's go right now to Kara Scannell.

What have you learned?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Victor.

Yes, we just learned from a new court filing that when prosecutors raided Rudy Giuliani's home and office last month, they seized 18 electronic devices. We also learned that some of those devices belong to other employees of his, multiple people, although it doesn't say in the letter exactly how many.

Now, Giuliani had previously said that the feds had taken seven to eight of his electronic devices. And his lawyer said that Rudy Giuliani's assistant's laptop was also taken. So, we're learning a little bit more about the scope of materials that they have.

And this is all part of this fight over the raid. And that's why this information is coming out, because Giuliani's lawyers are challenging it.

And one of the things that they're challenging is a -- was a covert search warrant that was executed on Giuliani's iCloud account in 2019. Prosecutors in this letter reveal that, in fact, they had used a filter team then because it was a covert operation.

They're saying now that they are pushing for a special master, someone independent to review the new material that was seized for attorney- clients and other privileges because of the publicity of the raid -- Victor, Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: Kara Scannell with the latest for us from New York, thank you so much.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: OK, now to the bipartisan commission to examine the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. It is looking not good at the moment.

Moments ago, we learned of another move by Senate Republicans to keep this commission from ever happening, in this case even blocking debate on it. The House did approve the bill setting up the commission.

BLACKWELL: Thirty-five Republicans for it, defying their leader, Kevin McCarthy. Former President Trump is weighing in, predictably, calling them weak and ineffective.

Now, 10 Republican senators are needed to pass the bill when it goes over to that chamber. At least six have announced their opposition to the commission. You have got seven on your screen now, the addition of North Carolina Senator Richard Burr.

CNN's Ryan Nobles is joining us now from Capitol Hill, breaking news on details of some Republican senators planning a filibuster.

What do you know?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Victor and Alisyn, this doesn't come as a surprise.

This is the procedural move that Republicans need in order to get to that 60-vote threshold in order for this legislation to pass. And we're being told that Republicans -- you only need one of them to say that they will call for a filibuster. And in order -- you need to break that filibuster in order for the bill to get to the floor. So, that looks like that's going to happen.

So that means that 60-vote threshold is necessary. And what we are already starting to see -- and it really kind of precipitated after the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, announced yesterday morning that he was not going to support this bill -- you see the Republican members of the Senate falling in line behind their leader.

One example would be Mike Rounds. He's a senator that initially said that he was in favor of the 1/6 commission. He said he was going to vote yes. McConnell changes his mind, and Rounds does as well, now saying that he's going to vote no.

The other name that I think is significant -- and, Victor, you mentioned it -- Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina coming out today officially saying that he plans to vote no. Burr is among that group of seven Republican senators that voted to impeach former President Trump and has been very critical of the former president in the wake of what happened on the insurrection.

The fact that he is deciding to vote against the commission means it's going to be that much more difficult for them to get to those 10 senators necessary in order to pass this legislation.

Now, the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, has said that he hopes to have this bill on the floor sometime next week. The big question is, will there be some sort of negotiation between Republicans and Democrats to try and bring those Republicans that are concerned about the legislation the House sent over to get to that 10 number? Susan Collins, for instance, of Maine said that she'd like to see some changes. That would elongate this process and take even longer for the legislation to be passed if it were to happen. But if that's the only way it's going to work, that may happen.

So that's one of the things we're watching right now. But, to your point, Alisyn, this legislation right now looks like it is in serious trouble, despite the fact that you saw both Republicans and Democrats, in the wake of that deadly insurrection, saying they wanted a serious investigation.

Right now, it doesn't look like they are backing that up with action.

CAMEROTA: It's amazing how fast this is actually sort of falling apart. But I know that things change by the hour.

Ryan Nobles, keep us posted. Thank you very much.

So, the fallout from the big lie that the election was somehow stolen from Donald Trump is expanding. More states are about to copy the bogus election audit going on in Arizona. Even Republicans, as you know, in Arizona are panning this so-called audit as unneeded and improper and highly partisan.

One official observer says it is even worse than people know.

[15:05:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER MORRELL, PARTNER, THE ELECTIONS GROUP: They were just so paranoid. Obviously, I was there as an observer of the secretary of state. They were constantly kind of harassing me.

They had folks assigned to follow me. Once, I was asked to empty my -- show what was in my pocket, simply the pen that they had given me and my glasses. Repeatedly, both myself and other observers were asked to hand over our pens, so that they could test to ensure it was really red ink.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: It really is worse than we knew.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher us now to tell us what other states are considering this.

Dianne, what's happening?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

So, Alisyn, we have seen -- I wouldn't necessarily say they are states considering it. But there are Trump allies who are trying to push for it. And, look, a couple days ago, almost like a Bat Signal, if you will, the former president sent out one of his blog post statements that he's been doing calling for the state of Georgia to go in step with Arizona and do its own audit, never mind the fact that the results of the Georgia election have been tallied three different times.

They have already done audits. Within a day, former Representative, state Representative Vernon Jones, who is currently running to primary the Republican governor, Brian Kemp in Georgia, answered that call and called a press conference, essentially praising the Arizona audit, repeating lies about the audit, and then calling for the same to happen in his state.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. STATE REP. VERNON JONES (R-GA): I found myself troubled by the recent findings coming out of Arizona, as they conduct forensic audits of their own, led by their state legislatures.

That is why I'm calling on Brian Kemp today, this day, to order a forensic audit of all 159 counties in the state of Georgia.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: Now, look, at best, this is a campaign stunt. It didn't really make any waves in Georgia.

But, at worst, this is what we are seeing sort of percolate in some of these states, where the president, the former president, lost and has proceeded and perpetuated this big lie of his that he didn't really lose. And we are seeing it play out in Arizona.

And, look, some of that impact is what we did see on January 6 with that deadly insurrection. And we have seen it play out in statehouses all across the country, with real legislation that has turned into law limiting the right to vote for many Americans to simply quell these conspiracy theories.

BLACKWELL: Yes, there's a parallel track of legislation in Arizona along with this audit that's happening.

But it's not just the statehouses. We're seeing this in city halls. We're seeing this in cities across the country too. Tell us about that.

GALLAGHER: Yes, so, take Windham, New Hampshire, for example.

There are some discrepancies potentially about 400 votes in a state representative race. And, look, the state government came. They said, we're going to do an audit. But the people in that community didn't like the auditor that was chosen to do the audit. So, they showed up at a meeting.

And just take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I want to prove to these people that our voice is not being heard and they should be thrown out of office!

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(CHANTING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GALLAGHER: Now, again, they're sort of chanting the name of the auditor, that they want to do this audit instead, Victor.

It just, again, crystallizes the nature of how this is playing out.

And look, we have auditors, we have state reps, we have supervisors, then secretaries of state who have had to have police protection because of death threats. And so the anger that surrounds this, be it rooted in conspiracy theories, it's very real. And it's very scary for a lot of people who just want to run elections right now.

BLACKWELL: Yes, dangerous in many respects.

Dianne Gallagher reporting there from Charlotte for us, thanks so much.

Let's bring back CNN senior political correspondent Abby Phillip, also the anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY."

Abby, it -- this, to me, is just illustrative of the separation, the departure from reality, that the rest of the country is watching the Cyber Ninjas next to the Crazy Times Carnival do that count, and there are some who say, hey, we want that too.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

And you know what? If you didn't know anything about this, people might think that you were making those names up. But that's real.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

PHILLIP: Like, that's the real context of all of this. It's tinfoil hat stuff.

And it's being spread, incredibly, by a former president. I mean, that is really -- it's a remarkable thing. But the reality of what's happening here is that there are Republican voters all over this country who genuinely believe in wild conspiracy theories that are, we have to just be honest, made up out of whole cloth.

[15:10:00]

I mean, take what is going on in Arizona. There was this allegation that somehow the voter database had been deleted. Trump sent out a statement to that effect. It was completely false, completely untrue.

And so this is happening in kind of fantasyland. But I think what's really important that is also happening is that you have many Republicans in Washington who are just saying, I'm just going to look the other way. This really doesn't matter. I'm just going to ignore what is going on here. And maybe we can pretend that it's going to go away.

But what they're really doing is enabling this kind of madness. And it's causing people like Liz Cheney to literally be run out of the party, because she has said, in a very normal way, that we shouldn't be coddling these blatant falsehoods.

It's just that the rest of her party disagrees.

CAMEROTA: But, Abby, I mean, the fix is in with these audits.

PHILLIP: Yes.

CAMEROTA: What's going to happen in Arizona when the Cyber Ninjas find or fabricate what they want to find in terms of evidence, finally?

I mean, what's going to happen then? Since Republicans, many Republicans, believe this lie that the president, former president, has peddled, what happens when they start believing the so-called evidence that the Ninjas find?

PHILLIP: Well, from a -- from a practical perspective, it doesn't change the outcome of the election that's been certified. Joe Biden is the president of the United States.

But all of this is being done to create a veneer of -- a veneer of truth behind the lies. They're doing this so that they can say to their voters, look, we did this audit, and here's the proof that there was -- that there was something nefarious going on here.

It's all about solidifying in the minds of Republican voters the big lie. And they have been largely successful; 70 percent of Republican voters, by a lot of polls, say that they believe that there was fraud in the last election. I expect that that number will go up. This will only become even more embedded in the Republican Party by the time we get to the midterm elections.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk about January 6 and what appears to be the falling apart of the legislation to create the commission.

The fallback, though, we have heard from Speaker Pelosi, Leader Hoyer told me yesterday, is this select committee. And we know select committees. We watched that with Benghazi.

The confidence -- he says he's confident that they will get to the answers, that they will get to the truth. When you have leaders of each party putting elected members on this select committee, is that likely? Does it -- is it -- or should we expect that we will get as much truth as we would have out of a commission?

PHILLIP: I think we can expect that there will be some answers that come out of it.

But I think the broader war against the -- this -- the myth of January 6 being part of our culture has already been lost. I mean, for Democrats, they're doing the best that they can, under the circumstances, to create some kind of investigative body.

But what's going to happen is that Republicans are then going to turn around and say, well, now they're doing a partisan investigation, and it's going to be easier for them to discount the findings of that investigation.

And for the country, that's a sad thing. I mean, January 6 was something that I think a lot of us felt, after January 6, everyone should be in agreement should never happen again. And it's on the verge of becoming just another partisan divide in this country.

And it's a shame. But that's the objective here. Our Manu Raju has reported that a lot of the opposition is about the 2020 (sic) midterms. Republicans do not want this hanging over their heads. And there -- they might be successful in blocking the creation of something that could have been a true fact-finding body. And now there may very well be another entity that tries to get some answers.

It's not going to have the same credibility as a nonpartisan commission. I think we should just be honest about that. And that is -- I think it's a sad moment for this country that even something like an insurrection on the Capitol cannot be investigated in a bipartisan way.

CAMEROTA: Even something where lawmakers' own lives were threatened.

PHILLIP: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Abby Phillip, thank you very much for the insight, as always.

So, next, we are live in Israel, as international pressure grows for a cease-fire. Israel's Security Cabinet just wrapped up a meeting, and we will share what just happened inside.

BLACKWELL: Plus: As the U.S. relaxes its COVID restrictions, there's new research showing real increases in depression and anxiety after more than a year in isolation.

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[15:19:32]

BLACKWELL: All right, breaking news.

The Israeli Security Cabinet just wrapped up a meeting, as international pressure builds for a cease-fire in the Israeli- Palestinian fighting that's been going on.

Let's go now to CNN, Nic Robertson. He's in Ashdod, Israel.

Has there been any progress made?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: According to Israeli media, there has been. And I should caveat that, that we at CNN are still trying to nail down this information.

[15:20:00]

And while I'm speaking to you, I'm listening to Israeli jets in the air over here. And, normally, they fly past here, often fly past here on their way to Gaza.

But what we understand is, many Israeli media outlets are now reporting that, in the past few minutes, their Security Cabinet, where Prime Minister Netanyahu went this evening, after three hours wrapped up, and they have agreed, they have voted in support of a cease-fire.

Now, we don't know the details about this cease-fire. We don't know what it's going to involve. And we don't know when it's going to come into effect. We don't know yet Hamas' view on this at the moment, although we knew that they were expecting to get a cease-fire.

They -- last night, they said within 24 hours. Well, we're pretty much up to that 24-hour window right now. So I think there's a lot more to learn about this. And, of course, it's all going to be in the details about how this plays out and how long this cease-fire might last. Some of the holdup issues on it before were that neither side was supposed to declare this a victory, that Hamas had said that Israel shouldn't involve -- get involved in any what they called provocations in Israel -- in Jerusalem.

That was a pretty strong warning from Hamas, also that Israel had said that Hamas needed to stop shooting first for three hours. None of these details right now that -- all things we had heard before, do we know. So we need -- we need to get more and clearer, detailed information about it, but Israeli media reporting that Security Cabinet has agreed a cease-fire.

That would be ending 10 days of conflict, during which time the Israeli Defense Force say that more than 4,000 rockets have been fired by Hamas, the most intense barrage of rockets over a sustained period that the Israeli Defense Forces have faced.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza says that more than 230 people have been killed there; 12 people living in Israel have been killed. And the amount of damage that the U.N. estimates in Gaza running into the hundreds of billions of dollars.

The details of the cease-fire, though, we wait to find out -- Victor.

CAMEROTA: Nic, I have a question for you.

So, we know that President Biden reached out to Egyptian President El- Sisi this morning about this ongoing violence. And so what role has international pressure played here?

ROBERTSON: I think it's played an accumulative role.

What Israel has been able to do is look to its friends. And the foreign ministers of Germany and the Czech Republic were here today, very much in the role as friends of Israel. And, last night, even when President Biden had his strongest conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke of America as a friend, because all of these nations said that Israel has the right to self- defense.

And I think we have seen the pressure mount through the week, that these allies of Israel recognize that Israelis and Israel needs to feel secure, and that involved targeting the threat, the Hamas threat.

The civilian cost in Gaza was something that their populations, particularly in Europe -- and we have seen it in the United States -- raising passions on the streets of those countries. And with that, we have seen the politicians of those countries increase their pressure on Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Until the last couple of hours, the defense minister has said here, we can increase the scope of these attacks, we're ready to do it, we're capable of doing it.

But that -- I think that international pressure has built to the point that Israel now says -- and we haven't heard the definitive version from the prime minister or the other Cabinet yet, but now reaches that point where it has to make a measure, the international pressure vs. the level with which they have reduced Hamas' capability.

And they say -- the defense minister said earlier today that they had pushed Hamas back in time. And I think that, for this government of Benjamin Netanyahu, is going to be the important point that they will make that Hamas has been degraded significantly, because it's only that that will make people feel secure.

Having said that, I was in the bomb shelter here about an hour or so ago when sirens went off speaking to a lady in the shelter here. And I said, look, the Cabinet is meeting right now: "Are you happy for them to call a cease-fire?"

And she said: "Look, no, because we live close to Gaza. And we don't feel safe if Hamas have got rockets."

So, the prime minister did have some political capital. There was a strong sentiment here in the south that the prime minister could continue with those strikes, so that people around here could feel safe -- Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: All right, Nic Robertson for us there in Ashdod, stand by.

I want to go back to the White House, our chief White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, back up for us.

So far, we're attributing this to the Israeli media, these reports that the Security Cabinet voted to agree to a cease-fire. Any acknowledgement from the White House?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So far, nothing, Victor.

I just reached out to the White House to ask if they have got any kind of comment on this. It was just about 20 minutes ago that we were in the room with President Biden for the signing of that bill, and I asked him if he was confident there was going to be a cease-fire today. He didn't respond to that question as he was talking to lawmakers and shaking a few hands.

[15:25:05]

But, just earlier today, the White House was not ready to confirm any reports of a possible cease-fire, instead saying they were just encouraged by those reports, but not really offering any insight as to whether or not they thought it was something concrete that was actually going to happen and going to take place.

But we should note that this new report of a cease-fire is coming, of course, after a lot of White House pressure on the Israeli prime minister to bring the violence to an end, including with that really blunt phone call that President Biden had yesterday, which I was told was one of the most direct, candid conversations they have had since Biden took office.

But I do think, speaking to the sign of the White House wasn't really sure where this was going is the phone call that Biden had with the Egyptian president earlier today. That is not someone he has spoken to since he's taken office. Of course, remember, Sisi was someone that former President Trump often referred to as his favorite dictator.

But I think having that phone call and going to that length, and not just having intermediaries or his national security adviser, other officials speak to the Egyptians showed that it seemed to take a point of great concern with the White House in trying to help broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

And so we're not really sure the exact contents of that call. We just know that they did discuss getting toward a cease-fire. So I do think that says that the White House wasn't sure, as of just a few hours ago, whether or not this was a real report of a cease-fire.

And so we're waiting to see what their response is going to be, but surely they will welcome this if this does go forth.

BLACKWELL: All right, Kaitlan Collins for us at the White House, Nic Robertson there for us in Ashdod.

Of course, we will bring it back if there are major developments as we get this report of this agreement to a cease-fire. Thank you both.

A lot of news to get to you these days about post-pandemic life, but mental health experts, they're warning that the trauma of what we have all been through could have lasting effects.

The anxiety of returning back to some type of normalcy, we will talk about that next.

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