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Interview With Fmr. Rep. John Boehner (R-OH); Trump Continues to Push Big Election Lie. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 3, 2021 - 14:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Hello. Thank you for joining us. I'm Victor Blackwell.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And I'm Alisyn Camerota.

Prepare for the worst, because former President Trump is reportedly more consumed than ever with covering up his 2020 election loss and continuing to push the lie that his defeat was because of some imaginary fraud.

We have already seen the violence that resulted when thousands of people believed him and, as a result, attacked the Capitol. A former Trump adviser tells CNN that Trump is listening to -- quote -- "the bottom of the bottom of the crazies in the barrel."

BLACKWELL: And a new report in "The Washington Post" says, although some of his advisers have told him to drop it, he is absolutely fixated on the sham audit in Arizona, and he's actively pushing to get audits in other states he lost.

We're talking Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Georgia.

CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash has this reporting.

So, Dana, I mean, look, some of this is laughable. He's listening to the MyPillow guy as one of, I guess, his advisers at this point. And some of it is deadly serious. We have already seen what happens when people buy into this lie. And is there talk of more possible political violence?


The three of us talked about this very thing earlier in this -- in the week, the balance of taking what the former president is saying and focusing on it or kind of ignoring it.

And the fact is that there's a middle ground, and that is what is important for us to focus on. He's not the president anymore. There is a president of the White House who is working on the big issues that are facing Americans, from the coronavirus to the economy. Now he's trying to get his priorities passed, things like infrastructure. But while that is happening, his immediate predecessor, the man he

beat, is still, not just obsessing and listening to, as you said I was told, people around him who are the bottom of the bottom of the crazies in the barrel, but, also, those are people who have a pipeline to that media where those who are most susceptible to taking this stuff to heart, to believing this stuff could turn it around and potentially act on it.

And this, unfortunately, we have as evidence that this happened on January 6, so that is why this is really critical, and especially since, Alisyn and Victor, we are just a couple of days away from the former president giving a speech, being out in public, not just musing with people or putting out press releases, giving a speech at a Republican convention in North Carolina, where he is going to potentially be saying this with a much larger megaphone, one he hasn't had because he doesn't have social media.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And now that blog is gone, he will use this as his opportunity to send out his grievances.

Listen to officer Michael Fanone, Capitol Police officer who had to fight off the rioters on January 6.


MICHAEL FANONE, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: It's insane to hear that type of rhetoric being used not six months out from the insurrection at the Capitol. This is the exact type of rhetoric which ultimately resulted in the attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.


BLACKWELL: He's talking about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn talking about there should be a military-style coup here in the U.S.

Republicans in Congress, though, where are they on this? Because it seems like they're treating this as if it's something that happened, past tense, not something that is living, breathing and could happen again.

BASH: Terrified. They're terrified, because that's exactly what they want.

I mean, part of the argument that they made in ousting Liz Cheney from the Republican leadership is that she deigned to answer reporters' questions about the big lie and say the big lie is such, it is a lie, and that, as the leader of the messaging for House Republicans, she got them off-message.

There's nobody who's getting them more off-message than the former president. They can't control him.

And, again, as we look ahead to this weekend, the question is, how much is the former president going to talk about the things that those on the ballot in 2022, the entire House of Representatives in particular, want him to talk about, the Biden agenda that they think will help to run against in suburbs and in other swing districts, whether it is government spending or anything -- or immigration or anything on that notion of issues, rather than grievances in the past?


Yes, that is because Trump doesn't stop talking about it and because of the media that echoes. That is a base driver. But that only gets so far when you are a Republican in the House of Representatives, never mind Senate, who wants to take back control.

There is a lot of concern about it. There is not a lot they can do. And they realize that trying to convince the former president to stop talking about it is a fool's errand.

CAMEROTA: Dana Bash, thank you very much for sharing all of your reporting with us.

BASH: Thank you.

Joining us now is former Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner. He is the author of "On the House," which debuted at number one on "The New York Times" bestseller list.

Speaker Boehner, great to see you.

FMR. REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH): Alisyn, good to be with you.

CAMEROTA: You heard Dana's reporting just there. Donald Trump is obsessed with the 2020 election. He's obsessed with these so-called audits that are going on in some counties around the country.

And Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times" just reported this week that he is telling people he will be reinstated as president in August.

What are your thoughts?

BOEHNER: Listen, we had an election. I have been through many elections and been involved in many elections over the last 40 years.

And I heard what the president had to say after the election day after day, and I kept looking for fact and what evidence. Never did I see any evidence, nor did any judge see enough evidence to turn any of these elections over.

And then each state has to certify these elections. And, typically, these certification committees, if you will, are bipartisan, and they all certified the election in terms of who won that state.

Listen, Joe Biden won the election. It's very clear. I said it several days after the election, because it was clear to me then.

And I would just say it's unfortunate...


CAMEROTA: But, Speaker, you're being very rational. I mean, that's -- everything you're saying, of course, we all know. You're being rational and you're being fact-based.

But the problem is, is that Donald Trump's rabid supporters believe what he says.

And I'm just wondering, do you think that it's possible that we will see another attack like we saw on January 6 as a result?

BOEHNER: No, I don't think we're going to see another attack. There were a lot of Trump supporters there. And, frankly, some radical right-wing groups used Donald Trump supporters to cause an insurrection at the Capitol, one of the saddest days in American history.

I don't think we're going to see that again.

CAMEROTA: Why not? Why wouldn't we see that again?

BOEHNER: Well, listen, there's some people that might believe the president and his musings.

But most people in America are pretty rational about what happened. They have seen the evidence, like I have, like you have. And it just doesn't appear to be that he has that kind of support going forward.

CAMEROTA: Do you think, from what you have heard of Republicans in Congress, that they're trying to whitewash that day of what really happened?

BOEHNER: No, I don't think they're trying to whitewash it.

I think they have got concerns about the makeup of this so-called investigating committee. Typically, if you're going to have a real committee that's going to unveil everything, it ought to be totally bipartisan. The staff ought to be totally bipartisan.

When you do that, the media and others will accept the outcome of whatever the investigation is.


CAMEROTA: Right, but wasn't this one that Kevin McCarthy just rejected, that was going to be bipartisan? That was going to be completely equal.

BOEHNER: Not -- at least the facts that I have didn't indicate that in terms of the makeup, nor the makeup of the staff, or, frankly, what the boundaries of the investigation were going to be.

But, yes, listen, at the end of the day, we're going to have the facts about what happened on January the 6th. There are a number of prosecutions under way and a number of, frankly, investigations that are already under way in both House and the Senate.

So, we're going to get the facts. What the forum may be, certainly, they disagree about it, but we're going to end up with the facts.

CAMEROTA: Well, listen, I mean, I hear your confidence.

But these are subcommittees that are not as fulsome as that bipartisan committee that was apparently accepted by both sides, until Kevin McCarthy said that he didn't want it. I mean, obviously it was bipartisan going into it.


And the prosecutions are for the people who went. But they're not looking at exactly what Donald Trump's role was, exactly what he was doing during those hours, exactly why help didn't come sooner.

Don't you want to know those answers?

BOEHNER: Well, no, there are a lot of unanswered questions.

And -- but I'm confident we're going to get the answers to those questions. And whether it's a subcommittee or committee in the House or the Senate, eventually, we will get all of that information. And I'm -- frankly, I have no doubts.

CAMEROTA: Since the 2020 election, 27 states, mostly led by Republican state legislatures, are in the process of passing more restrictive voting rights, voting laws.

Are those helpful or harmful?

BOEHNER: Well, each state that goes through this after an election.

I served in the Ohio Statehouse for six years in the '80s. And, typically, after an election, you go look at what worked, what didn't work as well, what needed to be changed.

But, typically, in Ohio, anyway, those -- any changes to the process were done in a bipartisan fashion. And so states are going to look at this, especially with all the exceptions that were made during the 2020 election cycle as a result of the pandemic.

And, as a result, every state did things a little different. And so I think each of the states are trying to look at what happened in 2020 and figure out how best to move forward. Now...


CAMEROTA: But what problem are they solving?

I mean, just out of curiosity, why limit voting hours? What problem are they solving? Every state, you have heard all of the secretaries of state say that this was the most secure, safest election that we have held. So, what was the problem that requires all of these new restrictive voting laws?

BOEHNER: Well, as I said, every time there's an election, states typically look at what happened.

How long do people have to wait in line? How many polling places are required? How long should we have early voting? Under what conditions should we have early voting?

And under the Constitution, the states are charged with putting on elections. It's a state's responsibility. And so the states need to do this.

What concerns me is the fact that it seems to be happening in a very partisan way. People need to have confidence in the election process. And I think what gives -- what typically would give them confidence is to see a state legislature working in a bipartisan fashion to make any changes they feel that are necessary.

And so the appearance of these partisan changes, in my view, really undermine the confidence that people should have in the election process.

CAMEROTA: And do you worry that, because it's being done in a partisan way, that these state legislatures will succeed with voting restrictions and succeed with gerrymandering and succeed with getting rid of ethical secretaries of state, like Brad Raffensperger, and could do what they failed to do in 2020, thereby overturn the will of the people?

BOEHNER: No, I really don't.

And, listen, I have looked at some of these changes that some of these states are making. They're rather inconsequential. Anyone who's eligible to vote will not have a problem voting in any state.

Now, again, I don't like the way they're going about making some of these changes. But when you start to compare of what goes in one state with another, I mean, we have got some very liberal states that have much more restrictive voting -- a much more restrictive voting process than you would have in Georgia or Texas, as an example.

And so...

CAMEROTA: What do you mean? Like, which state? Which state do you think has a more restrictive voting process than Georgia?

BOEHNER: Well, I think it's Delaware that doesn't even allow for absentee voting, except under very rigid circumstances. And you have got some states that have no early voting, all right? I think it's New Hampshire.

And so, when you begin to look at these -- how the states run these elections, you will see that they're all run very different. But they have a history of how they do elections, and then they tinker with it along the way, each of them.

CAMEROTA: Speaker Boehner, we have many more questions for you.

If you don't mind sticking around, we want to ask you if there is any possibility of a deal being done in this Congress. So, stick around. And we will be right back with you.

BLACKWELL: Also ahead this hour: back-to-back ransomware attacks targeting American companies. We will have new details on how the White House is fighting back.

CAMEROTA: Plus, Dr. Anthony Fauci making big news today on a potential timeline to get children vaccinated.

BLACKWELL: And going rogue. A Texas high school valedictorian used her commencement speech to rail against the state's new abortion law.

She joins us live to talk about it.



CAMEROTA: And we are back with John Boehner, former speaker of the House and author of the number one "New York Times" bestseller "On the House," which we will get to in a moment, Mr. Speaker.

I want to ask you about what happened with Liz Cheney, Congresswoman Liz Cheney. She was ousted, as you know, from leadership because she wouldn't go along with the lies that Donald Trump was telling about the election.

What do you make of what happened there?

BOEHNER: Well, I just think that Liz got caught, a typical internal Republicans struggle.

Listen, I got bounced out of the same job that she had in 1998. It wasn't over any philosophical difference, except that the Newt retired and members were angry that we lost seats, when they thought we should have gained them. And they were looking for somebody to put a scalp up on a pole, and they got mine.


So, I know how this works.

CAMEROTA: But, this time, it is a philosophical difference. This time, it isn't just about the chess game and how it's played. It is about a philosophical difference.

BOEHNER: Well, leaders -- leaders...

CAMEROTA: She's not willing to say that there was election fraud.

She's saying that Donald Trump lost.

BOEHNER: Leaders are elected by the members of the conference. And when the leaders get out of step with the conference, the

conference is going to make a move. Whether Liz is right or the members are right, that really, in itself, it doesn't matter. The members decided that she was too far out of step for them. And so they decided to take her out.

Now, listen, I like Liz Cheney. I think she's very smart. I think she's entitled to her opinions. People ought to respect her opinions. But, as a leader of the party, if the majority of the members of the party don't agree with what you're saying, you're not going to be there long.

CAMEROTA: But are those her opinions or are those facts that Donald Trump lost?

BOEHNER: Well, no, I tend to believe that what Liz Cheney believes, that the president lost the election.

Now, if somebody doesn't want to hear that, OK, maybe they don't want to hear it, but those are the facts.

CAMEROTA: I want to ask you about what, if anything, can get done in this Congress.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to obstruct Joe Biden's agenda at every turn, just as he famously did with President Obama. Does that mean that anything's going to get done, for instance, the infrastructure bill that both sides say they want?

Do you have any hope that there's going to be a bipartisan deal on infrastructure?

BOEHNER: Well, Alisyn, let's start with the big picture.

You had a very close election. You got a 50/50 Senate. Frankly, the House is -- the Democrats have barely a majority. And when you look at it, President Biden won by a pretty narrow margin. That is not a prescriptive for a one-party government. It is not a mandate for one party to do anything. Frankly, what it is, is a prescription for bipartisan government.

Now, secondly, we have got probably the largest ideological divide in America that we have had in the last 50 years. And so you have got the narrowly -- a very narrow majority in the House and Senate. You have got this big ideological divide.

And trying to find common ground to get something done is going to be very difficult. Infrastructure happens to be the issue where you typically can find more bipartisanship. And so I'm hopeful that they will be able to come to an agreement. I don't know whether they can or not.

I don't know what all the issues are. But -- because, if they can't, I don't think Democrats can do an infrastructure bill on their own. I don't think they have got the votes in the House or Senate do it on their own. What the far left want puts moderate Democrats in both the House and Senate in a very difficult position. And so the votes aren't there to do it on a partisan basis.

So, I'm hopeful they will be able to come up with a bipartisan agreement.

CAMEROTA: So, it sounds like you like the filibuster. You think it should stay, not be gotten rid of.

BOEHNER: I think -- I served in the House, not in the Senate.

But I have worked with the Senate for the last 40 years. I understand how it works. And if you take the filibuster out of the Senate, you're going to turn the Senate into the House. Now, there's a reason we have two-year terms. Supposed to keep us closer to the people.

The reason the Senate has six-year terms, they're supposed to be the saucer under the hot cup of coffee in the House. And so the filibuster, frankly, has been good for both parties when they're in the minority. There's not just a couple of Democrats opposed to getting rid of the filibuster.

There's probably another half-a-dozen Democrats who have not said anything yet, but who want no part of getting rid of the filibuster. It is what it is. And it makes the Senate different from the House. It slows the process down, lets people take a bigger gulp at what changing the law should or shouldn't be.

CAMEROTA: OK, let's talk about your book, "On the House."

I love the title. It's a bestseller, as we say. In your book, you talk about how FOX News Channel and Roger Ailes contributed to and I guess created some of the crazy.

Let me read part of what you say in the book: "At some point after the 2008 election, something changed with my friend Roger Ailes. I once met him in New York during the Obama years to plead with him to put a leash on some of the crazies he was putting on the air. It was making my job trying to accomplish anything conservative that much harder."


How much responsibility, Mr. Speaker, do you think that outlets like FOX News Channel bear for radicalizing the Republican Party?

BOEHNER: Well, I don't put it all on one news channel, because there's a lot of people on FOX News Channel who I think do a, frankly, very good job. Some people who used to be at FOX News I thought did a very good job.

But there are a couple of people on that network that I just think they're out there to create noise. And the more crazy noise they create, the bigger their audience tends to be.

And to put some of my knuckleheads on there every night, people that almost nobody in the Congress would agree with on anything, I -- just struck me as irresponsible. And so every time it's on, I would say something to Roger if I happened to be in New York. I wasn't in the habit of calling him. But if I was in New York, I'd stop in to see Roger once or twice a year, see how he was doing. We had known each other for a long time.

And I'd make a comment. But they certainly bear some responsibility, given some of the hosts that they have.

CAMEROTA: If you were Kevin McCarthy today, if you had Kevin McCarthy's job today, what would you do about Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, Matt Gaetz, who is the subject of a sex -- I mean, he's on the Judiciary Committee, but he's also the subject of a sex trafficking investigation at the moment.

What would you do about them?

BOEHNER: Well, listen, I have been in this position. And Kevin McCarthy is in a really tough spot.

You're -- in America, you're innocent until proven guilty. And the Matt Gaetz situation, it certainly doesn't look good. I think they probably took him off his committees. But until you have got some real evidence -- sometimes, I could get real evidence from members themselves, just look them in the eye and ask them what the truth is.

And, frankly, if I thought they should go, I just told them, "You got one hour to give me a letter that you're resigning, or I'm going to go to the floor and move to remove you," if I thought they were guilty of serious indiscretions.

CAMEROTA: And is that what you -- and would you do that with some of these folks now?

BOEHNER: Well, the Matt Gaetz situation, yes, I probably would have looked him in the eye and tried to get to the bottom.

Sometimes, you can't. I have had members lie to me and, frankly, lied to me rather convincingly. Now, at the end of the day, they were gone.

This Marjorie Taylor Greene, I don't know her. Members are entitled to say what they want. We got members on both sides of the aisle who are prone to say some pretty crazy things. Listen, I have listened to them for a long time.

If I'm Kevin McCarthy, I'd certainly disassociate myself with some of the things that she says, which he has done. But he really can't -- they were elected by her constituents, who sent her to D.C. to be their voice.

It's one of the reasons why we have elections every two years in the House, because it's a great way to have term limits.

CAMEROTA: Speaker John Boehner.

The book again is "On the House," a "New York Times" bestseller.

We appreciate your time. Thanks so much for talking with us.

BOEHNER: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: He doesn't appear to be alarmed by much that's going on right now.


CAMEROTA: He isn't. He's pretty Steady Eddie there.

BLACKWELL: These things happen. It is what it is. Pretty steady.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely.

BLACKWELL: All right, up next: The White House is urging American companies to get proactive about ransomware threats after Russian hackers launched back-to-back attacks. What the government is asking executives to do.

CAMEROTA: Plus: new reporting just in that Trump ally and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy is the focus of a new Justice Department investigation. We have the details.