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TX Gov. Abbott Will Convene Special Legislative Session as State GOP Will Try to Pass Restrictive New Voting Law; Democratic Leaders in PA Are Vowing to Put Up a Fight After Trump Ally Announced Plan to Launch Investigation of the State's Presidential Election. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 8, 2021 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: He's following the example it seems of the so-called recount in Arizona which, we should note, based on Trump's big lie about election fraud. The attorney general of Pennsylvania responds next.

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SCIUTTO: Next hour Texas Governor Greg Abbott will convene a special legislative session as Republicans will try once again to pass a restrictive new voting law which makes it harder for people to vote.

[10:35:00]

Six weeks ago the state's House Democrats staged a walk out to stop a previous version. But just ahead of today's special session state House Republicans filed a new election overhaul bill, still adds a slew of new restrictions. Some changes from the original. Democrats are threatening to sue.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is Austin this morning. And Diane I spoke to one of the Democratic legislators who staged that walkout six weeks ago. I asked him, do they intend or are they considering doing the same. This time he said all options are on the table. What are you hearing? Are you expecting a walkout? Can they do that again?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They can do that again. I don't know if that's something that we'll see today. And the truth is, Jim, I don't know if Democrats know at this point because they haven't really been kept abreast of what's going on.

There's a lot of information that just sort of came out in the past 24 hours, including the agenda itself. The governor didn't set until roughly 24 hours before the session was set to begin. So they've been working behind the scenes and talking to Democrats. I can tell you, they're coming back to Austin ready to fight. And when the House dropped that bill last night I saw an energy when I was speaking to some of them to keep that fight going.

Now, to talk about that bill, there were a lot of similarities to the one from the regular session that got killed. S.B. 7 by the Democrats walking out thus denying quorum at the very last minute.

This new bill that was dropped by the House, House Bill 3, contains components that you probably remember us talking about, like banning drive-thru and 24-hour voting. Making it a felony for election officials to send unsolicited mail-in ballot applications. It adds further empowering measures for those partisan poll watchers. It adds new I.D. requirements for voting by mail.

It no longer though does some of the things that were most controversial from that regular session bill. Like language that lowered the standard for overturning elections. It also doesn't ban Sunday morning voting. That was very controversial because, of course of (inaudible) to the polls it would add an extra hour to Sunday voting, Jim.

But again, this is just a bill draft. There are 30 days in this session and the Senate has yet to drop its version of election bill.

SCIUTTO: We'll be watching, see what strategies they have up their sleeve. Dianne Gallagher thanks very much.

GALLAGHER: Yes.

SCIUTTO: All right another state where this is happening. Democratic leaders in Pennsylvania are vowing to put up a big fight after an ally of former President Trump, Republican State Senator Doug Mastriano announced his plan to launch a so-called forensic investigation of the state's presidential election.

Keep in mind, there's zero evidence of widespread voter fraud having taken place anywhere in the state that found not only by legally mandated audits, but also in several court cases. Democrats call the potential so-called audit a sham. Quite similar to the one we saw play out in Arizona.

They are also pointing out, as I was noting, that Pennsylvania's already conducted two types of official post-election audits as required by law. Mastriano pushed back at the criticism saying, "There is nothing to fear if there is nothing to hide. Those who think that there was zero election (sic) fraud, no irregularities and that the elections were conducted perfectly will have the chance to be vindicated."

Joining me now is one of the Pennsylvania Democrats who is leading the opposition to that so-called audit, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. Good to have you back on.

I just want you to explain to people the audits that already happened in all 67 counties in Pennsylvania and I believe in 63 out of 67 there have been two audits. Please explain those so folks at home know how confident they can be in Pennsylvania's election results.

JOSH SHAPIRO (D), PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Right, let's speak some truth. We had a free and fair, safe and secure election that Joe Biden won by just over 80,000 votes her in Pennsylvania. After those votes were cast and counted, as is legally required, each

of Pennsylvania's 67 counties went through audits and, in fact, most went through two audits, as you correctly noted. These were legal audits and they showed, again, the same results that were determined by the counties on Election Day.

Those audits were conducted at times by the countries and at other times by the state.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

SHAPIRO: What is being discussed in Pennsylvania now, this demand of this one insurrectionist state senator enabled by his Republican colleagues in the state Senate is as follows? He is demanding the voter data, the private information of 997,000 Pennsylvania voters from three counties. He's demanding that it be turned over to him.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

SHAPIRO: That he could then presumably use with a third party to review. As a result of that they would be taking the machines and the paper ballots and all the technology associated with Election Day.

[10:40:02]

SCIUTTO: Yes.

SHAPIRO: That would leave a massive, multi-million dollar hole in these counties for them to make up for all of the equipment that they turned over to him.

SCIUTTO: Enormous privacy concerns, of course. And again, no evidence of widespread fraud to justify it. So what can you do to stop that from happening? Can you?

SHAPIRO: Absolutely. Look, over 40 times Donald Trump and his enablers, including this state senator, engaged in supported litigation to disenfranchise voters in Pennsylvania to make it harder for their votes to be counted. Every single time they went to court they lost and we won to defend the will of the people here in Pennsylvania.

So I'm supremely confident in our legal abilities to stop this sham audit. We have directed or we have advised those three counties not to comply with this dangerous, costly request. The governor has followed suit in that was well.

I would anticipate that if this state senator actually goes forward and issues a legal subpoena, that that would be litigated and I'm confident that we would win that litigation and protect the will of the people and protect the taxpayers of Pennsylvania who, at the end day, would not only --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

SHAPIRO: -- suffer enormous privacy losses, but millions of dollars in costs.

SCIUTTO: So there's an M.O. here. It's basically president -- former President Trump's M.O.'s, is you make the false accusation about it and then us that to back new voting restrictions, we've seen that in a number of states and we're watching it play out in Texas as we speak. Do you expect the same to happen in Pennsylvania?

SHAPIRO: It's already happening in Pennsylvania. Look, you can draw a straight line between the initial lies from the president -- the former president, pardon me. The litigation, more than 40 lawsuits here in Pennsylvania.

The big lie continuing. The violent insurrection on January 6, that now all these voting restriction bills that have been introduced here in Pennsylvania, in Texas, passed in states like Georgia, this is part of a coordinated effort to make it harder for people to vote.

Our Black and Brown citizens, disabled Pennsylvanians and many others. I simply will not stand for that. Thankfully we have a Democratic governor who has indicated he would use his veto pen and indeed has already done some on some bills, to stop this assault on --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

SHAPIRO: -- our democracy.

SCIUTTO: The sad fact, and we've seen this on a number of fronts in the last few years in this country, on COVID, on vaccines, on the 2020 election, is that this information works. I mean, that there's an enormous portion of this country, principally Republican voters who do no believe that the 2020 election was legitimate.

And I wonder, in the state of Pennsylvania, which will always be at the center of presidential elections as a key swing state, do you see that widespread in the state, where Pennsylvania voters buy the lie?

SHAPIRO: I'm not sure I'd say its widespread, but I certainly see it. But I think it's important to note, Jim, you know, who can blame the public, right?

SCIUTTO: Yes.

SHAPIRO: Think about this for a second. Their elected leaders have been lying to them for more than a year. Their elected leaders have spent taxpayer dollars to tell them that is something that is simply untrue over and over and over again. I blame the leaders. I blame the state senator that participated in the violent insurrection on January 6.

I blame the leaders of those caucuses that enabled people like him. That's the reality of what the public is hearing every day. And now is a moment in time where leaders have a responsibility to the truth. They have a responsibility to speak and act with moral clarity.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

SHAPIRO: And sadly we don't see enough of that in Pennsylvania.

SCIUTTO: We don't nationally, few and far between. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, thanks so much.

SHAPIRO: Thank you Jim.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, President Biden set to make a key announcement on the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan as -- what are those pictures of right there? The Taliban taking control of more territory in the country.

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[10:48:40]

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[10:53:15]

SCIUTTO: Sincere apologies for the loss of audio moments ago. That problem now fixed. These are, as we were saying, live pictures from the White House where this hour President Biden is receiving a closed- door update from his national security team on the progress of the U.S. military's rapid exit from Afghanistan.

Later this afternoon the president is scheduled to speak publicly about the withdrawal which is happening as the Taliban take control very fast of more territory.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond at the White House.

Jeremy, one key thing the president is expected to address is how to keep Afghan interpreters who worked for the U.S. safe. How will he do that?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right Jim. We are expecting, according to multiple officials, that the president will address the fait of some of those thousands of Afghan interpreters and others who have helped U.S. military forces over the last two decades of that war.

Many of them still waiting on these visa applications that they have put in to try and get relocated out of Afghanistan as U.S. troop's withdrawal from that country.

One senior administration official saying that the president will address plans to begin relocating many of those interpreters in August. There are also these plans to relocate some of them to third party countries as they await a decision on their visa applications to move to the United States.

But really, Jim, President Biden is going to be addressing broadly U.S. support of Afghanistan, continued support for Afghanistan even after those last troops leave Afghanistan what in a timeline that is now expected to be by the end of August rather than by September 11 as the president had initially said.

The president right now is getting an update on the situation on the ground. This coming days after U.S. troops -- the last U.S. troops left Bagram Airfield, that iconic American base in Afghanistan that has been the hub of the U.S. presence in that country over this -- these nearly two -- these two decades of war.

The president is going to detail today the ongoing U.S. security and humanitarian assistance that is expected to follow there.

But one thing that's interesting, Jim, is I can tell you from speaking with officials here, obviously the president has weighed this decision for a long time, but he is not having any regrets from what officials are telling us, despite what we are seeing in Afghanistan in terms of the Taliban continuing to take over a lot of territory, especially in the northern parts of the country.

Rather the president believes that after two decades of war if the Afghan army still cannot hold territory, then if anything that is a sign that this is indeed the right decision for the United States to make. And so, you can expect him to continue to explain the rational of his decision and the future of that effort in Afghanistan. Jim?

SCIUTTO: We'll be watching for those comments. Jeremy Diamond at the White House. Thanks very much.

Well shifting gears now in a big way.

Since the beginning of television sitcoms have kept generations of Americans smiling and laughing and also help them navigate an ever- changing cultural landscape. Now with the new CNN original series, "The History of the Sitcom," it brings us a behind the scenes look at your favorite sitcoms from across the decades. Here's a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Three's Company" was kind of a terrible show and boy did you want to be around them. It's a little light, right? But we find out that we can care about these people.

SUZANNE SOMERS, ACTRESS: Nobody was trying to hurt anybody. We were just trying to make you laugh and feel good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a gay man I look at a character like Jack on "Three's Company" and part of me says, you know, you're allowing this straight man to say he's one thing and he's not. But at the same time hearing those words on television was important at the time, to say he's willing to become a part of a community that is an other.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Well joining us now is the actor Christopher Knight. He, of course, played Peter Brady on a sitcom you might have heard of, "The Brady Bunch." I grew up personally on "Brady Bunch" reruns. So, it's a -- it's a real please, Christopher, to meet you today.

Big picture just for a moment. I think people forget "The Brady Bunch" was somewhat ahead of its time, right? Because I mean it portrayed a blended family, right? You know, the product of divorce in effect coming together kind of happily which is, you know, far more normal and accepted now than it was then. And I just wonder when you look back at that did that have some importance to that message?

CHRISTOPHER KNIGHT, ACTOR: First of all, good morning Jim and thank you for having me. You know, interestingly I never really thought of it as ahead of its time. But perhaps actually out-of-synch with its time in that it was more of a throwback family sitcom portraying families of the late '50s and early '60s.

And I know we're only talking about the late -- the late '60s when we were doing this show, nonetheless, there's been a lot of innocence lost in the '60s. And -- but the fact is that we were a blended family.

We were -- at the same time as Yours, Mine and Hours, the two were creatively invented separately. One didn't beget the other. So, there was some interest turning to the idea that there were divorced individuals with children of their own then living under one household.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

KNIGHT: So, in that regard I think we were -- we were in the time.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

KNIGHT: But people think of the Brady's as a -- as a wonderfully iconic American family in a simpler time. I was two years from being drafted into, you know, into Vietnam -- into the Vietnam War which was contemporaneous with the show.

SCIUTTO: Yes, for sure. And by the way we were playing a clip from an episode which, because I watched the show so much I know exactly what episode that was and your voice was changing but they used that, you know, and when you guys were singing and recording a song. Anyway, it's so familiar.

I mean listen, of course it did portray a kind of fictional, super happy, perfect little life in southern California. I mean, do you believe it stand the test of time, I mean to some degree? Or is it a relic from just another period, not just of the country, but in the way entertainment portrayed the country?

KNIGHT: I think it does stand the test of time. It's aspirational in that it becomes harder and harder to raise a family in such a perfect manner but we can all try. And I think that that's what this show provides.

In fact, the home is our first community and it is the first place that we get to identify who we are and how we stack up or where we fit in. And it's also a place that is a place of protection. SCIUTTO: Yes.

KNIGHT: And "The Brady's" was a wonderful example of that. I think that children are the same, babies are the same as they every were.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

KNIGHT: Perhaps though the (inaudible) has been compressed the acceptability of its -- of its content to the age of the audience. It might have been originally invented for --

SCIUTTO: Yes.

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