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Dominion Voting Systems Files $1.3 Billion Lawsuit Against Giuliani; Democrats Weigh Next Steps on COVID Relief Bill after Some GOP Senators Say the Price Tag is Too High; After First Blaming Trump, House GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Now Says Everybody Bears Some Responsibility for Insurrection. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 25, 2021 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:01]

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: And now, they're suing Rudy Giuliani. They're terming it this big lie that Giuliani has been propagating.

So this is what they said in their lawsuit this morning. They said, just as Giuliani and his allies intended, the big lie went viral on social media as people tweeted, re-tweeted and raged that Dominion had stolen their votes, while some lies, little lies, flare up on social media and die with the next news cycle, the big lie was different. The harm to Dominion's business and reputation is unprecedented and irreparable because of how fervently millions of people believe it.

And, Kate, one thing that Dominion is pointing out here is that Rudy Giuliani made these false claims on his podcast, on T.V. shows, but never actually in court filings because, of course, the repercussions for that would be severe. He could be sanctioned, even disbarred. So, again, they are now suing him for $1.3 billion, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Jessica.

We're going to get more on this. Harry Litman is joining me now, former deputy assistant attorney and a former U.S. attorney. It is good to see you.

So let's start with the reporting --

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: You too, Kate.

BOLDUAN: -- first on Trump's pressure on the DOJ. It is either shocking or not shocking at all when you consider it is coming from Donald Trump. But a former deputy assistant attorney general, what is the most jarring to you?

LITMAN: It is beyond shocking. Jeff Clark had to have taken completely off of his senses for anyone who is not the attorney general to be communicating furtively with the president would be an instant firing offense. He might as well as have shown up at the 8:00 A.M. meetings without his pants on. This is such blatant dereliction. It is hard to know what he could possibly have been thinking. And, of course, now that has been revealed, I think it is sort of ruinous for him, one more road kill for somebody would tries to do Donald Trump's bidding.

BOLDUAN: And, Harry, with all of the details that are coming out, what Trump was considering doing, how many special counsels we wanted, how he wanted to take to it to the Supreme Court, even though it didn't happen, do you think this new reporting plays into the Senate impeachment trial?

LITMAN: Yes, I think so. First of all, they carefully left room for details like this to be considered. And what they are going to want to be focusing on in the impeachment trial is his state of mind. So if you take an episode like this, he is ready to sack the entire Justice Department and install someone whose only credential is that he will believe and try to advance the big lie improperly to Georgia, to the Supreme Court, that shows Trump, I think, quite desperate and determined to do anything at all to try to advance the bogus claim.

I think that does play in to the impeachment trial because it tends to show exactly what he was doing. It is not a sort of casual enterprise at all. He's pulling every string possible to reverse the election.

BOLDUAN: That is interesting. Tell me what you think about this Dominion voting -- this Dominion lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani now, $1.3 billion. What is going to happen with this case?

LITMAN: Right. You know, Kate, I think it is pretty serious and it is the right thing. There has been so many lies banded about like public officials like Trump who have certain degrees of protection. But this is what defamation is for. Giuliani was out there and the big problem for him, it wasn't just opinions, so Dominion is shoddy, he said they are created in Venezuela to help Hugo Chavez, they stole the election, claims of fact and that is what defamation is for. And $1.3 billion, huge price tag, but imagine the damage that Dominion has absorbed.

So this is a deadly serious lawsuit, I think, for him and I don't see how he escapes without a serious verdict. It is on the facts and it really, really harmed them.

BOLDUAN: Wow. Good to see you, Harry, thank you very much.

LITMAN: You too, Kate. Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, Republicans are skeptical about Biden's COVID relief plan. How much longer will Democrats push for a bipartisan support around this before going it alone?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:35:00]

BOLDUAN: The new Democratic majority has a huge question in front of them. How long are they willing to negotiate with Republicans over COVID relief before going it alone? Some Republicans, most likely to be open to compromise, are already expressing skepticism over the price tag and details of the package. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Well, I think at this early stage, just having passed over $900 billion in relief, that before we were to pass a new program, we need to understand where the money is going.

If there are areas where in our $900 billion package we didn't recognize a particular problem, why we should focus on that and provide the additional resources that are necessary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Republican Senator Susan Collins, she put out this statement following the weekend call with the White House. This in part, it seems premature to be considering a package of this size and scope.

[11:40:02]

That concern which I had prior to the briefing remains a concern of mine.

BOLDUAN: Joining me right now is the chairman of House Budget Committee, Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth. Thanks for coming in.

Many people know -- everybody knows, you and your committee are central to the path forward here. If Democrats pull the plug on bipartisan talks, it's your committee must kick start the alternative path known as reconciliation. How long are you willing to hold out for bipartisan talks?

REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D-KY): Well, Kate, good to be with you. We don't have to wait at all. As a matter of fact, we could look at this as kind of a two parallel track. We are prepared to go to the floor as early as next week with our reconciliation resolution. And the committees that are involved are all working this week. We'll be ready to go. Those negotiations that are happening now can continue. We could pass our budget reconciliation instructions and get them over to the Senate.

And then if they reach an agreement, which could be great, we would all prefer a bipartisan agreement, then we can just withdraw those reconciliation instructions and use that process for something else down the road. But we're going to move ahead.

BOLDUAN: But do you think that that helps or hurts the kind of spirit of bipartisan negotiation if you're saying, this is sitting in the background, boys?

YARMUTH: No, we're not really worried about which path we take. What we're worried about is suffering of the American people right now and the urgent need to get help getting the vaccine distributed and put into hundreds of millions of American arms. We can't get this money out overnight. And some of the provisions, for instance, the extending the unemployment insurance supplement, that expires in mid-March.

So we can't wait around for negotiations very long because we have to get help out urgently. Again, if we're going to get the vaccine distributed efficiently and get the American people vaccinated and get help to the millions of American people that are still suffering a lot, what we're seeing now, 900,000 additional people filing for unemployment the last couple of weeks. They need that help.

BOLDUAN: Do you need to move ahead one way or the other before the Senate impeachment trial begins?

YARMUTH: Well, obviously the House is not affected by the impeachment trial so we're going to do the work that we have to do. And I think it would be great if the Senate could act on this before the impeachment trial begins. Realistically, that gives them about a week-and-a-half now to get that done, which probably wouldn't happen.

But, again, I hope the negotiations are fruitful and successful. I think that you can make a case for virtually everything in President Biden's proposal, the $1.9 trillion that it actually does relate to COVID virus and the economic fallout from that.

So, I think we have a very strong case. I think the American people are behind us and, again, there is a sense of urgency here. We can't wait two months. We passed a bill, a major bill last May, Republicans said let's wait, we passed one on October, they said let's wait and then finally we got the $900 billion plan in late December. And we said at the time and virtually every economist across the philosophical spectrum says the same thing, that wasn't enough, we need to do more, we need to do more rather than less. And that is what we're going to do.

BOLDUAN: There is a question though, maybe a debate, on what could be done though, allowed, really, if you go the reconciliation process, and this gets into the weeds that makes everyone's eyes glaze over. But if you move through that process, do you think a $15 minimum wage meets the criteria of reconciliation?

YARMUTH: To be very candid with you, I think that is a stretch. I think we'll have a problem clearing what is called the bird rule in the Senate, which means that you can't make policy and you have to have more than incidental impact on the budget in order to include it in the reconciliation instructions.

Eventually, that decision is made by the parliamentarian, and so we'll see, but we're going to put that in there, the instruction, and see what the parliamentarian says.

BOLDUAN: Critical days ahead. Thanks for coming on.

YARMUTH: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: I appreciate it. Coming up for us, Kevin McCarthy, he pulls another U-turn. The top Republican in the House has now argued almost every side of the question, does Donald Trump bear responsibility for the insurrection. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:45:00]

BOLDUAN: The top Republican in the House is Congressman Kevin McCarthy. He is not new to politics and he is not new to Congress. But does he have any idea what he stands for? McCarthy is tying himself up in knots, really, to say something while saying nothing about the violent insurrection on the Capitol, not a topic that is hard to take the correct stance on.

McCarthy is now in the span of a couple of weeks said Donald Trump bears responsibility and then denied that he said that and then denied that he denied it and now says it is everyone's fault.

[11:50:03]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding. These facts require immediate action by President Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: That was the week after the insurrection. Only days after that, McCarthy says this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCARTHY: I don't believe he provoked it if you listened to what he said at the rally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And then this weekend, he tried for the double axel back- flip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCARTHY: I thought the president had a responsibility when it came to the response. If you listen to what the president said at the rally, he said, demonstrate peacefully. And then I got a question later about whether he did incite them. I also think everybody across this country has some responsibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: This isn't hard to get right. If you have the moral conviction to get it right, and if you're not trying to test the political winds with every statement you make, here are a couple examples.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: What happened here today was an insurrection incited by the president of the United States.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY) (voice over): There is no question that the president formed the mob, the president incited the mob, the president addressed the mob.

REP. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Joining me right now, CNN Political Director David Chalian.

I think it's important to put it all together there, David, just in stark relief. Why is this so hard for Kevin McCarthy?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I mean, he's standing firmly and squarely in the crossroads of what his donors are sort of asking him to say, what Republican Party-based voters are looking for him to say, what members of his conference are looking for him to say, and that's why you see him all over the place, because we know that he is facing pressure from the donor community on the Republican side to apply real accountability to President Trump in this scenario, and yet we see across all the polling and where a majority of his conference is, that the Republican Party is not at all interested in assigning blame to Donald Trump in terms of the majority of the base voters or a majority of his conference on this episode.

So, I mean, remember, Kevin McCarthy was one of the people who joined with the vast majority of Republicans to still vote to challenge the electoral vote count after the Capitol had been attacked in that insurrection a few weeks ago.

BOLDUAN: This does speak to the choice and struggle that the Republican Party at large faces right now. Where is the party headed? I mean, what kind and what level of handwringing do you hear is happening amongst Republicans in this very moment?

CHALIAN: I mean, you're seeing, Kate, right, some of the splintering, but we shouldn't suggest that it's splintering in half or in equal parts, right? I mean, I think it is important to note here, you see, as you just played Mitt Romney's comments or Mitch McConnell's comments or Liz Cheney's comments, but they are in a minority, a pretty small minority. We saw ten Republicans vote to impeach President Trump on the House floor. That's then more than joined in the impeachment effort a year ago, but nowhere near, obviously, the overwhelming majority of Republicans.

So, the party is still Donald Trump's party in many ways. What you're starting to see is that with Donald Trump displaced from power at the moment and no longer sitting in the Oval Office, there are some members of the party with big megaphones, admittedly, who are trying to point the party in a different direction on a path forward beyond Donald Trump. But, again, that's just not where the vast majority of the party is at the moment.

BOLDUAN: This morning, kind of a test case of it, if you will, maybe, Trump's former press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, announcing she is going to be running for governor in Arkansas, who also then -- on the flip side, you have a well-liked more moderate senator, Rob Portman of Ohio, announcing that he is not going to be running for re- election in 2022. Taken together, what does it say?

CHALIAN: Yes. I think a big political story line of 2021 and into 2022 and into the midterms next year is going to be this battle inside the Republican Party. And it's won, by the way, that's not new right now. We saw this play out from the Bush years through the Obama years, the advent of the tea party, the rise of Sarah Palin. That all transformed into Donald Trump harnessing that populism in a way that could be successful electorally, gets him to the Oval Office.

But now that he, the unique individual leader, is not currently in an elected office, the party is once again trying to figure out how does it move forward from here if, indeed, they lost the presidency, the senate and the house all in the Trump years?

[11:55:01]

Are there lessons to be learned here that that's not just the only path for the party to pursue? So, looking at how Sarah Huckabee Sanders' primary plays out in Arkansas or the inevitable Republican primary that will take place out in Ohio due to Portman's retirement, how that plays out is going to be very instructive of which way the party is headed.

BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely. It's good to see you, David. Thank you.

CHALIAN: You too, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up still, President Biden's COVID relief plan could be heading for a major roadblock with some skeptical Republicans standing in the way right now. What this first major test with Congress could mean for the rest of the Biden agenda.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:00:00]