Watch Dana Bash’s interview with Caitlyn Jenner on “Anderson Cooper 360” at 8 p.m. ET.
“He is our President. I respect that,” Jenner said of President Joe Biden in the interview when asked whether Biden was “duly elected.” “I realize there’s a lot of frustration over that election. You know what? I’m frustrated over what happened back then.”
She did not go into specifics about why she was frustrated by the election, which has created deep divisions in the Republican Party. Though she acknowledged that Biden is the President, she also aligned with Republicans who have suggested there is work to do to ensure “integrity” in the election system.
When asked about the scores of lawsuits that Trump and his allies filed to challenge the results despite the lack of evidence of any widespread voter fraud, Jenner said she believes “in the system.”
“We are a democratic republic, we need to have integrity in our election system,” Jenner said.
Her comments underscored the fine line that she is walking in California by attempting to create some distance from Trump without alienating the voters who supported him. It is a calculated strategy that reflects the challenge for GOP recall candidates in winning over more progressive voters in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than two to one. During a Fox interview last week, Jenner said Trump did some things that she agreed with.
Jenner’s comments on the 2020 election come at the same time that Republican-controlled legislatures in many states are push bills that would restrict voting rights — using Trump’s lies about fraud as justification for the changes.
Jenner, a longtime Republican who is challenging California Gov. Gavin Newsom in the all-but-certain election to try to recall the Democratic governor later this year, initially supported Trump. But she then publicly rescinded her support for the then-President in 2018 when she argued in a Washington Post op-ed that his administration’s policies were harmful to transgender people.
The former Olympian is one of several prominent Republicans challenging Newsom in the likely election, which has not been officially called or scheduled because of the complex bureaucratic process to get it on the ballot. As California has emerged from the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, only 4 in 10 voters said they would vote to recall him in a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.
Anger about Newsom’s strict policies during the dark days of the pandemic last year helped fuel the Republican-led effort to gather the more than 1.4 million valid signatures that were needed to qualify the recall for the ballot, but Newsom’s approval ratings appear to have stabilized as cases have dropped and the Democratic governor plans to fully reopen the state by June 15.
The California secretary of state reported in late April that proponents had turned in the requisite number of valid signatures to initiate the recall. In the next step of the process, voters have 30 business days in which they are allowed to withdraw their names from recall petitions. Voters would be asked to answer two questions on a recall ballot. The first would be whether they want to recall Newsom. The second would be who they want to replace him with, followed by a long list of names of candidates from all political parties including Jenner’s.
In the CNN interview with Bash, Jenner said she supports “legal immigration” and that “the bad ones have to leave.” But she also said she supports a path to citizenship for 1.75 million undocumented immigrants in the state’s labor force.