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Ex-Mueller Deputy Says, Highest Levels of Justice Department Pressured Acting U.S. Attorney to Ease Up on Roger Stone Sentence; Tennis Star on Controversial Tennis Event He Organized, We Were Wrong and It Was Too Soon; MLB Players Have Until 5 P.M. to Agree to Terms Of 60 Game Season; Arizona Chef Goes Back to Takeout Over Health Concerns; Twitter Puts Warning on Trump Tweet. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 23, 2020 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: More breaking news this afternoon. CNN has just learned that a former prosecutor in the Roger Stone case will testify to Congress tomorrow that he quote/unquote -- that quote/unquote, excuse me, the highest levels of the Justice Department politicized the sentencing of the President's longtime friend and adviser. So, let's go to Manu Raju with the scoop here. And so, what exactly is Aaron Zelensky planning on saying tomorrow?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he is going to allege that Roger Stone, one of the President's longest allies, political confidants got favorable treatment by the Justice Department because of Stone's relationship with the President.

He's going to allege political interference to get Roger Stone a lighter sentence after Stone was convicted of lying to Congress, of witness tampering and after the Justice Department came in and asked for a lighter sentence despite the recommendations by the prosecutors on the case. Now I'll read to you what some of Aaron Zelensky plans to allege tomorrow in sworn testimony before the House Judiciary Committee.

He says when I saw the Justice Department exerting significant pressure on line prosecutors on the case to obscure the correct sentencing guidelines calculation, to which Roger Stone was subject and to water down and in some cases outright distort the events that transpired in his trial in the criminal conduct that gave rise to his conviction.

He says that the U.S. Attorneys sentencing instructions were based on political considerations, and I was also told that the acting U.S. attorney was giving Stone such unprecedently favorable treatment because he was afraid of the President.

Now recall that after the Justice Department intervened and tried to get Roger Stone a lighter sentence here, ultimately the judge gave Stone 40 months in jail. And that's much less than what the prosecutors had asked for but more than what Barr asked for. But, Brooke, tomorrow is going to be this hearing in which multiple

witnesses will allege interference by the Justice Department, another witness is going to allege that Bill Barr came in and went after cannabis suppliers because of Barr's own personal dislike for that industry and also open up an investigation into California auto emission standards because the President tweeted about it. So, this is part of the ongoing investigation into what the Democrats see as political interference by the Justice Department and Justice Department officials backing them up.

BALDWIN: You've been reporting for months, you know, on big picture, the questions about politization of the DOJ. Tomorrow is a big day to hear these allegations. Manu Raju, thank you so much for the preview.

Also, this, several states reporting a record number of new coronavirus cases including Arizona. Where one restaurant owner is closing his dining room again saying he can't be responsible for risking anyone's life. We'll that chef join me live next.

And tennis star Novak Djokovic and his wife testing positive for COVID after hosting a tennis tournament despite multiple warnings. Now there is a race to see who else he might have infected?



BALDWIN: Here's some news that have rocked the sports world, the tennis world, the world's top ranked tennis player has tested positive for coronavirus. Novak Djokovic confirmed that both he and his wife are infected and this comes as the tennis tournament he organized last weekend in Europe has really come under fire for bringing other top competitors to this event with packed stands and virtually no social distancing happening between players, some of whom went out apparently to a club at night.

At least three of them in addition to Djokovic have also tested positive and just a short time ago he issued a statement apologizing that his event caused harm, saying in part, quote, we were wrong and it was too soon.

CNN's sports and news anchor, Christina MacFarlane, joins me now. And Christina, this doesn't look so good for him.

CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN SPORTS AND NEWS ANCHOR: It really doesn't, Brooke. I mean, this is quite frankly an extraordinary event that has spiraled into a P.R. nightmare for the world number one Novak Djokovic but as you say in many ways it's a disaster of his own making.

This was his own charitable tournament that he had staged that he was playing in. The idea, to set it up, was to enable tennis players to get back into tennis after lockdown. But in recent weeks, the last two weeks we've seen the event happening in the Balkans, thousands of fans packed into stadiums without masks.

He has come under fire for saying he's not been paying attention to social distancing rules. Aside from that, we've also seen the players themselves on court, you can probably see from some of this footage from the semifinal on Sunday, that the players have been high-fiving each other on court, hugging.


They've been competing in soccer and basketball games in between matches and as you say caught on camera also dancing in a nightclub.

Now Djokovic has said throughout that this is not his fault. He's been following government guidelines. But after he and three other players have now tested positive, he has apologized just briefly.

The statement, you mentioned earlier, he says, I am deeply sorry our tournament has caused harm. Everything the organizers and I did in the past month. We did with a pure heart and sincere intentions. We believe the tournament met all health protocols and the health of our region seemed in good condition to finally unite for philanthropic reasons.

But, Brooke, the big question now, how will this affect the rest of tennis with the U.S. Open set to come back in less than two months and some of the world's top players yet to decide if their willing to commit to that event.

BALDWIN: I mean I know there will be no fans in the stands at the U.S. Open but still they'll all be there, all of the players, you know, playing so we wait and see. Obviously, we wish him well. But, man, Christina, thank you very much.

And from tennis to America's favorite pass time. Baseball may finally be come back, that is if major league baseball players sign off on this latest offer for a 60-game season laid out by the owners. The players have until 5:00 tonight to agree on two conditions.

One, they must report to training camp on July 1st, and two, they agree to these new health and safety protocols. And all of this comes after months of messy negotiations between the two sides. But if a deal is reached baseball could be back by the end of July.

So, joining me now sportswriter for the "The Athletic," David O'Brien. And David, it's so nice to have you on. And I was reading about all this, this morning, I was reading this quote from -- I know you've seen this -- the Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer, right. Who was pretty outspoken on Twitter and so he said this, it's absolute death for this industry to keep acting as it has been both sides were driving the bus straight off a cliff.

My question is, you know, do you expect the players to agree to terms and are we going to have a baseball season?

DAVID O'BRIEN, SPORTSWRITER, "THE ATHLETIC": Yes, I mean at this point, after saying, you know, the infamous quote a week ago was, tell us when and where. Well, they finally got around to saying when and where, and now the Commissioner is telling them, we're ready to implement unilaterally a season and it's going to be 60 games we assume.

So, at this point for them to back out they would lose more face than they already have. I mean they look pretty bad. For a while there they had the upper hand and the owners were the ones looking bad in the public in the battle -- in the P.R. battle if you will.

But the players look just about as bad as the owners do now. Nobody looks good. It's just been a horrible couple of months for baseball with these negotiations.

BALDWIN: So, they may get to it. Again deadline 5:00 today. What about just what these, you know, players and staff will have to deal with, because I was reading that some 40 players and staff reportedly tested positive last week. What will the union have to agree to just in terms of, you know, of health and safety protocols just in order to play?

O'BRIEN: Well, they're extensive, the protocols that the MLB laid out a month or so ago. I don't know if all of them are realistic, like six feet between every locker and guys sitting in the bleachers instead of the dugouts in order to keep social distancing.

And, you know, but they're going to have to follow a lot of them or there's going to be no doubt an outbreak on a team or two. And I'm not concerned so much with the players, because I think even if one or two of them gets it or ten of them get it, I don't think, you know, they're going to -- they'll probably be able to handle it and just, you know, like they would a flu. But there are a lot of coaches and managers in their 60s, training staff, clubbies.

These guys some with underlying conditions. And, you know, I can't even imagine how horrible this would be if, say, a coach or someone with diabetes, or a heart condition contracted this, God forbid, we're in the hospital and something horrible happened. How bad would baseball look, you know, on top of, you know, what's already happened?

So hopefully everybody will follow the safety protocols and then the guys that need to, go to even more lengths, you know, for themselves. The guys with the underlying conditions. There might even be some opt outs. People that decide it's not worth the risk.

BALDWIN: I feel like that's the theme of like every other segment we're doing. It's just like follow the rules. Do the things and then we'll be OK. And then we'll be able to have some Cracker Jacks and watch some ball. David O'Brien, thank you so much for coming on. A pleasure to have you.

O'BRIEN: Thanks for having me, Brooke.

BALDWIN: You got it.

Breaking news. The CDC Director tells a House hearing that the coronavirus has, quote, brought this nation to its knees. And all of this is coming as several states are reporting new record numbers including Arizona which is also reporting a record number of deaths.

So, let's talk about this with a local business owner who is closing his doors again amid the rising threat.



BALDWIN: Breaking news from CDC Director, Dr. Robert Redfield, who just testified before Congress that COVID-19 has -- and I'm quoting him -- brought this nation to its knees, adding, quote, we have all done the best that we can to tackle this virus.

So, he's talking up on Capitol Hill as the President is in Arizona, a state that is breaking records no state wants to break. It just reported its highest numbers of both new coronavirus cases and deaths in a single day. That is more than 3,500 new infections and 42 deaths just in the past 24 hours. Arizona also has hit its highest seven-day average of new cases.


And what could be most alarming here, more than 80 percent of the state's ICU beds are full. And while the governor insists Arizona, got it, can handle the outbreak, and the state continues to reopen. The harsh reality of these numbers has some business owners taking matters into their own hands, closing up shop after already re-opening to try to keep the public and their employees safe.

Case in point, Kelly Fletcher, the chef and owner of Cheeseburger in Glendale, Arizona, Kelly, thank you so much for being on with me.

KELLY FLETCHER, CHEF AND OWNER OF CHEESEBURGER IN GLENDALE, ARIZONA: Thank you so much, Brooke. It's great to be here.

BALDWIN: So, I know that you could actually be even serving burgers like out of your own dining room, that, you know, Arizona regulations allow for that. I know that you did open for two weeks before you decided to just now close back up and do takeout only. Why have you decided to close again?

FLETCHER: You know, it's just not worth the risk. And, also, there's no leadership and the struggle just for guidelines was incredible. You know, I don't think that there's any way that I need to make more money or even any money at the risk of people's health. It's just not worth it.

BALDWIN: I was going to ask you about, you know, pennies, nickels and dimes here. Because it's not like you had to close. You did that because you wanted to. Are you not worried I mean at all about making money?

FLETCHER: You know what, right now I'm not. Don't get me wrong. I know a lot of other chefs and I know that there's a lot of struggle going on with local businesses and independent places. You know, we're doing whatever we can.

I'll always be nervous, whether or not you're going to survive. But we seem to be doing OK. And I'm personally not going to take any risks because I have pre-existing health conditions. In 2017 I was in a coma because of a heart condition. So, it's really not worth doing it over cheeseburgers. You know, it's just not going to change my life.

BALDWIN: Thank you for the quote of the day. It's just not worth it over cheeseburgers. I appreciate that. No and you're totally right. I guess my final question is, I'm so curious as we're getting snapshots of the country and some folks in certain parts of the country seem to be taking this, you know, pandemic a tad more seriously than others.

What's your sense just among other chef friends, restaurant, you know, businesses in where you are in Arizona, just given the uptick, the seriousness in cases there? How seriously are your colleagues and your customers taking this?

FLETCHER: You know what's funny is that there was a hot moment where when we were open, you could see it starting to slide a little bit where people were getting very, very comfortable and that's when we started getting a little bit more nervous going, OK, nobody's taking this seriously.

But all of my chef friends, everybody here in the valley is absolutely 100 percent serious about this. It's very, very dangerous. And every day that you open your door or that you go somewhere, you have to take this seriously. And I hope that people, you know, look at the whole mask thing and go, yes, I need to do this, it's so, so important.

BALDWIN: I appreciate you. I'm sure your customers appreciate you taking this seriously. Kelly Fletcher, thank you very much. Cheeseburger there in Arizona.

FLETCHER: Thank you, Brooke. I appreciate it.

BALDWIN: Thank you.

Breaking news. Twitter has put a new warning on a tweet from President Trump, flagging it for a, quote, threat of harm. Those new details next.



BALDWIN: We are getting some breaking news involving President Trump and Twitter. A recent tweet from the President has now been slapped with a warning label. So, Donie O'Sullivan, let me bring you in. And so, the concern is what the President tweeted about protesters in Washington, right?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Brooke. Obviously, we saw the protests outside the White House last night. And the President has been critical of the "Autonomous Zone" that is in place in Seattle. With that in mind the President this morning posted on Twitter and Facebook this.

He said, there will never be an "Autonomous Zone" in Washington D.C. and as long as I'm your President, if they try, they will be met with serious force.

Now Twitter this afternoon is saying that that tweet breaks its rules. They've put a label on it that reads, the tweet violated our rules about abusive behavior. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public interest for the tweet to remain accessible.

Worth noting here as well, they've removed the ability for people to like the tweet and to directly re-tweet it. Twitter has a specific set of rules in place for world leaders where world leaders like Trump are allowed to break its rules sometimes if you or I were to have posted that message, it would've likely gotten removed maybe even our account deleted.

But this is the fourth time in just a few weeks that Twitter has taken action against President Trump's account. They've called him out for misinformation about mail-in ballots in California. They removed and labeled a video last week, the President posted of two toddlers. And they also called him out for glorification of violence last month as well.

I mentioned this post is on Facebook, Facebook and no commentary. It is probably unlikely that the company will take any move against the post, given that they did not take action against Trump's similar posts last month -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: No, I know just especially given what you said, the fourth in the last couple of weeks. So, you know, you've been reporting on these tensions, right, that are arising that are really simmering between Silicon Valley and the President. And this is just the latest example. We know you will be all over it. Donie O'Sullivan, thank you so much. Good to see you.

And that's it for me. I'm Brooke Baldwin here in New York. Thanks for being here. Let's go to Washington. THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts right now.