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Ex-Stone Prosecutor: Roger Stone Got Favorable Treatment Because Of Relationship With Trump; Florid Breaks Daily Record, Adding 5,500-Plus New Coronavirus Cases; Coronavirus Infections Rising In 26 U.S. States; Appeals Court Orders Judge To Dismiss Flynn Case; Biden Builds Strong Lead In Key Voting Groups; Procedural Vote On GOP's Police Reform Bill. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 24, 2020 - 12:00   ET

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


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JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing this, a busy news day with us. President Trump celebrating after an appeals case orders a case against his Former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn dismissed.

This hour, a big vote for the police reform package in the Senate, Democrats though say the Republican bill is not salvageable, that's their word, and threaten to block the measure. If they do, that would derail of already difficult process here. Dramatically decrease the odds those protest in the street will get what they want, actually here in Washington on police misconduct.

And we will hear headline grabbing the acquisition in just a moment for Justice Department prosecutor who quite the Roger Stone case will tell Congress, speak out loud, that's been whispered in Washington for quite some time. That Roger Stone was treated differently because of his friendship with the President.

There is also a new worry that the number on the top of your screen could soon explode -- 121,000 American has already perished from the coronavirus the President says the virus is fading away. The numbers tell us something very different, Florida just today reporting 5,500 new cases from yesterday.

That is another one day high for Florida. Check out the map right there, 26 states - 26 - recording more cases - more new cases this week than they did last week. And this is very important the average of new cases today right now just below 30,000.

That is right about near the pandemic worst level that we hit here in the United States back in April. The President says it just because we're testing more, calling testing a double edged sword. And dismissing, despite what all the experts say, the value of testing to guiding the pandemic response.

We begin with the surge in coronavirus cases, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut just last hour announcing new travel restrictions on people coming from states where cases are spiking. Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen here takes us inside. Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH COHEN, SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, this is how bad this has gotten. That some states saying, hey, forget about coming from other countries. You know that's bad enough, in some cases, but people even with the United States, we're going to quarantine them when they cross into our state border. Let's take a look at the list of states who, where people are going to face a quarantine if they come in to New York, New Jersey, Connecticut. Those states are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah and Texas.

Now, John, we know the expression, the devils in the details. Perhaps that never been more true than with this situation. How are they going to know when people come in to New York or Connecticut or New Jersey from one of these states? Are they stopping people on highways?

In case they're driving in? When they fly in, are they going to ask people what states have you been in, in the past 14 days? Are they going to trust their answers? This is not a situation where you have a passport that you can look at. How will they know who's coming to them from those states?

And then once they do quarantine them, who is checking to make sure that they hold to that quarantine? People break quarantine all the time. You have to be really, really consistent and persistent about this. There are some countries that have quarantined people effectively, but those countries have been vigilant about making sure that people hold to the quarantine. How will New York, New Jersey and Connecticut do the same? John?

KING: That's important. We have to watch the details and how they put this into play, the fact that they're doing it, to your point, because there's quite a bit of concern especially in those states. The government has highlights today Ms. Cohen thank you so much.

Back now there's a big development in court today. The DC Appeals Court Judge says, Judge Emmet Sullivan must dismiss the case against Michael Flynn that no further scrutiny of the sudden reversal by the Justice Department is warranted. And somewhat related, important testimony this hour on Capitol Hill from a pair of Justice Department attorneys about what they call political influence at the highest levels of the DOJ.

With me to share their insights are CNN Crime and Justice Correspondent Evan Perez and the Former FBI Deputy General Counsel Greg Brower. And then first to this appeals court decision this is unusual every bit of this is unusual including the Justice Department comes in and says never mind we're going to drop the case against Michael Flynn who twice plays guilty. The judge says wait a minute I want to look into this and he himself hires a lawyers to help him now a higher court saying judge let it go. Why?

EVAN PEREZ, SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The judges John have decided in the 2:21 ruling that it's that the discretion of the Justice Department whether it wants to dismiss this charges, just as it is in discretion of the Justice Department, the prosecutors, to bring their case in the first place.

As you know, the Justice Department did a review of this and attorney general Bill Barr ordered them to drop the charges saying that there were new documents and new internal discussions that were discovered that indicated essentially this case should not have been brought. Of course these were now really new, this was information that the Trump - I am sorry - the Flynn defense had you know well before any of this happened.

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So what has been unusual is the fact that the Bill Barr ordered a review of this case for a defendant has had already pled guilty twice, as you pointed out. And then of course the judge said wait a minute let me just take a look and he appointed a judge to take a look at whether or not Flynn should be charged with contempt of court for perjury.

So the appeals court simply is saying, look, you got to drop this simply because this is not the role of the judge. This is the role of the Justice Department that didn't really take a look at the arguments that Flynn was making that the FBI was against him. That the fix was in. That he was tricked into lying to the FBI. All of those things didn't really matter to this appeals court.

KING: And, Greg, I would say it's somewhat related because a similar issue at play. Judge Sullivan clearly wants to know why, that the top level of the Justice Department decided so late to pull out the rug out on the Michael Flynn case.

And secondly, the Congress is going to hear the House Judiciary Committee in just a few minutes from Aaron Zielinski, he was one of Bob Mueller's prosecutors, he's a Career Justice Department prosecutor and he says that when he was handling the Roger Stone case, another Mueller case like the Flynn case was, that word came down to him back off a little bit. Push for a lighter sentence. That this is - his impression was, this is a longtime friend of the President. I need to be careful.

GREG BROWER, FORMER DEPUTY FBI GENERAL COUNSEL: Right. That's right, John. And so what we saw in the Flynn case is the situation where the facts really didn't support the department's decision in any way, and the most important of those facts, I would submit, were the two guilty - the two admissions in open court by Mr. Flynn himself of his guilt, but at the end of the day, the court of appeals decided that whether and how to prosecute a case or not to prosecute a case is exclusively within the power of DOJ to decide.

And so that fundamental issue will be on the table today with respect to the hearing in the house judiciary committee this morning, this afternoon. Where we have a record of the department having made certain decisions with respect to certain cases, and we have now two insiders, attorneys, who worked on those cases, in those investigations, coming forward to say that the decisions the department made were based on politics, and so this is an unprecedented sort of thing for DOJ attorneys to be doing. I'm sure there will be many interesting questions by the committee members. And we'll have to see how it plays out in the hearing today.

KING: Right. We do need to see how it plays out Evan but Greg's point about the unprecedented, another about those House Democrats are trying to get the attorney general in the chair. They have been unsuccessful so far but they want Bill Barr to answer the questions straight up. Are you the President's lawyer or the country's lawyer?

PEREZ: Right. Look and I think what Greg just laid out is what's so unusual. And until now I would say that the department, you could hear sitting of the Justice Department, you know, you get a sense that people were perhaps a little bothered by the attorney general's rhetoric sometimes, but they by and large gave him benefit of the doubt. I think that is pretty much gone, John.

I think just the way he handled the ouster of the Manhattan U.S. attorney over the weekend. And, of course, the intervention in these cases that it seems the attorney general only gets involved in cases that have to do with people that the President likes, the President's friends. Things that matter to the President, that's the impression you get.

And I think that is what bothers people in this building. And the fact that you have two career you know, prosecutors now appearing before a House Hearing is something that I can't remember seeing in a long, long time. And it gives you the sense that the department here is slipping away from the attorney general.

And I think it's something that should bother him a lot, because, you know, you can't really run this place if you don't have the support of the 110,000 employees. It's a very difficult job to do when people essentially don't trust you. And I think that's what the attorney general is facing and I think that the Democrats realize that that is an issue and I think they want to hear from him.

We don't know whether he'll show up for this hearing, I think that the Democrats are asking him to do, but you can bet they have a lot of questions that they want him to answer on that.

KING: And so, Greg, you rightly called the climate in this testimony today unprecedented. Help explain it to people out there in the country watching who if they're a Trump supporter, for example, the President his allies this is House Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, liberals, trying to stirring up to go back to Bob Mueller and Bob Mueller prosecutors to stir up all stuff.

Explain to people out there in the country who might just feel this is another Washington - you know I was going to use tougher words another Washington episode. I call it that. Is to why this matters and why it is so unusual and so important?

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BROWER: Well, it's unusual to have department lawyers appearing at a hearing like this, and it's important, because it gets to the core of what DOJ is supposed to be all about, which is the rule of law and independence from politics in terms of how it decides to do investigations and to bring prosecutions.

And so there is, as you say, a feeling out there of, a belief out there, amongst the - within Congress certainly and around the country that DOJ has become politicized, whether or not that's true really depends in my view, upon the attorney general's ability to come forward and explain to Congress and explain to the American people why that is not the case.

And so to the extent he does not try to do that or is not able to do that effectively, the feeling, the belief will remain that cases are being prosecuted based upon political motivations, and that is a terrible situation for DOJ to find itself in.

What the founders contemplated, I think, John, is that, that even though DOJ has the source of power to make these decisions, to the extent that appears that they're been made politically - for political reasons it's up to Congress initially to provide a check on that to do oversight. And we see that happening today and then ultimately up to the American people to decide whether or not that's true and to vote accordingly.

KING: The Art of The Segue right there. Greg, thank you very much, Evan as well. As Greg noted, the American people get a voice in this and that voice comes 130 days from now, that's when the Presidential election is. The President, lucky he has that time, because if you look at polls today, he would lose.

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[12:15:00]

KING: 132 days until America votes in November, picks the President. And if you look at the polling numbers today, President of United States in numbers would lose if you look at the numbers today. Let just look at the some latest numbers.

This is from the "The New York Times" CNN College Poll. Among all registered voters Joe Biden has a 14 point lead. 50 percent say that they would vote for the Former Vice President, the Democrat, 36 percent say they would vote for the Republican incumbent President of the United States.

Among women, big gender gap looks Joe Biden with more than 20 point lead among women. 55 percent to 33 percent in the middle of electoral, those who call themselves independents, they're whopping big lead there again. More than 20 points Joe Biden there.

President Trump does lead among white voters with no college degree but that's not as bigger margin as he had among that group, an important part of his base, against Hillary Clinton back in 2016. So you look at that a 14 point nationally among registered voters. Now out of pollsters, who had talk to a couple saying look more at likely voter but still these are bad numbers for the President. And if you look at what the voter think what's their impression of these candidates, 52 percent of registered voters, that's all voters have a favorable impression of Joe Biden, only 40 percent, only four and 10 say that about the incumbent. The incumbent reelections are about the incumbent only 4 and 10 impressed that's a problem for the President.

White voters 47 percent view both of these - each of these candidates are favorable, among black voters with the racial reckoning in the news right now, look at this. 8 in 10 black Americans black voters say they have a favorable impression of Joe Biden, only 6 percent of the current President of the United States. And so if you look at these numbers, they favor the Democrats last night Former President Obama making a fund raising push for Joe Biden urging Democrats, do not get complacent.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARACK OBAMA, 44TH UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: So bottom line is, I appreciate all of you being on this call. But - man, this is serious business. Whatever you've done so far is not enough. And I hope myself and Michelle and our kids held to that same standard. Whatever it is that we've done so far to help Joe Biden get elected, we have to do more.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Let's walk through this numbers in the (inaudible) with two of my favorite pollsters, Democrat pollster Margie Omero joins us with Republican pollster Neil Newhouse he did the point for (inaudible) back in 2012. Normally I would be a ladies first guy but Neil I am going to start with the Republican.

These numbers are horrible for the President. They are miserable for the President. They just are. I am sure you're not going to dispute that. Do you see him doing things to fix it? You've worked on a number of campaigns including Presidential campaigns. When you're numbers are in the tank, you go to the candidate and you go to the team and you say here's our problem, here is what we need to do to fix it. When you hear the President in recent days, is he addressing his weaknesses?

NEIL NEWHOUSE, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER: The first thing the campaign's got to do, you can't panic in a situation like this. You're not going to make up a 14 point margin overnight. That's just not going to happen. It's like a, kind of like a sports analogy.

If we are down 14 points in a basketball game at half, you are sure that's going to - not going to make it up in the first five minutes of the second half. It's going to take some time. You set goals. You set a goal for where you want to be in the convention. You set a goal for where you want to be at the - at the date of the first debate and then the last two weeks of the campaign.

I mean, this is - it's a real challenge for these guys, but keep in mind. Hey, John, keep in mind, your last segment you talked about the incredible and unprecedented political environment, the mended the crises that this President's had to deal with. As he's dealing with a pandemic that's threatening the health of Americans, he's dealing with a recession that impacts pocketbooks. 40 percent of Americans either lost their job or had their pay or wages cut.

And now the national protests in the whole issue of racial and injustice. Any one of these three would consume an administration. And President Trump's got all three on his platter right now. That a huge challenge.

KING: And I think Margie to Neil's point, when you have challenges like this, a pandemic is horrible. The recession, we may just be coming out of it, but still the economic paralysis we've had is horrible. The racial unrest is unsettling. Those are elements that make you want change, you want something different.

You don't want what you have. And so I just want to go through the President's approval ratings overall 41 percent disapprove, 56 percent. That's tough at an incumbent, Neil is right. There's time, but that's tough on the coronavirus 6 in 10 Americans, 58 percent disapprove of the President.

On the economy is just above water, just barely but it is above water there. And on race relations he is well underwater, 61 percent disapprove. When you look - as the Democratic pollster, when you look at those numbers, (a) if you were advising this President how do you change numbers like that? And (b) what does Joe Biden have to do to keep that contrast in focus? And people don't like what they got to prove that you're what they want?

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MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER, GBAO: Well, I mean, you'd advise the President to do the opposite of what he does and what he's doing. And you would advise him to speak with empathy to the families of the millions of people unemployed, of the over 100,000 deaths due to coronavirus, to the families of people who have been - who suffered from police brutality.

That's what you would advise him to do. Instead he tries, usually using sports analogies, but to work with the ref when it come to talking about polling numbers. I mean when he sees polling he doesn't like, he just doubts the polling. And that's, you know, not really a persuasive message for swing voters.

So he's not doing any of the things. He seems to feel by reaching out to a dwindling percentage of folks who actually are enthusiastic about his demeanor and temperament, I think a myth that his base really enjoys seeing you know find this strong and appealing leadership, but actually there are a lot of Republicans are nose holders who don't like that but agree with him on policies.

But he can't grow that percentage that finds this appealing. And by speaking to that group, that does find it appealing he turns off the rest of America. And say you've seen that in the numbers in fact that there's incredible intensity in the opposition towards him. And about half disapprove strongly of his position, half disapproves are very unfavorable toward him those are numbers that have been like this for a long time. I don't know how he changes that, unless he become as completely different person altogether.

And what the Biden campaign should be doing is what they are doing, which is speaking to Democrats around the country to show strength by bringing the Democratic team together, by reaching out to the - to Americans across the board. Not just to Democrats, but to everybody. And to demonstrate capacity for empathy and understanding, and to say this is time to really turn the page at this really tough moment in our nation's history.

KING: Margie and Neil it's great to see you both. Good to talk politics a little bit here we will continue the conversation in the days ahead, a quick break for us though. Right now because, right now in the United States senate they're beginning to vote. A very important procedural vote on whether or not Republicans can bring their police reform bill up for debate. We'll be right back.

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KING: The new national urgency for police reforms about to crack into some old Washington gridlock. The senate right now voting to bring to the floor a senate proposal, a Republican police reform bill the Democrats say falls short of what is needed. The question is, can they even begin the debate? Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju live on Capitol Hill, Manu, do Republicans have the votes?

MANU RAJU, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The answer is no. Democrats are lining up to block this (inaudible) and expect to do just that. They need 60 votes to begin debate of the Republican plan. But Democrats say it falls short of this moment. They are instead demanding talks to occur on a bipartisan basis before this debate is open.

Republicans are saying let's just get on the bill and then you Democrats can have a chance to offer amendments, try to change it and then make a decision later on. But the two sides are squabbling over process. And as a result, it's very likely no police reform measure will be enacted this year.

Now, there are some Democrats who are expected to vote to open debate. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat, told reporters he does plans to vote to proceed. Another Democratic caucus - independent caucus, the Democrat Angus King told me he's thinking about voting, yes. We'll see if he ultimately does.

The vote is happening right now. But there are differences between The House Bill and the one offered by Democrats and the Republican bill offered by Tim Scott of South Carolina. Namely on whether or not there should be federal mandates at all.

Democrats have a federal ban on chokeholds, for instance. Republicans on the other hand incentivize states to ban chokeholds and other tactics by withholding funds. Also there are, in the Democratic plan, changes to so-called qualified immunity to make it easier to sue police in civil court.

Republicans are silent on that. Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, says that bill is not salvageable. Same as the Democratic leaders in the senate, the Republicans say, well, why don't we have a chance to discuss it on the floor? So, John, as a result we are in this moment in which calls for action are happening across the country.

In the wake of George Floyd's death, but Congress is mired in this gridlock and as a result what could happen, and Congress is likely nothing as we head into the campaign season and both sides see a little chance of a compromise happening as the President himself sided with the Republican plan and called for Republicans to reject the Democrats. John?

KING: Manu Raju on the hill to let us know we have a final tally here but as you know that this one looks like it's going to stall for now. We will see if they can revive it. Manu we appreciate the reporting. We have been telling you all throughout the day, coronavirus cases are trending up in 26 states.