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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Gross Abuse of Power; Interview with Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT); Trump DOJ Demanded Data From 73 Phone Numbers & 36 Email Addresses From Apple, As Part Of Leak Probe Of House Dems; Putin: Biden "Radically Different" From Trump; Putin Confronted With Accusations That He's "A Killer". Aired 8-9p ET
Aired June 11, 2021 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIC ADAMS, NEW YORK CITY MAYORAL CANDIDATE: But I support legalization and I also support the funds that are raised from it, it goes to those who are harmfully impacted by it.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: All right, Eric Adams, thank you very much. I appreciate your time tonight.
ADAMS: Thank you.
BURNETT: And so, our viewers, know we are going to be speaking to the other leading mayoral candidates over the next week. Thanks for joining us. Anderson starts now.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: A gross abuse of power. John Berman here in for Anderson. That's how Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, today characterized the revelation first reported in "The New York Times" that the Trump Justice Department sought computer data on two Democratic lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee, one of whom is its current Chairman, Adam Schiff, also staff and family members, and we have new reporting tonight on just how broad the scope of it was.
But before going any further, we should just get a few things straight. Even though the headline reads "Hunting leaks Trump officials focused on Democrats in Congress," the reporting strongly suggests this was no routine leak investigation. None of this was even remotely normal.
As we learned last night, what the D.O.J. did was nearly unprecedented in who it targeted, nor is this normal. As Congressman Schiff was being investigated fruitlessly, it seems, the nation's Chief Executive was conducting a public vendetta against him, which continued straight through the end of his term.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Little pencil neck Adam Schiff. He's got the smallest thinnest snack I've ever seen.
I saw a little shifty Schiff yesterday. Shifty Schiff. How did you do it?
Shifty Schiff, OK, Schiff, you know the world's most dishonest politician.
Adam Schiff, the watermelon head, right?
He is not a long ball hitter.
I call him Shifty Schiff. We don't call him Shifty Schiff for nothing. He is a shifty, dishonest guy.
And when you see little Adam Schiff, go out and lie and lie and stand at the mic. Smart guy by the way.
You little pencil neck.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Now, you can chalk that up to a childish man behaving childishly, but he was the President, and he still is right now the unquestioned leader of his party. So, even as the D.O.J. Inspector General today began investigating the matter, Republican lawmakers were downplaying it.
Senator Charles Grassley saying in a statement today, quote: "Investigations into Members of Congress and staff are nothing new." Congressman Chris Stewart, who sits in the House Intelligence Committee saying quote: "I support investigating leaks of classified information," which of course glides right past the evidence that this was no ordinary leak investigation.
Everything we're learning about it suggests not to us, but to Intelligence and law enforcement professionals that this just plain reeks.
As House Intel member, Mike Quigley told our Manu Raju this afternoon, "The bottom line from the first day of the Russia investigation, I assumed a hostile government would do something like this. I just didn't think it would be our own hostile government."
And again, it's not like the former President was hiding anything. You've already seen the personal animus -- the name calling. In addition, the ex-President was loudly calling for action. Quoting from a now deleted tweet from February of 2018, quote: "Adam leaves closed committee hearings to illegally leak confidential information. Must be stopped."
Again, this was as the investigation was underway. And again, according to "The Times," it came up empty. Let me repeat that, it came up empty.
All of the allegations you heard the former President make amounted to nothing. It was all bluster from the king of it.
Now, as for former Attorney General William Barr, three sources tell "The Times" that when he became Attorney General, he revived the probe and put a trusted prosecutor on it. Barr spoke with POLITICO today. Here's their lead, quote, "Former Attorney General William Barr on Friday, distanced himself from reports that the Trump Justice Department seized communications records belonging to two prominent Democratic lawmakers who were spearheading investigations into then President Donald Trump."
"In a phone interview, Barr said, he didn't recall getting briefed on the moves," which is a clever answer because he certainly might not have been briefed on the moves made before he was A.G., but it says nothing about the moves he himself reportedly made. He also told POLITICO that during his time as Attorney General, he was quote, "not aware of any congressman's records being sought in a leak case," which again plays funny tricks with tense. Was he not aware at the time? Well, of course.
Did he become aware retrospectively? It sounds like splitting hairs, but William Barr is no dope. What he most certainly is, however, is a proven dissembler and evader.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAMALA HARRIS (D), THEN U.S. SENATOR FOR CALIFORNIA: Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?
WILLIAM BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I wouldn't -- I wouldn't.
HARRIS: Yes or no?
BARR: Could you repeat that question?
HARRIS: I will repeat it. Has the President or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone? Yes or no please, sir?
BARR: The President or anybody else.
HARRIS: It seems you would remember something like that and be able to tell us.
BARR: Yes, but I'm trying to grapple with the word "suggest." I mean, there have been discussions of matters out there that they have not asked me to open an investigation, but --
HARRIS: Perhaps they've suggested.
BARR: I don't know. I wouldn't say suggest.
BARR: I don't know.
HARRIS: inferred? You don't know. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: He doesn't know? Knows and won't say? Will say but won't lie. Won't lie but will deceive.
The man has a record dating back to his blatant mischaracterization of the Mueller report. He is also not afraid to cover just about anything with a thick slathering of don't recalls.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): You can't recall whether you have discussed those cases with anyone in the White House, including the President of the United States.
BARR: My recollection is, I have not discussed those.
BLUMENTHAL: That you don't recall for sure.
BARR: I --
BLUMENTHAL: Let me move.
BARR: I don't recall whether that was related to me.
I don't recall any discussion about Stone with --
I don't recall that phrase and what context.
I don't know.
So, I can't -- I can't recall. I don't remember that. Not that I recall.
I can't actually remember how it came up, but someone mentioned it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: The former Attorney General also told POLITICO, quote, "He was not aware of who we were looking at in any of the cases," also that he quote, "Never discussed the leak cases with Trump. He didn't really ask me any of the specifics."
Again, he didn't have to. The boss was shouting it from the rafters.
So, we mentioned the new reporting on this tonight. CNN's Evan Perez joins us with that. Evan, what more are we learning about the Justice Department's subpoenas to Apple?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR U.S. JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, this is an extraordinary request. The breadth of it is simply just broader than I can remember, any of these types of requests. We're talking about 73 phone numbers -- 20, I'm sorry, 36 e-mail addresses, according to Apple was part of this demand that came in a subpoena in February of 2018. And we now know that at least two members of Congress, we know that some of their staff members, and some of their family members, including somebody who was underage, was part of this dragnet that the Justice Department was asking for the metadata -- was asking for from Apple.
And here is this, John. One of -- a person we talked to familiar with the investigation said that the request basically asked for data going back to the inception of all of these accounts, up to the present time, which was February of 2018. Let me repeat that, from the inception of those accounts. So in some cases, probably a decade, it's not clear.
So, what we know is that Apple turned over what is now, we now know, is just metadata. It wasn't any of the content. But you know, this was something that was done in 2018 and it wasn't until this year, in May, that they were able to notify the accountholders that their data was taken by the Justice Department.
BERMAN: From inception. That is staggering. So, was Apple aware of who was being investigated here? And did they find it odd that they weren't just subpoenaed, but also put under a gag order?
PEREZ: Well, they did not know. They had no idea what the target of this investigation was, what the subject was, what it related to. And in some cases, it appears they didn't even know that these were related to Members of Congress.
They sent these e-mail notifications to the owners of these accounts. And then as a result of that, they were -- they learned that these were accounts belonging to Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff, two Members of Congress. And it is unusual for not only for you -- it's not unusual for them to be told that they can't disclose this. What happened with this case, John, was that this nondisclosure or this gag order was extended three times every year.
And it wasn't until just days before the Biden administration comes into office that it appears the Justice Department stopped essentially responding to requests from Apple saying, do you still need this data? Do you want us to keep this gag order? And it appears they just lost interest. And that's the reason why today, you have this investigation from the Inspector General; Merrick Garland, the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General, Lisa Monaco asked for this investigation to be done because there clearly is some very unusual things about this.
BERMAN: Indeed, to say the least. Thank you, Evan Perez for your reporting. I appreciate it.
BERMAN: Joining us now, CNN political analyst and "New York Times" Washington correspondent, Maggie Haberman; also CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. Gloria, let me start with you.
This new reporting clearly illustrates just how big the scope of this actually was. Seventy three phone numbers, 36 e-mail accounts looking for records dating back to inception? This really just sounds like a huge dragnet.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and as we peel the onion, I think we might discover there were more e-mail addresses and more phone numbers that they were looking at. And what becomes clearer and clearer is that this was really a phishing expedition by people who were interested in finding out where these so-called leaks came from.
You had a President of the United States who was screaming from the rafters, as you illustrated just before, that he wanted -- that he believed Adam Schiff was a leaker and Democrats were leakers. And as a result, his Justice Department both under Jeff Sessions, and then again, with Bill Barr, who seemed to reinvigorate what seemed to be a petering out investigation, appoint someone to take all these leak investigations and look at them because the President of the United States, and he said, he told POLITICO that there were Cabinet members and the Intelligence Community were providing pressure on him, I think, to kind of get this all done. And as a result, we have what we have.
My big question that remains unanswered is what evidence was provided to a grand jury to get these phone numbers? I mean, what evidence did they have that all of these numbers needed to be tracked? We just don't know.
BERMAN: Was it properly predicated?
BORGER: We don't know.
BERMAN: The answer to that might come from the Inspector General's report. We just don't know. So, Maggie, you know, what do you make of all this reporting, because there is some irony here, right? President Trump was virtually always complaining that people were investigating him while his own Justice Department was involved in this sweeping, and as we've been told, reasonably unprecedented investigation or phishing exhibition as Gloria just said.
HABERMAN: Right, look, and as Gloria just said, we don't know yet the scope of this. We don't know how many additional numbers or e-mails there might be or additional people who were being looked at, certainly, to target. We know that D.O.J. targets reporters. This has happened under previous administrations, happened under not just Trump, but also under Obama.
What is different here is this is lawmakers. This is lawmakers and family members of lawmakers. And again, we don't know if it stops there. So to your point, what do I make of it is that there was a President who, as you noted, was constantly talking about leaks and concerned about leaks and particularly leaks as related to the investigation into him and his campaign and people around him, and any ties to Russia or any connections to Russia. And the D.O.J., started under Jeff Sessions, began pulling records from people in a way that that every expert says we just have not really seen before, and we'll see where it goes.
But you touched on something that I think is important. There's no evidence right now that it turned up anything given how incredibly broad it was. Now, maybe something will be revealed or it did turn up something. But it's pretty remarkable how wide a net that they cast to apparently not actually come up with anything.
BERMAN: You know, Gloria, if this was reversed, and the Obama Justice Department was seizing data of Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, I have a hard time thinking they'd be so ho-hum about it.
BERMAN: As they were today with Republicans saying, oh, you know, we support leak investigations. Investigations happen all the time.
BORGER: Yes, and how about gag orders that were extended three times, so the people who were the targets of the investigation didn't know about it for a long time. I mean, that is something that they would be screaming from the rafters about.
No, there's a lot of what about-ism here. We heard, you know, Chuck Grassley put out a press release today, saying, you know, this goes on. This goes on all the time, and I'm all in favor of finding out about illegal leaks. So we should -- you know, we should keep on doing that.
But as Maggie just pointed out, this is different. These are two Members of Congress, one of whom, or both of them, I guess, were targets of Donald Trump's. So this is very different.
And you know, it's very clear from looking at all of this and looking at the history is that, you know, Donald Trump treated the Justice Department like they were just a part of the Trump Organization. And I think while Barr at some points may have tried to keep his distance, there was no getting away from what the President of the United States was demanding.
In fact, he fired Jeff Sessions, because Jeff Sessions said, you know, I don't work for you. I work for the American people.
BERMAN: Maggie, there are so many different angles to this, and it's so deeply serious. But there's also a present and future political angle here as well. We're talking about the person who is still the de facto leader of the Republican Party, and I know it's -- you know, in the future, but he is more or less the current frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President, too.
So, I'm wondering how you think this will play into Republican politics. Are they all just going to line up behind him at this point?
HABERMAN: I think the answer is, yes, John. I mean, I think that what we have seen is the parties are so incredibly polarized that essentially, and much more so, with Republicans at the moment, essentially, what happens is that when either the former President says something, or it's perceived that in the mind of his supporters that the media is somehow against him, they then stick with his position, and in this case, it would be the position of the Trump administration.
HABERMAN: So, I don't think you're going to hear a lot of outcry from Republicans. There might be a little bit here and there, there might be some Republican candidates for 2024 who would be willing to say something, but I don't think that's going to be a driving force for them.
I do think Gloria is exactly right, and you're exactly right, that if this had been the Obama administration that did this, there would be a lot of protests from Republicans. I don't see this playing as a major political issue. And, frankly, that that is going to detract from accountability issues, and people sort of paying attention to something that is actually in the public interest.
I do want to note, and this is, all of this unprecedented activity took place under former President Trump, the Biden Justice Department continued one of these gags, and that was in relation to my colleagues. And so, I do think there is a lot of work that has to be done in looking at what happens across the board with D.O.J. and how it is approaching this information gathering.
We know that President Biden has taken a very strong public position and the White House has taken a strong position that they're not going to do that. But I think it's going to take a while to restore faith just given all of the collective actions of the last five years.
BERMAN: There's an issue of prosecutorial discretion among career prosecutors that is very real and worth exploring. And I think we all need to learn a lot more about.
Gloria and Maggie, thank you both so much for being with us tonight.
House Intel Chairman, Adam Schiff, briefed the committee today. Joining us now, a member of that committee, Democratic Jim Himes of Connecticut, who says he does not believe he was targeted by the Trump investigation. So, congratulations on that front, Congressman. I know you can't tell us much about what happened in this meeting.
But broadly speaking, you know, what were you told about the scope of these records that were seized? What it all means? And what's your initial reaction?
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT): Yes, John, well, first of all, we don't know a lot. I don't think I was -- I was targeted, but it turns out that the way Apple notified members was by sending them an e-mail from an account, something like Apple@info or info@Apple or something, so we just don't know.
Needless to say, our Chairman and others have asked the Department of Justice for a complete list of those Members of Congress and associated staff and family members and children that were subpoenaed, whose records were subpoenaed and we have not been provided that information. So, we have no idea.
The answer to your second question, which is how broadly does this go? And, you know, without betraying the confidence of a closed meeting, a lot of us -- what happened was bad enough, John. This is the use of arguably next to the military, the most powerful thing that the Federal government has, the Department of Justice, it was the use of the Department of Justice to advance a quirky political aim of the President.
And so what's horrifying here is, it is good that the Inspector General is going to do his work, but that Inspector General is going to operate inside the Department of Justice. What we're talking about here, of course, is yet another flagrant constitutional abuse. And, we learned about it by reading it, at least I learned about it, and many people learned about it by reading it in the newspaper.
What other elements of the government were compromised? Was the I.R.S. used as a political tool for Donald Trump? Was the C.I.A. used as a political tool for Donald Trump? Unless we have something bigger than an Inspector General, unless we have -- I'm thinking back to the, you know, the Church Committee of the 1970s, unless we have something truly all of government, we may never know the answers to that question. And that leaves us profoundly vulnerable to the next Donald Trump, the smarter Donald Trump doing this all over again.
BERMAN: You're asking for either a select or special committee or a special prosecutor?
HIMES: Well, you know, we've spent the last two months talking about a commission around January 6th. I was there on January 6th. I was very much at risk on January 6th, but if you asked me to choose between a commission to figure out exactly what happened on January 6th, and January 5th and January 7th, or a commission that would look at the abuse of the State Department, which of course got Donald Trump impeached, the first time, the abuse of the D.O.J., and what else happened out there, I would choose the second.
I would like to know, from soup to nuts, because we know that this President had every opportunity to use the tools of the American public, the Federal government for his own personal gain. I want to know where that stopped and that may go beyond a select committee. That is probably a commission.
BERMAN: So, as we played at the top of the program, former Attorney General William Barr often seems fuzzy on recalling certain events, and today he told POLITICO that he was quote, "not aware of who we were looking at in any of the cases," end quote. And that then President Trump didn't ask specifics.
So, do you buy that from Bill Barr?
[20:20:09] HIMES: Well, what we know about Bill Barr is that he was more than willing to break precedent at the Department of Justice to as an Attorney General actually act as the prime defender of Donald Trump. He, of course did that with his letter describing the Mueller report, which then Mueller had to say, wait a minute, that's not what I said.
So, you know, he's not a good -- he is not a particularly good source on this stuff. But clearly, we're going to need to know exactly what happened, because it's not enough to say that we were looking for leaks.
Look, if you tell me that a Member of Congress, you know, took $10 million from the Russian government in exchange for our nuclear codes, by all means, go after that guy. But that is not what is happening here. It's never happened before.
Think about it. There's an old saying that keeps going through my head. I think it was a New York judge who once commented that a skillful District Attorney can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. And my Republican friends need to want -- need to ask themselves if with under a Democratic President, they would be comfortable with their being exposed and their children being exposed because some assistant U.S. Attorney tells the grand jury that we're going after the potential, the potential of a leak within Republican Members of the Intelligence Committee.
It's outrageous that they're not joining us in standing up and saying this cannot stand.
BERMAN: Seventy three phone accounts, 36 e-mail accounts -- Congressman Himes, we appreciate you being with us tonight.
HIMES: Thank you, John.
BERMAN: Next, former law enforcement and intelligence professionals, both of whom were attacked by the former President make of all this and how far from the norm they believe this is.
Later, the current President -- the current President's overseas trip and what Vladimir Putin just said about the current President and yes, the former one.
BERMAN: The White House waded into the breaking news today. Press Secretary, Jen Psaki mincing no words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: First of all, an I.G. investigation looks into how this happened? How could it possibly happen? And let me be absolutely clear -- the behavior, these actions, the President finds them absolutely appalling.
He ran for President in part because of the abuse of power by the last President and by the last Attorney General.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Joining us now, former Director of National Intelligence and current CNN national security analyst James Clapper; also CNN senior law enforcement analyst and former deputy F.B.I. Director, Andrew McCabe who knows what it's like to be targeted by the former President.
And Andrew, the news late tonight, 73 phone numbers, 36 e-mail addresses from Apple, at least one subpoena to Microsoft. We were talking to Gloria and Maggie and both agree, it feels like maybe we're just at the beginning of learning something about, you know, something even bigger, and potentially even more troubling. What do you think?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think that's entirely possible. You know, it is death by a thousand cuts. We're just learning about these things as they happen to dribble out because gag orders expire and service providers provide notification.
But I want to put some context on this for your viewers, John. This is so wildly different from anything I've ever experienced running many sensitive investigations, some of which occasionally involve Members of Congress, some of which were leak cases.
This is like the equivalent of carpet bombing the House Intelligence Committee with legal process, but of course, only on one side of the aisle.
So the way it was executed to me reeks of political purpose.
BERMAN: Yes, that's what we talk about when we talk about it being an unprecedented, the scope and the size of it and that is why there are still so many questions. Despite that, Director Clapper, I mentioned earlier that Republican Chuck Grassley has been in Congress since 1975 said today that investigations into lawmakers and staff are nothing new.
I get it. There are corruption investigations. We see them a lot, but secretly seizing communications data of the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee? To say nothing of family members? That's really nothing new.
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I would disagree profoundly with Senator Grassley. Yes, there have been as, Andy can attest, there have been investigations of individual Members of Congress, normally for suspicion of criminal activity, but not like this and this sweeping nature of this. This is quite different.
And, you know, shocking, stunning, but not surprising, a phrase that we often find ourselves using about revelations of abuse of power by the Trump administration. And I fear, I'm sure there are a lot more to this and there will be other examples that are going to come out over time.
BERMAN: So, Andy, I want to read another portion of "The New York Times" reporting, which they say is part and parcel of the newly revealed investigation into Congressman Schiff and leaks in press reports that made Donald Trump look bad, quote, "The White House was adamant that the sources be found and prosecuted and the Justice Department began a broad look at national security officials from the Obama administration, that's according to five people briefed in the inquiry. While most officials are ruled out, investigators open cases that focus on Mr. Comey and his Deputy Andrew G. McCabe the people said." End quote.
Did you know you were under investigation at that time or whether your personal data was seized? And you know, and by the way, we should note the former President was attacking you as recently as yesterday.
MCCABE: Yes, you know, I mean, I knew I was a constant target of his. He was constantly saying defamatory and wildly false things about me and my family. It's been going on for years. Like you said, it happened yesterday.
But did I know at the time that I was the subject of a leak investigation? No, of course I didn't know. You know, I have had the unfortunate experience of having to find these things out as the last few years have played out in this nightmare.
You know, I learned in 2018, I got a notification just like the ones we are learning about this week, a notification from my e-mail provider that they had received a court order for process on my account a year earlier and it prohibited them from informing me about that for a year.
So, you know, when those things happen, John, it's like though, it's one thing to have the president tweet nasty things about you and you realize, like, this guy really hates me and he's coming after me. It's not letting up. But when you see that the machinery of the Department of Justice has been activated against you and they're actively trying to throw you in jail. It is absolutely terrifying.
BERMAN: So, Director Clapper, the former Attorney General Bill Barr told Politico today that he doesn't recall being told the prosecutors in the Justice Department has subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of these House Democrats along with their staff and family members. He doesn't recall. Did you buy that?
JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, it's not the first time he's at best disingenuous. No, I don't buy it.
BERMAN: Andy, what do you think?
MCCABE: Come on, this is the guy who stood behind the podium at DOJ, and lied to the world about the substance of the Mueller report. So the -- his answers to Senator Harris's question in that clip that we've seen many times on TV today. You know, as an investigator, as someone who's interviewed and interrogated, you know, hundreds of people he shows like every one of the signs of deception in that answer. So, no, I don't take him at his word. BERMAN: Director, how much faith do you put in this DOJ Inspector General investigation?
CLAPPER: Well, I think I kind of agree with Congressman Himes. I think it's, it's bigger than just DOJ. And of course, we're talking about the Inspector General of the Department of Justice. And I think this is probably going to turn out to be far more reaching than just one department of the government. I think we're going to find other examples of abuse like this. So, I think Congressman Himes had a great idea, will probably never happen. There's some sort of outside commission.
BERMAN: Director James Clapper, Andrew McCabe, I thank you both for this. Appreciate it.
MCCABE: Thanks, John.
BERMAN: More on this investigation in just a moment, and the comparisons are almost immediately made between Trump and another president with an enemies list. Richard Nixon. Watergate veteran, Carl Bernstein joins us when "360" continues.
BERMAN: Revelations that the former president and his administration use the mechanisms of government to pursue perceived enemies through immediate comparisons to another disgraced former President Richard Nixon and his enemies lists. One rather infamous memo written by then White House Counsel John Dean in 1971, succinctly explained the purpose of that list, quote, stated a bit more bluntly, how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.
I'm joined now by a veteran of the Watergate era journalist and author and CNN political analyst, Carl Bernstein.
Carl, there's a lot we still don't know about this. But look, you know, the parallels between the Nixon enemy list and what we are now seeing from the former Trump administration, how apt are they?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they're apt to the extent that Nixon wanted to screw his political enemies, no question, so did Donald Trump. But Trump's actions go far, much farther than Nixon's and were much more grievous, because Trump is really guilty of crimes against democracy. It's not just about screwing his enemies, it's about getting everything he wants for himself for his own political ends, for his own financial gain, for his family, he would undermine the very basic premise of democracy as would now a Republican Party, that is in thrall to Donald Trump and these kinds of activities.
There's a conspiracy and ongoing conspiracy by Trump and those around him and the hierarchy of the Republican Party that is in thrall and (INAUDIBLE) to Donald Trump, to undermine democracy. That's what this all fits together as. BERMAN: To your point, there is another key difference between Nixon and Trump here, which is that in the Nixon era, there were Republicans.
BERNSTEIN: That's exactly right.
BERMAN: Who stood up, who stood up to Richard Nixon?
BERNSTEIN: Not only stood up, Richard Nixon was about to be impeached and convicted in the Senate and forced to leave office. That's why he resigned. What do we have today? We have Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, who are co-conspirators of this attempt. We have an intent to undermine democracy. Look at what the Republicans are doing to keep people from voting, to suppress voting so that Donald Trump or his acolytes or this Republican Party, that is an authoritarian, undemocratic, unrepublican party.
What is the goal here? It is not to further democracy, it's to undermine it and Trump's whole presidency is about crimes against democracy.
BERMAN: You see it through line --
BERNSTEIN: Oh boy.
BERMAN: -- between -- you see it through line between, you know, this DOJ investigation, the foreign events Rudy Giuliani, pressure on Ukraine --
BERNSTEIN: Roger Stone go through the whole --
BERMAN: -- voting the -- you know, the undermining the elections. You see it through line there?
BERNSTEIN: Absolutely. Absolutely. This is all about doing Donald Trump's will against his enemies for his political gain, for his financial gain. This is not Nixon. Nixon indeed wanted to screw his political enemies. Nixon indeed, was, you know, guilty of obstruction of justice, et cetera, et cetera. But this is a much larger notion of satisfying every will and whim and a party in thrall to this that will not stop this president, even now that he is out of office.
BERMAN: So, where does it go?
BERNSTEIN: We don't know where it goes. But what we do know is that there is no leadership in the Republican Party that is willing to say, except for Liz Cheney, except for Mitt Romney a few more. It's not McConnell is not Kevin McCarthy. Look they have laid down and the train is running over them. The train is running over our Democratic principles that have guided this country throughout our history. We have never had a political party that has tried to suppress votes such as we're seeing now. We had the Dixiecrats, we had segregationist Democrats who controlled and tried to keep black people from voting. But most of the party did not go along with that.
[20:40:23] BERMAN: What can or should the current Justice Department in America (INAUDIBLE) do? What can or should the current President Joe Biden do about this? Because you don't think it's over? I mean, Donald Trump is the former president, but you don't think this effort is over?
BERNSTEIN: No, I don't. It's obviously not over. All we have to do is listen to your show and Anderson every night and what we put on the air and what we read the New York Times in the Washington Post. Look, what we ought to be doing as journalists particularly, we need to find out everything that happened in the Trump presidency in terms of these crimes against democracy, including the pandemic homicidal negligence by a president of the United States. That figures in as too, what was that homicidal negligence about and resulted in tens, hundreds of thousands of deaths? It was for his own political purposes.
We haven't -- that's not Nixon. This is something far greater. And what the Congress of the United States investigations, the Department of Justice, yes. But it's going to be the press to find out what indeed has happened to us and is continuing lime into the Republican Party today and his ongoing conspiracy of intent to undermine democracy.
BERMAN: Carl, we got about 25 seconds left. I want to bring it back to the beginning, at least where we were this week on it. I want your reaction when you read this story initially from The New York Times about the scope of this investigation.
BERNSTEIN: Well, look, it's a fishing expedition. It is to find out sources of the leaks. Well, why weren't these people looking to find out what the hell happened with Russia? What was their interest so much about leaks, and they're after the enemies that gone after Schiff? Gone after the Democrats, who indeed led the Russia investigation? It's patently obvious. I think, you know, we don't need much more of a roadmap.
BERMAN: Carl Bernstein, thank you for being with us.
BERNSTEIN: Good to be with you.
BERMAN: Just ahead, there is more breaking news on this Friday evening as President Biden meets economic allies on his first trip as president abroad. Vladimir Putin discusses his relationship with the U.S. and prays for the former president in his brand new interview days before the two men meet for their summit. The details when we continue.
BERMAN: President Biden today met with leaders from some of the world's biggest economies, the G7 kickoff part of his first international trip abroad as President. But just the table setter for the highly anticipated meeting scheduled to occur next week with Vladimir Putin. Russia's leader spoke with NBC News. This is what he had to say about Biden and his predecessor. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translation): I believe that former U.S. president Mr. Trump is an extraordinary individual, talented individual, otherwise he would not have become U.S. president.
President Biden, of course, is radically different from Trump, because President Biden is a career man. He spent virtually his entire adulthood in politics. Just think of the number of years he spent in the Senate. A different kind of person and it was my great hope that yes, there are some advantages, some disadvantages. There will not be any impulse based movements on behalf of the sitting U.S. president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward is following Biden and has the latest.
So, Clarissa the fact that Vladimir Putin is heaping praise on Donald Trump, what kind of message is that said before he sits down with President Joe Biden?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I lost track at some point, John have all the sort of adjectives he used to describe Trump there, extraordinary, talented, colorful. You know, I think what President Putin always likes to do is keep everybody on the back foot. Keep everybody guessing, keep everybody anxious. I think he's signaling that this is not going to be an easy summit. He did also have some praise for President Biden.
But certainly, it's going to be a difficult conversation that these two leaders are going to have and it's not clear yet, what real substantive progress can be made from this very difficult conversation. And certainly we're no closer to knowing that based on the clip that we just heard of that interview.
BERMAN: You have to say the extraordinary gamesmanship before this summit even begins it's been really remarkable. Putin was also confronted with accusations that he's a killer. I want to play a clip of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEIR SIMMONS, NBC NEWS HOST: Let me give you some names and Anna Politkovskaya shot dead, Alexander Litvinenko, poisoned by polonium, Sergei Magnitsky, allegedly beaten and died in prison. Boris Nemtsov shot moments from the Kremlin moments from here. Mikhail Lesin, died of blunt trauma in Washington, D.C. and all of these a coincidence, Mr. President?
PUTIN (through translation): You know, I don't want to come across as being rude. But this looks like some kind of indigestion except that it's verbal indigestion. You've mentioned many individuals who indeed suffered and perished at different points in time, for various reasons, at the hands of different individuals. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Is Putin used to be putting up -- being put on the spot like that?
WARD: I think that he would have anticipated being put on the spot, doing an interview like this, I don't think he would have been surprised by the tough nature of those questions. But I do think it's interesting to see how he almost seems to enjoy his reputation in the West as Keir Simmons is reading out that list of all these opponents of the Kremlin who have ended up dead, he starts out by laughing and then says, (INAUDIBLE) like listen to me. Here's the deal, and then goes on to talk about verbal indigestion. I'm not exactly clear what he means by that.
But he does have this extraordinary ability John, President Putin to deny something at the same time as clearly enjoying the fact that this is a part of his reputation.
BERMAN: The look on his face was something there. So, what kind of message is President Biden expected to try to deliver at the summit? Is he going to raise the issue of the poisoning and jailing of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny?
WARD: He's made it abundantly clear that he is going to raise all the issues that he thinks are important and international human rights, you know, the attempted murder of a dissident very much falls under that purview. And President Putin has said, listen, this is off limits. We are not going to be discussing international -- sorry, rather internal domestic Russian political affairs. But we also have heard from the White House, it doesn't matter whether President Putin wants to talk about it, this will be raised.
The real question is, what does that achieve? Where does that conversation go? What are the openings here? And, you know, as we heard today, CNN's Matthew Chance spoke to Putin's press, Secretary Dmitry Peskov and he said, listen, the reason for this entire summit is that relations are in such a poor state that really this meeting needs to happen in order to ensure that things do not degrade any further.
So, it may be that really at its core. This is a summit which is designed not to deliver anything tangible, or positive, but just to prevent things from deteriorating further, trying to find possibly some common areas that the two countries can work together on to prevent the relationship from being completely derailed. But I would not expect any sort of earth shattering positive news to come out of this at all.
BERMAN: Clarissa Ward, you'll be watching. Thank you very much.
Back here at home was startling new report on the threatening text messages, voicemails and e-mails from Georgia's top election official a Republican received as well as his family. All of his sparked by the voter fraud lies from the former president.
BERMAN: Another reminder now of how these are not normal political times and how much of the reason for it can be traced to the former president and his voter fraud lies. In this case, about losing the state of Georgia.
According to Reuters, top election officials in the state and their families are facing violent threats and intimidation, delivered them in text messages, e-mails and voicemails. Also, the state's top election official Republicans as a family member's home was broken into.
More from "360's" Gary Tuchman.
LINDA SO, REUTERS: One of the text messages said, you and your family will be killed very slowly.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Linda So was a journalist with Reuters, who just wrote a story about the threat to election workers following Donald Trump's election loss. The text she read was sent to the wife of Georgia's Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger.
SO: That previous text came from a sender called firstname.lastname@example.org.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): A made up name that has so far been untraceable. Trump has made his hostility to Raffensperger very clear. This was two days before the Capitol insurrection.
DONALD TRUMP (R) FMR PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Hello, Georgia. By the way, there's no way we lost your, there is no way. It's a rig -- that was a rigged election.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Reuters reports the Raffensperger family has received a constant stream of threatening texts for months. Keep opposing the audit of Fulton County's 2020 election ballots. And somebody in your family is going to have a very unfortunate incident. That came from the address email@example.com. And please pray. We plan for the death of you and your family every day. I'm sorry. From firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Secretary of State and his wife made a decision to go into temporary hiding following the multitude of threats. And after an intimidating housebreaking that their daughter-in-law and grandchildren endured.
SO: She returned to her home one evening with her children to find that the garage door had been pulled up, the door leaving to her house was open. All of the lights in the house had been turned on. Items within the house had been moved around, but nothing was taken.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Many other election workers have been threatened. Richard Barron is the Fulton County Georgia elections director. We talked to him his absentee ballots were being processed and scanned in the Georgia presidential race that at the time was too close to call.
(on-camera): You haven't gotten pressure from the campaign's but do you feel pressure on your shoulders?
RICHARD BARRON, ELECTIONS OFFICER, FULTON COUNTY GEORGIA: Well, yes, because we want to make sure all the votes count.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Election workers did their jobs well, but Trump's allies and innuendos resulted in the elections director receiving --
SO: Hundreds of phone calls, e-mails, threatening hanging. There was one in particular that really alarmed him. A caller had said that they were planning on standing him before a firing squad and killing him.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): And here's the audio of one of those phone calls.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you need a pair of handcuffs slapped on you. It's quite obvious the fraud that went on. So why don't you just come out and admit it and quit jerking the American people around. Just wondering how much they paid you. When I'm done with you, you'll be in prison.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): The day after the Capitol insurrection, CNN ask Brad Raffensperger what he would say to Donald Trump?
BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R-GA) SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, obviously that's why I've said from day one that we have to be really mindful of our speech, because we can't split people up and play people with -- and get them into emotional frenzy emotional state. Deal with the facts.
BERMAN: Wow. And Gary joins us now from Atlanta. Hearing Secretary Raffensperger was just on CNN last hour. What do you say about this?
TUCHMAN: Yes, the Secretary of State says he and his wife have had to spend a considerable amount of time away from their grandchildren since the election because of the threats. They just want to keep them safe. He says he's a conservative Republican, but he can't believe what's happened to his party. He says we got to clean up our backyard. And he also said this interesting thing, John, he said this country is bigger than just one person, a clear reference to Donald Trump. John.
BERMAN: Has to keep his grandchildren safe. Gary Tuchman, thank you so much.
Before we go tonight, a quick programming note, Anderson sat down for an exclusive interview with former President Barack Obama to talk about fatherhood, leadership and his legacy. You can catch it tonight at 11:00 right here on CNN.
A lot of news tonight, it continues. So, let's hand over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME."