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DHS Warns U.S. Could See More Volatile Threats This Year; Voters Head To The Polls In 7 States Holding Primaries; Proud Boys Leader, 4 Others Charged With Seditious Conspiracy. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired June 07, 2022 - 11:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: A new warning just out from the Department of Homeland Security saying America is facing a summer of potentially heightened violence and domestic extremism, in part spurred by recent mass shootings with a big concern also surrounding the upcoming midterm elections.

The DHS is warning in this memo that threat actors have recently mobilized to violence due to factors such as personal grievances, reactions to current events, and adherence to violent extremist ideologies, including racially or ethnically motivated or anti- government, anti-authority violent extremism.

Joining me now is CNN's Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Andrew McCabe. He's the former Deputy Director of the FBI. Andy, what do you think of this bulletin?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Really fascinating bulletin, and very forward-leaning, Kate, of DHS to put this out at this time. The bulletin is basically telling us three things. One, we have a number of high-profile events coming up that could serve to fuel grievances and force extremists to justify acts of violence.

Some of those high-profile events include the decision -- the upcoming decision on the Roe v. Wade case, changes in border policy that could result in increased immigration, and of course, the election at the end of the year. The second thing they're saying here is that the range of targets is enormous.

They're concerned about schools, government facilities, religious institutions, large gatherings of people, and government employees, so it's really putting everybody on alert. And finally, they're concerned that foreign actors, and you can insert the word Russia here, would be looking to take advantage of this sort of strife and acts of violence to further sow discord and chaos. So it's a really multi-leveled warning that we're getting.

BOLDUAN: And there is a lot in here. You mentioned they do lean towards foreign adversaries, wanting to lean in on this, but this bulletin is also the sixth issued since the attack on the Capitol on January 6, and it really seems to be keeping with a pattern of DHS raising alarm about threats from within, not from abroad. [11:35:05]

MCCABE: No question. The thing that's really keeping our national security folks, particularly those focused on the homeland right now awake at night is the threat from domestic violent extremists. And that covers a very broad range of folks are motivated by, you know, racism or they're anti-immigration or they may be anti-government, there's a whole panoply of ideologies that you scoop up with that domestic violent extremist tag.

But that is where we're most concerned about these individual actors, lone actors, and small groups perpetuating really horrific crimes of mass violence, which we know are possible in this country because firearms are so readily available to anybody who wants them.

BOLDUAN: What is the intent of putting a bulletin like this out? I mean, because the obvious question is, DHS is clearly concerned and wants people to know that, the threat is heightened, but how do you stop these people before they act -- before they commit acts of violence and then before they inspire others to do the same?

MCCABE: There's a couple of things that DHS is trying to accomplish here. One is just to increase general awareness with the hopes that folks who see things and come across anomalies that concern them will report them. This -- which we know, in our recent spate of mass shootings, we know that in most of those cases, people were aware that the person who committed the shooting was -- is showing some signs beforehand.

Two, there's some really interesting resources that are made -- that are highlighted on the bulletin here, that folks who are in charge of security at places like synagogues and religious institutions and schools can rely on, can get to DHS to help them secure their locations. And third, it's kind of self-serving, right? DHS wants to get the word out that they know that this is coming. They know the danger is high, and they're on the job.

BOLDUAN: What -- just finally, what do you think about this kind of emphasis, I was saying throughout it, that bad actors, they may be mobilized by this kind of emphasis on personal grievances?

MCCABE: It's really, really interesting here. You see them use the word a dynamic threat environment, and that is the kind of analysts speak for. We see all kinds of different actors reacting to each other's attacks. So in other words, you have, you know, people who follow al Qaeda and ISIS are reacting to things that they see happening here in America, mass shootings, the New York City subway attack, they're using the attacks of other groups and other actors to try to inspire their own followers.

So, it's really a very cross-cutting view on the threat. We're no longer looking just at channels of foreign terrorists, and domestic terrorists, we're acknowledging the fact that they all to some -- to some degree, play off and are inspired by and maybe motivated by each other's attacks. BOLDUAN: Look, it is the reality but it is scary the way that they're painted this way. Thank you, Andy, for coming in. It's good to see you.

MCCABE: It really is. Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us. It's another big primary day. Several states holding contests that a lot of people are watching closely. Why folks are focusing on California now as a possible indicator of things to come?



BOLDUAN: Right now, voters are heading to the polls in seven states holding primary elections today. There are several key races to watch including in California where the race for Los Angeles Mayor is getting a lot of attention, Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass facing a challenge from a former Republican Rick Caruso in the Democratic primary. CNN's Maeve Reston joins me now. She's taking a closer look at this. Maeve, what's going on with this race? What do you see?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: So Kate, as you know, this is an overwhelmingly democratic city. But what we have here is an opening where people are so frustrated with the level of homelessness and also rising crime, that it's really created an opening for Rick Caruso, a former Republican, as you mentioned, who has poured $40 million into this race up against Karen Bass's about 3.2 million at this point, driving the message that career politicians have not been able to solve these problems.

And it's really -- a really good barometer of kind of where we are in this country where a lot of people are just incredibly frustrated with the state of affairs. They feel like things are out of control, whether it's gas prices, which, of course, are the highest here anywhere in the nation, or crime and these other issues. And it's really showing how Democrats are going to have a very rough time this year. This looks like a very tight race that's headed to a runoff, so it's just going to get nastier as we go along, Kate.

BOLDUAN: So much to look forward to. It's good to see you, Maeve, though. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

RESTON: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: It's coming up for us, the leader and other members of the far-right group, the Proud Boys, now charged with seditious conspiracy, and how that could play into the January 6 congressional hearings starting this week.



BOLDUAN: CNN is getting new details about who the American public will be hearing from when the January 6 committee holds its first televised hearing on the violent siege at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. This first -- the first of these hearings is set for Thursday night and that now comes just days after leaders of the far-right group, the Proud Boys, are charged with seditious conspiracy for their roles on that day and the lead up to that day. CNN's Katelyn Polantz is joining me now live in Washington with more details on this. What are you picking up, Katelyn?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, this week is all about the Proud Boys. Yesterday, the Justice Department brought new charges against five leaders of the group. They are all men who have been charged before with conspiracy related to January 6, but now they face a rarer, more ambitious charge from prosecutors, that's a seditious conspiracy. So what's changed here in this case? We knew these guys before.


POLANTZ: Well, the Justice Department has been working to get cooperators from the Proud Boys and they also have trickled out some new detail in this indictment about how the proud boys leader Enrique Tarrio was texting about revolution on January 6 and cautioning one of his contacts about how watching the day -- how it would play out that day.

And so, when Congress had retreated from their chambers before they came back to certify the election, he was texting, that's important in this new version of the case. So the big difference this week is the prosecutors believe that they can prove a case against Tarrio and the four others where the group was not only working to block the congressional proceedings but to also intimidate government officials, by force, potentially overthrow the government.

And this is landing with some surprising timing this week too. You mentioned the House hearings. The House Select Committee is heading into their first public hearing on Thursday, which will also focus on the Proud Boys, at least the first one, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, it's really -- I mean, all kind of coming together in that way. It's good to see you, Katelyn, thank you very much.

Joining me now for more on this is CNN Legal Analyst Jennifer Rodgers, a former federal prosecutor. So, Jennifer, first let's talk about this seditious conspiracy charge that they're -- that they're now up against. Talk me through it. How serious is it?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's really serious, Kate, and it's rarely brought the key to seditious conspiracy, as opposed to the conspiracy charges that have already been brought is it requires that they try to overthrow the government or interfere with the workings of government by force. So by force is the key phrase here. You're not just talking about perhaps the plot to put in the fake electors or to you know-- the -- these other -- these other schemes that happened in the lead up to January 6, but by force.

So the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, these are the people who came armed, who had plans, at least in the Oath Keepers, to have the cue -- the quick reaction forces outside of DC to bring in bigger arms if need be, they actually assaulted police officers, they broke down the barriers, that's where the by force comes in. And that's important because you have a 20-year maximum sentence with this count. So it's the most serious one, the DOJ can bring.

BOLDUAN: And you mentioned the Oath Keeper. So the Oath -- the DOJ has also brought the same charges against the Oath Keepers. And in the indictment yesterday, it noted that there was a meeting between the Proud Boys leader and the head of the Oath Keepers in a DC parking garage on January 5, and "during this encounter, a participant referenced the Capitol." That's just some detail. But what is the -- is it meaningful that you now have two groups kind of charged with the same -- facing now a seditious conspiracy?

RODGERS: I think it is. And I personally want to know a lot more about the background of that meeting that you just referenced. But it's important because it isn't just the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys separately, getting a great idea and heading to Washington to do this separately, right, this overthrowing of the government by force. Someone gave them that idea, right?

Someone coordinated between these groups. They met in a parking garage the day before. So we know that they were coordinated. And that, of course, raises the question, who's the one who helps them coordinate, who introduced them, who put them in touch, who put them into this grander scheme that started even before the election honestly, to steal it.

BOLDUAN: Does the Justice Department need that detail in order to win those cases -- win a case against them with this?

RODGERS: They don't need the other parts of this game.


RODGERS: What they need is that they were trying to stop Congress from doing its job by force. So they need basically what they allege in the indictment that they did this planning, they did training, they gathered their weapons, they went, they had communications, they wear the body armor, all of the things that are alleged, including the assaults, the property damage, the actual by force, that's what they need.

They don't need the rest of it, but what that shows us is that that I think is the direction that DOJ is heading in order to bring in the planners, the big brains in this overall operation.

BOLDUAN: That is interesting. And look, the timing is what the timing is. And this is happening just as the January 6 committee is ready to hold its first of its public hearings on Thursday night. How does the fact that these charges against the Proud Boys, which are just kind of announced? How does that -- what does that do? How does that work with kind of these hearings and what we're going to be learning on Thursday? Because the first focus or at least part of the focus is just that, is the Proud Boys, with this videographer just get me wrong.

RODGERS: You know it hasn't been clear to me what the coordination is actually between the committee and the hearings that they're holding and what DOJ is doing. You know, we know that DOJ has issued a subpoena to the committee for some of this information, and there was some pushback from that. So I don't know how closely they are coordinating.

So, I don't know that there's any real information to be drawn from the fact that the indictment comes out right as the hearings are getting going. You know, we do know that DOJ is going to rely at least in some part on what information that the committee has been gathering. And I suspect some of the things that we'll hear about in the committee hearings that we didn't know before will be things that the DOJ either already knows or will then use to further their investigation.

BOLDUAN: How hard is it to prove this in court, seditious conspiracy?

RODGERS: Well, oral charges are hard, but a case like this, a seditious conspiracy, it's very rarely brought, so that makes it even more challenging. You know, prosecutors, in some ways are making up the playbook when they think about how to convince a jury of this. But at the end of the day, no, you read the words of the statute, you see the elements you have to prove, and it doesn't take a lot of brain power to say OK, here's a group that went.


RODGERS: They had this purpose. That's all clear from what they were doing. Here's what they did to enact that purpose. And the by force part, you know that could be very challenging if you're talking about trying to charge who wasn't there on the grounds doing what many of them were doing. But when you're breaking down barriers, when you're assaulting police officers, when your communications are all about how we're going to, as a unified group takeover, I think it becomes doable.

BOLDUAN: It's interesting. It's good to see you, Jennifer. Thanks for walking us through it. Really appreciate it.

RODGERS: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Much more to come on this. Thank you all so much for being here with us today. I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts after this break.