Return to Transcripts main page
At This Hour
Georgia Officials Testify to Trump Pressure Campaign; Uvalde School Shooting. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired June 21, 2022 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Erica Hill, in today for Kate Bolduan.
The January 6 committee set to reveal new details today about the plot to keep president Trump in power.
New troubling allegations about how police in Uvalde failed to stop that massacre.
And after more than two years, millions of kids can finally get their COVID shots. That's what we're watching AT THIS HOUR.
HILL: We're also counting down, now just two hours away from what we are told will be new evidence of just how far former president Trump was potentially willing to go to keep his grip on power.
The fourth hearing from the House Select Committee is expected to focus on the campaign to pressure state officials and the plot to flip states that voted for Joe Biden.
Among today's witnesses, Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, who faced relentless pressure campaign from Trump and his aides to change the election state results.
Democratic Congress man Adam Schiff who will lead today's hearing gave CNN a preview of what we can expect to hear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We will show evidence of the president's involvement in this scheme and we'll also show evidence about what his own lawyers came to think about this scheme.
And we'll show courageous state officials, who stood up and said they wouldn't go along with this plan to call either legislatures back into session.
(END VIDEO CLIP) HILL: Let's begin with Manu Raju, who is live this morning on Capitol Hill.
So Manu, walk us through what and who we are expecting to hear from today.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We do expect to hear from four witnesses, who will talk about the intense pressure campaign launched by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the electoral results, the pressure they withstood, rejecting those efforts.
And also the real-life consequences, particularly facing a Georgia election worker, a former Georgia election worker, who will testify later today about the real threats to her personal safety, to her family's safety, because of what she says were lies that were pushed by Donald Trump, by Rudy Giuliani, suggesting there was mass fraud in the Georgia election, when she said there was absolutely none of that.
That woman, Wandrea Moss, who will say, later today, according to testimony we have obtained, that, as a result, I have been threatened and harassed. One stranger told me, be glad it is 2020 and not 1920. Others told me I should hang alongside my mom for committing treason. My son received some of those threats.
They went after a child, my child. He heard horrible things about his mom just because I did my job. People showed up in my grandmother's home, trying to bust down the door and conduct a citizen's arrest of my mom and me.
Now this will come after we hear testimony from three Republican officials, election officials, two from Georgia, Gabe Sterling and the secretary of state in Georgia, Brad Raffensperger. We'll also hear from the Arizona Republican House Speaker Rusty Bowers, all of whom supported Donald Trump.
But all of whom said no to his efforts to try to overturn the election. So we plan to get into some more detail about that. And Raffensperger, in particular, was told to go find the votes, from Donald Trump. He said no to that. And we expect to hear about how that played out behind the scenes later today.
HILL: Manu, appreciate it, thank you.
So a little more on this plot to submit false slates of electors.
How is that supposed to work?
Joining me to walk us through it, CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig.
We rely on you to break it down because it can be a little convoluted and complicated. The people behind it said they had the Constitution on their side. Explain that argument.
Are they right? ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, yes, Erica, that was the argument; no, they were not right, however. Article II of the Constitution tells us, each state legislature has the power to decide how that state will apportion its electoral votes.
However, what it does not say is that, after that process has been completed, if the legislature doesn't like the outcome, it can go in and change it. That's essentially what Donald Trump's people were asking these state legislatures to do.
They all passed laws saying whoever wins the popular vote in the state gets all the electoral votes, that's that. You can't just go in afterwards and say we don't like it, so we're going to change it.
This effort to try to pressure state officials to throw over the electoral votes was a coordinated seven-state effort, focused on Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia.
Why did they choose these seven states?
First of all, they were all swing states. Second of all, they all went for Joe Biden. And third of all, five of these seven states had Republican-controlled legislatures. So the pitch seemed to be, hey, we're Republicans, you're Republicans. Do us a solid, throw us the votes.
Fortunately for our democracy, Republican state officials in those states were not on board.
HILL: So a really important part of this plan, right, was to use these fake electors.
HILL: This was key here. This is going to be a major focus today for the committee.
How was this plan going to work?
HONIG: So ordinarily the way it is supposed to work is, after a state has certified its election outcome, they fill out a fairly routine document. Here is the actual certification from the State of Georgia 2020.
It says the person we voted for, Joe Biden, he gets all 16 of our electoral votes. And here is the signatures of the 16 electors. That form then gets sent in to the National Archives.
What this fake elector scheme did was essentially take the same form, they tweaked the format a little bit and said -- they changed who won to Donald Trump and they had a different slate of 16 electors who signed it.
Now some of the forms did say we're just submitting this in case the courts rule Donald Trump has won but others did not say that. That's an important difference.
HILL: Who are all the key players behind these efforts?
HONIG: Three key people: John Eastman is the lawyer who came up with this whole plan for how they could try to disrupt the electoral count and steal over certain states. Rudy Giuliani, we know, was the central coordinator for this seven-state plan. This was not seven states acting independently; it all ran through Rudy.
Big question, what was Donald Trump's involvement?
We got a hint: Adam Schiff told Dana Bash this weekend they have evidence tying Donald Trump to this fake electors scheme.
HILL: What that actually means, of course, what the tie is what everybody wants to know. As you look at all of this, there is understandable outrage from a lot of people.
Will anyone, can anyone be charged here?
HONIG: Will anyone, we don't know. Can anyone, we do know that two very important prosecutors will be watching what happens today, the United States attorney general Merrick Garland and the Fulton County Georgia defense attorney Fanni Willis.
This could be relevant criminally in two ways. One, it could be evidence of a broader scheme to defraud the United States of a full and fair election. That would have to fall to DOJ.
Second of all, submitting these fake elector documents, if the idea was, let's trick the government, that's also a federal crime, just the same way as it is a crime to lie to the FBI, to submit a false document to the Treasury Department. If you submit a false form -- remember, these forms were mailed to the National Archives -- that also could be a federal offense.
HILL: All right, we'll be watching for all that. Elie, appreciate it as always.
One member of the panel, Democratic Congress man Jamie Raskin, says Donald Trump needs to be held accountable for his actions to overturn the 2020 election results and he says that accountability can come in two ways. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Yes, there needs to be accountability. And accountability can mean two things.
One is individual criminal accountability that people paid for their particular crimes, as more than 800 people have already been prosecuted, for everything from assaulting a federal officer to interfering with a federal proceeding to seditious conspiracy, which means conspiracy to overthrow and put down the government of the United States. But accountability also means collective accountability. And that's
the real project that we're engaged in under House resolution 503, telling the truth to the people so we can make decisions about how to fortify democratic institutions going forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: Joining me now CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and CNN Capitol Hill reporter Melanie Zanona.
Jeffrey, as I listen to that, realistically the only accountability that the committee has control over at this point would be some sort of legislative recommendation to ensure that future elections are not, you know, compromised in any way.
Is that really accountability in this case?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it is a form of accountability. You know, the fact is, a lot of the mechanism involving how the final steps of the election are conducted, are based on this law that was passed in the late 19th century, following the contested election of 1876.
And that act, that Election Act, is enormously complicated, mysterious, ambiguous, in certain respects. Now it is not mysterious and ambiguous relating to Mike Pence's role. Mike Pence had no choice to do what he did.
But it is possible that the law could be simplified and clarified, so that even this controversy couldn't take place again. That is a remote possibility; there is theoretically some work being done by the Senate and the House to simplify the Election Act.
Congress usually finds it much easier to do nothing than do something. That seems to be the direction they're headed. But there is a possibility of some legislative action in reaction to what happened in January.
HILL: You just touched on this, Elie did as well, when we talk about what part of the focus is going to be today, it is this complicated plot that involves this centuries-old electoral laws.
The committee, as I understand it, Melanie, is really going to rely on these personal stories to cut through.
HILL: How much new information are we expecting to hear this afternoon?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are expecting the select committee to start filling in the gaps when it comes to just how far Trump and his allies were willing to go with this fake electors plot.
But to your point, Erica, they're really trying to humanize the story. It can be really complicated to understand. So the second witness panel is going to feature an election worker, who was harassed and received death threats for just trying to do her job.
And one of the things that the select committee has really tried to do is draw a direct link between Trump's actions and all of the violence surrounding January 6th.
We saw that last week, as it pertains to Mike Pence and how his life was in immediate danger because of Trump's actions and tweets on January 6th and the whole pressure campaign. And I expect we'll see more of that today, when we hear from the witnesses and election officials.
HILL: What we'll also hear today, according to Adam Schiff, telling the "L.A. Times," the committee will present new information about Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and what Schiff called the, quote, "intimate role" he played in efforts, specifically to pressure Georgia officials.
Placing Mark Meadows at the center of this plot, what does that achieve?
TOOBIN: You know, Erica, Georgia, to me, has always been the key state here, because when you talk about some of the other states, the role of Donald Trump is less clear. The efforts at intimidation are not as clear.
But Georgia is a really big problem for the president and his allies, largely because, at least from the start, because of the phone call to the secretary of state Raffensperger, because, you know, the president's defense all along has been, look, I was just trying to get the votes counted.
I was just trying to get the legitimate count established. I thought I won and I just wanted all the votes counted.
When you start with that tape recorded phone call and you hear the president say, I'm interested in getting 11,780 votes, that's not about getting all the votes counted; that's just getting him over the top. That's just about him winning.
And that is much more suggestive of an illegal conspiracy than anything else I've heard. Plus, that is where there is an active state criminal investigation, led by the district attorney in Fulton County, which is Atlanta.
So I think people should pay a lot of attention to the Georgia evidence, because that, to me, is the most legally problematic situation for the president and the people closest to him, including -- we'll see what the evidence is -- Mark Meadows.
HILL: We'll be watching that.
Melanie, you have been reporting, you've been in contact with the so- called impeachment 10, Republicans who voted to impeach the former president over his role in January 6. It is really telling in terms of where they stand right now.
And it begs the question to whether we're seeing if Trump's election lies are actually winning the day.
ZANONA: Yes, I would say in the Republican Party, as of right now, they absolutely are. And it is not just because pro impeachment Republicans are getting pushed out of Congress, through retirement or being defeated in primaries.
The Texas GOP this weekend is poised to adopt a new policy platform that would falsely claim that Joe Biden was not legitimately elected president.
And we're also seeing election deniers running in Republican primaries and winning in Republican primaries in races all around the country, including for positions that would have a hand in overseeing the next election process.
So this is a strategy that has worked in Republican primaries. The question is whether it will matter in the general election. I think that very much remains to be seen. But the select committee has really tried to sound the alarm bells that this threat to democracy still very much exists, Erica.
HILL: Melanie Zanona, Jeffrey Toobin, thank you.
CNN's special coverage today's insurrection hearing will begin at noon Eastern. Stay with us for that.
Also the head of Texas public safety delivering a scathing rebuke of the police response to the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. Details in a live report. That's next.
HILL: Right now, Texas public safety director Steve McCraw is testifying in front of a state Senate committee, blasting the local police in Uvalde for failing to act for over an hour as a gunman murdered 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLONEL STEVEN MCCRAW, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: There is compelling evidence that the law enforcement response to the attack at Robb Elementary was an abject failure and antithetical to everything we've learned over the last two decades since the Columbine massacre.
Three minutes after the subject entered the west building, there was sufficient number of armed officers, wearing body armor, to isolate, distract and neutralize the subject.
The only thing stopping the hallway of dedicated officers from entering room 111 and 112 was the onscene commander, who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children.
The officers had weapons; the children had none. The officers had body armor; the children had none. The officers had training; the subject had none. One hour, 14 minutes and 8 seconds: that's how long the children waited and the teachers waited in rooms 111 to be rescued.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL: CNN's Rosa Flores is live in Uvalde, with the latest.
Damning words right there, Rosa.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erica, this testimony is difficult to listen to. I can't even imagine being one of the family members of the victims, listening to this testimony, because it is excruciating.
Colonel McCraw, the head of Texas DPS, is going through a second by second account of what happened on that day. Now this is the latest -- the most up to date timeline that Texas DPS has presented to the public.
But Colonel McCraw also mentioned at the top of his remarks that the investigation is not complete. So we have to take all of this with a grain of salt. As we know from covering the story, from the beginning, the story has changed multiple times. Hopefully this time they got it right.
A few of the highlights here: according to Colonel McCraw's timeline, 24 seconds; that's how long it took for the shooter to enter the school and start firing his weapon into the classroom.
Three minutes in: that's when Colonel McCraw says that 11 officers, two of those officers with long guns, with rifles, entered that classroom.
One minute after that: the shooter started shooting at these officers through the door. Some of those officers got graze wounds and so they retreated.
Now after that it was a series of things that happened. But according to what Colonel McCraw has been testifying so far, officers did not approach the door, did not try to get into that classroom.
Instead what happened is law enforcement officers are either in the hallway or outside, with weapons, with shields. And the timeline of when those shields come in, they start at 19 minutes. And then more shields arrive.
Point of the matter is that there was a long wait and Colonel McCraw paints it like this. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCRAW: While they waited, the onscene commander waited for radio and rifles. And he waited for shields. Then he waited for SWAT. Lastly he waited for a key that was never needed. The post Columbine doctrine is clear and compelling and unambiguous: stop the killing, stop the dying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FLORES: Now Erica, what is going on right now in this hearing is Colonel McCraw is taking questions from the committee members. Some of those questions started off regarding the door, the first door that was breached by the shooter.
And so they're discussing the complexity of that. We also know there is diagrams of this door. So that's what they're diving into right now at this point.
HILL: Wow. And to hear him say there, too, waiting for a key that was never needed, when we think about that door. Rosa, thank you. You'll continue to update us as we hear more.
Also with us now, CNN senior law enforcement analyst, Charles Ramsey, the former Philadelphia police commissioner.
Commissioner, always good to have you with us. This is damning, feels like it falls short. Every time we get an update, it just leaves you speechless.
When you hear and even just those two bits of testimony that we just played, from the director of Texas Department of Public Safety, Steven McCraw, what stands out to you in this latest account?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, first of all, this just keeps getting worse. And there is just absolutely no excuse for them to avoid it, that long to get in.
And I think it points to another issue that departments around the country need to pay attention to. Just because an individual has rank, it doesn't mean they make good decisions in a moment of crisis.
When you've got somebody who is in charge of your special operations, the on scene commander, whatever, you better have the right person there. Apparently this police chief was not the right person. He couldn't make a decision.
And so, you know, this is just bad. There is just no other way of describing it. The officer should not even have waited for an onscene commander. You make entry. They had shields, they had bulletproof vests, long guns.
What the hell else do you need?
You got kids being slaughtered in there, teachers being slaughtered.
And you're standing around waiting?
It just makes no sense. It makes me angry. It is embarrassing because it is embarrassing for all law enforcement. HILL: Jose Flores, whose 10-year-old son was killed in this shooting,
was on with John Berman this morning. He said, in light of what he has learned -- this is before the testimony that we just played from Steven McCraw, which happened a short time ago -- he called them cowards.
HILL: And he said the police had failed his son and those other children and the two teachers who were killed.
One thing that stood out to me is he said, the families aren't getting any answers. He told Berman, all he's gotten are excuses that they're trying to cover up their tracks. One of the first things that happens in the wake of these horrible tragedies is the families are generally briefed.
The fact that even the families can't get this information, that also speaks to a major issue.
RAMSEY: It is a major issue. Listen, first of all, they have a right to know exactly what took place. Obviously they screwed this up, so they don't want to say anything and they may have lawyers telling them not to because they know lawsuits are going to follow.
I don't know. But those people deserve answers. They really do deserve answers. They lost a loved one, a child. They will never get that person back. They'll never be able to celebrate another birthday, a wedding, anniversary, whatever it might be.
That's it, it is over, they're gone. And they deserve answers.
And so, you know, Uvalde needs to just step up, do the right thing, give people the answers they need to have. You let the cards fall where they may. You get sued, guess what? You deserve to be sued in these circumstances.
Let the cards fall where they may, period, and that's it. I'll tell you something: that chief should never be in policing again.
HILL: That chief --
HILL: -- Arredondo, the school police chief, we have learned, is set to testify today. This is going to be though not in this public Texas Senate hearing that we just saw, with Steve McCraw. This is going to be in a closed hearing with a Texas house investigative committee.
Let's say you were able to be in that meeting, let's say you had a chance to talk.
What are some of the questions you would be asking him?
RAMSEY: I would want to know why he took so long.
What was he thinking?
How could you possibly think that it was OK to wait that long?
You're hearing shots being fired. You know who is on the other side of that door. Those are small children and teachers on the other side of that door. Listen, there is risk in policing, there is no question about that.
But I have buried too many police officers that were unafraid to go in and risk their lives and actually lose their lives to protect others. I mean, I don't know what the heck he was thinking. I have absolutely no idea. It is frustrating to me and there is nothing he could possibly say that would convince me that he made the right decisions.
You do what you have to do, period. You distract this guy, you shoot through the window, shoot through the door, do something. But don't let him just stay an hour in there and just continue to shoot people and let those kids lay there and literally bleed to death. There is no excuse for it.
HILL: Steve McCraw said just moments ago, they put officers' lives above those of the children. Tough words. Charles Ramsey --
RAMSEY: That's just wrong.
HILL: -- we always appreciate your insight, thank you.
RAMSEY: Thank you.
HILL: Coming up here, the Department of Justice announcing actions to go after war criminals from Russia's war in Ukraine. We have those details next.