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At This Hour
Ex-Aide's Bombshell Testimony before January 6 Committee; House Committee Suggests Evidence of Witness Tampering. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired June 29, 2022 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Jim Sciutto in Madrid, we'll be back again tomorrow with more from the NATO summit here. "AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello, everyone.
Stunning testimony from a former White House aide about Donald Trump and the level of culpability he and his White House now face.
Several people charged after a smuggling tragedy leaves dozens of migrants dead.
And President Biden meets with Turkiye's president very soon as NATO prepares to expand its alliance.
This is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR.
BOLDUAN: Thank you for being here. I'm Kate Bolduan.
There's growing fallout now from Cassidy Hutchinson's explosive testimony before the January 6 committee. The former aide to Mark Meadows with damning new details about what Trump knew and did before, during and really didn't do in the Capitol insurrection.
Hutchinson saying under oath Trump knew the crowd was armed, yet still wanted them to have access to the Capitol grounds. Hutchinson testified that he personally insisted on leading the armed mob to the Capitol.
And she recounted being told about the president arguing with and lunging at a Secret Service agent after being told he couldn't go there.
Liz Cheney this morning is calling on former White House counsel Pat Cipollone to testify. Hutchinson told the panel that he explicitly warned that, if Trump and others went to the Capitol, quote, "We are going to get charged with every crime imaginable."
CNN's Jessica Schneider is starting us off live in Washington.
It seems people are still processing everything that came out yesterday.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: They are and just the fact that Cassidy Hutchinson is just 26 years old but she did have this up-close and unparalleled access to the president and top White House officials in those final months of Trump's term.
She was the top aide to chief of staff Mark Meadows. And with her office just steps away from the Oval Office, she witnessed stunning interactions all around January 6th.
HUTCHINSON: That evening was the first moment that I remember feeling scared and nervous for what could happen on January 6th. And I had a deeper concern for what was happening with the planning aspects of it.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Cassidy Hutchinson chronicling the days and hours leading up to the January 6 Capitol attack. The former senior aide to then White House chief of staff Mark Meadows recalling a meeting between Rudy Giuliani and Mark Meadows on January 2.
HUTCHINSON: I remember looking at him, saying, "Rudy, could you explain what's happening on the 6th?"
And he had responded something to the effect of, "We're going to the Capitol. It's going to be great. The president is going to be there. He's going to look powerful."
I went back up to our office and I found Mr. Meadows in his office on the couch. He was scrolling through his phone.
I remember leaning against the doorway and saying, "I just had an interesting conversation with Rudy, Mark. Sounds like we're going to go to the Capitol."
He didn't look up from his phone and said something to the effect of, "There's a lot going on, Character assassination, but I don't know. Things might get real, real bad on January 6th."
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): The White House counsel's office was gravely concerned about then president Donald Trump's speech and desire to march to the Capitol, according to Hutchinson.
HUTCHINSON: Mr. Cipollone said something to the effect of, "Please make sure we don't go up to the Capitol, Cassidy. Keep in touch with me. We're going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen."
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): As the rioters were storming the Capitol, Hutchinson testified Trump was cheering them on --
PROTESTERS: Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): -- agreeing with the chants to, quote, "Hang Mike Pence."
HUTCHINSON: Mark had responded something to the effect of, "You heard him, Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn't think they're doing anything wrong."
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): She says Cipollone replied...
HUTCHINSON: "People are going to die and the blood's going to be on your f-ing hands."
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Hutchinson testifying in the clearest detail to date about Trump's desire to lead the crowd to the Capitol, despite warnings that many present were armed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had Glock-style pistols in their waistbands.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eighty-seven thirty-six with the message, "That subject, weapon on his right hip, he's in the tree."
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Hutchinson recalled that, before the president took the stage, he insisted that metal detectors be removed and individuals with weapons be allowed in to fill the crowd and eventually march to the Capitol.
HUTCHINSON: He was very concerned about the shot, meaning the photograph that we would get because the rally space wasn't full.
I was in the vicinity of a conversation where I overheard the president say something to the effect of, "I don't f-ing care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the f-ing mags away. Let my people in. They can march the Capitol from here."
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Hutchinson said Trump took the stage, thinking that Meadows was still figuring out a way for Trump to go to the Capitol after his speech. She added that Trump got into his SUV after his speech and was seen in this video, presented by the committee, driving away.
Hutchinson recalling a conversation back at the White House with then deputy chief of staff Tony Ornato about an alleged altercation in the SUV between Trump and his Secret Service agent, Robert Engel, when he learned that they would not be taking him to the Capitol.
HUTCHINSON: The president said something to the effect of, "I'm the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now," to which Bobby responded, "Sir, we have to go back to the West Wing."
The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said, "Sir, you need to take your hand off the steering wheel. We're going back to the West Wing. We're not going to the Capitol."
Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel. And when Mr. Ornato had recounted this story to me, he had motioned towards his clavicles.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): A Secret Service official familiar with the matter told CNN that Ornato denies telling Hutchinson that Trump grabbed the steering wheel or agent.
The Secret Service notified the Select Committee after Hutchinson's testimony that the agents involved are prepared to testify under oath that the incident did not occur.
The committee standing behind Hutchinson's account while encouraging others with information to come forward.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIR, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Look, I believe Cassidy Hutchinson. I think she's a very -- a very smart, very capable, very honest individual. She has no incentive to make up something that isn't true.
SCHNEIDER: And the committee also said evidence has emerged of witness tampering. Vice chair Liz Cheney presented several messages from witnesses, saying they've been pressured from Trump allies to say the right thing.
Cheney now said the committee is taking all of that very seriously and even indicated they're looking into possible next steps here, Kate. That could include a possible criminal referral for witness tampering. So still a lot more to come here. And we're expecting the next hearings to probably be starting the weekend of July 11th.
BOLDUAN: Thank you, appreciate it.
Joining me for perspective on this, CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin; Jim Schultz, former senior associate counsel and special assistant to president Trump; and Jim Messina, former deputy White House chief of staff under President Obama.
Thank you all for being here.
Jeffrey, this was shocking testimony yesterday. I know you have been talking about it.
But how is it landing today in terms of where things go from here?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: I think it just calls for further investigation, especially about the former president's connection to the violence at the Capitol.
I think, to me, the most provocative and important evidence that came out was the president's, based on the Hutchinson testimony, is that the president knew that there were armed people in the crowd and wanted them, while armed, to march to the Capitol. That is the closest connection that we have seen so far between the
president and the people who were engaging in violence. It's not conclusive proof of a crime. But it certainly calls for further investigation.
And I would also add the fact that White House counsel Cipollone was warning everyone that crimes would be committed if they persisted in this kind of protest, you know, that is, again, suggestive of criminal intent if they provided and knew about that warning.
BOLDUAN: Jim Schultz, I want to read you the take from one senior house Republican who did not back impeachment, telling my colleague, Melanie Zanona, this.
"This testimony will lead to indictment," This lawmaker said, pointing to former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and possibly even Trump himself.
Jim, you left the administration long before this in 2017, I believe.
How does this testimony land with you?
JIM SCHULTZ, FORMER SENIOR ASSOCIATE COUNSEL AND TRUMP SPECIAL ASSISTANT: So look, I agree with everything Jeffrey said. It's incredibly disturbing testimony. The fact that the president said that they're not here to hurt me.
Well, who are they here to hurt then?
That's another fact that folks are going to use when they're continuing into this investigation. There just seems to be facts that keep on mounting and mounting and mounting against the former president.
Quite frankly, disturbing facts and facts that could lead to charges. I think it's a little preliminary to say who's going to be charged in this matter. But certainly, the folks around him on January 6th, including Meadows, must be worried.
BOLDUAN: You hear how it's landing with one senior Republican.
How do you think it should be landing with other Republicans?
SCHULTZ: I think that's how it should be landing with other Republicans. You've already seen some of the polling showing that Republicans are starting to move away from Trump and going to other Republicans. I think that's what should be happening at this point in time. And the folks in Washington, meaning in Congress, should be the ones doing the same.
BOLDUAN: Jim Messina, you're a Democrat but you're also someone who knows how a White House works. You know just how close those offices are.
You know the role of a Cassidy Hutchinson and what that means in the White House.
Does it get any closer to this without hearing from the president, from president Trump or his chief of staff directly?
JIM MESSINA, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF: No. I mean, this is so far past Watergate, Kate. We are now to a place where we have a well-placed White House official, who is there for all these conversations, who said the inherent truth, that the president of the United States knew the protesters were armed.
He wanted to go to the Capitol to further incite them. He wanted to help them cause a coup in the United States of America and stop the electoral process. That's what he wanted. And he was doing whatever he could to get it.
And when you're in the White House, you realize how close the offices are and how young staffers like Cassidy hear all of these things and is truly a historian and testifier to what happens in those moments.
And we just have not seen testimony like this before and, again, we are so past Watergate. We are now to the biggest constitutional crisis in American history.
BOLDUAN: Jim Schultz, I want to read to you, Liz Cheney making clear that the next person she wants to hear from is the Trump White House counsel, Pat Cipollone.
"As we heard yesterday, White House counsel Pat Cipollone had significant concerns regarding Trump's January 6th activities. It's time for Mr. Cipollone to testify on the record. Any concerns he has about the institutional interests of his prior office are outweighed by the need for his testimony."
Is there anything stopping him from testifying at this point?
SCHULTZ: I believe he did give five hours of interviews. And I do think that he should testify. Now that can be done in a number of different ways.
One of the ways to do it, not on video but by transcription. That's something done in the past with other White House counsels. So there's precedent for doing that and, quite frankly, would be appropriate.
BOLDUAN: But Jim, if a 25-, 26-year old young aide has the courage to sit before this panel and testify publicly, why shouldn't Pat Cipollone or anyone else higher up and more seasoned in that administration be expected to do the same?
SCHULTZ: Look, I think anyone with information relative to this should be coming forward, no question about it. There are attorney- client privilege concerns there that Mr. Cipollone is going to, I'm sure through his lawyers, advance.
I believe he should come forward and testify. I think it's incumbent upon him to come forward and testify, especially in light of what we saw today. There's little difference between coming before the television sets and doing it by way of transcribed testimony, as you would do in any other proceeding.
But nonetheless, the facts need to be coming out and he needs to come forward and testify.
BOLDUAN: Good point.
Mark Meadows is the other person where there are big questions about now. Jessica Schneider laid it out in that piece for us.
As a former deputy chief of staff, what do you make of how Hutchinson describes her boss not looking up from his phone as violence is breaking out and not engaging when people come to him and look to him for help, not trying to do anything about it, at least coming across in this testimony like that?
MESSINA: Kate, the word is complicit, he's complicit in all of this. He knew before she went to him, before January 6th and said we have a problem here and he said it could be very bad.
And then on January 6th, we know that he was telling the president, I'm trying to figure out a way to get you to the Capitol. He didn't do what chiefs of staff's job are, which is say to the president, here's the pros, the cons and here's my recommendation and here's why we're not going to do it.
He aided and abetted the president. That's exactly why this whole thing is going to fall on him first. We'll see whether it gets to the president. But if I was him I'd get every lawyer I could in Washington.
BOLDUAN: Guys, stick with me because we have more to discuss.
They were ominous last words from the committee yesterday, warning of attempts of witness tampering by allies of Donald Trump. That's next.
BOLDUAN: The January 6th committee said that it has evidence of potential witness tampering by some of Donald Trump's allies. In yesterday's blockbuster hearing, Liz Cheney laid out two instances of potential interference, including this message received by an unidentified witness before their deposition.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The person let me know you have your deposition tomorrow. He wants me to let you know he's thinking about you. He knows you're loyal and you're going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Jeffrey, Jim and Jim are back.
I'll put up what Cheney read from another unidentified witness from Trump's administration or campaign, kind of how they said it and, in part, what they said about it at the very end.
BOLDUAN: At the very end, it said, "You know you'll continue to stay in his good graces," and also reminding that he reads transcripts.
What do you think this gets to?
What do you think this means?
TOOBIN: Well, It certainly sounds like gangsterish intimidation. But, again, you need to know a lot more.
Who are these people?
Who said what, when?
These are just anonymous transcripts so far. A serious investigation would identify those people, would identify the people who allegedly made these comments, speak to them and see, on what basis, they said these things and who -- what prompted it. It's all very suggestive of witness intimidation but it's a long way from proof.
BOLDUAN: Jim Schultz, does what Cheney described surprise you?
SCHULTZ: Look, this is nothing but thuggery and intimidation that you would see in cases involving hardened criminals and violent crime and drug cases and the like. It has to be taken seriously. It has to be fully investigated. I agree with Jeffrey.
But it turns out that's the directive of someone close to Trump or Trump, there's big problems ahead for them.
BOLDUAN: But Thompson told reporters after the hearing that they had not talked to the Justice Department about the potential witness tampering by Trump associates or even about Meadows.
Should they at this point?
TOOBIN: I don't think that's necessary. You know, they are -- the Justice Department is watching these hearings. They know what's going on. All of this information is ultimately going to be turned over to the Justice Department.
The fact that a Democratic-led committee wants the Justice Department to investigate or prosecute Trump is not going to affect the result. So I don't think any of this issue of a referral is important at all. If there's something to investigate, based on what the committee
discovers, the Justice Department is perfectly capable of seeing that on its own.
BOLDUAN: Great point.
Jim, you spent a lot of time with the Secret Service. This back-and- forth between Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony about what happened with the top agent on January 6th and the Secret Service saying that these agents are prepared to testify that the incident did not occur, what do you make of it?
MESSINA: Well, look, as a White House deputy chief of staff of operations, I dealt with the Secret Service every day. There aren't finer public servants than those folks who put their lives on the line every day to protect us.
And I think it's sad they're getting drug (sic) into the president's actions. But they were there and there's precedent here, as Jeffrey Toobin knows. Secret Service was called during the Lewinsky impeachment trial. They got involved in that and they had to. And so they'll likely get to there.
But I think it's kind of a side show, Kate. We could argue what happened in the limo or what didn't happen in the limo. What's true, he directed them. He directed his chief of staff to find a way to get him to the Capitol, to further incite people that the Secret Service told him were armed.
So we could argue what happened in that thing. But the truth is the president was trying to incite a riot and violence at the Capitol. And that's what we should stay focused on.
BOLDUAN: This gets to something you've been speaking to as well. No matter how shocking some of the details are, the fact of the matter is, Trump world knew violence was possible and likely did not do more to better protect the Capitol ahead of time.
Trump knew there were people with weapons, didn't do anything about it, knowing they were going to march to the Capitol.
Legally, does this change things?
TOOBIN: Again, you need to -- if you were doing a criminal investigation, you need to talk to a lot more people. The law is very tolerant of people who know about bad things that might happen but then don't do anything about it.
It's very hard to prosecute someone for inaction. However, if there is evidence of actively encouraging violence, of encouraging people with weapons to enter the Capitol to commit illegal acts, that's a very different thing.
And that's the knife's edge on which this case now stands. Obviously, the president should have done a lot of different things, to tell people to calm down and don't engage in violence. But that's not a crime, to fail to tell people to calm down.
The crime is if there is encouragement of violence. And that's what we don't know for certain yet.
BOLDUAN: Really quickly, you think a lot of this speaks to his state of mind and you think that is relevant?
SCHULTZ: I think it's relevant to a lot of things, including the fact that the fraud against the government and interfering with an election, these facts that are coming out are going to be very bad facts for the former president.
SCHULTZ: As the Justice Department is potentially looking at interfering with the election or some type of fraud against the United States government.
BOLDUAN: All right, good to see you all, thank you for your time.
Coming up, people are now arrested and have been charged after dozens of migrants were found dead in a semitrailer truck in Texas. The very latest from Texas is next.