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At This Hour

Jan. 6 Committee Finalizing Its Reports, Weighs Criminal Referrals; Cruise Ship Passenger Recounts How He Survived 15+ Hours At Sea; House To Take Up Bill To Protect Same-Sex, Interracial Marriage. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired December 07, 2022 - 11:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: And as part of the committee's final work investigating the attack on the Capitol, the committee has decided to make criminal referrals to the Justice Department. And there's new reporting on who those criminal referrals will focus on. Sara Murray is live in Washington with the very latest on this. Hey, Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Kate. So yes, you know, as we have been telling you guys, you know, they have been waiting for these criminal referrals. They have finally made a decision that the committee is going to move forward. They are going to issue these criminal referrals to the Department of Justice. Take a listen to Bennie Thompson, the chair of the committee.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON, (D-MS): We have not made a decision as to who but we have made decision that criminal referrals will happen.


MURRAY: So, they haven't made a decision of who all is going to be on this list of criminal referrals, but sources are telling us and our team that they are weighing a criminal referral for former President Donald Trump, they're also weighing referrals for some of his allies. We don't know yet who is on this list. What they do want to focus on are the sort of main organizers who they feel like, played a part in leading up to the attack on the Capitol on January 6.

But again, there's still a lot for this committee to flesh out. They need to flesh out this list of names. They need to flesh out what the legal basis is going to be for their criminal referrals. And of course, they still need to do their final report and they have a very limited time to do that so we will be chasing them down again today trying to get more details, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely. Thanks, Sara. I really appreciate it.

Joining me now for more on this is Nick Akerman. He's a former Watergate prosecutor and former Assistant U.S. Attorney. And CNN's senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez. Evan, do you have a sense -- a lot to be flushed out, of course, on these criminal referrals, as Sarah said.


BOLDUAN: But do you have a sense yet of what the Justice Department's likely to do with your criminal referrals once they get them? How seriously they take them considering they have their own investigations ongoing into the Capitol attack and who is behind it?

PEREZ: Right, exactly. They have their own investigation. But I do think one of the things that they are looking forward to is to get some of the evidence that the committee might present to underpin why they're making these referrals. They haven't seen all of the evidence that the committee have gathered, the witnesses, and so on. So that's the kind of thing that the Justice Department is keen to get its hands on, Kate.

BOLDUAN: And, Nick, the special counsel in charge of the Justice's criminal investigation into January 6, he has now subpoenaed local officials in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Arizona about communications with Trump around the 2020 election. In learning this news, you think this is an important move. Why?

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Well, it's an important move because what they're trying to do is find out what other contexts Donald Trump had with officials in those states. They know about what happened in Georgia, they have it on tape with the Secretary of State, but they don't have it pinned down in these other three battleground states. Obviously, if Donald Trump was going to be successful in turning over a lawful election, he needed cooperation from people not just from Georgia, but these other states. And what they're looking for are directed missions by Donald Trump that basically, you know, put him in the soup with his knowledge and intent are basically to create these fake electors and to get legislatures in those states to overturn the will of the people.

BOLDUAN: And one aspect of kind of the Justice Department's investigation into the 2020 election and also the classified documents that were found at Mar-a-Lago, Evan, you have some fresh reporting on this on how the Trump team has had or has hired a search team at four of Donald Trump's properties. What does that mean to this ongoing investigation?

PEREZ: Well, I think, Kate, one of the biggest problems for Trump and one of the clearest pieces of legal jeopardy that he has is the idea that you know, he got a lawfully ordered grand jury subpoena to turn over documents that were marked as classified. The -- he and his attorneys attested that they did that. And then weeks later, that the FBI goes to Mar-a-Lago and they find hundreds of such documents, government documents, and documents marked classified in the FBI's search at Mar-a-Lago. That's a violation of that subpoena.

And so, one of the things that the Trump lawyer -- legal team has been trying to do is to try to at least persuade a judge that issued -- that authorize that search, that they have satisfied the subpoena because the Justice Department keeps coming back to them and telling them that they believe there are additional documents that are missing, that they have not received everything. And so, we know -- our sources have told Kaitlan Collins that the Justice Department was invited to come observe the searches at least one in Bedminster, and they declined, but these are four -- searches done at four properties to try to at least satisfy this judge, and that the grand jury was not being -- subpoena was not being disobeyed. And I think that's part of what you see happening with the Trump team is that they're very concerned about the league jeopardy that the former president has.


BOLDUAN: Yes. That's so interesting. And, Nick, to add another element of legal jeopardy that the president -- the former president has faced, we also now have a jury convicting the Trump Organization of all 17 counts of criminal tax fraud. Is it clear yet what this means for how the -- how the Trump organization is able to do business going forward?

AKERMAN: Probably not. Not well. The fine is not that substantial and probably paying more than the 1.65 million for their lawyers. It's really just on the corporation. Where I really felt the DA's office is not having taken a hard line with Mr. Weisselberg and really insisted that he go to trial or cooperate against Donald Trump. He's really the person that knows the most, but the DA's office entered into a deal where he only has to serve 15 months in prison and doesn't have to cooperate against Donald Trump, even though it's obvious that he took all of his cues from Donald Trump. So, where all this goes individually for Donald Trump at this point, we just don't know.

BOLDUAN: Yes, we should know. Really interesting, though. Thank you both. Let's get through today. I really appreciate it.

PEREZ: Right.

BOLDUAN: So, to wild story of survival. A cruise ship passenger goes overboard and survives over 15 hours alone in the open water. What he told -- tells us about how he survived at all. That's next.



BOLDUAN: It is an incredible story of survival. A cruise passenger goes overboard, lost in the Gulf of Mexico for over 15 hours, then found alive and rescued by the Coast Guard with barely a scratch on him. James Michael Grimes, he doesn't remember how he fell off Carnival Cruise the night before Thanksgiving but the Alabama native now has quite the story to tell. Here's part of our conversation.


BOLDUAN: And James Michael Grimes joins me now. So, you don't remember falling off the boat. You wake up in the Gulf of Mexico alone. What was your first thought? What was going through your mind when you woke up?

JAMES MICHAEL GRIMES, RESCUED BY COAST GUARD AFTER FALLING OFF CRUISE SHIP: It was -- you know, I can't believe this actually happened to me. I was out there alone in the water with nothing insight. It was frightening at first but you know I just couldn't believe it happened to me.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Take me -- if you can, take us in the water with you. I mean, were you yelling for help? I mean, obviously, you're alone and who knows what it's going to do, but I can -- I'm just trying to imagine just what my instincts were going to do in those moments and those hours being in the water alone.

GRIMES: Well, I didn't yell for help. And I didn't because there was no one in sight. I didn't figure it would help. But I mean, I have seen a light, I don't know, it seemed like miles away. And I instantly started swimming towards that light because I thought it was the cruise ship. But I ended up finding out after swimming towards it four or five hours you know sun started coming up. I realized it was just an oil rigging platform.

And I kept trying to swim towards it. And I never made it to it because I guess when the sun came up, so did the tide. The current, it was pushing directly against me. And it seemed like I swam after the sun come up two more hours towards this oil rigging platform but I never got any closer to it.

BOLDUAN: What did you come across? What did you see? What did you come across in the water when you're there for 15-plus hours?

GRIMES: Oh, a bunch of small fish state schooling around me. I went through schools of jellyfish were slums just pretty much covering my body. I was breaking it off my arms and legs and just slinging it away from me. I went through two pretty good schools of jellyfish.

And I've seen some type of animal. I'm not going to say it's a shark, but it was three to four foot long and it had a fin sticking up. And I could see the fin it was maybe 10, 15 yards from me. And I can see it just kind of stay in that distance away from me so I instantly turned towards it, started backpedaling, and was looking under the water trying to see if I could see what it was. And it's like when I came back up from under the water, it was right there at me and it bumped one of my legs and I kicked it and it actually went on.

BOLDUAN: You're really just trying to survive, right? That's -- sure, that's exactly what was --

GRIMES: Yes, ma'am.

BOLDUAN: What was happening is your body just trying to survive. We've been showing -- as we've been talking, we've been showing viewers some of the amazing video that has been released of when the Coast Guard found you and of your rescue. Have you taken a look at this and seen this, and what do you think of it?

GRIMES: Yes, I've seen it. You know, I'm not going to say if -- I know in the video, it says like, you know, he was 30 seconds from death or a minute from death.


I'm not -- I'm not going to say that I could have lasted out there 2, 3, or 4 more hours -- or but -- 30 seconds, but when I realized the Coast Guard was on the way to get me, you know, and I kind of started relaxing.

BOLDUAN: Do you feel changed from this whole thing from what really is -- was a near-death experience?

GRIMES: Yes, I do. Um, while I was out there, you know, I was praying a lot, talking to God telling him I do -- Lord, if you get me out of here, you know, I'm going to start doing this and not do this anymore. You know, I was kind of wheeling and dealing with God, I guess. But it definitely changed my life. My outlook on life.

You know, don't take small things for granted, such as a bottle of water out there. I would have loved to have a bottle of water. You can just get up and go to the refrigerator, you know. I learned not to take things for granted so much, the small things and it definitely gave me a different outlook on life.

BOLDUAN: Well, James Michael, it is truly great to meet you. You have one remarkable story to tell from all of this. And thank goodness for it. Thank you so much.


BOLDUAN: We will be right.



BOLDUAN: At this hour, the White House is shining a spotlight on the fight against antisemitism. Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff is meeting with leaders to talk about the recent attacks on the Jewish community.


DOUG EMHOFF, SECOND GENTLEMAN OF THE UNITED STATES: It hurts me to see what we're going through right now. What all people are going through right now. Antisemitism is dangerous. We cannot normalize this. We all have an obligation to condemn these vile acts.


BOLDUAN: Doug Emhoff is the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president.

So, the House Representatives is expected to hold a final vote as soon as tomorrow on the Respect for Marriage Act, the bill creates federal protections for same-sex and interracial marriages. All of this is in response to fear after the Supreme Court threw out Roe, the next target could be the Obergefell case that laid the groundwork for marriage equality. And joining me now for more on this is the man behind that landmark Supreme Court case, Jim Obergefell. Jim, thank you for being here. So, the Respect for Marriage Act is likely to be headed to the president's desk to sign into law, possibly at the end of this week. You said the bill doesn't go far enough. So, are you disappointed in it?

JIM OBERGEFELL, PLAINTIFF IN LANDMARK SUPREME COURT SAME-SEX MARRIAGE CASE: Well, Kate, I'm happy that something is happening that will protect at least some of the rights we have enjoyed for the past seven and a half years. But no, I don't believe this goes far enough because this Respect for Marriage Act, in my opinion, doesn't respect the LGBTQ+ community, our relationships, our marriages, or our families. It would take this nation back in time and allow states to once again refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That is not respect.

So, again, I'm happy this is happening because should Obergefell be overturned, at least we would have something remaining. But no, I do not believe this Act goes far enough.

BOLDUAN: I talked to one of the lead sponsors of the bill, Jim, and he says that this is -- while you think it doesn't go far enough, he says this is as far as Congress could go. Let me play what Congressman Cicilline said.


REP. DAVID CICILLINE, (D-RI): This piece of legislation does as much as the federal government can do. The reality is marriage is established in state law. The federal government does not have the authority to determine what is a marriage by state law.


BOLDUAN: So, what then do you make of this whole effort?

OBERGEFELL: Well, I understand that states have the right to define what marriage is in their particular state. But what I would like to see happen with this Respect for Marriage Act, and really the whole conversation around marriage is to take this perverted definition of religious freedom out of the conversation. There were amendments made to the Respect for Marriage Act to protect religious freedom because people claimed that faith leaders could be forced to marry same-sex couples.

Well, that is an out-and-out right lie. No faith leader has ever been forced or could ever be forced to marry a same-sex couple. Just like for example, a Catholic priest could never be forced to marry two non- Catholics or one Catholic and one non-Catholic. This is just a lie intended to whip up opposition and hatred towards the LGBTQ+ community. So, what I would love to see is that our lawmakers would stand up to this bogus religious freedom demand and not include that in this bill.

And it's also just the risk that we face as a community in our nation, where we have businesses -- going to the Supreme Court, businesses open to the public demanding the right to refuse service to members of the LGBTQ+ community or to same-sex couples. That is not religious freedom. That is using one person's religious beliefs, their interpretation of their particular religion to persecute others in the public sphere. Marriage is a civil right. We do not go to a church or a mosque, or a synagogue.


We go to a government office for a marriage license. No religion, no faith leader, no religious ceremony is required for marriage. So, all of these things do nothing but undermine and demean the right to marry that we, as citizens of this country, deserve to enjoy.

BOLDUAN: Yes, to have that effort happening in Congress that will go into the president's desk, very likely. And at the same time, as you're mentioning, the Supreme Court just this week was hearing oral arguments about a case with a web designer who doesn't want to have -- to have to, in her view, create wedding websites for same-sex couples, all of this very much in the conversation, and very much happening right now. Jim, thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.

OBERGEFELL: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: And thank you all so much for watching AT THIS HOUR, I'm Kate Bolduan. "INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts after this break.