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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Trump Adviser Steve Bannon Indicted By Federal Grand Jury; Interview With Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired November 12, 2021 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I guarantee you, Mark Meadows has taken notice of this. Stephen Miller, Michael Flynn, Kayleigh McEnany, all the other people who've been subpoenaed on down the line who are Trump loyalists, they're watching.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK. So, the breaking news, again, Steve Bannon has been indicted on two counts of contempt of Congress. Elie Honig, thank you.
And THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER picks up our breaking coverage right now.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
And we start, of course, with the breaking news.
Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon has been indicted by a grand jury. An arrest warrant we're told hill soon be signed by a judge. The indicted coming after Bannon refused a subpoena from the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection.
Let's get straight to CNN's Jessica Schneider on the scene outside the courthouse.
Jessica, what specifically has Steve Bannon been charged with?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Jake, we now know that Steve Bannon has been charged with two counts of contempt of Congress and the Department of Justice issuing a release saying that those two counts stem from his failure to appear for a deposition and also his failure to produce documents for the House Select Committee.
Obviously, this has been a several week-long process. People around Washington, around the country wondering what the Department of Justice would do. All along the attorney general has been saying that they would follow the facts and the law to possibly prosecute this case.
I was inside the magistrate judge's courtroom this afternoon when two attorneys from the U.S. attorney's office here in Washington presented that grand jury indictment to the magistrate judge. The foreperson of the jury was also in the courtroom. And the judge, the magistrate judge here, Meriweather, said that she would also be signing an arrest warrant here.
The release from the Department of Justice has said that an arraignment date has not yet been set, but this is significant. We know the grand jury has been meeting for several days, possibly over the past few weeks, and today we saw an FBI agent walk in to the grand jury room, presumably to give testimony before the grand jury and it was shortly thereafter that we saw the prosecutors from the U.S. attorney's office walk out of that courtroom and then two courtrooms down where they swiftly presented this grand jury indictment to the judge.
So while this process may have taken awhile from the time that the House referred this criminal contempt charge to the Department of Justice, it was pretty swift this afternoon from the time the grand jury decided to hand this indictment down to the time it was presented to the magistrate judge to her signing an arrest warrant to the department releasing this information.
So, yes, now, Steve Bannon, who's former chief strategist at the White House, indicted on two counts of contempt of Congress, one for refusing to appear for deposition, one for failing to produce documents, and, of course, Jake, this will send a warning shot to the president's allies who have so far refused to cooperate or appear or may in the future refuse. This is a warning shot to them that the Department of Justice will and can move forward and charge people with contempt of Congress here -- Jake.
TAPPER: That's right. I mean, we should note that Congress calls people to testify all the time, and, you know, oil magnates and tobacco company executives don't want to do it, but you got to do it.
So, Merrick Garland, the attorney general, has been criticized for taking his time with this. Did he have anything to say today?
SCHNEIDER: He did. He actually released quite a lengthy statement courtesy of the Department of Justice. I'll read just a little bit about it because he talks about the fact that throughout this process, they've adhered to the facts and the law. He said, since my first day in office, I have promised justice department employees that together we would show the American people by word and deed that the department adheres to the rule of law, follows the facts and the law and pursues equal justice under the law.
Presumably, Jake, the attorney general getting this statement out there right away for any possible criticism or claims that he's playing politics here. Throughout this process, the attorney general has stressed the facts and the law leaving it up to his prosecutors. Of course, with input from himself as attorney general, but he has let this process play out, despite all of the cries of what's happening? Why isn't the department of justice moving fast enough?
Today, the Department of Justice acted. The federal grand jury acted handing down this indictment and the attorney general sticking by his message. This was all about the rule of law and not politics -- Jake. TAPPER: All right. Jessica Schneider, thanks so much.
I want to bring in Paula Reid who's here in studio, Evan Perez also with us and also Caroline Polisi, a federal criminal defense attorney and Phillip Bump, national correspondent for "The Washington Post", as well as former prosecutor Elie Honig.
Paula, let me start with you. Before this happened, the news that we were going to talk about was the fact that former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows defied the committee today, refused to show up.
I think that they are probably going to be a lot of Trump associates who see Steve Bannon arrested, which will happen soon enough, and think, huh, maybe I should cooperate.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It's great news for the committee because we've seen so far they have had difficulty getting meaningful cooperation from the folks in Trump's inner circle who they have subpoenaed. Now I know talking to sources there are witnesses who have specifically been watching what exactly is going to happen to Bannon. Will there be any consequences for completely defying this subpoena?
Now, as you just noted, the former chief of staff Mark Meadows, he took the Bannon approach, too. Instead of saying, look, there are some matters that may be privileged here, he just took a blanket approach and completely defied his subpoena and the committee has already signaled that it may refer him, too, for criminal contempt.
TAPPER: Evan, what comes next? So, a judge is going to put his or her signature on a warrant to arrest him. When would that happen, and what are the stages here?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think, Jake, we expect his arrest either today or perhaps they'll ask him to surrender on Monday. But what this does, what this indictment does is this now puts this in the court system. And under the control of the courts and the judge who will take care of this, who will take charge of this case.
And so, from the committee's standpoint, this is actually a bit of a problem because it's going to be some time before Steve Bannon, if they can try to get some cooperation, they want, the goal here is to get whatever information they can get from Steve Bannon. It's going to be a while before a judge and perhaps a jury gets to adjudicate all of this. You know trials here in Washington. They don't happen very quickly.
So from that standpoint, it's a bit of -- it's going to be a bit of a frustration for the congressional committee. That said, as Paula pointed out, this is -- and Jessica pointed out, this is definitely a shot across the bow for anyone else who is -- who wants to defy.
And the idea that the Justice Department for the first time in more than 30 years is enforcing one of these things and has done the work that they believe shows they can prove this beyond a reasonable doubt, I think really will weigh on all of those other witnesses. Again, it's going to be awhile, though, before the committee gets what it actually wants here.
TAPPER: And, Caroline, so we should obviously remind our viewers that an indictment is not a conviction. But theoretically if Steve Bannon were to be convicted of two counts of contempt of Congress, is there jail time involved? How much? Is there a fine involved? How much?
CAROLINE POLISI, FEDERAL AND WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So each count, Jake, carries with it the possibility of up to one year in prison and, yes, there are fines associated with the charge. You know, I would just note, if I were Mark Meadows today, I would be shaking in my boots because he was hoping that this exact situation wouldn't exactly happen. And now it is showing, you know, those that would take the same path not to do so.
It's been really a dirty little secret amongst those who represent people in front of these types of committees that, really, congressional subpoenas don't have very much teeth. You can really, you know, bargain and cooperate with the other side in terms of what you can cover and what issues you don't want to cover. I think this is going to change the legal landscape for congressional inquiries going forward in every sense of the word.
TAPPER: And, Philip, do you think the other Trump allies who as of now had been generally refusing to cooperate with this January 6th committee, do you think this is going to cause them to change their behavior to try to find some way to cooperate with the committee so they are not held in criminal contempt of congress?
PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yeah, I mean, I think that it's really important to remember the very, very wide difference between mark meadows and Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon has very, very few qualms about being seen as a martyr in the cause of Trumpism and going to jail and doing a perp walk in handcuffs and saying, I stood along Donald Trump and so on and so forth. He's already faced charges once in the past four years, right?
Mark Meadows, I think he's going to have a much harder time convincing himself that's worth it, right? To the point that was just made, mark meadows was very much hoping this would not be seen as an eventuality. Obviously, the shift in administration, the shift in the Department of Justice means the same tactic that Donald Trump and his allies used when Trump was president, they knew the Department of Justice under Donald Trump was not going to prosecute them for contempt.
Now everything has changed and this is a real threat as manifested by Steve Bannon. I find it hard to believe there are going to be a lot of people as willing potentially as Bannon to do the perp-walk and to potentially face these repercussions.
TAPPER: Elie Honig, Mark Meadows was, at the time of January 6th and the lead up to it, the White House chief of staff. As were a number of individuals the committee has sought information and testimony from, including Stephen Miller and Kayleigh McEnany and a bunch of others. Their claim to executive privilege, do you think they have a stronger claim to executive privilege than Steve Bannon who Trump fired calling him sloppy Steve, several years ago and was a private citizen at the time. Is there a difference there, do you think, in how much Congress will actually vote to hold a Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress?
HONIG: Yes, Jake, there's a very important difference there which is Steve Bannon has the weakest executive privilege claim which is now a criminal defense. He has the weakest defense of any of these people because, as you said, he was not part of the executive branch at the time.
And one thing that's important to know. We're going to have two levels of battle playing out here. First, Steve Bannon is going to try to get this case dismissed. He's going to argue he has a legitimate executive privilege claim. That will go to the judge.
And then he's going to have a trial. We're going to have a jury trial, United States versus Steve Bannon.
One thing that's really important to note, if he is convicted, as Caroline said, this is a misdemeanor, which is the less serious type of crime. The maximum sentence is 12 months, one year per count. However, this is a really unusual in that there's a mandatory minimum of one month in prison. So, if Steve Bannon goes through with this, gets convicted, he has to go to jail for at least one month.
TAPPER: Let's bring in Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He joins us on the phone. This is obviously a breaking news story. He's a member of the January 6th select committee. He voted to hold Steve Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress.
First of all, Congressman Kinzinger, what's your reaction that the Department of Justice, the grand jury has indicted Steve Bannon on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL) (via telephone): Well, thanks, Jake. I think this is great news, not just because of the actual Steve Bannon part of this. He's going to be an important. But I think it sends an important message to future invited witnesses, future folks that are subpoenaed. You know, you cannot ignore Congress.
The reality is, you may not like it. You may not like the investigation. You may think nothing wrong was done, but you're not going to be able to avoid it, and that is important for the people of the United States to be able to have their voice heard, to be able to get answers through Congress. This is certainly a good thing, and I hope it sends a chilling message to anybody else that's going to follow through like this.
TAPPER: There were individuals -- there were Republicans who voted to hold Steve Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress and not just you and Liz Cheney, the only two Republicans on the January 6th committee. There were others. As always, it was just a handful of Republicans but there were others.
Do you think they will be willing to join when it comes to holding somebody who has a better claim of executive privilege, such as former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows who basically flipped you guys the bird today by not even showing up to testify. Do you think others will be willing to hold him in criminal contempt the same way they did Steve Bannon?
KINZINGER: If we go that route, I certainly hope so because, yes, you know, maybe Mark Meadows, for instance, can argue a little more logically, but still, I think it's pretty clear that there is no logical reason for there to be a resistance to the claim of executive privilege. That will be adjudicated in the courts. We're in a faster timeline than the Trump people wanted us to be on, which is good, but, yeah, I certainly hope not just those that voted for contempt before but even future folks will vote for it because the reality of it is becoming pretty clear through the justice, through the courts, that they are making false claims.
Look, if the Republicans take control of Congress in a year, which looks fairly likely, they'll want subpoena power, too, and it's going to be hard to argue for subpoena when you were part of doing everything to resist subpoenas for a very serious thing like January 6th.
TAPPER: Just to -- not to put too fine a point on it. If Republicans take control of Congress next year and we should note, you're not running for re-election so you'd not be in that group. If that were to happen, you'd expect them to kill the January 6th committee if it still exists and has not made its conclusions at that time?
KINZINGER: I think there is no doubt that would happen, and I think that is why, you know, we were happy to see the expedited timeline by the appellate court and why the Trump folks are trying to stall. They don't have a claim of executive privilege. They know the answers aren't going to be great for them so they hope to make it to swearing in next year or the year following.
TAPPER: Steve Bannon, obviously, has been lying about the election for months and months and months. Lying to the American people is not a crime, unfortunately. What exactly are you looking, are you trying to figure out how much he may have tried to conspire to bring people to Washington to violently stop the counting of electoral votes? What are you looking for, you and the committee?
KINZINGER: Yeah, he's a piece of a very broad picture. We've interviewed 150 witnesses so far. Expect to have a lot more. He's going to bring a piece to that. So, obviously, there was his comments the day before January 6th where he was kind of wink and nod, this is going to go way different than you expect. Very much seems to have known something was going to happen.
And so, there's a lot of stuff participated in the war room prior. What we want to know is, what did he know? Who was he talking to? Who was -- if there's nothing to hide, you come in and talk to the committee and tell us there's nothing to hide. If there's something to hide you resist subpoenas and ultimately get indicted by the DOJ.
We just want answers. That's what the American people deserve no matter what side of the political spectrum they are and most importantly, that is what the future history books deserve, a full accounting of that day, free of conspiracy, free of lies, and free of politics.
TAPPER: What do you say to the Republican colleagues of yours whose lives were being threatened that day by this mob that Donald Trump and others incited and sent to the Capitol and the mob seemed to be trying to stop the counting of electoral votes. Their lives were on the line and yet so many of your colleagues don't seem to care, don't seem interested in any sort of information being forced from Steve Bannon. What do they tell you privately?
KINZINGER: So many of them privately, you know, agree with that we need answers. But they tell me they're in a district they can't do that. Well, so am I.
And you know, what I tell them, and I've kind of run out of, I guess, patience to try to convince, but what I tell them is, look, when you run for Congress, not a single person that runs for Congress not having some kind of a moral red line. Without the -- no person runs thinking, you know, I'm never going to take a tough vote if it can save the country. But somehow when you get in the job, re-election becomes the most important thing and you can convince yourself that, boy, it's just not me, it's going to be somebody worse.
Well, this is the moment. This right here is the moment where if we don't stand up and get answers, we're going to see the country change in a very dark way. And it will be totally foreseeable.
TAPPER: Do you have any indication from any of the other individuals who you and the committee have sought information from that this move by Attorney General Garland, I know it's only 25 minutes old, but that this move might cause them to rethink how cooperative they're going to be? I should note that I don't think Donald Trump is coming to pay for the legal fees of any of these individuals.
KINZINGER: Well, certainly not. I don't have any firsthand, since this has broke, but, look, I think it's clear there are a lot of people that don't want to -- necessarily can't afford high-priced attorneys to try to litigate their way through this. All we're asking is for testimony. You know, we're just asking for answers.
So I certainly think this will have a chilling effect in terms of anybody that's been trying to resist. And I certainly hope we don't have to keep repeating this. We just want answers. That's it. It's a pretty simple request.
TAPPER: Last question, sir, and we appreciate your calling in. You said earlier that 150 people had testified. Are you finding out that there was -- not that this was not just spontaneous, that there was a conspiracy, that there was a plan to do this? That there will be people who ultimately will go to jail and not just for criminal contempt of Congress? KINZINGER: Well, I don't want to get too much into obviously what
we've found because we want to present that to the comprehensive way, I'll say, but our eyes are being opened to a lot of things, not just on the front of what happened domestically but things like misinformation being pushed by other countries, but that will all be revealed as we have the answers in due time.
But just know that we are committed in a nonpartisan way, not just bipartisan, in a nonpartisan way to get the answers to the American people and our kids and grandkids, even not born yet, deserve to have.
TAPPER: An allusion to the unborn child you have coming and we congratulate you for that and thank you so much, Congressman Kinzinger, for calling in.
KINZINGER: You bet you, Jake. Thank you.
TAPPER: Let's bring back our panel of legal experts. I want to bring in CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero.
What's your reaction to this indictment? Is there a strong case against Steve Bannon for criminal contempt of Congress, both refusing to testify and refusing to turn over documents?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think there is a strong case against him. And that's evidenced by what the grand jury has done, but the more significant consequence is what this indictment is going to mean for the other witnesses.
In between where you have former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and where you have Steve Bannon, there is a range of individuals in between the level of chief of staff and Steve Bannon who were working in the government, or not working in the government and were in some way involved or had knowledge of what was leading up to January 6th. And who have been served with subpoenas by the January 6th committee.
And I think those individuals are going to have a lot of thinking to do this weekend because while Steve Bannon might be willing to go through this criminal process and stand trial, not everybody wants to go through that when the alternative is to simply testify or produce the information that this valid committee has requested.
TAPPER: And, Paula Reid, we were talking as the story was breaking about -- look, Steve Bannon is doing what Donald Trump wants him to do, just shut it down. But as -- it's not uncharacteristic of Mr. Trump's guidance, it's kind of stupid because Steve Bannon, he could have just gone to Congress, testified and said, I plead the Fifth.
TAPPER: And just not answered any of their questions. And not been charged with criminal contempt of Congress, right?
REID: Exactly. And really undermine the committee's efforts here. I'm told by people in Trump's orbit, people who were sympathetic to
the former president, that there was a more sophisticated way to go about this. He could have shown up. He could have asserted privilege for some questions, asserted his Fifth amendment. Maybe gave not so helpful questions for other questions and that would have made it a lot more difficult to refer him for criminal contempt, would have made the Justice Department's case more challenging.
So, it really would have undercut the committee's ability to enforce these subpoenas or get this meaning meaningful cooperation. I'm told he's playing to an audience of one. There was a more sophisticated way for him and for meadows to approach this that would have perhaps protected them from criminal contempt referrals and also really undermined the committee.
TAPPER: Elie Honig, what about the documents? Steve Bannon was charged with two counts of criminal contempt of Congress. Paula just explained the one -- the easy way he could have dodged a criminal contempt of Congress by not showing up to testify. Just show up and be uncooperative or plead the Fifth, nonresponsive, give a speech to insult the Democrats, whatever, and that would have avoided that.
What about the documents he was asked to produce? Is there a way he could have avoided a criminal contempt of Congress for failing to produce those?
HONIG: Absolutely, Jake. There would have been a much smarter way available to Steve Bannon. He could have taken the Fifth as to the document, or turning them over would incriminate me or he could have been more selective and said, I believe these documents are privileged but these are not. That would have made it much more difficult for the Justice Department to charge him criminally.
Another important thing to keep in mind, this is a law that is about punishment and deterrence. So even if Steve Bannon gets convicted of this, he goes to jail but it doesn't force his testimony and the hope is that it deters people. That rational people will say, okay, I don't want to go to prison. I'm going to testify. So, we'll see how stubborn and how dug in Steve Bannon is here.
TAPPER: Let me bring back Evan Perez, who's our Justice Department correspondent.
Evan, what do we know about the internal debate at the Justice Department about how to proceed with all of this? You have a room full of lawyers. There's no way they're all on the same page.
PEREZ: Yeah. I mean, as you can tell, it took three weeks to get to this point. And I know there's been a lot of criticism about what was taking so long. What was taking so long is, you know, for decades the justice department has been on the side of people who work in the executive branch, even after they've left the administration, even after they're gone.
It has been on their side on this idea that there is executive privilege, that they are protected from having to provide testimony or documents. Even having to show up, that's been the internal legal guidance.
So, to get to this point, you know, the lawyers here had to come up with some new guidance. And so, Jake, I'm told that they had to go to the Office of Legal Counsel to go over some of the guidance here and part of the issue here turns on the fact that this claim of executive privilege, obviously, is coming from the former president and the current president is waiving that privilege. At least, according to the people in this building, they believe that the current president is the final say. I think most of us would view it that way. Of course, that's now in part of the litigation that's going on in the court of appeals.
But I think what they believe is, and you can see this in some of the language that's been used in the National Archives, the briefs that have been filed in court, the Justice Department has come down on the idea that Steve Bannon doesn't get to claim executive privilege based on the former guy. The current guy, the current president, we only have one president at a time, is the one that decide, and he has said that Steve Bannon should have provided this testimony. He should have been turning over these documents, and so this is the reason why he's going to be arrested and charged for this crime now.
TAPPER: Gloria Borger, let's go big picture with you.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.
TAPPER: For the average American out there in Montana or Florida or Arizona, what's the significance of what happened today?
BORGER: Well, it's very significant because what it means is that Congress has oversight responsibilities of the executive branch that cannot be denied, period. And that what the Justice Department has done today is to say, people who are contemptuous of that, people who do not honor congressional subpoenas will be held in contempt.
And, you know, it's not like there's a huge fine or jail time or anything else like that because there is jail time, a maximum of a year, I believe, and a small fine, maybe a thousand bucks, whatever it is. But it's not good to be held in contempt of Congress.
And what it says is that Congress has to be able to do its job, period. I just want to read something from Congressman Raskin, Jamie Raskin, who is on the committee. He says, and I quote, I am certain there will be little patience for anyone who is just blowing off congressional subpoenas. We have been moving promptly to respond to defiance, to any House subpoenas.
And that is exactly what they are doing because they have been blowing it off. You saw the former chief of staff today not even showing up for a deposition, blowing it off, not showing up, showing their contempt, if you will. And what the Justice Department is saying is that this is congress' job. And you cannot do this, we have, you know, three branches of government here. And I think -- so I think it's a hugely important step as we try and
unravel what happened on January 6th, but it's also hugely important step for the balance of power.
TAPPER: Yeah, I keep thinking about Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State Clinton testifying for hours and hours --
BORGER: Eleven hours.
TAPPER: -- before the House of Representatives about the tragedy at Benghazi. It's not always pleasant but our system is built around checks and balances.
Much more on our breaking news. Steve Bannon has been indicted by a federal grand jury on two charges of criminal contempt of Congress.
Everyone, stick around. We're going to squeeze in a quick break. We'll be right back.
TAPPER: We are back with our big breaking news. A federal grand jury has indicted former Trump adviser Steve Bannon for criminal contempt of Congress. Bannon's been charged with one count related to his refusal to appear for a deposition in front of the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection and another count related to this refusal to turn over any relevant documents.
Let's bring back our panel of experts.
Elie Honig, former federal prosecutor, let me turn to you. This is just about punishment, I guess, for refusing to testify but it still does not force Bannon to testify, right? Or will this compel his testimony?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: No, as a legal technical matter, Jake, it's just about punishment. It's just about potential prison time. If he goes all the way to trial and is found guilty he'll get sentenced. He'll serve one month in prison but that does not force him to go in front of Congress and testify. The thinking here is that people are rational beings. We can argue about whether that applies to Steve Bannon but when faced with the possibility of prison, they'll opt to testify.
And the same lesson I think the study here is may apply to other people who may be having similar thoughts to Steve Bannon. They'll be deterred and will choose testifying over getting indicted.
TAPPER: Evan, there's a Justice Department memo about charging people who worked in the White House. Could that protect Mark Meadows who is the White House chief of staff, former White House chief of staff who refused to testify, flipping a bird essentially to the January 6th committee today, and not Steve Bannon? EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think Meadows
thinks it does, but, you know, I think what the Justice Department has done today and what you've seen from the legal guidance that is behind the position taken by the National Archives is that the current president has waived that privilege. So, therefore, it does not apply. He's not shielded at all.
Meadows and Bannon have been claiming that because the former president was asserting that privilege, that it still covered them. That it still applied to them. We can see today from the fact that Steve Bannon has been charged that the Justice Department is saying, no, it doesn't work that way.
And what that means is that decades, Jake, decades of legal guidance from this building that even former people, former members of the administration are shielded by this idea of executive privilege. It doesn't necessarily apply if there's a dispute as there is right now, right? The former president is claiming he has the -- the privilege exists. The current president is saying no and the Justice Department is siding squarely with the current president saying, no, this doesn't work.
So, look, we're going to wait to see what the appeals court and whether the Supreme Court takes up that challenge, but it looks pretty like thin odds for them to succeed on this at this point.
TAPPER: And, Paula Reid, let me ask you about that because, look, I understand the argument Steve Bannon was a private citizen running his podcast, whatever mischief he was up to. He does not get to claim executive privilege, even if he was talking to the president.
But Mark Meadows was the White House chief of staff at the time and still President Biden said to the January 6th Committee, no, have at it. I'm not going to allow privilege to be invoked. Were you surprised about that? Were Trump's lawyers surprised by that?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I was a little surprised but the sources that I speak with, within Trump orbit were surprised because at the beginning of this investigation they told me if anyone is going to get privilege protection it would be the chief of staff, possibly the White House counsel. But we haven't got to that.
They argued that of course they're not going to waive privilege for the chief of staff because they don't want a potentially Republican- led House in 14 months to turn that back around on them. So I asked sources inside the White House about that during the course of this investigation. And they argue, look, we're not sweating a future Jim Jordan investigation because we believe that the insurrection was an extraordinary circumstance and this is unusual and this is not what privilege was meant to protect.
It's a strong legal argument, but it could be a lawyer-ful employment act if Republicans take control of the House and want to start experimenting with this idea of what is and is not an extraordinary circumstance.
TAPPER: Right. And Phil bump, if he's still there. Phil, one of the arguments that you just heard from Paula Reid, the White House, the Biden White House argument is an argument based on planet earth where this January 6th insurrection was an extraordinary, horrific thing. But as we know, there are a number of Republicans in the House of Representatives who do not currently reside on planet Earth. They live on this Trump world where the insurrection was on Election Day and there was all this election fraud. All these things that are not true.
So the Biden people can say, well, this is just extraordinary circumstances and future congresses, future majorities in Congress will respect that. I don't know what world they think those people live on, though.
PHILIP BUMP, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yeah, well, obviously it's a world in which the full weight of the government, you know, levying criminal charges against someone is seen as preferable to Donald Trump as we're seeing in the case of Steve Bannon, right? Trump's gig all along has been deny, deny, deny, deny, don't comply at all, don't help at all, that was from day one, that was the approach he took here.
And that's what he's clearly demanding of people who worked with him during this time period. So the question is, yeah, Steve Bannon understands like he is very much entwined in that world financially and then politically. The question is, how many other people are going to make that same calculus? Mark Meadows, it's a how-to of how to avoid contempt charges.
Say which things you'll say are privileged. Give us a list of what those are, documents and testimony. If you read that you come away with a way in which, here is a way I can comply but still not be held in contempt by the committee. That's not the angle that Steve Bannon chose. It's fair to assume because Donald Trump said if you help at all I'm going to go to war with you, something along those lines.
We've seen him do things like that in the past. I'm just not sure how much weight that's going to carry for a lot of these folks. Low-level former White House staffers who are not necessarily going to think that's the best bet to make.
TAPPER: Let me bring back Evan Perez who covers the Justice Department for us. This is Friday at 4:38 p.m. East Coast time. When are we going to see Steve Bannon arrested? The warrant drawn up? And will he go to prison? I mean -- or jail, I should say? What happens?
PEREZ: All of this will go down on Monday. We're now told, Jake, that he is -- the Justice Department, the FBI has now made arrangements for Bannon to turn himself in on Monday and then he will appear before a magistrate or before a judge on Monday afternoon. Again, that's when he's going to be processed.
And I don't anticipate that he's going to sit in jail while this course -- while this case makes its way in court. The fact that the Justice Department is allowing him to self-surrender gives us a sense that they don't think he's a flight risk, per se, at this point, but it's unusual to have these things returned on a Monday afternoon if you don't want someone to spend their entire weekend in jail.
So it's clear that there's been some communication with Steve Bannon's legal team to have him surrender on Monday, and for him to be presented to hear these charges before a judge on Monday afternoon.
TAPPER: Caroline, let me ask you what you think. I'm picturing different members of the Trump team having Tom Wambsgans-like fears of going to jail. That's a reference to "Succession" for anybody out there who doesn't watch the show.
And just fearing they are going to go to jail as well. They are going to face these charges as well.
It's one thing to be defiant, theoretically. It's another thing to be defiant when they are actually bringing criminal charges and indicting people.
CAROLINE POLISI, FEDERAL AND WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yeah. I mean, sadly, Steve Bannon isn't going to jail any time soon. He almost certainly is not going to be remanded pending his trial here. He's not sort of a risk to society as Evan noted. He's not a flight risk. These aren't the types of charges that would warrant him going to jail pending the outcome of his case.
You know, I think that really this news is good news for the committee in that Mark Meadows, will be given a second chance and he'll likely have learned his lesson and see what could potentially happen to him down the road will now wait on the courts to decide this issue, which I think really will work to the committee's favor if it can be timely enough. That is the committee will have to turn over the records, and, you know, the witnesses will, therefore, have no leg to stand on with respect to an assertion of executive privilege.
And the issue is just timing. The legal world works much slower than the real world, unfortunately, even though they're trying to fast track it.
TAPPER: In the few minutes ago, Adam Kinzinger, the Republican from Illinois, who was a member of the January 6th committee, heralded the decision by the department of justice to have an indictment for Steve Bannon. He also referenced an interview or remarks Steve Bannon made on his podcast just the day before the January 6th insurrection. Let's play some of those.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, TRUMP ADVISER: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this. All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It's not going to happen like you think it's going to happen, okay? It's going to be quite extraordinarily different. And all I can say is strap in.
The war room posse, you have made this happen and tomorrow it's game day. So strap in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Carrie Cordero, that seems quite damning. What do you think?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, certainly Steve Bannon knew a lot of information ahead of time just based on that statement that he put out in the public. And so his testimony and his documents would have been very important for the committee to receive. I don't necessarily think that anything that's transpiring with respect to his indictment is going to result in his specific cooperation. So those public statements from Steve Bannon may be all that we ever learn from Steve Bannon.
But what it will matter for, what his prosecution will matter for is the other individuals who have been subpoenaed because there's a lot of other people who were involved and who could potentially provide information. And they might not be willing to go through a criminal trial and potentially be sentenced, even if it's a misdemeanor and potentially be in jail for a year. So, I think there are those individuals who have to think hard about that.
But I also, Jake, if I can, I want to level set with respect to what this means as far as Justice Department precedent. The former president's team and Steve Bannon and the other individuals who are not complying with the congressional subpoenas, they want the public to think that they are defending executive privilege. But they are not. The individual and the administration that makes the decisions about executive privilege is President Biden and his administration.
And he has already made the decision that this committee's investigation is of such historical significance that people should comply and the archives should release information in the other matter. And so this is not about protecting executive privilege. What Steve Bannon was doing was defying the rule of law and what the other individuals who are not complying are doing are defying the rule of law and the ability of Congress to do its job.
And they are using executive privilege as a shield, but actually, they are weakening it, and it's a current president who is the one who makes that decision.
TAPPER: Carrie Cordero, thank you.
We're going to continue our breaking news coverage. Steve Bannon indicted by a federal grand jury on two different contempt of Congress charges.
Coming up next, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will join us after wrapping up a cabinet meeting with President Biden on how to fix the supply chain issues that are hitting your wallet hard and other matters.
Back in a minute. Stay with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:48:22]
TAPPER: More breaking news for you now, this out of the White House, where President Biden just wrapped a meeting with top Cabinet officials, where he announced plans to name someone from outside the administration, outside the Biden administration, to oversee implementation of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.
Let's discuss with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Mr. Secretary, so, obviously, you just came out of the Cabinet meeting with President Biden. Tell us about this individual that's going to be in charge of the money. Tell us more about that.
PETE BUTTIGIEG, U.S. TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: So, I know that will be announced soon.
The president laid out his clear and very high expectations now that Congress has authorized this major investment for us to use every penny of those tax dollars wisely and effectively. He was in charge of seeing to that in the Obama/Biden administration. He's very proud of the exceptionally low rate of waste and abuse that happened with the hundreds of billions of dollars of stimulus money that went out then.
And he's made clear that he expects us to meet that same very, very high standard, a lot of responsibility on the agencies like mine, but, also, the White House will be leading and coordinating on that accountability, just as they have with the American Rescue Plan.
And we take that responsibility very seriously. So, in addition to celebrating the passage of this historic bill, even before the signing has happened on Monday, already a real focus on that implementation, that execution, so that, as we're funding those roads and bridges, as we're improving those ports and airports, the trains and transit and all the other things in the bill, that every American has full confidence that it's going to be spent wisely and spent well.
TAPPER: How soon can the American people expect to see shovels going into the ground, broadband appearing in their communities, lead pipes replaced?
How soon will the public see results?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, a lot of these dollars are going into programs that already exist.
They're going into the formula that funds our highways. They're going into the discretionary grant programs that I can use to help support everything from a port improvement somewhere, to a rail yard that needs to be adjusted, to a city trying to make its streets safer.
Other things, we're going to have to stand up whole new programs, dozens in my department alone, to effectively meet those infrastructure needs that have built -- been building up since the Eisenhower era.
One thing that's really important to remember is that this is not quite the same as that 2009 bill, when the focus really was on what they call the shovel-ready projects, getting those dollars into the economy right away. Here, it's about making sure that we do work right away and for the long run.
I mean, this is really about investments that will define the 2020s. And so the focus is on shovel-worthy projects, things that are worth doing, sometimes accelerating things that are already under way, other times launching whole new efforts that are going to prepare us to compete and win in the rest of this century.
TAPPER: A lot of times, I regret to tell you, the U.S. government, in terms of its action, is sclerotic, slow-moving.
We saw that happen with the rent relief program that passed last year to help individuals who were hit hard by COVID pay their rent, even if they were unemployed, and very little of it went out the door in time. We also saw that happen with COVID relief money going to states and cities that were slow to spend the money. A lot of it remains unspent.
How can you ensure that that doesn't happen with $1.2 trillion? And you just talked about standing up new government projects.
BUTTIGIEG: Well, that's where we have got to build on the success of our best programs and make sure that we have the right kind of nimble approach to get these things done.
The good news is, we have a lot of state and local partners who are poised and ready to put these dollars to work. Remember, when you have got a bridge in your community that has been decaying for years, when you know exactly what it would mean for your airport to come up to speed with the best airports in the country or in the world, when you have got a port that needs a lot of investment, often, the plans have been drawn up for a long time.
Sometimes, the applications have been ready to go and gone into my office. I'm going through one set right now where we have something like $1 billion to work with for $10 billion worth of applications. And some of those communities have come back again and again and again with good projects, but have been turned away because it just didn't quite meet the cut.
So I have every confidence that there are good projects ready to go. But, also, again, working with the White House, we're going to have a very, very high threshold of accountability, of transparency to make sure that it's done efficiently and to make sure that we're really using those taxpayer dollars in a way that makes the absolute most of them.
It's big dollars, but that doesn't mean that there's any room for slack, because there's always another good project worth doing that we can't if we didn't get the absolute most out of the dollars for this one.
TAPPER: How are you going to ensure the accountability? Are you going to have the Department of Transportation inspector general have oversight over it?
I mean, it -- no offense to you. I'm sure you mean it. I'm sure you're sincere, but there needs to be some sort of oversight responsibility that actually has the power to find things out and...
BUTTIGIEG: That's right.
TAPPER: ... call it out publicly, right?
BUTTIGIEG: That's right.
The inspector general office, which functions in an independent way, is going to be an important part of the accountability and implementation. So is the General Accountability Office that has interagency responsibility. Again, I know that the White House will be checking in early and often, as they have on the Rescue Plan, to make sure that things are going the right way.
And I can tell you that I will personally be looking at everything that's going on to make sure that we're really getting this right. Even before the bill has been signed, we have set up an executive policy committee. They just have another meeting, actually, as we speak with my deputy -- my colleagues, the deputy secretary, the undersecretary, heads of all the different agencies, from the Federal Rail Administration, to the folks getting those highway dollars out.
We take this very seriously because this is an opportunity also to build confidence...
BUTTIGIEG: ... in the ability of our administration to get things done.
There's already been, I think, a huge leap over the sometimes low expectations of today's Washington, vindicating the president's belief that you really can get major legislation even through today's divided Congress. Now we got to have the administrative equivalent of that, which is also beating expectations of anybody skeptical the government can deliver.
TAPPER: Well, let's talk about the government delivering on something else, supply chain issues, which you are also responsible for in part.
Last month, the Biden administration announced that the two largest U.S. ports, the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach, both in California, that they would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week to speed things up.
There's still a backlog, as you know. A record 111 container ships remain stuck off the California coast. President Biden had announced the 24/7 project would last 90 days, but the head of the Los Angeles Port told us a few weeks ago that this isn't going to be fixed in 90 days.
It's going to take well into 2022.
How long until we don't see 111 container ships off the coast of California and the supply chain issues are on their way to being fixed?
BUTTIGIEG: Well, look, a lot of these are, of course, a consequence of the pandemic. And as long as the pandemic continues, there will be pandemic-driven shortages, which is why the best way to fix that is to end the pandemic.
But there are actions that we can take and have been taking that are making a difference. The president's port action plan came out earlier this week, lining up things from having sweeper ships go up, clearing up some of the empties, to having fines for companies that have their containers sitting there in the way, making it harder for another ship to come in and take advantage of a port.
We even have funding now, we have given some flexibility so that they can create what are called pop-up container yards in Georgia and North Carolina. The idea here for the Port of Savannah is that, if you have the containers piling up on that precious portside real estate, move it inland and sort it out there, rather than waiting for it to get sorted out on the acreage of the port.
So, a lot of creativity, it is making a difference. But make no mistake. As long as we have major global imbalances between supply and demand, as long as we have a pandemic poking holes in supply chains in every part of the world, we're going to continue to see challenges, which is why are working the short-, medium-, and long-term means of dealing with this issue.
TAPPER: All right, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, on a personal note, I'd like to say we're all so happy that Joseph and Penelope, your new babies, are home and doing well.
Thank you so much.
BUTTIGIEG: Thank you.
TAPPER: And we're all so glad for you.
BUTTIGIEG: Thanks. We're very relieved.
TAPPER: Breaking news, a federal grand jury indicted former Trump adviser Steve Bannon on contempt of Congress. Much more ahead.
Plus, thousands of people stuck in catastrophic conditions and fears it could escalate into war. Only CNN is live on the ground there. That's next.
And then -- Britney spears in court right now. Her toxic relationship with the legal system could end at any moment. We're outside the Los Angeles courthouse.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
And we begin this hour with the breaking news of the day: a federal grand jury has indicted former Trump adviser Steve Bannon for criminal contempt of Congress. Bannon has been charged with one count for his refusal to appear for a deposition before the January 6th committee. And another count related to his refusal to produce documents for the committee.
Let's get straight to Jessica Schneider. She's outside the courthouse where this all just took place.
Jessica, when should we expect to see Bannon in court?