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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Suspected Gunman's Father To NY Post: "I Didn't Do Anything Wrong"; UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson Resigns After Mutiny In His Party; WNBA Star Brittney Griner Pleads Guilty To Drug Charges; Somali Children Starve As Drought, Putin's War Limit Food Supply; Michigan GOP Candidate Pleads Not Guilty To Charges Related To Jan. 6. Aired 4- 5p ET

Aired July 07, 2022 - 16:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: So, I guess if you are being audited you don't spread it around and say, hey, are you also being audited? But t then when they figure out they both were, is that when their antenna went up?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. I mean, so we haven't been able to reach James Comey for comment but we have heard from McCabe who said, you know, he -- his instinct was to think that this was a normal audit and then after all, this came to life, he started to question it.

CAMEROTA: Kara Scannell, thank you for all of your reporting as always. Great to see you.

And THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: And the shooter's father says I didn't do anything wrong.

THE LEAD starts right now.

The father of the Highland Park parade shooter explains why he approved his son's guns purchase and reveals that they talked about another mass shooting just hours before the Fourth of July parade massacre.

And then, Brittney Griner appears in a Moscow courtroom and pleads guilty to the drug charges that have led to her being held in Russia. Could this help her get released?

Plus, them's the breaks. That's how Boris Johnson put it as he resigned as the British prime minister. What happened next across the pond is as clear as mud.


BROWN: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper.

And we start today with our national lead. The father of the suspected gunman on the July 4th parade attack in Highland Park, Illinois, now tells "The New York Post" he consented to his son buying guns in 2019 thinking his son would use those weapons at a shooting range. Instead those guns were used in Monday's mass shooting that killed seven people.

And the night before the attack, the father says his son mentioned another mass shooting, the mall in Copenhagen, Denmark.

As CNN's Ed Lavandera reports, the public comments come as the father himself could face charges linked to Monday's rampage.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the mayhem of the shooting at the Highland Park Fourth of July parade, new details are emerging from a witness that provided key surveillance video, which helped identify the alleged shooter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see people running. He's just walking.

LAVANDERA: It was a surveillance camera connected to a building owned by Hal Emalfarb that recorded that crucial moment. He says he has video that captured the alleyway the shooter used to reach the roof top where authorities say he fired off more than 80 rounds.

HAL EMALFARB, GAVE SURVEILLANCE VIDEO TO POLICE: I started to look at the camera here, shows on the film at 10:07 into the alley, and 10:14 and 57 seconds coming out. And when he comes out, he is holding an orange bag and the rifle butt or something in the orange bag hits the guardrail and drops. And he looks at it and that's when we caught him on the camera. So, we know who he was when he looked back, and then he left.

LAVANDERA: Newly released documents paint the picture of a depressed teenager with a history of drug use and a home life marked by domestic incidents. A report from an April 2019 wellbeing check noted that he had attempted to kill himself using a machete and that mental health professionals responded to the call.

In September of that same year, another report noted that he had, quote, made a threat in the household. A person, whose named is redacted in the report, told officers that the man, quote, stated that he was going to kill everyone. Robert Crimo III admitted he was depressed and had a history of drug use, according to the report, but told investigators he did not feel like harming himself or others.

After that incident, police removed 16 knives, a dagger and a sword from his house. The father picked up the items later that day, claiming they were his. Documents also detailed a troubling 22 calls to police from the home, most of them domestic between Crimo's mother and father.

Questions now arise on how despite the history, the shooter was able to legally purchase five firearms with his father's legal consent which is necessary for any 18-year-old.

The alleged gunman's father told ABC News he was not responsible for the purchase.

ROBERT CRIMO JR., ALLEGED GUNMAN'S FATHER: I filled out the consent form to allow my son to go through the process and do background checks. Whatever that entails. I'm not exactly sure. And either you're approved or denied, and he was approved.

LAVANDERA: His father later told "The New York Post" that he believed his son was using the guns to go to a shooting range.

MAYOR NANCY ROTERING, HIGHLAND PARK, ILLINOIS: My community is in absolutely despair, grieving, feeling unspeakable pain due to the hands of his son and he signed off on the FOID application. And I will leave it to the authorities to address the rest of the question.

LAVANDERA: Authorities say the shooter purchased those weapons eventually using one to kill seven people and injure nearly 40 other victims.



LAVANDERA: And, Pamela, we have a sad update on a victim hospitalized. This is news about 8-year-old Cooper Roberts. We are told by a family spokesperson that the young boy is on a ventilator. He has been sedated since the shooting. He is critical but stable condition and that family spokesperson says that the 8-year-old boy took a bullet in the belly and that bullet severed his spinal cord. The boy has not been responsive since he's been in the hospital. As I mentioned, he is in critical but stable condition and the family fears that he could very well be paralyzed if he is to survive -- Pamela.

BROWN: Heart breaking. Our thoughts and prayers are with this family.

Ed Lavandera, thank you.

And I want to bring in Eric Reinhart. He is the prosecutor managing the state's case against the suspected gunman.

Thank you for coming on the show.

So, I want to ask you, first off, by signing consent forms, did the father essentially say he would be liable for the son's use of the firearm that he was applying for? Did those circumstances change when the suspect turned 21? Just help us better understand this.

ERIC RINEHART, STATE'S ATTORNEY, LAKE COUNTY, ILLINOIS: Yeah. Sure. Thank you for having me on the show. I want to continue to express my condolences to those who lost loved ones, to those who've been injured physically or psychologically in this terrible and premeditated attack. Highland Park will never be the same. My county will never be the same.

I have to commend first responders and police officers who ran towards the danger and then apprehended this offender. I have to thank those people first. To answer your question, there is not a criminal liability that's directly attached to, quote/unquote, vouching for somebody else but we are looking at all the evidence. There's a mountain of evidence to go through in terms of who know what, when. There's different ways to look at potential criminal liability in this case. I don't want to say much more other than that but there's not a per se violation of law if you vouch for somebody on an FOID card and do something like this.

But having said that, we are continuing to investigate the case and continuing to explore all options.

BROWN: How do you think his application was being approved to get a gun, even though his father vouched for him, given the amount of incidents at the home where people had to go there and in one case taking away some of the weapons in the home?

RINEHART: Yeah. The Illinois -- the Highland Park Police Department did notify the Illinois State Police of this or many of these incidents or the one incident, and the Illinois State Police had that record.

Now at the time that they were receiving the record, there are firearms in the House and there's no pending application, so that has to be pointed out. There wasn't a firearm aspect to what was being reported in the home. I have to point that out. The Illinois state police have a statement on their website that explains exactly what happened and I would defer to them in terms of their internal process.

BROWN: Okay. I want to talk to you about just the red flags. In so many cases, we see time and time again, there were red flags. The shooter was saying things that should have caught attention, the suspected killer had disturbing social media posts. And then there was this, this mural of a gunman with a happy face on the back of his mother's house.

Now in hindsight it is all alarming. But how does law enforcement better link these kinds of warning signs and then this case a huge one painted on a house?

RINEHART: Yeah. We have to always have better connectivity with all of our systems. Our law enforcement systems, our court systems, our school systems, our mental health systems, in the name of safety. We have to respect people's privacy, but law enforcement and the courts are very good at keeping information private in a lot of situations and can't let the rules allow the left hand to not know what the right hand is doing.

I'm not suggesting that happened in this case. I'm making a broader point. There was no contact with the court system. There was no contact with the prosecutor's office in that 2019, 2020 period or since.

And so, we have to do better to make sure that all of this information is moving towards the Illinois state police, towards the process that allows people to get firearms. I said it before and I'll say again, we also should ban these types of

assault weapons. It worked in 1994 for ten years. Mass shootings went down. We had bipartisan support, we had law enforcement support during that period of our history. We can get there again.

We had an assault weapon ban for ten years. I think we should have one in the country. I think we should have one in Illinois.

BROWN: All right. Eric Rinehart, thank you very much.

RINEHART: Thank you.

BROWN: Well, he is down and out. Boris Johnson steps down as British prime minister. What happens next is anything but clear.

And then, last night, he was making the case why he should be elected the next governor of Michigan. Today, he was before a federal judge for charges relating to January 6th.



BROWN: Topping the world lead, British Prime Minister Johnson is on his way out but the U.S., UK relationship is, quote, strong and enduring. That's according to President Biden, in a statement this afternoon. As he stands firm on a continued united approach to Putin's brutal war on Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says he has lost, quote, a true friend of Ukraine in Johnson.

CNN's Bianca Nobilo reports from London where the Conservative Party is left to pick up the pieces.


BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the moment he longed to avoid.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: To you, the British public, I know that there will be many people who are relieved, and perhaps quite a few who will also be disappointed. And I want you to know how sad I am to be giving up the best job in the world. But them's the breaks. Thank you all very much.

NOBILO: The culmination of a gruesome 24 hours where Boris saw his government crumbled around him. Fifty-six members of the parliament from his own party resigned, as he desperately tried to steady the ship. Even the newly appointed UK finance minister telling the prime minister to do the right thing and go now, just 24 hours after vouching for him.


KAY BURLEY, SKY NEWS HOST: Do you think this prime minister has integrity?


BURLEY: All we need to know?

ZAHAWI: Well, because he's determined to deliver for this country.

NOBILO: In the end, support for Boris John had evaporated and he got the message loud and clear.

JOHNSON: As we have seen, at Westminster, the herd instinct is powerful, when herd moves it moves. And my friends, in politics, no one is remotely indispensable.

NOBILO: It's not known when Johnson will leave the stage, with his team suggesting he may stay on as caretaker prime minister until as late as October.

KEIR STARMER, LABOUR PARTY LEADER: He needs to go completely. None of the nonsense to cling on for a few months. He's inflicted lies, fraud and chaos in the country.

NOBILO: It's the end of a premiership mired in scandals. But Johnson's exit leads a question of who will take his place. Defense Minister Ben Wallace is a favorite amongst members. Newly resigned Chancellor Rishi Sunak is another.

QUENTIN PEEL, ASSOCIATE FELLOW, CHATHAM HOUSE: Conservatives want to be in power and that is the question. That's where Johnson seems to be letting them down, but are the alternatives out there? I'm not sure Rishi Sunak really has it in him. They have got to find somebody who brings together both the pro-Brexit and the anti-Brexit wings of the party and that's going to be very difficult to do.

NOBILO: A difficult choice for an already fragile democracy, perhaps one of Johnson's most unwelcomed legacies.


NOBILO (on camera): Pamela, two questions hang heavily over parliament this evening. First of all, how long will Boris Johnson stay in his position as prime minister? Lawmakers concerned about the decisions he may make in the interim, conscious that Boris Johnson will want to regain control of the narrative and try and amend his damaged legacy?

And the second is who will take his place? Conservative party leadership contests are notoriously unpredictable and from right wing Brexiters to a former defense minister who took part in a reality TV show about diving, the field is wide open and the future of the conservative party and this country is unknown.

BROWN: All right. Bianca Nobilo in London for us, thank you.

WNBA star Brittney Griner pleads guilty to drug charges in a Russian court. Could it be a strategic move to get her released? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


BROWN: Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was just sentenced to more than 20 years in prison for violating George Floyd's civil rights. Chauvin pleaded guilty to the federal charges in December avoiding another trial and the possibility of life behind bars. Chauvin will serve the sentence at the same time as the one he's already serving on state murder charges.

And turning to our world lead, WNBA superstar Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug smuggling charges in a Russian courtroom today. He faces up to 10 years in prison. The 31-year-old was arrested in February at a Moscow airport after Russian officials say they found less than 1 gram of cannabis oil in her luggage.

The U.S. State Department says Griner is being wrongfully detained. Speaking through an interpreter today, Griner told the court the drugs in her luggage were an accident and the result of packing in a hurry. And her attorney tells CNN they're hoping the court will now show leniency.

CNN's Matthew Chance reports from Moscow. U.S. officials insist they're doing everything they can to bring Griner home.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Russian justice conducted behind closed doors, just a glimpse of Brittney Griner towering above the guards being led handcuff into the courtroom. The 31-year-old was detained at a Moscow airport in February when Russian custom officials say they found small quantities of cannabis oil in her luggage, an illegal substance under Russian law.

Recordings made inside the court capture the female basketball star through a translator pleading guilty to the serious drug smuggling charges against her.

BRITTNEY GRINER, WNBA STAR: I would like to express my attitude towards my charges.

JUDGE: Of course.

TRANSLATOR: Yes, please.

GRINER: I would like to plead guilty on the charges.

GRINER: But I had no intention on breaking any Russian laws.

CHANCE: But under those laws which carry a maximum 10-year sentence, the U.S. athlete who told the court she packed in a hurry by mistake could now be made an example of, especially at a time of such strained U.S.-Russian relations and this concern the Biden administration should be doing more to help the Olympic gold medalist. BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Is the White House doing enough to get

Brittney Griner home?

VANESSA NYGAARD, HEAD COACH, PHOENIX MERCURY: We had great response with BG's letter to President Biden and Biden responding with a call to BG's wife, Cherelle. We think progress is being made on that front.

The coverage of women's sports and coverage of women athletes is really the concern here. I mean, the question is, would Tom Brady be home? But Tom Brady wouldn't be there, right, because he doesn't have to go to a foreign country to supplement his income from WNBA.

CHANCE: But U.S. officials in Washington and Moscow insist they're doing everything they can.

ELIZABETH ROOD, DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION, U.S. EMBASSY IN MOSCOW: I was able to speak with Ms. Griner in the courtroom. She said that she is eating well. She's able to read books and under the circumstances, she is doing well. Most important, I was able to share with Ms. Griner a letter from President Biden and Ms. Griner was able to read that letter.


CHANCE: It's unclear what was written but U.S. officials already negotiated the release of one U.S. citizen Trevor Reed from a Russian prison this year in a controversial prisoner swap. U.S. diplomats say they're committed to bringing home all Americans, including Brittney Griner and others who they say are wrongfully detained.


CHANCE (on camera): Well, Pam, there's no indication at this stage that the prisoner swap involving Brittney Griner is in any way imminent. And, of course, there's at least one other American namely Paul Whelan who's been in custody here for years. He's been imprisoned here under espionage charges. And U.S. officials have been trying but failing over that period to get him released.

There's been a statement issued tonight, though, by Brittney Griner's lawyers, law team. They're saying because she's taking responsibility for what happened, because of the small tiny quantities of the substance found her was so insignificant, because of the contribution made to Russian sport and to global sport, they are hoping for a very lenient sentence, Pam.

BROWN: All right. Thank you so much, Matthew Chance in Moscow.

And joining us now to discuss all of this, those points raised there, Tom Firestone. He's former Justice Department legal adviser to the U.S. embassy in Moscow.

Hi. Thanks for joining us.

So a senior U.S. official telling CNN that Trevor Reed, another American wrongfully detained in Russia was forced to plead guilty just days before he returned home in a prisoner swap. You have extensive experience with the inner workings on the Russian legal system.

Do you think this guilty plea as a necessary step before any prisoner swap, potential prisoner swap could occur?

THOMAS FIRESTONE, FORMER DOJ LEGAL ADVISOR TO U.S. EMBASSY IN MOSCOW: I think it was. I mean, that's not a formal legal requirement, but the statements from the government said they won't exchange her until she is convicted. I think they made it a necessary step. Not a sufficient step but necessary. So, we still got a long way to go before any kind of prisoner exchange.

BROWN: And as we know, Griner says it was an accident that the drugs, again, less than 1 gram of cannabis oil were in her luggage. The State Department describes Griner as being, quote, wrongly detained which is a designation that doesn't necessarily mean she is innocent of the charges. But if she's guilty or not of this crime, does that actually even matter here?

FIRESTONE: Well, it matters. If guilty, she'll get a sentence, but the real question is what sentence she's going to get and I think the reason she pled guilty today is because that is a factor that can be taken into account by a Russian court in sentencing her. So, I think she is hoping for a leniency based on this.

Now, it may well be that the sentence is predetermined for political reasons and it doesn't matter, but I think that was part of her strategy.

BROWN: Right. That's the question. Was it predetermined? Did she feel she had to plead guilty, so forth and so on? Now, Brittney Griner's attorneys say they're hoping the court will show leniency during sentencing because she did plead guilty. Under Russian law, she faces a jail term of ten years for the attempted drug smuggling charge.

In your experience, is this something a Russian court is likely to do?

FIRESTONE: Well, they certainly should take it into account. It's part of Russian law that this is a factor to be considered.

The most analogous case we have though is that of Mark Fogel who was a 60-year-old American school teacher who was arrested in Moscow with 17 grams for medical use. He pled guilty. He expressed remorse and he got 14 years in a Russian penal colony for 17 grams.

So, that doesn't bode well for her case. He pled guilty. He admitted everything. Court didn't seem to take it into account.

So, we'll have to see. We can only hope that it will be factor in but not a guarantee.

BROWN: Not a guarantee.

Se penned an emotional handwritten letter to President Biden in which she expressed fears that she will be detained in Russia indefinitely. To your point, there's clearly concerns that her case could follow suit as others. Griner's wife and others have expressed concern for her safety while she remains in Russia.

Do you think that she is safe there? You heard the embassy, the official from the U.S. embassy in Russia. They're saying that she has been eating, that she's reading books. But what do you think?

FIRESTONE: Well. I mean, it's great to hear these -- very comforting to hear. But no jail is a good place to be. A Russian jail is especially not a good place to be. Look at what the State Department said in the annual human rights report on conditions in Russian facilities. They say that conditions vary, but overcrowding is common, inadequate medical treatment. There have been reports of torture.

So, if it's -- she is okay today, but, you know, that could change at any time. So, I think, obviously, she needs to get out of there as soon as to believe.

BROWN: Tom Firestone, thank you.

FIRESTONE: Thank you.

BROWN: So, what happens when the world's bread basket is at war? CNN is in Somalia where children are starving to death and the invasion of Ukraine is making it worse.



BROWN: In our world lead, a ship allegedly packed with stolen Ukrainian grain has been released from a Turkish port. A move Ukraine calls, quote, unacceptable after it begged Turkey to detain the Russian flagged ship. Now, grain is critical to Ukraine's economy and feeds millions around the globe.

And a new U.N. report shows the world's hunger problem is growing more dire.

CNN's Clarissa reports from drought-stricken Somalia where children are starving and Putin's war is making things worse.


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the edge of the Nayem (ph) camp just outside Somalia's capital, Samza Mohammed (ph) shows the fresh graves of those who have died here.


WARD: There are 30, she says, in total. The victims of this country's record drought.

As the camp administrator Mohammed is tasked with burying the dead.


From that corner to this one, she says, this line of graves is all children.

It must weigh on your heart to have to bury the little children.

You feel such sadness when you bury a baby, she tells us. I'm a mother, and I can feel their pain as a parent.

Some 500 yards away, Norta Ali Homi (ph) has yet to visit the graves of her three children. Severely malnourished, they died after contracting measles.

I cannot bear to go, she says. The grief I would feel. Aid agencies warn that Somalia is marching towards another famine. Nearly half the country is hungry. Some 800,000 people have been forced from their homes this year alone.

So, two months ago, this camp didn't exist. Now there are more than 870 families living here.

Conditions are dire and the world's attention is elsewhere.

Thousands of miles from the front lines of the war in Ukraine, the impact of Russia's invasion is being felt. Food and fuel prices have skyrocketed, as Russia's blockade of Ukrainian wheat threatens global supplies.

MOHAMUD MOHAMED HASSAN, SAVE THE CHILDREN COUNTRY DIRECTOR: The wheat that is consumed in Somalia, 92 percent of it comes from Russia and Ukraine when you put together. So the price of wheat has doubled. In some areas, you know, 150 percent increase.

WARD: So, you had climate change, COVID. But the war in Ukraine is really threatening to push Somalia over the edge?

HASSAN: Yes. Definitely yes, yeah.

WARD: And what about if the war continues in Ukraine if that blockade remains in place, what impact will that have here?

HASSAN: I cannot imagine what will be the impact.

WARD: The stabilization ward at the hospital offers a look at what may be to come. There are no empty beds. And many desperately sick children.

Dr. Hafsa Mohammed Hassan (ph) works around the clock to keep the youngest patients alive.

How many years have you been working in this hospital?


WARD: Eight years?


WARD: Have you seen so many children brought in with malnutrition? HASSAN: No. This is the worst situation I am seeing. A number of

cases increasing day by day. The hospital is (INAUDIBLE) these cases.

WARD: Are you overwhelmed?

HASSAN: Yeah. It's overwhelming. Situation is overwhelming.

WARD: In one bed, we meet Haradi Abdi (ph) with her 4-year-old son Mohammed (ph).

I already lost three children in this drought she says softly.

So, you came here to save your son? How do you cope with that kind of loss to lose three children? How do you get through the day?

I can't cope with the situation, she says. I just pray my remaining children will survive.

It is a prayer shared by so many women here, one that the world has yet to hear.


WARD (on camera): Part of the problem, Pamela, is that because the world's attention is understandably completely consumed with the conflict in Ukraine, aid agencies have only been able to raise a fraction of funds they need to avert a catastrophe. The U.N. saying roughly a third of the dollars has been raised thus far and the deputy director of the World Food Program here warning that within weeks, parts of Somalia will be in the state of famine -- Pamela.

BROWN: That is devastating, such important reporting. Clarissa, thanks for bringing all of that to our awareness in Mogadishu, Somalia. Thank you.

And up next, how much will Donald Trump's White House counsel reveal to the January 6 Committee tomorrow? We'll discuss.



BROWN: And we're back with the politics lead.

Today, a Republican candidate for Michigan governor appeared in court over charges related to the January 6 Capitol insurrection.

Ryan Kelley pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges. Federal investigators say Kelley climbed up through the scaffolding for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration stage during the Capitol attack and motioned for rioters to advance.

Just hours before his court appearance, Kelley defended his actions on January 6, and during a debate with other Republican candidates. Let's watch.


RYAN KELLEY (R), MICHIGAN GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: We were protesting the government because we don't like the results of the 2020 election, the process of how it happened. And we have that First Amendment right and that's what 99 percent of the people were there for that day. And, yes, I support President Trump.


BROWN: All right. So what do you think, Sara? How much could this potentially impact this race?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, look, Ryan Kelley is basically running on this. He's not running from it. He's not showing any amount of shame. He said it was fist activity. Although investigators are saying, you know, you climbed a scaffolding, so that would move beyond First Amendment activity as far as the federal government is concerned.

But he keeps bringing this up. He also brought up that he believes that Donald Trump actually won in 2020. He thinks the election was stolen, even though he's campaigning in the state Joe Biden won by 154,000 votes. And it was very clear on the debate stage that all the Republicans trying to one up each other on how pro-Trump they were, how far they were in Trump's corner.


So, it's clear that Kelley thinks it is good for him in a Republican primary. Will it be a good thing for him if he wins and is in the general election? I guess we'll see.

BROWN: We'll have to see.

All right. So let's talk more about last night debate. The Republican candidates asked yes or no, do you believe the 2020 presidential election in Michigan was stolen. Listen to their answers.


KELLEY: And the answer for me is that, yes, the 2020 election in the state of Michigan was fraudulent and it was stolen from President Trump.

GARRETT SOLDANO (R), MICHIGAN GOV. CANDIDATE: Yes. Just like Mr. Kelley said. They continue to sweep it under the rug. They call a big lie, but the people deserve to know.

TUDOR DIXON (R), MICHIGAN GOV. CANDIDATE: We don't know what happened in an election where the secretary of state is cheating.

KEVIN RINKE (R), MICHIGAN GOV. CANDIDATE: There's no question that there was fraud.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: All right. To be clear, I've said a million times, I'll say it again -- even Trump's own attorney general says there was no widespread fraud. We've seen many Republicans testifying in the January 6 hearings that the election wasn't stolen. But it seems like, Alice, when you listen to their answers, as we're talking about earlier, it's like how hard can you hit home this lie that the election was stolen? Stolen even more. How much of a litmus test is this?

ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, clearly, in the Michigan GOP primary race, it's a huge litmus test. They couldn't be racing to the Trump side of the ticket more and the real test is who can be more bigly Trump clearly by saying that.

Look, they need to stop this. They need to quit running on grievances of the past and start running on policies of the future. They have 124 days until the November elections.

They need to talk about inflation. They need to be talking the economy, about jobs, about crime. Those are the issues voters in Michigan and across the country are concerned with. And to Sara's point, him talking about storming the Capitol and exercising his free speech, he didn't like the election results. I didn't like the election results. I didn't storm the Capitol.

I think that will hurt him. He has risen in the polls as of late but I think that's going to come back to haunt him as we hear more from the January 6 committee.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: This seems to be a prerequisite from the Republican candidates, but what I've seen out on the campaign trail is that you can't win on this issue alone. I mean, look at David Perdue in Georgia. You have to additionally be able to run on other issues. I think that it is worth noting that this issue looks different in different candidates.

I covered Glenn Youngkin's successful governor's race last year in Virginia. Lots of buzz about him potentially running for president in 20204. He was not out there in this grandiose fashion talking about how the election is rigged or stolen but he was centering election integrity. That's a wink and a nod I think to this issue.

So, we will see this in many forms, but I just think it's salient enough to bring a candidate to victory.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: But I think that's an important point about how even the people who aren't doing the full- blown it was stolen almost all of them are saying things like we need to look into it. Or it wasn't totally fair. There are concerns. People are asking questions.

There's very few of them that will actually just say, Joe Biden won the election, right? It's become so central and obviously extremely concerning I would say, you know, I think to any American, not just to people in the Republican Party.

BROWN: Right, they dance around it.


BROWN: They need to come out and say it. They dance around it.


BROWN: Well, people are asking questions, well, of course, because you have leadership in America that continues to push that lie and now it's become as you pointed out a litmus test for Republicans running for office.

And this as we have seen, again Republican after Republican testifying, saying that, look, the election was not stolen. They were trying to tell Trump that -- trying to convince him to accept the results and he wouldn't.

And, of course, tomorrow, Sara, former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone is going to be testifying in front of the January 6 committee. It could be behind closed doors but I'm told it would be videotaped and transcribed.

Pat Cipollone was at the center of everything in the White House. I've covered him for years. He was always there and especially on January 6. He was an official in the white house telling Trump not to go to the Capitol, telling Trump to stop the rioters and now talking to the committee. How big of a blow is this to Trump?

MURRAY: I mean, it's a huge get for the committee. And it is a big blow to Trump. Obviously, there could still be some constrictions on his testimony. But like you said, he was just there for everything. And you could spend three days talking to Pat Cipollone and just scratch the surface of the things he saw.

You know, he was there when Trump was talking about seizing voting machines. To get states to overturn the election, setting up a coup at the Justice Department. He was there on January 6. You know, according to that Cassidy Hutchinson testimony, he was talking about how they get charged with every crime in the universe if Donald Trump went down to the Capitol. So, I think there's a lot that Pat Cipollone could share with this committee, even if there are some limits on what he could testify.


BROWN: Yeah, and I'm sure the committee will ask him about considering to resigning, as we reported at CNN, what went into that, because we had officials testify to that as well.

There's so much anticipation, Kirsten, for him to testify. In fact, "The Washington Post" says the committee with Cipollone's help should be able to reach into Trump's inner circle. Trump has every reason to panic. The walls are closing in.

But is there a danger in overhyping this? I know from talking to sources that he does have institutional concerns, privilege concerns. That was one of the reasons that the committee had to subpoena him because he didn't want to voluntarily do this. He wanted to have to come because of a subpoena.

So it will be interesting to see how forthcoming he actually is.

POWERS: Yeah. He doesn't have to answer every single question. He can say he believes it's privileged. Now, the privilege would be conversations with the president. He can just, I don't know, I don't remember, I can't remember what happened.

There are ways to do this if they don't want to be helpful. There are things that Cassidy Hutchinson said that he could confirm, obviously, because he was part of the stories that was she was telling. And so, I'm really interested to see if he'll do that.

BROWN: Corroborate.

POWERS: Is he going to lie and say, it didn't happen. I don't think he would actually. He does seem to be somebody pushing back against what was going on in the White House. Did often it sounds like offer to resign or talked act resigning. Doesn't sound like the best experience of his life?

And so, he was kind of a person saying, no, this is not what we should be doing and it doesn't seem -- the president seemed to have contempt for him based on what we have heard. So, yeah, we'll have to see what he feels comfortable saying and doesn't feel like he is going against the ethical promises.

STEWART: I worked with him in the past. He is a man of integrity, serious minded person in the loop in the White House and I think we're going to hear more to corroborate what Hutchinson said about his concerns about President Trump's efforts to go to January 6 and the possible criminal charges that could lead to. The problem is seeking to overturn the election and not doing so are two completely different things.

BROWN: Yeah. All right. We'll have to see what comes out of this tomorrow. Thank you to you all. Love having a panel of ladies.

And coming up, Wolf Blitzer sits down with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Hear what he says about the state of the war. We'll be right back.


BROWN: W. Kamau Bell is back with a new season of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA". And here's a preview.


W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST: What is woke?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know what that means so I can't answer either way.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel old just like hearing that word because honestly I know that --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you say I feel old hearing that word?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I am only 16 but I don't understand the slang terms nowadays.

BELL: So, it's not a word that you're using? I might be shocked if it was.


BELL: But it's not a word that you all are using.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, it's a word used against us. I'm sorry. I'm not woke enough to know what non-binary means or any of that means to use your pronoun. I didn't find as attack helicopter, I use it/its pronounces.


BROWN: W. Kamau Bell, thank you so much for joining us. We also want to note you have a book out called "Do the Work: An Antiracist Activity Book" coming out July 19.

So, let's talk about "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA". And this first episode, you tackle the term wokeness as we heard and the concept of critical race theory. Why these issues first?

BELL: You know, I think that there's times when in this country we are distracted and there's so many huge problems going on and so many people want to focus us on woke and critical race theory as a way to distract us from solving the huge problem. So, I'm hoping this is a way to clarify what critical race theory is. To understand that woke is not a real thing and that we can get focused on the major problems in this country that are so clear around us.

BROWN: So, what other topics are you covering this season?

BELL: We're doing one about California wildfires. We're doing one about Asian-Americans in response to the stop Asian hate movement of 2020. We have an episode about athletes and mental health and we have an episode in the Native American Country talking about the land back movement.

BROWN: What do you want viewers to take away from watching?

BELL: That America is still a negotiation, that America is not locked in. Whether you think America is great or America is not, it is still an ongoing negotiation. We all need to get into the fight.

We cannot rely on the government or other forces. We all have to get out there. As my book says, do the work.

BROWN: What do you think will surprise us from watching especially about critical race theory and, quote, wokeness? BELL: I think we'll be surprised to find out that critical race

theory is not what people have been led to believe it is. A lot of people think it is a secret thing when it is a high level graduate theory about the law that your kids are going to come across if they were in law school. Not in their elementary school or high school.

BROWN: And how about wokeness?

BELL: That like a lot of slang that Black people invent, it eventually gets taken by White people and twisted into something we don't recognize. That's all wokeness is. Slang that we invented that just means, hey, be educated. And I think we should all agree that being educated is good, right?

BROWN: All right. W. Kamau Bell, thank you for joining us.

Be sure to tune in to the all new season of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA WITH W. KAMAU BELL", this Sunday at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

And I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper, our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Have a great rest of the day.