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The Lead with Jake Tapper
U.S. Beats Iran In High-Stakes Match, Advances To Round Of 16; Oath Keepers Leader Convicted Of Seditious Conspiracy; McCarthy Condemns Meeting With White Supremacist And Anti-Semite, But Stops Short Of Faulting Trump. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired November 29, 2022 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DON RIDDELL, CNN HOST, WORLD SPORT: You've referenced the build up to this game, how tense it was, it was really interesting watching the Iranian players, again, during the anthem. They appeared to mouth the national anthem. Remember, in their first game, they didn't even sing it.
And of course, Pulisic is the story of this game. He's the biggest star in the American team. They were dominating possession in the first half, they were struggling to find a way through, but he really put his body on the line to get the ball over the line for the Americans. It was a wonderful goal.
Sergino Dest playing the balling with a header, Pulisic, getting it into the back of the net, but he was hurt as a result of that. He managed to play on for the last few minutes of the half. He didn't come back out for the second half. We don't know what his condition is. But clearly American fans will be worried about their star band.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Oh, of course. What is next for the U.S. Soccer team?
RIDDELL: So, they're into the knockout round, as I say. The Netherlands is the team they will play next. The Netherlands winning group A. Team USA finishing second in Group B. So that is potentially a tough, tough game for them.
But this American team has shown that they are resilient. They're one of the youngest sides in the competition. The fact that they've been able to come through this game with all of the speculation and all the kind of adversity that's been thrown at them and the political angles that have been discussed, they managed to stick to the task and get this done.
This team is very hard to score against. They've only conceded one goal in the tournament that stands them in very good stead. The problem is, they don't score many goals either, but they know what they're doing so far. And that's going to be a great game on Saturday.
TAPPER: All right, Dan Riddell, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Joining us now to discuss Lindsay Tarpley. She's a former member of the U.S. Women's Soccer Team, which played in the 2007 World Cup. She's also a two time Olympic gold medalist.
Lindsay, thanks for joining us. So the Iranian players performed under intense pressure today after Iranian leaders threatened to torture or imprison their families if the players, quote, "failed to behave," unquote. This game, of course, after the players refused to sing the national anthem at the match against England last week. Do you think this could have played a role in the team's performance today?
LINDSAY TARPLEY, FORMER MEMBER, U.S. WOMEN'S NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM: I think at this level, it's important to -- you hear a lot of the things going on behind the scenes, but you also have a job to do when you step out on that pitch. And I thought today, both teams did an excellent job of playing a very, very good match, bringing it all but also in a respectful manner.
I also think it's important to note that the World Cup can be an example of how sport can unite countries and cultures but also be a catalyst for change. And so by seeing these things, and by speaking about it, hopefully, it can be a catalyst for change.
TAPPER: Yes, I mean, politics has been all over this World Cup. And not just the Iranians, American Team Captain Tyler Adams faced a grilling from an Iranian, quote unquote, "journalist" about his pronunciation of Iran, and about racial discrimination in the U.S. He was barely asked about soccer. Have you ever seen such a politically charged soccer match before?
TARPLEY: Well, yes, I have. But I also think it's important to understand that human rights has been at the forefront of this World Cup from the get go. So, understanding that players have a platform, especially at the World Cup, it's a massive stage for their voices to be heard and for them to be able to hopefully bring about change if needed. So, again, I respect all the things going on off the field, but I also was excited to be able to watch a match today of that caliber and two teams that were truly fighting for to stay in the tournament.
TAPPER: And obviously, the U.S. women's team that you are a member of has faced intense national and at times political pressure both on and off the soccer field, including the fight for equal pay, investigations into abuse by coaching staff. Is this the kind of attention both men and women's soccer players should be prepared to endure when one agrees to play for the country's national soccer team?
TARPLEY: I don't think you're prepared to endure these things. Unfortunately, I think these things have come about. But if you look at the fight for equal pay for women, I mean, that started way back when. That started from people who paved the way before me back in 1999 in that era. So again, it takes time for things to change, and you have to stay the course and you have to invest, and again, you have to be united.
To serve as that catalyst for change, it's an incredible honor but it's also comes with that responsibility to keep the ball rolling until you see that change, regardless of what the situation is.
TAPPER: All right, Lindsay Tarpley, thank you so much, really appreciate it.
I'd like to bring in Iranian activist and journalist, Masih Alinejad.
And Masih, how do you feel watching the U.S. beat Iran?
MASIH ALINEJAD, IRANIAN JOURNALIST AND ACTIVIST: I think Jake this is the first time that you see a smile on my face as well, no?
ALINEJAD: This is actually that Iranian people feel. You won't believe me, in the city of Saqqez, the hometown of Mahsa Amini, 20-year-old Kurdish girl who got killed by hijab police, which you know that her brutal death sparking a revolution in Iran against gender apartheid regime, from that city, people were celebrating when the moment that the U.S. football team soccer goal against Islamic Republic national football team. And you know why? Because at the same time that people are getting killed in the street, teenagers are getting killed, and they believe that you're on your regime using sport to normalize its murderers, killing and torturing.
CNN actually broke a story that women are being raped in Iranian prison. You know, I was actually listening to Lindsay the, you know, female athlete, the U.S. athlete, I just wanted to ask a simple question, if it was not the women of Iran, if it was the women of United State of America being kicked out from a stadiums just because of being women, simply because of being women, what would have been her reaction? What would have been the reaction of FIFA?
ALINEJAD: Honestly, now, we don't see that -- this football team representing us. Half of the population, Iranian women, are not even allowed to go to a stadium. So that is why I'm calling on the rest of the world to be the voice of Iranian people and see that how Iranian people are celebrating the U.S. victory.
TAPPER: So that's interesting that you don't see the team as symbolic of the Iranian people because obviously last week, after the Iranian players refused to sing the national anthem, Iran Supreme Leader threatened to torture or imprison their players' family, they sang it today. Is that normal behavior for the Ayatollah to threatened families if people don't show the kind of nationalism he wants?
ALINEJAD: Jake, the Islamic Republic does everything, everything to put pressure on people to remain silent. You see that many teenagers, many schoolgirls, their family members are being forced to go on T.V. to denounce their children who got killed in Iran protests, you know? So, of course, they put pressure on athletes as well, but they can choose like now, many well-known athletes like Ali Karimi, like Ali Daei lives in Iran, one of the best football player in the history of Iran is now standing with the people of Iran. Voria Ghafouri, he got arrested. He is the voice of Iranian people.
So for that, I have to say that we have to credit to Iranian people, clearly saying that the Islamic Republic cannot use a sport to normalize its murders and gender apartheid regime.
TAPPER: All right, Masih, thank you so much. Good to see you again as always.
We have some breaking news for you now. The jury has reached a verdict in the seditious conspiracy trial for alleged leaders of the far right Oath Keepers group. CNN's Sara Sidner is live outside the courthouse in Washington, D.C. Sara, what do we know?
SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We've got a two crack reporters inside, Hannah and Holmes, who are both sending out information to me, that's how I am getting it at this point. We have now heard from the judge who said we received a note from our jury that simply says verdict reach. That is from Judge Amit Mehta. We know that there are several attorneys, of course, from the defense that are there, that one of the attorneys still has not made it into the courtroom, but all the defendants have now entered into the courtroom. Mehta then -- Judge Mehta then repeated that there is a jury that that has -- the jury has reached a verdict.
And so, we are waiting to hear what that verdict is. There are quite a few charges. So this will take a bit of time, because for each and every charge, they have to determine which person is or is not guilty of the charge. And so that's why this will take a little bit of time. Not all of the defendants, and there are five of them, are charged with the same things. Some are charged with fewer things, some are charged with the full 10. So, we will be waiting to hear each and every charge for each and every defendant in this case.
And, Jake, as you know, each defendant in this case has their own story about what they say happened. They have their own defense in this case, and they've put those cases on throughout the past seven weeks of testimony, Jake.
TAPPER: Interrupt you for a second, because this is breaking news, and we do understand that Stewart Rhodes, the ringleader of the Oath Keepers, has been found guilty of seditious conspiracy. Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers has been found guilty of seditious conspiracy, Sara.
SIDNER: That's right. And basically what the jury looked at there is they looked at a couple of different things. First, it was like, do you find that the government proved beyond a reasonable doubt that there was the existence of a conspiracy charge in count one? That conspiracy charge was seditious conspiracy and they had to determine, one, was the goal to oppose by force the authority of the government of the United States, and two, to use force to prevent, hinder or delay the execution of any law of the United States.
This is huge. The government, the jury says, has proven its case against the founder of the Oath Keepers Elmer Stewart Rhodes III. He has argued that he was not trying to stop the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next. He has argued, basically that there was no plan to do so but that he believes neither Joe Biden nor President Donald Trump, who he clearly backed, won the election because he felt like it was unconstitutional, and that's what he told the jury. Well, the jury did not buy it.
And this is a very big win that cannot be understated for the prosecution. The jury has come back and said that in the charge of seditious conspiracy, Elmer Stewart Rhodes III is guilty. And we are waiting on the next few people because now they'll go to the next four people who are charged with this same charge, which comes by the way, with an up to 20-year maximum sentence, a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. This is a big deal and a big win for the government. Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Sara, stick around because we need more reporting from you on the other four, and there are obviously other charges. But as you know, this is a big deal, the Justice Department getting a guilty verdict and the seditious conspiracy trial of at least we have the verdict for Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers, who has been found guilty of seditious conspiracy.
So what does that mean? Let's bring in CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig, CNN National Security Analyst Juliette Kayyem, and the former Federal Prosecutor Renato Mariotti.
And Elie, let me start with you. What does this mean to the average man woman child walking down the street, an Oath Keeper has been found guilty of seditious conspiracy, which we've been saying for months is not an easy charge to get a guilty verdict of, what does this mean?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Hey, Jake, this is a historic verdict. This is a monumental victory for the Justice Department. As you said, charges of seditious conspiracy are exceedingly serious and exceedingly rare. Before these January 6 cases, it has been over a decade since DOJ even tried to charge seditious conspiracy and that particular case was unsuccessful. You have to go back two decades plus to find a jury trial in the federal system that resulted in a conviction for seditious conspiracy, and that involve a foreign terrorist organization that was plotting attacks on a series of landmarks in New York City.
So, this is extraordinarily rare, and it really vindicates DOJ theory here. Seditious conspiracy means to plot to use force to overthrow the government or to interfere with a lawful function of government, here the counting of electoral votes by Congress, it doesn't get any more fundamental for our democracy than that. So, this is a huge win for DOJ and really a vindication of their legal theory.
TAPPER: I want to bring in Renato and Juliette in a second, but let's go back to Sara Sidner because there are four other defendants, and we're still waiting to hear the verdicts about them. So, Sara, as you know, you already brought us the news, seditious conspiracy charges.
TAPPER: Steward Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers has been found guilty of seditious conspiracy. What about the other four defendants?
SIDNER: Sure. OK. So we have just gotten the verdict for the other four defendants in the seditious conspiracy case. We are hearing -- the foreman says that Kelly Meggs, who was a member of the Oath Keepers guilty. We are hearing Jessica Watkins, another member of the Oath Keepers, not guilty. Kenneth Harrelson, a member of the Oath Keepers not guilty. And Thomas Caldwell, who was an associate of the group, had said he was not a member, not guilty.
So you've got, in this case, Stewart Rhodes, who was -- is the founder of the Oath Keepers, guilty, and someone who they believe was one of his top lieutenants Kelly Meggs guilty in this case. By the way, Kelly Meggs' wife has also been brought up in charges. So, this is a very interesting difference here because like I told you earlier, each of the defendants had a story about why they were there and what they were doing and whether or not they planned to forcefully stop the peaceful transfer of power.
This changes things a bit for the DOJ. This was a huge case that cannot be understated. It is the first case where seditious conspiracy charges went to trial. They have now gotten two guilty verdicts, both Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, and one of his lieutenants, Kelly Meggs both guilty. But the other defendants, the other three defendants, not guilty, the jury says.
I've just gotten in a little bit more information about count two, which is conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, Stewart Rhodes, not guilty, Kelly Meggs, guilty, Kenneth Harrelson also not guilty, Jessica Watkins guilty, and Thomas Caldwell not guilty. So, so far what you're seeing here is there are a couple of people, Kenneth Harrelson and Mr. Caldwell, Thomas Caldwell, both not guilty on two of the conspiracy charges.
So you're seeing sort of the jury going through each and every one of these and trying to decide, OK, did this happen in your opinion? Did the government prove its case? So it's a mixed bag for the government. And I am sure at this point, that for Mr. Caldwell's attorney who's so far not guilty on two of the charges, that they are happy to hear that from the jury.
Now, Jake, I do want to mention that this is the first of about 20 cases in the January 6 attack on the Capitol that shocked the America and the world where there is a conspiracy charge, about 20 cases will go to trial where there's a conspiracy charge. This was the first one with seditious conspiracy, one of the most serious charges.
We have just gotten another decision by the jury and another of the up to 10 charges, count number three, which is obstructing an official proceeding and either stopping an official proceeding by obstructing it, Stewart Rhodes guilty, Kelly Meggs, considered one of his top lieutenants, guilty, Kenneth Harrelson guilty, Jessica Watkins, guilty, and Thomas Caldwell guilty. So this is the first charge where everyone who has been charged, and this is the obstruction of official proceeding, everyone who has been charged with count three has been found guilty by this jury.
We are getting the rest of the charges in. If you don't mind, I will go through them with you. And if you would like to bring in our analyst Elie Honig, I know --
SIDNER: -- he is raring to go and has sort of some real deep knowledge of what these charges actually mean. I will stop now and try to gather the rest of the charges --
SIDNER: -- as you were speaking with him, Jake.
TAPPER: That sounds good, Sara, get the rest of the charges because I think we have enough to chew on right now with our legal experts. And Renato --
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes.
TAPPER: -- just to reiterate, so we have two charges of seditious conspiracy guilty, two guilty charges for Stewart Rhodes, the ringleader of the Oath Keepers and Kelly Meggs, who I would guess is his deputy, the other three defendants not guilty on seditious conspiracy. Then there was disrupting the transfer of power, that was a mixed bag, some were found guilty, some were found not guilty. And then obstructing an official proceeding, all five of the defendants were found guilty. That's what we know right now.
Renato, walk us through what you see going on here.
RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, what we see Jake is a jury that's very carefully considering the evidence as to each count and every specific defendant, which by the way, is how it's supposed to work in our system when you have a joint trial. That's exactly how the system is supposed to work.
I actually think it's a very good thing for the Justice Department, because it's going to make, in many ways, this verdict very defensible. Ultimately, at the end of the day, the jury took a very close look at each one of these defendants. And you know, there's a saying we had as prosecutors, one defendant one count. In other words, you know, for some of these defendants, even if they were found not guilty of certain things, in the end of the day, they're all being found guilty of at least one very serious felony. So the judge, once that happens, the judge is going to be able to consider all the history and characteristics of the defendant, all of the nature and circumstances of this offense, and give a sentence based on all of that, regardless of what the charge was.
So, you know, I think it's a win for the Justice Department that they have a guilty verdict, as to all the defendants is to a serious felony. And as a seditious conspiracy, what I think it shows is that the jury was considering these defenses, which by the way, Jake, were inconsistent with each other. I mean, each defendant and their own spin that they were giving, which usually helps the Justice Department because those are not necessarily aligned with each other. And I think what they did here is they credited some of those defenses as to the lesser culpable members of the Oath Keepers, but at -- or as a mirror, suppose that associate, but acid people at the very top they were willing to hold the top two people in the Oath Keepers responsible for that seditious conspiracy.
TAPPER: That's right. But as you note, all five has been found guilty of at least one felony which is --
TAPPER: -- disrupting or obstructing an official proceeding.
And Juliette, for people who might not remember about a year or so ago, a lot of Donald Trump and the insurrectionists defenders in politics and defenders in MAGA media --
TAPPER: -- were saying things along the lines of if this was so serious were the seditious conspiracy charges and of course, then the Justice Department brought them. Explain how this guilty verdict fills in the bigger picture of what happened during the deadly riot on January 6. Does this --
TAPPER: -- say, look, this was a conspiracy, this was planned?
KAYYEM: Exactly. So, this was of course a good day for the Department of Justice. I -- you don't see me smile much, this is a really great day for the United States, for the rule of law, for the peaceful transfer of power and making sure that that is protected because that was essentially what was on trial.
This verdict, we're going to have to drill down because there's -- the different counts are related to what the intent was in terms of its obstruction delay. But the overall charge against, in particular, Stewart Rhodes is monumental because it is saying to the world that this was, one word, conspiracy, more than one. It is not a bunch of guys vacationing and deciding to get a little bit disruptive, it is -- it was planned before, during and possibly after to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power, we have to figure out exactly what the -- what each count relates to, in terms of the guilty verdict.
So, it is not just a statement to those defendants, it's a statement to potentially future defendants. This is how these cases, this is how violent organizations die, which is a good thing. They get disrupted at the top, they turn on each other, which is what we saw in this case. They have no trust amongst each other. And they know that they have now been exposed.
And so, these other cases that Sara was talking about, that are down the pipeline in terms of who knew what together, that's the key word here, together conspiracy, a unified intent, people will start to get nervous, and they will take more please or they will take pleas that are being offered by the Department of Justice. And the extent to which this was organized by Oath Keepers, other violent organizations and their connections to the focus of the January 6 committee, which is of course, the White House, will continue to be exposed.
So, I guess I put it this way, this was a big deal. It is a big deal for the rule of law and for the peaceful transfer of power. The opposite would have been very bad, I think, for not just the Department of Justice, but for incitement and violence, people would have thought that they could have gotten away with it.
TAPPER: And Elie, how will this verdict, do you think, impact other legal battles over the January 6 insurrection?
HONIG: Well, Jake, I assure you all the other defendants are watching this verdict carefully. Of course, every case stands on its own. The fact that there were convictions in this case does not necessarily mean other people will be convicted if they go to trial, but it sure does send a message because the jury here rejected the defenses that this was idle chatter. They rejected the defenses that this was just some petty offense or not something very serious. The jury here found all five defendants guilty and trying to obstruct an official proceeding, that's the third count.
All five defendants have been found guilty. All five of them are either in jail or going to jail.
And, Jake, I'm just want to point this out, if people are wondering, how could there be not guilty verdict as to the bottom three defendants on the seditious conspiracy charges, but guilty verdicts as to obstruction of an official proceeding charges? The difference there is the use of force. What distinguishes seditious conspiracy is that they're plotting to use force. And so the jury found that yes, the top two defendants Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs, they were in on a plan to use force, the evidence here involved amassing weapons and attack plans. But the other three defendants, yes, they were part of a plan to try to obstruct Congress, but not necessarily by using force.
So, big picture, this is a win for prosecutors, it's a win for DOJ. And the jury --
HONIG: -- clearly was very careful and went count by count and defendant by defendant here.
TAPPER: All right. Hold on right now because we're going to go back to Sara Sidner at the courthouse for more information on this breaking news story.
And Sara, just to get people up to speed, people who are watching right now at home, there has been -- there have been verdicts in the trial of the Oath Keepers. Two of the five defendants have been count -- have been found guilty of seditious conspiracy, that is the biggest and weightiest charge. Stewart Rhodes the leader of the Oath Keepers and his deputy Kelly Meggs been found guilty of that. A mixed bag among the five for the charge of disruption of the transfer of power, and all five found guilty of obstructing an official proceeding. Tell us more.
SIDNER: So, remember in the -- when we're talking earlier, Jake, and I was saying, look, some of the defendants are charged with different things, not all of them are charged with all of the different counts that the prosecution brought. So, in one of those charges, which was count four, conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties, Stewart Rhodes, the leader and founder of the Oath Keepers was found not guilty. Kelly Meggs, one of his top lieutenants according to the prosecution, was found guilty in that charge.
Now there was another charge underneath this to prevent a member of Congress from discharging a duty, that was another charge. Kenneth Harrelson found guilty of that, and Jessica Watkins found guilty of that.
I can give you a little background on potentially why the jury found Stewart Rhodes not guilty in this charge, because, you know, Stewart Rhodes did not go into the Capitol. He was one of the people that did not go into the Capitol, that was not seen in the Capitol pushing against police, pushing into -- in through the doors on that January 6 day. And so, the jury may have thought that that was not something that he was capable of doing to prevent an officer from discharging his duties.
And then when you look sort of down, Kelly Meggs did go into the Capitol. Kenneth Harrelson was a person who you didn't hear from in this case. Three of the defendants, by the way, Jake, spoke on their own behalf. And we talked about that earlier, including the founder of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, he was the first defendant to take the stand.
So did Jessica Watkins, she is you know, a former Army veteran. She said look, she was transgender, she was trying to fit in, and you know, she got caught up and did what she said something that was a dumbass move. Literally a quote from her. She was being a, quote, "dumbass" is what she told the jury, but that she did not try to obstruct -- stop the transfer -- peaceful transfer of power.
She was, though found guilty by preventing a member of Congress from discharging a duty because she was in the Capitol and she was on camera that she took herself by the way, a selfie of her going, we just stormed the Capitol, we're in the effing Capitol. So some of this evidence the jury has looked at are the words of the people who are the defendants are much of it, really, the messaging between the different members of this group. And so the jury looked at a whole lot of evidence, Jake. I cannot stress that enough, seven weeks of testimony in this case that this jury has gone through. Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Sara, we'll come back to you. Thank you so much. If you're just tuning in, there has been some breaking news, some guilty verdicts in the trial of the five Oath Keepers including the ringleader, Stewart Rhodes, who has been found guilty of seditious conspiracy, as well as guilty of obstructing an official proceeding. All five defendants, in fact, found guilty of obstructing an official proceeding and two found guilty of seditious conspiracy.
Juliette Kayyem, what does this mean for other far right militia groups, there's another trial that's going to go on? Not of the Oath Keepers. A different far right militia. Do you think this will be --
TAPPER: -- a deterrent? What more?
KAYYEM: Yes. Absolutely. Look, we can focus on the noise and people on Twitter and people being hateful and the potential violence. But what we need to look at is whether these organizations have a capacity to grow. And what we've seen since January 6, and certainly because of this verdict is their capacity in terms of whether their leadership is able to do it, are they able to raise funds, these organizations need fees to keep themselves going, to keep themselves online, to keep themselves organized, and whether they're able to recruit, all will be harmed significantly by this verdict.
In particular recruitment, you can call this group whatever you want, right wing militia, terror group, domestic terrorism, organizations like this thrive with the victory. In other words, they convince potential adherence, potential recruits, that they're on the winning team. This is true of organize -- of violent organizations and groups throughout the world.
That narrative, they had that narrative when Trump was supporting them. They had that narrative going into January 6, they no longer have that narrative. And so, if you think of just the long term trajectory of right wing, extremist, organized groups, I'm not talking about, you know, look, there's going to be the one offs, there's going to be violent people, there's going to be hateful people online, but in terms of organizing and the capacity of these groups to organize a huge hit today, they are looking at this. And these organizations are basically over, they may reform in other names, and we keep an eye on them, but nothing like what we've seen before because they -- their capacity to grow has been severely limited. And Stewart Rhodes deserves to go to jail for a long time because of the cons -- because he led what the jury found to be a true conspiracy.
TAPPER: And Renato, one of the things that's interesting about this case, not this case in particular, but the seditious conspiracy trials, the other one of the proud boys, which is a different, far right militia, but there was video we've seen of the two groups making peace for this seditious effort, that's the group that when Donald Trump during one of the presidential debates was asked to tell them to stand down, he said instead, stand by, stand back and stand by.
We know that Oath Keepers were in contact with individuals close to former President Trump including Roger Stone and Michael Flynn. How might this verdict today, this guilty verdict for two of the five for seditious conspiracy, and guilty for all five for obstructing official proceedings. This seditious conspiracy verdict, by the way, carries with it a potential 20 years in prison each. How could this impact Donald Trump? How could this impact his associates like Roger Stone and Mike Flynn?
MARIOTTI: Well, they have to be concerned because, particularly the individuals, like you said, Roger Stone, who have very specific and personal ties to these groups. You know, Jake, when I represent clients who are, you know, part of the series of cases that are getting charged, I usually track the different cases and sentences and the results in a spreadsheet and keep my clients up to date on how all those cases are going -- is working their way through the courts. And so, if I represented Roger Stone here, and I was giving him advice, I would tell him, you know, we need to be very concerned about your involvement, your relationships with these groups. You know, we know there's an ongoing January 6 investigation, you don't want yourself to get caught up in a seditious conspiracy charge.
I mean, what I think the Justice Department proof today is they can try seditious conspiracy cases, and they can win and get a conviction on these facts on the January 6 conspiracy. And I think that's something that was a question mark up till now, there was doubters out there. And everyone associated with the January 6 conspirators, I think, have to take note of that and be very concerned.
TAPPER: And Elie, I would assume, and look, I don't know that there was anybody in Trump's orbit who told the Oath Keepers to do this or coordinated with the Oath Keepers to do this or the Proud Boys, but if there were, that's the case of the January 6 hearing is trying to make and that's certainly what's being investigated by the Justice Department right now, if there were I would think that Kelly Meggs and Stewart Rhodes, who were just convicted, found guilty on seditious conspiracy, which carries a potential sentence of 20 years in prison, not to mention the other three who were found guilty when it comes to obstructing an official proceeding, I would assume some of these people are looking to make a deal. Some of these people are going to have their lawyers go to the Justice Department and say, I have more information, I don't want to go to prison.
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think you're exactly right, Jake. And I do want to be clear, typically people cooperate before they've gone to trial. However, it does happen that people get convicted, as we've just seen, and then cooperate, because as you know, the incentives are very different now if you are Stewart Rhodes or Kelly Meggs, you were being held in prison waiting for this trial. Now you've been convicted, you're going to be locked up for up to 20 years.
And so, now you're doing the math and thinking, well, perhaps I need to help myself. And if that's the case, if Stewart Rhodes or Kelly Meggs has a change of heart and a conviction by a jury, certainly can change a person's heart, then you may make a call to prosecutors. And the way this works, Jake, if you want to cooperate in the federal system, it's all or nothing, you can't be selective about who you cooperate against or what information you give, you have to give everything.
And so, if I'm a prosecutor, I'd certainly be interested in hearing what they have to say. And if it's useful and interesting and actionable, then perhaps they'd be in position to cooperate against others.
TAPPER: I'm going to go back to Sara Sidner who's outside the courthouse right now. Sara, what can you tell us?
SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We have the last of the charges. And, Jake, the verdict is complete now. The jury has made its decision, it has made its judgment after seven weeks of listening to testimony and three days of going over that testimony. And we are getting the last few verdicts in.
For count five, destruction of government property and aiding and abetting, Kelly Meggs found not guilty, Kenneth Harrelson not guilty, and Jessica Watkins, not guilty. So, all not guilty on that charge. They have all been found guilty on other charges, so there will be some jail time here.
But when it comes to destroying government property, the jury did not see that in the videos and the text messages, they just simply decided that is not -- they did not prove their case, the federal government.
And lastly, there's a civil disorder and aiding and abetting, Jessica Watkins was the only person charged with that, she was found guilty. And the last charges are all obstruction charges in different versions. And what we are getting now is that Rhodes has been found guilty of that as well, Kelly Meggs guilty, Kenneth Harrelson guilty, and Thomas Caldwell guilty.
The judge has said Thomas Caldwell is the only person that we have seen in court who gets to leave every day, he gets to go home. The judge is going to keep that in place. He generally comes in with a cane. Keep that in place, he can go home until the sentencing, according to Judge Amit Mehta. So, that's where we are right now.
The rest of them will be remanded. They have been already in jail awaiting the jury's decision. And then there will be a sentencing eventually. And obviously the most serious charges are the first two, the first one was seditious conspiracy with comes with up to a 20-year prison sentence maximum. And the second one conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, that too, by the way, comes with up to a 20 year sentence. And several people were convicted of that, that were not convicted of seditious conspiracy, the most rare and serious charges.
So, there's a lot of jail time that could be handed down, I should say prison time, that could be handed down by Judge Amit Mehta. I do want to say this to you that this trial, the length of it, the weight of it, you could definitely feel it on a day to day basis. The weight of this trial and the people here of D.C. who watched people stormed into the Capitol, breaking down doors, looking for members of Congress, talking about hanging them and hurting them and stopping them from doing their official duties, this has been an incredibly heavy weight for this jury to go through, to listen to, to see over and over and over again over these past seven weeks.
The judge has always recognized that in this case, and he said this to the attorneys once the jury left, he said he thanked them all. He said if anyone wants proof that the American system and the justice system can work, all they had to do was sit and watch this case. So Judg Mehta, praising the attorneys, all of them prosecutors and defense in this, making the point that this is the way America should function. It should not function the way it did on January 6 with people breaking into the Capitol, Jake.
TAPPER: Sara, I know this is all coming fast and furious. Right now, do you have the wherewithal and the information? And again, I know you're getting all this, it's a breaking news situation. If I go through the names of the defendants, can you tell me what they have been found guilty of and what they had been found not guilty of, if we do it by defendant by defendant?
SIDNER: We can try.
SIDNER: We can try.
TAPPER: Let's try it with live T.V. folks who have a heart. Let's start with Stewart Rhodes.
SIDNER: There are no guarantees I'm going to be perfect.
TAPPER: No, no. But Stewart Rhodes -- right now we're looking at the five defendants. Stewart Rhodes is the guy with the eyepatch that comes from an incident when he accidentally shot out his own eye. He's the leader of the far right Oath Keepers group. What has he been found guilty of? What has he been found not guilty of?
SIDNER: So we know he has been found guilty. The leader of the Oath Keepers has been found guilty of seditious conspiracy. He's been found not guilty of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. He has been found guilty of obstructing an official proceeding. He has been found not guilty of conspiring to prevent an officer from discharging any duties.
And he has been found guilty of several obstruction counts, there are several counts that round out the charges. So, in three different spots, he has been found guilty. The most important, obviously, is the seditious conspiracy charge. That is a very, very, very big deal, not only for him and the government, but for this group that he formed in 2009 in the wake of President Obama's rise to the presidency. Jake.
TAPPER: Right. OK. So, that's guilty of -- Stewart Rhodes guilty of seditious conspiracy, obstructing --
TAPPER: -- an official proceeding. And what's the third one? SIDNER: It is another obstruction charge.
SIDNER: There are several obstruction counts, and he was found guilty, along with Meggs, Harrelson, Caldwell, they were all found guilty of the several obstruction counts that they faced.
TAPPER: OK. Kelly Meggs, the deputy Oath Keeper, I think he's the head of the Oath Keepers in Florida.
TAPPER: He was also found guilty of seditious conspiracy. What else has he been found guilty or not guilty of?
SIDNER: He was. He was found guilty of seditious conspiracy, the most serious charge. When it comes to conspiracy to obstruct an official proceedings, Meggs, unlike the leader of the Oath Keeper Rhodes, was found guilty. So, on the two most serious charges that bring the heaviest amount of prison time, he was found guilty on both. He was also found guilty on the third charge obstructing an official proceeding.
Now remember, Rhodes didn't go into the Capitol, but Kelly Meggs did, and there is video of him doing so. So, some of this has to do with that.
The fourth count, conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties, Kelly Meggs, also found guilty. So, so far, he has been found guilty of more counts than I think any other person in this case defending themselves against these charges. And he was also, let me see, I'm going down here found guilty of other obstruction counts, so, he is probably the only not guilty charge that he was found not guilty of.
Thomas Caldwell was found not guilty of preventing a member of Congress from discharging a duty.
TAPPER: All right. We'll get to Caldwell --
SIDNER: That's where we're at.
TAPPER: -- in a second. But --
TAPPER: All right. So, just to recap, you keep saying --
SIDNER: Oh, I'm sorry Meggs.
TAPPER: Yes, yes. So, you keep saying obstructing official proceeding when I think you mean disrupting the transfer of power, Kelly Megs found guilty. SIDNER: There are two.
TAPPER: There are two different ones.
TAPPER: OK. Stewart Rhodes found guilty --
TAPPER: -- of seditious conspiracy and obstructing an official proceeding and another obstruction count. Kelly Meggs, his deputy, found guilty of seditious conspiracy. Was he found guilty of disrupting transfer of power?
SIDNER: He was found guilty of count two, which is conspiracy to obstruct official proceeding.
SIDNER: That is Kelly Meggs, not Stewart Rhodes.
TAPPER: Not Stewart Rhodes, right.
SIDNER: The seditious conspiracy. Correct.
TAPPER: I want to -- the reason I want to do all this is I just want to make sure that our legal experts understand all this. I'm going to go back to them and then I'll come back to you, Sara --
TAPPER: -- in a second, which is --
TAPPER: -- one of the things, Elie Honig, I want to ask you, the sentences here, they don't have to be concurrent, right? They can be consecutive. So in other words, Stewart Rhodes can be found guilty of seditious conspiracy, which carries a 20 year sentence potentially, also found guilty of obstructing and official proceedings. Does that carrying a 20-year sentence potentially as well?
HONIG: I believe it does, Jake, yes. And those sentences can be run either concurrently, meaning at the same time, or consecutively, meaning back to back. And I think what's likely to happen here is the judge usually will take sort of the core of the conduct and say which of these charges relates to more or less the same plot? And usually those get run concurrently at the same time.
But one thing that's a bit of a kicker here is several of these defendants had been charged with obstruction of justice. Basically, the underlying facts were that they had certain text messages that they deleted or told others to delete. That usually bumps the sentence up by a year or so.
So, it's hard to say exactly what they're looking at seditious conspiracy charges are very rare. But with respect to the top two defendants here, with respect to Stewart Rhodes and Kelly Meggs, their sentence is going to be driven by the seditious conspiracy charges max of 20. I think it's likely they end up in the double digits here. These are very serious charges.
TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around, we're going to come back to you. We have much more in our breaking news out of the seditious conspiracy throw. We're going to squeeze in a quick break. We'll be right back. Stay with us.
TAPPER: And we're back with our breaking news coverage. A jury finding just a few minutes ago, the leader of the far right Oath Keepers group guilty of seditious conspiracy, along with his deputy, Kelly Meggs, is of course over their role in the January 6 Capitol insurrection. Three other members of the Oath Keepers found guilty on other related charges.
Let's bring in Michael Fanone. Michael was a D.C. police officer who was at the Capitol on January 6, was beaten unconscious on the day of the attack.
And Michael, I want to -- Michael, your reaction to the jury's verdict.
MICHAEL FANONE, FORMER D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICER: Well, Jake, the first thing --
TAPPER: Oh, hold on one second, Michael.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to say we're thankful for Judge Mehta and his presiding over the trial. And so, we come to this day. It's a mixed bag. There are good results and bad results mixed together. We're grateful for the not guilty verdicts that were received. We're disappointed in the guilty verdicts.
If you look at these charges, there were many charges leveled against our client, Mr. Rhodes and all the other clients. I said that some of the other lawyers will talk to you about their clients. But we certainly are thankful for the not guilty verdicts that Mr. Rhodes received. We're disappointed with the guilty verdict.
We feel like that we presented a case, which showed through evidence and testimony that Mr. Rhodes did not commit the crime of seditious conspiracy. There was no evidence introduced to indicate that there was a plan to attack the Capitol.
So, I just want to say that we are grateful for the opportunity we've had to present the evidence on behalf of our client, Mr. Rhodes, and willing to take in your questions. Mr. Bright (ph).
BRIGHT (PH): After 10 weeks of work, I think I just said it all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any plans to try to appeal?
BRIGHT: Of course. Excuse the ad. Can you move? Jesus, I hate this town?
We do. We're appreciative. Thank you very much. It's been a long 10 weeks. I'm ready to get back to Texas without question.
I think Ed (ph) said a lot of it, but the government did a good job, they took us to task. Hopefully there were moments that
TAPPER: All right, those attorneys representing individuals who have found guilty of seditious conspiracy, trying to put their best face on pretty tough verdict. Let's bring back Michael Fanone, one of the heroes of January 6, 2021, one of the police officers beat unconscious by the rioting mobs.
Michael, sorry for interrupting before. What is your reaction to the jury's verdict? It looks like some of these individuals could theoretically end up with sentences of 20 or even more years in prison.
FANONE: Yes, Jake, my first reaction was it could happen to a nicer group of people. But seriously, I think -- well, I would hope that this would serve as a learning tool for many members of Congress and many Americans who don't believe that January 6 was serious, that it was a serious attack on our democracy. You know, many members have said that, where are the seditious conspiracy charges? Well, there they are. And they were found guilty.
TAPPER: Yes, no, absolutely. You tried to meet with a number of individuals who have downplayed the insurrection and you could obviously point to these verdicts showing that a jury found them guilty of seditious conspiracy, should the jury found them guilty of obstructing an official proceeding, and other obstruction charges? What would you say to those leaders? I know that you tried to meet with Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy several times, and then did have a meeting with him that you found unsatisfactory. What would you say to Kevin McCarthy, if he were watching right now?
FANONE: I don't have anything to say to Kevin McCarthy. I think that the verdict speaks for itself. And that, you know, the evidence that was put forth by the government prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Stewart Rhodes and at least one of his conspirators engaged in a seditious conspiracy to overthrow the United States government by means of violence. And I think that the select committee did an outstanding job of showing connections between the former president's administration allies within his administration, and leaders of these groups. And so, if I was the former president and many of his allies, I would be shaking in my boots seeing these verdicts coming down. TAPPER: There were other officers who are at the Capitol on the day of the insurrection who were also in court today for the verdict. You've gone to Capitol Hill for the January 6 select committee hearings. How important is it for you all in law enforcement to show up on days such as this?
FANONE: I mean, I think it varies from officer to officer. I would have loved to be there, but every time I show up at federal courthouse, it comes a fiasco. And so, you know, I've agreed to stay away outside of, you know, the actual trials that involve me as a government witness or as a victim. That being said, I know quite a few officers who have participated or been present at dozens of these hearings, some even more.
TAPPER: You and a three other officers were at the many of the January 6 hearings, including Harry Dunn and others. And I'm wondering, I don't know if you're texting with them, but I'm wondering how your little band of brothers is reacting to the verdicts.
FANONE: I'll be honest with you, I wasn't paying any attention whatsoever. The first I heard about the verdict was when your producer called and asked me to come on. That being said, I mean, I'm pleasantly surprised.
TAPPER: All right. Michael Fanone, good to see you again as always. Thank you so much.
Let's discuss with our political panel. And Gloria, congressman -- Democratic Congressman Don Beyer of Virginia just tweeted this, "For nearly two years, Republicans have downplayed the January 6 attack on the Capitol. They called it a normal tourist visit, legitimate political discourse, peaceful patriots, a dustup." Obviously, Donald Trump has done similar and in fact, promised pardons for all of January 6 defendants. You know, these guys were just found guilty --
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: That's Right.
TAPPER: -- of a number of charges. Two of them found guilty of seditious conspiracy. Do you think this will have any impact on the House Republicans who have downplayed this?
BORGER: Probably not. I think that when you look at this case, it was a carefully considered jury who didn't say across the board everyone was guilty or not guilty of the same thing. But in the end for Stewart Rhodes, in particular, it made the case and accepted the case, I should say, that the violence on January 6 was the product of an organized conspiracy, period, end of sentence.
Not everyone participated in the same way, not everyone did the same thing, some of these folks didn't go to the Capitol, Stuart Rhodes didn't go to the Capitol, but in the end, there was an organized conspiracy, which as you've been hearing from a lot of these Republicans you've been talking about, this was not organized in any way, shape or form. You've been hearing that from the former president of the United States, who has said that he would consider full pardons for the rioters. I don't know what he's thinking now. I don't know what these people who were saying that January 6 was not organized in any way are thinking now, but a jury of their fellow citizens after careful consideration, said yes, it was.
TAPPER: What do you think?
MARIO PARKER, NATIONAL POLITICS TEAM LEADER, BLOOMBERG: I mean, who's had a worst political month in history than Donald Trump has at this moment, right? I mean, and it all stems back to a lot of this election denial.
The Independent voters just two weeks ago just rejected Trumpism, right? The Republicans did worse than expected in the midterm elections, many of the election deniers failed, many of his candidates failed as well. And then, Biden to set up the midterms, right, he spoke about democracy and the need to save democracy. This -- what happened today, this verdict, is another data point for Republicans who are agitating for the party and move on from Donald Trump.
TAPPER: What do you think, Paul?
PAUL BEGAL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: And I think Mario is right, and from extremism. You know, we just came out of the most extraordinary midterm election in history. Why? For the first time ever, the American people slammed on the brakes on a party that had no power. Republicans didn't have the House, didn't have the Senate, they don't have the White House, and still voters said, whoa, let's not -- I understand pumping the brakes when your party has any of those things, but we have never before had voters sake, let's not let them get behind the wheel.
This -- so Republicans have got to find a way to disavow this. And I think that Michael Fanone, Congressman Beyer's tweet that you referenced really important. People have been lied to. It was a lie when people said this was Antifa, a left wing group, Black Lives Matter, a left wing group, it wasn't. The Oath Keepers or ultra-right wing group.
It was alive when Donald Trump said there was love in the air. It wouldn't love in the air for Michael Fanone when they beat him nearly to death, caused a heart attack. So, it's really important that the truth went out here, do not just my Democrats or your Republicans, but that people understand that when you've been told this was peaceful or this was left wing or this was just free expression of the First Amendment, you were lied to.
TAPPER: Yes. Speaking of which, and on the subject of Republicans and extremism, something interesting happened today. It took almost a full week, but we have more Republicans speaking out against Nick Fuentes, who is this holocaust denying anti-semitic racist to Trump -- Donald Trump met with, I guess a week ago today. Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader for six days didn't say anything about this. I guess the story only broke on Friday, to be fair, but even though other people have come out and condemned it, and including Vice President Pence. Then earlier today, here is what Kevin McCarthy, who's about to be the House Speaker said about Donald Trump and Nick Fuentes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I don't think anybody should be spending any time with Nick Fuentes. He has no place in this Republican Party. I think President Trump came out four times and condemned him and didn't know who he was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: OK. So that's not true. Donald Trump has not come out four times, he hasn't come out three times, he hasn't come out twice, he hasn't come out once and condemned Nick Fuentes. He did say he didn't know who he was, that part of what Kevin McCarthy said is true. But everything else in that sentence, President Trump came out four times and condemned him, he's either mistaken or he's lying.
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN POLLSTER & STRATEGIST: I wish that it was consistent and immediate that Republicans to the extent they're being asked about this, and frankly, I hate that we are having to talk about Donald Trump and who he has dinner with, but to the extent that it's something outrageous, and he's a former president of the United States, this should be a clear cut case. And it's unfortunate that it seems to have taken so long for folks to give a simple answer to a simple question.
TAPPER: Are you here to try being Jewish? I mean, this is not a conversation, Gloria --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
TAPPER: -- that this is -- there's a lot of angst and anxiety among Jews in this country about the fact that Donald Trump is openly meeting with a Holocaust denier. And so, few Republicans can find it in their hearts to condemn that immediately.
BORGER: And so, few of the Republicans in leadership immediately. Now, they're coming out. Mitt Romney in particular, came out.
TAPPER: Sure, but Kevin McCarthy --
BORGER: Kevin McCarthy, yes.
TAPPER: -- I think Donald Trump condemned him.
TAPPER: Donald Trump has not condemned Nick Fuentes.
BORGER: No. Well, and Kevin McCarthy --
TAPPER: It's not true.
BORGER: -- wants to be speaker, and you know, we understand that he is not yet speaker and needs to keep a certain wing of his party with him. And I think that explains a lot of his reticence there, which is absurd.
TAPPER: I know the -- I guess the question is, I saw something that Jonah Goldberg tweeted earlier today about whether or not it -- has -- have Republican officials said they finally had enough? Is this finally enough? You're a pollster, where are Republicans?
ANDERSON: Every other time I've been asked, is this the thing? Is this the thing?
ANDERSON: It's never been the thing.
ANDERSON: The only reason this could be the thing is that Republicans are wounded coming out of this midterm, they are looking for reasons to get rid of this guy and move on, and this is one reason to do so. That's the only reason this could be different than the million other times that I have been asked about that.
TAPPER: I'm sorry to ask.
ANDERSON: It's OK.
TAPPER: I think I have resisted. I feel like I've resisted asking you this until now.
ANDERSON: It's OK.
TAPPER: But, Goldberg -- last thing, you were talking about extremism and Stuart Rhodes. I mean, Nick Fuentes is not a violent person --
TAPPER: -- as far as I know, but his thoughts and deeds are hideous. Is there -- I mean, are we learning anything here about affiliations with extremists?
BEGALA: Well, again, yes, I don't know Mr. Fuentes has ever advocated violence, right, Mr. Rhodes has been -- so, I do want to be fair. But I did look up some of his tapes --
BEGALA: -- Mr. Fuentes, sneering about the Holocaust.
BEGALA: Can I -- if I can, Kevin McCarthy needs to read this new book called "The Escape Artist" about the first Jew who escaped from Auschwitz, Rudy Vrba. Jonathan Freeland just wrote it, who you may know, it's a terrific book. You want to know what really happened, the truth about the Holocaust, particularly for Catholic boys from Texas like me, it's paper (ph).
TAPPER: Well, I'll check it out. And thanks, one and all for being here. Really appreciate it. Our coverage continues now. Brianna Keilar is in for Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. See you tomorrow.