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The Lead with Jake Tapper
The January 6th Committee Approves Criminal Referrals Against Donald Trump; Supreme Court Delays End of Title 42; Trump Legal Team Disagree on Multiple Probes; January 6th Committee Refers Trump to DOJ for Criminal Charges; Bipartisan Bill Aims to Help Afghans in U.S. Who Aided War Effort; CNN Investigative Reporter Drew Griffin Dead at 60. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired December 19, 2022 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Justice Department has no legal obligation to act on these congressional referrals. There is already a special counsel investigating Trump's role in the January 6 attack on the capitol. Republican Congresswoman and vice-chair of the committee, Liz Cheney, of Wyoming reminded everyone today why in her view this is not only about the past, but about the country's future.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): No man who would behave that way at that moment in time can ever serve in any position of authority in our nation again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Our coverage starts with CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill for us with the takeaways from this final meeting of the January 6th House Select Committee earlier today.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After a sprawling investigation with more than 1,000 witnesses interviewed and reams of new evidence obtained, the January 6th Committee today concluded that Donald Trump was directly responsible for the Capitol insurrection and recommended that the Justice Department prosecute the former president on four federal charges.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Ours is not a system of justice where foot soldiers go to jail and the masterminds and ringleaders get a free pass.
RAJU (voice-over): The unprecedented developments come after the seven committee Democrats and two Republicans voted unanimously to adopt the report and issue criminal referrals against Trump and one of his attorneys, John Eastman.
In a 154-page summary the report released today, the committee also accusing several of Donald Trump's associates like attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Kenneth Chesebro, along with former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows and ex-top DOJ official, Jeffrey Clark as taking part in a conspiracy.
In making its case in a final public meeting, the committee detailed how Trump ignored many of his top advisers who tried to persuade them to acknowledge his loss.
JEFFREY ROSEN, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: He wanted to talk about that he thought the election had been stolen or was corrupt and that there was widespread fraud. And I had told him that our reviews had not shown that to be the case.
RAJU (voice-over): Instead, he pressured then Vice President Mike Pence, even berating him on the morning of January 6th as he was set to preside over the certification of Biden's victory.
UNKNOWN: I remember hearing the word wimp.
RAJU (voice-over): While also recovering details about his weeks long pressure campaign against state officials to change their election results, as he tried to strong-arm the Justice Department to make false statements to keep him in office despite knowing he lost, all culminating in instructing his supporters to march on the capitol on January 6th.
HOPE HICKS, FORMER COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: He said something along the lines of, you know, nobody will care about my legacy if I lose, so that won't matter. The only thing that matters is winning.
RAJU (voice-over): The committee even accused Trump of spreading false claims of election fraud for the purposes of soliciting contributions in the amount of about $250 million. They outlined possible attempts to influence witness testimony, potential employment dangled before one unnamed witness and an unnamed lawyer advising the client --
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): The witness could in certain circumstances tell the committee that she didn't recall facts when she actually did recall them.
RAJU (voice-over): But lawmakers also referred House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and three members of his conference, Jim Jordan, Scott Perry and Andy Biggs to be sanctioned by the House Ethics Committee for failing to comply with subpoenas as part of their investigation.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We did not choose to make referrals based on the underlying conduct, but rather on the essentially open-and-shut failure to comply with a congressional subpoena.
RAJU (on camera): While most on Capitol Hill don't expect much from the evenly divided House Ethics Committee, especially as we head to the end of this Congress and the beginning of the new one, Jim Jordan's spokesman did respond to this effort by the -- to refer him to the Ethics Committee calling it a political stunt.
But Jake, I just caught up with the number two Senate Republican John Thune who was noncommittal about how he viewed the committee's work but acknowledged they interviewed, quote, credible witnesses.
TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much. Here with me to discuss is the former acting chief of staff in the Trump White House, Mick Mulvaney. Congressman, former Congressman Mulvaney, thanks for joining us. Listening to the case that the January 6th House Committee members have laid out against Trump over the past few months, what is your personal take? Do you think Donald Trump broke the law?
MICK MULVANEY, FORMER ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Jake, by the way, thanks for having me. Very interesting questions. I think the most interesting question about breaking the law probably goes to obstruction. I still don't think there was any hard evidence.
And again, you're talking about criminal allegations, so you need really solid evidence, you need proof beyond a reasonable doubt. And I just don't think they've got that on inciting to riot and all the things, the sedition and all that.
But it's that obstruction charge that continues to get my attention. I think Manu was correct to point it out. So often in this business it's not the crime, it's the cover-up. And if they've got people willing to go under oath and say that Trump or someone on his team offered them benefits or tried to interfere with their testimony, that could be a real problem for him. So, after all of this, it looks like the biggest takeaway at least from where I'm siting has very little to do with January 6th and a lot to do with what happened after that day.
TAPPER: You don't think there's sufficient evidence to prove that Donald Trump tried to obstruct a government proceeding, the certification of votes on January 6th?
MULVANEY: It's a really good question. Again, they don't -- what kind of evidence will they be able to use at court? Keep in mind, the January 6th Committee was not a criminal investigation. It was a congressional investigation, and the rules of evidence are very different there. For example, a lot of what Cassidy Hutchinson said, which I think is very credible, would still not be allowed at a criminal trial because it's hearsay and so forth.
So, the rules are going to be different. The standard in the January 6th committee was politics. The standard of the DOJ is going to be a crime and that's a different standard entirely.
TAPPER: Okay. Stepping outside of the realm of what's prosecutable, just as a human being who watched it all, don't you think Donald Trump was trying to stop the certification of the election? I mean, that's just -- not commenting whether or not it's criminal, wasn't he just trying to stop the certification of the election? MULVANEY: I get that impression. I do. Look, I mean, look, you don't
have to convince me. I'm the person who quit over the riots. It's not like I'm trying to defend him in this circumstance. I'm just telling you that after the commission has gone through its work, I don't know if there's enough evidence there.
Keep in mind, at the end of the day, Jake, I don't think these changes much, anyway, for this simple reason. The Department of Justice is already investigating. The FBI is already investigating. They've already asked the commission to share their evidence. So, I don't know how these criminal referrals change much.
I think the Department of Justice will say thank you very much for the referral. Thank you for the evidence. We're going to continue to go about our business. And I have no fear one way or the other, but in my gut, I think that obstruction charge is probably the one that should frighten the Trump team the most.
TAPPER: Congresswoman Elaine Luria today spoke about Trump's dereliction of duty in her view during the insurrection. She showed this graphic showing all the people who texted Mark Meadows urging Trump to tell the rioters to go home, including a number of Fox News personalities, a number of MAGA individuals in Congress. You're there as well. Yours says, "Mark, he needs to stop this now. Can I do anything to help?" Doesn't this demonstrate that Trump knew what he was doing by not telling the rioters to go home?
MULVANEY: Again, I think it's some evidence. But you used the right word, I think, which is dereliction of duty. That's why I quit. I don't think dereliction of duty is a crime. Maybe I'm wrong about that. Again, I'm trying to look at this as just passionately (ph) as I can. I used to defend the president on January 6th. I stopped doing that in large part because of what the January 6th Committee brought to light.
It's clear that this was not a peaceful rally as the president laid out. It's clear that he lost the election in 2020. Any reasonable person who watched the Republicans testify under oath about the 2020 election would come away from this realizing Donald Trump didn't win the election.
So, there's a lot of value, I think, that came out of the January 6th commission. But the question is, is there hard evidence there that could be used to convict him? I'm still -- I'm not -- I just don't see that and I'd be curious to see whether or not the Department of Justice takes the house up on their invitation.
If they don't, Jake, if the Department of Justice refuses to take up these criminal referrals, I think it speaks a lot about the evidence that the Department of Justice thought they could actually prove.
TAPPER: We also heard a new moment, a new video moment from former Trump adviser Hope Hicks. Let's take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HICKS: He said something along the lines of, you know, nobody will care about my legacy if I lose, so that won't matter. The only thing that matters is winning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, that does seem to present some sort of information in terms of state of mind. He didn't want to lose even though he knew he was losing because he was worried about protecting his legacy. You knew the president well. Does that square with what you knew?
MULVANEY: Oh, yeah. That sounds entirely consistent with the president that I knew. But play the chess match and tell me why that is evidence of a crime. Donald Trump hates to lose. And I entirely believe, I think Hope was very credible in her testimony. It was testimony we saw I believe for the first time today. Very credible.
I'd have to say if they asked me under oath was that consistent with what I saw of Donald Trump, yes, it is. But it's a far reach from, boy, I really hate to lose and I'll do anything to win to proving that there were crimes committed.
Again, that's why I think that type of person, by the way, would be very likely, perhaps, to obstruct justice, to interfere with an investigation into what happened.
So, does it help sort of set the environment and establish the atmosphere in which this was going on? Yes. But, again, to prove a crime, you've got to have a lot more than what Hope Hicks just gave the committee today.
TAPPER: Mick Mulvaney, thank you so much. If I don't see you, have a great and Happy and Merry Christmas.
Coming up, the Justice Department is not the only thing on the minds of Trump's legal team. Why they may have Georgia on their minds as well. In breaking news, the Supreme Court just now weighed in on the Trump-era Title 42 border policy set to expire in two days. Stay with us.
TAPPER: And we have some breaking news for you now. The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily bring in to the request from Republican governors to keep in place the Trump-era pandemic border rule known as Title 42. It allows the U.S. government to push back asylum seekers out of the country because of the pandemic. That policy was set to expire on Wednesday. And CNN's Jessica Schneider joins us live. Now, Jessica, tell us more about the decision.
JESICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake. So, the Supreme Court just acting here, and because of it, it looks like Title 42 will not end as was anticipated on Wednesday. This has really been a complicated maneuvering through various courts over the past few days and weeks.
What the Supreme Court is saying here is they're saying that, yes, we will grant the Republican-led states' request, that we put the ending of this program on pause for now. So, it will not end on Wednesday as originally planned.
However, this is really just temporary relief here. What the Supreme Court is saying is that they want to hear from both parties, the Republican-led states, as well as the ACLU. They want more briefing on this, and then they'll decide definitively in the coming days what to do here.
But right now, the Supreme Court putting the brakes on the end of this program. Now, this is a fight that has been all over, bouncing all over several courts. It was just Friday night, however, that the U.S. Court of Appeals here in D.C. stepped in and said, hey, Republican-led states, we're not going to let you interfere in this. You can't step in to try to stop Title 42 from going away.
Those Republican-led states, though, they moved quickly to the Supreme Court. They filed today. And the Supreme Court, acting just as quickly, in the past few minutes saying, yes, we will agree with the Republican-led states. We will put this on hold for right now as this plays out. So, Jake, this is an incremental victory for Republican-led states. It is not the final say on this issue.
However, it does give those Republican-led states a victory here by not ending Title 42 on Wednesday. The only caveat that I'll mention here is that briefings from all of these parties, they're due tomorrow. So, it's possible, although slight, that the Supreme Court could act in the coming days here before the end of the week.
So, right now, it looks like Title 42 will not end on Wednesday, but the Supreme Court could move pretty quickly here and make a decision maybe to the contrary in the coming days. So, we continue that ping- pong of the court system right now with the Supreme Court stepping in just minutes ago, Jake.
TAPPER: So, I know you can't predict, but tell us, like, what's your assessment about what might happen next? What are the possibilities?
SCHNEIDER: Well, it seems like the mere fact that they're stepping in here and allowing this temporary injunction to take hold, siding with the Republican-led states here, it's possible that they might grant this emergency application, effectively putting Title 42, the end of it, on pause for quite some time.
So, the Republican-led states could end up having a significant victory here because the Supreme Court could be poised to step in, maybe take up this emergency appeal, kick the can down the road so Title 42 stays in place more than just this week, maybe more than just this month, into next year. It appears that the Supreme Court could potentially side with the Republican-led states as they sort of have done in this interim order here, Jake. TAPPER: All right. I want to bring in CNN's Ed Lavandera into the
conversation. Ed, you're at the border and this is a humanitarian crisis you've been describing for weeks. Shelters are already overflowing. Do you think the Supreme Court keeping Title 42 in place, at least for now, will have any impact on what's going on there?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are still a steady flow of people crossing the border, irregardless of what is going on with Title 42. So, on this side, there are still a large sized number of people here in the El Paso area who are still being released, so that it doesn't really weaken the pressure on the shelters and the churches that have been housing many of these migrants here in the El Paso area.
But, Jake, as this news was breaking, I was literally in the middle of an interview with a gentleman named Ruben Garcia, and Ruben is one of the, if not, the most well-known advocates for migrants here in the El Paso Area. He has worked for decades and runs a shelter called The Annunciation House. He is the most prominent person involved in helping migrants and an advocate for the shelters and the churches here in the El Paso area.
And as we sat down to do the interview, we were essentially giving him the breaking news about what -- this was happening, and his reaction was simply this. He's like, they have known for a month that this judge had ordered this, all of this last minute, so you can really sense this sense of frustration and exasperation that so many leaders in Washington have had time to figure out what to do with all of this, but all of this always seemingly coming down to the very last moment in the days.
And these are shelters that are trying to plan as far ahead as they can and right now, they're just trying to keep their heads above water, waking up every day, trying to figure out how much bed space and shelter space is available in the city.
So, all of this, once again, throwing everything up in the air at the very last minute is very frustrating for the men and women who are doing all sorts of intense work to keep the situation here from turning into a humanitarian disaster on the streets of these border towns.
TAPPER: All right, Ed Lavandera and Jessica Schneider with the breaking news. Thank you so much.
Coming up, Trump's vice president, Mike Pence, weighing in on the criminal referrals of his former boss to the Justice Department. His take might surprise you, or it might not. Stay with us.
TAPPER: And we are back with our "Politics Lead." CNN is learning Trump's legal team appears fractured. They're disagreeing over how to move forward on several of the investigations that Donald Trump is currently facing, especially when it comes to the classified documents case.
To make matters worse and more confusing for Trump's lawyers, sources tell us a final report is coming soon from Fulton County, Georgia.
That's where a grand jury investigated efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election specifically in Georgia, remember, to find the votes. Let's bring in CNN's Katelyn Polantz. Katelyn, what are we expecting from this final report from Fulton County, Georgia, that's the Atlanta area?
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE: Well, Jake, Fulton County, Georgia, Georgia the state, really ended up being an epicenter after the election of all of these efforts of Donald Trump, some of the things, many of the things, the House Select Committee investigated, and really drew attention to.
But the list is long of how comprehensive this investigation has been around Georgia in 2020. There was that looking in of the grand jury and the district attorney into the Trump call to the secretary of state to find votes.
There are also many false election claims that were being made in court, things like lawyers claiming fraud that just wasn't there in Georgia. There are the fake electors that were active. There were efforts to get in touch with voting machines there and potentially tamper with them.
And then there was also harassment of election workers, that was something that we saw testimony in the House Select Committee. So, now this grand jury in Georgia is going to continue their work. They're headed to a final report as well that then will be able to make a recommendation on a possible indictment.
The one thing that they get to do that the House Select Committee did not, is that they were able to get courts to order some witnesses, like Senator Lindsey Graham, Michael Flynn and even Mark Meadows to show up to testify.
TAPPER: And Katelyn, I know it's tough for our viewers, perhaps, to keep track of all the criminal investigations into Donald Trump. But there's also this one that we referred to earlier today, the referrals to the Justice Department, the criminal referrals, four criminal charges against Donald Trump and others. Where does this leave Special Counsel Jack Smith who is also conducting two separate investigations into Donald Trump?
POLANTZ: Right. So, the Justice Department, a separate investigation at the federal level, if there are any charges that were to emerge out of that, it would be in federal court, federal grand jury sitting in Washington, D.C. And what this leaves Smith with, the special counsel, is that the committee has done interviews of hundreds of people and has promised to make a lot of those interviews, the transcripts of them available. We've already seen many of the witnesses having snippets of their
depositions on tape being played in these hearings. But the Justice Department is going to be looking closely for what those transcripts say. We also are learning that the Trump team as well, Kristen Holmes here at CNN was reporting today the Trump team is going to be watching for those transcripts, too, to see if they could get insight into the Justice Department investigation. But we know that's going to continue on and we know they are looking at the types of possible crimes that the House Select Committee is recommending around the president.
TAPPER: All right, Katelyn Polantz, thank you so much.
January 6th House Committee member Jamie Raskin explained why the panel is asking the Justice Department to criminally charge Donald Trump. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RASKIN: Ours is not a system of justice where foot soldiers go to jail and the masterminds and ringleaders get a free pass. We believe that the evidence described by my colleagues today and assembled throughout our hearings warrants a criminal referral of former president Donald J. Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Let's discuss with my panel. And Gloria, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell just released a statement about the January 6th referrals, quote, "The entire nation knows who is responsible for that day. Beyond that, I don't have any immediate observations." He is obviously referring to Donald Trump without referring to Donald Trump. What do you think?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You think so?
TAPPER: He said it in December. He -- no, no, I'm sorry, he said it in January, that the mob was directed by Donald Trump.
TAPPER: He blamed -- he gave a very forthcoming speech about it and then basically didn't say anything about it for the rest of the year.
BORGER: Yeah. He said it on the Senate floor.
BORGER: And he tried to keep his mouth shut time and time again. And I think a lot of Republicans are doing that right now because they don't know what to make of Donald Trump and they can't quite figure out what's going to happen to him and how that affects their own self- preservation politically. But I think what we saw from the committee today, I was sort of making
a list after we did the hearings today, was that Donald Trump lost, he knew he lost, he conspired, he obstructed, and he aided in insurrection. That's all.
And I was surprised by kind of the breadth of the charges today. It doesn't mean the Justice Department is going to do it that way, but I was kind of surprised by the amount of charges they levelled at him.
TAPPER: Do you think this is going to have any effect, David, on his 2024 run? Is this -- we see in polls, certain polls here and there, Ron DeSantis rising and Donald Trump falling. Pat Toomey was on my show, one of your favorite Senators, on the show on Sunday saying that he thinks Donald Trump is losing his grip on the Republican Party.
URBAN: Yes, so, again, as we know, we discussed this many times, the party -- it's not just a monolithic Republican Party, right? There's the -- as I recall it, the ride or die Trumpers, right? The folks who aren't giving up no matter what. And those 30 percent, 35 percent, I don't think this has any impact.
This is purely white noise for them. What happened today is just as politically just as any of the impeachments, the Mueller investigation. I think they hear it just the same way, just static, it's like the old Charlie Brown, wah-wah-wah, right? That they hear, right? they don't hear anything else.
TAPPER: It's pretty good.
URBAN: But they don't hear anything else, right. And so it's somewhat, you know, disturbing to me because maybe if the Democrats hadn't gone after those two first when democracy is actually in jeopardy, they would have taken it more seriously, Republicans would have tuned in a little bit more.
TAPPER: The second run was about January 6th.
URBAN: No, no, I understand. But I'm saying like, the first, the Mueller, the very, very long -- you know, we had Adam Schiff coming on every day saying it's the end of democracy, so him out here kind of as the spokesperson doesn't help amongst Republicans. I'm just -- that's what I hear.
ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: There were some new findings, though, today in these hearings as well that we haven't heard in the previous televised hearings. I mean, including the casting doubt on Tony Ornato's testimony. Remember we had the debate between the Secret Service agents and Hutchinson's testimony as well about Trump's actions while he was in the motorcade as well, you know, during the day of the actual riot.
There was also some other findings around the law enforcement apparatus, the Secret Service as well having intelligence, and having it with the National Security Council in the days leading up to that attack.
There's been a lot of criticism I've heard from the Republican Party about the lack of focus and even debate within the committee about the focus that should be given towards law enforcement breakdown versus Trump. Today we saw both. We did see criticism both towards the former president, as well as some of the apparatus, the law enforcement apparatus leading up to the attack.
TAPPER: So, Kristen, Jamie Raskin, we just ran this clip of him talking about in this country, you know, we don't just go after the foot soldiers and ringleaders get a pass. And it's very aspirational.
KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, "USA TODAY": It is.
TAPPER: As a constitutional law professor, I don't begrudge him saying that. But I was thinking to myself, that's not true.
POWERS: That's exactly how --
TAPPER: That's entirely what the United States government does. We go after the foot soldiers and ringleaders get away all the time.
POWERS: Yes. Yes. Everybody knows that. Everybody knows that. It's not how it should be, which I think was his point.
POWERS: And so there needs to be some accountability at the top because we are seeing a lot of people, regular people, who showed up because Donald Trump told them to show up, and ended up, you know, doing a lot of things that got them in trouble and they're going to spend time in prison for it, and a lot of people are being prosecuted. And so why not the people at the top or the person at the top?
URBAN: Look, I just think that if you're a 40-year-old, 50-year-old adult, right, you're responsible for your own conduct. Like your mother used to say.
POWERS: Well, I don't think --
URBAN: Jake, if he told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it?
TAPPER: Nobody is saying they should be charged.
POWERS: Yes. Nobody is saying they're not responsible. The point is, they're being held accountable, as they should be, and so should Donald Trump. And I see that a lot of Republicans are saying, I think Mick Mulvaney was saying this earlier that, yes, of course, what he did was terrible, but he didn't, you know, he didn't actually commit a crime. And yet we have four crimes that are clearly laid out, you know, by the committee and I don't understand how under any circumstance anyone could think that the crime wasn't committed. You can make an argument it might be hard to prove it in a court of law. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: That was so interesting to
me today, and the committee talking about insurrection. They didn't say specifically that he led the insurrection, they said that he gave comfort.
TAPPER: He offered aid and comfort.
BORGER: Aid and comfort, which is, you know, Article 14, Section 3 of the Constitution.
URBAN: Not that you read it.
BORGER: Not that I've read it.
TAPPER: I talked to Dr. Samuel (INAUDIBLE) about what that means.
BORGER: And that means that if you're convicted under that, that you cannot run for office again. And that was specific and, you know, it speaks to the point of those people at the top, at the bottom should be held accountable, and people at the top should be held accountable. I don't think anybody -- Liz Cheney, I don't want to channel her or anything, but, you know, I think her whole point has been that he is unfit for office, as she says. That was the point --
TAPPER: I want to play this sound from former Vice President Mike Pence, who has been critical of the committee. And -- well, just take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the president's actions and words on January 6th were reckless, but I don't know that it's criminal to take bad advice from lawyers. And so I hope the Justice Department --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There might be criminal referrals on that, too. So we'll see on that.
PENCE: Well, but they're not -- I want to say, I hope the Justice Department understands the magnitude of the very idea of indicting a former president of the United States. I think that would be terribly divisive in the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: OK. Just as a matter of fact, can I just say, if the advice that your lawyers are giving you, this bad advice, is to commit crimes, then it is criminal to take bad advice from lawyers.
TAPPER: That's the definition of it. You don't get -- that's not a pass.
[17:30:00] URBAN: No, it isn't a pass. And I think, look, the January 6th Committee versus the Department of Justice, the committee is political, as you said, it's aspirational. The Department of Justice has to be in the light of day be able to prove these crimes beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a very, very big rock to push up a hill.
TAPPER: The other thing that I think is interesting is about Mike Pence, Vice President Pence, suggesting that it would be divisive to indict the former president, almost as if that's the divisive thing. What Donald Trump did on January 6th was reckless, but it would be divisive.
POWERS: That's exactly what I thought.
POWERS: You know what's divisive? What Donald Trump did. And is there really any person who thinks that Donald Trump wasn't trying to disrupt an official meeting of Congress? Is there anybody who thinks that that's not what he was doing?
URBAN: I think he was trying to other people do it.
URBAN: Right. But that's the point, and that's one of the things that they referred to the Justice Department.
TAPPER: Except when he wanted to go up on Capitol Hill.
URBAN: Right. Well, that's doable.
TAPPER: What was he going to do up there?
TAPPER: But what was he going to do up there?
POWERS: Well, he didn't want them to certify the election.
POWERS: So that's -- I mean, we know -- this has all been laid out. So the idea that, yes, that's divisive to hold the person accountable that caused this, it's absurd.
KANNO-YOUNGS: There's no doubt that there's a difference in terms of the standard and the bar between the committee and the Justice Department.
TAPPER: Sure. Absolutely.
KANNO-YOUNGS: But one thing to remember, one thing to watch is also this obstruction charge and the language around obstruction.
TAPPER: Obstruction referral. Referral. Yes.
KANNO-YOUNGS: That's being that -- TAPPER: Obstructing a government act.
KANNO-YOUNGS: Correct. Correct. Because if you look at when the Justice Department also, when it seized Jeffrey Clark's phone, there was a statute that they referenced. That was obstruction as well. Now obviously that does not mean they're going to proceed with that charge at this point. But just something to watch as we look for any type of indicators from the Justice Department.
BORGER: We also have a federal judge who came out and said that Mr. Eastman and Donald Trump were probably breaking the law and he was referring to obstruction. So --
TAPPER: Thanks to all for being here. Really appreciate it.
It could be a matter of life and death for Afghans, Afghan allies who risk their lives to help Americans. Next, we're going to talk to the generals and admirals urging Congress to act now. Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our "Politics Lead," lives are literally on the line if Congress does not act. Thousands of Afghan refugees who risked it all working for the U.S. Military back in Afghanistan could be deported if lawmakers do not pass the Afghan Adjustment Act before the end of the week. The bipartisan legislation would provide a pathway to permanent residence for thousands of Afghans already in the United States, along with help with health care and finding jobs.
Now, as CNN was the first to report, more than two dozen former and retired U.S. Military leaders, including three chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, one NATO Supreme Allied commander, and more, have written to Congress urging them to include the Afghan Adjustment Act in the larger government spending bill that needs to pass before the weekend.
Joining me now is one of those signatories, one of the former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen.
Admiral Mullen, it's always an honor to have you on. Thank you. So you're one of the retired officers urging lawmakers to include this act into the spending bill, and saying it's a national security issue. Explain why you think it's a national security issue.
ADM. MIKE MULLEN (RET.), FORMER CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Well, I think at a very high level, Jake, it is a moral imperative for us to take care of those who gave so much and risked their lives while we were fighting in Afghanistan. And it wasn't just the ground forces because there were many Afghans throughout the entire government agency, the State Department, et cetera, who supported us as well.
I think long term, if we're unable to support those who gave so much, others will look at us in the future and we might fall short in gathering that support. We work hard to take care of our friends and our allies, and nobody was closer to us on the ground in particular in Afghanistan than those who supported us, many of whom actually lost their lives in that support.
TAPPER: So, in other words, I mean, God forbid that our troops are ever sent abroad to do something else, but the world is what it is, and that may, in fact, happen. You're saying in the that in the eventuality that does happen, U.S. members go abroad, we're going to have a tougher time, the United States is going to have a tougher time getting help from locals because they will see how we mistreated, how the United States government mistreated Afghan allies.
MULLEN: I think that sums it up very well, Jake. In every war we've been in, as tragic as they are, we've always depended on local support, and that was certainly true in Afghanistan. And supporting those who are actually fortunate enough to get here in that evacuation is something that we should do to help them and help their future. And that will not be lost on the 100,000 or so who are still in Afghanistan that deserve leaving the country that we're trying to support and their families. So it's a huge issue to take care of those who gave so much in support of us.
TAPPER: So in addition to the letter from you, all the retired flag officers at your level, there's also all the individuals who served, almost every single ambassador to Afghanistan since 2001 is also supporting this legislation. I know lots of veterans groups, lots of Gold Star families, lots of veterans, including, and maybe even especially conservative, politically conservative veterans.
On the other hand is the argument made by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. He says that this could weaken the vetting process of these Afghans, allowing potentially dangerous actors safe harbor here. How do you respond to that?
MULLEN: I think it's -- I know there were some issues raised on the Republican side, and I understand those were addressed. I understand Senator Grassley is not supporting this for the reason that you lay out. I do know that, in fact, one of the reasons the evacuation went so slowly was because of a very strict vetting process. So there's going to be some risk associated with this. I don't think there's any question.
But my worry, Jake, is like so many things, this just gets tied up in the politics in Washington right now, and individual lives and families are at stake. And I would love to see this issue, you know, be raised above politics, which is very difficult in the times in which we live, to take care of these people. So I would hope that somebody like Senator Grassley, who, you know, could make an exception here in his position to help these people.
And your point about veterans and veterans organizations widely support this, those who fought bravely for so long. There are very few -- there's almost no one that wouldn't support passing this bill and helping out these people. TAPPER: I mean, after Kabul fell in August of 2021, I know so many
veterans who spent literally weeks, months of their lives trying to get their former interpreters and other aides out of the country with their family to the United States, liberal veterans, conservative veterans, moderate veterans, apolitical veterans, it didn't matter. It wasn't about the politics of it all, it was about people who risked their lives to save the U.S. in Afghanistan.
What happens if they do get deported? What happens to these tens of thousands of Afghan allies if they get deported?
MULLEN: Well, I mean, I think it almost -- it breaks a sacred obligation that we have if we were to do that. It's hard to say exactly what would happen, although I would suspect it would be very difficult to return to the U.S. and these are brave people with families looking for a future in a country that values immigration and values individuals who have come here and work hard to make their own way, pay their own dues.
And I think if they are deported, obviously that gets broken immediately, and it really undoes the tremendous effort to get here for them and it really breaks up their future.
TAPPER: It's an important thing that hopefully will get a vote on the Senate floor because a source told me, a Senate source just told me it has not, it has not been included in the final omnibus spending bill. It's bad news for all those Afghan allies and those who love them.
Admiral Mike Mullen, I know you're going to keep on the phone and continue your advocacy to get a vote on this amendment to put it into the spending bill. Thank you so much.
Still ahead, remembering a beloved member of the CNN family that we lost too soon.
TAPPER: This weekend we lost a treasured member of the CNN family. Senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin passed away after a battle with cancer.
Drew was an excellent storyteller, award-winning, who worked tirelessly to expose the truth. Our colleague Anderson Cooper now takes a look at Drew's storied career.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: It was so hot.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): During his nearly two decades at CNN, Drew Griffin was known for his tenacious reporting.
GRIFFIN: Are you worried you'll be indicted before the election, sir?
COOPER: His interviews were unwavering.
GRIFFIN: I don't think you really understand how votes are cast, collected and tabulated in this country.
COOPER: And he gave a voice though those who didn't have one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't expect it to be easy. We don't expect the truth to be easy.
COOPER: Drew was a gifted storyteller, dedicated to seeking the truth and holding the powerful accountable.
GRIFFIN: What do you continue to push the lie that the 2020 election was stolen?
STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: It's not a lie.
GRIFFIN: It's a lie. You have no proofs. We've looked at all of the facts.
BANNON: UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You haven't. I'll tell you what.
GRIFFIN: You don't have the facts.
BANNON: Hey --
COOPER: And Drew's stories had real world impact.
GRIFFIN: Wolf, Uber doesn't release the number of drivers who are accused of sexual assault, so CNN decided to count up ourselves.
COOPER: After CNN questioned Uber about a string of sexual assaults by drivers, the company made major safety changes to its app and revised its policies.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Excellent reporting. Thanks to you and your team.
COOPER: Drew exposed serious issues at V.A. hospitals across the country, revealing a broken system, veterans dying while waiting for care.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a particular veteran was screaming, please, do whatever you can. Don't let the V.A. do this to another patient or another veteran. We do not deserve this type of treatment.
COOPER: That led to the resignation of the V.A. secretary and an overhaul of the V.A.'s scheduling system. He covered business and terrorism, the environment and politics.
GRIFFIN: Mr. Burch? Mr. Burch?
COOPER: And there were many people over the years who didn't want to answer his questions.
GRIFFIN: Please talk to us, Director? Director Helmand? Did the background checks of those companies not reveal the fact that you're accused of torture and murder?
Do you know Alex Ferdman, a convicted felon who apparently runs one of these clinics and has been billing the state of California for several years despite the fact that there have been complaints?
COOPER: Drew won most of journalism's big awards but that's not what motivated him. He cared about people and how they were impacted.
GRIFFIN: Get out, dude.
COOPER: While he was covering the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, he ended up rescuing a man from floodwaters.
GRIFFIN: Don't fall backwards. All right, sir, are you all right? All right. Hold on. Hold on.
COOPER: His job as a correspondent took him all across the country --
GRIFFIN: It wasn't that long ago these wild Pawnee grasslands were just that -- wild. Now almost everywhere you look is a gas rig.
COOPER: -- and to different parts of the world. But his favorite place was home. He was deeply devoted to his family, his wife, Margot, and his three children, Ele, Louis and Miles, as well as two grandchildren.
Drew Griffin will be missed by all of us.
TAPPER: Taken from us far, far too soon. He and his reporting will be sorely missed. May his memory be a blessing.
We'll be right back.