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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Hutchinson: Trump Is The Most Grave Threat To Our Democracy; Hutchinson: In A Second Term, Trump Would Not Have Guardrails; Trump Post Suggests Joint Chiefs Chmn. Milley Deserves Death; Semafor Report: Iran's Government Backed Initiative To Influence U.S. During Nuclear Talks; 19 Democratic Senators Call On Sen. Menendez T Resign; W.H.: Shutdown Would Be "Disruptive" To National Security; Sources: Biden To Make Decision On Long-Range Missiles Soon; CNN On The Ground At The Mexican-Guatemalan Border; Murder Charges Refiled Against Officer In Philly Traffic Stop Shooting Hours After Lower Court Judge Dismissed Charges; Hutchinson: Trump Is The Most Grave Threat To Our Democracy. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired September 26, 2023 - 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: Welcome to The Lead. I'm Jake Tapper.
Leading this hour, Cassidy Hutchinson, she was essentially the chief of staff to the Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in the Trump White House. She was in the room for much of the controversy that has led to indictments against Donald Trump and many others. Right now, she saw Trump's behavior firsthand. She knows about the text messages sent amongst circles inside and outside the White House, Republicans who begged Trump to do something to stop the January 6 riots. But those same people would get on T.V. and make up a case to challenge the 2020 election results knowing that Trump lost.
And Cassidy Hutchinson says Trump too knew he lost. In an interview today she told me, Donald Trump would be a threat to democracy, if he should win again. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO W.H. CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: People have been holding him accountable for the past few years, but obviously not accountable enough because we are in a position right now where it's looking more likely than not that he could be the Republican nominee. And he has also been indicted four times. To me it is sad that we're in this place as a country where we are looking at somebody who has executed this horrible assault on our democracy. And we are continuing to give this person a platform. That's not what we should stand for as Americans.
And I think that Donald Trump is the most great threat that we will face to our democracy in our lifetime, and potentially in American history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Again, to underscore that the chief of staff to the chief of staff in Donald Trump's White House believes that Donald Trump is the most grave threat to democracy in our lifetimes, and potentially, in American history.
I also asked Hutchinson about what seemed to be a threat that Donald Trump recently made on Friday to the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, a combat veteran of Afghanistan in Iraq in a post last week, referring to Milley's phone calls with his Chinese counterparts in the final days of Trump's administration. Trump wrote on Truth Social that in times gone by, quote, "The punishment would have been death," in all caps, exclamation point. I asked Hutchinson, how seriously should American take these sorts of comments by Trump? Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUTCHINSON: I do believe that he means it now. I wouldn't -- but what I would like to say to this is, I think for years we have not held Donald Trump accountable to the things that he says. And when he says those things and when he strikes -- when he strokes those vitriolic comments to people who have had profound careers defending our democracy, like General Milley, we need to take him seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: There was also a moment in the interview when I asked Hutchinson about the mug shot from Georgia of her former boss, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, with whom she was once quite close.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: What goes through your mind when you look at that picture?
HUTCHINSON: I see someone that didn't have to be in this position. You know, I see that picture and I feel sorry for him in some ways because he had a lot of opportunities to do the right thing and to come forward. You know, he's a man that has a family. And that's also another unfortunate impact of all of this is when you are in Donald Trump's circle and you have that loyalty to him, it impacts more your life in more ways than one can imagine. And, you know, I hope that Mark's doing the right thing if he hasn't already been doing the right thing as what I define the right thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: In her book out today, "Enough," Cassidy Hutchinson writes about having once been close with now speaker Kevin McCarthy. In fact, in the book, she refers to him as Kevin. I asked what she thinks of Kevin's leadership today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: You're worried about being disillusioned with McCarthy, you say I started to sense a significant shift in Kevin. But what's the shift? What happened to McCarthy in your view?
HUTCHINSON: I think that Kevin had an opportunity after January 6, as did Mitch McConnell, as did all the elected officials in Congress that are Republicans to denounce what happened on January 6 and work against Trump still having a stronghold on the Republican Party. Kevin was fairly outspoken in the days after January 6 about how it was wrong. But then after we -- the former President left office, McCarthy went down to Mar-a-Lago and see that was sort of the beginning of that transformation where they kind of were able to -- nothing's going to change.
You know, I still have a lot of respect for Kevin. I hope for the best for him as the speaker, especially as we see the chaos that's happening on Capitol Hill right now. But I'm not confident that he's a good leader for the Republican Party because he is a talking head for Donald Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I want to turn now to former National Security Adviser John Bolton who worked during the Trump administration and of course, was warning us about Donald Trump long before a lot of other people.
Ambassador Bolton, good to see you. You heard Hutchinson describing a Trump White House perhaps even more chaotic than many of our viewers previously knew. Although for you, I would imagine, maybe not so dissimilar from your experience?
JOHN BOLTON, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Yes, a lot of it sounds like another day at the office. But I mean, her portrayal I look forward to reading the book, I think is devastating. And added to all the evidence that's out there shows why Trump is not fit to be president. He wasn't fit the first time and he's not fit for a second time.
What we need is a way to persuade other Republicans that the danger that the Trump poses.
TAPPER: Hutchinson said that Trump, in her view, is the greatest threat to democracy in our lifetime, maybe even in American history. What do you think?
BOLTON: No, I -- look, I don't -- I think it's important not to overstate the nature of the threat or understate it. You got to be cold blooded about it. Because if you're off, you're going to propose remedies that are wrong. This is a strong country. The institutions are strong, and Trump has been revealed as an aberration of a threat, we're all warned about it.
Look, Rome didn't fall out -- the Roman Republic didn't fall overnight. It took Catiline and then Sulla and then Poppy (ph) and then finally you get to Caesar, although it gags me to think of comparing Trump to Julius Caesar. But that was -- those institutions were weaker than ours. I think we've got to have faith in the people for the protection of the Constitution, because the remedies that some will propose will be as bad as the cure.
TAPPER: But Hutchinson, her basic argument is that if Trump wins again, if Trump wins in 2024, he will stock his administration with no guardrails, there will not be a General Milley or a General Kelly or a General McMaster or a John Bolton, it will be all sycophants. It will be all Stephen Miller's and Sebastian Gorkas. Does that argument concern you?
BOLTON: Sure. Look, I think it's almost certain that the top level of the second Trump term will be the bottom level on January the 20 of 2021 and then it will go downhill from there. But the consequence doesn't mean that the government will then be under his control. I think one of the greatest dangers that a second Trump term brings would be constitutional crisis. Who is he going to nominate to be attorney general?
And when the attorney general gives an order from Trump, let's say one of Trumps favorites, let's prosecute John Kerry for violating the Logan Act, and the attorney general asked some of the career people to do that, and they say no, and they resign and the entire Department of justice begins to resign. What happens when he gives illegal orders to the career military, and they start to resign? That's -- I think that's what we're going to have is not so much the threat of Trump asserting his authority as the breaking down of institutions.
TAPPER: I think a very obvious candidate for attorney general in the Trump administration would be the Attorney General Texas, Ken Paxton. But while we're on the subject of these hypotheticals on Friday, Trump posted to his Truth Social social media account, basically an argument that outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley in days have passed should -- would have been executed because in the closing days of the Trump presidency, Milley, according to press accounts, learned that China had received intelligence that Trump was going to attack and he called China and said, we're not going to attack you please, you know, please don't think that we're going to do that. Trump took offense to this and said, you know, he's invoking capital punishment for this. And we know from the Atlantic Magazine that Milley is very millions convinced, according to the Atlantic that if Trump were to win, he would actually pursue prosecution against him. There are a lot of people who feel that way. And do you not think that that is a serious proposition that that would actually happen?
BOLTON: Well I think I think it is a serious proposition. He tried to put me in jail for publishing the book. But the question is just because Trump tries to do it, do you think the institutions simply dissolve? I don't think that happens. And I think as long as you still have an independent judiciary, a lot of people may run up a lot of legal fees, but it will result in the country turning against Trump. And we'll see how this plays out.
You know, he's got to get people confirmed by a Senate that's going to be closely divided, even if you have a majority of Republicans. And I think how his nominees fair, many of whom will be grossly unqualified, and Ken Paxton may have faced his own criminal trial by then. It's not a foregone conclusion that Trump gets his way. I am unalterably opposed to him getting the Republican nomination. But even if he does, and even if he wins, the battle goes on.
It's going to be a costly battle. But I think panicking and assuming the absolute worst, underestimates the strength of the Constitution and our institutions.
TAPPER: Yes, I just think people need to be clear eyed about what is possible. I want to ask you a question with your national security adviser and former United States ambassador to the United Nations hat on, if you would -- if you would humor me, Semafor has a new investigation out detailing how Iran's government wanted to influence U.S. policy, particularly related to the nuclear deal. And the report details how some of the experts who signed on to help Iran sell its case ultimately became aides, top aides to Robert Malley, who ultimately became the Biden administration's former Special Envoy to Iran. How credible and how concerning do you find the report?
BOLTON: Well, I find it credible and concerning. I know we don't have much time here. And I know the administration is going to try and blow this off and just say, oh, there's nothing to it. Let me just say, I think based on what we know, and we don't know everything, but I think on based on what we know, we are very close to an Alger Hiss moment here of somebody that the establishment can't recognize as having put the country in danger.
You know, Alger Hiss was a Harvard law graduate a student of Felix Frankfurter he clerked on the Supreme Court for Oliver Wendell Holmes, people said, how can he be a communist spy? But he was. I think every reporter who has ever dealt with the Biden administration's Iran negotiating team needs to look in the mirror and say, have I been taken in? This is very serious.
We need congressional hearings on it. And I think if there's any possibility that the administration thinks it's going to negotiate any part of getting back into the Iran nuclear deal, that's got to be put on dead stop. I know there are a lot of other things going on in Congress, but this is extraordinarily serious. I've never seen anything like this in my own diplomatic career, that's for sure.
TAPPER: All right, we're going to have the National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby respond to you in a second. John Bolton, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.
BOLTON: Glad to be with you.
TAPPER: This just in to CNN, a New York judge has found Donald Trump and his adult sons liable for fraud. And this is part of a lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, the judge has found Trump, his sons Eric and Donald Jr. and others in violation of New York law. She says they repeatedly engaged in fraud by providing false financial statements to lenders and to insurers for roughly a decade. This case will go to trial next week where a jury will decide how much Trump and the other defendants should pay.
Coming up, how the words of Cassidy Hutchinson could be used in a court of law. Also today, a cascade of calls for Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey to resign. At this point, 19 of his fellow Senate Democrats have said that Menendez should step down but nothing yet from one notable Democrat, President Joe Biden. I will ask Spokesman John Kirby, White House Spokesman John Kirby, if it's time for the White House to weigh in. Stay with us.
TAPPER: To Iran in our world lead in that new report that appears to show the extent of the Iranian government's soft power and influence campaign inside the United States and Europe. During this critical juncture, the Iran nuclear deal negotiations during the Obama administration, Semafor alleges that the Iranian government backed Iran experts initiative sought to, quote, "bolster Tehran's image and positions on global security issues." Semafor adds that members of that initiative made the rounds on various media outlets, particularly during the final years of the Obama administration to push the need for compromise between the U.S. and Iran. Some members of that initiative also appeared on CNN. This kind of effort is typical for countries trying to influence thought leaders and decision makers here in D.C. but the report goes on to reveal that three members of the Iranian backed group went on to serve as top aides for Robert Malley. That's the Biden administration's special envoy on Iran who was placed on leave in June.
Malley did not respond to CNN's request for comment. Semafor says the information is based on documents and emails obtained and translated by Iran International, a Persian language outlet outside Iran as recently as last week. That channel says one of its reporters was attacked in New York by people affiliated with the current Iranian president. CNN has not been able to verify the veracity of the documents or Semafor's characterization of them independently.
Joining us now to discuss White House National Security spokesman and retired Rear Admiral John Kirby. Good to see you.
So, the State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller, was asked about the story this afternoon, he brushed it off as, quote, "an account of something that happened a decade ago," unquote. What's -- that's a little glib. John Bolton just called the report credible and concerning. He thinks there needs to be congressional hearings. What's your response? Is the Biden administration taking this seriously?
JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: Well this reporting just came out today, Jake, so you know, we're taking a look at that, reading the reporting ourselves. And we haven't come to any conclusion about the press report itself or its validity. So I think we're just going to have to see where this goes and take a look further at the press reporting from Semafor, I just don't have any conclusions to speak to.
Now, I would add, though, all this aside, the Iran deal, when signed, did set Iran back by many, many months in terms of their breakout opportunity to reach a nuclear weapons grade capability. And because the previous administration tore up that deal, they are now just weeks away from that kind of a breakout opportunity. So the Iran deal on its face, and in principle, it was a good thing for our national security.
TAPPER: But I mean, is the White House even looking into this? It doesn't sound like you're taking it very seriously?
KIRBY: No, I wouldn't say that at all. Jake, the reporting just came out today. So obviously, we're just now reading this reporting ourselves. I don't want to get ahead of where we're going to be in terms of looking at this press reporting. But it just came out this afternoon, so we're reading through it. And I just don't have anything to say in terms of or announced in terms of, you know, next steps here, based on this single press report.
TAPPER: OK. Came out this morning. Turning to the indictment of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, the Justice Department report says that Menendez shared sensitive information about the number of American personnel in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. I mean, they have the copies of the texts, which he told his now wife, and she passed it on to Egyptian officials. These allegations, and many others are, as of now, apparently strong enough for 19 of his fellow Senate Democrats to call on Menendez to resign. Is that not enough for the White House to also call for him to at least step down from the chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee?
KIRBY: Well, these are serious allegations. We know that, we see that too. And, but right now, it is an open investigative matter. And I think we're just going to not insert ourselves into that matter at this point. We also have to make sure that separate and distinct from this, we can continue to meet our national security commitments around the world.
And that includes the relationship that we have with Egypt, which is a critical relationship there in North Africa and throughout the region. So that's what we're going to stay focused on.
TAPPER: It's your Justice Department making the allegation. I mean, I assume you trust that the allegation is accurate. Do you trust that the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he -- the information he has can -- that he can be trusted with it?
KIRBY: Again, these are allegations. It's an open investigation, Jake. I think you can understand that I'm not going to get ahead of that.
TAPPER: Allegations by your own Justice Department.
KIRBY: By the Justice Department, which is an independent cabinet agency. And again, here's -- they're serious allegations for sure. And, you know, they need to be fully investigated and fully pursued. But that's a judicial issue that, again, we're not going to get involved in.
TAPPER: Your White House is warning that a government shutdown, which at this point seems likely would be, quote, "disruptive" to U.S. national security. It's part of the daily messaging effort by the White House to drive home the impact of the shutdown. Do you think Republican lawmakers hear you? Is there something more concrete that the White House could be doing to avoid the shutdown?
KIRBY: Well, while we're out certainly talking about the impacts, we are maintaining our contacts and our communications with members of Congress to again, make it imperative that we get an appropriations deal, make sure that they're doing their job to get our troops paid the way they deserve to be paid and our national security interest met. So it's not just a messaging effort, we are certainly in touch every day with members of Congress to try to find a way through here. But ultimately, it's going to come down to Speaker McCarthy and in his caucus and in particular, a small group of extreme Republicans inside the house that seem to be wanting to hold the troops and our national security hostage to make a political point with the speaker.
TAPPER: Quickly on Ukraine and the long requested long range missile system, the U.S. made ATACMS. If the U.S. does eventually provide ATACMS, are you worried at all that it will bolster the criticism that the Biden administration waits and waits and waits on aid and finally gives in way too late?
KIRBY: Well, first of all, I don't have any announcements to speak to with that particular cruise missile system. Secondly, we are in constant communication with the Ukrainians every single day about the capabilities that they need. We have given them everything that they asked for, the military leadership in Ukraine asked for in terms of their counter offensive. And thirdly, we have evolved the capabilities as the needs of the war has evolved, Jake, and that includes air defense, these high -- these HIMARS advanced rocket systems, artillery, you name it. As the war has changed, we have changed with it and we're going to continue to do that.
TAPPER: Admiral John Kirby, always good to have you on. Thank you, sir.
KIRBY: You bet.
TAPPER: Mexico is making moves to help slow the surge of migrants at the U.S. southern border by focusing on its own southern border. We're going to take you there live. That's next.
TAPPER: And we're back with our world lead. Mexico's pledge to deport migrants along its northern cities could help alleviate the surge along the U.S. border. Town such as El Paso Texas say they're at a breaking point as resources and shelter capacity continue to dwindle. But this humanitarian crisis is not unique to just the United States. It's also unfolding along Mexico's southern border. CNNs David Culver is in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico right next to the border of Mexico with Guatemala.
And David, tell us what you're seeing.
DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Jake, I think when a lot of folks think of the crisis at the border, specifically that impacting the U.S., they think about the U.S.-Mexico border. But the reason we're here is because this is very much pertinent to what is going to be impacting the U.S. in the coming weeks, if not months.
And what you're seeing here. This, by the way, is the river that connects from one side, Guatemala and where we are Mexico, it's a lot of movement, constant movement. You got these rafts. You can see one here that's been loaded up. These are just folks who are going to go back to the Guatemala side. A lot of them are helping to bring more migrants over. And that's been a constant flow that really plays out during the day, and well into the night.
And they've created on this side, the Mexico side, let me just show you this, an encampment that has become almost a little city of sorts. And you can hear the bell ringing, perhaps that's some of the vendors who are coming by. You've got setups over here where Mexicans have made this an opportunity for business, seeing all the migrants coming in, many from Venezuela, from Cuba, from Haiti, they come through this direction here. And then they become customers for them.
But you've got what has been a constant flow. So we see those numbers on the U.S. side and you hear reports about them fluctuating, they're down for several weeks, and then they spike and then they're down. One thing you see almost consistently here is they're increasing and the numbers and the influx is nonstop. It's been going up for the past several months, and they are at record levels here in Tapachula area of Mexico. That's the nearest big city.
And I want you to listen to some of the migrants that we've caught up with this is a couple in particular that I met. The wife is five months pregnant. She and her husband made the trek over the past month and a half. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CULVER: She says she's tired. She's tired. It's incredibly difficult for somebody who's pregnant. It was just too much to carry and they had to ditch most everything they had, with the exception of this small bag. They have some medications, they have some clothes, his phone, all their documents.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CULVER: So Jake, we spoke with them about 24 hours ago. We just message with them. And they've already made what is an hour's drive, but a day's walk to Tapachula to start the processing to claim asylum or get transit documents to buy some time here in Mexico before they can get to the U.S.
TAPPER: Is Mexico -- is the Mexican government doing anything to depressurize their southern cities? CULVER: Interestingly enough, we flew in from Mexico City early yesterday. And on the flight with us, we've got some video from our encounter at baggage claim of all places, was Mexico's head of migration. This is a gentleman who is supposed to be overseeing this influx trying to figure out how to depressurize in your word, these cities that are seeing this massive influx.
And as of now, they're trying to slow down some of the railways that are bringing freight up to northern parts of Mexico. They put regulation on some of those to put guards to keep people from jumping on board those trains. But the reality is you have folks who are perhaps slowed down, but still moving forward. And even those who are deported say from the U.S., I can't tell you how many I've encountered here, Jake, who have said, yes, this is my third, fourth, some fifth time making the track after having been deported. It's a constant flow that seems to only be growing right now.
TAPPER: All right, David Culver along the Mexican-Guatemala border. Thanks so much.
Murder charges dismissed and then refiled all within a matter of hours. How the case against the Philadelphia police officer took multiple wild turns today in court. We'll bring you that story next.
TAPPER: In our National Lead, we're continuing to follow a stunning story. And today, a stunning sequence of events in that murder case against a Philadelphia police officer. He is the officer who shot Eddie Irizarry during a traffic stop last month. We're going to roll the body cam video that shows the deadly shooting. A warning, the video is very disturbing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 413, shots fired, shots fired 100 West. Get your hand off over there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Initially remember the Philadelphia police did not tell the truth about what happened in that shooting. Just this morning a judge dismissed all seven charges against Mark Dial, the police officer. But then moments ago, a Philadelphia District Attorney refiled all seven charges in a higher court. And now police officer Mark Dial again faces murder charges. CNN's Danny Freeman is outside City Hall at the intersection of Broad Market. Danny, walk us through what's happening.
DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, listen, the judge in this case was abundantly clear but very short at her decision earlier today. She said she agreed with the defense's case 100 percent after they argued that Philadelphia Police Officer Mark Dial in no way committed murder when he shot and killed Eddie Irizarry. The decision, Jake, took only two and a half or excuse me, less than two hours once that preliminary hearing started this morning.
And I want to talk about exactly what this preliminary hearing is focused on. Basically there were two major points. First, what did Officer Dial's partner say? Right before that shooting occurred and then what did both officers see? Well, prosecutors they called Officer Dial's partner to the stand, Michael Morris. And he said that he screamed knife in that moment leading up to the shooting.
But then defense attorneys on cross examination played surveillance video that we in the public have all seen told him to listen to it again and you can hear on that video that officer, the partner, Officer Morris say, not just knife but also gun including an expletive. And then you hear Officer Dial fired his shots.
And then the second thing that the defense team really tried to emphasize is what both of these officers might have seen in the seconds leading up to that interaction. The officer on the stand, who was the partner of Officer Dial, Officer Morris, said that he saw a knife. And then the defense, they put up images of the knife that was found at the scene. And it was like a hunting knife, Jake, that had a bit of a handle there.
And the defense team, they argued that the handle of this knife looks like the handle of a gun. Now the prosecution said regardless of this, he drew his weapon before he got out of the car and during a routine traffic stop. The defense said no, they were validly afraid for their lives. That defense or rather, I should say the judge in this case agreed with the defense. And that's how you got that ruling today. Jake.
TAPPER: How did the family react to both this morning's ruling to dismiss the charges? And I don't know if you've spoken to them since the charges were refiled but if you have to that?
FREEMAN: Well, the first thing I'll say about that second part of your question, Jake, is there is a planned rally that should be kicking off any moment now. We'll hopefully get some reaction from the family about those charges being refiled with the higher court. But to put it frankly, Jake, there was devastation the moment that this decision was read from the court.
You had one side of the courtroom that was pretty much filled with police officers. They cheered. They stood up. They applauded this decision. But on the other side, the family of Eddie Irizarry they were in tears. Take a listen to what one relative of Irizarry told media just after that decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZORAIDA GARCIA, AUNT OF EDDIE IRIZARRY: There's videos everywhere, the neighborhood, witnesses in the neighborhood prove, they prove that my nephew did not come out of that car. He locked the door says vehicle. His windows was up. Where's the threat? Even if he has a small pocket knife, where's the threat? Where's it? (END VIDEO CLIP)
FREEMAN: So you can see, Jake, an incredible amount of emotion coming out of Philadelphia today. As you noted at the top, the district attorney, they have already refiled these charges again, but this time with a higher court. And Jake, I'll say they are the same charges that were just dismissed at this lower court and that includes murder. Jake?
TAPPER: All right. Danny Freeman in the great city of Philadelphia, thank you so much. There is so much more to discuss for my interview today with Cassidy Hutchinson. She has been of course a key witness for the January 6th Committee. She's also testified before Georgia grand jury as well as with federal investigators oversee but overseeing both the January 6th investigation and the classified documents case. How her words could be used in cases moving through court right now. That's next.
TAPPER: We're back with our Politics Lead and the interview we showed you earlier with former White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson. A reminder this is what Cassidy Hutchinson told me about helping her former boss, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, from keeping President Donald Trump out of jail his stated desire and whether her testimony might result in Trump going to jail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO WH CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: Everyday was a hair on fire day. We are swimming to stay afloat, but most of us were drowning. So and Mark said that that day, I was alarmed because it was one of those moments for me where I was thinking like I thought that I had a grasp on what was going on. And I realized I didn't. But I did take Mark seriously in that moment. And in that moment for me in my service to Mark, I wanted to make sure that I did whatever I could to help Mark achieve his goal.
TAPPER: To keep Trump out of jail.
HUTCHINSON: Correct. I came forward to testify with the information that I knew. And most of the information that I knew, could be corroborated by other people. I hope that what I testified to would cause other people to come forward and testify truthfully.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: And we're back with our panel. Elie Honig is joining our panel. And we should note that CNN will re-air the full interview tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Elie from a legal perspective, I'm wondering if you heard anything in the Hutchinson interview we did. That could be of legal significance, getting the President's into even more hot water, especially when she writes in her book the Donald Trump told Meadows about his loss. This is embarrassing. I don't want people to know that we lost.
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: For sure. I think Cassidy Hutchinson is a uniquely powerful witness for the prosecution for a few reasons. First of all, she had access. She was in the room. She was by Mark Meadows side. She was there for some conversations with Trump, which brings me to the second point. If you listen to her, she's very careful. She doesn't overstate things. She says, here's what I know. Here's what I witnessed firsthand. And here are some other things that other people told me, I wasn't in the room. But Mark Meadows told me such and such.
The next reason is the content of what she says that point, Jake, when she has testimony about Donald Trump directly acknowledging that he knows he lost, that's the whole ballgame. That's the most important single contested issue in this trial. And then the last thing and this was a moment that struck me in your interview with her. At one point, you showed her the mug shot of Mark Meadows said, what's your reaction to this?
And I was sort of taking note there like how -- is she going to dance on him? Is she going to be vitriolic here? And she said, no, I'm sad. It didn't have to be this way. And to me that shows me that she's level headed even keeled. It's exactly what you want in a witness.
TAPPER: What information would prosecutors in any of the cases against Trump and his efforts to overturn the election be looking at in either her book or any of these interviews?
HONIG: Yes. So everything she says by the way, in her book and interviews is fair game and if and when she takes a stand she can and I'm sure will be cross examined on all those things. But she has been remarkably consistent. Number one, admissions by Donald Trump that he knew he lost. Number two, she has given us the best insight into what Trump was doing during those key moments, his failure, his refusal to act.
And number three, his acknowledgement about the crowd, the crowd, the gather on the ellipse that day, she said this publicly in her congressional testimony that he knew they were armed. And he said, they're not here to hurt me. All three of those things, I think, are really key points.
TAPPER: Is there anything, Congressman, that you learned from her book, or any of the interviews that she's done surrounding the book that you wish that she had told the hearing, the Committee last year?
ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Not really, because I think she was very open with us. A lot of what we -- the threads that we were able to follow from her, she obviously said, there was nothing I heard where it's like, oh, that would have been a good one to pursue. The thing about the Committee is we were time limited. You know, we knew that at the end of the year, we had to stop.
So there was a point at which there may have been more threads to pull. We needed another year, another six months to do. And hopefully DOJ has kind of picked up on some of that lead. But I just think seeing the personal side of for I mean, I knew the impact that had on her obviously, and what we were doing. But just to see, you know, having to hide basically in Atlanta and in a hotel room for a year or more.
I can tell you the last couple of years were fairly rough on me and my family, but I wasn't, you know, unable to go out in public. I couldn't imagine having to be sequestered from anybody seeing you in public.
TAPPER: And Jamie, part of the reason Cassidy Hutchinson said she's speaking out now is because she's afraid of Donald Trump getting elected, getting the nomination and beating Joe Biden. She says, he's not fit for office. Here's how she describes it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUTCHINSON: I think that Donald Trump in a second term does not have any -- would not have guardrails. I think we saw that at the end of the first term with how things played out after he lost the election. He violated our Constitution in multiple ways. It is completely fine to wage or to file lawsuits in the country or in the states. But what is not OK is when you threaten and assault the Constitution and our institutions of government. I would not put it past Donald Trump, Jake, to put those institutions of government in a worse position that they were in during the first term.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: It's one of the most powerful things I think she said to you, first of all, because this is a young woman who was so loyal to Donald Trump. She wanted to go to Mar-a-Lago even after January 6th, and continue to work for him. So not only was she an insider, but she was someone who still was in the fold. And she's come to this conclusion. I think the other reason it's important is what we hear from Donald Trump every day on social media, these posts.
He continues to be an election denier, the big lie continues. And he continues regularly on social media to attack our institutions to undermine the Department of Justice. So she knows it firsthand. But we're also hearing it straight from him every day.
TAPPER: Yes, no, absolutely. I'm wondering what you make of this as a conservative Republican. The fact that this -- that Donald Trump is remains in all likelihood, he'll be your nominee.
KINZINGER: Well, it tells me that conservatism is not real, and how it's described today. There's a few people left that actually believe in a conservative view of government, the rest have become like authoritarian. And it's actually more become about own your enemies, fight back. I mean, Donald Trump has not even tried to hide retribution after he's reelected. I am your vengeance or I am your retribution.
So Cassidy is right about the guardrails. And the thing that worries me even more is this acquiescence of my party and the fact that now you're going to have people that put people in place and knowingly weed out the people that actually would be the guardrails against that, you know, you're not going to have the John Bolton's who are there to kind of pull him back from abandoning the Kurds.
Now, you're going to have, and trust me, any job in the federal government, you can find somebody willing to take that job and totally acquiesce to Donald Trump's wishes. So the guardrails of democracy, yes, they exist, the guardrails of our country exist, but they are manned by people and you can change who's manning those.
TAPPER: So one of the things she writes in the book is that Meadows took a document, a classified document, crossfire hurricane, the Trump-Russia investigation, and gave it to these two far right wing media personalities who told the MAGA line. And that the White House Counsel wanted it back because there was stuff in there that was classified, and it ultimately got back to the White House.
I mean, if it is exactly, you know, Meadows dispute it, says he said that it was unclassified by Trump, but I asked Hutchinson about that she says that's not true. And that's why the White House Counsel Cipollone wanted it back right. If it is how she says and I have no reason to doubt it, but if she is -- if it is how she says, is that a crime?
HONIG: Yes. If it is that she says is mishandling of classified documents. Now this is going to come down to at this point he said she said so the question is, is she corroborated? Is there any record of these documents being declassified.
TAPPER: Presumably, Cipollone would corroborate.
HONIG: Exactly. That's the guy you want to talk to. But if it happened, as she said, yes, that's criminal.
TAPPER: All right. Thanks one and all. Appreciate it.
Coming up next, a brand new lawsuit today against Amazon, accusing the online marketplace of running a monopoly.
TAPPER: In our Money Lead, Alexa, can you define anti-trust? Today the Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general from 17 states filed suit against amazon.com. They are arguing that the E-commerce giant is a monopoly and it's one that abuses its power, they allege, in order to keep prices high and push its own products at you at the expense of everyone else's. Amazon denies doing anything wrong.
With this suit, the Biden administration is now trying to break up three of the biggest technology companies around Amazon, Meta, the owner of Facebook, and Alphabets flagship Google. Depending on how these trials come out, the internet may look very different in a few years. [18:00:11]
This programing note, if you miss the full interview, you can see it with Cassidy Hutchinson I'm talking about. We're going to re-air it tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in a place I like to call the Situation Room. I'll see you tomorrow.