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Americans Adapting To Life Back Home After Release From Iran; Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) Discusses Republicans Grilling AG Merrick Garland In Hearing Over Hunter Biden Probe, Trump Indictments; AG Garland Testimony Resumes Before GOP-Led House Judiciary Committee. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 20, 2023 - 14:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Just jubilance as a group of Americans returned home to their loved ones for the first time in years. The group landing back on U.S. soil yesterday after their release from Iranian captivity on Monday.

We have CNN chief international anchor, Christiane Amanpour, who got a chance to talk to a family member of one of those Americans. She joins us live.

Christiane, tell us how the Namazi family is feeling.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, as you say, jubilant. They can't believe it. I spoke to them all.

I had the brother, Babak Siamek, on the air. He's a very close - you know, he's the brother of Siamek. And so close these brothers.

And he's been lobbying for eight years to get Siamek out, to get his father out.

You remember, the elderly father was surreptitiously taken and kept for six years as well. Released when he was 86 years old. You cannot make up the depth of horror of this story.

So when I asked him how he was doing, this was his response.


BABAK NAMAZI, BROTHER OF FREED PRISONER SIAMEK NAMAZI: I've dreamt of this moment for eight years, Christiane. And I honestly can't believe it's here. I honestly can't.

I've embraced him, I've held him, squeezed him, kissed him. And it's just not real. I've dreamt of this and I've woken up from these dreams and I'm hoping it's not another dream.

So we're just trying to digest the enormity of being united after eight horrific years of separation, of brutality, of inhumanity, and to -- of course, in my case, I had the horrible experience of having not just Siamek but also my dad being held captive.

So I'm just so grateful that finally this nightmare has come to an end.


AMANPOUR: So you hear it all there.

And their mother, Effie, who stayed almost the whole time in Iran while her son, Siamek, and her husband was in prison, to keep them knowing that they had somebody there. And she obviously came out with Siamek. We saw that departure.

But, you know, he talks about the terrible, terrible torture and inhumanity that they suffered in that jail.

And that also now Siamek is availing himself of the services that the United States government gives to people like him, wrongfully detained, those who have been under these terrible types of pressures and need to re-adjust to life outside.

KEILAR: Listen, we talk about the jubilance, but there is a tough road ahead because it's a difficult path that he's going to walk after being imprisoned so long in Iran.

Can you talk a little bit, Christiane, about -- you mentioned Effie and the time she spent there holding vigil, keeping the pressure up. How crucial were his parents in their relentless campaign for his release?

AMANPOUR: Well, crucial. Remember, the father, you know, an elderly and retired UNICEF -- we're here in the United Nations. He worked for UNICEF.

And the Iranians, we're told, basically what they tell us, the family is, they lured him to Iran under the false pretext of allowing him to see his son who had been in jail and, you know, the year or more before.

They immediately grabbed him, put him in a jail cell and then told -- according to the lawyer, told Siamek that, A, the father had died, by the way, and then they waited a week before telling Siamek that, oh, no, they were joking.

And the father already has, you know, heart and other health complications. He had to leave the prison occasionally to have several operations.

It was just traumatic for him, for Siamek being tortured about the condition of his father and for Effie, the mother on the outside trying to figure out what to do.

And knowing that all she could do was work very hard to make sure, you know, her -- at least the moral of her son and her husband were raised and kept up.


And she stayed. And she didn't have to. She wasn't barred from leaving and she stayed.

Even though sometimes the father told us Siamek tried to persuade her to leave. She said, no, I'm staying as long as you're here in this jail.

KEILAR: This beautiful picture of this family reunited, it just brings goosebumps to see them together.

Christiane, thank you so much. It's so important to hear from that family and we appreciate it.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: The House Judiciary Committee has been grilling Attorney General Merrick Garland all day. He's been defending himself, saying he did not interfere in the investigation into Hunter Biden and that he was not structured to indict Trump.

We're going to speak to a member of the committee about all of this when we come back.



SANCHEZ: So right now, on Capitol Hill, we are in a break from testimony that Attorney General Merrick Garland has been giving to the House Judiciary Committee.

It's gone on for several hours. And it's been led by some of his most vocal Republican critics.

They're accusing him of interferes in the Hunter Biden investigation. And they peppered him with questions about that probe. In response, Garland rejected claims of bias at the Justice Department.

We're joined now by a Democrat who was in that hearing and asked questions of the attorney general. Congresswoman Madeleine Dean joins us now from the state -- commonwealth, I should say, of Pennsylvania.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for being with us.

Were you satisfied with how the attorney general answered your questions and those of your Republican counterparts?

REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): Boris, good to be with you.

And you know and you're reporting that we are in extraordinarily serious times in this country and around the world and we need serious people to deal with these things.

We have a responsibility of oversight with the attorney general. But that's not what you saw today. You saw the Republicans using this as a sham hearing in order to attack the attorney general and his integrity and his independence all around Hunter Biden.

This was absolutely the bidding of the former president in order to tear down the country's confidence in our independent institution, tearing at the very fabric of our democracy.

Was I satisfied with what Mr. Garland said? Absolutely. But I -- I was embarrassed to be anywhere near the dripping lies and indecency and insults and misinformation that was being spewed by the other side.

SANCHEZ: I want to get your perspective on a certain strain of attack. Because we're kind of accustomed to partisan attacks against cabinet members and higher-level officials.

Garland being one of several officials in the Biden administration who has been threatened with impeachment.

But some lawmakers have gone after regular FBI agents, lower-level officials. They've threatened to cut off the agency's funding.

How do you feel about those attacks and those threats?

DEAN: It's absolutely madness. That's what I said in my opening statement for my time with the attorney general.

This is extraordinarily dangerous and these folks know it.

The attorney general in his statement talked about the 115,000 men and women of the Department of Justice and the important work that they do every day putting themselves on the line.

This is extraordinarily dangerous to them. Their lives are threatened. They had to open an office just to analyze the threats against their personnel. We know how dangerous this can be.

After all, it's sad. But the very department that we were just talking to, of course, is involved in the prosecution of those who came to attack us, members of Congress. So it's very, very dangerous what is being done.

And I want to contrast that with where we should be. We are about to shut this government down.

Let me correct that. We are not. Democrats have been here month after month as the Republican majority and the speaker of the House can't get anything done.

We passed legislation. Mr. McCarthy entered into a deal that was codified in legislation to fund this government.

Think of the harm that will happen if they shut this government down due to their dysfunction and their witch-hunt against the current president and his son.

SANCHEZ: I do want to ask you about the shutdown.

But there's one aspect of the testimony that I wanted to dig deeper on. Because Garland was asked about testimony from Devon Archer.

He's a former business associate of Hunter Biden who reportedly told Congress that the president's son was trying to sell, quote, "the illusion of access to his father."

For instance, during phone calls with business partners, he did also say, Archer, that President Biden never discussed business dealings in front of him on the calls.

I'm wondering, Congresswoman, aside from any legal implications, would you say that the selling of that illusion of access by a family member of a vice president or president is appropriate or ethical?

DEAN: Again, Boris, I have to admit that is a mischaracterization as I understand it of what Mr. Archer said.

But think of what we should be doing. That's why in my questions with the attorney general, I focused on two areas. I would love to have focused on more.

But I talked about Fentanyl and every day in this country, people are dying and being poisoned by Fentanyl, 300 people a day. I also focused on war crimes in Ukraine.

So these lies and half-truths and things about the son of a president that are absolutely not accurate and not appropriate for the attorney general to be talking about -- he has a special prosecutor doing this investigation.


It's inappropriate for the attorney general to speak about those things. We should be focused on the very serious --


DEAN: Go ahead.

SANCHEZ: So just -- I wanted to clarify something you said. Devon Archer saying to Congress that Hunter Biden was trying to sell the illusion of access to his father, is a mischaracterization?

DEAN: Yes, because I believe he was interviewed and he said he did nothing wrong. You can take that for what it's worth.

This was interviews that the Republican majority was trying to smoke out a witch-hunt around Hunter Biden. There is no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the president. That's what we know.

And what the attorney general did today was to say it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the investigations that are ongoing.

Let's face it, it was a Trump-appointed attorney general, Mr. Weiss, who began the investigation during the Trump administration. They have been searching for four or five years to try to find some wrongdoing. They haven't done it.

The Republicans demanded that a special counsel be appointed. Merrick Garland made him special counsel as soon as he asked for that.

And now the Republicans don't like this Trump-appointed prosecutor because he hasn't done more to connect some wrongdoing to the president. There's just no evidence there, no shred of evidence.

SANCHEZ: I will say, the reporting indicated that Archer told Congress, again, the president's son was trying to sell the illusion of access, not actual access to the then-vice president.

Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, we very much appreciate your time.

We're going to get back to the hearing now, which is ongoing. The House Judiciary Committee asking questions of the attorney general, Merrick Garland.

Let's listen.

REP. GLENN MAY (D-MD): -- reach out through the attorneys that represented Mr. Trump and have them comply and turn over documents, you refused to do so.

In fact, the allegations are he, in fact, moved documents and tried to hide them so the Department of Justice couldn't get them.

And that also led to the issue where Mr. Trump's lawyers ended up having to provide information and testimony about what had happened, which is highly unusual. But this scenario is highly unusual.

We know that's the case because former Vice President Trump -- or Pence and current President Biden had similar issues. But they complied with the request by the Department of Justice, turned over the documents and so you didn't need a search warrant.

But the news here is, I guess, if you don't comply with subpoenas from the Department of Justice, they will get the information. They'll get a search warrant and go get it.

I know that because I've seen that in multiple cases in my career. There's no surprise.

And there's certainly no tiers of justice with respect to what was done in that instance. In fact, the -- the fact that they took so long to do it I think is based entirely on the fact that he had been president.

With respect to Mr. Weiss -- because this is the most recent version. I get why they're doing it. They want to try and build a case to impeach President Biden. The Weiss angle seems to be one of the ways they're trying to do that.

As Congressman Buck said, everything the department did with respect to Mr. Weiss was correct. Because if the Biden administration had removed him when it came into power, there would be howls from the Republican side that you were derailing the investigation because Weiss was already on it.

And if you brought in somebody new, they would have to start over again.

The Senate Republicans, as you testified earlier, sought your assurances that you would let him continue going forward. And as you testified today, you've done exactly that.

I want to be clear. I know the committee is talking about bringing Mr. Weiss into testify. They've brought all of these other people to testify who were part of an active investigation.

But it is a horrible precedent to be bringing in prosecutors in the middle of an investigation that's about to go to trial, that's already been indicted, that's not the way the committee should be doing business.

We should allow prosecutors to move forward. If we've got questions after the fact, we can raise them, as you pointed out. Mr. Weiss is going to issue a report at the end.

Let's let them do their jobs and stop politicizing these cases.

With that, I yield back.

JIM JORDAN (R-OH): The gentleman yields back.

The gentlelady from Indiana is recognized.

REP. VICTORIA SPARTZ (R-IN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I yield to our chairman to clear the record on something.

JORDAN: I think, for you, just two responses to the gentleman, my friend from Maryland.

He said they'll get a search warrant and go get it. Unless it's Hunter Biden. Then they tip off the defense counsel. We know that happened.

Second, relative to Mr. Bragg, Mr. Bragg sued me and it went to court. Guess what the court said? They said we were right and the guy we wanted to talk to, one of his prosecutors, came here and testified in this room. So the court was on our side there.

I yield back to the gentlelady from Indiana.

MAY: Will the gentlelady yield?

SPARTZ: I need to get to my question. I'm sorry.

Attorney General, you had a very moving statement about your grandparents coming here from Belarus to live in the country without fair prosecution.

[14:50:07] I grew up in very similar country, Ukraine now. And when I came here as a young person, I believed in the value as an American not to be afraid of my government.

But I wanted to tell you and I want to share it with you and get your thoughts on that.

Are you aware that a lot of Americans are now afraid of being prosecuted by your department? Are you aware about that? Are you aware of that? I'm just -- are you aware or not?

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think that constant attacks on the department and saying --


SPARTZ: It's not attacks.

Let me give you an example.


SPARTZ: We talk about January 6th, people -- some people came on January 6th. There are probably some people that came on January 6th here, you know, that had bad intent.

But a lot of good Americans from my district came here because they're sick and tired of this government not serving them. They came with strollers and the kids.

And there was a chaotic situation because the proper security wasn't provided. That was a question that was answered why. Why would you debate it for 45 minutes on the floor and didn't stop the debate after the people broke into the capitol?

But these people came. They were throwing the smoke bombs into the crowd with strollers with kids. People who showed up, you know, FBI agents, you have in my district, in my town, FBI phone numbers all over the district, please call, call them.

People are truly afraid. And I just want to make that you are not aware that you are. And this is a big problem when people are afraid of their own government.

And I'll share some other things. We're talking about justice system. I don't question -- you're probably not a bad person. I don't know you. But you're in charge of the department.

And people right now feel -- I look at the Durham report and I called on millions of Americans, it's like KGB, the Durham report.

But we have this -- you have a nice, you know, playbook. First, let's have a special counsel and then you don't have to answer any questions here.

Then let's extend slow-walk investigation on the Hillary Clinton, on Hunter, everything is slow-walked. We move quick on Donald Trump, but you were slow-walking.

Then, by the time, you know, that investigation and its statute of limitations expired and all of your agents need to be tested for amnesia. No one recalls anything. OK? You should probably start with your hiring policy.

So no one held accountable, which was egregious what happened in that report when I read it. I can't believe it happened in the United States of America. This is my frustration. I'll be honest with you.

Then it's very interesting, you know, regardless of what it is, even people in the Obama administration raise concerns. How can the president's son be serving in corrupt Ukraine and the oligarchs?

We understand that it can undermine the one Ukraine policy. I think the concerns were raised and the Obama administration didn't do anything about it.

These people are dying right now and Americans don't trust this president.

So you -- I want to ask you one thing, you know, as you -- I don't need an answer because I know you're not going to. But I think you're probably a good American and you care.

And a lot of the people are so afraid to cover up this stuff, I think in your department because they're embarrassed that what we became as a country to say that what our Department of Justice became.

That allows Russians to do propaganda and Chinese. It allows them to destabilize our country. That is danger to our republic. It is significant danger.

And I have one more question for you. I agree on corporate crimes even with Democrats that we need to do a better job.

One more question for you. Do you believe that -- you know, you talk about rights to vote, but do you believe that only U.S. citizens should be voting in this election and doing anything to make sure that only eligible people vote in the elections?

GARLAND: Yes and yes.

SPARTZ: OK, I would like to see that, what you do.

Thank you.

Yield back.

JORDAN: The gentlelady yields back.

The gentlelady from Vermont is recognized for her five minutes.

REP. BECCA BALINT (D-VT): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

General Garland, thanks so much for being here today. I know it's been a long day for you.

I'm relatively new to the committee and I'm still getting my feet under me.

As far as I can tell, what we are doing here today is talking about a lot of conspiracy theories. And it's frustrating and tedious for those of us in the committee.

But I can tell you, it is absolutely maddening for my constituents back home in Vermont. We have so much important work to do to keep the government open. We're days away from a shutdown.


I just want to remind folks that we're in this situation because my colleagues across the aisle are reneging on a deal that a majority of their conference made along with their speaker. That's why we're in this situation.

If they're successful in shutting down the government, seniors who rely on Social Security benefits will be impacted, thousands of Medicare recipients and applicants will be impacted. Servicemembers will stop receiving paychecks. Veteran services will be curtailed.

Those are the grim consequences from the Republicans' inability to governor.

I need to start with that. Let's do some level setting here.

Now let's get to the real work of the DOJ and how Congress can help the agency better serve its mission.

Gun violence continues to plague our nation. We see the wreckage every day on our television sets, on our computers and in our communities.

As a member of the Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, this issue is incredibly important to me and so many of my constituents.

Now I believe there's actual room for bipartisan congressional action on gun violence, at least in some areas. One of those areas, Red Flag laws. It's a great place to start.

Vermont is one of 21 states that was able to pass Red Flag laws. These laws are working to keep guns out of the hands of people who are in crisis.

And yet many states do not even apply for funding for the bipartisan Safer Communities Act and to better implement Red Flag laws and to raise awareness about the program.

In June 2021, DOJ published model legislation to help states craft their own extreme risk protection order.

Now Republicans continue to make unfounded accusations that these laws violate civil rights by taking guns away from Americans without any due process. Can you explain the due process protections that are put into place in

the model legislation that DOJ proposed?

GARLAND: Yes, and I would start by saying, of course, there's room for bipartisan agreement. And the bipartisan Safer Communities Act is a very good example.

And that includes the ability to have funding for states that want to craft and put into place Red Flag laws.

The requirement is that the Red Flag law include due process protections. So I'm not -- I don't know every element of the model of legislation, but the general idea is, relatives or friends of the person have to go to a court and get some kind of adjudication, that the person is a danger to themselves or to others.

Normally, relates to mental illness problems. It may relate to some others.

And so if a gun is taken away under those circumstances, there's then a right to appeal, to have a full hearing in order to adjudicate the question.

I can't say I know every technicality, but I think that's about it.

BALINT: I appreciate that.

And it's especially important to states like mine, rural states that have real issues with the silent killers, domestic violence and also suicide. These are instances in which Red Flag laws can really make a difference.

Shifting gears here. I, along with Senator Warren and 20 of our colleagues, submitted a comment letter about the draft merger guidelines and urging agencies to finalize them.

Corporate concentration remains a pressing problem for the U.S. economy. And I fear that we're falling behind in this area. And American consumers continue to feel the pain because of this.

With the introduction of the draft merger guidelines, how does the department plan to ensure that future mergers and acquisitions do not stifle competition or harm consumers? Because that's often the pushback that we get.

GARLAND: Obviously, the intention of the merger guidelines is to set forth the enforcement policy of the department.

Different generations of the guidelines, which -- I hate to say it -- go all the way back to the time when I was in law school, have been adopted and/or been helpful to generations of judges.

I sat on two or three merger cases myself, where we used some of the learning from the merger guidelines.

And we were -- the current guidelines reflect really an adjustment to the current technology, two-sided platforms, network effects, that simply did not exist at the time of the last set of merger guidelines were passed.

BALINT: Thank you, Attorney General.

Just briefly, in closing, last year, you spoke on the subject and said that DOJ's enforcement against corporate crime has waxed and waned, but it's waxing again. That's news to my ears.

Thank you so much for your service.

I yield back.

JORDAN: The gentlewoman yields back.

The gentleman from Texas is recognized.


Mr. Garland, what is a confidential human source?

GARLAND: Well, it's a -- it's an FBI term. I don't know all the technicality.