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Supreme Court Limits Obstruction Charges Against January 6 Rioters; Ex-Officers Who Defended Capitol On January 6 React To Supreme Court Ruling; Donald Trump Hits Campaign Trail In Virginia After CNN Debate; President Joe Biden: I Intend To Win This Election. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 28, 2024 - 14:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: A major decision from the Supreme Court already having implications when it comes to January 6th defendants. In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled the Justice Department actually overstepped by filing obstruction charges against people who rioted at the Capitol.

Dozens of people, of course have already been convicted and sentenced. And we've just learned that a federal court in D.C. is already reopening some of the cases.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: CNN Chief Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid and CNN Senior Crime and Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz joining us now with more on the decision on what happens next.

So, Paula, first, walk us through this decision.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so this decision today, this impacts potentially hundreds of people who have been charged in connection with January 6th. The Attorney General issued a statement today saying that the Justice Department will take appropriate steps to act on this opinion today. But they also tried to downplay the percentage of the 1,400 cases they have brought that will be impacted here.

But like I said, we're talking about hundreds of people who could potentially be able to go back into court and challenge either them being charged with obstruction or having been convicted and already incarcerated on that charge.

The other outstanding question here is how this could potentially impact the case against former President Trump who faces two charges of obstruction.

Now, it is widely expected that the special counsel will seize on language in this opinion, that sort of differentiates, right, the kind of conduct that Trump is charged with because of course, he was not here on the Capitol on January 6th, and his obstruction, alleged obstruction is charged related to different conduct. But we can also expect Trump's lawyers, I'm told, to file motions to

try to get those discharges to get (AUDIO GAP) those dismissed.

Now, it's not expected that will be successful. But they believe even at a minimum, maybe it might help them get certain pieces of evidence, including videos of the violence on the Hill that day excluded if this goes to trial.

But of course, the biggest question for the former president's legal team is what happens on Monday when they get the decision on that bigger question, which is whether the former president has any immunity to protect him from Jack Smith's prosecution.

KEILAR: And Katelyn, the D.C. District Court already reopening these January 6th cases because of this, we actually know there's 50 people who've already been convicted and sentenced on charges of obstruction. What happens with all of these?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, they're going to have to look at it case by case. Either the Justice Department will go back to the court, the defendants themselves will have their attorneys bug the judges that have -- are handling their cases or sentence them or the judges, like we've already seen a judge in the federal court in D.C. within two hours of getting this ruling, telling the man who was the first person to be convicted by a jury in federal court for January 6th rioting charges and this charge specifically, she said, we've got to put a new sentencing date on the calendar. He was sentenced to seven years for this and several other charges, but she's going to look at it again and have to determine does the sentence hold or does something else need to be what happens here.

But the way that the Supreme Court wrote this is they're specifying language. So, it's quite possible that the Justice Department goes back into court for you know, 30, or 50 or so of these cases where these people face this particular charge and say, well, the Supreme Court told us we couldn't do it like we did before. But we're going to give you a new set of language under what the Supreme Court says.

And also, remember, when we took this case to trial, we made sure in court to present evidence that the boxes of electoral votes were moved off the Senate floor, there's the obstruction these could hold.

So, it's just going to have to be case by case how this plays out to see if people have their sentences affected significantly.

HILL: While you noted, of course, there's so much discussion about how this could impact the charges against former President Trump. And you, as I understand just speaking with his lawyer, where does that go from here? What more are we expecting to hear from them at this point?

REID: Well, speaking with sources who are familiar with the legal strategy here, they are expected to file motions. Of course, they are, right? They've been aggressively litigating on behalf of their client, exercising any option that could either help their client in an eventual trial or at least delay a possible trial in this case. [14:05:02]

So, it's fully expected that they're going to file motions that could potentially try to get these obstruction charges dismissed. It's unlikely that that would be successful.

But we would expect that, you know, they're going to at least try this. Again, if for no other reason to delay.

But at a minimum, they think that this could also possibly help them keep certain pieces of evidence out of a trial if this goes to trial. But the bigger question for the Trump legal team, of course, could be answered on Monday with the opinion on whether the former president has immunity.

KEILAR: And what is Merrick Garland saying about all of this?

POLANTZ: Yes, we did get a statement from the attorney general pretty quickly after this decision came in, and he said he was disappointed and he was disappointed because it limits what the Justice Department can do in charging these January 6th rioters.

But the Justice Department even with this limitation now, they course corrected pretty early on after the riot and after they started charging people. And the vast majority of the rioters that have faced this charge, it's coupled with other things, very severe charges as well, violence against police, people who stole documents or tampered with documents in the offices of lawmakers.

And so, the Justice Department has sort of been trying to put up a bulwark for quite some time now, with the possibility of this being the outcome at the Supreme Court.

HILL: All right, Katelyn Polantz, Paula Reid, thank you both.

Also joining us now, two former officers who defended lawmakers during the January 6th insurrection.

KEILAR: Former U.S. Capitol police sergeant and Iraq War veteran Aquilino Gonell, he's the author of American Shield: The Immigration -- or pardon me, The Immigrant Sergeant Who Defended Democracy. And also joining us former U.S. Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who's the author of Standing My Ground: A Capitol Police Officers Fight For Accountability And Good Trouble After January 6th, both of them have recently campaign for President Biden.

First to you Sergeant Gonell, what went through your mind when you heard the high court's ruling as it came down?

AQUILINO GONELL, DEFENDED U.S. CAPITOL ON JANUARY 6: Well, it's very disappointing that the Supreme Court, the right leaning Supreme Court has decided that there should be almost no accountability for the people who are breached and assaulted many police officers during their attempt to stop the transfer of power. And it's as if they're begging for something worse to happen. KEILAR: Can I follow up on that for you -- with you for just a second, because you actually had in this decision, it didn't quite break along ideological lines.

So, I mean, normally, in some decisions, we do see that, but we didn't see that here. So, you actually had one of the liberal justices siding with the majority. What do you say about that?

GONELL: I mean, it's the process (ph) they take in that path of, you know, but it doesn't take away that the majority of these people need to be held accountable for what they did on January 6th, and it may not have been a like -- and like you said, there was a liberal in the decision making.

You know, I do set the outcome, but I just don't understand how -- what worse do they want to happen in order for them to hold people accountable. The vast majority of those people who have been charged with the obstruction of Congress procedure is because they were there at the Capitol, and they're actually had to suspend the process -- the process not because they didn't get a chance to, you know, to do -- I'm sorry, they only suspended. But it could have been a lot worse, because those people were trying who were inside the Capitol, were trying -- haunting those elected official room by room to the point of hurting them.

And if it wasn't because of us, the police officers that stopped them, that would have achieved their goal and the Supreme Court failed to see that happen.

HILL: Officer Dunn is -- I don't know if you're able to hear but you know, as our -- as our colleagues were just running through too, most people were charged with more than just this obstruction charge. So, they're facing other charges, possible felonies, misdemeanors, and we have seen how quickly the courts are reacting here.

Judges saying, hey, we need to get into sentencing date on the calendar, the reopening some of these cases, accountability is obviously important, as is a free and fair trial.

Where do you stand when you see all of that happening based on the ruling? It's not totally being thrown out, but it could change the outcome for some people.

HARRY DUNN, DEFENDED U.S. CAPITOL ON JANUARY 6: SURE, good afternoon, you all.

No, it's important and also in the weeks and the months leading up to this with the Supreme Court's, you know, decisions and, you know, the way the hearings went, they kind of soften the blow because I kind of expected this to happen. I expected them to rule this way.

But like you acknowledged, a lot of the people that were charged, this is only going to affect a small percentage of, you know, solely just these individuals who are charged with this. There's a lot more people that are facing multiple counts on, not just this one.


And I think it's also shows that the law hasn't caught up with what -- they got off on a technicality with talking about paperwork, but let's be clear, what happened that day, those individuals had one purpose in mind. And that was stopping the certification of the election. That was their goal, whether some paperwork was involved in it or not.

And also, this ruling doesn't change the fact that those individuals there that day, like I just said, were hell bent on stopping the certification of the election at the -- at the direction of one man. And that's Donald Trump.

KEILAR: Yes, and Officer Dunn, just a short time ago, Trump posted big win on social media after the Supreme Court decision. What's your reaction to that?

DUNN: Well, he's doing all that -- all that he can do to keep himself out of trouble. His goal is to delay, delay, delay.

And also, that brings up another point that's kind of been irritating me with the -- it's been 3.5 years, it's been 3.5 years, and the right to speedy trials. And we're still waiting to see not if the former president is responsible, if he can even be found responsible 3.5 years.

So, speedy trial, I guess it just doesn't apply to society and the Supreme Court size. If that was the case, the Supreme Court would have taken up that case a long time ago when Jack Smith first brought it to their attention that this may come up.

And it just shows that Donald Trump has tried to do everything he can to escape prosecution.

HILL: Do you want to -- the attack, of course, on the Capitol came up last night during the debate, I just want to play what the former president had to say in that moment.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (R) AND CURRENT U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (R): And if you would see my statements that I made on Twitter at the time, and also my statement that I made in the Rose Garden, you would say it's one of the strongest statements you've ever seen, in addition to the speech I made in front of, I believe, the largest crowd I've ever spoken to.

And I will tell you, nobody ever talks about that, they talk about a relatively small number of people that went to the Capitol, and in many cases, were ushered in by the police.

And as Nancy Pelosi said, it was her responsibility, not mine.


HILL: Harry, I know you were -- you were in Atlanta last night for the debate, those claims from former President Trump and even in some cases, the lack of pushback from the current president. How did all of that sit with you?

DUNN: Well, yes, I was in -- I was in Atlanta. I was actually had an opportunity to share a short moment with the president. And he was in very good spirits, and was received with -- to a room full of loud applause and support.

But just that clip right there. That wasn't the one that struck me the most, it was him failing to acknowledge over three different times when pressed, would he accept the results of the election.

And your former -- your past guest that just was on Nancy Mace. She couldn't even answer it there because she hadn't gotten her orders yet from Trump. And that's just -- it's just -- it's -- that sow the groundwork for what calls January 6th, the refusal to accept the legitimate results of the election.

He said, he eventually said, yes, absolutely, he would, if it was fair. But over 60 courts ruled that it was fair, and he still didn't accept it.

So, what is the category that that defines it as fair, where does that? That's what was most shocking and angering about last night because he's already planting the seeds that could lead to another January 6th.

KEILAR: Sergeant Gonell, I wonder, you know, what you thought about last night, you mentioned or we mentioned that you recently endorsed President Biden, what did you think about his debate performance?

GONELL: I mean, part of the -- I guess the history of Donald Trump is using January 6 as a badge of honor. He doesn't take responsibility for what happened even though he's the one who incited the mob to the Capitol. He talks about everybody who were on the Capitol.

KEILAR: Sorry, Sergeant. I want to know what you thought of Joe Biden's debate performance.

GONELL: I mean, that's -- I'm supporting somebody who's not sending a mob to kill me and my colleagues on the Capitol, somebody who's not on dangling pardons for the people who assaulted police officer and somebody who's not trying to aspect append our democracy. And that's why I decided to endorse Joe Biden.

My opinion on what Donald Trump did, especially last night, he lied to the American people again and again and again. In terms of him not even taking responsibility for what he did on January 6, his actions or inactions are, you know, what he continued -- the reason why he continued to lie because he had no excuse for what he did other than use it as a badge of honor. And also trying to convince people that what he did was something necessary and great.


It's very upsetting that the people who we risked our lives for, like Speaker Mike Johnson, about two weeks ago, we see them with open arms like he was a hero. And the only reason why they are alive today is because the actions of police officers like myself and my colleagues did on January 6th, not because the actions that Donald Trump did on January 6th.

KEILAR: Sergeant Gonell, Harry Dunn, we thank you both for being with us.

GONELL: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: Thank you for your service as well. Thank you.

Still ahead, President Biden trying to reset his campaign after a poor performance in last night's CNN debate. What he says about what happened, he addressed it, and why.

Plus, former President Trump holding a rally this afternoon in Virginia, we check in with both campaigns ahead.



HILL: Just a moment ago, President Biden on the campaign trail in Raleigh, North Carolina delivering a very different performance than what we saw in last night's CNN debate.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know how to do this job. I know how to get things done. I know like millions of Americans know, when you get knocked down, you get back up.

I give you my word as a Biden, I would not be running again if I didn't believe with all my heart and soul I can do this job.


KEILAR: In the meantime, former President Trump is holding his own rally in Virginia expected to give his first remarks since the debate here in just minutes. So we are watching that as we see Governor Youngkin there.

We are covering both candidates on the trail today. Let's begin with CNN White House Correspondent Arlette Saenz in New York as Kristen Holmes is standing by there at that rally.

Arlette, what is the Biden campaign trying to do today?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, I think it's clear that that's an attempt at a reset for President Joe Biden. But there are still big questions about what happens next in this 2024 campaign.

Now, President Biden stepped on that stage in Raleigh, North Carolina, really offering a much more fiery and impassioned argument for why he should be reelected as president. Perhaps the tone that his advisors had hoped he would strike on that debate stage last night, instead of the halting and stumbling performance that we saw from the president as he faced off against Donald Trump.

Now, Biden was quite direct in this campaign rally in his attacks against Trump, painting him as a direct threat to democracy and also delivering some of the lines that he tried to use at that debate stage. But that -- on the debate stage, they had fallen flat.

Now, Biden also though in this speech, acknowledge some of his debate faults, take a listen to how he portrayed this to voters.


BIDEN: I know I'm not a young man, state the obvious. I don't walk as easy as I used to, I don't speak as smoothly as I used to. I don't do debate as well as I used to. Well, I know what I do know, I know how to tell the truth.


SAENZ: Now, Biden's team has spent part of the day trying to quell some of these democratic concerns about his performance in the debate, reaching out to lawmakers and donors.

And so far, we have also heard from the campaign from advisors is that there are no plans for President Biden to drop out of this race, even as some Democrats privately have speculated that it could be time for him to step aside.

So, these are all things that President Biden will have to address in the coming hours and coming days, as there are questions about his performance in that debate.

President Biden is set to wrap things up in North Carolina and then head here to New York City.

This afternoon, he will be stopping at the Stonewall while in a historic site in the gay rights movement, as well as attending a major fundraiser with LGBTQ supporters.

It comes as all eyes will be on how donors are reacting to this debate, as well.

So far, the Biden campaign, one area that they're really trying to tout is the fact that they raised $14 million yesterday and this morning, trying to signal that they have some momentum in that grass fundraising effort -- grassroots fundraising efforts.

And we're also told this afternoon that the Biden campaign team will actually be having an all staff meeting at the headquarters. Sources telling us this is something that happens every Friday, but of course, it will take on additional significance, as all eyes will be on President Biden and how he charged his path forward after that whole team debate performance against Trump.

HILL: Arlette, appreciate it. CNN's Kristen Holmes is joining us as well, of course from Chesapeake Virginia.

So, Team Trump feeling pretty good at this point. What do you anticipate what is the campaign saying we're going to hear from Donald Trump?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is actually the first time we're actually going to hear from Donald Trump since the debate last night, he really has not weighed in almost at all. Seemingly saving it for this debate.

Now, we are expecting him to do a victory lap to talk about the debate. But I have spoken to a number of allies who hopefully doesn't go too far in personal attacks against President Joe Biden.


Anyone that I have spoken to around Donald Trump in his orbit and his advisers, they're all celebrating last night as a win for the former president.

Well, guessed, it is unclear what this is going to look like in the long run, how this is going to impact voters, we have to remember that the former president views everything in terms of winners and losers. And last night, he feels as though he came out on top.

Now, how he is going to actually address that remains to be seen. Remember, this is not a debate stage. This is not somebody who's going to stand in front of a mic after days of training to be on messaging.

So, he is going to be in front of some of his most rabid supporters, it's obviously you can hear cheering around me right now.

So, he is going to address it, how he goes, how far he goes against Biden will remain to be seen.

The other thing I want to point out, as it seems kind of strange that he would be in Virginia on a day like today, it's not considered a battle ground state. Biden won by more than 10 points but Donald Trump is hoping to put it on the map. They say this is one of their dream states that they would hope to flip in November.

So, obviously, we'll see how that goes. Right now, Governor Glenn Youngkin, up on the stage, obviously here to help the former president with some of those Republican voters who might still be unsure.

KEILAR: All right, Kristen Holmes live from Chesapeake, Virginia. Thank you for that report.

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