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U.S. & Russia Conclude Arms Control Talks Amid Ukraine Invasion Fears; Hearing Underway In Civil Suits Against Trump Over Capitol Riot; Rep. Jim Jordan Indicates He Won't Meet With Jan. 6 Panel; No Public Action Yet On Contempt Complaint Against Meadows; Alabama & Georgia Face Off For College Football Championship. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired January 10, 2022 - 13:30   ET




ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: At a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia, high-stakes meeting in Geneva has wrapped up for the day.

On that agenda, an effort to avert a feared invasion of Ukraine after months of heightened tension. Russia, of course, has amassed troops on Ukraine's border.

CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, joining us now from Geneva.

So how did things go after these talks today? Any progress here, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Marginal. I think that's the best way to explain it.

The Russians have said that the talks were difficult but business- like. Wendy Sherman, the deputy secretary of state says the talks were frank and forthright.

Both sides putting their positions forward.

The Russians reiterating again that the most important thing to them is security guarantees that NATO will not accept Ukraine as a member of NATO and that NATO essentially roll back its deployments and former eastern European nations back to 1997 levels.

The U.S. position has been -- and we heard this from a readout from the meeting afterwards -- that Wendy Sherman and her team told the Russians that what they wanted was essentially a non-starter.

And they did discuss the possibility of arms control agreements similar to the non-proliferation agreements or the missile systems that could deliver nuclear weapons that fell by the wayside a couple of years ago. That that could be a point of discussion going forward in the future.

The Russians from their side said that their issues were two important. That was a central issue for them that they couldn't get on these other potential arms control issues.

The Russians are saying they will take this, at the end of the week, back to Vladimir Putin for him to decide the way forward.

But basically said this is a time where the United States needs to take maximum responsibility because the possibility for confrontation to potentially get worse exists.

They're putting pressure on the United States as they have intended to do all along by singling the United States out for a solo discussion before they go and meet with NATO later in the week.

So it is status quo. The Russians still with a threat in hand.

HILL: Nic Robertson, with the latest from Geneva, thank you.

For more, we're joined by CNN national security analyst, former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper.

Always good to see you, sir.

Let's take what we heard from Nic there at the very end. Wendy Sherman describing these as frank, forthright talks. Her Russian counterpart basically saying it was difficult. This NATO issue is a non-starter.

With this threat from Russia, I mean, do you envision any real progress here?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, probably not. And I think Secretary of State Tony Blinken on the talk shows yesterday kind of tried to lower expectations about at least the preliminary handshaking and gripping and grinning meetings, although not much grinning.


They have to go through this process. And typically, characterized them afterwards as frank and candid, which is what Wendy Sherman did. So -- and there's more of this to come for the rest of the week.

HILL: You know, as we look at what more there's to come, there's also been some, you know, frank language from President Biden, who has said things we did not do in 2014 we're prepared to do now.

You were DNI in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea. I'm wondering what is it -- I mean, do you see something specifically that was not done in 2014 that could have a different impact today in 2022?

CLAPPER: Well, for one, we've -- since that time, we've provided a lot of security assistance to -- military assistance to the Ukrainians, $450 million worth or so just in 2021.

And as well, it appears to me the administration is prepared to invoke some pretty stringent and damaging sanctions which we thought about in 2014 but -- but did not. And the reason is that when you do something like that, particularly in, for example, we cut off Russia essentially from the international financial system which would have a huge impact on our already faltering economy.

Well, the question is, what will Russia do in retaliation for that? And as we've seen in the cyber realm, they could do some damage to us.

So I'm sure -- I know the administration has gone through this calculus many times and has thought about it.

But I think, you know, this conjures up memories of 1938 with, you know, do we appease the Russians or do we really risk a direct confrontation?

So this is a pretty critical moment for us and for Europe.

HILL: Well, and to your point, our CNN reporting is that there's some real concern within the Biden White House about the collateral economic damage from sanctions, about that risk of retaliation.

And that the bottom-line question being, as you point out, whether that risk is worth it.

I mean, where do you think those discussions stand at the moment?

CLAPPER: Well, I actually don't know. I think both sides have done the calculus.

What is ironic, Erica, to me, is that when you tick off the problems that Putin faces at home, a faltering economy, dependent essentially on oil, the demographics of Russia are bad.

Their population is declining. They have all kinds of public health issues. The response to the pandemic has not been good at all. They have huge climate problems with Siberia melting. And the list goes on.

And on, so invading Ukraine doesn't really do anything to solve these sorts of problems that Putin faces at home and --


HILL: But is it the distraction that helps him?

CLAPPER: Well, I think there's a certain amount of that is a distraction.

Putin, to me, is a throwback to the czar era, Peter the Great. He has a spiritual vision of a greater Russia. And he turned 70 this year, so perhaps he's concerned about burnishing his legacy.

And so -- and that's -- the other dangerous thing about this is not exactly -- I don't think he was thinking on this is exactly logical when you tick off the considerable challenges that he faces at home.

HILL: James Clapper, always appreciate your insight. Thank you. CLAPPER: Thanks, Erica, for having me.


HILL: Coming up, could a more than century-old act targeting KKK tactics be used to hold former President Trump liable for the capitol riot? That's what a federal judge is deciding right now. Stay tuned. That's next.


HILL: Right now, a hearing under way in three civil lawsuits filed against President Trump and others over the January 6th riot at the capitol.

A federal judge will determine whether Trump can be held liable for inciting the violence on that day, or if the cases should be dismissed.

One of the suits accuses the defendants of violating the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act.

Joining us now, CNN's senior legal analyst, Elie Honig.

Elie, this is a little-known act for most people. It's getting a lot more attention.

The law was passed shortly after the Civil War to protect black Americans and even lawmakers from being terrorized as I understand it by the KKK. They were trying to influence elections and trying to intimidate Congress.

So how does that law now apply to January 6th?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Erica, is this is an obscure and old law.

The allegation here is that Donald Trump's goal in what he did on January 6th was trying to obstruct a governmental function, specifically trying to stop Congress from counting the electoral votes.


Now the defense from Donald Trump, the primary defense is, well, I'm immune because what I was doing that day was within the scope of my job as president of the United States.

Of course, there's two big problems with that. One is it's hard to imagine how it could be within the scope of the president to incite a mob, to kick off an attack on the capitol.

The other thing is if you follow the proceeding, which is happening right now -- and I've been following -- it Donald Trump's lawyers are having a real hard time imposing any limit on that. The judge keeps asking, is there any limit, is there anything a

sitting president could do that he wouldn't be liable for? And the answer keeps coming back no, there's no limit.

That's never a good answer to give a judge as a lawyer.

HILL: Based on your experience and following along on what you're hearing from there from the judge, what are the chances that you think that this will be successful?

HONIG: I think the judge is not going to dismiss this case, which is what he's deciding right now.

And if he does not dismiss this case and if it remains intact, we then move into the discovery space. That's where the parties exchange information and evidence, and that includes depositions.

We could start to see some of the defendants in this case have to testify under oath at a deposition.

HILL: Interesting to see if that happens.

Let's stick with January 6th for a minute here.

Looking at the January 6th House committee, that's investigating it, Jim Jordan, not surprisingly, has said in a letter he has no relevant information for the January 6th committee.

Which, I think, then brings us to the question of whether you think the committee would issue a subpoena here, especially knowing how that could turn out.

HONIG: Well, first of all, Jim Jordan's claim that he has no relevant information is laughable. We know he spoke with Donald Trump on January 6th. He sort of reluctantly has admitted that on TV.

This is going to be a key moment though for the committee. What will they do if Jim Jordan says, no thanks, I'm not interested in your voluntary invitation to testify?

The committee really has two choices. One, they can just sort of accept it and say, all right, Jim, we asked and thanks for coming out, and I guess you won't be testifying.

The only other real option is to subpoena him. And if the committee means business, that's what they will do.

And they need to make an important point, which is, one, you can't just defy us.

And, two, you don't get special treatment just because, like us, other members of the committee, like us, a member of Congress, you're a colleague, you don't get special treatment because you're one of us.

HILL: We'll watch and see what happens there. Meantime, people are still waiting to see what happens with the DOJ.

It's been nearly a month now since the House voted to hold former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, in criminal contempt of Congress.

Nothing yet from the DOJ. I know that this is more complicated. It's different than Steve Bannon. The clock is ticking.

I know you're generally -- Elie, I know you're a little frustrated with the DOJ these days. Do you think we'll get a decision soon?

HONIG: They are on the clock. They have to know that.

Yes, Erica, this is more complicated than the Bannon case. But we're also coming on the nearly one-month mark of how long DOJ had this and they knew it was coming before then.

Look, this will be a landmark moment for DOJ, because, if they do bring charges against Mark Meadows, that reinforces the message that you're not free to defy the subpoenas.

But if they don't, if Merrick Garland decides not to charge Mark Meadows, that's going to open up a free-for-all. That sends a message of, defy the committee at will and we, DOJ, will not be there to back up their subpoenas.

HILL: We'll be watching and waiting for any development.

Elie, good to see you, my friend.

HONIG: Thanks, Erica, all right.

HILL: All right. Perhaps you've heard, biggest college football game of the year. My colleagues in Atlanta are certainly following this very closely. The Georgia Bulldogs versus the Crimson Tide. Let's take you live to Indianapolis next.


College football fans, it is squarely focused on Indianapolis. The Georgia Bulldogs set on take the Alabama Crimson Tide in the national championship game.

CNN's Andy Scholes is there.

I think, after my years living in Atlanta, it was clear there's a little rivalry between these two, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: You could say this is an SEC rivalry but it is one sided recently. Georgia hasn't beaten Alabama since 2007. They lost seven, straight.

But the fans are optimistic, hoping tonight is finally their night and they'll be crowned national champions and beat Alabama.

Now Crimson Tide head coach, Nick Sabin, looking to win his eight national title. He's 25-1 against his former assistant coaches.

George head coach, Kirby Smart, one of those coaches, he's 0-4 against his former boss. The last one coming in a loss in the SEC title game that was won by Alabama in a blowout.

But Georgia's players say they learned from that game.


JORDAN DAVIS, GEORGIA BULLDOGS DEFENSIVE LINEMAN: After the last Alabama game, we just realized that we had a lot of work to do and we haven't arrived yet.

I had three shots at Alabama and I haven't beaten them yet. That is speaking for myself.

As a team, to win a national championship, this is what we work for all season so of course it is an amazing feeling.

BRYCE YOUNG, ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE QUARTERBACK: We understand it is different. We have to earn it. And anything that happened in the past, you learn from it. And it is in the past and it is our outcome that we want.


SCHOLES: Heisman trophy winner, Bryce Young, was amazing in that SEC title game. We'll see how the Georgia great defense does tonight.

Eric, I have a great stat for you. And Alabama has been an underdog three times in the last 13 seasons. Every single one of those times they've won handily. Two of them against Georgia.


And they're underdogs again tonight. Georgia at two, and actually they moved to three. So the Bulldogs, three-point favorites. So we'll see what happens.

HILL: Indeed, we will.

Andy Scholes, appreciate it. Thank you.

And before I leave you, a quick programming note. Discover the life and legacy of the true Marilyn in new CNN original series. "REFRAMED, MARILYN MONROE," premieres Sunday right here on CNN.

Thanks so much for joining me this hour.

The news will continue after a quick break with Alisyn and Victor. Stay with us.