Return to Transcripts main page
Soon, Oath Keepers Founder To Be Arraigned In Federal Court; Now, Christopher Miller Meeting Virtually With Jan. 6th Committee; McCarthy: Trump Privately Admitted Some Responsibility For Jan. 6; Trump Allies' Fake Electoral Slates Declared He Won 7 States That He Lost; Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) Discusses Sinema, Manchin Dealing Fatal Blow To Voting Rights & Whether Democrats Will Primary Sinema. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired January 14, 2022 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, we expect that this is going to be a procedural step here before Stewart Rhodes is transferred to Washington where he is going to face these charges.
This is essentially his initial -- his initial appearance, which is just a procedural step.
And then, as you said, you know, these are some very serious charges that the federal government is now saying essentially that this was a conspiracy that -- that spanned from right after the election to even after January 6th.
And I'll read you just a couple of passages from the indictment.
"And two days after the presidential election, Rhodes urged his followers," according to prosecutors, "to refuse to accept Joe Biden's election."
"He said, 'We aren't getting through without a civil war. Too late for that. Prepare your mind, body and spirit,'" according to prosecutors.
And then, on December 22nd, according to -- to prosecutors, Rhodes said that, "If Biden were -- were able to assume the presidency," quote, "We will have to do bloody, massively bloody revolution against them. That's what's going to have to happen."
According to prosecutors, Ana, even after January 6th, after the -- after the insurrection, the riot at the building, the capitol building, they went back to Virginia and -- and continued to plot for what they said was going to be Civil War 2.0.
Again, this is from the court documents.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Wow.
And we have this just into CNN. Trump's former acting defense secretary, Christopher Miller, we're learning is meeting virtually right now with the January 6th committee. What more do you know?
PEREZ: Yes, Christopher Miller, if you remember, was installed after the election, Ana.
And we -- this is -- he's an important witness for this committee because he can tell them a little bit about his conversations with the former president about getting the National Guard sent to Washington to the capitol to help protect that building.
One of those conversations about -- again, this is -- this is a witness who has testified I think to other committees before.
But obviously, this committee wants to talk a little bit about, you know, the frame of mind of the president, what exactly was he look for in these key days around January 6th?
CABRERA: Evan Perez, thank you so much.
For much more on this and more, let bring in a pair of CNN legal analysts. Former White House ethics czar, who was also special counsel for the House Democrats in Trump's first impeachment trial, Norm Eisen.
And I should mention, you're also part of a team working with the D.C. attorney general on its civil lawsuit against the Oath Keepers.
Also, with us, former FBI special agent, and lawyer and lecturer at Yale Law School, Asha Rangappa.
Asha, talking about this Oath Keeper's case the new seditious conspiracy charge. It is a rare charge.
It is an escalation in terms of how the DOJ is now prosecuting people related to the riot, and we have so many more details.
So what is the significance, as you see it, of this move?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Ana, seditious conspiracy is, as you've already noted, a very serious charge. It's rare because it's harder to prove. It carries a very long sentence, up to 20 years in prison.
But I think what makes it especially significant and different from the other charges is that it's a political crime. In addition to going to jail, it carries a stigma of being branded as a traitor to the country.
And I think for that reason, that it's also very rarely used because you are, you know, basically being declared as a traitor.
And I think it's flitting in this case because what we see in this indictment is that these people were not just there, you know, causing chaos and disrupting Congress' proceedings. They had planned for violence in the seat of our government.
And I think that we are just lucky that there were not more casualties that day.
So I think that there's a symbolic statement that's being made by these charges for this particular group in calling them, you know, basically traitors.
CABRERA: Based on the evidence that has been made public so far, Asha, does the DOJ have a solid case? What stands out to you?
RANGAPPA: Yes. What stands out to me here is that, you know, in addition to showing that the Oath Keepers, the defendants in this case, plan to use force.
I mean, there's ample evidence here of them obtaining firearms, ammunition, you know, transactional data, recruiting members, training, the intention here is very clear.
There's the voluminous data or voluminous communications that are detailed in this indictment about precisely what their objective was.
And I think being able to spell out that their intent was to stop this peaceful transfer of power is what makes this a very, very strong case for the government.
CABRERA: Norm, January 6th committee, the member, Jamie Raskin, who is on that House committee, said this about the charges last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): I hope that this arrest and this prosecution will shut up those of-of-of our colleagues who keep saying, well, if it was a conspiracy, how come there are no conspiracy charges? If it was sedition, how come there are no sedition charges?
There you go. And we've got those with undoubtedly a lot more to come soon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: For the committee, a lot is pushing back against falsehoods.
How important, Norm, is this case in countering the idea that the capitol riot was just a spur-of-the-moment event where emotions ran high and people got out of control?
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Ana, it's very important because of the detail, the planning for violence, the violent behavior on January 6th.
And then the ongoing alleged -- we do have to remember these are allegations -- the ongoing alleged planning against the government.
This was -- January 6th was the furthest thing possible from had a normal tourist visit.
And the complaint is important for another reason. It sets up a model.
If we find that others high up in the government were similarly planning to attack the peaceful transition of power and should have known that violence was involved or even encouraged it, this is one of the charges that commentators have been urging be looked at.
So we'll be watching the hearings of the January 6th committee and its interim report expected this summer to see whether they refer anyone else, including those who may have been positions of power, for conspiracy or sedition charges to DOJ.
CABRERA: And so that brings us to some interesting remarks by the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. He's been, you know, dodging the committee essentially and trying to rewrite history in what he has said.
We've discovered a radio interview with a local station in Bakersfield, California, on January 12th. This was last year about a week after the insurrection where he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA) (voice-over): I say he has responsibility. He told me personally that he does have some responsibility. I think a lot of people do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: He's talking about then-President Trump.
There was also a call with House Republicans five days after the insurrection, and CNN has obtained McCarthy's exact quote.
He says, "Let me be clear to you, and I have been very clear to the president, he bears responsibility for his words and actions, no ifs, ands or buts."
"I asked him personally today if he holds responsibility for what happened, if he feels bad about what happened. He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened, but he needs to acknowledge that," end quote.
Asha, does the committee need McCarthy to corroborate these remarks and his conversation in person? Do they need to be able to question him about this, or does the evidence stand alone?
RANGAPPA: Well, I mean, the evidence itself is quite damning. But, yes, absolutely.
He needs to explain why -- why he was saying that and especially what his conversation was with President Trump, where President Trump ostensibly claimed responsibility.
You know, kind of going back to the big picture of what we see with the Oath Keepers, I mean, this indictment doesn't lay out any direct involvement of Trump in this particular conspiracy so far. But I will say that one thing that becomes very clear in how the Oath Keepers executed their plan was that they needed this mob, Ana. They needed the mob tactically to overwhelm barricades and police and strategically provide cover for them.
So when Trump was exhorting his followers to go to the capitol to, you know, march on these legislators, he was at least indirectly helping this event unfold.
So I think McCarthy definitely needs to clarify what he meant when he was saying that Trump is responsible.
CABRERA: And in that same KERM radio interview, Norm, McCarthy also said he spoke to the president during the riot, calling on him to bring in the National Guard.
Since he discussed the contents of those conversations publicly, Norm, can his House colleagues force him to testify? What are the next steps?
EISEN: Well, it is customary when there's a matter of urgency for the House, the usual example is ethics violations, Ana, for the House to demand that members testify and for the members to comply.
If McCarthy continues to refuse to cooperate, which is a shocking abdication of his duty as the minority leader, one of our most senior American officials.
His government was attacked. The place where he does his government work was attacked. And he's refusing to cooperate after previously saying he had nothing to hide. That's shocking.
But if he persists, then the committee will face a fork in the road.
They could attempt to discipline him internally via House vote, or they could seek to subpoena and then have him held in contempt, perhaps even criminal contempt.
Steve Bannon is being prosecuted in that direction.
So the committee will face some tough choices. It is important for them to take this seriously because McCarthy has very critical evidence.
CABRERA: And, again, McCarthy wants to be the next speaker of the House should the House change hands in the midterm elections.
Got to get to one more quick thing because we're also now learning, in the weeks after the 2020 election, Trump allies tried to submit bogus Electoral College certificates declaring that Trump won seven states that he actually lost.
And this week, an Arizona Republican, who was involved in this scheme, was pressed about who was directing this effort. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE REP. JAKE HOFFMAN (R-AZ): Well, I'm simply -- I was one of the electors, right? I'm not in recall of the electors.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you hear about it?
How would you hear about it?
HOFFMAN: You need ask the party chair.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you hear about the plan? Just told to be somewhere.
HOFFMAN: You would need to ask the party chair.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're the person who received the call. You showed up, right? How did you know to show up that day?
HOFFMAN: As I said, can you go ahead and ask the party chair the logistics of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ask them how you got a phone call to go somewhere?
HOFFMAN: You're welcome to talk to them about this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you not know how you arrived at a place?
HOFFMAN: Thank you. I appreciate the question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You really don't know how you got a call?
HOFFMAN: Have a great one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Asha, this appears to have been a coordinated multi-state effort. There were seven states involved here. Is this illegal?
RANGAPPA: On its face it certainly seems to. I mean, forging official documents and trying to submit them to be used as a part of an official proceeding, I think, warrants definitely an investigation.
He's definitely provided some leads. He's suggesting, in his case at least, that this was coordinated by the Arizona, you know, the party chair.
But I think it also reveals that, you know, all of these different pieces that we've seen snippets of, you know, this was a coordinated plan that was going down to the state level.
And with many more people involved than just the people who were in Washington, D.C. on that day.
So I -- I will be interested to see how all of these pieces are put together.
CABRERA: And we can't wait for those public hearings where we see what the committee really knows. We've seen just snippets, as you point out.
Asha Rangappa and Norm Eisen, my thanks to both of you. It's always great to speak with you. Happy Friday.
Her name is now synonymous with President Biden's stalled agenda, but after delivering a fatal blow to Democrats' voting rights legislation, will progressives back an effort to primary Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona.
Congressman Ruben Gallego joins us next. Let's ask him.
CABRERA: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says the Senate will postpone its January recess so it can focus on voting legislation.
But the Democrats' hopes of winning passage were badly damaged if not killed by the party's moderates, Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrstin Sinema.
Both reiterated yesterday that they will not support changing the filibuster rules in the Senate so only a simple majority would be needed.
And Congressman Ruben Gallego is from Arizona, as is Senator Sinema.
Congressman, thanks for being here.
You called her out by name for abandoning this voting legislation. Will you challenge her in 2024?
REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-AZ): Well, 2024 is a long time from now. I'm focusing on 2022. I never say no to the future.
And I think also right now you hear a lot of Arizonans that are very unhappy with the fact that she is blocking voting rights legislation.
So I'll, you know, keep my ears open. I'll continue to have my public meetings, something she should try to do once in a while. And then I'll make a determination after 2022.
CABRERA: Do you think she should be replaced?
GALLEGO: Look, I think, at this point, right now, she is really disappointing a lot of Arizonans.
This is not a progressive thing. There's nothing progressive about being promoting rights. It's actually a very American patriotic thing.
And the fact that she's using an archaic rule to find it in the Constitution to stop voting rights is very problematic for a lot of Arizonans of all political persuasions.
CABRERA: I do want to play her reasons so our viewers understand where she's coming from.
So here is part of her announcement she made yesterday when she said she would not support a change of rules.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KRYSTEN SINEMA (D-AZ): And while I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: What specifically do you take issue with there?
GALLEGO: Well, I think, for one, it's just naive. You can't really support these bills if you don't understand how the Republican party that they're never going to pass. (INAUDIBLE) -- it's not going to happen with the filibuster.
If you are worried about abortion rights, and once the Supreme Court strikes down, you know, Roe v. Wade, the only way we're going to be able to fight to protect abortion rights is through congressional legislation.
We're never going to be able to do that if you still have the filibuster as it stands.
So, last week, Kyrsten Sinema talked about the filibuster when it came to the debt ceiling. So when it's convenient to Wall Street she has her principles.
When it comes to legislation that is better off for our democracy, then she somehow goes back to the ancient principle.
So I think it's very consistent.
And one more, I think it's consistent with what Arizonans want.
So I really encourage her to come out here, talk to her fellow Arizonians at a town all. It's been three and a half years since people have seen her.
She really needs to understand what people want in Arizona and not just what people want in her -- (INAUDIBLE).
CABRERA: You bring up a good point on the debt ceiling issue and her openness to changing the filibuster just on that issue specifically. But I would assume she would argue that that was something that was more bipartisan, that idea.
In this case, in that clip, she was talking completely doing it with one party.
Now, she's been consistent that, since she's been in office, she doesn't think the filibuster should be changed.
But she hasn't always been against getting things done with just a simple majority, right?
CABRERA: Hold on. Hold your thought.
CABRERA: Hold your thought. Because I want to play something for our viewers, something she said in 2010.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SINEMA: Before the Democrats took the Senate into 2008, the Republicans controlled the Senate for quite some time. In fact, since 1994.
They never got 60 votes. They managed to have a lot of votes during that time.
SINEMA: So the reconciliation process is still available and we'll use it for good rather than for evil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So, again, that was before she was in office.
We reached out to Sinema for comment and they won't give us anything on the record.
But, Congressman, how do you square those comments before she was a Senator with what she said yesterday?
GALLEGO: Well, look, I've known Senator Sinema since we were both in our mid-20s and starting out in politics here in Arizona. The only consistency about Sinema's roles and positions is inconsistency.
So I don't have to square it for her. She has to square it, again, for again the voters of Arizona.
And I hope she'll come and take the time to talk to them so she could hear what they are thinking and why they're feeling this way.
CABRERA: You and Sinema both represent Arizonans. She's making a political calculation that this isn't what her and your constituents want.
GALLEGO: I think that is true. But I think it is actually 100 percent missing the mark. And she came to spoke to Arizonans and it was unscripted way, I would tell you otherwise.
Tomorrow, I'm having a rally where the King family and other civil rights leaders to express our need for voting rights.
And there are so many people she should be talking to right now that to tell her what position she is inconsistent with and what Arizona needs or wants right now.
CABRERA: My understand is Arizona's other Democratic Senator Mark Kelly is also undecided on the filibuster.
Telling "Politico" this week, "I've never been part of an organization where it is really, really hard to do things. So if there's a real proposal, I'll look at and evaluate it based on what is in the best interest of the country."
Now Kelly is up for re-election in November and Sinema isn't up until 2024.
What are you saying to him?
GALLEGO: I haven't heard the definitive no, unless Sinema went to the floor and preempted any negotiation.
But, for Kelly, I would advise the same thing to him. Listen to Arizonans. I'm sure he does. He does have town halls. We do see him out here talking to people.
And I'm sure, push comes to shove, when that vote should show up, he'll do the right thing.
CABRERA: I just have 30 seconds left but I'm curious, pivoting to a completely different topic what, do you make of Kevin McCarthy's behavior and his refusal to voluntarily cooperate with the committee.
GALLEGO: Well, Kevin is a coward. He's a moral coward.
If he goes to that committee, he'll have to options. Number one he has to perjure himself to protect Donald Trump or tell the truth and piss off Donald Trump and lose Donald Trump's support and he can't be speaker.
At the end of the say, Kevin will do whatever he can, he'll sell whoever he can, do whatever he can to become speaker of the House and that is what you're seeing today.
CABRERA: Congressman Ruben Gallego, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.
GALLEGO: Thank you. CABRERA: And that does it for us today. See you back here Monday.
The news continues right after this.