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North Korean Missile Launch; Novak Djokovic's Australian Visa Canceled; Oath Keepers Founder in Court. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 14, 2022 - 15:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: A major winter storm threatens to disrupt travel this holiday weekend with snow, sleet and freezing rain.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Now add some high winds to that, and this winter storm could just make a mess of much of the country.

Let's bring in meteorologist Jennifer Gray, who is tracking the storm force.

So where will it hit, and when?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, guys, it's already beginning. Look at these winter storm warnings, advisories, watches already in place anywhere from the Upper Midwest all the way down to the Deep South.

It's already snowing in places like Iowa, and they could see more than a foot of snow in some places. And this storm system is going to basically just dive straight down to the South. A lot of areas will start with rain, end up with a little bit of a wintry mix and then end up with snow.

It's very tricky once we get to the Deep South how much snow or freezing rain or ice we're going to get across some of these regions, especially places like Atlanta.

Could be sort of a game time call, depending on what we're going to get and when. We also are looking at a crippling ice event setting up most likely around the Carolinas. Some areas could get up to an inch of ice. So we're talking about travel will be impossible, trees will be down, power lines will be down, and so we could see a nightmare scenario in some of these locations.

Look at this, up to half-an-inch, an inch of ice. But the models are definitely differing still. So we're going to have to wait and see these models come together. But either scenario is not going to be good for the Carolinas if that sets up.

Snow forecast, could see up to a foot of snow guys across the Appalachians.

BLACKWELL: All right, Jennifer Gray, thank you very much.

Brand-new hour. It's good to be with you. I'm Victor Blackwell.

CAMEROTA: And I'm Alisyn Camerota.

In just a few minutes, the leader of the far right extremist group the Oath Keepers is due to appear in federal court. Stewart Rhodes is one of 11 defendants who the Justice Department charged with sedition on Thursday for their involvement in the January 6 insurrection.

BLACKWELL: These are the most significant charges in the investigation so far, and prosecutors say Rhodes and others were plotting for violent takeovers well beyond January 6.

These indictments detail the arsenal of weapons and equipment they brought to the Capitol and purchased in the weeks following.

CAMEROTA: CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider joins us live.

So, Jessica, before we get to Rhodes, another defendant, Edward Vallejo, just appeared virtually for his federal court appearance, I believe, in Arizona.

So what did we learn from that one?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You're exactly right. The hearing, the initial appearance just wrapped in federal court in Arizona.

So the way it is laid out, he will have another hearing next Thursday. That will determine if he's eligible for release, but he will be held until at least then.

And it's all because he is facing this serious charge of seditious conspiracy for allegedly plotting to violently overthrow the government, along with those 10 other defendants, including Stewart Rhodes, who we're expecting at 3:30 in court.

So prosecutors, as for Vallejo, they outlined his role in the indictment. They say that he led what were called quick-reaction force teams, where a few of these Oath Keepers actually stayed behind at a hotel in Virginia, where they stockpiled weapons. And they were ready apparently to move into the Capitol with those weapons if other Oath Keepers called for backup.

So this is from the indictment. It says: "While certain Oath Keepers members and affiliates breached the Capitol grounds and building, others remain stationed just outside of the city in QRF teams. The QRF teams were prepared to rapidly transport firearms and other weapons into Washington, D.C., in supportive operations aimed at using force to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power. The QRF teams were coordinated in part by Caldwell and Vallejo."

Obviously, Vallejo was just in court. He's accused of working hand in hand with Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes and others in what prosecutors are outlining as this months-long plan. So they all messaged starting in November over these encrypted apps like Signal. They formulated their plan. And then, as they moved toward D.C. at the beginning of January,

Stewart Rhodes is actually accused of spending thousands of dollars buying firearms equipment along the way. Then we get to January 6. And after several members allegedly breached the Capitol, they apparently celebrated that night at a Virginia restaurant and discussed some next steps.


Rhodes was the one leading this call. And prosecutors say, after January 6, he spent more than $17,000 in weapons. They say he was ready for more violence. And he called for his members to organize local militias to oppose the Biden administration.

So, Victor and Alisyn, all of these allegations for these 11 defendants, they are very carefully laid out in what is a very lengthy and jam-packed 48-page indictment.

And what's clear here is that the Justice Department -- and we have seen it in court filings preceding this. They have been working methodically for the past year, getting some of these Oath Keeper members to cooperate. And they have shared those encrypted messages to kind of illuminate and spell out this plot.

So the question is moving forward, will Stewart Rhodes possibly provide any helpful information to prosecutors to indicate maybe others were involved? That's the big question as we move forward into the coming months here, guys.

CAMEROTA: OK, Jessica Schneider, thank you for all of that.

So, the January 6 House Committee continues to expand its investigation into the insurrection. Sources tell CNN that former acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller is meeting virtually with the panel today. He was the top Pentagon official on the day of the Capitol riot.

So, on Thursday, the panel met with former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who worked with Rudy Giuliani in a search for election fraud.

BLACKWELL: Now, the committee has also issued subpoenas to giant social media companies.

CNN's Ryan Nobles joins us now.

So let's talk about Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. And CNN's KFILE has uncovered a radio interview shortly after the riot where he says that the former President Donald Trump admitted personally to bearing some responsibility for the attack.

Tell us more.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Victor, this is more evidence that there's a lot about what Kevin McCarthy knows leading up to, on January 6, and after January 6 that hasn't really been publicly revealed.

We knew that at one point McCarthy told some of his Republican colleagues in a closed-door meeting that the president had expressed some responsibility for what had happened on January 6, but he quickly walked that back and had really come to defend the former president in the days after January 6.

This is the first time we're actually hearing him say those words. So take a listen to what he told this radio host in Bakersfield shortly after the January 6 insurrection.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I say he has responsibility. He told me personally that he does have some responsibility. I think a lot of people do.

But what I proposed, which I think history will say I'm right, because it's the right thing to do, I believe, have a bipartisan commission and get all your facts. Actually work through the grand jury to find out at the end, instead of predetermining whether someone's guilty or not.


NOBLES: So, there's quite a few remarkable things about that interview, first, of course, him saying that Donald Trump told him that he bought some responsibility, because the president has never said that publicly and has actually said the exact opposite, but also what McCarthy had to say about his desire for a bipartisan commission.

Victor and Alisyn, you will remember that he pushed hard against that when there was actually legislation on the table. And it was ultimately Senate Republicans that prevented it from happening.

BLACKWELL: All right, Ryan Nobles for us on Capitol Hill, thank you so much.

Charlie Dent is a CNN political commentator, former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania. Jeffrey Toobin is a CNN chief legal analyst. And Phil Mudd is a CNN counterterrorism analyst.

Welcome to you all.

Congressman, let me start with you and what we just heard from Ryan Nobles, this new sound from Minority Leader McCarthy. Is it time first to put aside this, I guess it's a courtesy of not subpoenaing -- or issue subpoenas for other members to try to get him to testify, even if it's not successful, to take the next step?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I do think Kevin McCarthy and other members should voluntarily come in and tell the committee what they know.

I think it's rather insulting to Congress that members are saying that, hey, yes, I have nothing to add here, that my information is not relevant.

Well, that's really not up to the member to determine. It's up to the committee to determine. And so taking that step to subpoena is a rather large one. And I don't say that lightly because it does -- it does set precedents. I can't think of times when we have subpoenaed members. Maybe there were ethics cases years ago where that happened, but it just doesn't happen.

There are all kinds of political and legal reasons why the committee may not want to do that. But it's sad to me, because you just played that audio, where Kevin has changed his position the commission. He changed his position Trump's culpability.

And, by the way, on the commission, I'm very saddened that my friend John Katko just announced he is not running again. He is the one who negotiated an independent commission with Bennie Thompson and got most of what the Leader McCarthy wanted. And then they basically took John Katko's legs out from under him.


He's had enough. He just announced he's retiring.

CAMEROTA: I know. We have seen it time and again. There's a pattern, Charlie, as we have talked about here.

DENT: Yes.

CAMEROTA: So, Phil, when you hear about how much worse it could be, I mean, in these encrypted communications, the Oath Keepers, allegedly, according to the indictment, were bragging to each other about the cache of weapons they were bringing.

They were stockpiling them in a hotel room. I will just read a portion of it.

"While traveling, Rhodes," who is the head, "spent approximately $6,000 in Texas on an AR platform rifle and firearms equipments, including sights, mounts, triggers, slings, and additional firearms attachments. Rhodes then spent approximately $4,500 in Mississippi on firearms equipment, including sights, mounts, an optic plate, a magazine and various firearms parts."

That's just a portion. I mean, that's just a bit of it. So what does that tell you, Phil?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It tells me more about the future than the past.

Look, if I were an analyst still investigating this kind of stuff, once you turn it over to the prosecutors in the Department of Justice, as an analyst watching cases develop, you go and say, what's next?

So let me give you a couple of clues that you talked about, number one, not only the willingness of people like this -- and, remember, polling shows that there are millions of people, millions, who sympathize with -- potentially with the use of violence to protect what they think is democracy, millions of people who sympathize with violence.

There's a spike in gun purchases in the United States. There's information clearly on the political side that shows that politicians are going to return to this theme of stolen elections in 2022 and 2024.

And, meanwhile, if you look at these court documents come out, you can anticipate that sympathizers are going to say, how did these guys get caught? How did they get flipped? And how do we avoid that happening in the future?

So I look at the magnitude of January 6 and say there's a bunch of people sympathetic and learning, Alisyn. How are they going to learn more in the next year or two years, three years?

BLACKWELL: Jeffrey, the attorney for Stewart Rhodes was on with Brianna Keilar this morning in this exchange on "NEW DAY," and answering the basic question of defense.

If they weren't coming to attack, to try to change the outcome through force, why were they here and why did they have so many weapons? Here was -- here's how he explained the defense.


JON MOSELEY, ATTORNEY FOR STEWART RHODES: They did believe that they were going to have to respond to Antifa or be called up by the president. But what's interesting is, they didn't bring any of that into the District of Columbia. They left it in Virginia.

So, if they were going to do any of those things, they would have brought weapons with them into the Capitol. And they didn't do that.


BLACKWELL: They thought it was Antifa and they left the weapons on the other side of the river. Does that matter?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, it's, look at all the banks we didn't rob is the argument here.

I mean, the idea that they could have done worse things, but they didn't do -- and didn't, that's not a defense in most criminal trials. I mean, the fact is, they are accused of invading the Capitol, trying to stop the electoral votes from being counted, and engage in a seditious insurrection.

That's the charge. The fact that they could have committed more acts of violence is not a defense and I don't think particularly helpful to them.

CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, one more question to you, because I heard you say that now what the prosecutors will try to do is flip the Oath Keepers to see if they can turn over bigger fish. But what makes you think that the Oath Keepers aren't the ringleaders

of this here? How do you know that there is somebody bigger?

TOOBIN: Well, that's really the question. And we don't know.

But the way federal law enforcement works is, you try to keep moving up the chain as far as you can go. It may be that the -- that this was a silo, that the Oath Keepers just operated themselves.

But let me read you one sentence from the indictment, chapter -- paragraph 70. This is a Signal message, an encrypted message that Rhodes sent on the morning of January 6.

And he says to his colleagues: "There are many, many others from other groups who will be watching and waiting on the outside in case of worst-case scenarios."

Who are those people? Who are the other groups? How did he know that? What sort of communications did he have? That's the kind of thing that federal prosecutors will want to know. And if they can persuade Rhodes or others to cooperate, that's certainly a question they're going to ask.

BLACKWELL: Phil, you have heard the narrative from Capitol Hill that there was no pre-planning of this.

Of course, we now have all of these messages that have been exchanged. And maybe that was the case for some of the people who've been arrested, that it wasn't pre-planned.

But in this indictment, in addition to what we have learned about what they were -- the training, it says one of the defendants traveled to D.C. for recon for an op, that they were there weeks ahead of time to try to figure out the best way to execute this.


MUDD: Yes, I think what you're putting your finger on, Victor, is what I'd be interested in if I were looking at the investigation, and that is what the attorney general evidently referred to as granularity.

There's the broad term that we use, sedition, but the granularity I'd be looking at is, when were the weapons purchased in the months before and the months after? That's one timeline. Timeline two, especially now that we're getting encrypted messages, how did the language among the participants change as they acquired these messages?

I want stuff like credit card data. When did people travel? When did people speak? When did they come potentially to surveil what was going on at the targets in Washington? Those timelines, when you start to overlay them, I think are going to be incredibly damning, because if you try to walk in with those weapons, purchases, et cetera, it's going to look like you planned in advance. It's sedition.

TOOBIN: And if I can add just one point to that, where did the money come from? I mean, those are enormous -- yes, you want to know when the weapons were purchased and where, but where did the money come?


TOOBIN: Who funded all of this? That's an incredibly important problem -- issue that goes across the whole January 6 investigation.

CAMEROTA: OK, Charlie Dent, Jeffrey Toobin, and Phil Mudd, thank you all.

MUDD: Yes.

CAMEROTA: All right, the world's number one men's tennis player, Novak Djokovic, is again facing detention and deportation. The Australian government revoked his visa a second time, but the fight is not over.

BLACKWELL: Plus, North Korea fires more missiles overnight. New reaction from the Pentagon next.



BLACKWELL: Minutes from now, Novak Djokovic will meet with Australian immigration officials after his visa was revoked for a second time.

Now, he was on the tennis court this morning. But as soon as today's meeting ends, he will be detained, while his case is heard in federal court.

CAMEROTA: Just to catch you up, this legal battle began with a conflict Djokovic's vaccination status and Australia's laws on COVID and immigration.

This could cost him the chance to compete in the Australian Open.

CNN Scott McLean is in Serbia.

So, Scott, what are the leaders they're saying about all these developments?


Look, the Serbian president, Aleksandar Vucic, made abundantly clear today that, if you go after Novak Djokovic, you are going after an entire country. If you think it's popular in Australia right now to want to boot Djokovic because he's unvaccinated, surely, it is at least equally popular to support him.

And that is what the president did today. He has been relatively diplomatic up until this point. And he says that, if the matter had purely been handled by the Australian court system, he probably wouldn't have said anything.

But the minute that the politicians got involved to put their fingers on the scale, well, today, he dropped the gloves on the Australian government. Listen.


ALEKSANDAR VUCIC, PRESIDENT OF SERBIA (through translator): I am amazed at the fact that such decisions can be made by the executive and after the valid decisions of the judiciary. They often preach to us about what the rule of law is.

Why do you mistreat him and make fun of him? Not only him, but also his family and an entire nation that is free and proud. Do you need it to win some elections? Do you need it to please your public?


MCLEAN: Now, there are also questions about the test that Novak Djokovic took in this country leading up to his trip to Australia.

Let me just remind you of the timeline. December 14 is when he went to a basketball game. That's when he believes that he got infected. December 16 is when he took a PCR test. He also went to some public events that day. December 17, he went maskless to an event with children. And only after that event did he say that he actually received the notification of his positive test.

Well, today, a Serbian public health official and the prime minister's office made abundantly clear that there is no chance that Novak Djokovic did not have a notification of that positive test on the same day that it was taken, the day before he went to that event with children.

That system, they say, is automated. The time stamp on Djokovic's certificate shows 8:19 p.m. They say they should have had -- he should have had an e-mail and a text message literally just minutes later. Whether he checked those messages, well, only Novak Djokovic knows the answer to that -- Alisyn, Victor.

CAMEROTA: That is a really helpful timeline. Scott McLean, thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thanks, Scott.

CAMEROTA: All right, meanwhile, earlier this week, the U.S., you will remember, sanctioned North Korea for a missile launch.

Well, last night, North Korea launched two more suspected ballistic missiles, including one that sent U.S. official scrambling and had some worried it was a threat to parts of the U.S. off of Alaska or off the California coast.

BLACKWELL: Let's go now to CNN's Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon.

So, what's the Pentagon saying about this?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: What's noteworthy here is the number of launches in a fairly short time.

The Pentagon says they were monitoring these launches and are in touch with allies such as South Korea and Japan to consult about an assessment of the launches, as well as perhaps how to respond. It was two launches essentially overnight. The Pentagon says these were ballistic missiles, as well as a launch earlier this week and the launch last week.

So, four separate missiles launched in a span of about a week-and-a- half to two weeks, and it comes in the face of additional U.S. sanctions against both North Koreans and Russians for work on North Korea's ballistic missile program, as well as a defiant North Korean Foreign Ministry, saying this is part of their advancement of their national military program, which they see as a very high priority.


Still, the Pentagon has made it clear that diplomacy remains the first option from the United States, even if North Korea is not engaging on that right now.

Here's Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: There are lots of levers of power that the United States government and our allies and partners have at our disposal. Obviously, President Biden has been very clear. Diplomacy leads. And that would be no different here when we're talking about North Korea and the Korean Peninsula.


LIEBERMANN: That led to -- the launch earlier this week led to a very interesting response, because initial data, telemetry data of the launch as U.S. satellite or radars were able to pick this up suggested it might have perhaps been an intercontinental ballistic missile that might threaten either the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska or even the West Coast.

That led the FAA to issue a temporary ground stop for just about 15 minutes on Monday afternoon before it became clear from additional telemetry data, additional information on where this missile was going that it was not a threat. That ground stop was lifted very quickly, but still quite a few questions on how and why it happened when that missile was thousands of miles away.

BLACKWELL: All right, Oren Liebermann for us at the Pentagon, thank you.

There's new information on those free COVID tests being sent out by the White House. You may want to order them well in advance of needing them.