Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Hearing on January 6th; Heated Fight Among Justices; Insurrection Investigation Hearings; European Leaders Meet with Zelenskyy; $1 billion in Military Aid for Ukraine. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired June 16, 2022 - 09:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It is the top of the hour. Good morning, everyone, I'm Poppy Harlow.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Poppy.

I'm Alex Marquardt, in today for Jim Sciutto.

Just hours from now, the January 6th committee will be gaveling in for its third hearing. The theme today is going to be how former President Trump pressured his vice president, Mike Pence, to overturn the election results of the 2020 presidential election. Now, the committee is going to be presenting evidence showing how Donald Trump's pressure led directly to the January 6th attack, despite knowing that Mike Pence could not unilaterally subvert democracy.

HARLOW: Also this morning, new photos obtained by ABC News show Vice President Pence and his family in hiding on January 6th after Pence was rushed off the Senate floor, you'll remember, by Secret Service as rioters broke into the Capitol.


REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): I think the public probably is not aware of how close a call this was. The rioters came very close to capturing the vice president, and I think there is very good evidence that they would have done harm to him, perhaps even killed him. So, this was a close call.


HARLOW: That was Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, who, of course, sits on that select committee.

Testifying today, very significant testimony, coming from retired federal Judge Michael Luttig, a highly respected conservative judge, once one of Justice Clarence Thomas' closest advisers. He previously clerked for Justice Scalia. He even was considered by former President George W. Bush as a nominee to the high court himself. So that's why his words carry such weight, especially on a day like today. In a written statement obtained exclusively by CNN, Luttig intends to

provide a sharp condemnation of former President Trump, saying that Trump and his allies, quote, instigated a war on democracy, quote, so that he could cling to power.

And there is much more in that testimony. We'll talk about it this morning.

Let's begin with CNN anchor and senior Washington correspondent Pamela Brown.

Pam, it's great to have you, as always.

Can you walk us through what we're expecting to see today?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR AND SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy and Alex, so basically today is all about Mike Pence, the former vice president. Committee aides are telling CNN that the hearing is going to make the case that Trump's pressure campaign against Pence directly contributed to the violence on January 6th and that it placed Pence's life in danger.

And the committee is expected to show new evidence of just how close the rioters came to Pence and his family as they chanted "hang Mike Pence."

And the hearing will also focus on Trump attorney John Eastman's six- point plan that Pence had the authority to overturn the election results. We know he did not have that authority. And Trump's own White House attorneys rejected that plan, as well as other conservative lawyers like retired federal Judge J. Michael Luttig, who was set to testify at the January 6th hearing this afternoon.

Now, as you noted, he is expected to condemn Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election and paint a clear picture of democracy on the brink. In a statement to the committee, obtained by Jamie Gangel, he says, it is breathtaking that these arguments even were conceived, let alone entertained by the president of the United States at that perilous moment in history.

And he goes on to say, had the vice president of the United States obeyed the president of the United States, America would immediately have been plunged into what would have been tantamount to a revolution within a paralyzing constitutional crisis.

And as you noted, John Eastman was actually a clerk, a former clerk of Michael Luttig.

I also want to note, also testifying today, Mike Pence's chief legal counsel Greg Jacob, who witnessed behind the scene efforts to pressure Pence to reject the electors on January 6th. Jacob sent Eastman an email during the insurrection blaming him for the violence.

Back to you.

MARQUARDT: All right, Pam Brown, thank you so much. A big day. We know you'll be watching closely.

Now, this morning, "The New York Times" is reporting that in an email just weeks after the 2020 election, the Trump ally and conservative attorney, John Eastman, who Pam Brown just mentioned there, he claimed to have known about a heated fight between Supreme Court justices over whether to hear arguments about former President Trump's false election claims.

HARLOW: CNN's senior crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz joins us now.

I mean, if this "New York Times" reporting is accurate, it's remarkable. Walk us through what is alleged to have happened here.


Poppy and Alex, this "New York Times" reporting, it is the story of two lawyers working for Donald Trump after the election, before January 6th. And these two lawyers are plotting, talking about two things, going to the Supreme Court to try to block the election results and also expecting potentially rallygoers for Donald Trump to descend upon Washington, D.C., and bring a level of intimidation into this city and potentially to the Supreme Court itself.


So, I want to walk through these emails because there's a lot here.

So, "The New York Times" reports that John Eastman emailed on Christmas Eve 2020 to other people in the Trump campaign and other lawyers about the approach in court. He wrote, so the odds are not based on the legal merits but an assessment of the justices' spines. And I understand there is a heated fight underway. He then writes, for those willing to do their duty on the Supreme Court, we should help them by giving them a Wisconsin cert petition to add into the mix.

So, this is astonishing on its own because Eastman is indicating that he may potentially have insight into the Supreme Court. Then there's another lawyer that responds to him in these emails, Kenneth Chesebro, also working with the Trump campaign, responds that the odds of action before January 6th will become more favorable if the justices start to fear that there will be wild chaos on January 6th.

So, we haven't heard that before either, this lawyer talking about this idea of intimidation from the Trump rally that is set to take place about two weeks later.

Here we had Jamie Raskin on CNN about an hour ago. Here's how he spoke about these emails, what it meant to him and the House Select Committee.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): He could have been lying about what he knew on the inside. On the other hand, perhaps he had some back-channel connection to the Supreme Court, and we want to ferret that out if that's true, to determine whether, you know, the same people who were establishing a back channel to the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, the 3 percent-ers and the domestic violent extremist movement also had a back channel somehow to the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": I'm sorry, who was in Trump world establishing a back channel to the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers?

RASKIN: Well, all of that is to come soon.


POLANTZ: So we do know that the House Select Committee has these emails that "The New York Times" reported on. And we do expect to hear quite a bit more about John Eastman and his emails today at the public hearing.

Poppy and Alex.

HARLOW: It is - it is so stunning, Katelyn, especially given the role that the Supreme Court plays -- is supposed to play as an independent body in this country. Much more to come on that. Clearly -- Katelyn, thanks very much for the reporting.

The January 6th committee has also released new footage showing that one of the people to whom Republican Congressman Barry Loudermilk gave a tour of the Capitol the day before the insurrection was outside the building during the insurrection, making direct threats to members of Congress.

MARQUARDT: And that man recording this video was seen taking photos on a tour of Capitol officers with Congressman Loudermilk just the day before, on January 5th, and he was captured on Capitol Police surveillance cameras taking photos of a hallway, of a security checkpoint and a stairwell while the congressman is talking to others in that group nearby.

Now, a former D.C. police officer who was injured during the Capitol attack on January 6th tells CNN that Capitol Police should have been alarmed by that man's behavior.

Take a listen.


MICHAEL FANONE, FORMER DC POLICE OFFICER ATTACKED DURING INSURRECTION: It's absolutely suspicious behavior. It most certainly warranted some type of investigative follow-up. And then, again, knowing what we know now, that one of these individuals who was pictured there, as part of this group, was then seen on January 6th, making threats against members of Congress, brandishing a, you know, homemade weapon, a spear, at the end of a flagpole, I mean, had I been a beat cop, I would have arrested that individual for threats.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MARQUARDT: And joining us now to discuss all this is CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod and CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams.

David, Elliot, thank you so much for joining us this morning.


MARQUARDT: Elliot, let me start with you and where Katelyn Polantz left off there, these emails that John Eastman is involved in, in which he claims that he understands there's a heated fight underway in the Supreme Court. He is indicating that he has some insight into the Supreme Court, which is a place that we almost never hear anything about deliberations or decisions or divisions from.

WILLIAMS: Right. So a couple things. Number one, it calls attention to how important John Eastman's emails are going to be today. Alex, there was a whole legal fight over how many emails he was going to provide to the committee. And I think we're going to see a number of them today.

Now, the questions for John Eastman are, number one, is he telling the truth? Like, can we trust this individual and can we trust the information he's providing? If he is, the big question is, what is his source and where is he getting this information? The problem is I think he's likely to take the Fifth Amendment, claiming - or fearing that he's going to face some criminal exposure, so we may not get answers from him on this.


HARLOW: David Axelrod, I wonder what you think, reading this "New York Times" reporting. I mean if it is accurate that Eastman -- well, we know from these emails that he said this. If he indeed did have this communication and knowledge of private tension, a fight among the justices about whether to intervene here and take up - you know, if they were to request cert, I mean it's - it's stunning.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is, and it comes at a very bad time for the Supreme Court because there's already a great controversy about how the draft of the Roe v. Wade decision was released earlier this year. And so this just adds fuel to the fire. This institution that has been so secretive and cloistered and respectful of their customs is now under suspicion.

And, you know, I know you guys haven't made the point of it, but I think that there's going to be a lot of focus on Justice Thomas because Eastman was a clerk for Thomas, he was communicating with Thomas' wife. We know she was involved in trying to encourage legislators in Arizona to take action that might overturn the elections. So -- but I would stress, this is an intriguing and disturbing story. It's not the -- probably the main focus of what the hearings are going to be today, which was the president's attempt to essentially strong arm the vice president into doing what the vice president knew to be unconstitutional and illegal. And that, I think, is going to be the central core of what we hear today. MARQUARDT: And that is a very important point, David, that Eastman was

in touch with Ginni Thomas, and that he had clerked for the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. There's probably much more to come out about that communication.

Elliot, to this Loudermilk tour taking place on January 5th. There were no tours that day. They were in an area where generally tours don't take place. We do have a statement from the Capitol Police that I want to quickly read. They said, we train our officers on being alert for people conducting surveillance or reconnaissance and we do not consider any of the activities we observed to be suspicious.

Why don't - why do you think that they didn't think that that activity was suspicious? He was taking pictures of seemingly random corridors and areas?

WILLIAMS: Right. Someone can answer this question pretty quickly, Alex. Look, when you're building cases, often there are things you just can't find that are difficult. Here, you know the Capitol building. You know, is there a statue of Abraham Lincoln or something at the top of that, that he's taking a picture of. And someone ought to be able to clarify that.

So, the committee can, number one, call in the Capitol Police officer. Number two, tighten the screws on Representative Loudermilk. And if he's really stonewalling and letting people in the day before an insurrection, then bring him in, issue a subpoena and have that fight with him.

But, you know, this is one of those weird moments in an investigation where the answer is right there. It's abundantly clear whether this was just a metal detector or something more than that.

HARLOW: David, I want to get back to your point, if we could, on what today is going to focus on, and that is largely surrounding a former Vice President Mike Pence, right? And we're going to hear from someone who's really consequential, especially in a moment like this, and that is former federal Judge Michael Luttig.

And what we know he's going to say, part of his statement that was released, is that if Pence would have gone through with President Trump's plan to try to block all of this, it would have, quote, been tantamount to a revolution within a paralyzing constitutional crisis.

Could you speak to that?


HARLOW: Because, yes, Pence won't be there, but he has certainly not moved to block anyone around him from sharing information.

AXELROD: Yes. And clearly has not. Both his chief of staff and his counsel, who I guess we're going to hear from today, have testified before the committee. And you can imagine how they feel because they understand the jeopardy that Pence was placed in because of the position that he took. But the position that he took was the constitutional position. The

responsibility he met was the responsibility he was assigned by the Constitution. And what the story that is evolving here says is that Donald Trump lost the election and knew he lost the election. He lost in court again and again and again, 61 or 62 court cases. And when that failed, he went to plan c, which was to get the vice president to turn away these electors and turn back to the states and get another set of electors that would not reflect the vote in those states, but would make Trump a winner. And that is the essence of the story that the committee is developing.

So, this is a really important day, Poppy. And we'll -- you know, I'm eager to hear -- I'm sure we'll hear details we haven't heard yet.


MARQUARDT: And we are going to hear Judge Luttig say there were many cowards on January 6th, but Pence was not among them.


David Axelrod, Elliot Williams, thank you so much.

AXELROD: Good to see you.

MARQUARDT: And, stay with CNN. We will be having special live coverage of today's hearing. That will beginning at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time right here on CNN.

Now, still to come, the leaders of France, Germany and Italy were in Ukraine today. And this is as the United States is pledging another $1 billion in military aid. We'll be live in Kyiv, next.

HARLOW: Also, Dr. Anthony Fauci has tested positive for Covid-19. He is expected to make remarks remotely at a hearing this hour. We'll bring that to you when it begins.

And, more severe weather, more severe flooding, closing Yellowstone National Park. We'll live with a report on the damage.



HARLOW: This morning, the leaders of France, Germany and Italy are in Ukraine touring some of the areas heavily damaged by Russia's invasion. Also meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as they try to soothe tensions over what Ukrainian officials have suggested is lukewarm support of their fight against Russia.

MARQUART: Now, this visit by these European leaders is coming just a day ahead of the European Commission's decision on whether to recommend that Ukraine become a candidate for the EU. But Ukraine's deputy prime minister is saying that she is, quote, not expecting any bright announcements.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz joins us live from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

Salma, in the past few days we have heard President Zelenskyy with some harsh words for President Macron of France and Chancellor Scholz of Germany. How did this visit go?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely. So, this visit is still ongoing. They're still meeting with President Zelenskyy. They've already been to the suburb of Irpin, an area where alleged war crimes took place. They arrived by train this morning. And the stated purpose of their visit is to show solidarity.

Take a listen to how Macron put it.


PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON, FRANCE (through translator): A message of European unity addressed to Ukrainian men and women of support to talk about both the present and the future because the coming weeks, we know, will be very difficult weeks. I want to be in support and at their side.


ABDELAZIZ: But this is also about mending fences, as you mentioned. President Zelenskyy has been highly critical of two of these leaders. In the case of French President Emmanuel Macron, just about a week ago made these comments saying that the west should not humiliate President Putin. President Zelenskyy was very quick to criticize that, essentially accusing Macron of going soft on Moscow.

And then in the case of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, President Zelenskyy has accused that government of continuing to support to bolster Russia by refusing to ban exports of Russian oil and gas to Germany. Instead, the German government has said it would phase out oil and gas from Russia by the end of the year. He's also been criticized, the German chancellor, for not providing enough military aid and equipment, although Germany is the largest economy in Europe.

So, there's a lot of divisions there that need to be healed. There's also, what you mentioned there, the bid to join the EU for Ukraine. That could take years, if not decades.

So, President Zelenskyy is going to want more than words here. He's going to want action. And he's going to want to feel welcomed, included in this European club.

HARLOW: And, Salma, before you go, word two of Americans, two American fighters missing in Ukraine feared captured. What do we know?

ABDELAZIZ: Absolutely. This is highly concerning. So these are two American volunteer fighters who were fighting under Ukrainian command. About a week ago they were on the front lines near the Kharkiv region. That's when they went missing. Their families believe that they have been abducted by Russian forces. U.S. officials say that they do know they are missing but they have not confirmed that Russian forces have captured them. They say they're doing everything they can to pull them out. But the fear here is, is that although these men should be treated as prisoners of war, in the past Russian forces have not done that.

We just had this very recent case about a week ago of two British nationals who were fighting alongside Ukrainian forces. They were sentenced to death by a Russian-backed separatist court in Ukraine. So the concern is that these two Americans could be used as a bargaining chip, could wind up facing abuses at the hands of Russian forces. We're waiting to find out more on their fate.

MARQUARDT: Yes, an extremely concerning situation. Hopefully we will learn more soon.

Salma Abdelaziz in the Ukrainian capital, thanks very much.

Now, the United States has just announced that it is sending another $1 billion in aid to Ukraine, bringing the total of American aid to $5.6 billion since Russia invaded. The latest package includes howitzers, tactical vehicles and coastal defense systems. Ukraine's defense minister is telling CNN that this round of support will help the country take back Russian occupied territory.

Joining me now to discuss this is retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, the former commanding general of the U.S. Army in Europe and the Seventh Army.

General Hurtling, thank you so much for joining me this morning.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.): A pleasure, Alex. Good to be with you.

MARQUARDT: I want to ask you about this new round of aid for Ukraine. The Ukrainians are saying that this is a step in the right direction. Chairman Milley noted on Wednesday that there are ten advanced long range rocket systems going to Ukraine. The Ukrainians have asked for 300 in this new U.S. package. There are 18 howitzers going to Ukraine. Ukraine has asked for a thousand of them. So there's a big gap between what Ukraine is asking for, and what NATO s giving.

Is NATO -- are the NATO countries giving the aid, enough aid, that Ukraine needs?


HERTLING: Well, first, Alex, let's clarify something because Secretary Austin addressed that very issue yesterday. Ukraine, as a government, has not requested that. There is certainly the thousand artillery pieces, there has certainly been some within the Ukraine government that have asked for that, but they are not authorized to do that.

Secretary Austin, yesterday, specifically said that Ukraine's minister of defense told him their priorities, and they have met every single one of the requests that they've asked for. The Ukrainians have asked for 10 battalions of artillery. The U.S. has - and the western nations have developed -- have delivered 12 battalions of artillery. And all of those certainly are not in parity with the thousands of rounds or tubes that the Russian army has. But they are excessively good at delivering precision weapons -- precision fires.

Ukraine asked for 200 tanks. Austin said we delivered 270. We have delivered a half a million rounds of artillery shells, many of which are precision round which outduel the Russians.

So, the truth of the matter is, there's a lot of people stating, we want more, we want more, we want more, and secretary Austin has been dealing directly in this contact group with Ukraine's minister of defense, Reznikov, to clarify those kinds of things. So, I wouldn't put a whole lot of emphasis on those who are demanding thousands and thousands of pieces of equipment.

MARQUARDT: Yes, parity is that key word that you mentioned. That is what the Ukrainians are looking for.

Speaking of the defense minister, Reznikov, I want to play a little bit of what he told CNN about the long-term commitment by the U.S. and the west to Ukraine.

Take a listen.


OLEKSIY REZNIKOV, UKRAINIAN DEFENSE MINISTER: I heard yesterday, and I felt that it's absolutely honestly that I saw the eyes of Lloyd Austin, for example, or General Mark Milley, or Ben Wallace, or our partners from the Baltic countries, from the Poland, and I saw their real understanding that they will never stop, they will -- with us.


MARQUARDT: He says he saw the eyes of Lloyd Austin, that they will never stop.

General, are you as confident as Reznikov that the U.S. and others are committed for the long run?

HERTLING: I am, Alex. And I also think we're -- what we're going to see over the next coming weeks and months is changing of priorities, in coordination with Defense Minister Reznikov and President Zelenskyy. Right now we're delivering weapons as fast as possible for the type of fight that's being fought in the Donbas and in the south. In the future, what I believe is going to happen, and I think there's probably already initiatives starting there, Ukraine's army is going to be transformed in a western design, a western organizational design, because they have to. They can no longer depend on Russia for ammunition, equipment, that they have in the past, or kept the weapons that they had after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. So they're going to have to, much like Poland and Romania and several other states in eastern Europe, transform into a more modern army with precision fire.

I think we're going to see that. It's going to be costly. It's going to take a very long time because, as Secretary Austin said yesterday, not only are we delivering weapons, but we're delivering training and maintenance support and the kind of support they need. So I think the minister of defense is exactly right, we're in it for

the long-term.

MARQUARDT: General, before I let you go, I want to ask you, what does it say about the state of the fight in Ukraine, that these European leaders can walk around an area like Irpin, which is near Kyiv, which saw so much violence and death, but today it's quiet. They can walk around. But, in the meantime, things are not looking good for the Ukrainian forces in the east.

HERTLING: Well, I think the jury is still out on them. It's not looking good for Ukrainian forces in the east. They are continuing in this slugfest on their eastern frontier, much like the western front in World War I, Alex. So, it's interesting that within the capital, which is about 300 miles away from the east, you see these foreign leaders visiting and pledging support. I think that's a very good thing.

As Salma just said, these three leaders particularly have come, I think, a little bit with an apology to President Zelenskyy, and I think they need to clear some things up in this meeting. But, in the future, you're going to see the capital continue - you know, Russian long range missiles are going to continue to strike cities throughout Ukraine. But I think you're seeing the fact there is more of a calm in the central and western part where as the eastern part continues to fight.


All right, General Mark Hertling, thank you so much for breaking that down for us this morning.

HERTLING: Thank you, Alex.


HARLOW: Great conversation. Thank you, Alex. Thank you, General.

Take a look at futures this morning. A little bit mixed here. Largely lower, though, after a rally yesterday following the Fed's big rate hike. What this says about investors' concerns about the economy, next.