Return to Transcripts main page
Legal Exposure for Trump; Laurence Tribe is Interviewed about the January 6th Hearings; Richard Haass is Interviewed about Ukraine. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired June 17, 2022 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Responsibilities as chairman and CEO while the wrestling company's board investigates him for alleged misconduct. "The Wall Street Journal" reports that McMahon paid a secret $3 million settlement to a former employee he allegedly had an affair with. His daughter Stephanie McMahon will serve as the interim CEO and interim chair.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And CNN's coverage continues right now.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It's the top of the hour this Friday morning. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. Jim Sciutto has the day off.
Today, more attention shifting to the Justice Department and what steps it may soon take after Thursday's pivotal hearing from the January 6th select committee. The big headline the panel detailing evidence that former President Trump and his attorney John Eastman knew the plan to overturn the 2020 election was not illegal - was not legal, I should say, but still pressed forward to pressure Vice President Pence anyway. The committee outlining just how close to imminent mortal danger the vice president was on January 6, 2021.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): Our investigation found that immediately after the president's 2:24 p.m. tweet, the crowds both outside the Capitol and inside the Capitol surged.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike Pence has betrayed the United States of America! Mike Pence has betrayed this president and he has betrayed the people of the United States, and we will never, ever forget!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm telling you, if Pence came, we're going to drag the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) through the streets.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's real simple, Pence betrayed us, which apparently everybody knew he was going to, and the president mentioned it, like five times when he talked. You can go back and watch the president's video.
AGUILAR: Make no mistake about the fact that the vice president's life was in danger. A recent court filing by the Department of Justice explains that a confidential informant from the Proud Boys told the FBI the Proud Boys would have killed Mike Pence if given a chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: We are also getting a new look at exactly what transpired for Vice President Pence after he was evacuated from the floor of the Capitol. These are never before seen photos taken as the vice president sheltered at an undisclosed, secure location near a loading dock, look at that, watching the very video posted to Twitter by then President Trump telling the rioters to go home. Remember that taped message but hours later. And in it saying, we love you, you're very special.
As the committee prepares for its next hearing, it is now also requesting to speak with Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, about her role in the effort to overturn the 2020 electoral results. She's among those who were in frequent email contact, it turns out, with John Eastman in the leadup to the January 6th insurrection.
Thomas, a conservative activist, appears open to speaking with the committee, telling conservative outlet "The Daily Caller" that she, quote, can't wait to clear up misconceptions.
We have more on that in a moment.
First, though, our Pamela Brown takes us through a moment by moment breakdown of how the committee laid out its evidence.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Former President Trump relentlessly pressured his vice president, Pence, to prevent the certification of the presidential election, despite knowing Pence didn't have that authority.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): He resisted the pressure. He knew it was illegal. He knew it was wrong.
BROWN: The select committee investigating the January 6th attack chronicling the plan to have Pence overturn the election that was pushed by Trump's lawyer John Eastman. The 11th hour pressure campaign reached a boiling point on the morning of January 6th, during a contentious phone call between Trump and the vice president.
IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: He was on the telephone with who I later found out to be was the vice president. The conversation was - was pretty heated.
NICHOLAS LUNA, FORMER ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I remember hearing the word wimp. Either called him a wimp. I don't remember if he said you are a wimp, you'll be a wimp.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's also been reported that the president said to the vice president that something to the effect of, you don't have the courage to make a hard decision.
GEN. KEITH KELLOGG, FORMER PENCE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Worse (ph) -- I don't remember exactly either, but something like that, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you -
KELLOGG: Be -- like, being, you're not tough enough to make the call.
I. TRUMP: It was a different tone than I'd heard him take with the vice president before.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you remember what she said her father called him?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The p word.
BROWN: The president then took his last minute plea to a crowd of his supporters.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. And if he doesn't, that will be a sad day for our country.
BROWN: The violent mob then proceeded to the Capitol, many enraged Pence wouldn't do Trump's bidding.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike Pence has betrayed the United States of America!
BROWN: The rioters made it within 40 feet of the vice president. The committee released a play by play of how close the violence was to Pence, featuring pictures of Pence from that day. Minutes before Pence was taken to a secure location within the Capitol, Trump put out a tweet blaming Pence.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The situation was already bad. And so it felt like he was pouring gasoline on the fire by tweeting that.
BROWN: In the months before the Capitol attack, Eastman continuously peddled the theory within the White House that Pence could overturn the election in his capacity as president of the Senate.
ERIC HERSCHMANN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: Yes, they thought he was crazy. I said, are you out of your f-ing mind? You're going to cause riots in the streets.
BROWN: Pence had pushed back repeatedly that it was not within his authority to act.
GREG JACOB, FORMER COUNSEL TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Common sense and structure would tell you the answer cannot possibly be that the vice president has that authority.
There is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person would choose the American president.
BROWN: In previously recorded testimony, Pence's counsel, Greg Jacob, said he was party to conversation on January 4th, where Eastman conceded to Trump the plan was not lawful. Nevertheless, on January 5th, Eastman renewed the plan, requesting Pence reject the electors.
JACOB: I said, John, if the vice president did what you're asking him to do, we would lose 9-0 in the Supreme Court when -- and after some further discussion, acknowledged, well, yes, you're right, we would lose 9-0.
BROWN: Eastman, for his part, emailed Rudy Giuliani a few days after the Capitol attack asking to be considered for a presidential pardon, and pleaded the Fifth over 100 times before the committee.
JOHN EASTMAN, CONSERVATIVE ATTORNEY WHO ADVISED TRUMP: I assert my Fifth Amendment right against being compelled to be a witness against myself.
HARLOW: Our Pamela Brown reporting there. Pamela, thanks very much.
Repeatedly, Thursday's hearing gave evidence that Trump advisers knew the plot to try to overturn the election was illegal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did John Eastman ever admit, as far as you know, in front of the president that his proposal would violate the Electoral Count Act?
GREG JACOB, FORMER COUNCIL TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: I believe he did on the 4th.
REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): The president's own lead outside counsel, Rudy Giuliani, also seemed to concede that the vice president did not have the authority to decide the outcome of the election, or send it back to the states.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The morning of January 6th, I think he called me out of the blue. I -- and I was like getting dressed.
ERIC HERSCHMANN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: He was asking me my view and analysis and then the practical implications of it. And when we finished, he said, look (ph), I believe that, you know, you're probably right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Short, is it -- was it your impression that the vice president had directly conveyed his position on these issues to the president, not just to the world through a dear colleague letter, but directly to President Trump?
MARC SHORT, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: Many times.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And had been consistent in conveying his position to the president?
SHORT: Very consistent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Joining me now to talk about all this, Laurence Tribe, constitutional law professor from Harvard Law School.
It's great to have you here.
I should also note that House Democrats consulted you on impeaching former President Trump for inciting an insurrection.
And I just want to begin where we left off there with your take on if the January 6th committee, in that hearing yesterday, you think effectively proved former President Trump committed crimes and does it matter if Trump knowingly committed these crimes? Knowingly being key.
LAURENCE TRIBE, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: The answer to your question is that, what we just watched, which was a quite brilliant distillation of the highlights of what the committee showed the country was federal crimes being committed in plain view by Donald Trump himself and by his direct agent, this otherwise kind of cooky guy, John Eastman. It doesn't follow that everybody will be convinced. That is if somebody believes, and a lot of people do, that anything Trump did was just fine, even if it was illegal to pressure the mob, to pressure Pence, even if it was illegal to try to get Pence to do something that is clearly against the law, and that Trump and everyone knew was against the law, we don't have a legal system in which one person picks the president, even if he actually lost and there was no fraud, some people say, I don't care, it doesn't matter.
Now, those people are never going to be convinced that he should be criminally prosecuted. But if anyone has even a slight open mind, what they will conclude from what has been shown by the committee is that all of the claims of fraud were themselves fraudulent, phony. That the president knew that he had lost. Everyone around him, his own family told him that he had lost. And all the witnesses before the committee are (ph) Republicans.
Second, if people have the slightest open mind, they will realize that whether he won or lost, our legal system has a way of moving on. And the way you move on is through a special meeting of the House and Senate, a joint session, on January 6th, every four years. And that session is sacrosanct. There is no legal way, no non-criminal way, to get the vice president to adjourn that session so that it's no longer January 6th. No way to get him to reject electoral slates and pick other ones. All of that is so blatantly illegal, and I'm not going to bore your readers and your viewers with the five or six federal criminal statutes that were violated. Most of them are punishable by 20 years in prison. One of them, one that hasn't been much discussed, is punishable by life imprisonment, and that's attempted murder.
HARLOW: Yes, I - and let me ask you about the body with the ability to charge, and that would be the Department of Justice, because there has been debate within the committee about, do we refer, make a criminal referral to DOJ. They don't need it, right, but should they is a question the committee is clearly internally grappling with.
I want to ask you about DOJ's request now to this committee for all the documents, all the testimony complete.
Here is what Adam Schiff, a member of the committee, said on CNN last night about why that is not in his mind feasible right now and get your thoughts.
Here he was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I've been involved in several high profile investigations. I've never seen the Justice Department say, give us all your files. And we're working with them to make sure they get what they need, consistent with the -- our own investigative needs. But we want them to be successful. We want them to bring to justice anyone who broke the law. And we're confident we will be able to help them pursue any of the law breakers involved. But, again, I think that the challenges, the breadth of their request, we're going to work through it and make sure they get what they need.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Do you think that the committee is making a mistake here by not moving right now?
HARLOW: You do?
TRIBE: I do. It's kind of funny. Both Merrick Garland and Adam Schiff and, for that matter, Jamie Raskin are great former students and friends of mine. This is one, I almost never disagree with Adam, but when the Department of Justice says we want all the files now because we have ongoing prosecutions that you guys don't even know about, they have to comply with that. They can walk and chew gum at the same time. They can put on these wonderful hearings and, at the same time, get sort of - get some of their staff to pull together all the depositions, put them in a move moving van if they have to and make sure, electronically and otherwise, that they get to the Justice Department now.
Now as to the matter of making a report, they are making a report with every moment that they show these events on television. They don't have to tell the Justice Department, by the way, all of this constitutes a crime. The Department of Justice knows that. What the department needs is all the information to fill out the indictments. So, get moving, guys.
HARLOW: Let me ask you one more question very quickly before we go, and that is what has evolved over night, and that is this letter from the committee to Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, saying we need to speak with you. And "The New York Times" obtained the letter -- the committee writes that it had, quote, obtained evidence that John Eastman worked to develop an alternate slate of electors to stop the electoral count on January 6th. They go on to say that the committee has evidence that you, to Ginni, had certain communications with Eastman during this time period. We believe you may have information concerning Eastman's plans and activities relevant to our investigation.
Notable not only because she is the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, but he was involved in two election-related cases, as you know, that made it to the court, and did not recuse himself despite his wife's actions around the 6th of January.
How important is it for -- it sounds like she's going to comply. How important is it for them and America to hear what they ask and what she has to say?
TRIBE: I think it's very important. It's not essential to the committee.
But clearly, even if she were not married to a Supreme Court justice, she was very much involved in the communications with state officials, trying to get them to name substitute electors who were not actually chosen by the people. That's importantly criminal activity. She was very much in touch with Eastman and other people in the White House, coordinating an effort to overturn the election.
What she has to say is important. And she says that she has no problem with it. She's going to -- she welcomes the chance to clear things up. Well, a lot of people have said they welcome the chance, but then when it comes to the details that there's some kind of hiccup.
But it seems to me in this case she really ought to be there.
HARLOW: Professor Laurence Tribe, thank you so much for joining us with your expertise this morning. Have a good weekend.
TRIBE: You too.
HARLOW: Up next, three American veterans who traveled to fight in Ukraine are now missing. What their families are saying about the last time they heard from them.
Plus, the Dow closes at its lowest point in a year amid 40-year high inflation. I will speak with the Democratic congressman who's been pushing the Biden administration to do more to tackle inflation.
And, later, a gunman opens fire at a church in Alabama, killing two people. What we know about the suspects as we await a police news conference next hour.
HARLOW: Well, new this morning, Ukraine's bid to join the European Union received a huge boost today with the European commission now recommending that the country be given, quote, candidate status. There are, however, several more complex steps Ukraine must complete to become a full member of the EU, as it does not happen overnight.
This comes as the State Department is confirming a third American is missing in action in Ukraine. Grady Kurpasi is a former U.S. Marine, and his family says they have not heard from him since late April.
Our Barbara Starr joins me.
Barbara, good morning.
This is sad news to hear because this adds on to the two Americans we were talking about yesterday, reportedly captured. What can you tell us?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, there are now three at least former members of the U.S. military, veterans if you will, who are unaccounted for inside Ukraine.
Let's go over it for a minute.
First we have Alexander Drueke. Now, he was in the U.S. Army. The next picture you see there is Andy Huynh. And, of course, on the far left, you have Grady Kurpasi, a 20-year Marine veteran. But both Drueke and Huynh were seen in a photograph that emerged yesterday in what appears to be the back of a vehicle, appears to be their hands behind their back, some food cans observed in the photo with Russian lettering on them.
Alexander Drueke's mother spoke to CNN about her son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUNNY DRUEKE, MOTHER OF ALEXANDER JOHN-ROBERT DRUEKE: He was excellent at training soldiers. He had done a lot of that not only on the tours, but also later in the Army Reserve. And he says, and I also knows how to operate the equipment that we're sending over there and I can teach them how to do it, because he knew that this was the Ukrainians' fight. He just wanted to be there in the support role.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: Now, the Kremlin spokesman earlier today said to CNN that they knew nothing about the fate of these men. They had been in eastern Ukraine. The two you saw in the photograph disappearing somewhere north of Kharkiv, where fighting had been very heavy.
The State Department working with the International Committee of the Red Cross talking to the Ukrainian government, not clear yet if they're directly trying to talk to the Russians because there is no direct claim by Russia that they have these men. This may be a very difficult situation, of course, for these families.
HARLOW: Oh, of course. Of course.
Barbara Starr, thank you very much for bringing us all the latest on that from the Pentagon.
Joining me now is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and author of "The World: A Brief Introduction," Ambassador Richard Haass.
Ambassador, thank you for being here, especially on a morning like this with a significant development overnight from the European Commission.
It is notable that they said, yes, Ukraine should become a member. But can you explain what it will take now for that to happen and then like how long the timeline is and what that would change, big picture, in the region?
RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Poppy, this is a special case. Ukraine, shall we say, is not a normal country in a normal situation. So normally there's a whole almost choreographed script and timeline, certain things have to be done by a certain date on a calendar. What remains to be seen is how, one, accelerated this is, and, two, Ukraine can't meet many of the normal requirements for getting into European institutions.
Given - look, take one basic fact. This year Ukraine's economy is estimated to shrink by something almost by half. By 45 percent. So, Ukraine simply isn't in a normal, robust, economic situation. Plus, it could get worse and it could be lasting for years. You're going to need to have billions of dollars in euros transferred to it. So I think this is going to be a very special one off situation.
HARLOW: It's interesting you bring up how much the Ukrainian economy is shrinking and how much worse, by the way, that's going to get if these blockades continue. And you wrote in your op-ed a Ukraine strategy for the long haul about how this war ends one of two ways, whether one side imposes its will on the other, first on the battlefield and then perhaps at the negotiating table, or, two, when both sides embrace a compromise.
And you talk about managing being the operative word here, not solving. What do you mean?
HAASS: Well, I don't think this war is going to end. I don't see either side able to totally dominate the other on the - on the battlefield. Ukraine had the upper hand at the outset. Now, Russia seems to have gradually an upper hand. We'll see how this plays out. But I think it's essentially going to be a war of attrition for some time.
Neither sides have a mind to give up, to sue (ph) for peace. If Russia is doing better, as it is, Putin will want to continue. If Russia turns out to be doing worse, Putin won't want to accept defeat.
Ukraine, Mr. Zelenskyy, is not about to give up formally Ukrainian territory. So this is going to go on and on and on. And even if Russia does better, I think then you'll see the Ukrainian action turn into a long-term insurgency. Almost what the - what happened in Afghanistan for years. So this is going to be open ended. And the diplomats can talk about bringing peace and the rest, but I simply don't see it happening.
HARLOW: So, to that point, Fareed Zakaria, our colleague Fareed Zakaria's op-ed in "The Washington Post" this morning points to Gideon Rose's book "How Wars End." Of course, he's a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations. And Fareed writes about being in the middle of this war. And he says, quote, while there are real limits to how much Ukraine can absorb, Washington and its allies in Europe and elsewhere must redouble their efforts. Ukraine and its western partners need to formulate a set of common war aims.
I wonder what you make of his argument because he seems to be on the same page as you about where we are in this.
HAASS: Look, there's two - a couple of half parts to his argument. One is, again, we agree that this situation is not right for any sort of diplomatic resolution. Two, there's a lot more we need to do with Ukraine. One you were getting at, at the beginning, Poppy, is economically.
HAASS: Ukraine needs massive economic help if it's not going to become a failed state. At the same time, it needs massive military help. So, the United States and Europe (ph) need to do more on both ends. And I think that is critical.
Look, the day may come when diplomacy has a chance, but I just don't see it, particularly under this Russian leadership. So, you know, the idea of having common war aims is fine. And we may get to that point. And indeed it's been very vague. The United States keeps saying, well, whatever Ukraine wants is good enough for us. That's not true. We have global interests, not just local interests. But we don't want to get in the position where the United States pushes Ukraine to accept a deal that, among other things, violates the international principle that territory ought not to be acquired by force. We don't want to give the Russian's a victory. We don't want to set a precedent that the Chinese and others might run with.
HARLOW: Richard Haass. Ambassador Haass, thank you very much. Have a nice weekend.
HAASS: Thank you, Poppy.
HARLOW: The U.K. has officially signed off on an order to extradite Julian Assange to the U.S. to face espionage charges. The Wikileaks founder is wanted for publishing thousands of classified files in diplomatic cables. This was in 2010. The documents were leaked by former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. Manning was convicted in 2013 and served seven years before her sentence was commuted. Wikileaks says it will appeal the extradition order and calls it, quote, a dark day for press freedom. If extradited and if convicted, Assange could face up to 175 years in prison.
Still ahead, President Biden says no a recession is not inevitable and, yes, the U.S. can turn around inflation. Our next guest, Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna, says the White House has not done enough. He'll explain why.