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Missing Americans in Ukraine; Wall Street Reeling; January 6 Committee Readying More Hearings. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired June 17, 2022 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: This quick programming note. Join some of the biggest stars as they lift their voices for "Juneteenth: A Global Celebration For Freedom." That's live Sunday night 8:00 p.m. only here on CNN.

Thanks for your time today on INSIDE POLITICS. I hope you have a peaceful weekend.

Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello, and thanks so much for being here on this Friday. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Who's next? The committee investigating January 6 is methodically making its case against the former president. And now it is working to nail down the witnesses for another high-profile hearing, which will focus on former President Trump's efforts to use the Department of Justice to push election lies.

We now know stunning new details about just how close former Vice President Pence came to the rioters as Trump pressured him to stop the vote certification of the 2020 election. It was a move Trump knew was illegal, as several witnesses revealed just yesterday.

Let's get right to CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez.

And, Evan, what more are you learning about next week's hearing?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, the committee, the January Committee, is trying to nail down the list of witnesses that they have from the former Justice Department, former Justice Department officials under former President Trump.

And right now we know that they have slated the acting attorney general at the time, Jeffrey Rosen, his deputy, Richard Donoghue. They were very key in standing up to the former president when he was trying to essentially use the Justice Department to endorse his claims that there was voter fraud and in the end to try to overturn the election results.

One witness that we don't know -- that we know the committee was looking for and it appears will not be showing up is Pat Cipollone, who's the former White House counsel. Now, it would be a very unusual situation, for you to see a former White House counsel sitting before this committee. You would have to go back to John Dean in the Nixon years to have the same kind of imagery.

It appears he's not going to be able to -- he's not going to be on this panel. And also Steve Engel, he's another official who was a key witness on that one big meeting where everybody threatened to quit. That is -- he's also not expected to be part of this hearing late next week, Ana.

CABRERA: We know the committee is also planning are hoping to talk to the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas about her role in the effort to overturn the election and some communications she had with Eastman specifically.

What's the latest with that?

PEREZ: Well, the latest is that she has told reporters that she plans to cooperate, she wants to come in and talk to the committee. She says that there are misunderstandings in the presentation of some of these -- of some of these communications.

Yesterday, as you know, the committee described some of these communications between John Eastman, who was the one who was trying to put together these claims to try to overturn the elections. He was having communications with Ginni Thomas. He published online what he said was the e-mail in question.

And in the e-mail, he says, it's simply that she was asking him to come speak to a group of conservatives. That's what he says this e- mail was about. And he says that the whole thing has been misconstrued, Ana.

CABRERA: The DOJ also asking for transcripts of testimony based on the investigation by January 6 Committee.

PEREZ: Right.

CABRERA: And they say that there's been a delay in getting that. What's going on there?

PEREZ: Yes, look, this is a huge deal. This is a really important thing. The Justice Department is trying to put on trial, to prosecute a group of -- members of the Proud Boys. This is the extremist group, one of the groups that led the charge into the Capitol.

And it appears that the Justice Department is going to have to delay some of those trials because they do not have transcripts from this committee. They have asked since April for the interviews of about 1,000 witnesses, Ana.

And the committee kind of flippantly actually has been responding saying, you can wait, we have more work to do. And this has real consequences, because, under the law, defendants are -- have a right to see all of the materials that could be exculpatory for their trials. And that includes any information that's in possession of the

government. That includes information that's in the possession of Congress. And so, for prosecutors, they really need to turn this over and they need to turn it over. As a matter of fact, there was a deadline today for them to turn over some of this information. They do not have it.

And it appears that the committee is simply saying you're going to have to wait. And so that has real consequences, because, let me tell you, if, if these Proud Boys end up walking, for instance, because the committee is delaying this, turning over this material, that's going to have real consequences going forward for the Justice Department.

CABRERA: So just to be clear, though, Evan, your understanding is they need this testimony because of current prosecutions, not necessarily because of potential future prosecutions or additional indictments?


PEREZ: Right. It's for both. It's for both.


PEREZ: But I drew attention to the current ones because those are the most the most pressing.


PEREZ: Obviously, there are people who are headed -- who are supposed to be on trial in September. And the defense lawyers have a right to see that material.


PEREZ: There are witnesses, there are cooperating witnesses who've talked to the committee. The prosecutors have no idea what they said, and so -- and the defense. So that's why this is important. It's a constitutional issue. It's an important issue for these people to be put on trial.

CABRERA: Evan Perez, thank you very much for your reporting.

And joining us now is Norm Eisen. He was the White House ethics czar and an ambassador in the Obama administration. He's now a CNN legal analyst. Also with us, Paul Rosenzweig. He was senior counsel during the criminal investigation of President Bill Clinton, and that, we know, ended in a recommendation for impeachment.

Norm, former President Trump was told by multiple people that his plan for Pence to overturn the election on January 6 was illegal by Pence, even by Eastman at one point. They said, this is illegal. This is unconstitutional, but he tried to do it anyway. It's objectively wrong. But is it criminal?

NORMAN EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Ana, thanks for having me back. I do think the evidence has been mounting for likely criminal

prosecution of the former president and perhaps others, including John Eastman. We had initially two hearings that were dedicated to the proposition of proving -- and they did prove -- that Donald Trump knew there was no factual basis for him to say he won and Biden lost.

We had a hearing, including Greg Jacob, who was part of these conversations in the White House as the vice president's counsel, also Michael Luttig, the former judge. They established, and the ample video testimony, Trump knew there was no legal basis for the arguments he was making.

So when you add up no factual basis, no legal basis, powerful proof, yes, that deepens the criminal exposure that, as we also heard yesterday, a federal judge has already said is likely for Trump and Eastman.

CABRERA: And, Paul, committee member Rep. Pete Aguilar, he went through a timeline yesterday, showed how President Trump sent a tweet attacking Vice President Pence, the one saying he didn't have courage, after the president was already told by his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, that there was violence breaking out at the Capitol.

Now, Aguilar said, immediately after that tweet, the crowds inside and outside the Capitol surged and overwhelmed police. How strong is that evidence in tying the former president to the actions of the insurrectionists?

PAUL ROSENZWEIG, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICIAL: Well, I think one of the things that this committee has done a good job of showing is that the insurrectionists at least thought that they were acting at the direction of Donald Trump.

From the first -- in the first hearing, there was a wonderful montage of people saying, Trump said I should come, so I came

And now we're seeing Trump tweets his anger, and they react. This is the type of evidence that draws the net around the president, and suggests very strongly that the insurrectionists were acting at his direction, and at least thought that they were responding to the will of their leader.

CABRERA: So you both have suggested that there is sufficient evidence. Of course, having the evidence and then actually convicting somebody of a criminal charge are a couple of different things.

And, Paul, you have argued prior to these hearings -- I'm going to quote you here -- The chances that the criminal cases against the former president will be successful are slim to none."

Again, this was before these hearings. Has your opinion changed at all?

ROSENZWEIG: I still think it is unlikely that a criminal case against the president would be successful. You require a unanimous jury, proof beyond a reasonable doubt. That's a very high bar. And I think it's quite likely that there will be at least one juror on

any juror -- jury that would see the evidence the president's way. That having been said, I also think that the committee has done a masterful job of pulling together the evidence in a structured way and making the case much stronger, painting a picture not just of a riot on January 6, but instead of an entire course of conduct from the -- immediately after the election to January 6 that ties together firings at the DOJ, the efforts to pressure Pence, and then the riots themselves.

So while I'm still guardedly skeptical, I will say that the committee is doing an excellent job of trying to persuade and change people's minds.

CABRERA: Norm, can I ask you about this new development involving Clarence Thomas' wife, Justice Clarence Thomas' wife, Ginni Thomas?

Now the committee wants to talk to her. How important is it that happens?


EISEN: Well, Ana, it's important that every significant lead be pursued. And this is a significant lead.

We know that Dr. Eastman says, oh, it was just a benign e-mail. He's released that e-mail yesterday. But given what we have heard about him, and, frankly, some of the disturbing revelations in the Mark Meadows texts and elsewhere about Ginni Thomas, I think the committee needs to talk to her. Dr. Eastman has taken the Fifth Amendment.

So -- and it's very -- so I think it's an important lead. We will see where it goes, whether it pans out or not, but, yes, very important.

CABRERA: The Justice Department, as we reported, is pushing the select committee for transcripts of witness testimony, which it had initially requested back in April. The DOJ says the committee's refusal to share is leading to delays now in their investigations.

Paul, what should we make of that?

ROSENZWEIG: Well, it's certainly a problem. As you reported earlier, criminal defendants have a constitutional right to any potentially exculpatory evidence that might be in the possession of the government.

And, right now, the government can't fulfill their obligation to turn that over, because they simply don't have the goods. My sense is that the committee is extremely busy, has a lot on his plate, and it's trying to put on a set of hearings right now that are designed to make the case publicly, and that processing the transcript requests is just not at front of mind.

I get that. I would hope that they will be able to turn their attention to it quickly. But, in the long run, I think that the transcripts will be transferred over. The delays that are that are occasioned will not be terribly significant. And in the end, I think justice will be done. At least I hope that's the case.

CABRERA: Paula Reid and Norm Eisen, thank you both so much for spending time with us and offering your expertise. Happy Friday.

ROSENZWEIG: Happy Friday.

EISEN: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: All this is happening in Washington.

Across the country, elections officials tell CNN they are worried about threats of violence ahead of the midterms.

And CNN cybersecurity reporter Sean Lyngaas has more on this.

Sean, what are officials telling you?

SEAN LYNGAAS, CNN CYBERSECURITY REPORTER: Ana, the environment around the country since the 2020 election has gotten a lot more tense, obviously. But it's been also accompanied by physical threats to election officials just for doing their job based on misinformation, disinformation about the voting process.

I talked to the county clerk of Ingham County, which is a county in Michigan that includes the capital. And she's been doing this for about 10 years. And whereas she's been through the 2016 election with Russian interference attempts, 2020 election with Iranian and Russian interference attempts, she says now that domestic disinformation is the biggest threat to democracy.

And she told me she was investing in a new type of blinds for her office so people couldn't see in her office from across the street. So it's gotten a lot more tense. Federal resources are being put towards protecting election officials. But sources I spoke to said it's not nearly enough money or resources to adequately tackle the problem, Ana.

CABRERA: Well, and just the fact that their physical safety could be at risk here is very concerning, obviously.

Sean Lyngaas, thank you. We know we're going to you're going to continue to follow that story.

Turning now to the economy. The stock market is mixed today, could potentially close out a very rough week with more losses, as Wall Street reels from the Fed's biggest rate hike in decades. Right now, it looks like we're in positive territory, at least for today. But hundreds of CEOs say they're bracing for a recession.

At the White House, though, we're hearing a different tune. They're saying the downturn can still be avoided.

Let's bring in CNN's Matt Egan to make sense of all this for us.

Matt, we're hearing two very different outlooks here, one from the Oval Office, and one from the boardroom. MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Ana.

There is quite the contrast here. Now, the White House is doing what they have to do, which is preaching optimism or perhaps cautious optimism. Listen to White House economist Heather Boushey on "NEW DAY" this morning.


HEATHER BOUSHEY, WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Well, one of the reasons it's not an inevitable is because families and businesses are starting off from a strong position right now.

Family household balance sheets remain strong. So all of this puts us in a good position to transition to the kind of stable, shared, steady growth that we need to see for the economy over the long term.


EGAN: But it is that transition that is making business leaders and investors nervous, because it's not going to be easy to go from an economy that is overheating to something that's healthy.

And the concern is that the Federal Reserve is going to overdo its war on inflation by slowing the economy so much that it stops growing altogether. This new survey from the Conference Board showed that 60 percent of global CEOs and executives expect a recession by the end of next year.


An alarming 15 percent say we're already in a recession. Now, CEOs don't have a crystal ball. But what they're feeling matters, Ana, because the risk here is that they get so nervous that they slash spending and lay off workers, causing the very recession that they fear.

CABRERA: So that's the fear for the future. But, right now, already, people are dealing with prices up, interest rates going up. Mortgage rates are up, which all amounts to people paying more for less, right?

EGAN: Absolutely.

Literally, people would not be able to spend the same amount of money on a house as they did a year ago, simply because borrowing costs have gone up. I mean, the era of ridiculously low mortgage rates is over. As you can see, mortgage rates going straight up. The average 30-year rate is now 5.8 percent, a week ago 5.2 percent.

This is the biggest one-week spike since 1987. Mortgage rates have almost doubled from a year ago. And the higher rates go, the less home you can afford. Let me show you what I mean. If you -- buying a home for $250,000 will cost you $335 more per month than it would have a year ago.

And that is strictly based on the fact that mortgage rates are higher. And a $500,000 home is now $670 more than a year ago. And, again, this is not buying you any more home. This money is going to the bank. Now, this is happening because the Federal Reserve is resorting to aggressive interest rate hikes to try to get inflation under control.

This is a feature, not a bug of the Fed's plan. But if you extrapolate this out throughout the entire credit-sensitive economy, you can see, Ana, how these rate hikes from the Federal Reserve are going to have a real impact in terms of slowing this economy down.

CABRERA: Matt Egan, as always, thank you.

EGAN: Thanks.

CABRERA: Missing in action. Three Americans who went to fight in Ukraine are now MIA, but is a new photo providing some clues?

And shooting erupts at a small church in Alabama. Now two people are dead, as gun safety negotiations on Capitol Hill have slowed down. We're following the latest on both those headlines.

Plus, historic floods, severe drought and sweltering heat, extreme weather gripping this nation from coast to coast. Is this the new normal?



CABRERA: President Biden says he has now been briefed on a growing number of Americans missing in Ukraine and he's warning other Americans not to go there.

We now have a photo posted by a Russian blogger that appears to show two of the missing men in the back of a military truck. Their hands appear to be bound behind their backs.

CNN's Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon.

And, Barbara, this comes as the State Department confirms a third American is now missing an action in Ukraine. What more do you know?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, all three of these men have served in the past in the U.S. military.

Let's go back to that photo of the two men in particular and take a deeper look at it. On the left, you have a former U.S. Army soldier, Alexander Drueke. You see his hands behind his back. On the right, former Marine Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, also his hands behind his back.

If you can get a close look at that photo, you would see food cans with paper labels on them with Russian writing. Now, neither of these men have been heard from by their families in some days. So -- and they were in fighting north of Kharkiv, by all accounts, in Eastern Ukraine.

So there's a good deal of concern about their safety. The Pentagon, the State Department, the White House has not said that they are being specifically held by Russians or Russian-backed forces. But the photo raises a good deal of concern about where they are and what has happened to them.

There is a 20-year Marine veteran, let's show his photo for one minute. His name is Grady Kurpasi. There he is on the left. He also went to Ukraine. He has not been heard from by his family, we're told, since April.

The Pentagon, the State Department, again, just like the president, urging Americans not to go. They are in touch, they say, with Ukrainian authorities. They are in touch with the International Committee of the Red Cross. But unless and until they get some specific wording that maybe the Russians have something to tell them about all this, it is going to be very tough business to try and get these three men returned to their families.

Earlier today, in fact, the Kremlin spokesman publicly said they didn't know anything about these three men, so these families in a very, very difficult position, by all accounts, all three very heartfelt, very courageous, went to Ukraine to try and help out there -- Ana.

CABRERA: Barbara Starr, thank you for your reporting.

Let's continue this conversation with Lieutenant General Mark Hertling now. He's a CNN military analyst and was the commanding general of Europe and the Seventh Army.

General, first just your thoughts about these three missing Americans?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, it's tough, Ana. This is a horrible situation.

But going back to before this war even started, I think the president, President Biden, in early February and then again in early March suggested that U.S. citizens should not go to fight independently for Ukraine. The reason for that is, is, we actually have a law on the books. Not many people know about this. And I'm certainly not a lawyer. I won't go into the details, but it's called the Neutrality Act.


It was written in 1794 by George Washington, preventing people to go -- from going to France to fight for the French. It was updated in the late 1800s, again in the 1930s. And it basically says -- it's a U.S. Code provision that says, the U.S. government, not individual Americans, decide foreign policy.

So when you have individuals going to fight for another country, putting themselves in harm's way, whereas it may seem extremely admirable, if they are taken prisoners, if they are taking -- if they are captured, like these three young men have been, it causes some very challenging issues within the State Department and the Defense Department getting them out. And they could be viewed as the opposing country, in this case,

Russia, as mercenaries, and they could be treated more poorly. And it's very difficult for the State Department to say, hey, these are American citizens, because Russia responds with, well, then what the hell are they doing in Ukraine fighting for Ukraine? It's a very delicate situation.

And that's why Americans should not be going to Ukraine to fight for them.

CABRERA: Several other headlines coming out of the war in Ukraine today, including another move to bring Ukraine closer to the West, the European Commission recommending Ukraine received candidate status to join the E.U.

Now, this may not mean additional military commitments, right, but what does it mean for Russia?

HERTLING: Well, it's certainly an information victory for Ukraine, because what is going on is, Ukraine has -- excuse me -- the E.U. has offered this to Ukraine.

Usually, joining the European Union -- and I have seen other nations join it while I was assigned in Europe -- takes months, sometimes years, and in a couple of cases more than a decade. So what you're talking about is the European Union offering membership to Ukraine. It will still take some time to clear all the processes and get them a member.

But it's basically Europe saying, we accept the very brave democratic nation of Ukraine into our fold. That's probably going to upset Russia quite a bit. They have been upset about Ukraine potentially being allowed to join NATO. This is a similar policy, which says, hey, we are treating them as an independent democratic nation.

CABRERA: There have been so many little individual headlines coming out of the battle itself, and it's hard to understand the significance of any one maneuver.

But I do want to ask you about this claim by Ukraine that it has now sunk a Russian resupply tugboat. I remember it seemed like a big deal when Ukraine sunk that Russian warship Moskva. Is this a big deal?

HERTLING: It's always a big deal when you have this kind of a victory, especially coming from a country, Ukraine, that right now does not have a navy.

So what you're talking about is, they are defending their shoreline, even though Russia is claiming that they own all the ports along the Azov Sea and most of those along the Black Sea. So you're talking about Russia attempting to get into the territorial waters of the sovereign nation of Ukraine. And Ukraine is saying, no, you're not. We're going to defend against that and continue to fight against any kind of ships or boats that come into our territorial water.

I personally think this is a big deal, just like all the other what might be considered small victories by the Ukrainian military. This is a big victory. And they will continue to do this, especially as they get more and more anti-ship weapons to put along their ports in the south.

CABRERA: General Mark Hertling, it's good to have you here. Thank you so much for joining us.

HERTLING: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: And today, the wife of Julian Assange says they will use every appeal possible to block his extradition from the United Kingdom to the U.S.

Assange could face up to 175 years in prison for publishing thousands of classified files and diplomatic cables in 2010. The U.S. accuses the WikiLeaks founder of helping former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal the documents and then putting lives at risk when they were published.

Assange has been in London in a prison there for more than three years. His supporters say the case undermines freedom of the press.

Back here at home, a deadly church shooting in Alabama, and now we're learning new details about the man police say opened fire.

Plus, sticking points are stalling gun reform talks on the Hill. Is a deal in jeopardy?