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Recession Fears; January 6 Committee Readies More Hearings. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 17, 2022 - 14:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Victor Blackwell. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM. Alisyn is off.

We start this hour with questions of potential legal jeopardy for former President Donald Trump and his attorney John Eastman.

The January 6 Committee made its most forceful case yet that Trump was responsible for the Capitol insurrection. In its third hearing, the committee revealed evidence that Trump and Eastman knew that their plot to push then-Vice President Mike Pence to help overturn the election results was not legal, but they pressed on anyway, and pursued the fallacy that Pence could delay the certification of results.

Listen to former Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann on his conversation with John Eastman.


ERIC HERSCHMANN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ATTORNEY: I said: "Are you out of your F'ing mind," right? That was pretty blunt.

I said: "You're completely crazy. You're going to cause riots in the streets."

And he said words to the effect of: "There's been violence in the history of our country, Eric, to protect the democracy or protect the republic."


BLACKWELL: Testimony revealed, even after the Capitol riot, Eastman pushed for delay in certifying the election and later asked for a pardon.


RIOTERS: Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLACKWELL: The committee also outlined just how close rioters were to the then-vice president. They pointed out that some of them had seen President Trump's tweet at 2:24 saying that Pence lacked courage.


REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): 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.


BLACKWELL: Some of those rioters came within just 40 feet of Vice President Mike Pence.

Let's turn now to CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

So, we have learned of the multiple times that people inside the Trump orbit rejected Eastman's idea of what Vice President Pence could have done. But, still, the former president pushed on.


And even though he was told and Eastman were both told that it was illegal and that the Supreme Court would never stand for it, and even though Mike Pence directly told Donald Trump multiple times that he would not go through with this effort to simply reject the will of the voters while overseeing the joint certification -- the certification of those electoral votes in Congress, Donald Trump still pushed for Mike Pence to do what he wanted him to do, which was essentially to install him in a second term as president.

This was a pressure campaign that was relentless, began for -- continued for weeks, with Trump pressuring Pence, Eastman pressuring top Pence aides up, until January 5, in which Eastman and Pence aides got into a tense discussion about this.

And on the morning of January 6 itself, the committee revealed that Donald Trump had a heated conversation with Mike Pence, berated him, insulted him, called him a wimp. And Mike Pence still withstood that pressure.

And the reason why, according to Greg Jacob, who was the Pence attorney who testified yesterday before the committee, he said that Mike Pence recognize that what Donald Trump was doing was simply unconstitutional.


GREG JACOB, FORMER COUNSEL TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: No vice president in 230 years of history had ever claimed to have that kind of authority, hadn't claimed authority to reject electoral votes, had not claimed authority to return electoral votes back to the states.

In the entire history of the United States, not once had a joint session ever returned electoral votes back to the states to be counted.


RAJU: Now, Eastman did not cooperate with the committee. In fact, when he appeared to testify before the panel behind closed doors, he took the fifth many times and did not answer the committee's questions.

But the committee did reveal, Victor, that he did seek a pardon, in fact, sending an e-mail to Rudy Giuliani asking to be included on a potential list of pardons. The committee also too revealing, Victor, that he himself, Eastman, recognized that this theory he was pushing was not legally valid, even in October of 2020 had written down that no one has the authority that both Donald Trump and Eastman were claiming Pence had.

So, a lot of key revelations here as the committee presses ahead to its next slate of hearings.

BLACKWELL: Indeed, there were.

Let's move on now to Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The committee wants to hear from her. Is she planning to meet with them?

RAJU: She has indicated that she is open to talking to the committee, suggesting to the conservative news outlet Daily Caller that she wants to clear up some misconceptions.


Now, she was pushing to overturn the elections herself. And, in fact, she had e-mailed Eastman. It's unclear exactly what are in those e- mails to Eastman, but the committee has those in his possession, and also sent a letter to Thomas, saying that they have obtained evidence that John Eastman worked to develop an alternate slate of electors to stop the count on January 6.

And the panel added that it had "evidence that you had certain communications with John Eastman during this time period, and we believe you may have information concerning John Eastman's plans and activities relevant to our investigation."

So we will see, Victor, if she does come forward, if she comes forward behind closed doors, if they have to subpoena her. All that still needs to be worked out.

BLACKWELL: All right, Manu Raju for us on Capitol Hill.

Manu, thank you.

Let's bring in now Elie Honig, CNN senior legal analyst and former federal and state prosecutor. He also wrote the book "Hatchet Man: How Bill Barr Broke the Prosecutor's Code and Corrupted the Justice Department."

Elie, good to see you. Let's start here with DOJ and their exchange with the committee. They

have now renewed their request for the transcripts. And let me read a line from the letter they sent to the committee. "The Select Committee's failure to grant the department access to these transcripts complicates the department's ability to investigate and prosecute those who engaged in criminal conduct in relation to the January 6 attack on the Capitol."

I mean, how unusual is it that in any respect the DOJ investigations are at the mercy of a congressional committee?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is backwards, Victor.

Usually, it's the exact opposite. I was at DOJ for a long time. DOJ prosecutors have every reason to be way out ahead of Congress when it comes to an investigation, because DOJ has way more powerful tools at their disposal. For example, DOJ can issue grand jury subpoenas, which actually have teeth and judges will enforce. Congress only has its own congressional subpoenas, which, as we have seen, can be fairly casually blown off with no consequence.

DOJ can issue wiretaps. Congress can't do that. DOJ can do search warrants. Congress can't do that. So DOJ can use the threat of imprisonment to flip cooperators. Congress can't do that.

So because DOJ has every structural advantage, usually, you see the opposite. You see DOJ way out ahead of an investigation and Congress waiting to go second or sort of scrambling to catch up. But, here, it's reversed.

BLACKWELL: Does this resistance or delay jeopardize any potential criminal charges against former President Trump or any of the political figures?

HONIG: Well, it certainly could jeopardize pending investigations, pending charges.

We know DOJ has charged over 800 people relating to the Capitol attack. Prosecutors have an obligation to turn over exculpatory evidence, meaning evidence that may be helpful to a defendant. And so, if you're a prosecutor, you have to go out and gather any evidence that may help a defendant, even in any small way.

So I also think DOJ is trying to satisfy that here. What they want to avoid is a situation where they say, Judge, there's this evidence that Congress says. We don't have it. Sorry. We can't turn it over. And the judge might then, might, dismiss some of those cases.

BLACKWELL: I watched this really interesting conversation this morning on "NEW DAY" on which Jeff Toobin said that the DOJ should not pursue a case against the former president for using his political influence, his office to try to overturn an election.

What do you think? I thought that was the whole point of this.

(CROSSTALK) HONIG: While I was waiting -- I had done the prior segment. So I discussed this with Jeff right after.


HONIG: And, as I told him, I think, first of all, DOJ has to take a look. There's no justification to say we're not even going to look.

But, to me, if somebody used their official power to commit a crime, especially if the goal of that crime was to help that person stay in power, that's all the more reason that it needs to be investigated and, if the evidence is there, charged.


Ginni Thomas, what we just heard from Manu there, you think this should be more than just an invitation to come and speak with the committee.

HONIG: Count me as highly skeptical, despite her recent statement that she wanted to talk to the committee, that there ever comes a day where Ginni Thomas actually goes in front of this committee, even behind closed doors, and fully answers questions without invoking some privilege or other -- I just am dubious that that ever will happen.

But, look, the committee clearly has a whole long list of questions they need to ask Ginni Thomas. She's everywhere. She was at the January 6 rally. She said she left before the violence started. She was texting with Mark Meadows. She was e-mailing with John Eastman. She was interacting with legislators in Arizona.

So she has her hand in a whole bunch of things here. And if the committee is serious about talking to her, they can subpoena her. But if she's willing to go in there voluntarily and answer questions, then good on her and good for the committee. We will see.

BLACKWELL: We will see if it happens. Elie Honig, thank you.

HONIG: This, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, joining me now, Olivia Troye. She is a former homeland security, counterterrorism and COVID task force adviser to Vice President Pence, and CNN political commentator Scott Jennings, who served as special assistant to President George W. Bush.

Good to have you both.

Olivia, let me start with you, because going into this most recent hearing, there was this competing voices narrative that former President Trump had in one ear all of the officials, members of his team who we heard from who said that this plan was illegal. But, on the other side, he had Eastman saying he could do it.


Now we know that even, according to Marc Short, Eastman acknowledged that it was a violation of the 12th Amendment in the presence of the former president. He did it anyway.

What are your big takeaways from what we heard in this most recent hearing?

OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICIAL: Yes, look, first, it was incredibly just astonishing.

Look, I attended the hearing in person yesterday. And it was astonishing to hear that everyone knew that what they wanted the vice president at the time to do was illegal, and that everyone was acknowledging the fact that it was illegal. And yet they continued to find different ways to continue with their illegal plan.

And so, it's very clear to me that Eastman is in a lot of trouble. This evidence was front and center. And there's no way around that. And I'm hoping that now, as facts and these witnesses come forward, you're hearing from their direct testimony and things that they witnessed firsthand, that Americans are paying attention, and that they're listening to these hearings and understanding why this is so important.

BLACKWELL: Scott, I think the last time we spoke, it was the afternoon before that prime-time hearing, and I asked, what would it take for this to break through with some of those Trump supporters who are still sticking with him?

You said there would need to be something new, something big. We have certainly heard new. Do you think is breaking through?


I think that the committee is going to be viewed by his most ardent supporters as stacked with Trump haters who have been trying to bring him down for a long time. When you see Adam Schiff and Jamie Raskin on television, for instance, that's a signal to those kinds of people you're asking me about that this is a kangaroo court. That's how that's how they would see it.

That doesn't mean these presentations haven't been compelling or these details haven't been chilling. But I don't necessarily see his core supporters peeling off over this. The conversation you had with Elie, by the way, I think is fascinating, not just from a legal perspective, but from a political perspective, because the question would be, if he were to be indicted, or if he were to be put in legal jeopardy by this, what would the political impact of that be?

You might assume it would be bad, but there's some school of thought, Victor, where that actually could turn him into a martyr for people and even solidify his support. So it's a sort of a fascinating game of 4-D chess going on right now in Washington over his future.

BLACKWELL: Scott, when you say that some of the president's supporters turn on the hearings and they hear from Adam Schiff, they're hearing from Bill Barr, they're hearing from Ivanka Trump, they're hearing from Jared Kushner, they're hearing from people who worked in Trump's White House, worked on his campaign. He is the father of one of the people who actually we heard from

during this hearing. So how is it possible they can look at this and say, oh, these are all never-Trumpers?

JENNINGS: Well, they wouldn't think that about his children, certainly.

But I think one thing we have learned about Trump's sort of orbit over the last few years is that, when someone becomes disposable, that's how Trump views them. And then, therefore, that's how his supporters view them.

I mean, Bill Barr was an amazing attorney general. He did a lot of things for Donald Trump. He -- I mean, this was a guy who came in at a time when Trump needed somebody like that and did a terrific job. And now they have discarded him as well.

My point was simply that when Nancy Pelosi chose to put those people on this committee, they ran the risk of politicizing it and sucking the credibility out of it for that particular audience that you're asking me about.

But I think it's, candidly, been quite effective for the committee to put Republicans up there to show that there were a lot of people around Donald Trump who were trying to tell him the truth. So I think that was the most effective thing they could have done, although there's certainly a segment of people they're never going to reach with that message.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Adam Schiff not on the committee, but we certainly have heard from him in relation to it.


BLACKWELL: Olivia, let me come back to you.

We heard from Greg Jacob, e heard from Marc Short about what they witnessed, the pressure that came on to Vice President Pence. But Mike Pence could speak for himself. First, do you think he should? Second, do you think he will?

TROYE: OK, I have been calling for Mike Pence to come forward and at least address a lot of these stolen election narratives that continue to be pushed.

Like, they're still being pushed by candidates that are running for elected office today, which are extremely dangerous for our democracy, for undermining our electoral system. So I have wanted him to come forward and tell the truth from his own words, because I think that would be more powerful to hear from him.

Do I think he will? I don't think he will. I think that what they're doing is -- I think Greg Jacob and Marc Short are as close as we're going to get to Mike Pence. But honestly, I don't know that we would hear anything new from him if he did come forward and testify in a committee hearing, because it'll be the same information that we're getting now.

BLACKWELL: Scott, what do you make of this disagreement, this resistance from the committee, the repeated requests from the DOJ to get those transcripts?

We know that one of the audiences for the hearings is the attorney general, that they, at least some of them have said they want or believe that there are crimes that have been committed. What do you make of what we're seeing?


JENNINGS: Well, I mean, obviously, there are people who -- and we have heard some from our own legal analysts who think Trump has committed crimes, or at least people around him have.

And so, on the one hand, you have this belief that the committee has a responsibility to turn over any of that information, if that's what they believe. On the other hand, it would be a monumental political decision for the current administration to prosecute the president from the previous administration.

I mean, it'd be monumental to prosecute some of his top advisers. And so I do think that there are legal requirements here, but there are countervailing political questions about what it would mean for the country, what it would do to the country, and what it would look like if you decided to prosecute a president of the other party from the previous administration.

I mean, you go back to the Nixon situation, I mean, there was a reason that Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon and decided not to go forward with any prosecutions of him. So I -- what I make of it is, there's no easy answer here, because I think the implications legally and politically are both profound, and it's not clear -- it's not clear what the right answer is, candidly.

BLACKWELL: All right, Scott Jennings, Olivia Troye, thank you.

Well, listen, the cost to fill up your tank is high, above $5 a gallon. So are mortgage rates. So is the cost of food and so many things. In fact, they just had the largest one-week jump in 35 years, speaking about mortgage rates specifically. What this means for you.

And despite the economic turmoil, President Biden says a recession is not inevitable. We will talk more about his remarks next.



BLACKWELL: President Biden today addressed the impact of rising inflation one day after saying recession is not inevitable.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With Russia's war driving up inflation worldwide, threatening vulnerable countries with severe food shortages, we have to work together to mitigate the immediate fallout of this crisis.

In the United States, I'm using every lever available to me to bring down prices for the American people.


BLACKWELL: Inflation and interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve are having a significant impact on mortgage rates. They have hit their highest weekly jump in 35 years.

CNN's Matt Egan joins me now.

Not a good time for homebuyers.

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, that's right, Victor.

Fed policy can be sort of mysterious and confusing. But there's nothing confusing about what's happening in the housing market right now. It used to be ridiculously cheap to get a mortgage. And it's not anymore. The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage went from 5.2 percent a week ago to 5.8 percent now.

It's the biggest one-week spike in more than three decades. And the higher rates go, the less home you can afford. Let me show you what we mean. If you're buying a home, priced at $250,000, 20 percent down, your total costs over the life of that loan is $121,000 higher today than a year ago.

And on a home that was a half-a-million dollars, your total cost over the life of the loan is $241,000 higher. And, again, this is only because mortgage rates are higher. Now, on a monthly basis, this really eats into your budget; $250,000 home, you're now spending $335 more per month. And that money is not getting you an extra bedroom or an extra bathroom or a swimming pool. That's all going to the bank.

And on a half-a-million-dollar home, you're talking about $670 more per month. If you extrapolate this throughout the very credit- sensitive economy that we live in, you can see how Fed policy shifting to very aggressive rate hikes is going to have a big impact on the economy, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Yes, 600 bucks a month is a lot. That's a significant change.

Let's talk about the concerns about a recession, more concern from business leaders. What are you hearing?

EGAN: Yes, Victor, there are a growing number of business leaders who are getting concerned about the risk of a recession.

This new survey put out today from the Conference Board found that 60 percent of global CEOs and executives expect a recession in the next 12 to 18 months; 15 percent say we're already in a recession, at least in their region. That is an alarming, high number. And these CEOs, it's not like they're clairvoyant. I mean, they don't

have a crystal ball. They don't know what's going to happen. But it is important to listen to how they feel, because the risk here is that their recession fears cause them to stop spending, to lay off workers.

And that would actually cause the recession that they fear. It's easy to get into a situation here, Victor, where you get a self-fulfilling prophecy.

BLACKWELL: Matt Egan for us.

Thank you, Matt.

EGAN: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Joining me now is CNN economics and political commentator Catherine Rampell, opinion columnist for "The Washington Post," and CNN political analyst Margaret Talev, managing editor of Axios.

Ladies, welcome to you both.

Catherine, let me start with you.

You have got on one side these CEOs who are concerned strongly about a recession coming, and the president telling the AP it's not inevitable. Is it more likely than it was 48 hours ago?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know that recession -- recessionary chances changed so dramatically within the past 48 hours.


I think, over the past few months, the risks of recession have significantly increased. And that's partly because the war in Ukraine has continued and continued to disrupt energy and other commodity markets. It's partly because we have a whole lot of other shocks affecting the economy, an avian flu. You had the lockdowns in China, which are finally starting to lift, but are still disrupting things.

So those risks are building for inflation. And, as a result, the Fed has had to act much more aggressively than they had previously forecast, and the chance of their overshooting, of their raising interest rates so far to tamp down inflation and demand has risen, and, therefore, the chances of a recession have risen as well.

Historically, when the Fed has raised interest rates to deal with inflation, they have accidentally tipped us into recession. So all of those things combined mean that it -- I agree, it's not inevitable on any particular time frame. But the chances are higher.


Margaret, we also learned in this transcript of the AP interview that the president acknowledged, he said that the country is really, really down. Now, he said that in the context of the pandemic and coming out of it. And he was asked, what's a president's role? He said, be confident.

The American people aren't terribly confident. Those numbers are actually sliding.


We know from recent polling something like one in five adults -- this is a terrible number -- thinks the U.S. is heading in the right direction, thinks that the economy is good right now. President Biden's own approval rating now dipping below 40 percent. So people aren't optimistic about the coming year and are taking it out on him.

Of course, he's the president. It's interesting. What he's talking about is really important. When he says people are really, really down, he's acknowledging the psychological malaise that we all know about. And when he talks about, be confident, he's also acknowledging that, as Matt Egan was saying earlier, as Catherine was alluding to, the national psyche, the psyche of investors, of individuals, of consumers, that all plays into whether we go into recession, and how deep and long it lasts.

And so I think part of what President Biden is trying to do is acknowledge the way people feel to try to change the way they feel. He's trying to project confidence to stave off what may be on the path to happening right now.

And another big part of this is that we also know, in times of major economic distress, in times of recession, people are psychologically distressed. So, on the one hand, he's trying to say, let's all stay upbeat to mitigate how bad this becomes. And, on the other hand, he's saying -- he's really worried that there could be increased suicide rates play out if we slide into a deeper pit.

BLACKWELL: Gas prices now $5 a gallon, up and down maybe two or three cents over the last couple of days. The White House is now, according to sources, not going to send out these rebate cards, gas cards to people.

Are there any I don't want to call them sugar highs or quicker fixes that can help people that are plausible, if not these gas cards?

RAMPELL: It's really challenging, right? The problem is that demand is really strong and supply is constrained.

Oil production is rising. It has been rising for basically the past year or so. But it's not rising as quickly as we would like. And the real challenge is that oil companies, both the -- those actually drilling and those who are doing the refining, are looking at the long-term trajectory of their industry and saying, we don't think that there's going to be huge demand for fossil fuels 20 years out.

Some of the investments we would need to make to ramp up supply in the near term are 20-year investments. So it doesn't make sense for them to build a new refinery, for example, to -- so that there could be more oil that is refined into petroleum products like gasoline, because it's just not going to pay off in the long run. So they're looking at their incentives and saying, hey, we're not here

to lose money. Yelling at us about greed and profiteering and all of that isn't going to do anything if, in fact, these investments won't pay off. So there are relatively limited things that they can do.

I mean, they could change some incentives. They could try to cap some of the near-term downside risk, by which I mean they could insure some of these oil companies against losses if in fact oil prices come down quickly in the next year. That's one thing that they're worried about. Like, prices are high today. But will they maintain those levels by the time they start drilling more and that oil becomes available?


RAMPELL: Is the price going to crash and they will all go bankrupt again, like they did in 2020?

So Biden could do -- has some tools available to do things like that, but they'd be very unpopular. They know that, right?

BLACKWELL: Yes, to give money or to support the oil industry.

RAMPELL: Right, to tell the oil industry, we want to make sure you continue making money.

BLACKWELL: Yes. We got your back. Yes.

Margaret, let me ask you about what David Frum tweeted out. He said that a potential economic downturn, the timing could coincide with Trump returning to the political stage.