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Jan 6 CMTE: Document Shows Lawyer John Eastman, Who Helped Craft Scheme To Overturn Election, Knew His Legal Theory Was Bogus; Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) Discusses About January 6 Committee Case On Donald Trump Including Handing Transcripts To DOJ; Average Mortgage Rate Hits 5.78 Percent, Biggest Weekly Jump Since 1987. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 17, 2022 - 15:00   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Top of the hour on CNN NEWSROOM, good to have you along. I'm Victor Blackwell.

We're starting this hour with the 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. This was their third hearing and the Committee revealed evidence that Trump and Eastman knew that their plot to push then-Vice President Mike Pence to delay the certification of the election results was not legal, but they kept unrelenting pressure on Pence anyway with Trump berating and cursing at him on the phone. Listen to former Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann on his conversation with John Eastman.


ERIC HERSCHMANN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I said to him, are you out of your effing mind. And I - that was pretty blunt. I said you're completely crazy. You're going to cause riots in 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 a delay in certifying the election and later asked for pardon.


CROWD: Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence.


BLACKWELL: Well, the Committee also outlined just how close Pence got to these Capitol rioters or they got to him. After Trump sent out a tweet at 2:24 pm accusing the former vice president of not having the courage to overturn the election. The Committee says the tweet whipped up that crowd.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just heard that Mike Pence is not going to reject any fraudulent electoral votes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are a traitor.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. You've heard it here first. Mike Pence has betrayed the United States of America.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) Mike Pence.

SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: It was clear that it was escalating and escalating quickly.

CROWD: Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence. Hang Mike Pence.

MATTHEWS: So then when that tweet, the Mike Pence tweet was sent out, I remember us saying that that was the last thing that needed to be tweeted at that moment. The situation was already bad and so it felt like he was pouring gas on the fire by tweeting that.


BLACKWELL: The Committee showed just two minutes after that tweet, an angry mob got about 40 feet from Pence. The Committee said that one informant told federal investigators that the proud boys would have killed Mike Pence if they could have.

CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill for us. Manu, the pressure was not just that day, that morning. This was a campaign that went on for weeks to get the then-vice president to essentially do something that we now know they knew at that time was unconstitutional.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, repeatedly told both the president and along with his top attorney who was pushing this theory of John Eastman, were both told repeatedly it was illegal. It was unconstitutional and Pence wouldn't do it.

Eastman, also the company revealed acknowledged privately that this was not legal but still pushed ahead. And Donald Trump made this case repeatedly to Mike Pence to essentially ignore the will of the electorate while he was presiding over that joint session of Congress to count the electoral votes, certify those state, certify electoral votes to essentially ignored those votes and install him for a second term or at the very least, somehow send those votes back to states to review them and deny Joe Biden his electoral victory.

Mike Pence held firm. He said he would not do that.


Even though Donald Trump berated him including on the morning of January 6 in an - previously undisclosed phone call in which Donald Trump called him a wimp, questioned his manhood in very vulgar terms.

And Eastern himself was pushing up until the day before for Pence's aides to move ahead with this theory that was clearly unconstitutional. But nevertheless, Mike Pence on that day on January 6 was in the Capitol to move forward with his constitutional duty and as rioters breached the Capitol as they were chanting hang Mike Pence, some looking for Mike Pence as a result of those calls for him to overturn the election, Pence himself refused to leave the Capitol. According to his attorney who testified yesterday, Greg Jacob.


GREG JACOB, FORMER COUNSEL TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: The vice president had refused to get into the car. The vice president did not want to take any chance that the world would see the Vice President of the United States fleeing the United States Capitol. He was determined that we would complete the work that we had set out to do that day that it was his constitutional duty to see through and that the rioters who had breached the Capitol would not have the satisfaction of disrupting the proceedings beyond the day on which they were supposed to be completed.


RAJU: Now, this committee is still pressing ahead, but there are - there's a separate investigation that the Justice Department is conducting, a wide ranging probe looking at criminality involving January 6. They have asked the January 6 Committee on Capitol Hill to provide is witness testimony of those more than 1,000 witnesses who have testified.

So far the Committee has said no, Bennie Thompson, the Chairman of the Committee saying that these are two separate investigations. They will work on their own track eventually cooperate with the Justice Department's own probe and the Justice Department is raising concerns with that approach saying it could delay their own investigation, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right. Manu Raju with the latest for us. Thank you, Manu.

The 1/6 committee is a few days out from their next hearing, but we know the panel is still trying to nail down a witness list. Sources tell CNN that hearing is expected to focus on Trump's efforts to use the Justice Department to support his election lies. CNN Senior Justice Correspondent, Evan Perez joins us now, so what are you learning about the next hearing? EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Victory, I think some

of the most powerful testimony has come from some of these very, very high ranking aides like Greg Jacob, who you saw very powerfully talked about what he saw that day. And so the Committee was hoping to get Pat Cipollone who was the former White House Counsel and who everyone says played an important role in trying to stop the former president from doing some of the things that he was trying to do, perhaps worse things could have happened if he had not intervened and helped get the help of other lawyers involved. But it looks like he's not going to be testifying on this new panel that they're expected to have later next week, perhaps as soon as Thursday.

We expect that we're going to hear from Jeffrey Rosen, the former acting attorney general, as well as Richard Donoghue, who was his deputy at the time. Also, the Committee was hoping to get Steve Engel, who was the head of the Office of Legal Counsel during that period, and again, was a key witness during some of these events as the president at the time was trying to use the Justice Department to support his claims about vote fraud. He also appears to be a no for that hearing.

So we're probably going to see two top Justice Department officials at the time who are going to - we expect describe very, very powerfully what they witnessed personally from the President as he was trying to pressure the Justice Department to help him. Victor?

BLACKWELL: All right. Next hearing is on Tuesday. This delay that - it's described by the Justice Department that way, the delay of transferring the transcripts from the Committee, from the testimony, what do we know about the request? Why the panel is not handing them over now?

PEREZ: Well, so far, as Manu just mentioned, the members of the Committee have said, look, they're going to have to wait, we are doing our own separate thing. But this has real consequences for the justice department already. According to a court filing, they've had to delay the trial of a few members of the proud boys. This is the right wing extremist groups that was a key part of breaching the Capitol.

According to the prosecutors, they need to see these transcripts, including people who the Committee has interviewed, who are cooperating witnesses, because they need to turn them over to the defense. Of course, every - before you go on trial, the defense has a right to see everything in the possession of the government and that includes, Victor, includes the transcripts of interviews that have been done by this committee.


So it appears that there's still these conversations being had. We know that led - already one of the trials is being delayed. The fear I think from the prosecutors, as they laid out in a letter to the Committee, is that this case is going to delay not only this trial, but additional trials and additional prosecutions, which, of course, is the goal of all of this. To make sure people are being held accountable for what happened on January 6th, Victor? BLACKWELL: All right. Evan Perez for us there in Washington, thank

you very much.

Congressman David Cicilline is a Democrat from Rhode Island. He's a former member of the House - oh, he is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and served as an impeachment manager for Donald Trump's second trial. Didn't want to retire there. Congressman. Thank you for your time for being with me.

REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D-RI): Thank you. I appreciate that.

BLACKWELL: I know you do. Let me start here. I want to get to the broader questions. But let me start with where Evan left off here, the delay from the Committee and handing over these transcripts. You were part of the, as I said, second impeachment trial. If these are, according to the DOJ jeopardizing some of those other criminal cases, should the Committee hand these transcripts over?

CICILLINE: Well, I think Chairman Thompson has indicated on several occasions that the Committee intends to furnish the Department of Justice with all of the information they seek and all the information that they've collected during the course of the January 6 investigation. I think that the Committee is obviously interested in moving forward carefully and being certain that it's clear to everyone that they're responsibly as a legislative committee is different than the ongoing criminal investigation of the Department of Justice. But I don't have any doubt that the department justice will get all of the evidence collected by the January 6 Committee and they'll get it as soon as the January 6 Committee thinks it's appropriate to get it to them.

But I think they want to protect the integrity of the work they are doing and presenting a case to the American people of what they uncovered and set of legislative recommendations that are to follow from the Committee's report. So I think, look, the - they're laying out this case and I know that the Justice Department and their prosecutors are watching. And I expect that they will want lots of evidence that has been collected by this extraordinary group of members of Congress in a bipartisan way that have gathered enormous evidence about the events surrounding January 6th.

BLACKWELL: All right. Let's turn to the hearing now. So we know now that Donald Trump was told by even the man who was pushing this unconstitutional plan, that it was just that illegal, that's according to Marc Short, who said that it happened several times. You're a lawyer. Do you see evidence of prosecutable crimes here committed by the former president?

CICILLINE: Well, look, you don't have to take my word for it. The federal judge back in March said that it was more probable than not that the former President of the United States committed federal crimes in a ruling that he made in March. I think there's no question that evidence has been presented of criminal activity. Obviously, the Justice Department will ultimately make a judgment as to whether or not they will file criminal charges and whether there is sufficient evidence to support those. But look, this was a scheme that the former president and his closest

allies concocted to keep Donald Trump in office despite the fact that he knew he lost the election. And in fact, Judge Carter said it was a coup in - an attempted coup in search of a legal theory. There was no legal basis for this. They knew it was illegal. They knew he lost. They were told by everyone who had any legal training that that was the case and they went forward anyway with a very sophisticated scheme that included threatening the vice president the United States.

And when protesters and rioters were yelling, hang Mike Pence, the former president apparently said, well, maybe that's what he deserves. So this is deadly serious. This is a president who refuse to accept the will of the American people in our democracy and concocted a scheme to keep himself in office and use every means possible, including violence to do so.

And this is the most serious threat to our democracy in my lifetime. And I'm gratified that the January 6 Committee is putting forth all of this evidence to the American people so we can do everything in our power to make sure it never ever can happen again in this country.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you about the talks happening over gun reform in the Senate. The top Republican negotiator John Cornyn is back in Texas. He said that it is time to fish or cut bait. There he says that Democrats are trying to now renegotiate some elements that have already been decided. Are you still confident that there will be some package coming out of the Senate?

CICILLINE: I hope so. Look, we passed protecting America's kids out of the House.


It's a very significant gun safety package that will attack ghost guns, attack straw purchasing, provide for safe storage, address high capacity magazines and a number of other provisions.

And I know this Senate has been at work, Sen. Murphy has been an incredible champion. I hope they come to some agreement, because it cannot be the case with the kind of gun violence epidemic that we have in this country that Congress does nothing. The House provided a really strong framework, a great bill, they ought to adopt as much of that as possible.

My preference would be passed the bill we sent them and send it to the President's desk. But I recognize in the Senate, we need 10 Republicans who thus far have stood in the way of any common sense gun safety legislation. So I hope - I'm cautiously optimistic that we'll get something from the Senate that will make a meaningful difference and save lives.

But if we don't, I think the American people will recognize this one political party that's fighting hard for common sense gun safety legislation and there's one political party, the Republicans, that are refusing to do anything to address gun violence in this country, and they're going to pay a price for that in November. BLACKWELL: Congressman, let me go back to the hearings, because I

just got while you were giving that answer on gun reform, an update on to people who will be testifying on Tuesday. Georgia officials were expecting to hear from Gabe Sterling, a Georgia election official, and Brad Raffensperger, who is the Secretary of State there as well. Your expectations, the significance of the Committee hearing from those two officials?

CICILLINE: Well, I think we have seen evidence of how broad and wide the former president's scheme was to try to stay in power and it included reaching out to us state election officials and urging them or even demanding that they find some additional votes to change the results of elections.

This is very, very serious evidence. We know that the election officials in Georgia withstood those efforts by the former president to try to get them to do things which would have changed the election and resulted in voters in Georgia having their votes replaced by the decision of the former president. That is antithetical to democracy.

So I think this is very important evidence of just how brazen this scheme was, and how desperate they were to do anything to overturn the election and keep Donald Trump as President of the United States even though he lost the election and even though the electors had been sent to certify the election of Joseph Biden.

Everyone who cares about democracy should be paying close attention to this. This is the most serious threat in our democracy, as I said in my lifetime, and we have to make sure that everyone who was involved in this in any way is held fully accountable.

BLACKWELL: Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island, thank you, sir.

CICILLINE: Thank you. Good to be with you.

BLACKWELL: The January 6 Committee wants answers from the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, raising questions over how politicized the court has potentially become.

And with stocks in a bear market and inflation soaring, the risk of recession is a topic of discussion everywhere but not if you ask President Biden. He says it's not inevitable.



BLACKWELL: Inflation and an interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve have caused mortgage rates to take their highest weekly jumps since 1987. Now the 30-year fixed rate surged by more than half a percentage point averaging 5.78 percent. This time last year, it was 2.93 percent. The housing joins food and gas on the list of prices that keep rising.

Let's go now to CNN White House Correspondent Arlette Saenz, so what's the President saying about it?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, as some economists predict that a recession may be looming, President Biden pushed back on that idea in an interview with the Associated Press, saying that he does not believe that a recession is inevitable and also arguing that he believes the U.S. is in a strong position to fight inflation compared to the rest of the world.

But even as the President is expressing a little bit of optimism there, he did acknowledge the weariness that so many Americans are feeling at this moment when you have issues like the COVID 19 pandemic and this floundering economy really hitting Americans in their pocketbooks.

Now today, the President spoke about inflation in global terms as he held a virtual meeting with leaders from more than 20 countries that make up the world's largest economies. And the President once again pinned inflation on Russian President Vladimir Putin is war in Ukraine and argued that fighting inflation remains a top priority.


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. And our nations are working together to stabilize global energy markets.


SAENZ: Now even as the president there talks about using every lever possible to try to bring down prices, he has also acknowledged over the course of the past few weeks that there's little he can do in the short term to lower gas prices and food prices, which keeps increasing at this moment.

One area that the White House is closely watching right now is what's the impact of those interest rate hikes that the Federal Reserve enacted yesterday, what impact that will have on the economy on the long-term - in the long-term, though, the White House has insisted that the Fed should maintain its independence and that the Federal Reserve is one of those actors that can actually help potentially drive down inflation.


And right now the White House will be watching that closely as they know that this could be a political liability for them heading into those midterm elections, as so many Americans have anxiety about those rising prices, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Arlette Saenz for us. Thank you, Arlette.

Here to discuss Austan Goolsbee, former Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama. Good to have you back. Let's start here with this assertion from the President, that a recession is not inevitable. Few things are inevitable. But do you expect that it is very likely, unlikely over the next 18 months? What's your assessment?

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, FMR. CHAIRMAN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISER UNDER PRES. OBAMA: Well, I think he's right, it's definitely not inevitable. And if we got positive news, say on the virus, or if the war did not continue to get worse, we might get some beneficial supply shocks of the opposite form that we've been taking blows for the last two years of supply chain getting deeply messed up and driving prices up.

With that said, when the Fed is raising rates and raising them at this kind of speed, fastest rate of increase in a number of decades, you always got to be thinking about the possibility of recession. The majority of the recessions in the United States have been caused by the Fed raising interest rates faster than the economy can handle. So you definitely shouldn't rule it out. I don't know that it's more likely than not, but it's far above zero.

BLACKWELL: Far above zero, Austan. Is that all you got for me, far above zero? Do you think it - probably.

GOOLSBEE: Well, (inaudible) there's a school of thought that says always say one-third and then whatever happens you say, see, I said it was a one-third chance. So I don't know what the number is, but it's definitely a risk, I think there's a heightened risk substantially higher than in normal times, because the Fed is raising interest rates like that.

And you add on top of it for all the discussion about stimulus, the stimulus was in 2021 and what matters is how do things change relative to last year.


GOOLSBEE: So in 2021, there was a plus 1.9 trillion, but that becomes a minus 1.9 trillion for 2022 or thereabouts. So that's going to be pulling the economy down as well. I think there's going to be a lot that the Fed is going to have to chew on and the Fed is really normally are where the rubber hits the road for inflation, because they can move so much faster than the legislation can.

BLACKWELL: Yes, but they can't control everything and you mentioned the supply chain there. The President's plan for bringing down inflation essentially comes down to let the Fed handle it. It's an independent agency, let them do it. But the Fed can't control the supply chain challenges. The Fed can't control what's happening in Ukraine, the Russian sanctions and all related to that war. So what is the scope in this environment, particularly, of the Fed's ability to control some of this rise of the inflation?

GOOLSBEE: I would say, Victor, you're right on the spot where the economists have some disagreement. If you think that the main thing driving inflation is excess demand, the Fed can do that. The Fed's only instrument is to raise interest rates and to cool off the demand of interest rate sensitive parts of the economy like housing, like consumer durables, demand and stuff like that.

But if you think a lot of this inflation is coming from supply chain disruption, raising the interest rate will not fix those supply chain disruptions. So the Fed can slow the economy. But a slower economy doesn't automatically translate into lower inflation and there's a danger of stagflation.

So I think the situation the Fed is in is a lot more complicated than some of the loudest critics have portrayed it, because they got a lot of dimensions that they're trying to weigh this off on. But it's important to remember, President Biden's not wrong. We want the Fed to be the first line of defense in thinking about inflation, because they can act so much more rapidly and they get the data so much more frequently than the policymakers do.

BLACKWELL: Austan Goolsbee, always good to have you as part of the conversation. Thanks for your time.

Well, after contentious 2020 election that ended in an insurrection, election officials are concerned about their safety going into the midterms, details ahead.