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Humanitarian Efforts In Ukraine; Charging Two Florida Deputies; January 6th Committee Hearing; U.S. Space Force; U.S. Intelligence Reveals Russia Plotting to Undermine Midterm Elections; Georgia, Arizona Officials to Testify About Pressure to Overturn 2020 Election; Flight Cancellations Plague Industry as Millions Hit Airports; Juneteenth Celebrations Underway Across the U.S.; Former Navy SEAL Helps Humanitarian Effort in Ukraine. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired June 19, 2022 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): New reporting, how Russia is planning new tactics to meddle in the midterms and undermine American democracy.
Meantime, the January 6th Committee making its case that Donald Trump should face criminal charges for trying to throw the election.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): I think what we're presenting before the American people certainly would rise to a level of criminal involvement by a president and definitely failure of the oath.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unprecedented heat swelters nearly a third of the U.S. population. A scorching summer comes early in western Europe.
ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The White House is really trying to strike an optimistic tone about the state of the economy while acknowledging the pain that so many Americans are feeling amid these rising prices.
BRIAN DEESE, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL DIRECTOR: We have a stronger and better position to tackle inflation than almost any other country around the world.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-TX): What Juneteenth does is it channels a way for America to talk about slavery and to talk about it without intimidation and without anguish to honor slaves who have never been honored.
BROWN: I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. And Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there.
And we begin tonight with new CNN reporting. U.S. intel is warning of another potential Russian plot to interfere with the 2022 midterms. Homeland and national security officials say they are worried that Kremlin meddling like hacking into smaller and more local election authorities in this country and creating disinformation campaigns. That could have a significant impact on the November elections.
CNN's Isaac Dovere joins me now from Washington. So this is not new, Isaac, the idea of meddling in the elections. We know similar campaigns were used during the 2016 election and after that as well. What has changed with these threats since then?
ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's more sophistication and the kinds of asymmetric warfare that are involved here and, also, more divisions that the Russians are able to play into. What officials that I spoke to are warning of is the potential that Russian hackers will go in and deliberately get caught, get caught so that they are then exposed and people say, oh, the Russians got into our system and then that undermines faith in the elections even more.
Obviously we're seeing that that is a huge problem right now especially among supporters of former President Trump who have pushed the idea that there are problems with the election integrity.
BROWN: Wow, that is so fascinating just the change in the thinking from the Russian side, right, because before they always said we had nothing to do with this, but now they actually would want it to be -- they would want them to be identified. And look, the fact is this is a hyper partisan climate, right? Disinformation has become more sophisticated, as you said. Tell us how officials believe these threats could play out beyond that.
DOVERE: Look, one of the things that we sometimes forget about is that the elections are administered by about 8,000 different authorities around the country at the county level, the local level. These are people -- imagine election clerks, county election clerks, that are going up against the Russian intelligence right now.
BROWN: Yes. Right.
DOVERE: And that they have to rely on whatever systems they have to -- and whatever, a couple of the people that I spoke to said, look, I talked to my IT guys, we're trying what we can do to get security. So one of the things that was sketched out to me was it could be as simple as going in and getting voter registration records and posting them online. And if you think about how much -- how many tremors that would send through the system. Oh, the Russians are in the system. They know what's going on.
Can they try to change the results of the election? Are any of these things possible? They're all possible even though actually election security has gotten much higher over the last couple of years, but the Russians are now playing into, the intelligence officials think, this feeling that is around that there are problems.
BROWN: And you just have to think about those election workers, many of them volunteers, civil servants, already been under siege since the 2020 election, now having to deal with this. So you have this atmosphere of distrust in elections coupled with just the sheer number of local elections. U.S. officials are saying look, there is no way to truly be ready for an attack. So what, if anything, are they doing to counteract this?
DOVERE: Well, look, there are efforts going on to try to share information with local election officials. These are best practices. But there's only so much that can be done. There's a lot of push among officials that I spoke to to actually get out there ahead publicly and talk about this threat. But part of the problem is that since there's so much distrust around already it's not like President Biden could walk out and say, hey, the Russians are trying to hack our elections and we should expect that at least among a lot of people that would be taken seriously.
And so it puts American officials in this really difficult position. When there is hacking, do they call it out and say this is the Russians because that is actually what's going on, or does it feed more distrust or what do they do about it?
DOVERE: And meanwhile, the Russian intelligence and the Russian government that's behind this are only happy to see more and more division sown within America because it undermines faith in Americans.
DOVERE: It undermines Americans' faith in each other, and puts us into more and more problems.
BROWN: Right. It undermines democracy. I mean, that is the goal. Officials I've spoken to in DHS and other intelligence agencies have said that those officials who continue to sow distrust in the U.S. of U.S. elections like the 2020 election, they are basically, in essence, doing the bidding of, like what Russia wants, right? They want to sow this distrust. And so, in essence, they are helping Russia accomplish that goal, and we want to know it's not just Russia, right. You have China and you have Iran.
DOVERE: It's true, although one of the things that I have in this reporting is that there was a Homeland Security intelligence assessment that came out a week and a half ago that looked at how Russia was trying to look at the election specifically in vengeance for Ukraine, that they are even more annoyed.
DOVERE: It's not like Russia was in a good situation towards us already, but because of the economic sanctions, that they are hurting and they want to put the hurt on America. But another way that these efforts have become more sophisticated and evolved is they've gotten much better at seeing how to tap into social media networks and Facebook groups and things like that so that once they get the information out there and they get caught in the act on purpose, then they feed it into that and it becomes this sort of conspiracy feedback loop that becomes more and more of a snowball rolling down the hill.
BROWN: That is really troubling. Isaac Dovere, thank you so much for bringing your excellent reporting to our attention.
DOVERE: Thank you.
BROWN: Well, the January 6th Committee holds two more hearings this upcoming week and first up on Tuesday it will focus on then-President Donald Trump's pressure on state election officials to illegally overturn his loss.
CNN's Katelyn Polantz is here. So Katelyn, walk us through what to expect here.
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pam, today and in these upcoming hearings, every day is going to focus on another different aspect of Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the election. So Tuesday the focus will be on the states, specifically battleground states that Donald Trump lost. We know that the committee is going to be digging into what happened in Arizona and in Georgia.
So let me walk through the officials that we know are going to be testifying. There are three, all Republicans, that are lined up for Tuesday. One, the first and second will be from Georgia, that would be Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state, his deputy, Gabe Sterling. Raffensperger, of course, was on the receiving end of this phone call from Donald Trump in January of 2021 when Trump said he wanted him to find votes for him in the election even though Trump had lost. He did not have enough votes to win that state.
The third person that we're going to hear from is Rusty Bowers, he is the speaker of the Arizona Statehouse. Bowers also was receiving a phone call from Trump after the election, and he says that he has told the Arizona republic about this before. He said that Trump was pressuring him essentially to use the legislature to pick a winner in that state to supplant the electoral slate that Joe Biden would have that would be sent to the federal government to certify his win in Arizona. Bowers was basically getting pressure from Trump and others not to do that and to override the outcome of the election there.
And so while we are going to be hearing from these state officials, and we do know that this involved lots of people in various battleground states, there were Trump campaign people involved, Trump lawyers, the committee is continuing to remind us today especially that Tuesday is going to be about Trump himself, what Trump knew, what Trump was deciding to do, and what he specifically was doing with his own voice and decision-making.
So we had members of the committee on TV earlier today. Here's how they were characterizing what they're going to be saying in these upcoming hearings and also their findings so far.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KINZINGER: I certainly think the president is guilty of knowing what he did, seditious conspiracy, being involved in these, you know, kind of different segments of pressuring DOJ, the vice president, et cetera.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We will show evidence of the president's involvement in this scheme. We will also, again, show evidence about what his own lawyers came to think about this scheme.
DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Why not subpoena Mike Pence, for example? I know you asked him to testify voluntarily. That didn't happen.
SCHIFF: You know, we're not taking anything off the table in terms of witnesses who have not yet testified.
BASH: So Mike Pence is a possibility still?
SCHIFF: You know, certainly a possibility. We're not excluding anyone or anything at this point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
POLANTZ: So Adam Schiff there, he's indicating that we could be in for some surprises as the hearings continue on.
So that's important to remember, too, that this is an ongoing investigation. We don't know what new information is coming out or even what still is to be collected, what people may step up and say -- Pam.
BROWN: Yes. That's what they've been saying, that evidence is coming in on a consistent basis. So we will have to wait and see. Thank you so much, Katelyn.
Well, many Americans traveling on this Father's Day have seen their plans just thrown into chaos. More than 800 flights have been canceled today and more than 3,000 since Friday.
CNN's Camila Bernal is at LAX in Los Angeles. So, Camila, what is causing so many delays on this busy travel weekend?
CAMILE BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Pamela, first of all there are a lot of passengers and a lot of people flying this weekend. Of course it's Father's Day weekend coinciding with Juneteenth so a lot of people have Monday off and that increases the numbers. But the reality is that the airlines just cannot keep up with these numbers. They're trying but the reality is that it's almost impossible and it's because of a number of reasons.
First of all, there are weather problems, delays and cancellations. Then you have shortages of staff and you have infrastructure challenges. All of this leading to more and more cancellations. And it's not just this weekend. It's the entire summer. But I do want to take a look at the numbers this weekend. On Friday TSA saying that -- or not TSA but flight cancellation numbers indicating that more than 1500 flights were canceled.
Then yesterday more than 850 flights canceled. And today already we're getting close to that 850 number and, again, it will extend for the summer because already there are some airlines like Southwest, for example, saying that they're canceling about 20,000 flights this summer from June until Labor Day. They say they need about 10,000 new employees and they're struggling to hire.
Delta another example saying they're canceling about 100 daily flights from July 1st to August 7th. And a lot of the pilots are speaking out through the union saying they're tired and they're frustrated saying that they're working overtime, working on their days off, and yet that is still not enough.
I talked to one passenger who was trying to get back to New Jersey. She spent about four hours, she told me, with Alaska Airlines on the phone because her flight was canceled and she needs to get back to work. Here is what she told us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was supposed to fly today. They e-mailed us to our e-mail to let us know what is going on. And then I have to call them on the telephone to ask them what is going on. And they said that I have an option either to travel today or if I am traveling today, if I insist on traveling today, I can go with United Airlines.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERNAL: And Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaking privately to some of the CEOs of these airline companies and telling them to do anything they can to soften the impact of all of these flight cancellations over the summer but the reality is, Pam, there are going to be a lot of frustrated passengers over the next couple of months.
BROWN: Yes. All of this very foreboding. Camila Bernal, thank you.
And you are in the CNN NEWSROOM on this Sunday. And ahead this hour two Florida deputies disciplined for revealing Bob Saget's death before his family was told. Plus, I'll talk to a former Navy SEAL just back from a humanitarian mission to Ukraine where he helped save dozens of people.
And the biggest stars making their voices heard. We are counting down to the "JUNETEENTH CELEBRATION FOR FREEDOM" live tonight right here on CNN. We'll be right back.
BROWN: Last year President Biden signed a bill officially recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. And moments ago he released a statement calling it, quote, "A day of profound weight and power that reminds us of our extraordinary capacity to heal, hope and emerge from our most painful moments into a better version of ourselves."
From church gatherings to street parades, Juneteenth celebrations are taking place across the country today. And tonight right here on CNN, "JUNETEENTH, A GLOBAL CELEBRATION FOR FREEDOM," airs at 8:00 and it's being held at the Hollywood Bowl. The chief content and management officer at that famous venue, hi, Renee. Tell us just how significant it is for this celebration to be held at the Hollywood bowl.
Renae Williams Niles is the chief content and engagement officer at that famous venue.
Hi, Renae. So tell us just how significant it is for this celebration to be held at the Hollywood Bowl.
RENAE WILLIAMS NILES, CHIEF CONTENT AND ENGAGEMENT OFFICER, HOLLYWOOD BOWL: It means so much for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and we run and program the Hollywood Bowl and to be able to do this in partnership with Live Nation Urban and CNN is just powerful is just -- it's powerful, it's overwhelming, and we are really honored to be a part of this and to have this celebration taking place here in Los Angeles and shared around the world and the iconic venue, we can't think of anything better.
BROWN: Yes. No, absolutely. And, you know, it's also just a day when so many more people are learning about this important history. How significant is that?
WILLIAMS NILES: Well, for all of us we want this to certainly be a time to celebrate and to be joyful and specially to honor black excellent and extraordinary artists that will be on the stage. But it is also that time for learning and for all of us to keep learning.
And it's our hope that it doesn't stop with today but it just fuels and energizes and inspires people to keep learning and to keep doing and keep supporting towards equity.
BROWN: Yes. It's a reminder of how far this country has come and how far this country has to go, right.
WILLIAMS NILES: Very true.
BROWN: So tell us about the star power that will be there tonight.
WILLIAMS NILES: Yes. There's so much. Chaka Khan, the Roots, Robert Glasper, there's just countless artists. And what I'm enjoying is also the energy that each of them are feeling and watching and supporting each other. Billy Porter, and certainly a highlight for us our own Thomas Wilkins, who is our conductor with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra will be there conducting the Recollective Orchestra. And the Recollective Orchestra is made up of professional musicians that play in close to 20 different orchestras across this country and they are all coming together to celebrate and to be a part of this incredible event.
BROWN: Wow. "JUNETEENTH: A GLOBAL CELEBRATION FOR FREEDOM" airing tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
Renae Williams Niles, thank you. And by the way, for viewers looking at both of us wondering if we coordinated our outfits, we did not.
BROWN: All right. Thanks so much, Renae.
WILLIAMS NILES: Thank you.
BROWN: Well, join some of the biggest stars as they lift their voices, as I said, for "JUNETEENTH: A GLOBAL CELEBRATION FOR FREEDOM" right here on CNN, 8:00 p.m. right after a special Juneteenth hosted by Don Lemon, my friend and colleague, at 7:00 p.m. only on CNN.
Well, you are in the CNN NEWSROOM on this Sunday and Father's Day. Still ahead, what we know about the three Americans missing in Ukraine as fears grow that they have been captured by Russian troops.
BROWN: U.S. government officials along with three American families this weekend are still waiting for any sign from three missing men who are believed to have been captured by Russian forces in Ukraine. Now the Kremlin denies knowing anything about them. Two of them, both from Alabama, have been missing for a week now. They were fighting alongside Ukrainian forces north of Kharkiv. And on Thursday a photo emerged of them in the back of a Russian military truck with their hands behind their backs as if bound.
Also this week the State Department identified this man, retired Marine Corps Officer Grady Kurpasi, as missing in action in Ukraine. A family friend tells CNN he chose to volunteer alongside Ukrainian forces but initially did not envision himself fighting on the frontlines.
Well, my next guest is a former Navy SEAL and he went to Ukraine a few weeks ago in a humanitarian role. He just got back recently. Kaj Larsen joins me now.
So, Kaj, thanks for being here with us. I know you're still processing everything that you witnessed and experienced while you were over there in Ukraine. And we're going to talk about all of that. But first, I want to get your response to the idea that people say, look, American civilians should not be over there in Ukraine, part of this fight, given all the danger. What do you say to those people?
KAJ LARSEN, JOURNALIST: To that, Pamela, I think I would say you don't want to be the good man who does nothing. You know, today is Father's Day. And when I was standing on the Medyka border between Poland and Ukraine, and I saw those families, women and children, stream across the border and I've had the opportunity to speak to them, I asked all of them, where are your husbands? And they all said they were fighting over there.
This war has ripped families apart. There are atrocities happening. It's extraordinarily difficult. And it's really hard on someone who spent the last two decades in and out of conflict zones to not take all of that experience and all of those skills and go help.
Yes, there are dangers, as we're seeing very much what you talked about just a few moments ago. But for some of us who have already served our own country, we have a moral compulsion to go help.
BROWN: You just feel the pull, the call. Did you have any close calls, you and your team, have any close calls while you were there? Did you ever feel like you were in danger?
LARSEN: Yes, of course. Absolutely. This is an extraordinarily dangerous environment. And my team, my group of guys, we were taking the tickets that other people didn't want to take, delivering humanitarian aid behind the enemy lines to the most afflicted and impacted areas. And this is a very unconventional and conventional war simultaneously. So we would be in the middle of a firefight trying to deliver humanitarian supplies, artillery blasting all around us, but at the same time there will be 30 drones, civilian grade drones flying over your head and you don't know whether they're Russian or Ukrainian, you don't know whether they're armed.
I would say, you know, 90 percent of our time when we were on the frontlines you feel in peril but, again, for us the risk is worth it in order to help.
BROWN: Have you worked through in your mind what would happen if the Russians captured you?
LARSEN: I have not.
BROWN: You haven't?
LARSEN: I mean, you know my background.
LARSEN: We have been trained in this stuff but the best thing you can do is absolutely not be captured. And so always in any war zone the risk-reward calculus becomes extraordinarily important.
BROWN: Right. So I want to talk a little bit more about your humanitarian work. You helped rescue dozens of people including an injured American. So walk us through what happened.
KAJ LARSEN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: In -- I got there early on in the war, approximately day seven of the war. I showed up. I raised my hand to volunteer and go help. I'm lucky enough to work for a company, Guild, that says, our motto is we go where the military community goes. So, I went.
There's 5,000 U.S. troops, as you know, stationed on the border in Jaszow, Poland. That's the 82nd Airborne Division. And, as we talked about at the top, there are hundreds of U.S. service, and former U.S. service, members and veterans like myself, volunteering in different capacities in Ukraine.
When I first got there, the most important thing could I do was run these critical supplies to the front lines. And when I did that, I had a no empty truck strategy.
So, me and my team, we would drive in these supplies to the worst places in the middle of the worst fire fights. And then, once we were there and delivered the supplies, the no-empty trucks part is that there was all these people who needed to be rescued and brought to safety in Poland.
So, together, along with our collection of people, we brought dozens, if not hundreds, of people out. And I have to tell you, that is some of the most rewarding work I have ever done in my entire life, including my time in uniform.
BROWN: Really? Tell us a little bit more about that. I mean, you're rescuing these people. What are they saying to you? What -- tell us more about why it is so rewarding.
LARSEN: Well, my Ukrainian is poor, admittedly. But you don't need to --
BROWN: But sometimes you don't need to understand the words they're saying.
LARSEN: You don't need to speak the language.
LARSEN: Right. People are -- they were so desperate. Their homes were being shelled, right. And here we were showing up at that -- their doorsteps, saying get in the car, get in the car. And they were piling in the car. And some -- we would pack those vans and those trucks with as many refugees as we could.
And then, when you drive them safely across the border to Poland, you would just see this massive weight lifted off their shoulders. And they would cry and they'd, you know, sing Ukrainian songs. And it's all, as we said before, women and children, because the men are left behind to fight.
BROWN: Yes. I'm curious, you know, you were bringing in body armor. You're bringing all of this equipment in to the Ukrainians. Do you think the U.S. is doing enough to help these Ukrainian fighters?
LARSEN: I think the U.S. is in an extraordinarily difficult position, from a policy standpoint. We have to be very, very careful. And the people who warn about the dangers of nuclear escalation, I do not think that is unwarranted. Right?
And we have to be very, very careful about getting into a kinetic conflict with the Russian army. That is not something that I think anybody wants. That's not something that the world wants.
But on a personal level, on an individual level, as somebody with decades of combat experience, it's really, really impossible for me to see a need like that and not go do something.
BROWN: Yes, understandably. I want to talk about the impact, here in the United States, that we're seeing from the war in Ukraine. Look, inflation in particular, right? I mean, you have prices of things like oil, food rising because what is happening over there. What did you see in that regard?
LARSEN: Thank you. I think this is extraordinarily important, right? We spoke before about why are some Americans volunteering over there. And I think some people think this is a faraway conflict on European soil, right? And that is fundamentally untrue.
What is happening in the fields of Ukraine is affecting domestic prices here at home. So, this inflation that we see is not unrelated to the lack of commodities' production. The wheat, the sunflower. Ukraine is the breadbasket of Europe and production is massively depleted, right?
And I'll say the bad news is that I predict that going on for a long time. Partially because even if this war was to end tomorrow, the wheat fields -- and I saw this with my own eyes. These beautiful wheat fields mined with hundreds of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines.
So, it's going to be a long time. For every day of conflict, it's up to 45 days of humanitarian demining. It's going to be a long, long time before we ramp that kind of commodities production back up to what it was prior to the war.
And then, additionally, of course, we have the obvious energy prices. We're all feeling it at the gas pump --
LARSEN: -- right now. And that is directly related to the constraint of energy supply around the world, due to the war in Ukraine.
BROWN: Right. And that's why you're not just seeing inflation in the U.S., right? It's all over the place.
LARSEN: That's right. This affects all of us.
BROWN: Right, exactly. What a fascinating conversation. Kaj Larsen, great to see you. Thank you for coming on the show. I have a feeling you're probably going to be going back over there, at some point. And, just, we'd love to continue to have you on the show.
LARSEN: Wonderful, thank you.
BROWN: Thank you.
Well, coming up on this Sunday, two Florida deputies disciplined for sharing news of Bob Saget's death. The legal view with Loni Coombs is up next.
BROWN: Two Florida sheriff's deputies have been disciplined for leaking news about the shocking death of comedian, Bob Saget. Saget was found dead in his Orlando hotel room January ninth. But before his family had been properly notified, one of the officers on the scene texted his brother who then tweeted about it. A second deputy was off duty when he learned about Bob Saget's death and then texted one of his neighbors.
Both deputies were found to have violated department rules on disseminating information. No word yet on how they will be disciplined. And joining me more with -- on this story, CNN Legal Analyst Loni Coombs. Lonnie, good to see you.
BROWN: You're a former L.A. County prosecutor.
LONI COOMBS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good to see be here.
BROWN: You have surely dealt with cases involving celebrities. Why is it important to discipline these deputies, and what kind of punishment do you think they'll get?
COOMBS: Great to be with you, Pam. You know, it's really important. I worked, for a number of years, as the head of the Malibu office, where we had a number of celebrity cases. And we had to work with this with the Malibu sheriffs, because sometimes they would leak information to the public as well.
Obviously, interest is high. But you have to remember these celebrities are human beings. They have families. They have family members, wives, spouses, children, and they need to be handled very carefully as anyone would be in these situations.
And the fact that there's a lot of interest in this information does not override they need to think about these family members first. And so, obviously, the deputies in Florida, they have now said, yes, in hindsight, we should not have done that. We weren't really thinking about how big it would get, when we tweeted about this. And they've been disciplined.
Sometimes there's a suspension without pay. Something more than that. This is not as egregious, perhaps, as the Kobe Bryant case, right, where Kobe's wife is suing, saying that, you know, they leaked out pictures of Kobe's body. That's much more egregious, where you're seeing something that's very traumatic.
Here, though, the information that Bob Saget was actually dead might have surprised a number of family members. They had not been notified yet. So, the departments really have to stay on top of this and make sure they follow up on disciplining these deputies who step out of line. They need to be trained --
COOMBS: -- not to do this.
BROWN: I want to turn to the January 6th Committee hearings. As we look ahead to the week, we have two hearings coming up. Committee Member Adam Schiff says that the committee is looking forward to talking to Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, we want to know what she knows, what her involvement was in this plot to overturn the election. She has said that she is willing to come in and testify voluntarily. We're glad to hear that. Really, anyone with pertinent information, we want to hear from.
And so, we have a range of questions to ask her. Obviously, I think, the committee will be interested in, among other things, whether this was discussed with Justice Thomas, given that he was ruling on cases impacting whether we would get some of this information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So, what do you think the potential significance of Ginni Thomas' testimony would be, assuming that she does actually agree to talk with the committee?
COOMBS: You know, Pam, this is really interesting. Ginni Thomas' name first started swirling a few months ago, when "The Washington Post" disclosed these 29 texts between Ginni Thomas and Mark Meadows. Who was, at the time, the White House chief of staff, from the time of the election up to January 6th.
And in these text messages, she was very clear and very forceful in saying she believed that the election should be overturned. That they should go after these election fraud claims. That they needed to stop the left from doing what they were doing.
Now, obviously, she has the right to say these things, right, freedom of speech. We all get to have our own political views. And she's been a very open, conservative activist for a long time. But the concern is raised in the fact that her husband, Clarence Thomas, is a sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
And during this same time that she was writing these texts, he actually sat on two cases that involved the Supreme Court and these actual issues on the election. One was where the January 6th Committee was asking the Supreme Court if they could have access to Donald Trump's White House documents. The entire Supreme Court said, yes, you need this for your investigation, except for one dissenting vote, Clarence Thomas.
There was another case that was asking the Supreme Court to get involved in the lower courts who were talking over -- dealing with all these election fraud claims. And the Supreme Court said, no, we're not going to get involved. Except there were two dissents on this one, Alito and Thomas.
So, people are saying, should he be recusing himself from these cases? Now, Ginni Thomas has said, look, we don't talk about our work. We don't influence each other. But, at the same time, he is sitting on these cases and ruling against the majority. He's ruling in a way that's very favorable and supportive of what Ginni Thomas is actually saying in these texts.
And now, we understand the committee is saying that there are also emails between Ginni Thomas and John Eastman. Now, this is the person that the committee has just laid out as the architect behind the scheme to -- asked to pressure Vice President Pence to not certify the vote on January 6th.
So, the question is, they have to follow the evidence, was she just spouting, again her freedom of speech, her political views, or was she doing something that stepped her over the line into a conspiracy to somehow defraud the country? That's what they need to follow up on.
BROWN: Right. And I think we're all curious what was in that communication between Thomas and John Eastman. And we still don't have the answer to that.
I also want to ask you about this document called 1776 returns. It is a nine-page plan to storm and then occupy key buildings connected to Congress on January 6th and then call for a new election. It has been filed as part of the seditious conspiracy case against the Proud Boys and its leader. What qualifies as seditious conspiracy?
BROWN: And do you think justice officials are having a hard time making a case for that?
COOMBS: Well, seditious conspiracy is when you join -- you know, two or more people join together to somehow take down the government, right? So, we're talking about what they were trying to do on that day on January 6th. Did the Proud Boys go in there with that intent?
The interesting thing about this document, the 1776 return, it specifically talks about a plot to take over specific targets, eight targets, including the Supreme Court, Senate and House office buildings, and CNN. Fill it with as many patriots as possible. And then, declare their demand, which is to have a new election. Not a revote but a new election.
And they have very specific details of how to do it. They have the leaders go in. They make appointments to be in these buildings early in the morning. They go in in their suits. Then, the other patriots organize outside. They have chants going on and protests.
And then, they storm the building. They have people distracting the entry points. And so, it's a detailed plan. They're told to wear suits so that they can fit in. They're told to wear COVID masks to conceal their identity.
But the issue with this, while people are calling it a bombshell document and saying that they've been able to link it to the Proud Boys' leader and having him receive it that week of January 6th, the issue is, who wrote the document? They don't know who the audience -- the author is. Who gave it to Tarrio? Did he give it to anyone else?
And the other thing that the defense may bring up is, what is laid out in this great detailed document is not exactly what the Proud Boys did on January 6th, right? They went to the Capitol, not one of the targets. They were trying to stop Mike Pence. Not the declared goal. So, the DOJ is going to have to connect these two things, verify it, and then connect it to January 6th.
BROWN: All right, Loni Coombs, thank you so much for coming on. Appreciate it.
COOMBS: You bet. Thanks, Pam.
BROWN: Well, you are in the CNN NEWSROOM. Still to come, a firsthand look at the newest branch of the U.S. military, the Space Force.
BROWN: It is the next chapter for the final frontier. The first basic training, designed exclusively for the U.S. Space Force, is underway. Kristin Fisher has the story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you prepared to join the world's U.S. Space Force?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hurry up, let's go, let's go, let's go.
KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's day 38 of Space Force basic training at Joint Base San Antonio.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE.)
FISHER: It may look and sound like basic boot camp for soldiers, sailors, Marines or airmen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hup.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hup.
FISHER: But these are guardians in the U.S. Space Force, the first new branch of the armed services in more than 70 years. And this is the first ever Guardian-only basic training, led entirely by Space Force instructors.
MASTER SGT. ERIC MISTROT, MILITARY TRAINING INSTRUCTOR, U.S. SPACE FORCE: And this is still the profession of arms. This is still the United States military. This is not space camp.
FISHER: Master Sergeant Eric Mistrot was the Space Force's first military training instructor. And he's in charge of all training for these 71 recruits over seven and a half weeks.
SYRIAH HARRIS, GUARDIAN, U.S. SPACE FORCE: I come from, like, an Air Force family. So, when Space Force was around, like, most people are, like, what is that? Like, that's real?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're, like, what? That's a real thing? Yes, it's a real thing.
FISHER: The biggest change between this basic training and other boot camps is in the classroom. These Guardians are being taught a brand- new Space Force specific curriculum, everything from space history to space vocabulary.
MISTROT: So, if I say the word, LEO, L E O, that stands for Low Earth Orbit, right? You need to start thinking along these lines. That the world is bigger than just what you see. That we go out to 22,500 miles into orbit.
FISHER: None of the guardians are actually going to space. They'll be operating U.S. military satellites from the ground or analyzing satellites from countries like China and Russia.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not dealing with tanks or ballistics or anything like that. You're dealing with little blips on a -- on a little computer screen.
FISHER: It's a different type of warfighter, one that has to strain their eyes and flex their mind more than their muscles, which leads to the other big difference about this basic training.
MISTROT: We want to build the guardians. And what a guardian is is about our core values.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell me what courage means to you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think courage, for me, means being able to ask for help when you need it.
FISHER: It's a mind-set made for a modern military force.
LT. COL. TARA SHEA, COMMANDER, DELTA OPERATIONS SQUADRON, USSF: Maybe you need to step away and have some meditation time. Whatever it is, we want our guardians to be strong and healthy. From a diversity aspect and inclusivity aspect, we want them to feel like you can express that in our service.
HARRIS: Coming here, like, I had a lot of people that are, like, you know you're going to be the only, like, black girl there. Or that I even have two other train -- like, teammates that look like me.
FISHER (on camera): Are there a lot of space nerds like yourself?
HARRIS: Oh, for sure.
FISHER: Like "Star Wars" or "Star Trek"?
HARRIS: And I'm not even that kind of space nerd. I've never even seen it.
FISHER: What kind of space nerd are you?
HARRIS: Never even seen it. Like, I would -- used to watch live screens of, like, the moon rotating. Just, like, I'm into that type of space.
FISHER (voice-over): Just the kind of nerd that the Space Force is looking for to protect and shape a new domain of warfare.
HARRIS: We need our own space force basic training, because we are our own branch now.
HARRIS: Like, we broke away so we need to stop being in the shadows of the Air Force.
FISHER: Kristin Fisher, CNN, Joint Base San Antonio.
BROWN: Lots of movie-goers are still feeling the need for speed. "Top Gun: Maverick" is now, officially, Tom Cruise's biggest movie ever, making almost $900 million so far and proving the 59-year-old fighter pilot is still everybody's wing man. And "Jurassic World Dominion" dominating the box office this weekend, raking in close to $59 million in its second week.
BROWN: And Pixar's "Light Year" creating a smaller than expected buzz since opening Friday.