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Today's January 6 Hearing to Focus on Trump's Pressure on DOJ; DOJ Intensifies Fake Elector Probe, Issuing Subpoenas in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan; Biden Calls for Three-Month Federal Gas Tax Suspension. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired June 23, 2022 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.


It's a big morning. We're closely monitoring the Supreme Court. This hour, the nation's highest court is set to release several opinions.

HARLOW: And before the end of this term, which is either late June or early July, the high court will hand down decisions that will impact abortion access and gun laws. We'll bring you the breaking developments from the high court as soon as they come.

SCIUTTO: Any minute now.

But, first, to highly -- this afternoon's highly anticipated fifth public hearing of the January 6 committee. We will hear testimony from three high ranking Justice Department officials who led the department in the final days of the Trump administration, including the former acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen. He will make clear the DOJ saw no evidence of widespread fraud sufficient to overturn the election, communicated that, and we'll detail how he and others resisted Trump's pressure to back his baseless claims.

HARLOW: Also overnight, the Department of Justice intensifying its January 6th probe, issuing new subpoenas to people from several states who acted as fake electors and other Trump allies connected to the scheme to overturn the 2020 election.

Also new this morning, a preview of newly obtained footage from the documentary film crew that followed former President Trump and his team for six months both before and after the insurrection. That preview was just released by Discovery Plus, which is owned by CNN's parent company. Watch.



IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: My father, he is very honest and he is who he is.

DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: He believes everything that he's doing is right.

DONALD TRUMP: I think I treat people well, unless they don't treat me well, in which case you go to war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we talk for a minute about January 6?



HARLOW: So, people want to hear what he said obviously.

Now, for more on today's hearing by the January 6 committee focusing on former President Trump's pressure campaign on the Justice Department, our Manu Raju joins us from Capitol Hill with what we can expect today. What are going to we see?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We're going to see the theme that has been continuing as we've seen for the last several hearings that Donald Trump was told repeatedly it was illegal to try to force the states to decertify their electoral results that showed Joe Biden's victory, that there was pushback within the highest levels of government. But he still pressed on and the real consequences of his actions.

And today, that's going to focus on the Justice Department, in which we've really heard some snippets of testimony from some of these key figures who have indicated that there was no basis to Donald Trump's claim that there's widespread fraud in the election, but still Trump pressed on.

We're going to hear from three key officials, Jeffrey Rosen, the former acting attorney general at the end of the Trump administration, as well as Rich Donoghue, who was acting deputy attorney general, and then Steven Engel, another senior official in the Justice Department, all going to make the same case that they stood up to Donald Trump, they pushed back against his claims but yet the former president pressed on ultimately leading to the violence that happened here in the Capitol January 6.

Now, we have obtained a copy of Jeffrey Rosen's opening statement, a written statement that he has committed to the committee. He says in part some, argue to the former president in public that the election was corrupt and stolen. That view was wrong then and it is wrong today and we hope our presence here today helps reaffirm that fact.

Now, after today's hearing things will slow down a bit for this committee. They are going to go -- deal with looking into new evidence that they have obtained through the course of the last several weeks and then we'll come back for public hearings probably sometime in mid- July.

SCIUTTO: All right. So, one of the GOP lawmakers now facing calls to testify is Mo Brooks of Alabama. Interesting case here because he was a big Trump defender, he was endorsed by Trump, and Trump took away the endorsement. He since lost his primary here. He says he will testify in public only. Do we have a sense of whether he will be a good or bad witness for Trump?

RAJU: It is really unclear at this moment. We caught up with him yesterday. He had been gone for several weeks as he was campaigning for the Senate bid in Alabama, the Republican primary. He lost that on Tuesday. He returned to the Capitol yesterday. He still has not actually been physically served with a subpoena as of yesterday late afternoon even though he was one of five who the committee had issued subpoenas for five Republicans to come testify.


He was the one who had not physically received it.

But he did tell a group of us that he is willing to come forward and testify publicly. He said not in private, publicly. And that is a big question for the committee, whether they would be willing to do that, roll the dice on bringing him into the public setting, so that could lead to another stalemate between one person who want to testify and the committee wants to go a different direction.

SCIUTTO: And what will he say? Manu Raju, thanks very much.

Let's bring in Katelyn Polantz now. She's been following what the Justice Department is looking at with these subpoenas overnight in their investigation of fake state electors.

I mean, this is remarkable, part of this whole investigation, right, because there were people positioning themselves to replace the actual electors as chosen by states' voters here. Who specifically is the DOJ targeting?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Jim and Poppy, we did hear about these fake electors on Tuesday in the House in their public hearing. Now, the Justice Department is quietly going about their work in this criminal investigation getting subpoenas sent out across the country to these battleground states where there were fake electors that convened and tried to sign the certificates for the Electoral College trying to vote for Donald Trump. They were Republicans in various states.

Our reporting now is that there were electors in several states that received subpoenas just this week from a grand jury in this federal criminal probe out of Washington, D.C., those states would include Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, so key states where many electors gathered to sign these certificates. We also understand one of these subpoenas went to the Georgia Republican Party Chair David Shafer.

Now, Shafer is not just anybody within the Republican Party there. He was a key person in touch with the Trump campaign in this organization of these fake electors in Georgia when they convened in December of 2021. And one of the things about why this investigation is escalating right now that I should point out is that we've known about it for some time, we've heard about subpoenas before asking about these electors. But before, it was lower level Republicans who were set to serve as Republican electors.

But after Trump lost the election in those states, they decided -- some of them decided they weren't going to show up, some of them were sick, they didn't go. Those people were contacted. Now, we have new people contacted that were electors in various states in this criminal probe. Jim and Poppy?

HARLOW: Katelyn, thank you so much for laying that all out for us because a lot happened overnight on that front.

Let's bring in CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. So, Jeffrey, talking about today, you've got these former DOJ officials, Jeffrey Rosen, Richard Donoghue testifying in just a few hour, both refused to give in to Trump's efforts to get the DOJ to push his election lies and fraud claims. I wonder what the current DOJ will be listening for in this.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, what the committee has done is really in an orderly way has shown how President Trump's effort was refuted and fought against by Republicans, Republicans at many different levels of government.

In the first day of hearings, you saw Vice President Pence's staff fighting back against President Trump's false claims. Then yesterday or the day before, we had the state officials who fought back. And today, we have the Justice Department officials.

And the question is did anyone commit any crimes here. And the focus, I think, today will be, again, on this issue of these fake electors, because it is important to remember these documents about who is an elector and who isn't are government documents. There are official forms that have to be filled out that say these are the electors for president.

You can't just make up a government document and submit it narrowly without some potentially at least criminal liability. I mean, that -- so that is an issue that I think the Justice Department will be looking at here.

SCIUTTO: Be careful what you sign.

So, you have the January 6 investigation but you also have the Justice Department Investigation and we got a window into that with these new subpoenas. And I wonder, because, as you know, there has been criticism throughout that the DOJ has been slow to act here in terms of investigating and perhaps charging some of those involved. Do you see with these subpoenas a change from the DOJ?

TOOBIN: You know, as someone who was involved in white collar criminal investigations, I mean, they are sort of like icebergs. They are 75 percent below the surface. I don't think that you can make a judgment about the quantity or quality of the Justice Department investigation until it is over. It is important to say what we don't know.


There are signs, and it is not just the subpoenas about the fake electors, that there is a Justice Department investigation that goes beyond the people who were physically inside the Capitol.

I mean, remember Rudy Giuliani's phone was searched a year ago. There was search warrant issued. I mean, there is an active investigation. How extensive it is, what the ultimate result is, I certainly don't think. But to criticize the Justice Department for doing nothing, let's see if they do nothing.

HARLOW: How critical is hearing from Pat Cipollone, the former White House lawyer? He says, I've given enough, he testified behind closed doors. But Liz Cheney made it very clear earlier this week we need to hear from you, the American people need to hear from you publicly. How key is he?

TOOBIN: It is important as sort of a public -- for the benefit of the public. I'm sure what Cipollone is thinking is that, secondhand, they have heard what I say. I mean, there have been several witnesses who have said that Cipollone told President Trump, you can't do this. Your claims are wrong.

SCIUTTO: So what? I mean, other people have testified and they have come forward and testified under oath. I mean, does it not matter in a courtroom or in a congressional hearing to have the actual person say it?

TOOBIN: Well, of course it does certainly in a courtroom. You know, I think Cipollone feels -- I mean, it is obvious that he feels squeamish. There are certain privilege issues that he is particularly -- that are particularly relevant to him. He is a government lawyer, he's not a private lawyer, so there is not attorney/client privilege in the typical sense. But there are issues of executive privilege. There are attorney/client privileges even though he is the White House counsel, not the president's counsel. And he is a loyalist.

One of the things that is most remarkable about President Trump is that, for all the chaos he has sowed throughout his life, whether as a businessman or as president, the people closest to him have never fully turned on him. I mean, Mark Meadows, Cipollone, his family, the CFO of his -- of the Trump Organization. And there has been no John Dean yet. There has been no one, John Dean, now our CNN colleague, was the White House counsel under Richard Nixon. He was the exact counterpart to Cipollone who took a very different approach and Cipollone, as far as we know, is continuing stay quiet.

SCIUTTO: Well, until they jettison themselves, like say sessions or event, right?

TOOBIN: But that's the thing, Jim, that I find so amazing, is even when they're jettisoned, even when they're disrespected, they never fully turn on Trump.

SCIUTTO: Jeffrey Toobin, thanks so much, as always.

So, we've often the question, are people paying attention? A new Quinnipiac shows that most Americans have been paying at least some attention to the initial January 6 hearings. A majority consider those hearings important. 58 percent of Americans are following news about the work of the committee very or somewhat closely. About a quarter of those people say that they are following it closely, some viewers even encouraging others to tune in.


FRANZETTA IVY, GEORGIA DEMOCRATIC VOTER: I pray that they will actually tune in and watch this so that he that they can see for themselves.

PATRICIA NEWMAN, GEORGIA DEMOCRATIC VOTER: This is an attack on our democracy. I do not think the Watergate hearings were -- rose to that level even close. Do you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I think you're right.


HARLOW: That's fascinating to hear from them. There are also significant partisan divides. 64 percent of Democrats say they have learned something new, only 34 percent of independents and 14 percent of Republicans say the same.

Still to come for us, the president's push for a gas tax holiday. It is not supported by every Democrat, not by a long shot. What the pushback is, what the critics say, what the economists say about the down sides.

Plus, we are keeping an eye on a critical vote coming today in the Senate on the bipartisan gun safety bill.

SCIUTTO: Later, dangerous heat settling across the south, more than 20 million people now in those states under heat alerts. We're live in New Orleans where people are expected to feel triple-digit temperatures.



SCIUTTO: Right now, President Biden is calling on Congress to lift federal taxes on gas and diesel to bring some relief to drivers, but he will likely come up empty as lawmakers on both sides, both parties question how effective the move would be.

HARLOW: Our Matt Egan joins us. Matt, talk about the considerations in terms of the cost/benefit analysis here. Because when you listened to Biden yesterday, he was saying, do it, do it today, but it's not as simple as that. MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Jim and Poppy. I mean, it feels like this gas tax holiday idea is going nowhere fast. I mean, the president did enthusiastically throw his support behind a suspension, a three month suspension of this 18 cent a gallon tax, but this requires an act of Congress, and the White House faces an uphill battle there. I mean, even members of the president's own party have been cool to the idea, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she is not embracing it.


And just this morning, Senator Elizabeth Warren was asked on New Day about whether this makes sense.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): I think that what we should be doing instead of trying to get short-term pieces in is we need to look at the longer arc of what drives prices.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Is that yes or no on the gas tax holiday?

WARREN: Look, that is not the approach I would use. I would use a more systemic approach.


EGAN: So, no endorsement there from Senator Warren.

Now, even if it somehow got through a skeptical Congress, this really would not be a game changer. I mean, 18 cents a gallon, that is less than 4 percent of the cost of gas.

Let me sort of break down what this would mean. Say, you are an average driver who drives something like 12,000 miles a year in a car getting 23 miles per gallon, this would only translate to $20 in savings for the summer. That is not making or breaking anyone's budget.

JPMorgan summed it up this way. They said, quote, the reality is that with demand stimulated and supply strained, fuel prices won't drop until demand does. But this gas tax holiday, this actually supports demand. So, that would be pushing things in the wrong direction. It does not address supply.

So, clearly, people are not happy with high gas prices. Clearly, the White House is focused on this issue. But, Jim and Poppy, this does not look like the solution.

HARLOW: It doesn't. Matt Egan, thanks very much.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats say they have reservations about this proposal. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell calls it an ineffective stunt. That is a quote.

Joining me now to talk about the facts behind all this is Mark Goldwein, he is the senior vice president and senior policy director for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and an economics professor at John Hopkins. What a great day to have you, Mark. Thanks so much for the time.


SCIUTTO: The way that you put it is that a gas tax holiday would be self-defeating. Why?

GOLDWEIN: Look, the problem is too much demand chasing too little supply. The gas tax holiday would boost that demand and do absolutely nothing to support supply. So, maybe it gets a little bit of relief for three months, but when it is done, things would be even worse than before the holiday was in effect.

HARLOW: Can you talk about also the -- what you -- everything I've read that you've written on this seems to have major implications on inflation. I mean, we're fighting inflation so hard right now and your assessment is it would just drive inflation up?

GOLDWEIN: That's right. This would make underlying inflation worse. Technically, prices would drop by about 0.1 percent because of the literal cut of that tax, but as soon as the holiday ended, prices would actually increase by more than that 0.1 percent. And this would increase the likelihood that the Fed has to raise rates even higher, which means more chances of a recession.

HARLOW: But the White House acknowledges the cost to this, right? They are acknowledging the $10 billion price tag for a three-month federal gas tax holiday. They say though it would have, quote, no negative effect on the Highway Trust Fund. That is how we pay to maintain our roads, build our highways, et cetera. Is that true, it would have no effect on this?

GOLDWEIN: Well, what they are really saying is that they are going to transfer money from general revenue, which is just a fancy way of saying they are going to put more at the Highway Trust Fund on the nation's credit card.

HARLOW: Okay. Well, we've done that in the past many, many times and we keep adding more and more to that credit card.

However, Mark, I mean, four people who are having to make incredibly budgetary decisions for their family, right, and it does matter when they are paying this much at the pump for most Americans. I want you to listen to what a senior member of the administration said in terms of why, even given the down sides that you have laid out, they think this is needed right now. Let's play it.


AMOS HOCHSTEIN, SENIOR ADVISER FOR GLOBAL ENERGY SECURITY, STATE DEPARTMENT: In the conditions that we're in today, that is not a gimmick. That is a little bit of breathing room for the American people as we get into the summer driving season.


HARLOW: He is saying it's not a gimmick because you will remember then-Candidate Obama in 2008 called it as much. And I wonder what you make of that, this confluence of events happening right now.

GOLDWEIN: Yes, it is absolutely gimmick. If we want to get gas prices down, we need to get supply up and we need to get people to do more car pooling, more public transit, more work from home, things like that. This is going to offer a typical household maybe $2 per time, $1.5, $2 per time they fill they car. And, again, it's extremely temporary. It's going to make the underlying inflation worse and it's going to be a windfall, by the way, to fossil fuel companies.

HARLOW: And if we could just switch gears here in the remaining few minutes that we have to this broader economic picture, inflation, what we heard from Jerome Powell testifying yesterday, I mean, two notable things.


First of all, the fact that he said a recession remains as possibility but then conceded that achieving a soft landing, if we avoid a recession, will be very challenging. To hear him say that, what do you think that means we are headed for?

GOLDWEIN: Look, I'm an optimist. I think we're going to have the maximum amount of economic pain without actually hitting a recession. But in order for that to happen, Congress and the president need to be helping the Federal Reserve make their job easier, not making their job harder with things like student debt cancelation and gas tax holidays.

HARLOW: So, the other headline that I thought was fascinating from Powell under questioning from a Republican senator yesterday is when he said very clearly -- when he was asked, is the war in Ukraine the main driver for this inflation. And he said no. He didn't say it is not a driver, but he said it is not the main one and that it was largely here before. Do you agree with him? And how significant is that given what we've consistently heard from the White House?

GOLDWEIN: Look, we had 8 percent year-over-year inflation before Russia even invaded Ukraine. There's no question in my mind that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is the biggest driver of inflation over the past three months. But over the past 15 months, we've had repeated high inflation driven mainly by very high demands and supply that is not fast enough to keep up.

HARLOW: Well, there is a big meeting with oil executives and CEOs in the White House, so let's see where this all goes because the rhetoric has been getting even more heated between the parties.

Mark Goldwein, it's great to have you, thanks.

GOLDWEIN: Thanks for having me. SCIUTTO: The European parliament is sending a message to E.U. leaders over Ukraine's outstanding candidate status. We will have the latest from Brussels. That's coming up.