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DOJ Asks about Trump's Actions Around January 6th; Fred Expected to Hike Rates; Pelosi's Potential Trip to Taiwan. Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired July 27, 2022 - 09:00   ET



BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga.


This morning, there are new reports that the Justice Department is asking questions about those close to President Trump, former President Trump, and his actions around the January 6th insurrection. This according to "The Washington Post," quoting here, prosecutors have asked hours of detailed questions about meetings Trump led in December 2020 and January 2021, his pressure campaign on Pence to overturn the election, and what instructions Trump gave his lawyers and advisers about fake electors and sending electors back to the states, end quote.

In addition, DOJ investigators in April received phone records of key officials and aides in the Trump administration, including his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

GOLODRYGA: And a key point there, "The Post" reports the DOJ received phone records in April from key Trump officials and aides, signaling that the criminal probe could be further along amid criticism the Justice Department is not taking swift enough action.

Attorney General Merrick Garland responding to that criticism yesterday, making clear that anyone criminally responsible will be held accountable.

The revelations coming as "The New York Times" reports on previously undisclosed emails among Trump advisers, admitting their fake electors scheme was indeed fake.

SCIUTTO: They used the word fake.

A lot to get to this morning.

First, let's bring in CNN's Kara Scannell for more on these latest moves signaling DOJ -- the scope of DOJ's investigations.

Kara, it's one thing to look at people around Trump, and their involvement of this. It's another thing to look at him - him himself and his involvement. What do we know at this point?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Jim and Bianna.

I mean one of the things that we have learned, and what CNN has been reporting, is that they have brought in before the federal grand jury two of Mike Pence's key aides, Marc Short and Greg Jacob, as chief of staff and as counsel. Now, those people are very close to Pence. They were involved in a lot of these meetings. So, they're getting inside the meeting look at what -- into every one person's role in that meeting would be, whether it's one of Trump's attorneys or the former president himself. And that was a real - real big signal that they are taking this directly into the White House.

And we've learned from "The Washington Post" some new details about what some questions that the Department of Justice are asking some of these witnesses. You know, what was Trump's role in some of these meetings, what was his role in this fake elector's scheme, and what was he doing as part of the pressure campaign involving Mike Pence?

Earlier this morning we also learned from a former Trump White House official that the Department of Justice has reached out to other people within the White House. You know, all of this showing growing signals that this investigation is very focused on the role of everyone around Trump and possibly Trump himself, given that he is the person that would stand to benefit from this. And in an interview yesterday with NBC's Lester Holt, Merrick Garland signaled that, you know, this investigation is wide ranging, and that, you know, no one is above the law.

Take a listen.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We intend to hold everyone, anyone who was criminally responsible for the events surrounding January 6th, for any attempt to interfere with the lawful transfer of power from one administration to another accountable.

LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: So if Donald Trump were to become a candidate for president again, that would not change your schedule or how you move forward or don't move forward?

GARLAND: I'll say again that we will hold accountable anyone who is criminally responsible for attempting to interfere with the transfer - legitimate, lawful transfer of power from one administration to the next.


SCANNELL: And you can hear there, Garland really giving a sense here of what the scope of this investigation is. He's saying that it's anyone who is attempting to interfere with the transfer of power from one administration to another. So, that encompasses a lot of activity and a lot of players.

And what we've learned from some of these subpoenas that we've seen that have been sent to people in the various battleground states is that they want all communication with anyone in the Trump campaign, the Trump administration, and his key attorneys who are working on this fake elector effort, John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani. So you can really get a sense that this is a very wide-ranging investigation. There are no, you know, sort of artificial hurdles here and they're looking straight into the White House and what kind of activities and the roles that people had there.

Jim and Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, a wide ranging investigation that appears to have been going much longer than we had known, at least publicly.



GOLODRYGA: Kara Scannell, thank you.

And joining us now to discuss is Josh Dawsey, political investigations reporter for "The Washington Post," and Paul Callan, former New York City prosecutor.

Paul, let me start with you. What is the significance of DOJ investigators really trying to focus in and ask questions about the former president's role in his attempt to overturn the 2020 election?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think that it's a clear indication that the Department of Justice is now looking carefully at the president's activities with respect to the 2022 election. And this is new. And you have Garland coming out, making a public statement in a news interview, which attorneys general never do, and he makes no mention of policies that have been in existence for a long time in the Justice Department about not starting major investigations or indictments during the election season. No mention of that. He said anybody who obstructed or interfered in the transfer of power is going to be investigated. So, it was a powerful statement by this very soft- spoken man, Merrick Garland.

SCIUTTO: Josh Dawsey, I mean these events took place more than a year and a half ago. Is it your sense that something has accelerated recently in terms of DOJ, the scope of DOJ's probe, and the speed of it, or is this something that we're just learning about it now?

JOSH DAWSEY, POLITICAL INVESTIGATIONS AND ENTERPRISE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, Jim, we don't precisely know. We do know at the beginning DOJ seemed fixated on all the rioters, right? And they brought charges against more than 800 folks, people who came and breached the Capitol, who shattered the windows, who, you know, organized far right groups on the outside to try and mobilized folks to do it.

And it seems what's happening now, at least from our reporting and what we can see, obviously an investigation you can't obviously see everything, is that they're moving in closer to Trump's inner circle, you know, asking for records a few months ago, phone records, bringing folks into a grand jury in the last couple of weeks. All indications would show that after really handling a lot of the violent criminality, I guess, at the Capitol that day, there seems to be now more of an effort to try and understand the fake electors scheme, whether there was a scheme to obstruct a government proceeding, to understand aggressive pressure campaign on Vice President Pence and whether or not that broke any laws or not. It seems to be moving more in that direction now.

GOLODRYGA: You mentioned the fake electors scene. Yesterday was really a 1-2 punch in breaking news. We had "The Washington Post" reporting and then we also had the new reporting out of "The New York Times," more details on these fake electors via emails.

And this was an email -- if we have the graphic we can put it up -- between a Phoenix-based attorney, who was trying to help coordinate some pro-Trump electors, and an email that he sent to a Trump campaign adviser, Boris Epstein. And he said, we could just be sending in fake electoral votes to Pence so that someone in Congress can make an objection when they start counting the votes and start arguing the fake votes should be counted. I mean they come out and acknowledge that these are fake votes. And the significance, I would imagine, is that prior to this there had been this possible ambiguity as to any sort of legality about alternate slate of electors. This is pretty concrete and clear that they even acknowledge that this was fake.

CALLAN: Yes. And the person who sent that email tried to correct it later on. He was well aware that saying that this was a fake slate of voters indicated criminal activity.

And this whole fake electors scheme, I think, is the most dangerous thing that Trump confronts, because he has this secret meeting in the White House, with all these outside lawyers, you remember the graphic testimony about that. His own personal counsel comes in and tries to break it up, doesn't want the president meeting with these people who have been described by William Barr, the attorney general, as a clown car full of attorneys.

Well, what they were putting together in that meeting apparently was the fake electors scheme. They were going to try to get these fake affidavits from the seven battleground states that gave Trump the election. Now, that could constitute a conspiracy to obstruct the presidential election, which is a very, very serious federal crime. It could also constitute wire fraud, mail fraud and other crimes if it can be proven.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's a big issue here, right, because the question had been, with Trump, if he believes somehow that he actually won the election, then he - you know, he's absolved of intent. But if he had people under him saying they were fake out loud, where does that lead to him?

Josh, I do want to speak to you about Trump's speech yesterday in Washington, first time he's returned to the city since January 6th, talking about crime, not unusual. A lot of Republican candidates running on law and order right now. But, praising China's justice system. China, of course, which is incarcerating a million people in Xinjiang today.

I want to play a quick sot (ph) from that, a quick tape from that, and get your reaction. Have a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: There is no longer respect for the law and there certainly is no order.


Our country is now a cesspool of crime. We have blood, death and suffering on a scale once unthinkable.


SCIUTTO: It's reminiscent of his inauguration speech in 2017, American carnage. But politically, right, Republicans think this is a winning message.

DAWSEY: Yes, that's what I was about to say. It actually reminded me very much of the American carnage speech. I mean it harkens back to what he did on the campaign trail in 2015 and '16 talking about, you know, immigrants, talking about crime in cities, talking about how the country, in his words, was going to hell. You know, he repeatedly said that over and over and over again. And that did seem -- it did seem to work.

I mean yesterday you hear what he said. He called for the death penalty for drug dealers, he called for building homeless tents in the suburbs, you know, moving them -- moving homeless people out of cities. He called for pretty aggressive punishment.

What's interesting, though, is in office, you know, former President Trump passed the First Step Act based on, you know, the advice from his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who pushed for all of this. And now you see him going back to the campaign trail and going back to his hard on crime, tough on crime messaging. I mean the First Step Act actually was trying to, you know, lessen penalties for some drug dealers and others and try and give them a chance to rehabilitate themselves and go back in society.

But in a GOP primary, former President Trump understands quite innately, better than most I think, what messaging works and pitting the country as kind of a, you know, deteriorating, just kind of a bad place to live, I guess. I think really it speaks to a lot of voters.

And -and I mean, and some of this, right, he does have -- he does have relevant facts. I mean you have some crime rising in some major cities. It's not the why he described it, of course. But, you know, there are some concerns I think even Democrats have about how some of these factors will go into the election.

SCIUTTO: Well, that piece of legislation you mention, I can't remember the last time that was mentioned by Trump or Republicans. A major piece of legislation in the Trump administration. Paul Callan, Josh Dawsey, thanks so much.

CALLAN: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: A key Federal Reserve meeting today could have major implications for the U.S. economy. Experts believe the Fed will make another aggressive interest rate hike in an ongoing effort to tame inflation.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, some believe rates could jump three quarters of a percentage point.

CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans joins us to break it all down.

So, Christine, six weeks ago the Fed raised rates by three quarters of a point.


GOLODRYGA: That was the first time we'd seen that in a long time.


GOLODRYGA: What does this mean now for American consumers if we see them repeat that today?

ROMANS: Well, first of all, it's a big move, right? Six weeks ago we had a big move. That was the biggest since 1994. We're likely going to have that kind of a move here again. And that shows the Fed is very serious about getting inflation under control and critics say is a little late to the game. That's why they're having to move so quickly.

As you know, usually they move in quarter point moves, very small to make it easier for the economy to digest. This time, very big moves.

It's going to mean higher borrowing costs. It's going to mean a new home loan will cost a lot more this year than it did last year. Mortgage rates have doubled in just a matter of months. It will mean financing a new car will even be more expensive. And credit card borrowing rates will likely be higher. So, for Americans with a lot of debt, that debt is going to be a lot more costly.

Now, where does this leave us? This is the fourth interest rate hike this year. It would be a very big one. If we get that three quarters of a percentage point, as we expect, that would take you back to where we were in the tightening cycle of 2018 with a high end range of about 2.5 percent.

I spoke to Ken Rogoff, a noted economist, earlier this morning who was saying that, look, the big size of these moves shows you that the Fed is behind the curve and really has to be tackling inflation very, very aggressively to try to get the economy back in balance. But he also said, he also said the Fed might have to be really aggressive to even push this economy into a recession to get us there. And that would be not very palatable, of course, for policymakers. But he says we're not in a recession yet.



KEN ROGOFF, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: It's not a recession when the economy is creating almost 400,000 jobs a month. It's just not anything that looks like a normal recession.


ROMANS: You'll probably be hearing a lot of recession talk tomorrow, guys. There's a second quarter GDP number that is forecast to come out. It could be maybe slightly positive or negative. If it's a negative number, that would be two quarters in a row of negative GDP growth, which is just the starting line for that discussion about whether the economy is in a recession.

But you heard Ken Rogoff say there, mirroring actually what we've been hearing a lot from the administration, right, that so many other parts of the economy are just still so strong, this isn't recessionary yet.

SCIUTTO: Depends on what people feel, right, in their pocketbooks.



SCIUTTO: Christine Romans, thanks so much.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

SCIUTTO: Still to come this hour, President Biden will speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping tomorrow as tensions build over reports Speaker Pelosi is considering a visit to Taiwan. New details about a timeline for that visit coming up.


And I'll speak to House Oversight Chair Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney about her calls for the DHS inspector general to recuse himself in an investigation into Secret Service text messages and an important hearing on automatic weapons her committee is holding today.

GOLODRYGA: And WNBA star Brittney Griner in a Russian courtroom this morning. She took the stand in her own defense just moments ago. We'll tell you what she said.


GOLODRYGA: President Biden is set to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping tomorrow. It will be the first call since March. And it comes at a highly sensitive moment between the two countries.

SCIUTTO: CNN has learned the Biden administration officials are quietly laying out concerns about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's planned trip to Taiwan. Congressman Mike Quigley told me yesterday the U.S. cannot allow China to influence her plans.


REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): You can't let Beijing dictate what the speaker of the House can do.


If she wants -- congressional delegations have been traveling to Taiwan for as long as I've been there, and before. And that should continue.


CNN's Selina Wang joins us now from Beijing.

Let's begin, though, with CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

Barbara, to Quigley's point there, congressional delegations to Taiwan have been happening regularly. What is the administration's particular concern with this one and what's the message to Pelosi from the White House?

STARR: Well, look, the speaker is the most senior lawmaker, of course, to travel to Taiwan, potentially in several decades now. The Chinese, the U.S. believes, see Speaker Pelosi as basically the same as the Biden administration. So the Chinese concern is that Pelosi is basically a signal of the Biden administration's policy of supporting Taiwan, which, of course, the Chinese object to.

So, the tensions are high. And that is what the Pentagon, what the White House is basically telling Speaker Pelosi. She has to make up her own mind. But they are presenting her with scenarios, with facts, with their assessments of how they see the political insecurity environment in Taiwan at this point, and in Beijing, if she decides to proceed.

Look, they're making it very clear, they will do everything to protect her security if and when she goes, but they are telling her there are political risks associated with this. The Chinese are not likely to react very pleasantly to it all.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, the Chinese ratcheting up the rhetoric on their end.

But to add another layer of intrigue here, Selina, Taiwan's foreign ministry says that they don't really have any information on Pelosi's potential visit. How would that even be possible?

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's really interesting to see the very muted response in Taiwan despite all of this fire and fury from Beijing. In fact, this potential visit by Pelosi has rarely even made it to local media headlines. Over the past several days, in the foreign ministry, saying while they would welcome any visit by a U.S. congress member, well, they don't really have a lot of information on this trip.

Now, Taiwan is in a delicate position because they would bear the brunt of any possible retaliation from Beijing. But, at the same time, if Pelosi did not go, well, then, that could further embolden Beijing.

Notable here as well, though, is that in terms of the timing we have recently learned, according to reporting from Kyoto News (ph), that Pelosi is planning to visit Japan early next month. That could coincide with this potential visit to Taiwan.

Now, Beijing, right now, is absolutely furious. They are urging the U.S. to cancel this visit, promising resolute and powerful actions. To Barbara's point, this is very different from the most recent U.S. congressional visits here because of her stature and also because of the timing here. We are just months away from a key political meeting when Xi Jinping is expected to seek an unprecedented third term. China's military is also celebrating its founding anniversary on August 1st. So, from Beijing's perspective, this is an incredibly provocative move at a time when China is trying to project this strength and control.

So, the concern is that Xi Jinping could see this possible visit as a humiliating act, and that, in response, he could overreact in order to not appear weak to the domestic audience.

At the same time, I've also spoken to experts who say that Xi Jinping, right now, does not want to risk military conflict at a time when he needs stability. And also, China is not ready for that either.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Economic troubles in China as well.

Barbara Starr, Selina Wang, thanks so much.

Coming up next, top Democrats are blasting the Department of Homeland Security, calling for its inspector general to recuse himself from the investigation into Secret Service text messages from around January 6th. I'll speak to a congresswoman leading the charge coming up.

GOLODRYGA: And we are just moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Futures rising ahead of today's major Fed decision on interest rates. Markets also boosted by strong earnings from big tech companies. Microsoft and Google's parent company, Alphabet, with strong gains and more big companies expected to release earnings today, including Ford and Meta.

We're keeping an eye on all of it.

Stay with us.



SCIUTTO: Two top House Democrats are calling on the DHS inspector general to recuse himself in an ongoing investigation into Secret Service text messages. House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney and House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson say they've now lost confidence in Joseph Cuffari's ability to lead that investigation. This after he failed to inform Congress for months that messages around January 6th may have been deleted.

CNN has reached out to the inspector general's office for comment.

This morning I spoke with Chairwoman Maloney about that push for Cuffari to step aside.


SCIUTTO: Congresswoman, you have an important hearing today regarding AR-15s with gun manufacturers. I do want to speak about that.


Before we get there, as we look at the DHS investigation of missing Secret Service text messages, you say you've lost confidence in the inspector general's ability to lead that probe, particularly after he failed to inform.