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DOJ Asking Questions About Trump's Actions Around Jan. 6; Fed Hikes Interest Rates By Another 0.75 Percent In Historic Move; House Lawmakers Question Top Gun-Makers About Role In Gun Violence. Aired 3- 3:30p ET
Aired July 28, 2022 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANGIE JONES, BIDEN VOTER FROM GEORGIA: I never saw that on the Republican side, never. We never talked about politics in the Republican side. There was no need to research candidates. You simply showed up on election day and you voted for all the Rs.
JEREMY FRYBERGER, BIDEN VOTER FROM IDAHO: I think that what Biden could do more than anything is use his bully pulpit and say, this is insane what we're seeing from conservatism and from Republicans. This is - it's outrageous, and so I don't care what ...
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Isn't he saying that? Isn't he sounding the alarm?
FRYBERGER: He isn't doing it forcefully enough.
CAMEROTA: Okay. So show of hands, how many of you wish the President Biden would be angrier and just show more anger (inaudible) ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't say anger (inaudible) ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was going to say - I don't know about anger (inaudible) fire in the belly.
JONES: Joe Biden needs to step up his game and be a little bit stronger and lead his party, the buck stops with him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Fascinating. The point that no one thought they were being too fickle.
BLACKWELL: For us to question every element - no, that's that - we're not doing that.
CAMEROTA: No. But she made a great point that when she was a Republican, she did not see that. They did fall in line more. She said they showed up and they just voted for an R, but Democrats dissect and analyze, and you figure out ...
BLACKWELL: There's a color coded chart of where you fit, yes.
CAMEROTA: There's a flow chart and figure out how it can be better. Now, tomorrow when you tune in, you're going to hear who they would like to run in 2024 instead of Joe Biden, so tune in for that.
It's the top of the hour on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota.
BLACKWELL: I'm Victor Blackwell.
Flashing red warning signs suggests the risk of federal prosecution may be increasing for former President Donald Trump. The Department of Justice has escalated its probe into January 6th. The Washington Post reports that the DOJ is directly investigating Trump's actions. Federal prosecutors are now targeting high profile players in Trump's inner circle. They questioned two top aides to former Vice President Mike Pence in front of a grand jury.
CAMEROTA: Marc Short and Greg Jacob were in the room for key Trump meetings. They were part of a pressure campaign to convince Pence to stop the certification of President Biden's electoral win. A source tell CNN that federal prosecutors asked them also about the fake elector scheme and the role of Trump lawyers; John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani.
And just last night, Attorney General Merrick Garland refused to rule out the possibility of bringing criminal charges against the former president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We intend to hold everyone, anyone who was criminally responsible for the events surrounding January 6 for any attempt to interfere with the lawful transfer of power from one administration to another accountable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 was criminally responsible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Let's go to CNN's Kara Scannell. Kara, What more do we know about the Justice Department's focus on former President Trump?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, I mean, this investigation is clearly been intensifying. And from what we've learned, its focus is turning to the White House. As you mentioned, Marc Short and Greg Jacob, two of Mike Pence's aides, two people that were in the room with him, two people that were in meetings that know about the pressure campaign from Trump and his allies trying to get Pence to not certify the election and certify Joe Biden's win.
They went before a federal grand jury in recent weeks. That's just one step that the Department of Justice has taken that brings you into the White House. They've also, according to Alyssa Farah Griffin, she was on New Day this morning. She said that she knows. She was, of course, Trump's strategic communications adviser. She said she's aware that DOJ has reached out to other former Trump White House officials wanting to have interviews with them.
And then The Washington Post had some new reporting and new details about what they learned about some of DOJ's conversations with witnesses. They write that the 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 advisors about fake electors and sending electors back to the states.
And this fake elector piece of the investigation is very significant. The Department of Justice just last month had subpoenaed electors and people associated with this alleged plot in seven of the battleground states. They want communications that they've had with the Trump campaign, the Trump White House Congress, as well as some of the former president's top attorneys, including Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman.
Of course, Eastman and Jeffrey Clark, the Department of Justice official were also contacted by the FBI and the Department of Justice. So this investigation really beginning to coalesce around what was going on in the White House and between the former President and his advisors. Victor? Alisyn?
CAMEROTA: Kara Scannell, stick around you're going to think we're brilliant in this next booking, because Dave Aronberg is here with us. He's the State Attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida. We also have Alyssa Farah Griffin. She's the former Trump White House Communications Director, who Kara was just talking about.
So Alyssa, I'll start with you.
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yes.
CAMEROTA: So you were mentioning that you do know that there were even other White House officials that have been spoken to by the DOJ beyond Marc Short and Greg Jacob.
GRIFFIN: Yes. And I would say reached out to by the DOJ. I don't know the extent of their cooperation at this point, but this shouldn't come as a surprise. So the grand jury investigation, the DOJ investigation is very different than the January 6 one, which is all in the public eye. We kind of see it play out in real time.
And I think there's been a bit of a false sense that DOJ is moving too slowly and hasn't really been working behind the scenes. And from what I understand that isn't the case. And as evidenced, frankly, by the fact that Marc Short is probably the most senior official, they're going to get there without having to really compel someone like Mark Meadows or even maybe a Pat Cipollone to testify. I know that they've made outreach to at least one individual who was in the broader Trump orbit.
CAMEROTA: And you had told us before about that you're friends with Cassidy Hutchinson, is that who it is?
GRIFFIN: So - and it was not Cassidy, I do you want to make that clear. I have not spoken to her about if she has been reached out to by DOJ or if she's cooperating, that would be a question for her. It was someone else in the broader network who I'd consider mid level that could support some of the - what they're looking into specifically around similar questions to what Short was asked about, which is the pressure campaign on Mike Pence in the days leading up to January 6, the schemes of things like fake electors and even some of these creative ways that certain officials at the Department of Justice wanted to bypass the law to try to hold on to victory.
CAMEROTA: And one more question, would that person be willing to become public and talk about it?
GRIFFIN: That - I don't want to speak for them, so I don't want to get ahead of that. And honestly, I want to be deferential to DOJ's investigation. They've done this largely behind closed doors, we probably wouldn't even know about Marc Short's testimony had a camera not caught him leaving and there's some brilliance to that. They've been very good about not letting leaks out, not showing their hand and what they have and that can be very helpful because this could be a criminal case.
BLACKWELL: Dave, the Committee just punctuated eight hearings with this blockbuster in primetime. Would it be overly cynical to question the timing of these revelations of the interview with NBC News? Do you believe the DOJ is feeling the pressure or do they even care about the criticisms of the pacing of its investigation?
DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: I think that Merrick Garland hears the critics and I think this is his way of pushing back. I mean, how can you not? He has been the object of derision by the left. They are saying that he doesn't have the stomach for this fight that he, coming from the worlds of the judiciary cares too much about what people think of him.
And I have to admit, I have said some of these things, too. And I've noticed in his interview yesterday that he had a more aggressive tone than before, simply pushing back against this criticism and good for him for doing that. Also, it's the language in that interview that's revealing. He also said that this wasn't just about January 6, but also about the broader attempts to disturb the lawful transfer of power and that spells bad news for Donald Trump, especially when it comes to the pressure campaign on Mike Pence because who has the stature to pressure a sitting Vice President, the only person who can do that is the then-President of the United States, Donald Trump.
BLACKWELL: Yes. Dave, the Committee released another element. They're dropping these nuggets now that they're on a break until potentially come back in September with more hearings. I want you to listen here to a bit of testimony from the former Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To be crystal clear, there was no direct order from President Trump to put 10,000 troops to be on the ready for January 6th, correct?
CHRIS MILLER, FORMER ACTING DEFENSE SECRETARY: No. Yes, that's correct. There was no direct - there was no order from the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACKWELL: Is this a legal problem or just a political problem for the former president?
ARONBERG: Both, Victor. Because Liz Cheney said, hey, the then- secretary of defense said there was no National Guard amassed to protect the Capitol because this goes against what Donald Trump is saying. That's his big defense. Blame Nancy Pelosi, blame the Capitol Police. Well, this blows that argument out of the water. But from a legal standpoint, it also matters, because there is the potential charge of obstruction of an official proceeding, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
And when you show that the former president assembled, unleashed and enable the mob, refusing to do anything about it when he could have, that takes prosecutors down the line to possibly charging him with this serious crime. So yes, this matters both in the court of public opinion and ultimately perhaps in a court of law.
CAMEROTA: Dave, it has to be so helpful when one of the ringleaders of the fake elector plot spells out the plot in an email such as what this pro-Trump attorney Jack Wilenchik did in this email to Boris Epshteyn. He says, "We would just be sending in 'fake' electoral votes to Pence so that someone in Congress can make an objection when they start counting votes and start arguing that the 'fake' votes should be counted." Oh, and PS, "Alternative votes is probably a better term than 'fake' votes." Smiley emoji.
By the way, Alyssa, before I get back to Dave, do you know Jack Wilenchik? Did you - was that a name that (inaudible) ...
GRIFFIN: I don't. I do know Boris Epshteyn.
GRIFFIN: I was not familiar with the other gentleman.
CAMEROTA: So that's got to be really helpful, Dave?
ARONBERG: Yes. I mean, how dumb can you be, right? This guy's a lawyer or maybe not for long after those statements. And he's saying the quiet part out loud about of like, yes, fake electors. If only their competence match their nefariousness we would have been a lot more in trouble.
And as a cherry on top, they also have a demonstration of consciousness of guilt because this lawyer said that he and the Republican Party chair in Arizona, Kelli Ward, wanted to keep this plan a secret until January 6 to surprise the Democrats and the media. So if this was just that contingency plan for alternate electors in case things go haywire legitimately, then why keep it a secret, right? And so this shows criminal intent and it's also a problem for Donald Trump because the RNC chair Ronna McDaniel has testified according to reports that Trump was personally involved with this effort.
So this could get you to conspiracy to defraud the United States under 18 USC 371 punishable of up to five years in prison.
BLACKWELL: Dave Aronberg, Alyssa Farah Griffin, thank you.
CAMEROTA: Thank you both.
BLACKWELL: All right. And historic move, the Federal Reserve announced it will raise interest rates another three quarters of a percentage point. It is the first time the Central Bank has raised rates by that much twice in a row. Now Fed Chair Jerome Powell just answered questions about the Fed's efforts to tame inflation without tipping into a recession.
CAMEROTA: Joining us now, CNN is Matt Egan, who is at the Federal Reserve and CNN Economics and Political Commentator, Catherine Rampell. She's also a Washington Post columnist. Okay. So Matt, what did Jerome Powell say about the Fed's decision?
MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: Well, Alisyn and Victor, Jerome Powell is acknowledging that inflation remains way too high and more work is needed to get it back under control. Powell even said that the Fed: "Wouldn't hesitate to make an even bigger move if one is necessary."
But the next Fed meeting isn't for eight weeks and that is an eternity in today's economy. And so Powell left himself plenty of wiggle room to see how the economy evolves, what happens to jobs, what happens to inflation, what's going on in financial markets. And what's interesting is that the Fed is conceding, that they are ramping up interest rates at a time when the economic environment is darkening, right?
The Fed actually in their statement, they downgraded their view of the economy. They pointed to softening indicators. And during the press conference, Powell weighed in on the question that's on everyone's minds right now: Is a recession coming or are we already in one? Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEROME POWELL, CHAIR, FEDERAL RESERVE: I do not think the U.S. is currently in a recession. And the reason is there just too many areas of the economy that are performing too well. And, of course, I would point to the labor market in particular. As I mentioned, it's true that growth is slowing and for reasons that we understand. Really the growth was extraordinarily high last year at 5.5 percent. We would have expected growth to slow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EGAN: So Powell stressed that they're not trying to start a recession and he expressed continued confidence that they can pull this off to contain inflation without sinking the economy. But he also conceded that that Job has gotten harder, and it may continue to get harder.
BLACKWELL: Catherine, what do you think about what you just heard there from Jerome Powell?
CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS COMMENTATOR: I think the Fed is stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, they could let inflation continue to be uncomfortably high and not raise rates as aggressively as some people are calling them to. On the other hand, they can try to kill inflation, but potentially in doing so will also kill the economy, i.e. tip us into a recession.
And so they have this very narrow path between those two really regrettable outcomes and you can hear in Chair Powell's voice, in his remarks that he has to project confidence that they can get us to the soft landing. That's the term of art that they use. But there is some nervousness because as Matt just pointed out, there - the Fed acknowledges that there is softening in spending, softening in production.
And yet, inflation is really high.
So Chair Powell said that they're going to take the data as it comes and respond as it comes. But it's a really, really challenging situation that the Fed is in and I don't envy them that.
CAMEROTA: But Catherine, do you think that there was a different alternative to the three quarter percent hike, I mean, in order to slow down demand?
RAMPELL: Some people were calling for the Fed to raise rates by even higher in this one meeting. Some people were calling for a one percentage point hike, which would be extremely aggressive and something that Americans would probably might not be ready for, given how we've experienced Fed policy over the past few decades.
There are other people - I mean, you look at what Democratic lawmakers are calling for. They're saying that they think the Fed is raising rates too aggressively. Now, I think they're wrong on that. I think this is a medicine that has to be delivered even if it's a painful - a bitter pill that we have to swallow.
It's not fun to have tightening financial conditions. It's not fun to be potentially on the verge of a recession. But given where inflation is, I don't think the Fed had any choice except to raise rates aggressively, again, as Matt pointed out, the - for two months in a row to two meetings in a row. So I said I think they had a lot of bad options at their disposal
right now, but probably they may - they chose the best of the bad options.
CAMEROTA: Okay. Matt Egan, Catherine Rampell, thank you.
Well, some Democratic leaders think it's time to switch up their midterm messaging. What they think could help stem the losses and keep control of Congress.
BLACKWELL: And survivors and family members from mass shootings deliver emotional messages to gun manufacturers. Their pleas for change, you'll hear them next.
CAMEROTA: Secretary of State Antony Blinken just said that the U.S. has put a substantial deal on the table for the release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan from Russia. CNN learned that after months of debate, the Biden administration offered the exchange of Viktor Bout for the two wrongfully detained Americans. Bout is a convicted Russian arms trafficker serving a 25-year U.S. prison sentence.
BLACKWELL: Now, in response to the new reporting, the Whelan family said, "Our family appreciates the Biden administration seeking Paul's release using the resources it has available. We hope the Russian government responds to the U.S. government and accepts this or some other concession that enables Paul to come home to his family. Hopefully no other American will be wrongfully held by the Russian government in the future."
Executives from major gun manufacturers face some tough questions from lawmakers. The House Oversight Committee released new findings that gun companies made more than a billion dollars from assault weapons over the last decade as America's gun violence crisis exploded. Some of the survivors testified to the horror they've lived through.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICOLE MELCHIANNO, SANDY HOOK SURVIVOR: My name is Nicole and nearly 10 years ago, I survived the Sandy Hook shooting in my elementary school when I was just seven years old. Still, to this day, I struggled through the horrible aftermath and PTSD.
ASHBEY BEASLY, HIGHLAND PARK SURVIVOR: As we ran, clutching hands, not knowing if someone was going to shoot us and if we were going to live or die. My son lost a huge part of his innocence. He's not the same person. He's broken.
TRACEY, FIANCEE OF BUFFALO VICTIM: My fiance was shot and killed on May 14th by a white supremacist mass shooter ...
TRACEY: ... when we went to Tops to buy our son a birthday cake. What are you going to do ...
GIRL: That's okay.
TRACEY: ... to make sure that your products don't get into the hands of a white supremacist mass shooter ever again who would take your child's father away?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Look at that. I mean, look at how heartbreaking those testimonials are, just three families and so many had been affected. CNN's Jessica Dean is covering this for us. Jessica, what else happened at this hearing?
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's just heart wrenching testimony that we heard from those victims. Victims' family members and gun manufacturers, executives from gun companies were there to listen to that to also take questions from the House Oversight Committee. We saw a video that featured survivors as well that they saw and focused on during this hearing and that testimony.
Interestingly, too, we heard from the chairman of that committee, Carolyn Maloney. She said she now intends to subpoena Smith & Wesson specifically on documents related to the sale of AR-15-style semi- automatic weapons. Smith & Wesson executive was invited to this hearing today but did not attend, so we did not hear from them.
You mentioned that the findings of this committee finding that a billion dollars in revenue in the sale of these military-style assault weapons and also they found aggressive marketing they said especially toward young men. That is something they also wanted to talk to these executive about earlier today. Here's Carolyn Maloney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D-NY): But the time for dodging accountability is over. Today, I'm announcing my intent to issue a subpoena for documents from Smith & Wesson's CEO and other top executives so that we can finally get answers about why this company is selling assault weapons to mass murderers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEAN: And we also know now that the House will not be voting on a series of policing and gun bills that they were originally going to try to tackle this week, that will slide until later. They're indicating that perhaps they will come back in August recess to deal with some business that they could deal with it then.
But, of course, Victor and Alisyn, anything that passes the House is going to have a very, very uphill battle in the Senate where it will need 60 votes.
CAMEROTA: Jessica Dean, thank you. BLACKWELL: Well, there was just a major bipartisan deal reached on
Capitol Hill, the Senate voted to invest $52 billion in U.S. semiconductor production. We're live on Capitol Hill with the news, next.