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DOJ Ready For Court Fight; Mcconnell And Mccarthy At Odds Over Deals; Flooding In Kentucky; Jerry Stacy Is Interviewed About Flooding In Kentucky. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 29, 2022 - 09:00   ET



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

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Jim Sciutto. A very busy Friday morning.

The Justice Department is preparing for a legal fight with former Trump White House officials as it looks to compel several members of Trump's inner circle to testify about the former president's actions and conversations surrounding January 6th.

New overnight, CNN has learned the House Select Committee plans to share some 20 transcripts with Justice Department investigators. January 6th committee member Zoe Lofgren says it's just beginning.


REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): It's really like a dam has broken, and people are coming in to speak to the committee. There's very much an active investigation.


GOLODRYGA: One major point of interest, the 25th Amendment. The committee now seeking testimony from cabinet members who discussed the possibility of removing Trump from office.

Key witnesses include former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, former DNI John Radcliffe and ex-acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who just spoke to CNN moments ago.

Now, all of this comes as we're learning that a former DOJ staffer, someone who worked with Jeffrey Clark, that's the man Trump wanted to install as attorney general in the days leading up to January 6th, is cooperating with the criminal probe.

Let's begin this morning with CNN's senior justice correspondent Evan Perez.

Evan, a lot of movement within the DOJ as they're attempting to skirt executive privilege. It was something that the select committee was quite successful at getting accomplished. Break down for us how the department plans to handle this.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're planning to go to court to try to get a judge to essentially force some of these folks to -- that they want to talk to, to answer questions about their direct interactions with the former president.

A lot of them we expect are going to be citing former President Trump's claim that he has executive privilege, obviously even though he's no longer president.

This is really something that's legally untested. The department believes -- prosecutors believe that they are going to be successful in doing this. And you can tell that some of these witnesses are willing to comply as long as they have a judge telling them to do it.

We already have -- the Justice Department already confronted this in the recent testimony by Greg Jacob and Marc Short, two aides of former Vice President Mike Pence.

They were present on -- at a January 4, 2021, meeting where the former president was pushing and pressuring the former vice president to set aside the election results and to help keep him in power.

And so what we know is that the - these two men sat for hours answering questions about the pressure campaign. But when it came to questions directly about their interactions with Trump, they declined to answer those questions citing executive privilege.

Again, this is something that's legally untested. We expect that this is going to be a legal fight that will open the door to people around the former president, really honing in on things that he might have said directly.

SCIUTTO: All right, we are hearing more reports, frankly concerning reports, this morning that there may be other missing text messages from the leadup to January 6th. What do we know and how did this happen?

PEREZ: Yes, so this is, Jim, and Bianna, this is a -- this is a finding from the group called Project on Government Oversight.

They say that they obtained a document that indicates that as part of an investigation by the Homeland Security inspector general there was a response from the homeland security management division that they could not retrieve messages from two top officials, Chad Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli, and another third official actually from Homeland Security Department, from that key period.

Again, this is all as part of an investigation as to what led -- what these top officials were doing in the leadup to January 6th. And, obviously, given the fact that there are missing text messages from another component of DHS, which is the Secret Service, it raises questions as to why these messages are missing.

"The Washington Post" reports that at least part of the explanation appears to be that the messages were wiped out when these men left their jobs in government and the phones were -- essentially were wiped.

SCIUTTO: There are laws about this.

Evan Perez, say - do stay with us.

PEREZ: All right.

SCIUTTO: I do want to bring in Norm Eisen, CNN legal analyst, who served as special counsel to House lawmakers during Trump's first impeachment trial.


Norm, as you know, there are record keeping laws and, by the way, this is not the first time we've heard of something in this category given the Secret Service text messages. Is there any excuse to wipe out text messages, even as an administration is transitioning, or are you concerned that laws were broken here?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Jim, thanks for having me back. Good morning, Bianna.

I am concerned about compliance with federal law. When I was President Obama's ethics czar, this was one of the areas I oversaw in the White House. And you are supposed to preserve everything.

And in that transition, Jim, we went to elaborate lengths, working with the Bush administration to make sure that everything was saved. There were people whose entire job during the transition period was to preserve it.

And when you fit it in with the other disturbing evidence that some at DHS may have been in cahoots with Trump and smearing Cassidy Hutchinson, witness intimidation, that Secret Service text messages, including for some of those same individuals, may be missing.

Now this. It starts to raise serious questions of obstruction of justice. And I'm sure the Department of Justice and the 1/6 committee will look deeply into it.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, on the one hand, could it possibly just be sloppiness. But then you have to factor in the significance of that date, and that the text messages are missing surrounding that date now from the DHS following those missing messages from the Secret Service. A bit suspicious to say the least.

Evan, let me ask you to dig in on something that you mentioned earlier, and that was the January 6th committee planning to share transcripts with the DOJ now.

Stark contrast from what we saw play out just a few months ago where there was some public tension between these two bodies about the committee not wanting to share some information that the DOJ had reached out for.

PEREZ: Yes. GOLODRYGA: That's changed now. Why?

PEREZ: That's right. We now know that they are sharing I believe it's over 20 transcripts, groups of transcripts that they are sharing with the Justice Department. And this at least, you know, opens the door to some of that cooperation that they've talked about.

We don't know exactly which transcripts they're sharing right now, immediately. But we know that the committee has said that the Justice Department was particularly interested in transcripts of people who testified about the fake elector's scheme.

This is the scheme to try to seat these fake electors to try to keep the former president in power in these battleground states. And that's important because there are a lot of testimony - there's a lot of testimony there that is important to cases that we can tell the Justice Department is very close to try to decide whether they are going to bring some charges on.

Those are - that's a -- that's a part of the criminal investigation that we know, Bianna and Jim, is in a very advanced stage.

SCIUTTO: Advanced stage. That's remarkable given where just a few weeks ago the thinking was DOJ hasn't really started down this path, but we've learned a lot since then.

PEREZ: Right.

SCIUTTO: I do want to ask you, Norm, about what Evan was reporting about prior, which is about this battle to force these former senior Trump administration officials to testify as to conversations with Trump and how far the executive privilege claim goes.

If they're going to go to court - and, by the way, court processes can take a long time, might go to the Supreme Court - I mean what happens here and how long does it take to get a final decision on this?

EISEN: What happens here, Jim, is that Trump will lose and I think that will happen reasonably briskly. The reason I think he will lose is because the standard for executive privilege is, particularly in a criminal investigation, that the current or former president's interests must be balanced against the needs of the criminal investigation.

In the seminal case, the Nixon tapes, executive privilege fell for that reason. The same will happen here.

Trump's claim is even weaker because he's an ex-president and we've had a series of courts hold correctly that for an ex-president, the current president is the ultimate decider. And that can go as quickly as three months, as it did with the 1/6 committee's battle for records where Trump asserted privilege.

So, I expect him to lose, and reasonably quickly.

GOLODRYGA: You're right to point out there is precedent here. Evan Perez, Norm Eisen, thank you.

EISEN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: There is new CNN reporting this morning that some Republicans, such as Kevin McCarthy are fuming that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has, in their view, helped Democrats push through a series of bipartisan pieces of legislation.


McConnell's cooperation surprising to some considering he certainly has a reputation for stopping Democrats' legislation, keeping his confidence united and together. He has earned the nickname, you might have heard it, the grim reaper.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, and he wore that nickname like a badge of honor. But over the past year we've seen McConnell at odds with his own party over issues such as infrastructure, gun violence and, most recently, the critical chips bill.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is on Capitol Hill.

So, Melanie, what more can you tell us about this potential rift?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, grim reaper no more. Mitch McConnell has actually been responsible for keeping some of these bipartisan priorities alive, which Democrats are now touting on the campaign trail.

As you mentioned, he has voted for infrastructure, gun reform and now most recently a bill to boost the global chip shortage. And that has really put him at odds with his own party, a place he is not used to being.

And he is particularly at odds with House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has not only opposed these big ticket bipartisan items, but he has actually whipped his own members to oppose them. That has created some frustration in both the Senate and the House among Republicans.

And there's also some criticism for McConnell about how he handled the chips bill. Initially he was threatening to sink the chips bill if Democrats went ahead with their package on healthcare and climate and the economy.

But McConnell ended up voting for the chips bill because he, like many in Washington, thought those Democratic talks were dead, only to learn hours after that chips vote that Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin had reached a deal.

And so that has led to some Republicans accusing McConnell of getting played.

Here's what Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, told reporters yesterday. I think that was a mistake. When you make a threat, you should follow through. Bluffing doesn't work when you don't follow through. Now, McConnell's allies say that he was just really trying to show

that the Senate can still function, that he was trying to show middle America and suburban voters that the Republican Party is not just reflexively opposed to some of these items, these common sense items, like gun reform, which is a really big issue.

And he has a different battleground than Kevin McCarthy. The Senate is a much tougher map than in the House, which is much more likely to flip come the fall. And so they have different calculations there.

But, this split is still notable. They are also split on how they have treated the former president, Donald Trump. McConnell severed ties with Donald Trump, whereas McCarthy has stayed very close to the former president.

And so those differences could become even more pronounced if they both win the majority next year.

SCIUTTO: We should note that only in this current divided environment is passing a -- an essentially a national security bill to increase U.S. production of semiconductors would be seen as such a partisan issue, or even infrastructure.

ZANONA: Right. Right.

SCIUTTO: I mean these were things that in the past, you know, Democrats and Republicans were on the same page. Or even, like, 48 hours ago, right, they were on the same page.


SCIUTTO: Melanie Zanona -- but that's where we are -- thanks so much.

There is a lot of anger and finger pointing this morning, imagine that, after Senate Republicans blocked a multibillion-dollar bill, another bipartisan effort, that would have helped millions of veterans who suffered toxic exposure to burn pits during their military service. Twenty-five senators who previously supported the legislation, Republicans, voted against it on Wednesday.

GOLODRYGA: And veterans activist Jon Stewart slammed lawmakers blocking that passage.


JON STEWART, VETERANS ADVOCATE: Those who fought in our wars, outside sweating their asses off, with oxygen, battling all kinds of ailments while these (EXPLETIVE DELETED) sit in the air conditioning, walled off from any of it!


GOLODRYGA: This morning, CNN spoke to Army veteran Le Roy Torres, who suffers from health problems caused by his exposure to burn pits during his service in the Iraq War.


LE ROY TORRES, U.S. ARMY (RETIRED): I see it as strictly repulsive partisan politics that is hurting the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our freedom. You know, and I'm totally just - it's disgusting.


GOLODRYGA: It's disgusting. Our vets do deserve much better than that.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says that he plans to schedule another procedural vote for Monday to hopefully break the filibuster.


And we should note that President Biden attributes the death of his son Beau Biden to burn pits from brain cancer.


SCIUTTO: We'll stay on top of that story.

Still to come this hour, Kentucky's governor says this morning that the death toll could double in just catastrophic flooding that hit the eastern part of his state. We are live from Kentucky coming up next.

Plus, a public health emergency. What it means as San Francisco becomes the first major U.S. city to make a declaration, such a health declaration, over monkeypox.

GOLODRYGA: And family members of 9/11 victims are furious as the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tournament kicks off in New Jersey today. How former President Trump is front and center in this controversy.


That's up next.


GOLODRYGA: A state of emergency in Kentucky after catastrophic flooding damaged hundreds of homes and killed at least 15 people, including children. Sadly, officials say that number will likely rise. Rescuers are working around the clock to reach people who are stranded in the floodwaters.

Governor Andy Beshear calls it one of the most significant, deadly floods in Kentucky history.


GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): We've never have seen something like this. Folks who deal with this for a living, have been doing it for 20 years, have never seen water this high.

We still can't get to a lot of people. There's so much water. The current is so strong, it's not safe for some of the water rescues that we need to do.

So, we'll be in the search and rescue certainly today and tomorrow. And then we're going to be looking at a year's worth at least of rebuilding.



SCIUTTO: Goodness. And the waters came so quickly.

CNN's Joe Johns is in Hazard, Kentucky, this morning.

Joe, I wonder what you're seeing there. It really - it goes beyond description some of this.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: It certainly does, Jim. And this is the road that goes right along the aptly named Troublesome Creek in eastern Kentucky. And the debris, if you look at it, really starts to tell the story.

In the distance there we can see what appears to be a structure that was destroyed. Closer here in the foreground we see what appears to be a metal roof, twisted on the ground. Lines down. It goes on to this tree. More of a structure. And all the way down Troublesome Creek.

As far as how high this water was at its peak, one firefighter told me that at that time the water would have gone over my head as I stand here on the road.

For every person who has experienced this flash flood in eastern Virginia -- in eastern Kentucky, there's a different story.



JUDY BUTLER, FRANKFORT RESIDENT: He said, you better be getting you some clothes on, getting your backpack, because we've got to get out of here. And by the time we got up to the neighbors, up here to - to Tony's double wide, it was - it went from the back of the trailer to the carport.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My living room completely crushed.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's OK. God is good all the time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just relieved to get out of there. I'm - I'm going to lose everything I have for sure. But it's better than losing my life.


JOHNS: What we don't know right now is the final death toll, but authorities say they're very concerned because throughout yesterday it was very hard to figure out where people were, who needed help, and to get to them.

Back to you.


GOLODRYGA: The governor said earlier, the death toll now stands at about 15, expected to rise. And, unfortunately, among those are children.

Joe Johns, thank you.

Well, let's bring in Jerry Stacy, who is the emergency management director for Perry County in Kentucky.

Jerry, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. I'm so sorry that you and your community are going through this right now.

Tell us what the situation is on the ground now because we heard from the governor who said that the water isn't even expected to crest in some parts of the state until 6:00 p.m. tomorrow.

JERRY STACY, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR FOR PERRY COUNTY, KENTUCKY (via telephone): Yes. We're - we're in a very fluid situation with the -- just responding to situations as they come.

It's - it's been very difficult. As the governor said, to even respond in some of these situations, the water was just unlike anything we've ever seen or even thought was possible.

And -- but, you know, we've -- we're working hard, very hard to try to -- to, you know, rescue as many people as we possibly can. And we've done that, you know, on a very successful basis.

We've recused a lot of people. A lot of help with the National Guard. I know we had a lot of rescues and -- by helicopter and just some very strenuous situations. But we've -- we're hard at it. And search and rescue will be moving forward today and tomorrow as long as we need to, to make sure that we reach every person we can.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, no doubt that death toll would be much higher had it not been for the heroic work of you and your colleagues there and search and rescue.

What exactly do you need right now? What is most important in terps of helping you get to these stranded citizens?

STACY: Well, right now is - is - we're just -- we're solely - we're fixed on search and rescue right now. We're needing -- we, you know, anybody that wants to volunteer can. That's fine. We're doing that from our National Guard armory here. We're handling all of our search and rescue from that point. And so that.

And then the other thing is just donations. If you can donate, that's probably the best thing, monetarily. We have a phone set up, a foundation through Appalachians (ph) Kentucky (ph).

It's an Appalachian (INAUDIBLE) Aid. They can go there and, again, it's a foundation for Appalachians Kentucky and donate there. That would probably be -- these people do a really good job of getting money directly into the hands of people that need it.



STACY: To the people that has been victims of this. So that.

Cleaning supplies is something that we're going to need at some point too. And then, you know, we have other issues too from water issues. And I know a lot of these communities don't have electricity and probably won't have it for a while.

GOLODRYGA: Well, we're going to -- yes, well, we are definitely going to find those links to where people at home watching can donate and put that up for them later on our website.

Jerry Stacy, stay safe. I know you have a busy couple of days ahead of you. I'm still struck by the governor saying these people lost everything and the majority of them didn't have much to begin with. So, we're thinking of you as your state recovers.



SCIUTTO: Just devastating images from there.

Another story we're following closely, monkeypox cases. The number of cases rising in the country. The city of San Francisco has now declared a public health emergency there. What that measure means exactly, what precautions will be put in place and just how extensive this is. We'll have a look, coming up.