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Dems Near Historic Win With Sweeping Climate, Tax And Health Bill; Dick Cheney Blasts Trump As "Coward"; Three Dead, One Injured In Lightning Strike Across From White House; U.S. Faces Extreme Weather Threats From Coast To Coast; Trump's Lawyers Talking To DOJ, Lawyers Warn Trump Of Possible Indictment; January 6th Texts Wiped From Phones Of Key Trump Defense Officials. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 06, 2022 - 17:00   ET




JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.

And today, the U.S. Senate is on track to pass a major part of the Biden agenda. The Inflation Reduction Act would represent the largest climate investment in U.S. history and make big changes to healthcare policy.

Republicans are fighting against it right now, but it appears that all 50 Senate Democrats are on the same page after Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema, sometimes a hold-out on the Biden agenda offered her support this week.

CNN congressional correspondent Jessica Dean is up on Capitol Hill for us. She's been there all afternoon. We appreciate it, Jessica.

We've learned there has been some pretty serious movement. I guess getting this ball down the field. What's happening?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Get it rolling. This is big -- this is breaking news that we've just gotten in the last five minutes or so. And that is that we have bill text and we also have a ruling or the Congressional Budget Office has come back and said that this is all good, that they can move forward.

So now what we're expecting any moment now is for majority leader Chuck Schumer to go to the Senate floor to make some remarks and then begin this first step. Again, remember they're using a special budget process, to begin this first step in the process which will be a motion to proceed that requires just a simple majority. So that the Democrats have.

All 50 Senate Democrats are on board. So that will really kick things off and it will be 20 hours of debate on both sides -- up to 20 hours of debate.

Then they go into something called a vote-a-rama which sounds a lot more fun than it actually ends up being. It's hours and hours of voting on amendments before final passage.

So the bottom line here is we are moving forward now after really kind of languishing during the day not knowing when this would go. But we do see this moving forward.

It remains to be seen exactly how long this will take. But ultimately we do expect for this to pass through the Senate within the next several, many hours. Could go into the early morning hours of tomorrow.

And again, Jim, just reminding people a little bit about what's in this bill. The biggest investment in climate provisions that's ever come out of the U.S. Senate in this. They also have some healthcare provisions that would extend Affordable Care Act subsidies and it would allow Medicare to negotiate the price of some drugs moving forward. That's never happened before.

And then some tax provisions. A corporate minimum tax and a 1 percent excise tax on stock buybacks. So a variety of things in here that really, frankly Senate Democrats didn't know that they would get when these talks broke down with Senator Joe Manchin, you know, earlier this summer. They didn't know that they'd get the climate provisions or the tax provisions.

So we will see how this all plays out, but right now, the big news is it is moving forward. We do have movement after kind of just a holding pattern all afternoon.

ACOSTA: All right. Jessica Dean, we'll be watching. We know you will as well and we're looking at a live picture right now of the Senate as they get set for this vote-a-rama which is -- it doesn't make sense to you, it doesn't make sense to me. But they're going to be working through amendments for the next several hours to get to final passage.

And let's talk about this further with Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona. Congressman I won't have you break down arcane Senate procedure for us but I was wondering if you could take stock of this moment for the Biden administration, for President Biden, for Democrats.

We've seen this agenda stalled time and again and you know, a lot of folks here in Washington are tempted to parse through the politics of the situation, but there is a massive amount of money dedicated to fight climate change in this. There's also investments in keeping Obama care going for people who rely on that program.

Just wondering if you could take stock of what this means for the president and the Democrats.

REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-AZ): Well look, the president and the Democrats, we're on a roll. We have momentum on our side. We've already passed the Chips Act last week.

With this really important piece of legislation, we're doing some Democratic priorities that we've not been able to accomplish in quite a while. [17:04:54]

GALLEGO: And this president and with the Congress and the Senate, we're going to do it. We're going to have a major investment in climate change legislation. We're finally going to be able to bring down the cost of medicine for our seniors and we're expanding, you know, we're expanding the subsidies we're going to buy affordable healthcare.

This is a big, big victory for us and I think, you know, we're really going to be able to lead into this election with these great victories.

ACOSTA: All right. Now I'll ask you a little bit of politics, Congressman. You've been --


ACOSTA: Yes. You've been pretty critical of Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema in the past for blocking. I mean she has been blocking key pieces of the Biden agenda from time to time along with Senator Joe Manchin. Were you surprised to see Senator Sinema backing this bill, deciding to get on board? What did you think of that?

GALLEGO: I wasn't surprised. I think she recognized that if she did that, that it would potentially put her at risk for support in the future from voters. But it did surprise me at the end that her one sticking point was her trying to protect very rich hedge fund managers that don't really exist in Arizona. But if that's what you want to fight for, that's what you need to vote for this bill, then I think it's appropriate and you know, we'll do it. You know, we definitely are never going to let, could be the enemy of perfect or the opposite way around.

But you know, at a minimum, we're going to pass these bills that are really going to help everyday people's lives and I'm glad she go on board.

ACOSTA: And are you still considering, I mean now that Sinema's on board with this legislation, does that tamp down your potential interest in running against her in a primary challenge in 2024? What do you think?

GALLEGO: No. I mean, it doesn't tamp down. Again, I always give credit where credit is due. I'm glad that she came on board. But there's still some outstanding questions out there that I'm going to have to talk to Arizonans about.

For example, the fact that she won't break the filibuster to support the Voting Rights Act. The fact that she won't break the filibuster to protect Roe v. Wade. And other, you know, issues like for example, standing up for hedge fund managers and the ultra rich instead of looking out for the everyday Arizonans.

Those are the kind of conversations that I'm going to start having next year after this election's done and we'll see where it takes us. ACOSTA: And on the other side of the aisle, I mean we have CPAC to

talk about as well, Congressman. The big conservative gathering that's taking place this week down in Dallas.

We're just now seeing the results of today's informal CPAC straw poll on 2024, and you know, political scientists will caution that you can't always take these straw polls to the bank. But it is sort of a sign along the highway, you know, en route to 2024 as to where the enthusiasm is inside the conservative part of the Republican Party.

And it says in this CPAC straw poll result that Trump has 69 percent of the support there at CPAC. That's up ten points from CPAC's February straw poll. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is back in the pack at 24 percent. He finishes in second there. And then there's really nobody else on the radar screen in this straw poll

And I'm just wandering what your take is. It does sound like this party is still, the Republican Party is still very much in the grip of the former president.

GALLEGO: Well, certainly we look at the results in Arizona where we elected a whack-a-doodle candidate named Kari Lake who wants to overturn the 2020 election and arrest election officials for what she deems as fraud.

We have another guy named Mark Finchem who is a fake cowboy down to his fake boots who also claims that, you know, there's a bunch of fraud and cannot prove it. And you're talking about a group called CPAC that just invited Prime Minister Orban, who openly said that mixed race countries are a problem. So we're dealing with a very, very cooky group of people, a very weird group of people that's supporting Donald Trump.

I don't think it's representative of all Republicans. But you know, I think it is what we have to accept. They will have power over the Republican Party at least for the next four years.

ACOSTA: All right. Congressman Ruben Gallego, we're going to go to the Senate floor right now. Thanks so much for your time.

Let's go to the Senate floor and listen to the Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, on the developing climate and tax bill that's making its way through the Senate.

SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: And it will reduce -- reduce the deficit. It will help every citizen in this country and make America a much better place.

The time is now to move forward with big, bold package for the American people. To fight inflation and make it easier for people to afford everything from trips to the doctors office to trips to the pharmacy. To hold drug companies accountable and empower Medicare to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs.

[17:09:58] SCHUMER: To help families pay their utilities with the boldest clean emergency package in American history. To make sure that nurses and teachers and firefighters and middle class families don't pay more in taxes than the billion dollar corporations.

To reduce pollution, restore our coastlines, protect our forests and deliver to our children and grandchildren the planet they deserve.

Again, the time is now to move forward with a big, bold package for the American people. And again, this was a historic bill -- this historic bill will reduce inflation, lower costs, fight climate change. It's time to move this nation forward.

Senate Democrats began this majority by promising to tackle the biggest challenges facing our country. The Inflation Reduction Act will make good on that promise and serve as the capstone to one of the most productive stretches the Senate has seen in a very long time. And in the end, it will be the American people who benefit from the work we do here and now.

ACOSTA: All right. There's the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, on this bill that is passing through the Senate right now. There's a vote-a-rama, as they call it, taking place this evening as they cycle through some amendments that are going to be put forward to that legislation.

We're going to keep tabs on it. Get back to our Capitol Hill colleagues throughout the next several hours and we'll bring you the latest developments as they come in. But that piece of legislation is expected -- expected to get to the finish line sometime over the next several hours. We'll keep you posted on that.

Coming up, former vice president Dick Cheney with a scathing warning about former president Donald Trump. Why Cheney is calling Trump a coward.



ACOSTA: Former vice president Dick Cheney is voicing his deep opposition to former president Donald Trump in a new ad that's gone viral.


DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He tried to steal the last election using lies and violence to keep himself in power after the voters had rejected him. He's a coward. A real man wouldn't lie to his supporters. He lost this election and he lost big.


ACOSTA: Cheney recorded the ad for his daughter, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who is facing a steep reelection fight in no small part because of her role on the January 6th Committee. And joining me now to talk about this is former defense secretary and former Republican senator from Maine, William Cohen. Secretary Cohen, always great to speak with you.

You know, last year, you joined Dick Cheney and other former defense secretaries in condemning those who would not accept the results of the 2020 election. I just have to ask what's your reaction to what Cheney is saying now?

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER SENATOR AND DEFENSE SECRETARY: Well, I agree wholeheartedly with what Dick Cheney is saying today. It's a bit ironic because a few years ago when Dick was in office, he was characterized as Darth Vader.

He's gone now from Darth Vader to Yoda. And Yoda has been the one who would say that fear leads to a number of things. The path of fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hatred. Hatred to suffering. And we saw that all play out on January 6th.

So I think Dick Cheney has called it right, that Donald Trump is a danger to this country and a coward for not facing up to the facts, for not accepting the truth of what has s happened and being unwilling to admit that he lost fair and square.

So now he's just kind of roiling in the self-pity, grievance, and hatred. And that's what's being promoted at CPAC today and in the past.

So I think Dick Cheney is right. I hope he can help his daughter. I'm not sure that there are enough left in the Republican Party who will listen to his appeal, but I'm hopeful.

ACOSTA: And during the Nixon years, you were a Republican House member, famously broke with your party, demanded the Nixon White House tapes during Watergate, wanted accountability in that scandal.

Meanwhile, we should just point out this just came in in the last several minutes that Trump just won the CPAC straw poll down in Dallas with some 69 percent. Of course it's not a scientific poll. It's kind of more of a measuring stick as to where things stand right now in the conservative movement.

But I mean that is a ten-point jump from the last CPAC poll despite everything that we've learned.

COHEN: It really doesn't surprise me. What is taking place in this country is really quite dangerous. You know, we are moving closer and closer to a fascist form of government where we no longer believe in the rule of law.

And this is one of the things that really separated out the Conservative Party to say that we believe in law and order. But the emphasis being on law especially.

And our party today, Republican Party, does not believe in the rule of law. They have ignored what took place on Capitol Hill. As many as 30 percent of the Republican Party according to recent in polls say that violence is an acceptable form of political speech, political action.

Violence is what characterized the fascist party in Italy. And George Will, a very conservative columnist has written an important piece in the "Washington Post" which summarizes an article in "The Economist" showing how Italy's Benito Mussolini grabbed power in Italy and then what he did by having his Black Shirts, his so-called guards as such, carry out violence against anyone who would speak ill of him or the party.


COHEN: So we're heading in that direction unless we do believe and commit ourselves to the rule of law. And I, at this particular point, I don't think the party is heading in that direction. Just the opposite.

ACOSTA: I just want to follow up on something you just said, Secretary Cohen because I know it's a lot for you to say this as a former Republican senator, former Republican member of the House of Representatives. You believe the Republican Party is embracing fascism?

COHEN: I think we're close to embracing it. If you don't accept the rule of law, if you think that violence, that attack on Capitol Hill is acceptable as a form of political expression, then you are heading in that direction where you have a one-man control. You have allegiance being paid to a man who may be indicted for having organized a multipronged attack upon our electoral system.

And if you sow enough disbelief, enough disgust for our present system, then what you are doing is you're opening the door for a fascist form of thinking where we pledge allegiance not to the constitution, not to the rule of law, but to the rule of a man who stands for just the opposite.

So I think we're in danger of going down that path. And I want to say to Dick Cheney, thank you for speaking out. Thank you for standing up as well as for your daughter and for us. For the country. It's the one thing that holds a country that believes in diversity, racially, ethnically, religiously together is the rule of law as to a country like Russia, by way of example.

And you see the difference in what's taking place there and how President Trump, when he was president, almost sat in the lap of Vladimir Putin. He invited Putin, an enemy of the United States, an adversary at the very least, into our electoral system. Our entire intelligence community said he did.

But then President Trump said no, I believe Putin. And so he is a wannabe Putin. I think he will bring Putinism to the Potomac and I think that's a real danger for everyone in this country.

ACOSTA: And Secretary Cohen I wanted to ask you about the mission that took out the terrorist Ayman al-Zawahiri, one of the people responsible for 9/11. And of course the U.S. took out that terrorist earlier this week, somebody that the U.S. Had been hunting for for 21 years.

But you know, despite what should be recognized as universally as an overwhelming success for the military and the intelligence community and finally bringing him to justice, taking him out was met -- the mission was met with sneers and sarcasm by some of the far right. Let's take a listen.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, Biden gave a speech boasting that he's killed an al Qaeda figure in Afghanistan. Great.

Feel safer? Of course, you don't. Nobody does. And the reason nobody feels safer is Biden's response to the disaster in Afghanistan.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Unsurprisingly he was killed in Afghanistan where terrorist organizations have now become safe haven. They have been rapidly gaining ground since Biden abandoned the country last year. As a result, the world is a much more dangerous place.


ACOSTA: Secretary Cohen, you know when the U.S. got bin Laden, there were celebrations in the street. There was unity. What does it say about where we are as a country right now where you see this very different response from the far right to taking out a major terrorist?

COHEN: Well, it's really interesting that the same people that are citing this as a failure, calling it into question are the same folks who are praising President Putin and Viktor Orban. Same people saying gee, why aren't we on the side of the Russians? They have the weapons. They have the money, the oil. Why aren't we on their side instead of being on the side of Ukrainians.

It's because we believe in democracy and freedom and the rule of law is why. So I don't put much stock in what they're saying. They do have a very strong following and I think that's the reason where you side with the Putins of the world. You side with the Orbans of the world.

And just interesting. Orban comes to the CPAC, rather and says what I'm against race mixing. I wonder how that's playing in one of the Supreme Court households as he's speaking to the conservative movement? That's something I suspect is causing some race discomfort in at least one household.

ACOSTA: All right. Former defense secretary Bill Cohen, thanks as always for your time. We appreciate it.

COHEN: Good to be with you. Thank you.

ACOSTA: All right. Thank you.

Coming up, it's so hot in part of the United States right now, there are growing concerns about UPS drivers stuck in those boiling hot trucks with no air conditioners. It is downright dangerous. We'll talk about that next with Bill Weir.



ACOSTA: A hotter than normal weekend is on the horizon for most of the U.S. More than 55 million people are under heat alerts today. Those of you in the Pacific Northwest could see, get this, triple digit temperatures on Sunday.

And a bizarre weather event killed three people a couple of days ago here in Washington, D.C. Lightning hit a tree right across from the White House on Thursday, just an awful situation, where some people were taking shelter from the storm. We have more on this now from CNN's Tom Foreman.



TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In a flash, the summers wild weather struck again, lightning hitting just across from the White House critically injuring four people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was like a huge bomb.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I'm not exaggerating, it came this close to us. And we were going, whoa.

FOREMAN: Three of those who fell have now died, including Donna and James Mueller, grandparents from Wisconsin, celebrating their 56th wedding anniversary.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa. Look at that?



FOREMAN: Coast to coast and many places in between, the weather keeps raging, causing floods in some places, wildfires in others, and soaring temperatures for tens of millions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a pretty intense lightning storm. I just happen to take a peek outside after the rain stopped. Notice the water had gotten up to the bottom of the step.

FOREMAN: The heat has not spared even some places where floods have roared. And threats and more rain hanging over much of the Midwest, including Kentucky, where thousands lost their homes to high water and dozens have perished.

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D), KENTUCKY: So everybody be weather aware. The ground is already really saturated.

FOREMAN: Amid all that, an updated prediction from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Colorado State University. Despite a slow start, this Atlantic hurricane season will likely produce an above average number of storms.

(on camera): Federal authorities say they are pleased at how they've been able to respond to all these disasters so far.

But they note if the number in severity keep growing, it could become a bigger challenge and with climate change, they fear it might.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


ACOSTA: As the nation contends with soaring temperatures, the bill the Senate just approved or was on the verge of approving aims to address the climate crisis.

But there are tradeoffs. Here are the facts.

It would be the biggest climate investment in U.S. history with $369 billion set aside to combat global warming, including consumer tax credits on electric vehicles, solar panels and energy efficient water heaters.

But there are also billions in tax credits to fossil fuel companies to encourage them to invest in clean energy manufacturing.

For the next decade, any new wind or solar energy protection on federal land can only be approved if a new lease is approved for oil and gas drilling as well.

Joining me now is CNN chief climate correspondent, Bill Weir.

Bill, you know, the sausage is being made as we speak here in Washington and there was plenty of horse trading along the way. That's the best I can do to use some cliches here in Washington.

But it's literally what they do. They're trading cows for chickens at this point.

What do you think of this bill? That is a massive number -- we were pointing this out earlier -- in climate money being spent to get this under control.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, if you look at the original dream farm that Joe Biden had ran on, full of chickens and pigs and cows and all these different programs, the climate piece of the barn actually held pretty close to the original intent.

And a lot of folks, there's some heartburn for the one leasing stipulation. Bernie Sanders in particular. The Democratic Socialist hates that.

But in practical terms, those leases may not even be ever drilled or fracked. Maybe a small percentage of them will.

But the other side of this, all the carrots to incentivize electrifying every part of your life, from your car to your commute to your dinner, how you cook, heat and cool your house, they think the demand will come down as a result of all that clean energy going on to the market.

There's a lot of real optimism from climate hawks, who were just near depression, you know, deep depression, a week ago, who thought Joe Manchin was going to kill this all together.

But they think this is a real inflection point, like the starting gun of a race to an Industrial Revolution 2.0.

A study out of the University of Massachusetts says it can create ten million jobs and those are tied to prevalent wages.

So some in oil and gas wants to go into wind or solar, geothermal, they have to make the same amount of money to make that switch.

So a lot of enthusiasm from the climate folks despite those oil and gas tax credits.

To put it in perspective, this spends about $40 billion a year. It's the most ambitious ever. Exxon and chevron and shell, they made $40 billion last quarter. A record profit.

So it's still a long way to go before renewables are able to compete with that but this is a start.

ACOSTA: Bill, an alarming situation in Death Valley National Park. People are stranded.

This just goes to show you the climate crisis not just about drier, hotter weather. You have to contend with these kinds of weather calamities as well. We saw it in Kentucky last week.


It's just happening more and more often and in weird places. I would not think of this happening here in Death Valley.

WEIR: Exactly. Again, it underscores the idea that a warmer atmosphere holds more moisture and makes any sort of weather event more intense. Even in the hottest, driest place on earth. A thousand people stranded.

These are the southwest monsoons. This is normal. But when the drought is so intense, the dirt is so baked into powder basically, there's no absorption. So all of that water goes rushing down hill and take out anything in its path.

What's really striking, Jim, this is Death Valley National Park. We're worried about fires getting into the grove of Yosemite. Yellowstone shut down by those floods earlier in the summer. The tourist industry there's super stressed out. So our national parks, our crown jewels, we've seen just proving to us

that these are different days.

ACOSTA: Yes, we go to our national parks to get away from our problems. Not to have more problems.

And right now, I mean, this is also alarming. More than 55 million people across the U.S. are under heat alerts. We're seeing cities hit 110 or 115 degrees this month. We just talked about the Pacific- Northwest. They're dealing with triple temperatures.

And then there's this shocking video of a UPS driver collapsing in front of a home in Arizona amid soaring temperatures of more than 100 degrees there.

Yes, it gets hot in Arizona. But put this in perspective for our viewers.

WEIR: That's this whole heat stress idea. And we look at what this costs. The cost of inaction takes a toll out of GDP. It's examples just like that.

And my street here in Brooklyn, these guys are out in 95-degree heat putting in Belgian block cobblestones in the street. I weep for them every time I walk by there.

It gets down to health care costs and emergency room visits. It's a toll on so many things down the line.

And the science shows us that, by the middle of the century, you'll feel like your city has moved about 500 miles south. So cooling centers and city planning and all of these things are going to add up more and more.

It's interesting, John Thune was just on the floor of the Senate sort of taking shots at this bill, the climate bill, saying there's a billion and a half dollars in there for tree canopy studies.

Well, these days, a lot of people think more shade would be a good thing given the extremes between dark asphalt and any kind of green space. So those examples.

And you're seeing that not just here, but around the world. If it's not bad in the most developed countries, imagine how it is in India and China going through a lot of the same heat problems.

ACOSTA: No question about it.

All right, Bill Weir, thanks for covering the climate crisis for us. It's just invaluable. We appreciate it. Please come back anytime. Thanks again.

WEIR: Thanks.

ACOSTA: Coming up, all the new evidence that federal prosecutors may be closing in on Former President Trump as they move aggressively in the investigation of January 6th. We'll talk about that, next.



ACOSTA: Some exclusive new CNN reporting to tell you about. Lawyers for Donald Trump are said to be speaking directly with the Justice Department as its criminal investigation into January 6th ramps up.

The talks are said to center around whether Trump can use executive privilege to shield conversations he had as president from federal investigators. His team has warned him indictments are possible.

This from former Attorney General Eric Holder.


ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL (voice-over): My guess is that, by the end of this process, you're going to see indictments involving high level people in the White House.

You're going to see indictments against people outside the White House who were advising them with regard to the attempt to steal the election. And I think, ultimately, you're probably going to see the former president of the United States indicted as well.


ACOSTA: And CNN senior legal analyst and former prosecutor, Elie Honig, joins me now.

Elie, great to have you on again.

Here's what a Trump spokesman said about this issue of executive privilege. I'll put it on the screen:

"How can any future president ever have private conversations with his attorneys, counselors and other senior advisers if any such advisers forced during or after the presidency, in front of an Un-Select Committee or other entity, and be forced to reveal those privileged confidential discussions?"

That's Trump there speaking.

I guess putting the hyperbole to the side there, that is the argument he's going to use. I guess, you know, a skeptic say when you try to do a coup, shouldn't they go out the window?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Jim, that's exactly what the law says. I mean, The Trump statement gets the first half of the law, which is that certain communications, relating to certain policy and strategy, military affairs, national security, foreign and domestic policy, those are protected.

But criminal conversations, conversations about wrongdoing are not protected under the law. And this is why DOJ has an important decision to make here. Are they

going to fight to get those communications?

Because the downside for DOJ is it takes time. We have seen these executive privilege fights in the courts take as long as two years and the shortest is about three or four months.

The reporting we have is that DOJ is gearing up for those fights. So that tells me that DOJ thinks these conversations are crucial enough that they're willing to go to court and have those fights even at the cost of several months passing.

ACOSTA: Elie, do you have any questions as to whether the Justice Department would hold back if Trump suddenly ran for president? Would that be a shield from prosecution that he could use here?

HONIG: Legally, not at all. Legally, it Donald Trump announces his candidacy tomorrow, it means absolutely nothing.


We've heard Merrick Garland say it will no impact on my decision. Good for him for saying that. He should say that.

But the reality is, once Donald Trump does announce, if he does, that does complicate the past politically and practically for DOJ because while it's clear the DOJ is focusing on and around the White House.

They did not do that for the first 18 months of their investigation. That time is gone. They can't get it back.

And now if you're talking about DOJ having to get a jury, 12 people unanimously to convict a former president for the first time in history, that's complicated.

Now if you up the stakes to a declared candidate, a front-runner, perhaps be the nominee by the time the trial happens, that makes it more difficult.

I think they're going about this the right way, but I think they've handicapped themselves by the slowness of their pace so far.

ACOSTA: Apparently, Elie, according to our CNN reporting, Trump has been advised to stop talking to his former White House staff, Mark Meadows. We know how well Trump takes the advice of his lawyers.

What would you say to that? What do you think is important about that?

HONIG: I would say to Donald Trump, listen to your lawyers. He's not going to listen to me because he doesn't even listen to his own lawyers.

That's really sound advice, actually. First of all, Donald Trump has a history of witness tampering. He almost can't help himself. Going through the Mueller investigation, Ukraine, impeachment, even related to January 6th. It's just an unavoidable habit for him. So if I'm his lawyer, I would

say, don't even speak with anyone.

The other thing is this. There's no evidence that Meadows has flipped. Zero. However, people change their minds. And if Meadows or anybody flips in the future, all of these conversations become fair game for prosecutors.

So it would be smart for Donald Trump to cut ties and keep his mouth shut. But he doesn't listen to his own lawyers. He's certainly not going to listen to me.

ACOSTA: I think it's safe to say.

And the trail of January 6th text messages, the deleted messages, it now stretches to officials at the Pentagon. We already know multiple texts in the Secret Service were deleted.

Homeland Security can't find texts of then-acting Secretary Chad Wolf and his top deputy there. There's a seven-hour gap in the White House call logs, gapes in the White House diary.

Reports of documents being burned by the White House chief of staff. Documents were being flushed down the White House toilets. Torn up so they had to be taped back together. Boxes of classified material taken to Mar-a-Lago, and on and on and on.

At some point, you just sound silly chalking this up to a coincidence. It's just -- I'm sorry. We can't talk about coincidences anymore.


ACOSTA: Yes, Jim, it's remarkable when you lay it out. This is a pattern at worst.

I'm with you. I'm no longer willing to chalk this up to a coincidence.

It is clear to me that somebody -- and we're talking about different entities, Department of Defense, DHS, which Houses Secret Service, the White House, all perhaps independently, perhaps not, made some calculation of this evidence relating to January 6th, it's going to be bad.

So let's not create it or let's allow it to float off into the ether, on the other hand.

This is what the committee and DOJ really need to dig into. First of all, can they recover any of this evidence? Some may be recoverable.

And then second, how did this happen? Who's making these decisions because it reflects really poorly and could be something quite a bit worse than a coincidence.

ACOSTA: All right, Elie Honig, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

HONIG: Thanks, Jim. [17:48:39]

ACOSTA: Coming up, Actress Anne Heche severely burned and intensive care after her car crashed into a home in L.A. Details on the accident ahead.



ACOSTA: Actress Anne Heche is in critical condition after a fiery car crash in Los Angeles. Police say Heche was speeding when her car went off the road and collided with a home, starting a fire.

And sources tell CNN she has severe burns and is lucky to be alive. It's not clear why her car struck the home. Police have been unable to question her because of her injuries.

And Heche is known for his work in films like "Donny Brasco," "Six Days and Seven Nights" and "Wag the Dog."

Tomorrow night, CNN ventures deep into the woodlands of Patagonia to discover extraordinary creatures, many of which are found nowhere else on earth.

Here is a preview.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hibernation has enabled them to survive the winters here.


ACOSTA: "PATAGONIA, LIFE ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLD," airs tomorrow night at 9:00 right here on CNN.


Now to a story that will warm your heart. Meet Tucker. Not that Tucker. I'm talking about this Tucker. He's a 4-year-old Labrador Retriever mix. He's the newest member of the Seatle Mariners. The team adopted him and saved him from being put down.

Tucker's favorite activities, we're told, including, playing fetch, swimming, snuggling, and clearly, as you can see, running on the field. He's quite a good runner.

Tucker will spend his days hanging with the team and bringing joy to the players while they're far away from their families on the road.

We'll get you an update on Tucker when we can. Good boy. That's the news. Reporting from Washington, I'm Jim Acosta. See you

back here at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

Pamela Brown takes over the CNN NEWSROOM live after a quick break.

Have a good night.