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Lead Secret Service Agent With Trump On 1/6 Interviewed By House Committee; Pence Doubles Down, Says He Won't Testify For 1/6 Committee; Officials: Biden Pushes Back On Zelenskyy Claim That Missile Not From Ukraine; U.S. Running Low On Some Weapons, Ammo For Ukraine; Ivo Daalder, Former U.S. Ambassador To NATO, Discusses Missile Hitting Poland & NATO's Measured Response; Obama Foundation Hosts Its First-Ever "Democracy Forum"; Michelle Obama: U.S. "Wasn't Ready" For Her Natural Black Hairstyles. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired November 17, 2022 - 14:30   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Some new reporting first on CNN. The January 6th committee is interviewing Robert Engel, the lead Secret Service agent in Donald Trump's motorcade on the day of the capitol insurrection.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: You'll remember that former White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson, testified in June that she heard Trump was irate when he found out he could not drive to the capitol.


CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel.

Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said, sir, you need to take your hand off the steering wheel, we're going back to the West Wing, we're not going to the capitol. Mr. Trump used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel.


CAMEROTA: CNN's Sara Murray join the us now.

Sara, what do we know?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, my colleague, Zach Cohen, confirming that the committee is speaking with Richard Engel today.

And, look, this is important testimony. They had spoken to him before. But it was before we got this bombshell testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson that you're just playing.

So you can imagine there are a few things the committee wants to circle back with him. He knows there are huge allegations that we've heard from Cassidy Hutchinson.

And what we've seen over the last month or so, the committee diving into the allegations surrounding the Secret Service, what agents may have seen.

You know, we know they've interviewed a number of officials from the U.S. Secret Service. And they're trying to wrap up that part of their investigation, while they wrap up their investigation more broadly ahead of Congress, which begins again in January.

BLACKWELL: Sara, the 1/6 committee is also pushing back after former Vice President Mike Pence doubled down and said he's not going to offer any testimony to the committee. What's the latest there?

MURRAY: Well, there's a lot of playing out between the committee and Mike Pence, about you know, the possibility, discussions behind the scenes, would they call on Mike Pence to testify, would they not.

Now that Pence has his book out, he's flirting with the idea of 2024. He's also making it very clear that he doesn't have any interest in speaking to the January 6th committee.

Here's what he had to say about that.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congress has no right to my testimony because under the Constitution of the United States, as vice president, we have two co-equal branches of government. And Congress doesn't report to the White House. The White House doesn't report to the Congress.

To avoid what would be a terrible precedent, the very notion of a committee on Congress, in Congress, summoning a vice president to speak about the deliberations that took place at the White House I think would violate that separation of powers.


MURRAY: Now, Pence has also said elsewhere that he was disappointed in how political the January 6th committee's activities have been.

This is not sitting well as you might imagine with the committee. They put out a statement, saying:

'The Select Committee has proceeded respectfully and responsibly in our engagement with Vice President Mike Pence. So it's disappointing that he's misrepresenting the nature of our investigation while giving interviews to promote his new book."


Back to you -- guys?

BLACKWELL: Sara Murray, in Washington for us, thank you. CAMEROTA: So President Biden disputing Ukrainian President Zelenskyy's

claim that the missile that killed two people in Poland was not from Ukraine. CNN's new reporting on the administrations scramble to figure out what happened, next.


CAMEROTA: Today, Poland's president was at the site of that deadly missile strike that struck inside his country. CNN has learned that Ukrainian officials are also on the ground there, joining U.S. and Polish investigators.


Ukrainian President Zelenskyy said it will not be possible to draw conclusions about who is responsible for the missile yet.

BLACKWELL: But he added, he is convinced it is Russia who is to blame. President Biden said that the evidence indicates otherwise.

CNN also has learned that the U.S. is running low on high-end weapons systems and ammunition to send to Ukraine.

We have Natasha Bertrand and Oren Liebermann with us up next.

Natasha, you're first on the new reporting into this investigation into that missile. What are you learning?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: When news broke that this missile had struck Poland, killing two people, we're learning that there was really a scramble.

And underscoring the urgency there is the fact that President Biden, who was in Bali at the G-20 summit, was woken up in the middle of the night. We saw him speaking to his Polish counterpart, President Duda, on the phone. Biden was dressed very casually in a T-shirt and khakis.

And his national security advisor, her secretary of state were both with him, also speaking to their counterparts, all in a scramble to get more information on what had happened.

Of key importance, of course, learning whether or not this had been a deliberate attack on Poland, the NATO ally.

As news came in, as intelligence came in, as they spoke to their Polish counterparts, it's became increasingly clear, we're told, based on this intelligence, that this was not a deliberate attack, and that actually, it was more likely an accidental strike by a Ukrainian missile.

What we're told is that the intelligence that the U.S. had been receiving, based on analysis of debris at the site, what the poles had been looking at and telling Americans, it all pointed to one direction, that this was an anti-aircraft, anti-air missile that the Ukrainians had launched. So, one of the really key issues that night was kind of getting

everyone on the same page about what had happened. And that includes, of course, the Ukrainians -- guys?

CAMEROTA: So, Oren, you've been reporting also on also the low weapons stockpile that the U.S. has to send to Ukraine and the effect that could have. So what does that mean?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: So critical distinction -- we'll start here -- is the U.S.' stockpile, what it keeps in reserve for its own war plans based on different emergency and contingency situations, that remains and will be untouched.

The question is the excess here, what the U.S. has available to send. And these, according to sources who spoke to CNN and officials, were finite to begin with.

We're now nearly nine months into the war and we've seen repeatedly the pace at which the U.S. sends some very high-end weaponry, the Javelin anti-tank missile, the Stinger anti-aircraft missile, as well as some of the other conventional ammunition, 155-millimeter artillery ammunition.

All of this has been going over in plane loads in very large numbers since the beginning. And according to our sources, some of the stocks of excesses that the U.S. could send are beginning to dwindle, simply because they were finite from the beginning.

What is the U.S. doing in this case? First, as we just heard from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Mark Milley, the aid, the supplies will continue.

But there's now this international coalition, we've seen over the past three months, the Ukraine Content Group, as it's called, to find available stocks and make sure they can get to Ukraine.

Even if that involves putting together a system from one place and ammunition for it from another. That's part of the solution.

The U.S. is also trying to ramp up its defense industrial base, making sure it can produce more weaponry and can speed that up as needed.

The U.S., for the first time in some 20 years, isn't at war after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, so there wasn't this great demand to keep producing.

But as we're seeing with U.S. providing Ukraine, it's time to speed up that production once again since the expectation of this war continues.

CAMEROTA: OK, Natasha Bertrand, Oren Liebermann, thank you both very much.

Let's bring in the former ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder. He now serves on the president of Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Mr. Ambassador, great to have you here.

It's really interesting to hear Natasha report on the scramble that happened when this bomb fell on Poland. They had to wake up President Biden -- he was out of the country -- and just everyone that had to be alerted.

And just how much cooler heads prevailed in that moment of confusion and did not escalate.

Is that normally what happens when a bomb falls on a NATO country?

IVO DAALDER, PRESIDENT, CHICAGO COUNCIL ON GLOBAL AFFAIRS & FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Well, you would hope so. You would hope that, if this happens again, the same kind of deliberative effort is made to find out what the facts are.

The problem with war and the problem with having so many missiles flying across the skies of Ukraine that we saw in the runup to this accident is that things can go wrong. And if they do go wrong, you got to figure out what's going on.

So, the system works in many ways. It churned through the process. An explosion happened. The Poles went very quickly to the site to figure out what was going on.


We looked at all of the intelligence that we might have, intercepts of conversations, trajectories of missiles that were being flown at the time in order to get as much information as possible.

And at the same time, the U.S. government and other governments were out there in force, starting with the president himself, but throughout, our ambassador in Poland or ambassador at NATO, were all making the case to say, let's find out what is going on before we decide how to respond.

That can come later. Depending on what the outcome of this investigation is, that can come later.

So, I think cooler heads prevailed, which is what you would hope from your leaders, and not have people start immediately thinking about retaliation and how to hit the Russians before you know what was going on. And I think that's what happened.

BLACKWELL: Ambassador Daalder, what do you think about the Ukrainians joining this investigation?

President Zelenskyy said they'll be there at the morning at the site in Poland. They're not a disinterested party here. And the president's already said that it was a Russian missile.

Do you think they should be there on scene, participating in the investigation?

DAALDER: Yes. I think it's perfectly fine for them to be part of the investigation, which is being led by the Poles. There are U.S. personnel on the ground to help identify it, presumably others as well.

Having the Ukrainians there's appropriate, given that it may have been and looks like it was a Ukrainian missile. Certainly, from their territory, or across their border.

Just to point out, I think President Zelenskyy went a little farther ahead on the skis when he immediately said it was a Russian missile. And sort of cornered himself and made it more difficult for him to admit the possibility that it might have been an accident.

At the same time, let's be clear, none of this would have happened, unless the Russians had invaded Ukraine and had launched close to 100 missiles, the largest number of missiles in the war to date on all kinds of Ukrainian targets.

So, the real fault here is with Russia. It's not with Ukraine.

This is an accident that it couldn't -- it couldn't have helped. It means we need to provide more better capable air defense systems to the Ukrainians.

And probably a lesson that we learned that perhaps the government, too, can learn is when something like this happens, let's find out what the facts are before we start calling on, as Zelenskyy did, NATO to start intervening in this war.

CAMEROTA: Ambassador Ivo Daalder, thank you.

BLACKWELL: Former President Trump's 2024 presidential announcement is already playing a role in the Georgia Senate runoff. Senator Raphael Warnock's campaign is up with a new ad, ahead.



CAMEROTA: Former President Barack Obama's foundation is hosting its first ever democracy forum today.

BLACKWELL: It's a two-day forum that will tackle four areas that the former president says are necessary to strengthen democracy, one of them detoxifying discourse.

CNN's national correspondent, Athena Jones, is at New York's Javits Center.

What can we expect to hear from the former president? I expect he'll speak in a few hours.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Victor. We've heard from President Obama speaking more and more about democracy, strengthening democracy, defending democracy, and threats to democracy here in the U.S. and all around the world, certainly since the capitol insurrection. Today, he's going to be making remarks on this, and joining a

discussion with emerging leaders from the Obama Foundation's global network. They'll be talking about challenges to democracies all around the world.

I did catch with the Obama Foundation's CEO, Valerie Jarrett, a long- time friend and advisor to Obama, about what his message will be at this event.

Here's what she had to say.


VALERIE JARRETT, CEO, OBAMA FOUNDATION & FORMER ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: And we also have to think very strategically about building a culture of inclusion, not just inclusive capitalism, but what kind of society we want to be where we retore trust in government.

We've already heard today from folks that say governments are not trusted the way they used to be. We the people can restore that trust and make it worthwhile for citizens to invest in their government, to vote and to engage.


JONES: Another thing Jarrett said was that President Obama spend his entire professional life focused on democracy.

The former president has also been talking about the dangers of disinformation for several years now, since long before his successor popularized terms like fake news.

I was at the speech in Ghana in 2009 just a few months into his presidency where he was praising that West African nation for its vibrant democracy and praising it for being a role model to the rest of Africa.

And in his farewell address in 2017, in Chicago, the president also focused on the state of democracy. So this is not a new topic for him. But it's something that has seen increased urgency in these times.

This is one more interesting point I want to make here. President Obama is the second former president this week to hold an event focused on defending democracy. President George W. Bush held an event in Dallas just yesterday.

The two teams say they did not coordinate. It's a big coincidence. But it's also a sign of the growing concern among members in both parties about threats to democracy -- Alisyn and Victor?

BLACKWELL: Also the closing messages of the midterm from the current and former president.

CAMEROTA: Oh, it's a hot topic --

BLACKWELL: Right. CAMEROTA: -- right now.

BLACKWELL: Athena Jones, thank you.

Michelle Obama is opening up about how she had to manage her image as the nation's first black first lady, particularly when it came to how she styled her hair.

CAMEROTA: So she told her audience she decided to wear her straight instead of in braids as she would have preferred because she felt that Americans were not ready to accept her natural hair.


Mrs. Obama said she told herself, let me keep my hair straight. Let's get health care passed.

Obama is currently on a tour for her third book, "The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times." That hits shelves this week.

I totally get it. I think -- I understand. I think she's right. I often feel America can't handle my natural hair either. I mean, honestly.

I think that we --

BLACKWELL: Very different, but I hear you.

CAMEROTA: Sort of, except that, I think black, white, male, female, we all conform to establish beauty standards. We just do. It's hard to break out of those.

BLACKWELL: Yes, but especially for black women. And when you are the first black anything, you're a diplomat. And this role, as the first lady of the country, she quite literally represents the country more than just black people.

But, you know, the tan suit. When she wore shorts on Air Force One, I mean, this family was criticized in a way that few other families -- I'm not going to say no other family, but few other families were. And I totally understand what you are saying there.

CAMEROTA: Me, too.

BLACKWELL: All right, CNN's Sara Sidner hosts "MICHELLE OBAMA'S MISSION, EMPOWERING GIRLS." A conversation with Michelle Obama, Amal Clooney and Melinda Gates. It airs Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. here on CNN.

CAMEROTA: And it's the end of an era. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she will not seek re-election for leadership. Ahead, we'll tell you who now wants to carry the mantle for the Democratic Party.