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Erin Burnett Outfront
Pelosi To Meet With Taiwan's President Amid Chinese Threats; Taiwan: Chinese Planes Flew Into Defense Zone Amid Pelosi Visit; State Department Warns Of "Higher Potential For Anti-American Violence" After U.S. Drone Strike Kills Al Qaeda Leader; Arizona Voters Cast Ballots, Top GOP Candidates Peddle Election Lies; January 6 Texts Wiped From Phones Of Key Trump Pentagon Officials; At Least 37 Dead In Kentucky Flooding, More Bodies Found. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired August 02, 2022 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Pelosi in Taiwan. And tonight, Beijing responds. Chinese fighter jets and warship now circling Taiwan. And America's ambassador to China summoned by his Chinese counterpart.
Plus, al-Zawahiri's hide out. New images tonight of the house where the al Qaeda leader was taken up by a drone strike. We are learning new details tonight about the attack.
And it is election night in America. Voters casting ballots tonight in five key states. Our John King is standing by the wall to break down what you can expect.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, on edge. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in Taipei. China is lashing out. Nearly two dozen Chinese warplanes crossing into Taiwan's air defense zone. That's according to Taiwan's defense ministry.
It's just after 7:00 a.m. local time in Taipei, as I'm speaking. Speaker Pelosi is getting ready to meet with Taiwan's president and to visit Taiwan's parliament in just these next hours.
And as we await those meetings and wait to see the speaker emerge from her hotel in Taipei, Chinese President Xi has placed China's massive military on high alert and launched military exercises around Taiwan.
The red boxes that will pop up here right now, you can see that each indicate a place where Chinese exercises are now taking place.
And tonight, the Biden administration is warning China.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRBY, NSC STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR: There is no reason, as I said yesterday, for Beijing to turn this visit, which is consistent with long-standing U.S. policy, into some sort of crisis or use it as a pretext to increase aggressiveness and military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait now or beyond her travel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Now, the Biden team has been struggling to separate Biden from Pelosi. In four days, the administration has repeatedly said that Pelosi is there as a member of Congress, not as a member of the Biden administration.
But according to U.S. officials, that is clearly not how China views today's visit. Today, Beijing requesting a meeting with America's ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, accusing Pelosi of, quote, deliberately provoking and playing with fire against people's will.
And as for Pelosi, she's not dialing anything back, being loud and clear that she is all in here. And her support for Taiwan's independence, she writes in an op-ed today, quote: In the face of the Chinese Communist Party's accelerating aggression, our congressional delegation's visit should be seen as an unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner, as it defends itself and its freedom.
Will Ripley is OUTFRONT in Taipei.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A resounding show of American support for Taiwan in the face of escalating threats from China. U.S. house speaker, Nancy Pelosi, landing in Taiwan Tuesday, a display of defiance, ignoring days of perilous warnings from China.
Minutes after Pelosi's arrival, China announced a series of targeted military operations in response to the House speaker's visit. State media publishing a map of the drills, which began during the overnight hours. Some, just miles from the Taiwanese coast.
As Pelosi's convoy arrived at her Taipei hotel, a heavy police presence, two groups of protesters gathered outside. Some welcomed Pelosi's support for Taiwan.
JERRY LIU, DIRECTOR OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, NEW POWER PARTY: The Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has been supporting Taiwan for decades and it's very important for me, as a Taiwanese, to be here tonight to welcome her.
RIPLEY: Others accuse her of escalating tensions.
MISS HUANG, DOES NOT SUPPORT PELOSI'S TAIWAN VISIT (through translator): Right now, Pelosi and the United States are treating Taiwan as a chess piece. Once she lands in Taiwan, mainland China will retaliate using their own methods.
RIPLEY: China's foreign ministry spokesman calling Pelosi's stop in Taiwan, a serious violation of the One China principle that will have a severe impact on the political foundation of China-U.S. relations. Taiwan says, cyberattacks knocked some government websites off line. No immediate claims of responsibility.
Beijing calls Taiwan a breakaway province of China. The mainland communist rulers have never controlled the island of almost 24 million people. They refused to recognize Taiwan's democratically elected government. Taiwan says, China sent more than 20 warplanes into the islands air defense zone Tuesday, part of what Taiwan calls, an ongoing campaign of bullying by Beijing, using its massive military and economic power to isolate the island.
In a "Washington Post" op-ed published shortly after her arrival in Taipei, Pelosi writes: In the face of the Chinese Communist Party's accelerating aggression, our congressional delegation's visit should be seen as an unequivocal statement that America stands with Taiwan, our democratic partner, as it defends itself and its freedom.
That sentiment echoed by other U.S. officials Tuesday.
JAKE SULLIVAN, U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: For China to try to turn what is in the historical norm into a crisis, or to try to use it as a pretext for aggressive action around Taiwan, that's on them. And they would be the ones who would be escalating.
BURNETT: And Will is in Taipei. Obviously, Will, where you are, you know, you are ahead here. So it's 7:00 in the morning. The Speaker Pelosi is there and about to start her day.
So what do we expect to see in Taipei? I mean, exactly how is this going to be choreographed and in these next hours, what could China do?
RIPLEY: Yeah, well, we know that these Chinese military drills are happening off the Taiwanese coast. They started according to Chinese state media, overnight. In fact, not just state media, but the defense ministry and the people's liberation army, and announced that these are happening, and they even put out a map, showing that some of them are coming literally within miles of the Chinese coast. Theoretically, if they are loud enough, people in Taiwan on the shoreline might be able to hear China connecting military exercises around the entire island. Clearly, it's an act of intimidation.
But from Speaker Pelosi's perspective, we expect to see them go on through the day as planned. So we now have confirmed that at 10:30 local time, 10:30 p.m. Eastern, she will be meeting with Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-wen. Before that, we are expecting her to meet with members of parliament, talk to them about their system here.
You know, she's been a real champion for democracy here in Taiwan, which is very young, Erin, just a couple of -- you know, several decades, basically. And the people who are now running the country, a lot of them actually were meeting illegally in basements and even served time in jail. Now they are running the country. That is how fresh and young Taiwan's democracy is and Pelosi made it clear with her statement that she absolutely wants to protect that.
China, of course, they've never recognized the government here and they say that eventually they are going to take its place back. These military exercises clearly an attempt to intimidate and to send a message that when China is ready, Taiwan will become a part of the mainland, no matter what.
BURNETT: Will Ripley, thank you very much from Taipei.
And you heard Will laying out here just over the next -- it's 7:07 here, so the speaker will be coming out of her hotel, meeting with members of parliament and Taiwan, then by 10:30 tonight Eastern Time, 10:30 a.m. in Taipei, meeting with the president of Taiwan. These are going to be very tense and important few hours.
So, for more, I want to talk to retired Vice Admiral Robert Murrett, former director of naval intelligence who spent years stationed in the Asia Pacific region, along with Abby Philip here with me, anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY".
So, Admiral, what will was just laying out, 21 warplanes from China into Taiwan's air defense zone. You heard Will saying, if you stand on the coast, you might even be able to hear these military exercises. Some of them, with live fire around Taiwan.
The ambassador for the U.S. has been summoned to China -- by the Chinese counterpart. There's been cyberattacks. So here we are in these next few hours, will this escalate further as Pelosi goes through these crucial meetings?
VICE ADM. ROBERT MURRETT (RET.), FORMER DIRECTOR OF NAVAL INTELLIGENCE: Yeah, Erin, great question. First, thanks for the opportunity to be able to join the others. I would hope not. I would hope this would be a measured response by China, which we expected based on Speaker Pelosi's visit, but that cooler heads would prevail on their side and there would be some exercised that would probably take place for the next few days or so, perhaps cyber intrusions that you mentioned already that would be limited in scope and a measured response of what's happening there, largely for domestic consumption because I don't think we should underestimate the extent to which so much of this is for the Chinese public, especially the senior government officials because of the party congress that President Xi has coming up this fall.
BURNETT: Right, the images of the fighter jets and a live fire -- I mean, that is what they are playing again and again on state television.
Abby, before Pelosi went, President Biden publicly said the U.S. military did not think her visit didn't think it was a good idea. The U.S. military didn't think about it, not talk about his own point of view. You've been reporting trying to seek to -- try to give us or not to go, and at what we understand is U.S. officials think that the Chinese officials don't necessarily see the distinction between Pelosi and Biden, that they view this as an official state visit. Why didn't Biden tell her not to go?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, from the Chinese perspective, Pelosi and Biden are in the same political party, that they are allied politically. But on top of that, she is in the presidential line of succession, which is why, by the way, her visit to Taiwan requires a robust military reinforcement on the ground.
But from Biden's perspective, there are two factors, domestic and international. On the domestic front, Republicans have been attacking Biden as being soft on China. And Biden himself, personally, wants to be tough on China. He is tough on China. He believes the United States needs to be oriented more with China as a strategic adversary.
So, his own personal view of this is to push back on China. But that is in conflict with what is going on on the international stage, in which the Biden administration believes it's imperative to take down the rhetoric and take down the antagonism between the two parties. But it cannot be seen as just letting the Chinese Communist Party determine what the speaker of the House does on an international visit. That's how the Biden administration sees it.
BURNETT: She made it clear by making public that she was going to go, right, that she -- she took any cards out of his hand.
PHILLIP: And it would have been leaked. Private conversations would have been leaked and would have been made public.
BURNETT: Right, right, and then possibly looking weak.
So, Admiral, China's ministry of defense says that Pelosi, and their quote is, knowingly and maliciously provoked and created a crisis between the U.S. and China. I just want to zone in on this because words matter so much when it comes to these things. I use the word crisis. Is this now a crisis, Admiral?
MURRETT: Erin, I would like to think it's not. And importantly, as you are saying, that came from the minister of defense, not the foreign minister or President Xi. Those are the kind of things you would expect to have come from a defense minister, which are different in character from much we might hear from somebody else in government.
MURRETT: And as I said, I'm hopeful that this won't be viewed as a crisis, but that will, you know, settle down here in short order, hopefully, in the next couple of days. Importantly, Speaker Pelosi and her delegation go on to other countries and the good friends of ours in East Asia.
BURNETT: Right, of course, I would imagine that they're going to do these meetings and then leave. Abby, the White House is concerned and it's interesting. And, you
know, some of the Democratic criticism of this trip has come in stark contrast with the Republicans. Twenty-two Senate Republicans issued a statement saying they're fully behind Pelosi's visit, fully committed to Taiwan. Here is one of them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): I'm about to use for words in a row that I haven't used in this way before, and those four words are: Speaker Pelosi was right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right, no doubt many of them completely believe what they are saying. They do. They're glad she's going. This is true.
But they are also, you know, putting out a letter and all of that. There is clearly a political gamesmanship going on here.
PHILLIP: It helps from their perspective that Pelosi is apparently, you, know sort of pushing back on Biden. That helps the Republicans.
BURNETT: Thumbing her nose at Biden, yeah.
PHILLIP: Thumbing her nose at Biden is something that Republicans are very supportive of.
But let's be honest here, the Republican position of they are tough on China, Democrats are not, is a largely political construction. The Trump administration, Trump personally was very friendly towards Xi Jinping as president. His administration maybe had tougher rhetoric, but Trump himself, he loved when Xi Jinping rolled out the red carpet for him on his visit to China during his administration.
So, a lot of this is just political posturing ahead of a midterm election. Republicans want to draw a contrast between themselves and Democrats, but as you can see here, Pelosi has a long history of supporting Taiwan. So this is not new and it's also not about pushing back on President Biden.
BURNETT: Right and certainly something she has had a long track and on.
Admiral, Abby, thank you both very much.
And stay with us, as I just mentioned, it is now about 7:15 a.m. in Taiwan, and we are standing by for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to emerge from her hotel to meet with top officials there at the president of Taiwan. And when that happens, we are going to bring it to you live.
OUTFONT next, the State Department warning Americans across the globe to be on the lookout after the U.S. tracked and killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Plus, it's election night in America and three Republicans who voted to impeach Trump tonight are facing off against Republican challengers. Our John King is standing by at the wall with what he's looking for.
And wiped. CNN is learning that more January 6th messages were erased this time from the phones of key top Trump Pentagon officials.
BURNETT: Tonight, the State Department with a warning for Americans following the killing of al Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, saying, al Qaeda supporters could carry out attacks targeting U.S. citizens and facilities around the world. And it comes as we are seeing, for the first time, the house in Kabul where a drone strike took out al- Zawahiri, who was referred to as bin Laden's brains, by some. He was one of the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks.
And Nick Paton Walsh is OUTFRONT.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR (voice-over): The target was the same it was at the start of the war on terror, 9/11 mastermind turned al Qaeda's 71-year-old leader.
But the method, startlingly precise. Two missiles hitting Kabul's fanciest streets. The al Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, stepping onto a balcony that had likely for years housed rich Westerners working for NATO, but stepping out onto it dawned Sunday for the last time.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I authorized a preseason strike that would remove him from the battlefield once and for all.
WALSH: The Biden administration, so confident they got the right guy, they had built a model of the house they said they didn't need boots on the ground before the strike or after.
JOHN KIRBY, NSC SPOKESMAN: We did not have DNA confirmation. We're not going to get that confirmation. And quite frankly, based on the multiple sources and methods that we've gathered the information from, we don't need it.
WALSH: It was a staggering counterterrorism success, borne of a failure the U.S. had tried to gloss over. As the U.S. rushed to leave Afghanistan, at the end, losing control of the close of its longest war, it had tried to suggest al Qaeda were degraded no longer a threat there.
But in truth, the group we're finding a safe haven there again, with concerns last year, they might have been able to strike the west again, as early as next year. They weren't the threat they were when al-Zawahiri masterminded savagery at the U.S. embassy in Nairobi or on the USS Cole.
And the brutal star had been eclipsed by the mayhem of ISIS. But their franchises had spread across the world, often encouraging locals to target other locals, and al-Zawahiri remained their figurehead, with his hands on some buttons.
Analysts felt his recent messages suggested a man more at ease, even complacent. U.S. officials, saying they had followed family members to get him. His most likely successor, Saif al-Adel, recently in Iran, according to the U.N. One former Afghan official, telling me he may have recently left for Afghanistan.
But terror leaders last less long these days. Still, the enduring hard questions before the Taliban, few believed they had truly renounced terror, like they promised the U.S.
But after 20 years of war, they still brought exactly the same al Qaeda figures back into the safest of their havens, central Kabul. Yet found the United States also had a long memory, and now didn't even need to be there to kill their most wanted.
BURNETT: It's amazing when you talk about this safe house, right? That this was, it certainly suggests, I mean, it's in Kabul and it's in a wealthy area of Kabul, ties between al Qaeda and the Taliban, how else could he have been there? It certainly suggests a link.
WALSH: There is no way that he could've been there without, there's no way, his profile, the -- chilling out in an area like that on the balcony with at least some high-ranking Taliban knowing he was there. We didn't know which part. It's a huge institution, the Taliban, but the Haqqanis have always been accused of having al Qaeda-linked, some of the houses that particular area, I understand, thought to have been close to that Haqqani Network.
So it is a remarkable sign of quite how quickly the Taliban went back to embracing just the same people that the United States invaded Afghanistan to go after.
BURNETT: They promise in a deal with the Trump administration to not embrace, immediately giving that away.
Now you mentioned Saif Al-Adel, who may be the successor and we have gone back to Afghanistan. What more do you know about him?
WALSH: Look, it's a hot button issue, frankly, for the Iranians. Because the U.S. -- thought I heard from one former Afghan official who knows this field pretty well that they think that he may actually have crossed into Afghanistan recently. That removes a headache for the Iranians, because they wouldn't now be technically be harboring the guy who might be the new leader of al Qaeda. But it puts him possibly in plain Afghanistan to.
The suggestion, he may not be in Kabul, but there have been suggestions to that there is not just al-Zawahiri in terms of top leaders in Afghanistan, others to, and that may have been a sign that something was a foot. You've got to remember, these are significantly degraded organizations than they were 20 years ago. It's a very, very different anti-terrorism fight now.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Nick.
And next, voters casting ballots tonight in five states. One of them, Arizona, where Trump and Pence backed candidates are squaring off. John King is next.
Plus, more missing January six text messages from top Trump officials. Finding out about more cell phone wiped right after Jan 6th. What's going on?
BURNETT: Tonight, polls closing soon in key primary races across five states. All eyes on Arizona, where the race for governor has many proxy war between former president, Donald Trump, and his former vice president, Mike Pence. That race pits Trump backed, Kari Lake, against Karrin Taylor Robson, who Pence endorsed.
Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT. She's in Scottsdale tonight, been covering this race all the way through.
Kyung, and you've been talking to a lot of voters there today on primary day. What have you learned?
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's just about two and a half hours left of voting here and we've been speaking to a good bit of the Republicans who've been coming to this particular polling place.
And what they've been telling us is that even though the election lie and Trump's endorsement has really run through and forced through so many of these races here on the Republican side of the Arizona primary, that the reason why they are coming our other reasons.
Sure, they may have bumped in one way or the other, but they are driven by issues like the border, as well as cultural issues in the economy.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL RUCH, ARIZONA VOTER: The left has gone kind of mad, in my opinion. It just seems like it's seems a little unfixable. It seems more scary now than it's ever seemed. So, now, I'm leaning more towards my conservative leanings that I've always had. But I'm losing hope in the left.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LAH: So, what Republicans are hoping for, though, at least the Trump backed ones is that what's also resonating and what will resonate is the Trump endorsement. Donald Trump has endorsed a slate of candidates from governor to the U.S. Senate race, two attorney general, as well as secretary of state. And some of those candidates, like Kari Lake, who is running for governor, Erin, has fully embraced that lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 election.
But as you heard from that voter, they may not necessarily be paying attention to all of that noise. But looking more at the issues that they feel affect their personal lives, Erin.
BURNETT: Right, right. Thank you very much, Kyung.
Of course, the question is whether it really is now only noise or still something much more.
John King is OUTFRONT now live from the magic wall, of course.
So, John, where Kyung is talking about, and she's in Scottsdale, the Arizona governor race is such a crucial test of the power of the lie, right? As she talks about it, you've got one candidate who explicitly is 100 percent behind it.
What are you focused on tonight in Arizona?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the point you just make, the depth, the breath of the cancer in the Republican bloodstream, candidates running on freely on the big lie, denying the election. Kari Lake channeling Trump, saying if she loses tonight, it's because there is cheating.
That is a cancer in American politics, no matter which party it is. It's a cancer in American politics.
So, can Kari Lake win this nomination or will establishment candidate, Karrin Taylor Robson, win?
This is Trump versus Pence. This is Trump versus the establishment. So, you have the big dynamics in play there.
What you look for, where Kyung just wasn't Scottsdale, that's Maricopa County right here, Phoenix area in the suburbs, around it. You move right to the south, Tucson in the suburbs around it. That's Pima County. That 75 percent of the statewide population, in those two counties, Erin.
So the question is, do suburban Republicans decide it's time to break from Donald Trump and his big lie? Or do suburban Republicans in the state of Arizona, battleground state this year, battleground in the next presidential -- or battleground into the future, do they decide to stick with Donald Trump or do they decide to say, no, we've had enough?
BURNETT: All right. So, obviously, Maricopa, Pima counties, and obviously, those are a couple hours here away from polls closing. But in Missouri, we are going to know much earlier and results are going to start to come in very shortly.
We are watching the Senate GOP primary. Trump promised that last minute endorsement, and then released a statement saying that he's proud to announce Eric has my complete and total endorsement. It turns out two of the top two candidates are named eric. One of them, Eric Greitens, right, who resigned as governor, abuse accusations from his ex-wife, he's denied them. That, among other things in his history here.
Even Trump loyalists Senator Josh Hawley, John, of course, has tried to get him to drop out. So, what stands out in Missouri?
KING: Well, number one, you have a crowded Republican primary, no votes in yet. The candidates are listed in alphabetical order. Eric Greitens is the former governor who resigned in disgrace is first. You see Eric -- Eric Schmitt, he's the attorney general.
Both of them -- both of them to varying degrees also support the big lie. So, either of the Erics on team Trump, if you will, in terms of supporting the big lie.
What stands out here, Erin? It's that we are talking about it. This is 2022, and Democratic presidents first midterm here. A Republican retiring -- Roy Blunt retiring in Missouri. We should not be talking about the Missouri Senate race. This should be a solid Republican race.
But in a 50/50 Senate, in a very tough year for Democrats, Democrats do believe that it is possible that if Eric Greitens wins this nomination tonight, the Democrats have a shot at this seat. That would be a gift. If the Democrats have a shot in Missouri, in this midterm election year, that would be a gift.
BURNETT: Yeah. I mean, right, as you point out, it is not something we should be talking about, yet, when you are testing this litmus test, as you put it, how much cancer is in the bloodstream, we are.
All right. John King, thank you very much, as we await those polls closing in just under a half an hour in Missouri.
OUTFRONT next, January 6 text messages of key Trump Pentagon officials wiped. More? This obviously addition to the messages lost from the Secret Service, is it a coincidence?
And at least 37 dead as flooding continues to ravage Kentucky. We're on the ground again tonight.
BURNETT: Tonight, we are now learning the January 6 text messages were wiped from the phones of key Trump Pentagon officials. This news comes from court filings after a watchdog group requested text from former Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller, former chief of staff Kash Patel and former secretary of the Army, Ryan McCarthy.
The three are considered key witnesses to understanding Trump administration's response to the insurrection.
Now, there is no suggestion that the officials in these cases themselves erased the messages, but, of course, context is impossible to ignore here, right? It comes as the Department of Homeland Security is under fire for the apparent loss of the messages from the Secret Service on that same day.
OUTFRONT now, Laurence Tribe, constitutional law professor at Harvard. House Democrats consulted with him on their first Trump impeachment over Russia. And Ty Cobb, he was Trump's White House lawyer in the Mueller Russia investigation. Two who know more about this than anyone.
So, Professor Tribe, let me start with you on this reporting about messages wiped from key Department of Defense official phones from January 6. Is it possible that this is a random coincidence?
LAURENCE TRIBE, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: No, I mean, I suppose anything is possible. It's possible that all the air will get sucked out of the room.
But when you look at what happened with the Secret Service and with the Department of Homeland Security, and now with the Department of Defense, with key officials appointed by Donald Trump, it looks like it's clearly a plot to destroy information that is necessary for ongoing inquiry. That is a serious federal crime under 18 U.S. Code Section 1519. It's punishable by 20 years in prison.
So, the people who did it, and I don't claim to know exactly who they were, can all be flipped to point to who got them to do it. There's only one person, we all know his name, who is at the intersection of all these agencies, and who would stand to gain by covering up evidence of the attempt to overturn the democratic election.
BURNETT: So --
TRIBE: That's Donald Trump.
BURNETT: And you're -- are you suggesting that he would have directed them to actually work this, or he would have directed them -- I use them, because we don't know who, to erase any conversations that were had with Pentagon officials, basically?
TRIBE: Well, the way mob bosses do it, there's a wink and a nod. Remember what he said, Russia, if you're listening, maybe you can find that 30,000 missing emails. Now he may be saying, Russia or somebody else, if you're listening, you can help erase 30,000 texts. It's pretty obvious.
And you don't have to have his fingerprints directly on the orders. That's not the way these guys work. So, I think the Justice Department clearly has to go after this entire plot. And I believe Merrick Garland is smart enough to do that.
BURNETT: Ty, where do you stand on this -- on this reporting? And again, this idea of coincidence?
TY COBB, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: Yeah, I think we started out with a little crack in the grand and now we got an abyss like the Grand Canyon. I don't think we have enough information to make any conclusions.
Keep in mind, the evidence is that the Defense Department and its secretary and General Milley and others, including Kash Patel, you know, were hardly on good terms of the president and hardly favored in any of his actions pre- and post-January 6. So, it's a little bit early, I think, in the information gathering realm to jump to the conclusion that people are going to jail for 20 years.
I do agree 100 percent with the professor that this has to be investigated. You can't ignore context, as you -- as you indicated. He mentioned Homeland Security, and I think you have to reconcile those things.
I will say that those are two completely different types of recordkeeping, those systems. So, I am not sure that you can link them, but you can't ignore the fact --
COBB: -- that, you know, fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice -- fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.
BURNETT: So, Professor Tribe, you know, all of this, you know, you mentioned -- you put, you know, the president -- the former president at the center of it. And that is the big question that all roads lead to.
So, having both of you here, with your experience and expertise, the question is, whether the former President Trump will be charged with a crime.
Now, Professor Tribe, let me start with you here. You see criminal charges for sure and maybe for, right?
TRIBE: Well, I've -- I have almost lost count. I mean, there is the crime of conspiring to defraud the United States.
TRIBE: There is a crime of pressuring officials, by little duty. There is the crime of corruptly impeding an official proceeding. There is the crime of assisting an insurrection. There is the crime of conspiring to overturn a fair election and to overturn the government. There is the crime of seditious conspiracy. Each of them is backed up by considerable evidence. How many federal
crimes do you need before we had to move quickly, because, the clock is ticking.
BURNETT: Professor Tribe, though, do you believe, and this is -- this is crucial because I want to get here -- I know that Ty agrees with you on part this but not on all -- aiding and abetting an insurrection, and seditious conspiracy, these charges, do they have enough? Have they proved that to a criminal degree, and to put those on the former president, Professor Tribe?
TRIBE: I think the odds are is that the evidence is there. We have seen a good bit of it. But it's only the tip of the iceberg that we've seen.
We've heard Cassidy Hutchinson. We've seen lots of the evidence. We've heard of the president's phone calls. We heard evidence about what those phone calls were, trying to get Clark to turn the Department of Justice to do the president's bidding.
TRIBE: We know that there was a phone call to Raffensperger to get him to, quote, find, unquote, 11,780 votes. When you add it all up, since we don't know what we don't know, that is we don't know all the remaining evidence, I can't say that the day after tomorrow that there is enough to indict, but I can say that the trajectory is clear. That the odds that there should not be an indictment before the end of the year, an indictment, to have a superseding indictment, are vanishingly low.
BURNETT: So, Ty, would you agree with that? And where do you see the charges right now that they have? Ty, I also -- I'm very, very curious because I think people are very focused on the aiding and abetting an instruction, seditious conspiracy charges. Would you go as far as Professor Tribe on that?
COBB: No, but I am with him. I think -- so, as a former line prosecutor and chief of criminal division in the U.S. attorney's office, there are multiple approaches to indictments. Some people want to charge multiple counts, some people want to be efficient and, you know, let the facts easily solve elements of a crime. I think the non- reckless way to charge this on the apparent evidence is the conspiracy count, which I favor, because it will bring in others culpable. And it also would leverage the ability of the Justice Department to impress upon others the importance of cooperating in some fashion to get their truthful testimony.
I think the conspiracy to defraud the United States is there a many pieces. I think picking the ones, picking the pieces that best fall together to ensure that the Justice Department is more than capable of. I also agree on the obstruction of an official proceeding -- obstruct, influence or impede an official proceeding.
I think those charges appear quite significant in terms of the evidence. I think the conversation that the professor just referred to with Raffensperger is highly probative.
I think the fake elector efforts, particularly in Arizona and in Georgia, are highly problematic. I think the pressure on Pence is highly problematic.
And the entire back and forth between Jeffrey Clark -- and the requests Trump made of Acting Attorney General Rosen and his deputy.
BURNETT: Yeah. So, will -- the question is, of course, both of you laying this out, I want to emphasize everybody in the Venn diagram of how much you agree on, right? I think that's significant, if people, you know, perceive, oh, lawyers had different views on this.
Professor Tribe, it's Merrick Garland who's going to make the decision, the attorney general on whether to do this. And you have known him for many, many years. He understands what's a crucial decision this is, right? It's a legal decision. It will also be a decision that will impact the whole country. Will he do it, Professor Tribe?
TRIBE: Before I try to guess whether he will do it, I want to say it's very notable that Ty Cobb and I agree on so much --
TRIBE: -- because, after all, he was Trump's defense lawyer. It's also notable that we have agreed that there are serious crimes, even without the fact that Donald Trump sat there while the mob that he knew to be harmed was aimed at the Capitol, egged on by calling his vice president a coward. Now, as to why Merrick Garland will do, although I've known him 50 years.
I know him to be a serious, thoughtful person. I don't pretend to read his mind, but I would be amazed if he was deliberately misleading the nation, 20 answered that interview the other day by saying, they would fall the evidence were a lead. They will not allow politics to make a difference. He would not allow the fact that we are in a political season to make a difference.
TRIBE: All of that means that he is basically telling the American people that if the evidence is that Trump is almost certainly get the, he will go after him. That is what the evidence shows. I don't think he was being cute. I don't think he was winking and nodding the way that Donald Trump might have been doing when he got his bidding.
BURNETT: And yet, Ty, the stakes are so incredibly high, but if you were to go ahead with a charge, he needs to know that he can win. This is where Trump's defense comes in. Will Trump's defense that he believed the election was stolen, would you keep saying. You can't blame me, I believe the, I thought it was true -- will that defense work, Ty? COBB: I don't believe so. I think the evidence, assume the evidence
which has been presented without cross-examination or challenge, but assuming that the evidence is as presented, and there is considerable evidence out there that his, only go advisers, including Eastman on January 4th acknowledged that they were acting on a frivolous legal system. I think that's very damaging to somebody who wants to argue woeful blindness.
I also think that while Trump will -- may argue that offense, I think he's more likely to use the trial in an effort to deal with his themes that, you know, he is all powerful. He got cheated, and he's the only one standing up for the country.
If I could make one point though, Erin, in response to something the professor said, which I think is significant, is the fact that the professor pointed to with the Pence tweet during the almost three hours of Trump's inactivity, fits very, very perfectly into what I think should be in it. I think Congress has the lane here. I don't think that lane is telling Merrick Garland what to do or pretending that they are leading him anywhere.
Merrick's case has been moving along at a pace just because they don't have a press release every day, and they have grand jury restraints and lawful restraints on what they are able to share, does not mean they haven't been long at it. Obviously, they have prosecuted people who actually went into the Capitol in mass.
But, the Pence tweet, coupled with the three hours of inaction, in my view, easily fits into the definition of, giving aid and comfort to the insurrectionists. And that is a standard under Article 3 of the 14th Amendment, which Congress has added to its disposal.
And I don't for the life of me understand why instead of telling the Justice Department what to do, that they aren't acting on that alone because --
COBB: -- if they have a sense of Congress, the penalty of finding Trump guilty of giving aid and comfort to insurrectionists is disqualification from office forever.
BURNETT: And that, of course, would be very significant as he has made it clear, at least as of now, that he intends to run again.
Professor Tribe, Ty Cobb, thank you both very much for such a thoughtful conversation.
COBB: Thank you, Erin.
BURNETT: And next, first there was catastrophic flooding and now the areas hit hardest, Kentucky, are grappling with extreme heat.
And the Biden administration finally sanctioning Putin's rumored girlfriend, mother of multiple of his children, Alina Kabaeva. This after months of hesitation as the U.S. feared escalating conflict with Russia. So, what changed?
BURNETT: Tonight, no relief for flood ravaged Kentucky, as flooded areas are now under heat advisory. The governor saying the official death toll remains at 37, but will certainly rise.
Evan McMorris-Santoro is OUTFRONT in Hazard, Kentucky.
So, Evan, what is the situation on the ground tonight?
EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you're able to get out to safety, last Thursday when the floodwaters rose, will be rescued already.
The situation is somewhat improving. There has been more power turned on, cell phone service turned on. Potable water is still a problem. There are a lot of state resources available if you need some of that.
The challenge is, a lot of people here are trapped in those hollows that we have been talking about, the places where the one road in and run rode out is washed away.
Now, our photojournalist Mark Vialo (ph) went up with some medical aid workers today up into one of the hollows. You can see what it looks like. You take a ATV to these houses that have been trapped by the floodwaters, because the only way out is washed away.
Mark said that the number one thing that people were asking for when does medical workers get to them right now is tetanus shot because of how many times they have been cut or stepped on just this horrible toxic debris that has been swept into their yards or house by these floodwaters. There are a lot of things to do it.
People up there in those places, the ones that people were most worried about, with the heat wave coming in because they're hoping that they don't have the water that they need, this cooling that they need, they might be in real trouble the he would comes in. That is the real challenge right now is heat -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Evan, thank you very much. Those images are just stunning, just imagine what that is. All of the toxicity and the tetanus shots, the number one thing they are asking for.
All right. Next, the United States going after Vladimir Putin's rumored girlfriend.
BURNETT: She is one of the closest people to Russian president, Vladimir Putin. And tonight, five months into Putin's invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration is finally sanctioning Putin's rumored girlfriend, Alina Kabaeva.
Up until now, the U.S. had been reluctant to go after Kabaeva. They had feared that it could escalate the conflict and, you know, infuriate Putin.
Putin has never confirmed having a romantic relationship with Kabaeva or that the two have children.
Thanks so much for joining us.
"AC360" starts now.