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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

1/6 Committee Lays Out Trump's Pressure Campaign on VP Pence; Bipartisan Gun Talks Stall in Push to Pass a Bill Next Week; Soon: Putin Speaks At International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg; Leaders of France, Germany, Italy Visit Ukraine to Show Support. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired June 17, 2022 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Friday, June 17th, I'm Christine Romans. Laura Jarrett has the morning off.

The January 6 Committee using its third public hearing to detail the many ways former President Donald Trump escalated pressure on his vice president to join in his scheme to overturn the election, through phone calls, tweets, and his speech from the ellipse on January 6.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Mike Pence will have to come through for us. And if he doesn't, that will be a sad day for our country. If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember hearing the word wimp. He called him a wimp. I remember, he said, you are a wimp. You'll be a wimp. Wimp is the word I remember.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: It was a different tone than I'd heard him take with the vice president before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you remember what she said your father called him?



ROMANS: The hearing included testimony that even after Trump was informed violence was breaking out on the Capitol, he tweeted an insult saying that Pence lacked courage which the committee says led to a surge in the crowd.


SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Then I remember getting a notification on my phone and I was sitting in a room with Roma and Ben and we all got a notification. So we knew it was a tweet from the president and we looked down and it was a tweet about Mike Pence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was clear that escalating quickly.



ROMANS: The committee also walked through right wing Trump attorney John Eastman's relentless effort to advance his legal theory that Vice President Pence could on his own block certification of the election. That theory eagerly embraced by former President Trump was roundly rejected by Trump and Mike Pence's White House attorneys.


JASON MILLER, TRUMP ADVISOR: All the attention was on what Mike would do or what Mike wouldn't do.

GREG JACOB, PENCE COUNSEL: The review of texts, history, and, frankly, just common sense all confirmed the vice president's first instinct on that point. There is no justifiable basis to conclude that the vice president has that kind of authority.


ROMANS: Former Pence attorney Greg Jacob testifying that Eastman understood all that but he kept insisting that Pence should act even as he argued that Democratic vice presidents didn't have that same power.


JACOB: And he said, absolutely. Al Gore did not have a basis to do it in 2000. Kamala Harris shouldn't be able to do it in 2024. But I think that you should do it today.


ROMANS: The panel heard testimony Eastman seemed to accept that his scheme would lead to bloodshed.


ERIC HERSCHMANN, TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I said that you will cause riots in the streets. And he said words to the effect of there has been violence in the history of our country, to protect the democracy or protect the republic.


ROMANS: Days later, an aide told Pence that even in the hours following the riot, Eastman was still pressing for Pence to stop the certification. This committee also revealing that Eastman emailed former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani a few days after the riot, seeking a presidential pardon. Eastman did not receive a pardon and repeatedly pleaded the Fifth refusing to answer the committee's questions during his deposition, taking the Fifth, pleading the Fifth hundred times.

All right. The January 6 committee has now sent a letter to Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, asking her to speak with them about her efforts to overturn the 2020 election. She told "The Daily Caller" she hooks forward to talking to the panel saying that she can't wait to clear up misconceptions. The request follows revelations that the committee has emails between Mrs. Thomas and John Eastman. A source who spoke to CNN confirmed the email's existence but would not discuss their contents.

All right. The Justice Department is turning up the pressure on the January 6 Committee to turn over transcripts of witness testimony. In a letter to the panel, the DOJ says its own investigation of Capitol riot is being delayed by the committee's refusal to cooperate. Committee member Adam Schiff says that that will all be smoothed out.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I've been involved in several high profile investigations. I've never seen the Justice Department say give us all your files. I think that the challenges, the breath of their question, but we're going to work through it and make sure they get what they need.


ROMANS: So, prosecutors asked the committee in April for access to about 1,000 witness transcripts.


Lawmakers have refused to provide them so far.

Let's bring in Andrew Cherkasky, a criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor.

So nice to see you bright and early this morning.

It is becoming clearer every day that the former president and his aides, they knew that overturning Biden's victory was illegal. The whole scheme, all along the way, they were told this has no legal basis and they kept pressing forward.

Is this enough to bring criminal charges?

ANDREW CHERKASKY, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: We are certainly finding a lot more about what was going on behind the scenes. It wasn't just what we were seeing on TV at the time. It wasn't just President Trump telling the American people that he thought that the election should be overturned. It was the lawyers that were closest to him.

And the lawyers that were closest to Vice President Pence saying that there was no legal interpretation that justified the ask that he was putting out there for Mike Pence to undo the election in such an unconstitutional way. And so what we saw yesterday were attorneys who were so closely connected really to Mike Pence and what they were saying to both Vice President Pence but as well to John Eastman, the one attorney who I think is the center piece of the scheme that President Trump was using to utilize the 12th Amendment to justify some sort of action of the vice president.

And the vice president's attorneys said without a doubt that that just wasn't a viable approach to this. And that John Eastman was going to cause riots in the speech with this sort of speech. So, it's a connection to President Trump, it shows a further degree as to what was going on in his mind at the time. Is it enough to actually say that he knew that the words that he was using were going to incite a riot?

Well, it's a lot more. And now we actually have a quote saying this will cause riots in the streets.

ROMANS: You know, we learned from that testimony and that presentation yesterday that the pressure on Pence, the vice president, to overturn the election was relentless. Does this increase the legal jeopardy Trump faces?

CHERKASKY: I think so because what ultimately we have the continuing approach of something that was told to president Trump multiple times to be just blatantly illegal, to not be a viable interpretation of the Constitution or the 12th Amendment.

And so when somebody hears that answer and has no justifiable approach to going about their interpretation, the continued pressure that they put on, you have to wonder where that line between just two people disagreeing about the law or the interpretation of the law turns in to someone who is actually insisting that the person that they are talking to violate the law.

And so, we have ample evidence that President Trump was putting immense pressure on Vice President Pence to do something that he had already said that he wasn't going to do, that he did not have the authority do. So when you put that together, when you really see that this is more than just a debate between two people who don't see it the same way, this is someone who is continuing to encourage and to counsel sell essentially subordinate, vice president of the United States, to do something so squarely illegal. I think that that starts to create good evidence of a criminal intent in the mind of the president.

Is that enough to prosecute or to prove in court? Perhaps not. But it is a lot of evidence that is coming out through this committee.

ROMANS: Let's talk about Ginni Thomas, spouse of the Supreme Court justice. "The New York Times" acquired a letter that requesting to talk to her about her contacts with John Eastman. What do you make of this, what can the committee gain from interviewing her?

CHERKASKY: I think that there is a lot to be said for the concern that spouse who is acting in a potentially extreme political manner could influence their spouse judge. And in this case a Supreme Court justice. In so many cases I see just as a regular trial attorney that even if

you have a juror who might seem fair, if they can connected closely with family members who have extreme views, you wouldn't want them deciding their case. You have to worry about the pressures that people close to a decision maker have on their ability to make that decision. And here, we have more and more evidence coming in that engine any anonymous as Ginni Thomas actually connected herself to these unjustifiable legal arguments that were going on, specifically from John Eastman, and how could that potentially influence the Supreme Court.

I think that the American people want to know that our Supreme Court justices are free of the sorts of bias and prejudices that you wouldn't want any normal jury having if they were making a critical decision.


And here with the connection, I think that there are some real questions that the panel has and that the American people have about whether that connection could have influenced the Supreme Court ultimately.

ROMANS: All right. And more to come as the committee lays out its findings.

Andrew Cherkasky, former federal prosecutor, nice to see you this morning. Have a great weekend. Thank you.

CHERKASKY: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. Those January 6 committee hearings continue on Tuesday. The committee says that it has interviewed about 1,000 witnesses, gathered some 140,000 documents, followed up on 500 tips, more than 840 rioters face charges.

More than 250 are charged with assault, dozens are accused of using a deadly weapon. Some 140 police officers assaulted there that day, 305 pleaded guilty, 59 of them to felonies. Seven cases have gone to trial. More than 500 members of that mob are still at large, with plenty of video evidence and photographic evidence for law enforcement to follow up on here.

All right. What makes someone your boyfriend? That seemingly simple question has complicated gun safety talks. That's coming up.

Plus, the new image just emerging from Ukraine's warzone, could it help bring two missing Americans home?

And why pork is the new beef at the supermarket.



ROMANS: All right. Welcome back. A bipartisan deal to expand gun laws for the first time in decades may be on shaky ground this morning. Senate negotiators have been unable to completely resolve two key sticking points casting doubt about whether a Senate vote on the bill next week is even possible.

CNN's Daniella Diaz live on Capitol Hill for us this Friday morning.

The deal already delicate, already the first in a very long time. So what is holding it up here?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Christine, it continues to be two sticking points that Republicans and Democrats cannot find agreement on. And that is crucial because Democrats were hoping that they could put this bill for a vote on the Senate floor next week. But they can't do that unless the text is finished, Christine.

Now, what are the two sticking points? The first revolves around the definition of who would be impacted by a so-called closing -- excuse me, the so-called boyfriend loophole and Republicans really want to try to create a process for those convicted of domestic violence against a partner that would allow them to be able to restore the ability to purchase or get their firearms returned to them, that is something that they are trying to figure out and right through with that framework that they announced last Sunday.

Another issue centers around incentivizing states to implement red flag laws or whether they could use those funds for alternative crisis programs rather than creating new state laws to take away firearms from individuals. These are divisions between Republicans and Democrats as they continue to try to write through the text. They were hoping to have it done by today but that is not the case when they emerged from a bipartisan meeting last night. They still are working through.

And, Christine, I do want to note that the Senate is not in recess, senators left town last night back to their home states and staff said -- or the staff for the senators said that they will continue to work on trying to write through the text but the senators will meet over the phone over the weekend, so it remains to be seen whether they can actually get through the deal.

And, look, Cornyn in a tweet actually said that time is running out, he said that indecision and delay jeopardize the likelihood of a bill because you can't write what is undecided and without a bill, there is nothing to vote on.

So this is really, really important. They are running out of time and time is of the essence here. And Democratic leaders really, really want a bill by next week so we'll see if that actually happens.

ROMANS: Time is of the essence, and shootings happen every single day, multiple shootings every single day. So this is top of mind for the American public who want their Congress to do something about it.

Thank you so much. Nice to see you, Daniella Diaz.

All right. Eighteen past the hour.

Let's take a look at stocks around the world. Asia has closed for the week mixed. Europe is bouncing back and U.S. stock index futures recovering a bit after honestly just a wipeout yesterday. On Thursday, the Dow tumbled 741 points to its lowest level in a year, losing that 30,000 mark. Investors concerned that the Fed's aggressive moves to tame inflation could flip the economy into a recession.

But inflation trouble is everywhere. The red hot housing market that we thought would happen forever is showing signs of cooling. Mortgage rates hit 5.78 percent, biggest weekly jump since 1987. And new housing starts plunged 14 percent between April and May, again, that's because of rising mortgage rates. The Fed is trying to cool it off, right?

And Kroger says that shoppers are switching from name brands to store brands and switching from beef to pork. And gas prices seem to be holding steady at about 5 bucks a gallon, down slightly over the last few days. Still up a few pennies from a week ago. That's your inflation watch.

Coming up, cheap gas and cleaner planet, can Joe Biden have it both ways?

And next, a third American goes missing from the fight in Ukraine.



ROMANS: State Department officials are working to verify a photo posted on Russian social media that appears to show the two American fighters in Ukraine missing and feared captured. The photo appears to show Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh looking up at the camera with their hands tied behind their backs.

Now, CNN cannot confirm when this photo was taken. Drueke's mother said she spoke with U.S. officials.


BUNNY DRUEKE: They said that there is a photograph that is being circulated on the Russian media and they are working hard to verify it.


We're very hopeful.


ROMANS: The families say that they went to Ukraine as volunteers to help the Ukrainians in the fight against Russia. They have been missing nearly a week now.

A third American is now listed by the State Department as missing in action in Ukraine. He is a U.S. marine veteran Grady Kurpasi who hasn't been seen or heard from since late April. He served in the marine corps for 20 years and retired last November. He chose to volunteer alongside Ukrainian forces.

And in a couple hours, Vladimir Putin will speak at Russia's annual economic forum. But unlike year's past, the guest list is significantly diminished due to sanctions and international fallout over Ukraine.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen live in St. Petersburg, site of what's been called the Russian Davos.

Fred, what will we hear from Putin and who will he be speaking to?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, first of all, Christine, you are absolutely right. There is obviously no Western leaders attending the forum this year due to the sanctions against Russia, of course due to also the Russians called their special military operation, invasion of Ukraine.

Essentially, the main people that Vladimir Putin is going to be meeting will be the president of Kazakhstan and the presidents of Egypt and of China. Whereas, the latter of the two, the Chinese and Egyptian president are going to be via video link.

In general, I have really long phone conversation with Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov yesterday and he said that the Russians acknowledge that their economy is in a lot of trouble. They are having trouble sourcing Western products. Obviously sanctions are biting them as well and they understand that they need to reorient their economy.

Now, the way he puts is he sees that the world is too big to isolate Russia. They want to strengthen ties with China. Other countries to try to keep the economy afloat, but they also understand that they are in a race against time and essentially that will be he says what Vladimir Putin will be talking about how the Russians want to keep their economy afloat and they hope at some point make it thrive. That is something that Vladimir Putin has said in the past that Russia wants to achieve.

One of the things that we do have to say, which I think is really important, is that right now the sanctions seem to be hurting Russia but they certainly have not crippled Russia's economy. So if there is something that will cause Vladimir Putin to change course, certainly doesn't appear that the sanctions in their current form are going to be it, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Fred Pleitgen for us, keep us posted when that speech begins. Thanks, Fred.

All right. French President Emmanuel Macron insisting he won't go to Russia without, quote, gestures for Vladimir Putin. Macron has faced criticism for engaging with Moscow after the invasion and saying Russia should not be humiliated in Ukraine. Remarks coming as Macron, along with the leaders of Germany and Italy, visited Kyiv to show support for Ukraine, that critical juncture in the war.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz live in Ukrainian capital for us this morning. Good morning.

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Good morning, Christine.

For all that talk of solidarity and unity, there are fissures, there are cracks appearing in the European alliance. President Zelenskyy has been vocal with his criticism of two leaders in particular, of course, the head of Germany and leader of France.

So, yesterday, he's visit was about mending fences. Take a look.


ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Three European leaders traveling by train to Kyiv to carry a message of solidarity at a time of war.

On the platform, French President Emmanuel Macron was quick to state their purpose.

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): A message of unity. I want to be in support and at their side.

ABDELAZIZ: But Ukraine's deputy prime minister struck a more muted tone.

IRYNA VERESHCHUK, UKRAINIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I'm not sure that there would be bright announcement following the meeting. But this regardless how it will be ending would be a historical meeting.

ABDELAZIZ: Because in the eyes of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, European leaders have been a lot of talk but not much action. Macron made a splash when he said that the conflict does not humiliate Russia, Zelenskyy rebuked the comments, calling it a weak position. And Germany's chancellor was criticized over his refusal to ban imports of Russian oil and gas, instead promising a phase-out by the end of the year.

VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): We need Chancellor Scholz to give us certainty that they will support Ukraine. He and his government must choose not to do a balancing act between Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

ABDELAZIZ: Set on healing divisions, the trip began with a tour of the devastated suburb of Irpin, site of alleged Russian atrocities.

MACRON: This is what we wanted to do by coming us here to see for ourselves and to be able to have this exchange with President Zelenskyy to talk about the future.

ABDELAZIZ: Afterwards a meeting was held with President Zelenskyy, at the top of their agenda, more military aid. Germany which critics say was slow to provide material support promised long range artillery, air defense systems and anti-aircraft tanks to bolster Kyiv's fight for the east.

OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): We also support Ukraine by supplying weapons and we will continue.