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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Trump's Acting A.G. Rosen Testifies at Today's 1/6 Committee Hearing; Uvalde School District Police Chief Arredondo On Leave; House GOP Leaders Oppose Bipartisan Senate Gun Safety Bill; 1,000+ Killed in 5.9 Earthquake in Eastern Afghanistan; U.S. Howitzers on the Battlefields Against Russian Aggression. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired June 23, 2022 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. It is Thursday, June 23rd.

I'm Laura Jarrett. Christine has the morning off.

And we begin this morning with one of the people on the front lines of justice, one of the men who told the former president -- no, no, there was no widespread evidence of voter fraud. No, DOJ would not put out a phony statement disputing the outcome of the election. And, no, DOJ would not be used to help overturn the will of the people.

In just a few hours, Jeffrey Rosen, his former acting attorney general who oversaw the department for only a few pivotal weeks in time, is set to testify before the January 6 committee later today, and CNN has now obtained some of what he plans to say. Rosen will be joined by two other top Justice Department officials, both of whom threatened to quit if Trump tried to push Rosen out of a job for refusing to back all those baseless fraud allegations.

The man Trump considered putting in Rosen's place, this guy, a lawyer name Jeffrey Clark with no criminal trial experience whatsoever, but yet who was all in on the bogus theories being bandied about and told Trump exactly what he wanted to hear.

Meantime, CNN has learned that the Justice Department is widening its investigation into the plot to send the fake slates of electors to overturn Biden's win. Federal investigators have issued a fresh round of subpoenas to rogue electors from several swing states.

And here to help me sort through all of this and more is Renate Mariotti, former federal prosecutor and host of the podcast "On Topic".

Renato, so great to see you. It has been a while.


JARRETT: Great to have you. So today we're going to hear from more people, guards at the gate if

you will, these people willing to fall on their sword to try to do the right thing. What are you watching for today?

MARIOTTI: Well, what I'm really interested this is hearing what they were telling former President Trump during that period as well as what they were telling Mr. Clark.

And Mr. Clark has some serious liability. He won't be testifying for good reason. And I really think that the Justice Department in many ways may be zeroing in on some of these lawyers. I think some of the most problematic figures that we've heard from -- or heard about throughout this entire proceeding for all the hearings thus far have been some of the crooked lawyers, dishonest lawyers around Trump who were advising him do very questionable often illegal things.

JARRETT: Yeah, we got John Eastman who was sort of the architect of the plan on the slates of electros that we've heard so much about. He was sort of the outside adviser, and we've also got as you mentioned, this former DOJ attorney, Jeffrey Clark, someone who probably most people at home had never heard of until this investigation ramped up. And somebody who as I mentioned had no criminal experience at all but he managed to curry a lot of favor with the president by sort of pushing the same sort of lies, pushing the same sort of flawed theories.

But in his testimony to the January 6 Committee, he took the Fifth. Do you think that his cooperation or really lack thereof could be sort of a make or break for the committee here?

MARIOTTI: Well, I think that it is important for the committee. I do think that they have done great work going around the fact that certain people took the Fifth. If you remember, we heard that great testimony, Laura, from -- you know, where you saw John Eastman taking the Fifth. A hundred -- I think over 100 times before the committee.

I actually think that that shows to me that the committee is making some progress here because they are really getting to people who have done activity that is so questionable that understandably they are exercising their constitutional right not to discuss it. I think as you pointed out, the DOJ is starting to look at that and starting to get more aggressive in their investigation. And I wouldn't be surprised if where they end up is people like Clark and Eastman.

JARRETT: Well, and certainly they have every right to take the Fifth. No one is questioning that. But they have enough people around them, people like Rosen, people like Donoghue, people like Steven Engel, all who will hear from today who have filled in enough of the picture of what happened happening inside DOJ and the White House at the time that it may not matter if Clark actually ends up testifying.


I also want to ask you about this new reporting from CNN and others that DOJ essentially going on a tear yesterday with a wave of new subpoenas including on the Georgia Republican chairman for information related to this whole fake elector scheme.

As a former prosecutor, what does it tell you that the Feds are now moving to question the people who allegedly actually participated in that effort as opposed to the folks who maybe were sort of lower level actors who might have known something about it or might have actually backed out of it before it got too far?

MARIOTTI: Well, Laura, I think that what really stood out to me in some of these hearings was that one obvious potential crime that jumped out to me is that there are these false statements, these false documents that were being prepared to submit to the federal government.

And I know, Laura, that you have a lot of experience as a lawyer and as a reporter dealing with the charge of people who are lying to, for example, the FBI, and they got charged with that. Michael Flynn and some of the others we saw from the Mueller investigation. Well, this is exactly the same potential statute at work here, lying to the government is always problematic and here you have some of the lies in certificates. Understandable to me that the DOJ is going after people who should have known better, who were involved in this, because an element of that crime is that they have to prove that they knew that the documents were false and that they knew that they were up to something illegal.

For example, the GOP chairman of the state who was I imagine involved in preparing those certificates, probably got advice that that was not a legal thing do.

JARRETT: Yeah, we certainly don't know where exactly DOJ's investigation is going to ultimately go on this. But it has clearly reached at least a new stage at this point right now.

Renato, thank you so much for getting up bright and early for me in Chicago. I miss my hometown. Thank you.

MARIOTTI: Thank you.

JARRETT: All right. To Texas now where the chief of police for Uvalde schools has been placed on administrative leave. Pete Arredondo has been widely criticized for his handling of the shooting at Robb Elementary, where a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers last month. Arredondo served as incident commander at the scene and it was his decision to delay officers entering the classrooms there.

We get more now from CNN's Shimon Prokupecz in Texas.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Laura, the school superintendent placing the chief on leave as the investigation continues. Of course a lot of new information coming out from the head of DPS who testified before members of the Senate here in Texas, describing more information about what was going on in the hour and minutes while the kids were inside that classroom and the gunman remained in the hallway and police did nothing to get inside that classroom.

The state Senate here heard testimony from the head of DPS yesterday where he described what Arredondo did as an abject failure, putting the lives of officers ahead of the kids who were inside the classroom. And then of course, describing for over that hour as officers remained in the hallway and that no one even checked the door to see if they could just open it by simply turning the doorknob.

And so, it appears that school officials now have decided that the best course of action at this point is to place the chief on leave as the investigation continues -- Laura.


JARRETT: All right. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you for that reporting.

Up next for you, the Senate gun safety bill about to run into some stiff opposition in the house.

Plus, a grim scene in Afghanistan, the death toll from this devastating earthquake climbing.

And Fed Chair Jerome Powell running into a buzz saw in the Senate, that is just ahead.



JARRETT: Now that the Senate is close to passing a bipartisan gun safety bill, Republican leaders in the House are lining up to oppose it. According to a source in the room, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Minority Whip Steve Scalise announced during a closed door GOP meeting on Wednesday they are both a no.

CNN's Daniella Diaz is live on Capitol Hill and has been following all the twists and turns of this bill.

Daniella, can McCarthy and Scalise convince the rest of the House Republicans in the caucus to reject this bill, and if so, can Democrats get it done without their support?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN REPORTER: First, I will answer your question, first question you said, yes, they can convince all Republicans to not vote and support that gun safety legislation that is bipartisan in the Senate.

But, look, in the House, you only need a simple majority to pass bills. So if every single Democrat in the house supports that legislation, it will pass. But in the Senate, that is where they need at least 60 votes to passes legislation. And because the first procedural vote two days ago, we know that there will likely be ten Republicans to support it along with all 50 Democratic senators.

But look, it is notable that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, Elise Stefanik, the top three in leadership in the House, Republican leadership, they are not supporting this legislation and they are whipping against that legislation and it is notable because of course in the Senate, there are at least ten Republicans that will support it including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. But it could pass the House, expected to pass the Senate with at least 64 senators that will support it.


We expect that vote to break the filibuster to take place later today around noon. So really, really notable because even if the house Republicans don't support this legislation, it will still pass and go to President Biden's desk for signature at least by this weekend. We'll see how that happens.

JARRETT: All right. We know that you will be following it all weekend. Thank you, Daniella.

Ahead for you, a desperate search for survivors in Afghanistan following that earthquake that killed more than 1,000 people.

Plus -- front lines in Ukraine as soldiers there fire on Russian positions with American weapons.



JARRETT: Welcome back.

The death toll is stilt rising from an earthquake in Afghanistan. More than 1,000 have been killed and at least 1,500 with reported injuries following a 5.9 magnitude quake that struck eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border Wednesday. Search and rescue operations are ongoing we understand.

I want to bring in CNN's Vedika Sud.

Vedika, how is the Taliban government responding to this crisis?

VEDIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: Laura, the Taliban authorities have been appealing for international aid. Last year, a significant percentage of the international aid was cut off after the Taliban took over.

Now, the supreme leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan has said that the death toll will be rising and that is quite evident given that the areas we're talking about in the eastern side of Afghanistan, near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border are remote village areas. Very basic amenities in terms of medicinal remedies available there.

Now, what we know is this, this is perhaps the deadliest earthquake that has hit Afghanistan in the last two decades. And we know the death toll is about to rise because a lot of these people according to aid agencies have been telling CNN that lot of people are still under the rubble in these remote village areas, people are using their bare hands to pull out people from the debris that is all over these remote villages as of now. There are very strong visuals coming in of these graves, a series of

graves that have been prepared by locals in the worst hit region of Paktika that you were talking about. That's where a lot of these dead bodies have been recovered. Now, what we don't know, Laura, is the extent of the damage in terms of structure, in terms of homes damaged and in terms of lives lost.

It will take a while before most of these international aid agencies get there with their teams to assess the damage to help people. Like I said, the weather has been playing truant since yesterday. Because of that, a lot of choppers couldn't land Wednesday to help rescue people who were looking to be taken to hospitals for immediate treatment.

The situation is grim, numbers of the death stands at 1,000 and we're expecting this to rise unfortunately in the coming hours, days and weeks -- Laura.

JARRETT: Just a staggering number.

Vedika, thank you for your reporting. Appreciate it.

Moving now to the war in Ukraine where Kyiv says it troops control less than half of the eastern Donetsk region. More than 100 cities and villages there without gas and without electricity. Ukrainian officials say that 55 percent of the region is now completely destroyed and under Russian control.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is on the ground there and got a firsthand look at the American firepower now being deployed by Ukraine in its fight against Russia.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New rounds soon to be loaded into the breach. These Ukrainian troops wait for the order.

They're preparing to fire this gun. Ukraine has received more than 100 M777 howitzers, but we've seen steadily the Russians are gaining more and more ground. This helps, but it may not be enough.

With sophisticated U.S.-made and supplied 155 millimeter howitzers like this, Ukraine hopes to counter Russia's massive superiority in firepower. That superiority has allowed Russian forces to push forward, subjecting cities like Severodonetsk and Lysychansk to intense bombardment.

This drone footage shows Russian tanks entering the town of Toshkivka just outside Severodonetsk. Outnumbered and outgunned in the east, Ukraine has warned Russian forces may soon intensify their attack.

This artillery is firing rounds with a range of around 20 kilometers or 12 1/2 miles. The target, we're told, Russian armored personnel carriers.

Thanks to the Americans, I think we can win this war, says Bogdan. The only problem is we need more barrels, more artillery, and more ammunition. Or in plain English --


WEDEMAN: His comrade puts a number to it.

We need at least 500 of these guns, he says.

This has become an artillery war, and victory in this war will come from the barrel of a gun.


Ben Wedeman, CNN, Eastern Ukraine.


JARRETT: Ben, thank you for that report.

Up next -- we have the first look at a Trump documentary that has captured the interests of the January 6 committee.

Plus, under indictment. A Democrat once this close to becoming governor of Florida now in trouble with the law.

And President Biden calling for a gas tax holiday. But is Congress listening?