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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Ex-WH Aide: Trump Knew Crowd Marching to Capitol was Armed; January 6 Committee Teases Evidence of Witness Tampering; Biden Unveils Enhanced U.S. Force Posture in Europe. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired June 29, 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 Wednesday, June 29. I'm Laura Jarrett.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Christine Romans. Nice to have you all with us this Wednesday morning.

We begin, of course, with the absolutely stunning portrait of presidential desperation painted by former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. Her two-hour blockbuster appearance before the January 6 Committee included testimony that the former president and top aides were warned that some supporters at the ellipse were armed with weapons like knives, guns, bear spray, Tasers.

Hutchinson's role as an aide to former chief of staff Mark Meadows gave her a unique vantage point critical to conversations never revealed before yesterday. She said that Trump grew irate that the security screenings on January 6 were apparently deterring his supporters, his armed supporters, from joining the crowd, so furious that he ordered his aides to have the metal de detectors removed.


CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: He thought that the mags are at fault for not letting everybody in. But another leading reason, likely the primary reason, is because he wanted it full and he was angry that we weren't letting people through the mags with weapons, what the Secret Service deems as weapons and are weapons.

But when we were offstage announce tent, I was part of a conversation. I was in the -- I was in the vicinity of a conversation where I overheard the president say something to the effect of, you know, I don't f'ing care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the f'ing mags away.


JARRETT: They are not here who hurt me.

Hutchinson also testified in remarkable detail about Trump's fervent determination to join his supporters at the Capitol, a move Trump's lead Secret Service agent Robert Engel vetoed for obvious security reasons but to his own detriment.


HUTCHINSON: The resident said something to the effect of I'm the f'ing president, take me up to the Capitol now, to which Bobby responded, sir, we have to go back to the West Wing. 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 then used his free hand to lunge toward Bobby Engel. And when Mr. Ornato had recounted the story to me, he had motioned towards his clavicles.


JARRETT: Now, that story obviously so shocking, it's caused quite a dust-up. The Secret service says it's going to make the agents involved here available to testify while a Secret Service official tells CNN on background that the agents would say that the incident itself described there just simply did not happen.

And Tony Ornato, the deputy White House chief of staff, would deny telling Hutchinson that Trump actually grabbed the steering wheel or attacked the agent on his detail. But Hutchinson was the one testifying publicly under the penalty of perjury yesterday and the January 6 Committee says that it trusts the credibility of a witness who is willing to testify under oath.


ROMANS: Fine, if they disagree, bring it on.

JARRETT: Yeah, let's hear it.

So, let's bring in Michael Zeldin now, former federal prosecutor and host of the podcast "That Said with Michael Zeldin".

Michael, there is so much to in-pack here, but I want to start with the idea of advanced awareness, the idea that Trump knew the crowd was armed and he didn't care because he thought that they weren't there to hurt him. Hutchinson testified that he was so desperate for a larger crowd, just still obsessed with the crowd size, that he wanted to remove the mags and then he directs an armed mob down to the Capitol knowing that they are armed.

If you are Trump's defense attorney with that as your story, what is your best art that this is not incitement to violence?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There isn't a great answer to that question because it clearly proved that he knew that these people were armed and dangerous and wanted them to go down there and he intended to be with them and they intended to confront members of Congress.

[05:05:03] And it's hard to say that there is a defense to the incitement charge that Cipollone, the White House counsel, advised Hutchinson and most likely Trump himself not do because it would violate all manner of laws including obstruction of the official proceeding and incitement.

So I'm not sure what you do if you are Trump's lawyer under those circumstances. Deny it, I guess.

ROMANS: Hutchinson testified that the White House counsel Pat Cipollone was adamant that she help stop Trump from going down to the Capitol. Let's listen to that.


HUTCHINSON: Mr. Cipollone said something to the effect of, please make sure that we don't go up to the Capitol, Cassidy, keep in touch with me. We're going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): And do you remember which crimes Mr. Cipollone was concerned with?

HUTCHINSON: In the days leading up to the 6th, we had conversations about potentially obstructing justice or defrauding the electoral count.


ROMANS: What do you think had Cipollone most worried there?

ZELDIN: Are you asking me that?


ZELDIN: Sorry.

ROMANS: That is okay.

ZELDIN: Sorry. I think that he was worried about two things in particular: the conspiracy to obstruct the official proceeding and the incitement. I think those two things were foremost on Cipollone's mind and with good reason because we saw both of those things occur.

JARRETT: Michael, do you think that -- part of the issue here is that Cipollone seems to be the one who is making a connection between all of the procedural wranglings, nonsense going on with the electoral count, fraudulent elector scheme and making a connection to the violence, that apparently everyone -- even -- including Mark Meadows who told Hutchinson, it's going to be a bad day, Cassidy?

ZELDIN: Well, so I think that if we back up a little bit, you have on January 2nd, Giuliani speaking to Cassidy, saying to her that's going to be great on January 6, aren't we excited about this? We're going to go down to Capitol Hill and Trump is going to look powerful and meet with everybody. And then she says to Mark in the aftermath of that, Mark Meadows, the

chief of staff, what was Rudy talking about. He says Cassidy, this could be real, real bad on January 6. And then we know on January 5, that Bannon on his radio show is saying strap in, stand by, this will be like nothing you've ever seen. We know that meadows is talking to roger stone in the war room with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers are providing security for him, and then all the events that occur that we've already just talked about, which is the knowledge of armed assailants and the Trump lack of interest in protecting anyone from them because they weren't going to hurt him personally.

So there is a lot there that sort of connects Trump with knowledge of the -- foreknowledge of the insurrection and a lack of interest in preventing it.

ROMANS: It was just such a riveting two hours. I have to say. I mean, all these legal angles, but it was just the riveting two hours and the level of detail that this young woman had about the inner workings of the West Wing. I mean, the shattered porcelain plate against the wall with the ketchup.

I mean, you could see inside of a desperate White House and showman president obsessed still with crowd size.

What happens next here, Michael? Isn't Cipollone's -- his testimony must be essential at this point, right? I mean, can they make an effective case here without him? Who do you expect that they will want to hear from next?

ZELDIN: Well, the two most important people who if they had a conscience would be Mark Meadows and Pat Cipollone, especially Cipollone because he wasn't a political operative like Meadows was. He was a legal counselor. And he has an oath of sort of office and to the Constitution as a lawyer and he should be next one we hear.

But we just don't know whether he will show up. But those two guys really owe to America, owe to the Constitution, owe to our democracy to show up and testify to what was going on, because it is so dangerous to have a president who is so out of control and not sanctioned for his behavior.

JARRETT: We'll see if they step up to the plate. Michael Zeldin, thank you as always. Appreciate it.

ZELDIN: See you.

JARRETT: All right. So, the committee's co-chair, Liz Cheney, ended Tuesday's hearing by hinting, really strongly suggesting that the panel has evidence of witness tampering by members of Trump's inner circle, something that she said that the committee takes, quote, seriously.


For more, let's bring in CNN's Daniella Diaz who is live on Capitol Hill for us this morning. Daniella, the evidence that she has and that she relayed yesterday

isn't just things that happened in the past. She is talking about recent communications.

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yeah, Laura, she suggested at the end of the hearing that there is a sort of Trump blockade of sorts. She said that they have evidence that there is witness tampering and she warned that the committee is taking this seriously, and they will be considering, quote, next steps potentially hinting at a criminal referral for possible witness tampering or obstruction.

She actually read some quotes. They, of course, did not identify anyone specific that was hinting at this, but they read some quotes of testimony that they received hinting that the Trump world was putting pressure on some of these witnesses.

Take a listen to some of what she said yesterday.


CHENEY: Quote, what they said to me is as long as I continue to be a team player, they know I'm on the right team. I'm doing the right thing. I'm protecting who I need to protect. You know I'll continue to stay in good graces in Trump world. And they reminded me a couple times that Trump does read transcripts.


DIAZ: Laura, new information here. She also read another quote where she said that someone in Trump's orbit told a witness that, quote, Trump was thinking about you and that, quote, he knows you are loyal. And he hopes that you are going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition.

Now, not only did that happen yesterday, Laura, Bennie Thompson also issued a public plea for witnesses to cooperate. He said if you were listening to this hearing and you remembered that you had additional information that you may not have recalled, our doors are open. That happened at the end of the hearing yesterday after we heard that really, really revealing testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson.

But look, I do want to note Trump has obviously denied any wrongdoing. But, of course, we know from his pattern when he was president that he would put pressure in his orbit on people in his orbit on people in his orbit is not new. So, really, really interesting that this happened at the end of the hearing yesterday -- Laura.

JARRETT: Yeah, certainly noteworthy. Daniella, thank you for your reporting, as always.

ROMANS: All right. So, right now, President Biden is meeting with a NATO alliance that is about to get bigger, next.

JARRETT: Plus, the CDC's stepped up response to monkeypox.

ROMANS: And accountants caught cheating costing their company big bucks.



JARRETT: President Biden is kicking off his first full day in Spain with a series of meetings with world leaders after signing off on this apparent agreement that clears the way for Sweden and Finland to become NATO members.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand is live from Madrid for us.

Good morning, Natasha.

The president made an announcement about NATO forces just a few minutes ago. What did he say?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, he made a number of significant announcements about the enhancement of the U.S. force posture in Europe among the NATO allies in response, of course, to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And he said that the U.S. will be sending two new destroyers to Rota naval station in Spain, but ups the number from four to six. He will also be sending additional air defense and other capabilities to Germany and Italy, as well as two additional F-35 fighter jet squadrons to the U.K., among other force posture enhancements.

Now, all of this, of course, comes as the United States tries to reinforce the idea that it is committed to the NATO alliance, committed to Europe, and President Biden said today during a meeting with Jens Stoltenberg that this is going to augment NATO's collective security.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATESE: The NATO is strong, united and the steps that we're taking during this summit will further augment our collective strength. To that end, today, I'm announcing the United States will enhance our force posture in Europe and respond to the changed security environment as well as strengthening or collective security.


BERTRAND: Now, another thing Biden said was that he jokes that President Putin wanted to see the Finlandization of Europe. Of course maintaining that neutral position as Finland was before the war broke out.

But instead, Russia has actually gotten the NATOlization of Europe, alludes to the fact that Turkey has dropped its opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, and that means that the NATO border here with Russia is going to expand dramatically, of course, something that Russia did not want to see happen. It completely backfired, according to U.S. and Western officials, the invasion there, because, of course, entire reason why Russia has said of course that it had to attack Ukraine was because of that NATO expansion.

Well, now, we see that NATO is expanding even further. NATO is going to be increasing the number of forces on high alert to 300,000 troops across the continent. Of course, Russia sees all of this as a major threat, Laura.

JARRETT: All right. Natasha, thank you for your reporting and for being there for us.

ROMANS: Yeah, and that is the irony. I mean, Vladimir Putin who says that he has to fight against NATO aggression, his own actions in Ukraine causing the alliance to even be more concerned about Vladimir Putin.

President Biden was meeting with royalty in Spain when he got word that his effort to expand NATO had suddenly materialized.

Let's bring in CNN's Kevin Liptak.

Good morning.

The president has been working for more than six moments on this to get Sweden and Finland into NATO. Russia's invasion of Ukraine certainly changing everything for the alliance and for Finland and Sweden. Tell us how it all happened.

KEVIN LIPTAK, CNN REPORTER: Yeah, and President Biden actually first raised this idea with the Finnish president back in December, two months before the invasion took place.


He saw what was happening on the border of Ukraine and he brought in the Finnish president and suggested to him that this might be a good idea.

And so, the talks and discussions progressed over the next several months after the invasion occurred, NATO and Sweden formally made that application.

But laying underneath all of this were these objections from Turkey, from the Turkish President Erdogan who had exposed NATO expansion. He threw up road blocks that had frustrated European and American officials.

The talks continued really the last several months or so and really ramped up in the last several days. Very important phone call took place yesterday morning between President Biden and President Erdogan in which President Biden told his counterpart that if this deal could be struck before this NATO summit began, it would be possible for the two of them to meet formally, bilaterally on the margins of that summit, so that did appear to help push it over the finish line.

Yesterday, after the president had met with the King of Spain, he received a phone call from the Finnish leader and the Swedish leader just kind of getting a gut check on the details, contours of the plan. He did sign off and so the president and Erdogan will meet later today and really is an historic, significant development.

JARRETT: A significant development that he would sort of working behind the scenes effectively now it turns out, Kevin. But domestically, it is striking that he is struggling more. There are so many different issues, whether it is inflation or gas -- I mean, guns,, voting. There is just so many more things, so many more obstacles. It's got to be frustrating for this White House.

LIPTAK: Yeah, certainly is. And U.S. presidents always have a little more leeway to get things done that they want to get done on foreign policy than they do on domestic policy, they don't necessarily have to go through Congress on everything. But it is interesting because the president's objectives on the foreign stage in a way are making things harder for him domestically, these sanctions that the U.S. has put on Russia have driven up the price of oil, have driven up gas prices in the United States. And that is really eroding his political capital at home, that does make it harder to get things done when your approval ratings are historically low.

But we should note he is not the only leader facing severe political headwinds. When you look at the British prime minister, the French president, the German chancellor, they all face really some intense political headwinds.

So it's not just Biden, but certainly, he is struggling in the polls and this, I don't think necessarily, is going to help him. Americans are really focused on what is going on at home. But it is still a significant win that he deserves some credit for.

JARRETT: Yeah, there's no question. Nobody has it -- nobody has it easy, that is why you are a world leader. You got to do hard things.

Kevin, thank you.

LIPTAK: Exactly. Yeah, it's not easy.

JARRETT: All right. Coming up, President Biden's first comments on something here at home, the human smuggling tragedy in San Antonio.

ROMANS: And glimmer of hope for the families of two Americans captured by pro-Russian forces while fighting for Ukraine.



ROMANS: All right. President Biden in a statement says the discovery of dozens of migrants inside the semi-truck in Texas is horrifying and heartbreaking. Their bodies were found just outside San Antonio. Authorities say it is the worst case of human smuggling the U.S. has ever seen.

We get more from CNN's Rosa Flores.


RON NIRENBERG, MAYOR OF SAN ANTONIO: This is probably the worst tragedy in term of migration that I know in recent history.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At least 51 migrants are dead and three individuals are in custody after police found the victims crammed inside a sweltering tractor trailer.

NIRENBERG: What they found was nothing short of horrific.

FLORES: Authorities say Monday evening, a person nearby heard a cry for help in an undeveloped area just outside San Antonio. And upon open the doors of the tractor trailer, discovered the graphic scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I also get one more here? I have too many bodies here. We got another body just north of the trailer.

Be on the on the lookout -- Hispanic male running southbound from the railroad tracks.

FLORES: Police say they saw no sign victims had water and that there was no air-conditioning as temperatures reached 100 degrees.

Forty-eight people died at the scene, three others at hospitals. Federal officials say another 16, 12 adults and four children were transported to local hospitals.

CHARLES HOOD, SAN ANTONIO FIRE CHIEF: The patients that we saw were hot to the touch. They were suffering from heatstroke, heat exhaustion.

FLORES: The migrants were from Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras, officials say. Of those transported, hospital officials say, some remain in critical condition.

HOOD: We're not supposed to open a truck and see stacks of bodies in there.

FLORES: Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas says the truck went through a check point north of Laredo, Texas, Monday, about 150 miles southwest of San Antonio. It's unclear if the migrants entered the truck before or after the check point.

Federal officials say since October, more than 14,000 searches and rescues have taken place along the border. That's up from nearly 13,000 in 2021.

The mayor of San Antonio now calling on Congress to take action.

NIRENBERG: Clearly, Congress' inability to reform our immigration system is causing or is manifesting in a lot of ways that are simply tragic.

FLORES: Rosa Flores, CNN, San Antonio.


JARRETT: Rosa, thank you for that report. So disturbing.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration is ramping up its response to the outbreak of monkeypox here in the United States.