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Oath Keepers Propagandist Set to Testify to January 6 Committee; Biden White House Event to Celebrate New Gun Safety Law; Sri Lankan Protesters Storm Presidential Palace. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 11, 2022 - 05:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It's Monday, July 11th, I'm Erica Hill, in for Christine Romans this week. We begin this morning with a self- described propagandist for the Oath Keepers set to testify tomorrow before the January 6th Committee.

Jason Van Tatenhove was briefly the far-right group's spokesman, and told a Colorado TV station "KRDR", he had quote, "a lot of insight access." Also on deck tomorrow, testimony from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone who spent hours with the house select committee on Friday. Committee members say they will air clips from that interview.


REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): He was able to provide information on basically all of the critical issues that we're looking at, and including the president's -- what I would call dereliction of duty on the day of January 6.


HILL: Also in this morning, Steve Bannon says he's willing to testify now at the committee. This after former President Trump lifted a claim of executive privilege. Bannon, he's set to appear in court today on criminal contempt charges, those were filed after he ignored a congressional subpoena.

Let's bring in our former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin; host of the podcast "That Said with Michael Zeldin". Good to see you this morning Michael. So as we look at what is potentially on deck this morning, what we're supposed to this week, rather, what we'll likely learn more about at the hearings. What are you most interested in?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, PODCAST HOST: Well, we're up to part six and seven of the seven-part conspiracy that was outlined on day one. And these parts are Trump-assembled and summoned the mob and then directed them to go to the capitol, and then stood by and did nothing while they ransacked the capitol.

So, I'm interested to see what they're able to do to tie Trump to the mob that attacks the capitol, the insurrection on January 6th because that is prerequisite to any sort of conspiracy especially seditious conspiracy charged against Trump.

HILL: So, as we look at what's to come when we talk about these extremist groups, right? Specifically the Oath Keepers, other groups with criminal activities in connection with January 6th. What about drawing that link as you just laid out? And you talk about potential criminal charges, which again is not the role of this committee. But there are a lot of folks out there who are wondering if that could ultimately happen. How important and how difficult perhaps could it be to draw that line?

ZELDIN: Well, it's important from a prosecutor's standpoint if Merrick Garland; the attorney general is going to bring seditious criminal conspiracy charges, they're going to need to draw that line much more boldly than it has been drawn so far. But from a political standpoint, understanding the relationship between the White House and the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys group, I think is important for Americas to know.

And maybe the Proud Boys type that is going to testify tomorrow will be able to draw that out, and maybe Cipollone will be able to draw that out. Because remember, at the Willard Hotel on the morning of January 6th, then the day before, the Proud Boys and Roger Stone and others were -- and Bannon were all assembled.

And so, maybe Cipollone, who participated in trying to distract the president from interacting with them or Mark Meadows from interacting with them, can shed light on that.

HILL: In terms of Cipollone, we know that, that he was there for hours, right, with the committee on Friday. CNN has since learned that he was asked about a number of topics that in fact, there were not limitations on that interview, but that he did invoke executive privilege. We are expecting to hear some of that testimony, those clips be played.

So, Afcron(ph) said as we just heard he answered all of the -- addressed all of the critical issues. In your mind, what are the most critical issues? Is this really about corroborating some of what we heard from Cassidy Hutchinson?

ZELDIN: Well, what we want to know from Cipollone is what did he see? Who did he speak to? What did he try to prevent? What crimes was he worried about? How was he trying to keep the train on the tracks, which was why he stayed so long until the bitter end actually.


So that we get a sense of really what was going on in the run-up to January 6, and then importantly on January 6 itself. Because Cipollone is said to have been in the dining room with Trump as Trump was watching the TV and the insurrection unfold. And by all testimony so far, did nothing to stop it, and may have even cheer-leaded it. So Cipollone could offer a lot of insight into the president's state of mind on January 6th and in the immediate run-up to it. HILL: I'd like to get your take on Steve Bannon. So this letter comes

from the former president saying that he's relieving him -- if he can agree, right? If they can come to an agreement and a time and a place for this testimony, there are reports that Bannon would like that testimony to be public, some push-back on that, right, from committee members who say that's unlikely. They have a lot of questions that will take hours, a live format would not be best for that. Why do you think there is this sudden change for Steve Bannon?

ZELDIN: Well, I think that there's either two things going on here. One is Bannon is actually now with, you know, on the eve of his trial, concerned about being convicted of criminal contempt and facing a year in prison, and/or Trump and he have conspired to have Bannon come in and try to blow up the hearing with testimony which is accusatory of the committee, you know, witch-hunt and rigged, and all those words that we are so often hear it from the president and Bannon and those alike.

So, it's one of those two things most likely. I'm very skeptical of Bannon finding, you know, a spine to tell the truth about what he was doing. But we'll have to see.

HILL: We will be watching. Michael Zeldin, always good to talk to you, thank you.

ZELDIN: Thank you, Erica.

HILL: Former House Speaker Paul Ryan was sobbing as he watched the capitol riot unfold on TV, telling journalist Mark Kleklevich(ph), he never thought Trump's grievances would result in the violence of January 6th. That account is part with his forthcoming book "Thank You for Your Servitude". A copy of which was obtained by CNN.

And in it, he writes, the former house speaker told him, he's not much of crier, but something snapped in him, noting quote, "I spent my whole adult life in that building. It really disturbed me foundationally". The Wisconsin Republican who clashed with Trump, but was also an ally has kept a low profile since leaving Congress in 2019.

Just ahead here, what President Biden could do next to preserve abortion access, post-Roe. Plus, flames right now threatening some ancient American treasures. And the protesters who dare to take a dip in the presidential swimming pool.



HILL: At the White House today, President Biden will be hosting an event on the South Lawn with mass shooting survivors and victims' families. It's to mark the historic bipartisan gun violence legislation he signed into law last month. The most wide-ranging violence measure that Congress has approved since the now expired 1994 saw weapons ban. Some critics though note this is not enough. Already, it's been overshadowed, that move by again, another mass shooting, of course, the one in Highland Park at the parade there on July 4th where a gunman took the lives of seven people. President Biden meantime says he is considering whether to declare a public health emergency as part of an effort to protect access to abortion in the wake of last month's Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

CNN's Jasmine Wright is in Washington. So Jasmine, how exactly will this public health emergency work, and what would it achieve?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, I think that's one of the things the White House is trying to figure out now, Erica. The president said yesterday to reporters when he was in Delaware that he had asked health officials within his administration to basically take a look at and take a look at whether or not he had the authority to actually put that in place, and also what the impact would be.

Now, he said that on Sunday, but on Friday, we heard from the executive director of the Gender Council Jen Klein, and she told reporters that her office had actually already looked at it, and they found two things. One, that they found that it wouldn't actually free very many resources, she said. And they also found that it wouldn't provide the president with a lot of authorities, and that's why at that point, they hadn't done it.

So two different things, but certainly, this is a White House that is trying to figure out what options it has, especially as it faces down real pressure from both progressive Democrats, lawmakers, even moderate lawmakers and also abortion advocates really trying to push them to both act quickly and boldly to find some sort of way to protect women's access to abortion.

And the president on Sunday when talking to reporters, he was asked just about those images we saw just before we saw the women protesting in front of the White House, trying to get them to do some options. And his message to them was to keep going. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Keep protesting because keep making your point. It's critically important. We can do a lot of things to accommodate the rights of women in the meantime. But fundamentally, nobody is going to change this, unless if we have a national law that reinstates Roe v. Wade. That's the bottom line.


WRIGHT: So that bottom line for the president, he said that his main goal was to figure out a way to reinstate Roe v. Wade through law, codifying it. But the only way to do that was for Americans to elect a pro-choice Congress this November in the midterms. Again, he is using that time -- that line, go vote. But of course, that is something that is kind of falling short, failing to meet the urgency that a lot of advocates want to see from this White House, and I'm sure that will continue. [05:15:00]

HILL: Yes --

WRIGHT: Erica?

HILL: That is certainly the criticism. Jasmine, good to see you this morning, thank you. Also with us, Tyler Pager; White House reporter for "The Washington Post". Tyler, you have some reporting on this, right? About that frustration with the president, with this administration for failing to meet the moment and for lacking the urgency, especially for an opinion that they basically had the outline for 2 months ago. How did this White House and this president get caught so flat-footed?

TYLER PAGER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Exactly. I think that's a question a lot of lawmakers and advocates are asking themselves today and in the past few days as they hear the president and his advisors say different things as Jasmine just talked on there, with regard to the public health emergency, and whether or not to declare it.

And so, when you talk to both people inside the White House and outside the White House, they both can see the president and his team did not respond in the forceful way that they were hoping to. The president did immediately speak after the decision before going to Europe. But the tone and rhetoric that we heard from the president then was very different from the forceful tone we heard from him just on Friday.

And I think that gap is something that a lot of advocates and lawmakers are questioning. Why was the White House not more prepared? Why were they flat-footed in that response? They say at the White House that they spend weeks and months, even before the leaked draft opinion, planning for contingencies. But I think that the question remains is why was the policy still not settled?

Why was the White House and the administration not fully clear on what authority the president had and what sort of response they wanted to see, both inside and outside the White House. I think that gap between advocates and activists and the administration is one to keep an eye on.

HILL: Yes, absolutely. And I think like we keep hearing more and more trick a lot about it. You know, it's interesting too as we look at this in part of your reporting, you write that some Democrats are pushing for this administration, for Democrats frankly, to take a page out of the Republican playbook, and to offer up more, and you wrote, "grave policies and proposals even if they are ultimately struck down."

Now, this is similar to some reporting that we had here at CNN from Isaac Dovere, that the president kind of needs to get caught trying. Is there an appetite for that in the Democratic Party right now?

PAGER: I think there is an appetite from speaking to activists, to voters, to lawmakers, they want to see the president take more aggressive action. And even if it is struck down by the courts, that will be a mobilizing tool for Democrats to get out and vote in November, which is the message we've heard from President Biden. I think there's some apprehension within the White House, within the administration about trying to challenge their policy, their lost votes.

We've seen them running into trouble on that front with the coronavirus pandemic and some of the rules and restrictions they've tried to put in around mandates with vaccines and masks being struck down, I mean, seen as a blow to them. But if you talk to people out on the streets, activists, lawmakers, who want to see more forceful action, they say that is a mobilizing tool. It shows the president is eager to take action and doing all that he can to do so.

HILL: This push to get out and vote, we know that historically, Roe as an issue and potentially overturning it was very effective for Republicans, and they made sure that, that worked. You look at where we're at now, young Democrats in particular, seen really frustrated by what they're seeing or frankly not seeing in terms of action.

Is there a concern that despite all of these pleas that for people who are concerned about access post-Roe, the best thing to do is vote. Is there a concern though that this lack of action is turning off some of those voters, and particularly younger voters?

PAGER: We heard that sentiment from young voters in the reporting we did for this story with my colleagues. We listened in to some focus groups where we heard that exact sentiment, that younger voters are really concerned about the overturning of Roe v. Wade. But they're not as inspired to fight back as some Democrats would hope that they might be. As you said, this was a hugely animated issue for decades for Republican voters.

And they saw this 40-plus-year effort result in what they were hoping for, the overturning of this law. And so Democrats are trying to harness that outrage, that energy and bring it into electoral victories in November. But I think as you said, these voters want to see action, they want to see the same outrage that they feel reflected in their leaders. And I think for some of them, they feel that the president and his team are falling short.

HILL: Tyler Pager, great to have you in this morning, thank you.

PAGER: Thanks for having me.

HILL: Coming up here, Secretary of State Blinken in Japan ahead of the funeral for its assassinated former leader. And how fire fighters are trying to steer flames away from Yosemite's historic sequoia trees.



HILL: Secretary of State Antony Blinken paying respect to the Japanese people following the assassination of Shinzo Abe. The former prime minister's funeral set to take place over the next two days, a wake just getting underway right now. CNN's Blake Essig has the latest for us now from Tokyo. So, as we look at the plans, walk us through how Japan is saying goodbye to this revered elder statesman over the next couple of days.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's here at the Zojoji Temple, which is right there behind me, that a closed-door vigil just got underway for the former prime minister who was assassinated just a few days ago, and where his funeral service will be held tomorrow. Now, the funeral proceedings are closed to the public with only close friends and family taking part for now.


The guest list doesn't include U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken who after a quick visit to offer condolences and meet with the Prime Minister is already on his way back to the United States. The emperor and members of the royal family, according to the Imperial Household Agency also have no plans to attend. Now, we had expected people to start gathering as the day went on to pay their respects, but, you know, for the vast majority of the day, it really hadn't happened.

We've been outside for several hours, and really, it was only journalists here, only a handful of people had come by to ask us what was going on, why the cameras were set up? And it was clear that a lot of people didn't know what was going on inside the temple, which highlights the intimacy and sadness of those proceedings.

That being said, just within the past, I would say, 30 or so minutes, whether it's people getting off of work or catching wind that this is happening, the scene here still filled with journalists. But hundreds and hundreds of people have also started showing up. And we've seen people bringing flowers inside the public side of the temple to possibly drop those off at a small public display for the former prime minister.

Now, despite events being closed out to the public, there will be an opportunity for the public to gather in Abe's hometown of Yamaguchi tomorrow to lay flowers and burn incense. While Abe was most certainly a controversial figure here in Japan at times, he was also hugely popular, a man who experts say did what he felt was necessary to secure Japan's future and its prosperity.

Today and tomorrow, Erica, the people of Japan will have one last chance to say thank you and say goodbye to Shinzo Abe; the country's longest-serving prime minister.

HILL: Blake Essig with the latest for us this morning. Thank you. President Biden is set to kick off his highly anticipated trip to the Middle East this week. The president's first stop, Israel, where he's expected to meet with Prime Minister Yair Lapid, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Next, Mr. Biden will fly directly from Israel to Saudi Arabia for his high-stakes meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This in spite of having vowed to treat Saudi leaders as pariahs. In a "Washington Post" op-ed over the weekend, titled "Why I'm Going to Saudi Arabia", the president writes, "when I meet with Saudi leaders on Friday, my aim will be to strengthen a strategic partnership going forward that's based on mutual interest and responsibilities while also holding true to fundamental American values.

Sri Lankan's President and Prime Minister set to step down after thousands of protesters stormed their homes, furious over the country's crippling economic crisis. Demonstrators stormed President Rajapaksa's official residence on Saturday. Some of them as you see here, spent a little time in the swimming pool. Will Ripley is live for us this morning in Taipei, tracking the latest developments here. So, Will, as I understand it, that those protesters were specifically targeting the prime minister's home. When do we expect these leaders to leave office?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We know, Erica, that President Rajapaksa will be stepping down on Wednesday. The prime minister says he'll be sticking around until a new all party government is formed. People in Sri Lanka are furious at these leaders because it is in the midst of its worst financial crisis since World War II more than 70 years. And as a result, there are shortages of everything from food and fuel to medicine.

People literally do not have the basic items they need to survive. And the anger is growing because poor financial decisions, analysts say are the cause, and decisions that are made by President Rajapaksa's administration. His brother by the way used to be the prime minister until he resigned to try to assuage these protesters, because these protests have been going on for months.

But that wasn't enough, they wanted the president to step down. And they stormed the president's house and the prime minister's residence to make their point. They set fire to the prime minister's residence. They went into the president's house. They -- you know, you saw the video of them in the swimming pool, they were working out at the gym. These are people who are living large, people who are enjoying a luxurious lifestyle at taxpayer expense while everyday people in Sri Lanka are really struggling.

So what's going to happen once the president steps down if all goes to plan is that, there will be a speaker of parliament who will serve as an acting president for a maximum of 30 days. And then they're going to choose a new president from parliament. The parliamentarians will elect that new person.

What we don't know is if that's going to be enough to calm the anger and get things back to normal, and get them beginning the process of rebuilding that country. But Erica, this certainly could be more violence yet to come if the people on the ground don't feel that these new leadership is making a difference in their everyday lives. Sri Lanka is really having a very tough time economically.

To think about the fact they haven't had anything this -- like this since World War II. It's really remarkable times for Sri Lanka -- HILL: Yes, certainly is. Will Ripley, appreciate it, thank you. Still

to come here this morning, Twitter lawyering up now for a potential battle with Elon Musk and the tiny sprinklers now being used to protect the giant trees in Yosemite National Park.