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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

January 6 Committee Outlines Key Events Leading Up to Capitol Insurrection; New Video Reveals Police Retreat After Uvalde School Gunman Fires; Russian Soldier to Appeal Life Sentence for War Crime; Sri Lanka's Outgoing President Flees Country Amid Mass Protests. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 13, 2022 - 05:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. It is Wednesday, July 13. I'm Erica Hill, in for Christine Romans.

We begin with new details from the January 6 committee. Its latest hearing focused on the connection of the extremist groups and the White House, leading into a riot in the U.S. Capitol building. Among the revelations, the march to the capitol was not spontaneous. New evidence shows that it was in fact planned in advance.

The committee also offering up vivid descriptions of the unhinged December 18 meeting that turned into a shouting match in the Oval Office. Live witnesses expressed regret for their roles and for their extreme radicalization.

Here is more from Ryan Nobles in Washington.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The January 6 select committee used their seventh public hearing too build the case that Donald Trump had a plan to call his supporters to Washington to march on the Capitol and stand in the way of certifying the 2020 election.

One witness Stephen Ayres who had since pleaded guilty to entering the Capitol illegally said he answered Trump's call.

STEPHEN AYRES, BREACHED CAPITOL ON JANUARY 6: We didn't actually plan to go down there. You know, we went basically to see the "Stop the Steal" rally and that was it.

REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-FL): So why did you decide to march to the Capitol?

AYRES: Well, basically, you know, the president, he had got everybody riled up, told everybody to head on down. So we basically were just following what he said.

NOBLES: The committee unveiling never before seen depositions and communications among Trump insiders showing that the former president ignored the advice of his own advisers and instead leaned on the council of election deniers like Sidney Powell, Michael Flynn and Rudy Giuliani.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I'm going to categorically describe it as you guys are not tough enough. Or maybe put it another way, you're a bunch of pussies. Excuse the expression. But I'm almost certain the word was used.

NOBLES: The committee arguing Trump knew he lost the election but was driven to overturn the results anyway.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): President Trump is a 76-year-old man. He is not an impressionable child. Just like everyone else in our country, he is responsible for his own actions and his own choices.

NOBLES: A drive that led to a raucous meeting at the White House in the middle of December, when Trump wanted to name attorney Sidney Powell as special counsel in order to seize voting machines.

SIDNEY POWELL, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: The president said, okay, you know, I'm naming her that and I'm giving her security clearance.

NOBLES: Former White House counsel Pat Cipollone testifying that he was displeased to see people like Powell and Flynn in the Oval Office, and told Trump naming Powell special counsel was a grave mistake.

PAT CIPOLLONE, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: To have the federal government seize voting machines, a terrible idea. That is now how we do things in the United States. There is no legal authority to do that. I don't think any of these people were providing the president with good advice. And so I didn't understand how they had gotten in.

NOBLES: Cipollone also describing his frustration dealing with people who couldn't produce any evidence of widespread voter fraud.

CIPOLLONE: I would say general disregard of now the being able to back it up with facts.

NOBLES: Afterwards, Trump shifting gears but not backing down from his pursuit of pushing election lies, tweeting the next day an invitation to his supporters to descend on Washington on January 6.

MURPHY: Be there, will be wild, the president wrote.

NOBLES: The committee also presenting a draft tweet obtained from the National Archives showing Trump planned before January 6 to tell his supporters please arrive early, massive crowds expected, march to the Capitol after. This despite members of Trump's cabinet and inner circle testifying that they told Trump he lost the election and he should concede to Biden after the Electoral College met in mid- December.

EUGENE SCALIA, FORMER TRUMP LABOR SECRETARY: I conveyed to him that I thought that it was time for him to acknowledge that President Biden had prevailed in the election. CIPOLLONE: If your question is did I believe that he should concede

the election at a point in time, yes, I did.


NOBLES (on camera): And, Erica, the committee has plans for another hearing next week. And they say that it is going to focus on what they describe as Donald Trump's dereliction of duty during the 187 minutes that the Capitol was under siege. They are prepared to show evidence that the former president did not do much to try to quell the violence here at the Capitol.


And they ended their hearing Tuesday with an interesting anecdote. They say that potential witness got a phone call out of the blue from the former President Donald Trump. They say that witness who they did not identify declined the call and instead informed their attorney that the president tried to call them. The attorney then reached out to the committee, the committee says they have referred that information to the department of justice because they believe that it could be an instance of witness intimidation -- Erica.

HILL: Ryan Nobles with the latest for us, thank you, Ryan.

Also here this morning, Dave Aronberg, state attorney for Palm Beach County.

Dave, good to have you this morning.

Let's start with the revelation that the march was not, in fact, spontaneous. It was planned in advance. We saw that draft tweet there is as well.

How far significant is this development?

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY: Hey, good morning, Erica. I think that it is the biggest takeaway from yesterday's hearing.

The fact that Trump always intended his supporters to march on to the Capitol is a big deal because, first off, you have the draft tweet that we saw that he almost put out but he saw it, national archives said he saw it, and we saw the messages from rally organizers to show that this march was not spontaneous but rather a planned call to action.

Now, when you combine that with Cassidy Hutchinson's very powerful testimony that Trump knew his supporters were armed and that he wanted them to march to the Capitol and remove the metal detectors and even wanted to march with them because he said that they are not there to hurt him -- well, that moves the ball forward for federal prosecutors to possibly charge the former president with obstruction of an official proceeding or conspiracy to defraud the United States or seditious conspiracy or incitement of a riot. HILL: So again, you are talking about potential federal charges.

Important to remind people, this committee is not there, right, to find criminal liability that could make a referral to the DOJ.

But it is interesting when you bring that up, because we also heard from Liz Cheney yesterday, I found it interesting one of the things that she said, she was basically trying to blunt the argument that the president didn't know what was happening, that he was oblivious saying he cannot escape responsibility by arguing that he is willfully blind, which gets to the point that you just made. How important are the words that she chose there?

ARONBERG: Yeah, she chose those words purposely. And I think those words are important.

A lot of attention will go to the words at the end of the hearing about witness tampering, but the more important words for prosecutors were her words at the beginning because when she said that Donald Trump cannot escape responsibility by arguing that he is willfully blind, that is a legal term. And the prosecutors at the Department of Justice know that the Supreme Court has said that the willfully blind are just as culpable as those with actual knowledge.

Essentially you can't stick your head in the sand and then pretend you had no criminal intent. So I think this is Liz Cheney's way of saying to the Department of Justice, I hope you guys are paying attention to all this.

HILL: I found it interesting too that we learned from the Chairman Bennie Thompson that we know the DOJ has been asking for transcripts the committee has for months and the committee hasn't been playing along, but we learned yesterday Bennie Thompson said that they started producing information for the Justice Department. Does that tell you anything, should we read anything into that?

ARONBERG: Well, I think that it is all part of a turf war and part of the frustration that the committee had with the Department of Justice. They were not going to give up the goods right away because essentially they are telling DOJ, hey, do your own work, stop drafting behind us.

Usually prosecutors are out front, here they were lagging behind. And I think this was a pushback by Bennie Thompson and the Department of Justice, and also, some frustration because the DOJ didn't seem to always have the committee's back.

Remember they refused to prosecute Dan Scavino and Mark Meadows, even after those ghosted the committee. They thumbed their nose at the committee. And yet, the DOJ did move ahead with a criminal charge.

So I think now you are starting to see tempers start to sooth and they will start working together more. But this was the pushback , the committee saying, hey, DOJ, do your jobs.

HILL: And before I let you go, those final comments about potential witness tampering or witness intimidation, do you see that going anywhere?

ARONBERG: I don't. Here is why. First, it is not impossible to charge someone with witness tampering based on a call that never connected with the witness. I mean, if I wanted to testify against John Gotti back in the day and I saw his name on my caller ID, yeah, that would be intimidating but really difficult to prove these cases when they don't connect with each other.

I mean, you've got to show criminal intent and Donald Trump in this case would probably say, yeah, he had a pre-existing friendship or business or political relationship with the witness and he was just trying to call and talk about football or real estate or politics.


And it is really hard to prove otherwise beyond any reasonable doubt in front of a unanimous jury.

So prosecutors won't file these charges, especially this Department of Justice which is not known for being super aggressive when it comes to prosecuting the leaders of January 6.

HILL: David Aronberg, great to have you with us this morning. Thank you.

ARONBERG: Thank you, Erica.

HILL: President Biden en route to Israel right now, we'll have more on his Middle East mission ahead.

Plus, the moment gunshots rang out in the middle of a Little League game.

But, first, armed officers, police officers, retreating as gunshots are fired rather than confronting the gunman inside that Uvalde elementary school. Disturbing new video, next.


BURNETT: Disturbing new video from inside Robb Elementary School shows officers retreating from gunfire.


That video released by a Texas newspaper sparking outrage for both the lack of action and the fact that it was shared publicly before victims' families saw it. Nineteen children and two teachers died in the Uvalde massacre. And I want to warn you the footage is disturbing.

Here is CNN's Rosa Flores.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An edited version of surveillance video released today by "The Austin-American Statesman" shows that at 11:32 on May 24th, the first shot were fired outside of Robb Elementary School, an audio of the teacher calling 911.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The kids are running! Oh, my God. Get down! Get in your rooms! Get in your rooms!

FLORES: Then at 11:33, school surveillance video shows the gunman entering an empty hallway, unhindered, walking casually with his gun hanging down. He slows down, peeks around the corner. A boy sees him as he starts shooting and the boy runs.

According to the statesman, the gunman fired his weapon, an AR-15, inside two classrooms for two and a half minutes, stopping and starting multiple times.

"The Statesman" saying they edited out the most disturbing sounds, including screams, the surveillance video that lawmakers, Texas DPS and even the Uvalde mayor have been pushing to release, shows seven police officers arriving arm. Some with rifles.

They entered the hallway, weapons drawn at 11:36, just three minutes after the gunman arrived while shots are being fired. In total, the material revealing over two of the more than 70 minutes the police were in the hallway before killing the gunman. Some rushing toward the classrooms. Other officers, hanging back.

Within one minute, shots are heard, 16 rounds in total. And police can be seen retreating. Running back, hallway to take cover. One officer appears to touch his ear.

At 11:52, 19 minutes after the gunman enters the school, the timestamp on the video shows more officers arriving. Heavily armed, some with ballistic shields. Still, they wait.

At 12:04, the video jumps 31 minutes after the gunman enters the school. And law enforcement is still waiting.

At least 19 officers are now in the hallway, according to the official timeline. At this point, a girl in one of the adjoining classrooms calls 911, sharing her location, pleading for help and calls back minutes later saying multiple people are dead.

At 12:15, a tactical team arrives. And a minute later, a 911 call saying, eight or nine students are still alive. At 12:21, 45 minutes after police arrived. The gunman fires another four shots. Police start to move down the hall again. Remaining outside the classrooms.

At 12:30, one officer uses the hand sanitizer dispenser in the school.

At 12:43 and 12:47, more 911 calls to send police, and the caller says children are aware the police are outside the door.



Then at 12:50, 74 minutes after the police first arrived, officers breached the classroom door and killed the gunman. At this point, the video shows officers in the hallway pushing to go in.

The video account, now adding to the toll of the families of the 19 students and two teachers who were massacred at Robb Elementary have to endure.


FLORES (on camera): "The Austin-American Statesman" standing by their reporting posting on their website, quote, we have to bear witness to history and transparency and unrelenting reporting is a way to bring change. Now the families of the victims and even the elected officials who were calling for the release of will video say they are outraged and disappointed that the families didn't get to view it first -- Erica.

HILL: Rosa, thank you. A lot of outrage from those families.

Also, I want to tell you about more gunshots. Several Little League teams pulled out of a state championship after gunshots erupted during a game over the weekend. Take a look.

You see the players and coaches dive for cover. Parents understandably panicking in the stands.


UNIDENTIFEID MALE: I heard a bullet just fly by in the air. So I made the decision to go and get my pistol.


HILL: Police say three shots were fired. Fortunately nobody was injured.

Just ahead here, Joe Biden about to embrace a Trump achievement on his first trip to the Middle East.


But, first, why a Russian soldier says he doesn't deserve life in prison for a brutal war crime.


HILL: Hours from now, the first Russian soldier convicted of a war crime in Ukraine is set to appeal his case in court. You may remember this case, he was sentenced to life in prison for shooting and killing an older Ukrainian man on a bike in the early days of the war.

Scott McLean is joining us now live from Kyiv.

So, Scott, what is his argument in this appeal here?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, his argument is essentially that the punishment doesn't fit the crime here, Erica.


So this is an appeals hearing. He has already pleaded guilty, he has already been convicted. But essentially he says that there were all kinds of factors that the court didn't take into account when giving the sentence.

You'll remember this happened just four days into the war in the Sumy region, which is roughly between Kyiv and Kharkiv. And this is when he was part of a Russian convoy coming into Ukraine that was fired on by Ukrainian shelling.

And so, when their vehicle was hit, they managed to steal a car, drive it into a nearby village. And this is when Vadim Shishimarin, this 21- year-old Russian soldier, and four others came across the 62-year-old man named Oleksandr Shelipov, who was riding his bike, he was on his phone.

And by his retelling of it that we heard in court back in May, he fired on the orders of a more senior soldier who told him to fire because they were concerned that this man was on the phone to the Ukrainian military to inform on where exactly these soldiers were. Eventually they were obviously captured by the Ukrainians.

And so he pleaded guilty at the time. He also faced the widow of this man in court who asked him point blank why exactly he killed her husband and he said that it was fear. She asked him why he even came to Ukraine at all and he explained that he was simply doing what he was told.

And so, of course, the Ukrainians would love to throw the book at this soldier and really make an example out of him, but his legal defense is saying look, it was stress, it was pressure of war that ultimately made him pull the trigger and it is the Russian state that is responsible for the outcomes of this war, not this 21-year-old kid.

HILL: It will be interesting to see how this goes with that appeal. I know you'll keep us updated. Scott, thank you.

A new acting president appointed in Sri Lanka this morning, this after the president fled the country following days of massive protests. He is accused of high level corruption and economic mismanagement which ultimately bankrupted the country.

CNN's Will Ripley covering it all for us from Taipei.

So, who is actually running the country now, Will?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the violence is flaring up again because the person running the country is the prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who protestors have been demanding for months now resign. So the president, he has not yet tendered a formal resignation, we're told that could happen in the coming hours theoretically, but we don't though because the president took a military aircraft and flew to the Maldives.

So he is essentially now in exile in an island paradise as chaos is erupting in Colombo, the capital that he left behind after his residence was stormed by angry protestors over the weekend who have been occupying the presidential palatial house ever since, swimming in the pool, using the gym and sending the message that the people won't accept the ruling elite living large while they continue to struggle to get food and fuel and medicine because the country's more than $50 billion in debt. Decisions that were made, bad deals made over the years by the exiled President Rajapaksa and his brother who is a former president and former prime minister.

This one family, Erica, has essentially been running Sri Lanka for the better part of two decades. And now you have their friend the prime minister who has been appointed as acting president, and he had promised to step down, but now there is not talk of that happening at least in the immediate future. He is instead imposing a curfew and imposing a nationwide state of emergency and telling police to suppress the protests outside of his office. And we've seen them using tear gas and water cannons and the concern is that there can could be more violence erupting in the streets. So, the situation very unstable at the moment.

HILL: Yeah. It certainly seems that way. Will, I appreciate the reporting, thank you.

Twitter this morning not backing down as Elon Musk tries to back out of his takeover deal.

First, President Biden about to land in Israel, the former U.S. ambassador will join us to talk about the balancing act and challenges that await him.