Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Federal Grand Jury Subpoenas Ex-Trump White House Counsel Cipollone; Pelosi: China Won't Keep People from Coming to Taiwan; Kansas Voters Reject Amendment to Remove Abortion Rights. Aired 5- 5:30a ET

Aired August 03, 2022 - 05:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good Wednesday morning to you. It is August 3rd, 5:00 a.m. here in New York. Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Erica Hill.

The Justice Department's criminal investigation into January 6 now reaching inside former President Trump's White House. Pat Cipollone has been subpoenaed by the federal grand jury investigating attempts to overturn the 2020 election. The former White House counsel and his attorneys are in discussions about his appearance before that panel including how to handle executive privilege issues.

Let's bring in now, CNN legal analyst Areva Martin.

Areva, good morning.

So, when it comes to executive privilege, I think as we talk about what these conversations could be between Pat Cipollone's attorneys and the DOJ, that grand jury, I should say, what is covered by executive privilege? Just remind us here. What conversations could potentially be covered?


First of all, what we know is that Pat Cipollone and others have claimed executive privilege to allow them basically to avoid answering questions about conversations -- private conversations they claim they had with Donald Trump leading up to Jnauary6 and including on January 6. We know with respect to the January 6 Committee that Pat Cipollone, although he appeared before that committee, that he used executive privilege oftentimes to avoid answering specific questions.

And this is going to put test, Erica, quite frankly, whether that privilege holds now that we know that there is a grand jury, a criminal investigation taking place with respect to Donald Trump. These conversations that Pat Cipollone's attorneys are having with the DOJ presumably designed again for him to limit the kinds of information that he gives to this grand jury. But I don't think that he is going to have the same luxury that he had when testifying before the January 6 committee. I don't think that he will be afforded that same luxury with respect to this grand jury investigation.

HILL: How significant is this subpoena? Put that in context for us if you could.

MARTIN: This is huge, Erica. When you think about someone in Trump's inner, inner circle, being subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury, a criminal investigation that reaches into the inner circle of the White House, I know because Donald Trump is under so many investigations it is somewhat -- it has become somewhat normalized, but if we think about other presidential administrations, I think that gives us some sense of the enormity and the unusual nature of the subpoena to have someone this close to the president being asked to participate, give information and to answer questions under oath before a grand jury.

HILL: And there is also a development overnight I want your take on. CNN has learned that the texts from officials in the justice -- not the Justice Department, pardon me, Defense Department were erased in regards to January 6. We're talking about messages involving the acting secretary of defense, chief of staff, secretary of the army.

Now, I do want to point that it's not -- there is no suggestion that those individuals made the choice to erase the messages. We don't know that at this point. But we know the messages are gone. And Zoe Lofgren seemed surprise by that. And it is not clear that the committee everyone knew that those messages were gone.

This is all adding up and I think no other way to look at it than this is really starting to stink.

MARTIN: Yeah. This is outrageous to think that text messages that would reveal information in terms of what was going on, what these high level officials, government officials were saying to each other, how they were communicating with each other, the fact that those text messages were erased or somehow disposed of again just speaks to the enormity of the circumstances, the situation that we find ourselves in with respect to Donald Trump.

We know certain member of the January 6 committee are calling on the inspector general with respect to the secret service at least to be discharged, to be released from his duties because of the failure to preserve text messages. I don't think this is the end. I think this is the beginning of yet what will be perhaps another investigation into how these text messages were handled, why they weren't reserved and who is going to be held accountable.

And, again, Erica, potentially criminally accountable for the destruction of these text messages.

HILL: Right, key too, of course, those messages to understanding and learning about what was actually happening in the days leading up to January 6 and after.


Areva Martin, always good to see you. Thank you.

MARTIN: Thank you.

HILL: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi getting ready to leave Taiwan's capital right now. She and her congressional delegation visited Taipei despite of course those threats from China.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: I just hope that it is clear that while China has stood in the way of Taiwan participating and going to certain meetings, that they understand that they will not stand in the way of people coming to Taiwan.


HILL: We have our correspondents covering it in the region. Steven Jiang is in Beijing. He will have a closer look at China's reactions to Pelosi's remarks.

But, first, let's learn more about what she was saying there on the ground, Blake Essig covering that angle for us in Tokyo this morning.

What has the reaction been like in Taiwan so far this morning? What were those conversations?

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, there is no question that Taiwan's government was excited to welcome the U.S. speaker of the House. As for the rest of Taiwan, the feelings were likely mixed. Some thinking that her visit is beneficial while others are worried that it might escalate tensions.

One example of that was the hundreds of people who gathered outside of her hotel last night. CNN's team on the ground said that it was about equal between supporters and protestors. And while Pelosi made it clear today that China will not stand in the way of people coming to Taiwan in the short term, it is hard to, a that the speaker's visit hasn't added to the already tense situation that exists. Point in case, within about 30 minutes of the speaker landing on the island, China announced live fire military exercises surrounding Taiwan that could already be under way. Taiwan's defense ministry has condemned those drills saying that they amount to maritime and aerial blockade.

In fact Taiwan is having to negotiate current routes with Japan and the Philippines because of China's military exercises.

Now, despite warnings from the White House and in defiance of China, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi did arrive in Taiwan late last night and once on the ground the speaker and her delegation issued a statement saying that America's solidarity with the people of Taiwan is now more important today than ever as the world faces a choice between autocracy and democracy.

And after staying the night, Pelosi met with senior government officials and Taiwan's president, Tsai Ing-wen, who thanked the speaker for being one of the island's most devoted supports and gave her Taiwan's highest civilian honor. And she visited the national human rights museum in parliament where she met with the deputy speaker of Taiwan's legislature praising Taiwan as one of the freest societies in the world.

While Pelosi and her delegation are expected to leave at any moment now and continue their tour of Asia in South Korea and Japan, at least for now, Erica, while they are leaving Taiwan, what they are leaving behind are increased tensions on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

HILL: Blake Essig for us in Tokyo, thank you.

In terms of those tensions, what we're expecting in terms of the live fire drills, the defense ministry in China actually releasing a map detailing where it plans to hold those exercises, long range live fire drills. Some of those were actually inside Taiwan's air defense zone, and there have been claims that this is a move described by some analysts as an extremely provocative one.

Steven Jiang continues our coverage live from Beijing, being seen as provocative, which one would imagine is part of the goal here.

STEVEN JIANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erica. And those drills supposedly have already started.

But it's interesting to note that moments after Pelosi's plane landing in Taiwan, when they initially those drills, they were supposed to start on Thursday, which is after her expected departure from the island. But then there was growing backlash against the government's lackluster response especially after the government here had been stoking nationalistic sentiment for days. That is why the Chinese military seemed to push forward the drills by having a second announcement to say that they would start almost immediately involving not only firing missiles in waters of Taiwan but also practicing a blockade.

Now, state media describes them as unprecedented because of its proximity and also because of its scale and intensity. But it's also worth noting that state media here also seemed to be trying to tamper down expectations by now saying things like a complex historic position cannot be resolved overnight and also trying to highlight China's so-called restraint by saying peaceful reunification with Taiwan deserves one last chance.


So it seems that they are trying to give themselves some wiggle room if a potential pathway for a climb down at a time when neither Washington nor Beijing wants a war with each other. But for sure that nobody here is talking about the impact of zero COVID or a slowing economy with nationalistic fervor running so high. Everybody is rallying around Xi Jinping, a strongman leader who really could use a moment like this at a time when we're only a few months away from his coronation for a third term when he's facing a lot of domestic challenges -- Erica.

HILL: Yeah, a lot of domestic challenges for sure. Steven Jiang, appreciate it. Thank you.

And this just in, President Biden about to issue an executive order to safe guard abortion access. Meantime, did Democrats just cost a Republican congressman his primary?

And conspiracy theorist Alex Jones confronted by parents of a student murdered at Sandy Hook.



HILL: This just in to CNN, President Biden will sign a second executive order today in an attempt to safe guard abortions for women. That order will direct Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to take all appropriate actions, and make sure health care providers comply with federal nondiscrimination laws so women can receive the care without delay.

Meantime, the Justice Department is suing the state of Idaho over its near total ban on abortion claiming it violates federal law.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: In the days since the Dobbs decision, there have been widespread reports of delays and denials of treatment to pregnant women experiencing medical emergencies. We will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that pregnant women get the emergency medical treatment to which they are entitled under federal law.


HILL: This marks the first legal action taken by the administration to protect abortion access since the Supreme Court decision over overturning Roe v. Wade. Dobbs, as you just heard the attorney general refer to.

Idaho's law set to take effect a August The state's government says that they will defend the ban in the face of, quote, federal meddling.

Meantime, abortion rights in Kansas surviving a major test. On Tuesday, voters rejecting, as you can see, an amendment to remove the right to an abortion from the state constitution. The procedure is legal in Kansas up until 22 weeks. This was the first big test since Roe was overturned, at the ballot box we should say.

Let's bring in CNN political analyst, managing editor of "Axios", Margaret Talev.

Margaret, good to see you this morning.


HILL: So, this is an important -- right, there was a lot of focus on Congress for this specific reason. But what is important to me is not just the outcome there, but the turnout in terms of voters, which was much higher than even the 2020 presidential primary in Kansas.

TALEV: It was absolutely correct. And these results in Kansas are already first and are going to be examined. It may be the most important race of Tuesday night in terms of its potential implications on suburban female voter turnout around the country in the November races. And these could have implications in all the key states.

Think about it, right? Michigan, which will be crucial for Democrats not just in 2022 but in 2024, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, major races on the ballot that could come down to the wire. And both how suburban voters and women in particular, how they turn out and who they vote for will be essential.

When you with looking at let's say a state like Arizona where former President Trump appears to have been running the tables in the state, the primaries may end up being very good for the former president, but if abortion ends up being a pivotal question that is pivotal to suburban turnout, that could be a game changer. And so this already is being very closely watched.

HILL: You mentioned Michigan, a lot of eyes were on Michigan of course. Representative Meijer lost his primary there. He wrote an op- ed earlier this week. There has been a lot of pushback about Democratic funding of his opponent. And this is going to be closely watched too as we move ahead moving in to November.

TALEV: We've seen Democrats in state after state now experiment with engaging in the Republican primary to try to get a Republican nominee who they think, you know, strengthens Democrats' chances in November. It's obviously extremely risky because if they are wrong, they will get election deniers and the hardest of hardest supporters of President Trump and that will have implications for all Americans on democracy and how the country works.

I think in Peter Meijer's case, you have a couple of elements. Democrats are certainly engaged but also what we have seen generally speaking in last night's primaries is inside the Republican Party, really kind of strengthening and bolstering the former president's standing, the question really comes down now to the general election. And that race in Michigan really raises the stakes. It is a perfect example of watching the dynamic play out.

HILL: Yeah, we'll definitely be looking at that.

Also want to -- as we're all waiting to see what plays out in the Senate this week, all eyes on Kyrsten Sinema as we know. Manchin, Senator Manchin reportedly spoke with her for ten minutes yesterday on the Senate floor, they are texting. I mean, this is the great Senate watch I guess of 2022, the first one. There will be more.

Where do things stand this morning? Is there any sense of what she may have an issue with, if anything, in this bill?


TALEV: Well, one of the big areas to watch, one of the provisions to watch is this carried interest loophole. And for your average watcher, this doesn't really affect you unless you are a hedge fund manager, but would have huge implications.

So the question is, is there enough negotiating room in here for her to sign on? What is Joe Manchin willing to give up, but the conventional wisdom in Washington and whether or not it is right and with the caveat that nobody would ever bet on -- no one would ever bet on predicting what Kyrsten Sinema would do any more than they would predict what Joe Manchin was going to do.

Nobody thought Joe Manchin But the conventional wisdom over the course of recent days since this deal has been announced, that everyone believes that there is a path for Sinema to get there. The question honestly may still get come down to the House in some cases. So this will resolve itself very quickly or we'll be into next week with no clear resolution.

I think that it will be a couple days until we see it yet, but the question is, if Sinema willing to come to the table, how committed is Joe Manchin to seeing this process through or if she in some certain provisions will he say, well, I tried and walk away. So this is not a done deal yet. But most people in D.C. believe that there is a real path to get there.

HILL: Well, we will be watching. Probably have better chances of winning that billion dollar mega millions from earlier that week than you do of predicting how this will play out.

Margaret, great to see you. Thank you.

TALEV: You too. Thanks.

HILL: And a bipartisan bill that expands health care benefits for millions of veterans exposed to toxic burn pits is now headed to President Biden's desk. The Senate voting 86-11 to pass that legislation. Republicans who had blocked the bill allowed it to pass after trying unsuccessfully to limit funding for treatments.


JON STEWART, ADVOCATE FOR VETERANS AFFECTED BY BURN PITS: I'm not sure I've ever seen a situation where people who have already given so much had to fight so hard to get so little. And I hope we learn a lesson.


HILL: The bill could provide health coverage for as many as 3.5 million veterans who have been exposed to burn pit toxins.

He serenaded baseball fans for decades. Remembering Vin Scully, the iconic voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

And CNN on the ground in Ukraine, killer drones in the skies above.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Walking through trees because they are afraid we might be spotted from above by Russian drones.


HILL: Russian and Ukrainian troops in the battlefield face a constant threat from the sky.

CNN's Nic Robertson now with an up close at drone warfare on the frontlines.


ROBERTSON (on camera): At Ukraine's southern front, reconnaissance team leads us toward Russian lines.

We are walking through the trees because they are afraid we might be spotted from above by Russian drones. That is the way they do their work out here, hidden by the trees.

Our destination, a drone team shrouded from the skies. Their mission, find Russian forces and call in artillery strikes.

A problem though on their first flight of the day, Russian countermeasures mess with their drone. They need to switch out parts before the next launch.

It is nearly impossible to fight off the Russian jamming signal, the commander says. But we have special devices to combat it.

But as the drone launches, it lurches the wrong way, heads for trees. Not clear what causes the malfunction.

There is a war within a war here, a high tech war, a software dogfight in the skies above the battlefield, and a mistake by the drone operators can cost them their lives.

Back at base, on a big screen, they scour the first flight's video. Detail is incredible. You can see exactly where the vehicles are in the trees.

The operator, a 24-year-old former news cameraman.

So you are looking at the Russians but they can be looking at you when you are in the field.


ROBERTSON: How does that feel?


ROBERTSON: How scary?


ROBERTSON: Very scary, but you keep doing it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, because we must do it.

ROBERTSON: Life or death decisions which star gets the hit to save his fellow countrymen.

He has no idea your drone is following him.


ROBERTSON: Previous days when they have avoided Russian countermeasures they have had better luck. A Russian tank position hit in the past week when they called in an artillery strike as they watched.

Who wins drone wars will help determine who dominates the battle space and that depends on who has the smartest technology, and who has the best traditional frontline skills to hide from it.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Ukraine's southern front.


HILL: Just ahead, new clues to midair mystery that led to a co- pilot's death.

And Nancy Pelosi right now leaving Taiwan.