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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Trump Lawyers in Talks with DOJ About January 6 Criminal Probe; Brittney Griner Sentenced to 9 Years in Russian Prison; Sen. Kyrsten Sinema Signals Support for Inflation Reduction Act. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 05, 2022 - 05:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good Friday morning. We made it. It is August 5th, 5:00 a.m. here in New York. Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Erica Hill.

We begin this hour with a CNN exclusive, Donald Trump's legal team now in direct talks with the Department of Justice about the January 6 criminal investigation. As you might expect, a lot of talk about executive privilege and whether conversations the former president had while in office have that protection. Federal investigators have moved aggressively into Trump's orbit issuing subpoenas to top former White House officials zeroing in on efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

And with us now, state attorney from Palm Beach County, Dave Aronberg.

As we learn that the talks are happening, executive privilege featuring prominently here, remind us what would not be covered protected by executive privilege?

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY: Hey, good morning, Erica. Well, executive privilege is designed to protect the republic, not the president. And so, it should not apply to a former president, but there is it some ambiguity in the courts about that.

But, clearly, it would not protect against a crime. It's not to be used a cover of a crime, especially a crime involving the attempted overthrow of the United States government. But you will see that some people in Trump world will invoke it and Trump will certainly invoke it because he wants to delay things. He can essentially win by losing in the courts if he can delay matters long enough.

And so that is why the Department of Justice is being proactive and aggressive to try to get out front and try to limit the ability of Trump world to claim this executive privilege.

HILL: How much of getting out front, right, and trying to maybe actively avoid that delay, is related to the fact that there is an election looming and that Donald Trump is likely to soon declare candidacy again?

ARONBERG: The longer the delay, the more the political peril for DOJ because then they will be investigating and possibly even prosecuting the leading candidate for president on the Republican side in 2024. That's why they want to get this done sooner than later.

Also, this is all proof that the Department of Justice is indeed investigating Donald Trump. I know there is some confusion about that, but the fact that they are proactively trying to block the implication of executive privilege is to find out what Trump said and did on and around January 6.

This is also really trying to get the Trump world to speak freely. They want to get the former president to stand down on his implication of executive privilege because he really doesn't have it. Well, good luck with that. Trump will use it because it is a trademark delayed tactic that has worked with he will for him in the past.

HILL: The investigation, of course, does not automatically mean an indictment, we should say that. But I thought the comments from Liz Cheney with CNN's Kasie Hunt, an exclusive interview, really interesting as she talked about the importance of following leads wherever they may take you. Take a listen.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I think that he is guilty of the most serious dereliction of duty of any president in our nation's history. You've had a federal judge in California say that it is more likely than not that he and John Eastman committed two crimes. Understanding what it means if the facts and the evidence are there and they decide not to prosecute, how do we then call ourselves a nation of laws?


HILL: Important to focus on that if -- if the facts and evidence are there as she said, but a decision not to prosecute. No matter the decision, to prosecute or not, it will be seen as political. But do you agree with her point that if, if there is enough there and a decision just made not to charge it, , that those ramifications are larger?

ARONBERG: Indeed. And she is correct that judge carter very well respected judge said on the record that it is more likely than not that the former president committed the crimes of obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States. But that is different than doing a case before a jury where you have cross-examinations and a defense. This is one judge speaking.

But that judge has a lot of sway with a person like Merrick Garland who comes from that world. And I know there is a lot of consternation about Attorney General Merrick Garland, that is he too deliberative, he is too timid and too scared of making a decision that will be viewed as political.

But the reality is, as Liz Cheney I think is correct in pointing out, that if he chooses not to decide, he still would have made a political choice. That is barring a lyric from the great man Rush.


So I didn't come up with that on my own.

HILL: Way to throw that in on a Friday morning. Well played, my friend.

Some new developments here, Department of Homeland Security will stop wiping its cellphones without first backing them up, which seems, I don't know, to raise the question of why wouldn't you do this in the first place, right, and not leave it up to individuals. Looking at that move, A, right move, and, B, is this something that you think should expand more broadly?

ARONBERG: Yes, I think the DHS policy is the right direction. At least it is better than the Secret Service plan which was just to ban text messaging. Mine that would undermine investigations, that would create delays. Even the DHS plan would restrict text messaging, I think it's still a step in the right direction.

One thing to realize, Erica, is that it's not the messaging that is the problem, but it is the data retention or lack thereof. And you got this Federal Records Act that seems to have been absorbed in the breach by the prior administration. So I think that under the DHS plan, it is a positive because they are going to take the decision to retain records out of the hands of the individual and put it in a more automated process. And if they can't get the deleted text messages, maybe they can get it from the treasure trove of texts that we're recovering apparently from Alex Jones. So maybe there is a silver lining out there.

HILL: Oh, it will be interesting to see what is in that trove of texts.

Dave Aronberg, good to see you this morning. Have a great weekend, thanks.

ARONBERG: Thank you. You too.

HILL: New overnight, Russian's foreign minister says they are now ready to discuss a prisoner exchange after a Russian court sentenced WNBA star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison for drug smuggling. In a statement just after that, President Biden called her sentence unacceptable and vowed to pursue every avenue to bring her home.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Today's sentencing is a reminder of what the world already knew. Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. We have made a substantial offer to bring her and Paul Whelan home. We urge Russia to accept that proposal.


HILL: CNN's Nina Dos Santos joining us live with more.

So, now, Russia apparently willing to discuss this. How willing? Do we know? NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: Well, they are not going public

with any of the details, but this is the first overture that the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov has made just hours after Brittney Griner received that as her lawyers said sentence that was longer than they indicated that they would be expecting for this type of crime in Russia.

So essentially even though they have ten days to appeal, they have indicated previously that they will appeal this charge, this has moved from the realm of jurisprudence or the law, if you like, to high political stakes.

Sergey Lavrov said at a news conference in Cambodia that there are established diplomatic channels to be discussed between the U.S. President Joe Biden and the Russian President Vladimir Putin in a summit in Geneva that took place in the summer of last year and those are the types of channels that will be reenacted, opened up to try to secure the release of Brittney Griner. It has been well reported that the United States has put forward Viktor Bout, who is a well-known arms dealer serving a 25 year sentence in the United States to secure the release of Brittney Griner and also Paul Whelan, who you have there has been custody since 2018 in Russia on espionage charges.

It's also reported that Russia has put forward requests for hackers who are in the United States to also be added to the list as well as an individual who is serving time after having been found guilty in Germany of murdering a Chechen fighter there. So we'll wait to see more details. Obviously, it is early in the morning in the United States. And to see what the U.S. response is about exactly what kind of deal could be on the table here.

Russia has made it clear repeatedly that they do not want the United States they say to can use the megaphone type of diplomacy, but this is the first move after of course that sentence was handed down yesterday. The U.S., Erica, still maintains the position that Brittney Griner has been wrongfully detained and being held in Russia wrongfully. We also saw the U.S. charge d'affaires who is there at the trial speaking to reporters afterwards, calling this a miscarriage of justice, the sentence that was handed down yesterday.

HILL: Yeah, and you could see, I would argue how frustrated and upset she was in that statement as well.

Nina Dos Santos, good to see you this morning. Thank you.

Democrats securing a huge breakthrough with Kyrsten Sinema, why she has now decided to move forward with this massive climate and tax deal.

Plus, the Biden administration declaring the monkeypox outbreak a national health emergency. So what does that change?

And conspiracy theorist Alex Jones reacting after a jury ordered him to pay a Sandy Hook family more than $4 million in damages.


HILL: President Biden closer than ever to seeing his sweeping economic agenda become a reality.

Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema confirming she's ready now to support the Inflation Reduction Act, a measure that consists the largest investment in energy and climate programs in U.S. history.

So what does it mean now? Well, with Sinema's backing, Democrats appear to have the critical 50 votes they need in their caucus to pass the bill before it moves on to the House next week for final approval.

Let's bring in CNN political analyst, Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast", Jackie Kucinich.

Jackie, good morning. Boy, happy Friday. It seems like.


HILL: We have 50 Democrats on board here. They are going to have to work a little bit over the weekend as we learned from Leader Schumer. Is this really a done deal?

I mean, provided everyone healthy which has been a bit of a challenge across both caucuses, but particularly in the Democratic caucus, which is why they are moving so swiftly.


But certainly as you said this is a big deal for Democrats. There are some changes to the bill. They got rid of the carried interest loophole that Kyrsten Sinema didn't like and added something else in. But really this does look like it is on track which is a stunning turnaround when you think, you know, just a couple weeks ago, this thing was dead on arrival.

HILL: Yeah, it will be fascinating to watch and see how quickly they can move it.

KUCINICH: It is the Senate after all.

HILL: Well, there is that, small issue, and an important point about everybody staying healthy because that is key. You need everybody there for the vote. Separately CNN now projecting that Kari Lake will be the Republican nominee for governor in the state of Arizona. They say election deniers are close to taking control of voting in four key states, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania.

This is shaping up to be quite a -- I don't even know how I would phrase it, an interesting next few months.

KUCINICH: This is exactly what the former President Donald Trumped, right? All of these people are people that he endorsed, and they have used his message to bring the big lie into primetime. Fascinating thing about Kari Lake, initially, she had been losing and she started talking about how that there might be some fraud and quickly turned around once she became clear that she was going to win.

So -- but intellectual consistency isn't really part of the game. But it is concerning considering how close these individuals could be to power as another election is just right around the corner. And that is what helped in 2020.

HILL: Yeah, absolutely, so now we see where these contests are set willing up. It is interesting to see, I guess this last ditch effort on behalf of Liz Cheney, from the former vice president, from her father Dick Cheney, putting out this ad. I want to play a little bit of that.


DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: In our nation's 246-year history, there has never been an individual who is a greater threat to our republic than Donald Trump. He tried to steal the last election using lies and violence to keep himself in power after the voters had rejected him.

He is a coward. A real man wouldn't lie to his supporters. He lost his election and he lost big. I know it, he knows it and deep down, I think most Republicans know it.


HILL: What we also know is the polls don't look great for Liz Cheney at this point.


HILL: What is the impact of this ad if any?

KUCINICH: I don't know if there is an impact other than the fact because Donald Trump is someone who won by, what, 70 percent or something in Wyoming. I don't have the number in front of me, but it is quite high.

And the former vice president is a popular figure there. However, you know, it seems like Liz Cheney is going to -- if she's going out, she will go out her way. Polls don't look good. Anything is possible in these elections. But it seems like that she won't leave anything unsaid going into this race.

HILL: Yeah, nothing will be left into this.

And I was fascinated by the story out of Florida yesterday that Governor Ron DeSantis has now suspended a prosecutor, a prosecutor who pledged not to criminalize abortion providers in the state, also talked about not criminalizing doctors who provide gender affirming care. No legal case at this point, I guess that could change.

This feels like a very political move on the part of Ron DeSantis. Is it?

KUCINICH: It is really hard to look at anything Ron DeSantis says because they also hyped up this press conference, they were talking on Twitter and elsewhere saying what a major announcement this was. It is hard to view anything Ron DeSantis does these days as not through the lens of someone who is going to seek the presidency in 2024.

And he in order to do that, he has to out-conservative a lot of the other contenders. And right now, he is using his perch as Florida governor to do that. And right now, it seems to be another brick in that wall I guess.

HILL: Yeah, we've had a lot of song conferences this morning and it is only 5:19. I like it.

Jackie, good to see you.

KUCINICH: I mean, I didn't know that, but I'm so glad to participate.

HILL: Another brick in the wall. So there you go. Have a great weekend, my friend. Thank you.

KUCINICH: You too.

HILL: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Japan following her visit to Taiwan, speaking out on threats from China.


Plus, four people critically injured by a lightning strike just steps from the White House.


HILL: This morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is in Japan, the final leg of an Asia tour highlighted by of course her visit to Taiwan earlier this week.

At a news conference Pelosi criticized China for its threats against Taiwan.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: They may try to keep Taiwan from visiting or participating in other places, but they will not isolate Taiwan by preventing us to travel there.


We've had high level visit, senators in the spring in a bipartisan way, continuing visits. And we will not allow them to isolate Taiwan.


HILL: The Pelosi-led congressional delegation met with the Japanese prime minister.

CNN's Blake Essig is live for us in Tokyo for us this morning with more. Blake, good morning.

BLAKE ESSIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Erica.

Speaker Pelosi is here in Japan today, but the impact of her surprise stop in Taiwan is still being felt and is all that was really asked about by reporters today at a press conference. The day after Nancy Pelosi and her delegation left Taiwan, China began live fire military exercises, essentially surrounding the self-governed island. On day one, China launched nearly a dozen ballistic missiles, some of them flew over Taiwan for the first time ever, 22 warplanes entered Taiwan's air defense identification zone and nuclear powered submarine was involved.

Now, this morning on day two, jets and warships crossed the median line in the Taiwan Strait which separates Taiwan from China. And Beijing also announced sanctions against Pelosi for visiting the island.

Japan's prime minister weighed on the military exercises saying that they are expected to continue through Sunday. He talked about it after hosting a breakfast this morning for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her delegation where regional security issues were discussed. Kishida said China's missiles are a serious problem that impacts security and called for an immediate halt to the drills because overnight Japan's ministry of defense confirmed that five ballistic missiles launched by China are believed to have landed within Japan's economic zone.

Four of those missiles flew over Taiwan although defense ministry says is that they posed no threat to the island and today, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed the situation saying that China has chosen to overreact and that the military drills and firing missiles in to Japan's exclusive economic zone is a significant escalation -- Erica.

HILL: Blake Essig with the latest for us from Tokyo -- Blake, thank you.

Well, South Korea launching its very first mission to the moon.


ANNOUNCER: Three, two, one, zero, ignition. And liftoff.


HILL: Liftoff for a lunar orbiter via SpaceX rocket taking off from Cape Canaveral. The order is expected to reach the moon in December where it will spend a year doing observation. It will identify possible future landing sites, conduct environmental research and test space Internet technologies.

New developments in the death of Breonna Taylor. Four former and current Kentucky police officers were charged by the FBI. Attorney Ben Crump joins us live next.