Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

A.G. Garland To Update Americans On Jan. 6 Probe Progress; Capitol Police: Changes Being Made After Insurrection, Staffing Down By 447 Officers; Dem Operatives Launch Group Tying GOP Candidates To Trump. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 05, 2022 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Tomorrow, of course, is the one year anniversary of the insurrection and of the beginning of what now is the largest investigation in Justice Department history. Take a look. More than 700 people have been arrested but the Feds still have a lot of work to do. And they're asking the public for help to identify at least 350 people involved in the violence that day, including 250 rioters who assaulted police officers.

The Attorney General Merrick Garland will deliver an update on the investigation later today. That case count is impressive. But there are plenty of complaints too. Several judges handling the cases, for example, have asked if the DOJ is being too lenient, and some Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans also want to see the department target the former president and his inner circle. Let's get some perspective from our senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez. It is interesting, fascinating in this digital age with so many images that the Feds are still asking for help to identify so many of these people.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, you know, one of the most -- one of the unusual aspects of January 6th was the fact that almost nobody was arrested that went into that building on that day. And so the FBI, and law enforcement has had to spend the last year hunting down hundreds of people, you said, as you pointed out, 725 so far. They anticipate that it's going to end up being over 1,000.

And for the FBI, there's a couple of priorities that they're still looking for. I sat down with Steven D'Antuono, who is the head of the FBI's Washington Field Office. We talked about the challenges of finding the person behind the two pipe bombs that are founded behind the RNC and the DNC and also hundreds of people who assaulted police officers. Take a listen.


STEVEN D'ANTUONO, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, FBI WASHINGTON FIELD OFFICE: Over 100 police officers were assaulted that day, multiple times, not just once. Now we're just talking about one assault, multiple assaults, and by multiple people, we're still looking for about 250 people, individuals that assault a police officer that day. So we have a lot of people that we're still out there that we're trying to identify, and we need the public's help.


PEREZ: And John, this is expected to go on for years. And as you pointed out in the coming hours in the next couple hours, we're going to hear from the Attorney General Merrick Garland, and he's going to talk about the efforts to defend American democracy. What a lot of people are hoping to hear is whether for instance, is there an investigation of the former president? It's not clear to me and I think we can probably bet that he's not going to go that far today, John.

KING: Yes, caution tends to be a guide work -- the guideline of this Attorney General. We'll see how it goes, though. Evan, appreciate the fascinating reporting there. Let's bring the panel back to discuss. And Jennifer Rodgers, the former federal prosecutor, I want to start with you. We have 165 guilty pleas, 70 of these individuals have already been sentenced, 31 ever see jail sentences. But several of the judges involved have actually criticized his justice department saying they think the DOJ prosecutors are being too lenient and what they're asking for here. What's your take?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't know about that, John. I mean, these are complicated cases. They do have video evidence, but it's sometimes hard to prove significant violence. So I wouldn't criticize them too much for the work they're doing on these really, really challenging complex cases with the violence. But I do think that Garland needs to make a commitment to go after the instigators, the big lie perpetrators. And I don't know if he'll do that today, but I hope he does.

KING: Well, we'll listen to the Attorney General a bit later. And of course, so there are politics involved in this. So listen here, this is Ruben Gallego, one of the leading progressives in the House of Representatives, Toluse, who just thinks Merrick Garland is failing the test. Listen.


REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-AZ): I think Merrick Garland has been extremely weak. And I think there should be a lot more of the organizers of January 6th that should be arrested by now. And you have again an Attorney General who is, you know, feckless, and has not been helpful in terms of preserving our democracy.


KING: That's a Democrat, Toluse.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, feckless is a very tough word to hear from another Democrat about a Democratic president's choice for Attorney General. There is a lot of angst among progressives about Merrick Garland, not only on January 6th but on a number of different issues, so they will be watching very closely to see what he says, to see if he becomes more aggressive and more of a aggressive champion that they wanted to have.

They had, you know, President Trump and his attorney generals and they felt like they fought for the President, they fought for his ideals. So they're looking for something similar when it comes to fighting for what they believe are Democratic ideals, and they don't feel like they've gotten that out of Merrick Garland just yet.


KING: And we've watched this play out a bit as the, you know, the committee referred to contempt against Steve Bannon to the Justice Department. It took a little while, but the Justice Department did bring that case. But Rachael Bade listen to this, the chairman of the Committee says down the road, there could be even higher, higher business, you might say, higher priority business referred to the Justice Department. Listen.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS) CHAIRMAN, JAN. 6 SELECT COMMITTEE: If there's anything that we come up on as a Committee, that we think would warrant a referral to the Department of Justice, we'll do that. And that's our oath as members of Congress.


KING: So they're bringing in the whole Trump inner circle. Many of the Committee members say they believe President Trump is culpable here. Is that a referral that could come down the road?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think it's a question a lot of Democrats have. I mean, Gallego's comments right there, just the tip of the iceberg. Democrats, a lot of them want to see Merrick Garland do something to investigate Donald Trump, the top, what was he doing in all this? And so we'll have to see if the Committee has a referral, criminal referral to the Justice Department for the former president.

Look, that would not be an easy case to win. But I think what it speaks to is Democrats still trying to find accountability for this former president after they impeached him once, he came out stronger. After the second impeachment, they hurt him a little bit, but then he came back and sort of rallied. Now they have the January 6th committee, but there's still this question. How do they hold this guy accountable? It's something that they are still grappling with.

KING: It's a critical point. Accountability as we continue to see efforts to undermine Democratic election systems around the country, panel standby, more conversation to come.

In this quick programming note, join Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper for an unprecedented gathering inside the Capitol with the police, lawmakers, and leaders live from the Capitol January 6th, One Year Later begins tomorrow night Thursday 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Security preps are underway right now ahead of that one year anniversary of the insurrection. And this time, Capitol Police say they will be ready if there was any trouble.



KING: The Capitol police chief is telling lawmakers right now the department is working on major changes in the wake of the January 6th riot one year ago tomorrow. But Chief Tom Manger, listen to this, acknowledges the department is seriously short staffed down get this by 447 officers.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Do you believe that the department would be better able to defend against the type of threat that we saw a year ago today than the department was back then?

CHIEF THOMAS MANGER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: Yes, absolutely. Today, I'm confident that the U.S. Capitol Police Department has made significant progress addressing the deficiencies that impacted the department's response on January 6th. And while more work remains to be done, the men and women of the Capitol Police stand ready to fulfill their mission each and every day.


KING: Security is ramped up on the Hill though the Department of Homeland Security says there are no credible threats as of now against the Capitol. Let's get more from our law enforcement correspondent Whitney Wild. She joins us. When you hear the department is down more than 400 officers, that's a wow.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: It's a huge amount of officers. I mean, when you consider that this, you know, department is authorized for 2,000, 2,200 about. I mean that that is a significant number. The other thing, John, is that they continue to work these really extensive, exhausting hours and the Chief during this hearings told lawmakers look we cannot keep up with the amount of work that we're trying to do with the staffing we have.

And this came up when Senator Leahy was asking Manger what's going to happen if you can't get this new budget passed? What are you going to do if you can't get more money? And Manger said, we cannot keep our heads above water.

And he said that what they really need to do is not just fill in the ranks of people who have left more than 130 people have left since January 6th, but they need to add officers. Chief Manger wants to add 280 officers a year every year for three years to try to leapfrog this massive attrition they've seen. So 130 officers left since January 6th, usually, John, they see between 75 and 90. So, you know, you put that in perspective, they're just losing bodies. Meanwhile, they have this uptick in threats. Chief Manger, also saying they've seen more than 9,000 threats against members of Congress.

And that takes a lot of time to investigate out because now they need to more fully assess the people who actually are going to cause harm because January 6th showed. It's not always clear just based on social media posts, who poses a real threat and who doesn't. So that's ramping up the workload here too. But now, CNN law enforcement analyst Michael Fanone, previously a Metropolitan Police Department officer had a lot to say on one of the key issues facing the department, which is morale. Here's what he said.


MICHAEL FANONE, FORMER DC METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICER: Until that's addressed, I don't see morale improving. And I certainly don't see the agency retaining officers who feel like they've been abandoned by their command level officials. And unfortunately, I think that demands resignations.


WILD: Well, there we have it, John. That is what Mike Fanone thinks is the level of accountability. Meanwhile, you know, as you heard the panel before, you know, throughout Washington, people are trying to figure out how to hold all these key players accountable.

KING: Right. This is a giant test on this anniversary of those who say they back the blue and watching people who actually will back the blue. Whitney Wild, grateful for the live update there.


Up next for us, Democrats in the midterm Trump debate, a new high powered Super PAC takes issue with those in the party who want less talk about Trump.


KING: Some first on CNN political reporting, a new Democratic Super PAC is launching and it is taking aim at those in the party who think the lesson of last year is to talk less about Trump in this year's midterm elections. Stop him now is the not at all subtle name of this new group.


CNN senior reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere broke this news. Here's what he writes about the new Super PAC. Its aim is calling attention to Republican candidates' ties to Trump and his efforts to subvert the 2020 election. Trump has signaled he wants Republican victories to lay the groundwork for another presidential bid. And these Democrats think their party needs to start talking about that a lot more and quickly.

Edward-Isaac Dovere joins our conversation. Before you delve into the reporting, let's just listen, we'll see how much they raise, we'll see how much they spend. But here is their first sample of what they want to tell the American people listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next time they won't just be wearing horns and wielding weapons. Donald Trump is marshaling another force to take over the U.S. Capitol, his army of Republican supporters many running in this year's midterms and intent on helping them return to power. So you want to risk a return to this?


KNG: So explain the reporting, Isaac, in the sense that many Democrats say look what happened in 2019, we should talk less about Trump. Why do they think no?

EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Well, the number one reason is that you see that there are a lot of things that Democrats talk about that maybe resonate with voters, but so far, they have not found anything that connects to the base, and revs up the base in quite the same way that Donald Trump did in 2018 or 2020. That goes along with a legitimate deep fear that the people involved with the Super PAC feel that what the consequence of Republicans winning in elections, whether it's for state level races, or in the House or Senate, is going to be not only encouraging Donald Trump to run again, but maybe paving the way for him to do things to subvert the election, should he be running in 2024.

KING: And it's a high powered group of Democrats among the Mandy Grunwald, who I first met, it feel like going through a time warp back in the Bill Clinton days when I was covering those campaigns, also a close advisor to Hillary Clinton, a prominent Democratic strategist in that.

Jeff Zeleny, you spent a lot of time covering the Virginia governor's race and this is part of the conversation. Terry McAuliffe talked a lot about Trump, the Democrat, he lost a lot of Democrats say, aha, that didn't work. Mandy Grunwald told Isaac, no. She says, quote, the reaction in our party implies it's a zero sum game. We only talk about Trump or we never talk about Trump, because Terry McAuliffe didn't win. And he talked about Trump. That's the end of it. That's nonsense. So that is the challenge for the Democrats. What's the sweet spot?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, that's what they're trying to find. But one thing that Terry McAuliffe did was try to compare his opponent, Glenn Younkin to Donald Trump. He said he is another version of that, and that simply didn't stick. But one thing that Democrats think is something that too resonates, are those images from the insurrection are those, you know, just a reminder of, you know, the Republican base, and the, you know, really what's changed over the last year, so many now, more Republicans now today, than a year ago, believe in the big lie. So that is what they are trying to bring to the fold.

But look, one thing is clear. This Democratic Party over the last year has fractured. You know, if it's on infrastructure, if it's on policy debates, or just politics, one thing that has always united the Democratic Party, more than anything else, at least recently, is Donald Trump, and the fear of him. So that is what they're trying to get back to you, John. We'll see if it works. But in a midterm election of a party in power, it's one of the best things they have.

KING: Right. And part of that challenge Rachael Bade is, you know, Republicans are animated, they always had. The party out of power also always has the motivation, at least at the beginning of the campaign. The motivation as the challenge for Democrats is how do they get Democrats who might be disappointed in some of the Biden agenda not passing, for example, how do you get him to come out?

BADE: Yes. I mean, and you can see this debate happening right now on Capitol Hill in the House. I mean, the reality is that, you know, the leader of the DCCC, which is the campaign arm for the Democrats, Sean Patrick Malone, he is a firm believer that you can both run on a positive message of things you've passed, but also sort of rev up the base by talking about Donald Trump and training folks out. But a lot of these frontliners when you talk to them, and I have talked to these frontline Democrats, you know, in the House, they don't want to talk about Trump at all, not at all. They don't like this two prong message.

They say that talking about Trump could actually turn out more Republicans. And they don't think it resonate with -- resonates with swing voters and might actually repel swing voters that they think they need. And so it's a really tough balance for them right now, especially because the folks that the party is trying to protect right now, they don't believe this sort of theory about talking about Trump that it could help the party. And so there's a lot of infighting on that right now in the House.

KING: We're just lifting the curtain on what will be a fascinating campaign year. We'll have more of this talk about in the days and weeks ahead. Thank everybody for coming in.


Up next for us, how's this for rapid response? Senator Joe Manchin said just yesterday, he might be open to changing Senate rules to deal with voting rights. Well, today, a Republican group is on the air with a brand new ad reminding Manchin, he promised not to change those rules.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today, a group aligned with the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is out with a new ad targeting Democratic Senator Joe Manchin.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: D.C. liberals are desperate to enact their radical agenda, so desperate they want to change the Senate rules and eliminate the filibuster. Senator Joe Manchin promised he won't let that happen. Call Senator Manchin. Tell him to keep his promise, protect the Senate filibuster.


KING: The ad from the group called One Nation comes just one day after Manchin told reporters that he might, might consider some filibuster changes. Today and McConnell also bringing that filibuster fight to the Senate floor and accusing Democrats of crossing the line by invoking the insurrection and their push for voting rights, McConnell brands Democratic tactics quote, as beyond distasteful and ham fisted. And he goes on to say quote, the fact violent criminals broke the law does not entitle Democrats to break the Senate.


Thanks for your time today in Inside Politics. Hope to see you tomorrow as well. We'll be live on Capitol Hill. Don't forget you can also listen to our podcast download INSIDE POLITICS wherever you get your podcast. Erica Hill picks up our coverage right now.