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1/6 Cmte Asks GOP Congressman To Testify About Capitol Tour; UK: Russia Fired Top Commanders Over Battlefield Performance; Day 5 Of First Trial In Special Counsel Durham's 3 Year Probe. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 20, 2022 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: We know a lot more today about Donald Trump's personal involvement in plotting strategy to steal the 2020 election. In a new court filing, the Trump lawyer, John Eastman, says he was directly in touch with Trump and his top campaign and West Wing aides in the weeks leading up to January 6th. Eastman says Trump even sent handwritten notes with information the then president thought would be useful. The notes now part of hundreds of pages of documents Eastman is trying to keep from the January 6th Committee. Our reporters are back with us. This is gold if you're looking for evidence in the sense that Donald Trump's own handwriting to John Eastman saying look at this, look at that, do this, do that.

DAN MERICA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. I mean, Donald Trump is known to send sharpie notes to reporters, to supporters, to anybody. I'm sure John Eastman is not the only person that has handwritten notes from Donald Trump. But you're right. I mean, this puts a lot of pressure on these June hearings that the Committee is going to have whether they can get those handwritten notes where they can get, you know, groundbreaking evidence, something that grabbed the attention of people, because I will tell you, when you talk to voters out in Wisconsin, out in Pennsylvania in some of these states, even Democrats who are appalled by what happened on January 6th, this is not something that they bring up regularly. They're talking about the cost of living. They're talking about the cost of gas, things that impact them on a daily basis. Yes, they're concerned about what happened. These hearings that happened in June have got to grab their attention to be to matter.

KING: And so you make a critical point about the hearing. And we know the Committee is doing meticulous work. And we know of late in addition to trying to get these documents from John Eastman. They have some but they're still fighting for others. They want to have a conversation about with several of their own House Republicans, if you will. One of them, Barry Loudermilk from the state of Georgia, the January 6th Committee says he led a tour of folks through the Capitol on the day before, on January 5th, some constituents who are up. Listen here, Congressman Loudermilk says this was normal, nothing, nothing here.


REP. BARRY LOUDERMILK (R-GA): We actually had about a dozen people up here that wanted to come by and visit, we had them in our office. They definitely were, you know, peaceful people, people that we've met at church. They were supporters of the President, and they just wanted to be up here as if it was another rally. And we've actually checked on them to make sure that they're safe. When they saw what it was turning into, they immediately turned and went back down the mall to get away from the crowd here.


KING: The Congressman makes this sound like normal business, constituents come all the time no big deal. The Committee clearly thinks different than one would suspect has some evidence to support that thing different part.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Perhaps, look, this has been one area that has been speculated on since in the aftermath of January 6th. There was a congresswoman who suggested that there was an inside if one of the members had an inside information about what was happening. There was Mikie Sherrill. She had said that soon after January 6th. And there have been speculation about these kinds of tours that are happened.

Now there -- these tours are though common, Loudermilk is correcting that that members take groups of people through the Capitol, that is particularly pre-COVID, that was very common. And now it's coming back. So the question is, will these Republicans who have been targeted, will they actually cooperate? Will they actually provide information?


It doesn't sound like they will, so what will the Republican -- the Democratic-led committee do instead, will they try to force in their hands, try to hold Kevin McCarthy, the potential future speaker in the House in contempt. Those are decisions that have not been made, but something that they may have to decide to do in the coming days.

KING: If nothing else, it's something you can say at those public hearings that we tried to get testimony from these people and you just put up their pictures and they all refuse. That's one way to do it. But Dan makes a key point, whether it's Donald Trump's notes, handwritten notes or the conversations with his attorneys, or the members of Congress that we know the Committee has done a meticulous job, their challenges, what do we present in public?

We now know Francesca, that Bill Barr, the former Trump Attorney General, a man who knows a lot about Trump's phone calls and meetings with Trump about what he wanted the Justice Department to do about the election is having a conversation tentatively agreed to give sworn testimony to the Committee. So that would be you talking about, you know, as -- just like reporters, the Committee has gotten a ton of information from mid-level people. Aides who see the documents, who know the schedule, who know who was in the room, but that would be a marquee witness.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: Certainly. And you know, when you talk about the people close to the former president of the United States, we've heard from folks like Mark Meadows through their documentation, Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter, you mentioned Bill Barr. But none of those people are Donald Trump. And when you talk about the handwritten notes that might be the closest thing to directly tie the former president the United States so that and it might not matter in 2022, but certainly heading into 2024 if he runs again, that could be a major issue for him.

RAJU: And Bill Barr has turned -- changed his tune on Trump too, so perhaps that you may have to provide. And he's seen as a reliable person on this by many people compared to some of the other sources of information.

KING: Right. And we don't know what the politics of this how they will play out everything like that. But it's critical for history. It is critical for history. The Committee get to do its work.

Ahead, Ukraine claiming success in pushing Russian troops back to the border.



KING: British intelligence today reporting Russia recently fired several senior commanders for their poor performance in the early days of Putin's war on Ukraine. The U.K. analysts suggest this could in their words, quote, place further strain on Russia's command and control apparatus. Let's discuss that and get additional insights from retired Air Force colonel, CNN military analyst, Cedric Leighton. Colonel, it's good to see you.

So this is the map of the entire, I just want to move it a little bit close to here. Two things can be true at once, the Russians have problems. We've seen that. They could be firing commanders that could have a ripple effect on you have new commanders. So maybe things are rough in the field. At the same time, if you look at this map, Russia has more territory that's just indisputable. It's slow and it's plotting. But Putin has more.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: That's right. And you know, John, when you look at the kinds of things that are going on right here, so you can fire commanders, as you said, but look at historical precedents, World War II, just before the things really got hot with Germany, the Soviets fired a whole bunch of commanders, they ended up winning that war. So, you know, these are early days in many respects in the Ukrainian situation. But what's happening here is really critical.

So you look at the area around Severodonetsk and Popasna and Rubizhne, those areas, this is the scene of some of the heaviest fighting right now. There's also some fighting down here south of Bakhmut. And notice everything here, these are critical roads, if you capture the roads, you capture the territory. And that's how the Russians are looking at this right now.

KING: Right. And you mentioned capture the roads, capture the territory, just I want to come back to the bigger map just to put that into context. So you're talking about capture the roads, capture the territory that's over here now. And that makes it harder for the resupply, right? The most of the NATO and other supplies are coming from the west.

LEIGHTON: That's right, because most of the time these supplies come from places like Poland a little bit from Slovakia, a bunch more from Romania. They come in through here, tough terrain, generally speaking, in this area, bad roads that are not impassable, but they're not used to carrying a lot of heavy traffic. These are the best roads and railroads coming in from Poland. This is the area that the Russians will want you to interdict and cut off from the rest of Ukraine if they get a chance to do so.

KING: So we talked about this in the context of a day to day war, war that's gone on now for a few months, and it's likely to go on for months and months more. The question is always, you know, what happens if you start negotiate again. We have no reason to believe there's going to be any negotiating. But I asked in the context of this, when you look at the Russian gains here, and I'll circle the thing -- circle in here. You know, Putin took that in 2014, Russia -- pro Russia separatists have controlled this since 2014. Putin does not like giving back what he takes. And so, even though he did not achieve his goal here, if he takes this, then it gets very complicated.

LEIGHTON: It does and especially if he has a legalistic argument to say, OK, this is mine, I'm going to take it. And legalistic in Putin's world means he's got a paper, he creates a special Republic, like Donetsk or Luhansk. And those special republics then become in his mind, legal entities that he has to defend. And when he does that, he's going to keep it like he said. There is no historical precedent that I'm aware of during Putin's time in office, where he's given anything like that back, and I don't expect him to do so anytime soon.

KING: Which is why Ukraine says they see no value, it sees no value in negotiations, it thinks that just has to take it back and that's why it's asking for more. I just want to show you some of these pictures as we go through it because again, one of the questions in recent days has been what are the Russians targeting? There's a playground, that's an apartment building. There is no street, military, strategic important to that. This is a little different, you see storage tanks taken out.


LEIGHTON: Right those storage tanks, it's interesting note the holes in the side there, those are marks from rockets that have come into that particular storage tanks. You look at the windows here in these apartment buildings, you know, clearly targeting civilians, targeting critical infrastructure, really destroying the kinds of things that make people live and make modern life possible. That's what they're doing. And this is the kind of destruction that you will see throughout the parts of Ukraine that Russia was active in.

KING: People live there, that's got nothing to do with any military operation. Colonel Leighton, as always, grateful for your time.

Next for us, what the star witness said in an important trial that is also a 2016 flashback. A Clinton campaign lawyer accused of lying to the FBI, while sharing a tip about Donald Trump and Russia.



KING: Today a star witness back on the stand inside of Washington, D.C. federal courtroom. The case, a Clinton connected lawyer is on trial for a single count of lying to the FBI, lying during the heart, it is alleged of the 2016 campaign. With us to help walk through it that's happening here CNN's Evan Perez. So, Evan, that -- for many Americans, the question is, you know, who is Michael Sussman? He's on trial here. He's the former Clinton connected lawyer. He's charged with lying to the FBI back in September 2016, remember that date, September 2016. That's two months before a presidential election. And he told the FBI about a possible secret back channel between Donald Trump or the Trump Organization and the Kremlin linked bank. So there are a lot of Trump supporters who say this was sneaky, dirty politics. What are we learning at the trial?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think what is emerging in trial is that yes, this is a very this was a very sleazy effort by the campaign to try to dirty up Donald Trump. One of the central focuses of this trial is the prosecution's argument that, what was happening, was the Clinton campaign was trying to use the press, and the FBI, essentially, to dirty up Trump, to make sure that in the weeks before the election, people knew that there was an investigation of Donald Trump.

Now, to be fair, all of those things could be true, right? It could be sleazy. It could be dirty tricks. But it also is true that the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign. They were associated with the President that were already under investigation by the time of this September meeting. And if you're the Clinton campaign, and you have your candidates sort of under the cloud of the e-mail investigation, which is true, is it fair that only one side was under that cloud? Why is it that the other side was not on there? That's what is sort of playing out in this courtroom.

KING: And so if you think it through the way, you just said that, so let -- there's an investigation underway. Let's say you do work for the Clinton campaign. You're close to Clinton, but you have what you believe to be legitimate information that you should give the FBI. OK. But the important context is you have to say, oh, and by the way, trust me, when you look at this, you'll find it to be true, but I'm with Hillary Clinton. So I just want you, you're supposed to disclose that that's the heart of this.

PEREZ: And that is --

KING: Did he not disclose that? So I want to read the former FBI General Counsel, James Baker is a star witness here. And he says this, I'm 100 percent confident that he said that, Michael's a friend of mine and a colleague, and I believed it and I trusted that the statements were truthful. And Baker testifying in the context that he's 100 percent confident, Sussman did not mention his campaign --

PEREZ: Did not mentioned his affiliation with the Clinton campaign. He was a campaign lawyer for the Clinton campaign. And this is where this trial turns. Jim Baker, former CNN contributor we should note, former general counsel for the FBI who the former president attacked relentlessly as part of the FBI leadership is now a star witness, helping to possibly put in prison Michael Sussman who is a Clinton campaign lawyer. It's a really remarkable turn of events that is happening.

KING: Keep coming back as the case proceeds so we get to the final verdict on this one, again 2016, that's the campaign that will never end.


Up next, CNN goes one on one with Trevor Reed. He's home thankfully after two years of imprisonment in Russia. And his story he tells it to Jake Tapper is both shocking and compelling.


KING: In a CNN exclusive the Marine veteran, Trevor Reed, who was recently freed after two years in a Russian prison details his horrible horrific experience including surviving a psychiatric treatment facility where he was assigned imprisoned in the country. Reed said he shared a cell with multiple prisoners and describe the unsanitary, inhumane and dangerous living conditions.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: What was the worst conditions that you had that you experienced during that time?

TREVOR REED, FORMER U.S. MARINE: The psychiatric treatment facility. I was in there with seven other prisoners in the cell. They all had severe serious psychological health issues. Most of them so over 50 percent of them in that cell were in there for murder, or like multiple murders, sexual assault and murder just really disturbed individuals.

And inside of that so you know that was not a good place. There's blood all over the walls there were prisoners had killed themselves or killed other prisoners or attempted to do that. The toilets just a hole in the floor and there's, you know, crap everywhere, all over the floor on the walls. There's people in there also that walk around they look like zombies. TAPPER: Were you afraid of your life?

REED: I mean, I did not sleep there for a couple of days. So I was too worried about, you know, who was in the cell with me to actually sleep.

TAPPER: You thought they might kill you?

REED: Yes. I thought that was a possibility.


KING: You heard what you heard there, we will note for the record, Russian officials defend the conditions he was kept in saying Trevor Reed was treated and robbed in line with Russian law. You can watch the full interview of Trevor Reed Sunday night 8:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.


Thanks for your time in Inside Politics. We'll see you Monday. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.