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Inside Politics

Jan. 6 Cmte: Trump Knew Scheme To Overturn Election Was Illegal; Witness: Eastman Admitted His Election Scheme Was Illegal; Jan. 6 Cmte Not Closing Door On Seeing Pence's Testimony; Jan. 6 Cmte Evidence Eastman Emailed Giuliani Asking For Pardon; In Rare Interview Biden Says Americans Are "Down" Over Economy; Biden: I Don't Think My Policies Contributed To Inflation; Biden Says He Still Has Hopes For His Domestic Agenda; Source: Trump Expected To "Forcefully" Respond To Jan. 6 Cmte. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 17, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. Mike Pence and the mob, new revelations about just how close the vice president came to danger and his heated phone call with Donald Trump on January 6.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the word that she relayed to, that the president called the vice president, I apologize for being impolite, but do you remember what she said, her father call.



KING: New details show how Trump was told over and over and over again, his plot to overturn the election was not legal. Plus, a rare interview, President Biden shares a gloomy outlook with the Associated Press. Americans are confused, upset and worried the president said, but he blames COVID exhaustion and economic turmoil, not his policies.

And the Russian President Vladimir Putin forced to delay a big speech due to massive cyberattacks. This as the search is on for three Americans missing in Ukraine, two now feared captured by Russian forces. A first for us though today, the new details supporting the heart of the January 6 committee's argument but the plot to overturn the 2020 election was a crime in progress, that Donald Trump knew it was illegal and yet kept pushing it anyway.

The panel picks up its public work next week. Hearing number four will detail the Trump intimidation campaign against elected officials in swing states he lost. Hearing number three, yesterday walk the country through Trump's badgering of his vice president, a witness after witness, exhibit after exhibit.

The committee detailed how Trump shopped for lawyer after lawyer and scheme after scheme. It led him to John Eastman, and an election plot witnesses say was without constitutional merit, and without a doubt illegal.


ERIC HERSCHMANN, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I said, are you out of your effing mind, right, and that was pretty blunt. I said you're completely crazy. You're going to cause riots in the streets. And he said, words to the effect of there's been violence in the history of our country, Eric, to protect the democracy or protect the Republic.


KING: Violence, the testimony shows was what Trump and Eastman were willing to accept. And of course, the committee showed, and you see it there, violence is what they got. The panel drew a direct link between Trump's insurrection day tweets bragging - dragging Pence for quote, not having the courage to the mobs advance and the mobs bloodthirst, aims of course at the vice president.

We also saw never before seen photos. You see them here of Pence sheltering inside the Capitol complex. The committee says the mob came at one point within 40 feet of the vice president. Witness testimony revealed Trump never called to check if Pence was safe, and that Pence never considered running from his duty that day.


GREG JACOB, FORMER PENCE COUNSEL: The vice president had refused to get into the car. The vice president did not want to take any chance that the world would see the vice president of the United States fleeing the United States Capitol. He was determined that we would complete the work that we had set out to do that day.


KING: With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, Jackie Kucinich of The Daily Beast, Zolan Kanno-Youngs at The New York Times, CNN's Lauren Fox, and our CNN legal analyst, Elliot Williams. Let me begin with you, Counselor. The committee was just determined and methodically, trying to make the case that Trump's lawyer knew it was illegal. If Trump knew it was illegal, and yet they just kept doing it. Why is that important?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is very important for the types of offenses we're looking at here, you're looking at fraud and campaign related offenses, where the person has to know that the thing, they're doing is illegal. That's not the case with respect to every crime. So, for instance, child sex offenses, you don't need to intend to have done it, merely having committed the act is enough to get convicted.

Here, the individual has to know that there was a law, has to know what they're trying to use their conduct to evade it. And it's not just people providing opinions to the president, these were lawyers in the White House, in the campaign and in the private sector, all advising him that what he was doing was wrong. So, this is a very, very strong case they're building.

KING: And so, the key part is at that point, they're trying to make the case against Trump, the committee is, but they first are trying to make the case that Eastman knew. If John Eastman knew, and then Trump was told this, then they had to know. So, here's part of this. They tried to make the case. John Eastman kept saying, the vice president can reject the electors from swing states. The vice president could just gavel and say we're taking a recess. I'm sending this back to the states. And repeatedly, Eastman was told this is illegal, and the testimony says he realized that.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Eastman ever admit? As you know in front of the president that his proposal would violate the electoral candidate. I believe he did on the forest.

HERSCHMANN: He was asking me, my view and analysis, and then the practical implications of it. And when we finished, he said, I believe that, you know, you're probably right.


KING: Significant there and that the other lawyers are pushing back and to Greg Jacob's point that John Eastman two days before January 6, sat in the room with the president, told the president, this is not legal.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. But then he kept on pushing it after the fact. I mean, and therein, you know, lies the problem, and probably why he was asking for a pardon, you know, just a couple days later. So, it really does. It's hard to think that Trump at this point, because of that testimony, didn't know what he was doing was illegal. And just, you know, everybody went forward with it anyway.

WILLIAMS: One more important point tied to that, one of the crimes at issue here, you know, we've all heard about this judge that says that it's more likely than not. One of the crimes that issue, at least one of them is a conspiracy charge. And in order to have a conspiracy, you have to have an agreement between two parties. Well, you know, that John Eastman is one of the two, perhaps Donald Trump is the other person, you could say, committed an active conspiracy.

KING: Right. Conspiracy to defraud the United States government, would be one of them. And so, that's why it was so interesting. You know, there's been reporting along these lines, attributed to sources or one text message here. The most damning part here is that we're hearing from people close to Donald Trump, he just cannot say that these are Republicans who don't like me, or that these are Democrats on another witch hunt.

Listen here, the place is the morning of January 6, Mike Pence has told the president of the United States he will not do this, that he does not have the authority to do what Donald Trump is asking him to do. And then there's a phone call, detailed by people close to Trump.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT (voiceover): So, as I was dropping off the note, I've my memory, I remember hearing the word wimp, either he called him a wimp. I don't remember, he said, you are a wimp, you'll be a wimp. Wimp is the word I remember.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like being, you're not tough enough to make the call.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It was a different tone than I'd heard him take with the vice president before.

TRUMP (voiceover): Something to the effect, this is the wordings wrong. I made the wrong decision four or five years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that the word that she relates to, that the president called the vice president, I apologize for being impolite. But do you remember what she said, her father called?

RADFORD: The P-word.


KING: I mean, there's no deniability there. This is not, you know, Donald Trump is cynically brilliant at it sometimes, saying that there are all these people out there who are out to get me, making stuff up. This is family, this general Kellogg, this is body guy. Have they all joined the deep state?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, I think the huge takeaway yesterday from this hearing was the Pence's staff was under pressure, the vice president was under pressure. And he was hearing directly from his president. And then just a few hours later, the president goes out at the ellipse and really talks to the crowd, rev them up, talks about how this is Pence's big moment.

They're going to see if he does the right thing out there today. And then the mob marches toward the Capitol, where we know the vice president was. And I think that, all of those dynamics show the enormous pressure that Pence was under. And the fact that it came out very clearly yesterday, Pence never wavered on that question.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The committee also made a concerted effort to connect the conversations between the vice president and the president, and the days leading up and that morning. The president pressuring Pence at that point, as well to help him overturn the election to Trump's growing frustration throughout the day. And then also his public statements. The tweets that he put out as well, continuing to pressure the vice president, and the anger with the crowd outside. It was interesting how through the timeline, as well as images, they tried to make that connection.

KUCINICH: And particularly, when Pence is in hiding, and the president is still typing. And there's a moment where, one of his aides is saying that they're all, you know, all trying to get the president to tweet something. And their phones all go off because it's an alert for his text. And it was the tweet that, you know, against Mike Pence, as this is going on.

KING: And so, if you're trying to build a prosecution there, what is the significance? Number one, he calls them in the morning after being told this is illegal. He still tries to pressure him to do it. He's told there's violence at the Capitol and the vice president is in there, and he tweets disappointment with Mike Pence, not everybody go home. He essentially, as his own deputy press secretary said, poured gasoline on the fire. It shows corrupt and reprehensible conduct, but in terms of trying to make a legal case, how does that think?

WILLIAMS: I think every single instance of what's some lawyer providing him advice that he overrode. I think builds the case because he knew what he was doing was wrong. And then all of those actually use the word conspiracy earlier. What you need is an overt act. He needs to have done something That becomes the tweets and the texts and the comments. But all of those statements come in and they're incredibly persuasive.


KING: And the committee tried to make the point to cement the point that the committee was trying to make that Eastman knew, that Eastman was saying, you know, Al Gore couldn't have done this. I don't want Kamala Harris doing this down the road in two years. But Mike Pence, you do it today. You do it today to keep Donald Trump in power.

And then they brought in the testimony that after this was all over, and it was clear, Joe Biden would be president of the United States. In the final days of the Trump administration, John Eastman sends an email to Rudy Giuliani, I've decided that I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works damning?

FOX: Yes. I mean, I think that that yesterday was sort of the moment where that was one of the biggest bombshells of the whole hearing. And it's not because all the other information was known. It was just the fact that, if you knew it was illegal, and then later you thought, well, maybe I need a pardon after everything that's transpired. I mean, it shows you know, you're concerned about your future.

WILLIAMS: You know, the 146 times he pleads the fifth, also we joke about the Fifth Amendment, your kid who ate the cookies, say I've been the fifth, right? It's actually a really big deal, because it means that he thinks that he broke the law. And if he's doing it 146 times, he really thinks, believes that there's some criminal statute that he's violated here. So that and the pardoned taken together, this is really bad for Eastman, but also pretty bad for the former president.

KING: And so, for all this debate about whether the committee should put a written referral to the Justice Department, aren't they making a verbal referral to the Justice Department?

WILLIAMS: Totally. You know that they're making a verbal referral at the justice, and two they're going to put out a big report at the end of this. It's going to lay all this out, refer to the justice, but just - all within the sound of my voice, listen to any referral that the Justice Department sends to the justice - that Congress sends the Justice Department doesn't matter. DOJ doesn't have to follow it. They don't have to do anything about it. What you're seeing is the evidence and if the Justice Department sees it, they're free to charge.

KING: Again, the committee's picks up next Tuesday, the next hearing also critical. Trump pressuring state officials in places where he lost, in places where they have recounted, in places where he had gone to court, and he had lost. That will be the next stage up next week. Next for us though, a rare interview with the current president, President Biden. He says a recession is not inevitable, and he insists Democrats in Congress might finally pass a few pieces of his stalled agenda.




KING: President Biden speaking out in a rare Oval Office interview, saying he does not believe a recession is inevitable. But the president concedes Americans overall not very happy right now. People are really, really down. They're really down. Those the president's words in an interview with the Associated Press. He says that's because of the pandemic and COVID's massive economic fallout. But the president insists his policies are not to blame. And he knows the United States is in better shape than other large economies around the world.

Our reporters are back with us to discuss it all. Zolan you cover the White House every day. So, if you look at a presidential interview, we look at the headlines. And we'll go through some of the big comments. But what jumped out at you in the Biden besides just about his state of mind at the moment?

KANNO-YOUNGS: The attempt to center messaging both on understanding the pain that Americans are going through, but at the same time trying to also be defensive in a way and say, look, a recession is not inevitable here. That was the quote that I think jumped out from the interviews. Trying to tell Americans look, I know that you're going through pain, but this could ease.

Now, there's a question about that, because at the same time the administration faces the challenge of empathizing with Americans in saying, this is going to turn over and things will get better, but at the same time, it's the Feds jobs. It is the Feds job, mostly on the economy on inflation. And we need to give them independence.

People at this point, first of all, the messaging hasn't worked up until this point. The poll numbers are still very low. We've obtained polling the internal polling numbers that show that this has been one of the more pressing vulnerabilities for the White House. And the difficulty is how do you describe solutions, including long term solutions that may be hard for Americans to digest. KING: And so, look, you know, the president's in-charge at a moment of global economic turmoil, domestic economic turmoil, high energy prices, the economic warning signs you see right now mortgages, look at mortgage rates jumping up, gas is now above $5 a gallon. The Dow Jones dropped 2.4 percent just Thursday. He's president, right.

The president only has limited powers. But he's in-charge at this moment. He says this, his treasury secretary acknowledged to Congress that they believed the Biden's spending, the big rigorous play could have marginally impacted inflation. The Republicans say, oh, no, Joe Biden is responsible for everything, including when it rains.

And it says, you could argue, Biden says, you could argue whether the rescue plan had a marginal minor impact on inflation. I don't think it did. And most economists do not think it did. But the idea that it caused inflation is bizarre. So, pushing back strongly there, which number one is Joe Biden's reflex instinct. But number two, if you're explaining, you're usually losing when it comes to the politics.

KUCINICH: Right. And but in there also, I mean, inflation has been a hard thing for this White House to wrap their messaging around. I mean, look, we're not that far away from when they're saying it was just transient. And yes. And his own treasury secretary saying that, you know, she was wrong initially about you know, how seriously they took inflation. And yes, some of the stuff you can predict. They couldn't, you know, Russia, Ukraine, there were some things out of their control.

But you know, bottom line, Joe Biden is the guy who says he levels with the American people. And there is an open question of whether that's happening now, because you know, they don't know if there's going to be a recession. But corporations sure think there's going to be. Wall Street sure thinks there's going to be, and so does a lot of Main Street. Right now, Main Street and Wall Street are on the same page, which is a task indeed.


KANNO-YOUNGS: It's also worth adding as well on the messaging aspect that there has been debate in the White House as well, over how to message around inflation and the connection to the stimulus package. You do have some and there was a hint there a little bit in the president's comment, some who have argued, look, emphasize the trade off, even if this contributed to inflation, the economy would be in a much worse position, if you did not move forward with the stimulus package. And there's others that say, absolutely not, you know, you can't emphasize at all how that this contributed to inflation at all. We've seen that mixed up.

KUCINICH: You see, they're something, I'm pointing back to the Trump administration, and saying, look how bad things were when we took over, but politics is, what have you done for me lately.

KING: Politics is not always fair or contextual. But one of the things the president did I find interesting is he raised his optimism, again, raises some hope in this interview, that the Democrats will actually pass some of the pieces of his agenda, whether it's the climate stuff or the childcare stuff. The big stuff that got shoved aside last year because they couldn't get the votes.

The president said in his interview, do I have the votes? I believe they have the votes to do a number of things. One, prescription drugs. I think we're going to be able to have a fair tax system to have the votes. It's going to be close to have a minimum tax on corporations. One of the - if you look at focus groups, one of the reasons Democrats are a bit down right now is that they were promised a lot and they didn't get it all. That's risky. You troll the Hill every day. Does he have the votes? Are they making progress?

FOX: Well, right now, the conversations that are happening are between two people. And that's Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin. And what I'm being told is that other Democrats are not really part of those conversations. So, it's very hard to gauge if they have the votes for something, if everyone who's talking is just two people, right?

So, at this point, yes, they're talking about prescription drugs. Yes, they are talking about tax incentives. Yes, they are talking about what they can do on energy and climate. But that's not a deal. And we've been there before. And there's a reason that these conversations are happening within a very small and tight circle of people. They do not want to get folks all excited about a potential breakthrough, because they're just not there yet.

KING: We'll see, the president seems to think he can get there. We will watch that will one play out. Soon, Donald Trump speaks to the conservative event in Nashville. Sources say, the former president is in attack mode, and he wants to draw blood, that of course after yesterday's explosive January 6 hearing. CNN live at that event, next.




KING: We will hear from Donald Trump shortly. He is speaking this afternoon at the Faith and Freedom conference in Nashville. And sources now tell CNN to expect Trump to quote, forcefully respond to the January 6 committee, and its damning testimony about his conduct. The former president has been venting about those hearings on his social media platform and we are told also venting and angry conversations with associates.

Some in Trump land also share this, that all the attention on the committee's work is spurring a conversation about whether Trump should move up, a potential announcement that he's running again in 2024. CNN's Gabby Orr is live for us in Nashville tracking all this. Gabby, what are you learning?

GABBY ORR, CNN REPORTER: John, well, in about an hour the former president will take the stage behind me here in Nashville to address a very friendly crowd of religious conservatives. And I am told that he will respond forcefully to all of the revelations that we have learned over the last week during the public hearings by the House committee investigating January 6.

This is a friendly audience, and the former president is expected to respond both to the testimony yesterday by aides to former Vice President Mike Pence, but also to other claims that have been made under sworn testimony over the last week in these public hearings. And of course, this comes at a time when former President Trump is still weighing a bid for the presidency in 2024.

I am told by sources close to the former president that he has been talking about pushing up his announcement, potentially before the November midterms in order to capitalize on a moment where he feels that voters are more focused on their pocketbooks and less focus on his personality.

Of course, the January 6 committee continue to hold public hearings that would throw a shadow over any presidential announcement by the former president. But at the moment there are aides, deliberating about when the best timing would be. And today, we expect to hear what a stump speech might potentially sound like, if he does run for president in 2024.

KING: Gabby Orr, live for us in Nashville. I suspect Gabby is going to have a busy afternoon, as are the fact checkers. Gabby, thanks so much. Our reporters are back with us. So, somebody helped me here? He's going to respond forcefully to the committee. What is he going to say, my daughter is a liar, my bodyguard was a liar, General Kellogg is a liar, the White House counsel is a liar, my campaign manager is a liar? What is he going to say?

KANNO-YOUNGS: And look, this former president doesn't have has shown that he has no problem relaying a narrative that is not in touch to the truth, right, and issuing misleading claims. We don't know what he's going to say here. But in the past when he has been on the defensive and whether it's been impeachment proceedings, whether it's been investigations, we know that he has responded with further misleading claims.

And we know that both Trump and other Republicans, increasingly Republicans that are in elections have continued to peddle misleading claims about election fraud as well. So, you're probably going to hear that soon.

FOX: There's a reason that he can peddle misleading claims and that is because his supporters believe him, and his supporters aren't tuning into every minute of the January 6 investigation and their public hearings.