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Jan 6 Cmte Turns Focus TD Ex-Trump WH Deputy Chief Of Staff; Jan 6 Cmte Turns Focus To Ex-Trump WH Deputy Chief Of Start; WSJ Columnist: "Patsy Baloney" Owes The Public His Testimony; Justice Dept Asks If Trump Lawyer Funding Defense Of Oath Keepers; Soon: Biden To Meet Virtually With Dem Governors; States Scramble To Deal With Supreme Court Overturning Roe v. Wade; Campaigns Launch New Ads On Abortion After Supreme Court Decision; Liz Cheney Defends Criticism Of Trump At Primary Debate. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 01, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. Follow the money. The justice department now wants to know if a former Trump lawyer is funding the legal defense of domestic extremists and a January 6 committee crossroad. Does the panel callback a key Trump loyalist who is trying now to undercut the credibility of the committee star witness?

Plus, a big Biden meeting. The president huddles today with Democratic governors to discuss ways to protect abortion rights in a world without Roe. And we will share with you some scary new insights into the American political fracture. Big slices of the country, believe the government is corrupt, that elections are rigged, and that people who hold different political views are bullies.

Up first, though, important developments in the dual track investigations into the January 6 insurrection. The justice department now asking a judge to reveal who is paying lawyers representing members of the oath keepers? And if that person is the former Trump attorney and conspiracy peddler, Sidney Powell. The January 6 committee also faces a will they or won't they moment.

The former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Ornato is at the center of that question. Ornato now attacking the credibility of what - some of what Cassidy Hutchinson testified to earlier this week. Specifically, Ornato denies telling Hutchinson that Donald Trump lunged for the steering wheel inside the presidential SUV, after being told on January 6, he could not go to the Capitol and could not join the riot.

Hutchinson stands by her account. And the committee says it is "absolutely confident" she is telling the truth. It is now weighing well whether to bring back Ornato, bring him back before the panel under oath and in public.

Let's get up to CNN's Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill. Ryan, a big question for the committee. Do they want to hash this out in public? Or do they see that as too risky?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, John, I think there is a lot of aspects of this investigation that fall under that banner. But with, Ornato specifically, it's interesting, just to what level the committee is interested in talking to him about. And do they want to ask him more questions beyond just this individual fracas that may or may not have occurred inside a presidential limo on January 6.

Then Ornato and Bobby Engel, who was the head of that detail also alleged to be a part of this incident that Cassidy Hutchinson told the committee a story that she was told in and around that time, have both already sat for conversations with the January 6 select committee.

Committee members have said that Ornato's version of what happened on that day differs from what Hutchinson said, and they believe Hutchinson over Ornato at this point. But the secret service has said that they are willing to let both of these individuals come before the committee again and testify under oath.

Now, if they do that, John, that opens them up to answering questions on a whole host of things, not just this specific incident as well. And it's important to point out that the committee believes the most important part of that testimony is not whether or not Donald Trump lunged at that steering wheel or even potentially attacked as a member of the secret service.

If that he wanted to go to the Capitol and he was angry about it, and there is no one disputing that fact up until this point. Now, as to whether or not, this all plays out in public. If it does, it may not be for some time. It's clear the committee wants to have this conversation behind closed doors, at least to start and then they'll see if it takes the stage of being another public testimony.

At this point, the committee has not really brought forward individuals or witnesses that could be a little bit conflictual in an open setting, Ornato may fall under that category. Regardless, John, the overarching thing people need to remind themselves of, is that this investigation is still very much in its middle stages here. We're a long way away from things being wrapped up. John?

KING: Ryan Nobles, live on the Hill. Ryan, appreciate you're kicking us off. Let's bring the conversation in the room. With me to share their reporting and their insights, Astead Herndon of The New York Times, Francesca Chambers with USA Today, Nicholas Wu of Politico, and our CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero.

Nicholas, let me start with you on the committee making this choice. As Ryan says, they've had witnesses from Trump world, presenting a damning picture of Trump. One of the challenges if you publicly bring in someone who might defend Trump somewhat or be give a somewhat conflicting account as did does that take you off your message if you're the committee? Or does it maybe help you prove your credibility that we're going to have people come in and go? Clearly committee members do not think Mr. Ornato is a truth teller. This is Stephanie Murphy, one of the members, listen?


REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-FL): Mr. Ornato, did not have as clear of memories from this period of time as I would say Miss Hutchinson did if that's a fair assessment there.


KING: She's being trying to be careful there. Adam Kinzinger, one of the Republicans of the committee put it this way. There seems to be a major threat here. Tony Ornato likes to lie. That's what Kinzinger says. So, what's the calculation for the committee if he is and he is saying, Cassidy Hutchinson didn't have it completely right. You bring him in, or you let it go?


NICHOLAS WU, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, the committee clearly wants to bring Ornato in again behind closed doors. We know from sources around the committee that the Ornato has already been in twice with them. And there were some questions about his testimony even then when he came in in the spring.

And so, you're right, that is the risk. Now if he comes in and if there were some way in which he would come and testify publicly, that he's had been very closely choreographed affairs, all of these hearings. And other than the Cassidy Hutchinson hearing, they've been making more use of recorded testimony and documents and these hearings, and they have the live witnesses, partially because that is something that you control, you can't control live witness quite as much.

KING: Counselor help me from a legal perspective. You know, is the committee help or hurt its case, if it brings in someone who might push back somewhat behind closed doors is one thing. But what if they did it publicly?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's really a strategic decision by the committee in terms of what they're trying to achieve to establish their historical accurate record. It's not quite a legal proceeding. It's a legislative proceeding and an oversight proceeding and an investigative congressional proceeding. So, they want to get to what the truth is.

Cassidy Hutchinson was a very compelling. I found her very credible witness and her public testimony. If now they think there is a dispute, then I think it is - it would make sense for the committee to bring a contradictory witness back in for testimony. I don't think necessarily it has to be in public, it just needs to be under oath.

It could be recorded, and so that they can have a good record of it. It also could be transcribed. And he might behave differently, actually, and be perhaps more forthcoming, not on a big public stage. So, I think there is an argument to be made to bring him back, definitely under oath, not an informal meeting, but definitely under oath, in either a video recorded or a transcribed session. KING: Is it to Ryan Nobles' point, instead maybe what's most important to the committee in the sense that the key point that's not a dispute is that Donald Trump wanted to go. He wants to go to the Capitol. Trump critics relished in the idea that the president was unhinged. And he had this rage. And that's the point that's in dispute. You know, how angry was he? Did he actually reach out for a secret service? How important is that to the committee, I guess is the point?

ASTEAD HERNDON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. It's about this anecdote itself. The only thing that's in dispute is the legitimacy of this specific instance. What is not in dispute is the overall picture that the witness painted. We have not seen that really refuted even from the folks in which she named. There is a picture that is very clear, that says that Donald Trump and those around him knew the risk and the violent risk of the January 6 mob.

And they, not only did not care about those risks, but encourage them. And that's a picture that we have seen consistent throughout these hearings I think it's going to be interesting to see what they do on this disputed point, because we know that kind of Trump world has a history of latching on to these instances and trying to blow up a full scenario. And we know that this is a community that doesn't really have a history of credibility.

You know, as journalists, if we were going to put this person in the story, we would have to know that they have a history of lying. And so, this is a choice that the committee has to make. But it's also about what as you say, is their priority in terms of the narrative.

KING: And we knew, though their priorities trying to get Pat Cipollone, the former Trump White House counsel in. Mr. Cipollone is negotiating, there were some indications of CNN reporting yesterday that maybe they'll work out some kind of a compromise. Liz Cheney has publicly essentially said, look at Cassidy Hutchinson, look this brave young woman. She serves Mr. Cipollone. Why don't you man up and come in too.

She is trying to go to in doing it Peggy Noonan. Francesca writes this in the Wall Street Journal. Almost every book an article about the end of the Trump administration portrays him, meaning Mr. Cipollone as a bit of a hero, so it's generally assumed he was more than a bit of a source. So why so shy now? He owes the public that paid his salary, the truth, and until he does his Washington nickname, Patsy Baloney, will stick. Peggy Noonan for many years. She has a way with words. Again, she's essentially going to, man up.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: When it comes to the testimony and what the committee could do next, you know, the sources I've been speaking to in Trump world, former Trump aides. They're saying that they actually do find Cassidy Hutchinson, by the way to be a really credible witness. They are all speaking to her character. They don't have any reason to disbelieve her.

But one thing that they are saying is that it might help the committee if they could get another corroborating witness who could come in and talk about some of these things. So, to the extent that they could bring in anyone else who could corroborate the stories that she told. You know, their sense of that is that would probably help the committee and by the way, they're again, not disputing the actual accounts of those things that happened.

KING: And somebody with the title White House Counsel, clearly would be a pretty big name to get. Can you help us from a legal perspective, understand this justice department ploy in the separate investigation? They want to know, who is paying the lawyer fees of some of these oath keepers who are charged it related to the insurrection? They specifically want to know if it's the former Trump attorney, Sidney Powell, who was part of the Trump big lie election. Why is that significant? And is there any conflict of interest there?

CORDERO: Well, Sidney Powell was integrally involved in the effort to overturn the election from the perspective of the so-called legal strategy that the former president had. So, she was an integral participant and the justice department, I can imagine a scenario where they have an investigative interest in her. Now, if she is facilitating the financing of the legal fees for some of the current defendants, then that brings into question from the justice department, potential please, potential cooperative relationships with those defendants.


I mean, you really have to step back and think about the fact that the oath keepers and Proud Boys as well, have been charged with seditious conspiracy, which is the most serious charges that we have seen in the January 6 investigation that involves the violent part of trying to prevent the certification of the election. So, there certainly is a conflict between people who were involved in at facilitating the legal fees. And so that would be something that the justice department would want to know.

KING: One of the many fascinating questions as we move into the next chapter, both investigations. Up next for us. Next hour, President Biden meets virtually with Democratic governors about next steps they might take on abortion access.




KING: Next hour, President Biden will meet with nine Democratic governors to discuss ways to protect access to abortion, now that the Supreme Court has reversed Roe v. Wade. The meeting will include the New York Governor Kathy Hochul, and the New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. It is President Biden's first event since returning from his overseas trip, where it is news conference before coming home, he called the Supreme Court decision, outrageous.


PRES. JOE BIDEN, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The one thing that has been destabilizing is the outrageous behavior of the Supreme Court of United States. And overruling not only Roe v. Wade, but essentially challenging the right to privacy.


KING: Our reporters and legal analysts back with us. Francesca, you've covered the White House, why? What is the White House think they can do? Or what are they looking for from the governors to say, hey, try this?

CHAMBERS: Well, mostly what they're trying to do with the governor today is show that Biden is on top of it, right? Because they're getting a lot of heat from the Democratic Party base about, what are you doing about this? What have you been doing about this since last week, when he was abroad in Madrid at that press conference, for instance? And so, they're trying to show, look that he's meeting with these democratic governors that are states.

You know, that are supporting abortion, that are saying if you come to our state, and you need to get an abortion, because your state doesn't allow it anymore, that you know, these are some of the governors who will help support the women doing that. But as President Biden has said in the White House aside, they don't really view that there's much more, John, that the president can do. This is not something that will be solved through executive action.

KING: So, the highest court in the land says, it's up to the states. Well, what can the president do? Is there anything the president or the justice department, the executive branch of the government can do about people who cross state lines or about the ability of states, maybe to track data of women who are looking around to see, you know, what state would I have to go to? Or can I get mail order medications?

CORDERO: I think there is a number of issues. And really waiting until the opinion came out is late, in terms of creating a strategy that is both a legislative strategy and a legal strategy. There is a whole host of issues that are going to come up back through the courts, with respect to medication abortion, with respect to states that might try to limit or impose penalties on women trying to travel to other states, or individuals who might assist them.

There might be action and state constitutions, state legislation. I mean, there is a whole range of activities, the president could have introduced legislation that protects maternal health and see if there's healthcare aspects to this. So, I think there is things that the White House can do.

I think there's a leadership component, governors, for example, and the president could be discussing how they're going to treat the ability of female service members to obtain abortions. There are many female service members who now are on bases in states where the abortion is now illegal. And so or will be soon depending on the implementation of other trigger laws. So, they have a lot of issues to discuss, and I think they're late.

KING: Do you think they're late to it as we watch what the president will do from a policy perspective. We've seen politically this change quickly. In the past week, 90 distinct ads referencing abortion, more than two thirds of them coming from Democratic candidates, who believe and listen here, believe this issue, while they're mad about the policy decision, mad at the court, they think it might help politically.


SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D-WA): I will stop fighting until we guarantee reproductive freedom for every American.

REP. DR. KIM SCHRIER (D-WA): As a doctor, my oath is to protect patients. As your congresswoman, my oath is to protect your rights. Now that the court has overturned Roe, Congress must protect a woman's right to choose.

GOV. NED LAMONT, CONNECTICUT: I've never backed down when it comes to choice and I never will.


KING: It's a mix of candidates and it's coast to coast. Ned Lamont in Connecticut, and Patty Murray in Washington state. The Democrats, are they convinced? Or is this - these ads part of the test? You know, will this work to help us?

HERNDON: I think it's a little bit of both. I think there is certainly a decent amount of evidence that says that we know that public opinion is not where the court is right. And so, you have a kind of constituency base of candidates. We have candidates who are looking to a constituency base and say, I can make inroads on this issue and be a galvanizing issue in the year where Democrats are looking for galvanizing issues.

But I think also, we don't know the scope of the reaction here. I think this is a great point. We have not really seen the White House lead on this issue. I frankly find it baffling that there was not a political strategy or kind of mobilization strategy in place when they had ample warning that this might have been the likely outcome. But I think we're seeing really candidates take their mobilization into their own hands.

They're looking at a Washington where they cannot point to a reconciliation bill. They cannot point to a voting rights bill. They cannot point to climate change legislation. They are reading the same cratering approval numbers among the president space that we all are, and they are really trying to say that, you know, you may not see the president out here on this issue, but you're going to have me out there on this issue. I think this is frankly candidates going past the White House because of the lack of strategy we have seen.


CORDERO: Can I just say one quickly, John?

KING: Yes, please. CORDERO: Because this is part of what came out in the Dobbs' opinion and what the Supreme Court did. They treated it as an issue, as a policy issue. What it is, since it's a right and that's the difference. It's being treated in the political space and the Supreme Court did this as well, as an issue where there's two sides to this issue. And what it is instead, is it the relocation of a fundamental right that American women enjoyed for the last 50 years.

KING: And so, to your point about what's to come, we can show the map. You know, by the time we get to the election, the election is four weeks - four months, excuse me, from next Tuesday. We expect 26 states essentially. You have a dozen states quickly, they immediately trigger laws take effect, other states are going to either have them in place or are planning to pass them. That's the state of play.

Nicholas, members of Congress, you know, they live in the states. They're going home. The president yesterday said, you know what, make that go away by passing a federal law, having Congress pass a law to codify Roe v. Wade. And the president said, he's willing to make an exception to the filibuster here, something he as a former senator has long been reluctant to do, but they don't have the votes, right?

WU: Exactly. That's been the story of this whole Congress. You have the 50-50 senate. You have this tiny majority in the House. Democrats want to do a lot of things, but they just don't have the votes to do it. That bill to codify Roe v. Wade, for example, is something that the House has passed twice already. The Senate has tried to take it up, and they haven't been able to get it through.

And even if they were to try to carve out some sort of filibuster exception, not even every single Senate, Senate Democrat is on board with doing that. And so, this is the same place Democrats have been for the last year and a half.

KING: And from a legal perspective, Carrie, the court has spoken, right? Agree or disagree, the court has spoken? So, when you have these - now you have these actions playing out at the state level and states tried to implement things. In Florida, a judge has temporarily blocked the 15-week abortion ban. In Texas, the attorney general conservative Republican has gone to court, trying to overturn a stay on the Texas law.

He wants the law to take effect in Kentucky, a state court has stopped enforcement of a trigger law. So, at the moment, is there something in this decision, that if one of these lower courts does something, is there any opening to revisit or is that mainly going to be just a stalling tactic?

CORDERO: Well, that's why I thought the president's statement, when the decision came out saying, Roe was on the ballot and the fall was totally wrong, Roe is dead. And so, the case now is Dobbs. And that is what the Supreme Court has ruled. And so, everything that comes up through litigation is going to be on variations of it.

It's going to be these interstate travel issues. It's going to be medical abortion. It's going to be - these types of other issues until the federal government can decide, either they have the enough votes to get a statutory fix in place. And then there is a much longer legal strategy that the community will need to come up with in terms to see if they can get back to the court in some future long-term way to readdress the right as a liberty matter.

And one of the things, John, the solicitor general and the legal advocates who are arguing in these cases, they need to start to deal with the fact that they're dealing with a Supreme Court that is conservative, and it is not the old court. The arguments that were made in this case, they didn't give if there were any justices like Kavanaugh or Gorsuch, who had any inkling of going along with the chief justice. They didn't give them anything to go on. They've just said, either you have to rule against the Mississippi law, or you need to overturn Roe, and that's what this court said.

KING: And you see a strategic mistake there. This will be with us every week and every week and every day because of state by state by state. Up next for us though, a very sobering new poll showing extreme polarization and alienation in U.S. politics. Get this a majority of Americans believe their government is corrupt and yes rigged against you, everyday people.




KING: Quite the homecoming last night for Congresswoman Liz Cheney. Remember she led the questioning Tuesday as Trump west wing insider Cassidy Hutchinson delivered damning testimony to the January 6 committee here in Washington. Wednesday nights, she was in California, speaking at the Reagan Library. Adamant in her view, Republicans must reject Donald Trump and his attacks on truth and democracy. Well, last night, Cheney tried to sell that message back home. On the debate stage against a primary opponent, whose biggest calling card is Trump's endorsement.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): There are politicians in this country, beginning with Donald Trump, who have lied to the American people. And people have been betrayed.

HARRIET HAGEMAN, (R) WYOMING CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: The biggest threat to our republic is the current administration. We have a committee in Congress right now that they're focusing on something that happened 18 months ago. They're not focusing on the issues that are important to the people in Wyoming.

CHENEY: I'd be interested to know whether or not my opponent Ms. Hageman, is willing to say here tonight that the election was not stolen. She knows it wasn't stolen.

HAGEMAN: We have serious questions about the 2020 election.


KING: There are no serious questions about the 2020 election just to get that on the record. This is a marquee race anyway, because Liz Cheney's from a famous political family, but she is also the vice chair of the January 6 committee. And I would say this is the number one Trump vendetta race left on the calendar now that we're past Georgia.

WU: Exactly. I mean, we're still a month and a half out from the actual primary here, but this race is really going to be a test of whether the January 6 committee and its work or resonate with voters. And Congresswoman Cheney has talked about her work for Wyoming. But it seems like the overarching issue here still is the work on January 6, and questions are the issues of the 2020 election. There is some old polling that shows Liz Cheney underwater, but there is still a lot of time left in this race.

KING: A lot of time left. It was one of Trump's best states. The question is, is any of this breaking through, whether it's the trials for about the insurrection, whether it's the January 6 committee hearings. The testimony from people who are loyal to Donald Trump, who are saying these damning things about him.