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High: Bannon Changes Tune, Now Says He'll Testify To Jan 6 Cmte; Jan 6 Cmte: Next Hearing To Focus On Extremists Who Attacked Capitol; Lofgren Expects Testimony From Bannon, But Not In Live Hearing; DOJ: Bannon's Desire To Testify Is "Not Genuine"; DOJ: Bannon Turnabout On Testifying Is "Irrelevant"; Ex-WH Aide: Meadows Wanted To Meet Bannon At Willard Hotel; Prosecutors Lay Out New Details Of Militia Group's Actions; Biden: U.S. Faces A "Moral Choice" On Gun Violence. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired July 11, 2022 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. Steve Bannon's big change in legal strategy. The mega provocateur now says, he'll testify to the committee, investigating the insurrection. Prosecutors though, call it a last-minute charade.
Plus, the committee is back at work tomorrow. The next public hearing promises to Venn diagram the overlap between the far-right rioters and Donald Trump's inner circle. And you might call it gas diplomacy, prices at the pump are going down as President Biden heads off for a consequential Middle East trip. His itinerary includes Saudi Arabia and the crown prince he vowed to make a pariah. Now, Biden says his goal is to quote reorient not quote rupture, the Saudi relationship.
Up first for us though, a flurry of new legal filings in the Steve Bannon case, with important consequences for the justice department and the January 6 committee. Today, Bannon's lawyer signaling a dramatic 11th hour change in legal strategy. Their clients they say, now wants to cooperate. Federal prosecutors though call Bannon's change of tune, quote, irrelevant. That's their word to his trial for contempt of Congress.
But Bannon's big about face does create a new conundrum for the select committee. The committee is set to resume public hearings tomorrow. The major focus will be to draw the line between the far-right plot to storm the Capitol, and to Donald Trump and his inner circle. Bannon with his knowledge could play tour guide to the constellation of extremists that descended on the Capitol. And what, if any, direct interaction they had with the former president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP CHIEF STRATEGIST: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this, all hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It's not going to happen like you think it's going to happen. OK. It's going to be quite extraordinarily different. And all I can say is strap in, the war room a posse, you've made this happen and tomorrow it's game day. So, strap in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: But and this is important. Bannon is also a known liar, something that is reinforced in the new legal proceedings. Trump and Bannon said, he couldn't cooperate with the committee until now, because the former president had invoked executive privilege, but Trump's own lawyer says in court filings that never happened. Bannon also set a condition that his testimony be at a public hearing. Don't hold your breath, waiting for the committee.
To agree to that. Let's get straight up to Capitol Hill, begin our coverage with CNN's Ryan Nobles. Ryan, what are we expecting?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, John, to say the very least that committee is skeptical of Steve Bannon's desire now to be open about what he knows about what happened on January 6. To be clear, they take his testimony, if they were able to get it on their terms. That means a closed-door deposition where he is under oath, and they can ask him the very specific questions that they're looking for.
They are not willing to turn this into abandoned sideshow. Meaning that they rushed him into public testimony that would happen this week, next week or even this month, that is not at all what they're looking for.
And I had one source connected to the select committee describe what Bannon is attempting to do here, is nothing more than a bank robber, coming to authority six months after he stole the money, handing the money back in and saying, don't find me guilty. That's not what's going to happen here.
And the Department of Justice appears to be on the same page with the select committee. And that they don't find the information that Bannon has been valuable enough to allow him to escape, to escape the criminal charges he has in front of him.
So, expect everything to move ahead as it had been planned, at least from the committee and the Department of Justice's perspective when it comes to Bannon. The committee is much more focused on what's going to happen tomorrow. And that's their next public hearing, which is going to be focused on the role of these domestic extremist groups that were in great supply here on Capitol Hill on January 6.
The oath keepers, the proud boys, three percenters and other, the committee is going to hear from a person directly connected to the oath keepers, a former spokesperson who basically said that he was a paid hired hand for that group and has a lot of inside knowledge as to what that group was up to in the days leading up to January 6.
The big question, though, John, is will they be able to demonstrate a direct connection between these groups and members of Trump's inner circle? You know, we know there are ties with people like Roger Stone and others, and many of them were at the Willard Hotel in the days leading up to January 6, and there's testimony that Mark Meadows wanted to be a part of that meeting.
We're going to have to see tomorrow night if the committee can find a way to make those ties even stronger as they build the case that Donald Trump is directly responsible for what happened here on January 6. John?
Ryan Nobles is live for us up on Capitol Hill, a few days ahead. Ryan, thanks so much. With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, Politico's Nicholas Wu, Margaret Talev of Axios, and our CNN legal analyst, Elliot Williams.
So, the committee has the choice to make, do you cut this deal with Steve Bannon. He does have a lot of valuable information. He was running the so-called war room at the Willard Hotel, heading up to the insurrection. But he is also just a known liar, and he's aiming wants the drama of this, he wants the fundraising of this, to be honest.
I have the letter here. This is the letter from Donald J. Trump, in which over the weekend, he says that when you first received the subpoena to testify and provide documents, I invoked executive privilege, that's what President Donald Trump says in this letter. Now, he says never mind, you can go testify.
Well, here is what the U.S. attorney says, the former president never invoked executive privilege or any particular information or materials. The defendant's attorney misrepresented to the committee that the former president's counsel had told that to the defendant's attorney. In court now, Donald Trump's own lawyer has told them that never happened. So, Trump lied, Bannon lied. Why trust him as a witness?
NICHOLAS WU, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, that's exactly why there's so much skepticism among the select panel about this. What appears to be this kind of last ditch offer from Steve Bannon, as this court case is moving on. As Ryan was saying that, all along committee members have stressed that witnesses don't get to set the terms of their own interviews. The committee lays out the terms. They want the closed-door interview or deposition. They want people on camera, and then they can talk about any sort of public testimony. But you don't get to go public from the get-go.
KING: Right. And to that point, as you jump in Margaret, legislative Zoe Lofgren, a member of the committee, who's been through this and experience. She's experienced from the impeachment. She's an experienced attorney. Outside the courtroom, she understands the drama of Steve Bannon. She says, we would love to hear from you, but our terms, not yours.
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): I expect that we will be hearing from him. And there are many questions that we have for him.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Would it be a public hearing? Or would it be behind closed doors?
LOFGREN: Ordinarily, we do depositions, you know, this goes on for hour after hour after hour, we want to get all our questions answered. And you can't do that in a live format.
KING: Also, hard to keep discipline with a Steve Bannon in a live format.
MARGARET TALEV, MANAGING EDITOR, AXIOS: And also, what the committee would find more valuable is documents, text messages, things that can't be spun, things that just are and exist and where they can connect the dots. And I think this is obvious, but a big part of the committee's concern is, you know, give someone the microphone and a television camera and let them go at it. What they're looking for is not that, it's the other stuff.
KING: And yet, an incredibly valuable witness. If you did get him in terms of firsthand conversations with Donald Trump, a lot of conversations with Michael Flynn's, Rudy Giuliani's, all the other people who we know were involved in. I was about to use the term mischief and I stopped myself because of the stakes involves here.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, right. There was an insurrection, there was violence, obviously, and there was Steve Bannon in the middle of it all, saying strap into his listeners in the day leading up to January 6, in the war room at that Trump hotel, some people apparently wanted to be in on that meeting.
So, he is a really important nexus in terms of connecting dots, Trump, and also sort of the outside groups to the more nefarious groups like the oath keepers, that he has any contact with them. He has refused so far to give up any of these documents. He clearly wants a kind of public hearing, because that's going to, you know, he's a bit of a buffoon and a clown.
And so, he wants that kind of platform to probably argue some ridiculous points and the committee smart to say, no, we want to see you behind closed doors. We'll see if it happens. He's clearly in this point, before this trial, where he's trying to (crosstalk)
KING: Right. He likes the theater, without a doubt. However, is this short, he would like a public hearing, but it is this more he would not like a jail cell. Forgive me. For months, he has said, I will not cooperate. He was held in contempt of the United States Congress. Now, as his trial is about to begin, which could include jail time. He says, oh, I'll cooperate if you meet my condition.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: And it's just sort of like, you know, Ryan uses similar analogy. Look, if you assault somebody and beat them up, and then bring them band-aids the next day and say, well, you know, I didn't assault you. Look, I'm helping you get better. It just doesn't change that the underlying crime happened. What happened was he was held in contempt for number one, not submitting documents. And number two, not appearing for testimony. Even if he shows up to a hearing, there's still those documents. So, this is all a stunt to trick people who don't know about the process and the law. And if you say the words executive privilege enough times, I think people think you're saying something serious. But at the end of the day, no, it doesn't change the crime you committed.
KING: And so, I want to read from Matthew Graves, is the U.S. attorney. The defendant's last-minute efforts to testify almost nine months after his default, has still made no effort to produce records are irrelevant to whether he willfully refuse to comply. So, you say stunt. What is the legal jeopardy if Steve Bannon went to trial and was convicted?
WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, he would still be - could still be convicted of contempt for his conduct before. This is just a stunt to try to come up and start testifying about the deep state and the globalist elites that are running it this proceeding and so on. So, he doesn't really change.
KING: And again, back to his partner, again I'll choose my words carefully, I'll just say a partner. I will finish the sentence. This is the letter from Donald Trump of the week. And when you first received the subpoena to testify and provide documents, I invoked executive privilege. That's what Donald Trump says. His own lawyer, his old lawyer in a court filing where you're under oath, your job and your career are at risk, says that never happened. So again, Trump lies.
TALEV: Surprise, surprise. I mean, that's why what is - that's why what is of use to the committee are things that can be verified or things that can be refuted. And somebody's testimony, if they - unless someone has a differing point of view, someone's testimony is just testimony. So, I just think these are all part of the panel.
WILLIAMS: Well, at the end of the day, there's still an open legal question as to whether privilege is even traced away in the first place, because Biden is the president of the United States, controls the what's called the privileges over, but that's like me saying, do you, you know, John, I grant you executive privilege to eat a hoagie with extra ham on it after this (crosstalk) why to give the privilege.
TALEV: Pat Cipollone, the former White House counsel managed to find about eight hours of stuff to talk about that wasn't covered by a lawyer - the lawyer.
KING: Yes, to put you on it.
WU: Yes. I mean, and that's why it's so interesting that over the weekend, we reported that Bannon seems to be willing to turn over these documents to the select panel. And so, it seems there's an alternate path here, kind of like we've seen with other Trump allies, like the former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik. Where you protest about the committee, you say - you try to lay out all these terms about testimony, and then you might end up going in, but more importantly, you give all these documents to the committee. And that's where we have found out about some of the plot to seize voting machines and the like.
KING: And the prospect of a cell sometimes does change your outlook, and thus change your outlook on life. Up next, we'll get to the new details on the focus of tomorrow's January 6 committee hearing. Connecting the dots between Trump's inner circle and the far-right extremist groups who of course took part in the Capitol attack.
KING: Tomorrow the January 6 committee looks to prove violence was part of the plan on January 6, not a spontaneous spin off. Committee members promised over the weekend to map out the planning, extremist groups undertook once Donald Trump tweeted plans for a big January 6 event. And the committee says, it will link key Trump allies directly to the armed horde that stormed the Capitol
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Those of you that don't have the moral fiber in your body, get some tonight because tomorrow we the people are going to be here.
BANNON: Now we're on as they say the point of attack. Right the point of attack tomorrow. It's going to kick off. It's going to be very dramatic.
ALI ALEXANDER, "STOP THE STEAL" ORGANIZATION: We are the majority and Trump won, Trump won, Trump won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Right now, the only known witness for tomorrow you see it right there, Jason Van Tatenhove. He's a former propagandist for the oath keepers that far right militia group whose members, several members face charges for seditious conspiracy. Our reporters and analysts back with us.
The challenge for the committee, Margaret, is the relationships between the proud boys, the oath keepers and people close to Trump are very well known, easy to document the relationship. The question is, are there communications about January 6, specifically, and about violence?
TALEV: That's exactly right. Along those lines, there are many questions, which is, at what point did those communications begin? How close was that orbit of folks influencing these groups? And what were they actually, if anything instructed to do. We heard one important clue during Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony, and that was that the former chief of staff Mark Meadows.
At one point wanted to go down to the Willard Hotel where this war room was being operated on the eve and that, she in her early 20s, and probably others advised him, don't do that. That's a bad idea. But the reason why that would have been a bad idea is because that goes to this question of coordination.
So, there are a lot of questions here, even for this committee, and certainly for the justice department about what's protected speech versus what is non-protected speech and violent action. But another important question when it goes to trying to connect the dot to the former president is, what was his communication with any of these folks? And not just did he communicate, but what did he communicate? What did he know? And what did he advise?
KING: So, let's listen to that piece of Cassidy Hutchinson because it becomes critical. She is an aide of course to the White House chief of staff. She talks in there her testimony about, trying to come in to get his attention on big things and he's scrolling through his phone. He's reading text messages, and yet she says he wanted to go to this hotel near the White House, where the outside. Again, I was about to use mischief makers. People who are trying to help Donald Trump steal the election. We're now planning for this big rally. Listen?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE AIDE: Mr. Meadows had a conversation with me, or he wanted me to work with secret service on a movement from the White House to the Willard Hotel, so he could attend the meeting, or meetings with Mr. Giuliani and his associates in the war room.
I had made it clear to Mr. Meadows that, I didn't believe it was a smart idea for him to go to the Willard Hotel that night. Throughout the afternoon, he mentioned a few more times going up to the Willard Hotel that evening. And then eventually dropped the subject the night of the fifth and said that he would dial in instead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Mentioned it several times, then says he'll dial in instead. The question is, did Cipollone talk about this in his testimony? We may see snippets of that tomorrow. Was there a more senior person? I'm not criticizing her work at all, and I think her testimony is fantastic. But was there a more senior person versed in the law who understood this?
HENDERSON: Right. I mean, listen, it's remarkable that Mark Meadows is being discouraged to go to this meeting by this young woman and his age. Apparently, the committee is going - we're going to see some more of the Cipollone testimony tomorrow. And also, there is going to be this focus on is December 18th meeting where Sidney Powell was, where Michael Flynn was.
[12:20:00] And it's after this meeting that Donald Trump sends out the tweet and says, listen, come, there's going to be rally, it's going to be really wide. It's going to be wide. And so, what does that mean, right? I mean, what are the sort of discussions in that meeting where there is this idea that it's going to be wild, and then later hear Bannon, essentially echoing the same thing to his listeners on his podcast.
KING: And this is a place where you have again, this January 6 committee investigation, the Congress. But then you have all these justice department prosecutions of many of the same players involved. And this is where the justice department investigations are helpful if you will. Sometimes it's the committee testimony to help the justice department.
And in this case, the justice department find details that they found documents labeled death list in an oath keeper's home, had military style training canceled. The weeks prior to January 6, advise members to purchase burner phones and to wear disguises, and they plan to shoot police, if police attempted arrest. Now, that's in a court filing. The challenge for the committee is to connect that planning to people close to Donald Trump.
WILLIAMS: Now, here's the thing. The challenge is to connect that plenty of people close to Donald Trump if they wish to charge Donald Trump or someone else with a crime. Even if you don't reach the level of being able to charge a crime, it's still horribly objectionable, historically bad conduct, and we should not lose sight of that fact.
Now look, there's two different questions to answer, John. Number one, did people seek to do harm to the United States on January 6? Now, there's no question about that. Now, the second question is the harder one, which is, you know, were folks in the White House either specifically aware of did they intend to encourage it or support it
Now the committee is sort of hinted that they have some evidence that will link those two things. But we know that the first happened, we know that the proud boys and oath keepers and the kinds of messages that you saw there. But you know, did the president support that explicitly is just trickier.
TALEV: But they thought they were acting on behalf of his wishes that has been asked.
WILLIAMS: But here's the thing. You know, again, I may think, I'm in the cult of John King, right, and carrying---
KING: Small group.
WILLIAMS: A small group of people, but a loyal group of people, John, but carrying out things at the direction of John King. That doesn't mean that you specifically had directed me to do it right. In my in a very well could be the case. But what's in the person carrying out its head is very different than.
KING: But this is where the committee values Cipollone, right? Because you have the White House Counsel and esteemed member of the DC bar now working in the United States government. And Zoe Lofgren over the weekend, saying that he has eyes on just about every key element of what they call a seven-part conspiracy.
WU: Exactly. He sat for - what looks like it was, nearly eight hours with the committee last week. And this has given the committee a whole trove of potential evidence to use in these committee hearings. Cipollone, we know was present for many of these meetings and a key source of pushback and even threatened to resign something that Jared Kushner had called whining in his testimony to the committee. And so, this could be part of how the committee tries to show the convergence between Trump world and these extremist groups, even if not explicit things.
KING: If not the explicit. We'll watch, we'll see it's starting tomorrow. Just a short time ago, for us President Biden praising the first major federal gun safety law in three decades. Victims of gun violence and survivors by his side at the White House. That's next.
KING: President Biden last hour held an event to celebrate the new gun safety law. And to highlight other executive actions, he says will help at least make a dent in the nation's gun violence epidemic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRESIDENT: What we are doing here today is real. It's vivid. It's relevant. We face literally a moral choice in this country, moral choices around real-world implications. Will we take Y steps with feeling responsibility to protect the innocent and while keeping faith with the constitutional rights? Will we match thoughts and prayers with action? I say yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That event an effort by the White House to show progress at a time voters look at any polling, pessimistic about the direction of the country and Democrats increasingly frustrated with the president and with his team. Our reporters are back. Even at this event, sometimes we focus on what can often be petty political disputes in Washington, even at the president's own event.
Manuel Oliver stood up and protested. He's the parent. He is the parent of a Parkland victim. And he says - you see the scene here. He says the legislation the president side is simply inadequate, doesn't go far enough. I am not going to question this man's outrage or disappointment in this. But it's remarkable to see the president echoing at his own event.
HENDERSON: No, it's true. And you imagine this man is in an enduring, unmanageable type of pain for what he is - him and his family has been through. So, I'll praises to him for doing that. In some ways, he is echoing the sentiment of a lot of Democratic supporters of this president, who say that he isn't feeling the kind of urgency around these moments, whether it's guns, whether it's abortion, or whether it's the state of our democracy.
And you see that reflected in the polling, right? 64 percent of Democrats don't want him to run again. His approval rating is something like a 33 percent, and that's because it's so low among Democrats. I thought it was fascinating the way Joe Biden use the words, this is real vivid and relevant, because he's really trying to make his presidency, some of the policies that he's an active are real to voters.