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Jan 6 Cmte Refers Trump To DOJ With Four Criminal Charges; Rep. Raskin: 1/6 Cmte Referred Charges With "Abundant" Evidence; Tomorrow: Jan 6 Cmte To Release Full Report On Capitol Attack; Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks Order To End Title 42; Natl Guardsmen Mobilized Along El Paso- Ciudad Juarez Border; VP Harris: Migrant Crisis Needs Leadership From Congress; Biden Admin Must Respond To GOP-Led Emergency Appeal Today; McConnell: Entire Nation Knows Who Is Responsible For That Day. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired December 20, 2022 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm Pamela Brown in for John King. A consequential week continues for Donald Trump. First, criminal referrals issued to the DOJ by the January 6 committee and today Trump's tax returns take center stage.
Preparations are underway at the U.S.-Mexico border as cities brace for the end of Title 42 with a last-minute legal fight to keep it in the place, that Biden administration says its reading is response today. And a big step forward in funding. The government lawmakers released the text of a massive spending bill and now it's a race to get that legislation passed into the president's desk.
Up first, the January 6 committee sends the Justice Department four criminal referrals against Donald Trump. And now the big question today, will the DOJ actually charge the former president? The committee released an executive summary of its findings saying, "evidence has led to an overriding and straightforward conclusion. The central cause of January 6 was one man, former President Donald Trump, who many others followed." It's a statement echoed by committee members during their final public meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R-WY) VICE CHAIR, JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE: Every president in our history has defended this orderly transfer of authority, except one.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON, (D-MS) CHAIRMAN, JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE: He lost the 2020 election and knew it. But he chose to try to stay in office through a multi part scheme to overturn the results and blocked the transfer of power. In the end, he summoned a mob to Washington and knowingly they were on and angry, pointed them to the Capitol and told them to fight like hell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And joining me now to share their insights CNN's Paula Reid, CNN's Evan Perez and CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers. All right, so let's start off looking again. I know we've been going over this again and again since yesterday, but the four charges and these criminal referrals include assisting or aiding and insurrection, obstruction of official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and conspiracy to make false statements. And here's what Congressman Jamie Raskin had to say about these referrals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D) JANUARY 6TH COMMITTEE: We only stayed in charges, where we thought that the evidence was abundant or overwhelming. And we believe that the prosecutors could satisfy easily every element of each of those offenses, interference with a federal proceeding was Donald Trump's entire purpose and plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: And it's under Evan to bring you in interference of a proceeding. That is a charge we have seen DOJ bringing in some of the riders but not insurrection. Does DOJ view that charge is something with overwhelming evidence.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I don't think they do. And I think it's something that certainly they looked at when they started doing the investigation after the attack on the Capitol. They've looked at it with some of the people who have been - who have faced charges. And they ended up going away from that, in part because of that there's very little case law.
It's a statute that dates back to the civil war era. And it is not something that prosecutors felt that they could sustain. They ended up choosing to go with seditious conspiracy against some of the oath keepers, some of the Proud Boys members, you know, are also facing some of those charges.
So, that's what they ended up doing. And I think that's probably one of the difficult things for DOJ. They want to make sure, obviously, that, you know, any charge that they bring is something that they can sustain, not only in before a jury, but also on appeal. And so, that's where it gets trickier for them than for this committee.
BROWN: Right, exactly. There was a big difference between political what they think and obviously a DOJ. And it's interesting that the committee had two other charges, seditious conspiracy, which we know DOJ has used in other cases, and conspiracy to impede a federal officer. They're saying, look, we don't have all the tools DOJ does, Jennifer, but we think DOJ should look into these charges a little bit more for Donald Trump. What do you make of that?
JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think that's the right thing to do, Pam. I've been impressed all along with the committee's work. But the restraint that they've shown, I think with these referrals is also really impressive. I mean, they could have said, you should charge seditious conspiracy.
The problem with that charge is it requires the use or intended use of force to overthrow the government. And while they were able to make that case out with the oath keepers and the Proud Boys potentially that trials upcoming, they don't yet have it at least as far as what's been publicly released with respect to the President.
So, we have a little bit of, you know, maybe foreknowledge that some people were armed but not the kind of evidence that shows that he knew there was going to be force used, at least as far as what we've seen. So, I think that they were very smart, not to say you're across the finish line for that. But of course, as Evan said, DOJ has a lot more tools. They're talking to people now.
The committee couldn't talk to you because they either refused or they threw up privileges that have now been set aside by Judge Howell. So, DOJ will get more and the committee's just saying listen, if you get more that establishes this force element, you should charge it.
BROWN: Yes. And you're getting reporting Paula about how Trump world views this of course, they're trying to portray the committee as partisan. Never Trumpers really focusing on what the evidence that they view as exculpatory for the former president not showing that in the hearings, and they think it's an uphill battle, right?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. They think it's an uphill battle for prosecutors to bring a case related to January 6, that against the former president. They said, look, even if you do this, we believe we can successfully put on a defense. That's not surprising that they're saying that we have to remember though, when it comes to the special counsel, the real value for them for the January 6 committee is not necessarily the specific statues, right?
As Jack Smith can read, can read the criminal code. But what's really valuable to them is the evidence that they have gathered, these the transcripts, the interviews, other things that can help Jack Smith, the special counsel in his prosecutorial decisions, in his investigation. The foreign president's lawyers argue, hey, that could be helpful too.
They believe, they look, not everything was presented, they will argue that the committee only presented what was helpful to what they describe as a predetermined narrative. They said, if we have the chance to look through some of these transcripts, we believe we can find evidence that would undercut any argument that this was premeditated. So, everybody wants to get their hands.
BROWN: Yes. And it's unusual, right, for the other side to be able to see all this evidence and the transcripts and so forth?
PEREZ: Right. I mean, that's one of the unusual parts of a congressional investigation. But look, I mean, I think, you know, I think from a Justice Department standpoint, sometimes you look at Congress, and you're like, well, that's nice that you guys did all of that. But we have our own thing going. And it is important for the - for prosecutors to be on an independent lane. But I do think that we do have to step back and look at the importance of this document that they're producing. And that we expect, we're going to see the full report and, of course, all of the transcripts. The Congress was a victim of a crime on January 1, 2021.
And so, for them to speak in a bipartisan manner from this committee. I think it's a very important moment for the Justice Department, because it is something that's going to play into how they treat the former president, for instance.
BROWN: Exactly. And also, some of what the congressional committee has alleged with perjury, witness tampering, that is evidence unique to what the committee has, that it's going to be handed over to the Justice Department. And on that note, I mean, really stuck out to me what was in this executive summary, Paula, with allegations of witness tampering?
How Trump world tried to influence the witnesses, as the committee alleges through? How they're paying the lawyers and how the lawyers were advising the witnesses who were speaking to the committee and how Donald Trump himself, the committee says, was reaching out to some of the witnesses?
REID: Exactly. Now, for those of us who have covered the various investigations into the former president over the past five or six years, it's not terribly surprising that this is the way they operate. But it was one of the really interesting and damning findings out of the committee's hearing yesterday.
But again, when it comes to the Justice Department, the bar is really high for them, which is why they're going to have to look at all the evidence that was collected. They have a much higher standard to bring charges, and then to successfully bring a defense. To Evan's point about how this really is significant for Congress because they were the victim of a crime here.
There's also another side of that, which is that his lawyers may now try to argue that this investigation that the Justice Department has tried so hard to argue as a political is now politicized. One talking point, they're pushing out is they're going to try to argue well, Jack Smith and Merrick Garland didn't do anything until a democratic led committee encouraged them to do so. Now, of course, it is bipartisan. They argue it's one sided. So, it's a messy situation that gets a little bit messier once you bring Congress into it.
BROWN: Yes. It is kind of a double-edged sword for DOJ though, that the on one hand, they might be concerned about the optics of it being a political investigation. But on the other hand, this is really important evidence to supplement what they already have.
All right, thank you all so much. Paula, Jennifer, Evan, appreciate it. Soon on Capitol Hill, a key House committee is expected to vote this afternoon on whether to release details of former President Trump's tax returns to the public.
The House Ways and Means Committee just got access to the Trump tax documents last month after years of fighting in the courts. And unlike his predecessors, Trump never released his tax information as a candidate or while he was in office.
CNN's Lauren Fox is live on Capitol Hill. Hi, Lauren?
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi. Yes. I mean, look, this is a consequential meeting up here on Capitol Hill today. It will begin at three o'clock. We expect that the committee will quickly go into an executive session behind closed doors, cameras, reporters kicked out of the room. Then they will have a wide-ranging discussion about what they want to do with this tax information, about former President Donald Trump.
At that point, they will vote to come out of the executive session and then we will see with our own eyes how they vote and what they decide to do. This is an important day for the former president, obviously this is something that his lawyers had been battling in court for years.
This is also an important day for oversight for House Democrats because they had been fighting for this information for years as well, promising that this was going to be part of their agenda when they were elected in the midterms in 2018. So, a very important day up here on Capitol Hill, and we'll keep you posted as to what they decide to release.
BROWN: All right, sounds good. Thanks so much, Lauren Fox. Well, down to the wire just hours before Trump era border policy is set to expire. The Supreme Court says, not so fast as towns along the border brace for a massive influx of migrants. We are live in El Paso, next?
BROWN: Uncertainty and concern at the southern border as the U.S. deals with a migrant crisis. U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts is calling for a temporary hold on the lifting of title 42 And he is given the Biden administration until 5pm to respond the Pandemic era policy which allows border agents to turn migrants away was set to end tomorrow.
The looming deadline now puts even more strain on border towns, already facing a surge in illegal crossings. CNN's Ed Lavandera has been following the story for us from El-Paso. So, Ed, what do you see now that the order has been paused?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we can tell from our vantage point, everything seems to be moving along as if Title 42 is going to be lifted tomorrow despite all of the last minute legal wranglings that continue in Washington. But here city officials and county officials say that they are preparing as if Title 42 is going to be lifted. There was a state of emergency order issued over the weekend. Folks here say that they're really focused on opening up more shelter space and food situation medical supplies, whatever it might be needed. City officials and county officials are talking about opening up several warehouses, even some unused schools that could house temporarily migrants as they move on to other destinations in the United States.
But Pamela also, the big news of the day is just how things have dramatically changed. On the river front here in El Paso between El Paso and Juarez. This is an area where many migrants, thousands of migrants have crossed in the last week or so. And this morning, Texas national guard and state troopers started erecting almost a mile long chain link fence with barbed wire.
This is a dramatic change, and not a welcome change but from what we're hearing here initially in El Paso, this spokesperson with the Texas military department says that the fence and the barbed wire went up because of the national guard soldiers that are now here in this area that they it was done not in consultation with the border patrol or local authorities.
And this has rubbed some people here in El Paso the wrong way. The county judge saying this was exactly the kind of uncoordinated activity that he feared if state resources were brought in to work in this situation. So, you know, here on the eve of the expected lifting of Title 42, you know, more confusion and controversy swirling around how all of this has been handled
BROWN: Yes. And more confusion and controversy and after the Supreme Court weighed in. Thanks so much, Ed Lavandera. Joining us now to discuss Seung Min Kim of the Associated Press, Margaret Talev of Axios, and Cleve Wootson of The Washington Post. Great to have you all on.
Look, no doubt about it. No matter if you're a Democrat or Republican, immigration is a politically at times precarious issue, right? And when it comes to Title 42 for the Biden administration, it has had an interesting relationship with, right? And Biden during the campaign, campaign against it and his administration warmed up to it than it was ready to sort of pull back and now we're in the situation, right? How do you expect the Biden administration to respond to the Supreme Court?
MARGARET TALEV, MANAGING EDITOR, AXIOS: Well, we're all going to be watching today for those responses. But fundamentally, like for the Biden administration, the challenge has been that they understand that without Title 42, there can be and will be surge, as the problem be even more acute than it has been. But here's the longer-term problem. Title 42 is predicated on a public health emergency and that public health emergency since the Trump administration has been COVID.
Some of the very same Republican attorneys general, people around the country who are arguing against lifting Title 42 have been arguing for two years, that COVID is not really that much of a public health emergency. And it was a bigger problem for kids and schooling and businesses. So, I think legally, there's a question which is, can you - is there a legal predicate for there being a public health emergency that isn't COVID?
BROWN: Yes. Because Governor Abbott of Texas is the one who was saying, well, this is a public health emergency, these migrants coming in. But yes, you're right, he had been arguing COVID.
TALEV: But even beyond, so that's the legal predicate. But there's a separate question, which is like Title 42 is a fig leaf to fix a problem that requires much bigger legislative fix that balances the needs for labor. We're seeing demands on the you know, there's no jobs that you know, there's ridiculously low unemployment, jobs can't be filled.
There's a need for labor, and then there's a need to protect borders and national security. This is the kind of thing that like if Congress worked, Congress would be dealing with Congress can't do anything. They can't even - people's own parties can't pick their leadership, like there's not an immigration fix. And so, this is the bigger problem that underlies all this.
BROWN: And it's interesting because the Vice President Kamala Harris. She did, she put the onus on Congress. Let's listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT (Voiceover): I think that it is right to say that we need leadership on this issue, in particular from Congress. Now the President and I and our administration, we're going to do everything that's within our ability as the executive branch. And that means again, putting more agents on the border as appropriate so that we can manage what might be an influx.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: What do you make of what she said? We should note too that Biden puts the vice president in charge of helping stem the flow of migrants.
SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, it just shows you how much they are reliant on not functioning Congress to implement so much on immigration policies. And what you heard, particularly from the White House yesterday, when Karine Jean-Pierre got questions on this over and over, is that we are trying with the limited resources that we have in terms of surging border agents, trying to expedite processing. But we can't do that at a minimum without more funding from Congress.
We're talking about the yearend spending process look right now. Democrats have been pushing for more money. It appears they're not going to get the amount that the administration had asked for. But on a broader scale, what the White House keeps pointing to is the fact that there has to be a broader immigration solution here. They point to the fact that President Biden released a comprehensive immigration proposal literally on day one of his time in office. What they don't point out is that that plan could not get enough even Democratic support in Congress, which is why it kind of collapse so early on, and they've been able - they've been kind of left with trying to deal with this issue on an executive level, which is, as we know, very difficult.
BROWN: Cleve, what do you make of the vice president saying that, when the president had put her in charge of dealing with these central American countries trying to stem the flow, but she's saying this is really Congress's problem at the end?
CLEVE WOOTSON, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, it's extremely interesting and that's been her take, really, since the president put her in charge that he's in charge of focusing on root causes, what is getting people to come to the United States, not the issues that are going on at the border. But I think what, if you kind of take a step back, what it really points to is that the Biden administration is in a vise, right?
On one hand, you have Biden saying, we want a safe, orderly and humane immigration system. On the other hand, you have, you know, White House inside are sort of looking at, going back to the same asylum system that Trump had. So, it's just, you know, it gets tighter and tighter as more time goes on.
BROWN: Yes. One of the proposals that our reporting indicates could come out is a asylum policy, where if someone comes to the border, claimed asylum, but they could have sought refuge in another country, they will be turned away. How do you think that's going to play?
TALEV: This is all of a piece, again, this is trying to manage - to manage a problem that is much larger than these technical fixes and loopholes. And what these are all meant to do is, is given out - give exceptions if exceptions are needed, and to balance sort of the need to be humane against the need to have some rules and some barriers.
But again, I do think that immigration has always been about balancing, multiple needs, political, economic, public safety, labor, that doesn't address - that addresses the margins of it, it doesn't address the bigger problem. And I do think, like, look, any administration can try to use executive power around the edges to at least test the courts or slow things down or speed things up.
But fundamentally, when money and law enforcement and manpower is attached to it, that requires agreement from two parties in Congress, and until we're in a place where that can happen. All these slapdash fixes, the pendulum swings are going to keep going on between administration.
BROWN: We'll get them know how much is put toward the border and that's this problem. You know, I've talked to several Democrats, a Democrat in a border town, who told me over the weekend when I interviewed him that, he'd like to see the president visit the border, just to at least in the signal, it's a priority, as well as the vice president. What do you think about that? KIM: Well, it's tricky issue for the president. And when you ask White House officials, as they will say we are focused on a broader solution that just kind of a mere photo op of the president going to the border is not actually going to solve the problem here. They point to the fact that the DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has been to the border.
But the fact that you have Democrats criticizing the Biden administration on this is again, a problem for the White House that you have, you know, members of Congress like Henry Cuellar (Ph) are pushing to come - pushing for Biden to come to the border, that you have Joe Manchin pushing for an extension of title 42, which the White House has said they are bound by court order to lift. It creates a lot of political struggles when they have divisions among his own party.
BROWN: All right. Thank you all so much. Appreciate your insights. And still ahead. The reaction pours in following the January 6 committee's criminal referrals and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell not holding back on the former president.
BROWN: The reaction has been swift after the January 6 committee's decision to send four criminal referrals to the DOJ regarding Donald Trump. Among the members of the GOP, it has been a mixed bag, some Republican Trump - some Republicans say from the fallout the referrals. They're accusing the committee of plain politics, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell aimed squarely at the former president saying in a statement, "the entire nation knows who was responsible for that day."
All right, our panel is back. You know, you have Mitch McConnell and Marjorie Greene with the committee members that Donald Trump was the reason for the insurrection on January 6?
KIM: Right. I have found, and again, it is still early because this all happened yesterday. But I have found sort of the broad at best muted defense from the Republican Party pretty interesting because we've seen how so often in the past when the president - with former president has gone through these legal troubles or other troubles.