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Today: Zelenskyy To Meet With Biden At WH, Address Congress; Official: Biden To Announce $1.8 Billion In New Aid To Ukraine; Today: Biden Invites Zelenskyy To U.S. As Ukraine War Enters "New Phase"; Patriot Missiles Part Of New $1.8B Aid Package For Ukraine; Today: Jan 6 Cmte To Release Full Report; Ex-Trump Lawyer Passantino Denies Urging Witness To Mislead Panel; CNN: 1/6 Cmte Started Handling Over Materials To Justice Dept. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 21, 2022 - 12:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm Pamela Brown in for John King. A historic day as Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy heads to Washington D.C. on tap a meeting with President Biden and an address to Congress. His message, Ukraine needs more support to fend off Russia.

Also happening today, the January 6 committee is expected to release its final report. In just moments from now Chairman Bennie Thompson will take to the House floor. And of course, we will bring that to you live. And this is happening as the committee is accusing a former Trump ethics lawyer, at telling star witness Cassidy Hutchinson to give misleading testimony. And the Biden administration telling the Supreme Court let Title 42 end, but there's a caveat. They want more time to prepare for an influx of migrants.

Up first, a dramatic surprise visit for the first time since Russia attacked Ukraine 300 days ago, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy is making a trip outside of his war-torn country. The leader is on his way to the United States to meet with President Joe Biden, who tweeted this morning, I hope you're having a good flight Volodymyr. I'm thrilled to have you here much to discuss.

And part of that discussion, Biden will announce nearly $2 billion in additional security assistance to Ukraine. Zelenskyy will also deliver a primetime address to Congress as lawmakers consider an additional $45 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine. All of this, while Russian attacks intensify against the Ukrainian people heading into the winter.

So, let's go straight to MJ Lee at the White House. MJ, tell us more about this historic visit?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pam, we certainly expect this visit to be very heavy on symbolism. Here is a Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a wartime president who is coming to the United States. It's the first time he has left the country since the invasion began back in February to try to rally the American public and really the rest of the world to try to continue supporting the war and Ukrainian efforts to fight the Russian aggression.

And I should point out that is a shared goal by President Biden. He too has been trying to rally international partners to continue supporting Ukrainian efforts. And to that end, we know that he is going to be unveiling a new aid package that amounts to some $1.8 billion. That of course, is going to include that Patriot missile system that is incredibly sophisticated, and that Ukrainians have been asking for so long.

And I think we can't overstate just what a pivotal moment in the war this visit is coming on. U.S. officials have said and have made clear around this visit, that they are entering a new phase in this war that the kinds of weapons that are being used on the ground, that they have changed the ways in which Russia is attacking Ukraine that they have changed as well.

And the question of just exactly how this war is finally going to come to an end. That is expected to be a topic of discussion, of course, for these two leaders. U.S. officials have made very clear in recent days that they simply do not see Vladimir Putin as somebody who is interested in engaging in diplomacy, who is interested in ending this war anytime soon.

Now, I will just note in terms of the schedule, Zelenskyy is only going to be on U.S. soil for just a number of hours. He will be at the White House this afternoon, and then heads to Capitol Hill, where he will be delivering remarks in the evening, Pam?

BROWN: A whirlwind trip and historic trip. Thanks so much. We appreciate it. Let's go now to CNN's Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill. So, Lauren, Zelenskyy is expected to address Congress this evening, as we just discussed. What can we expect to hear?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, this is going to be an important symbol as lawmakers are considering passing that huge spending bill at the end of the year that includes additional assistance for Ukraine. Some of the members in this audience tonight are going to be people who are going to vote against that legislation. A lot of conservatives were being asked by their leadership not to support the huge spending bill that would fund the government through next year.

So that is an important element of all of this. Also underscoring this is this House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is probably last time inviting a foreign dignitary to address the House of Representatives and lawmakers in this joint meeting.

It's significant also because Pelosi wrote today to members that for her personally, her father was actually in the House of Representatives in 1941 when Churchill came and addressed, Congress asking for more support in the war in Europe. So obviously, the symbolism here is really heavy on Capitol Hill. And it's really an important moment for the speaker herself as she prepares to leave that position and step down from that post.

[12:05:00] BROWN: All right, Lauren. Lauren Fox, appreciate it. And joining me now to further discuss Leon Panetta, a former Defense Secretary and former CIA Director under President Obama, and also the former Clinton White House Chief of Staff. Also joining us, CNN national security analyst Beth Sanner and former Deputy Director of National Intelligence. Thank you both for coming on.

Director, I want to start with you on this because as we've been discussing, there's huge symbolism here and importance of this visit. And it's coming at a time that the U.S. assistance to Ukrainians that support is being tested. How critical is the timing of this visit?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think it's extremely critical. And it's a very important event to have the President Zelenskyy, a wartime leader, meeting with the president and then speaking to Congress, because in many ways, President Zelenskyy is fighting.

I think one of the most important wars of the 21st century because it's a war that is not only on behalf of protecting democracy for Ukraine, I think it's a war fighting to protect democracies from the kind of aggression that Putin conducted against Ukraine. This is a very important moment for the country.

BROWN: What do you think, Beth?

BETH SANNER, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I think if you add to that, the people who are speaking out against are showing some skepticism, are also the people who are pounding the table about China, which is warranted. But if we do not oppose Russia now, if we do not oppose Putin now, we're allowing this kind of rule of law, problems to be happening with China and Taiwan. So, I think that people need to look ahead and see this as a long game for the global world order.

BROWN: I'm wondering Director, what are the tangibles you think could come out of this meeting between Presidents Zelenskyy, a wartime president and President Biden, and then the joint address to Congress. As we keep hearing from analysts and experts and the administration, Russia has no intention of peacefully ending this war. The U.S. is already committing $1.8, nearly $2 billion that's expected to be announced soon. Adding to nearly $20 billion, that's on top of the $46 billion in the omnibus. What do you expect to come out of this?

PANETTA: I think the most important message that can come out is that the United States and our allies are strongly unified in support of Ukraine. This is a moment in time that truly is going to test, whether or not we are willing to unify, the democracies of the world unify in support of Zelenskyy.

And I think providing the necessary aid that he needs, providing the support that he absolutely has to have to conduct this war. I think that if we can have a message at the end of this day, that says the United States and our allies are strongly unified behind President Zelenskyy. I think that's an important message to send to the world and to send to Putin. BROWN: And we have learned through our reporting, our fantastic White House team reporting that earlier in December that President Obama when he was talking - President Obama - President Biden, when he was talking to President Zelenskyy invited him to come visit the White House, because as the administration has said, this is a new era in this war. If you would Beth, tell us how so?

SANNER: Well, I think that as Director Panetta just mentioned, we're in this war for the long haul. I think that we are going to be probably, you know, still engaged in this in a year from now. And so, this is about preparing everybody mentally, for what lies ahead. And you know, President Zelenskyy is a master at public diplomacy. And I think that he's going to be able to really rally the spirit and the spirits of Americans behind this effort. And that's really what's needed.

BROWN: Look, we just talked about U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, including nearly $2 billion. Also, that includes the Patriot missile system that is something Director, that the administration had been reluctant to provide to Ukraine. Now it is providing it, although it might take a while for it to actually be fully operational. There has to be training done and so forth.

What do you make of this? And are you concerned about stepped up retaliation from Russia?

PANETTA: No, I think it's a very important step to provide the Patriot missile system, although it's just one system. And you're right, it's going to take some time to be able to train and deploy that system. But I think ultimately the goal here is to develop a comprehensive air defense system for Ukraine. That could be the most effective defense against Putin and his ability to use missiles, to use drones to attack innocent men, women and children.


So, I'm glad we're taking that step more needs to be done. But if we can make a commitment to make sure that that support is provided, and that the United States is unified in support of this war. I think that's a very important message for Zelenskyy to take back to his country.

BROWN: And we expect President Zelenskyy to be landing in the United States shortly. Again, this is the first time he is leaving his war- torn country after 300 days of War. It's been nearly a year and there are historical parallels as well, when Winston Churchill visited around Christmas time in 1941. Right, Beth?

SANNER: Absolutely. And I, you know, this is the Ukrainians are fantastic with the symbolism. The last time President Zelenskyy spoke, I mean he recalled Pearl Harbor. And he can really speak to that. So, I think we should expect a wonderful and inspiring speech today before tonight - before Congress, really echoing those historic themes. And they're real. This isn't just talk.

BROWN: Right, they're real. Beth, Director Panetta, thank you for giving us the important context and perspective on this historic day. We appreciate it. And Ukrainian President Zelenskyy will have a busy day on his whirlwind trip to D.C. He is set to arrive this afternoon at the White House at 2 Eastern.

He'll meet with President Biden in the Oval Office at 2:30. And then at 4:30, he'll hold a joint news conference with Biden and at 7:30 he'll address Congress so make sure to stay tuned to CNN throughout the day for the latest developments.

And soon the January 6 committee will release its final report after an 18-month investigation hearings and bombshell testimony. Plus, a CNN exclusive report on Trump's former ethics lawyer who allegedly told the former president's aide to mislead the January 6 committee.




BROWN: Welcome back, taking a live look here at the Capitol building on this very, very busy day on Wednesday before Christmas. Happening soon January 6 committee Chairman Bennie Thompson will take to the House floor to submit the committee's final report, marking the culmination of a months' long investigation. And the submission comes just days after the committee's final meeting, where it issued four criminal referrals regarding Donald Trump to referring rather Donald Trump to the Justice Department.

Along with that report, the committee is expected to roll out hundreds of witness transcripts. CNN's Paula Reid joins us now with more. So, this is a rare occasion, Paula, where you have both sides biting at the bit to see these transcripts.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It's what everybody wants for Christmas. And as you know, Pamela, over the last year and a half, this committee has gathered an enormous amount of evidence, including over thousand interviews, documents, emails, phone records and texts. We've seen some of what they've gathered during those hearings over the summer and earlier this week. But now they're going to present their findings in this final report.

But as you noted, the biggest news today, and over the next few weeks will likely come from the transcripts. The committee is expected to release of some of the interviews they've conducted behind closed doors. This is really the next phase of the investigation. The committee they're done. Now these transcripts are going to move into the hands of prosecutors and defense attorneys.

Now source tells CNN that special counsel Jack Smith, sent a letter to the committee earlier this month requesting all of the information from this investigation. And the committee according to CNN reporting has been sending documents and transcripts in the last week.

And it's interesting because this handoff has been really focused on evidence related to former Trump attorney John Eastman, and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. The Justice Department even has Meadows' text messages, which you may remember yielded some of the biggest headlines so far in this investigation.

Now, I've been talking to former President Trump's legal team. And they also want to see these transcripts, because they believe there have been witnesses that have given testimony that undercut the committee's narrative, and they believe some of that was excluded from the public hearings.

So, Pamela, amid all the controversy, there is in fact, yes, one thing that all people on all sides have this, prosecutors, Trump attorneys, even the lawmakers who are hostile to this committee, they all agree that they want to see these transcripts. The Committee Chairman tell CNN, they will release hundreds of transcripts, but there are some witnesses with some sensitive material that they have agreed to protect.

BROWN: And I will add journalists to that bunch of people who want to see these transcripts. Coming up. Top of the list, it's going to be a busy day for us, more than thousand witness interviews of transcripts we got to go through. Thanks so much, Paula.

And joining me now to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Jeff Zeleny, Tia Mitchell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Yasmeen Abutaleb of The Washington Post and CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams.

I'm going to start with you, Jeff, just to set the stage here for our viewers. The significance of this day, the combination of this 18- month long investigation, you know, Congress was the victim. Let's not forget on January 6, this is the select committee's final report, everything they've collected.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: And it is going to be out there really for historians to look at, but even before that, of course, for the Department of Justice to look at, and as you said for journalists to look at. We're going to learn so much more. And don't forget, I mean, this is - we already have learned so much since that day on January 6, but mainly from people inside the White House.


These interviews are from Trump's own inner circle, his own closest advisors. We saw a glimpse of that just the other day with Hope Hicks, for the first time we saw her video testimony. I can't wait to read all of that, of course Ivanka Trump. So, we've just seen sort of snippets of this in this programming of these hearings. So, we're going to get the full sense.

But also, what I'm looking for is obstruction. What are the sort of recent attempts to kind of obstruct some of the narrative here to try and get some of these witnesses to not tell the full story, that I think is going to be central to the investigations coming forward. So, we're not at the end necessarily where the committee, but we're still at the beginning or the mid chapter, if you will have time perhaps of this entire sort of knowledge set of what happened that day.

BROWN: And on that note, I have reporting with Jamie Gangel, with Katelyn Polantz, that the committee believes former President Trump, former ethics lawyer at the White House, was trying to get the star witness Cassidy Hutchinson to mislead the committee, something he denies. But that is a significant part of this.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: And it's significant. And particularly, because this lawyer prior to joining the Trump administration, was working in Georgia where his reputation was helping Republican lawmakers staying on the right side of ethics and stay out of trouble. So, what he's being accused of doing, according to the CNN reporting is very troubling, and could get him in some trouble, you know, with the bar and things like that.

I think what we're also going to learn from this committee report isn't just what people said, but what they didn't say. Who pled the fifth? Who had their attorney there stopping them from saying too much? And that didn't always get touched on as much in the hearings, but the transcripts will really lay that out in ways that may be enlightening.

BROWN: And Cassidy Hutchinson said, there was so much focus on her testimony. I'm also as a journalist looking at this. I want to see what else came out that corroborated her testimony because they had since interviewed secret service agents. And what potentially didn't, right, I mean, that's a big part of this.

I do want to mention Stefan Passantino's statement he gave to CNN. He said, I represented Miss Hutchinson, honorably, ethically and fully consistent with her sole interests. As she communicated them to me, I believed Miss Hutchinson was being truthful and cooperative with the committee throughout the several interview sessions in which I represented her.

So clearly, he believes nothing was wrong. The committee looks at it in another way. We're going to see the transcript soon. But there is a bigger picture theme here of people in Trump world, potentially trying to influence the committee and what the witnesses say.

YASMEEN ABUTALEB, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, I mean, Cassidy Hutchinson is the clearest example. Because of this reporting, we know that she - her lawyer, specifically, allegedly told her to say she didn't recall key details when she did. But the committee also said that they believe that there were several witnesses that weren't being fully truthful, were saying I don't recall when it just wasn't believable.

And they've talked about, you know, potential witness tampering and obstruction. This came up in some of the hearings over the summer and into the fall. So, I think one of the things that people will be looking at, like Tia said, is just a number of people who said, I don't recall. I remember the committee at one point played testimony from Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser where he took the fifth. And so, I don't recall over and over about very basic detail. So, I think instances like that are going to be very telling and who cooperated and to what degree they feel people in Trump world were trying to influence people's testimony or the details that they did or didn't reveal.

BROWN: I think the bottom line to keep in mind is that the document that committee is releasing today, it's a political document. At the end of the day, it's coming from the select committee, it was bipartisan. But this, the focus after today largely shifts over to DOJ, it's already been doing these investigations. Jack Smith, the special counsel has been working.

Our report indicates he's been very aggressively investigating everything, asking the committee for their documents, kind of an interesting dynamic that DOJ is coming to the committee, asking them for their work. But what do you think of that?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And look, I've worked in both places Congress and the Justice Department, and shocked nobody that they're fighting overnight. Look, Congressman just heard and fighting over evidence in 1789. And it shouldn't shock anybody that's happening now.

Now, the big thing, legally why it's relevant to the Justice Department is that anytime a witness contradicted himself or herself, or anytime something is sort of exculpatory for a witness that the Justice Department is investigating, they have to turn that over to the defense.

So, it wasn't just turf battles, why the Justice Department is seeking this evidence. There's a legal relevance to it. And they can get a lot of trouble if in fact, they come across something that they've been investigating. It's new to them that, you know, that contradict something they'd had.

So, they really needed these transcripts to be able to conduct prosecutions and investigations. They're really going to be poring over them now. But I think they're behind the bar if they're just seeing them just now.

BROWN: Right. I mean, that's kind of the unusual dynamic here. Usually, it would be the typically historically. It's the other way around it, committee would go to DOJ. But no doubt about it, Jeff, the Trump team is waiting with bated breath. They look at these transcripts, see what they can get through this to try to prove their point that exculpatory evidence was left out and what the hearing or what the committee shared. What else are you hearing from your sources?


ZELENY: Look, I think the Trump team is also focused on this, but also, they have several other investigations underway. This is only one part of it. I mean the Fulton County investigation on and on. So, I think that, of course, there'll be interested in seeing all of these interviews and this gives them sort of a roadmap for what may be coming ahead for people other charges.

And you'll remember on Monday, at that hearing, when Adam Schiff was explaining this other word others, you know, Trump and others. So, there are still others in his orbit who are sort of at the center of this investigation. But I think as we pause here nearly at the end of the year, everything that we have learned from this committee, yes, some Republicans can say it's been a politicized. Well, that was Kevin McCarthy's decision for the makeup of this committee.

So, we have learned so much, and there's no doubt that it contributed to the midterm elections. There's no doubt that contribute to how the public views the former president and his role in this. So, this document is absolutely one for the history books without question.

WILLIAMS: And It's a question as to whether they actually named those others (crosstalk) Now, look, it's up to the Justice Department and they can continue to charge or indict or investigate people, but it was a little vague. The executive summary earlier this week, maybe they need more people today.

BROWN: We don't know. We'll find out. Stay with CNN to find out because we'll be covering all, but he Thompson the chairman expected to take the floor soon. Thank you all so much. And up soon. The American people will get a look at Donald Trump's tax returns after years of legal battles.