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Ian Bremmer is Interviewed about the Olympics; DOJ Investigating Trump; Laura Coates is Interviewed about her New Book. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 17, 2022 - 08:30   ET



DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This virus came from outside and is continuing to cause issues here to the point where even those of us who are foreigners are often questioned how long we've been in the country. And when I tell them I've been here non-stop since before the pandemic started, they're a bit more relieved, but that's what's being pushed consistently.

KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: David Culver, thanks for that.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: David has done remarkable reporting the entire pandemic there. And what a crucial moment with the Olympics, you know, three weeks away here.

Joining us now, the president of the Eurasia Group, as well as GZERO Media, Ian Bremmer.

Ian, look, if that's what happens when they have one known case in Beijing, I have to say, the next three weeks are going to be this circus. I don't know what to expect with the Olympics.

IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: I mean, they feel like they can pull off the Olympics because it's completely in a bubble and there's going to be no contact with regular Chinese citizens. Clearly, we're going to see more cases like this and it's going to lead to lockdown. Whether or not it causes events to be completely disrupted, I don't know.

But, John, the bigger problem is not the Olympics. I mean the Olympics are going to look really weird and it's, you know, it's going to be sealed off for all the fans. But, you know, Tokyo had some of that.

The real problem is that this is -- China's still the factory for the world. And, you know, this is by far the most transmissible variant that we've seen. If this is the way they're going to respond as more and more cases come up, you're going to have very severe supply chain issues, you're going to have more inflation. That's what's going to affect Americans later on this year.

HUNT: Ian, not to turn back to the Olympics, but I do want to focus on a national security issue around them, which is this question of burner phones. The athletes are being told, hey, don't take your regular cell phone into China.

And, of course, it comes with the broader political context. I mean John and I have been talking about the Uighurs and how that is something where you're not necessarily seeing the kind of protests that we might expect here in the U.S.

Why are Americans telling the athletes, hey, don't take your own cell phone into China, and how are those two issues related?

BREMMER: There's just an enormous presumption of surveillance on the part of the state of any electronic device you bring in, your laptop as well. Every business executive I know that travels to China brings in a burner phone. They're not taking their regular electronic equipment. The American government has been advising that for years. It's making headlines now because it's a much larger number of athletes that have never probably experienced it, most of them, in their lives before. But it's not in any way surprising. It's a precautionary measure and it's a pretty smart thing to do.

BERMAN: So, Ian, new missile tests by North Korea overnight. What are they doing and where is this headed?

BREMMER: Well, the Biden administration hasn't been as concerned about North Korea. At the beginning of the year there's a state of the union speech that Kim Jong-un gives all the time. Usually there's a whole bunch of theatrics about, you know, we're angry at other countries, we're threatening war. None of that this year. Instead they were talking about their economy and their food situation because they've been dealing with Covid, too. And the lockdown of their border with China means that about 90 percent of the trade that they usually do with their most important trade partner has fallen apart.

So, it's true that this is three times now this year that we've seen these missiles being tested, but they're short-range missiles. They're -- these -- these aren't considered red lines by either the South Koreans or the Americans. So I don't think this is a significant response.

The important point is that South Korean elections are coming up and it looks like the leader that is actually more interested in pro- engagement with North Korea is ahead significantly in the polls. Unclear why the North Koreans would be trying to potentially undermine that outcome by getting themselves more in the headlines in South Korea. That's, of course, where this makes all the news.

BERMAN: Ian Bremmer, always a pleasure. Thanks so much for being with us.

BREMMER: Good to see you guys.

BERMAN: The Department of Justice handing out sedition charges in the January 6th investigation. Will it also investigate former President Trump? Our next guest says the chances are that's already underway.

HUNT: And a remarkable scene captured from space. A powerful underwater explosion sending a sonic boom across the Pacific. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


HUNT: As the Justice Department's January 6th investigation takes a new turn with the landmark sedition indictment against members of the Oath Keepers, it's left many asking, will former President Trump be next?

Here to discuss, CNN's senior legal analyst, former federal prosecutor, and author of the new book, "Just Pursuit: A Black Prosecutor's Fight for Fairness," we're going to talk about that in a little bit, Laura Coates, and former FBI deputy assistant director and author of "Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump," Peter Strzok.

Peter, let me start with you on this question about the January 6th indictments. Partly because we've seen some reporting that there was reluctance by the attorney general, Merrick Garland, to potentially go this far, to have this sort of landmark type of thing.

You, of course, are familiar with the way the system works on the inside. You have an understanding of how politics can affect these things, even if they're not officially supposed to.

What is your sense of the willingness inside the Justice Department to actually take this to the former president himself?

PETER STRZOK, FORMER FBI DEPUTY ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Well, I think Justice is doing exactly what I would expect them to do, and that is to be very cautious, particularly when you're dealing with both crimes that are very politically charged, as well as crimes that potentially reach all the way up to former President Trump himself. So, to the extent there's reluctance, I think that is simply being careful to ensure that when you get into charges like sedition and seditious obstruction, and that entails a great deal of being very careful because of how close that comes to the First Amendment. So, I don't think it's reluctance to charge. I think it is very much a desire to make sure that every element of the crime is satisfied.

Now, to the extent that there are defenses to these crimes, that they are addressed by the evidence the Justice has.


So, again, I would caution that all investigations, all prosecutions take time. And when you get to something like this, where there are very complex conspiracies, they take a -- it takes additional time. And certainly, as we move forward and we see things going up the chain, that as we move to people around former President Trump, and the former president himself, I would expect those to be proceeding incrementally, but I do think that's going on right now.

BERMAN: Peter, one more question to you. This is based off a "Washington Post" report overnight, which went into who has not been called yet. Who has not been asked questions yet. And that includes, among others, in the federal investigation here, Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state of Georgia, who we know that Donald Trump called and leaned on to find votes there. So, what would the reason be that they're not calling some of these people?

STRZOK: Well, I think two points. The first point is that in many instances when you start getting to people at this level and you get one shot typically at an interview, and in many cases these folks are either not going to want to talk to you or have many reasons to not tell you the truth. I mean, look, Roger Stone, at this point, is a convicted obstructionist, a convicted liar. He was pardoned, but that doesn't wipe away those convictions. So if you go into an interview with somebody, you want information that is going to cause them to tell you the truth. You want things like phone records or text messages or emails.

But to your other point, the question I would ask is, certainly, when you look at former President Trump, the crimes that he allegedly committed aren't simply those of January 6th, and they aren't in terms of storming the Capitol. You look at exactly what you said about his calls to the -- to Georgia officials trying to find additional votes. I mean, heck, you look back at all the potential acts of obstruction that Special Counsel Mueller laid out. You look at all the potential tax fraud that was going on with his properties in New York and elsewhere. When you say, are you investigating Trump, a very important aspects of that question is to say, well, what are you investigating him for because one of the things I do worry about is while there may be investigations moving forward on the January 6th front, what is going on with all these other potential crimes that he engaged in even pre-dating his presidency that DOJ may or may not be looking at. And that's a very important question to ask.

HUNT: Laura, I also want to ask you about, not just the ongoing investigations in the Department of Justice, whether they're from before or, of course, related to January 6th, but also the congressional investigation that is going on in the special committee on the House side, those two things running in parallel.

How do they interact with each other, if at all?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, they're -- it's a good point to make here, Kasie, that it's on parallel tracks but they are going to intersect at many key points. In particular the fact that remember kind of like, as Peter mentioned, the Mueller probe, people were reluctant to talk to the congressional committee because there was a Mueller probe. One person could put you in jail if you got the answers wrong, shall we say. The other had a legislative intent and oversight function. I suspect there's going to be some overlap there in the same way here thinking, well, listen, the DOJ has already charged you with conspiracy. These are very, very serious crimes. There's now a sort of Damocles over the heads of those who may have been involved and had conspired or aided or abetted in some way or facilitated or maybe even financed what they thought would be a violent insurrection.

And so now you've got this idea of Congress trying to, on the one hand, get information from people who are not cooperating among their own colleagues and also others who they may have yet to interview who are now worrying, if I provide an answer, will I be referred to for criminal action because of the DOJ's now concerns? Now, of course, they are supposed to go on parallel tracks. One does not have the heads up of the other, nor should they, because their roles are very different. But they are going to have implications for both. And if there is fluidity in the information, it will actually aid both investigations.

HUNT: All right, Peter Strzok, thank you very much for all of your insights.

And, Laura, you are going to stick around for a moment because, as we mentioned, we do want to talk about your new book in just a few minutes.

BERMAN: First, here's what else to watch today.


ON SCREEN TEXT: 10:00 a.m. ET, MLK Day Peace Walk.

11:15 a.m. ET, VIP Harris delivers remarks.

12:00 p.m. ET, "Deliver for Voting Rights" presser.


HUNT: All right, new details about the men who held four people hostage at a Texas synagogue. The chilling new audio of the standoff.

BERMAN: Plus, why Celine Dion's world tour is not coming back to her any time soon.



BERMAN: Time for "5 Things to Know for Your New Day."

More than 50 million people facing winter weather alerts as the powerful winter storm batters the East Coast this morning. Thousands are without power. Freezing rain, ice and snow stretching as far south as Florida. More than 1,200 flights canceled today. More than 3,000 were canceled on Sunday.

HUNT: And the FBI has identified the suspect who held four people hostage at a Texas synagogue for nearly 11 hours Saturday before he was killed. As a British citizen, a source tells CNN, the suspect arrived legally in December and law enforcement says that he was not on a U.S. government watch list.


BERMAN: A nurse in Italy arrested for allegedly giving fake Covid vaccines to anti-vaxxers. Police say she also received a fake shot with the help of another nurse who was arrested in December. Footage appears to show the nurse attempting the -- emptying the vaccine into gauze before injecting the patient with an empty vile.

HUNT: Right.

In Tonga, meanwhile, an underwater volcano has erupted for the third time in four days. Officials are reporting significant damage to the island's western coast, as well as a thick layer of ash. Friday's eruption cased tsunami advisories across the world, including along the California Coast.


CELINE DION, MUSICIAN (singing): You're here, there's nothing I fear.


BERMAN: Celine Dion has canceled the remaining 16 shows of her world tour because of severe muscle spasms. The shows had already been delayed from March 2020 to March 2022 because of the pandemic. Dion says she had hoped she would be able to tour this year but she has to follow doctors' orders.

HUNT: Here's hoping her health gets a little bit better here.

And that is "5 Things to Know for Your New Day."

We're going to have more on these stories all day on CNN and And don't forget to download the "5 Things" podcast every morning. Go to

BERMAN: Omicron showing new signs of slowing down in major cities. Have we reached a turning point, a new one in this pandemic?

HUNT: And, on this day, we pause to remember the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. What would he say about today's system of justice in America?



BERMAN: When our own Laura Coates joined the Department of Justice as a prosecutor, her intentions were to advocate for vulnerable populations, but she soon came to realize it wasn't happening. In her new book "Just Pursuit: A Black Prosecutor's Fight for Fairness" Laura writes about her experiences as a black female federal prosecutor and how she discovered what is lawful may not always be what is right.

Laura Coates is back with us.

Laura, this is a wonderful, deeply introspective book that's filled with so many specific stories. And I think that's what struck me, including one on what I think was your first day in the U.S. Attorneys as a prosecutor's office where one of your bosses was exclaiming, we got another one. And you were -- reflect on what that meant to you.

COATES: Well, you know, thank you for having me for this, and it's -- I'm really, really proud of this book because, you know, oftentimes I'm speaking about the law, I'm explaining the law objectively, I'm talking about what it actually means. But in this book I write about what it feels like, what is really looks like and what justice, when we ask for it, what it really means.

And I think if we're going to speak truth to power, John, we have to first tell the truth. And this book is episodic. It is introspective. It allows me to really allow the audience to vicariously live what it's like to have the battles of allegiance that I personally had as a black woman, as a wife, as a mother, as a prosecutor, as a public servant. And what you talk about is, one of the things that made me really decide to leave the Justice Department was that statement, that notion of wondering why it was that somebody felt that I was not on the side of Justice, or that I was in the position, a seat at the table, but also on the menu.

And I write about everything from what it was like to be asked to aid in the deportation, to what it's like when we talk about believing women, but then victim blaming happens in the courtroom, to what the real cases of mistaken identity looks like, John. And even including my time in the voting section, when I was monitoring elections down in the south and thinking about what justice really feels like intangibly. And I'm really hoping that this book will be an opportunity for people to get that lens and perspective and personify the issues that are so impactful and really reform the system that I was once a part of.

HUNT: So, Laura, I mean on that point, do you think that there is a real possibility for the kind of reforms that you think are necessary based on what you saw, or is it out of our reach?

COATES: No, it absolutely is within our reach and it has to be, Kasie. I mean we have no other choice but really, we're here on King's birthday thinking about that arc of justice and where it bends. And every single moment that we actually understand the real issues is an opportunity for us to actually change things.

You know, we talk about conceptually justice, as if it were a destination, when in reality it's so many other things. It's about the fairness. It's about equity. It's about trying to understand what we can be doing better, and also understanding that, you know, reform, rehabilitation and redemption all are part of our justice system. And we also must understand the role that race and gender and bias has all played in all of those aspects of. And once we really pull back the curtain, which I do in this book, we are on the path to really realizing that trajectory of Dr. King and so many others, sung and unsung heroes.

And with that in mind, I focus on people who are most impacted, who are in the periphery, Kasie and John, people whose stories aren't always told and people who are not necessarily at the other end of the letter "v" in United States versus. And also what it's like when I stood up there and said, Laura Coates, on behalf of the people of the United States, that also had to include the defendant and their constitutional rights. And we think about all those, this book delves into it. And I think we have a real chance to change things for the better.

BERMAN: Laura Coates, the book is "Just Pursuit." And as we talked about, it has a lot of really specific examples there of what you went through, what you saw and how you feel about it now.

Congratulations to you.

HUNT: Congratulations.

BERMAN: It's got to be a wonderful feeling.

COATES: Thank you.

You mean -- you mean this book? Do you mean this book?

BERMAN: That book right there.

COATES: I have it here.

BERMAN: "Just Pursuit."

COATES: Oh, this book? Oh, OK, thank you.

HUNT: We would hold them up if we had them here too.


COATES: This one. Thank you.

BERMAN: We will help as much as we can because people need to read this.

Thanks so much, Laura.

COATES: Thanks.

BERMAN: And thank you for