Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

Today's January 6th Hearing to Focus on Trump's Pressure on DOJ; Uvalde School Police Chief on Leave Amid Botched Response to Gunman; Senate Advances Gun Safety Bill, Final Vote May Come This Week. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 23, 2022 - 07:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Newly obtained footage from the series that he made will be released by Discovery Plus, which is owned by CNN's parent company.


Maggie Haberman reporters the footage is causing anxiety for the Trump family. The filmmaker has already handed over his interviews with Trump, his adult children and former Vice President Pence to the House select committee.

What we have for the first time now is the documentary's trailer.



IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: My father, he is very honest and he is who he is.

DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: He believes everything that he's doing is right.

TRUMP: I think I treat people well, unless they don't treat me well, in which case you go to war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we talk for a minute about January 6?



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: On top of that, CNN has also learned this morning that former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen will testify today that while he was there, the Justice Department was, quote, presented with no evidence of widespread voter fraud and he also says that, quote, some argued to the former president and the public that the election was corrupt and stolen. That view was wrong then and it is wrong today.

That comes as the Justice Department is ramping up its criminal investigation into the fake electors scheme that was concocted by Trump and his allies with federal agents delivering grand jury subpoenas to at least four people yesterday.

BERMAN: Yes. This is at a scale that we had not seen before from DOJ. And it raises questions about how deep they are in to the fake elector scheme with their investigations. We are going to have much more on that in just a moment.

That is the Justice Department branch of all of this. The congressional side of the investigation picks up in a few hours with a new hearing focused on the former president's pressure campaign to get the Department of Justice to intervene in the 2020 election.

Joining me now, Elie Honig, CNN Senior Legal Analyst and former federal prosecutor, and we can tell a lot by this witness list today, Elie.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, we can, John. So, let's set the scene. Mid-December 2020, now, it's about a month and change after the election, we are a few weeks before January 6. Attorney General Bill Barr resigns. He already testified in the committee, the reason he resigned was because Donald Trump was relentlessly pushing these election fraud lies.

Everyone else at DOJ bumps up a notch. Jeffrey Rosen becomes acting A.G., a Trump nominee, by the way. Richard Donohue becomes the number two guy and an obscure attorney out of the environmental division named Jeffrey Clark takes over the civil division. We will hear from Rosen and Donoghue live today. As Kaitlan just said, they will testify. They investigated these claims of election fraud and found nothing.

Now, Mark Meadows would constantly bombard these guys with emails asking them to look into ridiculous theories. At one point, he thwarted a YouTube-based theory about Italian satellites flipping votes from Trump to Biden. Rosen forwarded that email to Donoghue and Donoghue responded with a perfect two word rejoinder, quote, pure insanity.

Another important topic that are going to hear from Richard Donoghue about, he was on a call with Donald Trump. The White House called over at DOJ. And Donoghue took handwritten notes of that call. And here is what Donoghue wrote that Donald Trump said, quote, just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the R, meaning Republican congressmen. I mean, just say the election was corrupt is such an important passage. We're going to hear Donoghue's view on that.

We also will hear from another DOJ official, Stephen Engel. He received pressure from the White House to file a ridiculous, baseless lawsuit right in the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to throw out the electoral votes of six states. Engel refused to do that, DOJ stood its ground.

BERMAN: Again, that's very interesting in terms of all we are learning today about the possible fake elector scheme.

You mentioned Jeffrey Clark who we will not hear from but we will hear about at length today.

HONIG: We will not hear from Jeffrey Clark. He has taken the fifth, which is, by the way, extraordinary for a former senior Justice Department official to do. Jeffrey Clark was essentially Trump's guy inside DOJ. And what he tried to do, and this maybe a hint of why he took the fifth, he wrote up a draft letter that he wanted DOJ to send to Georgia. And in that draft letter, Jeffrey Clark wrote, quote, at this time, we have identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states, including the state of Georgia. That's just false. That's a fraud. We know there was no such evidence, yet Clark tried to get DOJ to sign on it.

Interesting wrinkle here, Representative Scott Perry, he is the one who introduced Jeffrey Clark to Donald Trump. He was sort of the go- between for the two of them. Now, he's been subpoenaed, he's not going to testify, and the committee has said they have evidence that Perry asked for a pardon. Perry has strenuously denied that. I'm going to watch today to see what's the evidence of that.

BERMAN: The committee has promised evidence, I don't know if they will produce it today or later on down the line. What do we know about where things stand in terms of the disputes?

HONIG: Yes. So, this all culminated in a dramatic meeting at the White House where Trump was considering booting Jeffrey Rosen and replacing him with Jeffrey Clark.


And this was a showdown. Rosen and the DOJ official said, if you do that, we will have mass resignations. Ultimately, Trump backed down, did he not install Clark.

During that meeting, I should note, there was a dispute and Donoghue, an experienced prosecutor, sort of lashed out at Jeffrey Clark and said this guy has never tried a case, he's not a real prosecutor. And then the quote from Donoghue to Clark was, you are an environmental lawyer. How about you go back to your office and we will call you when there is an oil spill. John, that is what the kids call a sick burn.

And I just want to say this, this is the DOJ logo. I was lucky enough to work there and we were always trained that if you have the privilege of putting this on your work, you better protect it because it's about independence, it's about integrity, it's about the rule of law. And I will say we will see today that that's exactly what those Justice Department officials did.

BERMAN: I will tell you what's interesting here is you have at least two people who have had conversations with the former president who had conversations or his chief of staff. I'm very curious to see how much they talk about those specific conversations.

HONIG: Yes, direct conversations.

BERMAN: And the specific asks.

HONIG: Absolutely.

BERMAN: Elie Honig, thank you very much.

HONIG: Thanks, John.

COLLINS: And sources tell CNN this morning that federal investigators have subpoenaed Georgia's Republican Party chairman for information related to the fake electors scheme that happened in his state. This is in addition to the Justice Department subpoenas that were issued in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona and New Mexico, all states that former President Trump lost.

Joining us now is the former U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, Michael Moore. Michael, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

And I wonder what you make of this subpoena for the chairman, David Shafer, and whether or not it represents a significant step given the central role he played in organizing the fake slate of electors from Georgia.

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: Well, good morning. I'm glad to be with you and I'm not surprised to see the subpoena. We have known that the department is looking into the fake elector scheme, who was behind it, who was the mastermind behind it. We saw several weeks ago some discussions and a leak about some planning that went behind meeting at the Capitol and doing this by -- secretly, not telling anybody and giving up a fake story about why you were there.

So, we sort of had the sense these subpoenas would be coming out and I'm not surprised especially that we've seen a little bit of expectation, I think, that the department will be moving. This is typical for the Department of Justice to do things in its own time at its own pace, to not always publicize as they're moving forward in an investigation. But the timing is specifically interesting in the case given where we are in the hearings and the information that's been coming out over the last couple of weeks.

BERMAN: What can you tell from the subpoenas and to whom they're going about what they might be looking at? This round focuses on people who might have actually done things in the fake elector scenario, including signing documents, but also people who had conversations which begs the question about possible conspiracy, Michael.

MOORE: Yes, and a grand jury subpoena is a great tool that the department has. The question will be how many of these people will lawyer up, how many will take the fifth. Probably all will lawyer up, I mean, will refuse to testify because of the possibility of some pending charge, will there be offers of some immunity for some testimony if the department is looking to go, you know, higher up the chain.

Most of the time this is to lay the groundwork for a larger investigation or a larger prosecution. You see that they will want to know who they talked to, what documents were prepared, who prepared the documents, who arranged to have the secret meeting room, who sent out the text messages, who sent out the email. If you talk to people in other states, was this coordinated through the campaign in Washington or somewhere else? Was this coordinated, you know, through somebody particularly close to Trump? Did you have any discussions with Trump? That's the kind of thing they will be looking for here.

And think of this as a little bit like a spider's web and each little strand of the web they're starting to piece together. And so the subpoena to Chairman Shafer is really just a string in that web and they're using that to see where they can connect it to somebody else or some other organization or some activity.

The problem for them, for the people getting the subpoena, is it looks like there have been acts done in furtherance potentially of some crimes, whether that's the creation of fake documents, fraudulent document submission, some type of election fraud scheme, if that's the case and they have real exposure from a criminal's perspective, the secrecy itself that really doesn't add to the criminality of the event but it sort of just adds to the sexiness of it.

It's like catching somebody breaking into a house at night as opposed to in the afternoon. It doesn't make the break-in any more severe, doesn't add to the criminality of the break-in but it certainly makes it look bad that they're coming in under cover of darkness. So, that's sort of what you see with the questions about why was this so secret, what were you trying to avoid, did you not want to get caught. If everything was above board why aren't you just doing this out in the full light of the sun?


And so that's -- that I imagine will be the story they're trying to piece together through the grand jury.

I can promise you the prosecutors already know what's going on and they have other people who are talking to them and you're putting people in the grand jury at this point because you want to solidify your investigation and information that you've recovered from other witnesses.

COLLINS: Very informative. Michael Moore, thank you for joining us this morning.

MOORE: Great to be with you all. Thank you.

COLLINS: The January 6th committee hearings have been compared to the Watergate hearings but there is a big question about how many people are watching. A new Quinnipiac poll shows that 58 percent of Americans are watching them very or somewhat closely and about a quarter of those who were asked say that they are not watching closely at all.

Joining me now for the analysis of all of this is the pollster and communications strategist, Frank Luntz. Thank you so much for being here this morning. And I wonder what do you think about whether or not people are actually paying attention to these very well choreographed hearings that the committee has put together?

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER AND COMMUNICATION STRATEGIST: The question is not as much whether people are watching but what the impact is. We know two statistics. Number one is how we have a lower degree of trust and confidence in elections and in our American democratic process than at any time in modern history.

So, clearly, this focus on what happened on January 6 and going back to November of 2020 is having an impact simply on whether we believe that democracy works. And second is what's going on politically. And there's now polling out that shows that Donald Trump is actually paying a price for what these hearings are showing. So, it's having an impact even among Republicans. But in the end, they missed such a brilliant opportunity.

Yes, 20 million people tuned in on the first night, but what they saw was too much of the politicians and not enough of that impactful, incredible video that showed exactly what happened in the Capitol. And in the end the American people react to the visuals, not just the verbal, not just the conversation, and it is those visuals that proved to them that something really awful happened on January 6.

COLLINS: And so what do you think it means that that's how they started the hearings out? And what we saw last week with the election workers from Georgia testifying was arguably very compelling to a lot of people. You're watching regular people talk about what kind of -- how this upended their lives. And so do you think they should have started with something like that with the committee instead of starting with what they did in the beginning?

LUNTZ: Never, ever, ever have politicians lead any of this. I know that they are on primetime, I know that they want to give their speeches but the responsibility of their staff and even the voters to say, y'all, step out of this and show me the facts. Before you give me the commentary, show me the facts. And, second, if they showed that video and then asked the question what got us here, why did this happen, that would have been the perfect setup. And they didn't do it. Instead, they had really long opening speeches. They're still doing it today, that they seem to be trying to score political points rather than making a more democratic point for the American people.

COLLINS: My colleague, Jeff Zeleny, was in Atlanta yesterday, he was in Georgia talking to voters on both sides of the political aisle about what they thought about the hearings and these are some of the interesting answers that he got from them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really think they're just after Trump, they are not after the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's one-sided and I choose not to watch it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there anything that could come out in the hearing that would change your mind about things?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All I know is I'm not going to watch the rest of it. You know, I have other things to do with my time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I pray that they will actually tune in and watch this so they can see for themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is an attack on our democracy. I do not think the Watergate hearings were -- rose to that level, even close. Do you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I think you're right.


COLLINS: What do you make of that?

LUNTZ: This is the challenge for them. With each hearing less people watch, it has less and less of an impact on them, even though what they're being told is dramatic. And I look at the polling that just came out from New Hampshire where, for the first time, Ron DeSantis is actually ahead of Donald Trump in a very credible survey. Trump's numbers are actually falling. And that is what's changing the dynamic here. It is not having an impact on Republicans. It is having an impact on the perceptions of Donald Trump and it will have an impact on whether or not he runs.

COLLINS: And, you know, look at this poll. This is not going to be something Trump wants to see. Ron DeSantis, 39 percent, Trump 37 percent. And, obviously, that -- DeSantis is the assumption right now, the greatest threat to Trump when it comes to the Republican Party.

LUNTZ: It's more than a threat. The governor is proving that his approach and what he's trying to accomplish and what he has accomplished in Florida is more significant and Republicans are now saying it's time to move on.


Make no mistake, Donald Trump is the most popular political figure within the Republican Party, but there is now a specific challenger. And Trump can yell and scream and send out his emails, I'm on his list, and they're all emotional and they all are meant to blow things up, but they're having less and less of an impact with every single month

COLLINS: It will be fascinating to see what happens when he presumably returns to the campaign trail.

But I want to talk about what's happening in the White House right now with President Biden and him coming out yesterday forcefully calling for Congress to pass this gas tax federal holiday. It would last three months. It does require Congress to approve it. And is this something that voters want to see, because even Democrats seem very skeptical about putting it in place? LUNTZ: It's amazing to me the Congress is saying no. I'm looking at the USA Today headline, Congress doubtful on gas holiday. Here is a case where the public says, yes, we need help and we are seven days away from this absolute explosion. You can't put $50 of gas in your car and get to where you're going over the 4th of July weekend and you can't buy the food you need to buy unless you're spending hundreds of dollars. So, the American people, for the first time, are going to feel the full effects and Congress is saying no, both Democrats and Republicans.

It shows you how weak Joe Biden is. It shows you that, in this case it's going to protect him to some degree, because he can now say, I'm trying to lower your prices but Congress isn't letting me, here is the problem. The Democrats control the House, they control the Senate. And when your own party doesn't back you up, that says a lot

COLLINS: Yes. And it's not just Senator Joe Manchin saying the plan doesn't make sense, House Speaker Pelosi says she has concerns about this as well.

Frank Luntz, thank you for joining us this morning with all of your insight and analysis into so many of these important issues.

LUNTZ: The problem is all of this anger and dissension and division gives me a headache but if I have to share it with the American people, I want to share it right here.

COLLINS: Yes. Well, thank you for joining us.

LUNTZ: Thanks.

COLLINS: All right. Up next, we've got some pretty significant developments that are coming out of Uvalde, Texas, this morning. Is the school district's police chief put on leave over his response to the school shooting?

The lead Democratic negotiator in the gun safety bill is also going to join us live as you are seeing more Republican senators coming out and attacking the deal saying they won't vote for it.

BERMAN: A key South Carolina Democrat says there should be age limits in government. So, what does he think about Biden in 2024? He joins us live.



BERMAN: This morning in Texas after weeks of criticism for the handling of the Robb Elementary School shooting, embattled police chief for the Uvalde school district Pete Arredondo has been placed on administrative leave.

CNN's Rosa Flores joins us now in San Antonio with the very latest on this. A significant move, Rosa. ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, John. Here we are nearly a month after the massacre of 19 children and 2 teachers in the school district issuing a statement saying that Police Chief Pete Arredondo is on administrative leave.

Now, what stands out about this statement is not just what's written in the statement but what's missing. You see, this statement does not include the latest presented before the Texas State Senate where Texas DPS calls the law enforcement response an abject failure. And it doesn't include that three minutes into the shooting, there's already 11 officers, including the police chief, inside those hallways and that two of them had long guns and the DPS considered this firepower plenty of firepower to take down this shooter. It does not include that for 74 minutes after those three minutes those children would continue waiting.

What this statement says for the reasoning for placing Pete Arredondo on administrative leave is the following, quote, because of the lack of clarity that remains and the unknown timing of when I will receive the results of the investigation.

Now, will this be enough action for the families of the victims? John, most likely not. They have been asking for his ouster. They want him fired. I should mention that I've reached out to Arredondo's attorney about this new development and I have not heard back. John?

BERMAN: That is very interesting what's in that statement and what is not. Rosa Flores, thank you very much.

COLLINS: The Senate is on the verge of passing the most significant legislation on guns since the now expired assault weapons ban passed in 1994. This new deal would close the so-called boyfriend loophole, fund environmental health programs and school safety, incentivize states to pass red flag laws and enhanced background checks for people between the age of 18 and 21.

Joining us now is one of the senators who was key to negotiating this bill, Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Senator Murphy, thank you for joining us this morning.

And I wonder, first, was there ever a point in these negotiations where you felt like the talks were kind of on the verge of collapse potentially?

SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): Well, I mean, probably too many times to remember. There is a reason why Congress has not acted on the issue of gun violence in 30 years. For 30 years, the gun lobby has had a stranglehold on Congress and both parties have found it a lot easier to retreat to their political corners than do the hard things necessary to make our communities safer.

This group of senators, Senator Cornyn, Senator Tillis, Senator Sinema and myself, we certainly had tough times during the negotiations when we sort of couldn't find a path through some of the more difficult issues like how to stop domestic abusers from getting guns or how to get money to states for these red flag laws, but we persisted. [07:25:00]

And every time we hit an obstacle, we sat back down and we decided that keeping our kids safe, delivering a bill that was going to keep our schools and make our schools safer was more important than letting our disagreements get in the way.

30 years of political logjam on gun violence is likely coming to an end this week in the United States Congress and I couldn't be -- I couldn't be prouder of all the people, mostly citizens, the public, who have insisted on making this moment happen.

COLLINS: It is really remarkable to see that there actually is compromise. But I wonder in your eyes given what Democrats like you entered these negotiations looking for in legislation if you wonder that this agreement that you had come to -- that you came to does go far enough?

MURPHY: Well, undoubtedly, this bill saves lives. It saves thousands of lives. You know, on top of the gun provisions, we're putting about $12 billion into expanding mental health services all across this country, primarily for kids that are in crisis. That investment alone is going to save lives. But, you know, we are talking about taking guns away from domestic abusers, that could have a 10 percent decrease in the number of women who are killed in domestic violence incidences in certain states.

We're letting states pass red flag laws which allow you to take guns away from individuals who are threatening harm. In Connecticut, just last week, we used our red flag law to take guns away from a young man who is threatening to shoot up schools. And then we're much more careful about what we do with these 21-year-old buyers, including making a call to the local police department before we sell guns, assault weapons to 18 and 19 year olds. Maybe that could have made a difference in Uvalde.

So, of course, this bill isn't everything that I would want but the problem is, for 30 years, Republicans said we will do nothing, Democrats said we want everything and nothing got done. And so this is a way to break the logjam and this bill in and of itself is going to save a lot of lives in this country.

COLLINS: With the conventional wisdom that Republicans are going to retake the majority in the midterms this fall, do you think this is probably the last chance in a while that Congress is going to get a gun bill?

MURPHY: No, I don't. Obviously, I can't predict what will happen in the future. But my theory has always been that once Republicans start voting for gun safety bills, they will find out that there is enormous political benefit and there's just not that much political downside. You're going to have probably close to 20 Republicans vote for this bill today and then on final passage and I think you will see the opportunity for compromise in the future.

But I also don't want to have all of the focus be on what comes next. This bill is groundbreaking. This bill is going to prevent thousands of homicides and suicides and mass shootings all across the country. So, you know, we have a tendency sometimes in Washington to just already be looking to what could come next. This bill is something worth celebrating.

COLLINS: Well, on this bill, Senator John Cornyn was one of the top Republicans that you were negotiating with for so many days, he showed Senate Republicans at lunch yesterday areas where the NRA got what it wanted in this bill. And I wonder what your response is to that.

MURPHY: Well, the NRA, as you know, is strongly opposed to this bill and they are lobbying hard against it, but, you know, I know Senator Cornyn was talking to some of the gun groups during the course of the negotiations and, of course, this bill is a compromise. Of course, there are things that Senator Cornyn brought to these negotiations that were important to him that are included in this bill. Of course I made it clear from the beginning as one of the two lead Democratic negotiators that I wasn't willing to do anything that was just a box checking exercise. What we did have to save lives.

So, there is no doubt this is a compromise, but there is also no doubt that the gun industry and the gun lobby are right now working very hard to defeat this bill.

COLLINS: Former President Trump is criticizing it as the first step in the movement to take your guns away, that's what he said on his social media site yesterday, even though he's previously backed some of the provisions when he was president that are in this. And I want to play a moment from when you and former President Trump were actually talking about the potential for getting gun legislation done on Capitol Hill.


MURPHY: I think we have a unique opportunity to get comprehensive background checks, make sure that nobody buys a gun in this country that's a criminal, that's seriously mentally ill, that's on the terrorist watch list. But, Mr. President, it's going to have to be you that brings the Republicans to the table on this because right now the gun lobby would stop it in its tracks.

DONALD TRUMP: I like that responsibility, Chris. I really do. I think it's time. It's time that a president stepped up and we haven't had them -- I'm talking Democrat and Republican presidents, they have not stepped up.


COLLINS: Do you have any concerns that his criticism now of this agreement could potentially threaten GOP support for it?

MURPHY: I don't. I think that the Republican senators that are voting for this are committed to getting this done.