Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

Trump Tried to Call White House Support Staffer Talking with Committee; Arrest in Rape of Ten-Year-Old Girl That Led to Indiana Abortion; Soon, Biden News Conference Amid Crises in U.S. and Abroad. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired July 14, 2022 - 07:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world, it's Thursday, July 14th, and I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman.

This morning, new clues surrounding the pending January 6th witness who Donald Trump tried to contact. It's an allegation that has been referred to the Justice Department, not formally, but it's been sent up the chain there.

First on CNN, sources say Trump tried to call a member of the White House support staff who was in talks with the January 6th committee. That is new. The exact identity still unknown at this point. The witness, though, did not pick up when Trump called. This was not someone that Trump would routinely communicate with. And this came after Cassidy Hutchinson's explosive testimony.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The alarmed witness contacted an attorney. This is January 6th Committee Member Elaine Luria, the congresswoman speaking to CNN.


REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): We take very seriously the safety of any witnesses, anyone who comes forward to the committee and likewise their privacy, in this case, any speculation about who this person might have been and a lot of people trying to tie it together. I mean, the committee will just say that we want to protect this witness but we also want to hold people accountable who have potentially broken the law.


BERMAN: All right. With us now, CNN Senior Crime and Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz, CNN Senior Political Analyst John Avlon and CNN Senior Legal Analyst and former Federal Prosecutor Elie Honig.

Katelyn, I want to start with you the new CNN reporting on this witness. KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right, John. Let's walk through this because what we're learning now is part of the reason why we're understanding that the committee is taking this so seriously, that it wasn't just a call that was placed that Liz Cheney spoke about at that previous hearing.

So, what we are learning now about this call from Donald Trump, and this is according to reporting from our colleagues, Ryan Nobles, Dana Bash, Annie Grayer and Zach Cohen is that Donald Trump tried to call a White House support staff member. So, that's a career employee in the White House, not a political appointee that Donald Trump would have handpicked to be around him. It would be a staff member in the White House.

That call did not go through. So, what Trump wanted to say wasn't heard, but it was concerning enough to the person that they passed it to their lawyer and their lawyer told the committee.

And part of the other reason why this is so concerning is the circumstances in which this call was placed. This was placed to someone who was not regularly in touch with Donald Trump, so wouldn't be expecting regular calls from the ex-president, and this call came after the Cassidy Hutchinson testimony that was so damaging to a person that could have corroborated what Cassidy Hutchinson was saying under oath.

So, the committee is looking for patterns and clearly this was something concerning enough that they wanted alert the Justice Department to it.

KEILAR: Eleie, is telling the Justice Department, hey, we're putting this in your hands, is this about getting Trump to stop doing this, to not contact another witness, or is this about saying to the Justice Department, you've got to do something about this, or both?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's both, Brianna. First of all, you absolutely want to send a deterrent message here if you are the committee. What you want to let the world know, let anyone who might be inclined to tamper with witnesses know we're taking this seriously, we're sending it up the street to DOJ. That can be scary and should be scary because witness tampering is a very serious crime.

But there also is follow-up investigation that DOJ ought to do here. On its own in isolation, a phone call not answered and not returned, that is not enough to prosecute anyone for, but there's important follow-up questions that I would have for this staffer. Have you ever spoken with Donald Trump? Has he ever reached out since he left office? I know our reporting is that infrequent, but have you ever?


Has anyone else reached out to you?

A lot of times when people try to intimidate witnesses or tamper with witnesses, they do it through an intermediary. They send some other person to send a message first. And as Katelyn noted, the timing here is conspicuous. This happened just after Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony, just as we are on the brink of next week's hearing which will address what was happening inside the White House on January 6. Does this staffer know anything about that?

So, I think it goes both ways here, Brianna.

BERMAN: And, John, I think it is important to note that one of the things that one would look at in an investigation is a pattern of behavior by someone over time. Maggie Haberman reminded us, I think, that Donald Trump tried to reach out to Michael Cohen back when they were on okay terms after Cohen's home and office were first raided by the FBI.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. And it's Michael Cohen, you know, the ex-president's former consigliore who said that Donald Trump operates a bit like a mob boss. It's all direction, it's indication, it's through intermediaries. And we have seen a pattern from Donald Trump, very public, for example, torching people who perceived as turning on him very publicly, like Cassidy Hutchinson, trying to sort of -- via messages, sort of destroy her reputation. And then praising people, in some cases, convicted criminals who he perceives as not having flipped on him.

What's significant about this, as Elie said though, is that this is not someone who apparently has been in regular contact with the president. Getting a call from the ex-president at this time in this context, that's unusual at the very least and a brush back pitch in terms of saying witness intimidation is not acceptable, that's appropriate.

BERMAN: All right. Katelyn, John, Elie, more on this, thank you very much.

KEILAR: This morning, an Ohio man is being charged with the rape of a ten-year-old girl who needed to travel out of state to Indiana for an abortion. The case drew national attention and also drew a lot of scrutiny in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

CNN's Jean Casarez is joining us now. Jean, this is sort of a twist because there were many people, namely Republicans, who had cast doubt on whether this even existed, whether this girl even existed, and yet here we are, charges now being filed.

JEAN CAZARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a tragic, amazing story. Here are the facts, that man, according to police and court documents, is 27-year-old Gerson Fuentes. According to Franklin County Municipal Court, Fuentes is charged with felony rape of a minor under the age of 13 years old. He is being held on $2 million bond. He is charged with raping a ten-year-old girl who became pregnant.

Now, police were alerted to the case because of a referral made to the Franklin County, Ohio, Children Services by her mother. Columbus Police Detective Jeffrey Huhn testified Wednesday at Fuentes arraignment that the girl underwent a medical abortion in Indianapolis on June 30th. The procedure is banned in Ohio after six weeks of pregnancy, an OB/GYN in Indianapolis told CNN that she did help the ten-year-old girl from Ohio who was six weeks and three days pregnant have the procedure.

BERMAN: Thank you for laying out the facts of this case, as we know them, Jean. As Brianna mentioned, there were some who are raising questions about whether this even happened. What are these people who are raising that saying now that charges have been filed?

CAZARES: I looked on social media and many people just found this unbelievable, and I think it's a lesson for all of us, you know, a number of conservatives threw doubt on this story, Jim Jordan actually called it a lie. He deleted that tweet. There's also an aspect that the attorney general of Ohio, Dave Yost, told Fox News early on, on Monday, so early on, we are on Thursday now, but he said that there was not a whisper that the crime had occurred, going so far as to claim that there had been no request for any DNA analysis on a rape kit matching such a case.

Now, there's always two sides to the story. Is there another side? CNN is looking into it. Again, the mother of the girl reported the rape last month to Franklin County Children Services Agency which referred a complaint to police and we also now know from testimony and that arraignment that DNA has been collected, it's been tested to make a confirmation, you have got to do that for a criminal case, right?

And Yost released the following statement on Wednesday but did not offer an apology forecasting doubt over the case. He wrote, quote, my heart aches for the pain suffered by this young child. I am grateful for the diligent work of the Columbus Police Department in securing a confession and getting a rapist off the street.

The doctor who spoke out about helping a girl with an abortion is also under fire. Indiana's Republican attorney general went on Fox last night and claimed that the doctor herself failed to report the rape in Indiana. He has also said he's looking at challenging her medical license because there is mandatory reporting when you are someone of that level right there. So, that is a story that is developing now.


KEILAR: Jean, thank you so much for that. We do appreciate it.

I want to go live now to Wolf Blitzer who is in Jerusalem for a special event under way. Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Very important day here in Jerusalem, Brianna. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting live from Jerusalem. We're awaiting a joint news conference from President Joe Biden and the Israeli prime minister, Yair Lapid.

The two are signing a new joint declaration in the meantime aimed at expanding the security relationship between the two nations while countering efforts by Iran to destabilize the region. And this event comes as President Biden faces crises not only abroad but also back in the United States, as we all know, inflation levels surging to 40-year highs. Members of his own party have questioned his strategy and his leadership, and his approval numbers hitting new lows.

Let's bring in our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins, she's standing by, she's live at the news conference here in Jerusalem. Set the scene for us, Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. We both watched that warm welcome yesterday as President Biden arrived here in Israel. Today is much more about business and time to get down to brass tacks, as he is having these meetings with world leaders, including one that he just finished with the Israeli prime minister that went on for quite some time. They joked they talked about American baseball.

But, really, Wolf, the issues on the agenda are much more serious and it has to do with, of course, what is happening here in Israel with the Israeli/Palestine conflict, but also what is happening with Iran and countering Iran. That is a shared goal that they both to limit their nuclear program but they have two different ideas on how do that. They disagree on the strategy, as you know, Wolf, because the United States has been trying to coax Iran back to the table for that nuclear agreement that former President Trump walked away from. Israel does not really see much value in a new agreement because they don't think it would enough to restrict Iran's behavior.

All of these are issues that they have been discussing in addition to, of course, the fallout on the war in Ukraine that has continued to go on, with some U.S. officials previously critical about Israel not being forceful enough, vocal enough about condemning Russia's actions there.

But, yes, there will be a lot of questions here for President Biden not just on the news at home when it came to those numbers on inflation that you saw, which the White House and President Biden himself have been pushing back on, saying they're unacceptable but arguing that they believe they're out of date, but also, Wolf, about the trip that's coming out, which is to Saudi Arabia, where President Biden heads tomorrow after he finishes his meetings with world leaders here and it's that sit-down with the Saudi crown prince that is going to be first and foremost, really, that's something that U.S. officials are bracing for to see what that is actually going to look like because, of course, given what President Biden said on the campaign trail, it is almost guaranteed to be at least a bit awkward. Wolf?

BLITZER: Lots at stake right now and lots going on. We are going to take a quick break. The news conference here in Jerusalem, the president of the United States, the prime minister of Israel, that is next.

Stand by, we will be right back.



BLITZER: Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. This news conference between the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel is about to begin. They will both be making opening statements then answering reporters' questions.

David Sanger of The New York Times, our CNN Political and National Security Analyst, is with me.

In this joint declaration that they just approved, the U.S. and Israel, among other things, they said the United States stresses that integral to this pledge is the commitment never to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, and then it goes on to say, and the U.S. is prepared to use all elements of its national power to ensure that outcome. That's a pretty stark warning to the Iranians.

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's strong wording, it's been used before. It also is designed, Wolf, to sort of allude the central question that has been the difference between the Israelis and the Americans, which is would you allow Iran to get a threshold capability, go right up to the edge but not quite build a weapon, and that's where the Israeli position has been we can't let that happen and the U.S. has been vaguer. So, I would look at the press conference to see if the president goes off of this wording.

And also, of course, look for what he says about Saudi Arabia and how he's going to deal with Mohammed bin Salman on his next stop tomorrow.

BLITZER: So, you think they're going to get into that as well?

SANGER: I am quite certain he will get asked about it. This is the one opportunity reporters have on the entire trip to ask questions of the president. I don't think they will let him get very far without hearing about Saudi.

BLITZER: And do you think the president will only answer that in terms of a question, he won't as part of his opening statement say anything along those lines?

SANGER: I think the hard part for the president right now is he wants to tell his base that human rights are central to his foreign policy, they have been central, but this has been the great glaring exception because he needs to convince Americans he's bringing down gas prices and that means he's getting more oil flowing.

And the Saudis know they have him where they want him, which is finally the United States needs Saudi Arabia for something big and this may be Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince's way out of the exile, diplomatic exile he has been in since the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident.

BLITZER: Yes, who used to write for The Washington Post. And the U.S. intelligence community has effectively accused the Saudis of being involved in planning that murder.

SANGER: They've gone beyond that. They have said that the crown prince himself was knowing of the plot and many of them believe he helped organize it or in some way sent the people who ultimately did it, whether they intended to kill Khashoggi or not. So, that puts the crown prince at the center of all of this and that's one of the reasons that the president called Saudi Arabia a pariah state during the campaign. So, this has been the one area where Joe Biden really had to walk back the farthest.

BLITZER: In addition to trying to get the Saudis to increase oil production and other OPEC states as well, he also wants the Saudis to do what the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and Iraq (ph) who have done this part of this so-called Abraham Accords, and normalize, establish full diplomatic relations with Israel.


Is he going to get that from the Saudis?

SANGER: You won't see that on this trip, I suspect, but you will see steps in that direction and this integrated air defense which you probably will hear about during the press conference is a step in that direction, working with the Arab states against a common adversary, Iran, to ward off their air attacks and their drones.

BLITZER: All right. Stand by for a moment, David, we are going to get back to you. We're waiting for the news conference to begin. We're told it will begin momentarily.

In the meantime, I want to bring in Joseph Westphal, the former United States ambassador to Saudi Arabia. Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us.

Do you think there's going to be any breakthrough right now on either front as far as the U.S. and Saudi Arabia is concerned, Saudi Arabia agreeing to do what the U.S. would like to see, develop more oil right now to reduce the cost of gasoline in the United States and to fully establish diplomatic relations with Israel?

JOSEPH W. WESTPHAL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SAUDI ARABIA: I think the president will make those cases in private and there will be an effort to do that. However, the Saudis don't have a lot of room to expand their production given the limited supply levels that they can go to. But the more important piece, and you mentioned it, Wolf, earlier, or David mentioned it, is the fact that OPEC is an important player here and Saudi, of course, is a critical player in OPEC.

This is a long-range strategy for the president, to get them to help with OPEC decisions about supply in the future and what role Russia plays with OPEC as one of the plus countries.

BLITZER: How significant is it, Ambassador, that the Saudis apparently have agreed, and it's symbolic but I think it's pretty significant, to allow Israeli planes to use to fly over Saudi air space, for example, if flights are going from Israel to India or to the far east, they can now fly over Saudi Arabia air space? A few years ago when you were ambassador, that would have been unheard of, right? WESTPHAL: Right, exactly. No, I think a future diplomatic relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel is coming. The Saudis really, really want to have, I believe, an important relationship with Israel. Israel is a technological giant. They are a very developed, sophisticated country. They can be a real great partner to Saudi Arabia and they have, of course, the common enemy of Iran.

So, I think that the meeting the president is having with the Gulf nations leaders along with the leader of Egypt, Jordan and Iraq is really important in setting a tone for how they're going to address Iran's activities in the region, whether it's in Yemen, in Syria, in Lebanon, et cetera. So, I think this is a really important step.

BLITZER: And as you correctly point out, Ambassador -- yes, as you correctly point out, one thing that's sort of unifying the Israelis and some of these other Arab countries, like the UAE and Bahrain and maybe even Saudi Arabia, is the concern over Iran and its program to try to develop some sort of nuclear weapon. They are just as concerned as the Israelis are on this potential threat down the road.

Stand by, Ambassador, we are going to get back to you, to David Sanger. Kaitlan Collins is at the news conference. We are expecting the president of the United States and the prime minister of Israel to answer reporters' questions momentarily. And the president presumably will answer some questions on the U.S. economy right now as well.

We will have special coverage right after this.



BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Jerusalem. We're standing by for President Biden's joint news conference here in Jerusalem with the Israeli prime minister, Yair Lapid. They're going to be taking questions from American and Israeli journalists.

Bianna Golodryga is joining us right now, our CNN Senior Global Affairs Analyst. Bianna, I assume the president of the United States will be asked by some of these White House correspondents who are traveling with him about the economic issues he's facing at home in addition to the foreign policy and national security issues he's facing here abroad. What do you expect?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. He dealt with that even yesterday, the administration obviously having to respond to that very disappointing 9.1 percent inflation report for last month. The administration obviously saying that this is unacceptable, the report has indicated that there has been a continued rise in oil prices. Obviously, the administration putting their blame on this war in Ukraine and Russia for the rise in oil prices globally.

They will also likely say that this is backward-looking indicator and that, going forward, they're hoping that at least inflation has peaked out. We have seen gas prices declining over the past few weeks, of course, that's little consolation for Americans at home as they continue to pay more prices both at the gas station and at the grocery store.

And it's really having an impact on his overall polling numbers, something that's been a big priority for not only this administration but for his party as a whole as we head to the midterms in just a few months. I think it's going to be little consolation to see whatever comes out of this meeting with the Saudis in terms of any attempt that they may provide as far as relief to release more oil. That is likely to happen, but that is something that Americans and the rest of the world won't feel for the next few weeks or months.

So, this is some sort of instant gratification that the president can deliver to Americans in terms of this trip and the urgency of it. Obviously, a lot of pressure on this president, both from Republicans and Democrats, as to why he would be going to the Saudis at this point given his past statements on their human rights abuses. And it's going to be a very tough meeting for the president to have to face and be asked tomorrow whether there will be a handshake, a fist bump, who knows, but it's a complete turnaround from how he described that kingdom during just the past couple of years and obviously during his election.

BLITZER: Yes, during the campaign, he called the Saudis a pariah nation. Let's see how that unfolds when he arrives in Saudi Arabia. He's going to be heading there and the talks will be taking place on Friday. We will have, of course, extensive coverage of all of that.

We're standing by for this joint news conference between the President of the United States, the prime minister of Israel to begin momentarily. They will be taking questions from reporters, you see some of the officials walking in right now. I think that's Tony Blinken, the secretary of state, sitting down.

We will have live coverage, that's coming up, in just a moment. Let's take a very, very quick break. We will be right back.