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Secret Service Only Provides 1 Text Message to Committee; Georgia Prosecutor: All 16 Fake Trump Electors are Targets; Prosecutors in Bannon Trial: He Thought He was 'Above the Law'; Northeast Braces for Dangerous Heat Wave. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired July 20, 2022 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Wednesday, July 20. I'm John Berman. Brianna is off. Chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is here.



BERMAN: A very busy morning. Just one single text message, just one. A few minutes before midnight, our Jamie Gangel broke the news that the Secret Service turned over just one text message in response to a request by the homeland security inspector general. This is about text messages sent before and around the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

According to a letter obtained by CNN from the inspector general to the January 6th Committee, the I.G. asked for a month's worth of records from 24 Secret Service personnel and was provided with just one single text exchange about January 6th.

This comes as the National Archives has asked the Secret Service to investigate, saying they are aware of the, quote, "potential unauthorized deletion" of agency text messages. Committee member Zoe Lofgren calls it all problematic.

COLLINS: Yes, it's raising huge questions, of courses. And you know, the Secret Service has turned over thousands of pages of documents related to January 6th to the committees, just not the missing text messages that they want.

The agency's spokesman later told "The New York Times" that the phone records are probably not recoverable.

All of this is obviously raising questions about the transparency and credibility of the agency ever since that blockbuster testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson about their actions that day.

So for more on all of this, let's go to CNN's Jessica Schneider, who is in Washington. And Jessica, it just seems like every day the questions about what these messages said, why we cannot find them, why they can't turn them over are growing by the number.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Kaitlan. And every day it seems to get a bit more confusing. The questions continue to mount here. You know, committee member Zoe Lofgren, she really said this. She said it doesn't look good that the Secret Service could only hand over one text exchange.

But the agency here is saying this is coming down to the fact that data was potentially lost during a phone replacement program that had been previously scheduled. And the fact that employees were actually the ones tasked with backing up their phones. And if they didn't, this data wouldn't be saved, as it appears it wasn't.

So we now know in all this that the inspector general actually requested text messages from the days before and after January 6th. In particular from 24 members of the Secret Service. And then complained that he didn't get any.

So the Secret Service is now saying it only found this one text. It was a message between officials about getting assistance up to the Capitol.

But the Secret Service is also saying that they're unaware of the existence of any more text messages, and that's because there just doesn't seem to be a record, since these phones were likely wiped in those days after January 6th during what the Secret Service says is this routine phone migration.

So here's a statement that we've gotten from the Secret Service about all of this. They say, "We continue to scrutinize our records, databases and archives to ensure full compliance with the committee's subpoena. We are taking all feasible steps to identify records responsive to the subpoena, to include forensic examinations of agency phones and other investigative techniques."

But as you mentioned, Kaitlan, the Secret Service is saying here, look, we've provided thousands of pages of other documents. We've given details on radio communications, our protocols. But this just isn't satisfying the I.G. or the committee. They're pressing for more. And they still want the Secret Service to find these text messages that, of course, could shed light on the former president's -- Trump's actions on and around that day, January 6th -- guys.

COLLINS: Yes. Just one text does not seem like it's going to cut it for the committee.


COLLINS: Jessica Schneider, stay with us, because we do want to talk to more -- to you more about all of this that's going on.

But first, we want to bring in CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson; and CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Elie Honig.

One text message. What do you think? JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, so Kaitlan, the way it works is

you don't get to say, I sent over thousands of documents. I sent you so much other information, so it's just one text message, what are you talking about?

The reality is, is that it's conflicting to me, and here's why. You don't get to say that we go through a routine process called migration where you're taking things off a phone, but if it's so routine, how does the information not get stored? If it's so routine, why are there not protocols to ensure that the information is safeguarded? If it's so routine and you're such a world-class agency, how does this happen? And I say all of that to say that it does not sound credible to me.

The bottom line is that you have a responsibility as I.T. to make sure that this information is preserved. You didn't do so. It seems nefarious. I don't know, but it's just not something from an evidentiary perspective that I buy.

BERMAN: Can I just say, you know, Jessica just pointed out there is some murkiness in all of this. What does seem pretty clear is the calendar, the sequence of requests here. I'm going to read from CNN's reporting.

Congress informed the Secret Service it needed to preserve and produce documents related to January 6th on January 16th, 2021, and again on January 25th, 2021, for four different committees who were investigating what happened.


The Secret Service migration, deletion of these emails or texts, did not start until January 27th. They were asked, according to this, twice.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I have some major questions here, and I think that timeline just underscores those.

First of all, the response we've heard from Secret Service, essentially, is we did this migration. We got better phones. And, sorry, the old ones had the texts. They're gone. What are you going to do? Here's why that's totally nonsensical.

When I started at the Justice Department, 2004, texts were brand-new. We didn't know what to do. Are we allowed to text these agents, Secret Service, FBI, whatever? Do we have to save them? Do we have to produce them?

It took us a couple years. The answer was yes, yes, and yes. You have to save them. You have to preserve them. You often have to produce them to the defense lawyer.

And -- but by now, for a decade all of these agencies, Secret Service included, have had policies, technology to save, to backup those texts.

And Joe, let me put this to you. What would happen if we were on a case: I was the prosecutor; you were the defense lawyer? There were texts from the day of the charged crime. You said, I want those texts, and I said, Sorry, Judge. We tried, but we upgraded our phones, and they're done. What do you do as a defense lawyer?

JACKSON: Yes, a number of things. The first thing is that the judge would lay into the prosecution unimaginably.


JACKSON: The second thing is that you get something called an adverse inference charge, which would suggest that, if there were texts, they would be, indeed, helpful to your client.

The next thing you would do is say, Hey, your Honor, what's going on here? Let's get this case dismissed.

This is bad news. It shouldn't happen, particularly to an agency like the Secret Service.

BERMAN: Much more on this coming up, guys. And we are going to speak to a couple different people with different perspectives on the Secret Service, including the technical perspective, like can you really delete emails and texts forever? And No. 2, someone who was in the inside who will tell us how likely this is to have happened in the first place.

But there's other major news this morning. We learned that in Georgia that the Fulton County D.A., Fani Willis, has told a number of the people who were fake electors there that they're no longer just witnesses in this investigation. They are now targets.

Will you just first, Elie --


BERMAN: -- tell me what that means, the difference between a witness and a target?

HONIG: So there's three things a person can be, a witness is the lowest level. It's where you want to be if you're the person, meaning you just witnessed the crime. You didn't do anything wrong.

There's a subject, which is this sort of middle category, which means you're within the purview of the grand jury. You're sort of in purgatory, so to speak.

Then there's target, which means prosecutors believe they have evidence that likely ties you as a crime. And you're a likely, a putative, defendant, to use the term that we use.

So this is really bad news for the people who have been told this this.

I do have to say, I'm getting whiplash from following the Georgia investigation, because they went a year. They opened this investigation in February of 2021 and did nothing for a year before requesting a grand jury early in 2022 and then not even starting that grand jury until May.

So they basically whittled away a year and a half. And now they're moving at this frantic pace, where people are moving from witness status to target status within a matter of days.

So I'm not sure what's going on there. I'm not sure if they're trying to make up for lost time, but it does raise some questions for me.

JACKSON: So the other perspective, Kaitlan and John, is that, right? And it could be that they were looking and they were determining whether they had the goods.

We saw parallel to that, for example, the Manhattan district attorney's office investigating significant issues relating to Trump. At the end of the day they decided to pass, right?

So I don't know whether, to Elie's point, true, when you're a prosecutor you want to get information; you want to move at a pace that is reasonable; you want to act diligently; you want to ensure that your investigation proceeds.

But is it because, right, they have so many good things that they uncovered in that investigation that they said get that grand jury operative, let's move forward. We have everything we need.

And that could be why the information turned, remember, from you're not just a subject or a witness, you're now a target, because we know so much more about you.

COLLINS: That's the question, I think, this raises is for them to go out of their way to tell these people, You're witnesses, you're not targets; and then now to say, You're targets. That means they uncovered new evidence. And they did not think their actions were criminal at the time, but now they think that they might be.

JACKSON: And Elie will tell you that happens in investigations all the time. Prosecutors stumble across information. Prosecutors think one thing and ultimately, they uncover another.

Remember, every investigation is not done in isolation. You're putting together multiple pieces of a puzzle. When that puzzle starts to look the way it looks, hey, you're no longer a witness anymore. You're a target of investigation.

BERMAN: Evidence of what, Elie? Any sense of what crimes could be at play here? I think what happened in Georgia, as opposed to other states -- and every state is different -- didn't Georgia actually submit to, you know a slate of fake electors?

HONIG: They did, down to the National Archives. And I think the question was, was this fraud or was this something else?

I think the defense is going to be, We weren't trying to trick anybody. We all knew who the electors were. It was a matter of public record. They were the Biden electors. We were putting ourselves in place in case this pipe dream that we had -- they wouldn't call it a pipe dream -- but in case we somehow got the courts to overturn the Biden election, well, we're the Trump electors, if it goes that way.


That would not be a fraud. That would be audacious and ridiculous, but that wouldn't be a fraud.

If the idea was, Let's trick people. Let's try to get people to think we're really the electors, that's going to be a fraud. And so, in the judgment of the Georgia -- the Fulton County D.A., apparently, that line appears to have been crossed, in their minds.

BERMAN: And just one other thing here. Would these be the final targets in this investigation?

HONIG: No, not necessarily. I think the idea of any investigation is you want to flip people. You want to build up the line, ideally. And I think that's pretty clearly where Fulton County is looking. I think they want to use these people and move up on it.

COLLINS: OK. So you would think with all of these investigations going on maybe the former president would not be making phone calls to state officials about the election and the election results. Well, maybe not. Maybe you wouldn't think that.

The assembly speaker in Wisconsin, a Republican, says he got a call from President Trump within the last week about the election. He said he got a call. He said, quote, "It's very consistent. He makes his case, which I respect. He would like us to do something different in Wisconsin. And I explained that that is not allowed under the Constitution."

That's what Robin Vos said on Tuesday. After that phone call happened, which he did clarify this statement from Trump came after that phone call, Trump wrote, "It looks like Speaker Robin Vos, a long-time professional RINO always looking to guard his flank, will be doing nothing about the amazing Wisconsin Supreme Court decision stating loud and clear," talking about election results and what he believes is fraudulent, which is obviously not fraudulent.

JACKSON: So a couple of things. First thing is, is that we defense attorneys always say that prosecutors play through the whistle. It's a sports analogy that demonstrates that you don't stop until the whistle blows.

Why do I say that, right? I say that because all evidence is significant, right? All the pieces of the puzzle matter. What were you doing? Were you trying to obstruct? What point were you trying to obstruct? So I think everything you say and everything you don't say is critical.

Now, one last point. I just made a phone call. I have a right. I believe the election was stolen from me. I have a right to speak to whoever I want to speak to. There's nothing nefarious about that. There's nothing ill-intended about that. And by the way, don't we live in America? Isn't this a democracy? Can't I speak to whomever I want to? HONIG: Yes, the man is undeterrable. I think that much is clear. I

would not have advised him to make that phone call. Let's leave it at that.

BERMAN: He's calling to overturn the Wisconsin election results.

COLLINS: The last one.

BERMAN: The last one. As there are these investigations going on. This is -- is this daring Merrick Garland?

HONIG: I don't know what it is. I almost wonder if it's like when you catch a little kid doing something wrong, and they keep doing it to just sort of make the case, I don't think this is wrong. I think this is fine.

COLLINS: Except he's not a kid. He's a 70-year-old --

HONIG: That's a fair point. You are correct.

BERMAN: On the subject of potential petulance here, right, Steve Bannon -- stand by, friends. Steve Bannon heads back to the courtroom this morning for his criminal contempt of Congress trial. Prosecutors in their opening statement said the former Trump adviser decided he was above the law while the defense claims the case against Bannon is fueled by politics.

Back with us, Jessica Schneider to give us a sense of where this case has been and where it's going again in just a few hours.

SCHNEIDER: Well, it could be pretty quick here, John. We just got the opening statements yesterday, first witness, so it's in full swing; but it could even wrap by the end of the week.

And what we're already seeing is that the tactics from Steve Bannon and his lawyers and the prosecutors wildly different here. Prosecutors are portraying this, really, as an open and shut case. They're saying Bannon just simply didn't follow the rules. He didn't respond to and comply with the committee's subpoena; therefore, should be found guilty.

But Bannon's lawyers and even Bannon himself, they've come out fighting. They say that the subpoena and the ultimate contempt referral was just the committee playing politics.

And then, of course, Steve Bannon went on a rant outside the courthouse after day one, railing against the committee chair, Bennie Thompson.

So the trial picks back up this morning. Prosecutors, they've already questioned a staff director for the committee. And they're laying out how Bannon was expected to comply with the subpoena last October. He just didn't. That's their entire case.

Only a handful of potential witnesses have been identified by both sides here. And what's interesting, John, is that Bannon has been severely limited

in his defenses. He cannot really even bring up much about his executive privilege claims, for example.

So this could be a short trial, maybe even wrapping by the end of the week or possibly maybe even before tomorrow night's prime-time hearing. So it all starts again this morning. We'll see what transpires. It could be lively.

BERMAN: What timing. All right. Jessica Schneider, pulling double duty for us. Jessica, thank you very much.

COLLINS: "Lively" is not really a word used for Bannon.


COLLINS: OK. So it's pretty unusual for a defendant -- I guess we should make an exception for Steve Bannon, given we've seen how he's acted in these situations before -- but it's unusual for them to come outside the court and speak. And not only did he come outside the court yesterday; he came out and he railed against the House Select Chairman, Bennie Thompson.


STEVE BANNON, ON TRIAL FOR CONTEMPT OF CONGRESS: Bennie Thompson sent a staffer over here. Where is Bennie Thompson? We subpoenaed Thompson, and they're hiding behind these phony privileges.


He's too gutless to come over here himself. He's made it a crime, made it a crime. Not a civil charge of wanting my testimony but a crime. And he didn't have the courage or guts to show up here, and he sent a staffer.


HONIG: Well, first of all, Bennie Thompson has COVID, so I don't think anyone wants him in the courtroom. But putting that aside, I think Steve Bannon is finding that being on trial as a defendant is not quite as fun as perhaps he imagined.

I think, in his mind's eye, maybe he envisioned it like his podcast or like that conference, where you get to tell people what's what and give people a piece of your mind and rail against the Democrats and Bennie Thompson.

But in real life, in a criminal trial, it is a tightly-controlled scenario. And this judge has, by all indications, run a very tight ship. Something I used to love as a prosecutor. You don't want someone going off the rails.

And all these defenses that Steve Bannon had in mind -- executive privilege, I'm being targeted, the committee's illegitimate -- the judge has shut those down one after the other. And now he's left with this very narrow, limited defense of basically didn't quite understand what the subpoena meant.

JACKSON: Yes. There's two critical things to any defendant. One is the court of public opinion, right? And one is what happens inside the court.

And I think what he was saying there is consistent with what he has to say in the court; and that is that, look, this wasn't a formal specific date. I didn't ignore anything. It was an ongoing negotiation.

The reality is, is that there was nothing final about it, and in fact, right, remember he tried to withdraw that and say, Hey, I'll testify now. It was kind of too late.

But the reality is, is he has to do that. And he also has to say it's partisanship. This is ridiculous. What are you talking about? Look at the composition of the committee.

So I think he has to buttress himself publicly. He has to show that this is -- he's victimized. He's the victim, right? No one else but him. And I think that's what he --

BERMAN: If he has to show that, does he take the stand?

HONIG: This is an interesting question. I mean, normally, defendants do not take the stand, even though on TV they always do. But in reality, as Joe knows, you almost never put a defendant on. It's risky.

On the one hand, this is Steve Bannon. He loves the microphone. He loves the attention.

On the other hand, he's not going to get to say what he thinks he's going to say.

BERMAN: Can we roleplay? Can I --


BERMAN: -- be Steve Bannon? You be the judge?

HONIG: Yes, please.

BERMAN: OK. So I'm Steve Bannon.

HONIG: This is the jury.

BERMAN: This was all political. This was all political.

HONIG: Mr. Bannon -- Mr. Bannon, that's outside the bounds. You know -- you heard my ruling on it. I'm going to instruct you to answer the question you've been asked only.

BERMAN: Executive privilege. I shouldn't be forced to --

HONIG: Mr. Bannon, I'm going to warn you one more time, then I'm going to have the jury leave the room. Executive privilege, I've ruled on that already. You need to knock it off. I'm going to give you one more chance. Only answer the question you're asked.

BERMAN: This election was stolen. Donald Trump --

HONIG: OK. Mr. Bannon. Hold on. Recess. Marshals, please take the jury out of the courtroom.

All right, they're out. OK, they're gone. Mr. Bannon, you defied me. You do it one more time I'm going to hold you in contempt of court in this contempt of Congress trial. It's going to be contempt within contempt. It's like inception of contempt, but that's what I'm going to do to you. And I'm going to punish you.

JACKSON: That was excellent, by the way.

HONIG: Thank you.


COLLINS: A round of applause.

JACKSON: And the other part of that, right, to Elie's point about the judge, you have something called cross-examination. Right? And at the end of the day, sir, did you get a subpoena? Did the subpoena indicate the date you should appear? Did you acknowledge that subpoena? Do you recognize, do you speak and understand the language the subpoena was in?

Did you appear at the committee? Did you present the document you were requested to present? Did any of that occur? If no, then it's a simple, really, answer.

The prosecutor said, as they did in their opening statement, it's simple. Guy is not above the law. You've got to really play by the rules. You didn't, you're guilty.

BERMAN: Lawyers, thespians, gentlemen. Elie Honig --

COLLINS: Scholars.

BERMAN: -- Joey Jackson, our thanks to both of you.

JACKSON: Pleasure.

COLLINS: Up next, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is among more than a dozen Democratic members of Congress who was arrested in an abortion rights protest outside the Supreme Court.

BERMAN: And the dangerous heat wave hitting the United States and Europe as President Biden takes steps to fight the climate crisis.


[06:23:09] BERMAN: This morning, a dangerous heat wave sweeping the globe. More than 100 million Americans are under excessive heat alerts, and temperatures in Western Europe are shattering all-time records.

Today, President Biden is expected to outline his next steps to try to take on the climate crisis. CNN's Athena Jones, live outside New York's Central Park, which is going to be well-used, especially around those fountains today, Athena.


It's going to be a scorcher. We have been talking about the devastating heat we're seeing in the South and west. Well, now that heat wave is here in the Northeast. Well, we could see record temperatures over the next few days.


JONES (voice-over): An unprecedented global heat wave moving to the Northeast. At least one-third of Americans are under a heat-related weather warning, with around 60 million likely to see temperatures over 100 degrees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is serious heat.

JONES (voice-over): The Northeast bracing for a brutally hot day, with heat advisories in effect in New York, Boston and Philadelphia, where the heat index will be around 100 degrees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be hot. It's going to be, like, 95 and above all week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know I'm going to have to stay cool under AC or something.

JONES (voice-over): Cooling centers will be open throughout the Northeast in anticipation of triple-digit temperatures.

The Southern Plains still the hardest hit in the country, with nearly a dozen record highs in Texas and Oklahoma on Tuesday. The threat of wildfires is a concern, with some states like Texas already battling multiple blazes.

DAVID HONDULA, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF HEAT RESPONSE AND MITIGATION FOR PHOENIX, ARIZONA: The heat can affect everyone. We're all at risk, and unfortunately, one of the first symptoms of heat exhaustion is that we become a little disoriented, a little confused.

So please trust your body. If you're feeling any suggestion that you might be in trouble, take it easy. Find a way to take a break.

JONES (voice-over): In Arizona about 7,000 people without power Tuesday, North of Tucson. Residents relying on ice distribution and cooling centers to manage the heat.

[06:25:09] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our crews are working as quickly and as safely as possible around the clock to be able to restore customers as quickly as possible.

JONES (voice-over): A windstorm knocking out power for hours in the town of Paris, Arkansas, putting some in a dire situation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've had it up and down all night because it was too shot. I was sweaty. I sweat so bad I had to get up sometimes and sit on my -- sit on the couch.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At nighttime we can sleep in there until we can't breathe anymore, and then we have to go outside. You sleep maybe 30 minutes, and then that's just enough sleep so we don't have to pass out and collapse.

JONES (voice-over): President Joe Biden planning to address the extreme heat while visiting Massachusetts. The White House says he is likely to announce executive actions to combat climate change.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The impacts of extreme weather are intensifying across the globe, including here in the United States. No one is immune from climate change.

JONES (voice-over): Across the Atlantic, Western Europe facing record heat, setting the region ablaze.

The U.K. shattering its record for the hottest day in its history, with temperatures on Tuesday reaching a blistering 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Crews working tirelessly to battle fires breaking out across London.

DAVID WALLACE-WELLS, AUTHOR, "THE UNINHABITABLE EARTH": The planet is getting hotter. It's already hotter than it's ever been in the entire history of human civilization. We need to be cutting our emissions pretty quickly.


JONES (on camera): Today, President Biden is set to visit a former coal plant that's being repurposed for the clean energy industry. He plans to announce new funding for communities facing extreme heat and steps to boost the offshore wind industry -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Athena Jones, we're watching what he says very closely and comparing it to what I think a lot of people are calling for, right?

COLLINS: Yes. And if it matches with what climate activists want to see from the White House, especially with what's happened with the Supreme Court and Senator Joe Manchin, I mean, there's a lot of scrutiny on this speech today.

BERMAN: And ahead on this very subject, we're going to speak with the White House national climate advisor, Gina McCarthy, as President Biden plans to take these executive actions on climate. BERMAN: So today former Vice President Mike Pence will return to the

Capitol for the first time since leaving office. So who is he meeting with on Capitol Hill?

COLLINS: Also ahead, he said Trump was the only president he recognized and claimed Biden was, quote, "installed in the White House." Oh, and he chartered three buses to the Capitol on January 6 and said Pence was a traitor.

Last night he became the Republican candidate for governor in Maryland. We will tell you the Trump-backed candidate, Dan Cox, and who he is.