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Georgia Prosecutors Say, All 16 Fake Trump Electors Are Targets in Probe; Secret Service Only Provides One Text Message to Committee; Records Shattered Across Globe as Heat Wave Intensifies. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired July 20, 2022 - 07:00   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. It is Wednesday, July 20th. You know, which means it's my anniversary. So, let me just happy anniversary.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Wow. Congratulations.

BERMAN: I just realized.

COLLINS: How many years? You just realized it?

BERMAN: Well, it's 21 years.

COLLINS: That's amazing.

BERMAN: It's a long time.

COLLINS: Well, at least it was 3:00 in the morning when you left your house.


COLLINS: It's not like you missed an opportunity.

BERMAN: Our marriage can drive now, no, drink legally. Our marriage can drink legally now. I'm just saying, if it wants to.

I am John Berman. Brianna is off, maybe happily at this point. Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is with us this morning. It's great to have you here.

COLLINS: Thank you for having me and congratulations to your wife. I have a lot of questions for her.

BERMAN: You're furrowing your eyebrows. Congratulations to your wife, question mark.

We have new CNN reporting on former President Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia. The Fulton County district attorney putting all 16 fake Trump electors on notice that they are now targets of an ongoing criminal investigation. Before, they were just witnesses.

COLLINS: It represents a pretty significant escalation of the criminal probe in Georgia indicating prosecutors could be moving closer to charges perhaps against those who falsely certified Trump as the winner in Georgia when he so clearly was not and possibly drawing this investigation closer to the former president himself.

BERMAN: All right. CNN's Sara Murray who has been covering this case from the beginning is live for us. And this is a significant change, Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a significant change because we had previously heard that a number of these folks were actually trying to cooperate with her office, that they were told they were witnesses, and, remember, this is a criminal investigation into Donald Trump and his allies' efforts to overturn the election.

And this is giving us a sense of just how broad this is, a target letter to these 16 fake electors. Here is what the district attorney said in a new court filing explaining this change. As our investigation has matured and new evidence has come to light in the spirit of integrity, we feel it only fitting to inform you that your client's status has changed to target.

So, she obviously doesn't say what that new evidence is, but there's' some notable names on this list. This includes David Shafer, the chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, and State Senator Bert Jones who is currently running for lieutenant governor in Georgia.

BERMAN: A question for people who are following the nuance of what's going on in Georgia, this is a special grand jury that's seated right now, Sara, which doesn't issue indictments. So, why send these target letters?

MURRAY: Yes. We've gotten that question from a couple folks who are like, what the heck is going on here? Look, there are a couple things that could be happening here. One, she could feel like the evidence is overwhelmingly pointing toward an indictment and we don't know what conversation she's privately having with the grand jury about this.

But beyond that, these are the kind of letters you could send to put some pressure on people and to say, look, we believe that there's enough there that you've done something wrong, you could face indictment, so perhaps if you are not being as cooperative as we would like you to be, if you are not sharing information about everyone else involved in this that we would like you to, this may be an incentive to cooperate further.

BERMAN: All right. Sara Murray, thank you, as always, for your reporting on all on this.

COLLINS: So, for more on all of this, let's bring in CNN's Chief Legal Analyst former Federal Prosecutor Jeffrey Toobin. What do you make of this now that they've gone from being witnesses to being targets? JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It's an aggressive investigation. I mean, you can't help but notice the contrast between what's going on in Georgia and what's going on in the Justice Department in Washington. The most you can say about the Justice Department investigation in Washington is that they're being very cautious.

Now, some critics are saying they're doing nothing at all in terms of people except those who actually were physically inside the Capitol. I don't think that's true. I think there is a real investigation going on in Washington, but it's a very cautious, slow-moving investigation.

But in Georgia, the district attorney is really moving ahead and certainly signaling that there will be criminal charges in connection with this case.

BERMAN: So, look, being a target isn't a conviction, it isn't even necessarily an indictment, but it is a major change, Jeffrey. And what would it take in theory to get there? What kind of new evidence?

TOOBIN: Well, the issue is going to be intent and also knowledge of the law. I mean, what gets complicated in this situation is, you know, did these people know they were breaking the law?


These crimes in Georgia are what's called specific intent crimes, which are crimes that mean you have to have a wrongful intent, knowing you're doing something wrong.

That's often hard to prove in white collar cases if, for example, you were dealing with lawyers. If you're saying, hey, the lawyer said this was a legitimate move we were doing, I was just putting my name on a piece of paper, that's a difficult defense to respond to. If, on the other hand, people said to them, look, we don't have any legal basis for this, but President Trump wants us to do it, that's a different scenario.

So, you know, you're going to have to deal with the question of intent, but the prosecutor is moving forward. And you shouldn't -- there are a lot of difficulties in these Georgia cases. You know, I think people shunned underestimate that. There are provisions in Georgia law for moving cases at the request of the defense from state court to federal court, which could delay any case or even invalidate any criminal case that's brought in Georgia. There are a lot of potential problems, but she's moving forward and we will see what happens.

COLLINS: Okay. But given the way that this is heating up in Georgia and the questions are what's happening at the Justice Department, if you were a former president, maybe named Donald Trump, would you be making calls to the assembly speaker in Wisconsin just last week or two weeks ago, I guess, because he said this on Tuesday, about decertifying the election?

Because that's what Robin Vos, who is the assembly speaker in Wisconsin, has just said has happened to him. He said he got a call from Trump within the last week and when he was asked what did Trump say to you? 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 is not allowed under the Constitution.

TOOBIN: You know, if someone had come up to you on the street and someone said in July of 2022 that they were trying to overturn the election that was held almost two years ago, you would say this is like a tinfoil hat crazy person. I mean, the idea that the president -- former president thinks this could be overturned is so bizarre, I don't know if it counts for criminal intent. It's almost hard to wrap your mind around that as something, but it just shows that the former president is obsessed with this issue and is not letting it go. And if they are still looking for criminal intent, that is potentially more evidence.

BERMAN: The difference between Donald Trump's predicament in Georgia and these electors, right, they submitted a document to the archives presenting themselves as electors. So, that in and of itself could be something worse. Donald Trump is on the hook for the phone call potentially.

TOOBIN: The phone call and much less. Remember, the phone call is the only evidence that is public. But the reason the former president has so much trouble in Georgia is because the whole issue of good faith, which is really part of the federal investigation, the president telling Mike Pence, you know, you have the legal right to do this, he was advised by lawyers to say that Mike Pence had the right to do it, when it comes to Georgia, when he's saying to Raffensperger, the secretary of state, just find me these votes, it's very tough to argue that that is some sort of good faith attempt to count the votes correctly. And, you know, that's why the Georgia investigation is a serious problem for Trump.

COLLINS: Okay. But to go to what's happening in Wisconsin, okay, we saw what -- I mean, the parallels between this though are really striking, because you saw what this assembly speaker is saying that Trump said to him just last week in this phone call. Listen to what Trump said to Brad Raffensperger in Georgia at the time of the election.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT (voice over): And the truth -- the real truth is I won by 400,000 votes at least. So, what are we going to do here, folks? I only need 11,000 votes. Fellow, I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break.


COLLINS: Okay. That's how he responded when Georgia officials did not bend to his will. Last week, he called this Republican official in Wisconsin official who did not bend to his will, and then posted that he was a longtime professional RINO looking to guard his flank, who would do nothing about a decision that he said was clear, that ballot boxes had been unlocked and they were illegal. TOOBIN: No. It's -- as Vos said publicly, he's nothing, if not, consistent. You know, look, Donald Trump has gotten away with this kind of behavior his entire career. All he's doing with regard to the election is the same thing he did with contractors when he was building his buildings, with business partners that he broke with. This bluster, this anger, this lying, he's gotten away with it, he got elected president of the United States, for all I know he could get elected president of the United States again in two years. This is who he is and he's not going to stop. And no prosecutor has ever called him on it and none has so far in this investigation, either.


BERMAN: Jeffrey Toobin, thank you for being with us.

TOOBIN: Happy anniversary, Berman.

BERMAN: I appreciate it. Thank you. Jeffrey remembered.

The other big news this morning, which our Jamie Gangel broke just a few minutes before midnight, the Secret Service turned over one text message. That is one single text message relating to the inquiry into the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

According to a letter obtained by CNN from the homeland security 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 how many, one, one single text exchange about January 6.

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.

Gordon Heddell is the former assistant director of the Secret Service, he was also previously inspector general at the Defense Department and Labor Department, joins us now. Gordon, great to see you. Thank you for being with us. We you can provide inside into what's going on.

I just want to remind our viewers of the timeline here. 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. The Secret Service migration, for which there is some blame for the absence of these text messages, this migration were maybe these messages got deleted, didn't start until the 27th, after those two requests. So, in your experience how could you explain that?

GORDON HEDDELL, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, U.S. SECRET SERVICE: Well, John, first of all, I think the Secret Service has to act quickly and responsively to avoid any further impression that it is not fully cooperating with Congress. I believe their focus now needs to be on trust, transparency and accountability, if I'm speaking, let's say, as an inspector general.

You know, the way the service has handled this situation has created doubt. I think that that doubt began when the Secret Service allowed one of its agents to serve in a political position in the White House and the doubt has continued up to today in its handling of this congressional request for records.

But, you know, first of all, we don't know exactly what is missing here and the service either has records or they don't. I do know that the Secret Service has a process, and it's a good process, at least in my memory, for how it handles and maintains all records to include text messages. If the service doesn't have those records now, as they've indicated, then they should explain why and whether these messages were deleted, and if they were deleted, was it intentionally or was it by accident?

So, I just -- I think the service has to move very quickly on this because time is working against them and I think, you know, they are an agency that's enjoyed the status of being one of our nation's most elite organizations. And I do -- I think they have to work to maintain that and they need to do it as quickly as they can.

COLLINS: Gordon, based on what you know -- and thank you so much for joining us this morning. Based on what you know, is there any logical explanation for why these messages, not others, because they've turned over other documents related to January 6, but these text messages, now they can't find?

HEDDELL: Well, Kaitlan, in my opinion, this situation is unusual. The service, as I said, has a system for protecting and preserving all of its records. Now, it's the responsibility of the Secret Service leadership to follow its policies, including its process for, you know, protecting text messages, particularly messages that might fall into the category of evidence.

And, you know, the circumstances on January 5, January 6, were such -- and I'm talking about intelligence information and about the fact that the insurrection -- this should have been sufficient to cause leaders in the Secret Service to be especially sensitive to the need to preserve and protect such records.

So, I think they have a perception problem, if not a real problem and I don't -- I don't think -- or I don't know whether there's anything sinister here, I hope not, but I think the Secret Service leadership is obligated to be forthcoming and clear this up as soon as possible.

BERMAN: You made an illusion, Gordon, to Tony Ornato, who is someone who worked at the Secret Service and then was brought in as a political appointment, as deputy chief of staff for operations inside the White House, correct, and now is back in the Secret Service.


But talk to me about why you see that as potentially problematic.

HEDDELL: Well, John, the Secret Service does its best to not permit itself to get -- become embroiled in politics. And the reason is obvious, because they protect the presidents and the vice president. And to be embroiled in politics distracts them from the main focus of their job, which is to protect the president and vice president. And so in this case, you had a special agent who happened to be one of the executives, moved over to the White House, obviously at the request of the former president, but -- and we don't know exactly what the position of the director of the Secret Service was, but I can tell you this is one of those moments in time when bells, whistles and sirens go off because that's when the director has to say, no way, this doesn't work. It works against us, it works against you, Mr. President. And I don't know if that was done, but this is one of those times when the director has to stand firm, maybe he did, but if he did, it didn't work.

Now, you have a situation where the president walks from the Oval Office across Lafayette Square over to the church. From what I have read and understand, this agent was involved in helping to plan that and in escorting the president over there. The way this ends up, you create a lot of problems for the Secret Service appearances and so on. So, politics, you want to keep out of it.

BERMAN: Gordon Heddell, thank you so much. He have some much better understanding of everything that's going on here.

Just to be clear, as you well know, Kaitlan, Tony Ornato key in Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony because Ornato is who she says told him about events that happened in the president's vehicle that day.

COLLINS: Something that they've later tried to dispute. But, of course, she's testified and that's why people have raised questions. Well, if she's testifying and you're disputing it, that -- disputing that should be in testimony as well.

BERMAN: All right. Other news this morning, a new day of brutal heat across the country and around the world, this global heat wave intensifies.

And an Indiana doctor under fire for performing an abortion on a ten- year-old rape victim is fighting back, moving to sue the state's attorney general for defamation.

COLLINS: And school officials in Uvalde, Texas, are taking steps to remove potentially the district's embattled police chief. We have more on that next.



BERMAN: This morning, dangerous heat waves across the globe. More than 100 million Americans are under excessive heat alerts. Boston declared a heat emergency through tomorrow. New York State leaders are urging people to stay indoors. And Oklahoma, where temperatures topped 100 degrees in much of the state, extreme heat and drought has led to wildfires and rural water system shortages. In Arizona, it was so hot that a UPS worker collapsed. The temperature was 108 degrees at the time.

Extreme temperatures all over the world, the United Kingdom seeing its hottest day ever Tuesday as temperatures hit 104 degrees. In Southern and Western Europe, more than 1,100 people have died from heat in the region. There have been wildfires in France and Spain. And today, back here in the United States, President Biden is expected to outline his next steps to take on the climate crisis.

COLLINS: And so joining us now is the founder of EarthEcho International Philippe Cousteau, the grandson of Jacques Cousteau. Philippe, what are you hoping to hear from President Biden today?

PHILIPPE COUSTEAU, FOUNDER, EARTHECHO INTERNATIONAL: Well, Kaitlan, you know, whether or not, you know, the president announces an emergency around climate change, there's no question that we are in an emergency today and, you know, this has been building for a long time. My father and grandfather were warning about this back in the '70s and '80s. So, none of this should be a surprise. It's all been predicted.

Certainly, I am pleased to hear that the administration, in spite of the setbacks in Congress and particularly Senator Manchin, has decided to use his platform in order to elevate these issues and to take we hope bold action. But, critically, I hope this afternoon when the president makes his announcements that he places the ocean at the center of the conversation because we can't solve this climate crisis without doing so.

COLLINS: And so one thing that some activists have called the White House to do is to declare a national climate emergency. They say it's clear that this is an emergency, it is time for the White House to do this, noting what you just referenced there, the Supreme Court decision recently on the EPA, what Senator Joe Manchin has said as well. And so do you think it goes far enough today if President Biden doesn't take that step of declaring an emergency?

COUSTEAU: Well, you know, I can't speculate. I think that the president recognizes the gravity of the situation. Of course, declaring an emergency is a very, very serious and very complex and politically fraught activity. I certainly do hope that at some point the president does elevate it to that level. But this afternoon, we don't know what he's going to say.

But, as I said, there is a lot that he can do because there's a lot of things we don't know. But what we do know is that we have tools at this disposal to solve this problem. People are suffering around the world. It's enough. Enough is enough. We need to take bold action.

And so doing things, like expanding offshore wind, where the president is making his announcement this afternoon at Brayton Point in Massachusetts, very appropriate place. He chose it very specifically because, for decades, it was the site of a coal-fired power plant. That was considered one of the filthy five, one of the dirtiest coal- fired power plants in the United States. And it was decommissioned in 2017. It was dismantled in 2019.

And now, it's going to be a substation to provide power from the offshore wind farms off the coast of Massachusetts. It's going to be the site -- the industrial site is going to be the site of new investment in building underwater cabling that could bring hundreds of millions of dollars into the local community.


So, it's a great example of how we can transition, still build our economy, still build jobs, transitioning away from oil and gas, to focus in on things like offshore wind. We also need to expand marine protected areas. We need to expand enforcement against illegal fishing. So, there are things that the president has at his disposal at the executive level that he can do to really advance this issue.

COLLINS: Philippe Cousteau, grandson of Jacques Cousteau, thank you so much for joining us this morning on such an important issue.

COUSTEAU: Thanks for having me, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Meanwhile, Elon Musk is losing his effort to delay the trial over his Twitter deal. We will tell you what's going on in that case, next.

BERMAN: The doctor who performed an abortion for a ten-year-old rape victim is now taking steps towards suing her state's attorney general. Her lawyer joins us live, ahead.

And a manhunt under way this morning in New York for the gunman who shot and killed a crew member on a Law and Order show.