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January 6th Committee Gears Up for Busy August Amid New Evidence; Did Committee Prove Its Case? A Point-by-Point Breakdown; Heat Records Shattered Across U.S.; Fast-Moving Wildfire Near Yosemite Forces Thousands to Evacuate; Russia Strikes Ukraine Port One Day after Signing Grain Export Deal; Ukrainian Ballet Dancers Defiant as War with Russia Rages On. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired July 25, 2022 - 06:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: From record-breaking heat to a controversial trip, these are the big questions for today, Monday, July 25. Good morning. I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman.


So will the Secret Service testify before the January 6th Committee as CNN reports missing text messages have been identified on the phones of ten agents. And will the committee subpoena Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, over her push to overturn the 2020 election?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Will Attorney General Merrick Garland take action, as one committee member says bluntly, Don't wait on us?

Record-breaking temperatures across the country. Can the nation's power systems handle the demand?

KEILAR: And how does President Biden's COVID recovery end as his doctors refuse to answer questions from the media? Also, will the administration talk Nancy Pelosi out of her trip to Taiwan as the House speaker riles up China with her travel?

BERMAN: Huge economic data released almost every day this week. Will it point to a recession?

And as Russian forces strike the main Ukrainian port, is the grain deal between the two countries already in jeopardy?

KEILAR: Let's go first now to CNN's Sunlen Serfaty, who is live for us on Capitol Hill. Sunlen, the January 6th Committee doesn't plan any more hearings until September. That doesn't mean they're not going to be busy.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: that's absolutely right. Almost all the work the committee will be doing over the next month will largely happen behind closed doors.

The committee says that a number of significant leads have come in, and so they will be using this next month to gather new evidence, to talk to new witnesses, potentially even -- or visit some previous witnesses who have already testified. This committee entering a crucial fact-finding mission over the next month.


SERFATY (voice-over): The House Select Committee Investigating the January 6th Capitol Attack gearing up for a busy August.

REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): So many more witnesses have come forward. We have new information that we're requesting and receiving. There's still so much out there that we don't fully understand yet.

SERFATY (voice-over): The committee plans to embark on another fact- finding phase and speak to more witnesses while preparing for further hearings in September.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We anticipate talking to additional members of the president's cabinet. We anticipate talking to additional members of his campaign.

Certainly, we're very focused, as well, on the Secret Service and on interviewing additional members of the Secret Service and collecting additional information from them.

I am really deeply troubled by these developments at the Secret Service.

SERFATY (voice-over): The Secret Service is one of the remaining focuses for the committee, which is working to get to the bottom of agents' missing text messages from January 5th and 6th.

Three Secret Service agents who could provide crucial information to the investigation -- Trump's deputy White House chief of staff Tony Ornato, Trump's former lead Secret Service agent Robert Engel, and the driver of Trump's motorcade on January 6th -- have retained private counsel. All three have engaged with the committee before.

Other possible witnesses include conservative activist Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

CHENEY: We are -- the committee is engaged with her counsel. We certainly hope that she will agree to come in voluntarily, but the committee is fully prepared to contemplate a subpoena if she does not.

SERFATY (voice-over): Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon is also still of interest to the committee. He was convicted on two counts of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena issued by them last year.

He vows to appeal the verdict but has offered to testify publicly.

The committee is no closer to speaking with five House Republicans who have yet to comply with subpoenas. And former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is still refusing to testify after defying a subpoena.

LURIA: He's certainly someone who has probably more information than anyone, so that information would be incredibly helpful. But we've been able to piece together so much, as you've seen: Cassidy Hutchinson, Sarah Matthews, other people who were present in the White House. And so if he's listening, we'd love to hear from him.

SERFATY (voice-over): As the committee mulls its final report, there has been no decision yet whether to refer Trump to the Department of Justice for criminal charges.

CHENEY: I think that Donald Trump, the violation of his oath of office, the violation of the Constitution that -- that he engaged in, is the most serious misconduct of any president in the history of our nation.


SERFATY (on camera): And over the next month, the committee will need to be balancing these dual roles that they'll have working towards this fact-finding mission, gathering this new evidence but also working towards putting forward their final report.

Now, sources tell CNN that they have started drafting that final report, but there's, of course, much debate on which direction that will go. And, Brianna, of course, they will release that final report before November's midterm elections.

KEILAR: Yes. And with what recommendations? We'll certainly be waiting for those. Sunlen Serfaty live on the Hill. Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Here with me now, Elie Honig, CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.

Elie, it's unclear whether the committee is at half time, into the third quarter, maybe heading into overtime. But where are they right now in terms of what they've learned?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Hey, John, it's a good time to catch our breath. And really, we got some remarkable revelations over the last six weeks or so. What are some of the big ones?

First of all, there was no election fraud. Donald Trump lost that election, and he was told over and over again to his face by his own people, by Republicans, conservatives, by his lawyers, his aides.

To me, the star witness we heard on this was Bill Barr, who called Trump's election fraud claims "completely bogus," "based on complete misinformation," "B.S.," "idiot," "zero basis," "crazy stuff" and "doing a great disservice to the country." I think that about covers it.

Another big revelation: this was a multifaceted, coordinated pressure campaign even before January 6.


We heard about the effort to pressure DOJ to try to validate the election fraud claims, the pressure campaigns on state and local officials like Brad Raffensperger from Georgia; the submission of fake slates of electors to the National Archives; the plan that John Eastman, the lawyer, came up to try to slow down and then ultimately delay the counting of electoral votes; and then the pressure campaign on Mike Pence to try to get him to throw out electoral votes.

All of them resisted, but I think the committee has made the argument this was a conspiracy even before anyone stepped foot in the Capitol on January 6th.

Now, the committee did not establish a direct line of communication or instruction from the White House to extremist groups like the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys.

The committee did argue that Donald Trump knew how to communicate with them. They said it was a siren call. They focused on Donald Trump's tweet about the January 6th rally, the "Be there. Will be wild" tweet.

And they made a case that these extremist groups listened to Donald Trump. They reacted to what he said. They only left when he told them to leave the Capitol.

And then finally, John, the dereliction of duty, those 187 minutes while the Capitol was under attack on January 6. We learned last week Donald Trump essentially did nothing. He sat in the dining room of the White House. He watched TV. He refused to call for military help. He refused to call for law enforcement help.

And so the committee has called that a dereliction of duty. Those are three hours and seven minutes that will live in history.

BERMAN: Now, you mentioned that the committee did not establish a direct link between the Trump world and the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. That might be one gap. What other gaps were there in their case?

HONIG: Yes, so a lot yet to come. Liz Cheney did tell us at the end of last hearing that there will be more. There will be a sequel. We will see you all in September. So we know they will be back.

Where are some of the gaps? First of all, big gap on January 6 in the White House call logs. Normally, they'd be logging the calls. Nothing there. Same thing with the daily diary. We know now that no photos were taken inside the White House by somebody's specific order.

And of course, we've still got those missing Secret Service texts. So A, can the committee figure out why these things are missing? And, B, can they recover any of them? Can they perhaps recover some of the Secret Service texts?

Now, who else might we hear from? Look, there's a lot of big names here. I don't think we're going to hear from any of these folks. The committee will not take off the table the possibility of trying to get testimony from Donald Trump or Mike Pence. I'm not going to hold my breath on that.

Let's remember, they subpoenaed five of their fellow members of Congress, all of whom have ignored those subpoenas. The committee has not followed up.

And then there's the people who were held in contempt. Steve Bannon, of course, has been convicted. We'll talk about that in a minute. Peter Navarro has a trial coming up. Meadows and Scavino were not charged.

But ultimately, John, given the calendar, the committee does not have the ability to go to court. So they're really at the mercy of these people.

That said, they did work something out put with Pat Cipollone, unexpectedly at the last minute. We'll see.

And then there's Ginni Thomas, who has her hands in various aspects of this. Liz Cheney told Jake Tapper this weekend that, quote, "The committee is fully prepared to contemplate a subpoena." So they're getting ready to start thinking about maybe a subpoena.

But to me, John, the really key witnesses were the staffers, the mid- level staffers, the deputies, Cassidy Hutchinson, Sarah Matthews, Matthew Pottinger. If I'm on the committee, I'm looking to see, are there other people like them willing to follow the really courageous example they set.

BERMAN: The committee members said they may go back to some of the witnesses they've already spoken to for more information, depending on what they've got (ph). So we'll see if that happens, as well.

Where does this leave Merrick Garland?

HONIG: Well, a lot of pressure now on Merrick Garland. Liz Cheney, by the way, has said, We have not decided yet whether we're going to make a formal criminal referral over to DOJ.

Understand, that legally has no significance. DOJ does not need a referral. A referral does not compel DOJ to do anything.

Now, Merrick Garland said late last week, "No person is above the law in this country, I can't say it any more clearly than that." He says this seemingly every day.

Clearly, the political pressure has been increased on Merrick Garland. There are signs of a slowly expanding investigation, but we also know we're more than a year and a half out now. Nobody with any proximity to Donald Trump or any real position of power has been charged with anything, so there will be continuing pressure on Merrick Garland.

And let's remember down in Georgia, the Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis, has said we're going to look at anything -- excuse me, anything connected with interference with the 2020 election.

Her investigation does appear to be accelerating. But keep in mind, John, if there is a charge out of the Fulton County D.A. -- and I think that's the most likely of the various investigations -- there are major constitutional, legal, political and practical obstacles to turning that indictment into a conviction.

BERMAN: Elie Honig, thank you very much for laying out where we are this Monday morning. And on that note, we're just talking about Georgia. This morning,

Governor Brian Kemp will testify in the Georgia investigation into Trump's efforts to overturn the election there. Where does the governor fit into this whole story?

And Pope Francis in Canada for an apology more than 100 years in the making.


KEILAR: And the Oak Fire near Yosemite National Park in California now burning more than 15,000 acres. Thousands have already evacuated as crews struggle to contain the flames. CNN is live on the ground.


KEILAR: More than 60 million Americans are under heat alerts today. New York and Dallas have each reported at least one heat-related death, and other cities are seeing temperatures hit or exceed 100 degrees.

So let's get to meteorologist Chad Myers. You can feel it. It is just an oven out there.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Brianna, I will take anything close to normal for 200, please.

A hundred degrees in Boston yesterday, 102 in Newark. And I know no one lives at the airport. At least you shouldn't. It seems like you do sometimes. A hundred and two degrees there at the airport.


Temperatures are going to be coming down, though, the rest of the week. Still, heat advisories, excessive heat warnings today, Philadelphia all the way up even toward the Delaware Water Gap.

Down here to the South, more heat indexes around 115 degrees. So it is still hot. Yes, and it's still going to be hot today, but there is a cold front coming.

It's going to feel like in the 100s across all of the Northeast today. But this line of weather right there, that is our cold front; and that's going to bring some relief to the heat, finally. Finally. It seems like we've been waiting for, like, three weeks for this. But finally, the cool air comes down.

And look at New York City: 85. I'll just give you 200 bucks right here, because we're back to normal.

KEILAR: I will take that over 200 bucks. I'll tell you that, Chad. Thank you.

MYERS: You're welcome.

BERMAN: I didn't realize there were payoffs associated with the weather this morning.

A wildfire raging near Yosemite National Park has grown overnight. The Oak Fire has forced thousands of people to leave their homes. It erupted Friday in the Sierra Nevada foothills, and so far crews have not been able to contain any of it. Zero percent contained.

CNN's Camila Bernal near the fire in Mariposa County this morning. Camila, what are you seeing?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John, so the fire has already passed through this area. What you're seeing is just some of the hot spots and the very, very thick smoke.

But it is cooler, and that is extremely helpful for these firefighters, the men and women on the front lines who are working 24- hour shifts.

But they have told us, look, no progress, zero percent containment. We went from 14,000 acres burned yesterday to now about 15,000 acres burned. So we're seeing the fire grow and no way of stopping these flames.

Now, firefighters also saying that it's been challenging for a number of reasons. First, they point to the drought. They say the dry fuel really gets those flames moving very quickly.

One of the firefighters just telling me, look, we are at the mercy of Mother Nature, because their work really depends on the weather. And in the afternoon, the temperatures are increasing, the humidity is dropping, and those winds are picking up. So it makes it really difficult for those firefighters.

They also say the terrain is not helping, because it is very steep. And so it's hard to get to those flames. We saw plane after plane yesterday dropping that fire retardant and still no progress.

And finally, look, Cal Fire is saying is that it's also very difficult to get to homes, to get to people, because a lot of the residents here live in big lots, say, five acres.

And they're surrounded by forests, sometimes overgrown and very dry. So it's not only hard to get to homes; it's hard to get people out. It's why authorities here are telling people that, if you're under an evacuation order, you should listen to the warnings. A lot of people here saying they don't want to leave, but authorities really trying to make progress and asking people to get out if they're in these zones -- John.

BERMAN: Yes. That orange-yellowish hue, in all those pictures we're just looking at, maybe a sign people need to heed those warnings.

Camila Bernal, stay safe. Thank you for being with us.

Russia strikes Ukraine's Back Sea port of Odessa hours after both countries signed a deal on grain exports. What that means for the deal now. KEILAR: Plus, dance of defiance. How ballerinas are showing the world Ukraine will never give up.



KEILAR: So this morning there's outrage in Ukraine and all around the world after Russian missiles struck a port in Odessa just one day after the two sides signed a deal to resume vital grain exports from the region.




KEILAR: Ukrainian officials say at least six explosions were heard in Odessa. No casualties have been reported, and the grain stored there was not damaged.

Reaction, though, from world leaders has been anger and concern over the future of this deal. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy says the attack shows what happens when you try to make deals with Russia.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): Today's Russian missile attack on Odessa, on our port, cynical. Turned out to be a blow to Russia's political positions. If anyone in the world could still say that some dialogue with Russia and some kind of agreement are needed, see what is happening.


KEILAR: Secretary of State Tony Blinken also says the attack casts serious doubt on the deal, which was aimed at easing the global food crisis that has been sparked by the war.

BERMAN: CNN's Ivan Watson joins us now from Ukraine. Ivan, you were just in Odessa, and there was -- there was cautious optimism about this deal. Where do things stand now?

IVAN WATSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, I spoke with a resident of Odessa who described the Russian cruise missile strike Saturday morning as the loudest, most frightening attacks that she's experienced in that city since Russia launched its invasion.

You may be surprised to learn, then, that the regularly-scheduled ballet at the Odessa Opera House just a few blocks away from the port where the cruise missiles hit went ahead almost as scheduled Saturday night, hours later.

I was fortunate enough to spend a night at the opera in Odessa recently and met very brave artists, musicians, dancers who were determined that, despite the threat of this war, the show must go on.


WATSON (voice-over): There is great beauty in Ukraine amid the pain and suffering. In the Southern port city of Odessa, dancers in rehearsal try to tune out Russia's deadly war.

WATSON: This is more than just a beautiful expression of art and culture. Against the terrible backdrop of this war, these dancers offer a symbol of defiance, a sign that Ukrainians are not giving up.


WATSON (voice-over): The Odessa Opera and Ballet Theater stands like a jewel, albeit one protected by sandbags.

The Russian rockets and missiles periodically pound Odessa. Residents here cling to pre-war normality, and that includes the city's 135- year-old opera.

Vyacheslav Chernukho-Volich is the opera's director.

WATSON: It's beautiful. Do you still need opera and ballet when there is a terrible war?

VYACHESLAV CHERNUKHO-VOLICH, CHIEF CONDUCTOR, ODESSA NATIONAL ACADEMIC OPERA AND BALLET THEATER: Yes, all people need this, and it's very important for society. Opera House is the symbol of good life. It's -- you hear.

WATSON (voice-over): The good life, tonight's ballet performance. But amid preparations, there's an interruption. An air raid siren warns of a possible attack.

I'm ushered down stairs.

WATSON: This says "shelter."

WATSON (voice-over): Musicians and dancers wait in the basement. The threat delays the start of the show. Two of tonight's solo ballerinas try to stay limber.


WATSON: Why are you sitting here?

KALCHENKO: Because war. War, yes, in our country.

WATSON: Are you afraid?

WATSON (voice-over): "Yes, of course we're afraid," says Kateryna Kalchenko, "though we're getting accustomed to these threats, and that in itself is horrible."

After a long delay, the opera gets the all clear. Audience members emerge from their own shelter and take their seats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In case of an air raid, all people must proceed to the shelter. Glory to Ukraine.

WATSON (voice-over): The music of Chopin fills the hall, and for the briefest of moments, the war seems very far away. The reality, though, is some of these performers sent their children away for safety to other countries.

A number of the artists and crew are defending their country, serving in the Ukrainian armed forces; while those on stage struggle to keep the city's cultural spirit alive.

Soloist Kateryna Kalchenko crosses herself before entering stage right. But after just a few steps, the curtain suddenly closes.

WATSON: Bad news. The third air-raid siren of the night has just gone off. The curtain just came down, and the show has been brought to a stop.


"I want the whole world to start screaming," Kalchenko tells me, "to stop this horror so that innocent people and children stop dying. I ask for help," the ballerina says, "and for people not to remain silent."


WATSON (on camera): Now, in the last couple of months, the Southern front in Southern Ukraine has been largely static, though the Ukrainian military says it has made some advances.

And I think that's created this space in cities like Odessa to have restaurants and bars open, to have things like the Odessa Opera House continuing to function, is that there is less fear that the Russians can break through on the ground.

But there is that ever-present fear of Russian cruise missile and rocket strikes. And despite that, what I think you see in this report and with these artists is they're determined to show that they're staying. They're not going anywhere. And they may not be fighting on the front lines, but this is their own way of showing resistance to the Russian war machine -- John and Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, what a beautiful and moving report. Thank you for seeking that out and for sharing it with us, Ivan.

BERMAN: The thing is, you know, when we were in Ukraine, we spent a lot of time with graphic artists, visual artists. They are in a culture war against Russia. They refuse to let their culture be wiped out.

So what you're seeing here isn't just art; it's defiance. That ballet is a sign of defiance there. It's a way to wage war against Russia. It's remarkable to see. KEILAR: It was gorgeous.

So hours from now, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is going to testify in the state's investigation into Donald Trump's attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

Plus, a chess-playing robot goes rogue and breaks a 7-year-old boy's finger during a match. Who officials are blaming.

And --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And my entire family is gone. Have I not given everything?