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Reporting Indicates Investigators have Emails and Phone Records of Key Trump White House Officials Including Former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; Some Republicans Asking Donald Trump Not to Declare Presidential Bid before 2022 Midterms; WNBA Star Brittney Griner in Russian Court, Expected to Testify; CNN Poll: 1/6 Hearings Haven't Changed Views on Democracy. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 27, 2022 - 08:00   ET



NOAH TREVOR, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW": And you might not realize this, but this is actually bad news, because Russia helps to operate the space station, which I didn't know about. I don't know about you, but am I the only one who is shocked by how many things are connected to Russia in the world? Like the world's energy supply, Africa's food supply, space travel, minerals for our electronics. Soon we're going to find out Russia provides the sound for sneezes and without them we can't complete the action.


TREVOR: No choo for you.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I had no idea where he was going with that.


BERMAN: Fantastic.

KEILAR: NEW DAY continues right now.

Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It is Wednesday, July 27th. I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman this morning. And a criminal investigation by the Justice Department into the January 6th attack is homing in on the actions of former President Trump. CNN reports key witnesses subpoenaed in recent days include two top aides of former Vice President Mike Pence who were asked specifically about the fake elector scheme and the role Trump's lawyers played.

Also, "The New York Times" and "Washington Post" reporting that investigators have emails and phone records of key officials and aides who served in the Trump White House, including former chief of staff Mark Meadows. BERMAN: So until now there was almost no sign that the federal

investigation had touched on the actions of the president himself. That is what makes these reports so significant. It changes the entire framing of what we know that the federal government, the Department of Justice, is doing here.

And it comes at the same time that "The New York Times" has this new report about so-called fake elector scheme, previously undisclosed emails that reveal Trump advisers actually use the word "fake."

Joining us now is David Laufman. He's a former senior Justice Department official and former prosecutor. He has also represented the Capitol police officers Harry Dunn and Aquilino Gonell at their testimony before the January 6th Committee. Thank you for being with us. Such a significant development, when we know that federal prosecutors are asking these witnesses about the actions of Donald Trump. What do you see here, David?

DAVID H. LAUFMAN, FORMER CHIEF OF DOJ COUNTERINTELLIGENCE SECTION: That's the most critical tell to me, John. The grand jury is where criminal cases are built. And from yesterday's reporting we now know the Department of Justice is going hard, they're going directly at Donald Trump. They're asking witnesses specific questions about statements that came from Donald Trump's mouth, what direction he gave to others. He is the hub of this spoke. All roads lead to Donald Trump in this investigation. And the only question is at the end of the day whether the Justice Department will have a sufficient quantum of evidence to include him in any charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States with respect to the fake elector plan.

KEILAR: It doesn't mean they're going to indict him. But they can't indict him without this step.

LAUFMAN: They have to undertake the same meticulous careful investigation times 100 that they would in any criminal investigation. Not only do they have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the highest standard in the law, that someone charged with a crime committed a crime, but they have to have such a weight of evidence that is so compelling as to diffuse any notion there is any politicization behind the investigation to earn the credibility of the American people.

BERMAN: So the two people we know that they have spoken to are Marc Short, who was chief of staff to Mike Pence, and Greg Jacob, who was the chief counsel to Mike Pence. These are two guys who were in the room at key moments. So if they have spoken to them, who else might they need to talk to? And how close could a decision be on who and what charges should exist?

LAUFMAN: Well, it is an ongoing investigation, and they're going to build on every lead they acquire. Emails lead to other people. Identify, discussed in emails. They'll talk to Marc Short and Mr. Jacobs, they'll learn about other people they talk to. They're going to go up the chain. They're very close to the top of the pyramid now by talking to people at the vice president's level.

BERMAN: That's what I'm asking. That's pretty high up on the chain. So how much higher do you need to go before you make a decision?

LAUFMAN: Well, let's say they build a case against Mark Meadows and they confront Meadows through his counsel with a case that they plan to bring. Then Mr. Meadows is going to have a difficult decision to make. Does he continue to stand fast and refuse to cooperate, or does he behave like many punitive potential defendants behave and decide to cooperate with the Justice Department and provide evidence against the former president?

So this is how criminal investigations are built. It is obviously an extraordinary case involving the former president of the United States, the Department of Justice telling us to put one foot in front of the other.


It's like an iceberg, we only see the tip of the iceberg through investigative reporting, but clearly they've been doing a lot more beyond the public eye than we understood, and that's welcome news to those of us who want to preserve democracy in the years ahead.

KEILAR: New development, big development on the fake electors scheme, which is that "The New York Times" obtained emails really detailing it. In fact, using the word "fake," you had associates, an associate, and lawyers in this process using that actual word "fake." And, David, we've heard them say before that this was just being put in place just in case, it was sort of a backup, and in case Donald Trump prevailed in court. What does this -- what do these emails do to that argument?

LAUFMAN: I mean, it is really good probative evidence of the state of mind of the people who inhabited this conspiracy. They knew that this was a big lie. They knew this was a fraudulent scheme that they were seeking to perpetrate against the United States government. And so it's consistent with evidence the government would want to use in support of a potential charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States by fomenting false electors to sabotage the certification of the election results. This is like the Four Seasons landscaping gang of emailers. They're nincompoops, but they're malevolent nincompoops.

BERMAN: David Laufman, thank you very much for being with us this morning, appreciate it. The descriptive terms help us understand what is going on.

KEILAR: Let's talk bring in CNN chief national correspondent and the anchor of INSIDE POLITICS John King now to talk about these malevolent nincompoops, as he called them, John King.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think Mr. Laufman makes a key point there. But I think the calmness and the meticulousness and the methodical way he went through the challenge here for the attorney general is very important. We work in a 24-hour news cycle. Everyone is in a hurry. We work in a highly polarized news environment. Everybody is in a hurry. They want answers from the attorney general. I think it's actually quite telling what we have learned in the past 24 to 36 hours about the depth, the breadth, and the scope of the Justice Department investigation. I also think, John and Brianna, it is incredibly telling the words

Merrick Garland himself used. When asked by Lester Holt of NBC News, he could have said no one is above the law, we will follow any lawbreaking, any criminal activity. He could have been general and broad about it. Here's what he said, "I'll say again that we will hold accountable anyone who was criminally responsible for attempting to interfere with the transfer, legitimate lawful transfer of power from one administration to the next." That is very specific language. Merrick Garland did not have to use it. He is a cautious, careful man, a very thoughtful man. That tells me a ton about what they are looking at.

BERMAN: Actually, I want to ask you more about that, because when I first heard Merrick Garland, my impression was these were the same types of I'm not really going to answer your question answers that he was giving, but you seem more in it. Talk to me about why you think that language he chose then, John, is so important.

KING: Because now, what do you know? We know from the last 36 hours subpoenas to Arizona people involved in the fake electors scam. They have these emails about fake electors. They had Meadows phone record before the January 6th committee, all the criticism that they're just following the January 6th committee is not true. These things take time. Sometimes the gray hair is helpful. If you go back and think about Iran-Contra, you go back and think about Watergate, even Ken Starr's investigation of Bill Clinton, right, what was the criticism? Why are these things taking so long?

When you're investigating the West Wing, when you're investigating conduct of potentially the president of the United States, and certainly high-ranking people around the president of the United States, time is never your friend in politics. Time is your friend, time is critical when it comes to investigations. Compare the January 6th committee to some of the impeachment inquiries. The January 6th committee has taken its time. And every day we learn new things.

The impeachment inquiries were more in a hurry. I get some of the reasons for that. But they're in more of a hurry, and you open yourself up to the political criticism. And you don't finish at the end. Merrick Garland is going very slowly, that frustrates people. But what we have learned in the last 36 hours tells us there is a lot more behind the curtain than maybe many people thought.

KEILAR: John, I want to ask you about this CNN poll, because it shows that 75 percent of Democratic voters actually want someone other than Joe Biden in 2024. Can he win with numbers like that?

KING: Well, again, we're having this conversation three months before the 2022 midterms. What happens in those midterms will say a lot more, Brianna, than any poll today about Joe Biden's standing in the country and Joe Biden's standing within his own Democratic Party.

But what does that show you? Look, we have talked about this before. What have we all been through for going on three years now? A COVID pandemic that hits you in the head like a two-by-four. Every time you think it is going to fade, it hits you again. We're waiting for a Fed meeting today. They're going to raise interest rates again, hopefully to help tame inflation, but what does that mean? It increases the cost if you're trying to buy a house. It increases the cost of credit cards.


The American people, whether you're a Democrat, a Republican, a cranky independent, you're exhausted. You're frustrated. If you're a Democrat, you were promised the moon after the Democrats won those two Georgia Senate seats. You were promised sweeping legislation on climate, sweeping legislation on childcare, sweeping legislation on just about everything under the Democratic umbrella. You didn't get most of that, didn't you?

So you're frustrated. You have your normal frustrations that all Americans have, then you have your partisan frustrations because Democrats thought with all Democratic government they were going to get so much. Democrats clearly overpromised. So they are frustrated, and who do you take that out on? The guy in charge. That's called human nature. But we'll see where we are after the midterms.

BERMAN: The White House is pointing to "Washington Post" reporting which says that maybe Democrats are poised for three victories in Congress, not maybe huge ones, but ones that they can perhaps tout on, on drug pricing, on computer chips, and also potentially codifying same sex marriage. That's another issue.

John, Kevin McCarthy is articulating what a lot of Republicans have been publicly, privately, they -- whether or not they want Donald Trump to run for president at all in 2024, they don't want him to announce before the midterms. Kevin McCarthy is now basically saying this. Why is that important to Kevin McCarthy?

KING: They would like Trump to be quiet. They would like Trump to essentially go on some vacation somewhere around the world where there is no transmission capability until after the midterms. Why? For the reasons we just talked about. Even Democrats are frustrated with their current president. All Americans are frustrated with their lives, and you take that out on the government, whether it's for high inflation, whether we're about to start our third school year of COVID. Think about that. We think back to the beginning of 2020.

And so Republicans think based on the economic frustration, consumer sentiment, anger at inflation, exhaustion at COVID, Joe Biden's in charge, the tradition of midterm elections, people want change. The president in power tends to get whacked in first midterm election. The Republicans think the climate is fine. Please don't mess with it. And they think Donald Trump can mess with it and play into what the Democrats are increasingly turning to as their argument.

You might be mad at us, Democrats are saying, but look extra closely at the other guys. Do you really want them in charge? If Trump is out there every day, Republicans think Democrats have a better case of making that case. The tradition in the midterm is it's about the president and his party. If Democrats need to change tradition, they need to break that arc of history, if you will, and make it about something else. Republicans like Kevin McCarthy do not want Donald Trump to help them.

KEILAR: John King, thank you so much. I will say, vacation without transmission capabilities sounds lovely.

KING: Isn't it awesome?

KEILAR: It's amazing. But if you do have transmission capability, you can catch John King, and you should on INSIDE POLITICS at noon today. We'll be watching, John, thank you.

KING: Take care, guys.

KEILAR: So right now WNBA star Brittney Griner is in Moscow for her criminal drug trial. What we're hearing from the courtroom as she faces cross examination.

Plus, Russia further cutting its energy supplies to the European Union. This is big. How the U.S. is responding.

BERMAN: And the CEO that bought 50,000 Mega Millions tickets for his employees, they didn't win. No one did.


KEILAR: This morning, WNBA star Brittney Griner is facing cross examination in her Moscow trial on drug charges. Griner's facing up to ten years in prison. She pleaded guilty this month, a move her defense team hopes will lead to a less severe sentence.

CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is live for us in Berlin. He's following this.

Fred, what's the latest here?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Brianna. The latest is that Brittney Griner was brought into the courtroom a couple of minutes ago in handcuffs as usual, apparently carrying some documents as well. The trial actually got under way I would say 10 or 15 minutes ago.

What we do know at this very point in time is that Brittney Griner is answering questions, we believe they're questions from her own defense team. Essentially talking about the flight that brought her to Moscow, where, of course, at the end of that, at the airport, the Russian authorities say they found those vaping cartridges that included that cannabis oil.

So, essentially, she's going to be answering questions from her own defense team and there could be a cross examination as well is what the defense team said earlier. They say that it is up to Brittney Griner herself whether or not she's going to answer those questions, but the sort of pattern that we're seeing from Brittney Griner's defense team and she herself is that they are very much trying to show respect for this court, she already pleaded guilty, she has said -- her team said this was an honest mistake she made.

One of the other things, of course, they're trying to point out, this was the main focus of the trial date yesterday saying this cannabis was something that was prescribed to her by a physician in the United States to take to ease pain. So therefore this was not something she was bringing for recreational use, but something that she needed for medical purposes, the other thing that the defense team has done as well is brought on character witnesses, saying that Brittney Griner, a big figure, not just in basketball internationally, but in general in basketball, and someone who specifically has done a lot for the sport in Russia.

So you can see there, the defense really hoping to get a lenient sentence due to the fact she pleaded guilty and because of all those mitigating circumstances. Today, Brianna, I would say probably one of the most important days for Brittney Griner and how she performs today as she's testifying. One of the things, however, we do always have to point out is that Russian courts really not known for leniency -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yeah, not known for leniency. Known for convictions, though. Fred Pleitgen, thank you so much.

BERMAN: With us now, CNN senior global affairs analyst Bianna Golodryga.

Bianna, when you see what Brittney Griner is having to do here, basically putting herself at the mercy of the Russian court, because she is playing this game that is stacked against her.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN SENIOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: And a kangaroo court at that. I mean, the Russian courts have a 90 percent plus conviction rate. In many sense, her destiny is already sealed in terms of what their decision is going to be. It's just what the mercy is going to suggest in terms of leniency, or in terms of some sort of prisoner swipe here with the U.S. that is to be decided later.

Listen, how do you prepare for something like this? You look at even the state department, now saying she's being wrongfully detained. Early on their process was to keep this as low key as possible, hoping that, you know, behind closed doors, back channel negotiations would lead to her being sent back to the U.S. and released.


That clearly didn't work. Those tactics have now changed and you're hearing more people publicly speaking out in her defense. So my question is, what is her legal counsel in Russia saying and what are they telling her in terms of how she not only pled guilty, but also said this was something that was unintentional, that she used this cannabis for medicinal purposes but she was packing hastily and brought it with her unintentionally.

KEILAR: How tenable is it domestically in the U.S. that this continues for much longer?

GOLODRYGA: Domestically for her family, domestically for her?

KEILAR: For Americans, the pressure on the administration. I mean, we see her, obviously, she's suffering. But how much longer, how much pressure is the Biden administration under to do something here?

GOLODRYGA: Well, the timing for a situation like this is never good. There is never a right time for a U.S. citizen to be detained and in a country like Russia, but especially the precipice of war, especially at a time when tensions and relations between the two countries have arguably been at their worst level in decades. I don't think there is any notion, any conversation really up in the higher levels going on between these two countries, where as in the past you may have seen a phone call between the two leaders. That's not taking place now.

So clearly the ball is in Russia's court. In this sense and American's life is on the line here. She may be facing 10 years in prison, which leads us to the possibility of that prisoner exchange.

BERMAN: Bianna Golodryga, thank you for helping us understand. These are difficult times for Brittney Griner and her family.

So, the claim Trump's former defense secretary is now refuting about troop response on January 6th. What a newly released deposition is revealing.

GOLODRYGA: And how the insurrection hearings changed public opinion. CNN's senior data reporter Harry Enten here with the numbers.



BERMAN: Sort of halftime for the January 6th committee, finished with one round of hearings, more to come in September. How have these hearings affected public opinion?

Joining us now CNN senior data reporter Harry Enten. We happen to have some new CNN polling which answers some of these questions, Harry.


So, we'll start off here and this is basically the idea that American democracy is under attack, which perhaps you expect that some of these hearings to affect. But if you look at our poll from January, February of 2022, versus now, overall it is basically the same percentage. It is 54 percent now. It was 52 percent overall back in January, February. So not much movement.

I do think that perhaps there has been a little movement among the parties, among Republicans, those who lean Republican. We do see that in fact fewer believe that democracy is under attack, 57 percent now versus 64 percent earlier this year. Among Democrats not surprisingly it has gone up ten points. So, perhaps some slight movement, but not much movement overall.

BERMAN: Joe Biden, of course, won.


BERMAN: In 2020. How about how people are dealing with that or viewing that?

ENTEN: Yeah, so, he did win, Biden legitimately won enough votes for the presidency, 69 percent of Americans overall agree with that. That's the high water mark in CNN polling so far. It is up 7 points from where we were earlier this year. It's up 6 points from where we were a year ago.

And interestingly enough, if you look among Republicans, it is also going up. Look at that nice green arrow I drew growing up there. It's at 35 percent now. That's from 30 percent earlier this year and 28 percent in the middle of last year.

BERMAN: That's movement right there.

ENTEN: That is movement. That is movement.

BERMAN: What about if you reverse the question?

ENTEN: So, you know, if we basically zone in on Republicans, right, and we say did Biden legitimately won enough votes for the presidency? As we mentioned earlier before, we do see that from the middle of last year to now, it's up 7 points. But this to me is a rather interesting thing because then we asked those who said, no it wasn't, the majority of Republicans, do you have solid evidence that he did not or is it just a suspicion that he did not? Perhaps not firmly as held a point of view.

And what we see here is, no, there is solid evidence he did not, that was the plurality position last go round, nearly half of Republicans believe there was solid evidence, I don't know where the heck they get that from, but now that's down to 39 percent. So, there has been some loosening perhaps that Trump has had there.

BERMAN: So, there is movement around the margins here in different ways depending on what questions you ask.

Another way to look at this is Donald Trump's political standing heading into a possible another run for president.

ENTEN: Yeah. So, the choice for 2024 GOP nominee, do you want Trump or would you prefer a different candidate? Look at where Trump is now. He's at 44 percent, different candidate now as the majority position at 55 percent. They were basically tied back in January, February of 2022.

So there is clearly been something going on it seems when you look at the numbers, when you put them all together, that Trump's grip on the Republican Party perhaps is loosening a little bit.

BERMAN: What about against specific Republican humans?

ENTEN: Yeah. So, specific, generic, let's get to an actual human being, like you and I are. If you look at this long-term trend right from the middle of last year up to now, you see Trump is loosening a little bit, but more than that, what do you see? You see DeSantis is starting to consolidate a little bit. He was at 12 percent middle of last year, 15 percent the beginning of

this year and now up to 23 percent in an average there.

BERMAN: Our David Chalian would want me to point out in Republican primaries, what you actually need say plurality, not a majority here. So it may be that Donald Trump wants a lot of candidates to jump in and get some percentage, even if he is well under 50 percent, he might still be able to win. That aside, what about his favorability?

ENTEN: Yeah, just wrapping up here among those overall as the news cycle has been tough with Trump, if you look at his net favorability, favorable versus unfavorable, minus 6 points on March 26th, where it is now, minus 12 points.

BERMAN: That's a month by month movement.

ENTEN: That's a month by month movement. Trump doesn't want to be in the news for the general public, the general public doesn't like when Trump is in the news.

BERMAN: Harry Enten, thank you very much.

ENTEN: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Interesting to see.