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Former Acting Trump White House Chief Of Staff Mick Mulvaney Interviewed On Giving Testimony To House January 6th Committee; Sen. Joe Manchin Announces Agreement With Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer On Senate Spending Bill; Biden On Cusp Of Major Legislative Wins Amid Recessions Fears. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 29, 2022 - 08:00   ET



GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): But I know we're strong. I know we'll band together. And in Kentucky we open our homes and our hearts to each other. That's what we're doing right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Governor, I'm so sorry for what your state is enduring. We appreciate you being with us this morning. Governor Andy Beshear of Kentucky, thank you.

BESHEAR: Thank you.

KEILAR: NEW DAY continues right now.

Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It is Friday, July 29th. And I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman this morning.

The dam is breaking, that is from members of the January 6th committee, and there are new developments from both the committee and the Department of Justice in their investigations into the attack on the U.S. Capitol. First on CNN, federal prosecutors are preparing for a court battle to force former White House officials to testify about Donald Trump's conversations and his actions on or around January 6th. The DOJ's preemptive move is the clearest sign yet that federal investigators are closing in on Trump's efforts to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power.

Also, CNN has learned the January 6th committee plans to share 20 transcripts with Justice Department investigators.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The committee also seems to be zeroing in on former Trump cabinet officials. Of particular interest conversations about possibly invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. While "Washington Post" reports texts from Ken Cuccinelli and Chad Wolf, two top officials from the Trump Department of Homeland Security, are missing from the period leading up to January 6th.

And also, first on CNN, a former DOJ staffer who worked with Jeffrey Clark at the agency is now cooperating with the criminal probe. Trump discussed installing Clark as attorney general in the days before January 6th. Joining us now is Mick Mulvaney, former acting chief of staff in the

Trump White House who testified before the January 6th committee yesterday. We appreciate you being with us. It's not often we get someone at your level who just appeared before the committee. So if you can, just describe the process inside that room.

MICK MULVANEY, FORMER ACTING CHIEF OF STAFF, TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: Yes, thanks. Good morning to both of you. Thanks for having me.

It was extraordinarily professional. If you've ever been through a deposition, it was very similar to that, a deposition from a civil case. Four or five lawyers from the committee, lasted about two-and-a- half hours. Very well-prepared lawyers, very courteous, no animosity at the table.

The one thing I guess that was missing, John, was that if you go to a deposition, there is going to be another side. And there was no other side. They were all questions by the committee, designed to try and find out stuff that might make President Trump look bad. No one there asking the other side of the questions that might make President Trump look good.

But that's fine. It was not a fight. It was a free-flowing discussion of information that I thought was helpful. I would have given the exact same answers, obviously, if there had been folks there from the other side of the spectrum. So it just reaffirms in my mind that the committee is politically biased, there is no question about that. The structure is politically biased. But the information that you're getting is from Republicans like myself who are testifying. I wasn't under oath, but you still can't lie to Congress anyway. That's still a crime. So I think the information that they're getting is good and sound information.

BERMAN: Did the members, were there any members who asked you questions.

MULVANEY: Yes, there were a couple. The lawyers were there in person. There were a couple members who participated virtually. Liz Cheney was one of those. She asked a couple of questions. Couple other members came and went during the hearing, but they didn't ask any questions.

BERMAN: So what did they want to know from you specifically? Because I said you were the former acting chief of staff in the Trump White House, but that was well before January 6th. At this time, between the election and January 6th itself you were special envoy for Northern Ireland. So what do they want to know from you?

MULVANEY: Three different things. Sort of, why did I communicate, why did I say what I said? I sent some tweets and texts on January 6th. They wanted to talk about that. I was also fairly heavily involved in the Trump campaign. I was the head of Catholics for Trump in 2020. They wanted to know about the discussions I had had leading up to the Election Day and the discussions right after the Election Day.

And then interestingly, there was some questions toward the end about, general questions about how a White House might run. Now, granted every White House is different. Every chief of staff is different. But they wanted to know the process, for example, on how visitors would come see the president, or how would a chief of staff typically try and include or exclude people from meetings with the president.

So clearly, they're trying to figure out more about how it is that perhaps Rudy Giuliani or Sidney Powell got the access to the president of the United States that they did, how folks like Mike Lindell had access, the role of people like Peter Navarro, that sort of inner circle of people that have been described by others as the crazies, how did they get the access that they did when they did.

BERMAN: In that case, you would be something of an expert witness, not an eyewitness, but someone who can talk you about processes. I do want to ask. Apparently, they specifically wanted to ask you about a text that you had sent in the week after Election Day to campaign officials.


And RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, you said, "I'm getting this sinking feeling that everyone other than me thinks we lost this election. I'm out there telling everyone we haven't. If people know something I do not, I would appreciate it if you would let me know. It is better for me not to do TV and keep my mouth shut than to do TV and say we have a chance when people in the know know that we do not."

MULVANEY: Yes, that was very interesting. They did not get that from me, which means they got it from someone else from whom I sent it, Ronna McDaniel, Jared Kushner, somebody, because they did not get that text from me. And I forgot that I had sent that text. But I clearly remember what it was all about. That was in the days after the election, so not the weeks, this was the days after the election. I was spending a good bit of time watching the race in Arizona, and I remember being on a phone call when Ronna McDaniel made sort of a throwaway line that there was no way we could win Arizona.

And I was sitting there doing television on social media talking about how I thought we a good chance in Arizona. The election had not been finalized or certified. So yes, I was a little surprised that I'm sitting there defending the president, and saying we had a chance in Arizona, and there was folks inside the campaign and inside the RNC who had apparently decided that there was no way we could win Arizona. I thought that was -- that's one of the times I felt like I had been misled by the campaign, and the committee wanted to talk about that a good bit.

BERMAN: That's interesting. So just to be clear, because I haven't seen that text message either. They showed you in the context of you -- after you sent that text, you no longer believed that Trump had a chance to win in Arizona. Those other people there basically convinced you, no, this isn't going to happen.

MULVANEY: Yes, and they asked me that question, when did you decide that the president had lost the election? And I gave the answer that I think a lot of Republicans gave, which is that I don't remember coming to a specific time when I thought it's over, but certainly by the time I got that text, I was starting to wonder about the information that the campaign was giving, not only to me, but to the public.

BERMAN: All right, I want to ask you about a major development overnight. CNN, it was a CNN exclusive. We were the first to report that the Department of Justice, the federal investigators are building a case that would basically get around executive privilege and force Trump advisers from the Trump White House to testify.

They're going to take it to court, if the former president claims executive privilege, they're preparing to take it to contract and say it does not apply here. I want to get your opinions on executive privilege writ large in a second. First, though, what do you think this tells us about where the federal investigators are in their probe?

MULVANEY: You put this together, John, with the information that we learned over the weekend, that Marc Short and the president's -- Marc Short was obviously the vice president's chief of staff, and also the vice president's chief legal counsel had been subpoenaed to testify and did testify to a federal criminal grand jury here in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

Put that together with the information that you just discovered, and what you're sort of seeing is evidence, indirect evidence that the Department of Justice investigation into January 6th, which we know is going on because they've charged over 800 people, I think, with crimes related to the attack on the Capitol, but the fact that Marc Short was there, the lawyer was there, now this information that you presented in the last couple of hours gives some evidence that the DOJ investigation is now moving closer and closer to the White House.

They're starting to talk to people inside the Trump orbit as opposed to just the rioters themselves, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. So I think that is probably the most significant piece of information we have in the last couple days regarding the DOJ investigation.

BERMAN: If federal investigators are taking on executive privilege, who should be worried in the Trump White House?

MULVANEY: Not worried. Nobody should be worried. Telling the truth is fine. I think what people don't understand about executive privilege is it doesn't allow you not to testify. I could have invoked executive privilege yesterday. I could have relied on it if they asked me questions that I felt or my lawyer felt would have crossed the line. But it doesn't mean I don't get to show up. You don't -- if they ask you the question is today Friday, you don't get to invoke executive privilege. There is certain communications that are protected.

Now, there is also history in our legal jurisprudence about how to get through that, that executive privilege. They go all the way back I think to Watergate. So yes, you're right. The fact that the DOJ seems to be preparing that sort of line of reasoning tells you that they want to now talk to people who might be in a position to invoke executive privilege and they want to prevent that from happening.

But again, I'm more interested in the truth. That's what I think this should all be about. I think it is what it is all about. And if there's folks who have information about January 6th and the run-up to it, there should be in difficulty with anybody, no one should be worried about telling the truth.

BERMAN: If the interest is in the truth. And again, to be clear, I think, to be technical here, it's only if you believe this, a former president or president who can invoke executive privilege.


You can refer to the fact that the former president invoked executive privilege there, but that's a way not to answer questions. Are you suggesting that you would prefer executive privilege not be at play here and they just answer the questions?

MULVANEY: Well, keep in mind, it is very interesting, and I learned this because of my testimony yesterday, the privilege actually lies with the current executive. There was the committee presented me with a letter from the Biden White House saying that they were not going to invoke executive privilege on my testimony. We could have still pushed back.

My lawyer and I had decided that if the committee had asked us questions specifically that we thought got too close to my private communications with the president, we were going to fight that. But in the eyes of the committee, which I assume has some basis in law, the executive privilege actually lies with the current executive and not the past.

BERMAN: Has the federal government, has the federal investigators reached out to you yet?

MULVANEY: No, and I don't expect they will. Again, as you mentioned in the opening, I was long gone from the White House by January 6th. Yes, I was involved with the campaign, but I was not involved in the planning for the riots or planning for the rally on that day or the communications that were involved with that.

BERMAN: Last time we spoke we talked about the Secret Service text messages that apparently had been deleted. And I'm paraphrasing here. I'm not trying to put words in your mouth, but you basically said, it's weird, but not necessarily nefarious. It raises questions, but it isn't necessarily nefarious.

Now "The Washington Post" reports overnight that there are also apparently some text messages from Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli and the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, they have text messages that are also gone. How does that affect your view now of the situation?

MULVANEY: Again, I'm one of those people who is slow to judgment. I would like to have facts before I make a final decision. But to your original point, it is weird and it's getting a little bit weirder. Keep in mind, there is a good chance -- I don't have any information. I've not talked to Chad or Ken about this. But I know that when I was in the White House, I had two phones, I had my personal phone, and I had a work phone. And when I left the White House, I had to leave my work phone there.

So if the same was true with ken, then he would have to turn over that work phone to somebody else and he would not have been in control of it since he left the administration. So, again, does it look weird from the outside? Does it look somewhat nefarious?

Yes. But I just encourage folks, look, there is plenty of time to get the right information here before we jump to -- we make any final decisions about this. This is one of the most important sort of investigations that we'll probably undertake in Washington, D.C. in my lifetime. We need to make sure we take the time to do it properly.

BERMAN: I do want to ask you, finally, to put on your former member of the House Freedom Caucus hat here, as a former member of the House who is seeing what has happened in Washington this week, which surprised a lot of people when Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer reached a deal on the Inflation Reduction Act, they're calling it. They say this will help battle inflation, will also help create an investment to fight climate change and allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, which will be the first time ever.

As part of this, Mitch McConnell said he was going to vote against or not allow passage of this bill to fund semiconductor research if the Democrats were going to do this. Democrats didn't announce they were going to do this until after the Senate voted to support the money for semiconductor research. Do you think Mitch McConnell got played here?

MULVANEY: I think it's certainly possible. That's bigtime politics in Washington, D.C., right? That's how it works. And by the way, that's one of the reasons the tensions here are so high and the relationships are so frayed is that if Chuck actually did play Mitch, it is not the first time that's happened, nor is it the -- nor the first time that in the past that maybe the Republicans played the Democrats. The collegiality has broke down.

I know ordinary Americans don't like to think of Washington as a chummy place, they don't like that sort of generates a negative impression in their mind, that everybody is here backslapping and being friends. We should be here fighting. And there is certainly the time and place for that. But at the same time, if you can't trust the people you're working with, it is very difficult to get things done.

So I think that regardless of what happens, certainly there is the impression this morning that the Republicans got played, and it will continue to erode sort of the comity, c-o-m-i-t-y, that exists, or you need to have exist in order for properly functioning government. So yes, not only did I not like the Chips bill, I don't like the Manchin bill, but at the larger level, this is just another example of how Washington isn't functioning properly for a variety of reasons.

BERMAN: Mick Mulvaney, appreciate you being with us this morning. Thank you so much for your time.

MULVANEY: Thanks, John.

KEILAR: "Comity," not "comedy," just to be very clear. BERMAN: Sometimes you get a little bit of both in Washington.

KEILAR: Right, exactly.

BERMAN: The t and the d there. Look, first of all, it's always interesting to hear what goes on inside the committee room. And Mick Mulvaney has been someone who has been open to the findings of the committee, even as he says his claim is that it is partisan, although he did mention he was questioned by Liz Cheney, of course, a Republican there.


But it is interesting to hear they're still looking into some of the things that happened after Election Day. The executive privilege issue I think he acknowledged, it is a very big development, if the federal investigators are trying to take that head on, they have a possibility of learning a lot more from some of the witnesses.

KEILAR: Yeah. Let's bring in CNN anchor Chris Wallace, the host of "WHO'S TALKING TO CHRIS WALLACE" to talk more about this with us.

Chris, what did you think about what you heard from Mick Mulvaney there?

CHRIS WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know, I -- Mick is an interesting guy. Every time I talked to him, he's been a straight shooter. I think he was remarkably revealing more than a lot of other people who have been in that committee room about what went on inside.

This question of executive privilege and the Justice Department going to are to take a test case, there is no question about that, because former President Trump is invoking executive privilege. We heard from a number of people, and Pat Cipollone's testimony, deposition to the January 6th committee, whenever the question came up what did you say to the president, what did the president say to you, he wouldn't answer that. He answered a lot of other questions.

And we now have learned that both Marc Short and Greg Jacob, two aides to vice president pence, when they were talking to the federal grand jury, when anything ever came up about what did you say because they were in that meeting where the president was reportedly pressing Mike Pence to, you know, on January 6th, to reject some of the electoral votes, they wouldn't answer that question.

So this is a barrier that is going to have to be discussed and going to be litigated by the courts and it seems to me, I'm not a lawyer, I don't play one on TV, but just -- I am a political historian, if you will, and it seems to me this is going to be an easy one for the Justice Department to win.

Ever since the Nixon tapes, when the Supreme Court by a 9-0 vote in 1974 said, you know, I know you're going to invoke executive privilege, President Nixon, but you got to turn over the White House tapes, the courts have basically said it is a balancing act. Executive privilege versus the right of a criminal grand jury to get access to evidence about a crime, as pointed out by Mulvaney, I would say that Trump's executive privilege rights are very weak, given he's no longer even the president. And conversely the rights of the grand jury to investigate the worst insurrection against the Capitol since 1814 are pretty strong.

So we don't have to be litigated, but I would bet that the courts will basically say, no, executive privilege doesn't count here. You got to testify.

BERMAN: Look, we don't know if a crime has been committed. But, in an investigation like this, one thing we have learned from history is if there is an issue of criminality being investigated here, criminality outweighs privilege. And that's what it could come down to. It could be the Supreme Court is doing generations going forward, a favor by making a definitive ruling on all of this.

Another thing that Mulvaney said that was interesting to me, Chris, was he's interested in the truth, right? What he wants to see is the truth here. If the truth is what everyone is after, you know who to ask. I mean, the people who were in the conversations with Donald Trump, if they're allowed to be asked what was said in these conversations, you'll get to the truth, whatever that is.

WALLACE: Yeah. There are a lot of people here who clearly aren't interested in the truth. Remember, Mick Mulvaney pointed out and you pointed out was gone from the White House by March 20th of 2020. He was out of the picture. So he has nothing to do with the claims of a fake election. And particularly the question is to whether or not you saw from that text with Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the RNC, he gets upset when he hear, we got you in Arizona arguing that Trump may have won the election if you don't believe it, don't have me out there saying it.

There are a lot of people who did have reason to believe that the claims were not true, and were still saying it and then, of course, the lead up to January 6th, it clears there were a lot of people who don't want to get to the truth and all the facts about that, and obviously they face legal jeopardy. Mick Mulvaney doesn't.

KEILAR: No. It's very good point.

All right. Chris, we always want more time with Chris Wallace. So stand by for us. It has been a big week of legislative wins for President Biden. We're going to speak with Chris about that.

And then in just moments, a key inflation report is going to be released showing how much more Americans are paying at stores.

BERMAN: But Brianna is going to have a conversation with Senator Jon Tester of Montana, after the bill that he was one of the key supporters for, a bill that would help veterans exposed to burn pits, was blocked.


SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): The truth is what happened yesterday is they voted against the men and women who fight for this country, that want to return back to civilian life and have a normal life.





JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, so far, we have got 217 yes votes for the Chips Bill. The House has passed it.


BERMAN: So that was President Biden reacting as Congress passed this major bill to boost U.S. semiconductor production in a bid to increase U.S. competitiveness with China. Plus, there is this surprising -- it was shocking when we learned of it -- deal between Senator Chuck Schumer and Senator Joe Manchin to advance this Inflation Reduction Act this bill to fight inflation and also a huge investment to battle climate change and promote lower drug costs.

But all of it comes as recession fears loom. The latest GDP report shows the economy shrank for a second quarter in a row.

Back with us, CNN anchor Chris Wallace.

There's a lot to digest. I mean, the GDP report is what it is. The bills that may now pass, the Chips Bill has passed, and this major agreement between Chuck Schumer and Joe Manchin, what kind of win, if any, do you think this puts in Joe Biden's sails?

WALLACE: Well, it certainly makes him feel good. You could see in that meeting in the White House, he was like the cat who ate the canary as he's talking about the fact that the Chips Bill got through the Senate and yesterday got through the House and he'll get to sign it pretty soon. It looks, although, you know, talk about the perils of Pauline, it certainly looks like he's going to be able to get this bill, the Reduce Inflation Act, which is incidentally a much better name politically than the Build Back Better because inflation is the primary concern.


It looks like he's going to get that through the Senate, if Kyrsten Sinema goes along and also through the House. That's all good news for a president who has really been under siege for months now.

Having said that, in terms of the kind of macro political look, you know, we pay attention to this stuff. I don't -- people leading real lives really don't. And unless it affects their lives, so I'm not sure that the fact that the president signs the Chips bill or even signs the bill that allows at some point down the line for Medicare to be able to negotiate prescription drug prices is going to have nearly as much effect as the fact it is still over $4 a gallon for gasoline, and, you know, to get hot dogs or anything, clothing, whatever it is, costs a lot more.

You know, people don't vote based on a headline in "the Washington Post." they vote on how their lives seem and I don't know that this is going to have much effect, particularly in the short-term, on the average American and what they're experiencing every day.

KEILAR: Yeah, not in the near term. I will tell you, I'm actually covered by Tricare, which negotiates drug prices. And it is cheap to get medications.

It is lovely and I notice it every time I go to get a medication. But if they're not going to see it overnight, they're not going to feel it. Once it kicks in, if it goes through they will feel it and they're going to feel the difference big time.

I do want to ask you, Chris, about Speaker Pelosi because whether or not she goes to Taiwan has been this huge open question. And we just learned from a source familiar with the travel plans she's going to Asia, but this Taiwan piece of it is still up in the air, will she or won't she. What are you looking for here?

WALLACE: Well, look, either this is an example of where the Democrats, I think, you know, get tangled up. And that is that this should have been settled before it became public. It obviously is a big deal. She would be the highest ranking person in a quarter century, highest ranking U.S. official to visit Taiwan at a time when there are real tensions, more than usual, between China and the Republic of Taiwan.

And it was always going to be fraught for the administration and obviously very explosive for the Chinese, one would think that before this would ever have been leaked to the public that there would have been some resolution. Either she's going to go ahead and do it or not. Now, if she goes, she's going if the face of warnings from Xi and his phone call with President Biden yesterday. You play with fire, you get burned.

Conversely now, if she backs down, that's a kind of signal of weakness from the Democrats in standing up to China. So, you know, it is almost impossible for her to win here. In some way she's going to tick somebody off.

BERMAN: Chris Wallace, it is always great to see you. Thank you so much for joining us this Friday morning.

I will say, Chris says, you know, says he's not a real person, he was saying, not us but real people out there. I think Chris Wallace is a real person.

KEILAR: You're a very real person.

BERMAN: Can I tell you one really quick thing? We all know I hope I don't drive the control room nuts, we all know that oftentimes the conversation in the green room is more interesting than what is said on the air, the Green Room where we wait before we come on the air. I was talking with Mick Mulvaney. Jared Kushner's new book came out in which he says that John Kelly, the -- the predecessor for him, his White House chief of staff, shoved Ivanka out of the way. He said that it is inconceivable, inconceivable that John Kelly, White House chief of staff would have shoved Ivanka.

He also said in the book, Kushner claims that he told Mulvaney that he had thyroid cancer. Mulvaney said he never told me that, I have no recollection of it, and if he had, I would have remembered it.

BERMAN: Where were you?

KEILAR: Where is the new show?

BERMAN: Where were you when I was talking to Mick Mulvaney? Where were you when I was talking to Mick Mulvaney?

Chris Wallace, we got to put a GoPro on your head so we get this stuff on tape.

KEILAR: That could be the show, "The Green Room".

WALLACE: You're going to see some things you don't want to see if you have a GoPro on my head.

BERMAN: That's a better tease.

KEILAR: You think we don't want to see.

BERMAN: Thank you very much. We appreciate it.

WALLACE: Bye, guys.

BERMAN: So, in moments, we're going to receive a key inflation report. How have past presidents feared during economic downturn?

KEILAR: A bill that would help veterans exposed to toxic burn pits and other toxins has been blocked by Republicans, many of whom voted for this already once before. We'll have reaction this morning.