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Alex Jones' Lawyers Accidentally Leak Years of Emails, Finances; DOJ Moves Signal Probe May be Aiming at Trump, Oval Office; Millions of Americans to See Triple-Digit Heat Today Across U.S.; Intense Heat, Power Outages Add Misery to Kentucky Towns. Aired 6- 6:30a ET
Aired August 04, 2022 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It is Thursday, August 4, and I'm Brianna Keilar with John Avlon in for John Berman this morning.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST/ANCHOR: Good morning.
KEILAR: Good morning to you.
We begin with a surreal intersection of the defamation case against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and the investigation into the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Jones is on trial in Texas for the lies that he spread about the Sandy Hook massacre, and in a jaw-dropping moment in court, a lawyer for the Sandy Hook parents revealed this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK BANKSTON, PLAINTIFF'S ATTORNEY Did you know that 12 days ago -- 12 days ago -- your attorneys messed up and sent me an entire digital copy of your entire cellphone with every text message you've sent for the past two years and when informed, did not take any steps to identify it as privileged or protected in any way. And as of two days ago, it fell free and clear into my possession, and that is how I know you lied to me?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: Cellphone records appear to show Jones had, in fact, texted about the Sandy Hook shooting, even though he testified under oath that he searched his phone and couldn't locate any messages about Sandy Hook, which brings us to January 6th, which was within that two- year timeline of text messages, because Jones spent weeks encouraging Trump supporters to converged on Washington, D.C., and bragged about helping to plan the rally.
He also has long-standing connections to the Oath Keepers.
When Jones met with the January 6th Committee, he said he pled the Fifth, quote, "almost 100 times." CNN's Erica Hill has all the details.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A shocking moment of truth for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, the InfoWars host learning on the stand that his lawyers apparently made a critical error.
BANKSTON: Your attorneys messed up and sent me an entire digital copy of your entire cellphone with every text message you've sent for the past two years, and when informed, did not take any steps to identify it as privileged or protect it in any way, and as of two days ago it fell free and clear into my possession. And that is how I know you lied to me when you said you didn't have text messages about Sandy Hook. Did you know that?
ALEX JONES, INFOWARS HOST: See, I told you the truth. This is your Perry Mason moment. I gave my phone --
HILL: Jones had previously told attorneys he had no texts involving the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, testifying in an earlier deposition, he had searched the text messages on his phone for the term "Sandy Hook" and came back with nothing.
JONES: I had several -- several different phones with this number, but I did, yes. I mean, that's why you got it.
BANKSTON: Now, Mr. Jones, that's not what I got.
JONES: My lawyers sent it to you, but I'm hiding it. OK.
JUDGE MAYA GUERRA GAMBLE, PRESIDING OVER TRIAL: Mr. Jones, please just answer questions.
HILL: That trove of text messages could also be used in an upcoming trial in Connecticut involving other Sandy Hook parents. The bombshell moment coming after Jones spent years repeatedly suggesting the shooting was a hoax.
JONES: The whole thing is a giant hoax. The whole thing was fake.
HILL: But under oath, he admitted that wasn't true.
JONES: I think Sandy Hook happened. I think it's a terrible event. And I think we need to protect our children from mentally-ill psychopaths. And we -- I think there was a cover-up, because they had warnings. The FBI knew about it.
HILL: Twenty children and six educators were killed in the attack.
Jones' attorney asked if he understood it was, quote, "irresponsible" to call the shooting fake.
JONES: It was, especially since I've met the parents, and it's 100 percent real, as I said on the radio yesterday, and as I said here yesterday. It's 100 percent real.
HILL: He tried to walk back years of lies perpetuated through his conspiratorial media organization, InfoWars.
JONES: The official story of Sandy Hook has more holes in it than Swiss cheese.
HILL: Statements that tormented parents, leading to harassment from people who believed Jones' lies.
NEIL HESLIN, SON JESSE KILLED IN MASSACRE: Just -- I can't even describe the last nine and a half years of the living hell that I and others have had to endure.
HILL: And attempted to tarnish the legacies of victims, including 6- year-old Jesse Lewis, whose mother spoke directly to Jones.
SCARLETT LEWIS, SON JESSE KILLED IN MASSACRE: Jesse was real. I am a real mom. Sandy Hook is a hard truth, hard truth.
HILL: Even as this case has been going on, Jones has been on his show trashing the jury as ignorant, even trying to link the judge to pedophilia, setting up this awkward moment.
BANKSTON: You're telling the world not to believe what happens in this courtroom, because the judge works with Child Protective Services, who you say is involved with pedophilia and child trafficking, correct?
JONES: I said I don't not stand behind it. I need to see not just five-second clips.
HILL: The case is now in the hands of jurors. The attorney representing Heslin and Lewis has asked the jury to award $150 million in damages.
HILL: Now, the family in this Texas case already won default judgments, so the jury is now deciding, of course, how much Jones will have to pay to the families involved.
As for those new details from Jones' phone. there is also, as mentioned, the congressional investigation. The January 6th Committee is looking into Jones' role of events -- in the events, rather, surrounding the insurrections and now likely interested in those phone messages. Jones did plead the Fifth in that one.
KEILAR: Erica, unbelievable day in court that we saw.
KEILAR: So let's talk about that. Bernarda, how does this happen? I mean, Alex Jones called it a Perry Mason moment. It sort of was.
BERNARDA VILLALONA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Absolutely. I thought I was on the show of being punked because of the surprise of where it came out. His attorney should have known, like, look, you've already given a heads up that the plaintiff's attorney has these text messages, has these emails.
So do you not have a conversation with Alex Jones and be like, by the way, they have your information. They know what you've said in the past, so say consistent with that.
But that was the best moment of the trial because he wasn't ready for it and you saw the true Alex Jones and it was a hubba, hubba, hubba, hubba moment.
KEILAR: It really was.
AVLON: A hubba hubba moment. Is that a legal term?
Look, Oliver, here's what kind of stuns and troubles me.
OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Yes.
AVLON: In some ways this is the culmination of the post-truth moment we live in in terms of accountability.
We live in a time where basically people can get rich off of amplifying lies. and the only time they seem to be held to account is if they're under oath or if there's financial damages potentially involved.
Yes. What has struck me watching this trial is how out of his element Jones is. Right? He's used to being able to rant, to rave, to push conspiracy theories on his show unchallenged.
And in court, he's learning that's not the way this works. You know, he has to sit in silence as the judge admonishes him. He can't rebut the Sandy Hook mother who is telling him about how his lies have caused her pain and suffering over many years.
And even when he is able to talk, he's being fact checked in real time, and so his arguments fall apart. So that has been very interesting to watch. Alex Jones' narrative doesn't really quite hold up when it's confronted with a little bit of reality.
KEILAR: He's B.S.-Ing his way through this. And the judge called him very frankly on that. In this moment, we see him trying to say, OK, so you have my text messages. What's the big deal as he sort of tries to cover for it.
But Paul, maybe you can explain some of the legal jeopardy that he or his attorneys may be in. Because his attorneys knew that he did have text messages about Sandy Hook. He, when deposed, says he doesn't. They have possession of them.
Then they seem to be aware that they've accidentally given them to the prosecution. They don't alert their client? There's so many problems with this.
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is a colossal error by the defense attorneys. Now, what they're going to say is that, we had thousands of documents in this case, and this just slipped through. And we didn't really know that those text messages were in the pile of documents that were turned over to Jones' attorneys.
That's what the attorneys are going to say, because otherwise, the attorneys are guilty of subornation of perjury. If you put a witness on the stand knowing that that witness is going to commit perjury, you share his guilt in that crime. So the attorneys could be in big trouble.
So their defense is going to be, Well, it was a mistake.
With respect to Jones, he's now looking at a potential $150 million verdict which may destroy him economically, but he's also looking at potential indictment in Texas for aggravated perjury, which has a penalty of two to ten years in prison.
So the stakes have gotten very, very big in a case that was already a huge defamation case, maybe one of the biggest defamation cases in U.S. History.
AVLON: Erica, one of the most surreal moments was when he got called out for ranting against the judge, in effect, on air and denied it in court. I think we've got that clip again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BANKSTON: You say, Mr. Jones, that you're taking these court proceedings seriously; you're approaching them in good faith. But the truth of the matter is you've been broadcasting repeatedly a picture of our judge on fire, haven't you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Objection, compound, your honor.
BANKSTON: The person on the left of this image is our judge, correct?
BANKSTON: The person on the right is another judge you don't like, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: I mean, that's real-time fact checking, but that's already somewhere between sick and absurd.
HILL: But this has been happening throughout, right? And Oliver has been watching this really closely. That -- so, remember, we were talking yesterday about when the parents, Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, were addressing him. He wasn't there in court in the morning, because he was doing his show. And, you know, railing on them then.
Has been continually hitting a lot of this while all of these proceedings are happening, bringing up the judge, also railing on the jurors. A little pushback from the jurors, too, calling them blue- collar. Basically, trying to make -- trying to use terms and trying to make the case that they're not smart enough to make a sound decision in this case when it comes to damages.
It is remarkable just how open and transparent he has been in that respect. And yet, as you point out on the stand, being fact-checked in real time. No, that's not her. Yes, it is her.
KEILAR: The Sandy Hook lawyer on hot mic says -- you know, the thing -- I'm paraphrasing -- the thing people haven't thought about yet is what happens when these messages -- when law enforcement gets these messages.
Two years on his cellphone takes us well before the insurrection, and he was there on that day in Washington. Are you expecting that the committee, Paul, is going to want to get their hands on these text messages?
CALLAN: Absolutely they will. They're going to look to see if he was involved in actually planning the takeover of the Capitol on January 6th.
And, of course, you know that he's so crazy in what he says on the air, his text messages probably reflect that, as well. So this is going to be probably a big thing for the committee.
Also, was there any contact with the former president by Jones? Jones had interviewed the president and had contacts with him at some point in time. They'll be looking into that, as well, when they get these text messages.
AVLON: Bernarda, final word?
VILLALONA: Look, yesterday's price is not today's price. After Alex Jones testified, the jury now has a different mindset as to how much money should they award. So all I'm thinking is money, money, money.
KEILAR: That they're going to get closer to what they're asking for?
VILLALONA: Exactly. And the punitive damages are going to be off the roof.
CALLAN: And I'm thinking of jail, jail, jail because that's where this guy deserves to go for lying in court about -- and telling these horrible lies about these 20 dead children and six of their adult teachers --
CALLAN: -- who died in this horrible, horrible incident.
AVLON: I'm thinking truth, truth, truth. How about that?
KEILAR: It's horrific the pain that he's caused.
KEILAR: You guys, thank you so much for that conversation. We do really appreciate it.
AVLON: All right. New CNN reporting suggests the criminal investigation into the January 6th insurrection is creeping ever closer to the Oval Office.
The Justice Department now issuing a subpoena for former deputy White House counsel, Patrick Philbin, and it comes on the heels of his former boss, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, also being served with a grand jury subpoena.
Our Katelyn Polantz helped break the story, and she joins us now. Katelyn, what you got?
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: John, clearly here, criminal investigators from the Justice Department looking at January 6 are trying to flesh out what happened in the White House. And they are going to the top people around Donald Trump.
In this case, two top lawyers, people very close to the situation that was -- that was unfolding on January 6th.
We now have confirmation that there has been a subpoena both for documents and testimony to deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin. He was at the end of the Trump administration.
And that comes just on the heels of us learning that there was also a subpoena to Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel at the time. Now, our understanding is that these men may not have actually testified to the grand jury yet. They may be coming in in the coming weeks.
But this is a pretty significant step, especially when you put it on top of what we just learned a couple weeks ago, which was that two people at the top of the advisor roles at the vice president's office, Marc Short and Greg Jacob, that they had already testified to the grand jury.
Now, when Pamela Brown and I broke this story yesterday, we were able to understand that there is some discussion of executive privilege around this testimony. And that is sort of -- that's the sort of thing where can there be access to Trump's statements that these people will share? Will investigators get to learn that?
We don't know yet what will happen in that grand jury testimony, but we do know the Justice Department is going to be gearing up for a fight to try to get access to Trump's statements themselves.
KEILAR: And, Katelyn, some more CNN reporting. There's a new memo that says the Secret Service may actually disable text messaging on employees' phones. What do we know about this?
POLANTZ: Right. So my colleagues yesterday, when they were learning about this, the story is the Secret Service may temporarily disable text messages on their employees' phones. We don't know if they will be doing it yet.
There does appear to be some concern that if they shut down communication channels for these protective officers, that it could disrupt their ability to communicate with law enforcement.
But right now, what we were able to learn is the Secret Service director, James Murray, did send an agency-wide memo earlier this week, informing employees that it was considering suspending the use of text messaging services on people's phones.
Clearly, all of this is in reaction to what has been coming out in recent weeks, that there were lost text messages at that agency on agents' phones. And that is something that the Secret Service clearly wants to be able to understand and address.
KEILAR: All right. Katelyn Polantz, great reporting, as always. Thank you.
A Democratic congresswoman backtracking this morning after saying that she does not believe President Biden will run for reelection. And she's going to join NEW DAY in minutes to explain.
Plus, it's a really startling statistic. More than 80 percent of the U.S. population will experience temperatures over 90 degrees within the next week.
AVLON: And a Kentucky fire chief forced to shoot out the window of his pickup truck to escape rising floodwaters before being trapped for 15 hours. We're live in Kentucky ahead.
KEILAR: That sweltering heat is back again. More than 75 million Americans will experience extremely high temperatures and humidity today. So let's go now to Chad Myers in the weather center to take a look at this.
That map is something, Chad. Look at that thing.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It really is. The color behind me is the temperature above 90, the dark red here. All across the Midwest and even the people that I hear complaining on Twitter the most are the people that are saying, Hey, I can handle 90, but at least get it below 75 in the morning. Things just aren't cooling off at all.
This weather is brought to you by Safelite, your vehicle glass and recalibration experts.
So let's get to it. Heat index today not as ban been as you've been, Oklahoma and Texas, but still 100, 104. That's hot. And the cold front doesn't get to you at all. There will be some showers along the front that will cool down the Northeast over the next couple of days. Very heavy rainfall over St. Louis in the overnight hours with more
flash flooding that happened after midnight.
There's the heat across parts of the Northeast, all really, all the big cities, all the way, I-95, going to be hot again today with heat advisories. And your heat index is going to run somewhere around 100. And some spots could even be warmer than that.
So just be careful of yourself. Be careful of the pets and the kids. And remember those numbers are always in the shade. If you're standing on asphalt or standing in the sunshine, working outside, you will feel warmer than that.
Here are your next three days. At least it cools down close to normal -- Brianna.
KEILAR: A smidge. It cools down a smidge. I'll take it, though. Chad, thank you.
MYERS: You're welcome.
AVLON: And while parts of the country are being smothered by heat, people in Eastern Kentucky are just trying to pick up the pieces after historic flooding this week. Now power outages and a fresh round of hot weather promise to add to their misery.
CNN's Dianne Gallagher joins us live from Eastern Kentucky -- Dianne.
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, it's not as hot today as it was yesterday, but it is still extremely brutal out here. And there is now rain again in the forecast on this one-week anniversary of when that floodwater came ravaging through communities in Southeastern Kentucky like the one I'm in here, Fleming-Neon, absolutely destroying everything in sight.
They're still trying to put things together, places that do not have power, do not have water, do not have cellphone communication. Now, some of that has improved, but they are concerned about the rain that is on the way.
There are places like in Isom, Kentucky, where we went into the only grocery store that was obliterated inside. They're going to have to basically destroy everything, pull it back out.
They are still having to take food and water to people who live in hollers on ATVs and in trucks just so they have enough to survive.
And then there are stories like we met the police -- excuse me, the fire chief in Jeremiah, Kentucky, where he went to check on his fire station in the middle of the night when he got a call that it was flooding. His truck began to take on water. He didn't know what to do, so he steered it into the tanker, that yellow tanker in front of it, and couldn't get the door and window open and said from there, he knew he had to do what he could do to survive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WALLACE BOLLING JR., LETCHER, KENTUCKY, FIRE CHIEF: I reached and found my pistol in the back seat, and I shot the window out of my Chevy. And as the window was going out I dived, hands up. I followed it out. Jumped up on the tanker.
I had a lot of time to think about a lot of things, you know, and how quick that life can go by you, you know? The next day I got to see my kids. That made it worth it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GALLAGHER: Now, look, he says that he spent 15 hours on top of that tanker. He didn't know if he was going to survive. But now that he has, he says he is making it a point they're going to rebuild back their community.
That is what I'm hearing from everybody here, John, Brianna.
The governor says that the death toll stands at 37 but does expect it to go up.
The heat is not helping because of those power outages; because people don't have water; because they're out here cleaning still, trying to figure out what they're going to do with their lives.
They do need help. They're getting help from FEMA. They're getting help from organizations. But we're here on the ground every day. We have been this whole week. They need more help. They need people to come and help them. They need supplies. They need medical supplies here. It is a dire situation, and the fear is that it may get worse as the rain comes in this afternoon.
AVLON: That is a stunning story of survival, but still a lot of work to be done. Dianne, thank you very much.
All right. New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney walking back this response at this week's debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERROL LOUIS, SPECTRUM NEWS: Should President Biden run again in 2024?
REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D-NY): I don't believe he's running for reelection.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: She'll join us live, next.
KEILAR: And flags on Capitol Hill flying at half-staff this morning after Indiana Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and two of her staffers, Emma Thomson and Zachery Potts, were killed in a car crash. We'll have details ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOUIS: Should President Biden run again in 2024?
SURAJ PATEL (D), NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Yes.
LOUIS: Mr. Nadler?
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Too early to say.