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Testimony Given by Members of Oath Keepers in Trail Relating to Violence on January 6th; Report Indicates Trump Employee Told FBI They Were Directed by Former President Trump to Move Boxes of Documents at Mar-a-Lago after Legal Team Received Subpoena for Classified Documents; Polling Shows Edge for Republican Candidates in Competitive Districts for Midterms. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 13, 2022 - 08:00   ET



SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Interviews from people who were in the former president's cabinet, people like Steve Mnuchin, Mike Pompeo, Elaine Chao, who resigned after January 6th. We're also looking to what kinds of communications they spotlight from the Secret Service. We know they have over a million communication from the Secret Service. In previous hearings, they've made a point of showing the people around the former president were aware that people were showing up on January 6th with weapons that they were aware that there could be violence, and of course, that the former president was insistent on going to the Capitol and did nothing to stop the riot once it got under way. I think we're going to see them continue to drive that point home today, John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Sara Murray, we will wait and see. That begins at 1:00 today. Thank you very much.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, new testimony from a veteran member of far-right extremist group the Oath Keepers admitting that the group had a stockpile of weapons including an AR-15 stashed outside Washington on January 6th. Afterwards, FBI agents were seen carting several gun cases and other evidence from the courthouse. CNN's Whitney Wild is live for us at the U.S. district court, and she has more on this. Whitney?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, this was quite a moment in court, because what this man Terry Cummings testified to was that once he saw this stockpile of weapons, he said he had not seen that many weapons in one place since he time in the military. Terry Cummings testified that he traveled to Washington with one of the defendants, Kenneth Harrelson, and he brought his own AR- 15, his own ammunition. And it was when he was here in Washington that another defendant, Kelly Meggs, told him to return to Virginia, which is where that weapon stockpile was, to prepare for what they called a quick reaction force, Brianna. That quick reaction force has been one of the key elements here that prosecutors say is proof that these Oath Keepers were trying to at least prepare to use force, including weapons in Washington, D.C. None of them are accused of actually bringing weapons into the

district, but they did have this stockpile of weapons as well as what is basically a paramilitary force staged outside of the city in a place called Arlington, Virginia, Brianna.

KEILAR: Whitney, you also have reporting on the Secret Service reaching out to the Oath Keepers ahead of the January 6th riot.

WILD: Well, this came out because there was a witness last week who testified that one of the defendants here, the leader of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, had reported to be in touch with a U.S. Secret Service agent. Later the agency admitted that, yes, they did have conversations with the Oath Keepers as part of their efforts to gather evidence as well as respond to inquiries, which they say is standard when they're trying to gather what kind of demonstration might happen at a rally as well as respond to just general inquiries about what might be permissible at an event.

For example, some of the Oath Keepers testified that they reached out to the Secret Service to find out what kind of weapons they could bring to a rally. Of course, the answer so to that is zero. But that is an example of the types of conversations they were having with the Secret Service prior to January 6th, Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, significant inquiry there. Whitney Wild live for us here in Washington. Thank you.

BERMAN: New overnight, new developments in the Mar-a-Lago document investigation. A source tells CNN that a Trump employee told the FBI about being directed by the former president to move boxes of documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence. This comes after Trump's legal team received a subpoena for classified documents.

With now is David Schoen. He was Donald Trump's defense lawyer during the second impeachment trial over his actions on January 6th. Counselor, as always, thank you for being with us. If Donald Trump asked an employee to move boxes of documents after receiving a subpoena that included said documents, what legal questions does that raise?

DAVID SCHOEN, TRUMP'S DEFENSE LAWYER DURING SECOND IMPEACHMENT TRIAL: It raises a number of questions legal and factual. What were the documents that were being moved? What does just moving the documents mean? Where were they being moved from and to? I don't think we can really take these snippets. I know they say there is this new video out and some testimony, but I don't think we can take these snippets and really draw legal conclusions from them.

And if you take the position that the Trump team has taken apparently, that he declassified documents in the first place, then there is a dispute about whether the documents being moved were declassified, classified. We just don't know enough about, I think, to draw any fair legal conclusions that are meaningful.

BERMAN: It may than that they were under subpoena whether or not they were classified, because, as we know, ultimately the search warrant in August didn't specify classified information. And to be clear, this witness is testifying he or she was asked to move the documents and there may some video evidence, we also understand, of someone moving the documents. What would in theory in this case, counsellor, and I'm asking for your legal advice here and expertise, what could constitute obstruction?

SCHOEN: Well, first of all, you make an excellent point when you say the fact of the matter is it's the subpoena that at question, not whether they're classified or declassified status. But again, we don't know what moving them means.


But obstruction would be if there is -- first of all, it requires a mens rea. If President Trump or someone acting on behalf knew that these documents, that they didn't have the right to have these documents in their possession, the documents belonged to the government or the American people, et cetera, and knowingly disobeyed the subpoena, knowingly hid the documents or kept the documents from being found, then that could theoretically constitute obstruction, certainly.

BERMAN: If they were trying to hide something.

SCHOEN: That's right. If they were trying to hide something they weren't entitled to hide, put it that way.

BERMAN: OK, interesting. So that is what we might imagine the federal investigators are looking into right now.

The January 6th committee holds its final hearing before the midterms today. Your defendant, Donald Trump, in his second impeachment trial, there have been things that have been revealed, new evidence and testimony that's come out that adds to the story from when you defended Donald Trump in that impeachment trial.

I want to ask about two specific instances here. Number one, the testimony from Cassidy Hutchison that Donald Trump was told at his rally on the Oval that there were people who were armed and were not able to get through the magnetometers outside that event. And he said, according to Cassidy Hutchinson, they're not here to hurt me. Taking the f-ing mags away. Let my people in. What is the importance of that testimony?

SCHOEN: If it were true, it's significant. I just don't -- I don't believe it. But I don't have any reason to know whether it's true or not. That is the problem with the nature of these hearings. There is no opportunity for cross-examination. There's no ranking minority member to test these things in the crucible of cross examination. And that's the problem. Obviously, that would be a significant statement to say and it would be a shocking statement for a president of the unite to make.


SCHOEN: Because it's encouraging -- not encouraging, but it's putting one's imprimatur, let's say, on the idea of bringing guns into the Capitol, and certainly they have no place being there. That's why those devices are there, to prevent that kind of thing. But tying that to President Trump, I think we're a couple steps away from that, quite frankly.

BERMAN: Sure. And again, this is a congressional investigation, not a legal investigation. I am interested in the fact that you say if it were proven it could be significant. So there is this parallel, federal investigation, if they ask Cassidy Hutchison under oath, and we know they questioned her, if they look at communication by the Secret Service and were find evidence that such an exchange did happen, that you think would be compelling?

SCHOEN: I think it's compelling. It doesn't constitute a crime. I think it may be a reason for people to choose not to vote for President Trump if he were to run again. But I think this whole process has become a partisan political process, not a real investigation. As long as we acknowledge that, I think then we take these facts, and people can use these facts to make decisions in the voting booth.

But it's been pointed out before, "New York Times" did a piece that I think sums it up back in June. This is an effort by one party to recast the midterms. If that's the case, that's one thing. Then be straight with the American people. I think the American people wanted a real investigation, not just snippets, not edited hearings run by a television executive and that sort of thing. That's my problem with legitimacy of the committee.

BERMAN: I understand your argument. This is the committee as it is constituted right now. As we said, there is also a federal investigation. And some of the testimony and some of the evidence presented, it just is, right? When you have the former attorney general of the United States, Bill Barr, he's talking about claims of voter fraud that the president was pushing to him before January 6th. And this is what the sworn testimony of the former attorney general is. Listen.


WILLIAM BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I made it clear I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff, which I told the president was bullshit.


BERMAN: So again, whatever motivations you think there are, there is this now evidence here. There were people in positions of power telling the president that these claims of voter fraud were B.S. and we have that testimony, the importance there.

SCHOEN: Yes. I think there is no question about that. And I don't question that exchange at all. But again, that's a fact for voters to take into the voting booth. President Trump believes in his heart of hearts there was election fraud. He's entitled to believe that. Other people are entitled to rely on other evidence to believe that's complete nonsense and it's not true.

But this is the fact to consider when you decide how to cast your vote. That's how our system works, I think. Not barring someone from running for office again as Mr. Nadler called for back in 2019. That's an agenda that I don't think is democratic. I think it's anti- democratic, frankly.

BAIER: David Schoen, thank you for being with us this morning. Look forward to talking to you again.

SCHOEN: Thank you very much.


KEILAR: With less than a month to go until the midterm elections, new CNN polling finds that Americans are closely divided in their vote for Congress. CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza is with us now. So the choice for Congress, Chris, which party has the advantage.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: OK, so Brianna, I want to start. This is the generic ballot. The reason we call it that because it's basically the question is asked which candidate do you favor, a Democrat or a Republican, no names? OK, this is interesting. Nationwide when we asked this question, we get this, D plus three, 50 for Democrats, 47 for Republicans. But when we ask it in competitive districts where this is going to be fought out, not every district of this country is competitive. I come from a district in Connecticut, not competitive at all. In competitive districts, look at this, look how this changes, R plus five.

That number right here, this is good news if you are a Republican because it suggests in the places where this election is going to be decided, Republicans have an edge. So this number, look, you're not upset if you're a Democrat with this number, but this is the number that really matters because remember, 435 districts vote. But probably only 35 to 50 are the ones that are deciding the majority. And in those, R plus five.

KEILAR: And so what are the issues that are motivating voters?

CILLIZZA: I was totally struck by this when looking at the poll. It feels like voters are on two different planets in terms of what is motivating them. OK, voting in election, 70 percent of Democrats say it is extremely important, 64 percent of Republicans. OK, fine. But look at this, economy, Republicans, 25 more percent of Republicans say the economy is important. How about this, inflation, 26 percent. But then flip the other way, abortion, 18 percent of Democrats say abortion is more critical.

These last two struck me amazingly. Immigration -- I'm going to do this on the side -- R plus 35. That's why you're seeing the immigration edge, 35 percent more Republicans think it is important. And then climate change, even bigger margin. Six in ten Democrats say climate change is a critical issue in this election. Just 16 percent of Republicans. So you really do have a Republican are Mars -- it's Republicans are Mars, Democrats are from Venus, or Democrats are Venus, Republicans are Mars. Regardless, the issue set that is driving the two parties right now are radically different.

KEILAR: Yes. And the spread, I see, too, their on inflation, that is different. And then also --

CILLIZZA: Let me get rid of the scribbling so we can actually see it.

KEILAR: And some of these issues mean different things to different parties, very clear, right.


KEILAR: Voting and elections. So I also want to ask you, how is former president Trump helping or hurting the GOP?

CILLIZZA: So on the Republican side, he's a little bit of a wash -- 47 percent of Republicans say their vote in this election is to support Donald Trump, 48 percent say it is not sending a message at all. It doesn't matter. This is what I think is a little bit more interesting -- 51 percent, a majority of Democrats, now, it's not 80 percent, it's not that big of a majority, but 51 percent of Democrats say their vote in this election, this election, Donald Trump not on the ballot, will be an expression of opposition to Trump. Three percent -- I'd be interested to find out who are the three percent of Democrats who say their vote in this election will be for supporting Donald Trump. I don't know who those folks are, but 44 percent say it's not a message.

So what do we conclude from these numbers? Again, let me get rid of my scribble. What do we conclude? Trump is a little bit more of a driver of votes for Democrats to send a message against them than he is for Republicans to send a message of support for him, but it's at the margins. I don't think Donald Trump decides this election. And I would say broadly looking at our poll, broadly, what I saw over and over again in the numbers, it's pretty close. There's a lot of data that suggests voters are really evenly divided. They're not sure which way they want to go. And as you said, we're getting pretty close to the time when they're going to have to make up their mind.

KEILAR: I said I wanted something more conclusive, Chris. You did not deliver.

CILLIZZA: I guess I can write more on here. But I was never good at math, so I'm trying to limit my math, the math I'm doing on these boards.

KEILAR: All right, thanks, Chris, we appreciate it.

I want to bring in Kasie Hunt, CNN anchor and chief national affairs analyst to just go over these numbers with us. So if Democratic candidates, Republican candidates, if they're looking at what they just saw there, what Chris was displaying, what is the takeaway for them?

KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: What I see in those numbers is also what I hear in the conversations I have day in and day out with Democratic and Republican strategists, which is that in competitive districts, there is a feeling that Republicans have an edge, and that in these final weeks the momentum, and some of this is driven by private data that they're seeing, some of it is public data, some of it is anecdotal or intuition, Republicans seem to be -- seem to have momentum going in the right direction. Democrats regained a lot of that over the summer. We're seeing it tick back a little bit in Republicans' direction. And there are a lot of reasons for that. Inflation and the economy is really chief among them.

KEILAR: Democrats do seem, at least at this moment or maybe here in the last couple of months, they seem clearly to have been motivated by some of the Supreme Court decisions on guns, on abortion.


The question is, how animated are they? Are they going to be single issue voters on these things? Do we have any idea on that?

HUNT: So, I'm not sure where the enthusiasm numbers stand on the poll we put out. But something giving Democrats a lot of hope was that what we saw earlier this year is that Republicans were a lot more excited about getting out to vote, and that's where you really saw abortion make a big, big difference. It really made Democrats to tell, you know, when we're asking people questions, they started to say, I'm really motivated to get out to vote now, and I wasn't necessarily before. I mean, the numbers show.

So, the question is going to be, are Democrats sustaining that enthusiasm, that level of enthusiasm as they head into the polls? It doesn't necessarily mean they're single issue voters and our polling might not show that, but I think we've seen a clear correlation between the Dobbs decision on abortion and Democrats getting excited about the election.

KEILAR: What are you looking at as you're watching the race, the Senate race in Pennsylvania between Oz and John Fetterman? Right now at issue is the fact that Fetterman, yes, he had a stroke. He's been talking about how he used closed captioning. He clearly has some communication issues, not for comprehension it appears but maybe more -- or maybe for verbal comprehension but not total comprehension.

What do you think about how this is going?

HUNT: Well, first of all, I think our Dr. Sanjay Gupta has done a very good job explaining this, when he's talking about the challenges that Fetterman faces. I'm a political reporter, I defer to him on the medical side. He basically says this is not a cognition issue. Cognition is fine. It's a functional issue about getting the information into the right parts of his brain.

But I think that the thing to watch in Pennsylvania, yes, obviously, Fetterman's health is a part of the conversation. But what I'm really looking at is Republicans in Pennsylvania for this reason. We're seeing polling show the nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano, he is extraordinarily conservative, election denier. You know, very much, frankly, polling shows he is out of step with Pennsylvania. They show -- polls show Josh Shapiro, Democratic nominee, basically running away with it.

Oz is much closer to Fetterman in this polling. That suggests there are Republicans out there that are going to vote for Josh Shapiro but also vote for Mehmet Oz. I also think on the flip side of that, you have some people who are in the role whether they were Trump supporters or whether, you know, Republicans who just don't know what to make of Oz, and they're still making up their minds about, you know, how to get excited about him or not.

I mean, there are a lot of questions by Republicans I talk to about whether Republicans are excited enough about Dr. Oz. I think that is probably going to be what ultimately the race comes down to.

KEILAR: All right. We'll be watching with you.

Kasie Hunt, thank you so much.

HUNT: Thanks, Brie.

KEILAR: Moments from now, new numbers will show the state of inflation in the U.S. plus, a new show about serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer is now Netflix's second biggest series he ever. Some will say that true crime has jumped the shark.

BERMAN: And emotional reactions from the families of Sandy Hook buildings after the jury award them $1 billion in the Alex Jones defamation case. Why they say they're fight is not over.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we were able to accomplish is just to simply tell the truth. And it shouldn't be this hard. It shouldn't be this scary.





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know this is not the end of Alex Jones in my life. I know that his hate, highs, and conspiracy theories will follow both me and my family through the rest of our days, but I'm also hopeful for what happened here today.

ROBBIE PARKER, FATHER OF SANDY HOOK VICTIM EMILIE PARKER: Every day in that courtroom we got up on the stand and we told the truth. Everybody that took the stand told the truth except for one.


BERMAN: Nearly one billion dollars. That is how much a Connecticut jury awarded a compensatory damages to eight Sandy Hook families and first responder in the defamation case brought against Alex Jones. Jones peddled lies and conspiracy about the 2012 massacre that killed 26 people including 20 children at Sandy Hook. But will this nearly $1 billion verdict stop conspiracy theories or the spread of misinformation in the future?

Listen to what victim's family member had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People like Alex Jones will have to rethink what they say, how they say it, how long they say it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most importantly, I am so thankful for the really, really strong message that was hammered down by the jury today, not just for Alex Jones but for anyone who has a sick aspiration to be like him.


BERMAN: All right. With me now, CNN correspondent Donie O'Sullivan, and former federal prosecutor, Danya Perry.

Counselor Danya, first to you, it's an enormous award here.

Legally speaking, is there a difference between a billion dollar award, you know, half that amount?

DANYA PERRY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It's an outsize award, there's no question. I think it's the largest award of its kind by a factor of many. But, no, the jury was entitled to award this amount. It is eye-popping. But it's deserved under the law. It's perfectly within keeping of what the jury was instructed by the judge.

So while it may not be upheld in full on appeal and there are various reasons why a judge could reduce it, it's actually harder. These were just compensatory damages. It's really just to compensate the plaintiffs for what they've endured. And that is harder to actually reduce on appeal than say punitive damages award. So, it may very well stand up.

BERMAN: What's -- I think what was compelling about this story was how repugnant the things that were said were and how much these families were put through. But in terms of questions of law, was it an unusual case?

PERRY: No. It really wasn't. It was just like any other defamation case. Other than as you said, the violent, virulent things that were said and the speaker who made them.


One oddity is that there was no merits trial. Here he defaulted essentially. He really refused to show up. And so it was at this trial. So, that was a bit of an oddity. But no, it's a classic defamation case where the plaintiffs had to

meet their burden of the elements of defamation just like any other plaintiff in any other courtroom. But the jury certainly found that this was an outlier in terms of the things that were said and the damage that's it caused.

BERMAN: All right. Donnie, you spent your days and nights lurking in this world of conspiracy theories. Nearly a billion dollars of Alex Jones forced to pay. How much of a deterrent will this be among some of the people you monitor?

DONNIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. I mean, there is a lot of Alex Jones wannabes out there, right? Because there is a lot of money in this stuff. It might have a slight chilling effect. Maybe hopefully terrible people like this won't be going after the families of victims of mass shootings, and maybe some of those conspiracy theorists out there were quietly deleting posts from the social media or web sites last night.

But I think what we have seen over this time since Sandy Hook if, you go back to 2011, Jones was this crazy fringe figure. But he was elevated just as he was elevated by many parts of the Republican Party over the past 10 years in American discourse. It also signaled the decline of the quality I guess and the nuance of political discourse in the U.S.

I mean, we've seen thou guy was brought into all the election lies. And on that point, I would say that, you know, the grifters see now they don't have go after the families of mass shooting victims to make a quick buck. They can play into the election lies as Alex Jones did.

BERMAN: It's interesting. If you go after institutions, Dahlia, instead of individuals. It may be harder to prove a case like this, right?

PERRY: Well, we'll see. We have trials coming up in the voting systems, lawsuits that were brought for defamation against Fox News and a number of hosts and some guests. So --

BERMAN: One question that we both had here, which is, you know, is Alex Jones going to have to pay? When all said and done, even if it it's not a billion dollars, will very to pay something? Or is he going to be able to hide or move the money around somehow?

PERRY: My money is on he's going to have to pay something and that he is ruined. His company recently filed for bankruptcy. But the plaintiffs' lawyers in this case are all over. That the judge in this case may very well award sanctions. There may very well be perjury charges.

But there is only he apparently moved a lot of money out of his company through some shell that gave him a loan and gave to himself. All of that will be disclosed in bankruptcy court. At the end of the day, I think the truth will come out. He'll have to pony up some serious bucks.

O'SULLIVAN: Can I just make one point very quickly?


O'SULLIVAN: I think we might have the tweet and maybe not. Marjorie Taylor Greene this morning or over the past 24 hours saying this is an attack on free speech, et cetera, et cetera.

Greene a few weeks ago was the target of a terrible harassment campaign from a website, a hate web side called Kiwi Farms. She went on TV saying that website should be shut down and it eventually was. This is the same type of thing.

BERMAN: Donie O'Sullivan, Danya Perry, thank you both very much for that.

So key inflation data coming in. Christine Romans standing by with the report.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hear screaming coming from your apartment.


KEILAR: Has true crime gone too far? The debate this morning over the new "Netflix" series about serial killer and cannibal, Jeffery Dahmer.