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CNN TONIGHT: 1/6 Panel Votes To Hold Mark Meadows In Contempt Of Congress; Rep. Cheney Reveals Trump Jr. Text To Meadows: "The Capitol Police Tweet Is Not Enough"; Philadelphia D.A. Apologizes For Downplaying The City's Violence. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired December 13, 2021 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And they are really binding together, reaching out to each other. As for telling - and thank them, for telling us, their stories, here, in Dawson Springs, as well, in Bremen.
There are other places, around the state, and the entire region, where people are suffering, tonight. And our thoughts are with them. If you want to help, you can go to CNN.com/Impact, to find out. Again, that's CNN.com/Impact.
The news continues. Let's hand it over to Michael Smerconish, and CNN TONIGHT.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT: Anderson, thank you.
I am Michael Smerconish. And welcome to CNN TONIGHT.
Something stunning happened this evening. The committee, investigating January 6, held the man, second only to Donald Trump, in the West Wing, on the day of the attempted insurrection, in contempt of Congress.
And moreover, for the first time, we heard that not only were Republican members of Congress, privately texting the Chief of Staff, seeking help, in stopping the siege, but so too, were some of the President's favorite mouthpieces, who, since January 6, are the least- willing, to talk about the reality of that day.
In fact, I couldn't help but notice that their network didn't even carry, live, the events that I'm now showing you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): This witness must testify, like 300 other witnesses, before him, have done, either voluntarily and proudly, as a patriotic citizen, or at least, under compulsion, of subpoena, by the Congress of the United States.
But he has no right, anywhere in our constitutional system, to defy a subpoena, from the House of Representatives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: What we saw tonight was the committee making clear that, even some of the biggest names, in Trump-world, knew, what we all were watching, unfold, on January, the 6th, was not just a protest.
And many of the President's most public supporters were privately urging the White House, to get the President, to call off the attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Members of Congress, the press, and others, wrote to Mark Meadows, as the attack was underway.
One text, Mr. Meadows received, said, quote, "We are under siege, here at the Capitol."
Another, quote, "They have breached the Capitol."
In a third, "Mark, protesters are literally storming the Capitol, breaking windows on doors, rushing in. Is Trump going to say something?"
"This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy," Laura Ingraham wrote.
"Please, get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished," Brian Kilmeade texted.
Quote, "Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol," Sean Hannity urged.
As the violence continued, one of the President's sons, texted Mr. Meadows. Quote, "He's got to condemn this shit ASAP. The Capitol Police tweet is not enough." Donald Trump Jr. texted.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: The nine members, of the bipartisan committee, unanimously voted tonight, to hold Meadows, in contempt, for refusing to answer their questions. But it's clear, even in the absence of his testimony, the committee has amassed a tremendous amount of evidence.
CNN Congressional Correspondent, Ryan Nobles, joins me now, from Capitol Hill.
Ryan, I said at the outset, it was really a stunning evening. I don't know what surprised me more.
To hear the names called out, of Fox News personalities, who frankly don't talk about the events of January 6? And yet, they were urging, Mark Meadows, to get the President, to shut it down. Or the references, made to Republican members of Congress, who were doing likewise, except, they weren't named tonight? RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think you're absolutely right, Michael. And I think that is the big question that now lingers, over this committee.
Who are those members of Congress that were in contact with Mark Meadows? Not only on January 6, the members of Congress, that were pleading with him, to try and get the President, to do something, to call off his supporters, and quell the violence, here, on Capitol Hill.
But also those lawmakers that were in conversation and communication with Mark Meadows, for the days and weeks, leading up to January 6, after the November election, that were aiding and abetting, this attempt, to stymie the democratic process, to try and prevent the certification of electoral votes.
And what we saw tonight, was an outline of texts that did both of those things, right? A group of texts that showed people in communication, with Mark Meadows, trying to undermine the election results. And then, a second set of text messages, trying to prevent, something terrible from happening, here, on January 6, which was already happening at the time.
For instance, there was a lawmaker that texted to Meadows that said, on January - that said - suggesting this to Meadows.
"On January 6, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence, as President of the Senate, should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all."
This is essentially buying into this questionable legal theory that somehow the Vice President, who, on that day, had really only a ceremonial role, could just not accept the duly-elected electors, the votes that were sent here, to Washington, and certify them, and elect Joe Biden, the next President of the United States.
Now, the text that Meadows was receiving, on January 6, one of them, from a lawmaker, to Meadows. It said, "The President needs to stop this ASAP."
Keep in mind, this is from a lawmaker, Michael, that's essentially under attack here, on January 6, on that day, pleading with the President, to do something, and, at this point, he's not really doing anything.
And then another, a text to - a lawmaker, "Yesterday was a terrible day. We tried everything we could in our objection to the six states. I'm sorry nothing worked."
SMERCONISH: Right. With disappointment.
NOBLES: So, you see the dichotomy here, right?
SMERCONISH: With some disappointment. NOBLES: On both sides. Yes, exactly.
SMERCONISH: Like "Too bad, we didn't pull it off."
NOBLES: Right, exactly. So, was it just about people being concerned, for their lives, which is what you read, in some of these texts? But it was also about this disappointment that they were unable, to prevent the democratic process, from moving forward.
SMERCONISH: Right. So, if I were now, taking the deposition, of Mark Meadows, if they get to that point, I would say, "Mr. Meadows, you received these texts, on January 6. What did you do with them? Did you bring them to the attention of the President? What was the President's response?"
I mean, essentially, it's the Howard Baker question, many years later, "What did the President know and when did he know it?"
Ryan Nobles, thank you so much, for being here.
NOBLES: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: The committee's argument, against Mark Meadows, tonight, is about building a case, based on evidence. And, as Ryan just said, that includes the former Chief of Staff's own text messages.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: One text, Mr. Meadows received, said, quote, "We are under siege, here at the Capitol."
Another, quote, "They have breached the Capitol."
In a third, "Mark, protesters are literally storming the Capitol, breaking windows on doors, rushing in. Is Trump going to say something?"
A fourth, "There's an armed standoff, at the House chamber door."
And another, from someone inside the Capitol. "We are all helpless."
Dozens of texts, including from Trump administration officials, urged immediate action, by the President. Quote, "POTUS has to come out firmly and tell the protesters, to dissipate. Someone is going to get killed."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Mark Meadows was flooded, with texts, like these that day. Among those sending him urgent messages, my first guest tonight.
Alyssa Farah was Trump's White House Communications Director. Starting tonight, she's also a CNN Political Commentator. Her texts, with Mark Meadows, are central to this investigation. In fact, she was part of Meadows' inner circle, for years.
Alyssa, thank you for being here. In fact, let's begin there, so that people can appreciate what you're about to say.
What's the nature and length, of the relationship, professional relationship, that you had with Mark Meadows? When did it begin? And what was the context?
ALYSSA FARAH, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Michael, it's great to join you.
Listen, I've known Mark Meadows, for the better portion of a decade. Worked with him, in the House, as his personal spokesperson, as the spokesperson for the House Freedom Caucus. Continued to work with him, when I was with the Vice President, and then came back to the White House, when he was Chief of Staff.
And let me say this. The Mark Meadows that I knew, was a man, who cared about the Constitution. He cared about the congressional role and oversight. And that all seems to be kind of thrown out the window, in this current proceeding. And that's what's kind of astonishing to me.
He's a man, who knew the co-equal branches of government, and the fact that obviously, Congress absolutely has a right to issue these subpoenas, and to get to the bottom of the horrifying events, of January 6.
I'm stunned that he's not cooperating. It's never too late, to do the right thing. And I would hope you would consider doing it. But all signs point to he's not going to be cooperating. But luckily, the committee's got a ton of evidence, to build this case.
SMERCONISH: Well, let's talk about some of that evidence. You stayed at the White House, through the election. You were there until December the 4th. You left. Why?
FARAH: Well, listen, we had lost the election. There were a lot of kind of rumors, running around the administration, about folks not wanting to leave, because there was pressure to stay, because we weren't going to acknowledge, the results of the election.
Honestly, it was important to me, to set an example for staff, and for those around me, of, we did lose. That is a fact. Joe Biden was the duly-elected President of the United States. And it was just time to move on.
SMERCONISH: For a while though, you bought in, to some of the complaints, about the election, right?
I'm a Pennsylvanian. And I have a recollection of you saying that Pennsylvania officials were putting their thumb on the scale.
FARAH: Well, that was a comment, made before the votes were cast out. That was on Election Day, prior to polls being closed. And it was talking specifically, about a state official that was discussing certain precincts, ahead of votes even being cast. I thought that that showed some sort of a bias.
I've never, and never will buy into the notion that the election was stolen, or that there was widespread enough fraud that it could have turned the results any other way. Joe Biden is the President. Republicans didn't win, because Donald Trump simply did not get the votes.
SMERCONISH: So, it's January 6. Where are you, as you're watching?
FARAH: So, I was down in Florida. I was advising the Georgia Senate run-offs. I had left the White House, as you said, about a month prior.
And I was horrified. I spent years, working in the Capitol. I spent a lot of time, in the Capitol, when I worked for Vice President Pence, who, of course, is the President of the Senate.
And knowing that he was there, having these threats, made against his lives, as well as Speaker Pelosi, other members of Congress, and knowing they were in imminent danger was, I mean, it was horrifying. We all remember that day very well.
As you mentioned, in your lead-up, I was one of the people, who sent a text message, to Mark Meadows. And I very clearly stated, "If the President - if President Trump won't go out, and condemn this, you should." And I fundamentally believe that.
Every person in the White House, or around him, who had a platform, and a voice, to speak out, had an obligation to speak out, on January 6.
SMERCONISH: I think I can put--
FARAH: Even if they could just marginally pull--
SMERCONISH: I think I can put on the screen, a text that you may lay claim to. So, let's take a look at it together. I don't know if you've a screen that you can see this.
"One former White House employee reportedly contacted Mr. Meadows several times and told him, "You guys have to say something. Even if the President's not willing to put out a statement, you should go," flipping to the next part, "to the cameras and say, "We condemn this. Please stand down." If you don't, people are going to die."
Is that your text?
FARAH: That is my text. And Michael, what's so horrifying, in retrospect, in hearing you read that back is that was about an hour before Ashli Babbitt died. And it was a few hours before we learned that officer Sicknick died.
FARAH: There was a window, where people of good conscience could have spoken up, and stopped the violence, indeed. SMERCONISH: I'm curious. You sent that to Mark Meadows, where, how? I guess what I'm getting at, was it a personal phone?
FARAH: Yes, I was - I was - had left the White House. I only had a personal phone. And I sent it to his personal phone.
SMERCONISH: Right. But, I guess, of course, I'm replaying Hillary, in my mind now, and all the debate over private servers, and so forth, and I'm questioning the propriety of him, receiving messages, like that, on his personal phone.
FARAH: To be honest, I think that's kind of the least of these issues. I think there were plenty that are going to come out, in this committee that were certainly germane, to White House activities that should have been--
FARAH: --on a White House phone.
SMERCONISH: Right. But the lawyer--
FARAH: But a former staffer, sending him--
SMERCONISH: --the lawyer--
FARAH: --a personal text.
SMERCONISH: Yes. The lawyer in me is wondering about the universe, of sources of information that might be available to this committee. Question. Did he respond?
FARAH: Well - yes, go ahead.
SMERCONISH: Did he respond?
FARAH: He did not. And I met - he did not respond. And I also called the White House, trying to reach the President that day, was unable to reach him.
But it goes back to this. The committee is doing incredibly important work. And I think it's been smart that they've kept their heads down. They've not made this a big flashy show, where they're having cable- news-driven hearings. They wait until they have something, and then they lead with the facts.
And what Congresswoman Cheney did today, showing how, some of these Fox News hosts, are speaking out of both sides of their mouth on this. They knew how bad this was, the day of, and even the few days afterward. But - most of the party did.
But then, they've completely changed their tone now. That I think is really revealing to Americans, who are watching this, and realize they're basically being lied to, by a lot of the people in power, or the media elites. SMERCONISH: Right. Well, I appreciate the fact that they were all reaching out, for the President that day. I mean, it's something that those of us, with no access, would have liked to have done.
The problem, as you point out, is the lack of conversation thereafter. That, they wanted it to stop, is great. But now, ever since January 6, treating it like it was inconsequential, is appalling.
Alyssa Farah, thank you so much, for being here.
FARAH: Thanks so much.
SMERCONISH: Next, a journalist, whose work, has been cited by the committee, as critical to this investigation, will join us live.
SMERCONISH: The central question, of January 6, is how far up the Executive branch, this went. The committee has laid out the evidence that points all the way to the White House Chief of Staff.
And much of that evidence, was first uncovered, in the book, "Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show." The book is actually cited four times, in the committee's resolution for contempt.
The Author joins me now, ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent, Jonathan Karl.
Jonathan, thank you so much for being here. What surprised you, about tonight's events?
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, AUTHOR, "BETRAYAL: THE FINAL ACT OF THE TRUMP SHOW": I think that the email, from Donald Trump Jr., the pleading email, to Mark Meadows, saying, "Get my father, on television, get my father in the Oval Office, speaking to the country, calling on those people, to stop. It's gone too far."
That's pretty dramatic, when the President's own son, when the President's namesake, is unable to get through, to his own father, and is reaching out, and pleading, with the Chief of Staff, to do something. I mean, that was really what rest of the - rest of the country, was doing at that time.
Where was Donald Trump? I mean, that ultimately is the question. Where was he, during those hours? Why was he refusing, to do anything, to deal with a crisis that was unfolding, right before our eyes?
SMERCONISH: Well, to your point, why would Donald Trump Jr. have to go through Mark Meadows, to reach his father, unless his father was completely siloed in, in the Oval Office, or in the anteroom?
[21:20:00] KARL: I mean, look, I outline, in detail, in "Betrayal," what was going on, to the best of my knowledge, and what I could determine, during the hours of the riot, in the Oval Office, and in the West Wing, of the White House.
And what I found is that Mark Meadows was the person that was with Trump, during virtually the entire period. He was going back and forth.
Trump spent most of those - most of that time, in a little dining room, adjacent to the Oval Office that operated as kind of a second office, for Trump. It had television screens. He can watch what was happening. Meadows was there.
Meadows was taking incoming calls, from many people. You've heard Liz Cheney, go through some of them. But there were several others.
I mean, one of those, who I talk about, in my book, who approached Meadows, in the hallway, outside the Oval Office, was the Deputy National Security Advisor, Matt Pottinger, who was so horrified, by what he saw, and went to Meadows, and said, "Why can't we get something done here? Why aren't we doing anything to stop the riot?"
That, Pottinger actually went from seeing Meadows, in the hallway, outside the Oval Office, back to his office, the National Security Advisor suite, and wrote his letter of resignation, right there, at that moment.
I mean, Meadows really is - Meadows really is the key to all of this. He was the one that was--
SMERCONISH: Well, what - Jonathan, what is--
KARL: --that was with, Trump at the time.
SMERCONISH: --what is going on here, insofar, as Meadows produces 9,000 documents, and writes a book, initially is cooperating, and now draws a line in the sand. Explain that to me.
KARL: I think he's trying to manage his relationship, with Donald Trump, which, at this point, is really all he has.
I'm absolutely confident that Meadows, when he wrote the book, told Trump, he was writing the book. Obviously, Trump's quote is on the front page of the book. Trump put out a statement, praising it, as the truth. Meadows wasn't going to put anything in that book, without first running it by Donald Trump.
But when Trump saw how it played, the idea that Trump had a positive COVID test, before the debate, it's in the book. And when Trump saw how it played, he got furious. He got angry.
And now, Meadows needs to make a show of support, for Trump, and needs to pick a fight, with an enemy of Trump, which is this committee. So, I think that - I think that's what's going on. He's just trying to get back, in good graces, with a very angry former president. SMERCONISH: Final question, big picture, because I want to run something past you.
Initially, I thought, President speaks on January 6, chaos ensues, without any plan, without any malice of forethought. And then I read your book. And, of course, I read Costa, and Woodward's book. And I put together, some of the attendant circumstances.
The Eastman memo, the Ellis memo that you brought to light, the challenges in the States, the leaning on Justice Department, to say, "Hey, play ball with us," vis-a-vis, Georgia, the leaning on Pence, and of course, the communications to the foot soldiers, it was really a coordinated plan of attack, right?
KARL: Yes. And I would also add, leaning on the Department of Defense, to, investigate these crazy conspiracy theories, and maybe do more, leaning on the Director of National Intelligence, the top Intelligence official, in the country, Meadows was doing all of this, the President was doing all of this.
And I think that that is - I mean, that's what I put forward, in my book, "Betrayal." This was not a one-off event. This wasn't the President, riling some people up, who decided spontaneously, to go in and attack the Capitol. This wasn't even just a riot, in the Capitol. That's the petty crime of it all.
KARL: I mean, it's serious - it's serious, obviously. But the real crime is what it was intended to do. And that is, to stop the transition of power, to disrupt the, basically the fundamental tenet, of American democracy, that after an election, the loser leaves, the winner is sworn-in. They tried to disrupt that.
But here's the thing, Michael. If I can just say one final thing, on all of this? As we focus on Meadows' role, as we focus on the others, around Trump, you mentioned, Eastman and Ellis, there's the whole question of, who did what, with the National Guard, don't lose sight of the big picture.
And that is Trump himself. Trump himself is the one, who refused to admit defeat, and vowed to do anything, he could, to overturn the results of the election.
Trump is the one, who saw what was happening, on January 6, saw his own supporters, go into the Capitol building, and refuse to, even after the pleadings of his son, refused to come out, and call on them, to stop, until the riot was almost over.
He's the one, who did not pick up the phone, to say "Where is the National Guard? I want the National Guard up there immediately." He didn't do any of it.
So yes, there's a lot to talk about the people, around the President. And I think Meadows is first, at front and center, on all of that. But the actions of the former president himself are really--
SMERCONISH: Well there's a missing - I just have to say this.
KARL: --the key factors to all of this.
SMERCONISH: I have to say this quickly. There's a missing piece that I want to know the answer to.
I want to know what went down, at the Willard Hotel, the night before. But for all of these machinations, and for all of these moving parts, I want to know, what was the level of communication, to those foot soldiers?
Because I think of the guy with the horns, and I think about those, who actually broke into the Capitol. When they got there, they didn't seem to have a clue. They didn't seem to have a plan. They wandered around. They weren't even squatters, which would have precluded actually tallying the vote.
I can't believe, is what I'm saying, Jonathan. I can't believe it would have been left to chance, to just stoke this whole thing, and then sit back, and see what happens. There's a missing piece here. And we need to know the answer to it.
Anyway, thank you so much. I appreciate you being here.
KARL: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Jonathan Karl is the Author of--
KARL: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: --"Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show." And we appreciate him being here.
Vaughn, do we have social media reaction tonight? So many things going on. Go ahead. Yes, what do we got?
"You cannot conduct a coup of a government you are the leader of. Start there, Mikey. And then, we can discuss."
I'm not quite sure what to make of that observation. You - all right, I'll take you at face value.
Put that back on the screen for just one second. I want to see what this folk's - this guy's handle.
OK. So, the point you're making is it can't be a coup, bkParallax, it can't be a coup, because you're running the government? You're running the government, but you're going to be out in 14 days, right? So yes, it's a coup to make sure you stay in power.
You get my last point, to Jonathan Karl, right? I mean, all these things were taking place, all these things.
We initially thought it was very haphazard. He gives a speech. He stokes up the crowd. They go down Pennsylvania Avenue. Some of them break into the Capitol. It was much, much more than that. It was much more sophisticated.
And there're all different aspects of it that you have to pull back and look at the big picture. But what was the guy, with the horn, supposed to do? Because I don't believe it was left to chance.
One more, if we have time? And apparently, we do.
"Meadows is clearly not dialed in. Once you get, on Trump's bad side, there's no coming back."
By the way, I'll stop you right there. That's BS. I mean, look at a guy like Bannon. You're never completely out of Trump-world. I mean, that's the funny thing about it. He tolerates people, fighting with him, coming back. Rudy, you could put Rudy in that category, like you're never dead to Trump, until you're really dead.
What was the second part of that tweet? Put it back up there, so I can respond to it.
"Once you get on Trump's bad side, you're not coming back. He might as well cooperate with the investigation because Trump will destroy him, first chance he gets."
Michael, the person who sent this to me, what I don't understand is how does he produce, Meadows, 9,000 pages of documents, write his own book, cooperate with the committee, and then suddenly reach a point, where he's put all this information, into the public domain, and now say, "Well, executive privilege. I've had enough." That makes no sense. There's more going on there.
Anyway, what does it say that many of President Donald Trump's closest allies, on Fox News, privately begged Meadows, get the President to say, something, to end the Capitol rampage?
A giant of political journalism, is here, to look at, what this means, for the network, already facing all kinds of scrutiny. Frank Sesno is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: Quote, "Mark, the President needs to tell people, in the Capitol, to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy."
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: I have never seen Trump rally attendees, wearing helmets, black helmets, brown helmets, black backpacks, the uniforms that you saw, in some of these crowd shots. I mean, have you ever seen them wearing, as Chris said, those knee pads, and the, you know, all the pads on their elbows?
I just, I mean I've been to a lot of these rallies. I know you both have covered them. I've never seen that before, ever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: You can't have it both ways. That's Laura Ingraham, on January 6, laid bare, tonight, privately texting Mark Meadows that President Trump needed to do something, to end the insurrection, and then hours later, on her own program, suggesting they weren't really Trump supporters.
Let's discuss with the Director of the School of Media & Public Affairs, at George Washington University, Frank Sesno. He's also a former CNN Washington Bureau Chief.
Frank, what do you make of tonight's events? There's been so much that's come forth.
FRANK SESNO, DIRECTOR, SCHOOL OF MEDIA & PUBLIC AFFAIRS, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, FORMER CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: I think we're going through an enormous amount of documentation, of how deep this went, about how the people, closer to - closest to the President, were alarmed, panicked, over this, and pleading with the President, to do something.
I was really struck by Jonathan Karl's comments, a few moments ago that what this shows is the great swirl, around the President, but fundamentally that he tuned out, from his son, to Laura Ingraham, for him, to speak out and push back.
And it shows that this was deeper, and far more dangerous, than most people realized, and that so many, on the Right, continue to believe, or at least portray, as reality.
SMERCONISH: Well, he shouldn't have needed to be told, to do something, to try and quell what was going on.
SESNO: It was on--
SMERCONISH: It's on television.
SESNO: It was on television.
SESNO: It was live, Michael.
SESNO: We were watching it. I was watching it, thinking, is this building going to burn down? There was no ambiguity here.
SMERCONISH: And the point I'm wondering is whether Mark Meadows took those communications, to the President. Again, even if he didn't, the President had a TV, and should have done something about it.
But Frank, and my purpose here, tonight, is not to Jollystomp, all over Fox News. But I do have to say, the hypocrisy of, correctly, on the 6th, saying, "We got a real insurrection on our hands here," I'm paraphrasing, "Do something about it," and then treating it ever, thereafter, as if it were no big deal? That's got to get called out.
SESNO: It's got to get called out.
Look, what media companies need to do, and anybody, even remotely close to the word, journalism, is, they hold people in power, to account, whichever side they're on.
And people, in the audience, are going to push back, and they'll say, "Well, CNN doesn't hold one side as accountable as the other," and all the rest.
SESNO: And - argue about that.
But you call out an inconsistency, a lie, a hypocrisy, when you see it. And if there was ever something to see, it was on January 6. And, as you point out, Fox did it initially. So did many, in the Republican Party, by the way.
And so, Fox's drift parallels the Republican Party's drift, another part of the problem here, away from the reality, and the concern, and the panic, of that moment, into something that is, not revisionist history. It is propaganda, which is what we're seeing now. It is a lie.
SMERCONISH: So tonight, I was preparing for this program. And I was - I was in an office, here at the CNN headquarters. And there were monitors, where I could keep an eye, not only of our live feed, but also Fox and MSN, and one other channel, I'm not even sure what it was.
But I couldn't help but take note of the fact that Fox wasn't carrying any of the hearing, begging the observation that their audience won't even be aware, because you know how siloed people are, in their favorite media outlet.
Their audience, Frank, won't even be aware of the fact that these hosts got called out, in this committee hearing.
SESNO: Well, maybe they'll be aware, when their hosts actually are called to testify, if they do that, or if they're held to account, by you and others, in a public forum. This has been the problem now, and a great concern I've had about Fox.
We should have multiple voices, covering the news. We should have conservative-leaning news organizations. But that's a very different thing than truth-defying media companies. And that's unfortunately, what this has become. And it pains me to say this. But it's painfully obvious. And it's very dangerous.
SMERCONISH: I can't help but say that Chris Wallace, probably would have talked about it, on a Sunday, if he were still on the air there. And maybe that's the reason why he's not.
SESNO: Well, I'm a big fan of Chris'. I have been for a long time. I worked side-by-side with him, way back when, in the Reagan White House, when he was at NBC, and I was a young reporter at CNN.
And Chris is tough. He's ferocious. And he calls it, and he asks it, as he sees it. And I think that he's done serious questioning.
Here's something he said not long ago. He was interviewing Liz Cheney, last month. And he said, "Look, we've always had differences over policy. And we've always debated policy." But he said, with some alarm, "Now we're debating facts and truth."
And that gets, I think, to the core of what's going on here, and probably the core, of his disassociation with Fox News, and why he left.
SMERCONISH: But you know, they used to be able to say, "Well, we have Shep Smith. And we have Chris Wallace," and to a limit, it was "And we have Bret Baier." Do you think they fill that void? Or do they just quadruple down now, on what is a successful business model?
SESNO: Big question. And I'm not sure it matters, at this point. And then there was one, Bret Baier, who's left.
But there are others there, who defend the news brand, and who have been very fierce news reporters, over the years, like John Roberts, and others.
SESNO: But they are drowned out by the commentary. They are drowned out by the kinds of things, that, you and I just talked about, and Jon Karl was talking about, a little while ago.
And that's very hard, to say, "Well, you know, look at who we've got here, and how legitimate, who we are," when on the other hand, you're trafficking in all this other stuff that is, in so many cases, virtual fabrications.
Tucker Carlson's "Patriot Purge," is one of the things that got Chris Wallace and Bret Baier, according to NPR and others, so exercised that they talked to Management about it, that this was highly irresponsible stuff that is feeding conspiracy theories, with no justification.
For a news person, for someone, who bases their career, around demonstrable facts, and things you can see, and hear, and prove, it's beyond insulting. It's death-defying.
SMERCONISH: Right. I mean, Tucker Carlson is behind a documentary about events that were so alarming that when they played out, in real- time, Fox hosts were trying to reach out, for the President of the United States. I mean, there it is, in a nutshell.
SESNO: Yes. And it was the same Fox hosts, who had had unparalleled, and really unprecedented, access, to the White House, and to the Oval Office. They were virtual advisers, to the President.
SESNO: That's something else that we're not supposed, to do in media, but certainly not without disclosing it.
Now, some of it was very obvious, because Sean Hannity was on stage, in public, with the President of the United States. People can make their judgments. But this is not a country, where we're supposed to have state-run television.
SMERCONISH: No. Agreed.
SESNO: And that's what it's - what it's looked like.
SMERCONISH: Frank, thank you so much, Frank Sesno.
SMERCONISH: We're keeping track of America's crime epidemic. Now, an important player in the conversation, suddenly changing his tune. He's coming to a realization that more of our nation needs to embrace, as well. That's next.
SMERCONISH: An emotional apology, from the Philadelphia District Attorney, amid the city's rising gun violence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KRASNER, PHILADELPHIA DISTRICT ATTORNEY: I know that those words were the wrong ones. I chose them. They came out of my mouth. This is on me.
I accept responsibility for that. I own that, because I failed in not acknowledging that pain, and that suffering, a pain that disproportionately affects people of color, and poor people. So, for that, I am truly sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Larry Krasner is talking about what he said last week, at another press conference. That's when he said that there is no crisis of lawlessness, crime or violence, despite the city's now 528 murders, for this year. And the year's not yet over!
Those comments drew swift criticism, including, from the city's former mayor, Michael Nutter, who didn't hold back, when I asked him, about Krasner's first attempt, to claim that his comments were simply inarticulate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL NUTTER, (D) FORMER PHILADELPHIA MAYOR: Well, I don't think his comments were inarticulate. They were just ignorant.
And it's not me, certainly that he needs to apologize to. And he should apologize to, in the now, 524 families, the thousands, who have family member, killed, or the thousands of people, who have been shot.
It was a full-on statement, filled with, his level of rhetoric, and inability to accept, responsibility, for his role.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: We asked Krasner, to come on the program, last week, and again, tonight.
It's telling that while the apology seems to have progressed, the conversation hasn't really moved. Today's press conference was supposed to be about crime, in the Center City neighborhood.
But speaker after speaker seemed more concerned about Krasner's choice of words. There was noticeably very little talk, about what to do, in a city, where four people were murdered, just since my interview, with the former mayor.
Up next, the pictures we're seeing, of the deadly tornadoes that ripped across eight states, are almost unbelievable. So too was the response of one powerful lawmaker, who's asking for help, in his home state, but only after years of saying "No," when others pleaded for the same compassion.
Reality Check with John Avlon is next.
SMERCONISH: Tonight, search and rescue efforts, continue in Kentucky. Dozens remain missing, after that swarm of historic tornadoes, ripped across eight states. At least 74 people are dead, in Kentucky alone. Hundreds more are out of their homes.
That's got Kentucky senator, Rand Paul, pushing for federal aid, which would seem obvious, except that in years' past, he's made a career out of opposing disaster relief, from the Feds.
John Avlon, is here tonight, with a Reality Check.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right.
Look, hours, after a devastating December tornado, tore through Kentucky, causing more than 200 miles of destruction, Senator Rand Paul, was asking President Joe Biden, for aid, from the federal government. Now, this is pretty standard stuff, except for the fact that it came from Rand Paul. Because, the Kentucky Senator, who hails from the first family, of American libertarians, has a long record, of opposing federal aid, for disaster victims, except apparently, when it impacts his constituents. Suddenly, all that reflexive attacks, on socialist government spending, don't seem to apply.
But after Superstorm Sandy, it was a different story. Rand Paul strenuously opposed relief, getting in a spat, with then New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, accusing aid advocates, in the Northeast, of being greedy.
A few years later, Rand Paul opposed aid, for the victims of hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey that hit Puerto Rico, and the Gulf Coast, saying this, on the Senate floor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): People here will say they have great compassion, and they want to help the people of Puerto Rico, and the people of Texas, and the people of Florida. But notice they have great compassion, with someone else's money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AVLON: Now, that's not all. He tried to block the extension of the 9/11 victims compensation fund, opposed efforts to bolster FEMA's emergency disaster relief fund. And just a few months ago, he blocked Louisiana Senator John Kennedy's attempt, to pass the $1.1 billion Gulf Coast Hurricane Aid Act, by unanimous consent.
But now that Kentuckians are in dire need, Rand Paul is singing a very different tune. Gone are the demands for delay, and request to find the funds elsewhere. Now he wants the Fed's filthy lucre as fast as possible.
Joining him, in this ideological flip-flop, is Congressman Thomas Massie, of Kentucky, best-known for his gun-toting family Christmas card.
This is worse than simple hypocrisy or situational ethics. It exposes the core callousness, of calling government aid, some kind of big spending socialist scheme, because it always seems to be "Socialism for me, but not for thee."
Case in point, a Rockefeller Institute study that found Kentucky got billions more, in federal aid, than it sent, from 2015 to 2018, far more than those Blue states, in the Northeast, who needed help, after Sandy.
If he was really trying to be a fiscal conservative profile and courage, now would be the time, for Rand Paul, to insist that Kentuckians rely on local charity, or reallocation of funds, rather than immediately asking President Biden, for help.
But, of course, that would be an insult, to his suffering constituents, just like it is, when senators, from other states, ask for help, after devastating natural disasters, which are getting worse, due to the climate crisis that so many, in the GOP, still deny.
This isn't complicated, folks. It's common sense. Government exists, in large part, to help each other, in times of great need. And this isn't some Left-wing vision.
Listen to Kentucky-born Abraham Lincoln, who believed that "The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not do, so well do, for themselves, in their separate and individual capacities."
Well that's exactly the situation Kentucky is in right now, with people reeling, from the deadliest tornado, in the state's history. They need help. And that's what they'll get, because it's consistent with our character, as a country.
We come together, in times of crisis, helping our fellow citizens, recover, and rebuild, without playing Red State v. Blue state political games. That's why we call it the United States of America.
And that's your Reality Check.
SMERCONISH: John Avlon, thank you for that report.
AVLON: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: We'll be right back, with some reaction, to tonight's program.
SMERCONISH: Here's some of the social media reaction, to tonight's program. What do we have?
"Smerconish. You said something tonight that caught my attention, about the insurrection. The people were lost. But not all of them. But they were still wrong, for entering the Capitol building."
Well, the point I was trying to make is this, that this was a very complex effort, on January, the 6th, not what I initially took it for.
What I initially took it for was that the President spoke, fired up that crowd. Some of those people then marched down Pennsylvania Avenue. Some of them stormed into the Capitol.
But there were many moving parts, before we ever got to January 6, a couple of legal memos that I discussed with Jonathan Karl, providing a justification for that, which was taking place, convincing the President, and people in the White House that they had a legal basis to do this.
They were leaning on Mike Pence. They were leaning on the Justice Department. You had efforts taking place in the States. I mean, it was very comprehensive. But there's that missing piece. What were the foot soldiers told that they should do? I want to know. And the answer probably lies, in the War Room, at the Willard Hotel, the night before. So, file that away, and we'll see what transpires.
Thank you so much for watching. I'll be back here, tomorrow night.
Don Lemon is in the on-deck circle. Hey, Don?