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Stepien to Testify before January 6th Committee; Stepien Won't Testify Due to Family Emergency; Chris Stirewalt to Testify before January 6th Committee; January 6th Committee Hearing Aims to Prove Lies. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired June 13, 2022 - 09:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're standing by for another potentially explosive hearing up on Capitol Hill. The January 6th select committee is about to reveal more evidence from its investigation, including surprising testimony by a Trump campaign insider we haven't heard from before.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.


Aides say this second hearing will drill down on evidence that former President Trump knew he lost the election but spread false claims of fraud anyway, ignoring court rulings, ignoring the will of the American people.

The lead-off witness, Trump's former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, who has firsthand knowledge of what Trump knew about the election numbers. Stepien tells CNN he is appearing under subpoena.

Also testifying today, former Fox digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt. Stirewalt was fired by Fox after a huge backlash from Trump and his allies over the network's accurate call of Arizona for Joe Biden.

We'll hear directly from Republicans who investigated and rejected claims of election fraud in the key states of Georgia and Pennsylvania and felt Trump's anger for it. They are former U.S. Attorney Bjay Pak and former Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt.

We're also told Republican election expert Ben Ginsberg will testify there was no evidence of widespread fraud in 2020 and discuss the Trump team's failed challenge to the election results.

The select house committee is aiming to connect more dots between the insurrection and its allegation of a coordinated conspiracy to attack democracy. Aides say the hearing will reveal how Trump's fundraising machine capitalized on his election lies, raising hundreds of millions of dollars between Election Day 2020 and January 6, 2021.

Select Committee member Congressman Zoe Lofgren will play a key role in driving the presentation, we're told, that begins about an hour from now.

In the meantime, we're getting new information about Bill Stepien's testimony, what he may say, why he matters.

Let's start with Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill for us.

Ryan, what is the committee expecting from Stepien?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we already know that Bill Stepien met with committee investigators behind closed doors for a lengthy deposition. So they already have a very good idea of the information that he has to share.

The difference, though, in a public setting, when there are many people watching him and carefully listening to every word that he has to say is that his testimony could be, to a certain degree, unpredictable. And up until this point, the committee has been able to carefully stage each one of these hearings that they've presented.

Now, committee members are not going as far as to call Stepien a hostile witness, but there is no doubt a degree of unpredictability as to what to expect from Stepien today when he testifies. He certainly has a lot of information about what was happening with the Trump campaign, especially in that period of time after the election was called and as the Trump campaign and Trump associates began ramping up this idea that the election was stolen.

So, today, the committee, not 100 percent sure what to expect from Bill Stepien. It is one of the first times that we're going to see them take the risk of not exactly knowing what the outcome is as this testimony moves forward.


TAPPER: Ryan, thanks so much.

Let's talk to our special correspondent, Jamie Gangel, now.

And, Jamie, I mean that -- this is a risk for the committee to put this potentially, potentially hostile witness on the stand. He -- we know he's working right now to unseat, to defeat Liz Cheney in her primary in Wyoming. So, clearly, he's still team MAGA.

Why is it so important to have him testify?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So, a source close to the committee said to me, quote, they are using Trump voices to hang Trump, end quote. So, as you said, Stepien is inner circle.

But here's something he brings to the table that most of the inner circle does not. He was not a White House staffer. As campaign manager, he has no claim to privilege. So unlike someone like the vice president's chief of staff, Marc Short, or his council, Greg Jacob, or Mark Meadows or anyone else, Bill Stepien cannot claim privilege. So, my sources tell me he can be a critical witness for the committee because unlike the others he can say exactly what Trump was saying and, therefore, he can testify that Trump knew that he had lost the election and was spreading massive fraud.


TAPPER: And, Dana Bash, do you have any insight into what Stepien is thinking in terms of his presentation, how he's going to go about doing this?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm told he plans to approach his testimony as low key as possible. It was described to me as a just the facts Joe Friday approach. Maybe we know what that is. I'll explain that to you later, Abby. But he -- look, he doesn't want to be testifying. He was subpoenaed, as we've talked about. He didn't want to plead the Fifth because in order to do that you have to, in good faith, believe that you have done something criminal. And he is arguing to the people around him, I did nothing criminal, I did nothing wrong.

So what he is hoping to do is to get in and out of these hearings with as little drama as possible. That is his strategy. We'll see if he's going to be successful there.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And that makes a lot of sense. I mean Stepien is a behind-the-scenes guy. He's not typically in front of the cameras in this way. And he's someone who continuously worked for Donald Trump in spite of it all. Going from role to role to role. And I think that that says a lot. He is not someone who - I don't - I think we can expect to sort of, on a matter of grand principles, throw Trump under the bus. He's going to testify. He's under subpoena. He knows what it means to lie under oath. He's not going to do that. But he's also not going to incriminate himself.

When we think about what he has to offer, there were decisions being made by the campaign to perpetuate the big lie. He would have signed off on those decisions. And so I think we - you know, we can expect that he's not going to incriminate himself in any wrongdoing as it relates to that. But he could give us a window into what Trump was saying to him, to Jamie's point, which is at the heart of what the committee wants to get through to the American public.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Bill Stepien is to the outside political operation what Mark Meadows is to the White House. Someone who knew and continued to enable Donald Trump and the big lie.

This will be a test today for what the committee has done, which is how you build a case for court, which is how we do our jobs every day of our lives. You obviously want to interview the big guy, you want to interview the campaign manager. But where do you get most of your information? From the lower level people.

The committee has talked to a number of people in the campaign. They have information. That the committee has information to say to Bill Stepien, you knew. You knew. Why didn't you just stop? Why didn't you resign? Why didn't you tell Donald Trump, this is crazy, stop this? That's today. Bill Stepien wants to come out -- he wants to protect his future. He wants to protect his livelihood. But he's one of the people who knew. He's done this a long time. He knows how campaigns work. He was

talking to the state directors. He was talking to the lawyers. They had every right to go to court. They had ever right to ask for recounts, as they laid out in the first hearing. But when all that came back, he knew. And Donald Trump kept saying, keep fighting, and the campaign kept doing it.

TAPPER: And, Jamie, one of the things that's significant is, even if Bill Stepien testifies today that he told Donald Trump, you lost, we don't have a path forward, he also was the campaign manager, so that means he signed off on all those emails and text mails and everything that went out to Trump supporters and got them to send the campaign tens of millions of dollars based on the lie.

GANGEL: So, there are two other things that are interesting about Bill Stepien. He worked for Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey. And he's been through a controversy, bridge-gate. Christie fired him over that. So, he does not want -- I'm actually not surprised that the committee has called him, even though he may be just the facts kind of witness. He doesn't want to go through that again.

The other thing that I'm told is, my sources tell me Stepien was critical of Rudy's attempts to push, as Bill Barr called it, these outlandish theories.

TAPPER: I don't think Bill Barr said outlandish. I think he used a different word.

GANGEL: It was clown car, was it the clown car lawyers?

TAPPER: There was - there was -- I think there was a barnyard epithet that was used.


TAPPER: But we have some breaking news right now.

Let's go to Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

Manu, what's going on?

MANU RAJU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a major development here in today's hearing. Bill Stepien will not appear as was previously expected in today's hearing because of an advisory that was just put out by the committee explaining why. It says, due to a family emergency, Mr. Bill Stepien is unable to testify before the select committee this morning. It goes on to say that his counsel will appear and make a statement on the record.

Now, the hearing will still convene. It's going to start about 30 to 45 minutes later. So, the initial time was 10:00 a.m. Eastern. But a major development here, because, as you guys have been reporting all morning, it was this high anticipation for what Bill Stepien was going to say to this committee, how much he would cooperate, what he would reveal about Donald Trump's thinking in the aftermath of November 3rd, in the runup to January 6th. Now we will not hear from him because of a family emergency.

And, instead, his counsel will appear in his place. So it remains to be seen if later, in a later event, if they will try to bring him in for a separate hearing. No word about that yet.

But, at the moment, big news here. This committee, this hearing significantly different this morning now that Bill Stepien will not testify before this committee due to a family emergency.


TAPPER: All right, so there's a family emergency. And I'm also being told that the committee is attempting to make accommodations so that Stepien can testify at one of the later hearings. There are several more. But as of right now, Manu Raju telling us that Stepien's attorney will read a statement and -- but he has a family obligation so he's unable to testify today.

Another individual we're expecting to hear from today is Chris Stirewalt, who was the politics editor for Fox. He was one of the individuals behind the decision to call Arizona for Biden. They were very early on that. They were correct on that.

We did a documentary about this attempted coup, all of this, last fall. And we interviewed Chris Stirewalt for that.

I want to play just a little bit from that interview and then we can talk about it.


CHRIS STIREWALT, FORMER DIGITAL POLITICS EDITOR, FOX NEWS: A United -- sitting United States senator was on talk radio calling for my firing over the Arizona call.

And you didn't think that this would be the kind of guy who would be calling for your firing on the radio. So, that was my first tell like, hmm, OK, something is weird here. And it got really weird, right? And the conspiracy theorizing starts going.

People were sending me what people were saying on social media. And it was this sort of, you know, psychotic, murderous rage about us. And we don't do anything. We just -- we're just the weatherman.


TAPPER: Chris Stirewalt from the news operation there at Fox, fired. I think I can speak for everybody that he's -- we all respect him. He's somebody who called balls and strikes. His favorite metaphor is a weatherman. He doesn't judge whether the hurricane is good, he just tells you it's coming. And it is - it is remarkable that he got -- basically he got fired after doing his job correctly.

BASH: Right. I mean there's a whole conversation to be had about Fox and their decision to do it. But, obviously, what the committee will be focused on is why the senator said that. Why we know that the then president went completely through the roof when he saw Fox correctly, as you said, call Arizona for Joe Biden. And the reason is because the former president, early on, wanted to make the argument -- he was doing it even before the election -- that if he lost, he would argue that it was rigged and it was incorrect. And having what at the time was, and still is now, his biggest supporter, the biggest megaphone for what he was trying to do, turn on him, from his perspective, hurt that effort.

And so it was the entirety of the Trump world coming down on him and why they did that that is going to be explored.

PHILLIP: I'll be particularly interested in what he knows, what Stirewalt knows about the private pressure from the White House to Fox News to get them to roll back that call.

Today is going to be a pivotal day for two of the states that I think the White House was really focused on because they knew that if they weren't able to stop those states from being called, that this whole charade would be over. And they focused on Arizona because that actually made their problem -- they knew they had a problem in Georgia. They knew Arizona made it a lot worse. And they were pressuring Fox, in public and in private, White House officials, not just sitting senators and Republican lawmakers, to roll back that call. And so what more we can learn about what happened behind the scenes, I think, will paint a very clear picture of some of the people who've probably, to this point, testified to the committee that they knew that this was all a charade and were still publicly and privately pressuring folks to roll back those calls.

TAPPER: And just to make one note -

PHILLIP: Look - yes.

TAPPER: And, Jamie, I want to get to you.


TAPPER: But Republican Senator Kevin Kramer, this is November 6th.

GANGEL: Right. Yes.

TAPPER: November 6th. He demanded that Fox fire Chris Stirewalt and other, quote, knuckleheads, for the Arizona call, saying that they owed the American people an apology.

Again, Chris Stirewalt doesn't owe anybody an apology. He was correct. Arizona went into the Biden column. And here you have a U.S. senator from North Dakota, not, by the way, one of the more incendiary U.S. Senators out there, calling for Fox to fire him for an accurate call.

GANGEL: So, there are a couple of worst kept secrets about what was going to happen election night. And one of them was that Trump had been told that early on the numbers would look good and then later, overnight, it was going to get bad. And so there was a plan discussed that early on he was going to declare victory before the counts were in. Fox's announcement of Arizona interfered in a mighty way with that plan. So much so that we have reported that Jared Kushner had called Rupert Murdoch directly to tell -- they were so angry, to tell them to stop calling states.


So, the relationship --

TAPPER: That's so hideous and inappropriate.


PHILLIP: And just keep in mind, this is the same Jared Kushner who says to his friends that the day before Election Day he told his wife, in the middle of the night, according to "The New York Times," it's time to go to Miami. It's over.

TAPPER: Right.

PHILLIP: We know that - that it's lost.

GANGEL: Right.

PHILLIP The same Jared Kushner is calling to roll back an Arizona call that he probably, at that point, knew was accurate.

BASH: Because his father-in-law was breathing down his neck.

KING: Yes, Jared Kushner is known to play three lanes on a two-lane highway. So, that's just how it goes. That's what he's - that's what he does. The record supports it.

The key point here is Chris made the right call. It was bold of Fox News. We - remember, election night, we were having those conversations when they made the call. Let's be honest to our viewers. Other networks make calls. We have conversations about them.

And, mathematically, it was defensible. Given the Bush/Gore history of 2000, we're very conservative. Much more conservative here at CNN. That's just our policy. And we were - you know, but it was - it was a good call but it was a risky call. But a propagandist needs an echo chamber. And that was what Fox News was to Donald Trump. An authoritarian, a guy who wants to promote a lie, needs a megaphone. And when he lost his megaphone, it got more complicated.

TAPPER: And this is one of the tensions that exists at that channel, which is the difference between the opinion people and the news people.

BASH: And the news people are leaving in droves.

TAPPER: They're -- or being fired.

BASH: Or being fired.

TAPPER: We are learning about Trump's reaction to the hearings and how the panel is using testimony by his family and others against him. Our special coverage of the January 6th hearings continues. We're

going to squeeze in one quick break.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: We're back with our live coverage of the January 6th hearings. The select committee preparing to call multiple witnesses to testify live as it aims to prove a massive effort to spread false information about the 2020 presidential election.

Let's bring in our chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. She's a veteran of covering the Trump administration as well.

So, Kaitlan, will Trump, first of all, be watching? I know you're doing some reporting on that.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We do expect the former president to be watching. Watching closely as this hearing gets underway today. He has been paying attention closely ever since last Thursday when that first hearing took place, which the president watched and he was later irritated by the fact that they had played that clip of his daughter, Ivanka Trump, praising the former attorney general, Bill Barr, at the time, talking about how she accepted when he said there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

And the president, ever since last Thursday, the former president has been complaining about the fact that he believes the January 6th committee is only using negative testimony when they are having these hearings. He believes that's what happened when they were playing those clips on Thursday night. Likely expected to see more of that today, Wolf, given Chris Stirewalt, the former Fox News analyst who is going to be reporting, is someone who is really - testifying, is really someone who's been at the center of Trump's ire ever since the election night in 2020 when it was about 11:30 that night and Fox News called Arizona for President Biden. That was something that really sent shock waves through the Trump campaign at the time and kind of caused this eruption in Trump's orbit here at the White House as they had guests waiting in the East Room for the former president to come out because they knew that that really helped narrow that any path to victory, any claims the former president could have to victory.

And you saw campaign staff, they were calling Fox News, asking them to retract that call for Arizona for Biden. Obviously, that's not something Fox News did. Biden, ultimately, went on to win Arizona and they just doubled down on saying, yes, they believed he had won that. But it really changed the tone that night for the Trump campaign, for the former president because they realize that their window of victory was getting smaller. And it has kind of changed his view of Fox News ever since then. Obviously, one that he used to have a very comfortable relationship with.

And so we do expect former President Trump to be watching when the hearing gets underway this morning, Wolf.

BLITZER: I suspect he will be.

All right, thanks, Kaitlan. We'll get back to you.

Let's discuss with our analysts who are with us.

You know, Gloria, the committee is clearly trying to show what they believe was a deliberate effort to undermine the smooth transition from one president to another president of the United States.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and I think what you're going to see today is a narrative that starts with how the big lie got to be the big lie. How it was -- how it was formed. How Trump was repeatedly told, you lost. But then there were some folks, like Rudy Giuliani, for example, and others who were saying, no, no, no, no, you know, maybe you didn't, maybe we could win this. He, obviously, sided with them, decided he was going to go on with this big lie. Then you move along. It became a rallying cry for Trump supporters. It became a fund-raising mechanism for the Republican Party. And eventually led right up the steps of the Capitol on January 6th.

And I think they're going to do that through line today to show you how this lie affected everything and, perhaps, how that could happen all over again even with someone else. So, I think it's a very important day of testimony that you can see the inside of what happened in those conversations at the White House and a president who just was unwilling to say, I lost.

BLITZER: Because we're going to be hearing from Trump's inner circle.

CHRIS WALLACE: No, that's right. And to pick up on what Gloria said, I think this is the most important day of all of these hearings. Not going to be the most dramatic day, not going to be the most explosive day, but the most important. And for precisely this reason, because it all flows from Donald Trump claiming that the election was stolen, that he actually won and that there was fraud or faulty voting machines or whatever in all of these states.


If they're successful today, and obviously to Trump supporters nothing they say may be successful, but if they're successful in putting the lie to the big lie, then suddenly Trump has not an aggrieved party. He's simply a loser in a naked grab for power and willing to overturn the judgment of 150 million American voters and say that he won when he didn't win.

You know, for those of us, and you know this well, when you talk about recounts and fraud, you know, sort of like what happened in Pennsylvania in the primary, maybe - it's hundreds of votes. What happened in Florida, between Bush/Gore in 2000, hundreds of votes, there's a possibility. But when you're talking about 14,000 votes in Georgia and more votes than that in Wisconsin and Michigan, there was never a chance that they were - they were going to find enough votes to switch. And that's one of the points that Bill Barr made. He said, it's not just the question of fraud, it's, was there fraud on the dimensions that would actually reverse the results of the election? And there never was a chance of that.

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have to jump in here. Where it gets complicated for the hearing is that, first of all, folks have already seen a lot of this play out during the impeachment, right? They're even going to see Representative Lofgren, who they already have been, right, ad nauseum talking about these things.

But the other thing is, the -- President Trump, as far back as 2016, remember, he said Ted Cruz stole the Iowa caucuses from him. Every single election to him is a rigged election. That is something that the public is already familiar with. What the hearing is trying to do is maybe show at what point does that shift into something more coordinated, at what point does that draw the people around him to act against the law? And at what point does that metastasize to a point where he is, and his campaign, is putting pressure on states and state officials, because that gets to your point about, what does it take to prevent the system from being that vulnerable again.

BORGER: And do we really know what he really believed?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's the key question. That's -

BORGER: That's the question. I mean do we know?

CORNISH: But what does that -- what does that matter? If everyone around him was acting against what they knew to be true, what does it matter what he thought or --

BORGER: Well, it goes to his intent.

TOOBIN: Well, it matters - it matters enormously from a legal perspective.

CORNISH: Well, that said, though, other people could have said no.

TOOBIN: Well, that's the - well, let's see more facts about that. I mean I think that's why today is so interesting and important. This is a congressional hearing. It's not a criminal investigation. However, everyone knows there is at least the possibility of a criminal investigation of the president. And the key issue will be, in that criminal investigation, what was the president's state of mind? Was there criminal intent? It is one thing to seek to overturn an election that you genuinely believe you won and you have evidence that points that.

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: And that is not a crime. However, if you know that you lost and pushed all these efforts forward in an effort to overturn an election you knew you lost, that is a recipe for a definite criminal investigation, if not charges. And that's something we need to learn more about today. WALLACE: But what does know -- what does know mean?

BORGER: But, remember - well -

WALLACE: Because you can - because you can have Bill Stepien and other campaign professionals, even if your own campaign, saying, you lost, but then you've got other people like Rudy Giuliani coming in, or Sidney Powell coming in, and saying, no, you didn't lose. So what does -

BORGER: Well - well -

TOOBIN: Well, Chris, your question -- your question is -- comes up in white collar crime all the time, because the defense in white collar crime is usually, look, I thought the business was going to succeed. I thought this was - this was a legitimate enterprise and we were just going through tough times. Ultimately, those wind up being jury questions. But how you prove criminal intent is always a difficult thing in criminal - in white collar crime. It's difficult here. And we'll see what the proof is.

BORGER: Jeffrey, did he say to anybody at any point, I'm going to say I won no matter what? Did he do that? Remember - remember what he said --

WALLACE: We have - we have never heard that.

BORGER: Well - well - well, that's what these hearings are for.

TOOBIN: Well, that's - that's why we want facts.

BORGER: That's what these hearings are for.

TOOBIN: Right.

BORGER: And look at what he told Dr. Oz to do. Go out. Declare victory. Look at what he did in the middle of the night after the election. I think it was 2:30 or 3:00 in the morning.

WALLACE: 4:00.

BORGER: 4:00 in the morning. All right.

WALLACE: Yes, I remember.

BORGER: He came out and said, I won. So, you know, if they're -- we don't know. That's why these hearings are so important. They can uncover things that were said in depositions that we don't - that we don't know about. Intent is so -- I'm not the lawyer here, but I believe you, it's so hard - it's so hard to prove.

But there were lots of people around him a lot of the time. And so there's a lot of people to talk to about what he said.

WALLACE: And he also -- you say there are a lot of people around him. He switched the people who were around him depending -- he wanted the people who were going to feed his preconception.

BORGER: Right. Exactly.

BLITZER: All right, everybody standing by.

Coming up, how the select committee is using the words of Trump insiders against him. Two former members of the Trump world standing by to join us right after a quick break.