Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

January 6th Committee's Second Hearing; Bjay Pak Testifies Before Committee; The January 6th Committee Follows the Money Trail. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired June 13, 2022 - 09:30   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: 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.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And we're standing by for the second hearing of the January 6th select committee this month. We could hear more of former Attorney General Bill Barr's damning video testimony denying any widespread election fraud. Two Republican officials who were targets of Trump's pressure to overturn the election are among the witnesses slated to testify live.

We are also getting new information that we may still hear from former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien today, even though his live testimony has been delayed because of a family emergency.


Let's go to Manu Raju, live for us on the Capitol Hill.

Manu, what's the latest?

MANU RAJU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I'm hearing from multiple sources that, in fact, the committee does plan to use video testimony from his closed deposition, Bill Stepien's closed deposition, and show that in today's proceedings.

Now, the committee, I'm told, has done this for pretty much all the witnesses that have come behind closed doors. They have recorded this via video. We saw some of those clips come out last - last year and we expect to see more today.

But they've also had these contingency plans in place in case of an emergency, in case someone cannot attend, as in today's situation where Bill Stepien cannot attend due to a family emergency or someone gest Covid or the like, that they still have the video testimony to show people what that witness would have said.

Now, the source told me that this is disruptive to the committee's plan. The committee had carefully choreographed all of its hearings over -- since last week and in the coming weeks. But, still, they believe they'll be able to make their points because they have this video testimony. And Stepien has, I'm told, been released from his subpoena to tend to this family emergency. And we will hear from his attorney later this morning when he will make a statement for the record. But we will also hear from that former Trump campaign manager himself via that video testimony.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju, thanks so much.

Let's bring in Dana Bash and Jamie Gangel for reaction.

Dana, so it does sound like we are going to hear from Bill Stepien one way or another.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And the notion of it being potentially unwieldy because the campaign doesn't know what he's going to say, that's now off the table. And what they have are clips from his private testimony where they know what he said. And they know the point that they want to make with those clips. They knew it going into this.

So, they can pick out, forgive me, the best sound bytes, the most important arguments, the most important points that they believe that he has already made to help paint their broader picture, and presumably that picture that -- well, we know the picture they're trying to paint today is that Donald Trump knew that the election was not won and yet he tried to explain or lie to his supporters and to the country and the world about that.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Jake, I think we can assume that this videotaped testimony must have been very strong because that's why they wanted him as a live witness in a public hearing.

I'm also hearing that there are going to be other Trump inner circle witnesses on tape, that they're going to be brought in as part of this. Again, they want Trump allies testifying that he knew.

TAPPER: All right, thanks so much.

Speaking of Trump insiders, let's turn now to two former Trump insiders, Alyssa Farah Griffin, who was White House communications director for President Trump on Election Day 2020. David Urban also with us. He's a member - a former member of Trump's 2020 advisory committee. Both of them are currently CNN political commentators.

Alyssa, let me start with you.

You were a coms director at the White House during the election. What was the relationship between the White House and Fox News at the time? Because we're going to hear from Chris Stirewalt, the former politics editor for Fox News digital, who called correctly the state of Arizona for Joe Biden and was eventually fired by Fox.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the president himself, the former president, Donald Trump, had a very close relationship with Fox News personalities. So, on any given day you'd walk into his back dining room and he'd be on the phone with Sean Hannity, he was very close with Lou Dobbs when he was at Fox News, Laura Ingraham and other personalities. So he - he was not only -- there were personal relationships there, but his opinion was often swayed by information he got from those individuals.

But another thing, and this has been widely reported, is after the Arizona call, the president directed aides to reach out to Rupert Murdoch, to go to the very top of Fox News and try to push back on the decision that that call was made.

TAPPER: Take the call back?

GRIFFIN: To take - to -- yes, to try to take the call back. Obviously, didn't ultimately happen.

The Chris Stirewalt testimony I think is really important because he's going to go through the data. He's a highly professional, respected person who I think is seen as right of center. So this is not someone unfriendly to Trump or the Republican Party, who was just calling balls and strikes and then lost his job because of it.

TAPPER: Yes, no, it's very, very odd.

David, you were one of Trump's 2020 advisory committee members. Based on what you know about Trump and his inner circle, do you think that the committee will be able to prove that he was lying about the election?

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. So, proving somebody's -- I'm not -- I was a lawyer. Play one on TV now, right? So, proving someone's mens rea is -

TAPPER: Their mental state, yes.

URBAN: Yes, their mental state, right, as Jeffrey Toobin will tell you -


URBAN: Is a very -- is a very high order, a very tall order, right? So, yes, you could - and that's what's going on in these hearings. They're trying to set up all these different people to say, we told them this, we told them that, so in the end they could say, a-ha, he had all this information so that -- he must have known or he should have known these things, right? But that's not necessarily always true because in elections, as you know, right, there are lots of different opinions, right?


So, I think you'll hear from Bill Stepien today maybe, this is what I suppose you're going to hear, is he's going to say, look, we told the president these were the paths forward and we were slowly exhausting these paths forward on appeal, on recounts and that's when enter, right, Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani who said, oh, no, no, no, we have a different opinion as to the facts, right?


URBAN: And as to our interpretation of how this election's going. And so, you know, query who was right in that case, I mean, obviously now we know history shows that, you know, the Bill Stepien and Justin Clark look like they were - they were on the right track. But, in elections, look, I just took place in an election in Pennsylvania where --

TAPPER: Right, you were advising Dave McCormack.

URBAN: Dave McCormack where -

TAPPER: Lost by 981 votes.

URBAN: Yes, 981 votes. A very close election. And there were a lot of different opinions on how to proceed forward. And at the county level, there's a lot of - you know, there's a lot of unknowns at these different counties, what's going on, and that required reported to the state. So you can imagine that across the United States.

TAPPER: Absolutely. But I will say, and, Alyssa, I want to get your feedback on this, this - this was a strategy, the Trump -- I mean Trump, before the election, was talking about Democratic cities, you know, Democratic-leaning states and pointing to them and saying, there's going to be a bunch of fraud, there's going to be a bunch of fraud.

We're going to hear from Al Schmidt, former Philadelphia city commissioner, talking about this for that documentary. I interviewed Al Schmidt last fall. I want to play a little clip of this. This is - this is Schmidt watching Trump setting the stage for the false claims he was going to make about election fraud in Philadelphia.


TAPPER: So, you're watching the debate and President Trump says, bad things happen in Philadelphia. What goes through your mind?

AL SCHMIDT, FORMER PHILADELPHIA CITY COMMISSIONER: I think I said out loud, I see what you're doing, or something to that effect. It became very clear that running elections in the biggest city in probably the biggest swing state in America that we were in their - in their - in their sights.


TAPPER: And, in fact, Trump ended up doing better in Philadelphia in 2020 than he did in 2016. It was in the suburbs where he lost but it was politically, at least Trump thought, advantageous to accuse those folks in Philadelphia.

GRIFFIN: Well, and it was as early as I want to say June 2020 that he started casting doubt on the potential outcome, starting to do the -- it was rigged, arguing against mail-in voting. And it was actually Bill Stepien who had to push back and say, you need to stop criticizing mail-in voting. We are going to rely on that to win the election.

But he early on cast doubt in the potential outcome because, again, we are in the midst of Covid, huge social justice protests that he was on the wrong side of at that point and in the country, and I think he knew -- he was seeing the tea leaves that he might lose.

What's interesting about Stepien as a witness, who now, it sounds like, will be appearing from some of his prior video testimony, he was someone who is a data-driven, very serious person, a very good campaign manager, doesn't talk much, doesn't say much. But I remember flying on the plane, I believe we were going to Pennsylvania. David wasn't on this flight. And he was walking us through the data weeks before the election. And it aligned almost perfectly with where the results came down. He knew we were likely going to lose Pennsylvania, we were likely going to lose Michigan. Georgia was the only unforeseen one. So, it will be interesting to hear his testimony about what was going to happen.

TAPPER: As we get closer to the start of the hearing, we're going to discuss the potential impact of testimony by Georgia and Pennsylvania Republicans who investigated and ultimately rejected Trump's false claims of voter fraud. A former U.S. attorney fired by Trump will share his insights.

Back in a moment.



BLITZER: We're closing in on the second in a series of historic hearings this month held by the January 6th select committee. A key focus will be Trump's campaign to pressure officials to overturn the presidential election.

Let's bring in CNN's senior justice correspondent Evan Perez.

Evan, a former U.S. attorney in Georgia, in Atlanta, is among the witnesses scheduled to testify today. Tell us why his testimony is so significant.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. That's Bjay Pak. He was the former U.S. attorney in Atlanta. And he was - obviously Atlanta was - and Georgia was an important state, a swing state, that was very closely watched by the Trump team. They wanted to - they wanted the state officials there to find the exact number of votes that would have allowed him to claim that he won the state of Georgia, which, of course, was not true.

And Bjay Pak was at the forefront of what became this pressure campaign. He is, frankly, the only person who ended up losing his job, the only person in the government who ended up losing his job for standing up for what was right, for standing up to the former president. In this case, the president wanted to fire him. He ended up submitting his resignation after hearing that the president wanted him out, even going so far as to call him a never Trumper.

He is an important witness because, as part of - as part of the effort by this committee to show that Trump would have known, that he had to have reason to know from all of the officials around him, that there was no fraud, not enough fraud to make a difference in the election. In this case, Bjay Pak had actually personally looked into these claims that were made by Rudy Giuliani and others and had found that they were not -- they were not supported by evidence, Wolf.

So, as far as this committee is trying to do, is -- which is to show that if Trump didn't know that he had lost the election, he should have known because you see all of these officials who worked for him, who were supporters of his, who were conservatives, who were looking into this and were finding none of the fraud that he claimed there was.


BLITZER: Yes, and that's so, so important.

All right, Evan, thank you very much.

Let's bring in CNN's senior legal analyst, Preet Bharara, former U.S. attorney, who was actually fired by Trump.

Preet, thanks for joining us.

You're all too familiar with Trump's pressure campaigns. What sort of insight could Bjay Pak provide today, the former U.S. attorney in Georgia.

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, so I'm very interested - I'm very interested in hearing him testify. It's a very unusual thing for a U.S. attorney in the field to receive pressure from people all the way up to the White House, up to and including President Trump himself. And as Evan points out, Bjay Pak, at the end of the day, did the right thing, didn't succumb to the pressure.

I think he can talk about the ways in which various people in the White House or in the Trump campaign tried to get him to bring cases that were without merit, tried to get him to put up, you know, distractions for the public to show that the investigations were taking place that had no basis in fact and no basis in law.

I think also it's very interesting that we'll hear from Bjay Pak today because parallel to that, you know, separate and apart from the proceedings that are going on in the Congress today, there is a grand jury investigation in Fulton County, Georgia, being conducted by the D.A. in the county with respect to whether or not Donald Trump, in other ways, in Georgia, tried to effect and overturn the outcome of the election.

So, there's jeopardy for Donald Trump and the people around him from what Bjay Pak will say today because he was, you know, on the ground and the subject of a -- sort of an employment extortion scheme. And at the same time you have an ongoing bit of peril for the

president, former president, from a D.A. who's looking at all the things that went on in Georgia, which are all part of the puzzle that will tell us the state of mind of Donald Trump in the lead up to January 6th.

BLITZER: As you mentioned, there is this active investigation in Fulton County in Georgia. How significant is that probe, Preet, especially when we heard Trump, in his own words, on a taped phone call with Georgia officials demand to get more votes.

BHARARA: I think it's - I think it's a real probe. I think there's real evidence here. I'm not on the grand jury. I haven't heard all the communications that have been received by the grand jury and all the documents and certainly not all of the testimony. But I think it's a real threat. It's a live threat. And there's a basis for it.

You know, some people will say - and reasonably say it's a little bit of an odd thing when you're talking about something as massive as trying to overturn an election, not just in Georgia, but nationally on January 6th that a local DA in Fulton County, Georgia, might be the person to hold the former president accountable. That's something that the Department of Justice should do. But this DA seems, you know, very serious about the endeavor and we'll see how significant it becomes if a charge is eventually brought. But I think it's a distinct possibility.

BLITZER: Bottom line, Preet, what are the prospects of any of this resulting in actual criminal charges against Trump?

BHARARA: You know, I don't know. That's a question that you and I have discussed for a number of years now, including with respect to the Manhattan DA, including with respect to two different impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump. It's still unclear what the state of mind of the Department of Justice is on this. I'd like to wait and see all the testimony and all the documents that are brought to bear at these hearings. There's still six more to go. And see what the Department of Justice plans to do.

I still think that at the end of the day if there's going to be accountability for President Trump relating to the election lie and to the insurrection, that the best place for that to happen is at the Department of Justice, which is national in scope and has a lot of resources. We know the Department of Justice has asked for the transcripts of all the depositions taken by members of the committee and staff. That's, you know, certainly a positive sign for those who think there should be accountability. But I'm not going to, at this moment, make a prediction, but I think there's chance.

BLITZER: We shall see.

All right, Preet, thank you very much.

We're getting closer and closer right now to the actual start of today's hearing. The opening statements, new video evidence, and the first testimony. It's all ahead. Stay with us.



TAPPER: On Capitol Hill, right now, the January 6th committee is preparing to kick off the second in series of high stakes hearings this month. It will be packed with live and video testimony, including portions of the panel's recorded interview with former Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien. Stepien's live appearance under subpoena has now been delayed due to a family emergency. Committee aides say this hearing will zero in on evidence that then President Trump lit the flame on the insurrection by spreading false claims of election frauds despite knowing he had actually lost.

Let's go back to Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill for us right now.

Ryan, the select committee also plans to follow a money trail. There were a lot of people making a lot of money off of these false claims. Tell us more.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jake. And part of what the committee wans to illustrate is that that money was raised for a purpose that even to this day has not been defined and that there are individuals connected to the Trump campaign, perhaps even the Trump family, that may have personally benefitted financially from the raising of all this campaign cash, which, we should point out, continues to flow into the Trump campaign.

And part of the argument here is that not only were they reaching out to donors telling them that they actually won the election when they had not, that they knew that the information they were providing these potential donors was not correct.


And part of what the campaign hopes to do is establish this coordination between all the different factions of the Trump campaign in the Republican Party through this fundraising apparatus.