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CNN Live Event/Special
Benjamin Ginsberg, Republican Election Attorney, Discusses 1/6 Committee Hearing; 1/6 Committee Hearing Highlights Republican Efforts To Shut Down Trump Fraud Theories; Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) And 1/6 Committee Member, Discusses New Information About Evidence The Panel Uncovered. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired June 13, 2022 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: January 6th investigators have put a second round of very compelling testimony on the public record.
We're joined by Republican election lawyer, Ben Ginsberg, one of today's live witnesses.
Ben, thank you so much for coming over.
BLITZER: What did you think? You testified today. We watched it. Vert powerful stuff.
You testified that the Trump campaign, in your words, had basic problems challenging the election result, that the race wasn't even close. They didn't have any evidence.
Were they operating in what some would describe as an alternate reality?
BENJAMIN GINSBERG, REPUBLICAN ELECTION ATTORNEY: Well, I think it was an alternate reality. You heard that some people in the campaign were in touch with reality.
But the whole way that they brought their cases and insisted all along that there was evidence of fraud that evaporated every time they got before a court speaks to the alternative reality.
BLITZER: Sixty Trump legal cases basically all gone from Trump's perspective.
GINSBERG: Yes, 187 counts in those legal cases. You can't say they didn't have their day in court.
And while they couldn't even meet the procedural standards in some of the cases that were dismissed, they did get to try their cases on the merits in a number of places.
And besides that, and maybe most convincingly, is that the post- election reviews that they wanted, also failed to find any evidence of fraud.
BLITZER: Did the committee basically today succeed in explaining that the legal systems were all in place but that the former president of the United States simply refused to accept them?
GINSBERG: Well, any candidate has the absolute right to ask for a recount in a contest and litigation. And they did avail themselves with that. That's the more than 60 cases.
What was, I think, most pernicious about the Trump strategy is that they didn't accept defeat. After they had their day in court, after the process worked, after they failed to provide evidence, they still did not accept the defeat.
And that's a lot of the trauma that the country continues to go through to this day, and that's what the real harm is.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Ben, you worked in a lot of campaigns and you've been in a lot of election fights, including going back to the year 2000 in Bush/Gore.
Were you surprised that nobody in that campaign, nobody in that administration, having had this president candidate tell them what he was telling them and believing the lies and the conspiracies, that nobody kind of went public with it?
That they all kind of tried to do a work around with Donald Trump? Did that surprise you?
GINSBERG: It did surprise me. It's been the most surprising part of all of this.
The many people, who I know to be principled and have a set of morals and know right from wrong and know the hard-edge nature of politics where you win some and lose some and you have to move on, that that did not happen in this case.
BORGER: Why? Why do you think?
GINSBERG: Well, I think the people talk about the personality of Donald Trump, and the sort of fear that comes from standing up to him.
And I don't think I can explain it. I'm a humble lawyer. I don't understand the deep psychology of all of that. But it is the most disappointing part of this.
CHRIS WALLACE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR & ANCHOR: Ben, I know this wasn't quite your legal lane but, obviously, like a lot of us who are not lawyers at all, is it your sense that Donald Trump broke the law at some point along?
Whether it was in spreading these false claims of an election, in what he did with the false electors on through the Justice Department and January 6th?
I guess I'm asking two questions. One, do you believe that there's a criminal case to be brought against him?
And then secondly, just as an American, do you think that would be good or bad for the country to hold him to legal account?
GINSBERG: I certainly don't think that what he did with the recounts and the contest is at all improper or illegal.
I think that the notions of conspiracy that the January 6th committee has been talking about is, I think, something that is clearly never been done. And if it is brought now, it will severely polarize the country even further.
So in my mind, I'm not quite clear what the legal count is. And certainly, there's no precedent for it. And I do think that there's a harm to the country in bringing it based on what we know now.
Now, maybe the January 6th committee, in the really in-depth job that they've done, will provide us with more facts and a theory of the law.
WALLACE: One follow-up. Do you think that he can be held accountable for the riot on January 6th? I noticed they've used a lot of words. Lit the fuse, involvement. But they've never used the word incitement.
GINSBERG: This is more Laura's lane than mine. But I think they need to have a direct tie to him telling the people who rioted to actually riot and break in.
LARUA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You do need the causal connection. The notion of one thing to say a person who attended the rally and went into the capitol believed they were invited as opposed to a directive.
But then, on the notion of thinking that it would be polarizing to the country if we were to have the former president be held to account, wouldn't it be even more polarizing if they did not do anything and, thereby, substantiated that somebody is above the law?
I mean, is the pass really, it's unprecedented and, therefore, we don't want people to be upset politically?
I mean, if somebody, as a president of the United States, if proven, has behaved in this way, to disregard it, wouldn't that be all the more polarizing?
GINSBERG: Well, it's a congressional committee, not a prosecutorial --
COATES: They have a legislative duty.
GINSBERG: So they can produce -- they have a legislative duty to produce all the facts and explain the case. In my mind, it's not there yet as a criminal case of incitement or --
BLITZER: Weigh in on that.
GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER: I think -- I'm -- yes. I'm more on Team Laura here on that.
COATES: Is that Team Normal?
CONWAY: Team Normal, yes.
CONWAY: Team Laura.
Yes. No, I mean, I think there's a basis under Section 371 the conspiracy to defraud the United States because the law is clear. It does not have to be a financial fraud on the country.
It can be a fraud that is designed to limit the functions of the legitimate funks of the government.
And if there's any function that ought to be protected of the United States government, it is the peaceful transfer of power and the counting of electoral votes on January 6th.
Also, if there's any official proceeding that deserves to be protected under the statute that makes it illegal to corruptly obstruct a federal proceeding, it's this.
Every district judge in this district, except one and he's reconsidering his decision, in this district, has said, yes, the official proceedings under that statute includes the congressional count.
And so, you know, and on the prudential aspect of it, I get it. People are going to -- people are going to be upset and all these people who showed up with rifles at the convention center, they're going to be upset.
But to let this go, basically it says the president is above the law. And I just -- I just can't fathom not bringing a case if the evidence and the law is there for it.
COATES: But to your point, Ben, legislatively, you talk about legislative. They do have a function to try to codify ways in which to prevent this.
Do they have an ability to do that based on what they presented now?
GINSBERG: I don't think they do so far on what they've presented.
Look, I think you've got to hold Donald Trump and his campaign accountable for a lot of things that went on. Most wrongly is not accepting the word of the courts once they came down.
He exercised his right. He lost. You've got to accept that. Every other U.S. president in similar situations has done that. It's a key to the peaceful transfer of power. It's a key to the government.
CONWAY: But what's the consequence?
GINSBERG: Well, the consequences is --
CONWAY: For them.
GINSBERG: The consequence is their role in history and how they're torched about it. And if Congress wants to take a look at legislation to be sure that nothing like this happens again, that's the electoral --
BLITZER: I think we'll find out relatively soon whether the Justice Department believes there's enough evidence there to begin some sort of criminal process.
Now, standby. Everybody standby.
Up next, we'll be joined by Select Committee member, Zoe Lofgren, who led the questioning in today's hearing. She's sharing new information with CNN about evidence the panel has uncovered.
We'll be back in a moment.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The January 6th Select Committee is now gearing up for its next hearing on Wednesday, it's third in this month.
We're joined now by Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. She's the panel member who played the most prominent role in today's hearing.
Congresswoman, thanks so much for being here. Really appreciate it.
So today, the testimony made clear that then-President Trump had been told by any number of individuals, including his attorney general but also his campaign manager and others underneath, that he, in fact, lost the election and he chose not to listen to them. Why was that important to prove?
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, it's important that he knew that he lost. He knew that, to use his attorney general's words that are an abbreviation, it was all B.S. And he continued to promote these lies anyhow.
He didn't win in the court. He didn't win in the ballot booth. And so the only way was an impermissible way, which was to -- as Liz said, there were multiple facets to the plot.
They all relied on convincing his supporters that the election had been stolen in order to keep power illegitimately.
TAPPER: What's interesting is, in today's hearing, there was almost a through line that you and the committee members thought that some of Trump's supporters are victims of this.
Even some of those who got swept up on January 6th. That they got grifted by a fundraising appeal that constantly was going out several times a day to raise money for battles in courts that didn't happen.
And also you showed people deceived, talking about why they were there on January 6th.
LOFGREN: Well, people were conned by the former president. They were conned into believing that the election had been stolen and that they should go to the capitol, as the president asked them to.
They were conned out -- I think the average donation from those email -- false email requests, something like $17. These were people that weren't rich people.
They were conned by the president. It was a big lie and it was also a big rip-off.
TAPPER: You were just asked, I think by Manu Raju, if the committee has found evidence that Trump and his family, quote, "personally benefitted from donations."
TAPPER: And you said yes.
That's a serious allegation. Do you have more details? Is that a crime?
LOFGREN: I don't know. We're a legislative committee, so that's for somebody else to decide.
But, for example, we know that Guilfoyle was paid for the introduction she gave at the speech on January 6th. She received compensation for that.
TAPPER: But is that a crime?
LOFGREN: I'm not saying it's a crime, but I think it's a grift.
TAPPER: It's a grift because you're telling Trump people, Trump supporters out there in the hinterlands, give us money to --
LOFGREN: To go to court to defend this election --
LOFGREN: -- when, in fact --
TAPPER: And then, instead, Kim Guilfoyle, who is Don Trump Jr's fiance, gets paid money for --
LOFGREN: $60,000 for two and a half minutes.
You had money going to Mark Meadows' foundation and to another foundation that hired the Trump supporters who lost their jobs.
So it wasn't what he said to his donors, this is to defend the election. It was an entirely different purpose. I think that was deceptive and not right.
TAPPER: Were there other individuals that got paid?
LOFGREN: We're going to lay out all the information we have.
You know, we interviewed more than 1,000 people. We've got hundreds of thousands of documents. And obviously, you can't present everything in a two-hour hearing.
So this is not the end of it. But we'll have detailed information as time goes on.
TAPPER: The committee chairman, Bennie Thompson, was here last Thursday after the hearing.
And I asked him if the committee was going to be able to prove coordination, direct coordination between members of that far-right militia, the Oath Keepers, and the far-right militia, the Proud Boys, and people in Trump's orbit.
He said, yes, there would be evidence of conversations. So that would be criminal conspiracy.
LOFGREN: Well, I'm going to wait for the evidence to be unfolded. We have a number of hearings. Another one this week and several more. And so the evidence will be rolled out in an orderly fashion.
And, again, we're a legislative committee. If there was an illegal act, that's for prosecutors to decide.
We might have an opinion as citizens, but it's not our job to say there's a crime committed. That's the prosecutor's job. We have an interest in telling the truth, showing the facts that we've
found. And then also coming up with legislative suggestions to make it less likely that something like this could happen in the future. And we're working on that, too.
TAPPER: Will the committee release the full transcripts and the full video interviews so that people can see that you're not taking them out of context, that you're not using these clips unfairly?
Is there going to be transparency about that?
LOFGREN: It's my understanding that ultimately everything is be released.
TAPPER: Everything will be released.
Because there are claims being made by people, and granted they're people who have proven themselves to be liars, but saying that their comments are being taken --
TAPPER: So Wednesday is the hearing. What should we expect?
LOFGREN: The hearings that are coming in the future have to do with the attempted corruption of the Department of Justice, the pressure on state election officials, and the like. So I'll let those speak for themselves.
But I hope that we made it clear to the American people that there was really no basis whatsoever for these claims of fraud. They didn't exist.
And the president knew that and he continued to lie about it, honestly.
LOFGREN: And he conned people. And the people who came on January 6th -- I'm excluding the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers who are kind of a criminal organization, in my judgment.
But a lot of the people, they came convinced that their president had told them that the election had been stolen, they believed it, and they are paying the consequence right now.
TAPPER: So Bill Stepien was supposed to testify today. Obviously, the Trump campaign manager, and his wife went into labor.
TAPPER: But you're not going to call him back and have him appear at a separate time? LOFGREN: Probably not. He called this morning and said his wife had
gone into labor, could he be excused from the subpoena. Obviously, the only decent thing is to say yes, which we did.
And we had interviewed him at some length, so we just used the clips. And I think we've got his story out now.
TAPPER: All right, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, of California, thank you so much. Appreciate your time today.
CNN's coverage of the hearings and today's other news continues with Victor Blackwell right after this quick break.