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CNN TONIGHT: Select Committee Focuses On Trump's Attempts To Pressure Pence; Email Shows Trump Lawyer Eastman Sought Pardon Soon After January 6; Witnesses: Trump Slammed Pence As "Wimp," During Heated Call Just Before Capitol Insurrection. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 16, 2022 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: His family hasn't heard from him, since late April.

Meanwhile, a photo, posted on Telegram, appears to show two other missing American volunteer fighters, on the back of a Russian military truck, with their hands, behind their backs, as if they're bound, apparently confirming their capture, by Russian forces. We can't verify where this photo was taken.

Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, and Alexander John-Robert Drueke, are both from Alabama. The men were with Ukrainian forces, north of Kharkiv. They've been missing, for nearly a week.

Last night, I spoke with Huynh's fiancee, and Drueke's mom. They said the men wanted to share their military training, with the Ukrainian fighters. They want them to come home safely, and together, not without the other.

The news continues. Want to hand it over to Laura Coates, and "CNN TONIGHT."


LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Anderson, thank you so much.

I am Laura Coates. And this is CNN TONIGHT.

Look, it seems that everyone told then-President Trump that the "Emperor had no clothes on," even if only behind closed doors. Talking about the President's Counsel, the Vice President's Counsel, the Vice President, they all told him that the plan that to have Vice President Pence not certify the election? Well, in the words of Vice President Pence, was "Un-American," and in the words of a prosecutor, "Illegal."

Even the nation's top prosecutor, the Attorney General Bill Barr, found no evidence, to support, a play, to stay in office.

Now, tonight, we have not one, but two former attorneys general, here. Both were nominated by a Republican president, and both are going to give us their take, on whether the Emperor's wardrobe, might be traded for prison garb. The current Attorney General, Merrick Garland, has said that he's watching very closely. But I'm wondering about what his predecessors think, and what might they have done differently, even now.

Day three has had quite a core theme. It's called pressure. Persistent, relentless, unyielding pressure, all targeting Vice President Mike Pence. Now, the browbeating all began behind-the- scenes. But when that didn't work, the bully pulpit was the new soapbox. And Pence's failure to succumb to it put him in danger.

The VP's former Chief of Staff was apparently so worried that Trump was putting his boss' life at risk that he alerted the Secret Service, on the eve of January 6.


MARC SHORT, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE'S CHIEF OF STAFF: Concern was for the Vice President's security. And so, I wanted to make sure the Head of the Vice President's Secret Service was aware that - that likely, as these disagreements became more public that the President would lash out in some way.


COATES: There were also shown some never-before-seen photos, of Pence, at the Capitol, that day, as rioters were putting up gallows, and actually calling for his head.

Now, we all remember, how close the rioters actually came to the Congressional floor. And they would have gotten into an open door, if not for the very quick thinking, of the heroic Capitol Police officer, who ended up luring them away, and around the stairs.

But today, we learned that the mob was just 40 feet away, from the Vice President of the United States. And you ask yourselves, how worried must President Trump have been, about his right-hand man? Not enough to lift even a single finger to call, and check on him! I mean, even once!

And what's worse? We learn that Trump was actually warned, in advance that violence wasn't some hypothetical, and that his words could actually lead to violence.

So while Pence and Mrs. Pence waited for, any word from Trump? Well he was tweeting, to the world, lashing out at Pence, in tweet that were being read aloud, by the rioters, in real-time.


VOICE OF JANUARY 6 RIOTER: Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COATES: We also know that there was a phone call, on the morning of January 6, between President Trump, and Vice President Pence. Now, we did not know what the details of that conversation were. We were all wondering, well, until now.

Because apparently, Ivanka Trump heard it. And she called it, heated. And someone else in that room said that she also overheard the man, who once famously bragged, about grabbing women, by their genitalia, well, he was now calling his own Vice President, the P-word.

Plus, we saw some never-before-seen photos, from inside the White House, as well that day. A lot more, on that, ahead.

They say the ignorance may well be bliss. But it seems that Trump can't ever reasonably now claim that he didn't know that what he was proposing was, shall we say, problematic, to say the least.

We heard testimony that Trump was specifically warned that that plan to overturn the election, here's the big word again, was illegal, not by just laymen, but by one of his own lawyers, who actually helped him cook up the scheme, but said, "Let's try it anyway. Because what could possibly go wrong?"

Listen to this from Pence's former counsel.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did John Eastman ever admit, as far as you know, in front of the President that his proposal would violate the Electoral Count Act?



COATES: That's January 4, for those of you looking at your calendar, at home right now, the day before the insurrection.

And the Trump lawyer, John Eastman, has been under the - quite the microscope today, that's for sure. Not just for that plan, or that memo that we all know about, but also that he knew that the plan that he himself was putting forward, was illegal, sure to maybe have a 9-0 loss, in the Supreme Court, let alone undemocratic.

Listen to what another Trump lawyer said, when he heard about this same scheme, from Eastman.


ERIC HERSCHMANN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE ATTORNEY: I said, you're going to turn around and tell 78-plus million people in this country that your theory is this is how you're going to invalidate their votes? Said you're going to cause riots in the streets.

And he said words to the effect of "There has been violence in the history of our country, Eric, to protect the democracy or protect the republic."


COATES: Does he mean the Civil War? Is that he was talking about, or something different?

Well, we're not going to hear from him, likely, during these hearings, by the way. Don't really hold your breath for that, because after all, he did plead the Fifth, about 100 times, when January 6 committee, asked him in for questionings.

Well, he may not have been willing to answer all of their questions, on those occasions. But he was prepared to make a pretty big ask of President Trump.

The panel released an email that he sent to another former Trump lawyer, you know him, Rudy Giuliani. And it reads, quote, "I've decided that I should be on the pardon list, if that is still in the works."

Wow! Now, why would he think that he should be on that list? We just don't know. But now that more is coming out, will the DOJ begin to act on any of these revelations? And how will the actual committee recommend things, as well, to the rest of Congress?

With me tonight, former Democratic Senator, Al Franken, CNN Anchor and Correspondent, Audie Cornish, and former Trump White House Director of Strategic Communications, Alyssa Farah Griffin.

Welcome to all of you here. You've all sat through my sarcasm. But I do want to hear your truths, today, about these very issues.

Because, when you heard about the pressure campaign, against and for, Vice President Mike Pence, I mean, it wasn't like it was a one-time or a one-off. It was relentless all the way to January 5th, and 6th.

What's your thought?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS UNDER PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think the starkest thing, if I may jump right in, was the 40 feet that the rioters got, within the Vice President - within the range of the Vice President's Ceremonial Office.

This was a mob that would have killed him, if they were able to. And knowing what danger, the former Vice President was in, Donald Trump didn't care. In fact, as my former colleagues said, he poured gasoline on the fire.

It's, I mean, today, what we saw was the committee masterfully broke down the pressure campaign, and was smart to have, in my opinion, as a Republican, to have conservative attorneys, a conservative judge, walk through this undemocratic efforts that we had seen, by people, like Eastman, and the other advisers, around Trump.

I think this was the most important hearing, to date. It really helped show just how far they were willing to go, to stay in power. And it's just devastating and undemocratic, as you said.

COATES: I couldn't help but wonder, though, did that translate the same way to the American public? I mean, I'm not saying that it wasn't compelling.

It wasn't the most riveting of testimony, from the delivery standpoint. That's true. As a trial attorney, I think about how it's coming across, to the jury, out there. But you're right, about thinking about just how methodical and persistent it well was.

Were you surprised that it was that persistent for this Vice President?

AL FRANKEN, (D) FORMER U.S. SENATOR - MINNESOTA: I just felt sad, during this hearing. I thought it was pathetic.

Confirmed, pretty much everything I've thought about Donald Trump, which is he's sick. He's a sick person. It is tragic that he was president. I agree with Judge Luttig that he presents - continues to present a clear and present danger, to the American people, and his supporters.

And this - and it's very clear, from these three hearings, we're going to have four more, at least, that there is a widespread conspiracy, to overturn this election. And every moment, to me, was pretty stunning, and sad, really just sad.

COATES: I thought it was interesting, to think about how the word hero was used a lot, today.


And I have to say, I'm a little conservative, in the way that I use the word. I try to give it to those, who I think are truly heroic, not just those who actually do the job, they're supposed to be doing. Although, there're heroes among them.

What did you make, Audie, of the idea of Vice President Pence really being heralded, and called out more than once, as virtually a hero, for having said, "No, here's what it says. The Constitution says I can't do it. Forget all the other things, you're just saying. This is what's happening now?"

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, it's a key part of the hearing, to show how consistently the pressure was put on him, to go against the law, essentially, and not seating certain electors, right?

This is actually what the hearing is about, to show like this was a multi-point campaign, and that Pence was at the center of it. So, there's no way to talk about it, without acknowledging the fact that he stood in the way of this, right, this is part of the case?

I mean, I think, I'm sort of curious from you like, what is the text chain, in December, like, what is going on? To hear all of these people, around Pence, Pence's aides, talk about the fear they felt, the concerns they felt? But was it truly a shock?

FARAH GRIFFIN: Well, I'll say this. So, I resigned, from the White House, December of 2020. But I kept in touch with - I was talking to Marc Short, fairly regularly. I knew without question that Pence was going to do the right thing, and certify the election.

I know, the Senator. I'm going to give him a chance to disagree with me, after this.

I do think Mike Pence is a hero. And because, I want to really take a minute, to think about this. Had he not certified? We would have been not just in a constitutional crisis, I would argue the Republic would be in shambles.

So, what you would have, is basically a two- to three-week period, before Biden was officially sworn-in, you'd have a lame duck Donald Trump, desperately clinging to power. You'd inevitably have unrest in the streets.

He would probably lean, on the Department of Defense, where I previously worked. And I would expect you would have general officers, like Chairman Milley, defying orders, to use force, where you would have the loyalists that Donald Trump installed, trying to use our military. I mean, this is a horrifying scenario that we're talking about.

COATES: But couldn't some of the heroism come through transparency, before that date? I mean, January 5, was the time, they're talking about it.

FRANKEN: This is why it was the obvious thing he had to do. I - if he was courageous, he would have testified today. And if he was courageous, he would have spoken out about this before.

This - this is - and you're in touch with Marc Short. Why didn't he say anything? Why didn't any of these people, who're testifying today, saying anything, before this happened? There are people that are dead, because they didn't.

FARAH GRIFFIN: No, and it's heartbreaking. And I will always say, I was the first senior official, to speak out, on January 6, and say "Donald Trump condemn this now."

FRANKEN: Good for you.

FARAH GRIFFIN: I don't know why more people didn't. And it frustrates me, to this day.

But I will say this. And, again, this is an indictment of my own party, no one else here, is I would think any other Republican, in the MAGA orbit, in Pence's shoes, wouldn't have done the right thing. What - if it was a Vice President Ted Cruz? If it was a Vice President name-the-MAGA-official?

FRANKEN: I agree with that.

FARAH GRIFFIN: So, thank God, it was Mike Pence. That's honestly all I can say.

COATES: Right.

CORNISH: I'm not one for this kind of black and white. I mean, nobody is covered in glory here. This is an ugly situation, in which a key part, of the process, for the peaceful transfer of - peaceful transfer of power, has proven to be very vulnerable, potentially easily manipulated.

And I don't want a scenario, where we have to have a hero, do what needs to be done, to carry out the tradition of our democracy. We already know what it looks like, in other countries that have cyclical political violence.

The purpose of the hearings, I think, a greater context, for people, to consider, is what will it take, for this not to happen again? Not just the mob violence, but to safeguard, and certify, a result, in an effective way that cannot be manipulated, in this manner?

COATES: Well that's--

CORNISH: And I think, when you're watching all the lawyers, go like this, like this, "I said this, I said this, I said that, memo, memo, meeting, meeting, meeting," you should remember--

COATES: Is that how you think I talk, Audie?


COATES: Is that what the lawyers do? "Memo, memo, memo, memo," really?

CORNISH: A little bit.

COATES: Is that what we are? OK.

CORNISH: "Fine print! Fine print!"


FRANKEN: We went 240 years without this happening. This - you don't do this. Al Gore testified for this long.


FRANKEN: He was asked about this. He said, "Well, if you're putting your own personal ambition against our democracy and Constitution, it's not really a hard choice."

COATES: Well, there's that statement, "A Republic, if you can keep it." But that's just the lawyer, in me, talking.

CORNISH: It's real!

COATES: Audie, about that (ph)?

CORNISH: It's real!

COATES: Everyone, stick around for a second. The lawyers are going to get involved. And that's just kidding!

Much more, to go through with this, with you all, later, on this hour, by the way. Stick around, please.


COATES: But, up next, two former U.S. attorneys general, join me, to look at the most important legal takeaways, from today. That includes one of Trump's own lawyers, John Eastman, trying for a pardon, in the days, after the insurrection, when CNN TONIGHT returns.



COATES: Those famous Watergate questions, the one "What did the President know? And when did he know it?" Well, in this case, a lot of people knew the plan, to reject the electoral votes, was illegal, and they knew it, well in advance.

In today's testimony, we know Mike Pence, asked his counsel, to investigate his role, almost a month, before January 6 even happened. That even in December, John Eastman admitted that his plan, didn't really have any legal weight. And Pence told Trump, he didn't have the power, two days before Christmas.

The VP's staff told Eastman, on January 4, again, the plans were illegal. The next day, Eastman admitted the plan would actually lose at the Supreme Court.



JACOB: We had an extended discussion, an hour and a half to two hours, on January 5th. And when I pressed him, on the point, I said, "John, if the Vice President did, what you were asking him to do, we would lose 9-to-nothing in the Supreme Court, wouldn't we?"

And he initially started it, "Well, I think maybe you would lose only seven to two." And after some further discussion, acknowledged, "Well, yes, you're right, we would lose 9-nothing."


COATES: And, by the way, there're what, three Trump appointees, on that court? I'm just doing the math on that particular notion.

And despite that, Trump still had that heated call, with Pence, on January 6, and both Trump and Eastman told the crowd that Pence could still overturn the election. And even after the attack, on the Capitol, Eastman sent yet another email, asking for what he admits, would have been an illegal act. The paper trail is pretty incredible on this!

So, which may be the reason, frankly, that next day, Eastman was advised to get a criminal attorney, and a few days later, he was asking Rudy Giuliani, about that pardon list?

Ultimately, the question of possible criminal charges, actually does not sit, of course, in Congress, but with the Department of Justice, and the Attorney General. So, let's talk about it, with not one, but two former U.S. attorneys general, Michael Mukasey, and Alberto Gonzales.

Gentlemen, welcome. I'm so glad that you're both here. I've been eager to pick both of your brains, after these three particular hearings.

I want to begin with you, General Mukasey, on this, because I'm wondering, as you've been watching, and sitting through, and hearing about these hearings, does it strike you that there is a criminality that could be explored, at the Justice Department?

MICHAEL MUKASEY, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL UNDER PRESIDENT G.W. BUSH: Criminality by? You mean by Trump - by Donald Trump?

COATES: I mean, by Donald Trump.

MUKASEY: Or criminality--

COATES: Or somebody, maybe John Eastman, any of the figures that have been central to the hearings, today?

MUKASEY: Well, something can be explored. But there's a, as you know, as a former trial lawyer, there's a big difference between something that can be explored, and a case that can be brought.

If Donald Trump is famous for anything, it's for not hearing things that he doesn't want to hear.

And not withstanding that, he was being told by his then-Attorney General Bill Barr, by Vice President Pence, and by a whole lot of other people, that Vice President Pence did not have the authority, to do anything, other than open the envelope, and the Constitution says "And the votes shall then be counted."

He chose to believe, a contrary story that he was being told by other people, or so he says. And that raises some question, about his role.

In addition, the Justice Department itself, is prosecuting people, now, members of the Proud Boys, and others, for committing these acts, on their own. It doesn't make - they don't make the President part of it.

And so, there is a kind of tension between the theory that the Justice Department is now pursuing, against people, who are now defendants, and the theory that it might pursue, against President Trump, assuming they decide to pursue him, for a criminal charge.

COATES: You're nodding along, General Gonzales. Do you agree the notion of - obviously, there's exploration, and then there's the idea of trying to meet one's burden of proof, if you were to try to bring criminal charges.

Something that's been floated around, of course, are defrauding the government - defrauding the United States of America, the idea of obstruction - obstructing the official proceeding, of Electoral College count.

There's the elements that need to be proven. So far, we've got a lot of testimony that demonstrates, at least in the beginning, that Trump doesn't really have a good-faith reasonable belief that he actually could believe any of what he wants to believe, when the truth seems to be out there that this plan could not work.


It's one thing, to receive this information, through this process. It's quite another, to meet a burden of proof, in a criminal trial, where Trump - Trump World will have the opportunity, to cross-examine witnesses, to present their own proof, and then can try to convince a jury, of their innocence.

And so, no question, the information that's come through, this committee, is very disturbing. It's damning, as far as I'm concerned, certainly with respect to, I think, how the public is seeing this.

But if you're talking about a criminal prosecution? That is quite a different story. And, of course, these hearings are not over yet. And in fact, there may not be a referral. Some would argue that the referral is really immaterial.

Merrick Garland is going to - his investigators will gather enough information. Hopefully, they'll receive all the information that's assembled, compiled, by this commission, and then make - and then, after consulting with his senior team, he's going to make a determination, as to whether or not to move forward.


Now, even if the decision is close, he may decide, not to do so. Why? Because, in the history, of this country, I don't believe, a former president, has ever been subject, to a public trial.

It will force the nation - the nation's attention, the media's attention will gravitate, and be focused on this trial, for months. And one might wonder whether or not, is it worth it? Because you could make the argument that President Trump has already been - he's already been harmed, or he's already lost. He lost his reelection.

COATES: But, General, excuse me? When--

GONZALES: And he's been sidelined (ph). COATES: You've articulated, sounds the equivalent of somebody then being above the law. I mean, the idea that--

GONZALES: Well I was going to say--

COATES: --you're punished enough by having lost the election, and you can't be called the Leader of the Free World?


COATES: Is that really enough?

GONZALES: No. What I was going to say - you didn't let me complete my thought. And that there is a balance here.

And that - the other - the other consideration, and that of equally important, perhaps even more important consideration, by the Attorney General, is accountability. Someone should be held responsible. Others should be - at the highest level, should be held responsible to what happened here? And so, at the end of the day, this is a very tough decision, for the Attorney General.

And, right now, I think, agreeing with General Mukasey, it's just premature, to reach the conclusion that weakens that - that Donald - President Donald Trump can be criminally prosecuted, for what happened, on January 6. I think we're - they're going to make a good effort. Well, they're going to make a good examination as to whether or not that effort would be successful.

COATES: I think you're absolutely right, that we still have a lot to wait for.

MUKASEY: You know we went through--

COATES: General Mukasey, on that point, excuse me, I'm curious as to what you have - what you make of the fact that the former Attorney General, Bill Barr, has played (ph) the central role, in the testimony, in his conversations.

Both of you obviously, have been behind closed doors, as presidential advisers. Members of the cabinet, are privy to a great deal of sensitive information. And that it could very well be that A.G. Merrick Garland has - is privy to that same information, in different categories.

What do you think, General Mukasey, about the notion of the testimony, of Bill Barr, to date? I mean, he talked about resigning, in December, after what he described as BS, and the plan.

What was your reaction to that testimony that you heard?

MUKASEY: Well, that testimony actually is - was known before it was disclosed, in these hearings. That was in his book.

COATES: Yes. MUKASEY: And he's talked about it before that, that scene on December 1st, where he, as he pointed out, describe what the President, was pushing, the theories of fraud that he was pushing, as BS, said he had found no evidence, to support them, and offered to resign.

The President slammed his hand down, on the table, and said, "Accept it." And then, Barr walked out of the room, and had to be chased down, by two people, when he was already in his car, telling, "No, no, no, he didn't really mean it. Come back."

He went back to the Justice Department. And they didn't speak again, until afterwards.

But he testified exactly the way it happened. And he testified to what he did. And what he did was his job. What Mike Pence did was his job.

And I, one of your colleagues said before that we don't need - we don't really - we shouldn't really need heroes. The fact is that there is no rule that applies itself. There's always somebody, who's got to apply the rule, and adhere to the rule.

And the fact that we had people, applying the rules, and adhering to the rules? You want to call them heroes? Call them heroes. You want to call them people doing their job? Call them people doing their job. But the fact is that the system, at that point, functioned.

We had something, similar to this, in our history, relatively recent history, when Richard Nixon, resigned, and was pardoned by Gerald Ford.

He was - Ford was criticized, for it, at the time. But the reason he did it was that he didn't want the country to go through the anguish, and the turmoil, and the disorder, of trying a former President. And this situation, I think, is close to that.

COATES: Well, I hear both of you. And stick around. We're going to come back to these points, and expand beyond that. I would argue, of course, and I'd love to hear your reaction, the nation did see some turmoil, and unrest. It was on January 6.

But ahead, there was a final phone call, between Trump and Pence, just hours before the riot, on January 6. It was overheard by Trump family members, and former aides.

And boy, did they have quite a story to tell! Hear it yourself, when CNN TONIGHT returns.



COATES: We've got new insight, tonight, in a heated phone call, between former President Trump, and his then-Vice President.

It comes, from witnesses, within Trump's inner circle, including his own daughter, Ivanka, about what they heard, on the morning, of January 6, in the hours before the Capitol attack.


VOICE OF IVANKA TRUMP, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: When I entered the office, the second time, he was on the telephone with who I later found out to be was the - the Vice President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you hear the Vice President or only hear the President's end?

HERSCHMANN: Only hear the President's end. And at some point it started off as a calmer tone, everything, and then it became heated.

I. TRUMP: The conversation was - was pretty heated.

VOICE OF NICHOLAS LUNA, FORMER ASSISTANT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I remember hearing the word, wimp. Either he called him a wimp - I don't remember if he said, "You are a wimp, you'll be a wimp." Wimp, is the word I remember.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I remember exactly it was something like that. Yes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like being - you're not tough enough to make the call.

I. TRUMP: It was a different tone than I'd heard him take with the Vice President before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Ms. Trump share with you any more details about what had happened or any details about what had happened in the Oval Office that morning?

JULIE RADFORD, FORMER IVANKA TRUMP CHIEF OF STAFF: That her dad had just had an upsetting conversation with the Vice President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something to the effect this is - the wording is wrong. I made the wrong decision four or five years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the - the word that she relayed to you that the President called the Vice President, I apologize for being impolite, but do you remember what she said her father called him?

RADFORD: The P-word.


COATES: Well after that call, Trump went on to rally his supporters, at The Ellipse, in Washington D.C.

Remember this part?


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.

Mike Pence is going to have to come through, for us. And if he doesn't, that will be a sad day for our country.



COATES: The January 6 panel says its investigation, into early drafts, of Trump's January 6 speech, included actually no mention of Pence, and that Trump purposely revised it, to criticize his Vice President.

Now, upon learning, about the violent mob, inside the Capitol, Trump told his supporters, this. Quote, "Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done," unquote.

Well, and they took note. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pence - Pence didn't--


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --Pence didn't do what we wanted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pence voted against Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And that's when all this started?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. That's when we marched on the Capitol.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike Pence has betrayed the United States of America.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pence betrayed us, which apparently everybody knew he was going to, and the President mentioned it, like five times, when he talked.


COATES: "Like five times when he talked." We learn that there was a lot more conversations, than just five, that day.

Perhaps no surprise, but a source tells CNN that Trump and Pence, they haven't spoken to each other, in over a year.

We'll get more into this now-frayed relationship, back with tonight's A-Team, Al, Audie, and Alyssa, to discuss all of that. Plus, how important could Ginni Thomas be to the committee? That's up next.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COATES: OK, so rather than calling the rioters, off from the Capitol, on January 6, the former President instead was tweeting, and about Mike Pence.

Just listen to what a White House aide told the Select Committee, about that moment.


SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE AIDE: It was clear that it was escalating and escalating quickly.


MATTHEWS: So then when that tweet - the Mike Pence tweet, was sent out, I remember us saying that that was the last thing that needed to be tweeted at that moment.

The situation was already bad. And so, it felt like he was pouring gasoline on the fire by tweeting that.


COATES: Back with me now, Al Franken, Audie Cornish, and Alyssa Farah Griffin.

I want to hear your reactions, as well, to what the attorneys general had to say, earlier, talking about the idea of there's one reason, why sometimes the DOJ does not prosecute cases. It's because it might not be in the interest of the nation, or contrary to the public's interest.

You got a strong reaction to that. Why?

FRANKEN: Really strong reaction. The only thing worse than prosecuting him is not prosecuting him. He clearly has committed crimes. It's so evident.

You don't - this is why I said, watching this today, was just pathetic, and tragic. I mean, clearly, this - and he knew he lost, I mean. And if - his only defense, I guess, is insanity. But I don't think that washes. I think he's just a malignant narcissist. I think he's an awful human being.

And clearly, he knew he lost. He said, before the election, "If I win? Then, it was a fair election. If I lose? It was fixed." I mean, what else do you need to hear? No--

CORNISH: And, during the hearing, this is what they outlined, I think, in the first few days, right? This idea of this setup, the leading up to this moment. And now - and you can talk about this more. I'm actually kind of curious about your position on it.

If they're talking about what the motive was, if they're talking about his ability, and power, and understanding, to potentially incite violence? And then if they're showing us people, who heard his words, and acted on them?

They - clearly, lawmakers are trying to lay something out, as easily as possible. That doesn't necessarily mean there will be charges. But correct me if I'm wrong, they're doing it, in a certain order--


CORNISH: --to give people a sense of wrongdoing, illegality.

COATES: And they're bringing up - and listen to what Congressman Aguilar had to say today, about this issue, because you're talking about criminality, and the elements, and how it can be proven.

When someone starts fishing for a pardon? We call it a red flag! Listen up.


REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): In fact, just a few days later, Dr. Eastman emailed Rudy Giuliani and requested that he be included on a list of potential recipients of a Presidential pardon.

Dr. Eastman's email stated quote, "I've decided that I should be on the pardon list if that is still in the works."


COATES: "I've decided that I should be on the pardon list if that is still in the works," I mean?

CORNISH: I mean, the rest of that email, the rest of that line actually, is him saying "I know it would - it will look bad," something to the effect of that. "But there will be so many lies"--

COATES: Because it will look bad.

CORNISH: --"being told," I just want to finish the rest of that sentence, which, I want to point out something else, which is this is such a TikTok-ready hearing setup. So much has been made of them using Teleprompters, or of the production values, and a TV producer, getting involved. It's actually not so much about TV.

It is shareable, right? I mean, attorney - Judge Luttig, today, not a fast speaker. But when you see him, in snips, on your Facebook feed, on your Insta, on your Snap, and your Substack embed code? I have no idea. You are going to get the point.

Because the committee has created a scenario in which this is a very shareable kind of TikTok-era hearing rather than a Watergate era hearing.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Well, and on the kind of the previous point, I think the committee's pursuing two tracks. And I've sat down with the committee, voluntarily, I want to help in any way I can.

And one is, is there a potential criminal referral? Is there wrongdoing? But the other is, the battlefields, the voters. It's convincing the American public that the election lies aren't true that this was a giant grift, by the former President.

So, it's kind of a two-fold track. And, I think, they're equally important, in many ways.

CORNISH: Both are valuable, yes.


CORNISH: I think there is a danger in setting the bar so high that it has to be prosecution or nothing. Because this is an ongoing situation, right? You had more than 100--

FRANKEN: This guy tried to destroy our democracy.

CORNISH: No. But what I'm saying is there are more than a 100 candidates, out there, right now--

FRANKEN: What else?


CORNISH: --who, election denialism, or specifically, Trump's election lies, are part of their campaign.

FRANKEN: And that's from right-wing disinformation, and lies, which have been going on, a long time--

COATES: Well, speaking of history, though, I mean, think about this. There was that moment, we heard, from Greg Jacob, today, right, where he talked about the idea of, well it was truly un-American, and the history of the inertia of things just sort of going correctly.

You heard General Mukasey say, "Listen, the system worked here."

FRANKEN: Oh my goodness!

COATES: Listen to what he had to say today.


JACOB: There is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person would choose the American president. And then, unbroken historical practice for 230 years that the Vice President did not have such an authority.


FRANKEN: This is why you have to prosecute him. There's nothing more un-American

COATES: You see, I mean, the - here's my thought. And Audie?

FRANKEN: Well there's nothing-- COATES: Well, I hear you. But the problem is, when you look at - and just thinking about how the electorate has talked about this issue, I think this is your point, as well, if the singular focus, is on the prosecution of Donald Trump? I think you risk the alienation of realizing the legislative purpose. I'm not saying it can't be a possibility. But this is a committee, who has to actually think about it.

FRANKEN: And what if they don't?

COATES: Ask the - I'm going to ask the attorneys general, when I come back, as a matter of fact, on these very issues.

Audie Cornish, Alyssa Farah Griffin, and Al Franken, we'll leave that question hanging in the wind.

The question is, is the Select Committee delivering on what it promised, the American people, to that very point. Back with two former attorneys general, next.



COATES: The January 6 committee is quite steadfast, on trying to convey that this is a continued threat to our democracy. I'm wondering, if that's landing with people, though.

I'm back with former attorneys general, Michael Mukasey, and Alberto Gonzales.

And I'd love for you guys to talk about the sort of big picture here. Because obviously, we are seeing division, but we're also seeing some distrust in our institutions.

And I'm wondering, when you're looking at all that's coming out, right now, and the way that this hearing is being conducted, you say, General Mukasey, that the system was working, by virtue of the fact that there was somebody, to sort of hold the line.

I'd love for you to respond, General Gonzales, it's what your thoughts are?

GONZALES: Oh, absolutely. I think Mike hit it right on, in that, I'd say Mike Pence was brave. He was courageous not to leave the Capitol.

But honestly, what he did beyond that, he did his job. He took an oath of office, to follow the Constitution. And that's what he did. And that's what the Senior Leadership, at the Department of Justice did. And that's what they're going to do, going forward.

Listening to Senator Franken, who I respect, I think he would throw Donald Trump, in the dungeon, throw away the key, but then ending the protections of the Constitution.

But that's not going to happen, with respect to what's going to happen, with Donald Trump, and the rest of those involved, in January 6 hearing. We're going to - we're going to follow the Constitution, and do the right thing.

COATES: Are you concerned, General Mukasey--


COATES: --of the singular focus on, say, Donald Trump, in terms of the committee's focus?

MUKASEY: Yes, I am. Because I think there are some - there are larger issues, here.

First, I agree with General Gonzales, that what is this - this fantasy, of putting Donald Trump, in an orange jumpsuit, in a dungeon, throwing away the key, ain't going to happen.

But beyond that, there are tweaks that need to be made, in the Electoral Count Act that would, I don't know about prevent, but at least make it more difficult, for a situation, like this, to develop.

Because the count - the access to the ballot is a matter of state law. And that has to be fought out, in each individual state. And then, how that result gets handled, when it - when the ballots are sent to Congress, is something that may need to be tweaked, in a relatively small way.

But there's a - there is bipartisan support for the notion that, for example, it ought to have been made specific, that the Vice President has no authority, it ought to - we ought to clarify what we do, if there are competing slates of electors that are submitted by states. That can be done. But the melodrama isn't - doesn't really tell the whole story.

COATES: Absent those changes? And of course, I'm talking to two of the former top law enforcement officials, in the country, who know full well, what it must take and what it needs to take to enforce the law.

Absent those changes, are there other areas that you can think of, in terms of what you've been seeing, where it's making the job, of prosecutors, to evaluate these cases that much harder?

Are there areas that you're looking to hear more about, from this committee, General Gonzales, areas that you think should be fortified or loopholes closed?

GONZALES: Honestly, Laura, I don't - I don't know how to answer that question. I'd have to think about that.

I think the Department of Justice has the tools, necessary. They have a lot more investigatory authority, to find out what happened, here, in this congressional committee. And so, they're going to take the information that they've gathered, get the information, from the January 6 committee, and make a decision.

And I - well, I happen to believe they probably have the appropriate tools, to successfully investigate, and prosecute, where necessary, although I do agree with General Mukasey, there are things that we could do, to strengthen the Electoral Act - the Count Act.

COATES: I'll give you the final word, General Mukasey, in terms of thinking about long-term, what you think the impact of these hearings will have on our nation?

MUKASEY: Well, I'm hoping they'll have a good impact. This is for all the - for all the flaws, it's a civics lesson, and - on both sides.


And I'm hoping that people learn from it, and learn that, again, there is no such thing as a set of rules that applies itself. It takes people, to apply it. And that when you have people, with a spine, and we have those, in the Justice Department, who do it on a daily basis, without - not in the limelight, but in day-to-day situations, I agree with General Gonzales that that's the takeaway that we really need from this.

COATES: Very important word. Gentlemen, thank you for joining, tonight. It's important to hear from you both, particularly giving your perspective, on these really important issues. Thank you so much to both of you.

Listen, we'll be right back.


COATES: Hey, thanks for watching, everyone. I'll be back tomorrow night.

"DON LEMON TONIGHT," starts, right now.

Hey, Don Lemon?

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, DON LEMON TONIGHT: Hey, how are you? We'll see you tomorrow night. Great job tonight, Laura Coates.

COATES: All right.

LEMON: Thanks very much.



Devastating testimony, from the January 6 committee hearing, on Donald Trump's relentless campaign, to pressure the Vice President - the former Vice President, Mike Pence, to overturn the 2020 election.