Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

January 6 Committee Set to Focus on Trump Pressure Campaign on Justice Department; Federal Authorities Search Home of Jeffrey Clark; January 6 Committee Receives New Documentary Footage. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 23, 2022 - 14:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That's the former Justice Department official who was pushing Trump's false election claims and who Trump talked about, discussed trying to appoint to be the attorney general and who will figure prominently in today's hearing.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is CNN's special coverage, "Attack on Democracy: The January 6 Hearings."

Aides to the House select committee say today's hearing will zero in on all the ways then-President Trump tried to pressure Justice Department officials, including pushing them to publicly say that there was widespread voter fraud, when they in fact had found none, and threatening to fire acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who was holding firm against Trump's demands.

Rosen will testify live today, along with some other former Justice Department officials who stood up to Trump's lies on this matter. Rosen's deputy, Richard Donoghue, and Steven Engel, who was head of the Office of Legal Counsel, they warned Trump of mass resignations at the Justice Department if Donald Trump replaced Rosen with Jeffrey Clark, that loyalist who was there to help him overturn the election, Jeffrey Clark, the former Justice Department official whose home was just searched by federal investigators.

The committee says it's going to take us inside a heated off Oval Office meeting on January 3, when today's witnesses confronted Trump over his threat to put Clark in charge of the Justice Department, until Trump eventually backed down.

Playing a leading role in today's hearing, Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of only two Republicans on the panel. All of this comes after the select committee deposed filmmaker Alex Holder behind closed doors this morning about his documentary, which features never- before-seen interviews with Trump and members of his inner circle both before and after January 6.

CNN has gotten a first look at the documentary. We have been sharing some of these key clips.

As the committee is about to focus on Jeffrey Clark, let's get more on the search of his home by federal agents. Evan Perez is following the story.

Evan, tell us more about what we know about this search.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, this was a raid that occurred yesterday at his home in Northern Virginia.

We have now gotten the confirmation from the U.S. attorney's office. All they will say is that there was law enforcement activity that was conducted in the vicinity of that home. They won't say who exactly and what exactly was the purpose of it.

But we know from multiple sources that this was a raid that was targeting Jeffrey Clark's home. Now this is an extraordinary step for the prosecutors, for federal investigators to take. This means that they clearly believe that they couldn't just ask Jeffrey Clark for some of this information, that they believe that there was perhaps a danger of the destruction of evidence.

This is what the standard is for you to be able to get permission from a judge to carry out this raid. As you pointed out, Clark was at the center of what was the former president's attempt to do an autogolpe, right? He was trying to get the Justice Department to use its powers to support his vote fraud claims, sending letters to the state of Georgia, other states to say essentially that the Justice Department was concerned about vote fraud.

None of those things were true. Those claims had been investigated. And the former president was being told that Clark was willing to do that and he proposed ways to do that. He also was willing to take the place of Jeffrey Rosen, who was the one standing in the way of all of this.

In that extraordinary January 3 meeting that you're about to hear so much about this afternoon, this is where the former president was threatening essentially, looking to do -- to replace Clark in this "Apprentice"-style meeting that lasted hours.

The president was trying to figure out a way to get Clark to take the place of Jeffrey Rosen. And it wasn't until all of these officials said that they were going to resign that the former president backed down, Jake.

TAPPER: It's just an incredible story, horrifying.

Thank you, Evan.

Let's bring in Manu Raju.

Manu, you have some new reporting of another focus of the committee, pardons sought by House Republicans.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this, of course, came out in the first hearing.

Liz Cheney, the vice chair of the committee, alluded to how some Republican members of Congress sought pardons from Donald Trump over their role and over everything that happened on January 6, and did not provide many more details.

But I am told that, today, we should expect some more information. The committee has promised evidence to back up their claims. And I'm told that some of that, we will see today. It's unclear exactly how many members they will talk about and exactly what they will detail.

But they plan to provide some more information today and save additional information about pardons that members, Republican members apparently sought for later hearings.

Now, Cheney in that first hearing made reference to one Republican congressman, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, someone who had played, who was -- who was in contact with Jeffrey Clark, whose home, of course, was raided by the Justice Department today.


She had -- she referenced Perry as one individual who sought a subpoena (sic). Perry has denied that. I just tried to ask Perry about both the pardon ask, as well as the news about Jeffrey Clark's home being raided. He would not comment on his way into vote just moments ago.

But we expect later to this hour, next hour for the committee to get into some more detail on one of the key pieces of information they revealed here, that some Republican members sought pardons. The question is why they did that and those members are.

TAPPER: All right, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Let's talk about the context here. Here's here's what the viewers need to pay attention to. So, after Donald Trump and his team failed to prove any fraud in dozens of courtrooms, they then shifted their attention and started trying to push legislators, state representatives, state senators and others, to offer alternate states -- slates of fraudulent electors for Trump, instead of the legitimate electors for Biden that those states' voters had actually voted for.

And we heard some -- from some of those officials on Tuesday. The Arizona speaker of the House, Republican Rusty Bowers, testified live. Others did so in recorded testimony, people from Michigan and other places.

Today, we're going to hear from officials at the Department of Justice about how Trump and his team wanted to use federal law enforcement powers to claim evidence of fraud that did not exist, and then to push states, Republicans, legislators to send fraudulent slates of electors to Congress and the National Archives, based on the Justice Department pushing them to do so.

In other words, Trump was trying to weaponize the Department of Justice to commit injustice, to commit fraud, to steal the election, not just from Joe Biden, but from the American people. That's what we're going to hear today. And, Dana, I -- again, I find

it so stunning and shocking that you have Republican lawmakers who know better, not just the ones who voted to commit this fraud by overturning the elections in Arizona and Pennsylvania, but ones who didn't go that far, but still are pretending this is no big deal.

This was an undemocratic, authoritarian move by Donald Trump and his minions. And it very easily could have worked, if you had had 10 to 20 different Republican officials in different -- in those positions.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you're talking about the deafening sound of silence...


BASH: ... especially among Republican leaders who are still on Capitol Hill.

And what you just described and what we're going to continue to see today is this committee's attempt to puncture that silence and to make Republicans -- to shake them and say, you have to listen to your fellow Republicans...


BASH: ... who were at the highest levels of the federal government in the Justice Department who were on the brink, almost physically holding up the democracy against pressure from the then-president.


BASH: The one person -- we're going to hear from a trio of former DOJ Republican officials.

The one person I'm told to really listen carefully to is Richard Donoghue, that his testimony before -- we have seen several clips throughout the last four hearings, but that he is perhaps the most colorful in his description of what happened back then, particularly the way that the president, the then-president, went point by point with all of his false claims, and that Donoghue and others were saying no, no, no, no.

TAPPER: And explaining why.

BASH: And explaining why. And he would just move on to the next false claim.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And he was being directly lobbied on this obviously illegal scheme.

I'm very interested in -- I think the Jeffrey Clark element of this is really a linchpin element of the whole thing. It's the part of it that is so clearly fraudulent, an effort to clearly do something that he knew at the time was a lie. It stated that that was a lie, that Liz Cheney said that in one of the earlier hearings. And she also said that this issue of pardons -- Representative Scott Perry was one of the people pushing Jeffrey Clark to be placed in the Justice Department. What did Congressman Scott Perry know about this plot? What was the level of coordination?

I think these are some really important questions that we might get some answers to now, because Perry is also one of the people that Liz Cheney says was asking for a pardon, again, implying that he was concerned -- if that is true, he was concerned that what he was involved with was ultimately, at the end of the day, illegal.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Can I just say, this goes beyond a lie?

This was an attempt to corrupt the Justice Department. What we saw was, first, you say the election is rigged. Then you go to courts with no evidence. Then you pressure state officials. And then after Attorney General Bill Barr tells Donald Trump on December 1, there is no there, there, he finds this guy, Jeffrey Clark, and they are going to corrupt the Justice Department and overturn democracy, plain and simple.



JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And another example of a person whose name is not very well-known out there was Rusty Bowers, the Arizona House speaker, the other day, talked about how he resisted the president.

Now you're going to have Mr. Rosen, who was the attorney general at the time. His title was acting attorney general, because Bill Barr had left. But he says the president said, intervene in lawsuits. He said no. The president said put out a statement saying there's fraud. He said no.

But at the most chilling part to me, Jake, is that you have -- this is just days before the inauguration, days after the insurrection. He says he looked the president in the eye and said he would insist on a peaceful and orderly transition of power.

Why do you have to tell that to the president the United States?


KING: The most exceptional of American moments, and the attorney general was saying, we insist on this, sir. Stop asking us. Stop asking the military. You're going to leave.

TAPPER: So one question I asked Carrie Cordero, one of our legal commentators, is, this can't be legal, right?

And she said she thinks that the relevant law -- I just want to read this because it could become relevant in this hearing and beyond -- 18-USC-371, conspiracy to defraud the United States. And in an explanatory note from a historical case about what that might mean, it's interfere with or obstruct one of its lawful government functions by deceit, craft, or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest. That certainly sounds like it applies.

We are getting closer to today's January 6 hearing on Capitol Hill. We're getting new reaction from filmmaker Alex Holder about his interview with the committee behind closed doors this morning.

This is all ahead. Our special coverage continues.

We're going to squeeze in one quick break. Stay with us.



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: We are getting closer to the start of today's hearing of the January 6 Committee, focusing on then-President Trump's pressure on the Justice Department to go along with his attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

I want to go to Pamela Brown on Capitol Hill.

Pamela, the select committee deposed this filmmaker Alex Holder behind closed doors this morning. Do we know anything about his testimony?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so he spoke with reporters after that deposition.

And he said that, look, he was forthcoming with the committee, that he has been cooperating with them, but he told them everything they wanted to know. But he would not tell the reporters exactly what he said. He said, look, that's going to be up to them to decide what it all means, these inconsistencies between what you see in the footage that I captured and what was told to the January 6 Committee by members of Trump's family.

As we know, one of those seeming inconsistencies here, Anderson, is what Ivanka Trump told the committee, saying that Bill Barr -- she believed Bill Barr and accepted it December 1 when he said there was no widespread fraud. But then, in that footage, mid-December, she talks about how every vote needs to be counted because so many people are questioning the sanctity of the election.

Here's what else this British filmmakers told reporters.


ALEX HOLDER, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: I have provided them with all the materials they have asked for. And I will continue to cooperate with them as and when they ask it, if necessary. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: The footage of Donald Trump, is it -- you have two sessions with him before January 6 and one after? Is that correct?

HOLDER: I had one interview with President Donald Trump before January 6 and two interviews with him after January 6.


BROWN: So you may be wondering, how did this British filmmaker have this access to Donald Trump, the president, before and after January 6?

And sources tell me and also my colleague Kaitlan Collins that Jason Greenblatt, a former White House aid and a lawyer for Trump, had apparently approached members of the Trump family, pitching this film to them, saying it would be a puff piece, that it would be favorable to the Trump family.

Now, the sources we have spoken with claimed that they were assured they would have editorial control. But the attorney for Alex Holder released his statement saying that, no, that was not the case, that the Trumps did not request and were not granted any editorial control over the series. To the contrary, Alex Holder said at the outset that he would have full editorial control -- back to you.

COOPER: Who was funding the documentary? I mean, this guy Jason Greenblatt was the one bringing this filmmaker into the Trump orbit.

I assume -- I mean, and Holder's statement said, well, the Trumps didn't have editorial control or have rights to it. But who's paying for it? Who's funding it? Do we know?

BROWN: Yes, that is a really good question. We don't know.

And I'm trying to find out more about what the relationship is between Jason Greenblatt and this filmmaker. I have reached out to Jason Greenblatt. I haven't heard back.

But, apparently, this was pitched to the members of the Trump family as a favor for Jason. And so, clearly, there is something more there in terms of, why he would have been involved in this and why he was able to get the Trump family in it.


BROWN: But in terms of the funding, there's still a lot more to find out.

And you imagine the committee was asking those questions here today. We hope to learn more, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, Pamela Brown, thanks so much.

Back now with the team in New York.

Chris, what do you make of this?

CHRIS WALLACE, CNN HOST: Well, there's been reports that members of the Trump world view this with some anxiety.

When the story first broke on Tuesday, I reached out to somebody who had worked in the Trump campaign, not in the Trump White House, who said that they, until that story broke on Tuesday, had had no idea that Alex Holder was running around the White House and then subsequently Mar-a-Lago talking to Trump and key figures.

And they had no idea what had been said. There's nothing that we have heard so far from these clips that's anything even approaching a smoking gun, but we don't know what we don't know. And so, obviously, it's a little concerning when there's the possibility at least of a criminal investigation and prosecution of, what are some of these people saying and that they said on video to this fellow?


One other point I want to make. These depositions that we have been hearing these clips from during the during the hearings, at some point -- I guess it's in July -- the committee is saying that they're going to make all of the depositions -- and some of these people sat for hours and hours and hours, and we're getting one 30-second clip.

I would suspect that the Trump lawyers and defense people are -- and political spinners can't wait to get this, because there are undoubtedly going to be things left out of what has been played by the committee...



WALLACE: ... that they're going to say, well, wait a minute, you -- they're already saying without knowing, this is selectively edited.

MY guess is, they're going to find out and make a big deal of the fact you took this that puts Trump's actions in the worst spotlight, but you admitted this. Why did you do that?

Which is one of the reasons, incidentally, I think you're seeing a lot of people in the Republican world and Trump world now saying, why the hell didn't we have Republicans on the committee who could be making these points in front of a national audience?

BORGER: That's right, because they're still going to be doing it after the fact.

And Trump is saying, where's my representation? Where are my friends? Where's my Roy Cohn? Where are my people talking for me? And a lot of Republicans, as you're saying, agree with that.

They're like, we're not having any pushback here. So when they get these transcripts, sure, they will push back. But it's after the fact. It's after the hearing.


LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you're not seeing -- even though you don't have the smoking gun, so to speak, as of yet, you have really calm people just days after January 6 who are not expressing the idea of what many people have been outraged about, that this was so close to having democracy not stay the course.

And you have the idea of not calling them out, but saying they're very smart people. They're very smart people, the former president said, described that they knew what was going on, and that that's why they were reacting with some sadness and obvious anger.

And I hear that as a lawyer and say to myself, are you distancing yourself from the idea of, I had a hand in doing this? One of the big questions we have for the former president and the congressional committee has to satisfy is to what extent there is a direct causal connection between the words or instructions of Donald Trump and the behavior of those who entered the Capitol?

In that clip, he describes the notion of they were seeing what was going on. And so they knew what to do, that it was an autonomous action. And so I'm curious to see how they're going to bridge the gap with this new information to prove or to suggest that there was not only direct causal connection. Here's what he said and here's why they followed him.


And that clip was pretty much self-serving. It's like that -- it's like what he said on the day of the insurrection. It's like, this is what happens when an election is stolen.

And we just don't know, I mean, there are different possibilities for what are in the outtakes, what are in the stuff that they actually used for this documentary. It could be -- it could all be just self- serving B.S. It also could be some unguarded moments where they said something that their lawyers would not like them to have said.

And then it could be incriminating or non-incriminating. We just don't know. Those are the four boxes that are the possibilities. And we're just not going to know what clips fit into what boxes until we actually see it.

COOPER: I mean, it's interesting today to just see this as a snapshot in that moment in time, as opposed to really there's no real revelation in what is being said.

And it's unclear if there is any kind of a smoking gun.



And, I mean, it's not like the Nixon White House tapes, where there were people walking into the Oval Office who had no idea that the taping system exists.

I mean, these people were obviously carrying cameras, and so everybody would be on their best behavior, I would think. But...

BORGER: And this was supposed to be a legacy piece.


BORGER: It was supposed to be a puff piece.

So Trump wanted to participate. And I think where you're going to get the real story is today, with these attorneys. And the attorneys are going to tell you what Donald Trump was telling them. And one of the things he was telling them is, just -- and here's a quote from one of the attorneys -- "Just say the election was corrupt, and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen."

This is from the Senate investigations.

CONWAY: The most important thing.

COOPER: Coming up, we're awaiting the start of the fifth public hearing from the January 6 Committee this month.

We will take a look at the key witnesses who are expected to testify today and what we might learn from them.



TAPPER: The January 6 House Select Committee convenes about an half- hour from now.

The panel is promising to take a deep dive into then-President Trump's efforts to influence the Justice Department. House investigators will argue, we're told, that Trump misused the Justice Department for his own personal gains, specifically his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and stay in power.

Let's talk to John King at the Magic Wall.

John, so the case is being made today that Trump tried to weaponize the Justice Department, turn it into something for injustice. Talk us through who some of the players are.

KING: Right.

The committee will lay out through the testimony that the president of the United States tried to take the agency that is the guardian of U.S. law and essentially break it to help him stay in power.

Now, we obviously have heard a lot already from the former Attorney General Bill Barr, saying three times -- he met with Trump after the election, three times told them, this was B.S., more colorful language. And then he ultimately resigned right before Christmas in the year.

He was replaced by the acting attorney general. And this is who we will hear from today, live testimony, Jeff Rosen, who gave quite a damning short, but opening statement to the committee, saying: The president asked me to intervene. I said no. The president asked me to do more. I said no. And so that will be the dramatic testimony as we get through it.