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CNN Live Event/Special
Soon, Former DOJ Officials Testify About Trump's Pressure Campaign; Federal Investigators Search Home of Jeffrey Clark, Former DOJ Official Who Pushed Trump's Election Lies; Jan. 6 Committee Members Surprised by Raid at Ex-DOJ Official's House. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired June 23, 2022 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: This is who we will hear from today, Jeff Rosen, who gave quite a damning short 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. So that will be the dramatic testimony as we get through it.
And essentially, you're going to see the sides here. On this side, the Justice Department officials who said, sir, you have no evidence of fraud. Sir, there are laws. Sir, we will not go along with your plan.
On this side, you will hear a lot about Jeffrey Clark, Kenneth Klukowski, those in the Justice Department, who, unknown to these people at the time, were communicating with people in Trump world, saying, actually, we could do this if you would put us in charge.
And so one of the things you're going to work through is just how this was going.
This is New Year's Day, January 1st, Richard Donoghue sends an email saying, this is pure insanity. What the White House is asking them to do, he described as pure insanity.
Look at Jeffrey Rosen. Asked if I would reconsider. I flatly refused. Said I would not be giving any special treatment to Giuliani, Rudy Giuliani, or any of his witnesses.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Witnesses.
KING: He puts it in quotes. And reaffirmed, yet again, I will not talk to Giuliani about any of this.
TAPPER: One thing I want to underline. These are people who presumably supported Donald Trump.
TAPPER: These are Trump officials in Trump's Justice Department. These aren't RINOs. These aren't liberal Democrats. These aren't bureaucrats. Trump appointed these people.
KING: When Trump announced Bill Barr's resignation on Twitter, he praised both of them. He said he would be taking charge. He would be the number two. And he said they were amazing, wonderful people. So, Trump -- yes, Trump elevated them and praised them as you go through it.
So why is Jeffrey Rosen the attorney general at this point? Acting attorney general is his title. But he's the top law enforcement. He's the attorney general because, as Bill Barr told the committee, I couldn't take it anymore.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff, which I told the president was bullshit.
And you know, I didn't want to be a part of it. And that's one of the reasons that went into me deciding to leave when I did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: So, Bill Barr is gone. Jeff Rosen is in charge.
And you're going to hear a lot today about Jeff Clark, who, again, was an environmental lawyer at the Justice Department, who his own bosses did not know was communicating with Trump world.
And was willing to write a letter -- if Trump made him attorney general, he was willing to write a letter to Georgia and to other key states saying the department will update you as soon as we're able to.
"We have identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states, including the state of Georgia."
Jeff Clark was willing to send these letters to states, lying. There was no evidence of that fraud. Bill Barr had said that. Jeff Rosen had said that.
The plan was to install Jeff Clark. And, Jake, in the end, what happened in that Oval Office meeting, is Mr. Rosen and all his deputies said, Mr. President, you do that, we will resign en masse and we will go public with this.
TAPPER: Right, which I believe Jared Kushner described as "whining" in his testimony.
Let's talk about this with our legal panel. First of all, Andy McCabe, former acting director of the FBI.
We're just hearing that federal investigators conducted a search yesterday of Jeffrey Clark's northern Virginia home.
This is the individual who, at least according to the evidence we've seen, wanted to be appointed attorney general so he could then tell states there was widespread fraud, when there wasn't.
We need alternate slates of electors, which would then give the presidency to Trump, even though Biden had been lawfully and legally and legitimately elected.
Tell me about the steps that it takes. Because I assume this was an FBI raid.
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Of course.
TAPPER: Yes. Of his home. Seems like a pretty significant step.
MCCABE: Very, very significant step. So if they are at the point where they're executing search warrant at his residence, you know, first and foremost, that Clark is a target, is a subject of an FBI criminal investigation.
That alone, just opening that case, is a big deal. It's referred to as a sensitive investigative matter so the highest levels of both the FBI and the Department of Justice have to approve that investigation.
There's a lot of work that the investigators do with DOJ attorneys leading up to that search warrant.
So they've likely already issued subpoenas to telephone companies and Internet service providers and identified devices that Clark likely has and might contain evidence relevant to that criminal investigation.
They've talked to witnesses. They understand, of course, where he lives, what his habits are. And --
TAPPER: And what they're looking for.
MCCABE: And what they're looking for.
So they've gone to a federal judge. They've made the -- they've made a case to that federal judge, basically saying, Judge, we believe for the following reasons that there's evidence of criminal activity in this person's residence.
They describe the sorts of evidence they're looking for. And that, then, entitles them to enter the residence and search every place in that residence that might contain the things that they have laid out in the search warrant.
TAPPER: They were federal agents, I'm told, not the FBI. What's the difference?
MCCABE: Well, of course, FBI agents are federal agents. I would expect that in a high-profile political corruption investigation, how the bureau would look at this, that they were probably FBI agents. I haven't seen photographs of that search yet.
MCCABE: But it's likely FBI agents.
TAPPER: We were told that it was federal agents. We have not been able to confirm that they're FBI agents but they probably were, is what you're saying.
MCCABE: That's right.
TAPPER: So let's talk about the criminality here. Because I asked Carrie Cordero, our colleague, what possible law could be broken here? And I'm sure you guys have already talked about this. But she said it's 18 USC 371, conspiracy to defraud the United States.
And she said that in the U.S. attorney's manual, to explain what that means, defraud, the guidance includes "interfere with or obstruct one of its lawful government functions by deceit, craft, or trickery or at least by means that are dishonest."
And that sounds like the Trump law firm, deceit, craft, and trickery.
Is that the law they think may be -- that you would speculate Jeffrey Clark broke here?
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's one of them. It also would include in addition to the idea of trickery and deceit, the idea of trying to stop an official proceeding, the idea being there was an electoral count that was supposed to take place, the certification.
An additional one that the former attorney general, Eric Holder, tweeted about almost immediately after hearing that now infamous Raffensperger call, I want to find 11,000 votes.
And that's the idea of depriving a state of a fair and free election by similar means, by trying to procure or get and obtain votes that are not actually there.
So the idea of, if you don't even think there are 11,000 votes to find.
Also this idea of soliciting somebody else to do this. If you're not the one doing it, you also can't say, Jake, this is a violation of the law, I need you to do this. That can be a violation of law.
At the federal level, it's a little bit different. It needs to be of a violent crime as opposed to at a state level asking to do the wrong they think is a felony.
But there are a whole host of things that are now exposed. And to underscore your point, it had to be specificity. A judge does not believe that a raid equals a fishing expedition.
COATES: What are you looking for? One person's home is supposed to be their castle.
GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE ATTORNEY: That's right.
COATES: What do you think you will find right now?
And it might be that he has been not forthcoming or dishonest in the past about what he may have refused to hand over in the past or has tried to dispose of. We don't know.
CONWAY: And they'll have to be -- and they had to submit an affidavit to a --
CONWAY: -- United States magistrate judge or United States district judge where an FBI agent or the federal agent, whoever it is, laid out the particulars of why there's probable cause to believe that a crime was committed by someone and that there's evidence in this man's house.
Particularized because the Fourth Amendment requires that it be particularized, that there's evidence that would support that crime.
And in terms of the statutes involved, I mean, absolutely the big granddaddy statute that we have been talking about for weeks now, are Section 371, which is conspiracy to de defraud the United States, and 1512, the interference with an official proceeding.
But my -- this is my hobby horse here, OK?
CONWAY: When I says it to federal prosecutors, I was texting a couple this morning, federal prosecutors, they pooh-pooh me.
But the reason why I like this provision is it is dead on. Eighteen -- and it's not -- seldom charged.
It's the criminal provision of the Hatch Act. And it applies, unlike the rest of the Hatch Act, to the president and the vice president of the United States, the president here particularly.
So 18 USC -- I wish I had John's board here.
CONWAY: I can do this. So 18 USC 610, coercion of political activity. It shall -- this is --
anybody who can read English can see it applies:
"It shall be unlawful for any person to intimidate, threaten, command or coerce or attempt to intimidate, threaten, command or coerce any employee of the federal government to engage in or not engage in political activity." OK. Let's break that down. Threaten or coerce. We're going to hear
testimony today that Donald Trump was talking about removing Rosen, the acting attorney general, if he didn't send this letter out.
That's point number one. That goes to coercion. It's pretty much -- president of the United States talking about that. That's pretty coercive.
Secondly, we're talking about political activity. Was this political activity? We're going to hear testimony that Donald Trump said, you know, don't worry -- essentially, what he did with the Ukraine, with Ukraine.
Don't worry about the investigation. Just put out a statement, and I and the Republican congressmen will take care of it.
CONWAY: It's like, this is -- this is a dead-on, no-brain violation of this statute.
Now, the federal prosecutors would say they think it's, you know, not a biggie, but it's a felony with three years. You can get prison for three years.
TAPPER: We'll see if the Justice Department ever take any steps.
Coming up, we're awaiting the actual gaveling of the fifth public hearing from the January 6th committee this month. We're going to talk to some key figures from the Watergate era about what we could learn today. John Dean, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, all join us next.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: The Cannon caucus room is filling up as the January 6th committee is about to hold its latest public hearing.
Let's go back to Evan Perez, who is getting new information about the testimony of the key witness today, the former acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen.
Evan, what do you have?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, Jeffrey Rosen is sensitive.
And I think he's very eager to rebut some of the criticism he's heard out there about why he and other officials didn't resign, didn't quit when they knew what Trump was trying to do, what the former president was trying to do, to essentially overturn the 2020 elections.
He believes he stood his ground. He defended the Justice Department as an institution. He believes that had he gone public, it's possible, you know, that
Trump would have replaced him with someone who was going to carry through his wishes with the Justice Department for the Justice Department to support his vote fraud claims.
So, this is, you know, there's been some criticism of some of these Republicans who served under the former president, why didn't they go public?
In the case of Rosen, he believes he did everything he could to stop this from happening and to defend the institution and protect the institution at the time.
COOPER: Appreciate it. Thanks.
We're joined now by former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean, veteran journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
John Dean, is Jeffrey Rosen about to become the next you?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Maybe. I don't know how close he was to the White House staff, how involved how early.
I had the benefit of a big picture, which was able -- I was able to put Watergate and everything that was of that ilk into a context for -- as a witness.
COOPER: As a witness, what sort of pressure did you feel from the people you had worked with?
DEAN: Well, I'd kind of -- I'd broken rank trying to blow up a cover- up before I testified. I had also been fired for cooperating and talking to the prosecutors.
So, I -- I was sort of persona non grata at that point. They were out leaking bad information, anything they could to discredit me.
COOPER: Bob, what do you think today the importance of today's testimony is?
BOB WOODWARD, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: You know, over the years of doing this, for 50 years, I have known a dozen people who have been attorney general.
And it is in the legal community, and I think the political community, almost a holy office or as close as we get to that. And the expectations of that have frequently not been met.
But there have been some people who have really stood their ground. And this is what's happened in this case.
And it's not just the force of the person or the office. It's the good side of the legal establishment coming in and saying, no, we're not going to -- we're not going to put up with this. And the determined pushback.
I read the deposition, the sworn statement. You know, there was no kind of, well, we'll meet or we'll study it. No. We're not going to do that, because it's illegal.
And you notice, Trump didn't fire Rosen. He -- you know what? I think probably something in his head or some lawyer in the White House said, don't do it.
You pull that trigger, and you create what happened with the Saturday Night Massacre. And you will bring the wrath of your own party on your head.
COOPER: Carl, I think today we're going to see also what we saw the last hearing, which is the importance of individuals standing up and being honorable and just doing their jobs.
Because for a Jeffrey Rosen, who said, no, there's a Jeffrey Clark who said, oh, pick me. I'll be your henchman.
CARL BERNSTEIN, JOURNALIST & AUTHOR: That's absolutely correct. And what we are -- what we are seeing now are aides to the president of the United States who indeed have said to the investigators, here is what happened.
Let's take a look for one minute, though, at Pat Cipollone. He has not testified yet. But all of his aides have.
We keep talking about Pence. We saw him on a video. His principal aides have talked to the committee and to the Justice Department.
What we're watching in real time is the cover-up unraveling. That's the message of today.
And the raid on Judge Clark -- on former Deputy Attorney General Clark is absolutely telling as what, to Bob's point, the attorney general of the United States, Merrick Garland, he knew, authorized, or his deputy, Lisa Monaco, authorized that raid today on Clark.
This is watching the cover-up unravel. We know, the investigators know that this massive conspiracy begins at the top with Trump, goes down to his principal aides.
Includes members of Congress. Maybe three, four, five, six members of Congress are under investigation by the Justice Department. This is something we've never seen. It's different than Watergate.
It is about an attempt to defraud the United States, the people of the United States.
They have the case. They have the cover-up. We have the public hearings demonstrating it. And Republicans are noticing.
Including Mitch McConnell, whose wife, Elaine Chao, resigned the day after the January 6th insurrection. And was part of a group of cabinet members who discussed the possibility of invoking the 25th Amendment about this president of the United States.
So, we have a whole picture emerging that is shaking the Republicans in their boots. Where will this go? Where will it end?
To Bob's point, the Republicans know that Trump is becoming an albatross, and these hearings are making it more so.
COOPER: John Dean, first all, someone earlier raised the question of, why did the Justice Department just now raid Jeffrey Clark? I mean, it's not new. We've known for a while exactly what his role was.
DEAN: And that he was taking the Fifth Amendment before the committee. It was well known he had invoked it.
It is clear their grand jury is building its case. They need the information. They know they have the power to do this. They went out and got it. They are playing hardball now.
Anybody who thought there wasn't going to be an investigation of what had gone on, on January 6th, really didn't understand the professionals, the line professionals.
They wouldn't tolerate it. There would have been, at some point, a revolt. Who knows when it would happen? So it's a natural course what's happening right now.
COOPER: We'll take a quick break. We are just minutes away from the start of today's hearing.
Our special coverage continues in a moment.
TAPPER: We are a few minutes away from a new round of evidence and testimony in the January 6th investigation.
The House Select Committee says today's hearing is all about then- President Trump's attempts to pressure top Justice Department officials to embrace phony claims of election fraud to overturn the election.
And how those officials, all Republicans, all who worked for Trump, were loyal to Trump, how they pushed back.
Heading into today's hearing, committee members were thrown something of a curveball.
Let's go to Manu Raju on the Hill.
Manu, there was a raid on the home of former Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark, who is key to the testimony we will hear.
What's the reaction from the committee?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Surprise. These members were blindsided by this news. Many didn't get any heads up. Some learned on Twitter. That's how it was learned about.
Even the chairman of the committee, Bennie Thompson, said moments ago, said he had just heard about it.
One congressman, Pete Aguilar, on the committee, made a sarcastic remark, saying, "Just shocking how the timing works," referring to the fact that, yes, indeed, this hearing this afternoon will focus on pressure of DOJ officials by Trump and his allies to overturn the electoral results.
It will focus heavily on Jeff Clark's role in all that in aligning himself with Donald Trump and how he tried to lean on states to overturn their results.
One congressman, one who sits on this committee, I asked her about this news. She learned just the way everyone else did about Clark's home being raided.
Again, underscored, she said that shows how central of a player he is and that he'll play in today's hearing, which will begin in just a matter of moments -- Jake?
TAPPER: If you are tuning in, you see a number of the police and Capitol Police, the Metropolitan Police Department, and others, who testified at the first hearing. They were sitting on a bench.
And I believe that is the actor, Sean Penn, sitting with them. Sean Penn sitting next to our friend, Officer Mike Fanone, and others that we heard from at that moving testimony a few months ago.
While we wait for the committee to enter the room and gavel in, let's talk about what we are expecting to hear.
Dana Bash, let me, again, underscore for our viewers. Trump exhausted all the remedies in courts, exhausted all the remedies before election boards. There was no evidence of fraud. He pressured state legislatures to overturn the election.
And here we have the witnesses. There's former acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, with the white hair, and others coming in. They will swear in, in a second.
In any case, after failing to get the legislatures to appoint these fake slates of electors, he tried to weaponize the Justice Department with Jeffrey Clark -- who will not testify live today, but his home was just raided -- being appointed as the attorney general.
And then sending a letter to the states embracing the lie that there was widespread fraud and demanding the states appoint these fraudulent electors, thus throwing the election into disarray and Trump maneuvering so he could stay as president.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We've seen a lot of -- all of these witnesses in brief snippets in taped testimony.
To hear them and see them live is going -- and especially weeks leading up to, but actually that meeting, that appears to be an unbelievably dramatic consequential meeting in the Oval Office.
Where they stop the president from firing them, at the Justice Department, in order to put Jeffrey Clark in to actually execute his wishes. That is going to be fascinating.
The other thing is, who is going to be questioning them? It will be the first time we will see and hear from Adam Kinzinger, one of only two Republicans, of course, on this committee.