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CNN TONIGHT: Steve Bannon Changes Tune, Now Says He'll Testify Before Committee; Watchdog Warns DHS Falling Behind On Tackling Domestic Terrorism; Tomorrow's Hearing To Focus On Trumpworld Ties To Extremist Groups. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired July 11, 2022 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: But I did mess that up, in the last segment.
The people at NASA are excited. And President Biden, certainly, when he unveiled the first image, from the James Webb Space Telescope.
Those points of light, you see, are some of the very first galaxies, to form in the universe, billions of years ago. What you see, by the way, is from a speck of sky, as small as a grain of sand, held at arm's length. My mind is exploding!
And the blurring, and stretching, you see, in some of the galaxies? That is actually their light being bent by all the massive galaxies, between them, and us. Gravitational lensing, a key prediction of Einstein's theory of general relativity. Something to make even Einstein smile! And I have to do more research to understand what that all means.
The news continues. Want to hand it over to Laura Coates, and CNN TONIGHT.
LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Wow! We're talking about Einstein! You're already above me. Thanks, Anderson. I appreciate it. I know E equals MC-square. That's about all I can get you today!
But I am Laura Coates. And this is CNN TONIGHT.
So, Steve Bannon, he threw down the gauntlet, after being indicted, on criminal contempt charges, back in November. Remember this? For defying a January 6th committee subpoena?
He threatened to raise, well, complete holy hell. Remember?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: This is going to be a misdemeanor, from hell, for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden.
I'm never going to back down. And they - they took on the wrong guy this time, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Well, that's what makes the one-time Trump White House adviser's move now, well, extra confounding. Because, eight months ago, Bannon said that he wasn't backing down, ever. I mean, "The wrong guy this time," right?
Well, trial dates have a funny way of making people change their minds, shall we say? Because now, he is, well, backing down, willing to testify before that very committee that he seemed to be mocking and taunting.
Now, what exactly changed, other than maybe the calendar date? We're going to dig a lot deeper into all of that tonight, along with new January 6th hearing developments.
And if Bannon thought his decision, to testify now, would call someone's bluff at the DOJ? Well, he's sorely mistaken, because the trial is still happening, and it won't even be postponed. A federal judge denied, his legal team's request, to delay his trial, today. And it will start as planned, one week, from today.
The DOJ made clear the charges weren't being filed to try to persuade him, to testify, someday, in the future. No, the contempt was to punish him, for failing to testify, in the past, and saying, quote, this is "Little more than an attempt to change the optics of his contempt on the eve of trial." And "Eve" is right, if it starts next Monday.
And remember, think back to the very reason that he gave, for not testifying in the first place. Bannon claimed that former President Trump had muzzled him, really, by asserting executive privilege.
Well, now Trump put out a letter, waiving that privilege, to clear the way for his long-time ally, to testify. Of course, it's not actually clear whether there was ever any applicable privilege, to begin with, let alone one that would give Steve Bannon some sort of carte blanche to go mute.
But, as they say, wait, there's more! In another related twist, the DOJ says the FBI interviewed this guy, former Trump lawyer, Justin Clark, just two weeks ago.
(GRAPHIC IS SHOWN OF FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY JUSTIN CLARK)
COATES: And this man confirmed that Trump never invoked executive privilege, over anything that relates to Steve Bannon. So, did Trump then wave what he never asserted? We'll think on that, in just a moment.
And meanwhile, it's the eve of another potentially consequential hearing, for Trumpworld. The House Select Committee will seek to directly tie far-right extremists, including groups like the Oath Keepers, like the Proud Boys, whose members were charged with seditious conspiracy, to Donald Trump and, of course, his associates. According to the committee aides, the panel will be zooming in on long-time Trump loyalists, Roger Stone, and Michael Flynn.
Now, we know already the Oath Keepers, they have given some sort of security, for some of Roger Stone's events. And he's denied, as we've said, knowing any of the plans, to storm the Capitol.
A former Oath Keeper spokesman, is now going to testify, we're told, as may be a key witness, tomorrow. Prosecutors say that some Oath Keepers' members actually brought explosives, to the D.C. area, around January 6th, and had a quote, "Death list."
And this committee said, it's going to really hone in, tomorrow, on just how this violent mob, all came together.
And, in their body of evidence, so to speak, members are going to say, they will lay out, how Donald Trump's tweet, as the President of the United States, back on December 19th of 2020 that the "Be there, be wild" tweet? That was called some sort of a siren call, to the mob, and actually became a catalyst, for the violence that we then saw.
In fact, listen to member Jamie Raskin, and how he defines it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): The first time, in American history, when a President of the United States, called a protest, against his own government, in fact, to try to stop the counting of Electoral College votes, in a presidential election, he had lost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: So, could the Trump White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone's testimony that we know happened, last Friday, is that going to connect some of these dots for us?
I mean, he was at the, reportedly, heated meeting, in the Oval Office that had allegedly had a talk about seizing voting machines, right before that tweet was sent out. Now, sources familiar with the testimony, tell CNN that he was asked extensively, about his role, in that meeting, and also what was discussed.
And apparently, we're going to even see some snippets, of his testimony, the kind that we've seen in other hearings as well. The committee is thought to play some of those testimonial moments, in video, tomorrow.
Now, as for the Steve Bannon drama, shall we say, I'm going to turn to two people with very valuable insight.
CNN Commentator Jonah Goldberg, who knows Steve Bannon.
And Marc Fisher, who has interviewed him, several times, and written extensively, about Bannon's relationship, with Donald Trump. He's a Senior Editor, at The Washington Post.
I'm glad that you're both here.
And Jonah, I want to begin with you. Because, you don't know him very well, of course. But you have known him, before he was part of the administration, for Trump.
And I'm just wondering what you think Steve Bannon is doing, like what this game is? Is it a game, he wants to testify now, likely to be in public, right?
JONAH GOLDBERG, CO-FOUNDER & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, THE DISPATCH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right.
COATES: I mean, surprise, surprise, you want to have a platform, and maybe a show? Is it a show? Or is it a change of heart, do you think?
GOLDBERG: Oh, I think it's a show. I mean, I don't think - people are going to try and turn this into some sort of complex mystery, more layers than a Steve Bannon ensemble. He likes to wear a lot of layers!
But remember, he said his own philosophy about how to deal with political warfare, deal with the Democrats, deal with the media, is to flood the zone with, this is a family show, fecal matter! That is his--
COATES: Thank you for that.
GOLDBERG: Yes, you're--
COATES: That was very nice. Even at primetime. Good for you!
COATES: Good for you!
GOLDBERG: And that's part of what he's, I think, he's doing here. The real test, I would believe that he actually wants to cooperate, with the committee, in a sincere good-faith way. First of all, if he wasn't about to go on trial.
But if he said that he was willing to hand over all of the documents, and communications that the committee asked for, text messages, emails, all that. Remember, he was deeply involved with a lot of the grifter networks that planned the "Stop the Steal" thing from the beginning? That's not part of his offer.
His offer is to do a live testimony that will flood the zone, with various matter that normally hits a fan. He wants to be the fan, and he wants to make a big scene. And the rest of it is all just nonsense.
COATES: A part of me wants to see how many more times, you can allude to it, and not actually say it. And I kind of want to keep going. But I'm going to bring--
GOLDBERG: Don't dare me! COATES: I won't continue now. But I'm going to bring Marc into the conversation.
Because Marc, before the proverbial hits the fan, let me just talk about the fact that Steve Bannon, first of all, has not agreed, I had to understand - don't think, to actually hand over any documents.
But what's curious to me is, remember, he was really persona non grata, to Donald Trump, at one point. I mean, it wasn't like they left with a bromance intact.
And I'm wondering, as a part of this, do you think by Trump sort of putting out there, waiving the privilege that he likely never actually had sort of a final nail in the coffin of that moment, to say, "No, no. You and I? We're not friends?"
MARC FISHER, SENIOR EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST, CO-AUTHOR, "TRUMP REVEALED": Well, Steve Bannon, and Donald Trump, talk about gamesmanship? The two of them have been going at each other, for quite some years, now.
And what's happening here is that Bannon, is a way for Trump, to kind of push back, against the January 6th committee, put Bannon out there, knowing that he's there, to disrupt things.
Bannon has been very clear, about this, from the start. He's not exactly hiding his motives here. He talks about it, on his podcast, all the time. He wants to delegitimize the Biden presidency. That was his motive, in supporting the January 5th - the January 6th demonstration, and in saying that all hell would break loose, that day. And so, that's what he's doing now too.
He wants to disrupt this January 6th investigative committee that has been pretty successful at putting on a show of its own, and controlling its message, and just presenting the public, with very carefully-curated hearings, each day. He wants this to be his live performance, where he can turn things upside-down.
But the gamesmanship goes both ways. And the committee understands what he's up to. And they want the kind of control that they've asserted, over every one of the hearings, so far, where they interview people, in advance, for hours, on end, and then only pick out the choice bits, to present to the public.
COATES: In fact, Jonah, for you, you look at this issue, a little bit, in that same vein. As in, on the one hand, it's important to get the messaging out, in the sense of here's what happened, here's what led up to it.
But you've been pretty critical about the idea of how the actual production has been done, not in terms of the logistics, but the idea of not having this be the invitation, for Trump allies, to speak more vocally about their stance. I wonder, has that changed, over time, given that the people, who have testified, largely, are Trump supporters, and allies, and part of the administration?
GOLDBERG: Yes. Look, my view on it is, I'm very sympathetic to the larger aims of the committee, which is to get a historical record out there. I think the idea of a criminal referral, is deeply fraught. But we don't need to get into that.
But the reason that - the committee is set up in such a way that it gives ample good-faith, and also a lot of bad-faith, criticisms, to its critics. It is one-sided.
No one testifies to that committee, unless the committee knows what the answers, to the questions, are already going to be. It is not typically how a normal congressional committee is organized. That is not entirely on the Democrats, as Trump supporters want to claim.
The Republicans, they got what they wished for.
GOLDBERG: They wanted to delegitimize this. And so, they got the structure that they thought would work best for them. And it hasn't worked out that way.
And so, what I always tell people is, look, Jamie Raskin, and Bennie Thompson, they are partisan Democrats. And as - when I talk to fellow conservatives, I say, "I don't care what they say. I don't care even what questions they ask."
I care about the fact, as you alluded to, that virtually every witness, except for two or three people, has been not just a Republican, not just a conservative, but until basically January 6th, a diehard Trump supporter. These are these people saying it. And the only people who could rebut it, are the ones pleading the Fifth, and refusing to cooperate.
COATES: So Marc, does that matter to you? I mean, the idea, does that make a bigger impact, the idea of an, you don't want to get to being criminally fraught, Jonah.
But does it make a difference, you think, to the audience, the consuming electorate, those who I'm assuming the committee wants to persuade, at least, to understand what happened? Does it make a difference, who is the actual speaker? I mean, it's kind of the opposite of killing the messenger. It's reportedly putting them in the front row.
FISHER: Well, I think, it does make a difference. And, I think, we're seeing in some of the softening of the support, for Trump, in the wake of this investigation, that there is a mentality, developing among Republicans, among Trump supporters, that this was really a very bad situation, on January 6th, that people are not telling the truth, about it, on Trump's side, and that upstanding Republicans, are coming forward, and blowing the whistle. And that's been the clear, consistent message, of these hearings.
But it does have to be said that there has not been the kind of back- and-forth, the kind of cross examination, the kinds of hostile witnesses that we generally see, in congressional investigations, of this sort.
And if the public harkens back to not just the Watergate hearings, but many others, through history, there is this expectation that there's going to be that kind of confrontation. And we haven't seen that. That may kind of deplete some of the drama that one expects from this kind of an investigative hearing.
COATES: Or it could mean gentlemen that perhaps January 6th, is not the Rorschach test, it's been made out to be. And maybe the reason it hasn't been this, is because, people's eyes actually saw what happened. But more on this later.
Thank you, both. I appreciate it.
Now, once again, we see the Select Committee, changing its hearing schedule, with little warning. The last time it did so, we had Cassidy Hutchinson. And she came, and her testimony, I mean, stunned, so many people, dare I say, the nation.
So, what does this latest change in plan suggests about where the probe could be headed, or where it's not, as we get new details tonight? That's next.
COATES: The January 6th committee moved a major primetime hearing, expected for Thursday. Now, it's going to be next week.
A committee aide tells CNN, the delay will give investigators time to process, the quote, "New and important information," unquote that they say the panel was actually getting, on a daily basis.
Now, the news, of course, comes amid Bannon's about-face on testifying, and after former White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone, sat for over seven hours, of questioning, on Friday. We're expected to hear at least part of Cipollone's testimony, for the very first, time tomorrow.
Joining me now, to discuss, is Elliot Williams. Jonah Goldberg is still here. And also, Miles Taylor.
I mean, you're still here. I mean, I'm glad you're still here. He's - and this guy's still here.
MILES TAYLOR, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY NIELSEN: He wouldn't leave!
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Can't get rid of this guy! COATES: I couldn't get rid of him!
GOLDBERG: I'm a lurker!
COATES: I'm just kidding. You're here. Welcome.
COATES: I'm glad you're here. Let's just move right on.
Elliot, let me ask you this question.
COATES: Because, look, Elliot, the fact that they're moving the hearing date, again? I mean, forget all of our schedules. I'm not taking it personally. But they're moving it again.
COATES: This is not the first time we've had a hearing date be moved. Does it say anything to you, in terms of reading the tea leaves? I mean, a primetime event, to me, said, I thought it was going to happen.
COATES: Is it not going to now?
WILLIAMS: Well, here's the thing. You used the words, Laura, "Primetime event." Think of how often you see congressional hearings, in primetime. And they want to get it right.
Think about the fact also that in the last couple of weeks, we've heard from Pat Cipollone. And Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony came out of nowhere, for the most part.
WILLIAMS: People knew that she was out there. But at the end of the day, it was new late breaking information, and evidence. They want to get it right.
Look, I was Deputy Assistant Attorney General, at the Justice Department, helping sort of to prepare witnesses, for hearings. And Congress thinks about these things a great deal. So, I wouldn't read too much into it, and would actually think that they'll get a better product, by waiting and delaying.
COATES: Got to get it right. I mean, they say right, perfection though, is the enemy of progress, whatever the phrase is, I don't know.
GOLDBERG: Some other words!
COATES: Who knows? TAYLOR: I'm going to be a tiny bit less charitable than Elliot.
TAYLOR: And just say - and Jonah and I, were talking about this earlier. Look, congressional committees are an S-show. I'll just bleep myself there, right?
WILLIAMS: Oh my!
TAYLOR: I've worked on congressional committees. They can be really difficult, right?
The committee is doing a great job, publicly bringing out its very polished intelligence. But behind-the-scenes, these things are fly by the seat of your pants, last minute. And put, on top of that, what Elliott said, which is, this is in primetime.
But there's a second, more important factor here that Elliott alluded to. And that is, look, at the end of the day, the most significant takeaway, from these delays, is that that new people are coming forward.
TAYLOR: A year and a half, after January 6th, the fact that new people are coming forward, tells you many things. But it also tells you they are having an effect, not necessarily on swaying the masses, not necessarily on having a huge impact, on whether Trump will run again.
They're having an impact by scaring the people, around Donald Trump. Those people now want to come forward, because they're getting worried about what they're hearing.
COATES: Well, does it make them a martyr, though? I mean, in a way, I'm - think about Steve Bannon, for example. I hear your point. Absolutely.
But Jonah, the idea of if you're saying, "Hey, I'm willing to testify. I want to do it publicly," and they shoot you down? Is that kind of productive, for this committee, for those same reasons?
GOLDBERG: I think you can actually make the argument that maybe like people, it's certainly going to be talking point, on the Right.
GOLDBERG: "Oh, they're afraid to let Bannon"--
GOLDBERG: --"do his thing." In a counter - and there's sort of a counterintuitive thing here. I completely understand, and kind of agree with you, on one level that when you say primetime event, you think, "OK, it's like the Oscars. They got it down to a tee."
But in a sort of counterintuitive way, the fact that they keep doing this now, kind of lends itself, to the drama, of a reality show, in the sense like, "Oh, my gosh, what's going to happen next?"
GOLDBERG: Twists and turns! Because it makes it more unpredictable. The Cassidy Hutchinson thing made it seem like more of an unfolding event, in real-time. And that probably keeps people's attention to this.
Got to remember, a lot of people, determined, a lot of people, I mean, Tucker Carlson, refused to take a commercial break, for the first hearing, because he didn't think it deserved any attention whatsoever.
And now, there are a lot of people, on the Right, who are paying attention. Some are hate-watching it. Some are mad. Some are screaming at the TV, like it's pro-wrestling. But they're watching.
And I think that this sort of zigzagging thing does probably speak to a lot of internal turmoil, at the committee, and a lot of new facts coming at them, fast. But it also keeps people's eyes tuned.
WILLIAMS: Can we take a minute, to just embrace the cleverness of Steve Bannon, for a moment? And no, but really because--
WILLIAMS: No but--
COATES: Actually no.
WILLIAMS: No, but here's the thing. He put the committee, in an interesting position.
Because number one, they - if they put him on, in a live hearing, they're not going to, or may not, right? But they put it on live hearing? He turns it into a circus about the Deep State, and all kinds of conspiracy theories, and so on.
If they don't, he can claim, as Jonah had said that, "Well, now they're silencing us. And they're not letting me speak. And this is - this was just a one-sided kangaroo court, from the beginning."
So, they have - it's not a reality show, per se. But they have some gamesmanship here--
WILLIAMS: --to figure out, how to sort of win this back, or win it, this, dispute with Bannon.
COATES: But you can't have it both ways.
WILLIAMS: Right. COATES: It strikes me, people are saying, "Listen, there's not both sides represented. There's not other people able to testify." And they say, "Hold on, this is not a criminal proceeding. You can't treat it as such."
If it were a courtroom, I would agree. You'd have to have, I mean, at least the defensive put on their case, right? They had that due process element of it.
COATES: This is not that.
Can they have it both ways, Miles, in the sense of saying, "This is not supposed to be a criminal proceeding," and then also demand the same requirements of due process, and the idea of a robust defense. Even, of course, they have their chance. McCarthy said, "Pull everyone out. Leave just who he calls the RINOs."
TAYLOR: Well, look, when it comes to Bannon, I'd say this. He had his shot. He should have come, and spoken to the committee, when he was subpoenaed to come speak before the committee. He didn't respond to that subpoena. He's being prosecuted for it right now.
To do the showman thing, which is what Steve Bannon is, he's a showman, at the last minute, seems far too exploitive, of the process. It seems like he's trying to get TV time. And besides, he hasn't sat down, with the committee.
Everyone we've seen testify, to my knowledge, has first met with the committee, behind closed doors, so they could understand, cross- examine them, compare that with other information.
For Bannon, not to do that, would be a mistake, on the committee's part, and it wouldn't serve the public. So, I think, at a minimum, what they need to do is have a conversation, with him, behind closed doors, and see what they find.
But again, we're in like the buzzer shot period, of the public hearings, of this committee. So, I think, it's disingenuous--
GOLDBERG: And also, it would have been a better - it would have been a better gambit, if it didn't coincide, with him, desperately trying to delay this trial.
COATES: Right. It tells them--
COATES: I mean, the trial is on Monday. The idea of the - not the 11th hour. This is happening. And it's still going to happen, by the way.
And I still wonder, is this Trump by essentially saying, "No, you can go ahead and talk," is that his last sort of "Screw you" on this? WILLIAMS: Right. And it - but it doesn't change the fact that he's been charged with criminal contempt. It's that--
COATES: For his past behavior.
WILLIAMS: For his past behavior.
WILLIAMS: So, whether he shows up here or not? That doesn't change the fact that, number one, he still owes them, documents. And number two, didn't come in when they wanted him to come in, last time.
So right, it's all a ploy. I was teasing about the cleverness thing. It's sort of sinister cleverness. But, at the end of the day, it's all a stunt. And--
COATES: We're all aware of sarcasm, at this table!
WILLIAMS: Yes, we are. Thank you for that.
COATES: It was and--
TAYLOR: Crazy enough to work, by the way.
COATES: Thank you so much.
WILLIAMS: It's so crazy--
COATES: It's crazy enough to work.
COATES: Like this panel! Stick around guys, everyone, here, OK?
And join CNN's Drew Griffin, for a new investigation, into Steve Bannon, and his master plan, to reshape the U.S. government, and the Republican Party. The CNN Special Report, "STEVE BANNON: DIVIDED WE FALL," begins Sunday, at 8 PM Eastern.
Now, coming up here, with Select Committee with trying to establish a connection, between the extremists, and the Trump White House, leading up to January 6th, I'll be joined by former Homeland Security Secretary.
I wonder if she thinks the government is doing enough to try and stop more bloodshed. We'll ask her, next.
COATES: Tomorrow, the American public, will learn more, about the role that rightwing extremists played in the January 6th attack. And since that day, the domestic terror threat has frankly only grown.
And a new Watchdog report warns that the Department of Homeland Security could, quote, "Do more to address the threats," unquote, and it, quote, "May not be able to proactively prevent and protect the nation," unquote.
Now, a few people know, the challenges, more than my next guest. She was the Homeland Security Secretary, during the Obama administration.
Janet Napolitano, welcome to the program. I'm glad to have you here, particularly, on a night like this.
JANET NAPOLITANO, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA, PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY, UC BERKELEY, FOUNDING DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR SECURITY IN POLITICS, UC BERKELEY: Thank you.
COATES: Secretary, I have to ask. I mean, you, I remember, in 2009, the DHS, under you, issued a report, called "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment." That was 2009.
How have things changed to date? Is it worse, in your mind?
NAPOLITANO: Oh, it's worse. The threat of domestic extremism has grown. It's metastasized. It's, if anything, become more, well- organized. I think the role of social media, in this process, can't be overestimated. It's an extraordinarily difficult problem.
COATES: In that vein, I think about the ideas, and like you see commercials, for like Meta, or Facebook, talking about, find your people, the idea of people being able to find one another, not suggest that they're the reason for this.
But the role of social media, in particular, I mean, there are these private and encrypted chat rooms that are popping up, all around. In fact, Enrique Tarrio, who is the Proud Boys leader, was communicating, in an encrypted group.
But I'm wondering, what sort of threat that poses, for DHS, in trying to tap into it? Is it an overwhelming burden to try to figure out where to go next, then?
NAPOLITANO: Well, it's certainly difficult.
And it requires an extraordinary amount of kind of resource intensiveness, to monitor what you can, on social media. It also requires really good coordination, with local law enforcement, with other community groups, people in the general citizenry. Everybody has a role, to play, here.
But these groups, like I said, they've just grown and metastasized, over the last decade.
COATES: Secretary, when I hear, sometimes, the phrase of "Everyone has a role to play," and given the idea that there has to be that symbiotic relationship, between local government and, of course, federal.
I wonder at times, is DHS even prepared? I mean, if it's a patchwork, state-by-state, for example, of how one deals with the issue, it feels like a losing game.
NAPOLITANO: It's, look, I'm not going to - I'm not going to say it's easy. It's not. It's very, very difficult. What DHS has to do is monitor as best they can, and coordinate as best they can. But we live in a big country, with lots of players in it, in the law enforcement realm, in the community realm. It's just very difficult.
We started a campaign, when I was Secretary, "See Something, Say Something," which was designed to get every citizen, acculturated to the notion that everyone has a role to play here.
And the stakes are very high. These extremist groups are trying to undermine our country, trying to undermine our democracy. That's what we saw, on January, the 6th. So, it's a very serious Homeland Security issue.
COATES: Secretary, a part of me wonders, if people have taken that, so literally, in a different way, the "See something, say something." Because part of the extremist groups, they are very vocal about the things they believe in. It has the idea of political division.
And they're saying things, in a way that is either enticing others, to join, and act out, their political dissent, in ways, I think, was not contemplated when people spoke about the freedom of speech, and the First Amendment, and redressing grievances, and trying to use the government, as a way, and vehicle, to do what people want, for representation purposes.
Do you wonder how to make, and how the DHS, can navigate this really sort of, and thread a very difficult needle, about, on the one hand, people being proactive, and speaking out, and then holding them to account, for when they go too far?
NAPOLITANO: Right. And that's really one of the chief challenges, which is that, freedom of speech is protected in our country.
But acting out, on that speech, to commit acts of violence, to form conspiracies, and the like? That's not protected by the First Amendment. That's where judgment comes in, and judgment by the Department, by the FBI, by others, who are charged with protecting the security of our country.
COATES: Well, Secretary Napolitano, thank you. Nice speaking with you.
NAPOLITANO: You bet. Thank you.
COATES: Look, the committee says, it's planning to zero in, tomorrow, on kind of what we're talking about, today. This one meeting that took place, in the Oval Office, a couple weeks, before the insurrection. And they're going to spotlight one specific tweet, sent out by then- President Trump that one member referred to as the quote-unquote "Siren call" tweet.
Take you through the key parts of the timeline, next.
COATES: The January 6th committee, is trying to draw a straight line, between the White House, and violent extremists. To see how they might? We have to go back to December 2020. That month began with Bill Barr saying publicly that there was no widespread fraud.
The same day, Georgia Republican, Gabe Sterling, issued this warning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GABRIEL STERLING, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE'S OFFICE: Someone's going to get hurt. Someone's going to get shot. Someone's going to get killed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Well, in the weeks that followed, the "Stop the Steal" movement picked up steam, with rallies, across the country, many of them turning violent.
At one rally, in particular, December 11th, right here, in D.C., we know Enrique Tarrio was in the crowd. The Washington Post reports that he met with longtime Trump ally, Roger Stone, there.
Now, Tarrio is the head of the Proud Boys, and he's facing serious seditious conspiracy charges. While he and Stone were reportedly meeting, we know that another extremist leader was coming up with some kind of a plan.
Stewart Rhodes, Founder of the Oath Keepers, is also charged with that same thing. And that same day, he wrote his fellow Oath Keepers that if Joe Biden became president, quote, "It will be a bloody and desperate fight. We are going to fight. That can't be avoided," unquote.
Now, the next day, Tarrio posted a picture of himself, at the White House. The Administration would say that he was just there on a public tour. But we know, within the Executive branch, Donald Trump was open to more fringe ideas, shall we say?
On December 14th, he met with DOJ leadership, and pushed extreme ideas, like appointing a Special Counsel, and maybe even seizing voting machines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Mr. Donoghue, can you explain what the President did, after he was told that the Justice Department would not seize voting machines?
RICHARD DONOGHUE, FORMER ACTING U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: President was very agitated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Well, he would still be agitated, days later, is when the DOJ wouldn't do it, folks like Sidney Powell, and Michael Flynn, and Rudy Giuliani, were in the Oval Office, pushing many of the same ideas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RASKIN: One of the things that people are going to learn is the fundamental importance of a meeting that took place, in the White House, on December, the 18th.
And on that day, the group of lawyers, of outside lawyers, who've been denominated "Team Crazy," by people, in and around the White House, came in to try to urge several new courses of action, including the seizure of voting machines, around the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone, he was in that meeting, and nearly told the committee, just how insane the meeting was.
A few hours later, Donald Trump was on Twitter, calling for his supporters, to come to Washington, on January 6th, and promising it will, quote, "Will be wild."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RASKIN: People are going to hear the story of that tweet, and then the explosive effect, it had, in Trumpworld, and specifically among the domestic violent extremist groups, the most dangerous political extremists in the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: And many of the same people who were in that December 18th meeting, folks like Michael Flynn, and Rudy Giuliani, they'd also be at the so-called War Room that was at the Willard Hotel, in the days before January 6th.
Now, you'll remember, Trump's Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, he wanted to be there with him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO TRUMP WH CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: Mr. Meadows had a conversation, with me, where he wanted me to work with Secret Service, on a movement, from the White House, to the Willard Hotel, so he could attend the meeting, or meetings, with Mr. Giuliani, and his associates, in the War Room.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COATES: Also there, Roger Stone, who had the Proud Boys were his security for him, apparently, on January 6th.
Then, Steve Bannon, who famously offered this preview, of January 6th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BANNON: All hell is going to break loose, tomorrow. Just understand this, all hell is going to break loose, tomorrow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: I see a trend with the word, "Hell!"
But so, how important is that timeline, and tomorrow's testimony, from the former Oath Keepers' spokesman? We'll look at that, and newly- revealed evidence, including an alleged death list that was kept, by another Oath Keeper, when CNN TONIGHT, returns.
COATES: New insight, tonight, about the witnesses, expected at tomorrow's January 6th hearing.
Sources telling CNN, at least one will be a rioter, from the insurrection. Stephen Ayres, an Ohio man, who accused Joe Biden, and other Democrats, of, quote, "Treason," pleading guilty, to entering the Capitol, last month.
We're also expected to hear from Jason Van Tatenhove, a former spokesperson, and self-described propagandist, for the Oath Keepers.
It's testimony, like that, which will be crucial, for investigators, working to establish some link between the Trump White House, and domestic extremists, who helped lead the mob, into the Capitol that day.
Elliot Williams, Jonah Goldberg, and Miles Taylor, are all back with me.
And yes, Jonah's still here. So, there we go.
WILLIAMS: Tough crowd!
COATES: I'm glad you're all here, still. I'm just winking at you, Jonah, for that reason about it.
COATES: But you know what? Listen. It is a very big ask that you're going to be able to convince the public that there's a link between extremists and Donald Trump.
GOLDBERG: Yes. COATES: Remember, the Michael Cohen phenomenon, of the idea of, he wasn't particularly, explicit about saying instructional things, "You do this."
Listen to this. Remember this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: That's how he speaks. He doesn't give you questions. He doesn't give you orders. He speaks in a code. And I understand the code, because I've been around him for a decade.
JUSTIN AMASH, FORMER UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: And it's your impression that others, who work for him, understand the code as well?
COHEN: Most people, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: OK. Elliot?
COATES: I mean, it works for Michael Cohen. A decade of knowledge.
But how about the Oath Keepers? The Proud Boys? Arguably, they haven't been following him, obviously, as the President of the United States, for 10 years. He hasn't been - he was not the president, for that amount of time.
Is that convincing, for somebody, other than a Michael Cohen, if you're trying to bridge that gap?
WILLIAMS: It's tough. Look, Laura, you know well, there's basically two rules, of being a prosecutor. Don't wear bright-colored jewelry, in front of a jury. And criminal intent is hard to prove. And--
COATES: I broke the jewelry rule--
WILLIAMS: You broke the jewelry rule!
COATES: --all the time.
COATES: I was vibrant, my friend!
WILLIAMS: You were vibrant!
COATES: Vivacious and charismatic!
WILLIAMS: This guy--
COATES: But go ahead. WILLIAMS: This guy, no cufflinks, in front of a jury. But here's the thing. And criminal intent is hard to prove. And linking someone that he intended to carry out an action is just difficult to do.
Now, look, the crime itself of seditious conspiracy, is using force, to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States. You've got that, for all the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys that are charged. Proving that the President conspired with them, agreed with them, met with them, is just challenging.
And that link, now, the committee is teasing that this January - the December 18th meeting, some - there might have been some conversation, where they were aware, in the White House, of what the Proud Boys, and Oath Keepers, were going to do.
But that link is just going to be challenging, to prove, for charging the President, with the crime. Now, look, even if you can't charge him? It's disgraceful conduct. And let's be clear. It should never have happened by any elected official, in the United States, but just may not be criminally chargeable.
COATES: Well, Jonah, you're nodding your head, because of the disgraceful part of it. And part of the committee's goal seems to be the - I don't think I'm stretching the truth here, when I say that I interpret their behavior to mean they're trying to essentially disqualify him, in the eyes of the electorate.
COATES: This is somebody, who should not be the President of the United States.
Is that convincing, if they have to bridge that gap? Because you have Michael Flynn, by the way, Roger Stone, who know Trump more than, say, the Oath Keepers, or Proud Boys, over the last several years.
GOLDBERG: Yes, I get sort of impeachment flashbacks, during a lot of these kind of conversations. Because, during impeachment, you had a lot of lawyers. I'm not a lawyer. I can still see my reflection, in the mirror!
COATES: Oh, what?
GOLDBERG: Hey, you've been--
GOLDBERG: --you're talking about me like--
COATES: Oh! GOLDBERG: --you've talking about me like I'm some rash that won't go away--
WILLIAMS: Goldberg, shoos (ph) this guy away.
COATES: Whoa! And, as I said, Jonah Goldberg, for some reasons, is still here.
GOLDBERG: Yes, I rest my case!
No, but, look, there are lots of people, who want - Alan Dershowitz always come in, and say, "This doesn't meet this criminal standard that doesn't meet that - and political impeachment - impeachments are political acts, not criminal court proceedings," and all that. This is not a criminal courtroom.
GOLDBERG: And the goal of it should - I mean, I would like the goal - I would like the consequence of it to be disqualifying Trump, from public office, and all of that.
But the aim of this should just be to lay out the record. And, I think, you're absolutely right. If they overreach and try to beat the benefit, go beyond the reasonable doubt kind of thing--
GOLDBERG: --all they have to do is prove, which I think is sort of obvious that this was foreseeable, given the advice, he was getting, from Team Crazy that he was surrounding himself with.
He rejected people, who told him things he didn't want to hear, and brought in, the cuckoo birds, like Sidney Powell, or whatever, who told him exactly what he wanted to hear. And Roger Stone, and these guys invited these people. They laid out these predicates.
He said, "Get rid of the magnetometers," even though he knew they were armed.
GOLDBERG: And just let America connect the dots. You don't have to hammer down all those dots.
WILLIAMS: You know?
COATES: So, lead a horse to water?
COATES: Don't dunk its head into drink? GOLDBERG: Yes.
COATES: Good point.
TAYLOR: At the risk of siding on the non-lawyer side of the table, and against you all, I'd say this.
COATES: It's a huge risk, right now, Miles.
TAYLOR: Yes! Maybe there's a criminal case to be made there. I wouldn't know anything about it. But the commonsense case to be made is, of course, Donald Trump has links to violent extremist groups. I mean, I'm not Nostradamus.
TAYLOR: But a year before the election, I said, if he loses, this thing is going to end tragically, because he's already been seeding the narrative of violence, coups and civil war.
But take the timeline even further back than that. And the first year, he was in office, my old boss, John Kelly, we all remember him, after Charlottesville, lowering his head, when the President was trying to give the extremists, a pass, by saying, it was really both sides, in that domestic terrorism attack.
In year two, of the Trump administration, Donald Trump ignored the rising domestic terrorism numbers, we showed to the White House, and didn't want to do a strategy.
And year three, you had a terrorist attack, in El Paso, where the shooter used his language, of an invasion of the southern border.
And in the fourth year, you had Donald Trump saying, stand back and standby, to the Oath Keepers.
And then, 2021, the fifth year, you had a terrorist attack, on the United States Capitol. Let's be clear, I don't say that lightly. This was a domestic terrorism attack, a Homeland Security event that has a very clear pattern, starting with the President's permissive attitude, towards domestic extremists, all the way to potentially people, on his team, coordinating, with those associates, of those violent extremists.
WILLIAMS: You know when we - you know what--
GOLDBERG: He also watched it unfold on TV, and didn't stop for almost three hours.
WILLIAMS: But you know what?
WILLIAMS: You actually might be a lawyer and you don't even know it! Because you just laid out a perfect argument, for civil suits, against the President.
Because the middle ground, we're talking about crimes, on one end, and political consequences on the other. But the middle ground is civil suits, where somebody sues the president.
And the same theory, for going after the planners, of an event, or rally, happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, just with the Unite the Right rally, where people who planned, weren't necessarily the ones carrying out the violence, but were able to be sued, in civil suits, here.
That argument is moving forward, in courts now. And police officers, members of Congress, who were injured, or harmed, in some way, are bringing suits against the President. Even if you're not going to see criminal charges, you're going to see lawsuits.
COATES: And, by the way, they're bringing suits against some, who were, or at least the sitting members of Congress, are at least part of the conversation, not just the former President of the United States. But what about sitting members of Congress?
COATES: I mean, we haven't heard from - heard enough, in my mind, about who is still there, who may have had a hand or a role.
There's been a focus, and it seems almost singular, at times, against Donald Trump. But he did not act alone, to extend. I mean, there were people who are calling back and forth, if he acted at all.
Are we going to hear more? Do you want to hear more about members of Congress? Or is that sort of the beating of the dead horse, to extend our analogy?
TAYLOR: Well, this is one of the reasons why we needed a 9/11-style commission, in my opinion. This is so much bigger than a somewhat lopsided Select Committee is going to be able to handle.
I mean, the 9/11 Commission took years to look into this. Again, 9/11 was a terrorist attack. This really genuinely was, by definition, a terrorist attack. And it needs that more thorough review.
I am worried that by the time we get to the end of this, we actually won't have a complete picture. I do think we've got a lot more information than we had a year and a half ago, but we won't, because of the resistance, we saw, from the GOP, to end up creating that type of full-fledged commission.
COATES: Elliot Williams, Jonah Goldberg, and Miles Taylor. And, just for the record. We have seen our reflections, as lawyers. And I like mine! Thank you so much, everyone. I'm giving you a hard time. But what a great conversation, to have all of you here!
We'll be right back in just a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COATES: Hey, thank you, everyone, for watching.
Today is especially sweet. It is my birthday, today. And it's my 42nd year. I'm calling it my Jackie Robinson year. So, I encourage you all to follow, his logic, when he says, a life has no meaning unless it has a good impact on others. So, I challenge you are. And happy birthday to me, to have an impact in the best kind of way.
I'll be back, on Wednesday night.
"DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts right now.