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CNN TONIGHT: 1/6 Committee Gears Up For Hearing Tomorrow On Trump's 187 Minutes Of Inaction; Top Wisconsin GOP Lawmaker Says Trump Called Him Last Week In New Push To Overturn 2020 Presidential Election Results; A.G. On Potentially Charging Trump: "No Person Is Above The Law". Aired 9-10p ET
Aired July 20, 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: Today, here, in New York City, mourners gathered, for Ivana Trump's funeral, including the former President, their three children, Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump.
The first wife, of the former President, is being remembered as loving mom, a grandmother, a powerful businesswoman, who helped build the family's real estate empire, such as it was. The former President, on a social media platform, called it a very sad day, but at the same time, a celebration of a wonderful and beautiful life.
Ivana Trump was found unconscious, unresponsive, at the bottom of a staircase, in her townhouse, last week. Authorities say, she died of blunt impact injuries, to her torso. Ivana Trump was 73.
The news continues. Want to hand it over to Laura Coates, and CNN TONIGHT.
LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Anderson, thank you so much.
I'm Laura Coates. And this is CNN TONIGHT.
And it's the final countdown. I mean, less than 24 hours, from now, the January 6th committee's last public hearing, at least for now, and it's in primetime, too. And there's certainly a lot of anticipation, building, on what new revelations could be coming.
And so, how does the panel plan to make its case, tomorrow, in this sort of series finale? We're on number eight, mind you.
We just got another clue. Committee member, Jamie Raskin, just confirming to CNN that the committee plans on showing outtakes, from a video that Donald Trump recorded, the day after the riots, on January 7th.
Now, the whole thing is only about three minutes long, of what we saw. But it took an hour, to shoot, according to "The Washington Post." And even then, it still needed to be edited.
Watch for when the camera position changes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, Congress has certified the results.
A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation. 2020 has been a challenging time, for our people.
A menacing Pandemic has upended the lives of our citizens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: So, how was the other 57 minutes spent? What's in those outtakes? And why was it so hard, for him, to condemn the violence?
Now, those outtakes, we're told, are going to be a part of the committee's case that Donald Trump abandoned his duties, as President, electing (ph) his own to his - to stop his own supporters, from attacking the U.S. Capitol, for more than three hours, mind you.
And tonight, we have a former White House Communications Director, in that administration, who very publicly pleaded, with the ex-president, during the Insurrection, to call off the mob. "Condemn this now," she begged, on Twitter, "you are the only one they will listen to. For our country!"
We actually have a trio of Trumpworld, and committee insiders, this evening, to help us walk through, exactly what to expect, including someone, who led initial questioning, of two key witnesses, we're going to be hearing from, tomorrow.
Now, remember, this is a congressional investigation, of course. And it could go on, for many more months. Committee members are promising, their probe is not winding down, only wrapping up, with so much new information, coming in, it seems, almost daily.
But remember, when it ends, whenever that is, it ends with a report. Not a verdict. You'll have a conclusion, not criminal charges, with some sort of answer, of who did what, when, why, what you should do about it, in a court of law.
Because that power lies with the Justice Department. And there's news on that front, apparently, tonight as well.
Now, there's still a huge question mark, hovering over the DOJ's ongoing investigation, namely, will Attorney General, Merrick Garland, ever charge Donald Trump, with a crime? Does he have the evidence to do so, to indict, let alone convict?
And he was pressed about it today. Listen to his answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: No person, is above the law, in this country. Nothing stops us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even a former President?
GARLAND: No - I don't know how to - I'll say that again. No person, is above the law, in this country. I can't say it any more clearly than that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: He'll be asked again, many more times, rest assured. Anyone criminally responsible for an attempt to undo a democratic election needs to be held accountable, Garland says.
We don't actually know though how high up indictments will go, and just how far above the law, some might try to be. We'll talk about more of that, and more, throughout the entire hour of this show.
But let's start with what is right in front of us. This primetime hearing that starts tomorrow.
I'm going to get to the former Trump White House Communications Director. Alyssa Farah Griffin, resigned from her post, in the weeks before January 6th, and she knows the two former Trump aides, who will be testifying, tomorrow.
Alyssa, I'm glad to see you here, today. A lot is being made, of a primetime hearing, right? That's a big deal in and of itself.
But about these two witnesses? Tell me your - what you think, of their ability, to testify, credibly, tomorrow.
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER TRUMP WH COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, I think, it was extremely smart of the committee, to pair these two witnesses together. So, I know Matt Pottinger, and Sarah Matthews, personally. Sarah Matthews is a close friend.
Now, Matt Pottinger was the senior most National Security Council aide, on site, in the West Wing, on the day of January 6th. Robert O'Brien was not in the White House.
Now, this is a person, with an incredible career, credibility, across the aisle. He'd served as "The Wall Street Journal" Bureau Chief, in Beijing, a Marine Corps officer. He went on to be one of the most renowned national security professionals, on a bipartisan basis.
Then, on the other side, you have my friend Sarah Matthews, who is a tried and true Republican. She can't - she was hand-recruited, by Kayleigh McEnany, from the Trump campaign, to come to the West Wing. She'd worked for Republican leaders, on Capitol Hill. So, when her--
COATES: You can't claim that's a Never-Trumper.
FARAH GRIFFIN: Exactly. You can't claim it's a Never-Trumper or a RINO. So, they bring in credibility, from kind of two different arenas.
And both were there, and are going to be able to tell you, what happened, in those critical minutes, what the former President wasn't willing to say, and do, to call off the mob, and also shed some light, on what those senior advisers, around him, were willing to say, how far they were willing to push him.
COATES: So far, we only have the idea of through Mark Meadows, essentially. That's as far as we seem to get with Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony, the idea, of Mark Meadows not wanting to go over, and talk to him. "Doesn't want to do anything," he kept saying. We will actually get from people, essentially, the whys, the idea of the National Guard, potentially, why it wasn't deployed sooner.
The idea of them being Republicans, and not just Republicans, but one recruited by a Kayleigh McEnany, once the Press Secretary of the White House, as well? I mean, there have been many attacks, nonetheless, on the idea of this being a partisan job, the entire committee.
You have fielded your own criticism, about being outspoken, about your beliefs, what happened that day? Are you - are either of these two witnesses, vulnerable, to those sorts of attacks, as well? Are they seeing it already?
FARAH GRIFFIN: Well, they're certainly going to receive them. I would guess Sarah Matthews will get them worse. Because, as we've seen, from Trumpworld, women, who speak out, tend to get the worst criticism, the worst smear campaigns, and frankly, threats.
I hate to say it, because she's my friend. And I'm thinking of her. And I'm proud of her, for coming forward. But it comes with the territory. I mean, Cassidy Hutchinson has to have security, for doing her role, for her country, and speaking out, when her superiors, like Mark Meadows, wouldn't.
But listen, they're doing right by the country. These are very credible people, with integrity, who aren't there for any partisan reason, only to assist the committee, in this investigation.
COATES: Why are we just now hearing from them? Are these - I mean, Cassidy seemed to be a kind of a surprise witness, in many respects, and people were caught off guard, a little bit flat-footed that she'd be testifying.
Were these two witnesses, as far as you know, at least your friend, Sarah, were they in the works all along, for this sort of final primetime event?
FARAH GRIFFIN: So, Sarah has been in touch, with the committee, for many months. I connected her to Liz Cheney, probably more than six months ago. And she resigned on January 6th, as did Pottinger. So, she's been working with the committee since kind of the outset. I don't know when the decision was made to put her in this final hearing.
My understanding is Pottinger had sat down with the committee but, I think, decided to be somebody, who might be used, in this capacity, after hearing the Cassidy Hutchinson testimony, and wanting to kind of speak out more forcefully.
I should note, also, I've mentioned this before, but Matt Pottinger was very close with Mike Pence. He traveled with him, anytime, he went to Asia. That was kind of his portfolio within the NSC. And both he and Sarah Matthews have stated to the committee that it was when the Pence tweet went out that they really were like, "This is enough. I cannot stand by this."
COATES: Now, you spoke with Sarah Matthews, earlier this morning, as recently as that. What is she feeling about testifying? Is she nervous? Is she confident? Is she believing that there's a lot she can contribute and be additive?
FARAH GRIFFIN: Yes, I think she is going in clear-eyed, because she already got the criticism that came, when she spoke out after January 6th, and resigned. So, I think, she knows what she's walking into, and she feels like it's her duty.
I wish that more people did, like it shouldn't be a Deputy Press Secretary, who has to be the one, to go testify, before the committee. It should be the White House Chief of Staff, or the White House Counsel. But she's ready for it.
But I'm sure the natural nerves are there, because smear campaigns will begin, immediately, if they haven't already. But there are many of us, who are there, to defend, her integrity, and Matt Pottinger's, which is unquestionable.
COATES: What do you think is on these outtakes, we're going to hear, from tomorrow? I mean, these are - I mean, outtakes, 57 minutes worth, from Donald Trump? What are we going to see, do you think?
FARAH GRIFFIN: I think you are going to see a lot of staff, trying to coach him, to say things more forcefully, and more directly, and to use certain language, and him trying not to. I can imagine that he was not wanting to condemn violence. He was not wanting to talk about a transition of power.
But, by the way, I should note, while, this is interesting, and this is going to be revealing footage? We still haven't seen the footage of the January 6th video, shot in the Rose Garden. There are other outtakes, from that, where he said, "You're wonderful, you're beautiful people."
There's apparently other versions of that that I think might be even more revelatory, in terms of how he was feeling, on that actual day. And I don't believe the committee's gotten those, in their possession yet.
COATES: I wonder, why they wouldn't have that, and they would have the January 7th, instead. Do you have any insight, as to why they would have one versus the other?
I mean, first of all, we don't know what happened, in Helsinki, still. So, the idea of us, knowing what's happening, on those dates? I get it. We remember that sort of video, he made, afterwards, where he seemed like he was almost, forced to do so. And I wonder what the outtakes of that might have looked like.
But I wonder just, back on Sarah Matthews, and her testimony, in particular, how do you feel and how do you think she's feeling, about the fact that it's her, and not, say, a Mark Meadows, testifying? It's not others, who were there. I mean, Kayleigh McEnany, we've seen videos, of her, during the actual course of this entire hearing.
What did she make of the fact that it's her, in this hot seat, so to speak?
FARAH GRIFFIN: I can't speak for her. But, I imagine, there's a level of frustration, at the cowardice of more senior individuals, for not speaking out.
Also doing this means spending tens of thousands of dollars, on lawyers, spending time, away from your job, dealing with the potential threats, the potential harassment. I mean, it's - she's being brave, by stepping forward. And it's just, it just kind of shows who, the lack of leadership that was there, in the final days that it's her and it's 26-year-old Cassidy Hutchinson that are speaking out.
COATES: We're going to see more about exactly what happened.
Alyssa, please stand by. Much, much more, with our conversation, on all of this, in just a moment. And our insiders, ahead.
Plus, a new allegation that Donald Trump is still actively trying to overturn the 2020 election, as in the word "Still" was just used. We're talking more than a year and a half later! I'll tell you why. Right back.
COATES: The January 6th committee's primetime hearing, turns directly, to the Commander-in-Chief, or former Commander-in-Chief. The focus lays, not on the witnesses, who were in the room, where it happened, but on Donald Trump himself.
And for anyone, who says "We need to just move on, enough already?" Well, the former President still appears quite focused on an election that he lost. And that was almost two years ago.
New evidence, from CNN affiliate, WISN, which reports that Donald Trump called the top lawmaker, in the Wisconsin State Assembly, Republican Robin Vos, wait for it, last week.
Here's how Vos describes the former President's request, to overturn the state's 2020 election results.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBIN VOS, (R) WISCONSIN ASSEMBLY SPEAKER: He makes his case, which I respect. He would like us to do something different in Wisconsin. I explained that it's not allowed under the Constitution. He has a different opinion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Constitution? Opinion? Details!
Alyssa Farah Griffin, is just one of the three key insiders that we have.
We also are joined by Miles Taylor, former Chief of Staff, to the Homeland Security Secretary, under Donald Trump, with great hair, as always, by the way! I'm making him laugh. Look at it. You see it right there.
MILES TAYLOR, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO TRUMP DHS SECRETARY NIELSEN, "ANONYMOUS" AUTHOR OF OP-ED CRITICAL OF TRUMP: I'm out!
COATES: Also, John Wood, equally great hair, by the way, who--
JOHN WOOD, FORMER SENIOR INVESTIGATOR, JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE, (I) U.S. SENATE CANDIDATE - MISSOURI: You don't have to say that!
COATES: --ago was Senior Investigator, for the House Select Committee. He's now running for U.S. Senate, as an Independent, in Missouri.
Glad you're all here. I've now made him blush. I'll give you a second to wait it out, for a second, Miles.
COATES: Look, everyone? I mean, John, you have been somebody, who's been on this committee. We're all sort of on the outside, looking in. You were on the inside.
I got to know, with these two witnesses, is there anything to the idea that these are sort of the last of them, the blockbuster? Or are we reading too much into the fact that it's those two?
WOOD: Well, I wouldn't read too much into the fact that it's those two. Because while those two might be the ones that are there, live? I think you're going to hear from a range of witnesses. One of the things the committee has done really well, is used videotaped depositions, and interviews, and weaving it into the hearing.
And so, I think, while there may just be two people sitting live, at the witness table, we're going to hear from a lot of people, who worked, in the White House, for Donald Trump. And I think it's going to be very compelling.
The two witnesses that we're going to hear from, tomorrow, are both extremely credible. I led the staff interviews, of both of them. And I can tell you, they came across as extremely sincere and credible. So, I think, they're going to be powerful.
But we're going to hear from others. I expect to hear more, from people, like Pat Cipollone, and people, who are close to Donald Trump.
COATES: I wonder, in those moments where you were having the initial witnesses, and interviews, were there moments that you sort of had the jaw-drop or the aha moments? And have we seen those moments, played out, in the hearings, already? Or is there more sort of in reserve?
WOOD: Every hearing, so far, has had new information. And I think the same is going to be true of this next one.
I don't know if there's going to be anything that's quite going to match what we heard from Cassidy Hutchinson. That was just really jaw- dropping. So, that's setting the bar really high. But, I think, we're going to learn new information.
And, in particular, there's been kind of a build-up, through these hearings. They haven't gone perfectly, chronologically. But they've somewhat gone, chronologically, in the sense that we've heard about the pressure that the President put, on state officials, on the Justice Department, on the Vice President, the build-up to January 6th.
And now, we're going to hear about that critical 187 minutes, while the attack was going on, before the President finally and, somewhat reluctantly, I think, said, "Go home."
COATES: Take out the word, "Somewhat." I think you got that right!
WOOD: Yes, take out, somewhat.
COATES: Miles, now we're in this, sort of this 187 minutes. This is where Matthew Pottinger comes into play. What do you think he's going to testify, about, and say?
TAYLOR: Well, let's just talk about that number. Let's talk about that number, for a second. Because I've said, before, Laura, that I think this is the closest thing to a smoking gun, in the whole Insurrection. And it's a gun that smoked for 187 minutes!
Let me compare it to something. I haven't heard anyone make this comparison. After 9/11, George W. Bush was villainized, for waiting seven minutes, in a classroom, to go make the phone call, to check in, after a terrorist attack, on the United States.
COATES: He was reading a book still. Remember that moment?
TAYLOR: He was reading the book with children--
COATES: I remember that. You're right.
TAYLOR: --at an elementary school. Seven minutes! They even made a film about it, Fahrenheit 9/11, excoriating him, for waiting. They ticked off the minutes.
Donald Trump waited 26 times that amount of time.
TAYLOR: And was watching the terrorist attack unfold. That's absolutely stunning! So we'll hear about the what, in this hearing, from Sarah and Matt. But also the important thing is the "Who," here.
If you were watching a terrorist attack unfold, and you were President of the United States, and it was a domestic event, like we had, on January 6th? You could do one of two things.
One, you might call your communications professionals, and say, "Immediately put out a statement telling these people, to get out there, and condemning this attack." That would have gone to Sarah Matthews. She would have been the one, who likely, Alyssa, crafted the statement, and probably would have issued the statement.
Or, you would have called, and said, to the National Security Adviser, "We need to pick up the phone, and call the Secretary of Defense, or the Capitol Police. We need an armed response of some kind to prevent this from happening." That would have been Matt Pottinger.
TAYLOR: These two people did not get the call, from the President. Instead, in Matt's case, he rushed to the Oval Office, to say, what is happening, and they wouldn't let him in, because it was--
COATES: And that's where he saw Mark Meadows, apparently, right, and asked the question about whether they're going to have the person?
You're nodding. So, you must know this, for a fact. See, the guy of the committee is like, "Yes, Laura. That's exactly right."
COATES: I mean, I can't multiply 26 by the seven, like he just did! But I don't have my iPhone with me, for a second, right now.
WOOD: I was told there would be no math!
COATES: I know. I was told. We're lawyers. We don't do this.
But Alyssa, on this very notion, and thinking about it? I mean, when you think about the statement that he would have made, being the President of the United States? His statements were always in tweets, I mean, overwhelmingly. I mean, they - we were aware of how people were hanging on his every word. We heard someone testify to that very effect.
What would have been the impact, had Donald Trump, the former President of the United States, at that time said that to his followers? You know, quite well. FARAH GRIFFIN: Yes. And you opened with my tweet that day. I had resigned about a month prior. But where I said, "Condemn this now. For our country! They will only listen to you."
And Sarah Matthews has said that then when the Mike Pence tweet went out that was pouring gasoline on a fire. So not only was he not stopping what we know, saying the words that could have stopped this attack, he actually was making it worse, and inciting it, in real- time.
I think that, to Miles' point, you're going to get an assessment of, I think, the national security threats, and the threat environment that we knew, leading up to it.
Matt Pottinger would have had visibility on things like weapons that people were potentially trying to traffic, into the Capitol, any sort of different briefings that they were getting on the high side there.
But then you'd also have Sarah Matthews, who's going to know what the back-and-forth looked like, between the Press Office and the Oval Office that day, to get him to denounce this attack.
And yes, it went on three hours, and he didn't do a thing.
COATES: And we have some sound, right, I think, of Matthews even talking about this very issue, to some extent, talking about - well let's play it, thinking about, "We thought the President needed to tweet something, and immediately."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER TRUMP WH DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: We thought that the President needed to tweet something, and tweet something immediately. And, I think, when Kayleigh gave us that order, of don't say anything to the media, I told her that I thought the President needed to tweet something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Now, he didn't, obviously.
And part of what they tried to convince the American public, or persuade, last time, was connecting the dots, not only of this person had the power, but they were taking some kind of an order, from the President of the United States.
Does it match and square with you that they were able to accomplish that mission?
WOOD: So, at the last hearing, one of the things, we heard, from one of the witnesses, is that the reason that he finally left the Capitol? This is somebody, who breached the Capitol, and was, in the Capital, one of the rioters. That the reason he finally left, was simply because the President asked him to.
Why didn't the President, do more, during the 187 minutes, to ask his followers, to leave? I think if he had, maybe some of the violence could have been prevented.
COATES: Well, we will see. And we'll get to the - answer to that soon. Stick with us, and we're coming back to this panel, as well. Don't worry.
More on what we've learned so far, and where the committee's investigation, might just go, from here. I mean, how much work does the committee have left, to accomplish its goal? We're going to unpack that next.
COATES: The January 6th Select Committee knows how to get attention. But the question really is, is it actually changing minds?
For her part, the Vice Chair Liz Cheney has spoken consistently to her own party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I think we all have to recognize and understand what it means.
We take our oath to defend the United States Constitution. And that oath must mean something.
I think we all have to recognize and understand what it means to say those words, and what it means that those things happened.
Were even more chilling and more threatening than we could have imagined. We have to choose.
It's also painful, for Republicans, to accept.
Because Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump, and loyal to the Constitution.
We cannot let America become a nation of conspiracy theories and thug violence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: She's facing quite an uphill battle. I mean, look at - the polling shows 69 percent of Republicans, believe that Trump bears little to no responsibility for that attack.
We're back here, with our three key insiders.
And when you hear that, the idea? Alyssa, I see you shaking your head. Because, I mean, the idea, she keeps repeating this notion. "We have to do it. It's a moral imperative. It's going to be painful to realize the truth. The epiphanies are going to be painful, here."
Why are these epiphanies so painful? FARAH GRIFFIN: Well, I mean, I can completely relate to Congresswoman Cheney.
I have immediate family members, who still think the election was stolen, and even when I say, "I know, Donald Trump. I worked for him. This isn't true," it doesn't break through. So, there's a part of you that just wants to shake people, and be like, "Come on!"
But I will say, I think that these hearings are breaking through. It's always been a dual track, for the committee. One is to tee up a case for DOJ, and let them decide what they're going to do.
But the other swing, the public. And they have gotten tens of millions of views, far more than the committee anticipated. The testimony has been almost all Republicans, by the way.
FARAH GRIFFIN: And, I think, it's having an impact.
Liz Cheney, to her credit, she's still running. And it's smart that she is, because it shows she's not going to be intimidated. But even if she loses, she will have made her mark, on history, and she'll be part of the change that hopefully comes, at some point in the Republican Party.
COATES: Well, I mean, she began talking about the whole hearings, about essentially, one day, Donald Trump will be gone, but what you've done. I'm paraphrasing, here. Look at her poll numbers, though. I mean, she's very, very vulnerable, when you think about her race, and how her primary's shaping up.
I mean, John, you're running for office, right now. But I'm - and I want to know about that. But I also want to know, was that the dual track purpose of the committee?
Was it equal parts, maybe a referral to DOJ, and also the idea of "Look, there's a moral imperative, here. I need everyone to be on the same page that what happened was wrong. We all get that." Is that part of what the goal was?
WOOD: I think the goal is to make sure the American people understand what happened, so it'll never happen again. We need to get back to having a consensus, around following the Constitution, and protecting our democracy.
I'm a Republican. I've been a Republican, my whole life. Even though I'm running, as an Independent, for the U.S. Senate, in Missouri, I still am a Republican.
But the fact is that Donald Trump did not win the election. And part of living in a democracy is you have to accept the results of an election, even if your candidate, or even if your party, doesn't win.
COATES: I mean, you can't vote - you can't - you're not entitled to vote for the winner, wasn't entitled to vote.
COATES: But Miles, I mean, Republicans are paying quite a price.
I mean, you are a Republican, running as an Independent, largely, I'm sure because you realize the price it's paid for admitting, what's the truth.
TAYLOR: Well, this is also a self-fulfilling prophecy. I want to take you all the way back to 2016.
When Trump was running, I was working under Paul Ryan's leadership, when he was Speaker of the House. We were worried about him even rising in the Republican pack, because he was going to do immense brand damage, to the GOP, all right? That feels like an incredibly naive understatement. Because he's done greater than brand damage to the GOP. It's the entire country.
But to Republicans, it's long-standing sustained damage. And John Wood, here, is an exemplar, of what happens, because of that. You've got lifelong Republicans, now running as Independents.
But, I know in the last segment, we joked about numbers. I want to bring some numbers, into this, though. It doesn't matter that this here - these hearings are not winning over the mega MAGA cohort. That was never going to happen. We were never going to dissuade that 69 percent that believe the election was stolen that, it was stolen, that it wasn't.
What matters is what's happening with independent voters, in this country. 50 percent of Americans now do not consider themselves to be a Democrat or a Republican. 50 percent consider themselves to be political independents. That's the highest that number has been in recorded history.
Those are the people, who are the majority-makers. That is the pro- democracy coalition, in this country. And they are breaking heavily, in the direction of thinking this committee has made an impact, and Donald Trump should not be president, again. That's what matters, the Independents. And there, it is moving the needle.
COATES: And, on that point, I mean, even those who have been lifelong Republicans? Remember Rusty Bowers, who testified?
And there was the moment, he was talking about it. He's very emotional. He was talking about the idea that it was antithetical to his oath. He just could not do it. He was a man of faith, to be able to just tell a lie, or break it in some way.
That same person, he was just formally censored, by the Arizona House - by the Arizona House, I mean, the Republican Party Executive Committee. Why? Because of what he testified to, and what he said.
And there was this Chairman - Chairwoman Kelli Ward, who tweeted - I'll put it on the screen that "He is no longer a Republican in good standing & we call on Republicans to replace him at the ballot box in the August primary."
FARAH GRIFFIN: But I want to be clear about one thing. Rusty Bowers, as incredible, as his testimony was? He then did an interview, and said, If Trump was the nominee, he'd still support him.
And what I would note from that is you can't have one foot in, and one foot out, because the MAGA world, the mega MAGA will savage you, if you do. If you go out of step, even if you say, "Oh, but I'd support him, if he's the nominee," they're still going to do this. There's got to be that clean break, at some point, of Republicans saying, "Enough of this person."
And, by the way, I would just like to remind you all. If and when Donald Trump announces that he's running, likely next month, I think, other Republicans should run against him. And they should be up on a debate stage, and say, "Only one of us lost to Joe Biden. And it's you, Donald Trump."
FARAH GRIFFIN: That moment needs to happen.
TAYLOR: I've got echo.
COATES: Let's call this sick burn, let's say. That what you do, is one of those like--
TAYLOR: That's a technical term for it.
COATES: --"By the way, boom! Boom!"
TAYLOR: She can do that for a living!
TAYLOR: I got to say, now is not the - this is going to be really ironic, coming from me, and I'm going to say it. And bring it on Twitter! And that is, now's not the time for anonymity, OK? And--
FARAH GRIFFIN: Oh?
TAYLOR: That's right. Now's the time to jump out of the--
COATES: Miles, Twitter remains undefeated!
COATES: You have just called the hornet's nest!
TAYLOR: No, ma'am.
TAYLOR: But I can say that. Because I'm telling you, criticizing him from the shadows? Ultimately, I wanted to unmask myself. And I did. But don't even do that folks. Go straight to the mics, go straight to the light, right?
We need ex-Trump officials, to come live in the light, and say who this guy is. Otherwise, it could happen again. He's - the odds on favorite, to be the Republican nominee, for the Republican Party. I can't even believe that's the reality. But he is. And people need to come forward--
FARAH GRIFFIN: Well, and Joe Biden's approvals are in the tanks, just candidly. So it's - there is a perfect-storm scenario, where Donald Trump could be Commander-in-Chief, and not a lot of time, and we will probably be fleeing the country, if that happens!
WOOD: A lot of people are furious with both ends of the spectrum, right now.
FARAH GRIFFIN: Yes.
WOOD: So, as you said, Joe Biden is extremely unpopular.
But, I think, a lot of people are really concerned about Donald Trump. They may like his policies, and may agree with a lot of his policies. But they think that he was a danger, to our Constitution, and to our democracy.
And so, that's why we're seeing a lot of people, who are in that vast group, who are in the mainstream, who reject the extremes that they get, as a result of their primaries, from both the Republican Party, and the Democratic primaries.
And that's why I'm running, for the U.S. Senate, as an Independent, even though I'm a lifelong, commonsense conservative Republican.
COATES: Well, we will see what happens. I mean, insurrections are hard to compartmentalize.
I wonder if Congresswoman Liz Cheney will run, as an Independent, next. I'm just - I'm putting it out there. Ooh, someone--
WOOD: I think she'd make a great president!
COATES: --somebody crossed their fingers! I - look, mine were on the table. I'm objective.
Alyssa Farah Griffin, Miles Taylor, and John Wood, thank you so much.
WOOD: Thank you.
COATES: Coming up, more, on Merrick Garland, answering the question, as much as he's willing to answer that question, of course, about a potential Donald Trump prosecution. He's facing, as you know, mounting pressure, from some, on the Left, and the Select Committee, to move a little bit faster, on his decision. But Benjamin Wittes, is making a case of his own, when it comes to the DOJ's work. And I wonder, will it silence Garland's critics? We'll see, next.
COATES: With the January 6th committee, wrapping its initial set of hearings, the spotlight now goes on the DOJ's criminal investigation. And that spotlight is only growing stronger.
Many critics and, I mean, many, have decried what they see, as a very slow-paced investigation. They even accuse the DOJ, of dragging its feet, on indictments, especially when it comes to Donald Trump.
Here's more of how the Attorney General, did push back, today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARLAND: A central tenet, of the way, in which the Justice Department investigates, a central tenet, to the rule of law, is that we do not do our investigations, in public.
We have to get this right.
No person, is above the law, in this country. I can't say any more clearly than that. There is nothing in the principles of prosecution, in any other factors, which prevent us from investigating anyone, anyone, who's criminally responsible, for - for an attempt, to undo a democratic election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: So, how should we view this? Is Garland moving too slow, or something different?
In a new piece, my next guest, makes a case, in defense of the Justice Department. Lawfare Editor-in-Chief, Benjamin Wittes, joins me now.
Benjamin, welcome. I'm glad you're here.
Listen, you've seen, and heard, all the criticism. Too slow, people probably are adding on to the Mueller probe, I would say, in their lack of patience, and what's going on.
But do you think that they are moving too slow? That, they are dragging their feet waiting on the committee, as some people believe?
BENJAMIN WITTES, SENIOR FELLOW, GOVERNANCE STUDIES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, LAWFARE BLOG: I don't. I think they have moved actually remarkably quickly, in general.
When you look at the scope and scale of the investigation, since January 6th, 2021, we've had more than 850 indictments. A surprising number of them, have been of people, who are accused of very violent, very bad offenses.
They have moved up the hierarchy of potential defendants, relatively quickly, there. They've moved up to seditious conspiracy cases. And they are now knocking at the door of the political echelon.
And if you had said, if we had been sitting here, on January 7th, and you would have said, what would an aggressive investigation look like, of this? I would have described something exactly like that, as the best-case scenario, for what an investigation might look like. Now--
COATES: It's true, though, that they've moved up the hierarchy, in terms of the charges.
But they've been criticized, especially from Andrew Weissmann, Deputy Special Prosecutor, in the Russia investigation, where he talks about this sort of bottom - or bottom-up approach, right? We often hear the colloquial term about, "You go after the big fish. And who's the big fish?"
Is the approach of those 800-plus indictments? I mean, they are pretty low-level actors, compared to, of course, the President of the United States. Is that approach flawed?
WITTES: No, I don't think it is.
Look, I agree with Andrew Weissmann that, if the Justice Department is not today, looking at the broad range of activity that Donald Trump engaged in, and others engaged in, in the wake of the election, leading up to January 6th? That would look like it has a certain institutional blinders on.
But in fact, we know that the Justice Department has executed search warrants, against John Eastman, one of the people, who was helping the President, plot the fake electors and--
COATES: That Eastman memo, we all read about.
WITTES: The Eastman memo. There's been a search warrant executed against Eastman. There's been a search warrant executed against Jeffrey Clark, the Justice Department official, who Trump tried to install, as the acting Attorney General.
COATES: But these were quite recent, and they were after at least testimony about either, in the committee.
WITTES: So, first of all, recent activity is a sign that the investigation is alive, and doing its work, right? If you would - if you said there's been no recent activity, that's what would bother me.
Moreover, the Justice Department, gets the benefit, of a lot of different inputs, right? It gets the benefit of all the bottoms-up activity that it's engaged in. As they flip defendants, they get cooperation. As they bring in new defendants, they get new allegations come in, right?
But they also get the benefit of journalism. There's a lot - in a lot of journalism, they get the benefit of the work of the committee. The committee has conducted 1,000-plus interviews. And so, I don't think - I think it's a - it's not a bug. It's a feature that the investigation appears to be assimilating inputs, from all over the place.
One important point about this, this is not like Watergate, where you have a relatively discreet fact pattern, right? I don't know how many total defendants there were in Watergate. Watergate, by the way, took five years, to prosecute the whole thing.
This is hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people, scattered, all over the country. Even the activity that the committee is looking at, if you think about it, geographically, it involves people all over the place.
WITTES: This is going to take a while.
COATES: Well, speaking of hundreds and hundreds of people, I mean, I was a line career prosecutor.
Everyone keeps talking about Attorney General Merrick Garland, who I know, you know, well. But, at the end of the day, it's the career prosecutors, who are, I mean, building these cases, and presenting it, to the Attorney General, in some form or fashion.
What do you make of the perception, though, that people have that the Attorney General, or the DOJ, more broadly, is playing catch-up? And I ask this, specifically, because there were these letters, to the committee, that the committee wasn't handing over information to DOJ.
WITTES: Yes, so I - so, first of all, in a situation, in which the committee is doing a top-down investigation, the committee starts with the question, "Hey, what can we say about political accountability, and Donald Trump?" right? They get to start with the king. They interview everybody around the king. They interview everybody. That's not the way you conduct a criminal investigation.
As you know, at the criminal investigation, you do it, maybe not from the very bottom-up, but you're going to start, with the people below. It is not surprising to me at all that the committee gets to some people, starting at the top, before you get them, coming up, from the bottom.
To me, the question is the following. As you look at the way, the investigation progresses, is it moving up? Is there pressure, from the cases, they are making, on the next rung up the ladder?
Right now, it seems to me there is a lot. It's a very active investigation crossing a lot of different territory, both legally and factually. And so, as long as that's the case, I'm not going to sit here, and worry that the subpoena that went out last week, didn't go out last month. COATES: Well, the committee has the benefit of what - they have a public hearing. It's their business, in the public. The DOJ is supposed to do their work in private.
Thank you for your time, Benjamin Wittes. I appreciate it.
Rudy Giuliani, well, he may not be feeling peachy keen, tonight, about his next trip to Georgia. A judge ordering him to appear before a grand jury, there. What it means? Next.
COATES: So, you just heard Benjamin Wittes, urge the American people, to be patient, as the DOJ's January 6th investigation plays out. But is the DOJ going about its probe the right way?
John Wood, is back with us. And Elliot Williams is also here.
And John, of course, you were formerly a U.S. attorney, as well.
And I know, you were a Deputy A.G., as well, at the Justice Department.
Both of you very, very well-versed, in where we are, right now.
Do you buy the notion of being patient? I mean, prosecutors know, we are supposed to be perfect, and have no time to be. They have a lot more time than the average case, right?
WOOD: I think we have to be patient with the Justice Department.
But I do think there's an important step that the Attorney General could make, and that he probably should make now, which is, I think, inevitably, at some point, this investigation has to look at people, in the immediate inner circle, of Donald Trump.
Donald Trump very well might run for President of the United States, against Joe Biden. That makes this as political as it conceivably can be.
If you want to take at least some of the politics out of it? I think the Attorney General should appoint a Special Counsel, who can be as free from politics, as somebody can be, to look into anybody, closely associated, with Donald Trump.
COATES: I mean, Special Counsel, people are having Mueller flashbacks, all the sudden, right? They like it or not.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, no, to me - and again, another thing, to add to that, John, I think the public just has a hunger for more information, and something baked into the Justice Department.
I was there for six years, as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General, at the end. The Justice just doesn't talk about investigations. And I think that's sort of incompatible with what the world has come to expect, right now.
Now, certainly there are places, where the Justice Department, by law, can't talk about what they're investigating, if something's before the grand jury. But nothing stops the Attorney General, from saying, "Hey, look. We're investigating this matter. Calm down."
Now, I don't know if I want him to do that. But maybe that's part of what's whipping people up a little bit. They just don't know what's going on.
COATES: Well, the Comey-Clinton fiasco makes people very reluctant--
COATES: --to ever say anything, with good reason, about these very notions.
But how about, you talk about inner circle, Rudy Giuliani? I mean, he's now--
WILLIAMS: I just--
COATES: Was it like a Pavlovian response?
WILLIAMS: Yes, it's just - it's just--
WOOD: He's got a legal analysis.
COATES: I know. Seriously, you have a more critical thinking.
WOOD: I can't top that. So, I'll pass.
COATES: OK, fine. I'll take it from here.
But no, you got Rudy Giuliani ordered to testify, right now, in Georgia. He had the chance to do it, in New York. Apparently, he just blew that off, and didn't show up.
Talk about the inner circle, what do you make of the fact that Giuliani has to testify, in a case, or investigation, involving the big Georgia phone call, the fake electors? You can go on with the list.
WOOD: And Rudy Giuliani's own testimony, which he gave, before state legislature, in Georgia--
WOOD: --and did similar things, in other States. But in the Georgia Legislature, my recollection is he showed a videotape, of what supposedly happened, at the State Farm arena, and it was edited in a way that made it extremely misleading. And it made it look like what he described of, suitcases of ballots, being brought in, when in fact no such thing occurred.
There was surveillance videotape footage, of these boxes, which were secure ballot boxes, videotape of them the entire time. They were never tampered with. And he misled the people of Georgia and the State Legislature.
WILLIAMS: No, and other - I'm sorry. Pardon me, John.
WOOD: Go ahead.
WILLIAMS: But another thing, sort of driving the pace, in Georgia, is the crime that at least we sort of seem to know, it's being investigated, conspiracy to commit election fraud? It's actually just a simpler crime than the kinds of things we're talking about, in the context of January 6th, where you're talking about seditious conspiracy, and conspiracy against the United States, and so on.
These are just complicated crimes. Seditious conspiracy hasn't been charged, I believe, in the United States, since 2011. It's been years, since they - since anyone's ever tried to bring it.
COATES: Which is a good thing, right? That means--
WOOD: You don't want to it to happen, too often.
COATES: That's a good thing!
WILLIAMS: We - well this is true.
COATES: We don't want to quick (ph) with crime, right?
WILLIAMS: This is true. But it's just what's happening in Georgia is a little more straightforward. And it's actually not that surprising that they'd be further along, and just more out there, publicly.
COATES: It's also, I mean, think about this, as is, if you're like more politically speaking, I've heard, oftentimes, people say, "You know, you never want to prosecute a former president. It would tear the country apart," the sort Gerald Ford notion of all these things. People always buy that notion, about it causing division.
But it'd be politically comfortable for, say, a Joe Biden, if it's not a federal prosecution, right? If it's like, "Oh, I can't do anything about this. My hands are tied. It's the D.A., in Fulton County. If it were me, maybe something different."
But is that make it cleaner for him politically, you think? WOOD: Well, it makes it easier, but it's not going to make the question go away, of whether the federal government, is going to do something.
So, I think, whether Merrick Garland ends up bringing charges, or doesn't bring charges, either way, it's going to be described as political, because it's going to have such monumental political consequences, no matter what he decides.
So that goes back to my point of why a Special Counsel may not be the perfect solution, but it's the best one that I can think of.
WILLIAMS: And the worst possible outcome, is charging a former president, with a crime, and having him get acquitted.
You want to make sure, if you're moving forward, with those charges, your case is tight. And I think that's what they're doing.
COATES: Or maybe the real worst-case scenario is knowing someone committed a crime, and deciding--
COATES: --"No, thank you." That would be above the law.
Special Counsel, it won't be Sidney Powell, OK?
COATES: We all - we're all there. We're there?
WOOD: We'll threw that out.
COATES: We're all there? OK, fine. We're good. No Pavlovian response to that. There we go!
Elliot Williams, John Wood, thank you so much.
We'll be right back.
WOOD: Thank you.
COATES: Hey, thanks for watching. I'll see you, tomorrow night, as part of CNN's live coverage, of the January 6th Select Committee's primetime hearing. That starts at 7 PM Eastern.
Now, "DON LEMON TONIGHT," starts, right now, with, of course, Don Lemon.
Hey, Don Lemon?