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CNN Live Event/Special
Soon: Jan. 6 Committee Holds Final Public Hearing; DOJ Eagerly Awaiting Transcripts & Other Evidence From Committee; Committee: Expected To Refer Criminal Charges Against Trump To DOJ; Source: Trump Not Planning On Watching Today's Jan. 6 Meeting. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired December 19, 2022 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: This year and a half long investigation into the Capitol insurrection. CNN's special coverage starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: On Capitol Hill right now, the January 6 select committee is getting ready to reveal its unprecedented recommendation of criminal charges against the former President Donald Trump. Panel is set to hold its final public session and to deliver its closing argument about the danger to American democracy.
Welcome to CNN special coverage of this climactic moment in the insurrection investigation. I'm Erin Burnett in Washington.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And I'm Jake Tapper. The presentation we're about to see is the culmination of nearly a year and a half of exhaustive work by the bipartisan House select committee. The panel is expected to announce that it will refer at least three criminal charges against Donald Trump for the Justice Department, stemming from Trump's actions on and around January 6 and his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
A source familiar with the matter tells CNN, those charges include insurrection, obstruction of an official proceeding for efforts to impede the certification of the 2020 presidential results, and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government.
In addition to criminal referrals against Trump, the panel may recommend charges against some of his closest allies. CNN has learned that the committee has been weighing criminal referrals for former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, elections Attorney John Eastman, and former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark.
The committee also plans to reveal its decision on how to hold Republican lawmakers' members of the House accountable for defying the panels subpoenas, congressional, subpoenas, including the House GOP leader and would be Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
The committee says the justification for these dramatic and historic steps will be spelled out in the pages of its final report. Panel members were told we'll approve that report today and release an executive summary with top line findings from their extensive investigation. The committee's full report on the January 6 attack will be available to the public on Wednesday.
Now all nine members of the committee are expected to have a role in today's final public meeting before the panel expires at the end of 2022. The select committee is effectively handing off to the Justice Department where special counsel Jack Smith is conducting his own January 6 investigation. He and federal prosecutors have been tasked with the final decisions on whether Trump and or any of his allies will face criminal charges.
Let's go right to CNN's Sara Murray who's been covering the January 6 investigation on multiple fronts since day one. Sara, what is the primary goal of the House select committee today?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, sources are telling me and our team that the goal of the committee is really to lay out in today's hearing and the executive summary a road map for the Department of Justice. They want to drive home their belief that Donald Trump was the one who was culpable responsible for January 6. And they want to lay out the body of evidence that is the basis for at least three charges that they plan to refer to the Justice Department crimes, they believe the former president committed.
Now obviously, the committee is primarily focused on the Department of Justice, but they do believe that they have uncovered evidence that could be relevant for other potential referrals either to state bars, or perhaps to the House ethics committee when it comes to the Republican lawmakers who snubbed those subpoenas.
We're also learning that congressional investigators have already shared what they believe to be evidence of crimes committed to a district attorney in the Atlanta area who's investigating Donald Trump and his allies.
TAPPER: All right, Sara. Now over to our chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill. And Manu, how is Congress preparing to respond to the committee's announcements today?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, House Republicans are preparing their own counter offensive to this investigation, arguing that there were security failures that day that were not accounted for and pointing the finger not at Donald Trump but others. We expect this Republican report to be issued later this week to talk about Nancy Pelosi, though she is not directly responsible for day-to-day security measures within the Capitol It is expected to discuss her and other issues.
Now at the same time, there is legislation that could become the first piece of legislation to go into law in the aftermath of January 6. There is an agreement to overhaul a statute that governs how Congress counts the votes when it certifies state certified electoral results. That is the Electoral Count Act, that revision to that law has been - is going to be included in a bill that will be - that must be passed by the end of the week to keep the government open.
[12:05:00] In addition, what that includes, Jake, is that it would have ensured that the vice president would have a ceremonial role, cannot simply disregard the state certified electoral results. All the result of a Donald Trump had to do to Mike Pence will be sought to the cause of these hearings.
TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much. Let's talk about this with my panel. Let me start with you Jamie Gangel. This is - I think it's impossible to overstate the drama of this moment in the import in American history. This has never happened before.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: No question, it is historic. Let's just go back a minute. These hearings started with Liz Cheney saying, President Trump summon the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. And, Jake, that's where we're going to end back today, that all roads lead to Donald Trump.
I will tell you, according to sources familiar with the report, what we've heard about these criminal charges, I was told it is a small piece of the pie. I think we're going to see rather extensive details. And just I think it's important to remember what the committee's mission is with the Department of Justice.
As we've been saying, this is symbolic in a certain way that they're sending this over. They do not have the power to indict, to prosecute, to convict. But the committee sees these referrals as critical to show that no one is above the law, not even a former president.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right. And to your point, while the committee does not have prosecutorial power. What it is saying today, essentially what these criminal referrals you've been reporting on from your sources, Jamie, is that they don't believe that President Trump should ever hold office again. As we know, he is running for office right now.
And one of the charges that the committee is likely to refer to Congress is insurrection. And if you look at that statute, it says that person if they were engaged in an insurrection should be banned from holding any office again. So, it is historic, it is unprecedented. I'm going to be looking at that.
And also, what the committee is going to do about their fellow members of Congress who did not respond to the subpoenas. And I think that's going to be really interesting to see what did they do? Do they treat them differently from others that they referred to DOJ? Do they handle it within the, you know, the family if you will, refer to an ethics committee? That's another point today that's going to be interesting.
AUDIE CORNISH, CNN HOST, THE ASSIGNMENT WITH AUDIE CORNISH PODCAST: Yes. And I think that it's important to note that Congress did have something in its power, which was to impeach the president, they could only go far in that process. And I don't think we should conflate the two, right? Like, just because they can't prosecute, doesn't mean it wasn't a value to do. It doesn't mean that the evidence handed over to DOJ won't be a value as well. Mr. McCabe talk to this as well. TAPPER: What does it mean, Andy, as a former deputy director, and acting director of the FBI? What does it mean when Congress makes a criminal referral?
ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY FBI DIRECTOR: Sure. So, as we've said, many folks have said, there is no legal effect. And in fact, individual members of Congress very frequently make referrals to the Department of Justice. Things come across their radar that they think should be investigated. This is, of course, in far more significant that it's an entire committee, and it's about a particularly serious matter, but it has no legal weight.
The referral itself is simply a direction to look into these activities. It's not an indictment. And as we know, the department is already conducting an extensive investigation of exactly the same material that's that led to the referrals we'll hear today. So, that work is already ongoing.
GANGEL: To Andy's point, though, what is the committee giving them along with the referrals? They did thousands of interviews with witnesses. There are going to be hundreds of transcripts released, text messages, emails, there's no question. We know that the Justice Department has been doing its own active investigation. There are things they know in the grand jury that the committee doesn't know. But the committee feels that they can fill in or perhaps bring brand new information to justice.
TAPPER: There's no doubt that the Justice Department and the FBI have been conducting investigations that have surpassed what the committee has been doing. When it comes to the oath keepers, when it comes to the - those individuals the far-right militias. But individuals I know who have been close to the process, say their impression is that the committee on the Hill is far ahead of where the Justice Department is, when it comes to charges against Donald Trump, or anybody affiliated with the White House.
BROWN: Right. I mean, it's no question DOJ was late to the party on that front. The committee was well ahead of DOJ. When you look at, look, the interview they did with Pat Cipollone, the former White House Counsel. Cassidy Hutchinson, their star witnesses, they were able to get to an interview before they interviewed with DOJ.
And also, I think it's important to note that the committee has said that there was perjury committed that means people lying to Congress, a witness lying to Congress, witness tampering. Only they really have that evidence, right? So, I think that is important too to share with DOJ.
And I can tell you, well, DOJ might not like the political optics of this, congressional committee sending a referral to them. They are going to be poring over this evidence to see exactly what is in there to help supplement what they've already had, and also perhaps build new charges like on the perjury funds.
[12:10:00] TAPPER: And Audie, I mean we shouldn't discount the fact that this is huge. If you take the 30,000-foot view of it, there is a former president who remains very popular. Maybe he's losing popularity, but he's still very popular with Republicans in this country, with his MAGA bass. Several "news channels" still remain in his thrall. And he's going to have a bipartisan committee, call him a criminal today.
CORNISH: Right. And it's not just about him or any one of those players. It's how they worked in tandem, and whether someone can run that same path again, all the way to completion. That's the biggest concern, right? That once you've seen, oh, is this how you pressure people in DOJ?
Is this how you pressure state officials? Is this what you can do with people who think they're in a militia and show up at the Capitol? You know, basically loaded for bear, this is what you don't want to repeat situation. It doesn't actually no matter who the guy is, what matters is that it doesn't happen again.
TAPPER: Still ahead, more on one top officials at the Justice Department are going to be watching for when the January 6 select House committee unveils its expected criminal referrals against Donald Trump. We're getting closer and closer to that big announcement. Stay with us.
BURNETT: At the U.S. Capitol, the site of the January 6 attack, House investigators are about to announce their recommendation that former President Donald Trump be criminally charged for his role in the insurrection. We're going to be taking all of this final hearing live. And the final decision on whether to prosecute Trump lies with the Justice Department, though. And, of course, that now means with the recently appointed special counsel, Jack Smith.
Our senior justice correspondent Evan Perez joins us now. So, you know, Evan, we're in these final minutes before this crucial final hearing, we expect to learn a lot. What are Smith and prosecutors looking for as the January 6 committee is about to meet these recommendations come in? And then an indictment is then in their hands?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Erin, look, I think the investigators certainly have been closely monitoring every one of these January 6, committee hearings and meetings. And but, you know, more important than the referral, which we of course, expect us to hear from the committee today. We're, you know, they're more anticipating getting their hands on the evidence.
And, of course, the interview transcripts of thousands of hours of interviews that they've done with witnesses over the last few months. And the Justice Department, as you know, has been pushing for access to those transcripts, they have not gotten the vast majority of those until this date.
And so, what the, you know, certainly for the investigators, and of course, Jack Smith, who was not even in the picture, back in July, when the committee had held its last hearing, you know, they want to see that evidence, because this could make a big difference to see what they have, you know, going forward.
And of course, you know, just since the time of the July hearing, the last hearing, we had the search at Mar-a-Lago where the FBI recovered those documents. And so, that's part of this now that Jack Smith, the new special counsel is going to be overseeing her.
BURNETT: All right. Evan, thank you very much. And here now with our panel to talk about this crucial moment, both in American history and legally. I mean, Laura Coates, let me start with you. So, we will see here in the next hour, right? We're going to hear them speak. We're going to find out what these recommendations are for charges.
But we've been reporting that there are a few we know well, right? That they're obstructing the proceedings, for example. So, are there any of the ones that we know that they're going to recommend in terms of charges that are more serious than others? I mean, you know, if someone were to be convicted of these, what would happen?
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: We'll just take a step back and realize the pressure that's now on the Department of Justice. That those who will make the laws at our members of Congress are going to recommend that the person who is a former president of the United States has broken laws, laws that are related to our democracy, laws are related to official proceedings, laws, I mean, this is remember the org chart, so to speak of the Department of Justice, it's headed by a president of the United States.
And so, all of them are quite consequential. But the idea of the pressure campaign that's now going to be on Jack Smith, the special counsel. The idea of saying, look, Congress believes that these laws have been broken. What are you going to do about it?
Are you going to let it say, you know, what, we don't - are going to gray? Or are you going to actually dig in your heels as special counsel and hold him or others to account? If they fail to do so. Any dismissal or refusal to actually proceed will be the most consequential act, this special counsel will ever make.
BURNETT: So, George, where are we then if we're obviously expecting you? They're going to speak today. We're going to see this file here. And we're going to see that live. They're going to put out a summary. Obviously, you hear the reporting, right, the all the backup information will come later this week. But this summary is going to have the charges, right? What they think that they have proven, so how high is the bar for them?
GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER: Well, you know, the bar is going to be, I think they've already passed the bar because they presented so much evidence over the course of the several hearings. And it this is going to be about the evidence because the Justice Department ultimately is going to make its decision about the evidence.
And there's one thing about the evidence I want to point out. We tend to focus a lot on violence. We focus on because of the footage, the violence, that Mike Pence, the fact that Donald Trump was told that these people were armed, and yet he encouraged them to go up on Capitol Hill.
But it's really not about the violence. The violence was a consequence of the fundamental crime, a fundamental criminal act that occurred here, the life. And what problem we have in our society, I think, in our politics today is we just assume that lies in politics are of no consequence, and they can't be punished and they're not - they're immune from the law.
For example, you know, politicians always lie. We know that and normally we accept that under the First Amendment and the way we do it is we have Gloria call it out, you know, you call went out or whatever on television. But not all wise can be prosecutable. They should be prosecutable in certain circumstances, when you exceed - when the lies are so consequential.
And the fact of the matter is that there are the statutes that we're going to hear about that punish lying, putting into fraud, the United States of a billion dollars, you go to jail, you lie. If you lie about that. If you make a false statement to the government, you go to jail. And the consequence here is that - he stole it - he was trying to steal our democracy here and that's the point.
BURNETT: So, when you talk about how consequential it is, you know, Kaitlan, you've been talking to members of the Trump legal team. Do they see it the same way? Do they see right now, the crucial moment that we are in in the stakes?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: I don't think they see these criminal referrals in that way. This is kind of in building up. They had an idea that this was coming their direction. They are watching and they are paying attention particularly to what it says, you know, potentially about obstruction. When it comes to the investigation with Trump, you've seen Liz Cheney referenced that in some of the hearings. They're not as worried about these criminal referrals as they are about the myriad of investigations into him.
And it was so interesting what Evan said there about, you know, the Justice Department is getting all of this for the first time when it's released. Trump's legal team will also get to see it. We're expecting to have transcripts of witness testimony with all of this looks like, typically in a normal investigation, they would not get to see something like that.
And so, they will get to see, and remember it was his daughter, Ivanka Trump, it was Bill Barr, it was a lot of these officials. They're more worried about the other investigations, the January 6 grand jury that's happening here in Washington, the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation, the Georgia special grand jury. But I think what's notable here and what I've picked up on from speaking to these people is they have huge differences in the legal team. They are not on some kind of unified front (Crosstalk). I know, in Florida I've been reporting on the many differences - differential variations of the legal team for years now. They're not in agreement always on how to proceed or and I think that's notable.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I want to go back to what George was saying also about the lying, because time and time again, during the hearings. What we learned was that Donald Trump knew what he was doing was a lie, that people continually in his orbit - people went before the committee and said, I told him he wasn't going to win.
Barr said, it was BS, right? He told him it was BS. You lost the election and time and time again. And this is historic. I mean, time and time again, you have a president lying to the country and now going to be criminally referred to try and orchestrate a coup, so he could stay in office.
BURNETT: And to be clear. One thing, of course, that they did very well was they had people say that the former president knew, that he knew it was a lie. He didn't believe that the - that the lies he knew, that it was not true. All right, next. Former Trump White House insiders on the expected criminal referrals and Trump's reaction as his new run for the White House, of course has already announced and underway. January 6 committee convenes soon, you will hear it live here. We'll be back.
TAPPER: The January 6 select committee is about to make its case to the American people one last time, ending its tenure with the expected announcement of criminal referrals against Donald Trump. And we're getting new information on how Trump world is bracing for what's about to happen this historic moment. And Kristen Holmes is digging in on that. Kristen, what are you learning?
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we are told from multiple sources that former President Trump is telling people that he's not going to be watching today. However, we know that several of his close advisers and aides will be watching closely and updating him in real time. That means sending him clips, sending him those highlights.
Those aides and advisers have met together multiple times since the committee announced they were going to be issuing these criminal referrals, really trying to get a handle on what this meant. Talking to outside legal counsel, trying to get an idea of how exactly to publicly respond to this. And as Kaitlan reported earlier, the legal team is not possibly taking this as seriously, which is why today you should expect to hear more from the political side. Now, while Trump is telling people that he doesn't plan on watching. One thing to note is that he was absolutely fixated on this over the weekend, all over Truth Social, bashing the committee, bashing individual members. So, whether or not he can stay away, that remains to be seen.
TAPPER: All right, Kristen Holmes, thanks so much. Joining us now former Trump administration insiders, former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, former White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah Griffin, former adviser to Vice President Pence's Olivia Troye, and former deputy White House press secretary Sarah Matthews, who know a little bit about Donald Trump and how he works.
And Stephanie, let me start with you. Right now, take me inside what you think is going on inside Mar-a-Lago? Is he really not going to watch and are people preparing for this?
STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I mean, I could see him going out and playing golf as a show, but I guarantee you, he'll be getting real time updates. It's going to be TiVoed. He's going to watch it tonight. We're going to hear about all kinds of things tonight on Truth Social.
But also, if you've seen, I mean, he posted earlier, old Twitter messages saying that he said to stop the violence. He conveniently left out the timestamps that it was like 7, 8, 9 hours after everything had happened. So, he's absolutely livid, and he'll be watching, Melania will be watching, and then they're going to try to dismiss it as they have been. And then we go from there, we start over.
TAPPER: So, listen, I mean, I've been waiting throughout this whole process for Donald Trump to offer any sort of rational defense. I didn't think it was going to get this out of hand.