Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

1/6 Committee Refers Trump To DOJ On Four Criminal Charges; Interview With 1/6 Committee Chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS); Former Trump White House Insiders Weigh In On Trump Facing Indictment Threat. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired December 19, 2022 - 14:30   ET



GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER: And so they are leaving it open- ended. But the point that they are trying to make is this -- all roads lead to Donald Trump.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And they did make that point, Kaitlan. They made it and they put out the 161-page, 85 pages of footnotes, plus documents.

You've been talking to the legal team. They got this at the same time that we all got this, right now.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Right. This is so unusual that they would see this. And later on, when the transcripts come out of the interview and full body of evidence, the committee said they would release all of it.

I was struck by hearing from some of the people. We wondered what the reaction would look like in Trump world.

When I was speaking to people, they talked about being able to see what Ivanka Trump's full thing was. Because Trump was really upset when he saw Ivanka Trump saying she accepted Bill Barr when he said there was no widespread fraud in the election.

The framing is always, well, they clipped it, they edited it. Well, now we'll get to see all it of it.

And seeing what Hope Hicks and what she said about --


COLLINS: attempt to get Trump to say there should be no violence.

And the summary that they released of this. Hope Hicks texted a colleague that worked on the campaign the evening of January 6th when Trump attacked Pence, saying, "Attacking the V.P., WTF is wrong with him?" That is Hope Hicks texting someone about the president.

I just want to make one more point though. As we're seeing them vote on this to adopt this report and the referrals, I'm reminded of how Kevin McCarthy pulled the Republicans he had recommended -- BURNETT: Right.

COLLINS: -- when Pelosi pushed back on two.


COLLINS: That is a decision that Trump has been incredibly critical of Kevin McCarthy for. You see the makeup of the committee now.

BURNETT: It is important. Kaitlan raised this, right where they go through how the committee could have been constructed very differently.

COLLINS: Oh, sure.

BURNETT: They also go through -- and Adam Kinzinger was talking about this in his statement, talking about the ethics referrals of Republicans in Congress who refused to cooperate.


And they named some and then they said and others. Right. They weren't going to get into that here.

The main show here was Donald Trump.

And the one thing I would like to talk to you guys about, and particularly the lawyers, is the insurrection and the way it was written.

Because it's right out of Article 14, Section III of the Constitution, which we all have been talking about for a very long time.

Not that -- which would mean that, if you were convicted on this, you could not run for public office, OK.


BORGER: That's the important thing here.

It doesn't say that he led the insurrection. It doesn't charge anything like that. It says -- gives aid or comfort to anyone involved in an insurrection.

And we know from testimony given to the January 6th committee that he refused Hope Hicks, that he refused Herschmann, one of the counsels inside the White House, telling him to tell his supporters that they should be nonviolent.

We know it took 187 minutes for him to do -- to do anything.

BURNETT: All right.

BORGER: So their point is that he intended to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power and he aided in that.

BURNETT: All right.

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Real quick, though, we're missing one big thing. It is a gift to the DOJ for them to have said and others because now you have cooperators to essentially to help the DOJ.

I don't know. On the stake, I have an issue.

BURNETT: Right, and then you can help.

All right, thank you all very much.

Stay with us, because when we return in just one minute, we're going to bring you live exclusive interviews with the chairman of the House Select Committee. Congressperson Bennie Thompson, who will join us next,

And we'll be right back.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Criminal referrals are now heading from the U.S. capitol from the bipartisan January 6th committee to the U.S. Justice Department.

The January 6th Select Committee moving ahead with its historic decision to recommend that Donald Trump be prosecuted for at least four federal charges, including the rare and grave charge of assisting or aiding an insurrection.


We're back with our live coverage of the panel's final public meeting.

Joining us now for an exclusive interview is the chairman of the House Select Committee, Congressman Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi.

Chairman Thompson, thank you so much for joining us. I know your time is tight.

I do want to step back just for a moment and consider the gravity of what you and the committee just did. Your committee is asking the Justice Department to criminally charge a former president of the United States.

I don't think it could be understated just how unprecedented this is.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Well, thank you for having me, Jake.

You're absolutely right. The committee looked at it long and hard.

And from my vantage point, we couldn't do anything except make the referral. It was clear in our review.

It was clear in the evaluation of the evidence uncovered by our committee that those actions taken by president -- former President Trump clearly created a problem for this country, and we were all concerned about it.

But we're concerned about it to the point, Jake, that we moved it to the Justice Department. We will move all the evidence that we have uncovered, and it will ultimately be up to them.

But it's clear that the aiding and abetting and encouraging that went on. Everyone, for the most part, saw it play out before their eyes.

TAPPER: Yes, yes.

THOMPSON: So we saw it.

TAPPER: So, Mr. Chairman, during the meeting, Congressman Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, he outlined four specific criminal referrals for Trump.

There are two other crimes listed in the report summary that you released today, conspiring to injure or impede an officer and seditious conspiracy.

Is the committee referring Trump on four charges or six charges? And what's the difference? What's the distinction with these other two?

THOMPSON: Well, it's actually four charges that we approved. The report talks about the other two, but we are clear on those four charges that Mr. Raskin laid out.

The other two, for the most part, we put there, but we're not taking a vote on it.

TAPPER: Is that because you didn't think you could get a unanimous vote or just because the evidence was inclusive? What was the reason for that?

THOMPSON: It was inclusive from that point. We feel very strongly about the four votes we took on the referrals, and we'll go from there.

We are concerned obviously that the president of the United States encouraged what went on, on January 6th, over a period of four to five weeks. And we saw what happened.

And we think it's important for the Justice Department to look at that body of information that we put together.

We interviewed over 1,000 witnesses. We interviewed just about everyone you can imagine who wanted to come forth. And so over a million pieces of evidence.

It's been a long 18 months. And what you saw today was a culmination of that work by staff and this committee.

TAPPER: Yes. You talked about how this had been going on long before January 6th. I should note that it's actually today, the two-year anniversary of

Donald Trump sending the tweet in the middle of the night at 1:42 a.m., December 19th, 2020, in which he said, "Big protest on January 6th. Be there. It will be wild." That's actually two years ago.

Do you think Donald Trump ultimately will be charged with a crime? We've heard members of your Congress express frustration with the pace of the DOJ investigation and also, in some people's views, the courage of the DOJ investigation.

THOMPSON: Well, I think the fact that a special prosecutor has been appointed. They have been in contact with the committee, making requests for certain information.

I'm convinced that now that our committee has released our information, they will take the information that we've shared with them and proceed with the investigation.

I have no doubt that once the investigation proceeds and is concluded, if the evidence is as we presented it, I'm convinced the Justice Department will charge former President Trump.

No one, including a former president, is above the law.

TAPPER: Several months ago, after one of the hearings, you came here in studio, and I asked you about the direct coordination between people in Trump world, which is admittedly a vague phrase.


But people in Trump world, and the far-right militia members, such as the Oath Keepers and such and the Proud Boys, many of whom have been charged, if not convicted of seditious conspiracy as of now.

I know that the direct connection was established by the committee had to do with some of those individuals in those groups, the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, working for Roger Stone, working for Michael Flynn, et cetera.

And I know that those individuals, Roger Stone and Michael Flynn and others refused to cooperate with subpoenas, refused to answer questions.

Do you think there's more there than what we've seen in terms of direct coordination between Trump world and these far-right militia groups who have been charged or convicted of seditious conspiracy?

THOMPSON: Well, I think that the work of our committee -- we put together a long list of that coordination.

While the president didn't say directly to those individuals, people in the Trump orbit was directing the activities of those groups. We have testimony before the committee who says that also.

But clear in our mind, the people who came to Washington on January 6th, they came to do exactly what they did. They interpreted the tweets, the speeches and comments made by former President Trump as a call to arms.

Many of them brought arms to Washington. Many of them came to do exactly what they did. And the president, for 187 minutes while they were doing it, said nothing.

We are clear. It's now up to the Justice Department. We share significant evidence that we've uncovered with the Department of Justice with this transfer, and I look forward to seeing what will become of it.

It is clearly in the hands now of the Department of Justice.

TAPPER: Chairman Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, thank you so much. And I know it's been a long 18 months for you. I hope you get a nice Christmas holiday with your family.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up, how Donald Trump is likely dealing with the growing threat of being indicted for his efforts to thwart democracy. Former Trump White House insiders will weigh in. That's next.



BURNETT: An historic day in the United States Congress. The January 6th Select Committee just recommending that Donald Trump be prosecuted on four criminal charges, making the case that the violent attack on the U.S. capitol and other events of that day would not have happened without him.

The "all roads lead to Donald Trump." They are very clear here in this statement.

We are joined by our panel of former Trump White House insiders. Stephanie Grisham severed as press secretary, Alyssa Farah Griffin was communications director, Olivia Troye was an adviser to Vice President Pence, and Sarah Matthews was deputy press secretary and a key witness in the January 6th investigation.

All of you have been on the inside of this as well as signature here talking about it.

Sarah, let me start with you.

Your name comes up in this document several times. But let me give the context. "Multiple members of the President Trump's White House staff were also suitably forthcoming, including Sarah Matthews."

Your name first. What is it look at this now, to see all of this in black and white?

SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY & 1/6 COMMITTEE WITNESS: Definitely, a full-circle moment. I resigned on the evening of January 6th. I was disturbed by the events of that day and Trump's decision to not call off the mob.

And now seeing the whole investigation that the January 6th committee has conducted, it's even worse than I thought when I resign that evening.

So now to be at this place, I never thought that I would be a witness testifying against my former boss, but definitely very surreal.

BURNETT: Alyssa, looking through this, we also look in here.

They talk about lawyers who were representing, maybe you all but others like you who were testifying, who were saying, "You don't recall, when you do recall?" And saying, "Oh, we'll give you a really good job."

In one case, one of the lawyers for somebody testified the client was offered potential employment that would make her financially very comfortable.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I'm going to be very curious if the Department of Justice looks into what amounts to, in my opinion, witness tampering.

We heard from colleagues of ours who tried to testify and felt like they were not able to tell the whole truth and Cassidy Hutchinson was very open about that.

Some of us got our own attorneys and were able to tell the whole truth. That's the under-told part of that story, how much more people would share if they didn't feel intimidated or have the proper representation.

BURNETT: Stephanie, you look at this in black and white. Someone was about to be deposed in front of the committee. They get a call.

A person wants to let me know of your deposition and wants me to let you know he's thinking about you. He knows you're a team player, you're loyal, and you'll do the right thing.

Is this the pressure that you experienced and we know others have experienced.

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I didn't personally experience it because I disappeared. I, too, resigned that day and I disappeared to write my book actually.

But that is the thing we can all agree. We have all been in the White House. To speak out, you don't do it. You don't do it. And it would be met with that kind of veiled threat. It wasn't just out there. It was just out there. It doesn't surprise me at all.


And I'm with Alyssa. I'll be interested to see how that opens up and who got bullied or talked to. GRIFFIN: Right.

One thing just kind of on that, I think a lot of us were expecting to see some White House staff names named today as well for criminal referrals.

I actually think it was strategically wise to not name them specifically because this is going to create a scramble of people we used to work with who may have legal exposure.

BURNETT: And what do you make of that. When Jamie Raskin just sat there and laid out the charges, Donald J. Trump and John Eastman, Donald J. Trump and John Eastman, Donald J. Trump, Donald J. Trump. And all of them included and others.

OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER TO MIKE PENCE: I think twofold. I think that's correct. I think, hopefully, this kind of gives people a little bit more courage to come forward and say, look, this is what's happening. This is coming my way if I don't continue to cooperate.

I also have to say, look, I'm thinking of Cassidy Hutchinson today, and I hope this is vindication for her that this is being referred in this way because she did stand there bravely by herself, and stood there with courage, and was threatened along the way.

We have been there with the jobs. And I'm thinking back to the job offers that get thrown your way. That was thrown my way when I was trying to resign in the White House.

BURNETT: Really?

TROYE: This is a pattern of behavior that repeats itself.

BURNETT: Let me ask you about something else because this pertains to Cassidy Hutchinson as well.

They say her testimony added up, that Pat Cipollone had been crucial in verifying.

But they also say not all witnesses were entirely forthcoming. They highlight others. Kayleigh McEnany, we all know her, and Ivanka Trump herself.

Olivia, that story pertains to the vice president, you know, that someone who worked for her laid out how the president had called the vice president a vulgar word, a word beginning with a "P."

And Ivanka Trump said she had no recollection of that. The committee making it clear they don't think that adds up.

TROYE: I think that's interesting because all of these people are kind of still working in the inner circle together. Half of them are on the America First policy roster. Half of them are doing speeches together. And I think that tells you where that circle is. But the facts are the facts. And what happened and what went down I think is historic. I think it's being put on the record. And I think it's going to be important, and when we look at 2024.

BURNETT: Sarah, I want to ask you about something else, Sarah, that I had not recalled.

And that Bill Stepien telling a story about he was telling the truth because he cared about his professional reputation, to then-President Trump, you lost, and Trump knew that he lost.


BURNETT: Then he said Rudy Giuliani kept coming in and trying to break into his office to the point that Bill Stepien tells his assistant to lock his door and won't allow Rudy Giuliani in. That really stood out to me.

Was that something you were aware of, or --

MATTHEWS: I wasn't aware of that at the time. I knew there were folks on the campaign side, like Bill Stepien and other lawyers, who were telling Trump what he didn't want to hear, which was, you know, there was no evidence to overturn the election, that he had lost.

So then, you know, people like Rudy Giuliani were able to get in the ear of the president, feed him these lies and conspiracy theories.

And then what's sad is the president repeated these things, and that is what sent the mob to the capitol because those folks who stormed the capitol believed these lies.

BURNETT: They did.

And I mean, Alyssa, there's something about this.

Stepien says, "Mayor Giuliani tried to get in my office and order her" -- speaking of his assistant -- "to open the door. She didn't."

She's smart about that. I can just see that moment.

GRIFFIN: Listen, it makes for a good moment. Bill Stepien is no hero. I'm just going to say it. I worked with Bill. He's a very talented operative.

But he went on to work for election deniers, even though he spoke truth to power to say, you lost. But then he worked to try to get people elected who denied the election.

There's some people trying to reframe their narrative in the way that they talked to the committee.

But, look, one fact is universally true. And I think we all witnessed it. Everyone in the White House that day, perhaps with the exception of the former president, knew what happened that day was wrong, was terrible, was historically un-American, and unpatriotic. Many chose not to say that and not to use their voices in the months

and years that followed after. I'm so grateful for those who did though.

BURNETT: Do you see some trying rewrite history or have it both ways as well?

GRISHAM: Well, sure. But I have been accused of that as well. I'm not going to go there.

But to piggyback off of Alyssa, I think it was interesting. I don't recall, so I don't know if it was new today or not but I'm glad they put it in there.

But the fact that Hope Hicks said, prior to, you know, the insurrection, that she was trying to say, put something out, tell them they're going to come peacefully.

So the fact people were trying to do that beforehand hit home with me.

I hope people were watching today -- because there were a lot of hearings. There was a lot of information.

So I think it's important that people understand that he was being told well before, and then did all the horrible things.

BURNETT: Right, right.


BURNETT: As they made clear and they have in their hearings, they made clear, he was told and they acknowledged he knew.


BURNETT: Thank you all so very much.


And there's so much more ahead. Including new reaction to the criminal referrals against Trump from a former top Justice Department official, and officers who were injured defending the capitol on January 6th.

Stay with us.