Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

GOP Officials Recount Threats, Trump Pressure to Overturn Votes; Arizona House Speaker Says, Giuliani Admitted We Just Don't Have the Evidence; Georgia Worker Says, My Life Was Threatened All Because of Trump's Lies; Texas Official: Police Could Have Stopped Gunman 3 Minutes After He Entered; Breakthrough On Gun Safety Legislation, Push For Vote This Week. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 21, 2022 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The Biden administration maintains around 900 troops in Syria, including Special Operations forces.


You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the TikTok @jaketapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn. You can listen to our show wherever you get your podcasts. Be sure to join me and Anderson Cooper tonight for 8:00 P.M. Eastern special coverage of the January 6th hearings.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer, he's right next door in a place I like to call THE SITUATION ROOM. See you at 8:00.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Republican state officials testify under oath about the threats they faced and the pressure they felt as then-President Trump pushed them to overturn Biden's legitimate wins in Georgia and Arizona.

We're breaking down all the key evidence from today's January 6th hearing. And that includes a new revolution that Rudy Giuliani admitted the Trump team did not have evidence to back up claims of voter fraud. Select committee members arguing that Trump himself knew it was all bogus and dangerous but kept the scheme going anyway.

A former Georgia election official telling the panel that she and her family paid a horrible price for Trump's lies, their lives threatened after the president falsely accused her of ballot fraud.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, the American people have gotten a deeper look into Donald Trump's attack on democracy through the testimony of state level officials who defied him and wound up actually fearing for their own lives.

Let's get right to all of the new testimony in the January 6th investigation. Our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju reports.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a tyrant. You're a felon and you must turn yourself into authority immediately.

MANU RAJU, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, the January 6th committee laying out in stark terms, the intimidation and pressure campaign from then-President Donald Trump and his allies against state officials who are attempting to uphold democracy in states where Joe Biden won.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are we going to do? What can you and I do, a state legislator, besides kill him?

RAJU: Trump urging them to reverse the election results, even though he was told repeatedly it was illegal.

RICHARD DONOGHUE, FORMER ACTING DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: And I said something to the effect of, sir, we've done dozens of investigation, hundreds of interviews. The major allegations are not supported by the evidence developed.

RAJU: Rusty Bowers, the Republican Arizona house speaker testified that Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Congressman Andy Biggs and others pressured him to decertify Biden's win in his state. Biggs ignored CNN's question about it. Bowers said Giuliani never provided evidence of their conspiracy theories, even admitting there was none.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): What exactly did he say and how did that come up?

RUSTY BOWERS (R), ARIZONA STATE HOUSE SPEAKER: My recollection, he said we've got lots of theories, we just don't have the evidence. And I don't know if that was a gaff or maybe he didn't think through what he said.

And afterwards we kind of laughed about it. But I do not take this current situation in a light manner, a fearful manner or a vengeful manner. I do not want to be a winner by cheating.

RAJU: Trump's Lawyer John Eastman allegedly told Bowers to just replace the electors even if he did not have the authority.

BOWERS: And he said, just do it and let the courts sort it out. And I said, you're asking me to do something that's never been done in history, the history of the United States, and I'm going to put my state through that without sufficient proof?

RAJU: But Trump pressed on and the committee revealing his involvement in the Trump campaign effort to send a fake set of electors on January 6th to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden's victory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did the president say when he called you? RONNA MCDANIEL, CHAIR, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Essentially, he turned the call over to Mr. Eastman who then proceeded to talk about the importance of the RNC helping that campaign gather these contingent electors in case any of the legal challenges that were ongoing change the result of any of the states.

RAJU: Newly revealed text messages from the morning of January 6th show the apparent involvement of GOP Senator Ron Johnson. An exchange between staffers for Johnson and Vice President Pence shows Johnson wanted to give Pence an alternate slate of electors from Michigan and Wisconsin. Pence's staff responded, do not give that to him. Johnson's office contended on Tuesday, the senator was unaware of the effort.

The pressure campaign extended to Georgia, where Trump Chief of Staff texted or called Brad Raffensperger 18 times to set up a phone call where he pressed the GOP election official to find the votes needed to overturn the election.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Why wouldn't you want to find the right answer, Brad, instead of keep saying that the numbers are right?

The real truth is I won by 400,000 votes at least.

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R), GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: Every single allegation we checked, we ran down the rabbit trail to make sure that our numbers were accurate.

RAJU: Raffensperger described the threats against him and his family after he disputed Trump's fraud claims.

RAFFENSPERGER: Eventually, my wife started getting the texts, and her typically came in a sexualized text which were disgusting.

Some people broke into my daughter-in-law's home and my son has passed and she's a widow and has two kids. And so we're very concerned about her safety also.

RAJU: Former Georgia Election Official Wandrea Shaye Moss, testifying about the threats she, her mother and her son received because of Donald Trump's persistent lies.

WANDREA SHAYE MOSS, FORMER GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER: Like be glad it's 2020 and not 1920.

I just felt like it was my fault for putting my family in this situation.

RAJUE: Her mother saying her life was in danger.

RUBY FREEMAN, FORMER GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER: The FBI informed me that I needed to leave my home for safety. I felt homeless. I felt -- you know, I can't believe this person has caused this much damage to me and my family. (END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU (on camera): Now, I just caught up with Senator Ron Johnson. He's the Wisconsin Republican, who was revealed today that one of his aides on the morning of January 6th reached out to Vice President Mike Pence's office and said that the senator wanted to deliver those alternate electors, those fake electors from Michigan and Wisconsin to the vice president on January 6th. Pence's aide said that do not deliver that to the vice president's office.

Now, Johnson told -- just revealed that he was aware that something had come to his office on January 6th. He told me, I was aware that we got this package and that somebody wanted us to deliver it, so we reached out to Vice President Mike Pence's office. And I asked him, who was the person who provided these fake electors. He said, quote, I have no idea.

He went on to downplay the whole matter, calling it a non-story, but acknowledging that he do knew -- he did know this occurred on that morning on January 6th.

BLITZER: Yes, very disturbing indeed. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.

There's certainly a lot to discuss with our correspondents and our analysts who are here with me in THE SITUATION ROOM. Jamie Gangel, most of the witnesses we actually heard from today are themselves Republican who made it clear they voted for Trump, they wanted him to get reelected, but they just didn't see any evidence, any serious evidence at all of voter fraud, did they?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Today's testimony was devastating for Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman. Over and over and over again, these Republican state officials said there was no there there.

BLITZER: And they told to then-President Trump?

GANGEL: They were asked about dead voters, 4, not 5,000 or 10,000, under age.

What was interesting was they kept asking the campaign for evidence and the lawyers for evidence and they never came up with it. John Eastman, at one point, says to Rusty Bowers, just do it and have the courts sort it out. As Gabriel Sterling from Georgia said, there were no secret suitcases with magical ballots in it. It just did not exist.

BLITZER: Yes, certainly. And Bowers at one point testified that Rudy Giuliani, who was then Trump's personal lawyer, told him, and I'm quoting now, we've got lots of theories, we just don't have the evidence. Kaitlan, does that tell you everything you need to know about what happened?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Basically. And you saw the testimony today show just how persistent these officials were in pushing this on these state officials, on these state of Republicans, like Rusty Bowers, who was testifying today, where he was saying he was getting calls from Rudy Giuliani who is saying, I don't have the evidence but here is the claims that we're making and this is what we want you to push.

And you saw former President Trump calling Rusty Bowers and asking him to hold hearings in the Arizona state capitol because he's the speaker. You saw that Andy Biggs, a congressman and Trump ally, called him on January 6th to ask him to decertify these votes. And I think that's what stood out today is just how persistent the effort was by these Trump allies, to try to get these Republican officials basically to do their bidding simply because they're Republicans and they thought they would go along with it because they also did not want to see a Democrat, Joe Biden, in office. Even though they voted for Trump, they're saying we could not cross this line. It was illegal. You're asking them to break the law.

BLITZER: Yes. And they clearly did not want to do that.

Laura, these election workers, the women we heard from today, and it was very emotional and powerful testimony, they clearly faced intense threats, threats to their own lives and their family when we heard it. I want to just have our viewers listen to ruby freeman who was harassed along with her mother and her daughter just for doing her own job


Listen to this.


FREEMAN: There is nowhere I feel safe, nowhere. Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States to target you? The president of the United States is supposed to represent every American, not to target one, but he targeted me, Lady Ruby, a small business owner, a mother, a proud American citizen who stand up to help Fulton County to run an election in the middle of the pandemic.


BLITZER: What did you make of this deeply personal, deeply disturbing testimony?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It was so upsetting. What did she do wrong besides do what we, as a democracy, need people to do, which is to help run elections? I was at the Justice Department in the voting rights section. Let me tell you, we interface with the community, it's with people that are volunteering. They're not paid all this money to participate. They could choose to not do any of this. And they do it out of a civic duty, the compulsion to participate knowing that democracy is not spectator sport.

And so incidents like this have a chilling effect now. What do you do to people and say to people who you say, hey, just come and help to volunteer, help to run elections, even be paid even a nominal fee. Well, guess what happens? Why should they bother? Why should they bother? It incentivizes people who have nefarious intent to be installed in these positions to be able to put their thumb on the scale. And it's devastating.

The racial implications, talking about how they were passing around USB ports, like they were heroin or cocaine when they were passing mints to each other, the racial overtones in the state of Georgia are quite clear.

BLITZER: Yes. It was so emotional and so powerful indeed.

And these witnesses, Kasie, their lives have been changed forever as a result of the lies that were directed at them.

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: That's absolutely right. And I think Laura's point is absolutely critical. I mean, these are not people who have decided to be in the arena, right? I mean, Brad Raffensperger, okay, he ran for the office that he now holds. However, his family didn't. His daughter-in-law certainly did not. And I think sometimes it can be easy to write off what then the former president was doing when he writes what was described as a tweet that people think is crazy. For these people, it literally affected their day-to-day actual lives.

And if I'll have to say, big picture, the one thing that really struck me as I was watching these people today, both the election workers but also the officials who were in charge of making these decisions, is that when I was hearing during the period of time that this was all unfolding from Republicans across the board was that we just needed to let Donald Trump get his feelings out, right? He had to be allowed to have that, right, outburst and that it would all be okay in the end.

And I think one of the things that we've learned, and it was on particularly stark display today, was that this was a concerted, thought-through strategic campaign and the January 6th committee is illustrating that for us.

BLITZER: It's so heartbreaking to hear these witnesses testify how their lives were actually threatened by what he was suggesting.

All right, everybody stand by, we have a lot more.

Just ahead, the select committee wants to hear more testimony. We're going to talk about future hearings with a key member of the select committee, Congressman Jamie Raskin, he is standing by live.

We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Republican state officials testified during today's January 6th select committee hearing about how they defied increasing pressure and intimidation from then-President Trump and his team to back their election lies. Listen to this.


BOWERS: I do not want to be a winner by cheating. I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to.

GABRIEL STERLING, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, SECRETARY OF STATE'S OFFICE: Our job, from our point of view, is to get the facts out, do our job, tell the truth, follow the Constitution, follow the law and defend the institutions, and the institutions held.

RAFFENSPERGER: We just followed the law and we followed the Constitution. And at the end of the day, President Trump came up short but I had to be faithful to the Constitution. And that's what I swore an oath to do.


BLITZER: Let's discuss the key member of the select committee, Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. Why was it so important for your committee today to highlight the personal impact all this had on election officials?

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Well, it's one thing for everybody to hear that Donald Trump tried to steal the election and nullify Biden's majority, it's another thing entirely to see him bullying up close the Republican speaker of the Arizona House, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, and then actual election officials, like Shaye Moss who testified today. I mean, this had a traumatic impact on a lot of people's lives. And, of course, in the wake of all of Donald Trump's bullying and coercion comes a lot of death threats and violence and so on. And so we're beginning to tell the story as you see the violence unfolding towards January the 6th.

BLITZER: Yes. It was so painful to hear all those details.

Your committee did lay out how Republican Senator Ron Johnson actually tried to deliver a fake select of electors to then-Vice President Pence on the morning of January 6th. Does your committee need to hear directly from Senator Johnson?

RASKIN: Well, Senator Johnson has an open invitation like everybody else who may be a material witness to parts of these events to come forward and to tell us what he knows.


Certainly, if he knows anything more than that, we would love to hear from him.

We understand that the organized hit on the election implied the collection of these counterfeit electors, and it would be comic if it weren't so tragic to see people stepping forward and claiming to be electors for a majority when obviously their candidate lost.

BLITZER: The vice chair of the select committee, Liz Cheney, says the American people deserve to hear from former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. What specifically do you want him to shed light on and how aggressively is the committee pursuing his testimony?

RASKIN: Well, his name has been invoked frequently as someone who repeatedly warned Donald Trump that there was no factual merit to his big lie, that there was no legal theory that could justify all of this coercive pressure being placed on Vice President Pence and there was no pathway to power for him. And so we would like to hear him describe everything that he went through. So far, we're getting kind of like a bank shot from other witnesses. So, it would be good to hear from him. I'm not quite sure where the negotiations are at this point.

BLITZER: Considering how much evidence continues to emerge during the course of all these hearings, can we expect your committee to announce any additional hearings?

RASKIN: Well, you're right. More evidence is pouring out every day. More witnesses are coming forward. It's almost like a national catharsis as people who have information are deciding to turn it over to the January 6th select committee. So, I had hoped that we would be done with the hearing process by the end of June. It may be that the incorporation of all the new evidence coming in requires us to go a little bit further into the summer.

BLITZER: Congressman Adam Schiff, a fellow member of your committee, tells CNN he believes this plot, and I'm quoting him now, likely violated multiple federal laws and should be investigated by the U.S. Justice Department. Do you agree? And I ask the question of you because you used to teach constitutional law at the American University Law School here in Washington.

RASKIN: And I did teach criminal law, too. Look, there are more than 850 criminal prosecutions that have been brought already as part of these events. These are things like assaulting federal officers and seditious conspiracy, which means conspiracy to overthrow or put down the government or interfere with the execution of the laws. So, I think that the way most classic mob investigations and prosecutions proceed is they work their way to the top. And I think that's what's happening.

And we've already committed that we thought federal offenses were committed by Donald Trump and by John Eastman, and Judge Carter picked it up in the Eastman litigation where he said he also thought it was likely federal offenses were committed there, specifically conspiracy to interfere with the federal proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States of America.

BLITZER: Yes, I'll take that answer as a yes. Congressman Jamie Raskin, thank you so much for joining us.

Coming up, a former Republican congressman who has advised the January 6th committee will join us and weigh in on the testimony about GOP officials being pressured by Trump and actually threatened. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


[18:25:00] BLITZER: At today's January 6th hearing, we heard witnesses publicly recount the very dangerous threats they've received. Listen to Republican officials and an election worker describe what they went through as Trump tried to undo Joe Biden's legitimate wins in Arizona and Georgia.


RAFFENSPERGER: Some people broke into my daughter-in-law's home. And my son has passed, and she's a widow and has two kids. And so we're very concerned anti her safety, also.

BOWERS: They have had video panel trucks with videos of me proclaiming me to be a pedophile and a pervert and a corrupt politician.

We had a daughter who was gravely ill who was upset by what was happening outside.

MOSS: I received a call from my grandmother saying that there were people at her home and they knocked on the door and, of course, she opened it and seeing who was there, who it was, and they just started pushing their way through, claiming that they were coming into make a citizen's arrest. They needed to find me and my mom. They knew we were there, and she was just screaming and didn't know what to do.

I don't go to the grocery store at all. I haven't been anywhere at all. I've gained about 60 pounds. I just don't do nothing anymore. I don't want to go anywhere. I second-guess everything that I do. It's affected my life in a major way, in every way, all because of lies.


BLITZER: Joining us now along with our panel, former Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman who previously served as an adviser to the January 6th select committee. Congressman, thanks for joining us.


You advised this committee, you're also an expert on online extremism. What's your reaction to hearing the danger these wonderful election officials and their families were in?

DAVID RIGGLEMAN, FORMER ADVISER, JANUARY 6 COMMITTEE: It should horrify everyone. And when I watched them, it sort of reminded me sadly of what our family went through for a couple years and the things that we still get today. But what Mr. Bowers went through with his daughter, what Shaye went through with their mother and what they had to sort of withstand is really heart-wrenching.

And doing this for s long now, because I was doing this well before the committee when I was in counterterrorism in the past, it seems to me, and I want to say this, technology and money allow small minds to push big lies. And the issue that you have here is that this message that circulated digitally actually manifested itself in the physical realm, when people come out and start to attack individuals or they send them bad things, they show up at houses and things of that nature.

And I think that's what really should concern people as they look at this is how violent this can get. And we've already seen that on January 6th. We just have this idea when you're talking about those that have been radicalized through complete fantasy, whether they believe that this is a battle between good and evil, they do things that -- I don't know if they regret it or not but they do things that really hurts the public, that hurts the individuals that are trying to serve this country, Wolf. And it's just very touching to watch it, but it also shows the power of social media and online radicalization.

BLITZER: And it's very, very dangerous indeed. Congressman Adam Schiff today said, and I'm quoting him now, the system held but barely. That's his quote. Is the committee making the case that just a few key figures stood between Trump and a coup?

RIGGLEMAN: Well, he talked about pushing out team normal and bringing in team crazy. Thank God it was the C team and not the B team. I think that's the issue that you have here. I wonder if they didn't go out forward and have those ridiculous lawsuits. If they would have run a little deeper and darker, what would have happened? And that's the thing that scares me. And that's why Adam is saying the things that he's saying, is that the issue that we have is that multiple layers were involved from top to bottom.

And I think as the committee goes forward when we look at the second, third and fourth layers, but beneath that top tier, when you see those cascading effects or those individuals that are people pushing this, whether through fundraising and things of that nature, it should scare the hell out of people.

BLITZER: They certainly should.

Jamie, the committee laid out, and it was very, very clear, they laid all this emotional testimony. I want to hear, including the former White House counsel, Pat Cipollone. What's your analysis? I know you're doing some reporting on this.

GANGEL: So, Liz Cheney doesn't say anything by accident and she really called out Pat Cipollone. My sources have told me that Pat Cipollone behind the scenes was cooperating, and then a couple weeks ago, it seems, all of a sudden he decided he did not want to appear.

I would suggest that we remember a couple of names. Bill Barr showed up. Eric Herschmann, who worked in the White House counsel, showed up. And John Dean showed up during Watergate. They are White House counsel. It is to the office of the president. They are not a personal attorney. I don't know why Pat Cipollone is all of a sudden trying to exit stage right, but it's -- I know that he has critical firsthand evidence that the committee needs.

BLITZER: The committee really wants to hear from him. We'll see if that happens.

Kaitlan, there's also the prospect of new video, previously unreleased video from another British filmmaker who was covering the final weeks of Trump's 2020 campaign. Did this catch people in Trump's circle off- guard?

COLLINS: Yes. And it kind of speaks to how chaotic it was in those final three weeks, leading up to the election, that period after the election and then what happened before January 6th. And so a lot of people say they learned today about this video and about the extensive access that this British filmmaker got that says he's now been subpoenaed and he's turned over and shared these hours' worth of footage with the committee.

That raises questions, of course, about what these officials were saying because he claims he interviewed Trump several times, several members of his family, talked to staffers inside the west wing. I believe that Vice President Mike Pence was also interviewed. So, it raises questions about what they said.

Now, we don't know exactly what this footage includes. People will be able to compare it to what they said then when they were not testifying to what they said to the committee when they were testifying. That will be a big question. But I think a lot of people have said they weren't aware of this happening.

I'm a little skeptical of that, the idea that a camera crew could come into the Trump campaign headquarters or into the west wing and no one questions what's going on but that has been what we've heard today from people saying that they were very surprised that this person had this extensive of access.


And if he has access on January 6th, obviously, that is going to be something that the committee really wants to see.

BLITZER: And we'd like to see that video, too, obviously. All of us would be very, very interested.

Kasie, does this sound like the committee is going to need to extend its schedule, have more hearings to deal with all these new developments?

HUNT: I think they're leaving potentially open that possibility but I also think that they are very acutely aware. And in my conversations with people that have been working on it, they know that this is the window, right? Like this is when they have America's attention. They need to do as much as they possibly can in this space and time.

It doesn't rule out any future action necessarily. I do think they're up against a really hard deadline, and that's November of this year, when it's really likely the Democrats will lose the House and, ultimately, this committee won't exist anymore.

BLITZER: You're a legal analyst, Laura. The committee hasn't made any decisions that we know of about whether to make formal criminal referrals to the U.S. Justice Department, for example. How big of an issue is this and is there serious disagreement among committee members? COATES: Well, we learned last week that there was this notion of, on the one hand, Bennie Thompson saying they weren't going to and Liz Cheney quickly coming back and saying, leave everything open for that very reason.

But you see, again, the attorney general, Merrick Garland, said we are watching very closely and my January 6th prosecutors are watching very closely. They already have more than 800 prosecutions going on right now, as Congressman Jamie Raskin talked about. We also have the idea of what is the information they're waiting to hear from the committee and vice versa.

It's very, very plausible that the attorney general and the prosecutors whose job it is to actually lead the prosecutions don't have the desire to hand over everything in a public fashion right now. There could be cooperators. There could be people who want to be helpful on a criminal side or don't want to come forward in a public event right now and risk their Fifth Amendment concerns. So, I'm waiting to see what they actually have.

BLITZER: Yes, I'm curious. All of us are curious. I want to see what they have as well.

Denver Riggleman, let me give you the last word on this. What do you think is going to happen as far as criminal referrals are concerned?

RIGGLEMAN: First of all, I want to tell everybody on the panel I sort of know some of the stuff that they have, so it's a lot. And I think -- I'll just say, and I think the biggest referral is when they transfer the data.

For me, I think the DOJ is paying attention to this. I know some of it. I know the data that they can actually sort of link to publications, interviews, metadata, emails, right, things of that nature. I think once they transfer that over, I think that's the most powerful statement to the DOJ that they're ready to rock and roll.

And for me, watching today, I think this was the most powerful hearing for me so far based on the individuals. But, again, I sort of agree with the panel here completely -- well, I agree with them completely, that the most powerful thing is the data that they transfer over to the DOJ. And they're making a hell of a case to say that this is a top-down sort of bizarrely structured coup-like movement that's going on with so many people.

BLITZER: Yes. We'll see what the attorney general of the United States decides to do with all that information. Thank you very, very much to the entire panel.

Coming up, new details emerging right now about former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and how he wanted to send Trump hats, Trump coins and more to election auditors in Georgia.


BLITZER: New information tonight about former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows revealed in today's January 6th hearing about how he wanted to entice election auditors in Georgia during the 2020 recount there.

CNN's Brian Todd is up on Capitol hill with the latest. Brian, we now know Meadows was privately admitting Trump lost even as he pushed the former president's election lies.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. Part of a pattern that observers say Mark Meadows was known for, often telling people of power and influence what they wanted to hear in order to advance his own personal ambitions.


TODD (voice over): In late November 2020, as then President Trump and his acolytes were feverishly pushing false claims of election fraud, one of the most rabid Trump enablers was his right-hand man in the oval office. Then-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows sent an impassioned text to Ginni Thomas, the right-wing activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Meadows said, of the battle to keep Trump in office, quote, this is a fight of good versus evil. Evil always looks like the victor until the king of kings triumph. Do not grow weary in well doing. The fight continues. I have staked my career on it.

DAVID SWERDLICK, SENIOR STAFF EDITOR, NEW YORK TIMES OPINION: It's more likely to me that Mark Meadows was playing to Virginia Thomas, a true believer, saying things in a way in his text that he probably thought she wanted to hear.

TODD: That message to Ginni Thomas was one of thousands of texts that Meadows turned over to the House January 6th committee before he stopped cooperating with the committee last December. According to reporting by CNN and The New Yorker, during the tumultuous period after the 2020 election and before the January 6th attack on the Capitol, Mark Meadows was burning both sides of a dangerous candle.

RYAN LIZZA, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: At the same time he's telling people, such as Bill Barr and others, we don't believe in this stuff, he is facilitating and putting in front of the president in the oval office the most -- anyone who comes to the door with some lunatic election fraud conspiracy theory.

TODD: Meadows also personally went to the state of Georgia after the election as part of the Trump team's efforts to flip the election results. According to the January 6th committee, citing a White House aide, Meadows even wanted to send swag to Georgia auditors.

SCHIFF: In the words of White House aide, a shitload of POTUS stuff, including coins, actual autographed MAGA hats, et cetera. The White House staff intervened to make sure that didn't happen.

TODD: Quite a journey from Meadows' time as a tea party conservative in the House, a seat he won in 2012. SWERDLICK: It was not so much thought of as a policy genius or someone who had a prospective agenda but someone who was there to derail the agenda of Democrats, to throw bombs.


TODD (voice-over): What led Meadows from that to his position at Trump's side during such a treacherous time? One analyst says pure ambition.

LIZZA: What mattered to him is he wanted to exercise power. And once he got in the White House and got that top position, he wanted to consolidate power around him.


TODD (voice-over): And now, ironically, Mark Meadows, the man who helped push those false election fraud theories for Trump is now himself the subject of a probe by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation for allegedly registering to vote at a home in that state where he never resided. A spokesperson for meadows declined to comment for our story -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd up on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.

Coming up, the Texas Public Safety director now says there were enough police to stop the Uvalde school shooter three minutes after he actually entered the school building. Now he's calling the response, and I'm quoting now, an abject failure.



BLITZER: Tonight, we're learning deeply disturbing new details about what went wrong in the police response to the Uvalde School shooting.

CNN crime and justice correspondent Shimon Prokupecz has the latest from Austin.


COL. STEVEN MCCRAW, DIRECTOR, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: The law enforcement response to the attack at Robb Elementary was an abject failure.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, new information detailing a law enforcement response gone horribly wrong. The head of Texas Department of Public Safety showing a damning and detailed minute by minute timeline chronicling the deadly attack that killed 19 children and two adults, and laying the blame on Pete Arredondo, the school district's police chief for the failed response.

MCCRAW: Three minutes after the subject entered the west building, there were a sufficient number of armed officers wearing body armor, to isolate, distract and neutralize the subject.

PROKUPECZ: Colonel Steve McCraw telling Texas lawmakers that 11 officers responded to the shooting and were inside the school by 11:36, within three minutes of the gunman entering the school, including school district police chief, Pete Arredondo.

Yet according to McGraw, they didn't do anything for over an hour at the guidance of Arradondo.

MCCRAW: The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from entering room 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children.

PROKUPECZ: Initially, authorities said the gunman entered two adjacent classrooms and barricaded himself behind locked doors. However, McCraw says video from the scene indicates not one of all the initial responding officers tried to open either of those doors until moments before they took the gunman down. And it had been unlocked the entire time.

MCCRAW: There's no way to lock the door from the inside, and there's no way for the subject to lock the door from the inside.

PROKUPECZ: McCraw revealed the strike plate on the door had been malfunctioning and wouldn't hold the lock.

A new image from surveillance footage obtained by "The Austin American-Statement" shows the halls of Robb Elementary at 11:52, at least three officers were in the hallway, two with rifles and one who appears to have a tactical shield, just 19 minutes after the gunman entered the school.

MCCRAW: The doctrine for active shooters is clear. You stop the killing. You stop the dying.

PROKUPECZ: Despite this, they waited in the hallway outside the classrooms and didn't attempt to enter until 12:50 p.m. at the direction of Arredondo.

Arredondo is facing harsh criticism for his alleged lack of action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were spilled (ph) by Peter Arredondo. He killed our kids, teachers, parents and city.

JOSE FLORES, FATHER OF JOSE FLORES: Turning back the whole hour, leaving them on the site with that gunman, it's not right. It's cowardly. Cowardly -- cowardly stuff.


PROKUPECZ (on camera): And, Wolf, we reached out to Chief Arredondo's attorney. We've not heard back from the attorney.

Interestingly enough, Wolf, Arredondo was actually in this building here today at the capitol in Austin. He was testifying at a different committee, at a House committee which has been running its own investigation, but the difference there is that testimony, it was behind closed doors. They've been running their own investigation, taking all the testimony behind closed doors.

And, of course, you know, families -- a lot of the families in Uvalde, students who -- the parents of students who went to the school, they say they want Arredondo fired -- Wolf.

BLITZER: CNN's Shimon Prokupecz on the scene for us, thank you very much.

Coming up, a key breakthrough right now in the bipartisan gun deal. We have details when we come back.



BLITZER: New information tonight on a breakthrough -- a breakthrough on gun safety legislation in the wake of the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde.

CNN congressional correspondent Jessica Dean is working the story for us.

So, what's the latest, Jessica?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a very significant step. We now have build text for this bipartisan bill and they are moving ahead with the gun safety legislation.

We also know that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he supports this legislation and Senator Romney, one of 10 Republicans who agreed to the frame work, said that he also supports the legislation. They were on a call. So it looks like all things are a go for this.

Let me walk you through what's actually in the bill. It's going to close the so-called boyfriend loophole and what that means is anyone convicted of domestic abuse is not allowed to have a gun. Now there is a provision if it is a misdemeanor and five years pass with no other charges or convictions, that person can get their rights back.

It's also going to revolutionize mental health funding. School services for students who need help, school, and community safety funding. There's also funding for crisis intervention programs, things like drug courts, as well as incentivizing states to set up red flag laws.

And finally, Wolf, it's going to enhance background checks for younger buyers. So, again, this is very significant and, Wolf, we now know -- we just learned in the last few minutes. They are setting up a 7:30 vote to kind of start this process. It's a procedural vote but kicks it all off.

BLITZER: Very significant development indeed. Thanks very much, Jessica Dean on Capitol Hill. And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.