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1/6 Witnesses Say, Trump Tried To Misuse Justice Department To Stay In Power; 1/6 Hearing Goes Inside Oval Office Standoff Days Before Riot; 1/6 Committee Reveals GOP Lawmakers Who Sought Pardons From Trump; Supreme Court Strikes Down New York Law on Carrying Concealed Handgun. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 23, 2022 - 18:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: But we wanted to make sure that you had all information having to do with that clip.

Wolf Blitzer picks our coverage in THE SITUATION ROOM. That's next.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's coverage of the January 6th hearings continues right now. I am Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It was a day of truly powerful, very dramatic testimony, the select committee, making the case that Donald J. Trump used his power to try to corrupt the U.S. Justice Department for his own personal political benefit, his goal of overturning the 2020 presidential election and staying in office, no matter the cost to the country.

Let's go straight to CNN's Pamela Brown, she's up on Capitol Hill. Pamela, the Justice Department was under extraordinary pressure from the very top to declare the election was corrupt, but DOJ clearly resisted. Tell us more what we heard today.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It did. And you wonder if these people were not in the positions they were at the time, what would have happened to democracy, Wolf.

These top former DOJ officials described how they were essentially the guardians of democracy, relentlessly pressured by the former president of the United States, Donald Trump, to use the power of DOJ to overturn the election results even after DOJ had investigated the fraud and found that there was no widespread fraud.

Here is a clip of the remarkable exchange that the former acting attorney general, Jeff Rosen, described in talking to Trump during that time.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): You also noted that Mr. Rosen said to Mr. Trump, quote, DOJ can't and won't snap its fingers and change the outcome of the election. How did the president respond to that, sir?

RICHARD DONOGHUE, FORMER ACTING DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: He responded very quickly and said, essentially, that's not what I am asking you to do. What I am just asking you to do is just say it was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.


BROWN: And when it became clear that they would not do Trump's bidding, the former president zeroed in on someone at DOJ who would, this little known environmental attorney named Jeffrey Clark. In fact, the proposition of him taking over, replacing Jeff Rosen as the acting attorney general became so real that apparently, according to what the committee showed today, on January 3rd, he was being referenced as the acting attorney general in the phone calls between Clark and the White House on that day.

Here is what the former DOJ officials had to say about Clark and his qualifications or lack thereof for that role.


DONOGHUE: I made the point that Jeff Clark is not even competent to serve as the attorney general and he kind of retorted by saying, well, I've done a lot of very complicated appeals and civil litigation, environmental litigation and things like that, and I said that's right, you're an environmental lawyer. How about you go back to your office and we will call you when there is an oil spill?

And Pat Cipollone weighed in at one point, I remember, saying, you know, that letter that this guy wants to send, that letter is a murder-suicide pact. It is going to damage everyone who touches it and we should have nothing to do with that letter.

ERIC HERSCHMANN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE LAWYER:: And when he finished discussing what he plan on doing, I said, good fucking -- excuse me, sorry -- f'ing, A-hole, congratulations, you just committed the first step or act as attorney general will be committing a felony in violating rule 6c. You're clearly the right candidate for this job.


BROWN: Now, in early January, when it became clear Trump might seriously replace Rosen with Clark as the acting attorney general, the committee presented more testimony and evidence that other top DOJ officials pledged to resign if that happened, which, as we know, did not ultimately occur. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, certainly true. Pamela, the committee also highlighted how some Republican members of Congress were seeking pardons from Trump in the aftermath of January 6th. Tell us about that. That was a very powerful, very, very dramatic moment.

BROWN: It was. In fact, the committee presented not only testimony but other evidence in the form of an email of Congressman Mo Brooks as sending a letter to the White House saying that he would like a pardon along with Matt Gaetz and other Republican allies who had voted to decertify the results in Pennsylvania and Arizona.

So, you have an email that the committee showed, also testimony from a former Meadows aide talking about how Congressman Perry -- he was denied the ask for a pardon. She said, no, that he actually asked her directly for a pardon, and several other congressmen, as well, Andy Biggs and Louie Gohmert also, according to what the committee displayed today, asking for pardons.

Now, again, Perry has denied it. Matt Gaetz released a tweet just earlier, just before I came on, not denying it but, of course, trashing the committee, as he has done all along.


So, this is interesting to now see more of what the committee has in terms of these Republican congressmen who were allies of Trump asking for pardons, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very dramatic indeed. All right, Pamela, thank very, very much. We will get back to you.

I want to dig deeper right now with our correspondents and our analysts, and, Jeffrey Toobin, let me start you. How disturbing was that message we learned today? Then-President Trump sent this message to the Justice Department, to all these officials, just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: And the Republicans in the House. You know, the intensity and duration of the president's efforts to use the Justice Department with no evidence of actual fraud to stop the counting of votes and overturn the election in advance of January 6th, it was simply astonishing and was the most direct evidence we have had of possible criminality by the president.

And it wasn't even, in my opinion, the biggest news of the day, which was that the Justice Department, which many people has regarded as asleep at the switch, today -- or yesterday -- searched the home of Jeffrey Clark as, apparently, it seems, part of the January 6th investigation. So, this isn't just Congress investigating January 6th in the White House, this is now the Justice Department using search warrants as well. This was the biggest day of the January 6th investigation, in every respect.

BLITZER: It certainly was. The fact that they raided this former Justice Department official's home out in suburban Virginia just outside of Washington, D.C., very, very dramatic moment indeed.

Kaitlan, it seemed based on all the testimony he heard today, this was sworn testimony, Trump, as president, was getting increasingly desperate by the day.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Very desperate. And they kind of tried to draw that distinction at the end the committee did there, saying that he had his option, his effort to go to court, to try to challenge this in a legal manner and have these legal challenges, and they were rejected time and time and time and time again. And he became more desperate in that sense of he started trying to use the Justice Department to use it at his will to try to get his way for political gain. And that is what these officials were laying out, the idea that Jeffrey Rosen, when he was acting attorney general after Bill Barr had resigned, said he spoke to Trump nearly every day. He said, the only exception he could remember was Christmas. And they were all about these election fraud claims that the president was making and asking them to look into, that he had seen either online or on television, including one that was so desperate that he had the chief of staff call the Defense Department, the Pentagon, to call the defense attache in Italy and ask them to look into a claim that Italian software had opinion uploaded to a chat satellite and used to change vote. It was that kind of crazy stuff, which they described as pure insanity today.

And I think it just speaks to the fact Trump views this through the lens of, as they testified, what did he have to lose by doing all this?

BLITZER: Yes, it was total insanity, indeed. And, fortunately, the senior Justice Department officials who testified today, they understood that and did the right thing.

You know, Kasie, the -- I want our viewers and I want you to watch how the acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, described the enormous pressure he was facing sometimes on a daily basis from the then- president. Watch this.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): From the time you took over from Attorney General Barr until January 3rd, how often did President Trump contact you or the department to push allegations of election fraud?

JEFFREY ROSEN, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: So, between December 23rd and January 3rd, the president either called me or met with me virtually every day with or two exceptions, like Christmas Day.


KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Just an absolutely stunning reality. And imagine the pressure that he would have felt, this coming from the Oval Office, day in and day out. This is not obviously normal at all.

And I think that one of the critical things here. I mean, we -- again, we have heard almost exclusively from Republicans throughout these hearings, right? It's been Republicans who have been leveling these accusations, who have been describing the pressure that they came under from Trump himself and from people who are willing to ally themselves with Trump.

And I thought that that was a really important theme of how we saw this laid out today. We obviously learned a lot of new, incredibly important information but think about who the messengers were. It was Adam Kinzinger doing the questioning. It was Liz Cheney wrapping it up at the end, talking directly to Donald Trump supporters, saying it can be difficult that President Trump abused your trust, that he deceived you, many will invent excuses, but it is a fact. She said, I wish it wasn't true but it is.

And I think that taken together, this is a pretty compelling case to the extent that there are people out there who are willing to accept new information about this that they were able to get through.


BLITZER: And what was also fascinating, Carrie, and I want your thoughts on this, that Jeffrey Clark, who was totally unqualified to be the attorney general, was roaming around the Justice Department doing the president's bidding very dramatically behind the scenes.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he was an acting assistant attorney general of an entire component of the department of the civil division. So, I don't want people to have the impression that he was some low level attorney in the department. What is absolutely completely, unprecedented is the fact that he was going behind the Justice Department's leadership and meeting directly with the president. That doesn't happen.

BLITZER: Even after they told him you can't do that.

CORDERO: Exactly. That doesn't happen and that is so highly unusual, and that's why we saw former Acting Attorney General Rosen testify the way that he did today when he found out about it.

COLLINS: And can we add that also on the White House call logs, they were already referring to Jeffrey Clark as the acting attorney general? That is so incredibly rare for that to be changed. And a big question, of course, is who changed it to that.

BLITZER: Well, someone did, obviously, and he was totally unqualified, as that clearly came through today during the course of all this testimony.

Everybody, stand by. Coming up, we will have much more on today's clearly damning testimony. Did former President Trump commit a crime -- a crime -- by asking officials to declare the election corrupt? We are going to talk about it with a key member of the January 6th select committee. That's next.



BLITZER: More now on the very dramatic and very powerful testimony in today's January 6th select committee hearing focusing in on the enormous pressure that former President Trump put on top U.S. Justice Department officials to help him overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election here in the United States.

Joining us now, a key member of the January-6th select committee, Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy of Florida. Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.

Trump told the top officials at the Justice Department to declare the election corrupt and he said, leave the rest to him. Does that amount, from your perspective, potentially to criminal behavior?

REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-FL): Well, I will leave the determination of criminal behavior to the Department of Justice. But what I will say is that it is a reflection of the increasing desperation that former President Trump felt when he lost the election, was told repeatedly he had lost the election and was casting a ballot to find anybody willing to join him in this con to defraud the American people out of their free and fair election.

BLITZER: What is the worst case scenario, Congresswoman, if these witnesses we heard from today hadn't had the courage to stand up to Trump and his ally in the Justice Department, Jeffrey Clark?

MURPHY: I think it would have been a constitutional crisis, just as you heard one of the witnesses say. You know, in a country, in a democracy, we have to be able to have faith in our elections and then have a peaceful transfer of power. What you saw President Trump do was apply pressure to the Department of Justice to investigate and try to find fraud. And when they couldn't find the evidence, he said, just say it's corrupt. He didn't even really want them to investigate. He just needed the pretense that there was something wrong with the election. And that is incredibly dangerous to sow that kind of doubt in our electoral process.

BLITZER: The end of the hearing today, your committee revealed that some of your own colleagues, sitting members of Congress, Republicans, wanted pardons from then-President Trump for their roles related to January 6th. What sort of accountability do they need to face?

MURPHY: Well, we have invited our colleagues who have information relevant to the January 6th committee to come speak with us and I certainly hope that they will do that as opposed to just continuing to use -- tweet about the committee's work. It would be very helpful if we could hear from them directly and understand why they thought their behavior deserved a pardon or needed a pardon.

BLITZER: Separately, from your committee's hearing today, we have now learned that federal agents actually raided former top Justice Department Official Jeffrey Clark's home only yesterday in suburban Virginia outside of Washington, D.C. What does that tell you, Congresswoman?

MURPHY: Well, I don't want to comment on the Department of Justice's efforts, but what I will say is that I am glad to see that they are continuing to prosecute and investigate in areas where they think may be criminal wrongdoing has been committed by people associated with what happened on January 6th.

BLITZER: Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy of Florida, thank you so much for joining us on a very historic, very busy day. Thank you.

MURPHY: Great to be with you.

BLITZER: Thank you, once again. Thank you.

Coming up, we will have much more on today's seismic hearing. Also, a first look at the Trump documentary footage actually subpoenaed by this House January 6th select committee. You are going to want to see this.



BLITZER: Tonight, a first look at the Trump documentary footage now in the hands of the January 6th select committee members.

CNN's Brian Todd is working this part of the story for us. Brian, the filmmaker, Alex Holder, had extensive access to then-President Trump and his family and top aides in the final weeks of his presidency. What are we learning from these first clips that we're now getting?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the clips are really providing some added intrigue to these House hearings on January 6th. The committee now has possession of this documentary. They are reviewing it, reviewing clips of it and they're reviewing, according to sources who spoke to CNN, hours and hours of other footage from this raw footage and outtakes from this documentary.

The documentary is called Unprecedented. Made by British Filmmaker Alex Holder. It's going to be released later this summer by Discovery Plus, who is owned by CNN's parent company.

Now, as part of this documentary, filmmaker, Alex Holder, interviewed Donald Trump two months after the January 6th insurrection. Here is a clip from that part of the documentary.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we talk for a minute about January 6th?


Well, it was a sad day but a day where there was great angry in our country. People went to Washington primarily because they were angry with an election that they think was rigged.


A very small portion, as you know, went down to the Capitol. And then a very small portion of them went in. But I will tell you, they were angry from the standpoint of what happened in the election because they are smart and they see, and they saw what happened. And I believe that that was a big part of what happened on January 6th.


TODD: Now, the filmmaker also interviewed Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, in December of 2020. This was, of course, the period after the 2020 elections when Trump and his team were disputing the results, trying to get the results reversed, and taken a lot of legal actions. This is a clip from that section of the documentary where they spoke to Ivanka Trump. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They thought because people showed up to their rallies, that meant they were popular. The idea that other people might be sitting at home feeling differently about it seems not to have occurred to them. They genuinely thought that must be true.

D. TRUMP: We won Georgia, we won Michigan, we on Pennsylvania, we won them all.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF DONALD TRUMP: As the president has said, every single vote needs to be counted and needs to be heard. And he campaigned for the voiceless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's interesting to see Ivanka Trump say that her father wanted every vote to be counted because Trump's mission in the days after the election was to stop the counting of votes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reality is people in this country were getting multiple ballots in the mail. There are thousands and thousands of people who are voting in multiple states.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no evidence whatsoever that the voter fraud that they are claiming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But after weeks trying to overturn the results of the election, his legal team has come up with nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So far, they've lost 30 cases.

RUDY GIULIANI, DONALD TRUMP'S FORMER LAWYER: I would love to release all the information that I have. I would love to give it to you all, except most of you wouldn't cover it.

D. TRUMP: All the legal documents and everything else, it is not even a contest but you still need a judge that has courage, and so far, we haven't found that judge.


TODD: Now, regarding those remarks by Ivanka Trump in the middle of that clip that you just saw, where she talks about counting all the votes, there is another clip from the documentary that has not been released in which Ivanka Trump is quoted as saying her father should, quote, continue to fight until every legal remedy is exhausted because people are questioning the sanctity of our election.

But she said that to the filmmaker just days after then-Attorney General William Barr had told the president and his aides, who would have included Ivanka Trump, that he saw no evidence of election fraud and Ivanka Trump later told the House committee that she agreed with that. She accepted Barr's findings. So, what she said to the filmmaker about counting all the votes and possibly disputing the election, then saying to the House committee that she accepted what Bill Barr said, that there was no election fraud, may be a contradiction there that the House committee will be looking at. Wolf? BLITZER: I am sure you are right. Brian Todd, thank you.

And we are going to hear directly from the man behind this new documentary, Alex Holder, when he joins CNN's Don Lemon later tonight 10:00 P.M. Eastern right here on CNN.

In the meantime, let's discuss what is going on with this new documentary and the hearing that unfolded. I understand some of Trump' associates, Kaitlan, and you do a lot of reporting on this, are pretty nervous about what else is in this documentary.

COLLINS: I think a lot of them went into this thinking it was harmless and that they were under the impression this was going to be a very flattering documentary. That was kind of how it was pitched to them, that it was going to be about Trump's legacy and his accomplishments in office. And that's why so many of them, the closest people to Trump, agreed to sit down for it.

And so I think part of the concern is a lot of them weren't that worried about it, and so they don't really recall the extent of what they said in these interviews, and they did a lot of them. I mean, Ivanka Trump sat down with them three times. Eric Trump sat down with them twice. Jared Kushner sat down with them several times. Trump obviously sat down with them three times.

But what I have also heard from officials is that they were told that it would be very flattering. They were told, they claim, that they were going to have editorial input and say-so over what the final product was going to look like. I should note that is something that the documentary -- the filmmaker has denied.

But I think a lot of them also say they are not that concerned that it has any kind of Watergate-esque comparison, that they were really just talking in flattering terms about the former president and about his legacy. But it does raise so many questions like why Pence sat down with him six days after January 6th had happened. After all those things that were documented by the committee, they all sat down for testimony or for interviews with this documentary.

BLITZER: You know, it's significant from the legal perspective, also, because all these interviews that Trump was then giving would underscore his mindset, his intent, in dealing with all these sensitive issues.

TOOBIN: And that is really the central issue with the criminal investigation that's going on now. What was President Trump s intent in trying to overturn the election?

Now, if he was sincerely trying to get all the votes counted and sincerely believed that the votes would vindicate him, that suggests that a criminal case would be very unlikely.


What made today so devastating for him, including in a potential criminal investigation, was the suggestion that he knew that he lost. And the quote that you mentioned earlier, which is just say there was fraud and let me deal with it. That is indicative of someone who knew that he lost and was just trying to overturn the election by any means possible.

BLITZER: Let me get Carrie to weigh in on that point as well.

CORDERO: So, I think I have a little different view of this documentary, Wolf, which is that I don't think the statements that the president or his family members made in this documentary is really going to be that relevant to the committee's work or to a criminal investigation of what his intent was. He lied all the time in public. This was T.V. So, I don't think it really matters in that sense.

I think the big difference is that the documentary is something that he can say whatever he wants under the First Amendment. The people who are testifying before Congress, the people who gave depositions, those are the people who are speaking under oath, under penalty of potential perjury.

And so when he look at the statements that former Attorney General Barr said in his deposition, where he said, I'm not sure that we would have had a transition at all, that, I find, to be a credible statement. When we look at the -- a number -- I have half a dozen different actions that the witnesses provided today that President Trump asked them to do a specific thing in furtherance of his plot to overthrow the election. Those are things that I think are going to matter both to the committee's work and to the Justice Department's work.

HUNT: I mean, one thing that I am interested to see here, Wolf, is how many of the statements we are seeing this a little bit with Ivanka Trump conflict with what these people told the committee, what kind of --

BLITZER: Under oath.

HUNT: Under oath, right. Like what kind of picture does it paint?

I agree with you that anything that was said on those tapes clearly is in a much different context than anyone that sat for these kinds of depositions. But from a political perspective and from -- you know, they have been trying to make a case to people who were willing to support Donald Trump and who may potentially be Donald Trump voters in 2024 that this is not acceptable, that what we saw play out was not acceptable.

And to the extent that the content of the documentary, and hearing more about what was going on behind the scenes in the minds of the president's supporters, closest aides, his family, and the president himself, I think able to juxtapose that against what the committee is showing we actually know now about what happened potentially does help the political case, if not, the legal one.

BLITZER: I am anxious to get, Jeffrey, your thoughts on the evidence that was released at the end of the hearing today on these Republican members of Congress actually seeking pardons protectively from the White House because of what happened on January 6th.

TOOBIN: Well, it really fits into the overall story we're seeing here, which is the air of criminality was in the air even then. You have Eric Herschmann saying to Jeffrey Clark, you know, you better have a good criminal defense lawyer. You are going to commit a crime as attorney general, if you become attorney general. The same thing with these members of Congress who were, it seems they think, involved in illegal activities on January 6th.

You don't ask for a pardon if you think there is no chance you are going to be investigated or prosecuted, and that's what, you know, this whole area, it suggests that everyone involved knew that criminal charges were possible.

HUNT: You know what else it underscores too? They knew the president was not going to be the president anymore. They knew that he had lost, right? Because they need to ask for pardon then before he leaves office, before the inauguration, which I think also shows you just the complete absurdity of the entire project.

COLLINS: I think what really stood out was Johnny McEntee said it kind of casually. He was one of the closest people to Trump. Obviously, he was always in the Oval Office. When he was asked about people and the family inquiring about pardons, he said, pretty much, everybody was asking for one. Everyone who was involved on that day, referring to January 6th, was seeking a pardon.

BLITZER: Just to protect themselves down the road?

COLLINS: Well, they spoke of them in pretty broad terms as they were talking about when they were asking what kind of pardons these people were searching for, but saying that everyone was looking for one. Because CNN had reported at the time, as Trump was leaving office, and he pardoned a lot people on his way out, that he had considered giving pardons to his family members but decided ultimately against doing so.

BLITZER: Yes, very dramatic stuff. All right, guys, thank you very much.

When we come back, the journalist, whose reporting uncovered the Watergate scandal, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, they are here with me. We will discuss today's dramatic hearing with them when we come back. Stay with us.



BLITZER: We are back in THE SITUATION ROOM with our special coverage of the January 6th hearings. Witnesses took us inside a very tense standoff in the Oval Office only days before the January 6th insurrection. Trump was threatening to fire the acting-attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, and replace him with a loyalist, Jeffrey Clark, who was eager to overturn the presidential election. Watch this.


DONOGHUE: He said, so, suppose, I do this, suppose I replace him, Jeff Rosen, with him, Jeff Clark, what would you do? And I said, Mr. President, I would resign immediately. I am not working one minute for this guy, who I just declared was completely incompetent.

And so the president immediately turned to Mr. Engel and he said, Steve, you wouldn't resign, would you? And he said, absolutely, I would, Mr. President. You leave me no choice. And then I said, and we are not the only ones. No one cares if we resign. If Steve and I go, that's fine. It doesn't matter. But I am telling you what is going to happen. You are going to lose your entire department leadership.


Every single aide will walk out on you. Your entire department leadership will walk out within hours.

And I don't know what happens after that. I don't know what the United States Attorneys are going to do. We have U.S. Attorneys in districts across the country. And my guess would be that many of them would have resigned.


BLITZER: Joining us now, the veteran journalist, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, whose amazing reporting uncovered the Watergate scandal.

Carl, let me start with you. How close did the country come to what many of us remember a Saturday night massacre?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the parallel is striking, except this is worse than the Saturday night massacre. In the Saturday night massacre, President Nixon attempted to shut down an investigation of the White House. Here, we see something much more grievous, an attempt by the president of the United States to totally undermine the whole structure and law as put forward by the Justice Department itself as part of a plot, a coup plot to overturn the legally constituted election and to go even farther than that to keep himself in office after the duly elected president of the United States.

It is all starting to fit together. We are seeing a president in real- time -- real-time who is not just a criminal president but attempting to subvert every aspect of U.S. history having to do with the presidency, every bit of the conduct of defending the Constitution, and instead showing his own constitutional and legally criminality. We have never seen anything like this in our history.

BLITZER: And, Bob, I am just anxious to get your thoughts on this incredible day. It was really a powerful series of witnesses and what they said.

BOB WOODWARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, compelling. If I may, have a reminiscence with Carl, 50 years ago -- BLITZER: Almost exactly 50 years ago.

WOODWARD: Yes. It was with no internet, we used to get mail. And we each had a mailbox at The Post. And I remember going there one day. And this was a time people -- I don't know what it was -- writing in letter saying that the CIA had transmitters that were making their teeth vibrate.

And so we are looking at this and Carl is and -- you know, and we are saying this is crazy. And Carl said, suppose one of them is right. And you kind of said, well, I mean, that is a lead we won't follow. You don't have time.

But some of this stuff is vibrating teeth, quite frankly, the Italian satellites and so forth.

BLITZER: And they were changing --

WOODWARD: And I wrote three brooks on Trump. And Trump will get on an avenue and a path, and you -- no one can talk him off of it. And that's what we see in a lot of this stuff doesn't make sense.

Now, the other element, and I think today was really one of the great days in investigative television and hearings. And if you pull back a little bit, it shouldn't be polarizing, because it's so clear what was going on. And I think it gives the Republicans -- I know a lot of Republicans deal with Republicans. And a lot of them are very sensible and don't want to get -- don't want to lose, don't want to be on the wrong side.

BLITZER: Of history.

WOODWARD: And I think a Republican can look at this and say, wait a minute, is this what I want in the presidency? Is this what I want my country to be? And so I think what they did really goes deep and will quite rightly remember this day because it was June 23rd in 1972 when Nixon and Haldeman talked about using the CIA to stop the FBI investigation. That was the smoking gun literally 50 years ago. And this may be a smoking gun too. It's so strong.

BLITZER: And you say, correct me if I am wrong, Carl, this is actually what has happened now, is actually worse than Watergate.

BERNSTEIN: Oh, it is, because among other things, the system worked in Watergate and Richard Nixon voluntarily left the office. In this case, the president of the United States attempted a coup to stay in office after his criminality had been revealed, after he had lost the election, to totally subvert the system.

But let's go back to why these hearings are so extraordinary, even more so in some regards, than the Watergate hearings. Everything is fitting together like a glove. We are seeing today a tick tock moving inexorably to January 6th.

[18:45:06] We are seeing the conduct of the president of the United States. He tries one thing. It doesn't work. The justice department finally says, you do this, Mr. President, you're through.

So, he keeps going. And what happens? He keeps going and the committee has the evidence of it. He keeps going and then you have the insurrection inspired by him at the Capitol.

So, we now have the whole story starting to unfold and is being told by the officials closest to him and their aides. Cassidy Hutchinson, today, the assistant to Mark Meadows, of the chief of staff -- she gave that committee what they need. It is happening to Pat Cipollone's assistant.

They are giving the committee what they need to show this grievous illegality by the president.

BLITZER: We'll see if any of this leads to actual criminal charges, we will find out. I suspect relatively soon.

Guys, thank you very, very much for joining us.

Coming up, the bipartisan gun-safety bill clears a critical hurdle in the U.S. Senate today. We're going to talk to a lawmaker helping drive the legislation. Senator Richard Blumenthal is standing by live.

We'll discuss when we come back.



BLITZER: Other very important news we're following tonight, United States Supreme Court striking down a new law, a law I should say in New York state restricting who can carry a concealed handgun. The conservative majority ruling the century old law in New York state was unconstitutional.

Let's some more with Democratic Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut. He's driving the gun safety bill. He casts -- he actually casts a key 60th vote today to advance the legislation.

Senator, thank you so much for joining us.

How far do you fear today's Supreme Court ruling will go in eroding gun restrictions not only in New York state but nationwide?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): This decision is deeply destructive to responsible conventional gun violence because it is such an expansive view of Second Amendment rights. It will unleash gun violence in many communities across America because it justifies very, very broad rights to carry firearms in public and it will lead to more guns in public and likely more gun deaths and injuries in public, because states will have to justify any kinds of restrictions by showing how their analogous or comparable to restrictions that existed at the time of the Second Amendment. And, as you know, there were mostly muskets in those days. And so, the comparability is going to be very difficult for communities to justify.

BLITZER: The conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito pointed out this New York state law didn't stop the recent mass murder -- the mass shooting in a Buffalo shooting in New York state. What's your reaction to that?

BLUMENTHAL: My reaction is that, with all due respect, Justice Alito has no understanding of the background to that Buffalo shooting. In fact, the New York red flag law should have stopped it had there been sufficient resources to implement the law properly, it would have stopped it.

And that's why our new proposal, the Safer Communities Act, provides $750 million in resources to states like New York that have red flag laws, and it provides support for other states to adopt similar laws. But implementation and enforcement are key to any law, particularly these red flag laws.

I've worked with Senator Lindsey Graham for the last four years on a red flag or emergency risk protection order statute. It's been totally bipartisan and there are bipartisan support for this element and the other elements that we've negotiated in this law.

BLITZER: It certainly looks like the Senate is about to pass this first major gun control bill in decades. How much a difference do you think it will make when the Supreme Court is massively, right now, expanding gun rights?

BLUMENTHAL: There is nothing in this latest Supreme Court decision that in any way impugns the specific provisions of this bipartisan Community Safer Act, the one we'll hopefully pass in the next couple hours. There's nothing directly that challenges its legality or constitutionality.

I'm worried about the expansive view of the Second Amendment by the Supreme Court as interpreted by lower courts, but I think this measure will save lives. That's the key measure for me. It will save lives, even if it's not everything that I fought for, or everything I would have written into the law if I've been doing it alone.

BLITZER: Senator Richard Blumenthal, thanks so much for joining us.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BLITZER: We have much more coverage of the latest January 6th hearing just ahead. Stay with us.



BLITZER: For more than 15 years, CNN Heroes has been honoring everyday people changing the world, but this Saturday, some not so everyday people making a real difference.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta sat down with actor Sean Penn and the founder of CORE, his disaster response nonprofit, Ann Lee. Watch this.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you think of your work as heroic?

SEAN PENN, ACTOR: I have gotten to have a front row seat to what heroism is. When I was walking back over the border after the trip, during the invasion, into Poland, and almost every car that was lined up and almost every adult person was a woman with one or multiple children who had no interest in leaving their husbands, who, both, by choice, and also by mandate, had to stay in the o interest in leaving their husbands, who, o interest in leaving their husbands, who, both, by choice, and also by mandate, had to stay in the country from 18 to 60.

You know, what's a hero? If your eyes are open, if your heart's open at all, boy, it's not hard to find it.


BLITZER: "CNN Heroes Salutes", it premiers 10:00 p.m. Eastern Saturday night. We'll be watching, of course.

And to our viewers, thank you very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITAUTION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.