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Ex-White House Aide Paints Damning Portrait Of Trump Raging On January 6; Ex-White House Aide Says, Irate Trump Wanted To Join The Mob At The Capitol; Ex-White House Aide Says, Meadows Said Trump Thought Pence Deserves To Be Hanged; Meadows' Evolution From Values Conservative To Trump Enabler; Ukraine Pres: New Video Shows Devastating Attack On Shopping Mall. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 28, 2022 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I hope they get on it. Jean Cazares, thank you so much.

If you ever miss an episode of "THE LEAD", you can listen to "THE LEAD" wherever you get your podcasts. Be sure to tune in tonight. Anderson cooper and I starting at 8:00 P.M. Eastern are going to provide some special coverage of the today's hearing.

Our coverage continues now with a guy I like to call Wolf Blitzer and he is in a place I like to call THE SITUATION ROOM, right next door. I'll see you at 8:00 P.M. tonight.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a former White House aide paints a portrait of then-President Trump unhinged and raging on January 6th even when told many of his supporters were armed and violence could be imminent. It may be the most damning yet in the select committee's investigation and it raises serious new questions about Trump's state of mind and potential, potential criminal liability. We're breaking it all down, including the new account of Trump throwing a tantrum when the Secret Service refused to allow him to join the mob at the U.S. Capitol.

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.

Former President Trump and one of his top aides, Cassidy Hutchinson, dropped bombshell after bombshell on live television today. We're told even some Trump allies were left speechless.

CNN's Ryan Nobles reports on today's January 6th hearing and all the stunning new accounts of Trump's actions before and during the insurrection.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The moment she was sworn in, Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, made it clear she had much to share. CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: That evening was the first moment that I remember feeling scared and nervous for what could happen on January 6th.

NOBLES: Providing unique insight into a chaotic White House in the days leading up to January 6th and a president who cheered the rioters and she said, she was told, desperately wanted to be with them.

HUTCHINSON: The president said something to the effect of, I'm the f- ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now.

The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said, sir, you need to take your hand off the steering wheel. We're going back to the west wing. We're not going to the Capitol. Mr. Trump then his free hand to lunged towards Bobby Engel.

NOBLES: Hutchinson detailed Trump's insistence that he follow his supporters to the Capitol on January 6th despite being told repeatedly it was dangerous and potentially illegal.

HUTCHINSON: Mr. Cipollone said something to the effect of, please make sure we don't go up to the Capitol, Cassidy. Keep in touch with me. We're going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen. We had conversations about potentially obstructing justice or defrauding the electoral count.

NOBLES: She outlined repeated examples of an unstable commander-in- chief who lashed out in anger often after losing the 2020 election, like when he learned Attorney General William Barr told the Associated Press there was no widespread voter fraud.

HUTCHINSON: There was ketchup dripping down the wall and there's a shattered porcelain plate on the floor. The valet had articulated that the president was extremely angry at the attorney general's A.P. interview and had thrown his lunch against the wall.

NOBLES: Sitting just doors away from the Oval Office, Hutchinson was central to key moments leading up to January 6th. Meadows himself warned her.

HUTCHINSON: Things might get real, real bad on January 6th.

NOBLES: She also made it clear White House officials knew about the vast array of weapons the crowd was carrying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've got three men walking down the street in fatigues carrying AR-15s. Copy at 14th and Independence.

NOBLES: Including Trump, who said in a tent at the rally site --

HUTCHINSON: I overhead the president say something to the effect of, I don't care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the f-ing mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in. Taking the f-ing mags away.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We're going to walk down, and I'll be there with you, but we're going to walk down to the Capitol.

NOBLES: Hutchinson said she was also in contact with Republican leaders, like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who warned her that Trump should not come to the Capitol.

HUTCHINSON: He said, well, he just said it on stage, Cassidy. Figure it out. Don't come up here.

NOBLES: As the crowd was raging, Hutchinson testified that Trump was cheering them on, agreeing with the chants to quote, hang Mike Pence.

HUTCHINSON: Mark had responded something to the effect of, you heard him, Pat.


He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn't think they're doing anything wrong.

NOBLES: And recounted White House Counsel Pat Cipollone's reaction.

HUTCHINSON: People are going to die and the blood is going to be on your f-ing hands.

NOBLES: The day after the violence, the White House counsel and advisers urged him to give a speech condemning the rioters.

HUTCHINSON: We need to get a stronger message out there and condemn this. This is your legacy. There're already talks about invoking the 25th Amendment. You need this as cover.

NOBLES: Trump wanted to float the idea of pardons for those who broke into the Capitol, something he ultimately did not do.

NOBLES: Mr. Meadows said, seek that pardon.

NOBLES: And according to Hutchinson, many others, including Meadows and Giuliani, sought pardons from Trump.

A once loyal Republican committed to Trump and his mission, Hutchinson now says --

HUTCHINSON: I remember feeling frustrated, disappointed, really, it felt personal. I was really sad. As an American, I was disgusted. It was unpatriotic. It was un-American. We were watching the Capitol building get defaced over a lie.


NOBLES (on camera): There appeared to be at least one person who was a pretty captive audience for this January 6 select committee hearing today, and that's the former president himself, Donald Trump. He was responding in real-time to Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony on his website, Truth Social. He said that many of the things that Hutchinson said simply were not true, according to his recollection. And one of the things that he said is that he barely knew Hutchinson, this despite the fact that she testified about her very close proximity to the Oval Office itself and Donald Trump. Wolf?

BLITZER: That's absolutely true. All right, Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill, thanks very much.

There's certainly a lot to discuss with our analysts right now. Joining us, CNN's Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, CNN Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel, CNN Senior Legal Analyst Laura Coates and CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director.

Jamie, how stunning were all these revelations today?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, Cassidy Hutchinson was the triple threat. She really was a strong witness. She was credible. She had access. She had no ax to grind. She was a loyal Trump person and she came in there today and it was bombshell after bombshell, whether it was about his wanting to let people through the mags with guns down at the rally or some of the comments just in real-time hearing.

Top White House officials, like Pat Cipollone, knew exactly what was going on and how desperately Trump wanted to go to the Capitol, Wolf. It was stunning.

BLITZER: It was really amazing. I've watched a lot of hearings over the years, and today was really, really powerful and dramatic.

Andrew, I'm sure you agree. Former President Trump knew the crowd was armed but he still wanted the metal detectors, magnetometers, the mags, as they call them, taken down. He still urged them to march to the U.S. Capitol. What does that say about the former president's intent?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: A critical development today in the hearing, Wolf. This one -- for all of the bombshells we saw dropped, this one really hit me strongest. This one shows that Trump knew the crowd was armed and he makes the comment that they're not here for me, therefore, implying that they're here for someone else, i.e., the Capitol, folks who were up there counting the votes.

It gets us so much closer to solid proof of his mental state at that time, which is something we've all been talking about since the beginning of the very first hearing. That is a critical element to any potential criminal case that they might file against the former president. And we now have at least circumstantial evidence that gets us right to the point of understanding what he was thinking.

BLITZER: On that point, Laura, because Trump wasn't just cheering on the rioters, he actually wanted to be part of that riot. He wanted to go up to the Hill, as we heard, and he assaulted his own lead Secret Service agent in that vehicle as part of his attempt. He failed in that attempt. So, what are the legal implications of this really bombshell testimony we heard today?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, can you imagine that this information had been available at the second impeachment hearing when they were trying to find that connection between what he knew, whether he knew they were armed, whether he was calling people to then commit a violent act at the Capitol.

The idea of also, remember, he's asking for the Secret Service agent to put themselves in peril. If he is now going to not have the wherewithal to protect himself and be naive about what violence could happen, he's asking those he later he assaulted, or at least at one point, to do that.

And remember the line of succession here, Wolf. They're marching towards the line of succession. The vice president is in the Capitol. The House speaker is in the Capitol. The president pro tempore is in the Capitol. You're going to have to go down to the fourth person in line before somebody is safe for the idea of the power of democracy.


So, Pat Cipollone said it best through Cassidy Hutchinson that if they go down to the Capitol, they will be charged with all sorts of crimes, including some of the ones that Congresswoman Liz Cheney has been speaking about for quite some time, the idea of obstructing an official proceeding, the idea of trying to defraud the United States.

All this comes down that you talked about, Andrew, the state of mind. What you knew, when you knew it. For the president of the United States to be aware two to three minutes before going on stage that there was an armed crowd of people that had been riled up and believing the election had been stolen based on what he knew to be fraudulent information, his legal exposure is wide open.

BLITZER: It certainly is right now. I want you to watch the vice chair, Liz Cheney, Jeffrey, describe a message that a committee witness got from someone in Trump's orbit. Listen to this.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): A person let many know you have your deposition tomorrow. He wants me to let you know he's thinking about you. He knows you're loyal and you're going to do the right thing when you go in for your deposition.


BLITZER: Is that textbook, shall we say, witness testimony tampering?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's potentially very gangster-ish intimidation. You'd have to know who was actually making that threat. Was that person in touch with Donald Trump? So, you would have to have some names attached to it.

But, you know, one of the issues that kept occurring to me today was proportionality. There have been 800 people charged in connection with this, some of them with crimes of violence. How can you charge those people and not charge Donald Trump? Who was really responsible for what was going on there? I mean, when you have Trump saying that it's okay for people with weapons to be heading down to the Capitol and then those people get prosecuted, how can you not prosecute Trump as well? How is that fair to the people who have actually been charged? That's something the Department of Justice is really going to have to think about.

BLITZER: Does that put on the attorney general, Merrick Garland, to do something?

TOOBIN: A lot more than this morning. I mean, we know a lot more, the public does, than we did this morning and it's -- the president's in real trouble, not least for assaulting his Secret Service agent.

BLITZER: And we did hear, you know, the sworn testimony, the former White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, warned Trump that if he went to the Capitol, and this is a quote from Cipollone, we're going to get charged with every crime imaginable. That's a quote. How much does the committee plan to push for Cipollone's testimony in public?

GANGEL: I don't think they could push much harder than -- look, Liz Cheney the other day said she basically shamed him in his statement. Now you have a 26-year-old young White House aide coming out. Look, there are security risks for all these witnesses. She is going to lose a whole circle of friends, her life. Pat cipollone, you know, show up. Do the right thing. That's what the committee is going to be saying over and over and over again. Will he show up? I highly doubt it.

TOOBIN: What does it say about the courage and ethics of the White House staff that the only person to come forward is this 26-year-old woman who was 24 when this all was unfolding?

MCCABE: Despite the fact that many of them knew that it was Trump's plan long before the 6th, days before the 6th, at least, to march to the Capitol with that crowd. Giuliani said it to her on January 2nd. We know that even in Kevin McCarthy's comments to Hutchinson on the phone, he indicated that there had at least been some conversation about Trump wanting to come to the Capitol before the 6th. So, the level of foreknowledge has really gained out here.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by, don't go too far away.

Just ahead, did former President Trump commit a crime when he urged a mob to march on the Capitol even though he knew he was told they were armed? A key member of the January 6th select committee is standing by live. We will discuss right after this quick break.



BLITZER: We're tracking the dramatic fallout from Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony before the January 6 select committee, among the most damning revelations from the former White House aide that Trump knew people at his rally had weapons, they were armed, and that he told them to march on the U.S. Capitol anyway. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Complainants both saw stock of an AR-15. He's going to be with a group of individuals. They had Glock-style pistols in their waistbands.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've got three men walking down the street in fatigues carrying AR-15s.

HUTCHINSON: I remember Tony mentioning knives, guns in the form of pistols and rifles, bear spray, body armor, spears and flag poles.

I overheard the president say something to the effect of, I don't -- I didn't care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the f-ing mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.


BLITZER: Take the f-ing mags away, those are the magnetometers to see if people have weapons.

Let's discuss all this and more with a key member of the January 6 select committee, Congresswoman Elaine Luria of Virginia. Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us on this historic day. Did then sitting President Trump effectively sign off on the violence that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol?

REP. ELAINE LURIA (R-VA): Well, Wolf, based off what we heard today, he was well aware that the people who were gathering outside of the controlled area at The Ellipse were armed and he wanted them inside the perimeter. He wanted to get rid of the magnetometers to let them in. He was very concerned about the he was concerned about the camera angle, how big the crowd looked. And then there was a comment made, well, they can just march from here to the Capitol.

So, in my mind, Cassidy Hutchinson, who was very brave to come forward today and speak out about the information she had, gave us new key evidence about what was known and what was not done about the possibility of violence on that day.


BLITZER: It was interesting because Cassidy Hutchinson says that former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone listed potential criminal charges if Trump went to the Capitol, including obstructing justice, obstructing the Electoral College count and inciting a riot. Do you believe former President Trump is guilty of those crimes and does the U.S. attorney general need to act and act soon?

LURIA: Well, I think that the evidence we've displayed over the course of our hearings, especially including the very damning evidence that was provided today, there's no doubt in my mind that he was involved in criminal activity amongst those, the things you listed.

As we've discussed before, the purpose of this committee, as a legislative committee, to provide oversight, provide recommendations for something like this to happen again in the future. But as we know as well, Attorney General Merrick Garland has said he and the Department of Justice is listening closely. We're putting the evidence out in a very rapid manner and we can see that, you know, the DOJ appears to be ramping up their efforts of going after key people in this conspiracy and failed coup, essentially.

BLITZER: It was really shocking to hear Cassidy Hutchinson describe Trump assaulting his top Secret Service agent in that vehicle trying to get to the Capitol. Your committee has heard from, I understand, from that agent, Robert Engel, and Tony Ornato at the same time. Did they corroborate this incident?

LURIA: What I would say is that we'd like to hear from them more. Ms. Hutchinson spoke to us under oath and provided this information that we shared with the public today. Like many of the things in Trump world, immediately, conspiracy theorists went out and tried to come up with all sorts of different reasons, why something like this couldn't be possible, to discredit her as a witness, to discredit her testimony. But the truth is she's a very brave young woman who appeared before the nation under oath and all those people who were speculating and trying to deny it from afar, they're not speaking before the nation under oath. So, we do need to hear more from others who have information about this topic.

BLITZER: And we'll look forward to hearing that as well. Congresswoman Elaine Luria, thank you so much for joining us.

LURIA: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, did the Trump White House know what violent extremist groups, like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, were planning to do on January 6th? We'll have more news and expert analysis right after the break.



BLITZER: The blood is going to be on your f-ing hands, that's the dire warning Donald Trump's White House counsel gave to Mark Meadows as a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. And it's just one of the many stunning revelations from former White House Aide Cassidy Hutchinson during this afternoon's explosive testimony up on Capitol hill.


HUTCHINSON: President said something to the effect of, I'm the f-ing president, take me up to the Capitol now, which Bobby responded, sir, we have to go back to the west wing. The president reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, said, sir, you need the take your hand off the steering wheel. We're going back to the west wing. We're not going to the Capitol.

Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel and that's when Mr. Ornato had recounted the story to me, he had motioned towards his clavicles.

The valet had articulated that the president was extremely angry at the attorney general's A.P. interview and had thrown his lunch against the wall, which was causing him to have to clean up. So, I grabbed a towel and started wiping the ketchup off the wall to help the valet out.

CHENEY: Was this the only instance that you are aware of where the president threw dishes?


There were several times throughout my tenure at the chief of staff that I was aware of him either throwing dishes or flipping the table cloth.

Mr. Cipollone said something to the effect of, please make sure we don't go up to the Capitol, Cassidy. Keep in touch with me. We're going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen.

And Pat said something to the effect of, Mark, something needs to be done or people are going to die and the blood is going to be on your f-ing hands. This is getting out of control. I'm going down there.

I remember Pat saying something to the effect of, Mark, we need to do something more. They're literally calling for the vice president to be f-ing hung. And Mark had responded something to the effect of, you heard it, Pat, he thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn't think they're doing anything wrong.


BLITZER: All right. Let's discuss with our experts and our analysts right now.

Jamie, Trump clearly believed the rioters had it right when they were screaming, hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence, that Pence -- according to the testimony we heard today, that Trump believed Pence deserved to be hanged and even after the attack, he apparently stood by that.

GANGEL: Look, one of the things that we saw today from Cassidy Hutchinson is a timeline about violence. I mean, we just heard some just extraordinary stories about anger management problems. But beyond that, one of the things the committee has wanted to put out there, and I think they did today, is that everybody had been warned that this could get violent, and you see that over and over again.


The president was warned. Mark Meadows was warned. The White House counsel was warned. Everybody was warned repeatedly and yet Trump kept going in this direction and all of these senior aides let him continue going in this direction.

TOOBIN: I'm sorry. And in that timeline, the 2:24 P.M. tweet about Mike Pence, where he denounces Mike Pence at 2:24, becomes even more critical, because that is a moment where he's been told that violence is happening. That's when he's been told that there is the chant of hang Mike Pence. And, nonetheless, when aides are telling him, you have to chill the situation out, he inflames the crowd with this tweet at 2:24 denouncing Mike Pence.

BLITZER: We just got a statement in from the U.S. Secret Service. Let me put it up on the screen and read it. There it is right there. The United States Secret Service has been cooperating with the select committee since its inception in spring 2021 and will continue to do so. The statement goes on to say, including by responding on the record to the committee regarding the new allegations surfaced in today's testimony.

Andrew McCabe, you're the former deputy director of the FBI. What's your reaction to that?

MCCABE: This has got to be incredibly uncomfortable to the United States Secret Service and all the men and women, particularly those who serve on the presidential detail. They never want to be in a position of opposing a president or a former president, providing information that might make a former president look bad. So, this is very tough on them.

However, it is also a test of their integrity and where they are today. They absolutely need to come forward and be clear and transparent with what they know, put that information in the hands of the committee and allow justice and our processes to take its course no matter where that ends up. So, it's good to see that they're acknowledging that.

BLITZER: I spent a lot of time with the Secret Service when I was a White House correspondent, seven years as a White House correspondent. And it was amazing, shocking to me, to hear that the president of the United States in that SUV actually went for the throat of his top Secret Service agent when he didn't want to drive him to the Capitol and join that mob.

COATES: I mean, these are people who would take a bullet for this man. I mean, this is not what you just said and described could be said for any person who does not work for the president of the United States but for the institution itself. Secret Service, they're not personal bodyguards for Donald Trump. They work for the people of the United States. Pat Cipollone is not a personal attorney of Donald Trump. He works for the Office of the White House Counsel. And in doing so, he has a similar responsibility, as they have just talked about, putting on the record and being responsive to this committee.

And I am always concerned, we are thinking about who is testifying as much who is not testifying simply because she has testified today, Cassidy Hutchinson, does not absolve Mark Meadows of a duty to actually respond as well, that he can't instead of privilege issues.

The idea of Pat Cipollone, because we've heard from the likes of Jeffrey Rosen, from the attorney general's office in the Department of Justice, or we heard from Richard Donoghue, does not absolve Pat Cipollone of the duty to come forward and speak about this. Because, of course, just because she has said or they have said something about it, I still would like to hear more information from the people who had the duty to advise the president of the United States from a legal capacity and have not spoken up about these issues.

And it is so important because, remember, this committee, they have a legislative function here. They've got a function to close whatever gaps between what is illegal and what ought to be illegal. And until we hear from people who are in those positions, I fear the American people will not go fully on board.

BLITZER: The select committee, Jeffrey, also released this exchange that retired General Mike Flynn, who was Trump's national security adviser, had when they were asking him questions and he repeatedly was pleading the Fifth. Watch this.


CHENEY: General Flynn, do you believe the violence on January 6th was justified?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that -- can I get a clarification? It's not a moral question that you're asking me to --

CHENEY: I'm asking both.


CHENEY: Do you believe the violence on January 6th was justified morally?

FLYNN: I take the Fifth.

CHENEY: Do you believe the violence on January 6th was justified legally?

FLYNN: Fifth.

CHENEY: General Flynn, do you believe in the peaceful transition of power in the United States of America?

FLYNN: The Fifth.


BLITZER: The Fifth. What's your reaction to that, Jeffrey?

TOOBIN: That's not usually a controversial question or self- incrimination raising question about whether you believe in the transition of power. You know, it's not usually customary to show people taking the Fifth. That's considered sort of unfair in front of a jury, for example. But in public there's nothing wrong with it. And the idea that he won't answer those questions is really chilling and just shows the contempt for the process that Flynn and a lot of other Trump allies have shown.


BLITZER: It certainly does and was pretty amazing just to watch those exchanges.

All right, guys, everybody stick around. Just ahead, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, they are here. They'll join us to talk about today's very dramatic developments. Is this bigger than Watergate? I'll ask them.


BLITZER: We're back with our special coverage of today's truly bombshell January 6 select committee hearing and the hearing and the damning portrait of former President Trump painted by Cassidy Hutchinson, a top aide to then-White House Chief of Staff Mark meadows.


Let's discuss with the veteran journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, whose reporting uncovered, as you all of you know, the Watergate scandal. Woodward is also the co-author of the book, Peril, about the last days of the Trump presidency, and Bernstein is the author of the book, Chasing History, A Kid in the Newsroom, both excellent, excellent books. And thanks to Carl and Bob for joining us.

Carl, we've spoken throughout these hearings. You and I have known each other for many years. And you've suggested to me several times this, what has happened during the insurrection, was worse than Watergate. Did we learn today just how much worse it was?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We did, and something else has occurred to me, and that is, we'll see what the historians say. But if she is not contradicted, she has nailed the greatest conspiracy, criminal and seditious, against the republic of the United States since the civil war and Jefferson Davis.

Jefferson Davis was a member of Congress. He was not the president of the United States. No president has engaged in any -- including Richard Nixon, has engaged in anything like we heard today. So, if what she is saying is accurate, now we see the Secret Service is coming in and saying they're cooperating, I'd be very surprised if they contradict her.

This is unprecedented. She painted, you just, in your introduction, talked about the picture she painted. She pictured a mad king, the stability, the president of the United States, which, incidentally, Republicans have been, in the Senate and some in the House, questioning his stability since the first days of his presidency. They've told reporters about it. We've reported it occasionally. We should have reported it much more and found a way to do it better because we have known, and I've put it on the air some, others have, but we haven't been consistent about it. We've known this is an unstable man.

The 25th Amendment, there were members of the cabinet who wanted to invoke it, including the wife of Senator McConnell, the majority or the leader of the Republicans in the Senate. She quit the next day after January 6th. Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education, quit the next day. Why? They understood what this president was capable of in this terrible, horrible seditious way.

BLITZER: Let me get Bob to weigh in. What do you think? How much worse is this than Watergate?

BOB WOODWARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, the portrait here of -- and Carl is right, mental instability. And I think it goes further. And Bob Costa and I reported on this, General Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, worrying about the mental stability of the president, he gets this call from Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, saying we're -- that she -- that, you know, the next in line after the vice president to be president, if something happens, and she knows all about this and the protocols and she says, Trump is crazy. He'll start using nuclear weapons.

How can you, the number one military man in the country, guarantee me this will not happen? And he said, oh, everything is fine, don't worry about it. And then he starts thinking about it and he developed this phrase. The absolute darkest moment of theoretical possibility is in his job, he had to look at the absolute worst happening and he then reconsidered and was so worried, called in the officers in the Pentagon, who run the National Military Command Center, and take orders from the national command authority, which is the president of the United States, to use nuclear weapons or to launch some sort of military action.

And Milley called these people in, one star officers, colonels, captains in the Navy, and went around the room and said, do you understand? I have to be involved in this process. I want your personal oath and guarantee that if that happens, you will call me, has phones all over corridor six where he lives. And they said, yes, yes, yes.

Now, for -- this happened in Watergate. Carl and I remember this vividly when the secretary of defense, Jim Schlesinger, told the military, don't take orders from Nixon about nuclear weapons or any military action.


So, we -- I think in a way what happened today may mean that the January 6th Committee has written Donald Trump's political obituary.

BLITZER: Really?

WOODWARD: Yes. I think it's that devastating. Carl and I spent a lot of time with Republicans and Republicans don't want somebody who -- I mean, the portrait that was painted today of the president of the United States leaping from the backseat trying to grab the steering wheel --

BLITZER: And allegedly choking his top Secret Service agent. I mean, pretty dramatic. Yeah. All right. Let's continue these conversations very, very

powerful day, indeed. Very historic as well.

Guys, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, we'll have more on today's bombshell testimony painting former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, as an enabler to an unhinged President Trump, a dramatic departure from his early days in Congress as a values conservative.

Stand by.



BLITZER: Truly stunning testimony in today's January 6th Select Committee hearing by a former top aide to Mark Meadows. It alleges that the then White House chief of staff enabled former President Trump's egregious behavior and possibly more.

CNN's Brian Todd is working this part of the story for us.

Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was disturbing indeed, Wolf. You know, at a time before and during January 6th, this was a time when Mark Meadows could have been steering Donald Trump off of violence at the Capitol but was instead focus on the other hand doing Trump's bidding. That's according to Meadows' former top aide Cassidy Hutchinson who today reinforced the portrayal of Mark Meadows, as someone who often played to Trump's worst instincts to advance his own ambition.


TODD (voice-over): Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony before the January 6 committee today, painting then chief of staff Mark Meadows as Donald Trump's enabler, at one point describing concern inside the White House, including from the White House counsel that Meadows wanted Trump to go to the Capitol with rioters that day.

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: It's my understanding that Mr. Cipollone thought that Mr. Meadows was indeed pushing this along with the president.

TODD: It was the culmination of Mark Meadows commitment to help Trump try to overturn the 2020 election results.

In late November 2020, Meadows sent an impassioned text to Ginni Thomas, the right-wing activists 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 triumphs. Do not grow weary in well doing. The fight continues. I have staked my career on it.

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, as he helped Trump pushed lies about election fraud.

RYAN LIZZA, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: At the same time, he is 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 would 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. Quite a journey from Meadows time as an obscure Tea Party conservative in the House, a seat he won in 2012.

DAVID SWERDLICK, SENIOR STAFF EDITOR, NEW YORK TIMES OPINION: Not so much thought of as a policy genius or someone who had a perspective agenda, but someone who is there to derail the agenda of Democrats, to throw bombs.

TODD: What led Meadows from that to his position at Trump side during a treacherous time? One analyst says pure ambition.

SUSAN GLASSER, WROTE PIECE ON MARK MEADOWS FOR THE NEW YORKER: I think what we learned pretty clearly is that mark meadows was untruthful, that he was a very willing hatchet man for Donald Trump, that he was willing to jettison parts of his ideology that didn't fit with Donald Trump, and that he was willing to do almost anything to keep Donald Trump in power.


TODD (on camera): Cassidy Hutchinson also testified that Mark Meadows sought a presidential pardon from Trump related to January 6. CNN has reached out several times today to a representative to Mark Meadows for response to Hutchinson's testimony and response to our story. We've not heard back -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, reporting for us, Brian, thank you very much.

Up next, chilling new video of the devastating missile strike in Ukraine, the country's president now saying that the target was in fact that shopping mall.


BLITZER: Just into CNN, this new video that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says shows a massive strike on a shopping mall in central Ukraine.

CNN senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly has the very latest from Madrid.

Phil, you are traveling with President Biden at the NATO summit there, right now, Ukraine is clearly front and center for the NATO alliance.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there is no question about it. First, at the G7 over several days now here in Madrid, at the NATO summit, this is the primary issue that European leaders are working to right now. Intensive debates about defense assistance, what they can do to try and post more punishment, more pain on Russia as that invasion continues. That is front and center at all times.

But today, President Biden in the lead up to this NATO summit securing a major diplomatic victory, and one that really underscores just how dramatically altered the security landscape is in Europe. Two new countries, Finland and Sweden, I've taken one critical step forward towards joining the NATO alliance. The president playing a key role in that, making his first phone call to the finish leader back in December, urging him to start moving towards this direction in the wake of Russia starting to build up its troops.

The president played a critical role in helping the last holdout. Turkish Leader Recep Erdogan, who said he might veto this idea. Obviously, everybody in NATO will have to sign off. The president calling him on Tuesday, on Wednesday, a series of marathon meetings before clinching a memorandum that will move them closer to this deal.

Wolf, what this means, more than anything else, two neutral parties that very much wanted to stay away from doing anything to bring Russia into their forefront, now joining NATO, a major victory.

But one thing this doesn't change -- obviously, we have seen what happened in that shopping mall, there are no clear answers for any near term and even as their longer term grow broader -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil Mattingly reporting for us -- Phil, thank you very much.

To our viewers, thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.