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Interview with Former FBI Agent Peter Strzok; Proud Boys Leader Trial Begins Today; Kayleigh McEnany Claims Surprise at Insurrection. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 2, 2021 - 14:00   ET




CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Including Metro P.D. and not one, not two, not three different ways, one e-mail, one verbal and one through the law enforcement portal.

As to why the information didn't flow to all the people within the various departments that they would prefer, I don't have a good answer for that.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Joining me now for more on this testimony today is CNN crime and justice correspondent Shimon Prokupecz. Big takeaways for you here, Shimon, that you saw?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so the big takeaway really obviously -- and this is something that we should all be very concerned about -- is that this threat is going to continue, and it's only going to increase. This idea of domestic terrorism here in this country is a concern. The FBI director said that since he's been in office, he's seen a threefold increase in the number of cases.

And the other thing is, you know, you played that sound there from the FBI director, it's very clear that they are now dealing with something that they haven't really had to deal with in quite some time, is that, how do you look at social media threats, things that people are posting in online threads, and try to verify it, try to give it credibility?

Because he said, certainly we had concerning info leading up to January 6th, we had concerning info the day before. But the issue is the credibility. They say that they were not able to attest to the credibility of that information, and that is where some of this issue is, is that how do you chase down so many of these leads that you're seeing and this chatter that you're seeing on social media?

Of course, you know, he's also talking about the fact that there's this explosion in this domestic terrorism and how are they going to -- in the days, in the months and the years to come, going to combat that. And also, the idea of how do you share some of this information.

Of course he was defensive of the FBI, said that they did what they were supposed to do when they received some information the day before, they sent it down the line in three different ways, through e- mail exchanges. They even briefed it to their law enforcement partners.

But again, he also did say that they're going to have to look at that, and they're going to have to see if there are things that they should have done better. In the end, obviously, the biggest concern here also is that the threat continues.

But also, Brianna, he also did mention that how foreign terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and ISIS are still actively trying to come up with plots against this country, and could use January 6th as a way to rally their troops, as a way to inspire attacks here across the U.S.

KEILAR: Yes, that is terrifying. Shimon, thank you so much for covering this for us.

Today's hearing was expected to focus on the Capitol attack, but lawmakers also had broader questions about domestic terrorism and the people and motivations for the attack, including what Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin is calling the right's next big lie.


SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL): The next big lie appears to be the argument that somehow or another those were not Trump supporters who invaded the Capitol. Based on your investigation so far, do you have any evidence that the Capitol attack was organized by, quote, "fake Trump protestors"?

WRAY: We have not seen evidence of that at this stage.


KEILAR: Joining me now to discuss is former FBI agent Peter Strzok. He is also the author of "Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump." What did you think about this, efforts by some Republican senators to, you know, point the finger at Antifa, point the finger at social justice protests?

PETER STRZOK, FORMER FBI AGENT: Well, I think it was extraordinarily important to hear directly from the director of the FBI, three very specific things. The first is exactly rebutting that point, that there is no evidence that there were any Antifa or anti-Trump members of the group of the insurrection that stormed the Capitol on the 6th of January.

The second is that he said quite clearly, there is no information at all, no evidence of widespread voter fraud, let alone enough to have impacted the results of the election.

So I think those two things, put together, go a long way to providing a set of facts to the American people that are free from any sort of political spin, and that are really important as people go assessing what occurred and what didn't occur, and what we need to do, moving forward.

KEILAR: It seemed very clear that Wray didn't want to get roped into serving political purposes of either Democrats or Republicans, we saw that occur at various times. He was careful when Democrats were trying to tie what inspired these insurrectionists to President Trump, to Republicans who told the big lie.

What did you think about how Wray addressed that? Should he have been more blunt about his potential concerns or a possible link, as he saw it?


STRZOK: I think so. I mean, first, let's remember absolutely, it's important for the director of the FBI, as the FBI in general, not to be either in fact (ph) or seen as favoring any one political agenda over the other. So I absolutely understand his impulse and the appropriateness of him keeping the FBI out of these partisan debates.

Having said that though, sometimes when you try and be apolitical, you end up being political instead. He missed an opportunity, in my opinion, to really speak about about QAnon. He talks about the 2,000 domestic terrorism cases the FBI has opened, but he never broke down what makes up those 2,000 cases. Are there five towards -- open on Antifa, or are there 500 open towards Antifa?

So the facts speak for themselves, and I think there's a real opportunity that was missed to really provide some objective, granular data to let people judge for themselves these kind of underlying political issues. Because, again, that's not the job of the FBI -- it shouldn't be, but the FBI has the data to allow those debates and discussions to go forward in an informed way.

KEILAR: He said the FBI doesn't have enough resources to keep up with the demands as domestic terror investigations rise. How concerning is that to you?

STRZOK: It's very concerning. I mean the FBI, in my experience over 20 years, there was never a time that we had sufficient resources to address all the threats in front of us. So I think what is clearly apparent from his testimony and what we see going on across the nation is there is a rapidly expanding threat on the domestic terrorism front.

I was particularly interested, going forward, to hear that Director Wray, when the question came up about changed or expanded domestic terrorism laws, that he said, throwing his weight and the weight of the FBI behind it, that he would welcome expanded tools in the toolkit of things that the FBI could use to investigate.

So as we move forward, looking at the way we either need to craft new laws or revise existing ones, it clearly looks like Director Wray is placing his vote in the expanded authority position. KEILAR: There's this outstanding question about whether the FBI did

everything that it should have done about getting intelligence, about the potential threat of what could have happened on January 6th to law enforcement.

The FBI did pass this on in three different avenues. It was sort of business as usual to hear it described by Wray. Should it have been business as usual? Knowing what you know about how intel -- concerning intel about threats -- are passed down, was this done appropriately and what did you think about his answer?

STRZOK: Well, I thought his answer -- I was frankly a little surprised that senators didn't go after him a little bit harder than they did on those questions. I think clearly the Norfolk SIR, the report that came out the night before, on the fifth, was clearly explained and I think the actions of the FBI were very defensible and were layered, as you noted.

I was surprised that there weren't other questions about other investigations that either did or didn't occur, whether or not there was intelligence that was missed. I mean, clearly, Director Wray was very up-front about saying, you know, our goal is to bat 1,000 within the FBI, that any time there's an attack we consider that a failure and we're going to go in to assess whether or not we should have or could have done things that weren't done.

But it's clear, as we look at all these hundreds and hundreds of arrests, which include conspiracies among many people, that there was an opportunity there to have investigations which would have generated intelligence ahead of the 6th.

And the hard questions -- and I'm sure they're being asked in the FBI, but I hope they're pursued -- is why those were missed and whether those speak to deeper issues, whether that was the prior administration chilling investigations, whether there was any sort of implicit bias that were preventing these things from being picked up. Btu those are the very hard questions, which need to be asked.

KEILAR: Indeed. Peter Strzok, thank you so much for being with us.

STRZOK: Great, thanks for having me.

KEILAR: A member of the Proud Boys is due in court today in Seattle, accused of being the group's de facto leader during the January 6th Capitol riots. As CNN's justice correspondent Jessica Schneider reports, prosecutors allege that Ethan Nordean was given the power to lead the Trump-supporting extremist group's violent push to overtake the U.S. Capitol.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, the Justice Department, releasing new details about the careful planning and coordination by the Proud Boys on January 6th, and how a prominent Seattle member of the group stepped in to take over after Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was arrested days before the insurrection.

Prosecutors say Ethan Nordean was nominated to have the so-called war powers, to lead the Proud Boys after Tarrio's arrest. And they've alleged that the group distributed multifrequency radios and even left Trump's speech early to move to the Capitol that day.

Nordean allegedly positioned Proud Boys members at an entrance to the Capitol that was guarded by just a handful of officers, and prosecutors also say Nordean gave the group specific plans to break into the Capitol from as many different points as possible. So far, 14 members of the Proud Boys have been arrested, that's according to CNN's count -- Brianna.


KEILAR: Jessica, thank you so much for that.

If Josh Groban sang hair metal, that would be shocking. If Beyonce somehow did not slay, that would pretty stunning. But when the grenade that you've been helping build for months finally explodes in your face, that is just inevitable.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think at the beginning of the day, before everyone went to the rally, everyone was expecting peace. We had had -- we'd been to hundreds of rallies, I've probably been to hundreds at this point, certainly many dozens. And they were nothing but peaceful events, and we expected that day to be the same.

And then as those events transpired, it was disbelief, shock, somber, sad, horrified by the violence. And it was a very hard, difficult day in the White House, there is no doubt.


KEILAR: Shock, disbelief? No. Everyone was not expecting peace, as she claims. In a January 5th memo, first reported by "The Washington Post," the FBI warned that extremists may commit, quote, "war" on January 6th.

The potential threat was an open secret. CNN even sent reporters to cover the security preps before the event even began.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The D.C. National Guard is being deployed to back up local law enforcement during pro-Trump demonstrations in the city this week. A number of protests in the nation's capital have turned violent in the past year, including last month, when protestors clashed over the November election.

KEILAR: That is what is bringing this wave of protests to Washington, so much so that the mayor is requesting help from the National Guard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have warned that some groups that might try to start conflict with these people may descend on the nation's capital, there may be some people bringing guns to the nation's capital.


KEILAR: And what did Kayleigh McEnany expect would happen when she personally and baselessly alleged for months before the election that there were widespread problems with the election, and pushed the big lie for two months after Election Day?


MCENANY: And there are very real claims out there that the campaign is pursuing.

This was a system that had never been tried in American history, mass mail-out voting. It's one that we have identified as being particularly prone to fraud, so those (ph) claims deserve to be pursued.

We want every legal vote to be counted, and we want every illegal vote to be --

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS HOST: Whoa, whoa, whoa, I just think we have to be very clear, she's charging the other side as welcoming fraud and welcoming illegal voting. Unless she has more details to back that up, I can't in good countenance continue showing you this.


KEILAR: That was a Fox host, cutting out of the B.S. claims that Kayleigh McEnany was making after the election, claiming that claims that she now appears so surprised were the basis for the insurrection on the Capitol.

And another talking head on the channel on which she appears in her latest interview, and on which she frequently appeared while at the White House, said he wasn't surprised it happened.


PETE HEGSETH, FOX NEWS HOST: These are not conspiracy theorists motivated just by lies. That's a bunch of nonsense that people want to tell us. I wasn't surprised by what happened yesterday. I'm not saying it's OK, but I wasn't shocked. I recognize that people feel like the entire system is rigged against them. I'm a born-again American. I have been reawokened to the reality of what the left has done to my country.


KEILAR: McEnany also said that she'd been to dozens of Trump rallies, hundreds, she said. Well, then she'd know that many of those rallies have produced violence. Protestors have been punched, they have been kicked. One even sucker-punched by a 78-year-old Trump fan.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- lie (ph), I say, what do you do? He lies, I've never seen anything like it. But --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes? What'd you like about it?

MCGRAW: Knocking hell out of that big mouth. Yes, he deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him. We don't know who he is, but we know he's not acting like an American.


KEILAR: And since McEnany attended those rallies, she'd know that her boss has riled up crowds for years now, and openly encouraged violence and retaliation against protestors.


TRUMP: Get him the hell out of here, will you, please?


Get him out of here, throw him out.

TRUMP (via telephone): Maybe he should have been roughed up because it was absolutely disgusting, what he was doing.

TRUMP: So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously.


OK? Just knock the hell -- I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees, I promise. I promise. They won't be so much because the courts agree with us, too.

Like to punch him in the face, I'll tell you.

There's a guy, totally disruptive, throwing punches. We're not allowed to punch back anymore. I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They'd be carried out on a stretcher, folks.


In the good old days, they'd rip him out of that seat so fast. But today, everybody's politically correct.


KEILAR: But sure, Kayleigh, peaceful rallies.

According to a report by the University of Pennsylvania in 2018, Trump's 2016 campaign rallies were linked to a rise in violence when he visited town. For instance, a city that hosted a Trump rally saw an average of two more assaults reported on the day of the event than it normally would. Finally, McEnany tries making this claim.


MCENANY: It was a, I should say, widespread feeling, synonymous feeling, completely a feeling that everyone felt, that was just completely condemning the actions of that day, horrified and very somber.


KEILAR: A feeling that everyone felt, she said, except for the big guy, that's the part she leaves out.

TEXT: Trump was "loving watching the Capitol mob," one former senior White House official said.

KEILAR: While Trump aides were shaken, according to our chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, a former Trump official said that Trump himself was enjoying what he saw on his television screen, the chaos that he provoked.

A close advisor to Trump to "The Washington Post" that Trump was too engrossed, watching the live coverage of the insurrection, to respond to pleas from members of Congress. It's also pretty apparent that he was neither horrified nor somber since he waited so long to tell them to go home. And when he did release a video, he defended the insurrectionists and he told them that he loved them.

That is what Kayleigh McEnany fiercely protected for the eight-plus months that she was White House press secretary. What Trump did and said on January 6th was nothing new, and she knows that because she was there. His big lie is her big lie no matter how hard she tries to spin it during her new paid gig on Fox.

And we are following breaking news in California, where at least 15 people have been killed in a horrific crash between a semi truck and an SUV that was carrying more than two dozen people.

Plus, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, facing a third allegation of sexual harassment. Several members of his own party are beginning to turn on him.


And ahead, the first Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses are set to be administered. We're going to take you there, life.



KEILAR: We are following breaking news out of California, where investigators are on the scene of a deadly crash that has killed at least 15 people. CNN's Josh Campbell is following this story.

This death count, Josh, what do we know about this crash?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, California Highway Patrol on the scene of this gruesome incident. We're now told 15 people were killed when a Ford Expedition collided with a semi truck carrying gravel.

Now, we just got an update from a hospital official providing some new details. Take a listen.


JUDY CRUZ, MANAGING DIRECTOR, EL CENTRO REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER E.R.: We believe there was 27 passengers in this SUV that struck a semi truck full of gravel. Fourteen were dead on the scene, three of them were flown out from the scene, seven patients transported to El Centro Regional Medical Center, where unfortunately one of those has died since arrival.


CAMPBELL: Now, there's a lot to investigate here, but obviously just the glaring aspect there, a vehicle, an SUV that typically carries eight people, according to this hospital official, had some 27 people in it whenever this collision occurred. Again, 14 people died on the scene there -- you can see some of the aerial images -- one person later succumbed to their injuries, four others were flown to local hospitals where three of them are currently in intensive care.

Authorities tell us that the cause of that investigation is still being investigated, they don't know which party was at fault. But again, just a gruesome scene there near the U.S.-Mexico border, near Imperial, California -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes. When I was reading this, I did a double-take. I thought, was that a typo? You know, that there were so many people in that car. Do we have any idea why there were so many people in the car?

CAMPBELL: We don't, no, as of this point. And that is something that authorities are continuing to investigate. Obviously that would be highly unlawful, you know, to have that many people in a vehicle. We're told by authorities that they don't yet know which party is at fault, but obviously a lot to investigate there, and obviously just a tragic -- what authorities are calling a mass casualty event, 15 people killed in this accident.

KEILAR: Yes, it's terrible. Josh, thank you for the update on that.

Still ahead, we are live in Ohio as some of the first people are set there to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.


Plus, will New York Governor Andrew Cuomo survive several scandals? One former aide says there is blood in the water.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KEILAR: Calls for embattled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to resign are mounting amid recent allegations of harassment and inappropriate behavior. A third woman has come forward, accusing the governor of unwanted touching.

The "Times," reporting that Anna Ruch met him at a wedding in 2019 and she shared these photos, where you can see Cuomo holding her face between his hands at the reception, and you can also see the expression on her face.

Ruch claims the governor touched her bare lower back and asked if he could kiss her. Ruch has not responded to CNN's requests for comment and CNN has been unable to corroborate her allegation.

But Lindsey Boylan, who first accused Governor Cuomo, is speaking out on this latest accusation. She tweeted, quote, "This doesn't make me feel validated. It makes me feel sick. I feel nauseous thinking about Anna's experience."

New York State Attorney General Letitia James will soon be appointing an independent special counsel to investigate. The governor has denied the accusations, but has apologized for any perceived insensitive comments.

The question now, though, is how will New York Democrats, congressional delegation respond to this? Many have publicly supported a full investigation, but only one so far, Democratic Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, is demanding that Governor Cuomo resign, saying, quote, "The time has come."


Charlotte Alter is a senior correspondent for "Time." She just penned the op-ed, "Andrew Cuomo Was a 'Resistance' Icon.