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House Strikes Deal to Create Independent January 6 Commission; Colonial Pipeline Announces Restart of Entire Pipeline; House GOP Members Replace Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) with Trump Ally Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY). Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 14, 2021 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: This just in to CNN, top Democrats and Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee have finally reached a deal, it appears a deal to create a bipartisan commission to independently investigate the insurrection at the Capitol on the 6th of January. This does break a month's long stalemate. But like everything, apparently in Washington, it's complicated.

Our Congressional Correspondent Lauren Fox is with me. All right, explain what the deal is and then explain the wrinkle in the deal.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this deal essentially is between Katko and Thompson. And these lawmakers have been working for several weeks behind the scenes to try to get some kind of a consensus on how this commission should be formed.

As you know, one of the key sticking points has been the scope. Now, according to this press release, it appears that the scope would be centered around January 6th and the events leading up to January 6th.

But there is a clear wrinkle, and that is the fact that Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House, just told me a couple of minutes ago that he has not fully reviewed this. He's still looking over it. And he has not given his final blessing of this deal.

Obviously, that is significant because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, she blasted out this press release saying that they had a deal but you have Kevin McCarthy saying, hey, wait a second, I'm still looking it over. Of course, this has been a month's long negotiation, as you know.

Another piece of this deal or at least the deal in principle reached between the committee leadership, we should say, is that each side will get to pick five commissioners for this commission, and that these people cannot be currently serving in Congress or currently be elected officials. I think that's a key component here. Each side would get five members of the commission or they would get to select five members. That, again, was a sticking point a couple months ago and something that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi really adapted in the last few weeks.

So, a lot of moving parts here. It sounds like they have a deal in principle in terms of the committee folks but it's still unclear whether or not McCarthy is supporting it. Poppy?

HARLOW: Deal or no deal, remember that show? I hope they have deal. Thanks, Lauren.

All right, as the campaign continues to whitewash -- as the campaign continues for some lawmakers to try to whitewash what happened on the 6th of January, the officers who were there who pleaded for mercy as they were beaten by rioters are making clear what they think about the idea that an insurrection could be a peaceful tourist visit, as one lawmaker called it.

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OFFICER MICHAEL FANONE, DEFENDED U.S. CAPITOL ON JANUARY 6: Those are lies. And peddling that bullshit is an assault on every officer that fought to defend the Capitol. It's disgraceful.

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HARLOW: If you missed it, this is what he is referring to from a Georgia congressman just this week.

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REP. ANDREW CLYDE (R-GA): Let me be clear, there was no insurrection and to call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is boldfaced lie. Watching the T.V. footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people, in an orderly fashion, staying between the stanchions and ropes taking videos and pictures.

If you didn't know the T.V. footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.

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HARLOW: That's a sitting member of Congress. This is what happened again. This violence is what happened.

Well, those who were the targets of it are not only angry but they are hurt.

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OFFICER HARRY DUNN, DEFENDED U.S. CAPITOL ON JANUARY 6: They were there with a purpose, to hurt people and they had bad intentions. And for -- it just hurts like to believe that people can think that it was a normal day, it was a tour. And it's hurtful.

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HARLOW: A Capitol riot defendant indicted in one of the Proud Boys conspiracy cases says he hardly knew the fellow defendants and didn't coordinate with them. But that defense to be very undermined by a new court filing where prosecutors point to thousands of text messages from a key Proud Boys leader and Capitol riot criminal defendant showing that coordination.

[10:35:06]

With me now to walk us through it, our Law Enforcement Analyst and Correspondent Whitney Wild. So what do these texts show?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, they show the just real bread of the communications. There were, if you print them out, 200,000 pages of PDFs that prosecutors have found detailing what they say are specific plans that were intended to overtake the Capitol.

So, some of these communications show that they intended to go in and in a coordinated way, that they were actually building this so-called ministry of self-defense. This was sort of a little organization that had specific tiers and a specific, you know, way to govern itself. So all of this is driving towards this idea that there was a conspiracy to try to overturn the results of the election, that this attack was coordinated and planned.

Here is just one little bit of it, just one small clip of the communication that shows that this was the plan, because at some point in this communication, here's what these people are saying to one another. I want to see thousands of normies burn that city to burn that city to ash today. It would be epic. The state is the enemy of the people. We are the people. F yes. God let it happen. I will settle with seeing them smash some pigs to dust. Prosecutors say this exchange happened contemporaneously with the event.

And then they also say that following this event, there was another communication that said simply, we failed. The House was reconvening. Here it is we failed. The House is meeting again. And so prosecutors believe that this is -- so there is this acknowledgement there was a plan and that it did not go according to plan.

And these details are important because they have been building these really large conspiracy cases against these organizations, like the extremist group, the Proud Boys, whom this set of text messages focuses on, and the Oath Keepers. Many of these people have pleaded not guilty, Poppy. We will see these cases as they roll through court. But the more details that come out, the more it shows how expansive the communications were and how specific they were with regard to building this plan to attack the Capitol, Poppy.

HARLOW: Wow. Whitney Wild, thank you for walking us through all of that.

Ahead, CNN has learned from two sources that Colonial Pipeline, that company, did, in fact, pay the group that launched a huge cyber attack on their pipeline and demanded ransom. Details on what they paid, ahead.

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HARLOW: All systems go apparently. Colonial Pipeline says it has restarted its entire pipeline but did warn it will take several days for the delivery supply chain to get back to normal. This as panic buying of gas led to shortages across some of the southeast. We've also learned that the company did pay ransom to the hackers who launched the cyber attack that shut down the nation's largest fuel pipeline.

Let's talk about this with our Natasha Bertrand and Dianne Gallagher.

And, Natasha, first, to you, this is your reporting, not easy to get. So, kudos to you and your team for finding this out. But, I mean, that's a big deal that that ransom was paid to the hackers and arguably like doesn't it encourage more hacking?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. So the FBI, of course, has a policy in place recommending that companies do not pay ransoms because it incentivizes further ransomware attacks against these companies. But we are learning that Colonial Pipeline did pay a ransom and the hackers had demanded about $5 million in cryptocurrency from the company.

We don't know exactly the amount that Colonial Pipeline ended up paid but does it raise questions, of course, about how best to defend against ransomware attacks like this if companies are going to pay out ransoms.

Of course, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said earlier this week that sometimes companies simply don't have a choice. And the U.S. government recognizes that they are in a very tough spot when their data is essentially stolen and locked up and then threatened to be released out into the public.

So, sometimes it's a really, really hard position that these companies are put in that seems to be what happened with Colonial Pipeline. They were kind of very, very eager to get their data back and they ended up paying that ransom, Poppy.

HARLOW: Okay. And, Dianne, to you, I mean, the pipeline is up and running. That's good news. The not so great news is that there are still some gas shortages.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There is still a lot of gas shortages right now, Poppy. And, look, in part, that is due to all that panic buying we saw earlier this week. In fact, if you take a look behind me, I'm going to step out of the way, this is Costco in Charlotte, North Carolina and we are still seeing these lines that are building up as people are trying to get gas. And, in part, it's because it's one of the only places in the city you can find it right now.

Across the of North Carolina, 69 percent of gas stations are reporting that they're out of gas. And that's actually an improvement in numbers. We're seeing this all along the southeast in Washington, D.C. As of 8:00 this morning, GasBuddy says that nearly 87 percent of all stations are out of gas right now. And so we're seeing this sort of continue up and down.

And we were told that they are working on -- you know, it's going to take a couple of days, Poppy, for them to get things going again, but there is also the factor of all that panic buying. And so they were in the hole because of the panic buying. Plus, we're waiting on this to go in.

The good news is we are seeing some of that panic buying apparently go down. We've seen gasoline demand fall by 7 percent just over the past day. So, potentially, either people got the gas they needed or they're willing to wait until they need the gas because the pipeline is flowing again.

HARLOW: Okay.

[10:45:00]

And, Natasha, just one follow-up question to you. I mean, I was fascinated to learn earlier this week that a lot of companies actually get insurance against hacks like this. But doesn't that just encourage more hacking? I guess if these, you know, organizations that are going in to steal this data and look what they've done, as Dianne has exemplified with these lines here as a result, if they know that they're going to get money from an insurance company, what's stopping them from continuing to do it?

BERTRAND: Yes. And this is a major problem again with the tough spot that companies are put in here because it is a reality. This ransomware trend has become somewhat of an industry. And we know based on reporting that was done last week that Colonial Pipeline actually did have cyber insurance. And, typically, cyber insurance does cover against these kinds of ransomware attacks. Sometimes it covers millions and millions of dollars and includes negotiators that can help the company negotiate with the hackers and figure out the best sum to pay here. So it does put the companies in a tough spot. But, again, it's reality of the world we live in.

HARLOW: Thank you both, Natasha, Dianne, great reporting. Have a good weekend.

Up next, Congresswoman Liz Cheney's future in her state of Wyoming, does she have a chance of getting re-elected? We're live, next.

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HARLOW: As Republicans voted this morning to officially elect Congresswoman Liz Cheney's replacement and House leadership, Cheney remains confident she will hold on to her seat to represent Wyoming, the single seat representing Wyoming in the House. And she's also leaving the door open -- well, she was leaving the door open for a potential White House run in 2024. But she seemed to close that in her Fox News interview last night. Joining me now to discuss is Chris Rothfuss, a Democrat who serves as a minority leader in the Wyoming State Senate.

Minority Leader Rothfuss, it's good to have you.

You're there. We're not. So, what are your Republican and your Democratic friends, acquaintances, constituents saying to you about all of this?

STATE SEN. CHRIS ROTHFUSS (D-WY): Well, I think it's very mixed. I do have many colleagues obviously in the Republican Party. We're a state that is overwhelmingly a red state, majority. And my colleagues and friends on the Republican side are very much split. Many of them remain, I think, loyal to the previous president, Trump, and are concerned about the positions that Representative Cheney has taken.

And then at the same time, many of my friends are very proud of the decision that Representative Cheney has made in really supporting and upholding the Constitution. And so, I think there is a pretty substantial schism.

Over in the minority side, my party, I think there has been a lot of respect also for what Representative Cheney has done and said in ways that we've really never seen before. I think it's a real show of integrity that she was willing to cast that vote.

HARLOW: Let's listen to her response to -- you know, there is obviously the primary and there is a lot of folks who may run against her. And our reporting is that Trump allies are trying to figure out who would be the most likely Republican to beat her. Here is her response to that.

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REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Bring it on. As I said, if they think that they're going to come into Wyoming and make the argument that the people of Wyoming should vote for someone who is loyal to Donald Trump over somebody who is loyal to the Constitution, I welcome that debate.

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HARLOW: What message do you think it sends about, you know, your fellow citizens in Wyoming if she is asked it, if she is replaced by potentially a candidate who perpetrates the big lie?

ROTHFUSS: Well, I think that's what it comes down to is the belief in the big lie. If you think Representative Cheney is correct in her analysis, which I do, then you're going to support her. And you're going to be opposed to the president and the president's selected candidate -- former president.

However, if you don't believe that, if you believe the narrative that the election was stolen, if you believe the narrative that there was no, you know, dissent or riot at the legislature at Congress, then you're going to be going along with that candidate. And, honestly, it's pretty well split in the state. And that's a concern that I have certainly is that we have seen that big lie take hold. And we've seen this gaslighting and misinformation over the years take stronghold in the state of Wyoming. So many of my colleagues in the state legislature are avid believers that everything that former President Trump said is the gospel truth, and that's just concerning.

HARLOW: Well, let me ask you this finally, because, you know, you -- when it comes to law in Wyoming, it's interesting. You can actually switch parties on the day of the primary.

ROTHFUSS: Yes.

HARLOW: So, ostensibly, you could switch to be a Republican for that day and you could vote for Liz Cheney. I know you're not going to do that, you've said.

But you have also noted you have a number of friends and colleagues who are willing to do that. I'm just interested in that given how opposed she is to so many Democratic policies. She's talked about the ridiculous wokeness of the left and she said even last night that she would never vote for a Democrat.

ROTHFUSS: Well, that doesn't surprise me. But at the same time, Wyoming Democrats are very used to trying to make sure that their vote that they cast is an effective vote to try and get somebody that most represents their interests.

[10:55:05]

And recognizing that the primary is often the election where the final decision effectively gets made and that in a statewide election probably will go something like 75/25.

There are a lot of Democrats that either remain registered as Republicans or do crossover on Election Day to cast that meaningful vote. We've seen in the past that it really hasn't persuaded the outcome and really been the key, but it definitely does take place.

HARLOW: OK. We'll see what happens this time. Wyoming State Senator -

ROTHFUSS: Absolutely.

HARLOW: -- and Minority Leader Chris Rothfuss, thank you. Have a good weekend.

ROTHFUSS: Thank you.

HARLOW: And thanks to all of you for joining us all week. From me and Jim, have a safe, good weekend. We'll see you back here on Monday morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

At This Hour with Kate Bolduan starts after a quick break.

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