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Trump's DOJ Weaponized Power to Target Sitting Members of Congress; Bipartisan Group of Senators Announce Infrastructure Plan; Biden Meets with World Leaders at First G7 Summit as President. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired June 11, 2021 - 10:00   ET

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


[10:00:00]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto. Poppy Harlow has the day off.

This morning shocking new revelations involving the Trump administration's efforts to track down leaks. CNN has learned that former President Trump's Justice Department seized records from Apple for at least two members of the House Intelligence Committee, Chairman Adam Schiff, Representative Eric Swalwell, both of whom were very publicly criticized by the president, the former president.

But that effort did not stop there. The DOJ also seized metadata, that is the phone numbers dialed from their aides, staffers, family members, even a minor. This tops off just a stunning week of developments out of the Justice Department during Trump's time in office.

Earlier this week, we learned the agency also pursued records from journalists at several major news organizations, including our colleague, CNN's Barbara Starr.

Amid all of this, President Biden is overseas looking to restore America's credibility in the international community, credibility in its democracy and the rule of law here. He is meeting right now with world leaders at the G7 Summit, where they are expected to focus on the global economy, working together there also to fight the pandemic and stand up to adversaries such as Russia.

CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider joins me now though on our main story this morning, and that is revelations about investigations under Trump's Justice Department. Tell us the scope of the records that were sought and who exactly was targeted.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this was wide- ranging, Jim. And, you know, put simply, this was really a roundup of records from former President Trump's biggest adversaries, the two that we know of so far, House Intelligence Committee Democrats Erica Swalwell and the current chairman, Adam Schiff, these are Democrats Trump has repeatedly railed against. And, in fact, the former president repeatedly said that Congressman Schiff in particular should be investigated since he led the Russia investigation in his committee.

So now we know the FBI, in fact, subpoenaed Apple in April -- I'm sorry, February 2018 for metadata. That's not the contents of any information, that is just who called whom, when or what information went to whom when on more than 100 accounts as part of a leak investigation.

And on top of that, we know that Apple was under a gag order that was actually renewed three times. So it couldn't notify any of its customers. And, in fact, we know that Chairman Schiff just found out about this when the gag order expired in May. So a source is telling us that this dragnet for information included records not only from Congressman Schiff, Congressman Swalwell, staff members but also family members that included at least one minor.

Congressman Schiff has been is peaking out about and he spoke about the shocking breadth of this probe. Take a listen.

All right, we don't have the sound. But Congressman Schiff has talked about the fact that this was wide-ranging, more than 100 accounts for family members, staff members, possibly even more members of the House Intelligence Committee.

So now, Chairman Schiff is calling for an investigation by an independent inspector general about this wide-ranging seizure of his and other records. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is also joining in that call for an investigation. We are still waiting for any statement from this current Justice Department about how they might address this. And we have not heard reaction from former attorneys general Sessions or Barr.

But, Jim, what is possibly especially startling is that The New York Times is reporting that this data that was uncovered from Chairman Schiff, Eric Swalwell, maybe other people, it didn't end up tying the committee to any leaks. But despite that, when Attorney General Bill Barr took over after A.G. Session, he actually wanted to continue this with zeal. He brought in a prosecutor from New Jersey with no national security experience to continue this investigation despite the fact that it had yielded nothing prior.

So, again, this gag order just lifting last month, Chairman Schiff just finding out about it. And the question now, Jim, is who else, whose records may have been seized? They're looking into this now within the Intelligence Committee, Jim.

SCIUTTO: 100 accounts. Jessica Schneider, thank you so much and please do stay with us.

I do want to bring in former Deputy Attorney General and CNN Legal Analyst Elliot Williams.

Elliot, tell us about the law and the precedent here for this, because other administrations have investigated leaks. But the scale of this, 100 accounts, and the targets, two sitting Democratic lawmakers, by the way, on the House Intelligence Committee, right, who were involved at the time in an investigation that the president did not like investigating his campaign's ties to Russia in 2016 and beyond. Was the law broken here?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Look, Jim, the most important point, and you touched on this in the last sentence, is that the president is going after his political adversaries, right? And there is selective prosecution and investigation here.

[10:05:03]

That is bigger than for anything else.

Of course, there are circumstances in which staff from members of Congress, even members of Congress themselves are improperly releasing information to the public or improperly handling information. There is a whole process for dealing with that, right? But the president -- the former president had a long pattern of identifying and naming his political adversaries and calling for their prosecution.

Look, I believe it was February 25th, 2020, the president was on foreign soil in New Delhi, India, and identified Adam Schiff by name, talking about Adam Schiff is the leaker and we have to go after him and so on.

So, the far greater concern here, which should shock no one who has followed government seriously over the last five years is that the president made a point of targeting his political adversaries in an egregious abuse of power.

SCIUTTO: I mean, that's the thing here, is it no, Jessica? It is no accident that the targets of this record-seeking here, these subpoenas but also the gag orders were people that the president deliberately targeted and viewed as enemies, Swalwell and Schiff, but also investigations that the president did not like and sought in many ways to end. I mean, we learned from Don McGahn's testimony earlier this week that the president did try to get him to fire via the then-deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

SCHNEIDER: Yes. And the fact it appears possibly that the entire Intelligence Committee may have been targeted here. We know specifically that Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff, their records were obtained, but we have these 100 accounts that we know of where Apple gave this information to investigators.

So the question is how much more of this committee and how wide- ranging was this investigation? It's not just those exact adversaries but it's everybody who interacted with President Trump's adversaries. This was incredibly wide-ranging. And as Adam Schiff said, I mean, the scope is just incredible here.

SCIUTTO: I'm told, Elliot, Williams, that included in this list of targets were not just staffers for the Intelligence Committee and not just staffers involved in the Russia probe but people outside that group as well. I'm curious what the law is here. Can a president tell his attorney general to access anybody's phone records if he says, hey, this is something I want to look into?

WILLIAMS: Look, the president of the United States shouldn't be meddling in investigations in any circumstance. The Justice Department, though put in place by the president ought to --

SCIUTTO: He shouldn't be but did it all the time. I mean, come on, it happened in plain view.

WILLIAMS: Right, ought to be acting independently.

Now, in a real universe where the government is functioning properly, look, Jim, if I'm being investigated as a target and there's information that I've been texting you or my mom or my sister and there is information that might be contained in those text messages, then, certainly, it would be proper in a different universe to go after and seek information from them.

The simple fact is this -- well, I hesitate to say it's completely because we don't know what might have been there. But, look, we do kind of know based on everything that we know about Donald Trump and the Trump Justice Department and what he sought from the attorney general and senior leadership there that we have every reason to be suspicious of this longstanding pattern.

And it breaks my heart to say why are we surprised? I know we're not. But this is certainly not the way investigation law enforcement or the federal government ought to be working.

SCHNEIDER: And what is notable here, Jim, Attorney General Barr was asked about this from then-Senator now Vice President Kamala Harris. She specifically asked not once but I believe twice has anyone from the White House or the president directed you on any investigations. And, notably, at the time under oath in this congressional hearing, you know, the then-attorney general Barr, he stammered. He asked for the question to be repeated and he never answered it. So that was a key, right there.

SCIUTTO: Jessica, to your point, we have that sound. Let's play it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone?

WILLIAM BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I wouldn't -- I wouldn't --

HARRIS: Yes or no?

BARR: Could you repeat that question?

HARRIS: I will repeat it. Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone? Yes or no, please, sir.

BARR: The president or anybody else?

HARRIS: Seems you'd remember something like that and be able to tell us?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Someone told me long time ago if someone doesn't give you a straight answer to the question, that's an easy yes or no.

SCHNEIDER: Yes. And so the question is, Jim, what happens from here?

[10:10:00]

We still haven't heard from Attorney General Merrick Garland or the Department of Justice on this. How are they going to handle it? And will, in fact, an independent inspector general take over to investigate this? Will potentially the former attorney general, Bill Barr, be called at some point to give testimony on what exactly happened here? This is just the beginning.

SCIUTTO: It is, for sure. And if he's called, will he listen, right? Because that's another broken precedent from the Trump administration. Do people pay attention to congressional subpoenas?

Jessica Schneider, Elliot Williams, thanks so much to both of you.

Right now, there is a new deal, a proposed deal on the table of bipartisan group of ten senators, five Democrats, five Republicans, has announced a framework agreement on infrastructure. Some specificity in there, not just big picture stuff, it does not, we should not, include raising taxes. A senior Biden administration official tells CNN the White House does believe that deal is worth exploring.

CNN's Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill this morning. And, Manu, you're a Capitol Hill whisperer. You can break through the statements, sometimes positive, to find out what the actual talk is. Do folks think this one could have legs?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's really just unclear at this moment, Jim, because there are so many details here that are still not known. And they're still sorting that out among the group of ten here. And the larger Democratic caucus has not been briefed on this, neither has the Republican conference on the Senate side. So there is support among the members that drafted it. How broad remains to be seen.

It also remains to be seen what the White House does. Will the White House get behind this? Will Senate Democratic leaders get behind this? And how can they sell that to their caucus?

Now, what essentially we've been told is top line numbers here of this deal, it includes about $578 billion in new spending and $947 billion over five years. The total amount is $1.2 trillion over eight years.

Now, there are no tax increases to pay for it. Democrats have called for an increase in corporate taxes, also increase for taxes on high- income earners. Instead, this is going to be funded through redirecting already enacted COVID-19 relief funds, as well as raising the gas tax, index to inflation. Those things are nonstarters for a lot Democrats. And in talking to Democrats yesterday, it was clear that it was a lot of resistance for these bipartisan talks and a push for Democrats to go alone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: They say no taxes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which I totally disagree with.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): I have no confidence that this bipartisan group will reach here. They should have a limited amount of time to do so. But I really think it's time to pull the plug now.

RAJU: You would support going reconciliation, Democratic-only approach?

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): Well, right now, we don't have the votes to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: And that last point, a very critical one. Because what the Democrats are talking about here is move on two tracks, try to get a bipartisan deal and also the Democrat-only track, try to go the budget reconciliation process. That means they can try to pass a bill which has 51 votes in the Senate, not 60. But Jeanne Shaheen, there a key negotiator, said there just are not the votes to go it alone at the moment because she wouldn't commit to supporting it, neither would Joe Manchin, neither would Kyrsten Sinema, other Democrats in the caucus.

So they have to go through this bipartisan process and also try to convince the left if they don't get the priorities here, perhaps can you get it in the next vehicle. So a lot to go through before we can determine if this can actually become law. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Goodness. We know you'll keep watching. Manu Raju, thanks very much.

RAJU: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Still to come, President Biden brings American diplomacy back to the world stage. Why other G7 leaders are describing him as a breath of fresh air, as he seeks to reset relationships with America's close allies.

Plus, new concerns after two breakthrough cases of coronavirus emerge on a fully vaccinated cruise ship, the first cruise to sail from North America in more than a year. What passengers should know before they travel, that's ahead.

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SCIUTTO: America is back. That is the message that President Biden is speaking as he meets this morning with leaders of the G7 nations. The summit is part of President Biden's first foreign trip as commander- in-chief and a chance to reassert America's place, he hopes, as a leader and defender of democracy on the world stage.

For more, I'm joined by New Yorker Staff Writer and CNN Global Affairs Analyst Susan Glasser. Susan, glad to have you on this morning.

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Thanks so much.

SCIUTTO: So we've heard this a lot. This is America is back, right? The American democracy is back. U.S. is back. That is the message, that is the approach to allies. What the is the new strategy exactly? What is the meat on the bone here for Biden's foreign policy going forward?

GLASSER: Well, look, these big international summits, of course, are always as much about messaging and the sort of high politics of it, as they are, about some concrete new breakthroughs, the age of cold war symmetry is kind of (INAUDIBLE) big new agreement.

But I think for Biden, this is a very important part of his message, connecting the idea that democracy can deliver still. And that means at home, domestically, you see it, but also internationally. The question is, what does the United States and what do other western democracies get out of working together? And so that's where you're seeing them announce a big new international vaccine program with a billion doses going to be donated by these G7 countries.

[10:20:00]

I think that's a down payment on the idea of Biden-era multilatteralism.

SCIUTTO: Okay. Is there a multilateral response developing here to U.S. and western adversaries, to Russia, to Russian aggression? Hasn't slowed down to China. Chinese aggression hasn't slowed down. I know it's early but how do they work together to change that?

GLASSER: you know, I think that really is the key question. It's one thing for Biden to say, well, I'm going to meet with Putin and I'm going to look at him in the eye and I'm going to talk tough with him and he's going to understand, you know, Donald Trump isn't here anymore, no more Helsinkis. That is important in terms of messaging.

But I think you're right. What we've seen, especially with regards to Russia since 2014, when they illegally annexed the Crimea from Ukraine, has been round after round of sanctions by the United States and its European partners. And, obviously, that hasn't significantly deterred Putin just in recent months. As you know, he had 100,000 troops positioned in a very threatening way on the border of Ukraine, once again, suggesting military action.

And so I think I haven't seen a creative next step in terms of anything that would actually change Putin's behavior.

SCIUTTO: So, Biden will meet Putin next Wednesday. The world is going to be watching that very closely. I'm going to be there to cover it along with others. It's a low bar to do better than Helsinki, right? All Biden has to do is not say, I believe this guy and not my own intelligence services.

But beyond that, what does Biden accomplish there? He will certainly call out Russian aggressive behavior. Will that stick with the Russian president?

GLASSER: Look, you know, Vladimir Putin is not a sentimentalist in any way. He's not about diplomacy. This is his fifth American president that he has dealt with. And every single one of them, you know, except Trump with being the outlier, has had a very similar experience in many ways, which is to say, understanding cooperation was needed with Russia on certain issues, and yet finding themselves stymied, lied to, provoked by Putin. And i don't think now is any different at all.

And so there are a lot of questions, I think, among Russia watchers, frankly, in both parties, Democrats and Republicans, about what is to be gained by meeting with Vladimir Putin right now.

SCIUTTO: Understood. Okay, on COVID-19, one thing that the parties, the various leaders agreed on is to begin sharing their wealth of vaccines with the developing world, that is far behind here. The U.S. sending half a billion doses, others stepping up, and that is a marked change from the Trump administration that was very much America first in a whole host of ways. How important is that step?

GLASSER: I mean, it appears to be, I think, the most significant concrete action we're seeing so far out of this group of G7 leaders. And the reason is that the virus is globalized. You can have great successes, the United States had been rolling out its vaccine, but the world is not really and America won't really be back to business until the rest of the world is at a much different place than it is right now.

The new numbers came out. They showed that COVID-19 just in 2021 is deadlier already than in all of 2020, and that's largely because of the rest of the world. So I feel like this is the most urgent international issue right now that there is.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And viruses don't know borders, right? I mean, it's a global pandemic. Susan Glasser, thanks very much.

GLASSER: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, just a stunning abuse of power, new revelations that the Justice Department under former President Trump targeted Democratic lawmakers, who the president had targeted himself publicly, seizing metadata, that is their phone calls on themselves, their families, their staffers. What investigators were searching for and why Democrats say it was not just a political hit, but in the words of Eric Swalwell, who we spoke with last hour, it was Trump being Big Brother.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [10:25:00]

SCIUTTO: We are now learning how far the last administration was willing to go to target its perceived political enemies. The Justice Department under former President Trump subpoenaed Apple for what is known as metadata, that is phone numbers called, et cetera, for more than 100 accounts this back in 2018. Democratic congressmen on the House Intelligence Committee were among those targeted as part of a leak investigation tied to stories about, what, connections between Trump associates and Russia.

Joining me now to discuss, CNN White House Correspondent John Harwood and John Avalon, CNN Senior Political Analyst. Gentlemen, good to have you on.

Last hour, I spoke with Eric Swalwell, one of the two Democratic lawmakers that we know to this point was the target of this. He described this straight up as Big Brother-like activity. Have a listen. I want to get your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): This is about every day Americans, you know, who don't want to see their government weaponize law enforcement against them because of their political beliefs. And I hope Trump supporters who fear Big Brother and see that Donald Trump is the biggest brother we've ever seen in our country who did weaponize this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: John Harwood, the irony here, of course, is that Trump railed against the legal system, against the deep state as being after him, right, when in reality what was happening here is it was using the Justice Department to go after his enemies.

[10:30:08]

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jim, I think.