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Justice Department I.G. Gets Referral to Investigate Handling of Leak Probe; Biden Meets with World Leaders at First G7 Summit as President. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired June 11, 2021 - 13:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: For any office, there you have it though, bubble baths.


Thanks for spending time with us today during all the breaking news. Thanks for spending time with us this week. We will see Monday. Have a fantastic weekend.

Don't anywhere, a busy news day. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello on this Friday, I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Major stories here and abroad today. President Biden wrapping up his first day of high-stakes meetings with leaders with some of the world's largest economies. The goal of this G7 summit was to coordinate on big global issues and to send a message to Russia's Vladimir Putin that the G7 is strong.

Any moment, we may see some of those leaders coming back together for an event with the royal family. So we're monitoring that.

Meantime, in Washington, we are learning more about a stunning effort to weaponize the Justice Department. House Democrats on the Intelligence Committee are meeting right now after learning the DOJ under Trump secretly seized the Apple data of Democrats as part of an effort to track down leaks. And now, new calls for new investigations, new testimony from Trump's former attorneys general and it now looks like an inspector general investigation just got the green light.

Here is what we know about this. CNN is learning that prosecutors in the Trump Justice Department subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of at least two prominent Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, Chairman Adam Schiff and Congressman Eric Swalwell, along with their staff, some family members, even a minor, we are told.

The DOJ, a department which is intended to defend the interests of the United States, not a president or an administration, was looking for sources of leaks behind news stories about contacts between Russia and Trump associates. And just moments ago the, deputy attorney general, Lisa Monaco, asked for the DOJ inspector general to investigate the handling of this probe.

Let's dive in with Nick Ackerman, he is the former Watergate prosecutor and Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

And, Nick, this is just unprecedented. This is not how our country was designed to work. Of course, there have been other leak investigations in other administrations, so explain what makes this so out of bounds.

NICK ACKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Well, what makes this so out of bounds is that the question is whether or not Donald Trump used the Department of Justice to go after two individuals, Democrats, who we perceived as his enemies. This is precisely the type of investigation I did back in the Watergate days in the special prosecutor's office where Richard Nixon weaponized federal agencies to go after his enemies.

Here, we know that Donald Trump certainly used the Department of Justice at every turn he could whenever he thought it was appropriate to basically direct them to do things that were politically in his interests, whether it was dumping the case on his national security adviser or whether it was trying to get the director of the FBI to drop the case on that same national security adviser.

And we know from the recent testimony of Don McGahn that just was released yesterday by Congress that Donald Trump was extremely persistent in trying to get the Department of Justice to go his way to get the attorney general to not recuse himself in the Russian investigation and to get Robert Mueller fired.

So the real question comes down to, is this something that was directed by Donald Trump and was this whole notion of a leak investigation simply a pretext for Donald Trump to go after two individuals who he perceived as his enemies.

CABRERA: And what was the involvement of his attorneys general is a big question, I think. We have learned the former attorney general, Jeff Sessions, wasn't involved in the subpoena specifically related to the House Committee, this is according to a person familiar with the matter. But it appears Bill Barr was. And I have to point out this exchange between Barr and now Vice President Harris. This was in 2019.


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?


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: It seems you'd remember something like that, and be able to tell us?


CABRERA: So, Nick, knowing what we now know, all that we are learning today, what does this tell you about Barr?


ACKERMAN: I think he's a prime suspect as well. I mean, we know that this investigation supposedly languished for a while and that it was Barr that started it up again. And so the question is, was he directed to do this by Donald Trump or by anyone else in the White House.

Look, we know that the attorney general, Barr, was basically the spear carrier for Donald Trump in putting a spin on the Mueller report and trying to make it look like Donald Trump was exonerated, when, in fact, he wasn't. We know that Attorney General Barr also was the one who basically went into -- had his people go into court on the Michael Flynn case and dismiss it. So there's a lot of questions here and there's a lot to investigate.

This is clearly something that not only the inspector general should investigate, but Congress as well should dig into this. I mean, the bottom line here is if this was just a pretext and was done for political purposes to try and undermine two individuals that Trump perceived as his enemies, somebody's going to go to jail.

CABRERA: CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen is going to join our conversation now. And, David, you're a former presidential adviser to four presidents. You worked under Nixon who had his own enemies list, of course, but is this worse than Watergate?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It has the potential for being worse than Watergate. But I do think it's important to set this in context. It's quite legitimate for an administration, for a president, for a Justice Department to pursue leaks of national security information. That's well within bounds. But for decades now, it has been illegitimate to weaponize the powers that you have at the Justice Department to go after your enemies.

We went through decades of abuse like this, especially when Jay Edgar Hoover was running the FBI and presidents would call Hoover and get dirt on their opponents to use. They would get into the tax returns of one of their opponents. They would find other ways, they would listen in on -- they would tap their phones. They would do a number of things that over time we came to see as totally illegitimate and threatening to democracy. And it's coming on the heels of the assault on June 6th, this is a different kind of assault but it's of the same family, and that is to use the powers of an institution, the presidency and the Justice Department to go on fishing expeditions against your enemies to see what you can find, to find out what dirt is there.

And to realize that this investigation was dying down, basically, the original people investigating it thought they had -- was nothing there and Bill Barr then comes in and revives it, according to what we know so far, according to what's been reported so far, that is extremely suspicious.

And I do think, I join in the chorus for those saying, this really deserves serious investigation but by non-interested parties. It's very important to be independent.

CABRERA: Apparently, these investigations that, as you point out, had died down, were -- emerged, reignited, they led to nothing. There wasn't any solid information that suggested there had been wrongdoing, that they were able to uncover, according to our reporting. And we know that Apple turned over metadata, they didn't actually provide photos, emails, other content, according to a person who is familiar with the inquiry and The New York Times.

With that, Nick, they were seeking information though from family members, including a minor. I just -- you know, I wonder, given some of these investigators, these prosecutors are still working at the DOJ, Nick. Do you think they should be fired?

ACKERMAN: I think they should be investigated. We don't really know what they know. I think what you have to do is the same thing I did in Watergate. You've got to talk to every person who touched this investigation from the top on down. You should interview all of those people, you should get all of the paperwork that's involved here, put all of that together to determine who was it that directed this investigation and why did they do it? That's the big questions.

So whether or not anybody should be prosecuted or fired really depends on what is found in that investigation.

CABRERA: David, how important is it for accountability though? Because without that accountability, what could that mean in?

GERGEN: Yes. If there is a lack of accountability, if they -- if Bill Barr did something nefarious and gets away with it, it opens the door for future attorneys general to come in and do similar practices, and then you begin to have a corrupt government. And that's what you're trying to avoid. You're trying to avoid an autocracy.

Joe Biden has made a big point, one of the biggest arguments he is making right now as the new president is that the biggest threat we face is from authoritarianism.


This -- the kind of picking up the and looking through the files of somebody, especially a child, is so obviously inappropriate that you'd think, you know, that prosecutors would not be going down this road.

So I think it's highly important we know why the prosecutors, whether prosecutors push into this by their superiors, did they find anything at all, did it continue to be an empty vessel, or what was going on, until we know that, we don't know how much continuing danger our republic is in.

CABRERA: David Gergen and Nick Ackerman, my thanks to both of you. I really appreciate that analysis and the insights.

GERGEN: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: Let's head back to England now. At any moment, President Biden and fellow G7 leaders will begin arriving for a reception with Queen Elizabeth.

CNN's Phil Mattingly is live now for us. Thank you, Phil, for being there.

It was a filled with crucial meetings for President Biden. Catch us up to speed.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's so fascinating to look at the split screen about what's still going in Washington related to the president's predecessor and what's happening here, where it seems like the other leaders in the G7 couldn't be happier to not have to deal with any fallout from the president's predecessor. That has been kind of the general tone of the meeting, more smiles, clear statements of happiness from the other leaders in the G7 that President Biden, somebody who leaves in multilateralism, who believes in the strength of western nations coming together, is now at the table.

And I think that was the core of kind of the first meeting that they had today, lasted about an hour. It was primarily about the recovery from the pandemic, how to approach the global economy, how to approach kind of what comes next. Obviously, the president announced yesterday the U.S. would be purchasing and donating 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, the G7 now leveraging that commitment to a total of a billion doses. So you see the leaders are trying to put some tangible efforts into kind of the broad platitudes, if you will, about what they're planning to do going forward.

The next thing up, as you noted, the leaders are arriving right now at the Eden Project. It's a series of bio domes that kind of mimic a rain forest environment. And the purpose of this, yes, it will be meeting with the royal family, it will be meeting with the queen, that is no small thing, but it will also be talking about other key agenda item, the climate agenda. So there will be that tonight as well as a picture with the queen and the G7. Ana?

CABRERA: It was interesting to hear that Boris Johnson, the prime minister of the U.K., calling Biden administration and talks with the president a breath of fresh air, the ability for them to work together, he said. Phil Mattingly, thank you for your reporting.

This G7 Summit is critical, and CNN's Tom Foreman is here now to explain why. Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's called a G7 because it is the group of seven, these are the leaders of the world's largest economy, Germany, Canada, the U.K., the United States, France, Italy and Japan. It used to be the G8 not terribly long ago, until Russia got kicked out of the group. If you look at the G8 breakdown of what happened in 2014, Russia invaded Crimea. That was enough for these other countries to say we don't really want you to be part of this anymore so Russia went out the door there and that was one of the problems for them.

Then it was known as the library group back in the 1970s when it first came along and the library group called that because they started in the library of the White House.

So, really, what do they do? Well, Phil described a little bit of it a moment ago. They consider these great big issues, meeting once a year, they coordinate policies, saying, look, if we all have a shared interest in democracy, working economies, fairness, justice in the courts, may not be perfect but we can help each other so when you address climate change or global vaccinations or perhaps even cybersecurity in an age where there are harboring nations like Russia, Iran, China, North Korea, allowing people to attack computer systems, yeah, the G8 can work together and have global consequences. Ana?

CABRERA: Formerly known as G8, currently known as the G7. Tom Foreman, I appreciate how you break it down for us. Thank you.

We are waiting for the president to arrive, as well as other G7 leaders for that event with the royal family. We're following that.

Plus, Trump's election lies, threatening more lives, how election workers are facing an onslaught of death threats.

And some top scientists resign after the FDA approves a new drug for Alzheimer's. Why one of them says it's a mistake.



CABRERA: Happening soon, Queen Elizabeth will be hosting an event for President Biden and fellow G7 leaders. She is the head of state in the U.K., which helps explain the royal family's central role in foreign relations.

Kate Bennett is here to break down the importance of their diplomatic engagements. And, Kate, already, the first lady held an event with a member for the royal family.

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. She met with Kate Middleton, the duchess of Cambridge this morning. They visited a school, a very familiar turf for the first lady, of course, who was an educator and a community college professor.

And the queen is going to be tonight at a reception with the G7 leaders. She is going to make an appearance, additionally, Prince Charles and the duchess of Cornwall will be there and, again, Kate Middleton and William, the duke and duchess of Cambridge will be there.

So, certainly, the royal family pulling out all the stops as figurehead hosts, if you will, of this G7 summit. The queen is not political. She is not, in any way, a divisive or a political head of state in the U.K. But, you know, this is a woman who has been impactful for the United Kingdom since 1952 when she became the ruling monarch there.

This is going to be Jill Biden's first audience with her at the castle.


And although she's Jill from Philly and she's Dr. B (ph) to everybody, the queen has met 12 presidents of the United States since becoming queen. And she's probably got this down. But it will be interesting to see Joe Biden now in the top role at the country of the United States getting involved with the queen this time. And it will be interesting to watch on Sunday when they go to Windsor.

CABRERA: Right, because we all remember when Trump met with her and had a hard time figuring out where to walk or the moment from the first lady, Michelle Obama, touching the green and everybody was like, she touched the queen.

BENNETT: Exactly, no touching.

CABRERA: It's awkward, I think, for Americans not knowing all the right protocols. Kate Bennett, thank you for that.

Now, let's turn to Sir Peter Westmacott, the former U.K. ambassador to the U.S., France and Turkey. He's also the author of, They Call it Diplomacy, 40 years of Representing Britain Abroad. And also joining us, David Sanger, White House National Security Correspondent for The New York Times. Thank you both for being here.

Sir Westmacott, we have a lot of talk about it, obviously, but, first, President Biden has said his goal of this G7 Summit is to really show the world that this alliance is tight. He wants Putin and China to know that. Did he meet that goal today?

PETER WESTMACOTT, FORMER U.K. AMBASSADOR TO U.S., FRANCE, TURKEY: Well, we don't really know yet what happened behind the closed doors of the G7 discussion but I think it was all set for that kind of message. I think President Biden was conveying that message before he sat down with his fellow heads of government, heads of state. And I think we knew in advance that two of the priorities, leaving aside climate change and vaccine diplomacy and global trade and tax and all those other cybersecurity big issues that were out there, that he wanted to find common ground with his like-minded heads of government for dealing with the separate but very serious threats posed to our security and our prosperity by both Russia and China.

And so how far has he succeeded? I don't know yet. There's plenty more meetings to come. But it looks to me as though they got off to a very good start.

CABRERA: David, we mentioned his goal to send a message to people and places, like Russia, that upcoming Putin-Biden meeting, it's going to be tense. President Biden months ago, of course, called Putin a killer. Now, the Kremlin spokesman is coming out with some fighting words of his own, telling CNN's Matthew Chance that the U.S. has essentially refused to cooperate with Russia for years on cybercrimes, climate change, and now vaccines. What is going to be President Biden's best strategy heading into that sit-down?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think the first thing that he's going to try to do, Ana, is to make sure that Putin understands there was a new sheriff in town, and that the days were over where the president would -- the president of the United States would meet and make excuses along the way, which is, of course, what you saw happened frequently when President Trump denied that -- or accepted Putin's denials that he had been involved in the hacking of the DNC and so forth.

But I think, as Peter suggested before, the message here is much more than just about Putin. It is -- fits into President Biden's concept that we're in a new struggle between democracies and autocracies. And while there's a lot of show of unanimity here, behind the scenes, this line of reasoning makes some of the European leaders a little nervous because they're afraid that the president may be offering rhetoric that descends us into a new cold war with the two other major superpower adversaries.

And so I think the interesting day may be tomorrow when they focus some more on China and we discover the degree to which the Europeans are willing to join in President Biden's pushback, particularly on China, particularly on trade and investment issues there.

CABRERA: Sir Westmacott, before that Putin meeting, before the more formal meetings that happen tomorrow, President Biden is soon to attend a dinner with all these G7 leaders and the royal family. I kind of wonder what happens behind the scenes at these types of events and how high are the stakes in these moments.

WESTMACOTT: I think when we've got an event like a G7 heads of government meeting in the U.K., especially in a beautiful and different sort of place like Cornwall, involving senior members of the royal family is not quite a trump card, but it is a special extra dimension that the U.K. can bring.

I've seen over the years that a lot of hard bent political people, highly experienced presidents and prime ministers from around the world, have been quite delighted to be entertained by and spend time with the queen, the prince of Wales and now it's the younger generation, Prince William and Kate. So I think it's tremendous that they're all going to be there, and in person.


Nobody has really been in person with anybody else for the last year or so. So I think that's largely about setting the scene, it's about making people feel special about the U.K., but, of course, the prince of Wales has also been presiding over a very important meeting with series CEOs from a lot of global companies, something he's been doing the last 20 or 30 years, way ahead of the game, before anyone even invented corporate social responsibility and environmental sustainability, the prince of Wales has been doing this stuff.

So I think there's lots there to go alongside the political discussions, which have been taking place behind closed doors between the heads of government.

CABRERA: Yes. Okay, thank you, both, it's great to have you walk us through all of this, these developments, thank you, gentlemen.

Resigning in protest, three FDA advisers quit after the agency okays a new Alzheimer's drug, the first doctor on that panel to resign tells us why, next.