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Justice Department Watchdog Initiates Review into Handling of Leak Probe; House Democrats to Ask Apple to Determine if Additional Members Were Targeted by DOJ; Unemployment Benefits Fraud Explodes During Pandemic; 2 Passengers Aboard "Vaccinated" Cruise Ship Test Positive for COVID-19; Some Question Whether Children Should Be Vaccinated. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 11, 2021 - 14:30   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: There are calls on Capitol Hill for hearings to look into Donald Trump's Justice Department. Of course, you now know the reports that DOJ prosecutors were looking to track down the leaks in the Russia probe.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: CNN senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, joins us live from Capitol Hill.

Manu, House Democrats are now asking Apple to help determine if additional members were targeted. What do we know?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. I heard that on a conference call that Democrats had on the House Intelligence Committee there was a discussion about what can be done now.

A lot of Democrats were, quote, "animated," I'm told, about who was actually behind this effort to seize records, who in the Department of Justice it was. And they want to get answers.

And they also want to get answers about who else on the House Intelligence Committee could have been targeted by this investigation.

Right now, all we know is Eric Swalwell, who is a member of the committee, as well as the chairman of the committee, Adam Schiff, those are two Democrats whose records were seized after the Justice Department subpoenaed Apple for the records.

What they're doing now, I'm told, they're going to provide information to Apple to try to get the information about whether they, in fact, too, other members of the committee, in fact, too, were targeted.

They don't know the answer to that because a lot of these notices that were sent that were very generic notices that were sent to members starting on May 5th, I'm told.

And then, in the immediate aftermath of that, some of those generic emails could have been ignored. Could have gone into their spam filters. A lot of members don't know.

Also, what they don't know is because the Justice Department has not divulged the information despite the push by Schiff and others to get that information from the Justice Department. They're not providing that information according to Democrats.

So, Democrats are concerned about this effort, which did happen during the Trump administration. And are saying there needs to be further investigation.


REP. SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (D-NY): It warrants a full investigation. And heads should roll at the Justice Department.

It's one of the more serious things out of the Trump administration, and that's saying a lot.

UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSWOMAN: I think as history looks on Donald Trump, they will see an effort to undermine this democracy in a way that it has never been before.

REP. PETER WELCH (D-VT): It could be Adam Schiff today, but it could be Devin Nunes tomorrow if you don't have some norms that are abided by, whether it's a Republican or a Democratic president.


RAJU: Now, the Senate Democratic leaders are calling on the top two Justice Department officials in the Trump area, Jeff Sessions, that was attorney general at the time, as well as Bill Barr, attorney general at the time, and have them come and testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, threatening them with subpoenas.

But the House is still figuring their path forward.

But one House member, Mike Quigley, told me, moments ago, "The bottom line for the day of the Russia investigation, I assumed a hostile government would do something like this. I just didn't think it would be our own hostile government" -- guys?

CAMEROTA: Manu Raju, thank you very much.


Let's bring in now CNN senior legal analyst, Laura Coates, who is a former federal prosecutor, and CNN senior political analyst, John Avlon.

Laura, the breadth of this dragnet, not just members and their staff, but family members and a minor, one of those, more than 100 accounts. Is that suspiciously broad?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. It's so suspicious as to be called a fishing expedition, particularly when you think back that Attorney General Bill Barr was already told there was no information to be had and said go back to the drawing board and do it again.


The breadth of this is what is so appalling.

And also, we do not yet know what was the factual predicate. Getting a subpoena, as a prosecutor, is not the most untoward thing at all, absolutely. It's pretty much par for the course.

But the realization of why it was done, was it to weaponize?

You know, Nixon had an enemies list. Trump apparently thought he had an enemies department who would be able to carry out whatever objective he wanted.

The irony shouldn't be lost on anyone, Victor. The idea of someone so against the FISA warrants, the applications, the idea of anyone spying, he would say, on an American citizen for any reason.

We don't know a legitimate reason to be spying on and getting the records on somebody in terms of the subpoenas, the so-called spying on people, if they're just carrying out their checks as a co-equal branch of government to investigate an abuse of power.

It's crazy and appalling.

CAMEROTA: Now that we know this information, John, doesn't it put into a whole new light the peculiar response that Bill Barr gave to then- Senator Kamala Harris during that Senate Judiciary Committee hearing where he suddenly didn't understand the word "suggested" anymore, or much of the English language?

Here is that moment.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Attorney General Barr, 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, be able to tell us. BARR: Yes, but I'm trying to grapple with the word "suggest." There

have been discussions of matters out there that -- they have not asked me to open an investigation but --

HARRIS: Perhaps they suggested?

BARR: I don't know. I wouldn't say "suggest."

HARRIS: Hinted?

BARR: I don't know.

HARRIS: Inferred?

You don't know.


CAMEROTA: I mean ,it was crazy when it happened.


CAMEROTA: But in light of all of this information, it's so stunning.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It is. The thought bubble changes dramatically. You can hear some of the legalistic tap dancing in his head now where he's trying not to figure out how not to perjure himself, in effect.

That was a classic Washington non-answer. But now we know why.

To think of this, by the way, as isolated, no. This is the tip of the iceberg. This is culture of corruption that was being pressured from the president, trickled down through the department. And that's where it really gets troubling.

It's not just the attorney general acting as his personal lawyer but that the culture inside the Justice Department could be twisted so relatively quickly to pursue partisan ends.

And that's one of the many things that's so disturbing.

As more information comes out, the watchdog group should be convened, of course.

But this will not be the end. We cannot accept this as some kind of normal. There's no historic precedent for this. You can vote Nixon. Nixon looks like patty-cake in some respects to what seems to have gone on here.

BLACKWELL: Laura, speaking of things ending, Merrick Garland, confirmed in early March. These were allowed to expire. The members of Congress were notified in May.

Could he have, should he have ended these when he took over?

COATES: Well, assuming he had the knowledge of it actually happening and the court was going to be amenable to it, I guess he could.

But this issue, to me, Victor, is larger than that. It's also the notion of, we don't yet know the full scope of what happened, who truly was impacted and the breadth of it.

Why? Because of the gag orders.

Remember, you're talking about an administration that had been so vexed by the notion of being silenced or censured or canceled in any way.

But gag orders were not only asked for but we know, in at least one instance, even extended it for different periods of time.

You didn't have the recourse for people who were targeted to question the factual predicate to get the subpoenas for the Apple company or their minor children or anyone else who may have been involved.

You have this idea of the gag order precluded the investigation, precluded the opportunity for people to know when they were being targeted, why they were being targeted, and whether it was an attempt for political vindication or as political henchmen.

So that's the most concerning part.

That we're learning about this now. But again, is it going to trickle over and down later on?

Again, why is this important? The reason John alluded to. The idea of any investigation by an inspector general of anyone else, a congressional committee or anyone else, they're going to have to have the information to know whether their investigation is fulsome and holistic enough. Piecemeal will not be effective.


CAMEROTA: John, Republicans must be up in arms about this overreach by the Department of Justice and possible unmasking of sources. What have they said today?

AVLON: Crickets. And this is why. What we've seen, over and over again, unfortunately, is a lot of these philosophical arguments about small government, about distrusting the government, about the dangers of overreach. It's all been a partisan football.

I hate to say that because there are people who presumably believe those things. But when it matters, too, often we don't hear enough.

And I suspect -- Ben Sasse has credibility on this issue perhaps. He's been consistent. But precious few.

And that's the problem in our politics.

Trump exposed the fact that a lot of these principles that underlie partisan politics are all just part of expedient B.S. Another point that Laura made that's really important. The way in

which Donald Trump telegraphs what he's going to do, it's all projection. Witch hunts, silencing, cancel culture, spying on people, it's all just projection, folks.

BLACKWELL: All right. John Avlon, Laura Coates, we'll continue to dig into this. Thanks so much.

CAMEROTA: Up next, a staggering estimate about how many unemployment claims during the pandemic may have been bogus. We'll explain.



CAMEROTA: Listen to this next story. The U.S. government pumped out nearly a trillion dollars in unemployment benefits during the pandemic. And now some estimates find that about half of that money was stolen, likely falling into the hands of foreign criminals.

BLACKWELL: So let's bring in CNN's Kristen Holmes for more.

So $400 billion stolen from the U.S. government? Tell us about that.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Victor and Alisyn, that is such a shocking number. Now, it is important to note this is one estimate made by someone who helps states with its issue.

But what we do know is this. Benefit fraud has gone rampant during the pandemic. And the estimates of just how bad it is varies widely.

For example, the Department of Labor, they say only about $89 billion was fraud so it's a much smaller number. But we still know this is staggering.

Now, many of the experts I talk to say part of the reasoning is because the state are the ones that actually give out the benefits. And because of that, it's harder for the federal government to track those numbers on a national level.

But I want to give you some of the numbers we do know. This has been reported by states. Some of them are incredible.

California reports that $11 billion in fraudulent claims was paid out. Colorado, $19.4 million. Ohio, $330 million. And that list continues to go on.

The big question is, here, again, just how bad is it? Is there a system that can be put in place to track this on a national level? And what can these states be doing better to help with that identification process?

CAMEROTA: Kristen, it's sickening to hear about all of these wasted dollars. There has to be a way to stop it. Are you saying the states don't know how at this moment? HOLMES: What we know is they're trying. They're implementing new tools

on identity verification. They're talking with the Department of Labor who's issued guidance on this.

But it doesn't seem as though this is a solid solution. Just enabling this identify verification isn't stopping this problem.

Victor and Alisyn, this is really atrocious to imagine all of these are dollar meant to help people going into the hands of bad actors.

CAMEROTA: Kristen Holmes, thank you very much. We know you'll stay on top of that.

BLACKWELL: Thanks, Kristen.

Coming up, two guests aboard a fully vaccinated cruise ship have tested positive for COVID-19.



BLACKWELL: Two passengers on the first cruise from North America since the pandemic shut down the industry have tested positive for COVID-19. Now, the passengers were rooming together on the "Celebrity Millennium" that left St. Martin on Saturday.

CAMEROTA: The cruise line says they're asymptomatic and in isolation. It's not clear where they contracted the virus.

A company statement said all guests had to show proof of vaccination and a negative COVID test before departure.

Let's bring in Dr. Richina Bicette. She's the medical director at Baylor College of Medicine and an emergency medicine physician.

Great to see you, Dr. Bicette.

This is actually a good-news vaccine story because these two passengers had reportedly been vaccinated, so they have no symptoms. They're feeling fine.

They wouldn't have known that they were carrying the virus somehow around had they not been tested by the cruise ship before departing. And so the vaccine is working.


I think some people will take the two cases and run with it and say, well, what's the point of getting vaccinated if I'm still going to contract COVID? But nothing in medicine is 100 percent effective.

From the very beginning, Pfizer and Moderna have given us ranges from 90 percent to 95 percent in terms of the efficacy of their vaccine. What is important is not only were these two passengers are

asymptomatic, but no one else on the cruise ship, who had been in contact with those passengers, tested positive for COVID.

Definitely a vaccine success story.

BLACKWELL: The good thing is they're being tested, so we know as soon as those positive cases arise.

Let's turn to something else. The question over children being vaccinated. There's a disagreement in -- within the medical community.

Some say that young children especially so rarely get sick that it's not urgent. Others say that if there's a resurgence, then children certainly should be vaccinated.

Where do you fall on that line?

BICETTE: Well, I will tell you, Victor, low risk doesn't equal no risk.

At the very beginning of the pandemic, children made up about 3 percent of COVID cases. That number has slowly increased to peak about 13 percent.

However, at the end of May, for that week ending on May 27th, children made up almost 25 percent of new COVID cases during that time period.

So children are getting sick more often. They are still at risk of hospitalization. And they are still at risk of having adverse side effects.

Kids have been isolated for a large proportion of time. But as school starts back in the fall and they're in classrooms, they're in group activities and school sports, it's going to get colder so people are going to start moving inside, their risk is going to increase if they're not vaccinated.


CAMEROTA: Dr. Richina Bicette, great to talk to you. Thank you.

We have a programming note now. CNN's Drew Griffin talks with people who were in Washington on January 6th and discovers new details about what happened there. Don't miss "ASSAULT ON DEMOCRACY: THE ROOTS OF TRUMP'S INSURRECTION," Sunday, June 20th, at 9:00 p.m., on CNN.

BLACKWELL: Coming up, the Justice Department watchdog just announced it will investigate those data seizures of House Democrats by Donald Trump's DOJ. We'll bring you the very latest, next.