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Emerging Republican and Democrat Strategies on House Select Committee; Tom Barrack Indictment; West Coast Wildfires' Smoke Blanketing East Coast; SpaceX Inspiration4 Set To Launch. Aired 9:30- 10a ET

Aired July 21, 2021 - 09:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Welcome back. This morning just days away from the House Select Committee's first public hearing on the Capitol insurrection. We're learning more about the emerging strategies by Republicans and Democrats on the panel.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: CNN's Lauren Fox joins us now form Capitol Hill. Lauren, are Republicans on the panel interested in getting at the roots of what led to the insurrectionists to attack the Capitol that day?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well we've gotten some early indications, right, of what these five Republicans are looking at when it comes to the Select Committee. We should, of course, note that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have to approve the five members that McCarthy has appointed to this committee.

She has yet to do so, but one of the strategies we are seeing emerge is the fact that they want to basically change the subject from what led this attack to why wasn't the Capitol secure.

And you're hearing from people like Jim Jordan, one of former President Donald Trump's closest allies on Capitol Hill, that he wants to ask questions about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Now we asked the top Democrat on the committee a little bit about this, and he argue Pelosi's not in charge of Capitol security on the day of the insurrection. That's not her job. And here's what he said. He said, quote, "Well, if you look at the charge that we have in the resolution, it says the facts and circumstances around January 6. I don't see the speaker being part and parcel to that. It's a free country, and people can say what they want. As to whether or not it has a place in this committee remains to be seen."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office also arguing that this is not Pelosi's job and that basically Republicans are trying to distract from what the underlying cause of this insurrection was, but that doesn't mean that Republicans aren't going to try this strategy.

We also know that over the weekend we expect that they could have a prep session or early next week because they are trying to make sure they have their line of questioning ready. They're going to be talking to Capitol police officers and D.C. Metro police. They want to be careful about towing that line and making sure that they don't seem dismissive of what those officers went through, so that's going to be one of their tough decisions coming up here, but Republicans making the case that they are going to try to muddy the waters between what the lead up cause was to January 6.

SCIUTTO: Sounds like it. Lauren Fox on the Hill. Thanks so much. Also this morning a former advisor, very close friend to former President Trump, Tom Barrack is now facing charges of acting as an agent of a foreign government, also obstruction of justice.

HARLOW: Barrack was once, you'll remember, the Chair of Trump's Inaugural Committee. He is now accused of using his influence to his - influence the former president to illegally lobby foreign policy goals of the United Arab Emirates and then also accused by prosecutors of lying about it when he was questioned by federal agents in June of 2019.

Elie Honig is here, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Just reading, you know, from the indictment here, it's damning on both those fronts. Part of it reads the defendant is charged with acting under the direction or control of the most senior leaders of the UAE over a course of years. For anyone who may dismiss this as administrative charges, why does this matter on a national security front?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, this is a federal crime, Poppy, because it threatens our national security. It's not necessarily illegal to lobby the United States government. It's not necessarily illegal to lobby the United States government on behalf of a foreign country, but it is illegal to do that in secret without registering.


You have to register with the Justice Department. The fact that Barrack didn't do that and it was very close to the president and in position to and actually did influence our national policy, our foreign policy, if we don't know that that's what a secret agent is. That's a threat to our national security.

SCIUTTO: Yes. You're a gun for hire, right? You're representing another country's interests for money. We've seen this with other members of Trump's circle, right, not registering.

One of the charges here is something else we've seen with members of his circle, and that is obstruction of justice, specifically false statements to the FBI. Why do you think that's potentially more significant than the foreign agent registration charges?

HONIG: Yes. Two reasons, Jim. First of all, the obstruction of justice charges on their own actually carry a higher potential penalty than just the foreign agent charges. If he's convicted of both they'll sort of merge together to give us a higher sentence.

But second of all, it says a lot about Tom Barrack's state of mind. It suggests that he lied. Look, people like for a reason why they talk to the FBI, and if you're a prosecutor you get to stand up in front of a jury and say, folks, he lied to the FBI. He did that because he knew what he was doing was wrong. He knew he had something to hide. That could be really powerful evidence.

HARLOW: Just to be really clear here, he has not entered a plea yet but his team, a spokesman for Barrack says he plans to plead not guilty, so I just want to make that clear for our viewers, but given what they have here, which is emails and text messages and a lot, what would a defense here be, Elie?

HONIG: Yes. That's a really good question. He is, of course as anyone is, he's entitled to the presumption of innocence. One thing that jumped out to me about the indictment, this is - does not appear to be a case based on a cooperating witness, and as we know cooperating witness can always be cross examined, right?

You've plead guilty to crimes. You're a liar. You have incentive to help them. If you look at the indictment it looks like this case is built on emails and texts, and the prosecutors here appear to have dozens of them, so they're going to be using Barrack's own words against him. So he's going to have to come up with something creative here. He may be looking to take a plea or even cooperate to try to save himself.

SCIUTTO: Yes. It was interesting. Looking at that list of Trump associates that have been charged, one thing several of them have in common, pardons by the former president. Of course, the former president no longer in office. Something Barrack can't have right now. Elie Honig, thanks very much.

HONIG: Thanks, Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Evacuations underway on the west coast as wildfires, I mean, just huge ones destroy structures, burn millions of acres. And by the way, that smoke you're seeing there making it all the way to the east coast.



HARLOW: Extreme heat, extremely dry conditions are fueling at least 83 wildfires across 13 states right now, and it is just expected to get worse. In Oregon you've probably heard by now of the Bootleg fire. It is bigger than the city of Los Angeles and half the size of Rhode Island, and now you can see the smoke from some of these western wildfires blanketing the skies all the way to here, all the way to New York.

SCIUTTO: I mean, if you think this is just a regional problem or a local problem, it's not. It's national. It's global.


SCIUTTO: CNN's Dan Simon, he's live from Minden, Nevada. Dan, tell us what you're - what you're seeing there and crucially how the firefighters can respond to all this.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well good morning, Poppy and Jim. This fire burning near the Nevada-California border has really been a stubborn one. It broke out on the Fourth of July with a lightning strike, and it remained very small until this past weekend when it went from about 500 acres to now about 40,000 acres, and crews are really having a difficult time with this fire.

It's 0 percent contained. We saw helicopters trying to make some water drops yesterday and they were barely making a dent. Now fortunately the property damage has been limited, but you have a number of communities that have been forced to evacuate. We caught up with some residents yesterday as they were allowed to go back in and check on their homes and grab some essentials. Take a look.


JUANITA HATFIELD, WILDFIRE EVACUEE: Just hoping to see our house still standing. I know, you know, they say it's OK, but I really want to see it for myself. It's scary.

DAVID DAVIS, WILDFIRE EVACUEE: The deputy just told us that our house is still standing. We just want to check it all out.


SIMON: Well you got about 1,000 firefighters working this particular fire. We are at the incident command post. We have some crews that just got back from working the fire line while others are about to go out.

And of course, this is just one of many fires burning throughout the west. You talked about all these fires, about 83 raging across 13 states, the biggest one in Oregon, that Bootleg fire. As you said, it's - the acreage burned is about the sizes of Los Angeles, and this is a fire that is literally creating its own weather. Now normally the weather will dictate what a fire will do but in this case experts say is the opposite. Poppy and Jim -

HARLOW: Dan, we're glad you're covering this. It is unbelievable but all too believable what is happening out there. Thank you for staying on top of it.

Well ahead if you think the new space race is slowing down anytime soon, think again. The next launch is happening in two months and going way higher than Bezos and Branson. We'll talk to one of the crew members ahead.



Well just two months from now the billionaire space race will take a new turn. The world's first all-civilian mission to orbit, Elon Musk's SpaceX Crew Dragon will carry four civilians on a three-day journey to an altitude higher than the International Space Station, actually about four times higher that Bezos' and Branson's missions.

Jared Isaacman, a billionaire and owner of the payment company, Shift4 Payments, is commanding the venture. The name of the mission, Inspiration4, is a nod to the four-person crew that will raise awareness and money for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.


You might remember it made a splash when they aired this commercial during the Super Bowl. I'm excited to be joined now by one of the pilots on board Inspiration4, Dr. Sian Proctor and Jeffery Kluger, Editor-at-Large for "Time Magazine". He just wrote this big piece where I learned of the Inspiration4 mission. I have to admit I didn't know about it before. I should have. And he is the author of a brand new book about to come out, the novel "Holdout". We should also note that Time Studios is producing an exclusive documentary series on the Inspiration4 mission. So good morning to you both, and thank you for being here.



HARLOW: Jeff, let's start with you because this is your - you know, both of your areas of expertise. Your piece is what prompted this segment. Explain to people what these three days - this is not 11 minutes or 90 minutes. This is three days up higher than the ISS. What are you going to do up there? What's the mission going to be like?

KLUGER: Well my understanding - and Dr. Procter could be clearer on this than I am - but there will be scientific experiments undertaken. There will be the routine - and it's not terribly routine - maintenance and operation of the spacecraft. There will be observations that will be - crew observations that will be shared with the Earth, imagery that will be shared with the Earth, an aggressive attempt to raise funds for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, which is the philanthropic engine behind this mission.

So these astronauts over the course of the 72 hours they're up there are not going to have a whole lot of free time. They're going to be working pretty hard.

HARLOW: And Doctor, to you exactly that question to someone that as I mentioned in the commercial you can't stop smiling about this. I know you're quite excited, but you were literally born to do this. I mean, you were born on Guam, the daughter of a NASA engineer who worked on the Apollo mission, so you've been waiting for this.

PROCTOR: Yes, that's exactly right. My parents were on Guam from 1966 to 1970 during the Apollo era, and both me and my brother were born there, but I was born eight and a half months after my dad - after Neil Armstrong made those historic steps on the moon, so I like to think of myself as a celebration baby. You know, my dad and my mom, I'm the youngest of four. And so, just space has been a part of me and my family my entire life. And so, to have this amazing opportunity is just it's thrilling. And yes, I can't stop smiling.

HARLOW: I want you take on, you know, the future of this, where this goes because there's this big debate now as you know, Dr. Proctor, about, you know, a joy ride for billionaires. Yours is raising a lot of money for St. Jude's. That's great, or is this, you know, the future for humanity and exploring, you know, what is available to humanity in space? Listen to what Jeff Bezos said yesterday to our Anderson Cooper.


JEFF BEZOS, FOUNDER, BLUE ORIGIN: We need to build a road to space, build - I mean, build infrastructure, reusable space vehicles and so on so that the next generations can build the future.

It's really about moving heavy industry. I know this sounds fantastical, and it is fantastical. And remember, if you went back to the Kitty Hawk era and showed them a 787 they would think that's fantastical, but we really have to move heavy industry and polluting industry off Earth. The Earth is too small and too fragile -


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: So move nuclear power plants, coal plants -

BEZOS: Everything. They need to beam the energy down to Earth.


HARLOW: Really, Dr. Proctor? Is that feasible? Is that going to be feasible?

PROCTOR: I think so. I mean, when we think about the future of how humanity, how amazing we are as a species and the things that we're able to create, what we imagine we turn into reality. And this is one of the things that we think of a sci-fi, but again like they were saying flying used to be that way and then space travel, and now here we are in this new era of space.

And if we're thoughtful about it then solving for space solves for Earth. And so, if we put the mindset forward then we can take and look at some of the major problems we have on Earth and we figure out solutions to them by going to space.

HARLOW: There is also a very special crew member that's going to be joining Dr. Proctor, Jeffery, and that is Hayley Arceneaux. We have a picture of her here. She's a survivor of childhood cancer, the first person to travel to space with a prosthetic, but she says I'm going to be the first but I won't be the last. Can you speak to this from a journalist's perspective of also, you know, yes, these get a lot of attention but there's also a lot of boundaries that can be broken on multiple fronts?

KLUGER: Well sure. I mean, when you think about the earliest astronauts and contemporary astronauts as well they're held to a standard of physical excellence. They're held to a standard of almost ideal physical specimens of human beings, and certainly space is a very rigorous place to go.


It requires - it requires extreme physical health, but we are also learning that we can democratize space. We don't always have to have the fighter jocks and the perfect physical specimens that we had 60 years ago when the first astronauts flew.

Hayley will be flying with a prosthesis, and artificial femur in the place of her left femur that she'd lost to childhood cancer, and she is a first pioneer helping to prove that you do not have to be a flawless physical specimen to fly in space. She will - as she says, she will be the first. She won't be the last, and I think this helps kick the doors open to the rest of us who may not be as fit and as ideal a specimen as the astronauts who are currently flying (ph).

HARLOW: I think she is perfect, and I can't wait to watch this. And by the way, Dr. Proctor, amen to more women that weren't getting into space at the beginning of all of this. Thank you both. Come back, OK? Come back before or after the mission. We'd love to have you. And we'll -


PROCTOR: Thank you.

HARLOW: -- be right back.