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Transcript: The ReidOut, 3/28/22

Guests: Ben Rhodes, Nina Khrushcheva, Peter Strzok, Elie Mystal

Summary

Coming up, January 6th committee vote on contempt referrals. Ukrainian defenders holding the line. Ukrainian forces reportedly retake Kyiv suburb of Irpin`. Mariupol on the verge of humanitarian catastrophe.

Transcript

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: You may recall the last person who did this and was held in contempt, the first person held in contempt was Steve Bannon. He awaits a criminal trial on this issue, so the stakes are high.

Keep it locked at MSNBC. THE REIDOUT with Joy Reid starts now.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, everyone. We begin THE REIDOUT tonight with the fight to save democracy at home and abroad. This hour in Washington, the house select committee on January 6th will meet to hold two aides to the former president in contempt of Congress. We will bring that to you live.

But, first, the battle to defend democracy continues in Ukraine. We`re five weeks into Vladimir Putin`s invasion. Ukraine`s counteroffensive continues to hold the line amid fresh concerns about the Russian dictator`s endgame.

There is new evidence of Russian brutality on the outskirts of Kyiv, even as a senior U.S. defense official said Russia is making no progress in its advance on the capital. Having failed to take the country, the Kremlin now says it is focusing its efforts on the east, the contested Donbas region. A top Ukrainian official says Russia is aiming to split the country in two, like North and South Korea.

But in the north, Ukrainian forces appeared to have notch a significant victory today. Irpin, a fiercely contested suburb of Kyiv, has been liberated according to its mayor and Ukraine`s president, although the U.S. could not confirm that claim. The mayor added that conditions were still too dangerous for residents to return.

Cities in the east and south remain under siege, including Mariupol, the devastated port city which remains under Ukrainian control. Its mayor is calling for a complete evacuation of those who remain, saying the city is on a verge of a humanitarian catastrophe. 160,000 people are trapped without water, power or heat. Ukrainian official say, more than 5,000 have been killed there since the start of Putin`s war.

Meanwhile Ukrainian and Russian delegations prepare to start another round of in-person talks in Turkey this week. In an interview with Russian media, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he`s willing to consider Ukraine`s neutrality in a potential peace agreement.

Over the weekend, as President Biden was set to deliver a major speech in Warsaw, Russian rockets struck fuel storage facilities on the outskirts of Lviv, roughly 45 miles from the border with Poland.

And today, President Biden continued to grapple with the fallout from his unscripted remarks about Vladimir Putin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: For God sake, this man cannot remain in power.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: The Kremlin called those comments alarming. Today, President Biden stood by his remarks as he announced a new budget, which includes substantial aid for Ukraine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: I`m not walking anything back. In fact, the matter is I was expressing more outrage I felt toward the way Putin is dealing and the actions of this man, just brutality.

I want to make it clear, I wasn`t then nor am I now articulating a policy change. I was expressing moral outrage that I feel and I make no apologies for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: President Biden said his not worried that his unscripted comment will ratchet up tension with Russia, saying no one believes that U.S. has a policy to remove Putin from power.

Joining me now, former Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes and Nina Khruscheva, Professor of International Affairs at The New School.

I`m going to start with you, Ben, because you have dealt personally with President Biden, and Biden will often Biden. He will say things that are unscripted. But they are often just true, okay? I mean, some of his gaffes are just things that everyone understands. I don`t think anybody sane believes that Putin should remain the dictator of Russia.

Do you think that there is any real impact from that? I know that, Macron and France was very concerned about the remarks but he`s also been trying to be sort of an intermediary and deal with Putin. Do you think that there is anything real here or is this just more pearl-clutching around the world and in some of the press?

BEN RHODES, FORMER DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: I mean, I think in the long-term, Joy, there is not much impact to this statement. It obviously wasn`t how they would have planned it. It obviously probably raised eyebrows amongst the allies that we`ve sought to bring aboard very carefully around policy.

But I think it was necessary to clarify that the United States is not shifting to some overt policy of seeking regime change in Russia, you know, because that would raise a lot of questions. How are you going do that? Would you ever deal with Putin again on anything? I think it was necessary for him to clarify it. But this is one of these dramas that we get in for a few days in Washington.

I think in the long-term here, Putin is showing that he`s escalating no matter what the United States says. And the reality is if there is someone, Joy, who has believed for a long time that the United States is committed regime change in Russia, that`s already Vladimir Putin. I mean, we heard that line from Vladimir Putin back in the Obama years all the time. We`ve heard that line since the color revolutions came to places like Ukraine in Georgia, even in the early 2000s.

[19:00:00]

Might Vladimir Putin cite this line as part of his kind of whataboutism case that wrap regime change in Russia, sure. But if it wasn`t this line, it would be something else.

REID: No, indeed. And, Nina Khruschcheva, thank you for being here. I mean, it -- there is nothing that Biden could say that Putin wouldn`t twist into for whatever he wants. I mean, Lindsey Graham literally said is there a Brutus in Russia implying that he should be killed. So, I personally think it is about much to do about not that much.

But what I do think is alarming is this idea that Putin would go full North Korea. He`s already going down the line. But the idea of trying to essentially turn Ukraine into Eastern Ukraine and Western Ukraine and sort of draw a Berlin wall down -- toward the east and in Crimea, that seems alarming. Your thoughts on that.

NINA KHRUSHCHEVA, PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, THE NEW SCHOOL: Well, I wouldn`t really say it`s that new. In fact the original idea, people right from the beginning, from the end of February, or even before that, were talking about the split Ukraine, the western part and the eastern part. So, the eastern part supposedly more related, affiliated with the Russia, share the language and whatnot. So, it really doesn`t surprise me that this conversation has come forward.

I think what is interesting is that, clearly, this conversation came forward because the rest of Ukraine is not cooperating. I mean, a few days ago, the military already said that the first step of the operation has been completed. That is we are concentrating on Donbas, on the region, and we are going to complete that kind of work.

So, that -- I mean, it is going to be -- if it is a division, it`s going to be Ukraine that is on the western part and that the Russian belong part. So, I wouldn`t even go as far as North Korea because a lot of parts in East Ukraine actually the original ones in 2014 that wanted to be associated, affiliated with Russia. Of course, there the a question on Mariupol and other places that don`t want to be in. So, that would probably be more brutal taking over. But other than that, I think the division was in the works right from the beginning.

REID: But, I mean, Nina, to stay with you for a moment, I mean, is there any evidence that people in Eastern Ukraine want to be part of what is emerging as a failed state? I mean, Russia is about to default on its debt. It`s a country that is being starved economically by the world. It`s a country that is now reviled around the world. It`s essentially an outlaw state. Is there any evidence that people in Crimea, which was a beautiful sort of port, capital that`s got this beautiful waterfront or that people in Donbas are not anything but miserable being under Russian control? Is there evidence that they want to be part of what is emerging as a failed state?

KHRUSHCHEVA: Well, there is no evidence that people in Crimea have been miserable under Russian control. I mean, that really has not been -- there is no evidence to that and many who live in Crimea didn`t want to be part of Russia. Of course, and we talked about in this program not once, that Putin clearly, deeply overplayed his hand. And so nobody, even Russians don`t want to be part of Russia. That is certainly the case.

But to say that, you know, that they never wanted to be that, I mean, that`s why Donetsk and Luhansk became part of the Russian sphere because they wanted that. The question is whether we will continue to want that. I mean, about 300,000 Russians now fled Russia itself. So, that is certainly a question, but I don`t think that that would give Putin any pause to say, well, it didn`t work out and now I`m going to let everybody go. In fact, this is going to be the other way around. The less people want to be part of him -- part of his state, the more he`s going to force them to be.

So, yes, in this sense we can talk about Russia as a black hole as North Korea of 11 time zones and even more now because Ukraine is one hour closer to Europe.

REID: You know, Ben, there is this talk of trying to come up with some sort of peace deal that would somehow end this horror. I mean, 3.8-plus million refugees and counting, as you just heard Nina say, some 300,000 Russians even leaving that country. Let`s talk about this, because I don`t know how to come up with a peace deal when the dictator in Russia is deploying the Wagner Group. We now have new, you know, news that he`s using these Wagner Group mercenaries, he`s using all over Africa. These are brutal mercenaries that he`s now gone to that. He`s essentially gone full terrorism inside of Ukraine.

At what point can you negotiate a peace deal with someone like that because Ukraine saying they`ll be neutral seems to me to be immaterial to Putin. They`re neutral now. They were neutral to when Crimea was seized. They`re not a part of NATO.

[19:10:01]

So, being neutral hasn`t seemed to help before. What do you make of all of this?

RHODES: Yes. I mean, I think it is also important, though, to look at Donetsk and Luhansk too, because Putin certainly did not get resistance, violent resistance in Crimea. But from 2014, you know, I don`t think that there was some popular uprising in the Donbas region to want to join Russia. I think that Russians basically stirred up and really sent people into the Donbas to try to stir up Russian-speaking populations there.

And what we`ve seen, Joy, is that the pretext for this war was in part the defense of Russian speakers or ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine. Look at the places that have been treated the worst in this conflict. Kharkiv, Mariupol, these are cities with enormous populations of Russian speakers and Putin has killed those people indiscriminately, completely indiscriminately, right, in the same way that he`s terrorizing the people of Donbas.

So, first of all, no, I think it`s very clear Ukrainians don`t want to live under Russia. Nobody has welcomed Russia in this invasion. Second, I think that the question neutrality, sure, of course, Ukraine can and should put that on the table. I think we should support whatever position they take in these negotiations. But the question is even if they make a statement of neutrality, what happens to that Russian presence in Donbas, because this is a big chunk of Ukraine?

And if Russia thinks it`s going to just digest this big chunk of Ukraine and maybe connect Mariupol so that so that they have land bridge between Crimea to Mariupol to the Donbas, this was the more minimalist objective that some people thought was going to be Russia`s objective back in February. Clearly, Putin wanted something more than that but he might feel like he`s backtracking that position.

But if you`re Ukraine, how can you accept a huge piece of your sovereignty essentially being consumed on top of a commitment of neutrality? And also is there any sense that the Ukrainians who live in these places would submit to that? There is not.

So, I think neutrality, is, yes, it`s an opening in terms of, okay, maybe the basis of some longer term peace negotiation can essentially be around Ukrainian neutrality. But as long as these questions of Ukrainian sovereignty are unresolved and what is Ukrainian land and what can the Ukrainians accept in terms of what is there land, I still think we`re much further away from a really lasting peace deal.

And that`s why I think the Ukrainians are being skeptical that maybe the Russians are dangling something like neutrality is the basis for talks so there can be some kind of seize fire so that they can stop the supply weapons going to Ukraine and they can lick their own wounds and then resume the military defense. I think we have to be very cautious about whether or not NATO neutrality alone would be enough to resolve these massive questions about are the Russians going to leave Ukrainian land.

And Crimea may be, again, one thing to accept but the Donbas, I think, is much, much more challenging as far as well as Mariupol and other lands that Russia is currently occupying.

REID: Right. And, you know, Nina, the other question is whether or not -- I mean Putin is obviously -- you know, he may not want to show fear openly but this is a man who has banned Russian T.V. from playing Volodymyr Zelenskyy`s speeches. He`s obviously afraid of this man. He understands the power this man has developed, you know, around the world that he has the sympathy of the world no matter what madness and fake Nazi regime B.S. he tries to pull. It doesn`t work. And Zelenskyy is winning the information war, as well as it does feel like his troops are winning the war, war.

So could it be that the world`s best bet here is just to put the gas on, which is why I think -- to put the gas on, the rhetoric that President Biden used, more sanctions, maybe, you know, moving Ukraine closer to NATO because -- giving them the jets, because it does seem like that`s the only language Putin will understand.

KHRUSHCHEVA: I actually don`t think that that`s the only language Putin understands because he has never shown that he understands the language of force. He himself uses force and this sense. I mean, I think also you and I compare their another programs in this sense, he`s very Donald Trump, is that if you give him, he`s going to give you ten times more.

I think that, you know -- I`m not a military analyst in any way but I do think that neutrality is the beginning of the conversation. Although I don`t think that Putin is going to stop. For example, he takes Mariupol, what about Odessa? Odessa hasn`t even come into the conversation yet but it will because Odessa was originally the way they see it as a Russian city, why does it have to belong to Ukraine?

So it is -- again, you can ratchet sanctions up and that`s fine but they are no longer economic sanctions.

[19:15:05]

They`re actually killing civil society, as well. And so the question is where everything is canceled, either from the outside world or from Putin. And I don`t think it a fear per se, it`s that he`s a KGB man, he`s a man about control, who are you to speak up and tell me how I should behave? The more you tell him, the more he pushes back and so the question is do we really want Russia as North Korea collapsed?

I guess we do because there is a collective responsibility Russia has to pay for Putin more than other countries have to pay for their dictators, but at the same time that is 145 million devastated from the inside and from the outside as well.

REID: Well, it seems to me that then, in that case, Joe Biden might be right about the only end game is that Russia`s torment will end the same way that Ukraine`s torment would end. This man is a dictator and there is no reforming or working with or appeasing him, period. It doesn`t seem like there`s any way.

KHRUSHCHEVA: Who is going to take him out?

REID: Well, I mean -- yes. And we`re not even in the regime change business or World War III business, so it won`t be the United States. Ben Rhodes, Nina Khrushcheva, thank you.

Up next on THE REIDOUT, we are just moments away from a meeting on the January 6th select committee who will vote to hold two Trump associates in contempt.

And there are several other major developments involving the effort to overturn the election, including a bombshell ruling from a federal judge in the John Eastman case that says that Trump likely committed crimes.

THE REIDOUT continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:20:48]

REID: We are awaiting the members of the Select Committee on January 6, who just minutes from now will be gathering for a special meeting.

They are voting tonight on a measure to refer criminal charges for two of Donald Trump`s former advisers, Trump`s social media manager and adviser Dan Scavino and his trade secretary, Peter Navarro. Both witnesses violated their subpoenas by refusing to turn over documents or sit for depositions. And both were deeply involved in the scheme to subvert the results of a democratic election and pull off the first American coup.

In the 34-page contempt report, the committee says Scavino was likely with Trump on January 5 and 6. And they say they have reason to believe he may have had advanced warning about the potential for violence. Separately, we know Navarro worked with the alt-right extremist and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon on a plot he called the Green Bay Sweep to delay certification of the vote. And Navarro has explicitly said that Trump was on board with that strategy.

Separately, "The Washington Post" reports that the committee now wants to interview Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Their scrutiny stems from the explosive and, frankly, bizarre, seemingly QAnon-fueled text messages that Ginni Thomas exchanged with Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, in which she encouraged him to overturn the 2020 election.

This comes after the committee today scored a significant victory in court against Trump`s lawyer and insurrection memo author John Eastman, who tried and failed to weasel out of a subpoena for documents. More explosive, however, is that the judge in that case said that Trump probably committed a felony when he tried to stop Congress from certifying the vote for Joe Biden.

In his sweeping and historic 44-page ruling against Eastman today, U.S. District Court Judge David Carter wrote: "Based on the evidence, the court finds it more likely than not that Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021."

With me now, Joyce Vance, professor at the University of Alabama School of Law and a former U.S. attorney, Elie Mystal, justice correspondent for "The Nation," and Peter Strzok, former FBI counterintelligence agent.

Thank you all for being here.

Joyce, I`m going right to you.

I am reading through this 44-page ruling. And even just as a layperson, it`s pretty jaw-dropping, the walk-through that the judge, that the federal judge, Carter, takes us through what happened, and the seemingly very specific plot between Eastman and members of Congress, and it`s seemingly coordinated through the president.

Your thoughts on that ruling?

JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So, the judge lays out the evidence for criminality between Trump and Eastman in very much the way that I`m used to doing as a federal prosecutor in a document we call a prosecutive memo that folks in the U.S. attorney`s office sit around and take a look at to decide whether there`s sufficient evidence to indict.

And in this case, the evidence is laid out in a very compelling and linear fashion. The judge considers the evidence of Trump`s intent, which, Joy, you and I have talked about a lot, because that`s an important and hard-to- prove issue, and concludes that it`s there.

But there`s one important caveat. This judge is looking at the evidence in a civil case context, which means he only had to decide it was more likely than not that the former president and John Eastman were engaged in criminal conduct. And, of course, the burden of proof in a criminal case is much heavier. It`s proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

REID: Yes, and let me read -- this is number four for my wonderful producers.

This is what was written in -- as part of this.

"Eastman and Trump," per the judge, "launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history. Their campaign was not confined to the ivory tower. It was a coup in search of a legal theory. If Eastman and Trump`s plan had worked, it would have permanently ended the peaceful transfer of power, undermining American democracy and the Constitution."

And, Elie, as we`re starting to get pieces of this story, it seems that there were some members of the United States Senate and the wife of a Supreme Court justice who both seemed to be on the same page and have the same legal theories -- legal theories, I will put in scare quotes -- and be operating almost as if, I mean, they were playing from the same playbook. That`s for sure.

[19:25:02]

Ginni Thomas, who seemed very determined that the vice president of the United States act overturned the election, and Ted Cruz, who -- there`s an extensive story about him in "The Washington Post" about his seeming complicity.

Your thoughts.

ELIE MYSTAL, "THE NATION": Joy, shh.

We don`t want to wake Merrick Garland.

(LAUGHTER)

MYSTAL: OK? We have to be careful to protect him from having to wake up and do his job.

I mean, look, to be honest, Joyce was talking about what she would do as a prosecutor`s office. And, quite frankly, a prosecutor would be great. It`d be great if we had one in America who was willing to prosecute and defend our country, instead of what we have going on right now.

Think about it this way. The ruling that we have, which is a great ruling, and it kind of lays everything out, that`s going to be appealed, because the Trump side has no good argument. They just have a delay tactic. So they`re going to appeal. It`s going to go to the circuit court. And then it`s going to go to the Supreme Court, where one of the people who was implicated in this scheme, their husband will be one of the judges at the Supreme Court to decide whether or not these e-mails can actually get out, right?

Like, that is the system that we have right now. And the person who is supposed to be on our side fighting against that system is -- I mean, like we say, every time I`m on this show, either Merrick Garland has a super secret investigation going on that nobody knows about, but he`s got all the cards and he`s ready to go, or it`s the biggest failure of an attorney general in American history.

Those are the stakes right now. And that`s what we`re looking at.

(CROSSTALK)

REID: And that`s what we`re looking at.

And I just want to tell you what you`re looking at is you look at the screen. This is the members of January 6 Committee taking a walk in there. I think we have a couple more minutes.

I want to get Peter Strzok in here, because the best thing for you, as a former FBI guy, is when they just admit they did it. That makes your job a lot easier. Here`s Peter Navarro coming on Ari Melber`s show thinking he`s the smartest man in the room, but just being the guy who admitted he did it.

Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER NAVARRO, FORMER DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF TRADE AND MANUFACTURING POLICY: If the votes were sent back to those battleground states and looked at again, that there would be enough concern amongst the legislatures that most or all of those states would decertify the election. That would throw the election to the House of Representatives.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Do you realize you`re describing a coup?

NAVARRO: No, I totally reject many of your premises there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REID: Ari tried to alert him to the foolishness he just -- the fool he just made him himself.

But, I mean, Peter, the thing that`s so wild is that, when you read the "Washington Post" piece about what Ted Cruz was advising be done, if you read the Eastman memo about what he was claiming could be done, and you go through what Ginni Thomas wanted to be done, and what Donald Trump was demanding be done, they`re all the same.

Your thoughts?

PETER STRZOK, FORMER FBI COUNTERINTELLIGENCE AGENT: Yes, that`s absolutely right, Joy.

Yes. No, you`re absolutely right. And I think that`s all the more reason it`s important to talk to all these people. Now, there are two tracks going on. One, we`re watching tonight. We`re watching the congressional committee bringing people in, the folks that won`t come in trying to decide whether or not they`re going to refer them for contempt prosecutions.

But the second part is the criminal justice process. And I understand. I have tremendous respect for Elie. I have tremendous understanding for the urgency and sense of urgency and wanting to get this information out.

But the fact of the matter is, our criminal justice process takes time. And that`s by design. And I get that we need to and want to get these people on the record. We want to see results as soon as we can. But the fact of the matter, to Joyce`s point, this is -- we have to prove up -- if we`re going to bring charges, it has to be up to a probable cause -- or proof beyond a reasonable doubt standard.

And all the different elements of the crime, there has to be admissible evidence, what we can either show through an e-mail, through a statement, through testimony that we can achieve that high hurdle. And I can`t tell you how many times I walked into work as an FBI agent just frustrated, because I knew somebody had done something wrong, and I knew that I was never going to be able to take it to U.S. attorney`s office and get them charged.

And so that`s -- we see two things going on right now. One is that route, and that may not get people the truth and the satisfaction they want.

The other route, the route that we`re watching folks walk into right now, that may be the better path to getting to the truth of what happened on January 6.

REID: Well, we just saw Liz Cheney walk in. And she`s probably the most -- a lot of Republicans are angry with her, let`s just say. She`s public enemy number one for a lot of Republicans, but I think, for a lot of people, she`s a truth-teller, at least in this instance.

And I think the challenge -- and Elie and I probably are on the same page.

So I`m going to assume you -- I`m going to I`m not going to speak for you, Elie. The problem is, is that, in the case of New York side, Cy Vance`s successor inherited a case that Cy Vance, who was not exactly tough on Trump in his career, believed was ready to go. He had what Peter Strzok just said that you need, a great case that he -- that he literally believed when he left that office could prosecuted.

[19:30:01]

And his successor in New York, the New York -- current New York A.G. said, I don`t want to do it.

And so the problem is not doing anything is a political decision. I worry that Merrick Garland is making a political decision that it would be too upsetting for Republicans and for Trump supporters if he did the thing that seems obvious, which is to pursue a case that is about an American coup.

Your thoughts?

MYSTAL: If that`s me...

STRZOK: So, if you`re asking me -- oh, go ahead, Elie.

REID: That`s for you, Elie.

MYSTAL: OK, so let`s also add the fact that the criminal referral for Mark Meadows was given to Garland months ago, like a long time ago, and there`s still isn`t criminal indictment for that contempt. So, like, the contempt that maybe they vote on tonight, like, when does that get -- when does that get handled by Garland?

Remember, there is a tick, tick, tick, tick, tick clock going on here. Eight months, that`s when the midterm election is.

REID: Right.

MYSTAL: Arguably, that`s when the select committee`s investigation is stopped. If Garland isn`t here now, now he`s going to be in a situation where perhaps he has to work against Congress.

It`s just I -- we need to be moving a lot quicker than what we`re seeing.

REID: And we`re going to take a quick break.

I`m going to -- and, Peter, I promise you will be first out of the out -- of the block, and then Joyce.

We`re going to take a very quick break. You can see there Adam Schiff heading in. We`re going to take a quick break before we get to this contempt vote.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[19:36:10]

REID: We are back with Joyce Vance, Elie Mystal, Peter Strzok, a great panel as we await the January 6 Select Committee, which are going to hold a contempt vote for two members of Donald Trump`s inner circle, his trade secretary, Peter Navarro, as well as his -- what most people know as his social media guy, Dan Scavino.

But I want to go to you, Peter, because I know that you had a comment that you wanted to make just about the length of time that we`re seeing intercede here with Merrick Garland and this investigation.

STRZOK: Yes, absolutely.

I think the point that I wanted to make was that it takes time to build a criminal case. Our criminal justice system is designed for decades and decades and generations to be something that is very precise, that has to meet a very high standard, because that`s the system of justice we want in the United States.

We don`t want Vladimir Putin`s Russia, where, on a whim, he can take his political opponents, whip up charges and throw them in jail for 15, 20 years. So, by design, the process of justice is there to be deliberate, to be slow, to be precise. Frequently, that runs counter to our desire, particularly in a political context, to get to the truth.

And so when you look at prosecution, the prosecution is there as a tool to investigate and go after violations of the law, not necessarily to just tell the truth of everything that happened.

That, on the other hand, is very much what Congress is doing, Congress, a political entity, as it`s doing through the January 6 Committee. What I worry about at the end of the day is, I think we`re very quickly reaching the point where there is a tension between Congress and what DOJ is doing, but I think that`s rapidly going to precipitate into some very significant decisions, where one party or the other are going to start doing things that are very much going to adversely impact what the other is trying to do.

And I think we`re going to see that come to a head in the next few months.

REID: You have to set me up perfectly for the next thing that I want to talk about.

I`m going to start with Joyce on this. You have set me up perfectly for this, because the concern I have for all of you to jump in on this is that there are actors on the Republican side who are not taking this attempted coup as a cautionary tale. They`re taking it as instructions, as ways to improve and tweak the process because they too want power.

There is this extraordinary story in "The Washington Post" about Ted Cruz climbing all over his supposed principles and trying to jump over Josh Hawley to get his fist up higher for the insurrection and to help his former literal political enemy Donald Trump, who called him all sorts of names, called his father a murderer, called his wife ugly, called him lying Ted and all of that, and trying to keep Trump in power.

Take John Eastman, who, in that great case -- that extraordinary ruling that we talked about, was asked about Ted Cruz and whether he had any communication with Ted Cruz, Senator Cruz, and his efforts to change the outcome of the 2020 election, declined to answer, invoked the Fifth, Joyce.

I find that interesting. Let`s go to the timeline. Ted Cruz amplified -- we`re going to put this timeline up on -- this is number two. He amplifies Trump`s stolen election claims, goes on "Hannity & Colmes" -- "Hannity" -- sorry, "Hannity," no more Colmes anymore -- announces that he`s going to represent Pennsylvania Republicans in an effort to block the certification of the election. That case gets rejected.

On December 8, my birthday, Trump asks him to argue the lawsuit that would overturn the election in multiple states. That case gets rejected. He releases a plan for states to start a -- quote -- "emergency 10-day audit" to delay the electoral vote count.

Then, on January 6, he is the first senator to object to the Arizona election results. Then, even after the siege of the Capitol, he votes -- these are both after the siege of the Capitol. He votes to reject -- after the siege of the Capitol, he votes to reject Pennsylvania.

He`s involved, Joyce. He`s involved in the effort from beginning to end, from December all the way to January. Should he not be subpoenaed by the January 6 Committee?

VANCE: So, this is a perfect illustration of the point that Pete was just trying to make.

[19:40:00]

For one thing, it shows why these criminal cases can take so long. It`s because, if you jump too early, you can miss important pieces of what could or could not be criminal conduct. But we know that John Eastman and Senator Cruz were actually co-clerks together many years ago for Judge Luttig.

Often, people who clerk for a judge at the same time develop a close friendship. They were members of the Federalist Society. So they would have had a lot of opportunity to stay in touch. That tells me, whether I`m a congressional investigator or a prosecutor, that I need to understand more about that relationship.

It may be innocent, but there may be important pieces of information here that contribute to our understanding of what happened on January 6. And so, to your question about whether we want to set a precedent for subpoenaing a sitting senator, a big part of that comes down to whether I, as the January 6 Committee, have the ability to enforce my subpoenas.

And that`s exactly what we will learn more about tonight. Congress has to rely on the Justice Department, if it chooses this path of going obstruction of justice when people don`t comply with their subpoenas. So far, it`s been a real mixed bag. DOJ agreed to prosecute Steve Bannon.

We`re still willing -- or we`re still waiting to hear about the fate of Mark Meadows, Trump`s former chief of staff. What DOJ would do if the January 6 Committee subpoenaed a senator is, I think, very much up in the air.

REID: Yes.

Indeed, we`re going to start sort of paying attention here, because we can see Chairman Bennie Thompson. He`s touching the mic and he`s taking off his mask. I think he might be about to start this proceeding. We can see Liz Cheney too, his, I guess, stage left here, and Zoe Lofgren to his right.

Here we go.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): ... Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol will be in order.

The select committee is meeting this evening to consider a report on a resolution recommending the House of Representatives find and Peter K. Navarro, and Daniel Scavino Jr. in contempt of Congress for refusal to comply with subpoenas duly issued by the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol.

Without objection, the chair is authorized to declare the committee in recess at any time.

I will now recognize myself for an opening statement.

This evening, the select committee is required to consider two more citations for criminal contempt of Congress for Daniel Scavino Jr. and Peter Navarro.

Before I get started, I do want to comment quickly on the ruling today in John Eastman`s lawsuit to stop the select committee from obtaining certain records. As the vice chair and I said in our statement earlier today, this ruling is a clear victory for the rule of law.

I encourage people at home to read what Judge Carter wrote and consider his words very carefully. His warnings about the ongoing threat to American democracy should alarm every person in this country.

I want to read a short excerpt from Judge Carter`s ruling.

"Dr. Eastman and President Trump launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history. Their campaign was not confined to the ivory tower. It was a coup in search of a legal theory. The plan spurred a violent attack on the seat of our nation`s government, led to the death of several law enforcement officers and deepened public distrust in our political process. More than a year after the attack on our Capitol, the public is still searching for accountability."

I`m proud to say that this committee is helping to lead that search for accountability. It is why we are here tonight.

So let`s turn to Mr. Scavino and Mr. Navarro. There aren`t -- these aren`t household names. And my colleagues will share some details about who they are and why they are so important to our investigation.

In short, these two men played a key role in the ex-president`s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The select committee subpoenaed them for records and testimony to learn more about their roles and what they knew.

In Mr. Scavino`s case, he strung us along for months, before making it clear that he believes he`s above the law. Mr. Navarro, despite sharing relevant details on TV and podcasts and in his own book, he also stonewalled us.

[19:45:05]

The contempt report published last night gets into the weeds on this. But, broadly, Mr. Scavino and Mr. Navarro are making similar excuses. They`re claiming that the information we want from them is shielded by executive privilege.

To remind everyone, executive privilege is a power of the president to make sure official sensitive information and conversations stay private. It`s a privilege used to protect the presidency and our national security. It usually involves the president and that president`s closest advisers, Cabinet secretaries, top aides.

In the lead-up to January 6, Mr. Scavino and Mr. Navarro were both government employees. They worked in the White House. They drew salaries paid by the taxpayers. They had conversations with the ex-president. So now they are saying they won`t answer any of our questions because of executive privilege.

There are a couple of big problems with their argument. First, generally speaking, executive privilege doesn`t belong to just any White House official. It belongs to the president. Here, President Biden has been clear that executive privilege does not prevent cooperation with the select committee by either Mr. Scavino or Mr. Navarro.

And while the ex-president reportedly has raised privileged concerns when it comes to Mr. Scavino, in Mr. Navarro`s case, nobody has even tried to invoke privilege, except Mr. Navarro himself. That`s just not the way it works. Peter Navarro isn`t president.

It`s important to note that, even if a president has formally invoked executive privilege regarding testimony of a witness, which is not the case here, that witness has the obligation to sit down under oath and assert the privilege question by question. But these witnesses didn`t even bother to show up.

Second, if the ex-president had a legitimate claim to executive privilege, this is a privilege that applies to things that happen in an official capacity. So, if Mr. Scavino or Mr. Navarro are claiming that they all -- that they -- that all the information they have is protected by executive privilege, they are basically saying that everything they did, they did in their official roles paid by taxpayers.

As I said before, we want to talk to Mr. Scavino and Mr. Navarro about their roles in an attempt to overturn an election. The American people didn`t pay their salaries to do that. Now, there are a lot of laws that set out what government officials aren`t allowed to do when they are on the clock or using government resources.

It`s important that taxpayer dollars don`t support political activity. And there are a few bright lines about every specific situation. I can`t sit in my office on Capitol Hill and make fund-raising calls. Every staff member has to take an ethics training every year to remind them of what`s in and out of bounds.

I don`t mean to make light of it. But, just for the record, and for those watching at home, trying to overturn an election is out of bounds, way out of bounds. Yet Mr. Scavino and Mr. Navarro say they won`t talk about the causes of January 6 because they were White House officials at the time engaged in official business, and so executive privilege stands in the way.

They potentially played a part in an attack on American democracy. But they can ignore our -- but they can ignore our investigation because they worked for the government at the time. That`s their argument. They are not fooling anybody. They are obligated to comply with our investigation. They have refused to do so. And that`s a crime.

Our investigation aims to give the American people a lot of answers about a great many matters. But I think we will also leave you with some answered questions to consider for yourselves, questions about the sort of people who deserve the power and responsibility of positions of public trust.

For a great many of us, it means something profound when we raise our hands and swear an oath. We haven`t finished the work of our investigation, but I can say confidently that, for many involved in the run-up to January 6, an oath, statement of fidelity to our democracy was nothing more to them than meaningless words.

[19:50:14]

I fear what happens if those people are again given the reins of power. These men, Mr. Scavino, and Mr. Navarro, are in contempt of Congress. I encourage my colleagues to support adoption of this report. I`m confident the House will adopt a resolution citing them for this crime.

And I hope that Justice Department will move swiftly to hold them accountable.

I`m pleased now to recognize my friend the gentlewoman from Wyoming Ms. Cheney for any remarks she would care to offer.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

We are entering a critical stage of our investigation. We have now taken the testimony of hundreds of witnesses with knowledge of the events of January 6, including more than a dozen former Trump White House staff members.

We have learned that President Trump and his team were warned in advance and repeatedly that the efforts they undertook to overturn the 2020 election would violate the law and our Constitution. They were warned that January 6 could and likely would turn violent. And they were told repeatedly by our state and federal courts, by our Justice Department and by agencies of our intelligence community that the allegations of widespread fraud sufficient to overturn the election were false and were unsupported by the evidence.

And yet, despite all these specific warnings, President Trump and his team moved willfully through multiple means to attempt to halt the peaceful transfer of power, to halt our constitutional process for counting votes, and to shatter the constitutional bedrock of our great nation.

As a federal judge concluded today, the illegality of President Trump`s plan for January 6 was -- quote -- "obvious."

Today, as the chairman noted, we address two specific witnesses who have refused to appear for testimony. Mr. Scavino worked directly with President Trump to spread President Trump`s false message that the election was stolen and to recruit Americans to come to Washington with the false promise the January 6 would be an opportunity to -- quote -- "take back their country."

This effort to deceive was widely effective and widely destructive. The committee has many questions for Mr. Scavino about his political social media work for President Trump, including his interactions with an online forum called The Donald and with QAnon, a bizarre and dangerous cult.

President Trump, working with Mr. Scavino, successfully spread distrust for our courts, which had repeatedly found no basis to overturn the election, and Trump`s stolen election campaign succeeded in provoking the violence on January 6. On this point, there is no doubt. The committee has videos, interviews and sworn statements from violent rioters demonstrating these facts.

Mr. Navarro is also a key witness. He`s written a book boasting about his role in planning and coordinating the activity of January 6, and yet he does not have the courage to testify here. We have many questions for Mr. Navarro, including about his communications with Roger Stone and Steve Bannon regarding the planning for January 6.

As Judge Carter concluded today -- quote -- "Based on the evidence, the court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021."

Our committee will continue to litigate to obtain the testimony we need. We have already defeated President Trump`s effort to hide certain White House records behind a shield of executive privilege. As the court said today -- or not today, but as the court said in that case, under any of the tests advocated by former President Trump, the profound interests in disclosure advanced by President Biden and the January 6 Committee far exceed his generalized concerns for executive branch confidentiality.

That same conclusion should apply to Mr. Scavino and Mr. Navarro.

[19:55:01]

Let me pause for a moment on one specific legal point. Like Mr. Meadows, Mr. Navarro insists that he is above the law and is categorically and absolutely immune from any congressional subpoena regarding January 6.

We are aware of no court anywhere in America that has ever agreed with this proposition. To the extent that Mr. Navarro and Mr. Meadows are attempting to rely upon memoranda from the Justice Department`s Office of Legal Counsel, those memoranda explicitly do not apply here. In this context, Mr. Navarro was not acting as a White House aide advising the president on official matters of policy.

He was acting as a Trump campaign operative, planning a political effort to obstruct or impede Congress` constitutional proceeding to count electoral votes. The Department of Justice is entrusted with the defense of our Constitution. Department leadership should not apply any doctrine of immunity that might block Congress from fully uncovering and addressing the causes of the January 6 attack.

Congress is a separate and co-equal branch of government. It must have the authority and the ability to protect its independence and safeguard the constitutional separation of powers.

In the coming months, our committee will convene a series of hearings. The American people will hear from our fellow citizens who demonstrated fidelity to our Constitution and the rule of law and who refused to bow to President Trump`s pressure.

The committee has heard from many of these individuals, including Republicans appointed by President Trump to posts in the Department of Justice, Republicans who stood firm, who threatened to resign, and refused to participate in efforts to corrupt the department with the stolen election lies that led to January 6.

We have heard from leading Republicans serving in state legislatures and in state and local government, who also stood firm, who resisted pressure from the former president and did their constitutional duty. And we have heard from Republicans who were serving in the Trump White House, including those who warned in advance that the president`s plans were unlawful and those who tried to intervene with the president to get him to halt the violence when it erupted on January 6.

In a time when many Republican members of Congress have abandoned their obligation to our Constitution and are putting politics above duty, each of the individuals I just mentioned has, by contrast, demonstrated a firm and unwavering commitment to this nation and to our constitutional republic. Each has done what is right, despite tremendous personal, political, and professional cost.

Each is a model for the American people of the kind of public servants this nation needs, men and women who know our institutions don`t defend themselves and who recognize the obligation that comes from holding positions of public trust.

As we meet here tonight, Vladimir Putin continues his brutality against Ukraine, killing innocents, reminding us what happens when authoritarians rule. And each day, we see footage of the unyielding courage of the Ukrainian people, who are fighting and dying to defend their freedom.

Their bravery reminds us that democracy is fragile. Democracy only survives if citizens are willing to defend it. We live in the greatest constitutional republic in history. No citizen in our republic can be a bystander. If we don`t stand for our freedom and our republic, we will lose them.

In his ruling today, Judge Carter put it this way: "If President Trump`s plan had worked, it would have permanently ended the peaceful transition of power, undermining American democracy and the Constitution. If the country does not commit to investigating and pursuing accountability for those responsible, the court fears January 6 will repeat itself."

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.

THOMPSON: Gentlelady yields back.