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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Trump To Be Arraigned Tuesday After Historic Criminal Indictment; Trump Attorney Expects Motions To Dismiss Manhattan Indictment Soon. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 31, 2023 - 20:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: But so far, has not committed to any consequences for Russia.


REPORTER: Are you going to expel Russian diplomats or journalists?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's not the plan right now.


BURNETT: The White House says no one has been able to speak with Gershkovich since his arrest.

Thanks for joining us. Anderson starts now.



Tonight, after a history-making week, the latest on the history about to be made. The former President's return to New York next week to face criminal charges.

There are many moving parts of the story. Tonight, there is the logistics, the mechanics in moving someone under Secret Service protection into a Lower Manhattan Courthouse and through the process that criminal defendant's experience on arrival. There is the security preparations well underway there.

There is a possible legal maneuvering and motions before and after the arraignment on both sides. And of course, there is how this shapes the future politically, not just in the middle of a presidential campaign, but also three other active criminal investigations of the former President. We have new details on much of it.

Also, a conversation tonight with Ronan Farrow, who has done so much reporting on Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, and how those aligned with the former President bought their silence.

We've got reporters tonight on every aspect of the story. CNN's Jessica Schneider on the criminal justice process, Shimon Prokupecz on the logistics and security, and Randi Kaye on the machinery moving a former President.

We're going to start with Jessica Schneider.

What do we know about Tuesday's arraignment? What's going to happen?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so we've gotten some idea of the itinerary here, Anderson. We know that former President Trump, he will arrive in New York Monday, that will be from Mar-a-Lago where he'll spend the weekend.

And then on Tuesday, that's when he'll go to the Courthouse. He will be booked, that will include fingerprints, possibly a mug shot. We know actually that he will not be handcuffed. Then at that point, the former President will make his way into a Courtroom in Lower Manhattan. It's all set to happen around 2:00 PM on Tuesday.

What's interesting here is that the media will actually be permitted to document Donald Trump's walk in to the Courtroom to face of course, what our team has learned will be more than 30 counts related to business fraud.

That's because cameras will be lining that hallway outside the Courtroom, and then there's a matter of cameras in the Court. So the Judge in this case is still deciding whether to allow them. I will warn you though this is a Judge, Judge Juan Merchan, he has previously denied media requests in the Trump Organization trial last year, for example, he wouldn't allow cameras, so it is quite possible, Anderson will have cameras in the hallways, but not actually in the Courtroom.

COOPER: Do we know anything more about the indictment itself?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, so it's still under seal, but interestingly, this afternoon, we did get a glimpse of this case, because the Judge here ordered -- issued an order that allows the Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg to notify the public that the grand jury has in fact handed up that indictment against the former President.

So what you see in this is it is actually captioned "The People of the State of New York against Donald J. Trump." That's a little bit of a glimpse of how the indictment will be laid out. Or John Miller, of course, reporting specifically that there are more than 30 counts, all of them, likely relating to how that repayment to Michael Cohen, after he paid off Stormy Daniels was actually accounted for, and all the charges that may stem from that.

So we are likely to see a lot more of these details once the case is actually unsealed, that will likely be Tuesday.

COOPER: And what's the latest from the former President's team?

SCHNEIDER: Yes. They've been all over the airwaves and repeatedly vowing to fight this and in particular, they are promising to file motions to dismiss this indictment as soon as possible. At this point, the soonest would likely happen just after Trump's Court appearance Tuesday. It's really though unclear how quickly they will be able to actually file because, you know, Trump's attorneys, they still haven't seen this indictment, and the 30-plus counts that it does contain.

So a lot of questions as to exactly how they will maneuver this, but they are planning to swiftly fight this. They're saying the former President wants them to fight hard.

COOPER: Jessica Schneider, appreciate it.

Now, the preparations in and around to Lower Manhattan, not just to protect a former President, but to protect others from potential violence. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz joins us now from outside the Courtroom.

So, how is this going to work Tuesday, Shimon?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN REPORTER: So what we expect right now, Anderson, is that for the former President to arrive here behind us. This is where people surrender when they come to the Manhattan DA's office. They walk through those doors, and once they are inside, they are considered to be under arrest. They are in the custody of the District Attorney's office, detectives and investigators there.

And as you can see, already, there is a police presence here. These barriers all across here, and all across the street here, Anderson, but what everyone right now is anticipating is whether or not the former President here will come through those doors.

Ironically, Anderson, interestingly enough, these are the same doors that Steve Bannon, when he was under arrest and had to surrender, those are the doors he walked by, and of course, Allen Weisselberg, who was the former CFO of the Trump Organization.

So, interestingly enough that the former President could potentially walk through, Anderson those same doors as some of his closest advisers have previously -- Anderson.

COOPER: And in terms of public safety, what precautions are being taken in relation to any protesters who may show up?


PROKUPECZ: So Anderson, I'll show you what's been going on here. I am sorry on the street here, but I want to show you, there are these barriers that are all across here that line the street here on Center Street, as well, and they go all the way across here on Center Street.

We've also seen Court officers here already today. We've seen the NYPD. They are out here as well, already anticipating providing security, really just wanting to take every precaution possible to make sure nothing is left here, in a sense of there is always this concern, as we saw post January 6, pipe bombs, things that people left behind. This is something that they're concerned about.

So we're seeing already the NYPD out here. There are some cameras that the NYPD has been out here so they can monitor who walks into the Courtroom, but certainly, there will be more security as we approach Tuesday. Also the courthouse now under 24-hour surveillance. The 15th floor where the former President is expected to appear, that is shut off to the public. So already, inside the Courthouse, the Court officers and the security staff here taking those precautions -- Anderson.

COOPER: Shimon, there had been a lot of talk yesterday about sort of underground tunnels in this part of Manhattan. Is it clear that -- I mean, he is being brought in on the street? Or do we not know yet?

PROKUPECZ: It's not entirely clear. We've been hearing different things, but certainly when you surrender here at the Manhattan DA's office, those are the doors that you walk through.

If they say, if what they say is they are trying to keep this as normal a process as they would for any other defendant, then you're supposed to walk through those doors. If he doesn't walk through those doors, then it gives the impression certainly that he is getting special treatment. Of course, the Secret Service is concerned about his safety in getting him in.

But you know, for the District Attorney's office, they want to make sure that this process goes as it would for any other defendant. So normally, you would expect them to walk through these doors.

And I know there's a lot of talk of other ways in. There is one other way in there, Anderson, that's around the corner that he could possibly go in, but we would be able to see him there as well, and there may be one other way where he'd have to go through, but that's through the jail that's attached to the Courthouse, so we'll see what happens here on Tuesday -- Anderson.

COOPER: Shimon Prokupecz, appreciate it. Thanks.

At Mar-a-Lago, there are procedures being finalized as we speak for the former President's departure as well as the question of how he is spending the time between now and then.

Our Randi Kaye is nearby. What's the scene -- Randi.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, tonight, former President Donald Trump remains at Mar-a-Lago, those twinkling lights there behind me, that's the Mar-a-Lago Club. It's unclear who he is there inside with, if he is consulting with lawyers or family members, we just don't know.

There has also been a steady stream of small gathering of protesters and supporters on the bridge nearby that overlooks Mar-a-Lago, but otherwise, Anderson it is business as usual.

We know even just last night in the hours after the indictment came down, the former President was having dinner with his wife, Melania Trump here at the Mar-a-Lago Club and mingling with guests. Of course, that was before he then went on social media and continued to lash out at the District Attorney and others -- Anderson.

COOPER: And do we know anything about his probable schedule in Palm Beach over the next several days? KAYE: Well, in terms of the next 72 hours, we know that he is headed

to New York City. CNN has confirmed that on Monday, and in terms of the route that he will take here at the Mar-a-Lago Club, it is about 15 minutes away from Palm Beach International Airport. That is of course where the Trump plane is waiting on the tarmac for Donald Trump, and he will take the route very likely, the main thoroughfare would be Southern Boulevard and that is often lined with supporters when there is a big event for the former President. They come out with their flags and banners and honk their horns and wave to him in support.

But in terms of the weekend, it's unclear. He certainly played a lot of golf leading up to this indictment coming down, so we'll see if he continues to play some golf over the weekend, maybe to clear his head.

There is also always events -- weddings, parties planned here at Mar- a-Lago. He often tends to show up on announced even when a couple was getting married and surprise the guests. We'll see if he's in the mood to do that following this indictment, or if the former President decides to lay low -- Anderson.

COOPER: And I know members of his family have been speaking out.

KAYE: That's right. Ivanka Trump who has been pretty quiet following the 2020 election, she did post on her Instagram stories and she wrote: "I love my father and I love my country. Today, I am pained for both. I appreciate the voices across the political spectrum expressing support and concern." And also Jared Kushner, his son-in-law was at an event in Miami earlier today, and he spoke to the crowd. He said that he and Ivanka love Trump very much. He blamed us all on politics.

He said the opponents are always going after his father-in-law, whether it's the Russia probe, the impeachment, or going after the classified documents that were found here at Mar-a-Lago. He said that it's just more of that and all of this he says when Trump's back is up against the wall, Jared Kushner says, it only makes him stronger -- Anderson.

COOPER: Randi Kaye, appreciate it. Thanks.


COOPER: With me here tonight, CNN senior legal analyst and former Federal prosecutor, Elie Honig.

So what's going on? What's the latest?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the thing I'm most interested in is seeing this indictment when it will finally be unsealed on Tuesday. Now, there was an interesting moment today. The Judge issued the first official order, in this case, it's one page. But when I printed it out and looked at it, I realized, oh, this is the first time we've seen in writing the caption that says, "People of the State of New York versus Donald J. Trump, Defendant," and that was a moment of -- this is real.

This order sets the stage to have the indictment unsealed on Tuesday.

COOPER: And when it's unsealed, it's unsealed by -- I mean, the Judge reads to the defendant, the charges?

HONIG: Yes. The Judge will say, I hereby unseal the indictment, there will be -- should be copies available for us, and yes, then the Judge will say, Mr. Trump, you've been charged with 34 counts. Do you want me to read them to you? Or have you gone through it with your lawyer? The defendants usually say, I don't need you to read all 34 to me, and then the Judge will say, how do you plead? Donald Trump will plead not guilty, but that indictment is going to give us the first real meaningful insight into the substance.

COOPER: So how much in advance does the defendant and his attorneys get to see the charges?

HONIG: Typically not much, typically just enough time for the attorney to go through it with the defendant, in this case, Donald Trump so that the defendant can waive that public reading and not have to put everyone through the sort of long ritual.

COOPER: We've been hearing now the Trump legal team saying they're going to file a Motion to Dismiss as soon as possible. Is that talk? What does that amount to?

HONIG: Oh, they'll definitely file Motions to Dismiss, and that is commonplace. What this is, is when --

COOPER: But what is the likelihood of that?

HONIG: That they'll file them?

COOPER: No, that --

HONIG: Oh, that will succeed? Well, so let's run through it. One of the Motions to Dismiss is going to be you cannot charge a violation of Federal campaign law, right, because it's an election for President under New York State law. They have a decent chance at that.

The New York law is not clear on that. The law does seem to suggest you can't bring in Federal law into New York State law. I think they have a decent chance on that.

They're also going to argue selective prosecution, I would bet, meaning he has been picked out for purely political reasons. I don't think they have much, if any chance at that.

They also may argue statute of limitations. Normally five years. This conduct goes back more than that. But the problem for Trump's team here is there are laws saying that the statute of limitations is tolled, meaning put on pause during COVID, and while somebody is living out of the State, so I don't think they're going to win on that. But they may well succeed in getting some of these charges thrown out or reduced.

COOPER: And would this delay the process? HONIG: Sure, because what's going to happen is, Trump's team will make

the motion to the Trial Court Judge. If he denies the motion, Trump's team is going to say, we'd like to appeal. Now, this is what we call an interlocutory appeal, meaning an appeal before the case is over, and there is some leeway here in whether the Trial Judge will allow Trump to bring it up to the Appellate Division and whether the Appellate Division will take it, but they might.

And if so, then we have to put everything on pause while these motions go through the Appeals process, which will take months.

COOPER: We've seen obviously, the former president lash out at the District Attorney in New York, now at the Judge handling these indictments, does that have any impact?

HONIG: Well, look, a person is entitled to criticize prosecutors and Judges, I don't recommend it. You don't really want to antagonize those people. But I think Donald Trump has already gone way beyond the line with his racist attacks, with his personal attacks, with his attacks, frankly, that seem to be fomenting violence.

What the Judge can do if it gets to an extreme point is issue a gag order. Judges are very, very reluctant to do this. But if so, when this happens sometimes, the Judge will issue an official order of the Court saying you are not to talk about this case publicly, and if you do, you risk contempt of court, which can be -- I don't think we're going to get here -- can be punishable by getting locked up.

COOPER: That seems unlikely.

HONIG: Very unlikely. But again, if Trump keeps it up, the prosecutor may get to a point where he or she says okay, I have to ask the Judge to shut you up now.

COOPER: Elie Honig, appreciate it. Thanks.

HONIG: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Next, my conversation with journalist, Ronan Farrow, who has done some of the most extensive reporting on the story so far. His thoughts on the indictment, but also how the other woman connected to the former President, Karen McDougal might factor in.

And later, Russia's shocking arrest of a "Wall Street Journal" reporter, accusing him of espionage, not since the Cold War has Russia done something like this with an American journalist. We will tell you what President Biden had to say about it today and we have a 360 exclusive interview with "The Wall Street Journal's" Editor-in-chief.



COOPER: The woman at the center of the case against the former President is speaking out. Stormy Daniels told "The Times" of London the indictment was "vindication." The other side of it, she added, is that it's going to continue to divide people and bring them up in arms also warning "whatever the outcome is, it's going to cause violence and there's going to be injuries and death."

I spoke with her in 2018 for "60 Minutes" about how she saw the payments from Michael Cohen and allegedly reimbursed by the former President.


COOPER: Was it hush money to stay silent?


The story was coming out again. I was concerned for my family and their safety.

COOPER: I think some people watching this are going to doubt that you entered into this negotiation because you feared for your safety, they're going to think that you saw an opportunity.

DANIELS: I think the fact that I didn't even negotiate, I just quickly said "yes" to this very you know, strict contract, and what most people will agree with me extremely low number is all the proof I need.


COOPER: Perspective now from someone who has been reporting on this from the start, "New Yorker" contributing writer, Ronan Farrow.

What was your reaction to the indictment?

RONAN FARROW, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "NEW YORKER": Well, after so many years of reporting on this pattern of payments to cover up his conduct, and so many people around those transactions first claiming they weren't significant that they didn't have an election influencing intent, then admitting as some of the people at AMI ultimately did, that that was exactly what was happening. They did that when they --

COOPER: "The National Enquirer" folks lied to you initially when you were reporting on this. They were denying everything.

FARROW: Exactly, so. So the parent company of the "National Enquirer," AMI, ultimately had to strike a deal with Federal prosecutors. And in that deal, they admitted this was a pattern of conduct. It did have this intent to influence an election.

Now, part of that agreement with prosecutors related to a decision by Federal prosecutors not to bring a case against Trump and a number of DA's passed on this essentially including Bragg's predecessor in Manhattan, so it is a story coming full circle in a way that a lot of legal analysts around this and a lot of reporters around it didn't quite expect.

[20:20:13] COOPER: The Karen McDougal piece of this is interesting. Your

reporting on that was extraordinary. I did an interview with her as well later on.

She alleges a relationship with the former President before he was President. I just want to play a part of an interview of when I talked to her.


COOPER: What's your understanding of a catch and kill is?

KAREN MCDOUGAL, ALLEGES TO HAVE HAD AN AFFAIR WITH DONALD TRUMP: Catch us -- from what I'm learning, a catch and kill is somebody for like, say for yourself, for example, taking a story about somebody you like or care about or have a friendship about, and they squash a story, so it doesn't hurt you or hurt them.

COOPER: So, did you know that's what was going -- that's the allegation of what was going on here. Did you -- did you realize that at the time?

MCDOUGAL: I knew the story wasn't going to be printed. Yes.

COOPER: Why do you think they squashed the story?

MCDOUGAL: Back then or now?


MCDOUGAL: They didn't want to hurt him.

COOPER: You think it's because of a personal relationship with the guy who runs AMI is friends with Donald Trump?

MCDOUGAL: Correct.


COOPER: How does her case factor into the charges against the former President? I mean, obviously, we don't know what the indictments are yet.

FARROW: Right. What I'm hearing from my sources is that there will be a full list of charges and a fact pattern that is revealed very soon and that should be pretty explosive.

What's been reported is that the main charge here is around the more direct transaction that didn't involve AMI, from Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels.

Now, we've also learned in recent days, that not only did David Pecker, the head of AMI testified twice before this grand jury, but jurors heard detailed evidence about the Karen McDougal situation, about that transaction. That's really significant, Anderson, because it means they are not just looking at one relatively small hush payment. They're bringing in evidence of a pattern of payments.

And even if they don't wind up charging directly on the MacDougal transaction, we don't know yet whether they will. This goes to the intent of that pattern. It goes to the fact that it is a pattern, all of which is going to be necessary to bolster their case.

COOPER: Pecker, also, when he was being faced with charges, I mean, in his agreement with the Feds, he said that he met with people from the Trump campaign and that is obviously significant because the question is, was this in order to help the presidential campaign? Some of the former President's supporters are saying, well, you know, he didn't want to embarrass his wife.

FARROW: So bringing in this evidence about McDougal allows them to bring in that part of the story, it allows them to bring in David Pecker and other people from AMI, who can say, yes, we sat in the meeting and this was the intent. This is what this pattern of behavior was about. It was about protecting this man during election season.

COOPER: What was the benefit for David Pecker to do this for Donald Trump? Did he just like being in the orbit of Donald Trump?

FARROW: This is the question that so many, even AMI insiders posed to me over my years of reporting on this, and I think that's a big part of it, honestly. He liked the status afforded to him being close to celebrities, and especially this one.

AMI had similar relationships with a number of prominent people over the years, and I think when Donald Trump became a viable political candidate, a number of people at AMI realized that they stood to benefit from that relationship.

"The Enquirer" was on the rocks financially going into that election season. I think a number of people there, were looking for ways out, were looking for golden parachutes, were looking for favorable treatment of that company.

So there was a lot in this for David Pecker and other associates there.

COOPER: Ronan Farrow, thank you. Appreciate it.

FARROW: Good to be here, Anderson.

COOPER: Just ahead, the Senate Republicans who have been notably silent on the former President's indictments and the House Republican who says she is coming to New York to protest.

Plus, I talk with Republican former Governor and possible presidential contender, Asa Hutchinson, who is now calling for the former President to end his campaign for the White House.


[20:28:03] COOPER: Some Republicans have been notably silent on the Trump

indictment; others, such as Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene have not. She called on her followers to protest and vowed to be in New York on Tuesday.

Senator Lindsey Graham tried to make a joke, the former Judiciary Committee Chairman and Current Ranking Member asking in one tweet: "How can President Trump avoid prosecution in New York?" Then answering in the next and again, these are the former Chairman's words: "On the way to the DA is Office on Tuesday, Trump should smash the windows, rob a few shops and punch a cop. He would be released immediately."

Joining us with some other reactions, CNN's Manu Raju at the Capitol.

So what more are you hearing from lawmakers tonight?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, Congress is on recess right now. So, the Halls of the Capitol have actually been empty, really in the hours before the indictment.

So what we have heard is reaction from a lot of members, a lot of members who support Donald Trump, some of the more outspoken members rushing to his defense, including the Speaker of the House, who immediately afterwards said that Donald Trump -- that Alvin Bragg, who would be the prosecutor in this case would be held to account and others also contending that the charges here they expect them to be political. They said this is a sham investigation, even though they have openly acknowledged not seeing the evidence and not knowing what the charges are here, because no one has seen any of that since it's all under seal.

And earlier today, I had a chance to catch up with one of Donald Trump's defenders who happened to be here on Capitol Hill, Barry Moore. He is a conservative Congressman from Alabama, and I asked him about the fact that he is defending Donald Trump even before seeing the evidence.


RAJU: So are you jumping the gun on this?

REP. BARRY MOORE (R-AL): No, it looks pretty political. So without seeing the indictment, without knowing anything behind it, the motivation was there long before the evidence was.

RAJU: If you see the charges and it looks serious, would you change your mind? Could you just -- are you open to thinking that this could possibly be legitimate investigation?

MOORE: Well, you know, I'm open to thinking that, but I'm in the garbage business, you know, and so, a lot of times I know how to spot a pile of garbage and this thing looks like a pile of garbage.

RAJU: Does that underlying conduct concern you? MOORE: No. I mean, did it concern anybody when Bill Clinton did it

with Paula Jones? I wish I could endorse him five more times right now.


RAJU: So he did compare this to the case involving Bill Clinton and Paula Jones, not entirely synonymous though. That was a lawsuit that Bill Clinton settled $850,000.00 to settle a sexual harassment allegation against him.

This could include alleging Donald Trump falsifying business records to deal with hush money payments to silence an alleged extramarital affair with an adult film actress in the days before the 2016 election, but we will see all the evidence here.


Some Republicans, though, warning against a rush to judgment. That was the words of Senator Lisa Murkowski, who has been a Donald Trump critic and also silenced, too, Anderson from the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, who has yet to have any sort of comment whatsoever in the wake of this indictment news.

And neither has the number two, John Thune, two Republicans who have been eager to move past the Trump era unlike many of the Republicans, particularly in the House, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. The Manhattan D.A.'s office, they're once again pushing back on threats of Republican investigations.

RAJU: Yes, that's right. Because the Republicans in the House, three chairmen sent a letter demanding Alvin Bragg's testimony. This came just days ago, in the aftermath of the expectation this indictment would come down. They wanted Bragg to come up to Capitol Hill. They wanted him to testify. They wanted records of internal communications.

But today, Bragg's office pushing back, sending a letter to those three chairmen and essentially saying that they are doing Donald Trump's bidding and not -- don't have any sort of legitimate legislative purpose, in the words of the Bragg's office. Saying, "We urge you to refrain from these inflammatory accusations, withdraw your demand for information, and let the criminal justice process proceed without unlawful political interference."

One question that the Republican chairman had was how much federal funding is supporting of their investigation. The D.A.'s office says that none of the money coming from federal funds is actually supporting this specific investigation. They said there have been about $5,000 or so that went to a different aspect of dealing with Donald Trump.

A separate issue, but not in this investigation. Unclear, though, Anderson, what will happen next, and whether Republicans will try to subpoena Bragg and seek his testimony.

COOPER: Yes. Manu Raju, appreciate it. Thanks.

Some breaking news now. A string of powerful tornadoes sweeping across the middle and southern parts of the country. This video just came in from Wynne, Arkansas. There are injuries reported across the state. We do not yet have the full picture, as you might expect.

Just before airtime, I spoke with the former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, about the tornadoes hitting his home state, as well as the indictment of the former president.


COOPER: Governor, I appreciate you joining us. Before we get to politics, obviously, you are concerned about the sphere of storms that hit Arkansas today. At least two tornadoes, Little Rock was hit. Have you been able to connect with loved ones? What's your message for folks tonight?

ASA HUTCHINSON, FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR (R): Actually, I just talked to my daughter who lives in Little Rock. She's fine, but our heart goes out to the families that have been impacted by it. It really looks like a devastating tornado that hit. And so we'll be praying for the families that have been impacted, and I look forward to getting back there probably tonight.

COOPER: I want to ask you about the historic indictment of the former president. You're calling on him to step aside from the 2024 campaign. Obviously, that's, as you know, highly unlikely. Why do you think he should step aside?

HUTCHINSON: Well, you're right, Anderson. It's fact not only unlikely, clearly he's not going to. And there's not any requirement that he does it. Nobody can make him do it. The reason I said that is, first of all, I believe that the office that someone seeks is more important than the person.

And so, clearly, this is going to be a distraction. He's going to have to focus on his legal defense. And so when you look at the presidency of the United States, it is just not helpful. But the fact is, he's going to continue in it. And what's ultimately going to have to be decided for the nominee on the Republican side is the voters are going to have to decide it.

And the concern is, of course, that this is just a big distraction. We have to remember the presumption of innocence continues in this case, and we'll have to wait further facts.

COOPER: Also for anybody else running, they are going to be asked about it for candidates who want to talk about the border or the economy or whatever, it does sort of suck up a lot of oxygen.

HUTCHINSON: Well, it does. And it's a challenge for the American people that want their leaders and candidates to talk about border security, talk about our support for Ukraine, or to talk about the economy. And now, not just Tuesday, whenever you have the appearance in court, but it'll be every motion that's filed, every judge ruling, every appeal in this case. And so it is a concern for, as I call the body politic, that we're going to have this difficulty, this challenge, this crisis that he faces throughout the election seasons.


Just from a political standpoint, do you have any sense of how an indictment affects the former president politically in his race? I mean, does it make everybody, you know, rally around him, him, people who might not otherwise? Does it long term, maybe, erode, support?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I think that's the analysis that in the short term, people believe he has been targeted, believes that the prosecution is not just and the charges are not valid. And so he's proclaimed himself a victim for years and this is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And so he can proclaim his victimization and he can get sympathy because of that. And so he'll probably have a short term bump, long term, we don't know. And that all depends upon the facts as they develop that we don't even know what the indictment is, the specifics of it yet. And then you've got other investigations that's ongoing from the Special Counsel to that in Georgia. And so this is going to be a long term saga.

COOPER: Your response to the statement that you put out yesterday I thought was a very responsible statement. There's a lot of folks who have immediately said they, you know, they wouldn't extradite the president or, you know, the attacking, the, you know, the players in this, saying it's completely political.

You've taken a sort of a middle ground. You said there are indications it could -- you know, there could be politics involved in this. I don't want to put words in your mouth, but can you just talk about why you chose to take the track you did? You obviously have a, you know, a law background. You've been a prosecutor yourself.

HUTCHINSON: Well, when I heard the indictment, I sat down and wrote out my statement, and it's what I believe, that we ought to let the system work. Thousands of Americans face charges and we trust our criminal justice system, we trust our jury system, and it's really the envy of the world. And so let's not prejudge. Let's -- let the facts develop.

And he is entitled to the presumption of innocence, as I indicated. But I think it's important that we state our conviction. And I think I am standing alone on this point saying, let's --

COOPER: That you are.

HUTCHINSON: -- let the facts develop and be patient.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, that's -- it's notable that you are standing alone on this and it says a lot about you and it says a lot about politics in America today.

HUTCHINSON: Well, it does, it does. But, you know, this is fraught with emotions whenever you have someone that we've supported. I was his campaign chairman in 2020 in Arkansas, Donald Trump. But everything's taken a turn. And -- but there's a lot of loyalty out there, so there's a lot of emotion. There's emotion on both sides.

And so leaders need to calm the emotions. Leaders need to say, let's get the facts and let's have confidence and not undermine our judicial system, which, again, is so important to our democracy. We are democracy under the law.

COOPER: Governor Asa Hutchinson, I really appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.

HUTCHINSON: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Still ahead, more on those violent tornadoes and severe weather that hit a large swath of the middle of the country. CNN's Derek Van Dam just arrived in Arkansas. We're working on getting his live signal up so he can bring us a report on the ground.

And the Wall Street Journal Reporter Evan Gershkovich arrested on espionage charges in Russia since the cold war. Has Russia done something like this to an American reporter? My exclusive interview with the editor in chief of the paper about where he is and what happens now.



COOPER: President Biden made his first public comments today about the 31 year old Wall Street Journal Reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was detained by Russia Wednesday on allegations of espionage, charges that the Journal says it vehemently denies. We asked President Biden about it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your message for Russia right now as they're detaining --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To Russia, as they're detaining this Wall Street Journal Reporter?

BIDEN: Let him go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to expel Russian diplomats for journalists?

BIDEN: That's not the plan right now.


COOPER: The administration says U.S. diplomats have been unable to meet with Gershkovich, the first American journalist detained by Russia in charge of spying since 1986. I'm joined now for an exclusive interview by the editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal, Emma Tucker. I'm so sorry that we were talking under these circumstances. Have you been able to be in touch with him?

EMMA TUCKER, EDITOR IN CHIEF, WALL STREET JOURNAL: No, we haven't. And I also just want to say thank you for having me on. And thank you, too, for showing the clip you just did. It's very, very reassuring for us to know that the U.S. government is taking this assault on our journalists as seriously as it is, right up to the top.

But as to whether or not, we've had no information, we -- to the best of our knowledge, we know where he is. He's in a prison in Moscow, a very notorious prison, one that has always had -- since the Soviet time, has had a very bad reputation and still has. But we haven't been able to reach him. We haven't been able to get any messages to him, and we certainly haven't heard anything from him.

COOPER: That's terrifying.

TUCKER: It is terrifying. It's very unsettling. It's particularly upsetting for his parents, who really, what they want to hear is some sort of reassurance that he's not being mistreated.

COOPER: Can you talk a little bit about him as a reporter? I mean, he loved reporting on Russia. His family was from the Soviet Union.

TUCKER: So Evan is an all American boy. He's born in New York, grew up in Princeton, but he very much embraced his Russian background. His parents are Russian emigrates. He was fascinated by the country, and that's what made him such a good reporter.

You know, he spoke the language fluently. He could navigate his way around the country. He was fascinated by the culture. He loved the culture, and he loved Russia. And as I say, that made him a very effective reporter, because he was always winkling out unusual stories. That I'm really, I would say, you know, his work speaks for itself, if you want to know what he was like as a reporter.


COOPER: So in a situation like this, what can you as the Wall Street Journal do? I know the State Department has not yet declared him wrongfully detained, or is that something you're hoping they do soon?

TUCKER: We are -- it normally takes quite a while for that to happen, but we're hopeful, we're very optimistic that the U.S. government will designate him. They're moving quickly towards designating him as unlawfully detained. When that happens, that's an official recognition that the charges against him are bogus. And after that, things we hope could move a bit more swiftly.

COOPER: I want to read something that the Kremlin spokesperson said, Dmitry Peskov said of Evan, quote, "In this case, we are talking about espionage activities under the guise of journalistic activities. Since this journalist was caught red-handed, this situation is obvious."

TUCKER: It's utter rubbish. Evan was doing what reporters do and what he did very well. He was out there gathering news, talking to people, reporting, providing an eyewitness account of what's going on inside Russia. He felt very strongly that it was important to keep telling people.

It's difficult to report from Russia these days, but he was very committed to telling that story, and he was going about his job. He was -- it's completely complete nonsense what this spokesman is saying.

COOPER: So what happens now in a situation like this?

TUCKER: Well, we are hoping to be able to get a message to him. We also are looking for some sort of reassurance from them. We want to keep the pressure up. I think it's very important to keep making a noise about Evan, keep reminding people there's a busy news agenda. We all know that.

And so I think for us, it's important to keep this case front of mind. And that's why we're grateful to people like you and to the other news outlets who've piled in to give us their support. It really means an awful lot, and it will, I hope, mean that we get Evan back sooner rather than later.

COOPER: I mean, the potential chilling effect on this, I mean, not only is this horrific for Evan, for the paper, for The Wall Street Journal, but the chilling effect on this, I mean, reporters, this is the job we all do. And to have governments suddenly reach out and snatch one --

TUCKER: Yes, it's really -- it's terrible. And, you know, it's getting harder. It's not just Russia. I think it's getting more challenging in so many parts of the world, and that's just bad for all of us. You know, we need to -- we need -- journalists need to be able to do their job safely, and we, you know, that's obviously our commitment is to the safety of our journalists.

We're also committed to covering the news all over the globe. We're very lucky at the Wall Street Journal. We've got a huge network of foreign correspondents. We're committed to providing that sort of eyewitness reporting, unbiased, transparent reporting that matters so greatly in a world of disinformation.

COOPER: Yes. Well, Emma Tucker, I appreciate talking to you, and we will continue to follow this. Thank you.

TUCKER: Thank you very much.

COOPER: Devastation in Arkansas and elsewhere in America tonight after severe weather and tornadoes today. CNN's Derek Van Dam is now on the ground. He'll bring us the latest on the damage and the injuries. We'll be right back.


[20:51:59] COOPER: We touched on the destructive weather hitting Arkansas with former Governor Asa Hutchinson. Extensive damage now in the small city of Wynne. In the words of the mayor, the town has been, quote, basically cut in half by a tornado. Some of the early video of the devastation, which you see is considerable, shows the storm's path through one neighborhood.

Heavy destruction as well to the local high school, we're told. You can see the entryway torn to pieces, large sections of roofing torn away. Similar damage being reported across the state. We have a video as well of what it looked like as the storm came through another part of town. And as you can see, the sheer size of it is punishing.

The storm then crossed over into Tennessee, where a tornado emergency was declared north of Memphis. That's on top of a tornado that struck metro Little Rock, Arkansas, today, sending two dozen people to the hospital.

CNN's Derek Van Dam is in the storm zone. He joins us now. So, what are you seeing around you?

DEREK VAN DAM, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, Anderson, it's a very fluid situation. We are in Parkin, Arkansas, which is about 5 miles outside of Wynne, where the destruction you saw the high school on your screen splashing by just a few moments ago. We have seen police vehicles, first responders racing down the roadways.

We stopped to come to tell you the story about what we've witnessed and just checking the trajectory of this tornado that moved through the area. This is the damage from the same tornado that moved through wind. So what you're looking at behind me was previously a church, obviously, unfortunately now in complete shambles.

This is a rice and soybean farm and there have been multiple buildings that have been destroyed. I believe this is kind of the outer edges of this tornado damage. You can see all the debris on the ground here. We have to be careful of nails from the debris.

And one thing's for sure, this storm is still taking advantage of this very volatile environment that happens to be in and around central Tennessee. So these storms continue to race across the Deep South. They still pose a threat. And it's not just here. This is a major, significant, widespread tornado outbreak that is unfolding across the nation's midsection all the way into northern sections of Illinois right now.

Multiple warned tornado storms approaching that particular region. But when we show you just the devastation here, this, you know, from a trained meteorologist professional opinion has to be winds in excess of 100, 110 miles per hour. You're looking at minimum EF-2 damage. Of course, crews have to come out and confirm that, but we know about the injuries that have already been caused by the tornadoes in Little Rock.

These again continue to press eastward across central Tennessee where we are and that's -- where we were earlier today, and obviously leaving the destruction that you see behind me. It is going to be a difficult night for people as they try to search for people who are perhaps trapped.

COOPER: Is this weather system expected to continue tomorrow?


VAN DAM: This storm is going to race off to the northeast tomorrow. So there's actually severe weather threat across parts of the east coast as well. So not as significant and as widespread as what we experienced today. But that storm system needs to be monitored across the northeastern sections of the U.S. for severe weather once again.

And we need to take shelter as well, Anderson, because we've seen lightning flashing around us just prior to this live shot. There's another thunderstorm moving into this area, and frankly, it's probably best that we get indoors.

COOPER: All right, let you go. Derek Van Dam, thanks very much. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Today, the first funeral for a child killed at the Covenant School in Nashville. About 1,400 people were estimated to have attended the service, remembering nine year old Evelyn Dieckhaus. The family had asked those attending the funeral to wear pink and bright spring colors to honor their little girl.

Service ended with the song, "This Little Light of Mine." The family said in a statement given to CNN, "We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from family, friends and the community. It is comforting and uplifting for all of us."

The news continues. I'm going to hand it over to Kaitlan Collins with "Inside The Trump Indictment."