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Trump Pleads Not Guilty To All 37 Federal Charges; Trump On His Arraignment: "Today, We Witnessed The Most Evil And Heinous Abuse Of Power In The History Of Our Country"; Pence To WSJ On Trump Indictment: "I Can't Defend What Is Alleged". Aired 9-10p ET
Aired June 13, 2023 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: In the nearly 234 years, of the American presidency, no former President has ever had to answer to anything more daunting than the verdict of history. Tonight, former President Trump returned to his club, in New Jersey, having made history, by becoming the first former President to ever face federal charges.
Good evening, from Miami. I'm Kaitlan Collins, along with Jake Tapper, in Washington.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: And Kaitlan, there in the federal courthouse, behind you, Mr. Trump answered to 37 felony criminal counts, all connected with keeping federal documents, some highly classified, and conspiring, to obstruct federal investigators, who wanted those documents back.
A lot of firsts today, the first former President to ever to surrender to federal authorities; the first former President to ever be fingerprinted by authorities; the first to go before a federal magistrate, for arrest and arraignment; the first ever to face years in prison, if convicted.
COLLINS: Yes. And Jake, of course, after pleading not guilty, to all counts, it seemed to be back to business as usual, for Trump.
He made a campaign-style stop, at a restaurant, just moments, after he left the courthouse, in Miami's Little Havana, where he posed, for photos, with well-wishers, many of them who sang him, "Happy birthday." He even had a group literally praying over him, as he was there, in the restaurant, of course, alongside his co-defendant, Walt Nauta.
From there, it was back to Bedminster, for a fundraiser.
TAPPER: Yes, a fundraiser and a speech.
We're not carrying that speech, live. In a moment, we're going to play a short portion of it, one that gives you a look, into his state of mind, and how he is trying to frame his defense, to his supporters. I'm joined now by New York Democratic congresswoman, and House Oversight Committee member, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Thanks so much for being here.
First of all, I just want to -- the Little Havana stop, that cafe, Versailles cafe, one of the reasons we're told by his folks, why he was there, is because the Cuban-American people know from political persecution.
And I wondered how you might interpret that and what you think of that?
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): Well, I think it's -- it makes -- it's not a surprise, during Trump's remarks, he was trying to somehow pin this, as some great Marxist conspiracy.
But the fact of the matter remains that this is an individual, who retained U.S. national security secrets, nuclear weapons' locations, or, nuclear site locations, sensitive materials, and put our nation at risk.
And frankly, this is beyond just the Cuban community. The Latino community writ large in the United States, also has a profound sense of patriotism, and understands right from wrong, and from understanding political persecution, knowing that this is not it.
TAPPER: And what was your reaction to this moment in history? I mean, this is, whether you love Donald Trump, or hate Donald Trump, it's sad. It's a sad moment.
Because you have a former President, very credibly charged, with these very serious offenses, to the point that you have, even individuals, like his former Attorney General, Bill Barr, and former U.S. Attorney, and Governor, Chris Christie, talking about how serious these offenses are.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: I mean, beyond it just being sad, what this also represents is a very significant erosion, in our systems, our institutions.
What Donald Trump is outlined, as doing here, is really defiling the position, of the presidency, in taking in all of these materials, highly sensitive, imperiling the lives, of servicemembers, of people, of sensitive sites, of sources, methods, et cetera, for what really just seems like personal use, and potentially personal gain.
And the motive here is something that is left to those that will be exploring this. But frankly, what this represents is a very severe compromising, of our systems, and our national security. And this -- that, the implications of that for us, as a country, we will not fully understand, the ramifications, for years to come.
TAPPER: I've been asking the question of motive, all day, of people, who know, or knew Donald Trump. Stephanie Grisham, former White House aide, said that she thinks it's just like a child, and this is her words, like a child with his toys. "These are mine. Mine, mine, mine." That's what's her view.
Michael Cohen, former lawyer and fixer, for Donald Trump? And obviously, both these individuals have since turned on Donald Trump. Michael Cohen said he thought that there was definitely nefarious intent. He has no evidence of that. But that's his knowledge of Donald Trump, leads him to believe.
What do you think?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, all we have to do is look at Donald Trump's past behavior and, frankly, some of the past legal proceedings that he has faced.
This is a twice-impeached President. But when we rewind, and when we rewind the tape, and look at Donald Trump's first impeachment, he used, and was unafraid, to leverage the power of the United States government, in an attempt, to engage, in an extortion scheme, in Ukraine.
He went to the Ukrainian government, he and his team, and engaged in frankly, what we see as a conspiracy, and saying that he was willing to withhold, and he was willing to hold congressionally-mandated funds hostage, in order to extract a fake political story, about his political opponent, then, now President, Joe Biden.
And I think from that history, and you see that same individual taking troves of documents, sensitive documents, about the United States? I do not think we can rule out nefarious intent. I do not think we could rule out, him trying to engage, in transactional behavior, whether that be political or otherwise, for himself.
TAPPER: We do have now, some of the sound.
As I told you, we're not, and the audience, we're not carrying his remarks live, because frankly, he says a lot of things that are not true and sometimes potentially dangerous.
But we do have some, a small portion, so you can get a sense of his state of mind, and how he might be framing his defense.
I want to get your reaction to it.
Let's -- we're going to start. Of course, I just want to note, he begins this, this clip we're about to show you, by making unfounded claims about the charges against him, untrue and unfounded claims, about the charges against him, and the people he thinks are behind it. So, I just want to preface it by saying that. And at end of the clip, you're going to hear him frame what could actually be part of his defense.
So, here's a little clip. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we witnessed the most evil and heinous abuse of power in the history of our country. Very sad thing to watch.
A corrupt sitting president had his top political opponent arrested on fake and fabricated charges of which he and numerous other presidents would be guilty, right in the middle of a presidential election, in which he's losing very badly.
(AUDIENCE CHEERS & APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: This is called election interference, in yet another attempt, to rig and steal a presidential election. More importantly, it's a political persecution, like something straight out of a fascist or a communist nation.
This day will go down in infamy, and Joe Biden will forever be remembered as not only the most corrupt president, in the history of our country. But perhaps, even more importantly, the President, who together with a band of his closest thugs, misfits, and Marxists, tried to destroy American democracy.
But they will fail, and we will win bigger and better than ever before.
TRUMP: The Espionage Act has been used to go after traitors and spies. It has nothing to do with a former President, legally keeping his own documents.
As President, the law that applies to this case is not the Espionage Act, but very simply, the Presidential Records Act, which is not even mentioned, in this ridiculous 44-page indictment. Under the Presidential Records Act, which is civil, not criminal, I had every right to have these documents.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: OK, a lot to unpack there. I'm not going to make you fact- check.
But just quickly, the Presidential Records Act, that's the defense he's going to bring. That's fine. There is no evidence that he legally kept these documents. They're not his documents. They belong to the American people.
There's no evidence that Joe Biden had anything to do with this charges, brought by the Special Counsel. The charges are not fake. The charges are not fabricated.
He's not losing an election. The election hasn't started, and he hasn't even got the presidential nomination. There's no evidence that this is election interference. We do not live in a fascist state.
And in terms of trying to destroy American democracy, we all know who tried to actually undo an election. And it's not Joe Biden. It's Mr. Trump.
That said, your response?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think Donald Trump is the king of saying one thing, to his supporters, and doing another, doing the opposite, in private.
And, in this circumstance, one of just the most brightest examples of that is of him, today, coming, before his supporters, and telling them, "I was totally above board. I know that I was above board. This was part of the Presidential Records Act."
But what we see, in this indictment, is a recording, and also testimony, of people tell of him, telling people close to him, "I could have declassified this. I did not declassify this. You shouldn't look at this" --
OCASIO-CORTEZ: -- "because it is not allowed, because this is still a secret document."
So, this is just Trump, in true form, in where he says one thing, to his supporters, says another thing, privately, but then also insinuates that he is a victim of a system that has been developed, purely, for his own privilege and benefit.
TAPPER: Do you think that -- I mean, we've heard some clips, from Republicans, on the Hill.
Congressman Don Bacon, a veteran Republican, from Nebraska. Now, he's in a swing district, but he's been very critical.
Obviously, Chris Christie has been critical.
Bill Barr has been critical.
Asa Hutchinson, who's running against him has been critical.
Nikki Haley made comments if my -- these -- her husband's deploying. "If this kind of thing could get my -- could put my husband's life at risk."
Do you see any break in the fever? I mean, have you heard from any Republicans, on Capitol Hill? Not just the Mike Lawlers of the world, who are already like Trump skeptics, but? That's a Congressman, from New York, for people who don't know. I know you know. But a Republican. But, I mean, from other Republicans? Are people just sick of this already? OCASIO-CORTEZ: I do think that what is happening now is also layered into a bubbling political tension, in what is happening, in the House. Right now, some of the House's most staunch extremists, who are also some of Trump's most loyalist members, of the House, have also ground legislating to a halt.
And there seem -- it seems to have been made very clear, and they have sent a direct message, to Speaker McCarthy that McCarthy's either going to follow their orders, or they're going to shut this whole place down. And that, I think, has created an enormous schism that is starting to happen, within House Republicans, and this will absolutely exacerbate it.
Because what is detailed in this indictment is completely indefensible, on top of a conviction, around rape charges, that just happened, out of the State of New York, and we don't even know what's happening in Georgia yet.
This level of misconduct, of criminality, is getting to a point, where it is indefensible. And I do believe that we are approaching that point.
TAPPER: You talked about the E. Jean Carroll rape charges. It's a civil -- it's a civil case. He was found liable, for sexual abuse, and for ethic, he had to pay $5 million, something along those lines.
A judge just ruled that E. Jean Carroll could add to her complaint against him, because he went after her, and defamed her, at that Trump Town Hall.
TAPPER: Calling her a whack-job.
What do you think of that?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I mean, it also continues to convey his commitment to intimidation, and to political intimidation, use of his platform, towards intimidation. And to think that that would stop simply at one of his sexual assault victims is very naive.
What we're seeing here as outlined in this indictment, and in these documents? Right now, one of the things that we had to hear out of this court was that he could not contact his body person, throughout this process, because we have seen a pattern that suggests a tendency towards obstruction of justice.
TAPPER: I don't think he can talk -- he's allowed to talk to him. He's not allowed to talk to him about the case.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Right, right. Correct.
TAPPER: So, one of the House Republicans, Andy Biggs, he is calling this a war phase. He's a very, obviously a Trump loyalist.
Republican senator, J.D. Vance, another Trump loyalist, has announced that he's going to hold all nominees, to the Department of Justice, he's going to block them, like no votes will be allowed on them, he says, indefinitely, because of this indictment.
How -- I mean, is Washington just going to shut down, do you think, ultimately?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well --
TAPPER: Because you described the schism, already occurring, that's stopping the House from doing its business.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I do think that that is a real question that cuts at the core of a decision that the Republican Party is going to have to make, if they are going to try to survive, as a political party, in the United States.
We just saw that they experienced much lower gains than they thought they would, last year, in the 2022 midterm elections.
We are also seeing the ramifications of an extreme Supreme Court that has several members that were appointed by President Trump.
And additionally, with the erosion of the legitimacy, of the court, with the conduct of Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, and others, the Republican Party is very much at a crossroads, right now. And they are going to have to decide if they are going to choose a cult of personality, or this country.
And that is what cuts at the core of this case. And I believe the American people are also going to have to decide if this is something that we are going to accept.
And, right now, what is very dangerous is that Donald Trump is going to have this case going before a judge that was appointed, during his administration. If he somehow is able to delay this, if he is somehow, or for whatever reason, is able to clinch the nomination, he will seek revenge. I believe that. And --
TAPPER: You're not the only one. I mean, Chris Christie said he thinks the entire -- if Trump gets elected president again, his entire second term will be about revenge.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: I believe so.
And what we saw during his first -- during his first term was, was him putting undue influence, on the FBI, on the Department of Justice, to engage in an agenda of political -- in a politically-motivated agenda. We will see this really cut to the core of our democracy, if it is not checked, right now.
TAPPER: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, good to see you. Thank you so much for being here.
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Of course.
TAPPER: Really appreciate it.
Kaitlan Collins, Donald Trump making some wild remarks that's not unexpected, of course, but referring to Marxist thugs, all sorts of baseless conspiracies.
One of the most surprising things, although maybe I should stop being surprised, by this sort of thing, is him saying that Joe Biden is trying to destroy American democracy. This, from the President, who incited an insurrection, and spent months, literally trying to overturn a democratic election?
COLLINS: Yes, and also ignoring, of course, why he was in that room, today, when it came to those 37 counts that he pleaded not guilty to, and also trying to turn this, in part, on President Biden, making false claims, lying about what happened, with his documents investigation, kind of trying to equate the two of them.
Of course, we know there is a Special Counsel, also investigating that Jake. And the former President is complaining tonight, that Biden got a nice Special Counsel, while his, who he came face to face with today, Jack Smith, for the first time, he claims, is not so nice. That is just part of the many attacks that you've seen from Trump, on Jack Smith.
And I think that is part of why based on our reporting that we've been doing, Trump is having trouble adding someone, to this legal team, because they see the pitfalls, of what happens, to those, who have represented him, in the past that he doesn't listen to their legal advice.
And if you watch what his speech is happening, in Mar-a-Lago -- or excuse me, in Bedminster, right now, that plays a big factor, into why he has trouble actually getting attorneys, to represent him, in the courtroom.
But also claiming, Jake, that he -- that Biden is the one, who says he's above the law that he does not believe he's above the law, that he's the one who follows the law. Obviously, if you read through that page, that 49-page indictment, it tells a very different story, Jake.
TAPPER: I mean, one of the other things that's interesting about this is when President Biden came to office, he had every right, to dismiss the Special Counsel, investigating the investigation into Trump, Durham, John Durham, and he had every right, to fire the U.S. Attorney, in Delaware, who was investigating Hunter Biden.
I'm not saying it would have been a good idea, but he could have done it. But he was cautioned too, and ultimately did not.
He let both men continue their jobs. The U.S. Attorney, in Delaware, is still investigating Hunter Biden. So, this idea that Joe Biden puts himself above the law, when given the opportunity, to fire Durham, and to fire the U.S. Attorney, in Delaware, he didn't take, is just silly on its face.
COLLINS: And also that U.S. attorney that is investigating Hunter Biden is a Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney, which is not often something that you hear the former President, or his allies, mention.
Obviously, Jake, I think a lot of this has to do with what's happening here today, and his claims about this. And of course, it remains to be seen where the investigation, and where this case goes from here, as he is trying to find that other attorney.
Jake, as you were just speaking with Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, and she was giving you her take, on the Republican Party, and their view, of this? Up next, we are going to get reaction, on Capitol Hill, from Republican supporters, of the former President, to Republican skeptics and critics.
Also, how the White House views all of this and what precious little President Biden is actually saying about it? Of course, not compared to his predecessor, who is saying quite a lot.
COLLINS: To his remarks, tonight, at Bedminster, his club in New Jersey, our CNN Political Analyst, and New York Times Senior Political Correspondent, and of course, Trump biographer, Maggie Haberman, is there. And she joins us now by phone.
Maggie, obviously, you heard the former President's speech. We did not take it here, live. What did you make of what he told his supporters, compared to how he was acting, when he was here, in Florida, earlier today?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's interesting, Kaitlan.
There were two things that were striking about this speech.
Number one is that he's going through, at least for part of it, a pretty dry recitation, of what you're going to hear, from him and his team, which is his claims, and a misstatement of the Presidential Records Act that he was entitled to keep these documents that no one else has been prosecuted, for doing what he did. Prosecutors obviously said that he took things that were among the nation's most secretive, classified materials. That's one thing that was striking.
But the other that was striking is his delivery. He made such a show, in Miami, of being seen, at the restaurant, Versailles, which is something of a landmark, in Miami, and mingling with people, and talking to people.
Very low energy, tonight, very flat delivery, and spent no time, hanging out with the crowd, or sort of basking in their glow, afterwards. He turned on his heel, and walked back inside his club, at Bedminster.
And so, I think these are -- this is going to be the reality going forward. It's going to be him, defending himself, and offering up this claim that he had the right to do what he did, which again, prosecutors say, is not true. But it's mixed with real anger, at the situation, with vengeance (ph).
COLLINS: And Maggie, what does that say to you about given -- I mean, you know Trump better than almost anyone else, as you've reported on him, at length, than any other reporter I should note.
What does it say to you about how he's actually viewing this privately compared to that bravado, and bluster, we saw, at the restaurant, here, in Miami?
HABERMAN: What I hear, Kaitlan, as it goes, it goes up and down. But there are times, where he is incredibly angry.
I heard that he was really mad, for the 90 minutes after that he found out, roughly around 7 PM, on Thursday night that he had been indicted. And then, he got it together, went to dinner with DJ.
I heard he was very angry the next day. When he saw the indictment, he was especially rattled, by the photographs that were in, the doc, in the indictment. He actually referenced the photographs, some of them anyway, from the stage, tonight, behind the podium.
But then, he has moments of almost a buoyancy (ph). And it's hard for people around him to tell what's genuine versus him trying to keep up, as you said, the bravado. More than the bravado, it's also just a facade that everything is fine, because that's so much of how he fights back against them.
COLLINS: Yes. Who did you see in the crowd, tonight, at Bedminster? Did anyone stand out to you?
HABERMAN: Well many people stood out, but mostly because it was just such an eclectic group of people.
Seb Gorka, who worked in the Trump White House, and one of the Trump's loudest defenders, sort of on the fringe, on the right; Ed Cox, the Chairman of the New York Republican Party; Bernie Kerik, the former NYPD Commissioner; a number of different people, Mike Lindell, the My Pillow CEO; Tommy Tuberville, the Senator, who missed votes, to be there, tonight.
But for the most part, Kaitlan, these were the diehards. These were people who, were asked by Trump's staff, to be here, or, who loved the chance, to see the former President.
But there were not lines of (ph) people, who were in the administration, or even on his past presidential campaign. You're looking at a very, very different motive (ph) here.
COLLINS: Yes, and of course, it's telling who he surrounds himself with.
Maggie, you say it's clear that he's determined to fight these charges, obviously, in the court of public opinion, a lot of questions, about what his legal strategy actually in the courthouse looks like.
Does this remind you, in any way, of how he responded to what is obviously a very different situation, but also came with a lot of fallout, which was the Access Hollywood tape? They came around, of course, the last time he was running for president.
HABERMAN: Very much so. He has basically a few moves, Kaitlan that he uses over and over again. And we saw it for the first time in his political life.
When the Access Hollywood tape came out, his impulse, a day in, was when a crowd of his supporters had amassed, on Fifth Avenue, in front of Trump Tower, was to go down, and literally immerse himself, in the crowd. I was there for it. It was a really striking image. And it was almost as if he was giving himself a pep talk, clapping his hands together, and getting himself worked up.
A bit of what we saw, similarly, in Miami, today, that is the impulse to just sort of immerse himself, in the crowd. But that's not what we saw, in this speech, tonight. Again, this was a carefully-written speech, by some of his advisers, because he's weighing out what resembled the legal argument, but which is really about the court of public opinion.
But he was deflated, as he was giving it, or seemed deflated. But I do think, yes, this has real echoes. His immediate reaction, on all of these moments, is to surround himself, with his supporters, and use them both, as a buoy, for his emotions, and also as a shield against the indictment (ph).
COLLINS: Another person he's surrounding himself with is his co- defendant, Walt Nauta, who just moments after they left the courthouse, here, behind me, today, they were seen together, at that restaurant.
Obviously, the judge has said they are not supposed to discuss this case, except through attorneys. Do you think that that is actually something that the former President will abide by?
HABERMAN: Kaitlan, I think that, you know, the former President, as well as I do, and I think that, you know, that being told not to do something is often an impetus for him to do something, especially if it's by a person in authority. So, I think this is going to be a real challenge.
It is invariably, if they're talking, I bet it's going to be worse, for Walt Nauta, because he is the co-defendant, not a former President. And he has a very different circumstance. He also has not been arraigned yet, because he did not have local counsel. He still has to go back to court in two weeks. But I think this not talking about the case, with either Walt Nauta or witnesses, who the government is expected to produce a list of say, "These are people Trump should not be talking to legislatures (ph), only through counsel related to case," it's going to be a Herculean task to get an option (ph).
COLLINS: Yes. We'll see what that looks like.
Maggie Haberman, from Bedminster, in New Jersey, at the former President's club, thank you.
Joining us now, here in Miami, David Weinstein, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, from the Southern District of Florida, and also former Chief of Public Integrity in the Justice Department's South Florida office, one of the perfect people to talk about all this with.
We'll get back to what the former President is saying, tonight, in just a moment.
But what you saw today, happening in this courthouse, behind us, do you believe that's the way that anyone else would be treated? Do you think he was treated differently?
DAVID WEINSTEIN, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA: Not for a second. He was given special treatment, the likes of which I've never seen before.
Any other defendant charged with that many violations, possessing that many top-secret classified documents, then charged with obstructing justice, making false statements, and having another open pending felony case, would have been hard-pressed for the government, not to ask for detention, and for that defendant to be sitting behind bars, waiting to see whether or not he'd get out.
This defendant was released under virtually no conditions.
COLLINS: So, you believe even though the way the former President, and his legal team frame it, which is that they're being treated, unfairly, by the prosecution, by the courts here, they're actually going out of their way to accommodate him?
WEINSTEIN: Absolutely, bending over backwards. The fact that he didn't get arrested Friday morning, where he was living, in the dark hours, and brought before a magistrate judge, to make his initial appearance, in a sealed indictment? That's what happens in the normal case.
COLLINS: So, when you hear what the former President was saying, tonight, talking about the Espionage Act, and how that is part of the charges that have been -- that are part of his indictment, he was -- had this quote that was saying that it's used for spies, for traitors.
But it's obviously much more expansive than that, what he's saying about it is incorrect?
WEINSTEIN: Absolutely incorrect.
Look, it's part of a larger Act, the Espionage Act. And it covers people, who had at one time access to documents, because they had clearance to have those documents. And then, they took those documents, from a place where they should have been, under secure quarters, and either held them, or kept them somewhere else, or shared them with other people. That's what it is alleged that he has done.
It doesn't have to be a mail-drop, where spy versus spy meet each other, somewhere, and handover secret documents. It's the improper use and handling of classified documents, and in this case, documents that were alleged to contain Defense and Military secrets, of our country.
COLLINS: And that were stored in places.
He's there at the former club, or at his club, tonight, where we also know he took boxes of documents, up to Bedminster with him.
When it comes to what's next, and what a trial looks like, here, how fast do you think we could see a trial potentially?
WEINSTEIN: In this case, it's not going to occur that quickly. In a regular case, they move fast, here in the Southern District of Florida. Trial will be set, in a couple of months. It'll be perhaps continued a little bit, case would be resolved in six to nine months.
But here, you have security clearances that are needed for his counsel. You're going to have motion practice. You're going to have motions that undoubtedly are going to end up at the Eleventh Circuit, and request for continuance, to try and push this matter off past the November election.
So, in a case that could normally be resolved, by March or April, this one's going to drag out at least until the summer.
COLLINS: Well, and of course, the question is, does it happen before the 2024 election? We'll wait to see.
David Weinstein, of course, you are the perfect person to talk about this. You've been in the courthouse, many times. Thank you for joining us, tonight, and your time.
WEINSTEIN: You're welcome.
COLLINS: Also, still to come, we have more, on the former President's reaction, to his arraignment, today, a historic arraignment. What it could mean for him? That's next.
TAPPER: More reaction, now, to Trump's reaction, to his arrest and arraignment, today.
Our panel's back. And with us now, CNN Legal Analyst, Carrie Cordero and Elliot Williams, as well as CNN Special Correspondent, Jamie Gangel.
John, let me start with you. Trump seems, in his remarks, that we've played little clips of, more defiant than ever. And he is expected to raise at least $2 million, this evening.
JOHN KING, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I was just looking, at least six emails. We came out of commercial break, so I stopped counting. Just today, raising money. They're selling hats. They're selling flags. He's writing emails about being besieged. And we know he's good at this. If you don't like Donald Trump, maybe this infuriates you. But he's very good at this.
Trump is sort of the bonfire of American politics. The way he keeps his people going is by constantly throwing more wood in the fire, and keeping it blazing. He keeps them fired up, as if they're in the fight.
And the theory behind that, and his own people will admit this to you, when you talk to them quietly, is that if people walk away, they might read the indictment, or they might listen to one of his rivals, who might, who again, might say, "I have long-term questions about the FBI," or about two tracks of justice, or how Hillary Clinton was handled, "But read the indictment. These are his people. These are his words caught on tape. These are his aides' texts." But that's how he does this.
That's what's fascinating to me is that we talked about this a little bit earlier, with the conversation among his rivals, about what to do, because there's two contradictory conversations going on, among the other campaigns, right now.
One is the grown-ups, saying "We better winnow this field fast. We better winnow this field fast. We need a one-on-one or at least a two- on-one race." And there's 10 candidates in the race.
But the other piece of it is, "Well, if this trial is going to get delayed months and be after the early primaries, well, I need to raise just enough money, to hang around, because I'm going to have to be around, in April and May, when he finally implodes." I mean, how many times have Republicans had this conversation? I know. I'm not saying it's real. And I'm not saying it won't be different tomorrow.
But that's the two tracks in the other campaigns, because they watch him at this. That's another attack on democracy. I mean, the last thing I'll say about this, if you thought the threat to democracy ended on January 6, that with the Biden inauguration, you are wrong.
KING: Attacking -- saying the President of the United States had him arrested, and then the other attacks, earlier today, on the Special Counsel, and so on and so forth? This is sometimes we just roll our eyes and say it's politics or it's Trump, and it's not true, but it's much bigger than that.
TAPPER: So, Carrie Cordero, earlier in the show, George Conway went through how bad the indictment is, for Donald Trump, and how little there is, in terms of the facts presented in the indictment that's even being disputed.
We heard Donald Trump, in his remarks, basically arguing that the Presidential Records Act allows him, to have these documents, as his. And he also said about the Espionage Act.
And we've talked about this, the other day, and you can do it again.
So, "The Espionage Act has been used to go after traitors and spies. It has nothing to do with a former President legally keeping his own documents. As president, the law that applies to this case is not the Espionage Act, but very simply the Presidential Records Act. I had every right to have these documents."
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: OK. So, once he was no longer President, he no longer had right to have the documents, because those documents belong to the United States of America.
TAPPER: Even if he classified them?
CORDERO: Full stop.
TAPPER: Even if he classified them?
CORDERO: If he -- well, they weren't classified documents.
TAPPER: Right. Right, right.
CORDERO: Even if he had declassified them.
TAPPER: Even if -- I'm sorry. Even if he had declassified them?
CORDERO: Which there is no evidence that he did.
TAPPER: Right, right.
CORDERO: Then they still are documents. Whether classified or not, they are documents that belonged to the United States of America. So, full stop.
CORDERO: No question about it.
Now, with respect to whether or not he declassified them, there's no evidence that he did so. So yes, a President has authority to declassify information. But there's absolutely zero evidence that he ever --
TAPPER: And you can't just do with your mind?
[21:40:00] CORDERO: -- that he ever did that. There would have been some indication, there would be some person, there would be some document, there would be some evidence that that actually occurred.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: You have to tell someone.
GANGEL: You have to tell someone.
TAPPER: It goes back to the Intelligence agencies.
TAPPER: They begin the process.
CORDERO: But all that being said, and even with the 31 counts that are in the indictment, with the documents, as they're described, at these high classification levels, with the pictures, of the boxes, spewed all over his hotel, even with all of that, had he returned them? We wouldn't be here today.
CORDERO: It is all about the fact that he obstructed and that he willfully retained them, and withheld them, and continued again, and again, and again, at every opportunity, whether it was the requests, from the National Archives, or whether it was the Justice Department, asking him, or then it was pursuant to a subpoena? If you just would have given them back, we wouldn't be here.
GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER, WASHINGTON POST CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST: Yes. I mean, and to more to Carrie's point, I mean, the Conservatives have made a big deal about appointing people, who are textureless, to the bench, people who follow the statute, and don't make things up, and don't read things into the statute that they wish were there.
Well, here's what the statute says. 2202, Section 2202, of the Presidential Records Act.
"The United States shall reserve and retain complete ownership, possession, and control of Presidential records; and such records shall be administered in accordance with the provisions of this chapter."
And then, it says that when the President during -- when the President leaves office, it says that the National Archives and Records Administration will take control of the President's files and records, immediately. TAPPER: Is this a clear-cut case, do you think, Elliot?
CONWAY: Which is, there's no burden (ph).
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: On this point, yes.
It's literally -- and it's not only that. It's on inauguration day, the moment the next President is sworn in, all of the files, wherever they are, in the world, not even just in the United States, immediately become the property of the National Archives and Records Administration. It's just a fact. It's just it's not something that you can wish away out of existence.
And then, beyond that point, sort of, and to Carrie's point, if he had just given the documents back, we would not have been here, as is evident with the case of Mike Pence, who, number one, voluntarily conducted and opened up a search, into his own files. And then, number two, complied with all requests, from the Justice Department, and the National Records and Archives Administration, once he did.
Had Trump done any of that going back a year, I'm quite confident that he just would not face criminal charges.
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: And can we just add to that to cover off on the Espionage Act point?
The Espionage Act is big. It has more things in it than just traditional cloak-and-dagger spying. It definitely covers unlawful retention of National Defense Information. It definitely prohibits the unlawful dissemination of National Defense Information or withholding of National Defense Information.
So, even though it's called the Espionage Act, it doesn't mean he's been charged with spying and handing information to a foreign government.
Jamie Gangel, we were talking about this, during the break, which is a Fox News chyron, at 8:59 PM, so about 43 minutes ago. And they are referring to Joe Biden, the chyron, with the bottom of the -- see, if you look at the bottom of our screen --
GANGEL: Right. Right.
TAPPER: -- it says, "Trump pleads not guilty to all 37 federal charges." It's just a fact. OK?
So, what they had on theirs, "Wannabe dictator," meaning Joe Biden, "speaks at the White House after having his political rival arrested."
GANGEL: So --
TAPPER: This is part of the -- GANGEL: Right.
TAPPER: -- of how Donald Trump hopes to get out of the legal fix, he's in. This, this kind of thing.
GANGEL: So, for the record, when I first was -- saw that banner, George Conway sent me a text with it.
CONWAY: You told me it was fake.
GANGEL: I turned right around --
CONWAY: You said it was fake.
GANGEL: -- I said, that is fake. It seemed so --
CONWAY: So, I deleted my tweet.
TAPPER: So over the top.
GANGEL: -- so over the top that I thought it was unbelievable.
And to that point, this very illustrious panel, of lawyers -- John, are you a lawyer?
KING: Not at all.
GANGEL: No. You and me. OK, the three of us.
But you've all laid out the facts here, about that this belonged to the Archives, and that he, if he had given them back, it would have been in fact -- there's one problem with all of this. Donald Trump has convinced his supporters that that is not true. And if there's one thing Donald Trump is good at, it is branding. And he has said it over and over and over.
TAPPER: One of the questions, though, given the fact that Fox had to just pay a $787.5 million settlement, to Dominion, for spewing lies, about the election? One wonders, do they believe this? Do they believe that Joe Biden is a wannabe dictator, who just had his political rival arrested? Do they actually believe that?
CONWAY: Who knows? They obviously don't care whether or not they put things on their air that they believe or that they don't believe. I mean, it just that's what was shown.
WILLIAMS: Having spent, I guess, it was six years, at the Justice Department, and four, at Headquarters, just to clear something up, in terms of the relationship, between the White House, and prosecutors, when cases go on? There's actually a wall between the White House and rank-and-file prosecutors.
And I remember meetings, where if the White House folks are around, you send them out, or don't even invite them to Headquarters. TAPPER: Is that even more so, if it's a Special Counsel?
WILLIAMS: More so. And that's the whole point.
The whole point behind the appointment of the Special Counsel was to take away this notion that it was the White House, or even the Attorney General, who was pulling the strings, on the prosecution. So, this idea that Merrick Garland, or Joe Biden, are these puppeteers, calling the shots, on a prosecution? That is simply not how it works.
Now, I don't know, quite frankly, how the Trump administration operated. I can only speak to frankly, the Bush administration, where I was a career attorney, then the Obama administration, where I was a political appointee. And that's how it worked in the day.
All right, a lot more to come tonight.
COLLINS: Yes, Jake.
Up next, we are going to more reaction, to the former President's arraignment, on Capitol Hill -- from Capitol Hill, today, and also from the White House.
TAPPER: Earlier tonight, former Vice President, Mike Pence, had some stern words, for his old boss, telling The Wall Street Journal, quote, "Having read the indictment, these are very serious allegations. And I can't defend what is alleged."
That said, he also told the Journal, "It's hard for me to believe that politics didn't play some role in this decision." Of course, that is pretty similar to what other Republicans are responding to this indictment, what they were saying, on Capitol Hill, trying to thread a very tight needle.
Others though are still all-in, on the former President, even when it comes to photos like this, of national security secrets that were stored, in the bathroom, of the ex-President's Florida club.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was that a good look, for the former President, to have boxes, in a bathroom?
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I don't know. Is it a good picture to have boxes in a garage that opens up all the time? A bathroom door locks.
REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): As somebody, who's been to Mar-a-Lago, you just can't walk through Mar-a-Lago, of your own accord, because Secret Service is all over the place.
There are 33 bathrooms, at Mar-a-Lago. So, don't act like it's just in some random bathroom that the guests can go into. That's not true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Our Chief Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju, is live, on Capitol Hill.
Manu, I'm not sure that I ever thought I would hear Republicans defending how secure the President's bathrooms at Mar-a-Lago are. But that is exactly what we saw the House Speaker, doing, and also the Florida Republican, there, Byron Donalds that you just heard from.
Beyond that, we also know that it wasn't very secure, at Mar-a-Lago, because they talked about how, in a storage room, multiple people had access, one of the doors was often open.
But what are you hearing there, today, from members, in the House, also in the Senate, and how they're reacting, to this arraignment, today?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, members, Kaitlan, are actually relatively divided, over the former President. And some are now speaking out.
Recall, in the immediate aftermath, of the Thursday news that the former President was going to be indicted, and after the allegations were unsealed, on Friday, most of the Trump supporters, rushed to his defense, on Twitter, most of the other members were gone, because Congress was not in session.
The last two days have changed. I put the question directly to members, about exactly the specifics of the allegations, at play, and of also about the President -- former President allegedly obstructing his investigation.
And a number of them are raising concerns. And some are indicating they couldn't support the former President, especially if he's convicted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): He had a chance, to return them, present them back. But he just doubled down.
We cannot take this lightly.
REP. DON BACON (R-NE): It's obvious what the President did was wrong.
I just still see it as a sham indictment.
REP. DAN CRENSHAW (R-TX): It's very problematic. There's a reason I'm not defending it.
REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN): I would like to find out all the truth of it. Obviously, if that's the truth, I'd be very concerned.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: And that, Congressman Tim Burchett, a member -- a conservative member, of the House GOP Conference, also telling me that he would not support Trump, if he were in fact convicted.
I put that same question to Senate Republican Leader, Mitch McConnell, earlier today, Kaitlan. I asked him, could you support Trump, if he's the nominee, given this indictment, and if he's convicted?
He refused to comment, saying he's not going to weigh in, on any specific candidate.
And that is a wide gulf with the House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, who has in fact rushed to Donald Trump's defense, and attacked this indictment, as House Republicans -- top House Republicans are trying to undermine this investigation, and probe what happened here.
Manu Raju, on Capitol Hill, thank you.
The White House, meanwhile, we've heard a lot from Republicans, has been very quiet, on Trump's arraignment, today, still declining to comment, on this latest indictment.
President Biden making clear, earlier today, he had nothing to say, on this issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Would you comment on the arrest of the former President, sir?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Joining us now, White House Correspondent, Jeremy Diamond.
Jeremy, the question, I think, is how serious the White House is, about this strategy, of silence, given it is just such a stark contrast, with what former President Trump is doing?
DIAMOND: Yes, Kaitlan. Well, so far, the message discipline appears to be sticking.
You saw there. I was trying to ask the President, this was maybe the fifth time that he's been asked now, about President Trump's indictments, and now his arrest. And once again, declining to comment.
And look, the White House decided long ago that this was going to be their strategy that this is going to be how they handle matters, related to the Department of Justice, any criminal proceedings, not to interfere, and not to comment.
And they had also prepared, frankly, for the possibility that President Trump could be indicted, in this documents case. And they had decided long ago that when and if that would happen that President Biden and his team would not comment on it.
We've tried to ask the White House press secretary, a number of different ways, about this case. And she has simply declined to comment, pointing to the independence of the Department of Justice.
And President Biden, today, taking the strategy so seriously, that even made an attempt to clean up a joke. He was talking about the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, their meetings, together. And he said -- he quipped that he did not take those notes with him that he returned those notes. And then, he quickly noted that was not about the former President. So even taking pains to ensure that even a joke couldn't be perceived as something else.
One person we did hear from though was the first lady. She commented on this. What did she have to say?
DIAMOND: Yes. That's right.
First lady, Jill Biden, was at a fundraiser, last night, in Manhattan. And she was talking about the indictment, directly, and talking about the fact that so many Republicans, according to polling, and also when you look at these prominent Republicans, who are defending the President, appear to be sticking with him.
And what she said was she called it a little bit shocking that they are still sticking with him. And she said, they don't care about the indictment. Now, that is, in contrast to the President's approach here, the White House's and also notably the President's reelection campaign, which isn't (ph) starting up here, and yet they have declined to comment on this.
What they've also declined to do, Kaitlan, is to fundraise off of the former President's indictment, and his arrest.
Typically, you would look at this, as a potential political goldmine, for a political opponent. But instead, the President's political advisers have decided that the risks of fundraising off of this, of the potential appearance of impropriety, of fueling those Republican attacks that President Biden is carrying out some kind of politicized prosecution here, that the risks ultimately outweigh the potential benefits.
And so, ultimately, they're simply relying on this split screen that we're seeing, of the former President, the chaos, that voters are being reminded of, and the current President, instead, focused, on doing his job.
COLLINS: All right. Jeremy Diamond, thank you.
TAPPER: It has been a remarkable and remarkably difficult day, to witness, a sad day, in American history, up to and including what Donald Trump had to say, this evening. And of course, the day isn't even over, neither is the reaction to it.
COLLINS: Certainly not, Jake.
And I'm going to be back, in the next hour, with our colleague, Abby Phillip, for CNN's continued special coverage, of the "ARREST AND ARRAIGNMENT OF DONALD TRUMP." That's right after this, after a short break.