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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Judge Sets March 4 Start Date For Trump Federal Election Interference Trial, One Day Before Super Tuesday; Meadows Testifies In Bid to Move Georgia Case To Federal Court; Trump Still Dominates In First Poll Since GOP Debate And Mug Shot; 60th Anniv. Of March On Washington, "I Have A Dream" Speech; Deadly Racist Attack Happened On 5th Anniv. Of 2018 Jacksonville Mass Shooting; Idalia To Intensify Into Major Hurricane; Tropical Storm Idalia Nearing Hurricane Strength; Coastal Residents In 8 FL Counties Told To Evacuate; Simone Biles Makes History With Eighth U.S. Title. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired August 28, 2023 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Tonight, new calls for the resignation of Luis Rubiales, the president of Spain's soccer program. This, of course after he forcibly kissed World Cup soccer star, Jennifer Hermoso.
Prosecutors today announced an investigation into that incident, which could end in sexual aggression charges. The moment is becoming a flashpoint internationally.
Supporters of Rubiales is demonstrating outside a church where his mother is now staging a hunger strike, while elsewhere, people are taking to the streets in support of Hermoso.
Thanks so much for joining us tonight. AC 360 starts right now.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Tonight, on 360, a federal judge says Donald Trump's election subversion trial should start a day before the biggest election day of the Republican primary.
Stunning admissions from Mark Meadows in his effort to get his trial moved to a federal court.
Also tonight, a sad note on the anniversary of Dr. King's March on Washington. New details including video and the racist shooting that took three Black lives in Jacksonville this weekend.
Also a new update on Idalia now expected to become a major hurricane and on track to hit Florida. CNN's Chad Myers in the Weather Center tracking it.
Good evening, everyone. John Berman here, in for Anderson.
Whoever first said there is a time and place for everything could not have imagined a day like today. The first of many, it appears in the battle over when to try Donald Trump and company and where.
Today in Washington, federal district judge, Tanya Chutkan put the former president's election subversion trial on a fast track on a court calendar packed with other Trump trials. And in Atlanta, former White House chief-of-staff, Mark Meadows took the stand trying to get his Fulton County, Georgia trial moved to federal court. We're going to have more on that in just a moment.
First Judge Chutkan is setting a trial date of March 4th of next year, rejecting Special Counsel Jack Smith's January 2nd date and Team Trump's proposal for April 2026. Look at that calendar. Yes, that is Super Tuesday you see there on the fifth and 12 primaries. And yes, that's another trial in New York on the 25th.
There is also the Fulton County case, possibly this October. The second E. Jean Carroll defamation trial on the day of the Iowa caucuses, and the classified documents trial proposed for May.
Today on "The Lead" Jake Tapper asked Republican hopeful and former US attorney, Chris Christie about the date Judge Chutkan set.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Is that too soon? Too far away? What do you think?
CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think it's a realistic date, Jake, given that it's a one defendant case.
Today, I think what the judge did was twofold. One, she gave them another six months to get ready for trial in a single defendant case, and two, she made it quite clear to the Trump legal team, that the public relations games that they and their client play are not going to impact the decisions that she makes in the courtroom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Judge Chutkan also signaled in so many words that the public interest in a speedy trial is what's driving her scheduling decision, not primary politics.
And as for Mark Meadows today, he took the stand and what played out like a mini trial and his testimony on why he believes his case belongs in federal court could have significant impact on his co- defendants, including his former boss.
Meadows said he believed the actions detailed on the Fulton County indictment were part of his official duties and were done at Donald Trump's behest. This included he said setting up the former president's call in which he asked state election officials to find him 11,780 votes.
Whatever impact Meadows' testimony today has on his former boss, it is not the only factor. Returning to the question of scheduling, there is this, from Trump attorney Alina Habba, completely undercutting her own legal team's argument that they and their client need time to prepare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ALINA HABBA, DONALD TRUMP ATTORNEY AND SPOKESPERSON: What is he going to have to be prepped for? The truth. You don't have to prep much when you've done nothing wrong, so that I'm not concerned with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: CNN's Sara Murray joins us now with more. Let's talk about Georgia, Mark Meadows on the stand. Tell us about that and the rest of the hearing, Sara?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, it's pretty remarkable that Mark Meadows took the stand under oath, in part because he has kept such a low profile during all of these criminal investigations into Donald Trump until he became a co-defendant, and then also just because it's risky, right, when you're a criminal defendant to go under oath, but in this case, Meadows team needs to make the case that the actions he was taking were part of his official duties when he was the White House Chief of Staff.
So as he's being questioned, both by prosecutors and his own attorneys, he is saying, you know, he was on calls with Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, then Trump's personal attorney; that that was part of his job as chief-of-staff, as a gatekeeper, and as someone who was keeping the former president's schedule.
He said when they were setting up this call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, that that was also part of his official duties because there's a federal interest in ensuring that the elections are run smoothly. That was the brunt of his case.
In fact, they described these obligations so widely. At one point, Meadows' attorney gave sort of a caveat of what might not fall under his official duties as White House chief-of-staff saying if you shot a demonstrator in Lafayette park that would obviously be outside the scope of his duties -- John.
BERMAN: Yes. Interesting that he added that.
So Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, as you mentioned, he testified. What did he tell the court?
MURRAY: Yes, he was a key witness for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to make the case that what Meadows was doing couldn't have been part of his official duties. This was campaign activity. This was in Willis' view, illegal activity, and Raffensperger said, you know, when he got that call from Donald Trump pressuring him to find the votes, he took that as a campaign call.
He said that the federal government doesn't play a role in certifying the results in a state's election. So it was sort of hard for him to envision how this could be part of a federal responsibility.
BERMAN: Did the judge give any indication about what he might rule? MURRAY: He did not rule today. He suggested he may try to move swiftly and noted that he knows the arraignments in the state case are coming up on September 6th. And as you pointed out, there are a lot of attorneys watching this.
One of Trump's attorneys in Georgia was spotted at the courthouse, an attorney for Jeffrey Clark was spotted at the courthouse. Lots of people want to know how this is going to go.
BERMAN: Yes, standby for news, in other words. Sara Murray, great to have you. Thank you very much.
Perspective now from CNN senior law enforcement analyst, Andrew McCabe; also former Fulton County prosecutor, Sarah Flack, and former federal prosecutor, Jessica Roth.
Andy, let's just start with the obvious here. You know, it's a big deal for Mark Meadows to testify under oath this early in a process. How big of a deal?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Huge deal, John. Huge deal, and it's potentially very, very dangerous. He is a defendant in a criminal matter. He has not had the benefit of seeing the government's case, he is not -- he, in his course of, you know, his experience as a defendant he'll get to see through discovery that the government's evidence, any other statements they have of him that they might try to use against him, he hasn't seen any of that stuff yet.
So now he's been under oath on the stand, making statements that will undoubtedly be brought up to him again, if he decides to take the stand in his own defense in the criminal matter. So it's a very, very risky move for him. But it shows you how intense he is on trying to get this case out of state court.
BERMAN: So Jessica, pick up on that. Very risky -- but to Mark Meadows and his attorney who is very experienced, they think worth it. Why?
JESSICA ROTH, NEW YORK CARDOZO LAW SCHOOL LAW PROFESSOR: So worth it because he has actually a burden to carry in this proceeding to have the case removed. It's a slight burden. It is a preponderance of the evidence more likely than not, but he's the one who has to persuade the judge that he was actually acting pursuant to his official role.
And so he had to make that case, he wanted clearly to make that case as persuasively as he could. He clearly thought the best way he could do that was by testifying himself and telling his story about why this was part of his very broad, official duties.
So he is trying hard to get the case removed to federal court, because he clearly thinks that is a better forum for him in terms of the jury pool, most likely. He also, I think, is setting up his argument to have the entire action dismissed if he succeeds first on the removal motion and he has actually already filed papers to dismiss the action because he's entitled, he says, to immunity from this state prosecution, because he was a federal official. So this, if he wins on that, that's the whole ballgame for him. He would never be subject to cross examination at trial, because if he prevails on that motion to dismiss, this case goes away.
BERMAN: So you can see why he is taking this risk, because if he wins here, he could, he thinks have a chance to get it all dismissed.
Sarah, Brad Raffensperger testified to this point, though, at issue here is whether his actions were as a federal employee, as chief-of- staff to the president of the United States, if he was acting on that behalf or if it was a political action, a campaign action. Brad Raffensperger testified he thought it was a campaign call. He didn't feel it was appropriate. How much do you think the judge will take that into account?
SARAH FLACK, FORMER FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA PROSECUTOR: Oh, that's going to be the central issue, and that is why the judge asked those follow-up questions today, that is really what the judge has to consider.
We know that the chief-of-staff's role is not just an administrative role, where you're just making phone calls or arranging meetings. And so the key question here is beyond those things, are you doing something to violate the law? Violate federal law? Violate Georgia State law? And that is why the judge honed in on that today, because that really is the central point of this investigation and the central issue before the judge in federal court.
BERMAN: And Andrew, just hit on this a little bit more about whether his actions were political, or if they were administrative for the government because this wasn't about elect -- you know, this wasn't about the government in 2020, this was about who would be the next president in 2021?
MCCABE: Sure, so there's no doubt in my mind, John, that from his perspective, as any number of a million different things he had to do for then President Trump in the course of a day, he probably saw this stuff as part of his job, but the law sees it very differently.
If he was carrying out taskings and taking care of business on behalf of the president that were not strictly authorized by federal law, that were not in pursuit of some legitimate federal objective, then it was not within the scope of his authority or the scope of his position as chief-of-staff, even though they were things that the president was likely telling him to do.
Let's remember, this was not an administration that was very careful about watching that divide between government duties and political duties. This is the same administration that held their nominating convention you know on federal property.
So there's many other examples of things like that. So, it wouldn't surprise me that Meadows saw it that way, but the law might see it very differently. BERMAN: So Jessica, there are other defendants who may want to get their trials moved through to federal court, including former President Trump, I guess what January -- so sorry, September 6 is the day that he and his 18 other co-defendants are going to be arraigned. When would he have to try to get his case moved?
ROTH: So the statute provides that you have to actually file the notice to remove 30 days after arraignment. So that would start the clock for President Trump and any other -- former President Trump and any others who would seek to remove.
And so I'm sure they're watching to see what happens in this hearing and the judge indicated that the judge is aware of that September 6th date. So if we get a ruling on the Meadows motion before, then, clearly, that's something that the other defendants would take into account in deciding whether they want to file a similar motion.
BERMAN: Sara Murray reporting that Donald Trump had a lawyer there watching. That's interesting.
ROTH: Very interesting.
BERMAN: Sarah, I want to ask you about the Meadows case, if it does go to federal court, it will still be argued by Fani Willis' team. What are the challenges that would face prosecutors, if it did end up in federal court?
FLACK: Well, the biggest issue there that prosecutors are going to face is the venue just completely changes. I mean, going from Fulton County, the county itself is a very, very -- I'm sorry, liberal jurisdiction and to go now to federal court in the Northern District of Georgia, that opens the pool up. Your jury pool now is going to be -- there are some counties that feed in there that are going to be a lot more Trump friendly. And so that's why the Trump and his co- defendants here are wanting their case removed. So that's going to be the biggest hurdle for prosecutors.
Also likely, we will change the prosecution team because now you're dealing with a lot more federal law, federal issues. That office while is very, very versed in state law, but I think we'll see some changes that will be handled differently because of those issues that Fani Willis' office just isn't equipped to handle.
BERMAN: All right, thank you all very much. We're going to take a quick break here. When we come back, more on the other big item Judge Tanya Chutkan's March 4 trial date.
Also Chad Myers with the very latest on Idalia namely when and where and how hard it might hit Florida's Gulf Coast and where it goes after that.
BERMAN: More now, in today's other big development of the trials of Donald Trump and company, namely the March 4th trial date in this federal election subversion case.
CNN's Jessica Schneider joins us now.
Jessica, what did the judge have to say about the timeline as she was setting that date?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, the judge actually said it would have been unprecedented to wait until 2026 for a criminal trial to start. Of course, that's what the Trump Team wanted and Judge Chutkan hear, she actually chided Trump's lawyers for not already prepping for this possibility for a quick trial in just six months.
She stressed, you know, they knew this investigation was ongoing with the special counsel and as she put it, a zealous attorney wouldn't have just been waiting in the wings for an indictment. They would have been prepping for this.
Trump's lawyer though, John Lauro, he shot back and he said that he has just recently taken on this case. And then John, he bluntly told the judge, he said, look, I won't be able to provide effective legal assistance with a trial date this soon in just six months, and this is actually likely Trump's team probably setting up the stage for an eventual appeal. They probably won't be able to appeal this early trial date in their view at this stage in the proceedings, but this all could be part of their appeal after there is a trial and an eventual decision.
BERMAN: You alluded to this, Jessica, but you know, the Trump attorneys, they said that the large amount of discovery material, they have to go through all of these papers, it was one reason they needed a later trial date. How did the prosecution respond to that?
SCHNEIDER: Yes, so the prosecution said it and the judge agreed that, you know, a significant portion of this was already known to Trump and his team. So there have been 13 million pages of discovery, nearly that, already handed over.
But a majority of these pages are actually coming from Trump and his team. They said it came from his own social media and then they listed it this way. They said about three million pages that came from his own campaign or political action committees, 170,000 pages from his White House that were given to the National Archives, there's about five million plus pages of grand jury transcripts and evidence.
And then the prosecution put it this way, you know, in defense of that quick trial date, they said, look, there's just about 47,000 pages that we're going to be relying on as key to this case, and they argued it's those 47,000 pages that Trump's team really should be focused on, and they should be able, in the prosecution's view to easily search them and quickly form their defense around these select group of pages to make that six-month trial timeline really not that difficult after all, in their view -- John.
BERMAN: And get to reading, the judge basically said.
BERMAN: Jessica Schneider, thank you very much.
The panel is back with us right now, and joining us is CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero.
Andy, I just want to start with you. March 4th, a realistic beginning for this trial? And did the Trump team make a mistake, you know, asking for 2026, more than two years from now?
MCCABE: I think they did, John. I think they really overplayed their hand here.
I think March 4th is a realistic trial date. They've got a lot to do with the discovery, but they have time to do it. It's an unprecedented case, a case of great interest, but it is not an overly complicated case, and I think by coming in and asking for a date that was so preposterously stretched out, I mean ridiculous on its face.
I think they run the risk of compromising their reputation as it were in the eyes of the judge. It would be likely that the judge will look at the rest of their motions and the rest of their appeals on different issues and the arguments they make in the context of understanding that they are -- their main goal here is delay and that is their true purpose with whatever they're putting in front of her.
You know, if you lose the confidence and the respect of the judge this early on in the proceeding, you really do your client a disservice, and I think they may have done that with this 2026 date?
BERMAN: Carrie Cordero, first of all, nice to see you. Thank you so much for joining us.
The judge said she wants to keep politics out of this case. Is that even possible when you're dealing with Donald Trump, who was a former president, a man who could be the Republican nominee? And when you set the trial date, you know, for 24 hours within Super Tuesday, does that send the message you are keeping politics totally separate or that they are inseparable?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, one way to look at that date is to imagine a scenario where the judge wasn't looking at the political calendar, that she was really evaluating the nature of the case, the nature of the time that in a similar volume of documents and discovery type of case, that comes before her in the district court that this is the appropriate amount of time, and that she will just run her courtroom and run this case, irrespective of the political calendar. So I think that's one way to look at it.
But she also clearly is aware and cognizant and values the public interest in this particular case. And so even if that March date slips a little bit, which is completely possible, I mean, federal court dates are set, sometimes they can go at right that time, but there could be various things that come up between now and then that have it slip a little bit, but it does seem likely that the trial would begin either in the end of March or April, or certainly this spring, before the election, before the nominating convention.
BERMAN: So Jessica, the defense team, Trump's lawyer said that the government is trying to put on a show trial. First of all, can they appeal this trial date? Do they have any recourse, too? That language, that show trial language is the type of thing that Judge Chutkan basically warned them on.
ROTH: Yes. So this is not an appealable decision, the schedule, the trial date is something that is very much entrusted to the discretion of the trial judge who is close to the facts and the case, and who has the best view on when is an appropriate time to try this case. So that's not going to be something that they can appeal immediately.
In terms of what the Trump team is saying about this being a show trial, and they are really running a risk of further alienating the judge, just like they did with saying that the trial should be in 2026. I mean, that was not credible as an argument before her.
And so statements about it being a show trial, really risk alienating her, and also potentially prejudicing the jury pool, and she specifically said at the conclusion of the hearing today that she is going to be very much watching for statements from the former president and his team that run the risk of tainting the jury pool, making it harder to seat a fair and impartial jury.
So they run a serious risk of being reprimanded by her at a minimum and having a very short leash from her and losing credibility on things that ultimately they may need that credibility when there's something that really matters to them.
BERMAN: You know, Carrie, Judge Chutkan specifically said to the president's attorneys, they need to take the temperature down. I mean, that's a sign. How will that -- how might that carry into the trial itself?
CORDERO: Well, she is setting the tone of her courtroom and the expectations in her courtroom clearly and early. And so, as they proceed, they will understand that she is going to set the nature of how this trial is conducted.
So I expect she won't have difficulty because she does run the courtroom, have the ability to reprimand counsel, direct how the attorneys handle themselves in her courtroom, the harder part will be and this gets back to your earlier question about how the politics will play into it. The harder part for her, I think will be managing the activities and the public communications and the statements of the defendant himself in the campaign season.
BERMAN: Andy McCabe, you know a little something about the public communications of the former president of the United States. You've been on the receiving end of tweets of his. What do you make of how Judge Chutkan is handling that and the message she is sending about how they will be viewed? MCCABE: I think she's doing a fine job so far. I think we are -- as Carrie intimated, we have a lot of ground to cover here. There's certainly going to be a lot of opportunities for the former president to flare out in the way that he prefers to on social media. You know he has never met a line that he didn't cross or a norm that he didn't break.
And so, I wonder how effective if the judge finds herself in a position to have -- having to, you know, set limits or chide him for his activities in the social media space, I really feel like that will have just a provoking effect on him.
So it's hard to see how those two forces working in opposite directions end up in a good place at the end of the day. But I have to tell you that I think all signs so far are that this judge is very much in control of her courtroom. She is going to run this calendar the way she sees fit, and the defendant is just going to have to go along with it.
BERMAN: And Jessica, what does that portend in terms of the timing here? You know, as Carrie pointed out, federal trials get moved. Just because it's set for March 4, doesn't mean it'll be March 4th. But is it more likely than not that this has concluded by at least Election Day?
ROTH: Well, it would seem that this judge is committed to getting this case tried close to the date that she has set and before the election, if at all possible. She may not be able to control everything. It depends what transpires. It will also depend on what motions are filed and how quickly she is able to rule out those motions, and whether there's an effort to appeal her decision on any of those motions.
So not everything is going to be within her control, but I think what we've seen thus far from this judge is a strong commitment to the public interest in a speedy trial here.
BERMAN: Every step of the way, when she has had the possibility of making a quick decision, she makes a quick decision.
ROTH: Yes. And I think we can expect that that will continue.
BERMAN: All right, Jessica Roth, Carrie Cordero, and Andrew McCabe, thank you all so much.
We're going to stay on this story with a simple question: Does a mugshot help or hurt your chances of becoming president when you're Donald Trump? Our Harry Enten joins us with that answer.
BERMAN: All right, suffice it to say, we are in uncharted political waters when it comes to multiple upcoming trials on felony criminal charges during a primary season. Plus, a world famous mugshot. Could it affect the former president's front runner status in the Republican presidential primary and beyond?
For more on that, with us, CNN Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten. Nice to see you.
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Nice to see you.
BERMAN: All right, we're out of, you know, a few days away, at least, time enough to go in the field and take a poll. Have you seen anything that indicates that the debate, the mugshot, any of it, moved the contours of the race?
ENTEN: Not really. You know, there was a Reuters/Ipsos poll that was taken last Thursday into last Friday. So right in the middle, right of when the mugshot was taken on Thursday night after the GOP debate. And what do we see? We see that Donald Trump still has a commanding lead in this Republican primary with north of 50 percent of the vote.
Now, this is just one poll. I'm going to be interested in seeing some other polling data, but this matches up very much in line with the averages that we saw before the debate. That is, Trump at this point looks like a runaway train. And nothing that occurred, at least at the end of last week, at least preliminarily, seems to have shifted that narrative.
BERMAN: So with so many investigations into Trump happening simultaneously, you know, trials happening at the same time, what does the data show about how likely voters are responding?
ENTEN: Yes. So this to me is the interesting question, right? We've already had four indictments. The question that I have is whether or not a conviction would change any of the dynamics at all. Because I think that's really the question now, because we know the indictments haven't changed anything at all.
And so we asked an interesting poll question a few months ago that essentially, you know, said, should Trump drop out of the race if, in fact, he is convicted? Most Republicans said he should not. 88 percent said he should not. But I will note that there's 11 percent that said, yes, he should drop out if he is in fact convicted. And then there was an additional 1 percent, I guess, margin of error type of stuff who said he should just dropout anyway even though they're already supporting Donald Trump.
And I think the question ultimately is how do you look at that? That 88 percent is very large. That would still leave him in the lead in the primary. But if you jump forward to the general election, if all of a sudden 12 percent of your voters abandon you, that in fact, is a fairly large chunk in a race at this particular point is looking to be quite close between former President Donald Trump and the current President Joe Biden. So I think it's sort of which way do you look at this?
BERMAN: Yes. Look, we don't know yet if convicted will be different than if indicted. You know, we may not know until or unless he is actually convicted. What about the timing of these cases? What a voter say about the timing?
ENTEN: Yes, you know, Donald Trump wants to delay, delay, delay. And obviously, the judge in this particular case, the federal case that we're talking about here, doesn't want to delay, wants that, you know, the trial to start next March. What we see is most voters agree with the judge on this one.
The vast majority of Americans north of 60 percent believe, in fact, we should hold the election before Election Day 2024, not 2026 as Donald Trump wants. Most independents agree with that. The vast majority of Democrats agree with that. Republicans do disagree with that, with, you know, far less than 50 percent believing we should hold the trial before the 2024 election.
But even there you see a significant portion saying that we should hold it. So I think the judge is on the side of public opinion here and we'll just have to wait and see what happens, because this is a story that's never been told before and one that we'll find out what exactly occurs.
BERMAN: 63 percent of independents saying they want the trial before Election Day was worth watching there. Harry, stand by, if you will.
I want to bring in CNN's Audie Cornish, also CNN Political Commentator and Republican Pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson. And Kristen, while we have you, let's just backstop what Harry just said there, you know, four -- you know, five days since the debate, four days since the mugshot. Have you seen anything in the numbers that suggests any kind of change here?
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It wouldn't surprise me if the national polls don't move that much because we know even among Republican likely primary voters, only about one in three report that they watched any kind of part of the debate.
The vast majority of Republican voters are looking at this primary and saying, this is a long ways away. I'm going to wait for the field to narrow down. Wake me up when you're down to two or three candidates versus Donald Trump, and then we'll see.
So it wouldn't surprise me if the national polls don't move. I'm really interested in the early state polls because that's where you do have an awful lot of voters paying attention. And if they tuned into that debate, if they're shopping around for other candidates, that will be the first place you'd begin to see movement.
BERMAN: And I will wait to hear from you and Harry on thatched minute that we start to see some of that reliable data. Audie, how does one explain, at least in the national polls, how someone who has been impeached now twice, indicted four times, that it wouldn't move the polls, and if it has moved the polls at all, maybe even helped him a little bit? What's the plausible explanation for that?
AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I can just say kind of a surface explanation can be that everyone pretty much knows Donald Trump at this point. You either like it or you don't. You now have several years of his term to know what his policies look like. And a lot of people have pretty much made up their mind.
The question that sort of soft kind of numbers of people that these candidates would be looking for in the general election, we don't know what will sway them yet because we don't know what the economy will look like. There could be a mass shooting around election time. There could be a natural disaster around election time.
There could be all kinds of factors that could affect just a narrow slice of people just enough to sway the election one way or another. But I don't think anyone looks at Donald Trump and thinks, I'm not sure what I'm going to get here.
BERMAN: Harry, if in fact, this federal trial begins on March 4, Super Tuesday is March 5.
BERMAN: I mean, how will those two things work in tandem, do you think? What will be in a voter's mind? How would Trump campaign around a trial on March 4?
ENTEN: We've never seen it happen before, right, where you literally have a guy who might be going in a court, then on the campaign trail back and forth. And so in that way, it's completely unpredictable. But to me, you know, we've already seen what happens when President Trump is indicted.
Most of the voters on the Republican side of the aisle believe it's a politically motivated indictment. I'm not sure going back to and from court makes a difference, necessarily. I think ultimately the only thing that may make a difference if he is, in fact, convicted, and that won't happen, most likely until the primaries are already sewn up.
And if that in fact occurs, then I think the real question is what happens in a general election? And I do think that there's the possibility, based upon the polling and what we know about history, is that Donald Trump tends to ebb to his lowest levels of support when he's seen as a loser. And I don't think you could be seen as a bigger loser than, in fact, if you are convicted of a federal crime.
BERMAN: All right, Kristen, Harry brought up the words general election, and you are responsible for, I think, what is some of the most interesting data I have seen to this point that explains where we're at in this election, where you did a focus group, albeit a small focus group, with Republican voters.
It gets to the idea of electability. We watched the debate and essentially heard Nikki Haley say that Donald Trump is so unlikable in the insinuation there, is he can't possibly win a general election. That's what she says. But what voters tell you?
SOLTIS ANDERSON: So Republican voters know that Donald Trump is not for everyone. But they look at Joe Biden and they say, come on, Joe Biden's worse than Donald Trump. And they assume that swing voters agree with them. So in that focus group that you're referencing I did for the New York Times opinion section, we talked to 11 Republican voters in early states, and many of them had negative things to say about Trump.
They thought he was trouble, they thought he was arrogant. But nevertheless, at the end of the group, I said, OK, no matter who Republicans nominate, do you think that they'll beat Joe Biden? And every person in the group said yes. Polling from CBS News showed 61 percent of Republican voters think Donald Trump would be a lock to beat Joe Biden.
They don't yet think that he is risky or unelectable. But to Harry's point, if he's convicted, maybe that's what it will take for that calculation to change.
BERMAN: You know, Audie, you were talking about, you know, big, unexpected events, how they may change the outcome of election. They are unexpected, so we can't really know what they might be. But if this is a normal election process, how much do you buy into the notion that Donald Trump blocks out the sun for other candidates who are running against him? That the trials will just take any focus away from someone's jobs plan, for instance?
CORNISH: Right. I mean, this is not a normal election, so I think that kind of hurts halfway through your question. But the truth is, we are at a point where the question for most Republican primary voters is not just do you support Donald Trump, but also he's asking them, who don't you trust, right? Who scares you more?
The other thing that's going on is who is going to pick up the mantle for Trumpism after his term? Should he get one? And that's another thing that I think voters are looking at when they look at this primary field in particular. They're not necessarily looking for someone who will do better, win the general, et cetera. They believe that President Trump will win. And so it's really about who will carry on his legacy.
I want to add one thing to something you said with Harry earlier about how he'll campaign and how this affects things. This is the President that has truly perfected the national earned media campaign, right? Bad press is good press. All press is good press. He doesn't actually really need to do the retail politics that I think, we, in the political media, are very impressed by and are obsessed with.
He can just do giant rallies. He can do nothing. And I don't think the mugshot makes a difference in a celebrity driven culture and he's always straddled that line. I could sell, right? I could fundraise off of that mugshot. Anybody could. It is what it is. And I don't think that that necessarily kind of gives us a good sense of how people feel about him as a potential second term president.
BERMAN: Excellent points. And I do appreciate you diagramming the flaws of my question as well. You correctly -- you boiled it out.
CORNISH: I mean, it's not normal. None of it's normal. We don't have to pretend.
BERMAN: Indeed. Nailed that completely. Audie Cornish, great to see you. Harry Enten and Kristen Soltis Anderson, thank you so much for being with us.
Just ahead, as we remember the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington today, President Biden met with the family of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and spoke of the racist attack on three black people Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida. His comments, plus newly released video in that investigation ahead.
BERMAN: Today marks the 60th anniversary of one of the most iconic moments in U.S. history, the march on Washington for jobs and freedom. About a quarter of a million people gathered at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to protest racial inequality.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech, possibly the most famous and moving words -- most famous and most moving words of the 20th century. The following year, Congress passed sweeping civil rights legislation that outlawed discrimination in public places, schools, and businesses.
Today, President Biden met with members of Dr. King's family to honor that fight. During his comments, he mentioned the racist attack this weekend in Jacksonville, Florida. According to police, a man with a swastika emblazoned assault rifle killed three black people. President Biden said, quote, "We can't let hate prevail".
Brian Todd has more, including new videos released today on the attack that has sparked a federal hate crimes investigation.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New information tonight about Saturday's racist shooting rampage in Jacksonville. New video shows that before the shooter killed three black people at a Dollar General store, he stopped at a different Dollar Store but only came out with a bag.
SHERIFF T.K. WATERS, JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA: When I'm looking at it, it doesn't appear to me that he wanted to face anyone that may cause him any issues. So it looks like he wanted to take action at the family Dollar. That's what it looks like, and he did not, because I think he got impatient and got tired of waiting.
TODD (voice-over): He then went to Edward Waters University, a historically black university. Video shows the suspect apparently parks in a lot, gets a bag out of the hatch, then puts on a vest. Then a security officer responding to a student's tip approaches. The suspect speeds off, jumping the curb and almost hitting a column as he was chased off.
LT. ANTONIO BAILEY, PROTECTIVE ENTERPRISES PUBLIC SAFETY: I did see what appeared to be a tactical vest, a mask, along with a hat.
TODD (voice-over): He left and went to a second Dollar store. There, he got out of his car and shot and killed a woman in her car before going inside the store, where he killed two others.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard, bang, bang. I turned around. I see him drop.
TODD (voice-over): Officers stormed the Dollar General store looking for the suspect. You can see them visibly reacting when they hear a shot fired. Authorities believe that is when the gunman killed himself. Authorities revealing today the shooter previously worked at a Dollar Tree store. Writings left behind show he wanted to kill black people, the sheriff says.
WATERS: The manifesto is, quite frankly, the diary of a madman.
TODD (voice-over): The three victims, all black, Angela Carr, an Uber driver, Jerrald Gallion, who has a four-year-old daughter, and AJ Laguerre Jr. who worked at the store. Officials say there was nothing in the gunman's past to prevent him from legally buying these two guns, a handgun and an AR-15 style rifle emblazoned with swastikas.
Even though in 2017, he was sent for a 72 hours mental health evaluation under the Baker Act and then released, according to authorities.
DONNA DEEGAN, JACKSONVILLE MAYOR: I don't know legally, given the way the laws are written right now in the state of Florida that there was anything that could have been done. And therein lies the frustration for me.
TODD (voice-over): Community representatives are demanding broader action to address racism and hate crimes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's unjust that we can't even walk on the sidewalks. We're not safe in any stores.
TODD (voice-over): A federal hate crimes probe has already been launched.
BERMAN: And Brian Todd is with us now. Brian, this shooting comes on the anniversary of another act of racial violence in Jacksonville. What can you tell us about that?
TODD: That's right, John. It came on the same weekend as the city marked the 63rd anniversary of an incident called Ax Handle Saturday. This was an incident in 1960 where a group of more than 200 white rioters wielding axe handles and baseball bats beat a group of black protesters. It also came the same weekend, as you mentioned, when everybody around the country commemorated the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington. And it came five years to the day after another mass shooting in downtown Jacksonville. That one was not race related, but this was a shooting at the Jacksonville landing at a Madden video game tournament when two people were killed and 10 others were wounded.
With all the symbolism, John, all the anniversaries surrounding this event just leading to greater frustration and heartbreak for everyone in this community.
BERMAN: Yes, a lot of history surrounding this. In some cases, too much, too much history. Brian Todd, thank you very much. Great to see you.
Evacuation orders are in effect for parts of Florida tonight ahead of an expected major hurricane. The latest on Idalia's path and how quickly it could strengthen for meteorologist Chad Myers, next.
BERMAN: Tonight, a dangerous tropical storm that could become a major hurricane is barreling toward Florida's gulf coast. Storm surge and hurricane warnings are in effect for part of the region. Already all 5,500 state National Guard members are activated to respond to Idalia, and at least eight Florida counties have issued evacuation orders for coastal residents as the storm approaches.
A new bulletin just came out from the National Hurricane Center. So let's go to Chad Myers for the details on that. Chad, what is the latest?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Actually, relatively good news. I mean, the hurricane hunters are in the storm right now and they have not found anything greater than about 65 or 70 miles per hour. So it is not strengthening at this hour.
Something I want you to notice though, John, typically we'll see hurricane warnings and they'll be along the coast. With this storm, notice how far these hurricane warnings go inland. And even if the storm goes farther to the north, Tallahassee, you're going to get included.
But because the storm is going to have momentum and not really cross over much here on the west side of Florida, there aren't beaches over here. There are a few towns, some fishing villages and that, but there's an awful lot of nothing there, kind of wetland there. And wetlands don't slow down hurricanes, they just keep them on going.
So this thing could be a hurricane farther inland than usual. Here it is, 70 miles per hour. Hurricane hunters flying through it right now, pretty unorganized. That's not expected to continue, but at least for right now, it's unorganized. And then you take the path right on up to the north of Tampa or possibly as far west as Apalachicola. Have to understand the cone here. The cone is only meant to catch 66 percent of all hurricane tracks. That's how it's made.
So one sixth of all hurricanes could go to the right, the other sixth could go to the left. Hurricane center kind of narrowing the focus so that we have a focus on where they believe the biggest threat will be and how big the track error has been over the many, many years. That's how the track is actually made.
Here's how the guidance shapes up, though, all the way up here to the north of Big Bend. Now, one thing I just noticed, there's an IBM graph weather model that just printed out, taking it a little bit closer to Cedar Key. That was the latest model there that I was just looking at.
90 miles per hour winds easy when you have 90 degree water. This is a big event here. Storm surge could be 12 feet. Many of the towns here, Cedar Key, the one you're going to, doesn't even have land above 12 feet. I know where you're going. I want you to be careful. You get in touch with me if you ever feel the need to talk tomorrow.
BERMAN: I promise. I promise. My wife and mother both, thank you. And my father.
Chad Myers, thank you very much for that important forecast. Please, everyone, heed these warnings.
Next, gymnast Simone Biles makes history and shows the world yet again why she is a superstar.
BERMAN: Gymnast Simone Biles has made history again. She earned a record 8th U.S. Championship on Sunday, also making the record books at 26 as the oldest gymnast to win a national title. It all comes just a few weeks after she returned to elite competition following a two- year hiatus after the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The most decorated gymnast in U.S. history has now earned a spot in the World Championships later this month in Belgium. Congratulations to her.
The news continues. The Source with Kaitlan Collins starts now.