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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

NY Times: WH Valet Testified Trump Told Pence On January 6 That Certifying 2020 Election Would Be "Career Killer"; NY AG Takes Initial Step To Prepare To Seize Trump Assets; Authorities Capture Escaped Idaho Inmate And Suspected Accomplice; 400-To-600 Migrants Arrested After Rushing Past Razor Wire And Overcoming National Guard; Hundreds Of Migrants Try To Breach Texas National Guard Wire Barricades In EL Paso; Fulton County D.A. Wants To Fast Track Trump Trial; RFK Jr. Faces New Family Resistance In White House Bid; Vigilantes Strike Back After Gang Attack In Haiti. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 21, 2024 - 20:00   ET


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Of course, all of this also happening at the same time that there's been a lot of publicity and news surrounding Senate Bill 4, the controversial immigration law that would allow state authorities to arrest migrants entering Texas illegally.

But it's not really clear whether or not that played a factor into all of this. It's important to kind of point out at this point, we just don't know what sparked this confrontation today.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: No, but it is upsetting to see it on so many levels. I don't think anyone can deny that.

All right. Ed, thank you very much on the ground there in El Paso. And thanks so much to all of you for being with us. AC360 starts now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Tonight on 360, breaking news on the political death threat Donald Trump made to Mike Pence just hours before Pence faced real ones at the Capitol on January 6th.

Also tonight, with less than four days left for him to pay up or see New York's Attorney General start seizing his properties, we now know more about which one she has her eyes on.

Plus, a violent convict and his alleged accomplice, the three cops shot, the chase and the capture, how it all went down.

Good evening. John Berman here in for Anderson.

And we begin tonight with breaking news straight from inside the West Wing on January 6th. What the former president was saying to Mike Pence just hours before all hell broke loose at the Capitol and his reaction or more accurately, his non-reaction on learning that in the chaos, one of his followers had just been shot dead. That and more from newly revealed testimony to the January 6th Committee by a presidential valet are accounted in a remarkable piece of reporting from The New York Times.

Luke Broadwater shares the byline on it, along with our friend Maggie Haberman.

Luke joins us now.

Luke, this new testimony includes information from this valet who saw it all. What did you learn from your reporting about what President Trump, his conversations with Mike Pence?

LUKE BROADWATER, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. This is the first time we're hearing firsthand testimony from this valet. Now, the valet was with Trump almost all day on January 6th. And what he says he saw and heard was first in the morning, a phone call between Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

Now, there's been a lot of reporting on this phone call. What the valet said is a little bit different from what others have said. He said that he told him in no uncertain terms that his political career would be over if he did not go along with the plans to overturn the election.

As you know, Pence was resisting the effort to decertify the election. And in fact, Trump turned out to be right. Mike Pence's career in Republican politics was over after he did not bend to Trump's will.

The other big piece of information that stands out to me is that Donald Trump was passed a note after one of the rioters was shot in the Capitol and was made clear that this person had been shot, this one had been shot in the chest. And the valet says that he offered no reaction upon learning that. He kept sitting in the chair watching the violence unplay - unfurl on TV.

BERMAN: A non-reaction at the death of Ashli Babbitt, a non-reaction. Was that his general attitude during much of this period, according to the valet?

BROADWATER: Yes. I mean, the valet does say at one point that Donald Trump appeared concerned about the violence and said that he should call Mark Milley or Nancy Pelosi. But the testimony we have is that President Trump at the time never did that. Mark Milley testified that he received no call from President Trump at all that day. So even if he did say that, he really took no action about it.

And then at the end of the day, after all the violence had happened, after 150 police officers were injured, the thing that Donald Trump says to the valet when they're one-on-one is that Mike Pence really let him down. So that was really what was still on his mind, was still his disappointment and his anger at his own vice president for not helping him overturn the election and not - what was not on his mind was the riot and the violence that had just happened.

BERMAN: So it's interesting, the valet testifies that toward the beginning of the day, he told Mike Pence it would be the end of his political career. At the end of the day, Mike Pence let him down.

BROADWATER: That - yes, that's exactly right.

Now, there's a couple other things I would like to point out. The valet also talks about how Trump was tearing up documents, that almost every document that he got, he would tear it up almost immediately, whether that was a picture, whether that was a written document, whether that was a newspaper article, he would read it and destroy it.

And I think that could be useful information that prosecutors in the case - in the documents case in Florida might want to take a look at. Obviously, his document retention policy and practices are an issue there.

BERMAN: Yes, it's interesting. Some of this testimony can be used in two federal cases against Donald Trump.


Where is this information that you're getting coming from, Luke?

BROADWATER: Right. Well, so this is an interview that the January 6th Committee did with the valet back in 2022, but it was sent to the White House for review and redaction. And if you'll recall, the January 6th Committee shut down shortly after doing this.

So this has been sitting over at the White House and the White House Counsel's Office and House Republicans who have been investigating the January 6th Committee have been going back and trying to get these transcripts from the White House and then release them once they get them. So this came from the House Republican investigation.

Now, they think there are some things in here that are good for Donald Trump, or at least less bad than what's known about Donald Trump. But there's also they acknowledge some very unflattering information about Donald Trump's behavior on January 6th.

BERMAN: Yes, it's all very revealing and good to see.

Luke Broadwater, thank you very much for sharing your reporting with us.

BROADWATER: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Now, keeping them honest, just four days from now, the man who built his empire and fantasy will have to face facts about what it's really worth. Four days from now, New York Attorney General Letitia James gets to start collecting the nearly half a billion dollar judgment Donald Trump now says he cannot pay.

And even as he has searched and failed to find a bonding company to put up the money for him, the Attorney General has been preparing to seize his assets. For starters, here, his mansion, Seven Springs in Westchester County, just north of New York City. He also has a golf club there.

Today, we learned that the AG's lawyers have filed paperwork registering the judgment in Westchester, the first step needed before taking property or putting a lien on it. The judgment is already on record in New York City, making all of his properties here vulnerable to seizure. We also learned that the former president is getting antsy, saying this about having to actually get a bond or sell properties to raise it.

He goes, "That is crazy," he writes. "Also, putting up money before an Appeal is VERY EXPENSIVE." Now, just pause for a minute to consider that according to a new FEC filing, his Save America PAC spent nearly $5.6 million on legal fees last month alone. That's about two hundred thousand dollars a day, mostly from small donors. So, yes, to use his words, it is very expensive.

Whether expensive for him personally is another question.

In any case, Trump goes on. "The crooked judge who has already been overturned four times on this case, a record, fully understands this. He gave us a demand which he knows is impossible to do." Impossible? Really?


ALINA HABBA, DONALD TRUMP ATTORNEY: This guy is worth a lot of money, billions and billions of billions of dollars. He happens have a lot of cash.

Of course, he has money. He's a billionaire, we know that. There will be a bond and there will be no issues with that.


BERMAN: In fact, there are issues by her clients owned admission. More on this now from CNN's Chief Domestic Correspondent Phil Mattingly. He was with us now.

And Phil, the clock is ticking. Like, what are the options here to come up with four hundred and sixty four million dollars by Monday?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: What's so fascinating about this moment is for a candidate who is so deftly navigated, but also leverage this unprecedented convergence of the legal and the political for the better part of a year, steamrolling his way to the Republican nomination, this week has laid bare just how dramatic that strategy could be derailed in just a matter of days.

I think the reality right now, when you talk to people around Trump, is he actually does have cash. He actually does have assets that amount to making him a billionaire. When you look at his financial disclosure, I went through the most recent one at length over the course of the last couple of days. The problem is it's not enough cash and many of those assets are real estate, which the bonding companies won't actually pursue. And that has left them dwindling options, including one that he just absolutely will not take.





MATTINGLY (voice over): Donald Trump is insistent that he won't consider one option in the intense scramble to head off potential seizure of his prized properties, bankruptcy.

"No chance," one advisor said of the idea. "He'd rather have Letitia James show up and try and seize his properties." It's a position relayed to advisors, sources say, that cuts across concerns about political optics and his own scarring personal experience with the process.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President ...


MATTINGLY (voice over): It's also one that eliminates yet another pathway to delay payment of a judgment that would force him to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars in cash in just days. At the same moment, Trump's political fundraising vehicles report funneling additional millions towards his personal legal fees.

The clock ticking to secure what Trump's lawyers say would be more than a half billion in cash or cash equivalent to secure a bond or face possible seizure of those most valued properties.


HABBA: Forcing him to sell prized properties such as Trump Tower, iconic properties like 40 Wall Street to pursue his appeal is manifest injustice.


MATTINGLY (voice over): For Trump, it's a threat that cuts to his core, both politically and personally.


One that tied to his loss in the fraud case carries no shortage of irony.


TRUMP: If you look at my cash now, with all of the money I waste on the legal fees and all of this stuff that we're all going through, thank you very much, with all of that, I have over 400 - fairly substantially over $400 million in cash.


MATTINGLY (voice over): That was a point Trump also made more than a half dozen times in his January testimony in the fraud case, and it's true. A CNN review of Trump's most recent candidate financial disclosure form where candidates list assets and liabilities in ranges pegged Trump's available cash between roughly $250 million and a billion dollars. A source close to Trump's business operations said the actual number is roughly between $360- and $400 million, a significant sum for a developer.

But as Trump's own lawyers made clear, not nearly enough to secure a bond with little precedent. A practical impossibility, they said. No fewer than 30 insurance firms turning down the task, each requiring cash as collateral, including one, Chubb, that underwrote a $91.63 million bond just two weeks ago in another Trump legal loss, E. Jean Carroll's defamation case. Trump and his team now scrambling with dwindling options to address a judgment, a campaign spokesman called unjust, unconstitutional, un-American.

There's his legal appeal to waive or reduce the bond. A flurry of rumors about whether Trump's billionaire political donors will pony up the cash and also questions about whether they'd seek foreign assistance from countries like Saudi Arabia or Russia.


HABBA: There's rules and regulations that are public. I can't speak about strategy that require certain things and we have to follow those rules.


MATTINGLY (voice over): And sources say that steadfast refusal from Trump himself to consider personal or business bankruptcy burned by his own experience with six bankruptcies decades ago.


TRUMP: I learned that it's certainly not something you want to go through again. I also learned about loyalty.


MATTINGLY (voice over): Indeed, Trump's team has, true to form, utilized the candidate's legal threat to boost its political war chest in text and e-mail appeals. An effort to overcome Trump's political cash problems with President Joe Biden holding a substantial cash advantage less than eight months before election day.


BERMAN: All right. Phil, stick around. I also want to bring in CNN's Senior Legal Analyst, Elie Honig, pollster and communication strategist, Frank Luntz, and CNN's Kara Scannell.

And Phil, I don't think anyone's better suited to understand the politics and the money side of this than you are with all your experience in reporting. But the legal side and the legal bills that Donald Trump has been shouldering, well, is he really shouldering them? How much are his donors paying for his legal troubles?

MATTINGLY (on camera): Yes, I love FEC filings. How could you not? He's not shouldering much, if any, at this point. And it's laid bare in the FEC filings, Federal Election Commission filings just last night, Save America PAC. It's his leadership PAC, one of his fundraising vehicles.

And the money that it has spent just in the last month, $5.6 million. In 2023 alone, more than $50 million. And here's the irony of all that, because he's the presumptive nominee now has a joint fundraising agreement with the Republican National Committee. They just announced today that when donors give the maximum amount to that joint committee, first amount goes to Trump's campaign committee. The second amount, before going to any of the state parties they're aligned to, goes to that PAC.

They say it does a lot of other things beyond foot the legal bills, but boy, does it foot millions in legal bills.

BERMAN: Legal bills before the RNC. The RNC sort of gets the bronze here.

Elie, one storyline that's bubbling right now and could play a big factor is Truth Social, this social media company that Donald Trump has a stake in. It's going public potentially within like days. There is important announcements and votes on it in the next several hours almost. Could this money be used?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This is the Donald Trumpiest aspect of this story, right? I mean, Truth Social, the very network that he started because he got thrown off of Twitter and other sites, the very network that he uses to criticize this case now just might give him the cash infusion he needs.

So here's the deal, pending a vote tomorrow, which seems likely to go through, Truth Social will become a publicly traded company. Now, Donald Trump is the largest shareholder in Truth Social. And depending on where you look, it looks like his shares are worth something in the multiple billions of dollars, $2- to $4 billion.

Now, there's legit questions over whether that's a legitimate valuation. It's what's sometimes known as a meme stock where people prop up the value of a stock for reasons unrelated to the actual value of the company. But here's the catch for Donald Trump, here's the problem. He has to wait six months. He cannot sell it for six months unless he goes back to the shareholders and gets a waiver, gets special permission.

But this may be his best chance to actually get that infusion of cash.

BERMAN: It's a lot of money and a lot of people are propping up the value of that stock right now.

So, Kara, Phil started his piece by talking about bankruptcy, which is an avenue which Donald Trump doesn't seem to want to take. So put that aside for a second here. What about that other sound we heard from Alina Habba, his lawyer, who sort of wouldn't answer whether he would take the money from a potential foreign source, like a foreign rich friend? [20:15:08]

SCANNELL: Right. She kind of dodges that question there and doesn't address that. I mean, Trump is desperate in a sense to get this money in time if he's going to get - to stop the New York Attorney General's Office from going to seize his properties. And there is always the specter that a foreign business or a foreign government could offer him the money.

They haven't said - publicly, they haven't said kind of privately what they would do if they were offered a big chunk to take this off the table. I mean, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has about two billion dollars in Saudi money. I mean, that's not for him to spend as he pleases. But there are different pockets of foreign money that are out there.

I mean, I've talked to an expert today in this who said if he did take foreign money, it would have to be disclosed. It would have to come out. And the judge, Judge Engoron, who issued this judgment against Trump today told the monitor in that case that any efforts that Trump is doing to try to get a surety bond, she is to know about it. He's instructed the Trump organization to inform her.

So he is, in fact, going to try to shed some light on this if it doesn't come out through the appeals process. And of course, the New York Attorney General's Office, I'm sure, will want to question that, because as everyone has discussed, this raises a lot of potential issues of conflict of interest, which we all experienced in the last Trump administration.

BERMAN: We'll have to watch that going forward.

All right, Frank, the politics of this. Folks in the Biden campaign are already starting to refer to Donald Trump as broke Don, which is interesting. And then there is the possibility that the New York Attorney General, Letitia James, would have to start or would start seizing assets, maybe even buildings. How do you think that would play?

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER AND COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGIST: I want you to remember this moment and don't forget it. If the New York Attorney General starts to take his homes away, starts to seize his assets, it's all going to be on camera. Pundits are going to sit there and scream about this, this man cannot be elected. You're going to create the greatest victimhood of 2024 and you're going to elect Donald Trump.

If they take his stuff, he's going to say that this is proof that the federal government and the establishment and the swamp in Washington and all the politicians across the country and the attorneys generals and all of this, that this is a conspiracy to deny him the presidency. He's going to go up in the polls just like he went up every single time they indicted him.

The indictment, let's not talk about whether it's justified or not, but it will prove the things that he's saying on the campaign trail and he will go up and it may just elect him president. Do not forget that. And I say this to the Attorney General right now, if you play politics on this, this is what the secretaries of state did in Colorado and what they did in, I believe, is Maine. His numbers went up in both states.

I don't understand. I'm almost speechless in how pathetic the opposition to Trump has been and how completely misguided and this is a perfect example of it.

BERMAN: What do you think about that?

MATTINGLY: I mean, my biggest question, this is the beauty of Frank having his job, which I don't have, is that happened - well, you're talking about Maine, Colorado, what you're talking about what happened in a primer. And while I don't disagree with the optics, I've spoken to people inside Trump World who are saying instead of bankruptcy, we said in the piece, come to Trump Tower, please. We'll have cameras there. We'll have that fight. We'll win that optics battle.

I think the bigger question is in a general election and given the fact that the Biden campaign has really latched onto this in a way that they haven't in most legal issues.

BERMAN: Broke Don (inaudible) ...

MATTINGLY: He was joking about it last night at a fundraiser as well, that was off camera, whether or not that rise in the polls can carry into a general election. And you'd know better than - I mean, you're talking to people, you'd know better.

LUNTZ: How is Donald Trump beating Joe Biden? He's got 85 indictments that still exist, felonies. How is he beating Joe Biden with the economy getting better and things cleaning up? Okay. We got - you still have inflation. You still got immigration. Trump is leading. And in the seven swing states, Trump is up by the margin of error in five out of seven. Why is that happening?

Because his critics are stupid and they're running a horrible campaign. And for those people who do not want Joe - Donald Trump back, they should be thankful that the people who are orchestrating his loss are as pathetic and they don't understand the American people.

BERMAN: Quick last word?

HONIG: I'm not so sure it's a smart strategy for Joe Biden to be making fun of poor Don because how often does Donald Trump say, this is all Biden prosecutions, Biden cases. And we fact check him correctly to say no evidence this is coming from the White House, and it's not. But it certainly creates an impression when Joe Biden is spiking the ball and doing a dance about these cases.

So I'm not the political advisor and legally there's no connection, but it does create an appearance that there's some celebration going on.

BERMAN: Well, look, we'll see what happens the next few days and we'll see what consequences come to pass very soon.

Elie Honig, Frank Luntz, Phil Mattingly, Kara Scannell, thank you one and all.


Next, we have breaking news on the capture of a violent inmate and his alleged accomplice after an escape that left three cops wounded.

Plus, new video and a live report from the Southern border where violence erupted between migrants and National Guard troops.



BERMAN: So more breaking news, an escaped Idaho inmate and his suspected accomplice are now in custody after fleeing during a brazen ambush that triggered an intense manhunt.

CNN's Camila Bernal is in Boise, Idaho.

Camila, what are authorities saying about the capture of these two suspects and what led up to this point?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. Authority saying that a single shot was fired during the arrest. They believe that the two men first went north and possibly killed two men in separate locations, got into a different car and then drove southeast. They were spotted in Twin Falls, which is about 130 miles southeast of where I am. There was a short chase and then the two were arrested.

Authorities now saying they're investigating the escape and also those two killings.

(Begin VT)


LT. COLONEL SHELDON KELLEY, IDAHO STATE POLICE: We are investigating two homicides at separate locations. These are potentially tied to this incident.



BERNAL (voice over): After an armed assailant opened fire during the transport of an inmate ...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: IDOC prisoner, white male, adult, shirtless ...

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERNAL (voice over): Skylar Meade en route back to what the Idaho Correction Department classifies as the highest level of maximum security incarceration. Two corrections officers were shot in that brazen getaway. Authorities say was a planned attack.


JOSH TEWALT, DIRECTOR, IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: He was in restraints while he was being escorted out of the hospital. This was a planned event and we're channeling every resource we have into trying to understand exactly how they went about planning it.


BERNAL (voice over): Meade was hospitalized on Tuesday night for "self injurious behavior."


TEWALT: On site medical determined that he needed to be transported off site for emergent care.


BERNAL (voice over): And escaped just after 2 AM Wednesday as he was being escorted back to state prison where he's been incarcerated since 2016 and sentenced until 2036. The inmate and his accomplice identified by police as Nicholas Umphenour fled just before responding officers arrived.


KELLEY: We found the vehicle they escaped in up in northern Idaho and they took another vehicle.


BERNAL (voice over): Umphenour is now accused of aggravated battery against law enforcement and aiding and abetting an escape. Law enforcement officials say both are members of a white supremacist prison gang. During the manhunt authorities released this description of Meade.


Chief Ron winegar, boise police department: He has tattoos on his face, the number one on one side of his face and the number 11 on the other side. He is a documented gang member and with the Aryan Knights.


BERNAL (voice over): One and 11 police say symbolize A and K for Aryan Knights. Police say they're now looking for links between two suspects who were at one time housed together while in prison.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TEWALT: In addition to having - both having membership with the Aryan Knights they also shared some acquaintances, some common acquaintances both in custody as well as in the community.



BERNAL (on camera): And I asked the state police exactly how they link these two suspects to the two killings and I was told that they found the shackles at the scene of one of the murders. They also say these murders happened in the last 24 hours.

Now in terms of the correction officers that were injured, we are told one was released from the hospital the other two are stable and improving. And we were also told that their spirits were lifted once they were told that these two men were arrested. John?

BERMAN: Wow. So much information there and still so much to learn. Camila Bernal, thank you so much.

Now to the southern border in El Paso, Texas. Hundreds of migrants rushing past razor wire and National Guard troops then arrested. Now it's unclear what led up to all this.

Now before turning to our Ed Lavandera on the scene, I just want to pause and let you see how it played out.

CROWD: (Inaudible) ...


CROWD: (Inaudible) ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch it. Watch it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) back, (inaudible) back ...

CROWD: (Inaudible) ...

BERMAN: All right. Now CNN's Ed Lavandera is there for us tonight. Ed, what do you know about what happened here, how it played out?

LAVANDERA: Well, it's really important to point out here we don't know exactly what instigated, what led up to these very tense moments that occurred just behind me. That wall that you see in the fence where the migrants ran up to is this wall back here.

Now this border wall has existed here in El Paso for quite some time. Beyond that, another several hundred yards or so, you start getting to the Rio Grande and that is the international boundary line. And just along the river's edge is where we have seen Texas National Guard state troopers build up the fortification of razor wire and chain-link fence and that has been taking place over the last few months.

So where you saw those migrants confronting the National Guard soldiers there on the ground that is already on U.S. soil. We were told that it was a large group of people by Customs and Border Protection officials. We've also been told that it was several hundred migrants that rushed up here to the border wall.

I should point out that all of those migrants were taken into Border Patrol custody. We watched as they were loaded up on buses and taken to a Border Patrol processing facility and that work continues tonight. We've been told some of them will have asylum applications, others will be deported. So hard to say exactly what will happen definitively to all of them at this point because that processing is still ongoing.

But as we mentioned kind of tense scenes here John as this unfolded just before noon time here in El Paso and as we mentioned not exactly clear what sparked it or what led to that intense confrontation as those migrants rushed toward the border wall you see behind me, John?


BERMAN: In general, Ed, you've been down there. Has there been an uptick in migrants trying to cross in El Paso? What's the situation been there the last several days?

LAVANDERA: Actually, the migrant crossings have dropped rather dramatically from the record highs that we saw in December. In fact, we've been told by the Department of Homeland Security officials that the numbers have dropped almost 50 percent here in the El Paso area. It's been last we're told about 1,000 a day, and so, you know, those numbers are quite dramatically lower than what they have been.

So that was, you know, and then on top of that, we've also been told that there had been any really clear indications that there were some bubbling tension over the last few days that might have been kind of a precursor or an indication of something like this unfolding. So we've been -- it's been described as an isolated incident so far that was described to us earlier today.

MELBER: All right, Ed. We'll let you get back to reporting. Great to have you there. Thank you very much.

Next, exclusive new CNN reporting in how Fani Willis plans to get her trial of the former president back in gear and before a jury this summer.



BERMAN: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis might have been sidetracked by defense efforts to get her removed from the case, but she is still trying to fast-track her trial of the former president and others. That is the bottom line of new and exclusive CNN reporting courtesy of Zach Cohen, who shares the byline, and joins us now. Zach, what have you learned about the DA's plans?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, multiple sources telling me that Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis still wants Trump's criminal trial in Georgia to start before the 2024 election, and that she plans to re-up her request for Judge Scott McAfee to set a date for that to happen, possibly as soon as this summer.

Now, you might remember that Willis previously asked McAfee to set a trial date for August 5th, but that first request went unanswered to this point. A move to ask a second time for him to set a trial date to put something on the calendar would really represent a really hard pivot for Willis. As you know, we've spent the last two months talking about whether or not Fani Willis should be disqualified from this case over allegations of an improper relationship with her top prosecutor.

And now it's clear that she's trying to get this case back on track and get it into a courtroom for a trial scenario before Trump is on the ballot again in the 2024 election.

BERMAN: Now, Judge McAfee did ultimately rule that D.A. Willis could continue to prosecute the case. But that's not necessarily the end of the story. She could still face disqualification, correct?

COHEN: Yes. That's absolutely right. And look, one of the things about McAfee's order, while he did say that she could stay on this case, he issued a scathing rebuke of her and really dinked her credibility and said that her actions were really improper and frankly set up an appeals court to possibly take up and review his order, and they could overturn it.

Now the appeals court could also say, no, they don't want to take it up. They've got 45 days to make that decision, but, yes, the possibility of disqualification is still very much hangs over Fani Willis, even as she's pushing to get this case to trial before the election.

BERMAN: And now just because there are connections everywhere here, the Supreme Court is set to rule on whether Donald Trump's claims of immunity are valid. Does that have to be resolved at the federal level before this Georgia trial date is set?

COHEN: Yes, John, the Supreme Court ruling and that's really the biggest question mark in addition to the disqualification question we just talked about. But that does not have to be decided for a trial date to be said. That's what sources tell me, sources close to the D.A.'s office are pushing. They think that McAfee can set a trial date and put this issue of immunity to the side, even though it will directly impact and could potentially change the future and outcome of this case in Georgia, as well as Jack Smith's federal case in D.C.

BERMAN: Zach Cohen, great to have you. Great reporting on this subject. Thanks so much for being with us.

Perspective now from Ashleigh Merchant, the lawyer who led the effort to remove Fani Willis. She represents Michael Roman, a former Trump campaign operative, and now co-defendant.

Counselor, how likely do you think it is that this trial really is able to begin this summer as D.A. Fani Willis is now pushing for?

ASHLEIGH MERCHANT, ATTORNEY WHO CALLED FOR FANI WILLIS TO BE DISQUALIFIED: I think it's very unlikely. I've never thought that we would be able to start this trial this summer. And now, with all of the other issues that we've had, the disqualification and the appeal, I think it's completely impossible that it would be able to be started as early as this summer. There's just too many people. Too many defendants, too many defense lawyers, too much evidence, just too much to corral in such a short amount of time.

BERMAN: Would you like to see it start this summer?

MERCHANT: I would love to see it start. I'm not sure that we'll be ready this summer, and part of the reason that we're having trouble getting ready is because the district attorney is still giving us discovery. So if they had been able to give us all of the discovery as soon as they indicted the case, we could have hit the ground running. We had to wait. We've gotten it in six different turns. And so we continue to get more discovery.

And as we get more discovery, more witnesses, we have to go through that and see if there's anything relevant and prepare that for our case. And so that's the problem with getting ready as discovery is still ongoing.

BERMAN: You know, for Donald Trump, it's always seemed pretty clear that one of his goals and all of the legal cases against him, one of his goals is to delay and delay as much as possible. How much of a goal is that for you and your client?

MERCHANT: And we're in a different posture. You know, I think everybody in this case is a little bit different position. Our goal has never been to delay the case. Our goal has been to get a fair trial. And I think nobody wants to try a case twice. And so we want to make sure that when we try the case, it is a fair trial. It is a just result.

And hopefully my client and the community gets justice, and the only way to do that is to make sure that it's fair process that we have an impartial prosecutor on the case. And so that's our overwhelming goal, whether it takes a short amount of time or a long amount of time.

BERMAN: As you well know, Judge McAfee, who you've been dealing with a lot, granted requests from Donald Trump and his co-defendants, one of whom you are representing, to appeal the decision to allow the district attorney to continue prosecute the case. The move doesn't pause the prosecution for now, but it allows the appeals on the disqualification to play up before the trial. How long do you think that process will take?

MERCHANT: Usually the appellate process takes about six months. So the first stage is whether or not the court of appeals is actually going to take it. That's about 45 days. If they decide they're going to take it, it takes about six months.


But if they don't take it, then we still have the right to go to the Supreme Court. So that could also add some time in that front but usually the appellate process has a result in about six months.

BERMAN: Let's talk about jury selection. If this case does happen to begin as soon as August, how long do you think jury selection in a big RICO case like this would take? Because in a separate RICO case in Fulton County, the one involving the rapper Young Thug, jury selection lasted, what, 10 months?

MERCHANT: It did. And I was actually involved in that case early on. My client pled out early on in the process. So I was not likely involved in the long jury selection, but I think it's going to be a very lengthy process. And the reason is we're going to have to find jurors who have not already made up their mind. There's no way we're going to find jurors that don't know about this case. There's no way that they're not going to already have some type of an opinion.

The question is going to be whether or not they can put that aside and be fair and impartial. It's going to take a very long amount of time.

BERMAN: Just to be clear, everything you were saying to us tonight seems to be saying it's going to take a long, long time, you know, won't get started at any time soon. Delay, delay, delay, but you insist that you don't want to delay, correct?

MERCHANT: We don't, and you know, one of the things that we could do if we didn't want a delay was we could sever these defendants, and we could try each case individually. The problem with RICO cases with very broad cases is delay is just inevitable. I mean, it's just inevitable. When you have 19 defendants and 19 defense lawyers who have complex lives, vacations -- I mean just a ton of things, that I could throw in and that's what causes these cases to go on so long.

BERMAN: Ashleigh Merchant, thank you so much for your time.

MERCHANT: And thanks for having me.

BERMAN: All right, just ahead. RFK Junior already had his work cut out for him in his independent bid for the White House. But now a new report says the rift between him and members of his legendary political family it's about to go to the next level. We have details ahead.



BERMAN: According to a new report, the Kennedy family is preparing to throw its support behind a 2024 presidential candidate, but it won't be Robert Kennedy Junior. Some family members have already voiced support for President Biden, but now NBC News is reporting that the family will be stepping up efforts to boost the president and push back against RFK Junior. This could include spending time on the campaign trail in places where Kennedy actually qualifies for the ballot or lending the Kennedy name to initiatives that counter RFK's campaign.

CNN's Eva McKend has a look at RFK Junior's uphill battle to win the White House and the quarrel with his storied political family.


EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Robert F. Kennedy Junior's longshot bid for the White House fueling a famous family feud.

ROBERT F. KENNEDY (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don't always agree on things.

MCKEND: Kennedy, the odd man out at a recent St. Patrick's Day celebration of several family members with President Joe Biden captured in an image shared on social media by Kennedy's sister, Kerry Kennedy. The independent candidate making light of being excluded from the social gathering.

KENNEDY: Although that looks like a big crowd of people, that is a very small percentage of my family.

MCKEND: At this year's State of the Union, Maria Shriver, one of Kennedy's cousins, was a guest to First Lady Jill Biden to highlight their effort to launch the White House initiative on women's health research.

Another recent flashpoint came when a super PAC supporting Kennedy ran a TV during this year's Super Bowl that repurposed a spot from his uncle John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign.

I saw that you issued an apology for that PAC Super Bowl ad. Is it your personal preference that they stop using your family's likeness?

KENNEDY: You know, it was particularly a member of my family and whose feelings were hurt by that. I apologized. I said I'm really sorry that he felt that way. But I have no apologies about the ad.

MCKEND (voice-over): The family discourse playing out in the open since Kennedy announced his presidential run last year. John F. Kennedy's grandson, Jack Schlossberg, whose mother Caroline is President Biden's ambassador to Australia, posted a video to social media highly critical of RFK Junior's candidacy.

JACK SCHLOSSBERG, CAROLINE KENNEDY'S SON: He's trading in on Camelot, celebrity, conspiracy theories, and conflict for personal gain and fame.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it complicated right now given this situation?

CAROLINE KENNEDY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO AUSTRALIA: I know what I think, I know what Jack thinks, I know what Bobby Kennedy. And so it's not complicated. MCKEND: One of the sharpest criticisms has been reserved for RFK

Junior's promotion of baseless vaccine conspiracies, including a debunked connection to autism. Several of his siblings called his presidential run, quote, "dangerous to our country," saying, quote, "Bobby might share the same name as our father but he does not share the same values, vision, or judgment."

Kennedy, an outlier when it comes to policies members of the Kennedy family have championed past and present. His uncle Ted Kennedy was a leading voice for health care reform in the U.S. Senate and fought for more funding to increase childhood immunization rates.

As president, John F. Kennedy warned about the threat posed by the Soviet Union. Last year, Kennedy suggested Russia had acted in good faith during peace negotiations after the country's invasion of Ukraine.

KENNEDY: The Russians were acting in good faith. They were removing their troops from Kyiv. And this was all done secretly without telling the American people. So, no, I think we're the ones who have not been acting in good faith.

MCKEND: Kennedy acknowledges he has a difference of opinion with family members on topics driving political debate today.

KENNEDY: I understand that many of them disagree with me on the war in Ukraine. They disagree with me on COVID, on some of the public health issues. They disagree with me on the free speech issue. So, you know, we can we can disagree with each other in a friendly way and still love each other.



MCKEND: And in a statement to us, Kennedy said in part that many family members are working on and supportive of his campaign. His daughter-in-law, for instance, serves as his campaign manager.

And this family feud may not actually be a liability for Kennedy, John. That's because he's fashioned himself as a political outsider, running on ending forever wars and cleaning up government. So this pile on could just bolster his attempts to advance that message -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Eva McKen, thank you very much.

Next, exclusive reporting from inside Haiti in the latest evolution of this horrible crisis. Now, people carrying out neighborhood vigilante justice, leaving bodies on the streets where they lived.


BERMAN: We have exclusive new reporting from Haiti tonight, where there is still no political leadership and no end to deadly gang violence. [20:55:05]

Today, the State Department said it has helped more than 160 Americans get out of Haiti. Ordinary Haitians, though, they can't leave and against the lawless reality they face, some were taking justice into their own hands. That story and the images of it are graphic.

CNN's David Culver reports.


DAVID CULVER, CNN SENIOR U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, my god. It's a body just sitting right in the middle of the street there. People are trying to figure out the best way to get around it.

(Voice-over): Across the street, this family rushes into a truck shielding their little one's eye, an effort to preserve what innocence is left here in Haiti. The gruesome sights slowing but not stopping the morning rush hour.

And you can even see here, look at this, a police cars is just going right past and it will continue on. Doesn't even stop.

(Voice-over): A neighbor explains how an overnight gang attack ended in vigilante killings.

This is gunfire. Shooting here.

(Voice-over): This man says he and more than 50 others immediately set out to find those terrorizing their neighborhood. They surrounded a man they didn't recognize.

And you believe he was a gang member?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes. Gang, yes.

CULVER (voice-over): Carrying machetes he tells me they carried out justice as he sees it. The only way they know to defend themselves.

When they come in shooting all around, trying to scare us to flee, we won't just let them kill us. They have to die, he tells me.

The way you see this is kill or be killed?


CULVER (voice-over): Police don't condone the killings, but they are overwhelmed and overrun, that they don't have time to stop them. There are daily gun battles in the capital as police struggled to push the gangs back. The officers have willpower, but little else. We see that firsthand as we patrol with Haiti's national police.

There are no frontlines in this war. The boundaries are blurred and they're constantly shifting. And these officers know driving around in an armored vehicle like this. Well, they expect to be shot at. They're moving targets. (Voice-over): They cruise through gang territory, revealing a city in

ruins and on fire. At this intersection, we find another gruesome scene. Three bodies have eaten by dogs and still smoldering.

People desperate for food and for shelter. Even if it is in the shell of what was once a government building.

I mean, this is just a symbol of state collapse here. More than 1500 have now occupied this building and made it their own. Mostly children from what we see.

(Voice-over): And there were those who line up for hours trying to get visas to go anywhere but here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no security, there's no jobs. You know. And not only there's no jobs, they're running after us wherever we are.

CULVER: The gangs now targeting more affluent areas.

What's left of an ATM is still in there.

CHRISTOPHE ALPHONSE, VICTIM OF GANG THEFT: They're trying to show themselves as Robin Hoods or stud, but they're thieves. They're just thieves, they're criminals.

CULVER: For street vendors like this woman who still have fruits to sell, no customers to buy them.

Because folks can't afford most of these items.

(Voice-over): More troubling for her the horrors she witnesses on these streets. Many people have died, she tells me. And they have to make trips to pick them up. We see that for ourselves as we head back just before curfew. Medics clearing the remains of that suspected gang member. They hurry not to save a life but to pick up two more bodies on the same street.

Here in Haiti, humanity has disintegrated into a brutal fight for survival.


BERMAN: And David Culver is with us now.

David, what's playing out in the gang territory tonight?

CULVER: John, that area that we were embedded with police earlier today, I mean, we can actually show you some of the images in which we were driving through. And it almost seemed like it was a bombed-out neighborhood that has slowly been reinhabited. I mean, it felt like something that was out of this world, quite frankly, but in that community, just an hour or so after we left, it started increasing with gunfire and a police confrontation with gangs. One that lasted several hours. And on occasion here just as we've been preparing to go live, we were hearing some more gunshots.