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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Sources: Trump To Be Arraigned In New York On Tuesday At 2:15PM; Tornado Outbreak Begins In Midwest, Mid-South; Senate Republican Leaders Noticeably Quiet About Trump News; Sources: Trump Indictment Includes 30+ Counts Tied To Business Fraud; Tornado Outbreak Begins In Midwest, Mid-South. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired March 31, 2023 - 16:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: Donald Trump says the judge overseeing his indictment hates him. See where this one is going?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Tuesday, 2:15, Trump's arraignment set, according to CNN sources. The unprecedented security that now needs to happen for this unprecedented court appearance.

Plus, 30 news organizations come to the defense of an American journalist detained in Russia. Their demands to Putin and a friend of that reporter will also join me this hour.

And from the Midwest to the South, confirmed tornadoes on the ground with the governor of Kentucky, saying tonight's forecast is the worst he has ever seen.


BROWN: Welcome to THE LEAD on this busy Friday. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Jake Tapper.

And we start in our politics lead, with new developments surrounding the historic indictment against former President Donald Trump. Tuesday, around 2:15 p.m., Trump is expected to appear before Manhattan judged to be arraigned, according to sources. The former president is facing more than 30 counts related to business fraud.

And the indictment remains under seal and may not be unveiled until Trump's arraignment. On Monday is expected to travel to New York from his Mar-a-Lago resort, where he intends to remain over the weekend.

Trump's attorneys are saying the former president will absolutely voluntarily surrender himself. However, they do plan to file substantial legal challenges against the indictment. And this all comes as the Secret Service is meeting with New York officials today to discuss the logistics for Trump's court appearance and to address security concerns in the city.

We start our coverage with CNN's Jessica Schneider, who takes a look at what we know about the case already and what to expect next week.


REPORTER: What are the charges against President Donald Trump?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An historic court date set for former President Donald Trump on Tuesday in Manhattan, where district attorney Alvin Bragg has brought an indictment against him. Trump is planning to leave his Mar-a-Lago estate on Monday for New York and then on Tuesday, authorities will take his mug shots and fingerprints before escorting him to his arraignment. The indictments still under seal, styled the people of the state of New York against Donald J. Trump.

CNN learning the grand jury voted to charge him with more than 30 counts related to business. Fraud after hearing from an unidentified witness for about 30 minutes Thursday.

MICHAEL COHEN, TESTIFIED TO GRAND JURY THAT INDICATED TRUMP: I am a convicted felon. I am a disbarred lawyer. But I also brought the documents. There's plenty of testimony corroborating testimony to go around.

SCHNEIDER: Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen met with prosecutors and testified to the grand jury and multiple occasions in this year's long investigation.

Cohen was convicted on federal charges and sentenced to three years in prison in part for his role paying off porn star Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet in the lead up to the 2016 election about her alleged affair with Donald Trump.

It's a fight against his rejection of truth and his manufacturing of stories that really motivated her to try to cooperate in any way certainly to get the truth out.

Trump denies the affair and any wrongdoing.

REPORTER: Mr. President, do you know about them under the $30,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?


SCHNEIDER: Cohen, though, admits to writing the $130,000 check and claims he was reimbursed by the Trump Organization. That reimbursement and the way Trump accounted for it appears to be at the heart of the case against Trump.

COHEN: For Donald, since we're talking about convicted felons, see you on Tuesday, pal.

SCHNEIDER: Sources tell CNN the grand jury also heard testimony about a catch and kill scheme to bury a story about another alleged Trump affair with former Playboy playmate of the year Karen McDougal.

Trump's longtime friend and then chairman of the "National Enquirer's" parent company, David Pecker, is believed to have orchestrated that $150,000 payment.

Pecker testified before the grand jury Monday. Trump also denies any affair with McDougal. Trump's lawyers are now vowing to fight, saying they will move to get all charges dismissed before any trial.

JOE TACOPINA, TRUMP DEFENSE ATTORNEY: There's no crime. I don't know if it's going to make the trial because we have substantial legal challenges that we have to front before we get to that point.


SCHNEIDER (on camera): And CNN has been digging into who this mysterious last witness was on Thursday before the grand jury actually voted to indict Trump, that could all become a lot more clear as this case progresses. And, of course, we'll also see how strong this case might be after this indictment is unsealed likely Tuesday at the arraignment.

And in the meantime, former Attorney General Bill Barr is the latest now speaking out, joining that chorus of Republicans to say that this is all a political hit job and a weak case.

But, of course, Pam, no one has actually seen the exact charges or any of the evidence here. Maybe that will be laid out in court sometime next week.

BROWN: Yeah, he also said it would be a bad for the eventual GOP nominee.

Jessica Schneider, thank you so much. We'll discuss more about that in our political panel.

But in the meantime, I want to go to CNN's Kristen Holmes, who was right outside Mar-a-Lago.

Kristen, Trump quickly went from initial surprise to full fledged attack mode.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Pamela, he did, and it doesn't show any signs of stopping. In addition to putting out that formal statement where he went after Alvin Bragg, he accused him of a political witch hunt. He called the indictment a hoax. He's also going after the judge where he is expected to appear in front of on Tuesday, saying that this judge quote hates him.

In addition to that we have seen nonstop posts on social media. That includes clips of his allies defending him across media platforms, and this is all part of an effort to control that public narrative. We know that Trump's team is watching this very closely, they are sending out updates blasts via email of who has Trump's back who is defending him, and Trump is really rallying his troops.

We know that he has been calling advisors meeting with advisors calling allies, including on Capitol Hill, shoring up the support that he has and many of his advisors that I have spoken to say that they are pleased with the Republican response because, as we have talked about, Trump is not only a former U.S. president, but he is currently running for president right now, and they believe that this could help him in a contested primary, although it's still of course, remains to be seen whether or not an indictment like this could help him politically.

Now, here at Mar-a-Lago or outside of Mar-a-Lago, West Palm, we just drove by the resort. It is relatively calm. We had heard rumors of protests. We're talking about all of this increased security. There was only about 10 to 15 people outside peacefully protesting in support of the former president, something that we obviously are keeping an eye on.

One thing I do want to quickly note is when we talk about what's going to happen Tuesday, a lot of that is going to depend on what happens at that Secret Service walkthrough at that meeting, because that's going to dictate how the team responds and what they are actually allowed to do, Pamela.

BROWN: All right. Kristen Holmes, thank you so much.

And now, as you noted, those a major logistical and security considerations surrounding Trump's impending arraignment.

Let's bring in CNN's Brynn Gingras and John Miller.

So, Brynn, you're right outside the courthouse in Manhattan. What does it look like? What are you hearing about security at the courthouse on Tuesday?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Pam. You know what? We are seeing a ton of security teams down here throughout the day. I'm going to get out of the way so you can look at 100 Center. This is the courthouse where the arraignment will be happening on Tuesday. You can see some NYPD officials out here in front.

We actually not too long ago, a team come out from the NYPD and installing cameras . There are lights around this area to light up the entire area for the next couple of days when it gets dark out. So number of security market measures were actually seeing right here.

Inside, we're learning the floor that the arrangement is going to happen on, it's actually a restricted area right now, and that will continue into Tuesday. So there will be very heavy security about who will be able to be on that floor.

Of course, there's a lot of stuff we're not seeing, right? Of course, the intelligence officials are looking into the online chatter, the communications, social media chat rooms, making sure they don't see any credible threats or any mobilization of groups coming here to New York and trying to cause unrest.

But, of course, the NYPD says they are ready for that. (AUDIO GAP) all in uniform today that will continue keeping that presence to avoid any issues that come up, they will be able to mobilize quickly -- Pam.

BROWN: And, John, what are the logistics behind moving a former president to a courthouse for an arraignment? How difficult is this for law enforcement?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: It's not difficult at all. It just requires a lot of planning. You know, they have moved former presidents around New York before. They moved presidents around New York many times. So, the team that does this, NYPD highway patrol, the intelligence bureau working with the Secret Service, this is a very well-rehearsed dance for them.

The thing that makes it unusual isn't the moves, how to get them in and how to get them out. It's where they're going and why they're going there, which is he's going to be under arrest. So you've got a president who is guarded by a Secret Service detail that has to go, um and then be charged with a crime in a place where normally that person would be fingerprinted and photographed and handcuffed, and then brought to a courtroom.

I think we'll see a modified version of that. I don't know about -- don't know about the exact details of the arrest process there.


But it will happen at the D.A.'s office and then he will be brought to a courtroom. Not in handcuffs, and then he's going to enter a plea. And then be for all intensive purposes released on his own recognizance, but it's the first time this has happened with the former president of the United States.

BROWN: All right. John Miller, Brynn Gingras, thank you so much.

Well, right now, millions of people are covered by a rare level five of five high risk alert from the storm prediction center, potentially long track tornadoes are possible in the Midwest and mid South.

Let's go right to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers, who already seeing tornadoes touching down, right, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Absolutely. One just moved to the northwest of downtown Little Rock. A significant tornado was on the ground and probably still is for miles across that northwest part of that city, and across the river and across I-40. There's significant damage to the western suburbs of Little Rock at this hour, and a new tornado warning was just issued for the very same area, maybe three miles farther south, where that tornado tracked just about 30 minutes ago.

Also, we know that there is damage near Priori, Illinois, just to the south of that city. They're more storms are firing as we speak, and many of them are rotating.

When that happens, a tornado can come out at any time today. This is level five of five. This is the worst possible scenario for risk for severe weather that we've seen for a couple of years. And this only happens just a few times a year and we haven't had one now for almost 700 days.

This is the area where we have tornado watches, from Chicago, all the way down to Dallas. Any one of these storms could rotate today, which means they could put down a tornado.

The other problem is that they're moving 50 to 60 miles per hour. You won't have a long time to take cover. When you know something is coming your way. You need to do it now. Be ready. Make sure that phone is on your alerts are on because this is going to be a dangerous night for everyone in this area, especially these two pieces, these areas, these areas that are in pink. Those are the most significant areas of damage.

Here's some video. We just got out of Little Rock. I've seen quite a bit of it. Most of it is to the west of town, but the trader was on the ground there. You see it kind of coming out of the cloud right there.

This to me when it was on the ground looking like what I call a stovepipe tornado likely an EF-2 tornado on the ground, and the damage that I've seen is somewhere between one and two. Obviously, not all the damage has been seen yet because this video is just coming in to our control room just coming in, even to the control rooms of the little rock affiliates there in Arkansas.

If you are into this area, this red or orange or yellow area today is the day to pay attention. One of the worst days we've seen for these watches PDS, particularly dangerous situation watches with large tornadoes possible well through dark. That's another problem if this happens after you're sleeping.

BROWN: Yeah. That is, you know what? This reminds me eerily of what happened in Mayfield, Kentucky, in December of 2021, where that huge tornado came at night. People were sleeping and it was a horrible situation.

In fact, I just got a text from one of them, Chad, one of the people who was there in Kentucky. Then he said, we're evacuating again because of the tornado threat in Kentucky and elsewhere. It is horrific, a five out of five.

You say help us better understand how unusual that is.

MYERS: The last time it happened was exactly two years ago, the tornado was an EF-4 that rolled through parts of Georgia. And there are many areas here that we see there's three different or five different technically, but we only really count three.

Slight moderate enhanced and then we go to high and then behold below that. There's a chance of a thunderstorm that could have some lightning in some wind. But when we get to this high risk, it is the highest risk. It's right below when you put a watch out, and people still don't understand the difference. My mom never did, watch and warning. The watch means that it's possible to warning means it's happening.

Let's go to some of this video here. We're just getting this in my ear, Little Rock video coming from the ground, some of this here looking out from the high rise apartments here from Little Rock, looking to the west here. This is the tornado on the ground. This is what I was talking about how it's not just a small little rope. This was a very wide tornado at the base, which means the extent of the damage isn't just maybe a block wide. It could be 3 to 5 blocks wide, as it was moving across the northwestern parts of the city and then across and right toward the airport itself.

And for a time, the National Weather Service said we are taking cover right now because the tornado was heading right toward the airport, which is where the weather service office is. But this is significant damage caused by this -- a big, big tornado.

This is going to continue to play. Obviously, the person that was shooting this was out of danger, but still you need to stay away from these and don't just try to be a videographer. In this point in time, when you know that this is coming, you hear the sirens? I really need you to take the cover that's necessary to protect you, your pets, your property and the people that you love around you because this is what can happen. This is where we're going here. This is what the damage occurred as the storm rolled through, this area.

Now, many of these areas here, probably, I'm seeing some of the buildings that aren't brick structures, so we're not going to be able to tell what kind of damage that was when you -- when you roll over a trailer, you know, a small RV, you can get a wind to 60 or 70 miles per hour to do that. But look at the damage here to this shopping center, all of the cars, the carts in disarray, windows blown out of those cars, which is why we tell you don't go into your car because a big tornado doesn't have any place left in that car when it's done with it.

There's no place left for you in that car. And obviously, those windows shattering out can put cuts and all kinds of debris into the car itself. You need to be in a proper structure when you see something like this happening that. The biggest threat I think today.

Yes, obviously, the tornado is the threat. The biggest threat is how quickly these are moving. You will not be. Get out of the way of these.

I mean, if you have five or 10 minutes, that will be a lot when these tornadoes decided to come down to the ground. Warnings will be to the county's two years southwest and then you need to pay attention. You need to know the county to your southwest. And if you hear on the radio or the TV, hey, this is southwest of us, by 30 miles. You only have 15 or 20 minutes at this type of rate of speed as these storms are rolling to the Northeast very, very quickly.

And the watches go from Chicago all the way down to Texas. And in Chicago, tomorrow, it will snow. This is how violent this low pressure center is. There is a big clash between the warm and humid and the cold and the dry and that's what happens when this happens and, you know, we get many tornadoes like this, and they roll through farm fields and cornfields and the like, and nothing happens and they never get any coverage.

But when you get a small tornado to roll through a town that is coverage. When you get a tornado this size, this is breaking news. BROWN: And like you said, there's just not much time to take cover

once it's close to where you might live, so people need to be heeding these warnings, checking there, you know their local forecasting what's going on. We have some new information just coming into CNN, more than 50,000 customers are without power and Pulaski County, Arkansas, that includes Little Rock as a confirmed tornado, west of Little Rock is expected to pass just north of downtown.

And what strikes me, Chad, as you're going through this is just how wide the swap is the concern of this severe weather.

MYERS: And something that I think about as a parent. We're still talking about kids in school at this point in time. Oh, it's only three o'clock in the afternoon here. Kids are likely not in their bus is not really at home yet.

So, you have to think about all the things that go through the emergency process and how the children and how the schools go through this process and how they trained for this and how everyone needs to be in the right place at the right time when these kids are in school.

A lot of times, these tornadoes hit at 5:00, 6:00, 7:00 at night in the warmest or at least the most. Volatile part of the day, but when they happen during school hours, they can really, really be a problem for those people.

Even if you're trying to go pick up your child. I mean, you don't know where the where the roads are open where they're closed. We know that I've seen highway pictures here from the Arkansas DOT. A lot of these roads are completely stopped.

There are cars three wide for miles because there's damage in front of them. You don't want to be on the road if the next tornado is coming at your car that can't move because there's damage ahead of you.

Time to stay inside. This was and will likely continue to be for many, many more hours, a dangerous day.

BROWN: Well, and you mentioned kids being in school. I remember in Oklahoma in 2013 when that tornado struck through Moore, Oklahoma, chad when the two elementary schools were hit hard.

Look at this right here. We're looking at some live video. This is from our affiliate KMIZ. This is in Columbia, Missouri. A person is driving. This is where some of that bad weather is.

Tell us kind of what we're seeing here, chad, if you can see what's happening.

MYERS: No, and actually it's really hard to see what's going on here. There's some type of cloud that might be near the ground, but I would consider that what we call scud, just rapidly rising air, nothing that's truly attached.

When you get a tornado, you can tell that it's a tornado. It's just not something fuzzy here, so this is very difficult for me to see, maybe even just a raindrop on the windshield. Just got in the way of what I was looking at.


There's nothing really in Missouri just yet that I'm that concerned with, but there was certainly will be. Iowa, you are next. Northern Illinois, big time, severe weather for you.

We are looking at every storm that has a potential to rotate, even for Davenport, Iowa, for Galesburg, Iowa. Here, every single storm, they're all individual cells when you get cells one at a time all by itself. That's the storm that will be a top.

When you get them all bouncing against each other, it's like battling tops. The old game we used to play, when the battling tops just bounced against around. They didn't keep going very long. They bounced around and then they died.

But when you don't have them bouncing off of each other, that's when they can go for a very long time, and get very, very big and very dangerous.

BROWN: I mean, how many tornadoes are we talking about here, Chad?

MYERS: Today, I could easily see there be 50.


MYERS: I could easily -- no question, and I could easily see that they're -- now that they've already started. You know, we talked about this in the weather service in the office here to the weather service that sometimes when you get a high risk day, everything just doesn't work like you try to make a cake. You put all the ingredients together, and it just doesn't rise, right?

And so that is always a possibility, where just too many ingredients, you just can't get the tornadoes to fire. But I believe all the ingredients are in the right amounts today and you know, we don't even see storms down here. But there will be. We don't see storms up here to Ottawa, but there will be.

They will fire all the way through the afternoon, and the potential here is also for damage, when it comes to hail.

BROWN: Yeah.

MYERS: There will be hail, tennis ball size hail with some of these storms, even if they don't produce a tornado. That can put your pets, your property, your house in danger. You in danger if you're outside. Today's the day to be in, get in and stay in.

BROWN: And just for our viewers who might be watching this in the track of the severe weather. What should they do? Where should they go? I remember when I went to Mayfield, Kentucky, I spoke to one gentleman who hidden his bathtub and he actually survived the storm. I talked to him again today, he said people are going to a bowling alley in town because he's still living in a FEMA trailer from the tornado back in 2021.

What should people do right now?

MYERS: The tornado, if it would hit the bowling alley would likely take the roof off, so there must be a safe place in that bowling alley that he's talking about, something surrounded by walls and not a wide open space. That's why we don't put children in gymnasiums.

When a tornado warning comes in, they go into interior hallways. They go into interior places that are away from windows, the top of a gymnasium can come off rather quickly. Doesn't take much.

It's just a -- it's a tin structure above you with metal girders. That's the same probably idea, of a bowling alley. So if they're going to go into some place like that, and it's a good idea if you live in a mobile home to go anywhere that's stronger than a mobile home because a 70 mile per hour, 80 mile per hour wind can roll the motor home -- the mobile home, you don't want to be in there. You want to be something stronger, something a bigger structure. And if that's what you get, that's what you get.

I mean, you have to take and go to the lowest common denominator and find what you believe to be the safest place.

BROWN: Well, listen, Chad, stay with us. This is all unfolding right now. We're going to stay on top of it, keep monitoring it, and we're also going to get to our other big headlines today. Right after this quick break, we'll be right back.



BROWN: We're back with breaking news. What looks to be a very severe scary tornado outbreak that has begun across the Midwest and the Midsouth, multiple reports of injuries and damage already in Little Rock and surrounding areas.

These are live pictures from the Little Rock area on the right side of your screen, the little rock mayor asking residents to steer clear of the damage. You heard our Chad Myers on earlier saying that he thinks he could easily see around 50 tornadoes today. He says the conditions are ripe for that to happen, so we're going to keep monitoring this throughout the show, but in the meantime, we want to turn to our politics lead. And that, of course, is Donald Trump's indictment in New York that has members of Congress from every state taking sides in some cases very loudly.

CNN's Manu Raju was keeping track of it all from Capitol Hill.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It didn't take long for House GOP leaders to rush to Donald Trump's defense.

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): I've said from day one, this is a political stunt.

RAJU: Attacking Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg over the unprecedented indictment of a former president and criminal charges.

REP. BRIAN MAST (R-FL): I have zero trust that this will play out fairly.

RAJU: Today, Bragg's office pushing back. In a scathing letter to three House GOP chairmen who have sought his testimony in internal records, accusing them of doing Trump's bidding and writing: As committee chairmen, you could use the stature of your office to denounce his attacks and urge respect for the fairness of our justice system and for the work of the impartial grand jury.

But House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says that Bragg will be held to account. Sources say. Trump is expected to be accused of falsifying business records to cover up 2016 payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to keep quiet allegations of an extramarital affair. But no one has seen the evidence prosecutors have uncovered.

REPORTER: Mr. President --

RAJU: Though that didn't stop one congressman to claim the prosecutor could have indicted the hand sandwiches he was handing out on Capitol Hill.

REP. BARRY MOORE (R-AL): So, I know how to spot a pile of garbage. And this thing looks like a pile of garbage.

RAJU: Even without seeing the evidence, you're certain he's innocent.

MOORE: I'm not certain of anything, except this. This is the first time in the history of the country we've indicted president and the fact that, you know, he's just now announced and they rolled this thing out, it smells pretty fishy.

RAJU: House Republicans agree despite not seeing the charges.

Aren't you jumping to conclusions? I mean, he might have broken the law. Is that concern you?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): We don't think -- we don't think President Trump broke the law at all.

RAJU: But there has been silenced from Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell and his number two John Thune, who told CNN earlier there were legitimate questions about Bragg, though he would not align himself with House GOP efforts.

Do you support House Republican efforts to call Alvin Bragg up here and get him to testify?

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): I'm not going to get into what the House is doing there.

(END VIDEOTAPE) RAJU (on camera): Two other members of Senator McConnell's leadership team did come out and criticize Alvin Bragg. That's Senator John Cornyn and Senator John Barrasso. Cornyn, Barrasso and Thune, all seen as potential successors to McConnell down the line and also some other reaction than some others warning against a rush to judgment. That coming from Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, one of the senators who voted to convict Donald Trump, it is a second impeachment trial, saying that she is monitoring the situation.

Everyone deserves a legal process fair legal process, but he says we shouldn't value at the evidence as it becomes available, showing the divide once again that exists over Donald Trump among Republicans on Capitol Hill.

BROWN: All right. Manu Raju, thank you so much, Manu.

Let's turn now to CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero and CNN's senior law enforcement analyst Andrew McCabe.

So, Carrie, walk us through what this is going to look like when Trump appears before a judge on Tuesday.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's a big question, because this is such an unusual and unprecedented situation. So I think at this point, we don't know exactly what it will look like because it has the potential, of course, to be an enormous spectacle for the country.

If the former president wants to talk to microphones, if he wants to wave to supporters, depending on how the court and the judge actually handles the processing of him. So, a lot I think depends actually on the security precautions that go into place and the interactions and the planning and coordination that takes place between the Secret Service, which is responsible for the former president's protection and the court security and the New York police department, and those law enforcement agencies really are going to play a big role in terms of what we actually see on the public side on Tuesday.

BROWN: Yeah, there's a lot of coordinating right now ahead of Tuesday for that very reason.

Andrew Trump's lawyers are saying they're going to file a motion to dismiss. Do you think they have a strong case to do so?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I'm quite sure they will. I'm sure there'll be a lot of pretrial motions that will that will end up delaying any progress in this case as it goes down the road. I mean, I think there are many potential potentially challenging legal issues baked into this case. We don't know exactly what the D.A. has charged the former president with.

We'll find that out on Tuesday, but I think most -- most commentators believe that it's founded on charges involving false business records, which may become felony charges if the falsification is done with the intent to cover up or commit a second crime. It's where that second crime comes in. But there's all sorts of questions about whether or not you can use as a second crime, for instance, a violation of federal campaign finance law, which is one theory that the prosecutor might have used here.

So no matter what the prosecutor is done, I'm confident that Trump's lawyers will challenge the legal area and the legal soundness of this case and an effort to get it knocked out early in the process, whether or not they're successful, we'll have to say.

BROWN: We keep talking about how historic, this is unprecedented, Carrie, and it raises the question. If this does go to trial, how would a former president get an untainted jury? I mean, everyone knows who he is. Everyone has very strong opinions of him.

CORDERO: Right, although there are cases involving celebrities and other well known people, so this obviously is historic, and it would be highly unusual. But I would just emphasize that there is a real long road before we ever get to a potential trial.

As Andrew was describing, the former president is going to file motions to dismiss. Those motions I think we'll have some credible arguments to them in terms of challenging the prosecutors, legal theory in this case, and so the motions practice may go on for a period of time, even though right now publicly, the former president's lawyer is saying that there never will -- there is not going to be a plea and that he will plead not guilty as the case progresses and as discovery takes place.

It's a possibility that they could reach an agreement, for example, to end up with just a misdemeanor if the prep -- former president at some point just wants to put this behind him and move forward. So I just think we're really long way away from a trial and there's a lot of legal process that is going to take place in the meantime.

BROWN: What do you think, Andy? What are some big questions you have moving forward, given the unprecedented nature here?

MCCABE: Well, Pam, it is unprecedented. And we've all, you know, said that a lot in the last 24 hours, but I think we have to remember that there's a there are a lot of things that have been unprecedented about this president.

Unprecedented to have elected a president who used to run a charity that got blown up by the state for essentially being a fraud. Unprecedented to have a former president whose company that he founded and ran got recently been convicted of multiple counts of tax fraud. It's unprecedented to have had a president who rallied an armed, riotous mob to attack the capitol.


It's unprecedented of how to president impeach twice. So we should be prepared for unprecedented things to happen around Donald Trump. I think in many ways and indictment in this case, it was not that surprising. He is currently the subject of four very aggressive, very serious criminal investigations. This is just the first one to go this far. BROWN: All right. Andrew McCabe, Carrie Cordero, thank you very much.

Up next, the reporter who got Trump on the record about the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels.

Plus, the tornado emergency happening right now in parts of the Midwest and the South. Keep it here for our live coverage.



BROWN: Back with our breaking news. You're looking at live images near Peoria, Illinois, where he confirmed tornado is on the ground. It is part of a widespread tornado emergency underway across parts of the Midwest and mid-South, and we're already getting reports of injuries and damage in and around the Little Rock Arkansas area.

We're going to be covering the severe weather throughout the show, but we also want to get to our politics lead as former President Donald Trump, faces more than 30 criminal charges related to business fraud. This first ever indictment of a current or former president is sure to cast a long shadow over the 2024 presidential race.

So let's discuss all of this with our panel, and I want to start with Catherine because, Catherine, next Wednesday, I believe will mark five years since you got Donald Trump to break his silence on Stormy Daniels and that hush money payments. I remember it. Well, when I covered the White House, I'm sure you do, too, Abby.

So let's just take a listen to that moment and then we'll talk on the other side.


REPORTER: Mr. President, did you know about the $130,000 payments to Stormy Daniels?


REPORTER: Then why -- why did Michael Cohen make this, I there was no truth to her allegations?

TRUMP: You'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney and you'll have to ask Michel Cohen.

REPORTER: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP: No, I don't know.


BROWN: Of course, that story has evolved a lot since then. But here we are now leading to an indictment in this case. How significant is this? CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I

mean, this is office is hugely significant. Obviously, this is the first president facing an indictment like this, and I think we're still trying to answer some of those questions from five years ago, claims to have known nothing about it. Obviously, he's had a falling out with Michael Cohen since then, but none of this -- none of it -- none of his answers, then fully added up.

And I think we need to see what's in -- what's in this indictment? We haven't seen all the details yet. We're waiting for more when Trump is arraigned next week, but I think we are still waiting to try and understand exactly how this unfolded and what led to this.

BROWN: Right. And without knowing all the facts, that's not stopping politicians on both sides of the aisle from speaking out. You have also former Trump attorney general, the former Trump Attorney General Bill Barr, today calling the indictment of Trump a political hit job. But he also said this.


WILLIAM BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: Politically, it's a -- it's a -- it's going to be damaging. I think to the Republican Party simply because I think it's a no lose situation for the Democrats. I think they're actually -- I think the impetus is really to help Trump get the nomination. Focus the attention on him for two years have this thing swirling around plus whatever else comes, which I think will be damaging to whoever gets the nomination.


BROWN: Is he right, do you think?

SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY, TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: I think anything that elevates Trump helps Biden. He's most certainly the Democrats preferred candidate and right now, in the short term, you're going to see this indictment helped Trump. He's already fundraising off of it.

Long term, though I don't think it's going to help him. It might help him secure the Republican nomination. I don't think it's going to benefit him in a general. I think it's a reminder to voters that Trump has a lot of baggage and a lot of drama that comes with him, and that doesn't make him electable.

BROWN: What do you think?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: As a Democrat? He's not the Democrats favorite candidate. I'm sorry, Sarah. That's not true.

Democrats view him as corrupt, crazy, chaotic. They don't want him within 100 miles of the White House.

I would much rather -- I think most Democrats much rather go back to the days when people like us argued over taxes or schools or foreign policy or welfare or trade. Instead, we have this existential threat to our democracy and Mr. Trump, now he's under indictment and his party is rallying to him before they even know the fact, they don't care.

It just shows that the really cult-like hold he has on about a third to a half of his party.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The Trump-Biden matchup is definitely one that Democrats feel way more confident in because the contrast there is so stark. You've got, especially now, if he is indict -- when he's indicted, and if this goes to trial, and if there are other indictments, you can't really come up with something more stark than that.

And I think for Biden the strategy at this moment is going to be to just let this whole thing play out because the other thing that it does for Biden is that all the other people who are challenging Trump, now they're forced to defend him. And that is also something that I think if you're if you're maybe you're not a Never Trumper, but you would prefer that your Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis or anybody else. This is a tough moment for you because you can't really run your own campaign when you're busy defending Trump against indictments for hush money payments.

LUCEY: Also, I think when Democrats look at the potential Biden-Trump matchup, they see a repeat, and they won last time. So there's a sense that they have done this before.


They know the playbook. They know how to fundraise against him. And there's more investigations and suits potentially to come.

BROWN: Yeah. I mean, we know that there are many other investigations. There's four in total. This is one of the four and when you look at ahead to Tuesday and what that might entail, there is some concern, right, security concerns, understandably.

You have House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, saying he doesn't think people should protest over this indictment.

Very different tune from Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, Sarah. She tweeted that she plans to travel to New York City Tuesday to protest the indictment. She's also claiming Democrats want civil war.

How concerning is this?

MATTHEWS: I think it's irresponsible to encourage people to go protest. Obviously, she learned nothing from January 6th and to have that kind of rhetoric to call it a civil war. It's just ridiculous, and I wish that McCarthy would tell her to turn down the temperature. I do appreciate him saying that people shouldn't go protest, but he needs to encourage his conference and to echo his messaging on this as well.

BROWN: Yeah, because you were in the White House on January 6th, right, you resigned because of January 6th, and to hear that kind of rhetoric.

MATTHEWS: Yeah, it just goes to show that the party for the majority has learned nothing from January. 6th. They're out there, kind of using this rhetoric that I think could encourage violence then. I don't think it would be necessarily the same scale that we, you know, saw on January 6th, but I hope that the -- if people do go protest in New York on Tuesday, that its peacefully and that's what Marjorie Taylor Greene needs to tell people to do is to be peaceful.

BROWN: Peacefully assemble, which is a constitutionally protected right. We should be clear.

It is really interesting, though, because if you'll recall back after the 2020 election, there were a lot of Republicans who are saying as you'll recall. Let's just see how this all plays out. Let's respect our court system. Let's respect, you know, this process.

And now, it's very different from some of these Republicans. They are trashing Alvin Bragg. They are trashing the criminal justice system.

So let's take a listen to some of that sound.


REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): I support the continued effort by the Trump campaign to make sure that every legal ballot and only legal ballots and legal votes are counted.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Why not let that plan -- we had four years of the Democrats attacking this president, trying to undermine the election of 2016, trying to throw President Trump out of office, but we can't follow the process for a few weeks. We can't follow the constitution. We can't follow the law.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): Let the legal process play out. But if you want to restore trust by millions of people who are still very frustrated and angry about what happened, that's why you've got to have this whole system play out.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): There's a lot of shenanigans going on here. If our President Trump, I would take all this to court fight back.


BROWN: So let the legal process say play out then, now, not so much for some of these Republicans.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, listening to that montage. It's was it was absurd at the time that there was anything really to play out, and it's even more absurd. Now when you consider that the process that's playing out right now is one that involves a grand jury. It's one that involves actual alleged wrongdoing that when you really listen to Trump allies and even his own attorneys the argument is less that he didn't do it and more that it shouldn't matter. So, I mean, I think that -- look, Republicans, especially after 2020,

we're willing to say anything to support Trump's line on this, and that's actually exactly what's happening right now. He's pushing them to go to the extremes and they're doing exactly what he is asking for.

BROWN: Yeah, it says a lot of where he stands in the party still.

All right. Thank you all so much. We have some other breaking news we have to get to. We appreciate it.

Look out for Abby Phillip on "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY" at its new time, 11:00 a.m. on Sundays, right here on CNN.

And we want to turn now to our national lead with severe weather bearing down on the South and Midwest. President Joe Biden has been in Mississippi in his role as consoler in chief. He visited with survivors of last week's tornado that leveled the town of Rolling Fork. He formally announced the federal government will assume the full cost over the next 30 days for measures like operating shelters, paying overtime to first responders and removing debris.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I made it clear that we'll do everything, everything that's legally within my power to do to be of assistance to the people in this community.


BROWN: Last weekend's storms killed at least 26 people as they cut a ruinous paths cross Mississippi and Alabama and Tennessee.

And now to the current threat, a tornado outbreak in the Midwest and mid-South underway right now, let's go back to meteorologist Chad Myers.

So what is the latest with these storms, Chad? Well, if you are still on the ground and one near Ottumwa, Iowa, one here in Arkansas, just to the east of Little Rock. That storm did go through the northwestern suburbs of Little Rock and created significant damage in that area as a tornado on the ground.


Farther to the north, a different part of the system, still with hail coming down, could be the size of tennis balls.

Back out to the west, here's Ottumwa, Iowa, rotating thunderstorm right there, confirmed tornado on the ground in rural Iowa at this hour, the watches, the tornado watches go all the way from Chicago to Texas, and this is a large area of severe weather. It's difficult to get your head around how much severe weather could happen.

We are now just getting into the heat of the day when the storms will likely be the most severe. And they are going to be five out of five severe, used these categories 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, slight and then enhanced and moderate and high.

Well, today, we're high. We are five out of five and those two pink areas, there will be and there are tornadoes on the ground, and then this hatched part that they severe Prediction Center put out their storm prediction said yes, some of those could be EF-2s or EF-3s or greater.

These could be big rotating super cells that are on the ground for a very long time. And as I push it through, we push these through Memphis. We push these through Paducah. We push these through parts of Illinois and Indiana and then eventually by tomorrow, finally off the East Coast.

But storms are going right now and they will likely get bigger, stronger and more of them -- Pamela.

BROWN: All right. I'm going to go right to CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam. He is in Memphis, one of the areas at risk for tornadoes today -- Derek.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Pamela, we're in one of those level five of five risks that chad just talked about. And I want you to bring up the graphics in the control room so we can get this kind of broader perspective. Tornado watches, they stretch across 12 states and I'm going to bring your attention to the Deep South where I'm located.

You can see River Fork, that's in the central and northwestern sections of Mississippi. That's an area that we're concerned about as well, considering what happened exactly one week ago, but if we focus in on Memphis, the Little Rock region, I actually interviewed one of the meteorologists from the National Weather Service in Memphis, and what they told me is that they're particularly concerned about the storms that you see here on my map.

This Little Rock storm that's basically traversing just north of Interstate 40 or Highway 40. That is the tornado warned storm that moved through Little Rock region, caused the damage that you've seen on your TV screens, but it's moving so quickly, so if people aren't paying attention, they won't have that opportunity to seek shelter from a storm that's moving 60, 70 miles per hour. That is a major concern.

And of course, we need to look to these storms, to the environment, we call that upstream from Memphis, where I'm located now, to determine what type of threats that we have coming on, and all threats are on the table. Significant, intense, long track tornadoes as they feed into this environment that is clearly warm, very windy and very unstable -- Pamela.

BROWN: Yeah, all threats on the table as you say. Derek Van Dam, thank you so much.

Well, Kentucky's governor has issued a state of emergency saying, quote, today's the worst forecast I have ever seen as governor. And this afternoon I got a text from a survivor of the massive 2021

tornado that devastated Western Kentucky. He wrote, quote, keep us in prayer. It looks like we may be in for another tornado.

I met Charles Sherrill during a trip back to my home state of Kentucky. And like so many others, he is still struggling to get by day by day after that tornado, and now, he has to worry about another severe store.


BROWN: Do you ever feel like a refugee in your own state?

CHARLES SHERILL, TORNADO SURVIVOR: Yes, I do. I really do. Like, you know, family -- a lot of my family has moved off.

BROWN: And in a sense they're refugees, too, because they've moved away.

SHERILL: Right, right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You must be sheltered immediately. The next five minutes are going to be very rough in Mayfield.

BROWN (voice-over): On December 10th, 2021 it was eerily warm outside. Perhaps an early warning sign that a monstrous mile-wide tornado was coming.

Charles Sherrill was at home in Mayfield, Kentucky.

So this is your house.

SHERRILL: I was in that bathtub right there.

BROWN: What were you thinking when --

SHERRILL: I'm just praying. Praying that, you know, that God will take care of me.

We just try to make a best of a bad situation.

BROWN: More than a year later, he is still living with his family in a FEMA trailer.

SHERRILL: It's -- this is the second bedroom where my grandkids and my daughter sleeps at.

BROWN: How do they all sleep in here?

SHERRILL: They just -- my daughter sleep on one end and my two grandsons sleep on the other end. Small but this is all we got.


BROWN: He wants to rebuild here in a town that used to house 10,000 people but is now empty slab after empty slab. SHERRILL: There's really no job opportunities here. I don't think it ever be the same.


BROWN (on camera): And that is just a look at how the severe weather just really decimates these towns where people have lived that they this is where their livelihoods are, like Charles Sherrill now still a year on living in a FEMA trailer, it is so hard to get back on their feet after severe weather. That is an example of this.

And we actually got a text from Charles this afternoon and he reads in part: Me and my family are packing up right now. I'm not going to put my life in the hands of a bathtub again. Keep us in prayer.

And we are.

And this is just one part of a bigger story looking at the devastation from severe weather in Kentucky. We showcased how rebuilding is a monumental task where many can't afford to stay or move. That full piece will air at 1:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. Hope you can watch it.

Well, coming up Sunday on "STATE OF THE UNION", Michael Cohen's lawyer, Lanny Davis, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, House Intelligence Chairman Mike Turner, and Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw. That's all Sunday morning at 9:00 and again on CNN, right here at noon.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE STIUATION ROOM".