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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Trump Arrives In New York Ahead Of His Arraignment; What To Expect At Trump's Arraignment Hearing Tomorrow; Trump Team Opposes Cameras In Courtroom, Judge To Make Final Call; Special Counsel Nailing Down Evidence About How Trump Handled Classified Records At Mar-a-Lago; Stormy Daniels First Revealed Trump Story During 2009 Fake Senate Run. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired April 03, 2023 - 16:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN THIS MORNING ANCHOR AND CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: We'll see what the judge decides. We have not seen the indictment. Those details remain to be seen, but also remains to be seen if there will be a camera in the courtroom.

That is something the media has advocated for it. We should note. Trump's team has said they opposed that.

I want to turn over to Jake Tapper on THE LEAD for our continuing coverage of Trump's arrival here in New York -- Jake.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Right now, President Trump's motorcade on the move headed from LaGuardia to Manhattan.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we start today with this momentous event in our politics lead, a historic and unprecedented indictment of a former President Donald Trump. Mr. Trump landed at LaGuardia Airport, just a short while ago. The former president expected to arrive soon at Trump Tower. He is expected to spend the night there, ahead of his arraignment tomorrow afternoon at the Manhattan criminal courthouse, where Mr. Trump is expected to voluntarily surrender.

Sources tell CNN that the former president faces more than 30 counts related to business fraud that we should note the indictment remains under seal. These charges come after a years-long probe into a hush money payment made to adult film star and director Stormy Daniels in the days before the 2016 presidential election, and let's -- we're looking.

Let's start with CNN's Kaitlan Collins right now. She's outside Trump Tower.

And, Kaitlan, it's odd watching this kind of -- for want of a better term -- like O.J. Bronco coverage of Donald Trump coming into Manhattan for this criminal matter, and I know that media critics are taking issue with the way that that a lot of news networks are covering this, but I have to say, you know, as we watch Donald Trump's limo drive on the FDR, this is unprecedented. We've never seen anything like this in the history of this country.

COLLINS: Certainly, it's historic, and even Trump's team understands. You know, they have -- they do have a sense of bravado here when it comes to how they planned this. They have been choreographing it, Jake, talking about what are his facial expressions going to look like? What is his body language going to look like as he's arriving here? Because they have considered even potentially using some of this footage and their own campaign materials going forward.

But the reality behind the scenes is the former president does not want to be indicted. He does not want to have to go before a judge tomorrow and one of the most personally sensitive cases that he has faced and one that has, of course, followed him and loomed over not only his campaign for president there at the end, but also his time in the White House, Jake.

And so, certainly that has been an aspect of all of this. And there's a lot of unknowns for you and for Trump's team, and they said this yesterday they still did not know what is it that indictment? They don't know exactly what it's going to look like. One of his attorneys said he wanted to make tomorrow is painless and classy as possible .

Of course, all that remains to be seen how the former president himself is going to be speaking out about this. We've already seen him attacking the judge, criticizing the district attorney in this matter. And they have said they do not believe this case has legal merits. That remains to be seen with the judge does tomorrow, and if it does go to trial, what jury would say about it all, Jake.

TAPPER: Yeah, and we expect the acting -- the judge in question here, acting New York Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan. We're expecting him any minute to make a decision about whether or not he will allow cameras in the courtroom during the arraignment, which is something that the news media is petitioning for. Obviously, given the historic nature of all this, and I believe you've reported, Kaitlan, that the Trump team, that Trump attorneys do not want cameras in the courtroom.

COLLINS: Yeah, they have said that they're opposed to it. They put out a statement saying that they were opposed to for several reasons. One, they didn't want it to create a media or a circus like atmosphere. They also had security concerns, and they also said they believed it would affect the jury's ability to be able to see Trump, with the presumption of innocence. And so, those were the arguments they made in a letter to the judge.

Of course, we know when it comes to a circus like atmosphere, that is certainly something that has often bloomed over aspects of Trump's post-presidency life, also his presidency. And so, that part of it is something they're trying to capitalize on, politically. They touted their fundraising numbers ever since word of the indictment came down.

But they have said, yes, they are opposed. Some legal experts, Elie Honig and I were talking about this earlier, they're not surprised by that, because they do believe that having him at the defendant table would potentially add to this idea of whether or not he is guilty before. That's a conclusion made by the jury itself.

Of course, it all ultimately is up to the judge, whether or not cameras will be there. We have advocated for it because we believe for transparency reasons, there should be careful in that courtroom.


TAPPER: So, let me bring in John Miller right now.

John, as we watch these images of the -- of Donald Trump's motorcade coming into Manhattan, what are the differences between how Trump travels now as a former president, versus how he will travel when he becomes a former president and criminal defendant?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: So, I mean, the differences are stark. You know when President Trump used to come to New York, and the intelligence bureau that I ran with the Secret Service and Chief Tom Galati, would set up a motorcade. It would be multiple motorcycles, a phalanx of motorcycles, multiple highway patrol cars, frozen routes. The entire route would be blocked before the president's motorcade hit the road.

What you see here is something very different. There's a highway patrol car in the lead and a highway patrol car in the tail, the rest of those vehicles are Secret Service and staff. As you can see, traffic in the direction they're going is very light because they've got blocker cars behind them slowing down that traffic there, but you see traffic going the other way.

So, there's a little less pomp and a little less circumstance being a former president, and that's just coincidental to the fact that he's a future defendant, meaning in a few moments, he's going to end up in -- a in a -- in a -- huddle with his lawyers to figure out the next day when he reports to a courthouse to be charged with a felony and a crime.

TAPPER: Kaitlan, as John just noted, Donald Trump's about to huddle with advisers and attorneys in Trump Tower, which is where he is making his way toward right now, do we know who will be there?

COLLINS: So this is actually really interesting question because Trump has done one notable thing, which is add an attorney to his defense team here on the Manhattan district attorney's probe, just days before he was going to be arraigned.

That new attorney is Todd Blanche. We know this because he left his legal firm to go and represent Trump. He is reported to be a top attorney, formidable. He has a stellar reputation among other attorneys that you've spoken with, but it's notable because the attorney you've been here and talk about this on television has been Joe Tacopina. As of yesterday, he was the one on television.

But there has been some infighting in the legal team and even another Trump attorney because he does have several of them right now, given the number of investigations facing him, Tim Parlatore was on CNN with me on Friday. And when I asked pretty straightforward question whether Tacopina was the right attorney to take this case to trial, he hedged a bit and noted, of course, Susan Necheles, the other attorney who is on this case, but now they've added Todd Blanche to that legal team. We are told Joe Tacopina does still remain on the team, and will be there tomorrow.

But I do think it does give you an indication, Jake, that they are taking this case seriously, at least from a legal perspective, often the legal strategy and the political strategy are conflated here. So those are the people that are already here on the ground that Trump will be meeting with when he gets here, they're going to be preparing him for that very quick appearance in court tomorrow. His political team focuses on this aspect of it as he is making his way through New York.


COLLINS: He looks like he's in front of the cameras and he gets here to Trump Tower.

TAPPER: So, for those, well, following at home, the president, the former president and his motorcade veered off of FDR and took a right onto 53rd, and they're going to take 53rd across town to get to Fifth Avenue were Trump Tower is where I guess it's on the east side.

We should note if you are marveling at the ease with which the traffic is proceeding through Manhattan on a Monday, it is not typical. This has been the roads have been cleared so that he can get through untrammeled and not stuck in traffic.

The case, Kaitlan Collins, the case against Donald Trump, we do not know the details. The Trump legal team does not know the details. The critics and those extolling the decision by the Manhattan district attorney do not know the details.

The assumption is, however, based on who has testified, and based on what people like Michael Cohen, his former lawyer and fixer have said in interviews is that the Mr. Trump will be charged with more than 30 counts of business fraud.

And we believe that since that business fraud, which we believe are largely misdemeanors, but since it was done in the service of another crime, the federal crimes of campaign finance law violations, that's where it will become a felony.


And the theory there as we've all been talking, it is that when hush money payments were made to Stormy Daniels and perhaps also when hush money payments were made to Karen McDougal, a Playboy playmate whom -- with whom Donald Trump is alleged to have also had a relationship, that those counted as campaign donations even though they were not declared, as such.

Now we see right now, the motorcade pulling up right outside Trump Tower.

Kaitlan Collins, what is the crowd like out there? Are there a lot of supporters? Are there a lot of protesters?

COLLINS: I'm glad you asked that, Jake, because we are seeing the street behind us clear. We've been sitting here all day as traffic has been coming through. But, as you noted, traffic is clearing out for Trump's arrival.

There are some protesters here. I would say only, Jake, really a couple dozen. It's been pretty mild throughout the day so far. It's certainly not these massive languages.

What some Trump advisers are worried about what he was calling on his supporters to come to protest. They were worried about it'd be something that resembled January 6th or something like that, playing out on the streets of New York.

It is certainly not that here. There's almost more members of the media here than there are Trump supporters and protesters across the street by Trump Tower where he's pulling up any moment now. And, Jake, you're right, when it comes to what they're going to find out tomorrow, when it comes to this indictment. They have been straightforward that they don't know exactly what it is.

They feel like they have a pretty good idea and by they I mean the Trump attorneys, but they're waiting like the rest of us to see exactly what that looks like.

TAPPER: We see right now, Trump motorcade, turning so as to drop the president off. He is going to go into Trump Tower, where he will meet with lawyers and advisers and spend the night in Trump tower on Fifth Avenue. And then tomorrow, of course, he will be arraigned in Lower Manhattan at the courthouse there, in front of acting New York Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan.

You see that the streets have been relatively cleared of spectators and some of the parts of this block. And, Kaitlan Collins, the lawyers for Donald Trump had been criticizing what they think is going to be in the indictment and one of the things they've been saying one of the criticisms is that even if one considered these campaign finance laws, law violations crimes, they all happened in 2016. And they argue that that that's so long ago, the statute of limitations would have given out.

The complication with that is that New York law has it so that if you leave the state -- here is -- we're expecting the president's -- the former president to get out of the state. Get out of the limo in a second, and there he is.

Well, that was not the camera view that his fans or his detractors were hoping for or anybody just trying to tell this story. It was a helicopter shot of the former president, the 45th president, walking into Trump Tower.

In any case, Kaitlan, what I was saying was New York law has it so that if you're out of state for any duration, it's almost as if a pause button is hit on the statute of limitations running out. And since Donald Trump spent four years in Washington and has lived his post presidential life in Florida, according to New York law, it has not given out. But that is the argument that Trump's attorneys will try to make in court when they moved to have the charges just dismissed outright, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yeah, and I also want to know one thing is you noticed for President Trump walking into Trump Tower there. You did not see First Lady Melania Trump with him. She was with him on Thursday night at Mar-a-Lago. They had dinner after, you know, mirror hours after word of the indictment came down on Thursday night, that historic news.

That is notable because obviously this is a personally sensitive case, or situation for Trump. The Stormy Daniels thing was one of the things that, you know, when we talk about the merits of this and what you're noting there, some people have dismissed it -- legal experts, certainly Trump's legal team. But personally, it has been a very sensitive case because it was a sensitive situation, obviously, allegations of an affair.


And it was often something that was very difficult when it was something that was brought up at the White House or press conferences to Trump at the time, but I did not see her there. I've not heard that she's traveling with him. She was with him on Thursday.

We do know some of his children are traveling with him, including Eric Trump, I believe is along with several campaign aides. But on the merits of the case, I thought Attorney General Barr who obviously served under Trump and has been very critical of him since leaving made a notable comment earlier. We're talking about that for this to be a misdemeanor, that Trump had to be trying to defraud somebody. And he was arguing essentially was unclear who was being defrauded because it's his own company.

And Bill Barr was essentially arguing that from the federal standpoint, he said the idea quoted campaign finance violation is simply wrong. And that is coming from, of course, the top law enforcement officer when Trump was president, making that comment, and he has been very critical of Trump, but it's a notable to see who has been skeptical of the actual merits of this case.

And we should know and stress as you noted there, Jake, we haven't actually seen the indictment yet.

TAPPER: Right. I think we have another image of Donald Trump walking from the limo into Trump areas, pretty quick appearance, waving to some supporters or maybe to the police, I can't tell. There is a Secret Service there, obviously providing the former president with production protection. So certainly a very quick moment, and not really characteristic for Donald Trump. We should know this is somebody who does usually like to have some sort of -- for want of a better term performance in front of his supporters. John Miller, what is the security situation at Trump Tower? I would

imagine that all sorts of precautions have been taken to keep the former president safe.

MILLER: So he is not expected to leave Trump Tower between now, his arrival there today, until tomorrow when he leaves to go to court. So, what you're going to see is 56th Street will remain blocked off while he is in his multi-story penthouse apartment, meeting with lawyers, including likely his new lawyer, Todd Blanche, who's going to take on a significant role in this criminal case.

You'll also see a police detail present on Fifth Avenue and on Madison with Secret Service, standing by in case there is some spontaneous protest either a pro-Trump or anti-Trump. That will all just be in place, along with, you know, the bomb detection, K9s and the other things that that come with that, in terms of having all the precautions and tools on hand or at the ready.

TAPPER: And, John, tomorrow will be historic. But in addition to the historic nature of it, most of us have not been arraigned. Most of us have not had to surrender ourselves before a court. Tell us what it's going to look like tomorrow.

MILLER: He's going to leave this building. That same motorcade configuration is going to bring him down to the courthouse. He's going to enter not the courthouse entrance, but he's going to go into the district attorney's office, where he will be taken into custody by a D.A.'s investigator.

This won't be an arrest by the NYPD. It will be a civilian investigator employed by the district attorney's office who has worked on this case. He'll be fingerprinted. I think we're not likely to see the mug shot be taken, and then he's going to be brought through a maze of back hallways and elevators to the courtroom where he'll come out into a hallway, where we'll see him for a moment, and then go into the courtroom for an arrangement.

The arrangement should be relatively quick. I mean, he's going to enter a plea, not guilty. He's going to be released on his own recognizance, just the odd once in a lifetime thing so far is that they're going to have a criminal defendant at the bar of justice, who is under Secret Service protection and a former president of the United States.

TAPPER: And we should note also, John, Trump's attorney says that a mug shot is not needed for Trump. I don't think it's actually required that it be released under New York law in any case, but they say it's not needed because he has one of the most recognized faces in the world.

Other well-known celebrities, of course, have been arrested and still had a mug shot taken. We've all seen those images of. Frank Sinatra, a young Frank Sinatra, Hugh Grant and others.

MILLER: Yeah. So I mean, this is actually a little nuanced, which is, you know, I saw Donald Trump's civil lawyer make that comment this morning. But those are comments that I that I made on Friday night, saying, you know, they probably were not going to take that mug shot. Subject to change, but the law says you'll be fingerprinted and a mug shot. You know, photograph may be taken.


The law doesn't say shall be taken, must be taken, will be taken. So the actual statute leaves room for some discretion. In this case, I think what authorities are balancing is common sense issues, which is number one. There isn't anybody in the world who doesn't know what Donald Trump looks like.

Number two in the highly unlikely scenario that he becomes a fugitive, they won't need the mug shot to give to the warrant squad to track him down. Everybody knows what Donald Trump looks like. And if they want to create a mug shot, there are millions of high resolution photographs of him facing front and side ways that they can that they can -- that they can make one for the file.

But the real point is, once that mug shot has entered into the system where any police officer who runs the name Donald Trump with the right date of birth is going to be able to find it. The likelihood of it being improperly distributed is pretty high, and that ends up basically on the prosecution. Why? Because it's not just their case to prosecute it's their investigation, it's their arrest.

So I think -- I think in an abundance of caution, they said, hey, we don't need the mug shot be. It's not legally required. And see once it leaks, that's going to be against law and regulation, which says shots are only provided. If there is a legitimate law enforcement need, meaning, this is a wanted fugitive, and we're asking the public to recognize him. All pretty far fetched in this case.

So I think they're taking the common sense approach of if we don't need it, let's buy our way out of a problem before it happens.

TAPPER: Yeah. I'm reminded of the widow of Kobe Bryant suing successfully Los Angeles area law enforcement because photographs from that tragic -- the scene of that tragic accident were also leaked. Pictures taken tend to be pictures leaked.

Let's go now to CNN's Shimon Prokupecz who's outside the Manhattan criminal court.

And, Shimon, you have some more information about what security is going to look like tomorrow there, when the former president arrives.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. So, Jake, you know, you hear John there, described some of the process and what's going to happen? This is actually the street where we expect the former president to drive that motorcade that the cameras are going to be over the helicopters that we're seeing today. That motorcade will be on this street tomorrow, and this is just outside the Manhattan district attorney's office.

The entrance inside is 1 Hogan Place, and that's it right there to the left there. You'll see one Hogan place and so he will go in through that door. That's when he's going to be met by the staff from the district attorney's office who are then going to take him off stairs, where they begin the arrest process.

Once he enters those doors, Jake, he is under arrest, and officials will then take him into custody. And then he'll be brought upstairs and at some point, he'll be brought over to the courthouse just which is connected to this office, taking up to the 15th floor, and that's when the arraignment will take place.

But, Jake, just to set the scene out here, these barriers that I'm going to show you here all across the courthouse here. There's obvious concern here, with protests planned and supporters coming out for the former president with concern with what happened on January 6th.

So, the NYPD is out here in force. They have some officers out here today. The state court officers are out here as well. You can see them over here. The vehicles are parked here.

And so these barriers stretch all the way down the block. Certainly come tomorrow, Jake. It's going to be very different scene here in the streets are going to be closed. We're going to see a lot more officers a lot more people a lot more of Trump supporters, of course, some folks who are against the former president.

So it's going to be a lot of activity. This street that where I'm standing on is going to be entirely closed with Secret Service, agents and officers and the NYPD, who are really are concerned with what's going to be going on out here.

Inside, it's going to be the court officers and the Secret Service that are going to be providing security for the former president, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Shimon Prokupecz outside the Manhattan criminal court, thank you so much.

Again this hour, we're watching Donald Trump's arrival in New York, arriving at Trump tower just moments ago after landing at LaGuardia airport. The grand jury witness list help show the direction of this investigation. But, of course, we do not know how strong the case is. Plus, the public perception of the charges Trump is facing.

CNN is asking the American people, how much do they think politics played a role in the charges?

We're going to squeeze in a quick break. We'll be right back.



TAPPER: Former President Donald Trump and future defendant arriving at Trump Tower moments ago ahead of his arraignment after that Manhattan grand jury indicted the former president on criminal charges. The arraignment of a former president is something that no U.S. courthouse, something that the United States of America has ever seen.

CNN's Paula Reid takes a look now at what to expect tomorrow and also at the 11th hour change to Trump's legal team.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former President Donald Trump's defense lawyers on the attack.

JOE TACOPINA, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: The team will look at every -- every potential issue that we will be able to challenge and we will challenge and, of course, I very much anticipated motion to dismiss coming because there's no law that fits this.

REID: But those legal challenges will have to wait for the charges to be unsealed, which may not be until Trump's arrangement. A grand jury returned an indictment Thursday after a years long probe into a hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the days leading up to the 2016 election. CNN has learned the charges include more than 30 counts related to business fraud.

Trump is expected to be fingerprinted, just like any other defendant, but it's not clear if you will have a mug shot, according to sources, who say there are concerns about whether it could leak in violation of state law.

ALINA HABBA, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Mug shots are for people so that you recognize who they are. He is the most recognized face in the world, let alone the country right now. So there's no need for that. There's no need for the theatrics.

REID: On social media, Trump has attacked Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, calling him corrupt. He even went so far as to attack Judge Juan Merhan, who will oversee the case, alleging the judge treated Trump's companies viciously when they went to trial last year.

The judge presided over the prosecution of Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, as well as the tax fraud trial in which the family's company was found guilty of conspiracy and falsifying business records unrelated to the hush money scheme.

Trump's lawyers tried to clean up his attacks against the judge.

TACOPINA: No, I don't believe the judge is biased. I mean, the president is entitled to his own opinion.

JAMES TRUSTY, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I think a fair-minded judge is likely to recognize there's something fundamentally wrong, that we're crossing the Rubicon with this political persecution.


REID (on camera): As Trump heads into this historic case, he is adding another lawyer to his defense team. Todd Blanche is also going to sit at the table with him, but some people have wondered. What does this mean for Joe Tacopina, who has been the most forward facing member of the defense? Well, Joe tells me he is still on the team, and he expects to be the lead attorney at tomorrow's hearing -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Paula Reid. Thank you so much.

Let's bring in former assistant special Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman. He's the former assistant U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York.

Also with us, trial attorney Misty Marris.

Misty, let me start with you. Trump's team is opposing the news media's request for cameras to be allowed in the courtroom. They say it will create a circus like atmosphere and increased security concerns.

Explain if you were defending Trump, if you would also be making that argument, and why.

MISTY MARRIS, TRIAL ATTORNEY: Yeah, I would absolutely be making that argument and it is because they don't want the media circus surrounding this case. We all know that this is a case of public concern, and they want to avoid any sort of issue that could be prejudicial having the media there.

Now, keep in mind, this argument is particularly effective in New York courts because New York has some of the most restrictive laws for cameras in the courtroom. So when this venue is a very, very common argument made in New York, upheld by the court of appeals in a case by actually court TV back in 2005, the statute that says the judge has discretion on camera or room is upheld. So, good venue for it.

Also, keep in mind, this particular judge. I know him. I'm a New York litigator. He is not about the media. He is not about any sort of circus in his courtroom. I highly doubt he would allow cameras in the courtroom, especially with the law that's on the books.

TAPPER: And, Nick, you're a former assistant special Watergate prosecutor. You tweeted that, quote, if former President Richard Nixon had been held accountable for his actions arising out of the Watergate investigation, no one now would be saying an indictment of Trump is unprecedented, unquote.

Given what we know about these allegations of business fraud against Trump, presuming that that our understanding of the case that it is the combination of the business fraud with the alleged campaign finance violations, do you think this particular indictment is as serious as what Nixon might have faced before Gerald Ford pardoned him?

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Well, one of the things that Richard Nixon was facing prior to pardon was being indicted for tax violations. And in fact, this indictment could also hinge on tax violations. Everybody keeps saying campaign violations, but the fact of the matter is when you create phony business records that claimed that there were legitimate attorney's fees being paid and deducted on the company's books and records that then land up on a New York state tax return, we're talking tax fraud, and it's not much different than what Nixon did in donating his papers to the archives after and using a backdated deed to get a deduction that was totally illegitimate.

Also, we don't really know what the full scope of the allegations are here. You mentioned before that we have an idea of the list of grand jury witnesses. We do only as the people who personally appeared, keep in mind that this was a joint investigation between the D.A.'s office and the attorney general's office. And there were a number of people who testified in depositions whose testimony could simply be read to the grand jury without having to appear personally.

So all of that leads me to believe we just don't know what this indictment is going to allege, particularly in light of the fact that Donald Trump asserted his Fifth Amendment privilege in response to 450 questions, claiming that a truthful answer would tend to incriminate him.


It's hard to believe that the district attorney's office doesn't have enough evidence on some of those crimes are to put into this indictment.

TAPPER: Misty, how might Trump's defense fight these charges even though as Nick points out accurately, and we're going to keep reminding people, we still don't know what the charges are. We still don't know what's in that indictment. But we do have some idea of the nature of at least some of the alleged offenses, how might they defend themselves?

MARRIS: Yeah, Nick made a great point, because we don't know exactly what the charges are. Of course, that's going to impact any defense arguments, but, Jake, for hypothetical sake, let's say it is this misdemeanor falsification of business records charge combined with an accentuated to a felony, because it's to cover up another crime and that other crime being violations of campaign finance law.

I think there's a lot of defenses that are going to come because that's a very novel legal theory in New York. First, I would expect challenges on the statute of limitations. Statute of limitations in New York for this type of felony would be five years. There's, of course, prosecutorial arguments once that continuing wrong doctrine that the fact that the president was -- that he was the president, and that during that time he had immunity, that he was in D.C. So there's going to be arguments and there's going to be defensive to those.

I also think we're going to hear a preemption argument, meaning that the New York law that misdemeanor cannot be elevated to a felony based on a violation of federal law. It would have to be in violation of New York law. So those are some of the arguments I would expect to see , among others that we cannot predict simply because we don't know exactly what the charges are.

TAPPER: Nick, do you agree with the notion that of all the criminal investigations going on right now. The Fulton County, Georgia district attorney looking into Trump trying to switch the votes, and find false votes in Georgia to switch the state from Biden to Trump, the special counsel's investigation into the president's role on January 6, 2021, and not to mention the classified documents. Do you agree that of those three combined with this one, that this one might be the least consequential, potentially?

AKERMAN: Not really. I mean, if you look at all these others that you mentioned except for the classified documents they all had to do with Donald Trump keeping himself in office. This particular case, paying hush money to women to shut them up just prior to the vote was basically a fraud on the voters. Despite what Bill Barr says about no one being defrauded, the entire electorate was defrauded here and not told the true facts about these incidents because he was using money to pay them off.

I mean, somewhere around a million dollars floated through the system on between Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels and paying Michael Cohen and extra bonus, et cetera, this in a way was just an effort to rig the first election, that he tried to steal the second election.

So, in a way, it fits into a pattern that is extremely serious, and it's important that this case be brought.

TAPPER: All right. Nick Akerman and Misty Marris, thanks to both of you. Really appreciate it. With Donald Trump expected in court in the next 24 hours, a new CNN poll is gauging public perception of this case.

What do the American people think about this unprecedented step? We'll tell you coming up.

Plus, a deadly bombing in St. Petersburg, Russia, and a woman now in custody. Why the Kremlin argues that she may be responsible. That's coming up.



TAPPER: This just in to CNN, the special counsel investigating Trump's handling of classified documents has secured new evidence focused on how Donald Trump personally handled these classified records, as well as those who may have witnessed Donald Trump with the documents. This according to multiple sources.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz is digging into this for us.

Katelyn, what sort of evidence has special counsel prosecutors obtained here?

Well, this is evidence that we understand is directly about Donald Trump, in the mishandling of documents investigation and the obstruction of justice investigation, these two serious things conducted out of the federal courthouse.

And what we understand is that the evidence that they're trying to nail down at this point in this investigation, a whole year in after that FBI search is about how Trump was handling the records and what witnesses saw. Him doing or knew he was going to be doing things like they're gathering things like notes, text messages, emails, even photographs, specifically from people who would have been in and around the estate, not just Donald Trump's political advisors, but others who work there.

We've heard about subpoenas to them. But what makes this a little bit different is that these subpoenas are pushing for information. They're pushing for it now, and they're getting information.

TAPPER: Do you think this signifies the end of the destination in any way?

POLANTZ: Well, it's certainly does appear to be the type of steps that would be taken near the end of the investigation, specifically because we are -- knowing now that the justice department has gotten his defense attorney Evan Corcoran to testify to a grand jury after being forced to, that's something that happens pretty late in an investigation and then also, we know that witnesses are coming back to talk to investigators after having talked to the FBI a whole year ago.

Now, they're being demanded to wrap up. Give them the final documentation or get their testimony locked into the grand jury in a way that the prosecutors hadn't done before. That to us signals that you know this really could be entering its final stage here and potentially even nearing a charging decision at some point in the future.

TAPPER: All right. Katelyn Polantz, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Was the hush money payment behind Trump's indictment, was it even necessary? The story from Stormy Daniels printed years before the 2016 campaign. That's next.



TAPPER: Based on the facts as we understand them right now, this historic pending arraignment and indictment of former President Donald Trump all revolves around an alleged hush money payment made to buy the silence of an adult film star and director from going public about a sexual encounter she claims she had with Donald Trump. But there truly was nothing hush-hush about the story before Michael Cohen made the payment on Trump's behalf.

Daniels -- Stormy Daniels had been talking about the alleged affair for years prior to little national notice, including during a 2011 interview with "In Touch", a cover story right there, where she revealed what happened immediately after that rendezvous with Trump.

Quote: Here's the weird thing. He had one of my DVDs, and he asked me to sign it for him. And I did, unquote. Weird is one word.

Even that wasn't the first time Stormy Daniels told that story.

With us now, conservative columnist Quin Hillyer.

Quin, good to see you as always. Thanks for joining us.

So interesting. Stormy Daniels first disclosed her alleged encounter with Donald Trump in 2009, as you wrote in your column, when she was doing a kind of like a fake run for the U.S. Senate in Louisiana.

QUIN HILLYER, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: Yes, she -- a couple of sort of out of work 20-something Democratic political operatives were just trying to cause trouble really? And David Vitter, the Republican incumbent, had had a sex scandal with a prostitute. So they said, let's find some sex workers to run against him just almost as a lark and somebody said Stormy Daniels is from Louisiana. Let's get her and lo and behold, she said she would do it.

And they were sitting in a hotel lobby going through her phone, figuring who they could get some campaign donations from and very nonchalantly. She was naming porn executives and stuff like that. And then she said, oh, wait. Donald Trump. Yeah, I've got his number right here. At least I've got his top aides number, that expletive should give me some money.

And it was very nonchalant and so Democratic operative said known about it since 2009. She went on two years later to give this long interview with "In Touch" magazine. So why did Donald Trump in 2016 pay her money to hush up something that was already very public and quite well known? It's crazy.

TAPPER: It is interesting, especially because -- I mean, I will say I'm not a big reader of "In Touch" magazine, but I will say I did not know that. But you raise an interesting question,

I guess the other point -- and you write about this in your column today -- the other point that's interesting is that this does also seem to bolster the credibility of Stormy Daniels' story, which Donald Trump to this day is denying, even though I think most people probably think it happened.

HILLYER: Well, the -- it's axiomatic that if somebody claiming a long ago sexual encounter or sexual abuse cases, it might be, if they have some contemporary evidence or told people about it more contemporaneously. Rather than having just, you know, apparently made it up on the spot. I'm 10 years later than that adds to credibility and the fact that she was telling these Democratic operatives this in 2009, and there's an email train to prove it.

That tends to bolster the credibility because she wasn't doing it to try to stop Trump from being president. This was seven years before he ran for president, and she was just nonchalantly mentioning this encounter and giving the exact same details that she is giving now. That's what I'm that that sort of contemporaneous verification that at least she -- she didn't do it for political reasons. She was she was just sort of talking, mentioning Trump in the midst of mentioning a lot of other rich people that she knew.

TAPPER: Yeah, very interesting stuff. Quin Hillyer, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

HILLYER: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: We're going to go back to New York. Next, activity inside and outside Trump tower now that Donald Trump has arrived.

Plus, the shopping app growing in popularity that has cyber experts worried it could take over parts of your phone.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. This hour, growing concern about a popular shopping app that some experts say spies on the user's phones, even reading private messages and monitoring other apps.

Plus, new information about the Nashville school shooting that killed three 9 year olds and three adults. Police say the shooter fired 152 rounds at the school.

And leading this hour, of course, Donald Trump has arrived at Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan. Tomorrow, he will make the wrong kind of history and become the first and only former president to be arrested and arraigned on criminal charges. Sources say he faces more than 30 counts related to business fraud tied to the grand jury's investigation into the hush money payment to a porn star and director Stormy Daniels.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Jeff Zeleny are live for us outside Trump Tower.

Kaitlan, let me start with you.

You've been covering Donald Trump for years. You've seen him react to big events. I see on Truth Social, he's using this perp walk of sorts to raise funds.