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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Federal Indictment of Donald Trump and An Aide Unsealed in Classified Documents Probe; Trump Faces 37 Counts Total, Including Willful Retention of National Defense Information. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired June 09, 2023 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We're going to start today with our law and justice lead, believe it or not.
The federal indictment of Donald Trump, it's historic, it's shocking.
I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, D.C.
The allegations outlined in the 37-count indictment include that Mr. Trump kept documents so sensitive they required special handling that he did not give them, he stored documents about U.S. defense, even U.S. nuclear programs improperly, illegally at Mar-a-Lago in public spaces such as a ballroom, even a bathroom shower. Pretty shocking stuff, Anderson.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: It certainly is.
I'm Anderson Cooper in New York.
Just under an hour ago, special counsel Jack Smith gave a brief statement on the indictment explaining no one is above the law, even a former president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACK SMITH, SPECIAL COUNSEL: Our nation's commitment to the rule of law sets an example for the world. We have one set of laws in this country and they apply to everyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And, Jake, the special counsel also making the point today that violations of U.S. laws on classified documents put the country at risk.
TAPPER: That's right, Anderson.
I want to bring in CNN's Paula Reid.
Paula, walk us through the most damning allegations in the indictment in your view. PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this
indictment tells a story of what investigators have learned over the past year and a half. They lay out how the former president allegedly willfully retained over 300 classified documents allegedly storing them around his Mar-a-Lago resort everywhere from a bathroom to a bedroom to a ballroom for over two months, that ballroom was activity hosting events touring this time. They also reveal how sensitive secrets meant only for a handful of our closest allies were splayed out in a storage room. There's even photographic evidence of that allegation.
They also lay out how the former president allegedly shared classified information on two occasions with people after he left office who didn't have clearances. One of those occasions we broke the news of last week, a meeting at his Bedminster golf club in the summer of 2021 where he suggested to a group of his aides, and some folks working on a book, that he had a classified document that was highly sensitive information, and he acknowledges in a recording that he does not have the power to declassify it.
They also allege that he shared a classified map with a representative of a political action committee.
They expand their allegations to say that he tried to pressure one of his lawyers to not be fully honest with the FBI and that is extraordinary because we know one of those lawyers, Evan Corcoran, he is a witness in this case. Special counsel Jack Smith was able to successfully get around attorney/client privilege by convincing a federal judge that his advice may have been used in commission of a crime.
So these are his own attorney's words coming back to be used against him in this criminal indictment. It also lays out several potentially incriminating exchanges with his aide Walt Nauta who is also charged here, they appear to move boxes around to evade the government that is specifically requesting its records back.
Jake, it's extraordinary. You know, we have been covering this closely and broken so much news, but it's clear only our reporting showed us a sliver of the evidence that a special counsel could be presenting to a jury.
TAPPER: All right. Paula Reid, thanks as always and great reporting as always.
Let's bring in CNN's Kaitlan Collins.
Kaitlan, the indictment has so many primary source materials, text messages, photographs, testimony contemporaneous notes by his own attorneys. How is that going over in Trump world, do you think?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it remains to be seen, Jake, but I don't think it's going to go over well because what you look at when you read through this indictment is you see that it is just a wealth of people who were around him that went and testified and that is what this is based on. You know, you're going to see obviously a lot of Republican attacks
against this, but I think it's important to remember these are the people who worked with Trump in the White House, and these are the people that he employs at Mar-a-Lago and these are his attorneys that he has hired and that is what so much of this is based on. In addition to that of course his own words that are on that audio recording they reference here saying that he showed people this information telling them that he did not have the ability to declassify it.
And one thing that stood out, Jake, about Evan Corcoran, that's who is identified as attorney 1 in this indictment, it was his notes that they were able to get after a big court fight that the special counsel undertook, and that is what a lot of this is based on when it comes to Trump suggesting this they destroy or hide documents relevant to a subpoena from the federal government, also implying when his attorney went to his hotel room, that he simply plucked ones that he thought were bad out of the group that he had gathered.
So that is what's striking is what this is based on, is what this is based on, is it's testimony from the people who were the valets at Mar-a-Lago, some of his closest advisers and his top attorneys.
TAPPER: And right before we got this indictment as you kind of predicted last night in your coverage, there was another shakeup of Trump's legal team. I just had Jim Parlatore on. He didn't know why that was, but if you read the indictment, it does seem like Mr. Trump pushes attorneys to go in directions that might not be on the right side of the law.
Did that have anything to do with this shakeup?
COLLINS: Yeah, that's obviously something we knew from his time at the White House, that has kind of always been his style with attorneys, that's why he has famously had such a difficult time finding and keeping the same attorneys.
I'm told that the shakeup that happened today, which is really notable, is less because of what's in the indictment and more because of what is happening within the legal team. And Jim Trusty, one of the attorneys who has now resigned that was on our air last night, could not say which attorneys were going to be with Trump at the courthouse in Miami on Tuesday, signaling that there was some tension behind the scenes.
I think it had more to do with the fact that they are considering bringing on another Florida-based attorney to deal with this, to deal with this now the fact that it is in Miami and not Washington. When John Rowley and Jim Trusty are two of the top attorneys who have been litigating this for months, they probably know this case better than anyone else, but now they are no longer on this team and whoever it is that they are adding to this team has not started.
Todd Blanche, the other attorney who is taking the helm, has only been a lawyer for the former president for about two months. He was hired in early April. So that does speak to also the legal challenges that they are facing in taking this case to trial.
TAPPER: And, also I want you to tell us about Walt Nauta. He is also charged in the indictment, a long-time Trump aide. He is now facing multiple criminal charges himself.
COLLINS: And he is someone who was actually with the former president right now. We were told as of yesterday that Walt Nauta was with Trump in Bedminster, at his golf club there, and, of course, is at the center of this indictment where they took documents, boxes from Mar-a- Lago to there. He is someone who was a valet for Trump in the White House.
He was essentially a body man. He was very close there doing personal errands for Trump. He is someone who followed Trump to Mar-a-Lago and worked for him in his post-presidency office as a few others did. He is at the person at the center of this who was moving boxes, including as it lays out in great detail, including talking about a 24-second phone call that Trump had with Walt Nauta the day that Evan Corcoran, one of his attorneys, came to go through the documents in the storage room to then hand them over.
In that, it says that Trump called Walt Nauta earlier. Walt went to the storage room. He moved boxes around and then Evan Corcoran came in was looking for these documents. Of course, as we know now, Jake, and part of the reason that Walt has been indicted is that he spoke to investigators and denied moving any boxes around and, of course, he came back and they had surveillance footage that showed very clearly he had moved these boxes around at the direction of his boss.
TAPPER: Yeah, lying to the FBI generally not a wise thing to do.
Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.
We've been making this point now for a few weeks, but one of the reasons Donald Trump was president was because of Hillary Clinton's issues much, much smaller than these ones, having to do with classified documents as a candidate in 2016.
Mr. Trump repeatedly hammered Hillary for her treatment of classified documents with her email server and insisted that he cared deeply about the sanctity of classified documents and information. He reiterated over and over, no one is above the law.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In my administration, I'm going to enforce all laws concerning the protection of classified information. No one will be above the law.
One of the first things we must do is to enforce all classification rules and to enforce all laws relating to the handling of classified information.
We also need the best protection of classified information.
(END VIDEO CLIPS) TAPPER: Perhaps not surprisingly, all three of those statements by Mr. Trump are cited in the criminal indictment against Donald Trump in which of course he faces 37 charges related to the mishandling of the classified documents he swore he would protect.
Jamie, let me start with you because one of the things I was talking about with Parlatore is that there are 31 classified documents out of hundreds of thousands and Parlatore was making the argument that those are the only 31 that were that serious, but you say according to experts that's not the case.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And Andy can add to this. Before I spoke to his senior Justice Department official who explained to me that before this indictment comes out when you are dealing with highly sensitive classified material, DOJ, the special counsel, goes to the CIA, DOD, all of these, what can we have in the court case? What is too sensitive?
So it is likely that there are many other documents beyond this 31, but everyone had to come to an agreement that, okay, we can live with these 31.
TAPPER: But, Andy McCabe, the 31 documents aren't shown to the grand jury, right? They are not reading the nuclear secrets to see, oh, this is really sensitive?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Some version of that will actually take place for each of the documents that's cited in counts 1 through 31.
TAPPER: Redacted or no?
MCCABE: So they will use the Classified Information Protection Act or CIPA to come up with a series of redactions or substitutions that are agreeable to both sides and can then be presented to the jury.
Now, it's important to know that a big piece of that process is the one that takes place before the case is charged and that is getting the intelligence community to agree to the potential exposure of these documents in the course of litigation. Many Espionage Act cases never go to court because you can't get that agreement, people aren't willing to essentially sacrifice the secret or sensitive nature of the documents.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, in other words, the reason that these documents are cited is because they are -- it could have been a lot worse, it probably was a lot worse.
MCCABE: There are probably many documents in the 300 or so that they collected from Mar-a-Lago and however many additional that were voluntarily given back to NARA, there are probably many documents in that collection that couldn't be agreed to be exposed in litigation, like things that were so sensitive that nobody wanted to bring them into court and put them through a CIPA process.
TAPPER: Like what? Obviously, you wouldn't give us the detail but obviously what? Just vaguely, like where we think Iran has its nuclear weapons program?
MCCABE: A lot of sensitivity comes down to timing. And some of these documents if they are older now it may be that the sensitivity of the source or the collection method or the location or maybe current events around the world have developed in a way that these -- that the content of some of these documents has been exposed publicly so they are no longer as sensitive now as they were when they were originally classified and considered, you know, super sensitive important stuff.
So there are different ways to kind of square that circle. It's not easy, it takes an agreement across the intel community, but these documents, these 31, have already gone through that process.
TAPPER: But these are 31 not necessarily the 31 worst. Just the 31 that they could get the intelligence community to sign off on and allow in court?
MCCABE: Yeah. No, on the other hand the prosecutors want some juicy stuff to use, right?
MCCABE: It's going to provoke a protective and emotional reaction from the jury, that's what they're looking for. I'm confident that each one of these has been evaluated so very closely to satisfy everyone's concern that they do constitute national defense information. That's what's necessary for the 793 charge which is the charge in those first 31 counts.
TAPPER: Last question on this. Does this not put the grand jury or the jury at risk -- not a grand jury -- well, did the grand jury see these documents, too, or no?
MCCABE: The grand jury I would expect saw some of them. I'm sure they didn't see --
TAPPER: Does this not subject members of the grand jury and the jury who are just common citizens, right, who couldn't get out of jury duty, does this not put them in a precarious situation where people might want to know what they know, what they learned, even if it's a sanitized version?
MCCABE: The jurors will never have security clearances, right?
MCCABE: You can't go through that process --
TAPPER: But they're going to read some of these documents.
MCCABE: But they will read some version of the documents, maybe it's a summary, maybe it's a redacted version of the document to try to kind of limit the worst damage that could be, you know -- could come from having folks without clearances seeing these things.
But, yes, to serve on a jury in a national security case, huge responsibility and it's something that jurors take very seriously and it does put them in somewhat of an awkward position.
LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, keep in mind two things, remember, a grand jury is only deciding probable cause. It will be a trial jury that will have overwhelming burden. The other point is you don't get to voir dire your jury, you get the luck of the draw, whoever is assigned to the grand jury process.
So the idea of suggesting that somehow it was tailor-made to have one particular result can be fatally undermined in incidences like this. But also, I mean, remember, it was Trump himself who elevated, based on all the statement you outlined about Hillary Clinton, who elevated a crime like this from a misdemeanor to a felony, based on the specific gravitas assigned to it.
And, finally, when you think about all of this, focus on the legal claims that the defense attorneys will be making. They have not said, oh, this was an inadvertent and one document got away or 20 documents got away or 31 documents got away. They have doubled down to suggest not that he declassified, they've never made that argument in an open court filing, but instead that he was entitled to retain these documents.
We don't know the answer to three major questions. Why did you take these documents? Why did you want to keep these documents? And why have you tried to obstruct the retention and reclamation of these documents? That -- those are the questions that will linger for any jury pool out there and have yet to be answered.
PHILLIP: It does feel to me, though, that we have some clues about part of the why, right? Both the audiotape from Bedminster and the second example of Trump taking out this document for people in a super PAC, it seems especially in the audiotape instance, he was trying to use it against Mark Milley.
TAPPER: Mark Milley in the first example.
PHILLIP: He -- trying to use classified documents against people, weaponizing it in that way, that's a little bit of a why. That is a little bit of the intent here of why he wanted to hold on to some of this stuff. It's not totally unusual, I think, if you, you know, know Trump for him to want to hold on to things, to be able to whip them out and to say, see? I know that this happened, and I can't really show you, but I know that this happened.
But I do think that they are leaving some crumbs here about the why and that's very important.
TAPPER: The why almost -- well, yeah. Okay. Thanks to all.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy just weighed in on this 37-count indictment against Donald Trump. We will bring you his comments next as the reactions start to really pour in.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): That this judgment is wrong by this DOJ. That they treated President Trump differently than they treat others and it didn't have to be this way.
This is going to disrupt this nation because it goes to the core of equal justice for all which is not being seen today and we are not going to stand for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reacting to the 37-count indictment against former President Donald Trump.
Back with the team here in New York.
Elie, what do you make of that, and also Jack Smith talking about a speedy trial? In his words -- Jack Smith's words were my office will seek a speedy trial consistent with the public interest and the rights of those accused.
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, starting with the speedy trial issue. Every prosecutor is trained, whenever you're asked, are you ready to go to trial, you say the government stands ready. Even if a judge said to me, you need to go on trial tomorrow, I would just say, we're ready. And I think that's what we saw from Jack Smith.
The way the rule works, it says a defendant, not the prosecutors, a defendant has the right to be tried within 70 days, 7-0 days of an indictment. Now, almost no defendant in the history of the federal system has ever gone to trial in 70 days. Ultimately, the timing of this trial will rest with the judge and judges are more going to defer to the defendant.
They're going to give the defendant sufficient time to prepare but I think Jack Smith was making a statement by saying we're ready to go.
COOPER: Were you surprised by Kevin McCarthy's new statement? Because yesterday he had basically pointed the finger at President Biden saying Biden was behind this.
ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Nothing that Kevin McCarthy does surprises me now. I mean, he's made his decision that the tribe matters and that's the only thing that matters. I mean, if you think about January 6, you know, he came out after January 6, said it was bad, Trump owns it. Magically went down to Mar-a-Lago and became one of his biggest defenders. So you have January 6. Now you have these classified documents and then of course the many years of impropriety of Donald Trump and they are still defending him, they being most of my former colleagues are still defending him. It makes me wonder, you know, is there anything that the former president did do where they finally break away because I can't think of much worse than this.
I will tell you, though, in the mind of the ample Republican congressman right now, they are going to be fairly quiet this weekend, they're going to probably cancel a few events. They know that this is really bad and they are going to wait for somebody to come forward with a really good statement that they go piggyback on and use as a way to defend the former president. Somebody will come forward and pick this apart or find a nuance, but there is a lot of fear in my former colleagues, I know that.
But they -- if you admit that this is wrong, you now have to admit that everything you defended for the last six years could possibly be wrong, too, and that's not going to happen.
COOPER: It was interesting to hear Jake's interview with Parlatore, one of Trump's former attorneys. I'm wondering, Elie, what you thought from a legal standpoint of what he said?
HONIG: Well, to Adam's point --
COOPER: Because he did -- I mean, he pointed out to a couple things as being troubling.
HONIG: He did. He conceded some things were trouble. And to Adam's point, what Parlatore would do, his fall back was to say if true, if supported by the facts. But the thing is, it's in here. It's in this indictment. This indictment brings the receipts.
There is a species of indictment that would just be very general, it would just say on or about such-and-such date, the defendant did commit this crime, period. This indictment is very different. Every relevant assertion, virtually every relevant assertion in this indictment is backed up by a text, an email, an audiotape, a direct quote, and that's a powerful statement both about the importance of this case and the strength of the evidence that they have.
COLLINS: And also what I noticed, maybe I'm wrong, but I was reading through this on the train earlier, a lot of it all focuses on -- almost all of this focuses on post-subpoena that they did in May. There's not a lot about what happened before then which is something Trump and his attorneys office say and Trump tries to defend himself saying I was open, I would have given them back.
We know he fought it for a year and a half. They got the subpoena in May. It was several months later when the FBI showed up at Mar-a-Lago. This seems to all focus on what happened after that subpoena was sent to his attorneys.
HONIG: You can see the downward spiral from the point of that subpoena laid out in this indictment, that's important for two reasons for prosecutors, one, it's a charge, a bunch of these charges relate to obstruction. And, two, it's powerful evidence in front of a jury of consciousness of guilt. You say to a jury why are they hiding boxes of documents? Why are they lying to the FBI and the grand jury? That's why I think you see that exact pattern in the indictment.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: On the speedy trial issue, there are real political implications for this obviously. I think Trump would like to kick this beyond the election and so when this trial happens is pretty important. One refuge is -- Adam, is for these people who are looking for one is let's let a jury decide.
AXELROD: You know? And so -- but that's less useful if the trial is coming up quickly.
KINZINGER: He didn't say that about Hillary. But they'll say that --
AXELROD: Right. Of course.
COOPER: Kaitlan, to your point it's interesting on page 24 of the indictment, the number 62, it talks about the timeline, the grand jury issued a subpoena on May 11th of 2022.
It then goes through this step-by-step point by point litany of actions that Trump and his assistant took regarding the boxes in the following days, and it sums it up. It says in sum between May 23rd and June 2nd, 2022, before Trump's attorneys told anyone reviewed the Trump boxes in the storage room, Nauta at Trump's direction, that's his assistant, moved approximately 64 boxes from the storage room to Trump's residence and brought to the storage room only approximately 30 boxes. Neither Trump nor Nauta informed Trump attorney of this information.
So, there is this flurry of movement between -- and collusion between Trump telling Nauta to go down and do this and this. There's like a bunch of short like 20-second phone calls and box -- 64 boxes being moved into his private residence for him to look at and only returning 30.
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: This is the thing about this case, though, where, you know, so many times we have heard the comparison being made, well, what about Biden and what about -- they had classified documents. In this case, the improper possession of classified material which would be one charge is actually overtaken by the elements of the obstruction which you see not just on page 24 but woven throughout the documents where you see calculated physical moves of items.
COOPER: And the implication of these moves is -- moving it from a storage room to his private residence so he can literally go through each box and decide what he wants to do with whatever is in the box. Some of that is documented. Some of those may be returned and some may be sent elsewhere. MILLER: And others of these moves appear, you know, to be if there's
going to be a search, you know, that they won't be where they think they will be looking. So calculated stories, what to say, calculated lies, what if we say this. I mean, they have built the obstruction piece around the underlying crime here.
COOPER: He also -- Trump changes his summer plans and his summer travel plans in order to be at Mar-a-Lago when his own attorneys are coming.
COLLINS: But look --
MILLER: But he also -- he also takes documents with him on his summer --
COLLINS: To follow that, though, right after that happened the 24- second phone call, that's June 3rd which we knew about was when Jay Bratt and the other DOJ went to Mar-a-Lago, they are in the dining room with Evan Corcoran and Christina Bobb, Christina Bobb is the one who signed the certification even though she hadn't done the search and Trump comes by.
I remember, we found out about this when we found out about -- when the search happened in August, Trump stopped by that meeting between his attorneys and DOJ officials to say that he was an open book. That comes after he was on the phone with Walt having him move boxes around before his attorneys went down to search.
COOPER: You meant to say he opened the books.
ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm thinking what Speaker McCarthy said about this DOJ overreaching and mistreating Trump. Let's give everybody the benefit of the doubt that perhaps he did think he declassified the documents. Perhaps he did think he didn't know he had these national security secrets. We now have him on tape saying that he knows he has them.
There is a moment in history where we will all be judged and I think today is one of those days where there is an opportunity if you don't want to weigh in on January 6, I think you should, but fine. But the person that you are defending is on tape, in text messages saying that I am breaking the law, that I am putting not just his security at risk but, you, Kevin McCarthy, your security is at risk because of what Donald Trump --
COOPER: I mean, he is literally contradicting all of those arguments that were made by all of his supporters --
COOPER: -- on a recorded phone call saying to a group of people without secret clearances, wait a minute, let's see here, he is a he showing the can have it dimension, it's highly confidential. He says, secret, this is secret information. Look. Look at this.
I mean, it's literally saying this is secret information. Look, look at it.
ALLISON: I want to say to Kevin McCarthy, look, Kevin, look at this.
AXELROD: There's no -- there is no relationship between what and why Kevin McCarthy said what he said and what's in that document.
COOPER: He says, see, as president I could have declassified it and they go yeah and laugh, a staffer, and then he says, now I can't, you know, but this is still a secret.
HONIG: I do wonder what the political experts at the table think of the difference between this indictment and the Manhattan da indictment. Because I can readily see how a normal person can shrug off, okay, how they docketed payments seven years ago to a porn star, hush money payments. We saw a lot of big deal type response to that which I sort of understand.
To me, putting aside the lawyer hat just as a normal person, it's much, much harder to do that here.
AXELROD: Yeah, you know, listen, when that indictment came out one of the issues was is this -- if he's going to be indicted in multiple places, this is kind of a break for him because it colors all of these other indictments. There's no doubt that this one is stunning as stands next to that one.
But when you think about -- you're asking a political question. When you think about what Kevin McCarthy is thinking about, the meme that Trump has set up in his community, in his tribe, as you put it, is they don't treat Biden this way, they didn't treat Hillary Clinton this way, they are going after me because they're going after you, and this has currency among his base.
KINZINGER: And the interesting thing about the history, you mentioned the history, it was a year ago today we had our first January 6th hearing in our series and it's when Liz Cheney said, I will paraphrase her, something like, you can continue to defend Trump, but long after he's gone, your dishonor will remain.
And that's that moment here today, too. It's not just January 6th. It's this.
And also keep in mind on top of all of this, something we haven't talked much about, the Secret Service's job at Mar-a-Lago was not to defend classified information. Their job is to defend the body of the president of the United States.
COOPER: According to this, they were unaware there was this information.
KINZINGER: Right. So it was the documents -- if you think about who is protecting Mar-a-Lago, it's Secret Service. The documents had absolutely no physical protection, not just they were in the bathroom, but there was nobody there with the responsibility besides Donald Trump to defend those documents.
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: The irony is that the only people in the building who were -- who had top secret clearance were the Secret Service agents who didn't know the material was even there.
AXELROD: I mean, even -- I'm sorry. Go ahead.
ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: On the political side, I think this plays different in the Republican primary and general election, right?
AXELROD: Of course, yeah, yeah.
ALLISON: So you have maybe the 35 percent never leave Trump, you know, and so, he becomes a nominee. I think that bodes well for the Democrats because I think when you think about what would motivate an electorate who might not be as enthusiastic this go around as they were in 2020, knowing you have someone on the top of the Republican ticket that is putting our national security at risk, those are the questions voters can because you know people always say, oh, it's the economy. Donald Trump wasn't thinking about the economy when he was, you know, showing classified documents off and so it plays very different in a primary for the Republicans --
AXELROD: Yeah, there's no doubt -- there's no doubt that even if this were not a crime, it is so grossly irresponsible that it becomes a huge thing if he gets to a general election.
The idea that Biden, though, they say Biden was responsible for this, the idea that Biden is trying to stop Donald Trump from becoming the nominee of the Republican Party defies political logic.
COOPER: Yeah, former President Trump is set to appear in a Miami courtroom next Tuesday. What the Secret Service has just set about its plans as that court appearance happens.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And welcome back to THE LEAD.
We're back with our law and justice lead right now. The U.S. Secret Service will not -- not seek any special accommodations for Donald Trump's court appearance in Miami on Tuesday, we're told. The federal courthouse there in the Sunshine State is preparing for its day in the sun as security for the arrest of the former president obviously no small undertaking. Federal and local law enforcement meeting today in Miami to try to figure out how this will all go down and the best way to go about doing it.
CNN's Kara Scannell is in Miami for us. We're also joined by CNN chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst John Miller. And Marcos Jimenez, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
Kara, let me start with you. What do we know about the security preparations for Trump's historic court appearance leading up to Tuesday?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we're still four days away and there is no obvious increased security presence just yet outside the courthouse. You know, a source -- a law enforcement source did tell us they did a threat assessment against the building and surrounding areas this morning and that they did not find any credible threats. We can expect that that will continue as we get closer to Tuesday.
As you said, the Secret Service says that they are not taking any special accommodations, but they will be in constant contact with their law enforcement partners.
Now, the city of Miami police department also said that they will be working with federal and local and state authorities to ensure, you know, and help them secure detours or road closures to make this a seamless process. We can learn a lot from how this was handled in New York two months ago, the former president was indicted there, did show up for an arraignment. At that arraignment, you know, the streets were locked down, there was a clear pathway for him.
And interestingly, you know, he was brought into the D.A.'s office there, brought into the courthouse and then exited really without being seen in the public eye. We can expect the same to happen here if the process follows its normal route. He will self-surrender to the U.S. Marshals here. This will all take place behind closed doors likely in the courthouse behind me.
There are a couple different courthouse structures here. In New York we were able to see a brief video of Trump walking into the courtroom and still photographers were allowed to capture images of Trump sitting behind the defense table. Here in federal court there are no cameras allowed of in I kind so it's possible this whole day we will never actually see the former president. We don't see him enter. We won't see him inside the courtroom and likely won't see him leave.
So, that is a distinction from what happened in New York just two months ago, but these security preparations will continue through the weekend, leading up until Tuesday, and we are waiting to learn exactly more tails of what to expect -- Jake.
TAPPER: A lot of opaqueness in the Sunshine State there.
Marcos, a Donald Trump appointee has been initially assigned to oversee this case, federal district judge Aileen Cannon. Her appointment of a third party special master to review documents seized from Mar-a-Lago raised some eyebrows and that decision was eventually overturned by a conservative panel of appeals court judges.
What can you tell us about Judge Cannon and how you think she will rule on Trump's case? MARCOS JIMENEZ, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA:
Well, it's not clear to me that Judge Cannon will absolutely keep this case, but it's very likely that she will. Judge Cannon is one of our newest judges, if not the newest judges -- judge is that we have in the district. She is assigned to Fort Pearce, which is the farthest city north so we don't see much of her down in Miami where I'm located.
But she's a former prosecutor like I am. She's smart and she's capable.
And despite what happened previously, I think she will do a good job and I think she'll do her best to follow the law and let the facts play out.
TAPPER: John Miller, how will this complicated preparations for Mr. Trump's appearance at the courthouse on Tuesday, how will that impact the way Trump's arrest will play out?
MILLER: So that's complicated. You know, you've got the Secret Service that will be with him and they will be bringing him and transporting him, but then you have the FBI who takes him into custody. At that point, the Secret Service steps back because once he is arrested he's property of the FBI.
This is where the logistical stuff gets kind of fuzzy because normally, he would go to the FBI office in Miami which is pretty far away from the federal courthouse, and they would book him and fingerprint him and take his mug shots and then bring him to the courthouse. In this case, what they're talking about today is, is that going to be the way that they do it, the regular way, or are they going to find a way to do a booking process at the courthouse so that they can get him into a conference room and directly to the courtroom for the arraignment? All of this is the moving parts that have to go between Secret Service, FBI, the court, the United States Marshals.
Once he's in the court and in front of the judge, the FBI steps back and either the court let's him go, which is likely, or he becomes the property of the U.S. Marshal and under their control, highly unlikely since it's anticipated he's going to be released.
Outside, you have the police piece, 1,100 cops in the city of Miami, 2,400 for the county of Metro Dade, probably Florida state troopers will have to figure out how to handle crowds, maybe demonstrators and, yes, press. That entrance for Trump and exit from the courthouse will likely be in vehicles, in the garage, up, back down and out of the garage.
Marcos, there was some question as to whether or not this trial was going to take place in southern Florida or D.C. The alleged crimes took place for the most part in Florida but there also is a possibility it would be in D.C. because of the obstruction charge potentially being able to be used here.
How do you think the trial of a former Republican president in this venue in a state that Trump won twice be different?
JIMENEZ: Well, you know, look, a lot of people are coming to Miami. You know, Jack Smith is taking his talents now to South Beach, like Leno, Messi and many of our sports teams, but seriously, I think this trial is going to play out extremely well this our district. As I've said before, we have extremely good jurors who are level-headed, they follow the law. I've tried many cases in this district and I've always been impressed with our jurors. They do their best and they are by and large just really excellent.
We have the best justice system in the world. There is nothing better than to have a jury of your peers and it's interesting that the peers now are people who weren't former presidents, but Donald Trump is a private citizen, he will be tried by a jury of his peers. He will get a fair trial and he will do as well as any other defendant in this district.
I'm sure he will have excellent counsel, there are great criminal defense attorneys here, it will be interesting to see who shows up on Tuesday to represent him, but I would expect that it's someone who is extremely accomplished and will do the best to present the president's case.
TAPPER: All right. Marcos Jimenez, John Miller, Kara Scannell, thanks to all of you. Appreciate it.
The 2024 Republican candidates are largely lining up behind Trump and attacking Joe Biden and the Justice Department for the criminal indictment. But during Trump's first run for president back in 2016, he, of course, took a very different line when it came to classified documents and his then opponent Hillary Clinton.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hillary Clinton will be under investigation for a long, long time, for her many crimes against our nation, our people, our democracy, likely concluding in a criminal trial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That was Donald Trump on the campaign trail obsessed, angry about Hillary Clinton's treatment of classified materials, teeing up the crowd to launch into the familiar "lock her up" chant about Hillary Clinton's handling or mishandling of classified materials.
Here is a bit more of how Trump used to attack Clinton for behavior very similar, perhaps, paling in comparison to the 37 charges that he now faces.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TURMP: She bleached and deleted 33,000 emails after receiving a congressional subpoena.
She lied about it over and over and over again.
We may not know what's in those deleted emails. Our enemies probably know every single one of them. So they probably now have a blackmail file over someone who wants to be the president of the United States. This fact alone disqualifies her from the presidency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Hillary Clinton doing a but her emails hat there in a tweet earlier today.
Let's talk about all of this with -- anyway, former President Trump is not the only prominent politician accused of mishandling classified documents. As we've noted, President Biden still under federal investigation. Just last week, former Vice President Pence was notified he was cleared of criminal charges in his case.
In 2007, President George W. Bush's attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, was accused of mishandling top secret information, according to a Justice Department report. On two of the nation's most sensitive terror programs, Gonzalez was ultimately not prosecuted. He's joining us now.
Attorney General Gonzales, thank you so much for joining us.
If former President Trump had cooperated with investigators from the beginning, where would he be right now, do you think?
ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH ADMINISTRATION ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think he would be in a much better position, quite frankly. I think it would have affected some of the charges and so it would have been a much different situation. But, you know, this issue of mishandling of classified information is a very, very serious one. I think Jack Smith summed it up very neatly in terms of the damage and danger it provide -- the unauthorized disclosure and mishandling results possibly to the security of our country, our nation's citizens, our military around the world.
And as an example of how sensitive and how careful our government considers this, you know, I was investigated about handwritten notes that I had written about a classified program that was stored in my internal safe at the Department of Justice on the fifth floor in the AG's office, but because it wasn't a SCIF, it was a technical violation, but nonetheless there was an investigation because, again, the government takes this very seriously.
So, this is a big deal. It really is. And I was somewhat worried, quite frankly, what this indictment would read like because of the stature of the defendant here, but, you know, you read this and quite frankly, I found it shocking and the level of detail I think was amazing. I think it tells a compelling story and I think that the indictment and the work of Jack Smith's team justifies a confidence that the attorney general had in Jack Smith and his team, and I think -- I think that they are going to do a good job in prosecuting this case.
TAPPER: What was the most shocking part of the indictment in your view?
GONZALES: Well, the most shock -- well, there was just so much, Jake, quite frankly. The number of classified documents, where they were stored, completely unprotected, the efforts to hide them, to move them, to obstruct turning them over. You know, the story is quite compelling, quite honestly.
So, it's going to be a very interesting trial, obviously. Like every other defendant present -- former President Trump is presumed innocent until proven guilty, but a pretty compelling story here in this indictment.
Let me just say one more final word about the timing of this release. It is true that typically the indictment is not unsealed until there is a presentment. As a general matter, the department doesn't care about who controls the narrative but the fact that it was released before presentment tells me that there was some concern about it and -- but anyway, I think that the department has done its work and we will just see what happens at trial.
TAPPER: A lot of Republicans running to Donald Trump's defense today, a lot of them. The speaker of the House before the indictment was even unsealed. There's a statement I'm looking at from Senator Mike Lee of Utah saying the Biden administration's actions can only be compared to the oppressive tactics routinely seen in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, which were absolutely alien and unacceptable. In America, he calls this an act of absolute disrespect which echoes despotism.
What's your reaction when you see the Republican officials making comments like that?
GONZALES: Well, they can -- they can move to those countries, quite frankly, and live under the rules in those countries as far as I'm concerned.
It's disappointing. I don't understand it. I've got great confidence in the men and women who work in the Department of Justice, what -- it's not perfect. We weren't perfect, and I'm sure this department is not perfect. But they work very, very hard to get it right.
And you know, this indictment is quite -- it's quite overwhelming. And so, I'm disappointed, quite frankly. At a minimum, I would have liked to have seen the leadership in the House and other Republicans in the House -- you know, if they're not going to condemn the president, at least not say anything, and let the trial play out and see what happens. It is disappointing, quite honestly because an attack on the
Department of Justice is an attack on the rule of law. And that's not good for this country. We've got enough serious problems as it is, and it's disappointing that our leadership, so-called leadership at least on the Republican side, is acting the way that they are.
TAPPER: Let me give you a little pop quiz here. It's a little unfair. Here's the statement from Kevin McCarthy, the speaker of the house, and I want you to tell me who he's talking about, okay? I'll put the parts in quotes in quotes.
Despite the claim that there was no classified material, quote, the FBI found over 100 documents that contained classified content, perhaps most notably the FBI could not rule out the possibility that foreign powers or hostile actors accessed, unquote, the classified material.
This person whom McCarthy is criticizing, quote, their fundamental lack of judgment and wanton disregard for protecting and keeping information confidential raises continued questions about the exposure of our nation's diplomatic and national security secrets, unquote.
So who do you think he was talking about?
GONZALES: I'm going to guess Hillary Clinton.
TTAPPER: That's right. That's excellent. But don't you think that that exact statement could apply to this except times 1,000?
GONZALES: Oh, no question about it. Again, it's hypocritical.
And I must tell you, Jake, I don't understand the hold that this person has on the Republican Party and the cowardice. And I'm going to call it for how I see it, the cowardice of people in the Congress who are afraid of Donald Trump and they're more concerned about the next election than the next generation in this country.
And so, it's disappointing. It really is. But we'll see what happens. Again, I'm proud of the work of the department as reflected in this indictment. And we'll see whether or not the department will be successful in bringing this person to justice.
TAPPER: Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, it's good to see you, sir. Thank you so much, and thank you for your intellectual consistency. Appreciate it.
GONZALES: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: So what was Donald Trump doing the day that we all learned of these serious allegations against him in the lead up to the 37-count indictment alleging multiple federal crimes being unsealed? Well, he was on the golf course at his Bedminster, New Jersey, club with Florida Republican Congressman Carlos Jimenez, who tweeted this photo with the caption, quote, tee time with Trump. That's sweet.
And while Trump is in New Jersey, some of his supporters have gathered near Mar-a-Lago in Florida to show their support.
CNN's Randi Kaye is on the scene outside Mar-a-Lago in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Randi, what is -- what's the mood there now that the indictment's been unsealed?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, there's just a few supporters gathered here. Yesterday there was a much larger crowd. They did say they would be back this evening. We do expect that crowd to grow.
But even when you speak to them about the allegations in this indictment and the charges against the former president, they do not budge from their support for the former president. They believe, those who I spoke with say that these documents were planted there. They don't believe that the former president took them to Mar-a-Lago, which is right here behind me.
They think that this is a political witch hunt. Those are their words. And that it's political garbage as one of them told me.
And there are some people have been honking, yelling out the window to lock him up. So it's interesting to hear that phrase regarding the former president. We also went into town, the town of Palm Beach, and spoke to people, two people who actually voted for the former president. One of them told me that she hopes that he doesn't run. She thinks it's bad for the party and that he should back out of the race.
Then another gentleman who voted for him and just said that he thinks that nobody is above the law, and he doesn't believe that he should be running either -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Randi Kaye in West Palm Beach, Florida, thank you so much. Good gig, West Palm Beach, Florida.
The indictment against President Trump cites five comments made by the former president. We're going to play those moments coming up. I'm also going to speak with one of the candidates running against Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination. How much weight is this indictment having on the presidential race?
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
This hour, a look inside the first ever federal indictment of a former president of the United States. It was unsealed just this afternoon. It contains 37 charges against Donald Trump.
The document alleges that Mr. Trump kept documents so sensitive they required special handling, and the handling was -- well, let's say not so special. Storage locations for documents on U.S. defense, nuclear programs, and more, in the insecure mar-a-Lago facility include in a bathroom, on a stage, in a shower, in a ballroom where public events were held.
The indictment also alleges that Trump showed these documents to at least one person and asked his attorney to lie to the federal government about possessing these classified documents or to hide or destroy the documents that had been subpoenaed. Specifically says on at least two occasions Trump shared the classified material to others who didn't have the clearance to see them.
This afternoon, special counsel Jack Smith made his first ever remarks on the Trump indictment, plainly stating that no one, not even a former president, is above the law.