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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Trump On Way To Surrender In Georgia; Trump Shakes Up Defense Team Hours Before GA Surrender; Trump To Surrender In GA After Skipping GOP Debate. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 24, 2023 - 17:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You're looking live at the Fulton County, Georgia jail, where in just a few hours, Donald Trump will turn himself in and be placed under arrest. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, D.C. And this is THE LEAD. This hour I'm joined by my colleague, Kaitlan Collins, who's down there outside the Fulton County jail.

We expect Mr. Trump to surrender at 07:30 p.m. Eastern. That's what he announced he would do anyway. His motorcade arrived at the Newark, New Jersey airport in the last hour for his private flight down to Atlanta. A number of Trump co-defendants also surrendered today, including former White House Chief of Staff and former North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows. And the first trial date in the court has been set.

Pro-Trump lawyer Ken Chesebro, who is the alleged architect of the fake elector's plot we're told, Chesebro is set to go on trial October 23. His team asked for a speedy trial, which is his right in Georgia, although Donald Trump's lawyers opposed the speedy trial.

Kaitlan, you're down there in Georgia outside the jail, Fulton County. What is the environment like there? Are there a lot of supporters of the former president?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR, THE SOURCE: I wouldn't say there's a lot, Jake, but it kind of looks like similar to the scenes that we've seen the other times that Trump has had to turn himself in, whether that be in New York or in Miami or in Washington, D.C. in those latest federal indictments. They are now here. Of course, we're outside the Fulton County Jail.

Jake, for those who don't know, this is a notorious jail. I mean, there have been so many issues with this, whether it comes to actually crumbling walls, faulty air conditioning, bad plumbing. I mean, there have been sheriffs who have said it's a humanitarian crisis, basically, what's happening inside that. The Justice Department has opened investigations into it. That is going to be the environment that Donald Trump is walking into.

And the reason I say that is because after he turned himself in at the courthouse in Washington, D.C. just a few weeks ago, Jake, I had heard from sources that he was in this irritated mood leaving because it was kind of this process of being taken into a parking garage, being processed, having this lengthy process where then he was complaining about the conditions of Washington, D.C. Now he is going to be entering a much different environment from accounts of those who have been inside when he goes inside the Fulton County jail.

And, of course, one question still remains is whether or not we are going to see his mug shot. We saw Mark Meadows' mug shot earlier. We've seen Rudy Giuliani's, Sidney Powell's. As of this morning, Trump's team said it was still unclear that it was definitely happening, though that does seem to be the case that there is going to be one, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

My panel is back with me. And Jamie, the Fulton County sheriff said all 19 defendants would be treated the same way when they surrender in terms of fingerprinting, in terms of mug shots. But it does seem that the DA's office, they have to make some accommodations for the fact that this is a former president and he's coming in with a huge motorcade, right?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a motorcade that makes him look as if he's still the president. Look, they are not treating him the same as other people. I think Michael can speak to it, but we had on CNN last week a former lieutenant from the sheriff's office who describes how when you normally come in, your shoelaces are taken from, your tie is taken from you, your belt is taken --

TAPPER: For risk of suicide?

GANGEL: For risk -- right.

TAPPER: People are afraid of suicide. Yes.

GANGEL: For safety reasons. Donald Trump is not going to have to do anything like that. And --

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: You're right. I mean, remember that the secret service is controlling him. I mean, they control his person. The only thing the locals will control will be the process. And so the secret service is not going to subject him to things like a normal pat down search and those types of things that somebody might get when they process in. Nor is he going to come into a crowded booking room that might be the case on any other day with, you know, the smells that go along with jails from sweat and backflowed toilets.

TAPPER: And this is a notorious jail, this one.

MOORE: It is. It's a terrible place to be. And so the -- he's not going to be -- that's not happening for him. He's going to be brought in. The halls will be clear.

He'll go into a secure room. Secret service has been there for a week. They've been checking things out. They've made sure that there's no threat to him and they literally will form a protective zone around him that's almost like a sphere. So they're watching out for him.

TAPPER: But let me -- I want to ask -- I want to ask you a question, Laura, because, look, I guess I can see both sides in this, but the idea of Donald Trump getting a mug shot, the purpose of a mug shot is if the person escapes or goes on the lamb so that the public knows what the person looks like and they can search and find him. I could theoretically understand that about Mark Meadows who, you know, most Americans probably don't know what he looks like.


Donald Trump is one of the most photographed people in the world. So, what's the argument that there really is a need for a mug shot? I'm not saying you even believe this, but give me theoretical argument why he should get a mug shot?

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the theory of why you even have it published or even have a mug shot in the first place is not just the idea of identification in case you're a fugitive. It's a part of a court record at that point in time. This is how you looked at this particular point in time. And this is might -- if it's a criminal matter, say it's a homicide or it's a drug bust, which is not what's happening here, here is how you looked and can identify from a witness at trial and that sort of comparison.

Here, it's not just about shaming in Georgia. They're not going to say it's just about shaming. They've been criticized for being able to publicize their mug shots. Even those who are obviously innocent, who want to take it down one day still have this up there. The reason they're saying is because, look, you have allegedly offended the people of Georgia, the state of Georgia, and you must abide by the same process of everybody else.

But let me just tell you why it's so significant he is being treated differently than other people, it will be an argument he will eventually make as to why he might say, look, I ought to be in federal court because not only am I -- look at my motorcade and secret service, I was the president and I was at the time, I did what you accused me of doing. And it sounds a little bit like reminiscent of, one, Richard Nixon. If the president does it's not illegal. He will make arguments as part of his defense, undoubtedly that the intention for what he was doing was not criminal. It was executing and trying to enforce the laws of the land.

The difference, of course, is, again, civic's lesson, it is the purview of the states to cover their elections. But what you're going to see visually will track what he makes legally as a defense.

TAPPER: And, Abby, I've heard some people who aren't even necessarily defenders of Donald Trump, but saying this does seem to be rooted in trying to embarrass Donald Trump, putting up a mug shot. There's all this -- we still don't know if it's true or not, but all this speculation about whether or not he's going to be weighed, as most prisoners are, and then that weight is going to be publicized. I heard there's even some odds makers out there giving an over under on what his weight will be. No, I'm serious, you can actually place a bet on that.


TAPPER: But -- and I'm not saying that you should. But --

PHILLIP: I'm not a betting person.

TAPPER: But you can understand why people would say this really seems rooted and embarrassing.

PHILLIP: Yes, I can definitely understand that. I mean, as we've been discussing, we know what the guy looks like. We don't need a photo of him. Even on this day, we know what he looks like. So, I do think that's it.

But there is something to be said for a process is a process.


PHILLIP: If it applies to Mark Meadows, why would it not apply to another co-defendant? I think that's an argument as well. Look, a lot of Trump supporters just want him to be treated differently. And if that doesn't happen today, it won't be the end of the world.

TAPPER: All right, stay with me, everyone.

Coming up, the tight security outside the Fulton County Jail and the horrific conditions inside as Donald Trump makes his way there now.



TAPPER: At this moment, President Trump is preparing to fly from New Jersey to Atlanta where he will surrender on charges in that Georgia election subversion case. Mr. Trump will be booked at the Fulton County jail. It's a jail known for rather deplorable conditions, including inmate deaths and excessive force, and a prison population that is more than double the amount it was designed to hold. Four people have lost their lives there in just the past few weeks. The jail has also been deemed structurally unsafe.

CNN's Brian Todd has been closely following this story. Brian, this is the site of the bookings for Donald Trump and his co-defendants.


TAPPER: They're not going to spend any nights there. But it does bring -- give us an opportunity to shine a light on this jail's horrible reputation.

TODD: That's right, Jake. This place is really nothing short of a hulking, sprawling nightmare. Anybody connected to the criminal justice system in the Atlanta area knows that if you're ever told you got to go down to Rice Street, brace yourself because it's going to be horrible. We can give you some details on this place now. Fulton County jail is the formal name.

It is known as Rice Street because of its address. It opened in 1989. But almost immediately after it opened, it was overcrowded, had deplorable conditions, and was just, you know, just a horrible place to be. Just last month, the Justice Department announced an investigation into this place because of, quote, "allegations of unsafe, unsanitary living conditions, excessive force and violence." Now, as for the overcrowding, some pretty staggering figures, the capacity of the Fulton County jail, 2,688, but as of April, this is according to the state of Georgia, it housed 3221 inmates.

That's about 120 percent capacity. Seven inmates have died there this year, 15 died last year. And we have some images of just the horrible conditions. Grime, dirt all over the place, toilets, overflowing, air conditioning broken, lice, bedbugs, other insects everywhere. Look at that, it's just absolutely horrible.

Now, one notorious case from last year, this young man, Lashawn Thompson, found dead in his cell last September, 35 years old. His lawyers and the medical examiners say he died from neglect, malnourishment, other horrible conditions. But it was also he was found with bed bugs and lice just infesting his body. His lawyers released images of his cell. Look at that, just absolutely deplorable conditions, Jake.

Another anecdote that we can tell you, last year we just put up some more of these images of just what this place looks like inside. Last year, at a public meeting, law enforcement officers wheeled into this public meeting a wheelbarrow full of shanks. The shanks were taken, they say, by inmates who just basically grabbed crumbling piece of the walls and fashioned shanks out of them to attack other inmates. That's how bad this place is. Look at just some of the walls and the other conditions in here as that officer walks through and kind of shows you.


This place is absolutely deplorable. The sheriff, Patrick Labat, the sheriff of Fulton County, has acknowledged these conditions, but he's saying that he's requesting more than $2 billion in county funding to build a new jail. Let's see if he gets that. Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Brian Todd, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

I want to bring in John Miller. He's CNN's chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst.

John, back to the case. We know at least one of Trump's co-defendants is inside that Fulton County Jail. Harrison Floyd, the leader of a group called Black Voices for Trump. He did not negotiate bond prior to turning himself in. Could Fulton County be liable if something happens to him?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, the system that they've been using is a little unusual. It's that you go to the court house, you know, where the district attorney's office is, and you negotiate your bond ahead of time. So that's what Mark Meadows did, that's what Donald Trump did, that's what Rudy Giuliani did, then to a bondsman, if necessary, to secure that money, and then you go to the jail with that package. Apparently, he showed up in the jail without that package, which means the process reverses, which is he has to get processed there on the warrant and then show up in court and have the bail set by a magistrate. So, the question is, how long is it going to before he can get in front of a judge there?

TAPPER: Mr. Floyd could have his first court appearance in the next 24 hours. What happens once he gets in front of a judge?

MILLER: Well, then they work out the bond package. That could have and probably should have been worked out before he got there, because now he's caught between those two systems, waiting for one of them to catch up, which would be the court side.

TAPPER: All right, John Miller, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

What Trump's mindset might be as he prepares to surrender in his fourth criminal case? We're going to talk to three people who know him well next.



TAPPER: If you were looking from -- for images of New Jersey, here are some for you. Live shots at Newark International Airport. You can see Donald Trump's plane waiting, taxiing before takeoff. Soon he will be wheels up to Fulton County, Georgia, specifically to Atlanta, and then he will drive to Fulton County, Georgia, where he will surrender and be placed under arrest.

Joining me now are three people who know Donald Trump very well. Sarah Matthews, you used to work for Mr. Trump in the communications office. What do you think is going through his mind right now?

SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Honestly, I think he's been through this three times already. This is the fourth time in Trump world. I feel like they kind of thrive in the chaos. And so, right now, he probably knows the drill. He's not too worried.

He knows that he's dominating the news cycle. He's probably happy about the fact that no one is talking about the debate last night with his opponents. They're all focused on him. And so that is probably good for him politically. But legally, I know he has to be worried because there's so many defendants in this case, and he's got to be thinking, oh, no, what if some of them flip and start to cooperate?

So, this is a different case than the other ones that he's facing. And so I think that he probably is worried about this one more so than the others.

TAPPER: And if you're watching your screen, there it is. Donald Trump's private plane is wheels up to Atlanta, Georgia, from Newark Liberty International Airport.

Alyssa, this afternoon, we got a mug shot of Donald Trump's former chief of staff at the White House, Mark Meadows. You know Mark Meadows pretty well. What goes through your mind when you see mug shots of people with whom you used to work?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: It honestly makes me sad, especially Mark Meadows. I mean, this was a, you know, multi time member of Congress, somebody who could have stayed representing North Carolina's 11th District for probably the rest of his life if he had wanted to. But he sort of made this deal with the devil working for Donald Trump.

And as I've mentioned to you before, Jake, after Joe Biden won the election, there was this period of time that Mark Meadows was kind of playing both sides of the will Trump leave office peacefully or will he not? He was telling people like me, he was telling leaders on Capitol Hill, we're going to get Trump to ultimately leave. There's going to be a peaceful transition of power. But at some point, he also started bringing people like Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis, Mike Flynn into the Oval Office, who got these crazy ideas in front of the former president. And then he went a step further by going down to Georgia, and we know what happened there.

This is a result of his own actions. Frankly, that's what it comes down to. I think for many people, it feels like justice is moving, but slowly, this is two years after the fact, and we'll let it play out.

TAPPER: Sidney Powell, a co-defendant, Mike Flynn, who you mentioned, not mentioned in any of the criminal indictments.

Olivia Troye, let me ask you, Donald Trump might have a mug shot today. We don't know. We think he will. But either way, I mean, I think after one of the previous indictments, they made their own the Trump campaign, the MAGA team made their own indictment. He has said, give me a fourth indictment and I'll win the presidency.

OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER, VP MIKE PENCE: Yes. And look, while they don't want the legal accountability of what this means, I think they're going to use this to continue the grift and the lies. I think they'll market it. They'll use it to spread disinformation, targeted misinformation as well, and they'll continue down that narrative and the dangerous narratives of saying, this is targeted, this is all a conspiracy against Donald Trump. You know, we have to stand up.


They're coming after you next, which is all lies. Right? I mean, he is being held accountable for crimes that he has committed and where witnesses that worked for him directly or know him, and Republicans who supported this party for a very long time testified and are the part of the witnesses. So, I mean, that's just the irony of all of this. But I do think that he will be using that.

You'll see fundraising e-mails go out. I see them come out all the time. You'll see the text messages go out. And unfortunately, it's sad because it's harmful for our country. We can't get past this moment of the lies that continue to spread.

And you're seeing it. His supporters aren't wavering on this.

TAPPER: Yes, I had to cut a vacation short to come back for this criminal indictment, not to complain. But you did not. You were on vacation. Now you've had a chance to read it. What do you think?

MATTHEWS: Yes, I think that this case, in particular, is really strong. I feel like, I mean, we have him on audio literally telling the Georgia Secretary of State to find him 11,000 something votes.

TAPPER: Seven hundred and eighty.

MATTHEWS: Yes, exactly. And so, I think that this is going to be a difficult case for him to try to spin his way out of. But as Olivia mentioned, you know, they try to say this is a weaponization of government, but to me, this just looks 100 percent self-inflicted. Donald Trump got himself into this mess all because he couldn't accept the fact that he lost the election to Joe Biden.

TAPPER: Alyssa, the -- there were very few Republicans on the stage last night who were standing up for what I think you would call the rule of law in terms of standing against the lies in the attempt to subvert the election. Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson being two exceptions of the eight. If you think that they were all given sodium pentathlon before the debate, how many of them do you think would be saying or sounding similar to Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson?

GRIFFIN: I think probably every single one of them, with the exception of this Vivek character who kind of came out of nowhere and I'm not sure has many principles to stand on. Look, elected Republicans in Washington and all around the country know the fact that Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden. They were quick to denounce him. Nikki Haley gave one of the best denunciations of him after January 6 at the RNC winter meeting. I do appreciate that she took some shots at the former president and the fact that he is the least popular politician in the country.

But the reason Donald Trump should lose in 2024 is not because he's unpopular and is a loser for Republicans. It's because he is unfit for office, he tried to overthrow our elections and our constitution. That is the case that needs to be made more roundly. And I think if our elected officials had been doing that for the last two years, the primary would be in a very different place.

TAPPER: You three have always been since January 6, moral beacons when it comes to this issue. And thanks to all three of you, Alyssa, Sarah, Olivia. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, Donald Trump now in the air, heading down to Georgia, having just taken off from Newark International Airport. The former president expected to surrender at the Fulton County jail in just a matter of hours.

Coming up next, what's it make of Trump switching up his defense team in Georgia? Stay with us.



TAPPER: And welcome back to CNN Special Coverage. It was wheels up for Donald Trump at Newark International Airport just a few minutes ago. His plane, his private plane is heading here, where you're looking right now to Georgia. Specifically, he'll land at Atlanta Airport and head to the Fulton County Jail where he will be placed under arrest.

Moments ago, we learned that Trump's newly hired lawyer, Stephen Sadow, is waiting for Donald Trump at the Atlanta International Airport and will ride with him to the Fulton County Jail where he will surrender. My colleague Kaitlan Collins is down outside the Fulton county jail right now. Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, a new attorney for Trump coming with him tonight. Here with me now is CNN political correspondent Sara Murray and Riah Greathouse, a former assistant district attorney for Fulton County. So perfect person to talk about this with. Sara, let's talk about this new attorney that Trump has hired. You know, we knew that he had been looking for someone for a few weeks. He wanted a different person on this team, despite the others that have been dealing with this investigation for two and a half years. Steve Sadow, what do we know about him and what he's been brought on to do?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's another prominent criminal defense attorney, the guy that Trump had before, Drew Findling, also prominent criminal defense attorney. But it seems like for whatever reason, the Trump team wanted to make a switch. Again, they're not really giving a clear answer for why that is. I think one of the things we saw with Drew Findling is he was starting to get a lot of attention in the media. That's not necessarily something that Donald Trump has loved in the past.

They've still been pretty complimentary, essentially, of sending Drew on his way as they've replaced him with Steve Sadow. But it's clear that they wanted to make a change, and this was something that Donald Trump felt more comfortable with. So, you know, we've already seen, you know, a little bit of paperwork come flying for him. This is the kind of job where you do have to hit the ground running. And, you know, we'll see how he goes with the District Attorney.

COLLINS: And he's pretty well known in Atlanta. I mean, he's represented T.I., Usher, Ray Lewis, I believe, like he is a very pretty prominent guy attorney in circles here.

RIAH GREATHOUSE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: He is. I mean, he's been doing this for years. He's got an amazing track record. But most importantly, he's a veteran in the Fulton County system. He understands working with DA Willis and her staff. It's something that he's done time and time again with several clients. So it's going to be really interesting to see how he's going to jump and hit the ground running on this case. [17:35:00]

COLLINS: Yes. And Drew Findling was kind of known as this billion dollar attorney. I mean, that's his hat -- that's his instagram handle. That's truly how he's known. I was heard from some people that that was something that was not appreciated necessarily in Trump circles.

MURRAY: Yes. I mean, it's sort of interesting because on the one hand, he has a lot of experience dealing with prominent celebrity clients, which you would think would be good taking on, you know, someone like the former president. But he did have a pretty high profile, especially as this case was charged and brought to indictment and it became clear Donald Trump was going to have to show up at jail.

We know that Trump doesn't necessarily love that. And talking to people about Steve Sadow, they did say, you know, look, if I got in trouble with Steve Sadow would be very high on the list of criminal defense attorneys that I would call, if not at the top of it. So he does, to your point, have a very good reputation.

GREATHOUSE: He does. And it's also very noteworthy to mention that this is a RICO trial, and that's what he has an expertise in white collar and RICO crimes. So it's very interesting to see how, you know, he's going to possibly give Mr. Trump the upper hand, possibly.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, he has a good reputation. We'll see what that looks like. It's a heck of a first day on the job. And Jennifer Little, the other attorney who is staying on, is a witness, and the other investigations against Trump, the documents investigation. But since you know this system so well, you know, we just heard from the judge who has set a date hearing for September 18th, that's for Jeffrey Clark, the former Justice Department official.

He is trying to make this argument that his case should be moved from state court to federal court because he worked for the Justice Department. I mean, what's your sense, just judging from where it is now, the likelihood of that?

GREATHOUSE: Well, I think it's going to be very difficult. I understand that the removal statute that allows the process of removing a case from state court to federal, sure. You have to basically prove that you are working in your capacity, furthering the interests of the government, so to speak. And I think that's going to be very difficult for him to prove. I think ultimately, this may just be a strategy that he's using for jury shopping.

I think he's trying to say, all right, well, if I stay in Fulton County, we know that typically Atlanta may have blue, may not necessarily be in their favor. Whereas you go to the Northern District, the federal forum, you're going to have a much wider jury pool to choose from.

COLLINS: Yes. And Jeffrey Clark is actually here in Atlanta today.

MURRAY: Yes, he is here in Atlanta. I believe he still has to turn himself in here at jail. There are a couple of other defendants who haven't been turned in the process. I do think, I mean, one of the interesting things, seeing all of these folks try to move their case to federal court or what we saw from Ken Chesebro today, which was moving for a speedy trial, is it's going to be really hard for Fani Willis to try to keep all these defendants together and try them together, maybe impossible.

COLLINS: Yes, Riah Greathouse, Sara Murray, thank you both for joining me out here in the Georgia heat. Jake, back to you.

TAPPER: Thanks, Kaitlan. It's very cool in here in the air conditioned studio. As Trump makes his way to Georgia, today, the Fulton County prosecutor proposed an October 23rd trial date for Trump and his 18 co-defendants. Is that realistic? And how might that play in his 2024 campaign? We'll get into all that next.



TAPPER: And we're back with CNN's special coverage of the Georgia indictment of former President Donald Trump. The former president's plane left New Jersey, wheels up a few minutes ago. It's now on its way to the Atlanta International Airport in Georgia. Let's bring in CNN political analyst and former Trump White House communications director, Alyssa Farah Griffin, as well as Republican strategist and former Trump campaign senior advisor, David Urban. David, let's talk about the Republican debate last night on "Fox." Trump was not brought up until about an hour into the debate. Here's what Bret Baier asked the candidates. Take a listen.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: If former President Trump is convicted in a court of law, would you still support him as your party's choice? Please raise your hand if you would.


TAPPER: Most of them raised their hand. Trump wasn't even on the stage last night, yet you could still see he really continues to have a grip on the candidates, most of them in the Republican Party. But David, for the Republican voters who don't want a convicted felon to be their nominee, what do you make of that answer?

DAVID URBAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, it's tough. So, as you might have seen there and has been written about kind of widely today, you know, Vivek Ramaswamy's hand shot up right away. There's, you know, crowd roars. And then everyone else kind of sheepishly put their hand up. And, you know, and Governor DeSantis, you know, slowly cranked his hand up after looking around. It's a tough thing to answer because it's going to be a very divisive point if Trump is actually convicted, because at this point, we can all say, well, listen, he's accused. He's innocent until proven guilty, right? There's all these presumptions out there. But if he's actually convicted of one of these cases, it's going to be an entirely different ballgame where people are going to have to really sit back and think about that. And it's going to give a lot of Republicans who might not otherwise have paused, who might be willing to vote for Trump and give him another second chance, they might actually, you know, look at somebody else at this point so we'll see. We'll see when it comes.

TAPPER: Alyssa, did you like anybody on the stage last night? Was there anybody there that you thought you could vote for if they became the nominee?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I thought Nikki Haley kind of took the night away and she had the great moment where she called Vivek Ramaswamy out for kind of his lack of foreign policy experience, stood up for kind of traditional conservative values, like standing with our allies abroad. I also thought Mike Pence had a good night.

And, you know, this is a man who's done two vice presidential debates. He's done gubernatorial debates, so he's got that experience. But nearly every candidate on that stage was forced to admit something very important on the airways of "Fox News." The election that -- what Vice President Pence did to certify the election was the right thing to do in his constitutional duty.


So I think that stood out to people. But listen, the reality is Donald Trump's 40 points ahead. And even though polling would suggest that most Republicans wouldn't support a convicted felon, Donald Trump kind of blows most polling out of the water. So I'm not really sure we can expect any coming wave to take him out of the front runner status.

TAPPER: David, it seemed as though "Fox" wanted to move on from talking about Trump and what happened on January 6th. But as Alyssa noted, former Vice President Mike Pence not only embraced the conversation, he really interrupted even to make clear his position on what Trump told him to do, asked him to do. Take a look.


MIKE PENCE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Should I speak on this issue? I was kind of involved.


BAIER: You did say something. And we thought you were done, but you please.

PENCE: No. I wasn't done. He asked me to put him over the Constitution, and I chose the Constitution, and I always will. I had no right to overturn the election.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TAPPER: What did you make of that, David?

URBAN: Yes, listen, I think Mike Pence had an incredibly strong performance last night. I think, you know, Chris Christie's praising of Mike Pence's performance on January 6th was probably Chris Christie's most powerful moment when he stepped back and said, look, Mike Pence put himself at great peril, politically, physically, you know, every way, by standing up and doing the right thing.

So I thought it was a very powerful moment for the former vice president, and he outperformed expectations. He looked really strong last night.

TAPPER: There was a moment also, Alyssa, where the candidates had been asked, you know, did Vice President Pence do the right thing? And there was a moment where it seemed as though Vice President Pence thought that Governor DeSantis was not giving answer on the question. And Governor DeSantis pushed by the vice president, said something like, I have no beef with Mike, or what Mike did. What did you make of that?

GRIFFIN: Listen, Ron DeSantis did not distinguish himself as a leader last night, whether it was to David's point, you know, looking around to see who raised their hand or that moment. I mean, the moderators had to step in and say, just answer the question. I think that resonated with a lot of folks who were trying to see, is this somebody who could achieve front runner or even number two status? And he's just not there.

I worked with Governor DeSantis in the house. He's got some skills. But this is not a guy who's going to be the savior of the GOP if you're looking for someone to take on Donald Trump. David, go ahead.

URBAN: Jake, I was just going to say, if you compare and contrast Chris Christie's answer on that and Governor DeSantis's answer on that, I think you'll see two very different answers, right? And one very definitive, one not so strong. I have no beef is not a warm embrace of the Constitution like Chris Christie had.

TAPPER: Right. I have no beef with the Constitution. Let's take a look at the moment where DeSantis was pushed on whether or not he would support a six-week abortion ban on a national level.


BAIER: Would you sign a six week ban federally?

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to stand on the side of life. Look, I understand Wisconsin is going to do it different than Texas. I understand Iowa and New Hampshire are going to do different. But I will support the cause of life as governor and as president.


TAPPER: Alyssa, this is, I mean, I tried to get him to answer the same question. He doesn't answer that question. It's a reasonable question. He signed a six-week abortion ban into law in Florida. Alyssa, why not just say yes?

GRIFFIN: He's got to embrace it at this point. But what he did note is he said he pointed to his 2022 midterm victory and how well he did in Florida. But I would note that was before he signed the six-week abortion ban. I think it would look very different in Miami-Dade. The only thing he can do is embrace it at this point.

TAPPER: David, as a, I guess, former Pennsylvanian, I don't know what you consider yourself anymore, but I know you have a house.

URBAN: I'm always a yin here, Jake.

TAPPER: OK. As a Pennsylvanian, are you worried about somebody who supports a six-week abortion ban, whether or not they say they want to do it nationally, being able to win Pennsylvania?

URBAN: Yes, absolutely. Jake, you know very well, and we saw in the midterms the Dobbs decision was dispositive, right? It was probably the single largest issue that would push voters away from Republican Party. And the fear of Republicans being too concerned about the issue will be divisive again going into '24. I think, you know, a 15-week ban is where 70 percent of Americans are and I think that's where the party should kind of camp out at.

TAPPER: Your former boss, Arlen Specter, tried to warn them. David Urban, Alyssa Farah Griffin, thanks to both of you. Really appreciate it.


Donald Trump's about 25 minutes into his flight from New Jersey to Georgia where he will surrender this evening at the Fulton County Jail. What to expect once he arrives on this historic day. That's ahead.


TAPPER: And we're back with breaking news. Donald Trump heading down to Georgia on a flight right now, and right now on his way to Fulton County specifically to surrender in his fourth criminal prosecution. I want to bring in my colleague, John King. John?

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, good to see you. Sitting here in New York with some of our finest legal and political analysts. Let's continue this conversation that Jake has been going through for the last hour.

Karen Friedman Agnifilo, let me start with you. Former prosecutor Donald Trump's going to go to a county jail in Atlanta, Georgia today, and he's going to be processed. We'll wait to see if, as we've seen in the case of Rudy Giuliani, former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, we get a mug shot of the former president of the United States. The images of those defendants here and what we expect from Trump, at least the process is, everybody's treated equally under the law. But you see in how he is handled and how he handles these cases, not exactly equal treatment, why?

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He is allowed to walk this fine line of doing tweets and calling out threats and things that any other defendant, if he were to do that. It's clearly in violation of his release conditions here in Georgia. And he's -- he consented to $200,000 bond. He threw his attorney. And he consented to certain limitations that he would not do, like threats to the community, threats to specific people, witnesses, et cetera.

But he knows how to kind of walk that fine line, and he's almost like he's daring or taunting judges and prosecutors to say something or do something so he could say, see, they're violating my First Amendment rights. No other defendant would be treated like that. They would not be allowed to do the things that he is doing and has been doing in each of his four arrests.


KING: Temidayo Aganga-Williams, you worked on the January 6th Committee.

This case in Georgia tracks a lot of the ground you tried to cover, did cover in the committee investigation. You talk about Trump's obsession with Georgia. This is about trying to reverse the results of a state where he lost. He tried to get the Secretary of State. He tried to get other people in politics to, you know, go back, recount the votes. What was it? What did you learn in that investigation about Georgia that you think is app -- is fits the bill as we watch what happens today?

TEMIDAYO AGANGA-WILLIAMS, FORMER JAN 6. COMMITTEE LAWYER: So former President Trump tried to overturn the results, you know, in a lot of swing states. But he did have a particular, as I've said, an obsession with Georgia. He talked about the dead voters. He couldn't stop talking about claiming there were 5,000 dead voters when there, I think investigators found four. He was obsessed with the suitcase full of ballots in Fulton County.

And he took a particular focus on two women, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, two black women in Fulton County who were poll workers, something that's honorable or truly a noble task. And they were both witnesses before the Select Committee. And I think seeing him today, having to answer for what he did in Fulton County, I think they were victim -- how they were victimized is an especially good example of the impact of what he did.

He focused on them. He claimed that they were part of this ballot scheme when the entire time he was the one who was running the scheme. And I think what's especially, I think poetic as someone who actually grew up in Fulton County is to see now a black DA, Fani Willis, now holding former President Trump accountable for what he did, not only to the residents of Georgia, but specifically to those two black women in Fulton County. So I think it's a really important day for accountability.

KING: You talk about accountability in the justice system. Scott Jennings we watched the other candidates, Republican candidates debate last night. In the upside down world that is, politics with Trump in the conversation. This is the fourth time he will be processed for criminal charges. The previous three, his standing has stayed the same or actually improved. When you watch this unfold today as a political strategist who would like the Republicans to retake the White House, what goes through your mind?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's amazing. Donald Trump treats being arrested the way the Super Mario Brothers treat eating mushrooms. I mean, he just gets bigger and taller every time it happens, which is sort of stunning when you think about it. But what might seem like a short term advantage to him, even if he gets a mug shot and they raise money off of it or what have you.

The long term implications of this, for me, are obvious. If he is convicted of any of these felonies, to me, it is a metaphysical certainty that he cannot and will not be elected President of the United States. He's highly unlikely to be elected anyway. This would seal it, in my opinion. And when you look at the timelines and you look at all these cases and how they're unfolding, any of these things result in a conviction between the time he becomes the de facto nominee and the time the convention meets, it's going to be a crisis for the Republican Party.

KING: Are you convinced of that, David Axelrod? Are you convinced that he can't win because of this?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think that it's highly unlikely that he can win. I think what is untested and there are some empirical evidence that it would have an impact is if he is convicted. And that's why I think he, I mean, there may be good legal reason for his lawyers to want to delay, but I also think there's good political reason for him to want to delay these cases, and he'll do anything he can to do this.

Look, I've always believed that part of the motivation, maybe the majority of the motivation for him running was to create this kind of shield around him because he saw some of these cases coming down the tracks and, you know, Karen mentions his outspokenness. And, you know, he had a very, very sharp tweet or post about Fani Willis today. I did this podcast with Sally Yates this week. And she said, listen, we have never had a case like this where a candidate for President of the United States was under indictment, and judges are going to give him more runway than they would normally give.

It's also harder to enforce. They're not going to put Donald Trump in jail. So, you know, he's going to take full advantage of this. I don't know if you've noticed this, John, but rules are not his main concern. So he's going to do whatever he thinks, and he is desperate to get these trials kicked as far into the future as possible.

KING: With four of them? It's speculation. But who would go first and win? Do you think this trial would actually start this year?

AGNIFILO: Well, one of the co-defendants, Kenneth Chesebro, who was one of the main architects of this fake elector scheme, he has demanded a speedy trial, which is something that all states have. But in Georgia, it's much faster. And so he -- that would require a November. Fani Willis has to start in November.

And I think the way I've been told, it's sort of like a shot across. It's like a declaration of war saying, I want my speedy trial right now. But clearly Fani Willis was ready for that. I think that's why she took the amount of time that she took between the grand jury and investigation and her indictment. And she said, I'll see you in November trial request and I'll raise you to October 23rd. So she's ready to go October 23rd.


KING: We'll watch as all this plays out. Thank you everyone. We'll continue the conversation. And our coverage continues right now in "THE SITUATION ROOM".