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CNN NewsNight with Abby Phillip

Giuliani, Meadows Indicted In Arizona, Trump Is Unindicted Co- Conspirator; Standoff Between Police, Protesters On Campus Of USC; Awaiting Judge's Ruling On Trump Gag Order Violations; "NewsNight" Tackles Trump Cases; Arizona House Voting To Overturn Civil War Era Abortion Ban. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired April 24, 2024 - 22:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Donald Trump earns another title for the second time in one day unindicted co-conspirator number one. That's tonight on NewsNight.

Good evening, I'm Abby Phillip in Washington.

Breaking News tonight, Arizona adds itself to the list of states alleging that Donald Trump and his allies broke the law. A grand jury handing up an indictment outlining how 11 Republican supporters of the former president lied to Congress, allegedly acting as part of a conspiracy to commit fraud and forgery.

Now, the lie is that Donald Trump won the 2020 election. That lie was memorialized on video, a video posted by the Arizona Republican Party itself. You can see here the fake electors put pen to paper and swore to fraud.

The named defendants included the state's former Republican Party chair, two sitting legislators and a former United States Senate candidate. The defendants, whose names are obscured by black ink pierce Trump's most inner circle. It's Rudy Giuliani, it's Mark Meadows, Mike Roman, Jenna Ellis, John Eastman, Boris Epshteyn. And it's the 1927 Yankees of bogus election fraud, essentially. At the center is one man, unindicted co-conspirator number one, also known as Donald Trump, the former president of the United States.

Now, the Arizona indictment is yet another blockbuster moment in a post presidency that has been historic for all the wrong reasons. And it's not the only time today, in a remarkable turn of deja vu, that we learn that the former president could have been charged with crimes in a swing state where he tried to deny the will of the voters. In Michigan, an investigator identified today that Trump was also an unindicted co-conspirator in the alleged plot to change the 2020 election.

CNN Legal Analyst Elliot Williams is at the magic wall to explain more about what exactly is in this Arizona case. Elliot?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Sure, and let's take a look at it, Abby. Thanks a lot. And so this here is the indictment. Walking through charges at 9 different counts against 18 different individuals, some of whom will be household names and recognizable to many people, as you talked about here at the beginning of the show. What is alleged is number one, conspiracy, criminal act among a group of people, fraud and forgery of documents and information.

Now, a little bit of history here, and you showed some of these videos a little bit at the top, Abby, but this is people protesting at a counting center in Maricopa County, Arizona, on Election Day, having alleged a great deal of fraud and misconduct on the part that many people turned out to not be true now.

Let's talk through who actually is indicted here. These are the individuals who were the fake electors themselves. They signed their names to these fake elector certificates. And there are a number of these folks here. None of them are recognizable or household names to many people, like some of the folks we'll see in a second.

Now, the actual fake elector's certificate, and I think the words you used at the top of the show were, you know, signing their names to fraud on video, this is where they signed elector's certificates, and this will all be evidence over the course of this prosecution, in effect, saying that Donald Trump won the 2020 election despite full knowledge that Joe Biden had won.

And, once again, this here is evidence that was put on the Republican Party of Arizona's Twitter account, a video of these fake electors being signed. Once again, it's rare in criminal prosecutions to have evidence that is this vivid.

Now, all of these people, of course, are innocent until proven guilty, but they're on video committing the act that they are alleged to have done.

So, notice there's a lot of blacked out names here, and as of the point at which we got a lot of this information earlier today, a number of the names were redacted given the identities of some of the people.

Now, we at CNN have identified a number of the people who are under those redactions, including Boris Epshteyn, Rudy Giuliani, top aides to the former president, Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, Jenna Ellis, John Eastman, all attorneys around the president, and of course, referring to them specifically here.

The former president is identified as unindicted co-conspirator number one, pretty specifically in the indictment, it says, used to be president of the United States. And so more will come out here as we learn where the prosecutors will go with this, Abby.

PHILLIP: Yes, certainly. And, look, it's not because they're trying to protect these people. They just haven't been served yet. That's why we don't have their actual names in the indictment.

Elliot Williams, thank you very much.

Joining me now, we've got an A team of experts, Ankush Khardori, Kaitlan Collins is here with us, Bradley Moss and Carrie Cordera as well.


Ankush, this is obviously now a little bit delayed, actually, frankly. I mean, we are now in 2024. This was back in 2020 that this stuff occurred. And, and on top of that you know, you've got in Michigan and in Arizona unindicted people who really are at the center of this. Is the system working, in your view, or is this something else?

ANKUSH KHARDORI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: This is something else. You're right, that this is this is much too late for us to be grappling seriously with the events that happened in 2020. I think in an ideal world, these state cases wouldn't even exist. Because shortly after Joe Biden came into office the Justice Department sort of been aggressively on the scene very, very quickly, not just dealing with the Trump world, the Trump campaign, the White House, what eventually became the federal case in Washington, but also all the fake electors.

Now, some of these same people of course are unindicted co conspirators in Jack Smith's federal case. So, they may get federally indicted at some point. But we have like I think a bit of a constitutional car crash going on in this country at the moment. And you can kind of trace it to originally the misjudgments of the Biden White House and the Justice Department under Merrick Garland.

PHILLIP: Hold that thought for a second because I think we do need to come back to that idea.

Brad, I do want to read what Rudy Giuliani's spokesperson is saying and reacting to the Michigan case. He's saying that that the continued weaponization of our justice system should concern all Michiganders and Americans.

It is really amazing that Giuliani really has -- he was so brazen in some of these activities and really has not seen the sort of full extent of the law really dealing with his actions. He's suggesting that this is all very unfair. I mean, do you think that Giuliani is actually facing the degree of accountability that he should given how involved he was in some of this stuff?

BRADLEY MOSS, NATIONAL SECURITY ATTORNEY: He hasn't yet. His financial life is pretty much in ruins at this point. His law license is out the window and he's now facing all these indictments. It will sink in for him eventually.

The problem for the Rudy Giulianis of the world, these are all Trump's, you know, legal advisors, his consigliere, they're all going down, and Trump's not going to save -- he can't save any of them. He's going to let these people hang. Jenna Ellis has already pleaded in one state. She's going to plead here, no doubt. Ken Cheseboro cooperated with Arizona to help provide all these indictments. These people will look to save themselves to the extent they haven't already just given up because no one can save them.

PHILLIP: Do you think, by the way, Ken Cheseboro, who met with Arizona officials a little while ago, voluntarily, is the reporting, do you think he's likely had a hand in some of this in Arizona?

MOSS: I think looking through some of the indictment and seeing some of the details ahead in terms of texts, in terms of emails, no, I don't think Ken Cheseboro alone is that -- all that, but I think he was a critical source in corroborating some of what they already suspected.

PHILLIP: And, Carrie, this is the indictment here. It's long but it's pretty dry. It's pretty straight to the point. What did you glean from it?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's a, you know, fraudulent case. It's a case based on fraud. So, it's not going to be super extensive in terms of the facts of the indictment because what's being alleged is simply that they sign their names to fraudulent documents. And so the burden of proof is not particularly high.

So, I think in this case one thing we will be looking for is whether or not some of these individuals really just sort of plead out to lesser charges and it's not quite as dramatic as the felonies that are charged are indicated.

But Arizona really was one of the major states, if we put sort of put our ted back in that time where there was so much activity going on to try to change the outcome of the election. So, I think a number of us who have been observing all of the cases since 2020 have been wondering whether Arizona would eventually bring something as a state case, because remember, it is the states that are responsible for administering the election.

I do wonder about the timing, why it took so long, and I wonder if they perhaps are thinking about trying to demonstrate for folks in the future, sort of a deterrent effect, don't do this in a future election, because there are consequences for it.

MOSS: Well, I think that politics may have played a role in that, because there was a change in who was the A.G. in Arizona. That was changed in 2022 with this current attorney general. So, that may have been part of why it took four years.

PHILLIP: So, Kaitlan, you just had a really interesting interview with Cassidy Hutchinson, who knows a lot of these players. Mark Meadows is her former boss. She spent all kinds of time with him. I want to play what she said, reacting to these indictments. Listen.


CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE AIDE: It's really sad. I was really close with Mark. I really believed in Mark as a principal. That's why I chose to take the job with the chief of staff. So, you know, it's difficult to see him in this position.

But I think on the greater scale too, if we look at how Mr. Trump has conducted himself through his business career and also his political career, I almost relate it to just bodies around him.


He takes out everybody who is loyal to him because it's all about his personal gain and what he can gain from those people.


PHILLIP: And she's right, Kaitlan. I mean, the body count is so high here. You see it in this indictment. It's pretty much Trump's entire inner circle and plus a bunch of other people too.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And Cassidy made a really interesting point, which was that -- and, you know, she was pre-booked and then this news broke that her former boss had been indicted for a second time, which is really remarkable.

But she made an interesting point that, you know, there are all of these bodies around Donald Trump, all of, you know, it's his whole former circle, multiple attorneys of his that are indicted here. But she said, you know, some people go into it not fully knowing what they're getting themselves into, she said, but a lot of people go into it with their eyes wide open, they know what they're getting themselves involved with. And then this is the end result. They're indicted in here.

And it was just remarkable, especially for Mark Meadows, because one thing she said that she felt personally was important, and she has not come forward, you know, without its effects. She's threatened. She is fearful for her safety at times. You know, it takes a lot to come forward and speak. And she says, you know, what this indictment makes clear is Mark Meadows is not cooperating. He's not coming forward and saying what he knows. And she was saying that she feels that's really important and not a step that he's chosen to take to tell the truth.

PHILLIP: Well, he's not cooperating with these state investigations.

COLLINS: But maybe with Jack Smith.

PHILLIP: But we don't really know what he's doing when it comes to Jack Smith at this point.

COLLINS: There's a lot of speculation because he's indicted in Georgia. He's indicted in Arizona. He's not indicted in the federal election interference case.

PHILLIP: And that's extremely notable, yes. I mean, and, look, Kaitlan, Donald Trump is facing this case in the hush money trial in New York. He's now an unindicted co-conspirator in two separate jurisdictions. In another jurisdiction in Georgia, he has been indicted.

This is really chickens coming home to roost, but he's not really -- that's not sinking in for him.

COLLINS: You know what's remarkable to me is Boris Epshteyn, who's in here, who's never been indicted before.

PHILLIP: Yes, which is amazing in and of itself also.

COLLINS: Works for Donald Trump right now. He comes with him to court. He is currently one of his top advisers. He's immensely involved in the campaign.

Christina Bobb, who's in here, she's the one who signed that letter at Mar-a-Lago saying there's no more classified documents here, to the best of my knowledge. She's also a senior counsel on election integrity for the RNC right now. I mean, the web is immense.

PHILLIP: Yes. But, look, it's almost like you're in a different world. There is what is happening in these court documents and these cases and then there is the former president and all these people who are under indictment and carrying on their lives as if it's not happening.

Kaitlan, thank you for being with us. Everyone else stick around. We've got a lot more ahead.

We are monitoring some breaking news though out of California. There is a standoff ongoing right now between police and protesters on the campus of USC. Dozens have already been arrested. This is just one of the chaotic scenes that's playing out across American campuses tonight, crowds protesting Israel's war in Gaza.

Let's go live to Nick Watt. He's in the crowd there at USC. Nick, what's happening in this moment?

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDNET: Well, Abby, the arrests are underway. Maybe 50 or so people have been arrested so far. Students and people from off campus who came here today to join this now nationwide campus protest about what's going on in Israel and Gaza.

Now, there are dozens of LAPD and campus officers. They surrounded this park where protesters have been gathering since about 4:30 this morning. They left one side open so people who did not want to be arrested and charged with criminal trespass could leave. You can see protesters are still there shouting, shame on you, shame on you, at the police as about the last half dozen people are being arrested.

Now, earlier this morning, when campus police tried to clear some tents that were here, it got ugly. There was a lot of cussing. There were scuffles between those campus officers and the protesters. And then during the day after that, it was calm, but the crowd grew and grew. The college closed the gates. They were asking for I.D. for people coming in. They were trying to keep a lid on this. They didn't really manage it.

So what you see now, though, peaceful arrests. The organizers told all of these protesters to submit peacefully to arrest. And they also all had written on their arms the number of a lawyer who will help them out.

So, right now they're all being processed. The protest is still going on, but this patch of land has almost now been cleared by the LAPD and by the campus police. You see one more arrest right there, free Palestine as they shout on the way out. That's what's going on, Abby. It's been a difficult day for USC, no doubt. Back to you.

PHILLIP: USC and so many other campuses across the country. It's just one more moment in this country's history where we see protests really starting and growing on the campuses of our universities.


Nick Watt, thanks for bringing that to us. We will continue to monitor that situation there at the University of Southern California. Thank you for all of that.

Also tonight, we are awaiting a judge's ruling about whether Trump violated his gag order in the hush money trial in New York.

Plus, one legal scholar joins me on why he says this entire case is, quote, a historic mistake. Our panel will debate it. That's next.

This is a special live coverage.



PHILLIP: A provocative question tonight, should Donald Trump's hush money trial even be happening at all? I ask that not because of the reasons that Donald Trump says. He baselessly claims that Joe Biden is orchestrating this prosecution. But a New York Times op-ed in today's paper questions if the Manhattan district attorney is bending the New York law to fit a felony crime. It's titled, I thought the Bragg case against Trump was a legal embarrassment. Now, I think it's a historic mistake.

The author, Jed Shugerman, argues that Alvin Bragg is stretching his jurisdiction, pushing untested legal interpretations, and bringing a case without a clear intent to defraud.

So, is that a fair argument, or is it just plain wrong? Well, my panel will respond, but first, the author himself, Jed Shugerman, is here to explain his theory. He's a professor at Boston University's School of Law.

Professor, you say you see three red flags with this case. What are they?

JED SHUGERMAN, PROFESSOR, BOSTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, the three red flags are first that there's no reported case. I've checked the records of state cases. There's no state case that shows a state prosecutor using the Federal Election Campaign Act, which is really the crime that the prosecutors are alleging here, a federal election violation, a federal election federal campaign filing violation, as the basis, either directly or indirectly, for any crime.

So, that is a first example of what's unprecedented here. And this is not just a coincidence. There are good reasons why a federal prosecutor has complete control over this, to the exclusion of the states for enforcing something as complicated as the federal election campaign act. That's the first one.

The second problem is that there is no example of this statute that relies on an intent to defraud being such a broad general public, the idea that one would be defrauding the general public or voters. There's no precedent for using it for election interference.

And the final problem is the use of this statute. Basically, what the business filing violation is a misdemeanor with intent to defraud, it becomes a felony only if the prosecutors can show an intent to commit or conceal another crime.

The Trump lawyers pointed out, made an argument, that in New York there is a problem with trying to use the filing, the misfiling, to upgrade it to a felony relying on another jurisdiction. And the Manhattan D.A. could only point to two examples, neither of which is a judicial interpretation.

So, it's an untested theory, those two cases, one was a guilty plea and one was a jury instruction. Neither one counts as a judge hearing an argument and ruling on it. So, those are examples of how this case -- three examples of how -- based on untested legal theories and on unprecedented applications.

PHILLIP: But, look, from a very layman's perspective, here's my big question for you. I mean, you don't like the election interference thing, but it strikes me that the whole reason that these election related laws exist is to prevent people from using their money in ways and not disclosing it to the public. I mean, the idea here is, is it not that the American public is entitled to know who is paying for what?

Now, it's not to say that if Trump had not made the payment, it would have been fine, but he wanted to lie about that. Isn't that the whole point of the law?

SHUGERMAN: And the whole point of the law is based on federal statutes. So, this is really shoehorning a federal case into a state case. And the federal statute tells us that this is -- it uses a concept called preemption. This is a very complicated issue, but the point is it's unprecedented for states to enforce this. Why? Because the technicalities and the applications of the Federal Election Campaign Act, they're so complicated with such a long history of different interpretations that it's for the Federal Election Commission and the DOJ.

It's important to give credit. I mean, this is one point against Trump. Trump has claimed that this is, you know, Joe Biden do -- it's the flip of the allegation to say that it's Biden's election interference. Well, the reason why that's so false is that the Biden administration came into office and bent over backwards not to charge this.

PHILLIP: Yes, they didn't do it. But, Jed --

SHUGERMAN: That's exactly right.

PHILLIP: -- we have a bunch of lawyers here in the studio and they've got some comments. Brad, I want to start with you because I know you have some thoughts on this. You disagree?

MOSS: Yes, so I do disagree.


And, I guess, Jed, reading through the piece, one of the first thoughts that came to mind, reading the constant references to, it's unprecedented, it's novel, it's never been done before. My response was, so what? There's all kinds of times the prosecutors bring a first of their kind type of case. This was a very much a first of its kind situation where you had the evidence of you falsified business records to defraud the public in violation of at least two different statutes, one federal, one state, the judges in Manhattan and the federal judge say you're wrong. So, in terms of being unprecedented, so what?

SHUGERMAN: There's a concept of selective prosecution, which is a violation of equal protection of the 14th Amendment. I mean, trust me, I have never voted for a Republican in my entire life. And one of the reasons why I'm so opposed to Donald Trump is because he is a threat to the rule of law. But one concept of the rule of law is that one has to follow precedence.

And it just seems like a remarkable coincidence that a D.A. who campaigned on the platform of prosecuting Donald Trump just happens to have stretched New York jurisdiction to cover federal election law for the first time in American history that a state prosecutor is doing it and is also using an untested theory that's never been tried before of an intent to defraud the general public.

It's just a remarkable coincidence that the Manhattan D.A. has found a series of untested theories that he's applied to Donald Trump and Donald Trump alone.

KHARDORI: I have a question. Let me just preface this also by saying, I also think this case probably shouldn't exist and wouldn't exist if the Justice Department had been doing its job correctly. I agree that there are legal issues here that may be at issue on appeal. And also we all get it wrong from time to time, myself included.

But on this question of selective prosecution, I just have to ask you, what do you think the standard is under New York law to establish a selective prosecution defense?

SHUGERMAN: So, part of what I'm thinking about is federal standards for selective prosecution. So --

KHARDORI: We're in state court, sir.

SHUGERMAN: So, it's been developed.

KHARDORI: We're in state court, sir. What are the standards in New York? Do you know? SHUGERMAN: Oh, well part of what I'm suggesting is that there is also a the standards of the rule of law also must reflect federal the 14th Amendment. So, as a --

KHARDORI: You're a law professor. I have to say I think it is really inappropriate for you to have used the word -- the phrase, selective prosecution, on air and multiple times in this op-ed. None of the red flags you identified establish selective prosecution under New York law. The case has to be not only unique but you have to identify similarly situated people who were not charged. Your op-ed does not do that.

SHUGERMAN: So, there's something called concurrent jurisdiction, which is that federal law also applies to states. And so there is a line of precedence about selective prosecution and vindictive prosecution under the 14th Amendment.

So, it's not just New York law.

KHARDORI: It's the same standard under federal law. It can't just be that the case is novel or unique. You have to identify similarly situated defendants who are not charged.

CORDERO: Abby, I think --

PHILLIP: Carrie, I do want you to jump in here. Hold just one second, because we have Carrie Cordero here, and I do think that there is a question here.

I've heard it from a lot of lawyers, not just from Jed and others, they say there's not as much clarity about what that other offense is that would allow it to become a felony. And that might be intentional, but is that enough in your mind?

CORDERO: Well, I think some of the issues that Professor Shugerman is raising are issues that some of us have been raising since the original charging document happened, which is that the theory that the prosecutors are using is something that is novel and it is unusual to do that against a former president. So, I think that part has been an observation that has been made consistently.

I think a bigger picture here is that the prosecutors are using a theory of the case that they are calling election interference. And one of the reasons that I'm not a big fan of this New York case is because election interference, for those of us who have been following what's been going on since 2016, election interference is a really serious.

We had foreign countries that were engaged in election interference. We had domestic forces that we saw on January 6th and everything surrounding that. That's the basis of the federal January 6th case that was an effort to overturn the election. And it seems a stretch, at least in my judgment, and I think in some others like, like Professor Shugerman, that using that argument in a case that is really fraud in terms of recordkeeping on the part of allegedly the former president and Michael Cohen and is based on trumping it up to felony charges based on campaign finance violations that were never charged. I think one thing that Professor Shugerman is alluding to but not saying is that former president was never charged with campaign finance violations under federal law and that is a gap that just simply exists.


PHILLIP: Your take on that.

KHARDORI: Yeah, no, I mean I think these are fair observations. I mean, it's a prudential matter. This is how prosecutors would think about it. It's a prudential matter should this case have been brought, reasonable minds could disagree.

As I said, I don't -- this case shouldn't exist because the Justice Department should have preempted all this by doing its job correctly. However, the case is what it is and we have to judge it within its four corners and again I want to return to the op-ed. I've never seen a legal analyst offer such sweeping conclusions off the basis of an opening statement that he didn't even see. And I want to close just by quoting another part of the op-ed.

CORDERO: Well, I think if I can just jump in. I mean Professor Shugerman is making arguments that are based on the research that he's done. I don't necessarily --

KHARDORI: But the argument in the op-ed is that the opening statement raised expectations for the jury that they won't be able to meet. It was not about legal issues.

CORDERO: Well, I think one of the things that came out of the opening statement was this theory that it's -- that it was a conspiracy and -- and the counter argument to that is that it was a payment that was made. It was unseemly. It was probably to affect the outcome of the election in terms of trying to do a thing that would help the former president win the election but that is, one could argue, different than a theory of election interference.

KHARDORI: Yeah, I just don't see how that's going to take the case but --

PHILLIP: I'll give Brad the last word.

MOSS: And I'll say if there's a conspiracy there I think we've already seen some of it in David Pecker's testimony. There was a conspiracy to interfere with the election to deprive the public of information and both not both a Manhattan judge and a federal judge have said this meets the legal requirements for now.

PHILLIP: The piece Professor Shugerman ends by you arguing that this case is still an embarrassment of prosecutorial ethics and apparent selective prosecution. Shouldn't the courts just sort that out at the end of the day?

SHUGERMAN: That's exactly right. I mean I think at the point -- the close of my op-ed says there will be appeals after this to raise these questions.

I still think that what the prosecutors had a duty to do is not just -- I'm not just reading the opening statement. The indictment was a year ago. There have been these persistent questions that I and many others have raised about what is the basis for this prosecution.

We are still not that clear about the basis a year later. What is the theory to defraud? So, all I'm pointing out is the many ways this is unprecedented untested and that is its own damage to the rule of law that could be abused in any direction in the future. That's why I think this case is a historic mistake.

PHILLIP: An interesting, provocative argument. I think one could argue there's a first time for everything. Just because it's untested doesn't mean that it's not necessarily valid. We'll see what the courts say at the end of the day. Professor, thanks for joining us. We appreciate that conversation and debate. And everyone in the studio, thank you, as well.

And much more on our breaking news out of Arizona tonight indicting Donald Trump's allies in that 2020 election scheme. Former National Security Advisor John Bolton is here and he joins me to react. Plus, Bolton will also respond to Trump's demand for absolute immunity. That argument will go before the Supreme Court tomorrow.



PHILLIP: As we're dealing with breaking news tonight over several cases involving Donald Trump, the question at the center of it all -- should presidents have absolute immunity? That is what Trump is asking the Supreme Court to consider tomorrow in a blockbuster hearing that will carry some major consequences for his election and beyond.

Former Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney is now urging the justices to act and to act quickly. She says, quote, "If delay prevents this Trump case from being tried this year, the public may never hear critical and historic evidence developed before the grand jury and our system may never hold the man most responsible for January 6th to account."

Joining me now is Donald Trump's former National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton. Ambassador Bolton, thanks for being here.


PHILLIP: You heard Liz Cheney's message in that op ed. She wants the justices to really view time as being of the essence here, because if they don't rule quickly, the American people won't have the benefit of hearing the evidence in this case. Is she right?

BOLTON: I think she's exactly right. In fact, the briefing schedule the court set was kind of disappointing. I think they could have moved this more quickly they have in comparable circumstances. So, I do think speed and coming to their conclusion is going to be very important. Obviously, the substance of it's going to be very important. But I think for the country as a whole, it would benefit from them making this their top priority for the rest of the term.

PHILLIP: Do you agree with her assessment that it's likely that most of the justices perhaps will say this idea of blanket immunity is non- sense? And if so, is it even justifiable that they didn't just issue an earlier ruling on the subject?

BOLTON: Well, I think the court has to opine itself.


I don't think it could rely simply on a court of appeals opinion. But I think rejecting Trump's extreme argument that he has total immunity for everything doesn't mean that no president has immunity for anything. It's more complicated, except in this case, if you read the indictment, none of the acts alleged by President Trump were presidential acts.

They were acts of a presidential candidate, which he's entitled to do up until the point where he crosses the line. And I think if the court accepts that as their approach to the decision, it could come pretty quickly.

PHILLIP: So, speaking of alleged acts in two states just today, Michigan and Arizona, Trump is an unindicted co-conspirator, while his associates have been charged in the fake electors plot. What do you make of that? I mean, it's so extraordinary that we're sitting here talking about a former president on trial in New York City and then also an unindicted co-conspirator twice in one day.

BOLTON: Well, I think in each state they have to determine on the facts they're alleging about the electoral college plot whether they have the evidence to convict Trump. I mean, I think before lawfare gets out of hand, you ought to remember what the principal purpose is, which is to bring charges against people that you think you can prove guilt for beyond a reasonable doubt.

And if they don't have the evidence, they don't want to charge him and see him acquitted. I mean, if the political objective is not have him elected to a second term as president, feeding into his narrative that he's persecuted isn't helpful.

PHILLIP: But I mean, he was not charged, but I mean, what does it say that he is even part of the plot?

BOLTON: Well, I think he had to be part of the plot if there's any plot at all. But again, we don't know what the grounds for not indicting him were, but it could well be they simply don't think they have enough evidence on him as opposed to the other defendants.

PHILLIP: So, that hush money trial in New York is on-going and obviously, lots of opinions about the substance of the trial, but Trump's behavior leading up to it and around the trial is the subject of a lot of controversy, including a ruling that we're expecting from the judge in that case, as well. He's under a gag order and he keeps allegedly violating it. The choice for the judge now is monetary penalties or jail. Should jail be on the table?

BOLTON: Well, I think what I would do, I thought of this some time back. I don't know New York practice, but I've heard other people suggest it, so I'd like to endorse it. If I were the judge, I'd find him in contempt for some or all of the particulars that the prosecutors have brought, but I would withhold the penalty until after the jury verdict.

That puts him on notice that the penalty could be severe and may have a greater interorum effect against Trump for the rest of the trial than if they actually started imposing the penalties. And again, I think the courts should not allow themselves to be played by Donald Trump. He knows that he generates sympathy for himself if he shows he's just poor, picked on Donald Trump. The court shouldn't let him win that game.

PHILLIP: How so? Well, I think that is -- what he's trying to do is politicize the court, and I think the response could come by a judicial posture that they're going to hold him in contempt but not impose the penalty until they see what the jury verdict is.

PHILLIP: But I mean, would a jail penalty, whether it comes now or later, I mean, some would argue that's what Trump really wants.

BOLTON: Yeah, I think there's something to that. I mean, I don't want to see Trump re-elected, so let's keep our eyes on the prize in a favorite phase of Jim Baker's that he always used to tell me. If the prize is keeping him from being elected, don't let Trump derangement syndrome lead you down a path of lawfare that'll help him get elected.

PHILLIP: I want to turn to foreign policy now. We're learning that the Biden administration actually quietly delivered long-range weapons to Ukraine earlier this month despite months and months of delays on that very question. There's more aid coming in that package that was just passed and signed by President Biden, but is it enough at this stage to help Ukraine regain the momentum? Can this war in your mind still be won?

BOLTON: Well, I think it can be, but look, we've had two years of strategic failure by the United States and NATO, two years of endless debate. Do we provide Javelins? Do we provide ATACMs? Do we provide Abrams tanks? Do we provide M-16s? That's not a strategic way to fight a war, and now we've got gridlock and actually some Russian advances because of that.

It's an excuse used by some Republicans not to vote for the most recent aid package. My answer to that is just because you have an incompetent White House, which is how I judge their performance in Ukraine, is no reason to give up on basic American national security interest in Ukraine.

PHILLIP: But what about the role of those Republicans? I mean, the House Speaker, Mike Johnson, he delayed and delayed on getting this Ukraine aid to a vote. He, not so long ago, said this should be secondary to dealing with the border, as if Congress can't walk and chew gum at the same time. [22:45:00]

Does he bear some responsibility for this delay?

BOLTON: Well, I think he produced the right result. You know, when he became Speaker, I don't think any -- any sizable number of Republicans in the House Republican caucus would have said he's the next Speaker of the House. He had a lot to learn, and it took some time, that's true, but he did learn.

PHILLIP: But Ukraine didn't have that kind of time.

BOLTON: And, well, in part because of two years of inept policy by the White House, but when it -- when the crunch came, Johnson put his job on the line, and to me, that's the real test in Washington.

PHILLIP: In a recent interview, House -- former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she believes that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should resign because of his opposition to a two-state solution. That's a view that Senate -- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also endorses. You've dealt with Netanyahu, you've seen his conduct in this war. What do you say?

BOLTON: Well, I'm delighted on the one hand that Democrats like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have adopted regime change as an element of American foreign policy. It's too bad they've got the wrong regime. They should be focused on the regime in Tehran, not the one in Jerusalem.

Look, the Israeli War Cabinet has in it one of the leaders of the opposition, Benny Gantz, who wants to be Prime Minister, Yoav Gallant, the Defense Minister, who also wants to be Prime Minister. It's not like Bibi Netanyahu has a free hand, even within the limits of the War Cabinet.

So, I'm sure that the Schumer-Pelosi political advice is well-received in some parts of Israel. I personally think it strengthens Netanyahu.

PHILLIP: You think Netanyahu's doing a good job?

BOLTON: I think it's a mixed performance under very difficult circumstances. There will be a reckoning for the intelligence failure on October the 7th, as there was for Golda Meir after the Yom Kippur War. Right now, they've still got a lot of work to do to win the war.

PHILLIP: All right, former Ambassador John Bolton, thank you for joining us here in studio.

BOLTON: Glad to be with you.

PHILLIP: And Arizona's State House has finally voted to overturn the state's Civil War era abortion ban. That sends that bill over to the Senate, then leaving a 15-week limit in place. In the meantime, I'll speak with the state's governor, Katie Hobbs, about what comes next there.



PHILLIP: We're back now with our breaking news this evening. Arizona prosecutors announced criminal charges against Donald Trump's allies in the state's 2020 fake electors' case. The former White House aide Boris Epstein, former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani are all among the indicted.

Now, the nine counts against them range from conspiracy and forgery to engaging in fraudulent schemes. Donald Trump is also named as an unindicted co-conspirator in that case. Joining me now is Arizona's governor, Katie Hobbs.

Governor, thank you very much for joining us. I wonder what is your reaction to the state's criminal charges now against Trump's allies, but also the decision not to charge Trump himself.

GOV. KATIE HOBBS (D-AZ): Well, as Secretary of State, I oversaw free, fair, secure elections in Arizona and defended the votes of millions of Arizonans. I am confident that Attorney General Mayes conducted a fair and impartial investigation and grand jury process, and now the justice system will do its job. The alleged actions of these extremists are shameful. They undermine the election process in our state, and I hope to see them held accountable.

PHILLIP: I do want to turn now to a huge issue in your state, which is the big moment in the state legislature, the House in Arizona voting to overturn that Civil War era abortion ban. The truth is most Republicans in your state and the legislature still support the law remaining on the books. Only three voted with Democrats. So, why do you think that today, ultimately, was different for the few who did cross over the party line to vote to repeal this law?

HOBBS: Well, I'm relieved that the House finally did the right thing and voted to repeal this 1864 ban, which I've been calling on them to do even before the Supreme Court ruling that reinstated the ban. I've been calling for it since the Dobbs decision. I renewed that call in my State of the State address in January. I have no idea why it took this long.

There have been untold levels of chaos and fear across the state since this Supreme Court decision. So, now, the Senate needs to vote to send this repeal to my desk, so we can get rid of this 1864 ban once and for all.

PHILLIP: Are you confident that that the Senate will do that, will sign it, will pass it and send it to your desk?

HOBBS: Well, I have no idea why they have supported this ban for as long as they have. So, you'd have to ask them that. But I renewed my call again today to get this done and get it to my desk immediately.

PHILLIP: And once it is signed, how quickly would it take effect if it is repealed? HOBBS: Well, unfortunately, it would not be immediate. It would be at

the end of the legislative session. So, there could be a period of time where this ban is actually in effect. So, that is incredibly unfortunate, because it has already created untold levels of chaos and confusion around access to reproductive health care.

PHILLIP: That's an important point. Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs, we do appreciate you joining us tonight.

HOBBS: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And thank you very much for watching "NewsNight".


"Laura Coates Live" starts after this.


LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, Donald Trump and Jack Smith prepare for a final battle before the Supreme Court. But has Trump already won? I'll explain. Plus, new indictments against Trump allies Rudy Giuliani and Mark Meadows. They're now facing in Arizona for trying to overturn the 2020 election.

And tensions are boiling over in pro-Palestinian protests on campuses all across this country. We've got a live report tonight on "Laura Coates Live". So imagine for a second if Hollywood came up with the plot I'm going to tell you about.

The presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States goes on trial in his own hometown. He starts falsifying business records to cover up some kind of a sex scandal. And while he's there, at the very same time, his lawyers go before the Supreme Court trying to get him out of two federal criminal trials that could, frankly, upend his chances at retaking the White House. Sound unbelievable?