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Investigation into Pence's Handling of Classified Documents Concluded by the Justice Department; Pence Classified Document Investigation, Justice Department Will Not Press Charges; Russia's War in Ukraine; 36 Drones and Missiles Shot Down by Ukrainian Air Defense; Russian Authorities Assert Ukrainian Drone Attacked Kursk; South Korea-U.S. Carrying Out Biggest Live-Fire Drills. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired June 02, 2023 - 10:30   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN, the world's news network.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: And this just into CNN, we have breaking news. The Justice Department has now closed its investigation into Former Vice President Mike Pence and his handling of classified documents. You know, back in January, CNN was the first to report that an attorney for Pence found about a dozen documents marked as classified at his home in Indiana. that search was initiated after classified documents had been found in both the possession of Donald Trump and Joe Biden outside of, you know, being in the White House.

Let's get to this with this breaking news. CNN's Katelyn Polantz is -- has part of the story. CNN's Paula Reid has the other side of the story. Katelyn, let me start with you, tell us more about what we know about this now investigation being closed?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, as of yesterday, the Justice Department told Mike Pence and his lawyers that they are not bringing any criminal charge, there will be no criminal charges, and this is the end of the investigation into classified documents that were found in Mike Pence's possession at his home in Indiana after he left the vice presidency.

And so, CNN has obtained this letter. I want to read -- it's very short. It's about three sentences long and it says, as you know, earlier this year, the Department of Justice was notified of the discovery of the documents bearing classification markings at Former Vice President Mike Pence's residence. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the department's national security division have conducted an investigation into the potential handling of classified information. Based on the results of that investigation, no criminal charges will be sought.

So, pretty short and sweet. Pretty blunt from the Justice Department. And it ends a saga that lasted not even half a year for Mike at a time when in mid-January his lawyers was making -- were trying to make he had no White House records in his possession or executive branch records in his possession. They found about a dozen classified documents at his home in Indiana, contacted the federal government, got those documents back into the hand of the FBI and the Justice Department. And that launched this investigation, this review of what happened there.

And then there were two FBI searches. One at Pence's home in Indiana, one at his office in Washington D.C. They found one additional document with classified markings on it in those two searches. But that was really the extent of what we know about what happened in that time and then bookended by of this investigation yesterday with this letter to the Pence team. Kate.


BOLDUAN: All right. This is an important moment for Mike Pence and his team for sure. Stick with me, Katelyn. Let me bring in Evan Perez really -- for more on this.

Evan, tell me more about your reporting. What are you picking up on this?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, one of the things that certainly was being raised as a prospect here was the fact that we know that Mike Pence is going to be announcing his run for president in the coming days. And so, the question for the Justice Department has been, well, given the standard that the attorney general has set just a few months ago when he announced special counsels to investigate the documents at Mar-a-Lago, obviously, Donald Trump, and for President Biden, would he have to announce a special counsel for Mike Pence as well?

This announcement that the investigation is being closed really means that they can obviously go forward with the announcement of the former vice president and his presidential run without any concern that the Justice Department is going to be announcing a special counsel. And we know, that, you know, this is -- these types of reviews are very common. They're not unusual for the Justice Department and the FBI. They do interviews. The check to see whether they, you know, whether documents -- who owns these documents to make sure that there was any damage done by where they were being held.

And then, you know, usually these things get wrapped up very quietly. Obviously, the context because of who we were talking about, the former vice president and, of course, the ongoing investigation to the former president and the current president made this a lot different. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Evan, thank you. Stick with me.

I want to also bring in as we talk Paula Reid for more on this. The idea, Paula, of the special counsel, I know, is something that you have been reporting out on. Why special counsels to investigate Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and no special counsel for Mike Pence, as we now know, as Katelyn just said, no criminal charges will be sought according to this letter? PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: There are a lot of reasons here. But the biggest reason that President Biden and for President Trump have their possible mishandling of classified information investigations overseen by a special counsel is because of who they are. Of course, President Biden appointment the Attorney General, Merrick Garland. So, while he initially had a Trump appointed U.S. attorney review the classified documents that were found at two locations connected to President Biden. He then appointed a special counsel, because again, it's about optics, right? It's about having an independent investigation with Former President Trump.

The two ongoing active investigations that were being conducted into Former President Trump became a special counsel investigation. Special Counsel Jack Smith was appointed once he declared his candidacy. Now, that's a reason they're both overseen by special counsels but the actual facts of those two probes are quite different. The Biden probe is much more similar to the Pence matter, in terms of the voluntary nature of the searches. No one from the government was reaching out, concern that there were missing documents. The fact that they were mostly cooperative with the Justice Department with archives. And also, the volume of material.

At last count in the Biden probe, we're talking about dozens of documents. Whereas in the Trump investigation, we're talking about hundreds of classified documents that have been found. Multiple searches, questions about obstruction, other questions about the possible mishandling of defense information.

And as we first reported here on CNN, among the various types of evidence that investigator have is an audio recording where not only does the former president claim to have at least one classified document, he also acknowledges his limits on his ability to declassify materials once he was out of the White House. And that's significant because that's been one of his key defenses for all of this in the court of public opinion. While Mike Pence took responsibility for what happened, Biden also acknowledged that this was a mistake. Trump has tried to argue in part that his just didn't happen. Let's toss to that side.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S PRESIDENT: All I know is this, everything I did was right. We have the presidential records act which I abided by 100 percent. It's a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time. It's a hoax. And it has to do -- it has to do more than anything else with trying to interfere with the election.


REID: So, this an argument the former president has made out repeatedly. That this is all a politically motivated investigation. Now, this is, of course, a claim that they could see coming, part of why a special counsel has been appointed to oversee this criminal investigation. Of course, not the first special counsel to investigate Former President Trump. But if you look at the facts of what we've reported over this week. Given the fact that investigators have this audio recording where he claims to have a classified document, that is incredibly important evidence, we are told. Witnesses have been asked about this. We've seen dozens of witnesses going before the grand jury.

In terms of the scope and the legal risk, Former President Trump's special investigation poses a much greater risk. Whereas at this point, our reporting does not indicate that there are any charges likely in former -- in current President Biden's special counsel probe.


BOLDUAN: Paula Reid, thank you. Evan Perez, Katelyn Polantz, thank you all so much for the reporting.

Again, our breaking news is that the Justice Department has closed its investigation into handling of classified documents of former vice president Mike Pence. No criminal charges to be sought.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: All right. With us now, CNN's Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig. Elie, I think there are two buckets here with this breaking news. Bucket number one is the actual Mike Pence part of it. But the actual bigger bucket might be, bucket number two which what it tells us about the investigation potentially into Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Let's take bucket one, first. The legality surrounding the Pence investigation, what does it tell you that they made clear so quickly that there will be no charges here?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: It tells me that this all about knowledge and intent, here's why. We know Mike Pence possessed classified documents in the legal sense and the everyday sense. He had them in his home, potentially in his office. But just possessing classified documents is not a crime unless the person knew about it and the person had criminal intent. And so, we can logically deduce here that DOJ concluded they did not have knowledge of intent and knowledge sufficient to charge Mike Pence or anyone relating to Mike Pence.

BERMAN: On, my notes here. I'm not going to show people my trick and trash. But I have the word intent in block letters. Intent. OK. Take us to bucket number two now.


BERMAN: If intent was so key in determining that there would be no charges against Mike Pence, where does intent fit in the Biden and Trump investigation?

HONIG: Yes, so let's start with Biden first of all. Seems to be somewhat similar to the pence situation, right? Did a voluntary search himself, disclosed that he had these documents, and has denied that he ever even knew he had these documents and Pence similarly denied that, and now has been, sort of, vindicated by DOJ. Now, Donald Trump is a very different story because he definitely knew that he had classified documents. He's talked about is. He's acknowledged that. Then we get into intent. What was the purpose for Donald Trump having these documents, and the new reporting by Paula and team shed some light on that. He -- we know that he held these classified documents, and tried to use them to influence some of the political news coverage of him, but prosecutors are digging on that very question now. And that's going to make or break the Trump decision. Did he know that he had the documents? For sure. Did he have criminal intent? That's what they're working on.

BERMAN: So, no special counsel for Mike Pence.


BERMAN: And our reporters just explained why that is. He was not yet a candidate for any office. And he was not a president or former president.

HONIG: Right.

BERMAN: Is there anything about having a special counsel? Robert Hur, there is a special counsel --


BERMAN: -- investigating President Biden, we almost never say that name. Is there anything about the fact that having a special counsel which means that that investigation necessarily needs to be much longer than the Mike Pence investigation?

HONIG: No, there's not. Look, one never wants to have a special counsel appointed to investigate him, and this is good news for Mike Pence for that reason as well. But special counsel is not doing anything fundamentally different than what any other federal prosecutors are doing. They're investigating the same way any at USA or U.S. attorney would do or the same way that there was an investigation of Mike Pence.

There are some administrative differences here. The special counsel in the Biden case and in the Trump case, will have to ultimately put their recommendations together and send them up the line to the Attorney General Merrick Garland. He has final say. So, there is that added layer of bureaucracy. But there's no reason inherently why special counsel needs to be a bigger deal or needs to take longer than any other investigation.

BERMAN: And very quickly, did they have to make an announcement here?

HONIG: No, they did not. But prosecutors, typically in a case like this, will formally notify the person. A, so the public can know. There's obviously a big public interest in that. And B, so that the target can be -- have his mind put at ease and told, sort of, there is no charge against you. That's a fair thing the prosecutor do quite commonly.

BERMAN: Counselor, great to see you. Thank you very much.

HONIG: All right.


BOLDUAN: Counsel, counsel, thank you so much.

And we have in right now is CNN's Political Director David Chalian for more on this breaking news.


BOLDUAN: In my eyes, you always are. David, there is the -- there is legal side of this with Elie and John were going over very well. There is a political side of this, of course. What does this mean politically for Mike Pence?

CHALIAN: Well, let's take the obvious, right? You'd rather launch a presidential campaign without an open Department of Justice investigation against you than not, right? So, having this closed, sort of, clears the decks from any kind of any distraction, not that anyone thought that this was going to turn into some super serious investigation that perhaps ended up in charges with the facts as we understood them, Kate.

But what is also clear, so not only can the Pence team just, sort of, put this behind them. You know, decline the charge, excellent move on with their presidential campaign. It also sets up a contrast, obviously, with a guy that he is seeking to dethrone here atop the field of the Republican nomination race, his former boss and running mate Donald Trump. Because as John and Elie were just discussing, you know, that is a totally different kettle of fish, if you will, the Trump investigation. We see that getting more and more serious by the day.


And there will now be a complete contrast on display here. Not that one I anticipate Mike Pence to, sort of, draw overtly for voters, but one that is going to hang over the continued Trump investigations that are going to be a constant thread and contrast point for his opponents in this nomination race.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I mean, it could be set in one line. Hey, everyone, I'm the one that's not under federal investigation right now. I mean, that's it in a nutshell. It's good to see you, David. Thank you very much. We'll have much more on this with David later on the show.

CHALIAN: You too.


BERMAN: So, for the sixth time in six days, Russia, hitting Ukraine's capital with drones and missiles. A live report ahead.


BERMAN: This morning, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called out Russian President Vladimir Putin, pointing out how his so-called special military operation, a.k.a. invasion of Ukraine, has backfired and actually united the west against Russia.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Putin's war of aggression against Ukraine has been a strategic failure. Greatly diminishing Russia's power, its interest, and its influence for years to come. There is no question. Russia is significantly worse off today than it was before its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, militarily, economically, geopolitically.


BERMAN: This critique comes as attacks on Russian soil are increasing. A number of local Russian leaders reported attacks. New video shows a plume of smoke in the Russian-controlled City of Berdyansk. Russian officials reported a number of injuries after multiple explosions were heard in that city.

CNN's Sam Kiley is in Kharkiv this morning, in northeastern Ukraine. And Sam, Vladimir Putin himself had some new statements today. What is he saying?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's very interesting indeed in the context of Secretary of State Blinken saying how much this campaign has undermined Russia's standing in the world has been a strategic disaster as far as the United States is concerned. Now, they would say that would -- given that they're backing the other side.

But, it's very interesting indeed that we're seeing a rattled Vladimir Putin now, too. He's just been speaking at a government sponsored event today in which -- and I'm paraphrasing here, he says that, the ill wishes against Russia mustn't be allowed to destabilize the internal politics of the country. Now, clearly, he's referring there to the new campaign that's being prosecuted inside Russian territory using drones. And you mentioned that, John, the attacks around Belgorod, both by land and in terms of artillery. There have been drone attacks in Smolensk in Russia's west and in its southern town as well.

All of this, I think, worrying Putin that he may be facing centrifugal forces. He's mentioned this before. The Russian Federation is a federation of a lot wide-range of ethnic groups. And every now and again, he says how worried he is that these foreign influences and the events that is affecting Russia may cause the country to fly apart. And clearly, that has been his response to this latest wave of Ukrainian sponsored attacks inside Russia.

BERMAN: Again, the presence of fighting on Russian changes the equation, a little bit, for Vladimir Putin. Sam Kiley in Kharkiv, stay safe. Thank you, Sam.


BOLDUAN: The South Korea and the United States are carrying out their biggest live-fire drills to date. The exercises are simulating a full- scale attack coming from South Korea. And CNN's Paula Hancocks got a chance to see these drills first-hand from South Korea.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The scenario of these military drills is very clear. And that is that North Korea has staged what's been described as an illegal armed invasion in this scenario. And this is the joint counterattack by the U.S. and South Korean militaries.

HANCOCKS (voiceover): There's no doubt, it is more blatant than usual. North Korea is the enemy and the U.S. and South Korea are training together to defeat that threat. Now, we're told that this is the biggest joint live-fire drill ever. A reflection of the perceived threat posed by North Korea around 30 kilometer or 18 miles north of here. We have seen a year and a half of unprecedented missiles launches and weapons tests from Pyongyang.

So, this today is a coordinated military drill from the air and on land. 2,500 soldiers from the U.S. and South Korea. 610 pieces of military equipment. It is a clear message to North Korea, the official line is it is to demonstrate, "Peace through overwhelming strength."

COLONEL BRANDON ANDERSON, DEPUTY COMMANDING OFFICER, 2ND INFANTRY DIVISION: I think the message is that we -- we're prepared. That the training that we do is efficient, it's working.

CAPTAIN ANTHONY LOPEZ, 2ND INFANTRY DIVISION: Take away is just having confidence and the credibility of the alliance and our ability to execute, kind of, that extended and integrated deterrence together.

HANCOCKS (voiceover): And North Korea says that the drills are a large part of the reason why it has conducted so many tests. Saying that the failed military satellite launched this week was in response to what it called the dangerous military act of the U.S. Another reason for these bigger joint exercises, this year marks the 70th anniversary of the U.S.-South Korea alliance and also the 75th anniversary of the founding of South Korea's military.


HANCOCKS (on camera): Now, these drills are being staged on five separate days. Each with around 2,000 spectators, some of them regular citizens who volunteer to come and watch. So, a fun day out for some, a show of force for others. Paula Hancocks, CNN, Bucheon, South Korea.


BOLDUAN: Fascinating to see that. Paula, thank you.


BERMAN: In just a few moments. We will get new details on the partial collapse of an apartment building in Iowa. New information about this investigation.

The water supply in the west is shrinking. And now, one of the region's fastest growing city is making a huge move. Phoenix says, no new construction.