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U.S. Seeks Nuclear Arms Talks With Russia; Strong Job Reports; No Charges Against Pence Over Classified Documents; Trump Subpoenaed For Iran Documents. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired June 02, 2023 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: A new CNN exclusive: former President Donald Trump subpoenaed for records after he was caught on tape discussing how he held onto a classified document.
But CNN has learned his attorneys haven't been able to actually find that key document, critical details in the case that prosecutors could be building against the Republican front-runner.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Mike Pence cleared. The former vice president, soon-to-be-presidential candidate himself, will not face charges in his classified document investigation.
We have these stories and more ahead on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.
SANCHEZ: We have exclusive new CNN reporting about the special counsel and that audio recording of former President Donald Trump.
Sources tell CNN that Trump attorneys turned over material in mid- March connected to a classified military document, the one that prosecutors hear Mr. Trump describing on the audio recording. The tape prompted a fresh subpoena from investigators for any and all documents related to General Mark Milley or Iran.
Sources also tell CNN there is a giant unknown, whether the document in question, an Iran attack plan, was ever actually returned to the government.
CNN's Katelyn Polantz and Paula Reid are here to dive deeper into the details.
So, Paula, lay out the question of what happened here.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: So let's go back a few months ago, March 2023.
One of Trump's longtime aides, Margo Martin, goes before the grand jury. And during her appearance, they play for her this audio that we have reported on. And they play it for her because she was one of the people in the room during that meeting back in July 2021.
Shortly after she leaves the courthouse, Trump's attorneys receive a subpoena asking for all documents and materials related to Iran and General Milley. We have learned there was initially some confusion, like, well, why are they asking about this? But then, shortly thereafter, they put it together.
They say, ah, they have asked Margo about this. They have realized there could be other audio recordings where Trump claims to have this classified document. So we're told they tried to comply with the subpoena. They went. They spoke to other aides. They got transcripts and other materials, returned those to the government or sent those back.
But they were not able to find this document that Trump claims to have on the tape.
SANCHEZ: So, Paula, do we know where the document might be?
REID: At this point, Boris, it's unclear. Of course, we know, on the tape, right, Trump claims to have this document. He's describing it.
Now, we have learned in our reporting that this was not authored by General Milley. In fact, it predates his time as a chairman of the Joint Chiefs. But it doesn't appear from our reporting that there's a question as to whether it exists. But, at this point, it's not clear if it is in the possession of the government.
SANCHEZ: So, Katelyn, obviously, this happened, these documents were turned over in mid-March.
But we have heard concern from the DOJ about ensuring that everything Donald Trump had in his possession, potentially classified information, was turned over, right?
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right.
So, Boris, there is a history of mistrust here, an entire year or more where the Justice Department and the National Archives was all -- they were always trying to get back all the federal records in Donald Trump's possession.
And then May of 2022 is when Donald Trump's team gets that subpoena and says, all documents with classified markings in the possession of Donald Trump need to go back to the federal government. And then there essentially is months and months, including that moment in August where the FBI searches Mar-a-Lago, finds hundreds of classified records.
But then, after that, there's more of the mistrust that gets built into this relationship and really breaks down the trust and the communication between the Trump lawyers and the Justice Department, where the Justice Department has to go to a federal judge and say, we cannot be sure that Donald Trump's team has done thorough searches as of all of his properties and has turned over everything they could possibly find.
Ultimately, Donald Trump is not held in contempt of court at that time for failing to comply with that subpoena. The Justice Department tries to make that happen. And, instead, they do some searches. The Trump team hired some people to do some searches. They search Bedminster. They search some other locations.
They don't find any other classified records at Bedminster, but they find some in a storage facility in Florida. And so that is all leading up in the months before ultimately this reveal to Margo Martin in the grand jury and this subsequent subpoena: Turn over this exact document related to Iran and General Milley.
SANCHEZ: So, Paula, we should point out all of this is happening, obviously, on the backdrop of the 2024 presidential campaign.
SANCHEZ: Donald Trump has been on the campaign trail. And he was asked specifically about the original reporting regarding the recording of him discussing this document. What was the response?
And a short time ago, I actually got a response from his spokesman to this story that we have right here. And they repeated many of the same talking points, arguing that the whole investigation is politically motivated. They said that we're following leaks.
But, of course, Katelyn, the other Kaitlan, Collins, and I, we all know, this is not the result of a leak. This is the result of dogged reporting and talking to sources. But, as you noted, last night is the first time that the former president has responded to our exclusive about the audio recording, the original one that set all this off.
Let's take a listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know a thing about it. 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.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: And it has to do -- it has to do more than anything else with trying to interfere with the election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: And this has been how they have been trying to attack the investigation itself, arguing that it's politically motivated. They have even demanded a meeting with the attorney general to express their concerns.
But what is so significant about our reporting this week is, it shows the kinds of evidence that the special counsel, his investigators that they're evaluating that strongly suggests -- it's unclear if there will be charges, but this is certainly not just motivated by some sort of political bias.
SANCHEZ: Well, the scope is notable.
SANCHEZ: I mean, this audio recording was obtained because there were biographers doing a book about Mark Meadows, the former chief of staff, and that's where all of this originated.
REID: That's a great point, yes.
REID: Because a lot of people have asked me, is this a secret recording? And I said, no, based on our reporting, he knew he was being recorded throughout that summer.
REID: He wanted all conversations with journalists recorded. Unclear if he might regret that now.
SANCHEZ: All right, Paula and Katelyn, please stand by, because we're going to need your insight on some more CNN reporting in just moments -- Jim, first over to you.
SCIUTTO: All right, let's speak now to CNN's Evan Perez, former associate counsel to President George W. Bush Jamil Jaffer well.
Evan, first, help me understand something here. So he refers to a document or seems to on an audio recording, classified document.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right.
SCIUTTO: They look for that document. They have not produced that document. Do we know or is there any understanding of whether that means he doesn't have it, doesn't know if he still has it, is refusing to still give it, or perhaps never had it?
PEREZ: All of the above could be the answer to that.
PEREZ: And it's quite possible, by the way, that the Justice Department or the government, the Pentagon may have this document in its possession.
But part of the job here for this -- for these investigators is to make sure everything that is in the possession of the former president, who does not have a right to have these government records anymore, that all of that is returned into the possession of the government.
SCIUTTO: Right. PEREZ: And that includes, for instance, any notes that any of his
aides may have taken during one of these meetings.
For instance, if he was discussing some of this classified information in one of these settings at Bedminster, for instance, or during this book interview, and any notes were taken, they -- the Justice Department and FBI wants possession of those, because those are new records that contain classified information.
So, all of that is important for them to return.
SCIUTTO: OK, Jamil, in terms of Trump's potential legal exposure here for having classified documents he should not have had after leaving office, does it -- he already had had them, then gave some back and gave a few more back and was a little slow and doing it.
If he still had them today, does that greatly increases his legal liability?
JAMIL JAFFER, FORMER SENIOR COUNSEL, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I think what it makes clear is that he knowingly violated the law, right?
The law says you can't take these classified documents out. The idea that he claims he complied with the Presidential Records Act, that's completely wrong. He absolutely did not. But, beyond that, the Espionage Act says that, if you have national defense information, and you're told you have it, and you are asked to give it back and you don't, then you violate the Espionage Act.
And this now -- this demonstrates knowledge and potentially intent, if, in fact, he did have this document with him.
SCIUTTO: And possibly multiple times where you were told and didn't give them back.
Now, to date, a federal judge has denied the DOJ's request to hold Trump or his legal team in contempt for failing to comply. Would this change that, potentially?I mean, could they go back to court and say, hey, listen, now he's really in contempt, in effect?
JAFFER: Could be, if in fact that you demonstrate he had this document, right?
JAFFER: If he had this document, knew he had the document, and been asked for it, and didn't give it back, that -- I mean, it's very hard to combat that claim.
We don't know if he actually had this document. Again, we don't know if he ate it, right, flushed it down the toilet. I mean...
SCIUTTO: Well, there was -- I mean, that's not so out there, right? There was evidence that he did that, photographs, in fact that he did that while he was...
PEREZ: The Justice Department is in a bit of a bind here, right, because they believe that he still has these documents.
But when they did the search back last August in Mar-a-Lago, they could have gone to a judge and said, we want to search also Bedminster and all these other places. But they chose to do just one search. And so that's partly why I think they're in this place where they're trying to retrieve documents, but they don't know whether there might be others in other location.
SCIUTTO: Meanwhile, it's sensitive territory, because you're searching the properties, the many properties of a former president.
SCIUTTO: I know these things are not necessarily connected, but can we draw any connection between the former vice president being cleared in his -- in other words, the DOJ looked into his handling of classified documents, which, by the way, in volume and also in the way he answered these requests, are night and day compared to the former president.
SCIUTTO: But they have cleared that. You have covered the Justice Department for a long time. Could that indicate they're moving forward? OK, we put this out of the way, and now we can make a decision the Trump case?
PEREZ: I think they're unconnected, partly because, I mean, we're talking about a volume, just a very different volume, right? We're talking about a dozen documents in the Pence case.
They were discovered in January. This was still being handled by the Justice Department, not a special counsel. And they were looking at the calendar. A lot of times, people get -- the Justice Department gets criticized for how long these types of things take.
PEREZ: In this case, they knew that Pence might be announcing for president next week, and they need to get away -- out of the way of that, because the standard had been set by Merrick Garland, right?
PEREZ: If he declares, suddenly, they may have to appoint a special counsel. So I think everybody at the Justice Department was aware of that of that date certain.
SCIUTTO: OK, Evan, Jamil, stand by, because we have some new information regarding the former vice president.
Boris, what do we know?
SANCHEZ: Yes, Jim, as you just alluded to, a major development in that other high-profile probe involving classified documents, the Justice Department closing the investigation into former Vice President Mike Pence, deciding not to bring charges after classified records were recovered from his home back in January.
And, as Evan pointed out, the news comes as Pence is expected to announce he's running for president in the 2024 election next week.
Let's bring back CNN as Katelyn Polantz, who helped break this story.
Katelyn, walk us through the details of this decision by the DOJ.
POLANTZ: Well, Boris, we were able to obtain a letter a letter that the Justice Department sent to Mike Pence's lawyers yesterday. And there is quite a bit of finality. It's quite clear in this letter that the Justice Department says they did conduct an investigation into the potential mishandling of classified information that was found in Mike Pence's possession just a few months ago.
And then, based on the results of that investigation, there will be no criminal charges sought. So Mike Pence will not be charged, no one else will be charged with a crime. This was an investigation that started in January, because, at that time, Mike Pence, one of his lawyers went to his home in Indiana to make sure whether he had any federal records in his possession there.
At that time, they found about a dozen records that had classified markings on them. And then they gave them back to the federal government. That is a crucial piece of this that makes it much different than the situation that played out with Donald Trump that we have been talking about for many of these months.
And so they give them back to the FBI, the National Archives, and then, in February, that is when the FBI makes sure that there are no other documents in my Pence's possession. There's a search of his Indiana home. There's a search of his office in Washington, D.C. There's one more document recovered, and then things go silent on the Justice Department's side until June 1, when Pence's attorneys get this letter saying there will be no charges, this thing is over.
Now, Mike Pence and his advisers, they said that they are pleased, but not surprised, they have told us that, and also that there has been a discovery of classified information here with Pence, but that they believe he handled it much differently.
And to highlight that, here is what Pence was saying in January after this news broke that there were classified records in his home in Indiana that were found.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: While I was not aware that those classified documents were in our personal residence, let me be clear. Those classified documents should not have been in my personal residence. Mistakes were made.
And I take full responsibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
POLANTZ: Of course, this is a very separate investigation done by an entirely separate section of the Justice Department than the special investigation that Jack Smith is doing into Donald Trump and the investigation around documents found in President Joe Biden's possession from his previous terms in office.
But, ultimately, this comes at quite a crucial moment. It is days away from Mike Pence announcing that he's running for the presidency, going to be challenging Donald Trump for that nomination of the Republican Party. And so they're getting this letter, and it's also quite a crucial time in the Trump investigation as well.
Katelyn Polantz, thank you so much for breaking that down for us.
And, Jim, as Katelyn noted, even though some of Trump's allies may want to conflate these two cases, there are very significant differences between them.
SCIUTTO: So let's talk about those differences.
Jamil Jaffer, Evan Perez still with me.
Jamil, first of all, you saw the former vice president say something there, two things that Trump has never said. One, they shouldn't have been in my private residence, and, two, I take full responsibility.
But, beyond that, from a legal perspective, given the differences, are you surprised that the case is closed and there were no charges?
JAFFER: No, not at all. I think this is the right outcome.
And people make mistakes like this all the time, mistakenly take classified documents out. They get counseled, they get a reprimand, they get something in their record. But it's qualitatively different when you decide, I'm going to remove documents I know are classified, you don't go through the process of declassifying them, if you have the authority to do so.
By the way, thinking you're going to classify them is not a way to classify document. The president said that repeatedly. That is false, unquestionably.
JAFFER: And so this idea somehow that Pence has been cleared, it's exactly the right thing for the Justice Department to do. And now they're looking at Donald Trump. And he knowingly had these
documents, he took them out, possessed them for a long time and then, when asked give them back, failed to do so. That's the fundamental problem here.
SCIUTTO: So when you compare the Pence handling of this with the Biden handling -- and we just have a graphic up on the screen, similar numbers there, a dozen, 20, versus the several hundred that Trump kept -- what do we know about the status of their handling of Biden's handling of the classified documents?
PEREZ: We know that at least one witness has already been talked to by Rob Hur who's the special counsel who's doing the Biden investigation.
We haven't heard much more about what parts of the investigation are doing. It's very common, again, as Jamil Jaffer points out. These things are not uncommon, right, to find documents, return them to the government, say -- take a look at it, see whether -- again, they tried to make sure that there was no damage done from the way these documents were stored.
And then the Justice Department completes the investigation and brings no charges. We don't have any reason to believe that there's anything like that coming, obviously, in the Biden case .The Trump case is just in a different planet, right?
PEREZ: I mean, the former president is thumbing his nose all throughout, claiming that -- all different types of excuses as to why these documents ended up there.
And that's partly why we are where we are and why the Justice Department is still doing this investigation.
SCIUTTO: No question.
Just quickly, before we go, there was a time, of the many investigations that Trump is facing, you would hear legal experts like yourself, say, classified documents, one, that's the most likely one to face it there, just because it's a hard thing. He's had the documents, shouldn't have had them, physical evidence of that.
SCIUTTO: The Pence and Biden revelations changed the thinking somewhat, although they are different cases.
As you look at the evidence that you know at this point, what's your sense of a possible indictment for the former president on classified documents specifically?
JAFFER: I think it's very hard for the Justice Department to not indict the president at this point, given what we know publicly at least. The problem, of course, is, you have him running for office. He's a former president now running for office again against a president who's in office who's also running against him who's admittedly a special prosecutor. I mean, this is politically extremely fraught.
JAFFER: I would not want to be in the position of the Justice Department or the special prosecutor or the president having to think about what to do about these charges.
PEREZ: The obstruction is partly what makes it so much more complicated.
JAFFER: That's right.
SCIUTTO: I mean, a lot of layers to that legal onion. We will continue to cover them.
Jamil Jaffer, Evan Perez, thanks so much -- Boris.
SANCHEZ: Happening now: markets looking up after the May jobs report blew expectations out of the water and ahead of President Biden signing that debt deal into law. We have more on the broader implications.
Also ahead, the U.S. trying to entice Russia to come to the table for nuclear arms control talks by withholding details, like where launchers and missiles are located. Will that work?
And the Texas cheerleader who was shot after her friend opened the wrong car door is speaking out for the first time about that night, how she describes what happened -- when we come back.
You're watching CNN NEWS CENTRAL.
SANCHEZ: Right now, U.S. markets are reacting strongly, the Dow up 675-ish points, on the back of a red-hot jobs report released this morning.
The U.S. economy adding 339,000 jobs last month -- that crushed expectations. Tonight, President Biden is expected to tout these new numbers and sign the bipartisan debt ceiling bill that was passed by the Senate late last night.
Joining us now is Dan Primack. He's business editor for Axios.
Dan, thanks so much for sharing part of your afternoon with us.
This strong jobs report is one in a string that have exceeded expectations. Why does this keep happening?
DAN PRIMACK, AXIOS: Because we still need -- the economy continues to grow. It is not growing nearly at the rate that it was, you know, a year or two ago, but it continues to grow.
And we obviously have this huge disconnect in terms of number of jobs available and number of people to fill them. But I will say this number today, it certainly outpaced what economists were expecting. They were thinking almost nearly just half of this number.
SANCHEZ: And we should also point out that it revised the total number of jobs added in April as -- one, it boosted them up some 40,000 or so.
I'm wondering how you expect this new jobs report might impact the Federal Reserve's decision to potentially hike interest rates.
PRIMACK: Yes, and that's the interesting thing here.
Often, when we get a very hot jobs report, the stock market goes down, right, because it's concerned that interest rates are going to get raised. So, thus, it's kind of this weird dichotomy. Today, as you noted earlier, the market is reacting well, because, look, the market is basically looking at this number and saying, this is a good number, obviously better than expected, but it's not so good.
And there's some kind of a little bit of underlying weakness inside the number, not major weakness, but a little softening. So it's kind of Goldilocks for the market. They think this is a strong number for the economy, but not so strong that the Fed will necessarily increase rates again.
And this is one of the last major data points the Fed gets before it has to make its next decision, and it has been signaling a pause, and it doesn't seem that this report is so strong on jobs that the Fed would change its mind.
SANCHEZ: And, Dan, just learned that Fitch Ratings is keeping the United States on watch for a potential credit rating downgrade, even after Congress passed last night's debt ceiling deal, Fitch saying that it's ultimately the brinksmanship and the partisanship that is keeping it, I guess, a bit skeptical on the U.S. credit rating.
What do you make of that?
PRIMACK: I don't make a huge amount of it.
I mean, honestly, I'd be more concerned if it was S&P or Moody's, which are kind of the larger credit rating agencies. I mean, Fitch isn't wrong. I mean, we obviously have some major dysfunction in Washington that we over and over again get to this debt ceiling catastrophe, almost step off the cliff.
The other thing is worth noting, when you look at the market reaction to the jobs report, it's a little hard to parse how much is the jobs report compared to the Senate last night passing the debt bill that Biden is obviously expected to sign today, a little bit of one, a little bit of the other.
SANCHEZ: Dan Primack, we got to leave the conversation there. But we appreciate your perspective. Thanks for spending some time with us.
PRIMACK: Thank you.
SANCHEZ: Of course -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: How do you reduce the risk of nuclear war when the country with the most nuclear weapons in the world pulled out of a key arms control treaty?
That is the question facing the Biden administration, you could argue the world, right now. Russia's Vladimir Putin has control of the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet. And he is primed to expand that stockpile after pulling out of a key arms treaty, in part over tensions with the U.S. and the West on Ukraine.
Now the White House is launching a new effort to bring Russia back to the negotiating table for bilateral talks on nuclear arms control.
CNN's Kylie Atwood is at the State Department.
This has been, as you know, Kylie, a subject of concern for some time, particularly as one nuclear arms control treaty after another falls by the wayside. Why the urgency now from the administration? And are they approaching this with both carrots and sticks?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: There are both carrots and sticks that are applied to this strategy.
It's a multipronged strategy, Jim, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan very clearly stating today that the United States wants to engage both Russia and China on nuclear arms talks without preconditions, essentially saying there isn't anything they have to do to come to the table in order to talk to the United States. The United States just wants to sit down with them and talk about this.
And this is clearly a challenge for the U.S. right now, because, you look at Russia, they have recently gotten out of the single lasting nuclear arms control agreement between the U.S. and Russia just earlier this year. And then you look at China, and they are building up their nuclear program.
So what the Biden administration is saying now is, they want to talk to both of those countries. They also want to talk to all of the P5 countries. Those are all five nuclear states. That's the U.K., France, the U.S., China, and Russia, of course, included, because they think that the agreements in place right now are limited and there's more that can be done together.
But while they are trying to seek this outreach, these conversations, the Biden administration is also working to modernize their own nuclear force. Now, the national security adviser said they aren't looking right now to increase the size of the U.S. nuclear force, but the size is a key question.
And the reason for that is because, currently, the U.S. and Russia said they're going to abide by an agreement that would have put limits on their deployed nuclear warheads at 1,550 -- sorry -- 1,550 in total. But then you have China who is developing their nuclear program rapidly. They are at about 400 nuclear warheads stockpile.
That could grow, according to the U.S. assessment, to 1,500 by 2035. So U.S. officials are very clearly stating that the future of any arms agreement between the U.S. and Russia is going to be hinged on what China is doing with their nuclear program. And that's a key question here.
And you also have the administration really keenly looking at the fact that they now need to deal with both of these countries that don't want to come to the table. And they're trying to tell them that it's to their best benefit, to their best advantage to come and have these conversations about nuclear weapons -- Jim.
SCIUTTO: So, the question is, is the intention here from the Biden administration to make this a three-way negotiation, in effect, because, as you note -- and if we put the numbers back up on the screen there -- yes, China today has a fraction of the number of warheads as the U.S. and Russia, but that's not expected to last.
They are rapidly expanding. And many will say that any arms control treaty you make today, if it doesn't include China, doesn't address the problem. So, is the idea all three sit down at the table, or the U.S. one-on-one with each of them?
ATWOOD: Right now, they're not saying that they're looking to talk to China and Russia at the same time.
But they're not saying that that's, you know, out of the cards. They are acknowledging that they both -- they want to talk to both.