Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

Dangerous Air Quality; Will Trump Federal Indictment Happen?. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired June 08, 2023 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And, in 2014, he warned that towels in Kenya could transmit AIDS.

Off the air, Robertson dabbled in politics and ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988. He leaves behind his wife, four children, 14 grandchildren, and 24 great-grandchildren.

Thanks for your time on INSIDE POLITICS today. We will see you tomorrow.

"CNN NEWS CENTRAL starts" right now.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Smothered by smoke. Millions of people at risk of inhaling potentially harmful air pouring out of Canada from more than 400 wildfires, smoke engulfing towns and cities across the mid-Atlantic region, a crisis that could potentially last into the weekend.

You're watching CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: But we do begin with the clearest sign yet that the former President Donald Trump could be indicted soon.

Sources telling us the Justice Department has officially informed the former president he is a target in the classified documents probe. And this is a major step indicating that the special counsel is focused on Trump's actions, not just the actions of those around him.

SANCHEZ: Yes, and CNN has also learned that Trump is now telling people around him that he does believe he will be indicted. His team is now bracing for him to be charged on multiple fronts.

Right now, the former president is in Bedminster gathering with aides, where he's scheduled to stay for a few days.

CNN is covering the story like only CNN can, with a team of reporters and analysts. CNN's Katelyn Polantz is outside the federal courthouse in Miami where another grand jury has been hearing witness testimony. We also have with us CNN's Zachary Cohen and Kristen Holmes. They join us with brand-new reporting. And, also, CNN legal and national security analyst Carrie Cordero is with us to break it all down.

KEILAR: Katelyn, I do want to start with you here. Tell us what more you're learning about Trump being told he's a target

in this documents probe.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Brianna, we already are seeing some activity here around the federal courthouse in Miami. And it's coming just a few days after Donald Trump was notified from the Justice Department through his attorneys that he was a target of this investigation.

Now, that's the sort of thing that happens at the very end of an investigation where a lot of evidence has been gathered, a lot of witness testimony has been secured, and the prosecution is clearly looking at what they might do to determine whether or not to charge a case.

And so we may -- being in the possible final days here of the special counsel investigation into the handling of classified records at Mar- a-Lago. Now we are seeing activity in not just one, but two days this week. Yesterday, there was a witness in Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich who spoke to the grand jury secretly here in Miami.

And then again today, we are seeing some of the prosecutors from the special counsel's office inside the courthouse around the grand jury area. And so, as they continue their work here secretly, behind closed doors, waiting for a possible decision or an indictment to emerge, there are many people on Trump's legal team who are out there -- or at least one, Tim Parlatore, a former attorney who was working on this case for Donald Trump.

He was on MSNBC last night speaking about an audiotape that we first reported on here at CNN as a very crucial piece of evidence that prosecutors had gathered, where Trump was caught or captured waving a document and referring to it as a classified document of some sort. Here's what Tim had to say about that last night.


TIMOTHY PARLATORE, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: There is nothing in that tape that I heard that makes clear what he's holding, whether he's actually holding any type of classified document.

Is it one of those things where he's whether bluffing or joking?


POLANTZ: Now, I have been told from my sources that this audiotape is actually quite clear. It captures Donald Trump talking about a very particular plan, a military attack plan on Iran, and referring to it and having limitations where he can't share it more widely, the sort of thing that prosecutors would be looking in a case like this.

But we haven't heard the audiotape itself. And we don't know still at this time how and if it will factor into the final decision that prosecutors make here on possible charges in this unprecedented investigation.

KEILAR: Yes, so interesting to hear him speak about that tape, though.

I want to go to Kristen Holmes now.

You're here with some new reporting actually. As so often happens, when Donald Trump appears to be in legal peril, he tries to shore up support in the court of public opinion. And you're seeing that happen.


So we have sources who are telling us that Trump has already started reaching out to members on the Hill, his most staunch allies, trying to shore up that support. And it's not just him making these calls. It is his legal team. It is the super PAC. We're hearing from members of the political team who are reaching out.


They want to have a full-court press. They want people on the airwaves defending him. They have even sent out talking points that go after Jack Smith. And the other thing to keep in mind here, that it's not just Trump who is saying that he's indicted. For the last several months, we had heard that he was asking people, what do you think is going to happen?

That shifted in the last couple of weeks, Trump himself saying, I believe I'm going to get indicted and his team essentially saying that they think it could happen sooner, rather than later.

It is interesting to watch this unfold, because I have spoken to about half-a-dozen people who have talked to Trump in the last several days. And they describe his demeanor as very different from when the Bragg indictment happened. They say that he is much calmer. He is not agitated. He actually seems to be an OK spirits.

This is very different from what we saw in the days leading up to that Bragg indictment.

KEILAR: The Manhattan indictment pertaining to the Stormy Daniels case.

HOLMES: Yes, of course, the Manhattan indictment.

And so it's a very different energy that you're seeing here from Donald Trump, maybe because they were expecting this. And, again, Trump has also told sources that he believes he's going to be indicted in that Georgia probe. So, clearly, now, this is becoming a pattern.

SANCHEZ: And they are focused obviously not only on the legal fight, but in the court of public opinion, that fight being important. That's why they're going after the special counsel as well.

But, Zach, on the note of the legal fight, you have some reporting about a potential key witness, this former White House staffer, who told prosecutors that Trump not only knew about the declassification process, but also he followed it as president. ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: This is a former career official. It's somebody who advise both the Obama and Trump administrations on the declassification process.

And we're learning for the first time that this witness was interviewed by both prosecutors in the Trump documents case and the Biden documents case. And so what they laid out for us was a starkly different tone in both investigations.

And, one, he told the prosecutors in the Trump case it was very clear Trump knew the process to declassify material, followed it correctly at times when it suited him, and effectively laid a road map out for the kind of testimony, additional witness testimony and additional evidence that they needed to secure and we have seen them go after since that interview took place.

Now we have seen them interview senior former Trump officials like Ric Grenell, like Robert O'Brien, who has testified before the grand jury that he had conversations with Trump about the declassification process and made clear multiple times during his stint in the White House that there was a process that had to be followed.

So, it really undercuts this claim by Trump that he could just will or wish documents be classified -- declassified. And it also shows why Jack Smith's this team has really prioritized trying to find and build evidence around this idea that Trump knew there was a process and willfully ignored it.

SANCHEZ: Yes, the former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows may also be key in that testimony and gathering of evidence.

We're going to pose that question to our legal expert. CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero is with us.

Before we get there, Carrie, if you could, make the distinction for us between someone being the subject of an investigation and a target, the way we know Trump has been informed that he is.


So the target letter that his team received and him being informed that he's a target is a much more serious stage of legal exposure and jeopardy for him. It means that the investigation has revealed conduct that provides information that he may have committed crimes, he himself, not people around him, not he's wrapped up in a broader investigation, but he himself is potentially culpable and could be charged with federal crimes.

That's different than a subject, which there would be more subjects in an investigation, individuals who are involved in some way, who are under scrutiny, but they're not being informed that they are on the path to being indicted. It doesn't mean they absolutely will be indicted, but a target is on that path.

KEILAR: This is also unusual, in that he is a former president. So there's nothing to compare this to. How surprised would you be for a former president to be told that they're a target, and then they are not indicted?

CORDERO: Well, in some ways, it demonstrates that the Justice Department is treating him the way that they handle normal cases.

So, even though he is a former president, he's also a citizen under the Constitution who has rights. And those rights include due process and the criminal justice process.

And so this is part of the normal process of someone who is under federal investigation, that, as the investigation progresses, they get informed, because this provides a last opportunity for his defense team to present information to the Justice Department that maybe it doesn't have already that would be exculpatory, that would potentially clear him, that would clear up this whole mess.

And it gives them that space before the indictment is actually brought to do that. Whether or not they have that kind of information, whether they will do that, whether they want to take this opportunity to start talking about a potential plea, we don't know. But it gives them those opportunities.


SANCHEZ: I promised you a question about Mark Meadows, but I want to expand it to include some of the other testimony that we're learning from Zach and others' reporting that the special counsel is gathering, specifically about Trump's awareness of declassifying documents and potentially his intent.

What do you make of that so many people have apparently been questioned, and some of them have cooperated?

CORDERO: Well, so they're -- the investigation is extensive, and there are so many individuals who are would have observed and been in contact with him regarding his handling of classified information all throughout his presidency and then the period in his post-presidency.

And so the investigation, to be thorough, they have to conduct all of those interviews. They have to bring as many people before the grand jury under oath to be able to gather that information. He was the president. He operated with classified information throughout his presidency. So it's hard for me to imagine a scenario where he didn't actually know what the process was.

That's different, though, than him actually following those rules. And, again, there are potentially other people implicated in this investigation as well, because it's not like he was packing the boxes himself. He didn't move them himself. There are other people who potentially are under investigative scrutiny as well.

KEILAR: Very good point.

Thank you all for the reporting and for the analysis. We do appreciate it. And, ahead, just this oppressive cloud of hazardous smoke and so far-

reaching, coming down from Canada, upending daily life for millions of Americans, and experts warn that these kinds of wildfires are on the rise. So, how can you stay as safe as possible?

Plus, soon, President Biden will be taking questions from reporters in a news conference with Britain's prime minister. We're going to bring that to you live.

SANCHEZ: And he was an evangelical leader, broadcaster, university founder, political power player, and one-time presidential candidate himself. What we're learning about the passing of Pat Robertson.

All that and more still ahead on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.



SANCHEZ: Right now, a hazardous haze is impacting roughly 75 million people. They're now under some kind of air quality alert, many of them at risk of breathing in dangerous air.

Today, weather experts say the worst of the smoke from Canadian wildfires will go from New York to the mid-Atlantic, with Philly and Washington, D.C., bearing the brunt today. Impacted areas continue to see outside school activities closed, some airports restricting flights, and multiple pro sports games postponed.

Let's turn now to CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray in the Weather Center. She's been tracking what the smoke has been doing.

Jennifer, I'm not going to lie. I have been coughing all day. I think one of the key questions is, how soon can we get relief?

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I believe it, Boris. It has been awful.

It looks like, over the weekend and maybe into the early part of next week, we could get some rain in here. That's what we really need to try to clear out some of the smoke, as well as a shift in wind direction. And we're going to get a little bit of that today. We talked about when it's -- when it improves for someone, it's going to be bad for someone else.

So we are improving across the New York City area. But we're getting worse across the mid-Atlantic. D.C. you're now down to two miles' visibility. New York City, you're up to four. This time yesterday you were less than a mile for visibility.

But you can see that smoke just traveling down to the south and really just swallowing up the city. This is the smoke from yesterday, and you can clearly see it from that satellite picture. That was it entering into the New York City area. Now we take a live look at our EarthCam in Washington, D.C., and you can see just that thick, hazy, smoky sky is there. We still have very unhealthy air quality. You can see those dots in

red and even purple. The purple is very unhealthy. So, sensitive groups need to stay inside, Boris. It's all about that wind direction. And I do believe we will start to see an improvement over the weekend for places like New York City. But we're still going to see some hazy skies over the eastern half of the country for the next couple of days.

SANCHEZ: Jennifer Gray, thank you so much for checking that out for us.

Brianna, I know you were feeling the smoke as well.

KEILAR: That's right. I think we're feeling it in our throats. You're drinking tea with honey. I'm telling on you for that.

One climate scientist said that it feels like the smoke is -- quote -- "hugging the ground." It's not dispersing.

So let's get to the ground and get the latest on this.

We begin with CNN's Brian Todd. He is just outside of Washington, D.C., in Northern Virginia.

Tell us what it's like where you are there, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, the smoke is definitely hugging us here in Arlington, Virginia. I can assure you of that.

A couple of quick updates now. I can tell you the D.C. government has just shut down all city-run fields, playgrounds and athletic courts, at least for the day. They are trying to send a very clear message to people, do not come out and try any strenuous activity. They certainly don't want kids out in this stuff.

A couple of other updates we can give you as far as just the barometer readings for the air quality here in D.C. A couple of hours ago, the air quality alert was changed to a code purple, and that means it is extreme -- it's very unhealthy for the entire public, not just people with respiratory issues.

Another barometer, the air quality index, this is the highest level of poor air quality, a six out of six in the D.C. area. I can tell you all that, but let's show you what it really looks like. I'm going to step out of the shot. And our photojournalist, Steve Williams, is going to zoom in here.

We are in Arlington, Virginia. We are at the Marine Corps Memorial, also called the Iwo Jima Memorial. That's what's in the foreground here. You can see that. Now, normally, on a normal day, in a straight shot, you can see right across the river in a straight line the Lincoln Memorial and then behind it the Washington Monument.

Tell me if you can see it. I can barely see either one, especially the monument which is behind the Lincoln Memorial. You can see a little bit of sunlight on the memorial there, but look at that haze. That is worse than anything I have ever seen. I have been here many summers when the haze from just the natural wet heat is really bad.


It -- I have never seen visibility that pour across the river. And, again, on any normal day, even on a day when it's raining, you can see, again, in a straight line the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. And, there, you can barely see it.

And, again, local officials advising people, do not go out in this stuff. Do not stay out. Don't make the mistake of thinking that, even if you're a healthy person and in shape that you can withstand this, because I just talked to an emergency room physician who said these pollutant particulates, is what she called them, lodge in your lungs.

They're tiny, microscopic. Even in healthy people, you will feel the effects later -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes, just a river between basically where you are there at the Iwo Jima Memorial and those monuments, and not a very big one. The Potomac isn't huge. And yet it's really incredibly hard to see behind you there.

Brian, thank you for showing that to us.

Let's head to Philadelphia now. CNN's Danny Freeman is just outside of the city there and wearing a mask as well.

Tell us how things are where you are, especially compared to yesterday?

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, I will give you the good news first.

The good news is that, compared to overnight and early this morning, things are better here in Philadelphia. They were hazardous overnight and through this morning. Now they're just at that four or five level that we were just hearing about from a moment ago in the D.C. area. So now we're just that unhealthy and very unhealthy, still a concern certainly for residents here.

But the other thing, Brianna, is that the prediction right here from the National Weather Service in our area is that we're still going to see more smoke settle in a little later into the evening.

So, let me tell you exactly where we are, because Philadelphia officials, they're in the middle of giving a press conference right now on the situation. They are still asking residents to stay vigilant, still reschedule outdoor events, if you can, still wear masks if you have some sort of acute issues or if you're staying outside for a prolonged period of time, like we are today.

And, of course, close your doors and windows, so that smoke doesn't get in the house. But I just want to show you kind of this area where we are right here. We're in Camden, New Jersey, across from the Delaware River from Philadelphia. And, normally, you can see the skyline pretty clearly.

It's better now, but, still, the Comcast building, City Hall not as defined as it normally is on a clear day. I also want to mention that schools, the school district today, they were encouraging students to wear masks to and from school. That's still in place for the moment.

And, of course, the Phillies game is the big sign that we're looking for tonight. Supposed to go on from 6 -- the 6:05. It was the late last night. That will be a barometer of if the air quality truly is improving into the evening -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, Danny, thank you for that.

Let's turn now to Dr. Kisha Davis. She's the health officer for Montgomery County, Maryland, which is just outside of Washington, D.C.

Doctor, tell us what you're hearing from people, how they're experiencing this air quality.

DR. KISHA DAVIS, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND, HEALTH OFFICER: Hi, Brianna. Thank you for having me. This really is an important issue.

We're hearing some of the things that you all have mentioned already, scratchy throat, irritated eyes, trouble breathing, especially in our most vulnerable folks, those with asthma and lung conditions. And we really want to -- we really do want to raise the alarm and make sure that people are taking appropriate precautions with the weather as it is right now.

KEILAR: OK, so what about -- let's go through different things to consider here.

Children. What should we be considering with children, especially considering it is tough to keep them inside for recess and inside for play? But maybe that's what we're talking about here.

DAVIS: Yes, it is what we're talking about for our children, especially our young folks, also our vulnerable folks, so those with asthma and lung disease, and our older folks as well, those who may have heart disease, chronic bronchitis, COPD. All of those are at risk.

And it really is keeping them inside. But when we see air quality like it is today in the purple level, that's affecting everybody, not just the vulnerable populations. And so we want everybody to be taking precautions. If you need to be outside for an extended period of time, wear a mask. I put a mask on my kids this morning while they were waiting at the bus stop.

For those when you're out walking your dog, that's another opportunity. You should have a mask on. With levels like they are today, even healthy folks, even folks who don't have lung disease may start to feel those effects, that scratchy throat and itchy eye.

KEILAR: What about driving in your car? Should you be switching over to that sort of recycled air, you know, that icon that shows you it's inside the air? Should you be making sure not to crack your windows?

DAVIS: Yes, this is a time when you really want to be sealing off that environment.

So, in your car, keep the windows up. Use the recirculate function. In your house, you want to be keeping the windows close. It's an opportunity to turn on the air condition and make use of those filters that we have in our house to keep that -- keep the air clean.

And we don't want to do anything that's going to be contributing to the smoke. So this is not the day to have a barbecue or put something out on the grill or try and burn some trash in your backyard. We want to be limiting -- limiting our exposure with any other smoke that we might come in contact with.


KEILAR: Yes, all very important advice.

Dr. Kisha Davis, thank you for your time today and for sharing some information that I know people will be able to use.

DAVIS: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: Boris.

SANCHEZ: Just minutes from now, President Biden will be taking questions from reporters. He's going to be alongside British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for a news conference. And we're going to bring it to you live.

And U.S. officials telling our colleague Jim Sciutto that Ukrainian forces have met stiff resistance in Eastern Ukraine and paid a price.

The latest from the front lines -- when we come back on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.