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Exclusive, CNN Obtains Transcript of Trump on Tape Saying He Didn't Declassify Secret Information; Law Enforcement from Various Agencies Meeting in Miami on Trump Indictment Security Preps; Twice- Impeached Trump Indicted on Federal Criminal Charges. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired June 09, 2023 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: The breaking news this morning, stunning evidence in the hands of prosecutors obtained by CNN exclusively, an audio recording of former President Trump admitting he did not classify secret information in his possession, the special investigation all leading up to a former president being in indictment on several charges for the first in American history.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. We are waiting to see where this new information, this new transcript fits in the indictment against Trump, a seven-count indictment, we think. I say, we think, because we have not seen it yet, but we soon could. That's why we are watching this federal courthouse in Miami to see if the indictment will be unsealed and all these details released.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The former president, for his part, he says he is an innocent man, releasing a video and lashing out against the charges that he says are coming. That was last night. Just this morning, he told Fox News he would, quote/unquote, of course, be pleading not guilty.
We have this historic moment covered from many angles. First, to the exclusive new reporting, CNN's Paula Reid has much more on that.
Paula, Donald Trump on tape with a secret document in hand, DOJ does what with that in their hands now?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know this is a piece of evidence that prosecutors are particularly interested in. In fact, Trump's lawyers only learned about it after they asked, after prosecutors asked witnesses about it before the grand jury.
Now, before I reveal some of the details of what exactly we learned in this transcript, I want to remind people that during this meeting in the summer of 2021 at his Bedminster Golf Club, the former president knew that he was being recorded. At the time, he was in the habit of having aides record conversations with journalists, writers, anyone working on a book, and we know among people in this conversation, in this meeting, were two people working on an autobiography of Mark Meadows. Also in the room were two of his aides.
And here is what we have learned he says to them. He is very worked up about an article about General Mark Milley and comments he made about Iran, and he says, quote, with Milley, let me see, I will show you an example. He said that I wanted to attack Iran. Isn't that amazing? I have a big pile of papers. This thing just came up. Look, was him. They presented me this. This is off of the record. But they presented me this. This was him. This was the Defense Department and him. We looked at some. This was him. This wasn't done by me. This was him.
And you probably can't count while I am talking, but four times he emphasizes to this group that this was him, meaning Mark Milley.
Now, he goes on. He says, quote, all sorts of stuff, pages long. Look, wait a minute, let's see here. I just found -- isn't that amazing? This totally wins my case, you know, except it is like highly confident. Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this.
I want to pause again and note that secret and confidential are two different levels of classification, but you also hear the former president saying, look, look. So, it appears that he is making some effort to show something to the other people in the room none of whom have security clearances.
But the real key quote is the fact that he asked someone, can we declassify, and he responds to himself, saying, quote, as president, I could have declassified, but now I can't.
Incredibly important evidence for prosecutors, specifically I think the most significant thing out of this information is that he says to this group that I have secret or highly confidential information, acknowledging that he knows, he understands, he knowingly, willingly retained what he believed was either highly confident or secret information and he also acknowledging the limits of his classification powers.
So, he knows this is in the hands of the prosecutors. They have asked the witnesses about it. Though this point, because we have not seen the indictment, it is unclear whether this will be quoted in the indictment or how it will be used in this case. But at this point, based on our reporting, this appears to be one of the strongest pieces of evidence they have against the former president.
BOLDUAN: And I think everyone can see why it is a transcript of the president in his own words. Paula, great reporting to you and the team, as always. Stay with us, please.
SIDNER: All right. Happening right now, the law enforcement from several agency agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, are meeting in Miami to discuss security preparations ahead of Donald Trump's expected court appearance on Tuesday.
CNN's Katelyn Polantz is outside the federal courtroom in Miami. Katelyn, what are you expecting today?
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, we know that there is a scramble right now to make sure that this building, the people within it and the former president himself will all be safe and secure whenever this court appearance happens on Tuesday.
There was this meeting in Miami that law enforcement took part in and we understand that there also has been a threat assessment done of this federal courthouse building and that there is no credible threat at this time, but there are additional resources being sent here by the Justice Department and others, the Secret Service also has to make preparations to be protecting the former president, Donald Trump, who they get to protect and will continue to protect because he served as president of the United States. Again, he's obviously running for office
But even with his appearance scheduled for Tuesday, that kicks off quite a long process of heading to trial when something has been charged. So, there is the indictment, right? That is what we learned about yesterday. We are waiting to see exactly what that indictment says, see the paperwork, when it will be unsealed.
And then there is this arraignment where Donald Trump is expected to come into court and plead not guilty. He also will discuss the terms of his release, very likely will be not to be held in any custody pending his trial. He would very likely be able to move freely because of the type of case this is.
And then there is a long time, there is a period of time where everyone prepares for trial, where the Justice Department turns over all of the evidence that they have collected to the defense team that is called discovery. There are also all kinds of legal arguments that happen that set the parameters for the trial, exactly what evidence can come in, what sort of law needs to be applied there, that all takes place, and then the trial itself happens.
And when the trial happens, that is going to be a huge question coming up here, because Donald Trump is running for president. A lot of times, it takes a full year or more to go from charging a case to a trial. And so there is always the possibility this trial could come after or in the heat of the election next year.
And so that is a really, really significant thing. Timing is everything in a lot of these cases. And then, of course, once there is a trial, he may either be acquitted, there could be a mistrial, and if he were to be convicted, that is when appeals typically would take place. But everything now is that motion and that movement towards this hearing next Tuesday where Donald Trump will appear in person, and then the motion and movement towards the trial itself.
SIDNER: All right. And we know this morning that Donald Trump has told Fox News that he, in his words, of course, will plead not guilty. So, all of those things that you just said will start to take place and take shape. The enormity and the gravity of the case, you all are giving us the best information. Thank you so much, Katelyn Polantz, for that. BERMAN: Look, there's a long way to go to get to all those point. We have to get through today before we anything there, including maybe seeing the details from inside this indictment, maybe learning how it relates to this stunning information from Paula Reid, the transcript where Donald Trump seems to be showing people secret documents and saying it's unclassified.
Let's talk, though, about the possible charges at play here. CNN's Sara Murray joins us now with details on that. We think seven counts here, Sara.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes, John. There is a little bit we know. There are still a lot that we don't know. Donald Trump's attorney, Jim Trusty, is the one who shared the information with CNN about these seven criminal charges that are mentioned and essentially summary that the Trump Team got, and that includes a charge under the Espionage Act, obstruction of justice, the destruction or falsification of records, conspiracy as well as false statements.
But, again, they are getting it from a summary. They do not have the full indictment. The public has not seen the full indictment. It has not been unsealed. Remarkably, Donald Trump was the one who shared the news of his indictment last night on his own social media page. We still haven't heard from the Justice Department. We have not heard from the special counsel, and, again, we haven't seen the indictment. So, we have this sort of broad brush of view, but we don't have the details.
Now, we did hear a little bit more from Donald Trump's attorney last night. Take a listen to what Jim Trusty had to tell our Kaitlan Collins.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM TRUSTY, DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: They basically break out from an Espionage Act charge, which is ludicrous under the facts of this case, and I can certainly explain it, and several obstruction based-type charges and then false statement charges, which are actually, again, kind of a crazy stretch just from the facts as we know it. So, there's a lot to pick at eventually from the defense side but that appears to be the charges and it appears to be something that will get off the ground on Tuesday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MURRAY: Now, I don't think we should be surprised to see Donald Trump's defense attorney already calling this ludicrous, already starting to game out how they plan to defend their client in this case, but, again, there is so much that we don't know, including any of the evidence that prosecutors may lay out in this indictment and when it is going to be unsealed.
BERMAN: When indeed. We're waiting to see. Sara Murray in Washington, thank you very much.
SIDNER: All right. In an interview published this morning, Trump says he will, as I mentioned, of course, plead not guilty to the federal charges. This comes as CNN learns that Trump and his team had pre- recorded his video response to the indictment even before formally hearing from the DOJ. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It's election interference at the highest level. There's never been anything like what's happened. I'm an innocent man. I'm an innocent person.
They come after me, because now we're leading in the polls again by a lot against Biden and against the Republicans by a lot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: CNN's Alayna Treene is live at Trump's club in Bedminster, New Jersey. I am curious if there has been any reaction there as people are gathered looking over and making their plan for what they're going to do to the new reporting that we've just gotten exclusively from Paula Reid and the team there in CNN. Like is there any response to the transcripts that we are reading, the stunning information?
ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: It is. It is a remarkable report, Sara. And so far, I haven't heard direct reaction to that. But I do know after CNN has been covering this audio transcript for some time now, it's something that his team is very concerned about. And, really, it's because it undercuts the former president's entire argument that he can just declassify documents when he took them with it. It shows that the intent was there potentially, that he knew that he was taking classified documents and that he still had classified documents in his possession after leaving the White House.
Now, I have spoken with many of Trump's aides who are with him, huddling right now very nearby, behind me in Bedminster, at his golf club here in New Jersey. And they really say that they're still formulating what the response will be. What they're trying to portray is that they're feeling emboldened by this, that they think it could give him a short-term political boost. Of course, that's what they're saying, and I think that's the message that they want to put out there. But we also know from other people I've spoken with that they do have serious reservations about this as well and what an indictment could mean, particularly federal charges for his re-election campaign.
They did point to the Manhattan district attorney indictment earlier this year, where they did see some sort of political boost from that in the immediate term, and they're hoping that they'll have that now. I do know that in the last 48 hours, Donald Trump and his team have been reaching out to their allies on Capitol Hill and other conservatives who support him, trying to get them to defend him and push back against this indictment. Even before it came, they were circulating talking points that they wanted them to use and span the airwaves defending Donald Trump. And so that's really, I think, the mood right now.
I'll also just add that when the first indictment came earlier this year and now this federal indictment, even with all the bravado that Donald Trump is putting out, he does not want to be indicted. He does not want this to be a stain on his record. And there definitely are concerns here. And so I think that they're all building now toward this Tuesday appearance in Miami, and we're going to see how they continue to message on this.
And just one other thing quickly, Sara, I'll add, is we have heard that he may make public remarks soon. We saw him make public remarks after that first indictment earlier this year when he was in Mar-a- Lago. We're still waiting to hear more details on if that will happen, but stay tuned for that. We're trying to get more details.
SIDNER: Alayna Treene, Sara Murray, Katelyn Polantz. Paula Reid, thank you all for your excellent reporting.
BOLDUAN: Our breaking news coverage of the federal indictment of Donald Trump continues. More on CNN's exclusive reporting. Our colleagues have obtained a tape transcript where Donald Trump admits he had in his possession and did not declassify, quote, secret information. More on that.
Also, we're going to hear from someone who worked with Trump as an attorney for the White House, what he sees in this new reporting, the expected charges against the president and what could be next for the former president's team ahead of his court appearance next week.
New reaction also in this morning, Donald Trump's former vice president, now turned political rival, Mike Pence, is calling on the attorney general to unseal this federal indictment against Trump, quote, before the sun sets today.
We'll be back.
SIDNER: All right. So, the CNN exclusive, former President Donald Trump acknowledging on tape in a 2021 meeting that he had retained secret military information that he had not declassified, that is according to a transcript of an audio recording of him in his own words obtained by CNN.
And we are joined now for more on this and the indictment before us, former Assistant Special Watergate Prosecutor Nick Akerman and former Trump White House Lawyer Jim Schultz. Thank you both so much. Jim, sorry that you're not here in studio, but it's great to have you here, Jim, thank you so much. Nick, it's great to see you, as always.
Let's start with this reporting coming from Paula Reid and the team of what Donald Trump said to people without any kind of classification in this 2021 meeting. As president, I could have declassified, but now I can't, going even further with the paper, secret, this is secret information. Look. Look at this, says Donald Trump. Nick, what's your reaction?
NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: My reaction is that the star witness in this particular case is going to wind up being Donald Trump. They've actually got him talking about this on tape. It totally eviscerates any kind of defenses he's been putting forward.
This is actually the third case that they have tapes. They've got a tape in the New York District Attorney's Office that corroborates Michael Cohen. They've got a couple tapes in the Georgia case that are going to make him the star witness in that case. And so what I think we're going to see is Donald Trump as the star witness in three prosecutions.
SIDNER: Jim, what do you see in this, in this new reporting coming out of what prosecutors have in their hands?
JIM SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: Look, and I think that's probably the tip of the iceberg, right? I think that's not the only thing they're hanging their hat on, or they probably wouldn't have brought the case. I mean, I think Bill Barr said it succinctly when he said the DOJ has been very careful at the way they've handled this case and that this is a unique case and that, again, quoting Bill Barr, saying they offered to -- they asked for the documents back, they asked for the documents. And according to Bill Barr, what he said, he's like all they did was jerk around the Justice Department. And when that happens, that's when you open the door to all these other problems, which are really just lie at former President Trump's feet.
SIDNER: Nick, on this transcript, look at it from the counter- perspective, look at it from the potential defense team perspective and strategy, if you will. What defense do you put up if you have the president's own words presented to a jury?
AKERMAN: Zero. You can't cross-examine a tape. The tape is on there. The best you can ever do with the tape is to try and pick out ambiguities. But this is totally unambiguous. I mean, he makes statements that just cannot be explained away. What this also does is -- one key piece of this prosecution is going to be proving Donald Trump's motive as to why he kept the documents, why he stole the documents and why he obstructed the Department of Justice from getting them.
Well, here's one motive proven right now that he was using them for political purposes to go after people that were attacking him. Here, he's going after General Milley, who basically said that, towards the end of the term, he was concerned that Donald Trump might be invading Iran, and he was keeping his eyes on him very closely.
Now, what does Donald Trump do? He uses a classified document that was basically something that the Defense Department does on probably any country that we have concerns about, particularly Iran, where they have a plan in place in case they have to invade. So, now, Donald Trump is trying to use that to show, well, it wasn't me that wanted to invade Iran, it was General Milley. And so using national security information for that purpose is absolutely forboden.
And the real question is, is there more to this motive? Is motive going to be spelled out in the indictment that we see in a couple of days? The information that was subpoenaed from the Trump Organization on seven different countries, including Saudi Arabia, is going to be interesting to see if they can show a financial motive as to why he did this.
SIDNER: Look, there is a lot that is not known. There is a lot of detail from great reporting from our colleagues that is coming out, Jim, but, again, everyone will wait to see what is in the indictment, how much is in the indictment and the process continues.
But you worked with Donald Trump. You worked for Donald Trump for a period of time. He did say today that he is, quote/unquote, of course, going to plead not guilty to charges when he's in court on Tuesday. Could you see him reaching any sort of a plea deal, Jim?
SCHULTZ: Absolutely not.
I don't think it's in his DNA to reach a plea deal here. I don't think that they're posturing themselves to reach a plea deal here. They've been reaching out to allies in Congress and elsewhere to start building their army, if you will, to fight this in the public view. So, I don't believe there's a plea deal anywhere near sight, if ever, and I don't think he's posturing for that in any way, shape, or form. I think he's looking to fight on and run for president and seek the in the Republican nomination for president.
SIDNER: All right. First and foremost, let's all see what is in that indictment. Jim Schultz, good to see you, as always. Nick, it's great to have you here. Thank you.
AKERMAN: Thank you.
BERMAN: So, just a few minutes ago, former Vice President Mike Pence demanded to see the indictment. He is about to deliver a campaign speech. We're standing by to hear the latest from him and Donald Trump's other Republican opponents on news of this historic indictment.