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Trump-Appointed Federal Judge To Hear Criminal Case Against The Former President; Exclusive: CNN Obtains Transcript Of Trump Saying On Tape He Didn't Declassify "Secret Information." Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 09, 2023 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The news this morning and at this hour, former President Trump admits on tape he did not declassify secret information that he had in his possession after leaving the White House. This is a CNN exclusive and an audio recording in the hands of federal prosecutors now that have just indicted the former president on federal charges.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So we are watching the federal courthouse in Miami to see if the indictment is unsealed. We could learn the exact charges he faces and some of the evidence that prosecutors say they have to back it up. Also brand new, we just learned that the judge who will oversee the case, at least initially, is federal Judge Aileen Cannon, appointed by Donald Trump. You will remember she made favorable rulings for Trump early in this investigation that were overturned by an appeals court.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Today, the former president responding, saying he will, of course, plead not guilty. He lashed out on social media last night, saying he's an innocent man and this is all politically motivated. Our reporters, correspondents and analysts are standing by to bring us very latest on all of this. Let's start our hour with CNN senior crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz. She is outside that federal court in Miami. Katelyn, what have you learned at this hour?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, the newest thing that we have learned is that the federal judge assigned to handle this criminal case, to shepherd it to trial, is Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee who has seen a part of this case before. Was the person that after that FBI search of Mar-a-Lago last year, appointed a third party attorney, a special master or a third party judge to come in and essentially pick through what the Justice Department was able to look at that time.

And at that time, an appeals court, after a couple of proceedings, told her she got the law wrong. Quite clearly at that time, the appeals court said, the law is clear. We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant, nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so. So that was a very clear signal to Judge Cannon at that time.\

And now she will be the person in charge of setting timing for this case, determining who can -- where the evidence can be going in the trial, what the parameters of the trial will be. And that's because we have confirmed that her name is the one on the summons that Donald Trump and his lawyers received yesterday, indicating that she is the judge that would be assigned to this case.

The other person assigned here at this time is Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart. A magistrate judge handles more of the process initial issues, including very likely the first appearance that Donald Trump would make next week on Tuesday whenever he would enter that plea of not guilty. Bruce Reinhart is also a judge that has handled this case before. He was the person that approved the search warrant of Mar-a- Lago and then also handled some proceedings over its unsealing whenever we got it public. And so it's very likely that both of these people are touching this case again because they saw parts of it before.

SIDNER: Katelyn Polantz, we know a judge can have a huge impact on a case and what is allowed in. Appreciate your reporting.

BERMAN: Yes, a major development this morning. The other major development involves CNN exclusive reporting. CNN has obtained a transcript of a conversation that Donald Trump had where he seemed to be saying, I am showing people who did not have authorization secret national security documents that he apparently had not declassified. CNN senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid broke this story this morning. It's having major reverberations around the political world. Paula, bring us up to speed on what you learned.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, this is incredibly significant because now we can see the former president's own words. Again, I would reiterate, he knew he was being recorded. He's being recorded not only by his own aides, but two autobiographers for former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows who are in the room. And this transcript really confirms a lot of our reporting from last week about just how damning this recording is.

It shows he clearly understood the kinds of records that he still had with him down at Mar-a-Lago, and he appears to be trying to show these to other people who are visiting his Bedminster Golf Club where this meeting took place. All right, let me go through some of the quotes. It starts out, he's very frustrated with General Milley. In a magazine article that talks about General Mark Milley and says some things about former President Trump and Iran, he says, quote, well, with Milley, let me see, I'll show you an example. He said that I wanted to attack Iran. Isn't that amazing? I have a big pile of papers, and we're told from our sources that you can hear him rustling through papers, this thing just came up. Look, this was him. They presented me this. This is off the record, but they presented me this. This was him. This was the Defense Department and him. We looked at some, this was him. That wasn't done by me. This was him. Clearly very fixated, I'm going to stop for a second, clearly very fixated on Milley and convincing the people in this room that whatever he is appearing to show them was from Mark Milley. Now, we know from our reporting that what we believe that he had there was not actually authored by General Milley. But moving on, all sorts of stuff pages, look, wait a minute. Let's see here. I just found, isn't this amazing? This totally wins my case, you know, except it is like highly confidential. Secret. This is secret information. Look. Look at this.

I will note that secret and confidential are two different levels of classification. And he appears a little bit confused as to which one this document that he says he has actually is. But he goes on to ask someone, he says, can we declassify? And answers his own question, saying, as president, I could have declassified, but now I can't.

So here we have the former President of the United States months after he left office. In his own words, knowing is being recorded, revealing that he believes he has secret or highly confidential information, appearing to want to or possibly actually showing it to people without security clearances, and also acknowledging the limits of his own ability to declassify this, which has been one of the defenses that he and his attorneys have put forth.

An incredible piece of evidence for prosecutors, perhaps one of the most powerful kinds of evidence that they can have, something we rarely get from former President Trump because he's so careful. He doesn't really text, he doesn't email. He's careful in his language. It's unclear, though, because we don't have the indictment, whether this will be quoted, but it will absolutely likely come up if there is a trial.

BERMAN: Yes, you can imagine major legal ramifications. And we will see where it fits into the indictment perhaps soon. Paul Reid, to you and your team, terrific reporting. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We are told that there are seven counts, could be seven counts in this indictment. Trump's attorney told CNN that they include a possible charge under the Espionage Act, as well as obstruction of justice, destruction or falsification of records, conspiracy, and making false statements. Let's get over to CNN's Evan Perez for more on this.

Evan, what more are you learning and picking up about the timing of when the indictment could be unsealed? We now have Republicans like Mike Pence calling on the Attorney General to speak about this whole thing. What are you picking up from that angle?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we still don't know what timing the Justice Department is looking at. It is possible, guys, that the Justice Department waits, that Jack Smith, the special counsel, waits until Tuesday when the former president finally appears before a federal judge to be processed, that that is when we might see this document. That would be, frankly, insane if that is the case. But that's where we are right now at this point.

The Justice Department has not gotten it unsealed. Obviously, this is an indictment that most likely deals with classified information. If there's information in there that needs to be declassified, if there's information there that is sensitive, they will have to go through a process before they can reveal that. And again, they need a judge is OK to say that.

And again, what you just mentioned, the charges that we know of, seven counts. We know one of them relates to the Espionage Act, that's 793 retention, willful retention of national defense information. That is the one that we -- that was mentioned in the search warrant back in August, the search warrant for the search of Mar-a-Lago, obstruction of justice, destruction, falsification of records, conspiracy and false statements.

James Trusty, one of the former president's attorneys, appeared on our air and began to at least explain how they're going to defend themselves. Here. Listen.



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.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And is there a conspiracy charge in here?

TRUSTY: I believe so. I don't have it in front of me right now. Again, this is not biblically accurate because I'm not looking at a charging document. I'm looking at a summary sheet. So there's language in there that might actually be reflecting a single count instead of two. But I think there was a conspiracy count as well.


PEREZ: And guys, again, the importance there is that the former president is already saying or his team is saying that it's ludicrous, that the false statement is ludicrous. The former president obviously did not speak to prosecutors, so it's going to be interesting to see how they arrived at the false statements charge.

BOLDUAN: Great point, Evan. Thank you, as always for that reporting.

SIDNER: All right, this morning, new insights from inside the Trump camp, from Trump himself, really. In an off camera interview, he says that he will, of course, plead not guilty to the federal charges. CNN's Kristen Holmes is live there at Trump's or near Trump's club in New Jersey with some details. Kristen, I wonder, it's been hours now since the CNN exclusive reporting has come out about this audio, that recording that federal prosecutors have with a lot of seemingly damning information in it. Any response? Have you heard anything about that from the team there?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We haven't yet, and we aren't likely to at least right now we might hear what we have traditionally heard when we break these kind of stories, which is slamming the investigation, calling it partisan, saying it's a Democratic witch hunt and a hoax, but not usually addressing the substance of the reporting there.

Now, we have heard from Trump since this indictment came out. We actually learned this morning that he had pre-taped a video. They were so insistent that this was coming, they pre-taped a response to that indictment, which we saw last night. And I want to give you guys a listen to how he's describing this.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's called election interference. They're trying to destroy a reputation so they can win an election. That's just as bad as doing any of the other things that have been done over the last number of years. I'm an innocent man. I did nothing wrong.


HOLMES: Now, without an unsealed indictment and with no word from the Justice Department, Trump is really the only one filling the void now. And it's not just him. We know that before the indictment even happened, Trump allies were calling their allies on Capitol Hill, getting them revved up, trying to say we need you out there on the airwaves. They were giving them talking points, attacking Jack Smith. So you're likely to hear this narrative. But again, when you talk about election interference, that is what they are going to stress, that this is about the election. This is about Democrats not wanting him to win.

SIDNER: Kristen Holmes, Evan Perez, Paula Reid and Katelyn Polantz, thank you for your incredible reporting this morning.

BOLDUAN: Republican allies on Capitol Hill, they have been rallying to come to the former President's defense. A Republican Congresswoman joins us next to discuss the indictment and the news, especially the CNN exclusive reporting on this transcript of Donald Trump knowingly being recorded and what that means in the hands of prosecutors now.


And also, some of the 2024 Republican primary rivals of the President, former President are weighing including former Vice President Mike Pence. You're looking at live pictures out of New Hampshire where Mike Pence is just beginning a campaign event. We're listening in how he is reacting to the news Donald Trump being indicted. That's coming up.


BERMAN: So we just learned that the judge who will initially oversee the federal case against Donald Trump is Trump appointed Judge Aileen Cannon, who made favorable rulings for Trump at the beginning of this investigation that were ultimately overturned by an appeals court. So this is on top of the CNN exclusive reporting. A transcript of Trump on tape that seems to show, it seems to be where he shows unauthorized people's secret national security documents admitting they were not declassified.

We are joined now by former state and federal prosecutor David Weinstein and former U.S. Attorney Michael Moore. Michael, first to you, Aileen Cannon, the federal judge who oversaw the first part of the investigation, made favorable rulings for Trump, a Trump appointed judge. What impact could she have on this in the coming weeks and months?

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, well, I'm glad to be with all of you this morning. You know, lawyers always like to get a good judge. And the good, I guess, the definition of a good judge is who may be favorable to your case. And cases are often about the judge, how they've ruled in the past, what expectations you can have going forward.

So, you know, I'm sure Trump's team is feeling somewhat buoyed by this, especially since she was a Trump appointee. I will say judges, as a general rule, follow the law. And so I don't know that I would place all my eggs in this basket, but it's certainly something that I'm sure was welcome news, he should be making decisions about things like what information and evidence is going to come in, whether or not there have been some irregularities, whether or not in fact, some issues should be moved forward quickly for interim appeals.


These would be the things that are confronting her first. I'm sure she'll also be ruling on other motions. The other judge, Reinhart, is a magistrate judge who also that's not unusual to have a magistrate judge working hand in hand with the district judge through these cases.

BERMAN: I'll just say the timing is not insignificant in this case dealing with the presidential election coming up. She could single handedly determine whether it happens quickly before the election or maybe after. David, to you, the CNN exclusive reporting, Donald Trump on a transcript. OK. Speaking to people apparently without authorization, a document in his hand apparently saying, secret, this is secret. Look. Look at this. What are the potential laws that could have been broken right then and there?

DAVID WEINSTEIN, PARTNER, JONES WALKER LLP: Well, you're looking at someone who now acknowledges that he knows that these are classified documents that shouldn't be shown to people who do not have the proper classification. You've got him showing these on tape now to people without the prosecutor classification. You also have him retaining and having removed them from a location where they should be.

So this impacts some of the most serious charges that potentially are going to be leveled against him and to support the allegations that were contained in the affidavit for the search warrant concerning what they believed they would find when they looked through the rooms of Mar-a-Lago.

BERMAN: Willful retention of national security documents, would this prove that potentially?

WEINSTEIN: That's what -- absolutely, that's what it sounds like. And it certainly puts a dagger into his defense that he did not intentionally willfully take these documents, retain these documents, show them to anybody else he is proving to be perhaps his own worst enemy.

BERMAN: Michael, I see you shaking your head there. Why?

MOORE: I really think this case is not going to be about the facts. I mean, we know that Trump had the documents. He knows he had the documents. This case is going to be about the law. We're going to be talking about things like executive privilege, presidential power, immunity, whether or not he carried forward with security clearances, those types of things. And hopefully an appellate court is going to make this decision.

So we're not really fighting about the documents and on the tape. I don't think they've ever found the document. On the tape, what we hear is sort of the same bombastic nonsense that we hear from Trump in many statements that he makes, and that is all that he's done and all the power he's got and what he's, you know, bragging about something his -- that's his MO. But what we don't know is where is the document. And aside from that, we're going to be talking about those things that I think ultimately will make its way to the Supreme Court about what a former president can and cannot have.

If it turns out that court decides that he was entitled to have this information, or he's still able to do X, Y and Z, I don't think he could be classified as a former president. He could have as president I believe. Some of these things may go away. So that, I think, is where the case is going to draw out and it's going to take additional time because we're not going to have a simple answer about whether or not, for instance, the lights red or the lights green. This is going to be a legal battle over the powers of the executive, something that is really uncharted waters for us all as we go forward.

BERMAN: Michael, how uncharted is it, though, when you get into the world of obstruction and conspiracy there?

WEINSTEIN: Well, the conspiracy count basically just tells me that there's a cooperator. It tells me that the government's using that charge to put pressure on somebody else to try to talk about it. But remember, there has to be a conspiracy to do an unlawful act. If the act itself is not unlawful, and that again gets to the legal issues, then that's not going to fly.

And so, the obstruction charge is the same thing. And we don't know, and again, we've not looked at the indictment. We don't know if they're, you know, they've gone hunting with both barrels loaded. We just don't know yet. But if the obstruction deals with whether or not held stuff that he wasn't entitled to hold and refused to give it up and it turns out that in fact, he was entitled to have some of that information or could have lawfully claimed or believed he could have that information, that changes the dynamics for the obstruction charge.

So, you know, you're allowed as a citizen to defy an unlawful order. So here, you know, we're going to get into that question in the law. And that's why I say this, really, the facts we know. We know there were boxes down there. We know there were documents there. We've seen the photographs. We know he didn't give it upon request.

This is going to be about legal issues surrounding what powers did he have, what powers did he have when he left the White House, and what powers does a sitting president have and a former president, how are they implicated when it comes to these classification and national security issues?


BERMAN: Well, in terms of those facts, we could learn a lot more when we see the indictment itself and perhaps get a sense of some of the evidence as well. Michael Moore, David Weinstein, thanks to both of you this morning. Sara?

SIDNER: We are getting brand new information into CNN on plans federal and local law enforcement are working on to get the former president safely to a Miami courthouse to be formally placed under arrest and processed. That's ahead.