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Fulton Grand Jury Report to be Released; Gene Rossi is Interviewed about the Fulton County Case; Biden in India for G-20; Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA) is Interviewed about Congress Looking into the Georgia Case. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired September 08, 2023 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The missing pages in Georgia. The full report from the special grand jury in Fulton County is about to be released. Does this shed new light on the unindicted co-conspirators in the Georgia probe? Did that jury think more than 19 people should have been charged?
SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: Hurricane Lee is exploding in strength. Doubling its wind speeds as it morphs into a category five storm. We're tracking Lee as it moves across the Atlantic and closer to the East Coast.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Rescuers scramble to reach a cave explorer more than 3,000 feet under the surface. New footage just released showing his condition.
I'm John Berman, with Sara Sidner and Kate Bolduan, and this is CNN NEWS CENTRAL.
BOLDUAN: Some big questions lingering about the investigation in Fulton County, Georgia, over the 2020 election. They're about to be answered. Next hour we expect to see the full and final unredacted report from the Fulton County special grand jury.
Now, this was the grand jury that was brought together for the initial investigation that ultimately led to then the separate grand jury handing up indictments against former President Trump and 18 other co- defendants.
Back in February, nine pages of this report were released to the public. You probably remember this. But a lot was missing, including who the jury thought should be charged with crimes. The judge overseeing that case held back portions of the report over due process concerns.
Now, obviously, that charges have been filed, those concerns are no longer. And this full report can definitely give a fuller picture of everything that jury saw in this seven months of investigating what happened in Georgia. Did they recommend more people should have been charged? We will soon see.
CNN's Nick Valencia outside the court in Atlanta. Paula Reid and Evan Perez also standing by.
Nick, let's start with you.
What's expected? How is this expected to play out today?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a big question is expected to be answered today. The public will be given insight for the first time into how closely the indictments issued by Fulton County district attorney track with the panel's recommendations that were issued back in December.
And we've been waiting for this report, as you mention in part, since February. And it was then that Judge McBurney, who has been presiding -- or who presided over this special purpose grand jury process, he had released parts of this report. But now we're expected to get the full report. He had not issued -- or not released the panel's recommendations on who to charge because he said he wanted to protect the rights of due process. But with these charges now filed in a ruling that he issued just about -- over a week ago, he had said that the due process concerns are now a moot point. So now we wait to this full report.
And the special purpose grand jury, remember, they worked tirelessly for months, about seven months, and heard from 75 witnesses. And unlike a regular grand jury, they were singularly focused and they had subpoena power, which Fani Willis needed to compel some of these witnesses to testify.
Today will be the final word from the grand jury. And we expect to see just how closely their recommendations tracked with ultimately the decision that was made by Fani Willis and potentially there could be some big surprises in this report, which is expected to be released in just under an hour.
BOLDUAN: Yes, Nick, standing by for that.
Paula, let me bring you in on this because can you remind - we talked about 75 witnesses came before -- at least 75 witnesses came before this special grand jury. Who all did the grand jury speak to that we know of?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there was an extensive list of people that they spoke with. I mean in addition to some of the people who have been charged, we also know they spoke to Senator Lindsey Graham, Governor -- Georgia Governor Brian Kemp. They spoke to so many different witnesses over the course of seven months.
But what I'm really looking for here today, Kate, is, was there any differentiation between what Fani Willis eventually did, who she indicted and who she listed as co-conspirators, and what was recommended by the grand jury, because if you look at the list of unindicted co-conspirators, particularly people like Boris Epshteyn, Thomas Fitton of Judicial Watch, also people like Phil Waldron, he's a GOP operative, I'm going to be really looking to see what the grand jury recommended about these people specifically. Were any of them recommended to be charged and then they decided to do them as an unindicted co-conspirator? That's one of the really key things I'm looking for today.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. It's - I mean and what -- how it all is described in these pages is going to be just an important, historical record as we watch this unprecedented case unfold.
And for the state of things, let me get over to Evan Perez now.
Evan, we're going to learn more today. But when you look at the current state of the - the case that DA Fani Willis is bringing and preparing as we now have all of them - all of the people charged, pleading not guilty, there's still a lot still up in the air with regard to this Georgia prosecution.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: No, that's right. And look, some of what this special grand jury found is going to - is going to find its way perhaps into some of the arguments you see from the district attorney as she tries to try to make sure this case stays on the rails, stays on course to be tried in state court. That's one of the things she's trying to do. She's also asked for all 19 defendants to be brought to trial as soon as October, which is something that the judge overseeing this, Scott McAfee, has already thrown a lot of doubt over.
But then, of course, the other part of this, Kate, is that you have Mark Meadows, who has asked a federal judge to move the entire case, or at least his case, to federal court. And what that ruling - how that ruling comes down really has an impact -- will have an impact on the other defendants. It is possible that they decide -- the judge decides to move all of the defendants to federal court. And, of course, the former president has already said in his - in his court filing this week that he may be filing his own requests to move the case to federal court, which, of course, is a precursor to another request, which is to dismiss all of it because he believes he's immune.
So, again, what we - what we see in this special grand jury report, all of the things that this grand jury found I think will be an interesting look -- a window into how the DA approaches some of these questions over the next couple of months of litigation.
BOLDUAN: That's a great point.
Evan, thank you so much.
Evan's going to be standing by. Paula's going to be standing by. Nick's going to be standing by. Much more to some. Thanks, guys.
John. Sara. BERMAN: All right, with us now, former federal prosecutor Gene Rossi, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Counselor, if there are people listed in this special grand jury report that the special grand jury wanted to indict but were not ultimately indicted, what's the major takeaway there?
GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: The major takeaway is this, Fani Willis exercised proper prosecutorial discretion in not throwing spaghetti at the wall and creating a spaghetti indictment. You have 30 defendants. You throw it at the wall and hope one of them sticks, including Trump. So, that's a positive sign if the number in the report is greater than the number in the indictment.
And the other thing that's important here is, for evidentiary purposes, if they gave immunity to people, that will probably come out of the report, but also the defense is take advantage of that because conspirator statements, even if they're not in the indictment, their statements come in and that's an evidentiary hurdle that the defense could fight.
And the last point I want to make on this is, you're going to see if there are transcripts in that report. And transcripts for a defense attorney -- I was a prosecutor for 30 years and a defense attorney for seven -- transcripts are golden for cross-examination.
SIDNER: I'm curious, you know, if there was no one else that was indicted. But if there was someone that the grand jury thought should be indicted, can we make the assumption that some of them have flipped, that some of them have decided to cooperate?
ROSSI: Sara, you asked a great question. When I did grand jury work, my goal was to flip people like pancakes, OK? I used to use that analogy all the time. And even if you indict 19, some are going to flip like pancakes. The prisoners dilemma that I talked with John about a couple days ago. So, Sara, you're absolutely right, if they have people that have testified in the grand jury, referenced in the grand jury, did or did not get immunity, whether it's (INAUDIBLE) or transactional, they have probably likely flipped or are about ready to flip. And that's not good for the 19 defendants in that indictment.
BERMAN: Well, help me ask better questions then, if Sara's asking - if Sara's asking all the good questions here.
SIDNER: I just want to note that Gene Rossi -
BERMAN: This report is going to be released in a --
ROSSI: No, you ask good questions. No (INAUDIBLE).
BERMAN: In the next hour or so we're going to get this report. Give us the guide.
BERMAN: How should we look at this? What's the how-to guide to reading this special grand jury report?
ROSSI: Well, first off, it's very unusual for me. Grand jury reports, transcripts, should be secret. I'm at the - I'm a fed guy. So they're - they're secret until a court order or some statute says you've got to disclose. So, this is all foreign to me.
But that report, if it's fulsome, if it's fulsome, is going to have a summary of what each witness said. And that is incredibly important for Mark Meadows. Maybe it could embolden him or buttress his motion for removal.
Maybe it could help Powell and Chesebro, also know as Chesebro, in a motion for severance. It could draw in other defendants to join the removal or the severance.
So, I would look at this as hurting the defendant 100 percent. If I'm a defense attorney, knowledge is power. Knowledge about the witness is power. And the more you have about a witness, I don't care where it comes from, is helpful to a defendant. And the bad thing for the prosecution is, if they have transcripts, they've got to call some of those witnesses. They listed 150. I'm sure some are going to be in the report. And that's another question you might ask, how many of the 150 are in the report, but they will probably have transcripts which - which prosecutors dread.
BERMAN: Gene Rossi --
SIDNER: I mean you are -- have you had a lot of coffee this morning because I love your energy and I want to know where you got it from.
ROSSI: I'm 67. I know I look like I'm 39. But I've got to say this, Phil Mattingly, you had that little coffee incident. I do want to know what his four year old daughter critiqued him on, because I have - I have a daughter. She doesn't talk to me anymore. But, I exaggerate.
Happy birthday, Brooke.
BERMAN: Gene Rossi, great to see you. Thank you very much. An education and so much more this morning. Appreciate it.
BOLDUAN: And so much more.
What else could come?
We're also watching this, the president - we're watching and watching for President Biden. He will soon be touching down in New Delhi, India, where the big -- for the big G-20 gathering of leaders. Biden is set to meet with the Indian prime minister, Modi, this
morning. We're tracking that. Big issues are on the agenda, of course, like climate change and debt relief among them, and also the war in Ukraine. Notably, two people not attending the summit this year, China's Xi Jinping and Russia's Vladimir Putin.
CNN's Jeremy Diamond is following the president in New Delhi. He's joining us now.
Jeremy, what is the White House saying, first and foremost, about the absence of Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin this time?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, President Biden himself said that he is disappointed that Xi Jinping will not be at this G-20 Summit. The two leaders last met at the G-20 Summit last year in Bali, Indonesia.
But privately U.S. officials say that Xi's absence really does provide an opening for President Biden to make the pitch that he came here to make, and that is to try and prove to the developing world that the United States is here for them and that the United States is the most reliable partner for them in the future.
The president is coming here not just with empty words but with direct commitments, commitments to reforming those multilateral banks, including the World Bank, and to try and boost funding for the world Bank by tens of billions of dollars. Those are some things that those developing countries have been looking for. And the G-20, unlike the G-7, does include many of those developing countries such as India, for example, which is why we're seeing such a big focus here on those issues.
But there's no question that regardless of whether Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are here, we will, nonetheless, see a fractured, a very divided G-20 on some of the core issues to be discussed here, including climate change, but perhaps most notably on Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It was that issue that prevented a joint communique from being issued last year from all of the leaders of the G-20. And that is in part because Russia is part of it, because China, which has refused to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine is part of the G-20, but also India, which is this year's host, has refused to sign on to some of those western-lead sanctions and has also declined to condemn Russia for this invasion.
But there's no question that President Biden will have a packed G-20 Summit. And the question is whether or not at the end of it there will be some kind of a joint communique or if they have to once again resort to that leaders statement, which will note the major differences among those countries.
BOLDUAN: That's a great question. And what, if any, progress is made in terms of the western alliance, especially when you're talking about the host country, India, with regard to support of - support for Ukraine with -- against Russia's invasion. Thanks for being there, Jeremy. We'll get back to you.
SIDNER: All right, Hurricane Lee is now a monstrous category five storm in the Atlantic. When people can feel some of the effects of this extremely dangerous storm and what its track is going to be.
Plus, police are expected to give an update on that manhunt for a convicted killer. We'll bring you the very latest out of Pennsylvania.
Also, rescuers are waiting for an American caver's health to improve before they can pull him out of a Turkish cave that's 3,000 feet below the ground. We have brand new video of Mark Dickey, recorded from inside that cave below the surface.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK DICKEY: I look forward to working with everyone to safely get myself out with their assistance. As you can see, I'm up, I'm alert, I'm talking, but I'm not healed on the inside yet.
So, I'm going to need a lot of help to get out of here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: We are standing by for the release of the unredacted full report from the special grand jury in the Georgia 2020 election subversion case. A big question among them is, did that grand jury recommend that more people be charged than the DA ultimately decided on. That DA, Fani Willis, is also taking on Republicans in Congress right now, sending a blunt response to the Republican chair of the House Judiciary Committee Jim Jordan.
Now, here's the background. House Republicans, led by Jordan, they just launched an investigation into how Willis has handled that investigation, accusing her of being politically motivated when issuing these indictments of Donald Trump and others. And in her response, Fani Willis did not hold back, saying in the letter that Jordan was trying to obstruct criminal proceedings in her state and also saying this, "your attempt to invoke congressional authority to intrude upon and interfere with an active criminal case in Georgia is flagrantly at odds with the Constitution."
Going on to write, "the defendants in this case have been charged under state law with committing state crimes. There is absolutely no support for Congress purporting to second-guess or somehow supervise an ongoing criminal investigation and prosecution." Joining us right now is Democratic congresswoman from Pennsylvania, Madeleine Dean. She was an impeachment manager during Donald Trump's second impeachment. She also sits on the Judiciary Committee.
Congresswoman, thank you so much for coming in. I always appreciate your time.
The Judiciary is now investigating the DA, Republicans say at least that they are. The DA also said this in her response to Jim Jordan, and I wanted to get your take on. In this letter she writes, "your letter makes clear that you lack a basic understanding of the law, its practice and the ethical obligations of attorneys generally and prosecutors specifically. While settled constitutional law clearly permits me to ignore your unjustified and illegal intrusion into an open state criminal prosecution, I will take a moment to respond."
But when I saw that, it gives me the right to ignore your investigative efforts, do you think the DA should ignore the investigative efforts by the Judiciary Committee?
REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): Well, I think she was smart to speak to it and to say very, very clearly that we have no role interfering with a state prosecution. We have separate institutions in this government, but you can see what Mr. Jordan is trying to do. He's trying to carry the caustic water of the former president and trying to interfere in this one avenue to justice, the Georgia case. So, I think she was wise to actually speak to it and to underline that there is no constitutional bases and, in fact, there's a very negative impact to this. If we were able to subpoena and interfere with an ongoing prosecution and investigation, our institutions just break down.
BOLDUAN: Well, that does lead to a question. I mean would you recommend that this district attorney ignore a subpoena coming from the committee?
DEAN: Oh, I don't want to get into that kind of a hypothetical. We take a look at what we just saw this week in terms of Mr. Navarro. Everyone is accountable to the rule of law. And so the prosecutor in Georgia is accountable to the rule of law. And so far she is walking that line very smartly, very wisely and has charged this former president with very, very serious crimes.
But let's take a look at the people that Mr. Trump is surrounded by and has been surrounded by. They flout the rule of law. Mr. Jordan himself is in violation of a subpoena. So Mr. Jordan is just talking out of both sides of his mouth in a desperate attempt to try to help the former president not be prosecuted. But, you know what, he will be prosecuted. He -- and that's what I take from the four prosecutions so far, four pathways to justice, and I bet there will be more.
BOLDUAN: You also wear -- you wear several hats, as every member of Congress does, and I'll say as any woman does as well. You have many roles. You also sit on Foreign Affairs. And you - and I was just walk -- speaking to Jeremy Diamond as he's traveling with the president, as he's landing in India for the G-20 with the large focus, of course, going to have to be on the war in Ukraine. And there are questions about the amount of support that the Congress and America - the American people will continue to have for the war in Ukraine.
You just returned from a trip overseas. What -- are leaders overseas worried about America's continued support for Ukraine?
DEAN: I will say, Kate, I was on a bipartisan delegation with the Foreign Affairs Committee, very bipartisan, with both the chair and the ranking member. And in country after country, whether we were meeting with presidents or members of parliament, prime ministers, every single one started by saying, America's role in the war against Ukraine, the aggression against Ukraine, has been indispensable and we want to be able to count on it. In a bipartisan way we said, you can count on us, because the majority of the majority in Congress knows that as we support Ukraine, we are supporting democracies around the world. We will be at peril if we cut off support.
And so when I landed on the ground and I read that Mr. McCarthy might try to take support for Ukraine out of a supplemental, I think that is extraordinarily dangerous, sends the absolute wrong message to the aggressors, like Mr. Putin, or Chairman Xi.
BOLDUAN: Yes. I want to turn to the election, Congresswoman. You have been a vice chair for the D trip working to get more Democrats elected to Congress. You know how important it is who's at the top of the ticket in order to do so.
Two things I want to bring up to you from the new CNN poll that we have just - just put out this week. Voter enthusiasm, which we know is so important as we head into an election, voter enthusiasm among Democrats, it is trending down, while enthusiasm -- those most enthusiastic amongst Republicans trending up.
It's up like six points. And a majority, 67 percent, say -- of Democrats say that they want another candidate other than Joe Biden. A majority say they want another candidate other than Joe Biden to be running. This could spell trouble for Democrats down the ticket. How much trouble, though?
DEAN: Well, I actually think the behavior of the slim Republican majority is what's going to determine this election, as we saw in previous elections. As this feckless majority cannot put together a budget, the malpractice of being in the middle of September without a budget, this will reflect poorly on them and I believe at the polls they will lose seats.
We have a combination of some very, very good candidates, some extremely talented incumbents, and Mr. Biden has done so much alongside the last Congress. A Congress that was led by Democrats. Think of the massive bills that we have passed that will invest in America, that are currently investing in America, whether it's infrastructure, chips and science, the Safer Communities Act, finally doing something around gun violence with much more to be done, the Inflation Reduction Act.
So, I'll tell you what my constituents tell me, voters in my district, Democrats and Republicans, they are watching very nervously with this Republican primary, with the most corrupt, most indicted former president looking like he might win the nomination. Voters in my district are going to turn out very strongly, especially Pennsylvania, frankly, southeastern Pennsylvania. We will turn out strongly and support Democrats who support our values.
BOLDUAN: On balance, though, do you want - do you ever want your party kind of sprinting into this fall election cycle with enthusiasm down among your party voters and a majority of the country unhappy with your -- how your standard bearer is handling the economy that you were just talking about?
DEAN: I don't agree with that characterization. I think they're extremely worried about the chaos on the Republican side and the corruption from the former president. They are nervous. They are anxious. Could we possibly renominate the former president, who now sits under 91 charges, very serious charges, against his oath of office and against the Constitution? And so there's a nervous energy, at least in my district, to make sure we do not re-elect somebody like that, or members of Congress whom you are seeing now trying to obstruct the rule of law, trying to obstruct as we started investigations and prosecutions. I see -- I don't agree with the poll.
BOLDUAN: Congresswoman Madeleine Dean, always good to have you on. Thank you so much for your time.
DEAN: Thanks, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Thank you.
SIDNER: All right, happening right now, and we'll certainly have much more on this, that is President Biden's plane landing in New Delhi, India, 7:27 p.m. their time. He is there, of course, for the annual G- 20 Summit of world leaders. His agenda, obviously packed. He will meet with, like, for example, Prime Minister Modi. But we know he will not meet a couple of other very important former members, presidents of Russia or China. They are skipping this year's G-20 event. The significance of that and all of the other interesting points being made as we watch him and watch those stairs sort of get closer and closer to the plane as President Biden is about to say namaskar (ph) to the folks in India. We will have all of that coming up.