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McCarthy Daring Political Opponents to Try to Oust Him of His Job; In Georgia, Trump and 16 Other Co-Defendants Will Have a Later Trial Date; Televised Pre-Trial Hearing in Georgia Election Subversion Case; Now: Hearing in Georgia Election Subversion Case. Aired 10:30- 11a ET

Aired September 14, 2023 - 10:30:   ET



SARA SIDNER, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: And you've seen the pushback on that where most of the big three have said, we could do half of that or little less than half, but we are not going all of the way. So, we've got a big sticking point just on that issue alone. Vanessa Yurkevich thank you so much for your reporting, as well as our Arlette Saenz who is at the White House for us. Thank you both to you.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: All right. Breaking on Capitol Hill, an effing face-off. Forgive me, but that's literally what's happening. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy dropping the F bombs. Daring his Republican colleagues to try to oust him from his speaker's chairs. And now a new F bomb response from his opponents.


BERMAN: All right. Breaking on Capitol Hill this morning, we are getting new information about what went on behind closed doors in a meeting among Republicans. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy swearing at some of his political opponents. Daring them to try to oust him of his job. And we are getting new information that they swore right back at him.

Let's go right to CNN's Manu Raju at Capitol Hill. A lot of four- letter words, Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it. All because of the mount -- number of pressures that Speaker McCarthy is facing in this critical month. This closed-door meeting was supposed to be about the update, the investigation, the impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden. They did provide an update about that.


But really what this devolved at the beginning of this closed door meeting because of a dispute that is ongoing within the conference about how to fund the government by the end of this month. They are staring at the prospect of a government shutdown, in large part because of significant Republican divide, particularly amongst some of the far-right members who are pushing far deeper spending cuts than Republicans and other -- other Republican and Democrats would like, leading to major questions about how they'd get around all of this.

And as part of this, there is also a threat among one member, in particular Matt Gaetz, who says that he will actually offer a motion to push McCarthy out of the speakership if he does not heed to his demands, including unfunding the government. That's when McCarthy made it clear. He said, it is not a political winner if we shut the government down. He went on to say that, House will be in session. Even if we can't pass a bill, we will stay in session next week.

And he said, if you want to bring a motion to push me out of the speakership, do it. In fact, he said, "Move the effing motion." That's what he said behind closed doors to his members, according to multiple sources who were in the room. Now, after this closed-door meeting, we had a chance to ask Speaker McCarthy about these fireworks. He made clear that if his critics and the Republican conference want to take him on, he said he is ready for the fight.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: Threats don't matter, and sometimes people do those things because of the personal things, and that is all fine. I focus, just like anything else, if you watched, most people get the speaker on the first round, it took me 15. I'm a little Irish. OK.

So, I don't walk away from a battle. I knew changing Washington would not be easy. I knew people would fight or try to hold leverage for other things. I'm going to continue just to focus on what's the right thing to do for the American people. And you know what, if it takes a fight, we'll have a fight.


RAJU: Now in response, Congressman Matt Gaetz said, how about just move the effing spending bill? So, that is dispute right now, John. Not just about dealing with impeachment, there are still divisions within the Republican conference about that issue, whether they'll even get to the fact of moving -- impeaching the president. But just the basic essence of governing, funding the federal government. The dispute among the far right, and as Democrats have their own demands as part of all this in the narrow majority is what makes things so difficult for Kevin McCarthy.

But this fight to potentially push him for the speakership, that could come to a head as soon as next week if things go -- if things continue to devolve within the Republican conference. But what you heard right there from the speaker, he said he's ready for the fight. The question is, does he have the votes? John.

BERMAN: Just Manu, very quickly. I just want to follow up on the last point of time that you made. You said, as soon as next week. Is Matt Gaetz, has he indicated he's going to do this or is he crying wolf? Is he going to say, is he going to make the effing motion as speaker McCarthy would say?

RAJU: It seems that way. It would be a surprise at the moment if he didn't given at how far out -- given how Matt Gaetz has said he would go on this. He laid out a whole list of things that he believes McCarthy has violated as part of McCarthy's initial deal to win the speakership. He says he needs to go back to that. But what's significantly though, he said if McCarthy puts a short-term spending bill to keep the government open past September 30th, that would be enough, he said, to trigger that vote to oust him.

And John, behind closed door, McCarthy made it clear, he will have to move a short-term spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. So, it seems almost certain this is going to happen. That means that McCarthy will have to get some votes, prevent more than four Republicans. If five Republicans vote to oust him, and all Democrats vote to oust him, he's no longer a speaker of the House. There would have to be an election for a new speaker. But McCarthy says he's willing to have that fight and put himself back up for ballot. So, we'll see if what we saw in January repeat itself on the house floor as soon as next week.

BERMAN: All right. Manu Raju, keep us posted.

SIDNER: We are in wild times, John, yet again.

With us now to discuss all of this is -- are our Political Analyst PBS White House Correspondent Laura Barron-Lopez, and TheGrio Weekly Host Natasha Alford.

All right. I'm going to start with you, Lauren -- Laura, you just heard from Manu Raju there have to be five votes, it looks like Matt Gaetz is going to go for it and try to oust the speaker. So, what happens now if he does so?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: Well, if Matt Gaetz does move forward with that motion to vacate, there very well could be enough votes to kick McCarthy out of the speakership because some of the Democrats that I've spoken to said that they would be willing to help Republicans oust McCarthy. That they don't feel as though there's any reason that they should help keep McCarthy in that speakership.

But on one of the last points that Manu made I think is really important. He said that, this is also raising questions about House Republicans' ability to execute basic government -- governance. To just fund the government, which they appear that they're not willing to do at all. The fact that they can't even agree to pass a defense appropriations, Sara, is a pretty big deal because typically that's something that majority of Republicans would support to fund the DOD.


BERMAN: What's -- one of the aspects of this that's interesting is that that may not be a bug, it might to be feature here for some of the Republicans involved with pushing for a shutdown and having this all explode. Natasha, I say that -- I believe I was reading this in "Politico" this morning, and they described some of the people in this fight as government nihilists. In other words, they don't care if there's a shutdown. It maybe preferable to them that the status quo. How does that complicate negotiations.

Natasha is either stunned by my question or not hearing it. Laura, if you heard my question, you know, if there are people who just don't care -- and again, I'm not saying that majority of them. I'm saying as a fact, do not care if the government is funded in a few weeks, how does that change the negotiations?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, it makes it incredibly difficult, John, for leadership to try to find a path forward here, for McCarthy to find a path forward here. He launched an impeachment inquiry without a vote this week because of the fact that was one of the lists of demands from this faction that you are talking about. Saying that they wanted to see this. Marjorie Taylor Greene, someone who actually supports McCarthy when she was back in -- home in her district said that she wanted an impeachment inquiry vote. And if that didn't happen, she would not fund the government.

But they're also asking for things as outlandish as defunding the FBI, defunding the Justice Department, and Special Counsel Jack Smith. And an -- a host of a lot on their list that Senate Republicans will not get behind. Senate Republicans want to see aid going to Ukraine. They want to see disaster relief sent out. And this faction of the House GOP doesn't want to see that at all.

And so, that goes to your point, John, that they appear ready to head over this cliff and to sow chaos, and not necessarily interested in having a serious conversation about how to keep the government funded.

SIDNER: We just talked to Senator Chuck Schumer and Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota, and both pf them said, we want to fund Ukraine. We want to make sure they have what they need. We don't have people on the ground, but we want to make sure. So, this, they said, is the house's, basically, doing what it does and they're going to do what they do.

I want to get now to Natasha. I think we have fixed the audio issues. You mentioned something -- Laura Barron-Cohen -- Laura Barron-Lopez mentioned something that I think is important. You have Democrats who are now saying, uh-uh, we're not going to support the speaker who is in place right now. Partly because he just went forward with an impeachment without a vote. But then what happens if he goes? Who might take over? What is the risk there, Natasha?

NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND HOST, THEGRIO WEEKLY: That's right. I mean, I think that what all of this points to is just the weak position that Kevin McCarthy is in, right? Kevin McCarthy has expressed that he did not like the idea of a shutdown because when you shut down the government, you never win. It puts you in a weaker position. But that is literally the position that he has accepted in order to have this speakership, right? So, it seems that he is losing on all fronts. He has the smallest majority in the House. And clearly, he is very vulnerable to the threats that hardline Republicans are making.

And what's interesting is that the majority of Americans have shown time and time again that they do not like government shutdowns, right? They don't appreciate the government being brought to a halt. And they often blame the party that leads the charge in this case. And so, I think that he is in a lose-lose situation either way.

BERMAN: All right. Laura Barron-Lopez, Natasha Alford, thank you, both, very much for being with us this morning.

It turns out we're getting more breaking news out of Fulton County, Georgia. There is this pretrial hearing in the election subversion case there. You're hearing live from the Judge Scott McAfee right now. He is speaking. Let's get an update on what just happened from CNN's Zachary Cohen. Zach, what are we learning?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, we're learning more about what two of the co-defendants -- two of the 19 co- defendants in this case what kind of evidence and what kind of information they're going to get before their trial in about five weeks. That is Sidney Powell and Ken Chesebro, the two pro-Trump lawyers who are set to go -- start their trial process on October 23rd.

You know, the judge in this case today saying that, yes, they can get some of the witness interview transcripts that were from witnesses that testified before the special grand jury. They're recommending criminal charges in this case. They can also talk to some of the grand jurors, that was something specifically that they requested in the motions the judge is hearing today. They're still trying to figure out exactly how they might go about doing that.


And then, you know, look, prosecutors have been wanting to keep the special grand jury information a secret. They've argued that it's distinct from other information in this case. And, you know -- but the judge here is allowing the defendants to get some of those witness interview transcripts, but it has to -- only for those witnesses that are called to testify as part of the trial.

SIDNER: All right. Let's go ahead and listen in. They are still discussing what is happening with some of that grand jury testimony, I think as well. Let's listen in.

SCOTT GRUBMAN, ATTORNEY FOR KENNETH CHESEBRO: Well, Your Honor, the thing is that may have happened here. I don't know.

JUDGE SCOTT MCAFEE, FULTON COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT: And I hear you there. Just my point being is that just to summarizing an indictment to me, you know, for example, if we know the deliberations, we can't go into that, that's protected. How would you ever ask the question of whether another grand juror read the indictment to everybody else during deliberations? I don't even think you're going to be able to answer your own question? GRUBMAN: I respectfully disagree, Your Honor. And we could craft some questions. Obviously, we would have to think of the language. But what I think we want to know is mister and missis grand juror, when the evidence was being presented to you, did you the opportunity to ask questions? Did you the opportunity to follow-up?

Judge Tjoflat (ph) said -- and this is dicta, but we rely on dicta all the time as at least persuasive. So, too, would we dismiss an indictment that was issued by a "Kangaroo grand jury." One whose deliberations were so overborn by a prosecutor or a judge that the indictment was in effect the prosecutor or a judge's handiwork and not the results of considered judgment by an independent functioning grand jury.

Now, while we can't ask the grand jurors what exactly happened in the deliberations, what I think we absolutely can ask, and we will ask, I will put this on the record, is was there anyone other than the grand jurors in the deliberations? And that I think is what the other case that we cite Collins V. Stanford a proposition.

But, Your Honor, we simply want information. I would -- the reason we filed this brief, this motion is to be above board and make sure that everything was out there in the open. However, I would respectfully push back, Your Honor, we would not agree, obviously, court could order anything they want for any member of the prosecution to be part of those conversations. We are officers of the court. We know the rules. We will follow the orders.

I would also ask the court to state or I would ask the prosecution to state on the record and commit, I'm not saying that they're going to do this but I have seen other prosecutors do this, that they -- if the court grants this motion, they will not attempt to influence the grand jurors' decisions of whether or not they talked to us. We, of course, know it's voluntary. We would never -- once the grand juror said, I don't want to talk to you, we're going to hang up. I can promise you that, whether it's us or our representatives. But I think there is a risk here that someone from the state might try to get to them first, and that would be inappropriate.

MCAFEE: What if the grand juror wants a prosecutor to just be on the call listening as well?

GRUBMAN: If the grand juror wants a prosecutor to be on the call, then -- I mean, if they proactively say that, we can see where it is. But they're not inviting us into our -- into their prep, you know. They're not inviting us. I've never gotten an invitation to help them draft the motion and to talk to them and sit in their conference room. And they don't have the right to be with us.

If they want to talk to the grand jurors, they've always been able to talk to the grand jurors. They have talked to the grand jurors. But I like Mr. Wade a lot, but I don't want him on that phone call because he is my adversary. And quite frankly I think that if -- think about this, Your Honor, if hypothetically, there was something that happened in the grand jury that wasn't appropriate. The fact that a member of the prosecution was on this call, I think would prevent or at least make it less likely that a grand juror would be honest with us.

What if a grand juror felt -- and I'm not saying this is true, but what a grand juror felt that they were bullied by the state into prosecuting? What if a grand juror felt that the state, you know, went a little overboard? What do you -- if Mr. Wade was on the phone, I don't think they're going to admit that to me.

So, as an officer of the court, Your Honor, I think the court, with all due respect, just needs to be able trust council that we will do the right thing, and I could commit 100 percent that we will. These grand jurors, you're absolutely right, have been through a lot. They sacrificed a lot. We are not that -- you know, there's been doxing and all sorts of things. We are professionals. We are not those people.

MCAFEE: What -- how would you or would you be planning to document this in some way? Or would you be recording these calls?


MCAFEE: Would you have a court reporter? What would be the plan?

GRUBMAN: I believe -- there would be some -- we haven't talked exactly about the logistics but there would be some sort of recording, whether it's a court reporter or just a good old, you know, iPhone recorder or whatever it is.


And we would tell the grand jurors that, you know, even though you're not required to do so in the State of Georgia, I would be much inclined to tell the grand jurors, hey, look, we're recording. It's, you know, just so there's no question of what was asked.

Obviously, Judge, the last thing I want to happen is for anyone to incorrectly accuse me or someone on my team of going past what we're allowed to ask. So, for my own sake, we will definitely have some sort of recording. You know, unlike the State of Georgia as Mr. Rafferty said, they have about 15 lawyers, a bunch of investigators, and basically an unlimited budget paid for by the good taxpayers of Fulton County, myself included. We don't.

I want to be clear. Despite what the media may have said, we don't have an unlimited budget. So, whether we could ask a court reporter to be there and unless the court would volunteer your court report, I don't know that we can afford that, quite frankly, but we will certainly record it.

MCAFEE: All right. So, essentially, what I'm hearing is what you'd be asking for is that we'd propose the -- if not the exact questions but the subject matter, very carefully phrase in advance. This would be a voluntary meeting. It would be documented in some way. And even if it's -- if the state is not on the call, I think that we could even -- we could also have someone from the court there as well, just at any point --

GRUBMAN: Yes, Sir. MCAFEE: -- if the juror feels like they need to, kind of, pull the rip cord.

GRUBMAN: Yes, Your Honor.

MCAFEE: All right. But otherwise, I don't think there is much point going into the merits of the motion because, as we just said, just bit premature.

GRUBMAN: Yes, Sir.

MCAFEE: So, that's the initial reaction, Mr. Wade? I'm sorry, Mr. Rafferty, you had joined this one, excuse me.

BRIAN RAFFERTY, ATTORNEY FOR SIDNEY POWELL: I did join the motion, Your Honor. The only other point I would make I'd joined Mr. Grubman's argument is the possibility that these interviews not be conducted by phone at all. That perhaps they can be conducted in person and there could be combinations made, I would think, with the state and with the defense to conduct these in person as opposed to over the phone. That's just my only other request (ph).

MCAFEE: And, I think, for me the driving consideration is going to be the desire of the grand juror. Do they want to come all the way back down here and deal with that, or would they rather just do it over the phone?

All right. Mr. Wade?

NATHAN WADE, FULTON COUNTY SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Just let me be clear, the state is absolutely opposed to any of this. And Ms. Young is going to come before the court and tell the court why. But I thought that at the outset of Mr. Grubman's argument, I thought that I was clear before we started to argue in terms of the discovery, Mr. Grubman has indicated that we haven't given him anything, but I thought that I was clear that the discovery is here --

MCAFEE: Well, let's keep -- I feel we keep going back to discovery. Let's save that to the end there.

WADE: Well, those are his arguments, Judge. And I didn't want the court to feel like --

MCAFEE: Well, right now, we're folks, not grand jurors. Let's --

WADE: (INAUDIBLE) I can give them.

MCAFEE: I understand. We'll get to that.

WADE: Ahead of schedule.

MCAFEE: We'll get to that. Let's talk about grand jurors.


MCAFEE: All right. Another PowerPoint, here we go.

GRUBMAN: Your Honor --

RAFFERTY: Your Honor --

YOUNG: Let's see if it works.

GRUBMAN: The state does its PowerPoint before. I mean, come on. This is --

RAFFERTY: This goes to my original point, Your Honor, which is state spends the time to put together a PowerPoint to respond to a motion. That takes a lot of time, I understand. I'm sure it's going to be persuasive. It would be much more efficient for all involved if instead of putting together a PowerPoint, somebody put pens and paper on the team of eight lawyers here, put it in writing so that we could see the cases. We could move through this argument, and we could get to the end much quicker.

Now, we're going to see these cases from the state for the first time. Mr. Arora and Mr. Grubman and myself will look at these. We'll go back. We'll probably find things that, perhaps, are inaccurate and have no choice but then to file some supplemental briefing. With the trial date on October 23rd, this process is just not an efficient use of the court's time. The more efficient process here is to write a brief, file it like we do in federal court all of the time, like this D.A.'s office did in federal court in this very case in front of Judge Jones, and just file it here. That's my ask.

MCAFEE: All right. Understood. And I think, again, this -- we're just going to take that up on a motion-by-motion basis. All right. Ms. Young?

YOUNG: If I may approach, Judge?


YOUNG: This is a copy of the motion that the state had filed this morning in response to the defense motion to be able to skip to grand jurors. And I think that state and Your Honor are probably on the same page. So, I'm going to try to go through this pretty quickly in regards to the deliberations because what the defense motion state was in their motions is that they wanted to know if the grand jurors had been read the indictment, and that was the purpose for them talking to the grand jurors.

Here today we find that there are some other reasons that they may want to speak to them. But the state's belief is that -- that would more -- it's not moving -- as the court talked about deliberation, it is part of the grand jury's reading. Whether or not it was read to them. Whether or not they read it during deliberations.


We're all trial lawyers here, we know that a copy of the indictment goes back with the jurors when there's a trial jury. They're reading over it to make sure that the evidence matches it, the evidence that's been presented. That's the same thing with the grand jury.

They're given a copy of the indictment. They can do it -- do with it as they please. And if we start to get into questioning that, we are giving in to what they were doing during their deliberations. As the court pointed out, did the foreperson read it to them? Did someone else read it? That's all part of their deliberation process, which is clearly been prohibited by the -- anyone getting into their deliberation process.

So, the state's contention is that these questions about the grand jury and reading of the indictment summary is part of deliberations, and they cannot get into that because it is prohibited. And I'll just cite OCGA 15-1267 says, the current grand jury ultimately requires grand jury to keep the deliberations of the grand jury secret unless called upon to give evidence thereof in some court of law in the state.

And it talks about extraneous prejudice information, which I think goes towards the Sigmond case is, kind of, what they were talking about as the court pointed out whether or not the prosecutor was steering them to a particular decision. It talks about outside influences or mistaken entering of the verdict. None of those things here exist. And I'll get to their solution as to how they want to handle that with the court.

But I want -- I'll also state that Federal Rule 606 as well the 24-06 here in Georgia --

SIDNER: OK. We are listening right now into the Fulton County courthouse where this case now is going to be severed. Two of the defendants will go to trial first, and then Donald Trump, and the rest of this -- the defendants will go to trial after. But we are listening to this argument over special -- the grand jurors and the indictments. And whether they were read the indictment or whether they read it themselves, it was what, 95, 96 pages. And whether or not all of the information can be put in the hands of the defense.

What is your takeaway from what you are hearing here?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY, AND FORMER FEDERAL AND NEW JERSEY STATE PROSECUTOR: So, there's two things are going on right now. First of all, the defendants want the transcripts of the testimony that went into the special grand jury. Now, this is months-long special grand jury that investigated. The defendants are absolutely entitled to have any grand jury testimony of any witnesses in the case, and probably of others as long as it's relevant to the case.

BERMAN: The judge so far has said that the defense can have the transcripts from the witnesses who will testify in the case.

HONIG: Right.

BERMAN: He's still thinking about the other things?

HONIG: Exactly. So, that's right down the middle. You get the transcripts of the witnesses, as to other, it depends on whether it's relevant or not. Generally speaking, the defendants do get that kind of information. The second thing that's happening here is the lawyers for the defendants here, for Chesebro and Powell, are asking for permission to go out and find and contact the regular grand jurors. The grand jurors who voted to indict.

SIDNER: The ones that made the decision.

HONIG: Right.

SIDNER: Right.

HONIG: And that is, to me, a bizarre and extreme longshot argument. That is something I've never heard of happening of a defense lawyer asking for permission to get the information of these people, going out and interviewing them, putting them on the spot. There is some debate here about the defense is saying, well, should the prosecutors be on the call? None of this should happen.

I mean, the ADA that we're looking at right now got up and said, we object to all of this. That's absolutely what I would have said as a prosecutor too. There should be no contact with grand jurors, unless there's some specific evidence of potential misconduct.

BERMAN: Just to be clear, I ask -- we are watching this and I asked Caroline Polisi who is a heavy hitting defense attorney. I said, have you ever had a chance to speak to a grand juror? And your response was?


BERMAN: Laughed out loud.

POLISI: Absolutely not. However, I will say that the just is being -- I mean, he's at least entertaining the possibility. The underlying reason, of course, that the defense wants to speak to the grand jurors is so that they can make a motion to dismiss the entire indictment. They are saying, well, it's unconstitutional if in fact this grand jury received the special grand jury report, which was voluminous, and nearly was read a summary of it and just rubber stamped the indictment without really knowing all the intricacies of the 19 defendants.

I mean, there's a point there. There -- you know, that could approach the line of, you know, depriving these defendants of their due process rights. I don't think it will happen. You saw the judge, you know, he has sort of go through the motions here. But it's incompletely inappropriate, and I don't think it will happen.

SIDNER: I cannot help but bring up this moment that we saw happen in court, which was a little unusual because I think we've all been court -- in courtrooms and watching what happens in the course of business. There is this question of discovery, right? And that has to be turned over to the defense. It's supposed to be turned over fairly quickly. It has now been, what, three weeks?


SIDNER: Something like that? So, at one point, you see one of the assistant D.A.'s picking up two boxes --

HONIG: Right.

SIDNER: -- and plopping them on the defense's table, saying, we gave you the discovery and we gave it to you early. You're welcome.

HONIG: Yes, the -- first of all, discovery means the obligation that every prosecutor has in any criminal case, essentially, turn over all your evidence to the defense in advance. We don't do trial by surprise in this country.

SIDNER: Right.

HONIG: You are entitled to that discovery as a defendant.