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Trump Says It's "False" He Told Employee To Delete Mar-a-Lago Security Footage; Trump Suggests His Own Impeachment Led To Push For Biden's; State Of Emergency In Maine; New England Braces For Impact; U.S. Sources Say Chinese Spy Balloon Program Suspended; At Least 21 Of 30 TX State Senators Must Vote In Favor Of Conviction To Remove Paxton From Office. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired September 15, 2023 - 09:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Donald Trump now says that he would testify in the classified documents case against him. And also, in an interview with NBC News, Trump insisted that he did not direct any of his employees to delete security footage at Mar-a-Lago after it was subpoenaed, as is alleged in the indictment. Listen.


KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: A new charge suggests you asked the staffer to delete security camera footage so it wouldn't get into the hands of investigators. Did you do that?


WELKER: It's false.

TRUMP: But let me tell you --

WELKER: Would you testify to that under oath?

TRUMP: I'm going to testify --

WELKER: You testify to that under oath?

TRUMP: It's a fake. The tapes weren't deleted. In other words, there was nothing done to them. And they were my tapes. I could have fought them. I didn't even have to give them the tapes, I don't think. I think I would have won in court. ,When they asked for the tapes, I said, sure, they're my tapes. I could have fought them.


BOLDUAN: CNN's Kristen Holmes joins me now. She's got much more. Kristen, Donald Trump is doing quite a bit of talking these days about the legal issues that are facing him. What about this idea of him testifying?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously, this would be a huge deal if Donald Trump testified under oath, but we have zero indication that he's going to do so, nor that his lawyers would allow him to. This would open him up to all sorts of liabilities that, in fact, Donald Trump has often said that he wants to testify in legal matters against him, but has not. The only time we have seen him, as far as I can remember, actually testify under oath has been when he was deposed and forced to do so.

So it doesn't seem likely that he would testify under oath, and again, that his lawyers would allow it. And one thing I want to point to in that sound, he talks about how those were his tapes, that he didn't have to turn them over. I do want to remind viewers that there was a federal subpoena multiple for those surveillance tapes. So this idea that he didn't have to cooperate, that is part of why he was in trouble in the first place.

And he also mentioned another legal gray area that I thought was very interesting. He was asked about whether or not he would pardon himself if reelected to president and he didn't rule it out completely. And he also said this wasn't the first time he had discussed pardoning himself looking back to 2020. Listen to this.


TRUMP: I could have done a pardon of myself. You know what I said? I have no interest in even thinking about it. I never even wanted to think about it. And I could have done it I was told by some people that these are sick lunatics that I'm dealing with. Give yourself a part and your life will be a lot easier. I said I would never give myself.


WELKER: Even if you were re-elected in this moment?

TRUMP: Well, I think it's very unlikely. What did I do wrong? I didn't do anything wrong. You mean because I challenged an election, they want to put me in jail?


HOLMES: And Kate, this is a very standard answer for Donald Trump, saying it's uncertain, it's unlikely that he would do this. But again, adding because he didn't do anything wrong. That is how he usually handles these kind of things, saying that it doesn't matter because he didn't do anything wrong. But as you said, talking quite a bit here.

BOLDUAN: Exactly right. Kristen, thank you so much for pulling it together for us.

BERMAN: All right, with us now, CNN Senior Political Analyst John Avlon and CNN Political Commentator S.E. Cupp. John, percent chance that Donald Trump wouldn't pardon himself if he were convicted of a crime here.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm going to go between one and zero, John.

BERMAN: And S.E. Cupp, percent chance that Donald Trump will testify under oath in any of these cases.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm at 50. I mean, his lawyers can tell him not to all they want. Ultimately, it's his decision and he gets to make it. Any lawyer will tell you, we can't stop someone from testifying. We can tell them not to, we can advise them not to, but if he's hell bent on testifying, he will.

BOLDUAN: That's completely ruining the lead up that John was going for, S.E. He was going for --

BERMAN: No, no, no, no, no. I -- not at all. I think it's an -- I love hearing the argument. But, John Avlon, what's the Lucy in the football?

AVLON: The Lucy in the football of it is that that's the eternal story of Donald Trump promising to testify and turn over documents, right? It's a big bluster, but one of the few things I think Donald Trump truly believes is no one makes you take an oath before you go on TV. The idea of being honest instinctively doesn't occur to him.

And so, again, then you just have to use history as a gauge and history would suggest that he constantly says he's going to testify, can't wait to testify, would love to cooperate and it never materializes unless he's compelled to do so.

BOLDUAN: So all of this leaves us where then, S.E.?

CUPP: Listen, there's a long road ahead for Donald Trump. And the problem is he's campaigning for president at the same time as he's facing all of these legal challenges. And all he wants to talk about are the legal challenges, right? He very much prefers to talk about this and this war on him and how they're out to get him and so they're out to get you way more than he wants to talk about policy.

And his lawyers want the opposite. His lawyers are like, get out there, talk about policy. Stop talking about your legal problems. Of course, Kristen Welker gets a new show, gets Donald Trump on for the first time. It's all he wants to do. So, again, like, judicious restraint, not his strong suit.

BOLDUAN: I love S.E. Cupp so much. I love you, too.


BOLDUAN: OK. I wanted to ask you guys about this, because there's -- I actually wrote it down in our notes as Kate's obsession, because there is a bit here that, it's about -- just prepare for my wind up because of the saying the quiet stuff out loud and what impact that has in past and present.

You've got Donald Trump talking about, in another interview, talking about Biden's impeachment inquiry. Listen to this.


TRUMP: I think had they not done it to me, and I'm very popular in the region, they like me and I like them, the Republican Party, perhaps you wouldn't have it being done to them and this is going to happen with indictments too.


BOLDUAN: Had they not done it to me, it might not have happened to him. This made me think of a moment that we will all remember of when Kevin McCarthy spiked his chances of being speaker the last time around when he said the quiet stuff out loud about the Benghazi hearings.

Reminder, listen.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), THEN HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable.


BOLDUAN: That made it impossible for him to become speaker at that time, if any -- if you all will remember. This feels the same to me, but it seems that the impact of saying the quiet stuff out loud will be wildly different.

If you admit that this impeachment inquiry is all politically based and all about retribution and helping out Donald Trump, you would think that might have an impact on people's impression of what House Republicans are going for. But, what do you think, John?

AVLON: It will in a general election. It won't in a primary. This is the core problem in our politics, hyper partisanship, polarization, the fact that there's not a total disconnect between what plays in a Republican to the Republican base and to the American people at large. And this is just the latest reflection of that, right?

Yes, he's saying the quiet part out loud. This is a impeachment inquiry that's all about tit for tat. It's about revenge. It's an ornate revenge fantasy. That's what this is. And he's admitting that because it reflects well on him through the prism of just an endless appetite for attention and making him the center of everything in the universe.


Of course, democratic republics are based around different ideas but that's why we got a challenge right now.


CUPP: I was just laughing because untrustable is not a word. The word is untrustworthy, but it reminds me of my favorite fishing sandwiches, uncrustables, so I was giggling there. But, yes, Donald Trump there admitting, they're only doing this for politics. Well, that's a big deal. That's kind of burying the lead even he recognizes that and is like, yes, so. Because that's the state of affairs now.

I think Kevin McCarthy would admit he's doing this because Matt Gaetz and, you know, Marjorie Taylor Greene are making him. Everything is so stupid now because no one goes to Congress to lead, to govern, to solve problems. You go there to become famous. You go there to own the libs. You go there to grift.

AVLON: Not no one.

CUPP: I'm sorry, America. Your problems are not being solved because --


CUPP: -- we're impeaching Joe Biden.

AVLON: Well, this is a problem predominantly in the Republican Party under Trump's sway right now, right? Whatever metaphor you want to use. Tails wagging the dog, inmates running the asylum. This is a backwards world and that's why it's important, for example, to use things like history to say, you know what? We've had a couple of impeachment inquiries in our country and they reach very high standards. This doesn't even try to close -- pass that bar.

And that's a total -- just -- if you back the Constitution, look, Mitt Romney said it yesterday, a very large percent of my party doesn't seem to believe in the Constitution. That's Republican Senator Mitt Romney, 2012 nominee for the GOP.

BERMAN: John Avlon, S.E. Cupp, thank you so much for going over Kate's obsession, a wonderful political topic, also an alluring scent.

BOLDUAN: What? I was going to go with --

BERMAN: Kate's obsession.

BOLDUAN: -- S.E. Cupp and John Avlon, the uncrustables of political analysis, because they are delicious.

AVLON: Oh, thank you.

BOLDUAN: They are delicious. I love you, S.E.

AVLON: Good on fishing trips.

BOLDUAN: And hunting trips.

Coming up for us, parts of the Northeast bracing. Hurricane Lee on the way, a Category 1 storm right now, but it's making its way north and expected to impact New England this weekend.

Also, new information about China's spy balloon program months after -- you remember, one of those balloons was shot down -- after flying halfway across the United States. That update ahead.


BERMAN: This morning, Hurricane Lee is picking up the pace as it moves toward New England. There is a state of emergency in Maine. Tropical storm warnings have been issued throughout Massachusetts from the Cape to Boston.

Forecasters warned that although this is a Category 1 storm, people should expect dangerous surf and rip current conditions, and the Coast Guard is urging people to make sure that their boats are secure.

CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray is with us. Jennifer, what are people there likely to see?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, John, I think the best thing you can compare this to is a nor'easter, right? You're going to have really strong winds. You're going to have high surf, rough seas, and you're going to have a lot of rain.

I think the biggest threat with this storm is going to be the power outages because while this storm is passing offshore away from the Cape Boston, it's going to head towards eastern Maine. The tropical storm force winds extend about 300 bucks from the center. And so, you are going to feel those tropical storm force conditions across the Cape and eastern Massachusetts.

So we are going to look at the storm passing to the east, just offshore, possibly making landfall across portions of Nova Scotia and then head to the north racing. But we are going to see some really heavy rainfall across eastern Massachusetts main as this storm continues to the north.

So it is a fast moving storm, but it is going to pack a bit of a punch. We're going to see anywhere from, say, 2 to 4 inches of rain, especially across eastern Maine. Eastern Massachusetts, we're looking at about 1 inch or 2 inch of rain. But again, I think the wind is going to be the biggest thing with those power outages, taking those -- some of those trees down here.

Here your tropical storm watches, warnings, hurricane watches still in effect, John. So, this is going to be a fast mover, which is the good news, but we could have some power outages from it.

BERMAN: Yes. And look, in those parts of the wheel (ph), they've been soaked by so much rain over the last month or so.

GRAY: Yes.

BERMAN: Any kind of wind could be so dangerous for those trees with the ground just so saturated.

GRAY: Very true.

BERMAN: Jennifer Gray, thank you very much. Kate?

BOLDUAN: New reporting also coming in about China's spy program. According to multiple sources familiar with U.S. intelligence assessments, China appears to have halted its spy balloon program months after one of the balloons flew across the United States.

Remember back in February, one of China's high altitude spy balloons crossed into Alaska and Canada and then through Idaho, Montana, and other parts of the United States. American fighter jets eventually shot it down off the Atlantic coast.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand has these new details. She's joining us now. Natasha, what are you hearing led up to this move by China now?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, Kate, look, the two countries are trying to mend relations. Obviously, the relationship has been very tumultuous, and the U.S. believes that given the fact that the Chinese appear to want to try to get back on track with the relationship with the U.S.

And also that the President Biden has expressed that he does not want to contain China, that the U.S. is trying to kind of repair relations there, that the Chinese have decided to suspend that balloon program.

Now, more specifically, there is also intelligence we are told that the Chinese leaders were actually pretty caught off guard, including Xi Jinping back in February when that balloon crossed over the United States. Essentially, the Chinese president did not actually want the U.S. believes or know about the balloons transiting over the continental U.S.


And he was actually so enraged by the fact that this happened that Chinese leaders then reprimanded the the people in charge of the spy balloon program. So a combination of kind of wanting to ease tensions here as well as the fact that this spy balloon program appears to have gotten a little bit out ahead over its skis for Chinese leaders has led the U.S. intelligence community to believe that the program itself has been suspended.

They have not observed any additional spy balloon launches since back in February when that balloon, of course, was shot down off the coast of South Carolina by American fighter jets. Now, look, President Biden did, in fact, say this back in June. He said that he believes that Xi Jinping was pretty angry about the fact that this balloon caused such a diplomatic upset.

If you'll recall, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was set to visit Beijing around that time, and that trip was actually postponed. So the two leaders are potentially going to be meeting next month, or I should say November, at the APEC Summit in San Francisco.

So ahead of this, this is perhaps some kind of goodwill gesture by the Chinese to show, look, we are not going to be launching any of these balloons. That doesn't mean that they could not restart it, however, Kate.

BOLDUAN: That's a good point. It's great reporting. Thank you, Natasha. John?

BERMAN: All right, closing arguments set to begin any minute in the impeachment trial of one of the most powerful Republicans in Texas. Will members of his own party throw him out of office?



BERMAN: This morning, closing arguments are about to begin in the impeachment trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Now he's already suspended from his job and faces removal over bribery and corruption allegations. His fate about to be in the hands of 30 state senators.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is right there in Austin, Texas this morning. Ed, what are we about to see?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a huge day here in Texas politics, John, as you mentioned, just behind those doors. You see in the background there, that is the entrance to the state Senate here in the Texas Capitol, and that is where, in just a few moments, the closing arguments will begin in this impeachment trial.

We've heard about two weeks, almost two weeks of testimony so far and Ken Paxton has been facing 20 articles of impeachment, including disregard of official duty, abuse of power, misuse of office, bribery. He's on trial in this particular case for 16 of the 20 articles of impeachment.

Now each side has one hour to present their closing arguments to the state senators and after that, the deliberations will begin, and this is where, the math kicks off. Essentially, what Ken Paxton needs is 10 senators to vote to acquit him, and then he could remain in office.

But there is, you know, it'll be a tough road. Everyone I've been talking to over the last few weeks here in Austin really has no idea how this is going to play out. And remember, we talked about 30 senators making this vote.

There are 31 senators, but one of them is Senator Angela Paxton, the wife of the suspended Attorney General. She is not allowed to participate in the deliberations and the vote. So, how long these deliberations will take is also very much up in the air, but a huge day here in Texas politics. John?

BERMAN: Yes, and just so uncertain. Ed Lavandera, please keep us posted on this. Thank you so much. Kate?

BOLDUAN: It is interesting how that is playing out. We're going to stay close to that one.

Also coming up, the new gun charges against Hunter Biden may be just the beginning. Why more federal charges could be coming against the president's son. We'll be back.