Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

Donald Trump Jr. Back on Stand in $250 Million Civil Fraud Case; Secret Service Agent Protecting Biden's Granddaughter Opens Fire on Suspects Breaking into Government Vehicle; White House Slams Rep. Mike Johnson's (R-LA) Extreme Two-Part Funding Bill. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired November 13, 2023 - 10:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Happening right now, Donald Trump Jr. back in court and soon back on the stand. What is he going to be able to do to help his family in this $250 million civil fraud trial against them?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And a U.S. Secret Service agent involved with protecting one of President Biden's granddaughters opens fire in response to a car break-in. The suspects right now are at large.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A surprise shake -up in the Republican presidential field overnight. Senator Tim Scott's staff did not even know he was dropping out. So, who might be next to go?

I'm John Berman with Kate Baldwin, Fredricka Whitfield is in for Sarah today. This is CNN News Central.

BOLDUAN: Happening right now, Donald Trump Jr. has just gone into the courtroom in Manhattan. And soon he is going to be taking the stand again to testify. This time, it will be as the defense team's first witness.

Still at stake, the fate of the Trump business empire. As you remember, the judge in this civil case has already found the family liable for fraud. So, what is Donald Trump Jr. going to say to try and tip the trial in the favor of he and his family?

These are live pictures you're looking at right now of Donald Trump Jr. sitting, waiting for the proceedings to get underway. This will be our first and only look inside the courtroom, aside from courtroom sketches before this all gets underway.

Let's get to CNN's Brynn Gingras outside the courthouse. Brynn, what are you hearing about the defense strategy that now gets underway today in earnest?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, the defense here, Kate, is going to try to prove the fact that the Trump sons, the Trump Organization, did not try to have this conspiracy to defraud banks and insurers to get special rates on their properties by inflating those financial statements.

Now, if you remember Don Jr. was on the stand as a states witness just about two weeks ago, and he distanced himself from being, you know, one of the top heads of Trump Organization and preparing those financial statements.

So, when he takes the stand for the defense today, we're expecting to hear some of the same argument. The difference, though, is he's being questioned by his own lawyer. So, there's going to be a little bit more leeway in his answers.

The state really tried to keep him to a yes and no answers. This time, he'll be able to explain a little bit more about the inner workings of preparing those financial statements. And, again, the defense here trying to show that there were no victims, that banks didn't complain about being defrauded, that they didn't complain about losing any money, and so that this is going to be sort of the first person to explain that into this courtroom.

Now, we are expecting this defense to last for about a month. As we said, Don, Jr. is the first one to take the stand. His testimony is expected to last pretty much all of today and can go into tomorrow because there will be some cross-examination from state's attorneys.

But, certainly, we are expecting a number of witnesses. It's possible we may see the former president back on the stand. We'll likely see Eric Trump to come back to the stand, again, able to get those questions in from their own attorneys. And we are expecting a few witnesses in the real estate industry from banks as well.

You know, we saw a little bit of that defense last week when Ivanka was testifying as to, you know, the state -- sorry, the defense really wanting to paint this picture again of no victims. And, in fact, banks were happy to do business with the Trumps.

So, we'll see how this defense lays out for the next month, but Don, Jr. just about to take the stand inside the courtroom behind me. Guys?

BOLDUAN: All right. Brynn, thank you so much. We're going to bring up dates as we get them from inside that courtroom. John?

BERMAN: All right. CNN's Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig, is with us now. Counselor, Don, Jr., he is in there, and we could learn any second now what the first questions are to him. While we wait for the real first questions, what would you ask?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So, if I was leading off with Donald Trump, Jr., as my witness for the defense --

BERMAN: The defense lawyer, yes.

HONIG: Yes. I would start off by saying, of all the loans that you and your organization took from these sophisticated banks over the years, how many of them did you pay back in full? The answer to that, I believe, will be all. And I would follow that if I can go too deep here, is, and on top of repaying the loans, how much did the Trump Organization pay these, big sophisticated banks in interest? And so the answer, we don't know, several millions.

And so the argument that you're trying to advance here with Donald Trump, Jr., if you're the defense is, not only they get repaid the banks, the so-called victims here, they profited.

Now, legally, does this matter, not for some of the counts here, but it does matter for others, and it matters, I think, atmospherically in terms of how serious this fraud was.

BERMAN: It's sort of the no harm, no foul defense here.

We should note, Donald Trump Jr., we're just getting word from inside the courtroom, is now on the stand. So, the questioning has begun. We will shortly see how close you were due to the nature of those first questions.

Look, what were the strengths and weaknesses of the state case? Let's start with the strengths, Elie, where we are as we head into the defense case.

HONIG: The biggest strength to me is just the absolute sheer size and scope of the discrepancy of the overvaluations. Remember, the core of this case is that the Trump Organization vastly overvalued their assets, put that in writing, used that to get the loans that I mentioned before.

But just as one example, Mar-a-Lago was mutually appraised by a tax assessor for the county at $20 million, give or take a few million dollars. The Trump Organization claimed that his paperwork was worth not a little bit more than that, $500 million, 25 times more than that. And I think you can argue as they did, well, there's subjectivity involved, there's some value to the brand name, but not that type of gap. So, I think that was the strongest part.

BERMAN: And that's on the paper. That is a paper case, regardless of the testimony that's been going back and forth. But insofar as the testimony goes, where are the opportunities for the defense?

HONIG: Yes. So, I think the biggest opportunity for the defense -- well, the biggest challenge is, are they going to try to take on those estimates? Are they going to try to justify the estimates? Because what we saw largely so far is a game of just pointing down the lane.

Well, I didn't really put those statements together. We heard it from Don Jr., my experts did, my accounts did. But that only goes so far if everyone is pointing at one another within the organization and your outside accountants count as what you do as the organization. So, at a certain point, if they're just all sort of circularly blaming each other, that's not going to be a defense.

So, we'll see if they come up with a more coherent strategy today on the defense. BERMAN: And one of the issues also seems to be lack of testimony of anyone saying, Donald Trump told me to value it at X. Donald Trump ordered me to inflate the values here. Is that essential to the case for the state?

HONIG: No, it's not. And this goes really to Michael Cohen's testimony, right? Michael Cohen, longtime attorney. He was an employee of the Trump Organization. He testified, Donald Trump never looked at me in the eye and said, Michael Cohen, I need you to inflate these assets. But Michael Cohen testified he made his intent quite clear to us. This was his way of doing things, he would say, I need to be worth more.

Would you like to pin something directly on Donald Trump if you're at the A.G.'s office? Sure, but you don't have to here because there are various defendants. Donald Trump is a defendant in his own capacity, but so too is the Trump Organization and various of their LLCs.

Also keep in mind the judge has already ruled on one of the causes of action in this case before the trial started. So, the A.G.'s office already has that count for what we call persistent fraud. That's already in their back pocket. They already have that. Now they're fighting over the other counts and also the damages amount.

BERMAN: All right. We'll get an update as things move along there. He's just taken the stand, just faced his first few questions. We will report a little bit what those questions were.

Elie Honig, thank you very much. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, John. This breaking news this morning, a U.S. Secret Service agent on security detail for President Biden's granddaughter, Naomi, fired a weapon while trying to stop some people from breaking into a government vehicle. This happened last night in the Georgetown neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

Let's get to Priscilla Alvarez at the White House. So, Priscilla, what are you learning?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, the top lines here are this appears to be a break in of an unoccupied government vehicle. And according to the Secret Service, there was no threat to the protectee. According to a source familiar, that protectee was Naomi Biden, the president's granddaughter.

Now, this is how the Secret Service described the incident. They said that on November 12th yesterday, around 11:58 P.M. in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., Secret Service agents encountered possibly three individuals breaking a window on a parked and unoccupied government vehicle.

It goes on to say that during this encounter, a federal agent discharged a service weapon and it is believed that no one was struck.

It goes on to say that the vehicle, it seems to be a red vehicle, fled the scene and that there is a lookout for that vehicle, and also that this is an incident that will continue to be investigated by the Secret Service and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.

But it appears from this statement that there was no threat, again, to the president's granddaughter, but it was an agent who was involved in her detail that discharged the weapon. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, Priscilla Alvarez, thank you so much. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Joining us now for a little more on this, Dan Brunner is a retired FBI supervisory special agent. Dan, it's good to see you again. What do you think of this?

DANIEL BRUNNER, RETIRED FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT : Well, what's most important is that we really don't know the entirety of the story. We don't know what the situation was. We don't know if the suspects were armed. We don't know the situation that the Secret Service agents encountered.

It's very important that we don't jump to conclusions. But what is important is that the deadly force policy, which every agency has their own, is very similar, that an agent may not fire a weapon as a warning shot.


So, if that agent saw that the individuals that were breaking into the vehicle posed an imminent danger, a threat, or bodily harm to himself or other individuals in the area, he can fire his weapon.

Now, firing a weapon, as a federal agent, it constitutes deadly force use against the suspects. So, we have to make sure that we get the entirety of the story. But the fact that he fired his weapon at someone who was breaking into a vehicle -- again, we don't know the story. We don't know if there was firearms in the vehicle that the Secret Service agents had on standby, so we don't know the entirety of the story. But it is concerning that there's someone who was breaking in.

Now, we know that Georgetown and Washington, D.C. has a high crime rate. We know that a lot of cars are getting broken into and then there's carjackings. So that has to be taken into effect. Maybe what the vehicle wasn't targeted. Maybe it was targeted. Again, we need to get the entirety of the story.

BOLDUAN: And that was what I was going to ask you, as understandably as this is just really coming out, there is a lot of detail that still is yet to be known publicly. What is your -- what's like your biggest question this morning to try to help us understand a little bit better of what happened and what led to the Secret Service agents opening fire?

BRUNNER: Well, in my years during the FBI, there have been agents who their vehicle was getting broken into and they've fired their weapon in response to the vehicle getting broken into. That agent, unfortunately, faced disciplinary action because the use of force, deadly force against someone who's solely breaking into the vehicle and attempting to flee the area is not an authorized use of deadly force.

The agent or the person who is firing the weapon because it is use of deadly force against that person has to be able to articulate to the investigators that that person was imminent danger to himself or other persons.

Now, if the people who are breaking into the vehicle turned to the Secret Service agent when they declared, hey, Secret Service, we are here, and as soon as they declared there, if those suspects turned and pointed a weapon or those agents determined that it appeared that there was a weapon in use or possibly being pointed at them, they could constitute that, that could articulate as a deadly force use, a use of deadly force because they are protecting themselves or the other individuals that were in the area.

So, once we get more information, then I think that will be, we'll be able to articulate the use of deadly force by that agent.

BOLDUAN: One level of detail that we do have in these initial moments is that the Secret Service agent was assigned to Joe Biden's granddaughter's security detail. And also we hear from the Secret Service in this statement that there was no threat to any of the Secret Service's protectees in this incident. That fact adds what to kind of the picture that you're seeing here?

BRUNNER: Well, I think that based on what we're hearing that it may have been a car break-in and they were just trying to steal a vehicle that may have been higher end. We don't know the description. It could have been a suburban. It could have been a nicer vehicle. It may have been a break-in. The fact that the protectee wasn't in the vehicle at the time, I think, leads to the conclusion that the individuals that were breaking the vehicle just broke into the wrong vehicle at the wrong time and they targeted the wrong vehicle.

If it had been targeting President Biden's granddaughter, I think the individuals would have probably attacked the vehicle when she was in the vehicle or near the vehicle. The fact that they're just breaking it, that appears to be that they were just breaking into a vehicle, I think lends to the argument that this was just a vehicle break-in at that time.

BOLDUAN: It's good to see you, Dan. Thank you for jumping on. Much more to learn on this one, for sure.

BRUNNER: Thank you.


BERMAN: A recipe for more Republican chaos. That is what the White House is calling House Speaker Mike Johnson's latest proposal to avert a government shutdown.

One fewer Republican in the race for president. Today, Tim Scott is gone, but what about tomorrow?

And a hospital at the center of the war in Gaza, health officials say patients are suffering and dying with no supplies. Israel says they're being used as human shields in just released video. It says shows a Hamas terrorist carrying a rocket-propelled grenade launcher right at the front door of the hospital.

We are turning this video around and we'll bring it to you shortly.



BERMAN: All right. Breaking overnight, Senator Tim Scott has called to quits. The South Carolina Republicans suspended his presidential campaign, surprising even his own campaign staff who learned about it watching television.

Now, Scott has been struggling in the polls and the super PAC backing him had canceled a multi-million dollar ad buy. Scott says he will not back another Republican in the race for now.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to recommend that the voters study each candidate and their candidacies and frankly, they're passed. And make the best decision for the future of the country. The best way for me to be helpful is to not weigh in on who they should endorse.


BERMAN: So, Senator Scott was also asked about being someone's running me. He said he wasn't after that, but it was pretty well short of a Sherman-esque refusal. Fred?

WHITFIELD: Unserious and extreme.


That's how the White House describes House Speaker Mike Johnson's two- part plan to prevent a looming shutdown and keep the U.S. government open past Friday. Johnson's plan would fund some government programs through January 19th. The rest of the government would be funded through February 2nd, but he's already facing opposition.

And this just in at CNN, the whip count shows six GOP no votes, and that is enough to sink that bill without any kind of Democratic support. And that could put Johnson in the same spot that got Kevin McCarthy ousted from the speaker's chair just a few weeks ago.

Joining us right now, Axios Senior Contributor Margaret Talev. All right, good to see you, Margaret.

So, already it is, you know, a fait accompli. It is not going to happen. So, now what?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, there are obviously other steps that he could take other proposals to or for a clean CR things that do or don't deal with Ukraine funding and Israel funding. But the challenge is going to be for him that he needs to find something that his right flank can handle but that also the Senate, including Senate Republicans, as well as Democrats can handle.

And so the question up until now has been, will Mike Johnson, will the new House speaker get a honeymoon period that Kevin McCarthy wasn't going to get? Will House Republicans agree to go along with something that takes them into 2024, even if they don't really like it to give him time to find his footing? And the answer -- immediate answer evolving this morning, maybe no, at least not plan A.

And so, you know, I think it's -- we at this exact moment are heading toward another shutdown and you're starting to see President Biden and the White House already begin messaging around this. If you're just a regular American sitting at home trying to figure out whether you should care about shutdowns anymore and why this keeps happening, at this moment, we're in a situation where it is on track to be happening again.

WHITFIELD: And what is the messaging from the White House, the White House being able to underscore that this is the Republicans mess and this is why you want me to be the next president?

TALEV: Yes, it is right now. The White House's messaging is political because President Biden is running for re-election and he's facing headwinds because of how Americans perceive the economy and because of how Americans feel vis-a-vis has he fallen short of their expectations for him. And what he's trying to do is make this not a referendum on him but to make it a comparison between Joe Biden versus Donald Trump or Joe Biden versus what would happen if Republicans controlled all levers of government.

So, if he can use this to try to show chaos dysfunction, inability to govern, he's going to try to use that politically to his advantage. And also he's going to try to do that because, generally, the party that effectively causes the shutdown is the one that gets the blame. He doesn't want to get blamed for it.

So, he's playing a little bit of defense, but mostly offense. And this is -- the White House is basically preparing for another shutdown and preparing to be able to argue that messaging exactly.

WHITFIELD: So, Speaker Johnson is really an uphill battle because he doesn't have the experience to corral, cajole, you know, to even make deals to get some sort of support. So, it seems as though he is in a position where he really is going to have to rely on some democratic leadership support, or a Republican leadership support in the Senate to potentially influence him. But those things also led to the demise of the former speaker. So, you know, what is this speaker to do?

TALEV: It's a real problem, because exactly to your point, this is not primarily an issue of an experience, although having less experience also makes it harder to figure out what to do, and also means that your relationships and the levers you can pull are less well-formed. But the biggest challenge is not the experience of the House speaker. The biggest challenge is the very thin House majority of Republicans and the insistence upon a core bloc of them to sort of message, you know, the kind of cuts or spending reductions on the social side that they want to do.

And it is whether you're John Boehner or whether you're Paul Ryan, or more recently, whether you're Kevin McCarthy or now whether you're Mike Johnson, that is primarily what is making this so difficult.

What do -- what are some things that Democrats in the White House want? They don't want to see deep social spending cuts and they don't want to see Ukraine to dry up and this simply move to for Israel or border related funding.


And so these are the dynamics and it makes it -- if you can't have unanimity and unity inside your own party, it makes it almost impossible to go to the opposing party and say, hey, can you save me? Can you save me now? Okay, well, what are you going to do for me? Well, nothing. The minute you save me, we're going to be in a political war.

WHITFIELD: Margaret Talev, we'll leave it there. Thanks so much. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Coming up still for us, Gaza's busiest hospital is now at the center of a standoff between Israel and Hamas. The latest situation there is one -- latest in the situation there as one doctor warns whoever needs surgery dies.

Plus, the long shot bid from one Democrat trying to take on President Biden. A CNN exclusive look at why he says he is doing it and how far he says he will go.

We'll be right back.