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Kristi Noem Sued For Dentist Ad; Interview With Dearborn, Michigan, Mayor Abdullah Hammoud; Trump in Florida Courtroom. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired March 14, 2024 - 13:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: A critical day for former President Trump in his legal cases, as a court in Florida tackles a court issue over his handling of classified documents.

And, meantime, in Georgia, we are waiting on Judge Scott McAfee weighing a move with huge implications for the election interference case in that state.

And Democrats on the trail and hitting issues that are on the minds of voters, Vice President Harris becoming the first vice president or president to visit an abortion provider, while President Biden tackles a major problem for his reelection campaign, his support for Israel, even as Palestinians plead for aid and an end to the bloodshed.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: And a step forward for SpaceX as it successfully launches its Starship rocket, before losing it altogether, suggesting that it broke apart in space. Why engineers say that, nevertheless, this was a huge success.

We're following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

KEILAR: Former President Donald Trump is in federal court again today. He's attending a hearing in Florida for his classified documents cases.

His lawyers are trying to get the case dismissed. They're arguing that Trump was completely within his authority to deem the materials his personal records and bring them home after leaving the White House. Special counsel Jack Smith argues top secret national security documents had no place at Mar-a-Lago.

Trump-appointed Judge Aileen Cannon is hearing the arguments and she's weighing a potential trial date.

We have CNN's Katelyn Polantz at the federal courthouse in Florida.

Katelyn, how has the hearing played out so far?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Brianna, there are two parts to this hearing. This morning, it has been whether the law was clear enough for Donald

Trump to know that he may have been breaking it when he took those national defense records from the White House to Mar-a-Lago. The judge seemed to tip her hand at the end of the two hours of oral arguments in that question, saying to Trump's team, finding something like this so vague or unconstitutionally vague, as they say it is, that would be an extraordinary step.

So that's where the judge seems to be on that particular question. That was one bid that Trump's team was making to try and get the case tossed. But there's another set of arguments this afternoon that are just starting any moment now. And that is about whether these are personal records.

Donald Trump says that these were his to choose and his to take from the White House whenever he left the presidency, took them to Mar-a- Lago. He indeed took them. He's admitting to that. But the Justice Department has argued quite clearly that they weren't his. They were national security records.

They were things about weapons, defense, military strikes, military retaliation, exposure the United States had, and that those were so clearly national defense pieces of information that Trump knew it because he was president, because he had a sense of how important national security was.

And on top of that, already in court, we have heard prosecutors refer to that Bedminster meeting Trump had after he left the presidency, where he waved around a record of military significance and spoke about it being classified, wanting to have it shared more widely and knowing he could not.

We're still waiting to see what else Judge Cannon will say today, but we aren't expecting a full ruling from her, at least during court today.

KEILAR: So, when could this be decided, Katelyn?

POLANTZ: It's a great question, and it's going to be the question every day in this case going forward.

There are so many things that the Trump team has asked for, and there are many, many asks they're making to have their case dismissed. Judge Cannon has these things piled up in front of her right now. First and foremost, when will the trial be? When is there going to be a trial date?

That was a hearing two weeks ago we had here. She still hasn't issued that calendar to see if we will have a trial set for before the election. These sorts of legal questions on dismissing the case, as Trump is asking, those take a little bit of time for judges to work through, very typically. They write long opinions.


And so when Judge Cannon finally gets into the meat of this case still remains to be seen. There is very little that she has done in the big questions that criminal defendants often are put through before they go to trial.

KEILAR: All right, Katelyn Polantz, thank you for that.

Now let's bring in CNN's Kristen Holmes, who is in Washington.

And, Kristen, a reminder, as is so often the case, and as a reminder that Trump's legal strategy and campaign strategy are often one and the same, he doesn't actually have to be there at these legal proceedings today, and he is.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, he does not have to be there.

But one thing to note about this particular case versus what we have seen in the past is that we're not going to see Donald Trump today. There is no microphone setup. There are no cameras there. He's basically going into a garage, going into court, there's no cameras there, leaving and going back to Mar-a-Lago, not delivering remarks, not making a spectacle of it.

So it is slightly different from what we have seen on the campaign trail. The other part of this is that we are told that Donald Trump wants to participate in his defense, particularly in this case, and he wants the judge to see him as a willing participant when it comes to this case.

But, soon, he is not going to have the option as to whether or not to attend trial. We know that, at the end of the month, we are expected to see that New York hush money trial. It's going to be the first trial, and Donald Trump is required to attend every day of the actual trial.

And I'm told he's actually indicated to his staff that, even on the earlier days, like jury selection, that it's procedural, that he might not have to be there for, he wants to be there for. So what you're going to start seeing is even more of this navigating between running a general election campaign and being in and out of a courtroom.

For example, Wednesdays and Saturdays, those are the days Donald Trump is not in court in New York. Those are the days they are looking at to plan campaign rallies, to plan campaign events. The other thing to point out here is that this is going to be a very fine line to walk, because they know, Donald Trump's team, just how close a general election rematch with President Joe Biden is going to be.

They are trying to already build out their strategy, their teams in these battleground states, particularly states that they think that they could win, states that Biden won in 2020, but Trump won in 2016. However, Donald Trump's not visiting those states.

Instead, as we said, he today is in a courtroom in Florida. Then, at the end of the month, he will be forced to be in a courtroom in New York. So how they navigate this is -- it's really going to be an unprecedented thing to watch. KEILAR: All right. And we will be watching, for sure.

Kristen Holmes, thank you for that report -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Let's discuss with one of Donald Trump's former attorneys on this case, Tim Parlatore.

Tim, thank you so much for sharing part of your afternoon with us.

Essentially, the goal here for Trump's team in one of these motions is to hang this on an interpretation of the Presidential Records Act. I'm wondering whether you would have taken that approach.


I mean, any competent lawyer would pursue that. There is precedent from the Clinton administration that the president essentially has unfettered discretion whether to designate something as a personal record or a presidential record.

So the question of whether that extends to classified documents or national defense information is something that hasn't yet been tested. So I think any attorney would at least make the motion.

SANCHEZ: But, in this case, it's not just about the kind of record. It's the way that he, in his view, designated them declassified, just by thinking about it or just by moving them.

Is that really a strong argument to say that a president can declassify something just by having the thought?

PARLATORE: Well, I don't think that that's necessarily the legal argument.

That may have been one of the political talking points. But what happened here is, you have documents that ordinarily would be kept in a -- in a SCIF, in a classified environment.


PARLATORE: And, in the White House, they don't do that. And it's a problem with every single administration. It's not unique to the Trump administration.

And so, when you take documents out, the president often could say, hey, I want this declassified. Does a staffer actually then go through all the process of actually declassifying it? That's a question of fact as to whether that's been done, whether that is something that falls on him or on the staffer.

SANCHEZ: That's significant, because you did write a letter to Congress stressing that...


SANCHEZ: ... in your view, part of this was a procedural issue and what essentially amounted to a disorganized exit from the White House.

But in what prosecutors are arguing, it seems like the Trump team was well aware that some of the stuff they had amounted to more than just any other records in the way that they were handled.


I actually want to play a clip from former Trump employee Brian Butler telling CNN about how he unknowingly helped Trump co-defendant Walt Nauta move some boxes from Mar-a-Lago onto Trump's plane. This was the same day that Trump's team was meeting with the DOJ at Mar-a-Lago. Let's listen.


BRIAN BUTLER, FORMER MAR-A-LAGO EMPLOYEE: I had loaded a bunch of the family luggage into a minivan, and I was just going to drive it to the plane, load it up, and that's it.

But during the -- us getting luggage, Walt asked: "Hey, I need a minivan."

"Sure, go ahead."

And then he left. And I was -- I didn't think anything of it. It was a little odd the way he asked me. I mean, it stood out now, after all this. But him and Carlos were gone at that time. And I didn't know, because, typically, he wouldn't go get a vehicle, drive himself, and get luggage. So...

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: So, it was unusual for him to make that ask of you that day?

BUTLER: It seemed odd to me.


SANCHEZ: So if the Trump team wasn't trying to hide anything, if they believed that these were personal records, why take these extra steps that were unusual to employees at Mar-a-Lago? Why not just go to the National Archives and say, here's what we have got, let's hash it out?

Why this -- why these steps that now prosecutors claim amount to obstruction?

PARLATORE: Well, a lot of this does go into a much deeper analysis of how the case came to be.

And the way that the National Archives handled this and the way that DOJ handled this was something that I think needlessly escalated the animosity between the parties and tried to make everybody think that there was something wrong here, when, really, this is something that could have been handled very simply.

As to Mr. Butler's testimony, quite frankly, I think that the judge is probably not going to allow him to say a lot of those things in trial, because all he's really saying is that they were white bankers boxes. Let me tell you something. I have searched Trump Tower.

There are a lot of white bankers boxes that look very much the same, because you can buy them at Staples. And he used them for old real estate documents, campaign documents, all sorts of things. Some of the documents in the National Archives right now are full of documents that all postdate the presidency. Things go into March of 2021.

So the idea that, because there's white boxes, that must be classified documents, yes, that's a stretch that I don't think the judge would ever allow them to get to a jury.

SANCHEZ: I think the part of what he shared with CNN that was significant wasn't necessarily the fact that these were bankers boxes, but the way that the Trump team approached him about handling them and whether that revealed something to him about what they might contain.

I'm curious if you don't see a discrepancy between the way that the Trump team tried to approach the handling of these boxes and the idea that these are just any other records that need to get moved from Mar- a-Lago to Bedminster or elsewhere.

PARLATORE: So what makes it unique is that he asked for a van to move boxes, instead of putting it in the back of an SUV?


SANCHEZ: He's implying that there was something different in -- he's implying that there was something different in the protocol that raised a thought in his mind that there was something different about this.

And it implies that there were steps taken by Trump's team that were unusual, specifically to these boxes. That doesn't stand out to you?

PARLATORE: No, because it's something that didn't occur to him at the time. It's something that occurred to him months later after there's an indictment, and whereas he's supposedly going to be a government witness.

And what government witness in their right mind is going out and giving TV interviews at this time? I think that he's essentially sidelined himself as being an effective witness in any case.

SANCHEZ: Tim, I'm curious to get your thoughts on the way the defense team has brought up the decision by special counsel Robert Hur to not press charges against President Biden for his handling of classified documents.

They're trying to argue that the legal system is biased, that there's a two-tiered system of law. Hur himself, though, in his findings outlined the significant differences between these two cases. Do you think it's a good idea to draw attention to something that doesn't necessarily make your client look good?

PARLATORE: I think a lot of that depends on how they draw it, because there are -- there certainly are distinctions. One of those distinctions is the DOJ approached Joseph Biden -- Joe

Biden at a time that Mar-a-Lago had already been raided. And that -- I think that that's a fact that's kind of getting lost here is, if I'm representing Joe Biden and this is going on, I'm going to advise him, hey, we need to make a big show of how different we are than Donald Trump.


And so I think a lot of the theater of Joe Biden being cooperative is largely informed by trying to create an impression of being different from Donald Trump. But, ultimately, if you do look at those two cases, the huge difference is not in how they reacted once they were approached by DOJ, but, rather, how the documents got out of the White House, got out of the Senate, and how they were stored, and what was done with them.

Joe Biden, according to that report, was sharing things with people, with a biographer, and giving people access to them in a way that goes well beyond what is alleged of Donald Trump. So I do think that you could take portions of that to show a disparity, even though Robert Hur did draw distinctions in the manner in which they responded to DOJ when approached.

SANCHEZ: You might make the argument that Biden was counseled a certain way. I don't know that we necessarily have evidence for that.

But Hur's findings are Hur's findings, and I don't know how that's going to play out in court necessarily.


SANCHEZ: Were you going to say something?

PARLATORE: It's worth raising the argument. I mean, it's one of those arguments, much like the Presidential Records Act, that any competent lawyer would at a minimum raise the argument and to see if there's something that can be raised from it.

SANCHEZ: Whether it's successful or not, we will see.

Tim Parlatore, appreciate the time.

PARLATORE: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Of course.

Still ahead this hour on CNN NEWS CENTRAL: South Dakota's governor is showing off her smile and ending up with a lawsuit. How Kristi Noem's odd endorsement of a dentist got her in some hot water.

And every crisis is an opportunity. How a possible TikTok ban could be a buying opportunity for one of the top officials from the Trump White House.

Plus, Royal Caribbean facing criticism over cruise stops in Haiti. Now it's making a big decision about those visits, even as the White House eyes a controversial solution for refugees that are fleeing the nation.



KEILAR: Right now, President Biden is on Air Force One on his way to Saginaw, Michigan, and the visit is part of a battleground state blitz he's on after giving his State of the Union address last week and also after clinching enough delegates for the Democratic nomination Tuesday.

He's going to Saginaw for a reason. It's a community with a high concentration of black and Latino voters, and it is critical to the president's reelection hopes. So is Michigan's large concentration of Arab and Muslim Americans who are concentrated around Detroit a little further south.

Many of those voters are upset with Biden, and that is really putting it mildly, for American support of Israel as it wages war in the Gaza Strip. In Michigan's Democratic primary last month, 13 percent of the voters cast their ballot for uncommitted, many of them as a protest vote.

Joining us now is the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan, Abdullah Hammoud.

Ramadan kareem to you. And I know, of course, that this holy month is feeling very different for your community. Can you just tell us what it's been like?


Ramadan kareem to all those who are observing the past. And it's a somber month. This is the holiest month for Muslims around the world, and we spend time around our dinner table breaking fast with our family and loved ones.

But, obviously, with the war in Gaza, the innocent that are being killed each and every single day. You can't help but sense a blanket of grief over the community.

KEILAR: In recent weeks, obviously you have been hearing the Biden administration respond to that. You have had Vice President Harris calling in more forceful terms for a cease-fire. The president announced during the State of the Union that the military would be building a port in Gaza to deliver aid.

He has been extremely critical of Netanyahu. He was caught on a hot mic. I'm sure you heard that. What have you thought of what have been significant rhetorical changes, at least? Has that gone anywhere?

HAMMOUD: Certainly, pressure works. You see that there is a difference in tone, where there's now a recognition of Palestinian suffering. But what I would tell you is that words are not enough. What we want

to see is actual change in policy. We want to see actually holding Benjamin Netanyahu and the most right-wing government in Israel's history to account.

You heard Senator Schumer's remarks today on the floor, demonstrating that pressure works, calling for the distancing and, in fact, the replacing of Benjamin Netanyahu as the prime minister, as well as calling upon President Biden and utilizing our ability and our tool to restrict military funding as a means of trying to find ourselves towards a just solution for the Palestinian people.

KEILAR: You mentioned what Senator Schumer said, the Senate majority leader calling for new elections in Israel. Would that make a difference to you? Do you think it would make a difference who leads Israel in the type of war that would be prosecuted?

And how much of a difference does that make to you that he specifically is calling for that?

HAMMOUD: We have been sounding the alarm about Benjamin Netanyahu for over two decades, knowing that he is a fascist and a war tyrant and a war criminal.

And he has been one of the individuals who gloats about being able to stall peace and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. So, certainly, it makes a difference with who leads the Israeli government.

But what's important is that, while the elections could be called for, elections can go into process, that doesn't change what's happening on the ground today. This is why it's extremely important for President Biden to utilize the leverage that he currently has in restricting military aid and being forceful in has calls not for a temporary cease-fire, but a permanent and lasting cease-fire immediately.


Those are the things that we're looking for from our president, because that can make the difference today. Each morning, we wake up, and what we find is a kill count, how many innocent men, women, and children had been killed by the Israeli government, by the IDF utilizing American-manufactured weapons, and we need to halt that immediately.

KEILAR: And, of course, we're watching starvation as well happen, and there's a lot of groups who are sounding the alarm about what should be coming here in the coming weeks. We have just started to see this, and it's expected to balloon if the aid doesn't increase dramatically.

So, Mayor, you have a group of Palestinian Arab and Muslim American activists. They declined to meet with senior White House officials in the Chicago area today. They said in a letter this morning to the White House: "There's no point in more meetings. The White House already knows the position of the aforementioned groups and our allies across the nation." I wonder what you think this means for the general election. Is this a sign that Biden cannot mend this break with Muslim and Arab Americans in the U.S., or do you think that there is potential for him to do that?

HAMMOUD: Well, I think, outside the context of the election, I think this is a very clear message being sent to the current president in the highest office in the world that your constituency is very extremely unhappy with the decision-making that you have endeavored upon since the events of October.

You talked about humanitarian aid. Over 27 people have now died of starvation and famine. And while our president has proposed to establish a maritime port, that will take several months, at the very earliest, in order for that to be established. But what can be done today, there are congressional budgets that are moving before the 22nd of this month where we can ensure that the agency UNRWA can receive funding from the United States, which accounts for one-third of its funding, to ensure that millions of people don't die of starvation and famine.

And I think that's a policy position that the president can advocate for and can work with congressional leaders to adapt in the upcoming budget that will pass in less than 10 days from now.

KEILAR: Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, we really appreciate your time. Thank you so much, and Ramadan mubarak.

HAMMOUD: Thank you. Thank you so much.

KEILAR: Boris.

SANCHEZ: South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is facing a lawsuit and political backlash in her home state after traveling to Texas for cosmetic dental work and later posting an infomercial-style video in which she praised the Houston area dentistry firm.

Here's a short clip of the video she posted on social media.


GOV. KRISTI NOEM (R-SD): Well, hi. I'm Kristi Noem. I'm the governor of South Dakota and had the opportunity to come to Smile Texas to fix my teeth, which has been absolutely amazing.

When they showed me my beautiful new teeth, I hugged Dr. Davis.


SANCHEZ: CNN Sunlen Serfaty is covering this for us.

Sunlen, what does this lawsuit entail?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is so interesting. This lawsuit comes from a consumer advocacy group. And they're calling into question here whether this video from the governor is breaking consumer protection laws. And in this lawsuit, they point-blank allege that. They say she's acting like a social media influencer.

They're calling into question whether she's promoting medical tourism, potentially cashing in on this video, potentially getting discounts, or whether those services, they allege, potentially could have been paid in full.

And important here to note, they note that she did not distinguish on that social media post if indeed she had been paid, that that's an advertisement. Now, in this lawsuit, they say -- quote -- "This is a misleading and deceptive advertising case. For many years, Kristi Noem has run personal social media accounts. On March 12, 2024, she advertised a product or service without disclosing that she has a financial relationship with the company. Travelers United is taking action to force her to make corrective disclosures on all social media posts where she promotes products or services."

And it's important to note here that we do not know whether it is a financial relationship between the governor and this dental company. CNN has asked those questions of her and her aides, but we have not yet heard a response from them.

SANCHEZ: Interesting story, to say the least.

Sunlen Serfaty, thanks so much for the update.

So, TikTok potentially on the verge of being banned in the United States, and now a former U.S. Treasury secretary says he has a plan that would keep the app available in the U.S. -- those details next.

Plus, new surveillance video of Riley Strain, a college student who seemingly vanished without a trace in bustling downtown Nashville, this video is raising concerns.

All this and more coming up on CNN NEWS CENTRAL.