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Moscow Terror Attack Suspects In Court; ISIS-K Claims Responsibility; Study On Changes In Abortion Patterns Post-Roe V. Wade Reversal; Donald Trump's Criminal Hush Money Case To Move Forward; Appeals Court Reduces Trump's Civil Fraud Bond; Trump Potentially Testifying In Hush Money Trial; Financial Implications For Trump Following Civil Fraud Decision. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired March 25, 2024 - 14:00   ET




JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: See you in court. Donald Trump getting a trial date for the criminal hush money case against him and at the same time an appeals court giving Trump a reason to celebrate in a separate case for now.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Plus new details in the Moscow terror attack. Four suspects from the deadly assault appearing in court as ISIS-K claims credit for the attack and the Kremlin attempts to tie the massacre to Ukraine.

DEAN: Plus a new study suggests how abortion may be changing in the U.S. after the decision that reversed Roe versus Wade. This as the Supreme Court prepares to hear another critical case this week.

SANCHEZ: We're following these major developing stories and many more all coming in right here to CNN News Central.

DEAN: Welcome to CNN News Central. I'm Jessica Dean alongside Boris Sanchez here in Washington. And in three weeks the first criminal trial for an ex-president is set to begin. Today a judge ruling Donald Trump's criminal hush money case will move forward with jury selection set to start on April 15th in Manhattan. Trump was in the courtroom as the judge handed him that defeat. But while he was in that courtroom his legal team got some good news in another case.

SANCHEZ: That's right. His $464 million civil fraud bond was due today. But an appeals court has given him an additional ten days and also trimmed that bill by more than half to a much more manageable $175 million. Manageable for a billionaire, I suppose. Trump says he will pay that amount quickly. CNN's Kara Scannell and Paula Reid are outside the courthouse in Manhattan on the hush money case. Kara, you were inside for the hearing. Bring us the details of what you saw.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Boris and Jess. So the judge held this hearing today because Trump's lawyer said that the prosecutors in this case had withheld evidence that they should have gotten from federal prosecutors who had brought their case against Michael Cohen several years ago. So the judge brought everyone in to try to get to the bottom of this. And he peppered both sides questions about the timing of events and when they asked for certain information.

At the end of the day, the judge said that he found that prosecutors were not at fault for the late turnover of information. He said that they acted in good faith. And it was at that point that he ruled against Donald Trump and said that this case would move forward to jury selection on April 15th. At that point, Trump shook his head, looking frustrated by that ruling. And ultimately, you know, now this case is moving forward. His past attempts to delay have fallen flat. His lawyers did make another effort with this judge to try to get him to hear arguments, legal motions on their attempts to say that the pretrial publicity is reason to delay this case. The judge said he would accept briefs on this. But as of now, he said to everyone, as we departed for the day, see you on April 15th.

DEAN: And Paula, Trump spoke within the last hour. He laid out a number of falsehoods. But he seemed to think that this trial won't actually start on April 15th, if ever. Is there any indication that's true?

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, Jess, nothing is for certain in Trump's legal world. Today was supposed to be the first day of the first criminal trial against Trump. And yet instead, we're here for this hearing on evidence and arguments for a postponement or even a dismissal. So all I can say right now, for certain, is that the judge has put this case on the calendar for jury selection to begin on April 15th. And right now, there's no foreseeable legal reason that that would move. But we know the Trump team is going to avail themselves of every potential option to try to delay this. And again, we didn't expect this evidence dump from the Justice Department to delay the proceedings. So you never know what will happen. But as of right now, April 15th appears to be the firm date.

SANCHEZ: On the idea that anything is possible, that anything can happen. Kara, Trump also left the door open to potentially testifying in the hush money trial. Is that realistic?

SCANNELL: Oh, I think it is realistic, Boris. As we've seen in the two most recent trials that Trump has faced, these were civil trials, but involving E.G. Carroll's defamation case. He took the stand and testified there. And he also testified in the civil fraud case that resulted in that massive judgment against him. Now, a criminal case is always a different context.


He has a lot on the line, including potentially his freedom, but he has proven to be very determined in taking the stand and testifying. And it's something that his attorneys have had to grapple with, knowing that he wants to testify in this case. He didn't testify in the first E.G Carroll trial. He didn't even attend that trial. And he has since said that he regretted that. So I think if he says he wants to testify, I think it's a high probability that he does, unless his lawyers are able to convince him that the prosecution hasn't proved their case and him taking the stand could only hurt him.

DEAN: Yeah. And there is no doubt that Trump is very angry about this trial, about his fraud situation, kind of about all of it, frankly, based on his comments today and previously. But Paula, he did get some good news today as well. He got essentially a financial lifeline from an appeals court in the civil case.

REID: Yeah, that's exactly right. But he is still frustrated. I mean, the civil fraud decision, that cuts to the heart of who he's reported to be for decades, a very successful New York billionaire. And the fact that he was not able to post that $464 million bond, that was a point of frustration and embarrassment to him, which is, I think, why we heard so much from him at his mini press conference. Let's take a listen to what he said.


DONALD TRUMP; REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't have to sell anything because it's a phenomenal company. Look, I built a phenomenal company. Someday they'll actually report that. I built a phenomenal company that's very low leverage, unbelievably low leverage, with a lot of cash, a lot of everything else. Why should I let a crooked judge make a decision to give $450 million? That allows me to spend very little money on my campaign, if I so choose. I'll be spending money on my campaign. I might spend a lot of money on my campaign, but I should have that option.


REID: Yeah, here getting this lifeline from the appeals court, because earlier today, when the proceedings got underway here at court, he was facing the possibility that the attorney general could begin the process of seizing his assets if he couldn't post that bond. So just as they were taking a break inside court, we got the news that the appeals court had reduced the amount he has to post, less than half of what he initially was going to be on the hook for. So that is a significant win for him, because again, he doesn't have to face the possibility that the attorney general would try to seize any of his assets. So getting a lifeline, but still clearly quite personal for him, this issue.

DEAN: Yeah, no doubt about it. And then just the hours up to that ruling, he was still and his team trying to find a way to pay that bond that seems somewhat impossible. All right, Paula Reid, Kara Scannell, thanks so much for your reporting there. And for more on all of this, we are joined now by federal and white collar criminal defense attorney, Caroline Polisi, and CNN senior political analyst and senior editor for the Atlantic, Ron Brownstein. It is great to see both of you. Ron, I want to start with you and zoom out big picture for just a moment and ask you, do any of these rulings today and anything that's happening today actually change things politically for Donald Trump?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, I think, Jessica, there is something of a disconnect between what is likely to move the last voters who will decide this election and the focus on all of the legal troubles. It's understandable. Former president, you know, facing unprecedented kind of legal challenges. But short of a trial on the January 6th riot and the efforts to overturn the election after 2020, I'm not sure any of these other legal proceedings are really going to move the needle that much. I mean, a conviction in the New York case obviously would not be beneficial to Trump, but when you think about who are the biggest bulk of voters that are movable here, and I think in the next seven months, are Black and Hispanic voters without a college education, primarily men, many of whom are living paycheck to paycheck. And the debate over things like taxes, inflation, and health care is more likely to move them, I think, than most of these proceedings. Anything short of dealing with that core issue of which the Supreme Court seems to be working to ensure will not happen before the November election.

SANCHEZ: So, Caroline, let's look at the hush money case and that trial start date of tax day, April 15th. What should we expect will actually happen once that day arrives?

CAROLINE POLISI, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yeah, well, don't expect to be hearing any evidence on that day. There likely will be a lengthy voir dire process, meaning selecting a jury, finding citizens that can sort of put their-any political biases aside and, you know, do their civic duty with sort of an open mind.


But, you know, I think Trump, you know, lucked out today on both fronts. Like he didn't get, I didn't think it was ever a possibility he was going to get the case dismissed, the hush money case. However, you know, he did kick the can down the road a couple more weeks, which is, you know, a small victory. And Caroline, I'm curious if you would have made that same case that we heard from Trump's attorneys today in that hush money case, specifically around the release of the documents concerning Michael Cohen, essentially the defense saying, oh, prosecution, you should have brought these forever ago. And the prosecution saying you could have brought them at any time. And the judge really going after the defense saying they didn't have any evidence of any misconduct or anything like that.

POLISI: Yeah, Jessica, it was a real what we call a bench slap today. I think the team Trump was a little caught off guard in how just how stern Judge Marshawn was. He basically said, you know, you made some pretty heavy accusations here in your motion. Essentially, they accused DA Bragg of engaging in misconduct, even going so far as to intimate that perhaps they were sort of in cahoots with the Southern District of New York, that they had held back this exculpatory information on purpose and in sort of a gamesmanship-y way. Turns out the judge really admonished them, saying, actually, it's the other way around. You asked for this production sort of late in the game. The DA pursued his obligation to give you and hand over that information under his discovery obligations in his request to the Southern District.

They are not the same prosecutorial body. They are separate and distinct, such that the DA's office did nothing wrong here. But given the fact that there was this late production, it did merit a few more weeks for each side, really, to go over that information.

SANCHEZ: Ron, I have to preface this next question with a fact check. Donald Trump has repeatedly said that this is all election interference, that they're going after his money, and they're trying to fill up his calendar with court dates to keep him off the campaign trail. He actually has only had two appearances on the campaign trail since Super Tuesday. And most, if not all, I may be mistaken, but most, if not all, of his court appearances have been voluntary. He hasn't actually had to be there. Nevertheless, the idea that he's going to be in court for a significant amount of time during the campaign, I mean, that can't necessarily help him with voters, right?

BROWNSTEIN: Right. Well, you know, in the Republican primary Boris, it did, right? I mean, he was able to essentially make the case that they are going after me because they really want to silence you, and I am bearing this cross on your behalf, sometimes literally in, you know, memes by his supporters. I think in a general election, it is a more complex, kind of calculation in the sense that we do know in polling that there are a substantial number of voters who said they would be uneasy about returning Trump to the White House if he is convicted of a felony. Now, I don't think this case will resound as powerfully, as I said, as the January 6th case, but that reality is out there for him. And him being in court is a reminder to voters on the fence about the broader kind of chaos that often attaches to Trump and that, you know, prevailed through his presidency.

I still think, though, if you look at the voters who really are likely to decide this, where Biden is underperforming now. It tends to be financially squeezed voters, and he is going to ultimately have to win the argument with Trump about who can improve their lives economically more than that they are going to look at this as disqualifying for him. I think the people who see this as disqualifying have largely moved, not all of them, but I think the bulk of what Biden needs to do is going to be on the economic and making your life better front.

DEAN: And, Caroline, as we look ahead now to April 15th, when this trial is now set to start, do you believe that it will begin then? Obviously, Paula Reid had that caveat that you'd ever know in Trump legal world what can happen. It was supposed to start today, but April 15th. And walk us through what it's going to be like in those days of putting together a jury for this case.

POLISI: Yeah, I mean, I'm with Paula. Never say never. But I think, you know, at least with this issue, the judge is fed up with the further discovery. I think they made exhaustive motions in limine (ph), which he has and is continuing to rule on. So, I mean, barring potentially Trump trying to change attorneys, I mean, that's the only thing I could think of that would sort of give him at least a colorable argument to sort of kick it down the road one more time. Look, I mean, for better or for worse, this is the case that is going to be the first criminal trial of former President Trump. It's gotten sort of a bad rap. But Alvin Bragg has really tried to elevate his language surrounding what this case is about.

[14:15:09] You know, we're referring to it as a hush money case, but he has said adamantly this is not a sex for money case. This is an election interference case trying to sort of, you know, elevate the issues around there. And it really is, right? They are charging a theory of their case involves election interference. They kicked it up, these misdemeanor charges to felonies by, you know, trying to argue that the, you know, the misstatements in the business records were for the purpose of furthering another crime, which was election interference. Which was hiding this hush money payout to Stormy Daniels just, you know, in October, the October surprise, in order to keep that from the public. And that was an election, federal election law violation. So, you know, there's some thorny legal issues here, but I think Alvin Bragg's office is ready to go.

SANCHEZ: It is a complicated case, to say the least. Caroline Polisi, Ron Brownstein, thank you both.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Just moments away on CNN News Central, officials in Russia say that several more people were involved in Friday's deadly terror attack at a concert hall. We're following these developments. We'll have an update just a few minutes away. And the White House just weighed in on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to cancel. He's also a delegations trip to D.C. Here's White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby just moments ago.


JOHN KIRBY, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COMMUNICATIONS ADVISOR: We're kind of perplexed by this. A couple of points that need to be stated and, in fact, restated. Number one, it's a non-binding resolution. So there's no impact at all on Israel and Israel's ability to continue to go after Hamas. Number two, as I said in my opening statement, it does not represent a change at all in our policy. It's very consistent with everything that we've been saying we want to get done here. And we get to decide what our policy is. The Prime Minister's office seems to be indicating through public statements that we somehow changed here. We haven't. And we get to decide what our policy is. It seems like the Prime Minister's office --




DEAN: Former President Donald Trump said it would be, quote, his honor to post the newly lowered bond in the civil fraud judgment against him. Today a New York appeals court reducing that amount due to $175 million. That's down from $464 million, giving the former president ten days, an additional ten days to post it. He has to pay this penalty after a New York judge seen here in January found Trump, his oldest two sons and the Trump organization reliable for years of inflating values of properties and assets. Let's bring in Barbara Res. She's the former executive vice president

at the Trump organization, who joined the company back in 1980. She's also written several books about her time with Trump, including Tower of Lies, what my 18 years of working with Donald Trump reveals about him. Barbara, thanks so much for being on with us. I want to read a quote from your book. You say some people use the fact that I knew him long ago to discount my words, experience and perspective. They say he has changed since then. They're right. He's only become more himself. He is Trump raised to the nth degree, but Trump nonetheless, Donald squared, I call him. So, Barbara, I'm curious, how do you think he views today's ruling by this appeals court and is he reacting kind of how you would expect him to?

BARBARA RES, FORMER EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: No. Yes, definitely. He rules it as a victor, I guess, because that's how he's going to sell it. But he's very, very angry that any of this is going on. And, you know, it's nonsense about how much money he has beyond it to puzzles (ph) or nonsense. He's furious about this.

DEAN: Yeah, and you're right. I mean, over and over again today, we heard him really lashing out at this idea that he's anything less than a very successful, wealthy businessman that's built, built a successful on the up and up business. And you spent time with him in 1990 when the threat of bankruptcy loomed. How do you think that's impacting him now, just kind of his tie for himself to that money, to the idea that so much of his reputation and self-worth is wrapped up in this idea that he's this wealthy, successful businessman?

RES: Yeah, well, you know, he's a different person than he was in 1990 when he was facing a personal bankruptcy now, he I don't I think he really doesn't believe that anything can happen to him. He does believe he's going to win the election. He just goes on continuing to lie, knowing that the people that are supporting him are going to believe those lies. So I don't think he's-- I don't --I'd love to think that he's, you know, oh, my God, what's happening in the office? But I don't think so. I think he's just going with the, you know, this is the usual flow and making what he can out of it. You know, he's turning himself, as the gentleman before me said, into a victim. And, you know, his supporters love that. And that's why he's testifying, because he wants them to see him being, you know, taking, you know, advantage of being, you know, treated unfairly. But the criminal trial, that would be great.


That would be, I can't imagine any lawyer letting him speak in the criminal trial.

DEAN: And just kind of talking about what some of the things you just said, are you surprised about voters? Are you surprised that he's been able to persuade so many Americans that this is a rigged system that's targeting him when, of course, there's no evidence to support that claim?

RES: Oh, yeah. No, I'm not surprised at all. Because, you know, you got to think about 2017 and go back then. You know, from 2017 on, I mean, Trump allowed these people, he encouraged these people, he endorsed these people to come out and be racist and sexist and xenophobes. They were all, you know, hiding before that. And so they love him for that. And you've got the people that, the gun people, they don't care about, anything else but their guns. The abortion people, they don't care about anything but their abortion rights or prevent abortion rights.

And you go group by group. And so they, yes, they love him, and they always will. But someone emailed, just before this, said the people are considering whether or not him being found guilty of some of these criminal charges would affect their voting for him. Do you realize what the insanity of that question? And now people are thinking, well, maybe I'll vote for him. Maybe I won't if he gets convicted. So no, his people are 100% behind him. And he loves that. And he loves going after them and, you know, raising their interest and getting them excited.

DEAN: And I think that's kind of what I'm getting at, too, is just knowing him as well as you do after spending that time with him. Is that his personality to really kind of feed off the energy of these people to really try to rile them up? Is that something, is that a skill you've always, that he even exhibited back then that's maybe grown and morphed, but was there when you spent time with him as well?

RES: Yes. One of the things he used to do is, you know, if you were on his team, you were the best or the worst. And if you were worst, you know, you'd be gone. He wouldn't buy it, but he'd get someone to do it. But that was one of the ways he built up a lot of people by, you know, encouraging them to think that he thinks they're so good and he really appreciates it. It's all nonsense. I mean, this was done to just drum up support, whether it was in contracting or architects or government. It was always the same kind of thing. He did want to get his people behind him, and that's how he did it.

DEAN: All right. Well, Barbara Rez, thanks so much for spending some time with us. We appreciate it.

RES: It's my pleasure. Thank you.

DEAN: Up next this afternoon, Russia's investigative committee is asking the court to arrest three more people in connection with Friday's horrific, terror attack. We're going to bring you the very latest that we're learning when we come back.