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Trump's Historic Criminal Trial Begins in NYC; Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND) is Interviewed about Trump's Trial; House Releases Bills Targeting Iran; Polls Surrounding Donald Trump's Cases; Leslie Ellis is Interviewed about Jury Selection. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired April 15, 2024 - 08:30   ET




SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: On our radar this morning, you're looking at live pictures from Baltimore there of the ship. This is just in. The FBI and the U.S. Coast Guard leading a criminal investigation into this container ship that crashed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore last month. Officials say they're looking at whether the crew failed to report an earlier issue with that vessel that delayed its departure. The 985 foot ship lost power while leaving the Port of Baltimore. It then slammed into one of the bridge's support billiards, causing it to collapse. Six construction workers on the bridge when it collapsed were killed.

Authorities in Sydney, Australia, have arrested a man after reports of multiple stabbings today at a church. None of the victims received life-threatening injuries, but this occurred just 48 hours after six people were killed in a stabbing attack in a shopping mall. In that case, a police woman shot and killed the suspect there. Authorities have learned the suspect may have been specifically targeting women in that mall. Five of the six victims were women. The suspect's family released a statement saying he had struggled with mental health issues since he was a teenager and they're still trying to comprehend exactly what happened.

This morning, park rangers on the hunt for the two people that you see there in this video. They're destroying ancient rock formations that historic Lake Mead for some reason. You can see them throwing slabs of sandstone to the ground of the Redstone Dune Trail. These formations are federally protected and could date as far back as 140 million years ago. If caught, it suspects could face federal charges, jail time, maybe large fines. The park spokesperson calls the damage appalling.


All right, congratulations to WNBA star Brittney Griner and her wife, Cherelle. They are expecting their first child. The couple made the announcement on Instagram over the weekend. Griner also recently celebrated her resigning with the Phoenix Mercury ahead of the 2024 season. And now she's less than three months away from meeting her newest fan, their baby. Griner was freed from wrongful detention in Russia in December 2022.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, how things are about to change for them.

SIDNER: Yes, ma'am.

BOLDUAN: All for the better. There's no downside whatsoever. No sleeplessness.

All right, so we are watching for former President Donald Trump. That's a live shot outside Trump Tower. He'll be getting into one of those SUVs shortly to leave his apartment, head to the Manhattan courthouse for an historic criminal trial. He is accused of falsifying documents to conceal a sex scandal involving an adult film star. This is a day that Donald Trump has tried to push off again and again and get canceled all together. Delay being a key part of Trump's strategy in all of his legal battles. And now he is trying to use this New York trial to delay the federal case he's facing in Florida even further.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz has more on this for us.

Katelyn, what's happening here?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, this is one of the other criminal cases that Donald Trump is still facing where there's work to do before that case goes to trial. And Trump's team wants everything to stop while he is in trial in New York in the hush money case.

So, Kate, there's a May 9th deadline coming up. That is a really important deadline in this classified documents case in Florida because it's when Donald Trump's team is told by the judge they must start asking for classified records to be used in their case. So, they're going to have to go document by document scrupulously through those records with the judge to see if they can use them. And Trump's team says, he just can't do it while he's in trial in New York. They say, "the May 9th deadlines will require lengthy classified submissions and extensive time in a SCIF," so a secured facility in Florida, "to prepare and discuss those submissions, which is time President Trump and his attorneys simply do not have during the trial that is about to begin in New York."

So, they're asking for this upcoming deadline that is very important to their case in the hush money case to be moved until three weeks after the end of the dock - of the hush money case in New York. They don't want to do anything really of substance in that Florida case until well after this case in New York ends.

The Justice Department that's prosecuting them in Florida, prosecuting Trump and his two co-defendants, they say, this is procrastination and this must stop. He has had months for Donald Trump and his legal team to do this work. They have had all the documents they've needed for a long time. They knew these deadlines were coming. Judge, don't let them continue to delay. But we'll have to see what Judge Aileen Cannon in Florida does at this time. Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely great to see you, Katelyn. Thank you so much.

John. BERMAN: All right, as we are standing by to watch Donald Trump leave

Trump Tower, with us now the governor of North Dakota and former Republican presidential candidate, Doug Burgum.

Governor, thank you so much for being with us.

In the recent "New York Times"/Sienna poll, 58 percent of respondents said that they believe the New York criminal charges against Donald Trump are at least somewhat serious. So, how do you think voters should react if Trump is convicted of falsifying records to cover up a relationship with an adult film actress?

GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R-ND): Well, good morning, John.

I think when being out on the trail and being around America and talking to Americans, they see right through this. They understand that Donald Trump can't get a fair trial in New York. They know this is a sham trial. They know that former -- the feds passed on this particular case. The former prosecutor passed on it. And, in many ways, it's a very boring case. It's about a business filing and its being - trying to, you know, brought up its -- this dramatic, historic, unprecedented thing.

But what's unprecedented, what's historic is the fact the lawfare that's going on where this two-tiered justice system is trying to take something that's basically a boring business filing case and turn it into the trial of the century. And Americans can see right through it.

Americans, right now, they're concerned about inflation, about the open border.

BERMAN: Well, can I just - can I ask you -

BURGUM: They're concerned about all that.

BERMAN: You've been in - you were in business for a long time. Is falsifying records allegedly boring? Is falsifying records something that should be ignored (ph) in the business sphere?

BURGUM: Well, in the case of this where you've got a low-level person that may have a notation on a particular invoice that's a business filing. If this was brought against anybody other than President Trump, this would have been misdemeanor. But this is like alleging that someone was jaywalking, but every step they take we're going to make each one of those steps a felony because you're breaking out the individual invoice.

I've been in business. I've never seen anything like this before. And that's what does make it unprecedented.

BERMAN: Have you ever seen anyone charged - have you ever seen - have you ever seen anyone charged with falsifying documents before?


BURGUM: Well, this is a filing issue and this - these kinds of filing issues happen all the time. And so you're basically take a clerical thing -

BERMAN: Have you seen people - have you seen - have you seen people charged with falsifying documents before?

BURGUM: Well, not with - not with 34 felonies I've never seen before because, again, this is why - this is why the feds passed on it. It's why the former prosecutor passed on it, because they know that there's no teeth in this thing. This was -

BERMAN: The feds - the feds didn't prosecute at the time because Donald Trump was president, among other things. They didn't think it was worth going forward with it at that time.

I do understand what you're saying, and I do understand that former President Trump, a, denies he knew that the records were falsified, b, he denies having a relationship with Stormy Daniels, and this will be litigated in court. But falsifying documents is something that is prosecutor across the country in different places.

What elevates this to a felony is, as you say, a somewhat novel legal theory, but that will be up to the jury to litigate that.

How many candidates - you know, you say it doesn't bother you. Have you endorsed candidates before who have been indicted?

BURGUM: Well, John, I think this is up to the American people. And again, the American people understand that this is an unprecedented attack on a candidate during a political year. If this was a - like I said, if this was any other business person in America, this would not be a trial and it wouldn't be on the front page and it wouldn't be historic and unpriced because it never would have been filed as a felony.

And so, again, to take something and try to make it into this, this is what the American people - they want to see Joe Biden debating President Trump on stage. They want to see a discussion right now, when we've got something historic and unprecedented, that's Iran launching over 300 missiles at a country the size of New Jersey that is - that is one of our most important allies. That's what they'd like to be talking about.

But here we are, because you and I are talking about this, because you've got a prosecutor in New York, one person, who's a politically motivated, an elected official, Democrat, ran on attacking President Trump, able to get a judge, who's made political donations to Joe Biden, to take the trial. And again, the American people are smart. They see these things.

BERMAN: Well, again, I'm just quoting the most recent poll that 58 percent say it's at least somewhat serious. And there goes - let's watch Donald Trump right now, hang on one second, Governor. Donald Trump is leaving Trump Tower right now. He's standing on the SUV just waving there. It does not appear that he will speak as he heads down to be the first former president ever to face criminal trial, in this case, charged with falsifying documents to cover up an alleged relationship with an adult film actress.

And, Governor, just to be clear, just so people know, people are charged with falsifying documents, as you say, sometimes as a misdemeanor, sometimes as a felony. In this case, it's a felony because of other things.

I want to move on to a different subject here.

North Dakota abortion law bans abortion after six weeks, even for people who are victims of rape and incest. Donald Trump claims that he supports exceptions for rape and incest. What has he said to you personally about the North Dakota law?

BURGUM: We have not spoken about the North Dakota law, but I know that President Trump understands my position. I was asked by CNN the first day that I was running for president what my position was, and I said then that this was an issue that should be left the states. I've said from the day one, and I've said it all along, that there should be no federal ban on abortion. You know, what's going to pass at - either at the polls or by the legislature in a state like North Dakota is not going to ever pass in California and New York. It won't even pass in Minnesota.

BERMAN: Right.

BURGUM: So, this is why we've got to have this issue, it's got to be settled by the citizens of those states.

BERMAN: Yes, --

BURGUM: And so I'm absolutely aligned with the president on no federal ban.

BERMAN: Yes, he does say it should be left up to the states. He also does say he supports exceptions for rape, incest, and health of the mother, but he hasn't spoken to you about trying to push for those exemptions in North Dakota?

BURGUM: We have not spoken about that, but I support those exceptions myself. And the - that's a, again, this is something that should be left to the states, absolutely.

BERMAN: All right, last - very last question.

You are on some lists as possible running mate choices for Donald Trump here. You've been a successful businessman. You've amassed, you know, a pretty healthy fortune. How much of your own money would you be willing to spend to self-fund if you were Donald Trump's running mate? BURGUM: That's not a factor in the decision at all. This is really about the American people. As a governor of a state that's pretty - we're a state that feeds the world. We fuel the world, which is about energy security and food security. We've also got too big military bases. This is about national security. And I can tell you, as that governor right now, that we are under assault from the Biden regulatory regime. We're pushing back on over 30 different rulemaking efforts. And I know that the most important thing I can do for my state, the most important thing I do for the country is to have it - get us turned around 180 different directions than where Joe Biden is taking us because his policies of appeasement around the world, with places like Iran, are empowering our enemies, they're hurting America and they're driving up inflation.


They're affecting every single person in our country. And so I think it's very important that we have to go from a policy standpoint, a completely different direction, where the Biden administration is taking us.

BERMAN: North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, we do appreciate you being with us this morning. Thank you very much.

BURGUM: Thank you, John.


BOLDUAN: All right, so we saw Donald Trump leaving Trump Tower. Very soon jury selection will begin in the New York criminal trial against Donald Trump. And he's already talking about it this morning on social media. We're live outside the courthouse.

And Congress weighing in on Israel and Iran. House Republicans, just this morning, laying out 17 anti-Iran pro-Israel bills, but still not clear in all of that, how Speaker Johnson plans to handle aid to Israel and aid to Ukraine.



BERMAN: All right, new this morning, House Republican leaders are introducing 17 pieces of legislation targeting Iran and supporting Israel after this weekend's attack. But it is unclear of House Speaker Mike Johnson will include aid to Ukraine in any of this legislation supporting Israel. Well, of course, Ukraine aid has been tied to aid to Israel in the Senate legislation.

Let's get right to Lauren Fox.

The speaker clearly thinks any help to Ukraine could cost him his job, Lauren.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the speaker, so far, John, has been noncommittal on what his plans will be in terms of a larger supplemental package. Now, he has said that House Republicans are preparing some kind of package for Israel, but he has not said precisely what that package will look like, nor has he indicated whether or not it will include that aid to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, he is facing increasing pressure from Democrats. More than 90 Democrats signing a letter with one Republican, Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina, saying that the speaker needs to act on this Senate passed supplemental package that was $95 billion. That included both aid for Israel and Ukraine. He's also getting that message from Majority Leader Chuck Schumer


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): The good news is that the supplemental that - the security supplemental that passed the Senate has not only what Israel needs, but what Ukraine needs as well. And if we can pass that this week, it will really help. The best way to help Israel and to help Ukraine is to pass the supplemental this week. And I've called on Speaker Johnson to do that.

There was a consensus on the phone among all the parties that we had to help Israel and help Ukraine.


FOX: And yesterday, as Schumer was indicating there, Joe Biden held a call with all of the four congressional leaders, including Mike Johnson, to impress upon them the importance of getting an aid package out the door sooner rather than later.

The Senate has another series of issues it's going to have to deal with this week, including the fact that House Republicans are expected to deliver their articles of impeachment to the Senate. That is going to take some floor time this week. They also have a deadline to reauthorize the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act. That is something that they have to do by Friday. So, the fastest path that you hear from Senate Democrats is for the House to take up the Senate passed supplemental package.


BERMAN: Got it. Lauren Fox, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

Harry. Kate.

BOLDUAN: No, I will take it. Harry comes second.

We're moments away now from the start of jury selection in the first ever criminal trial of a former president. Donald Trump faces 34 felony charges for allegedly falsifying documents to cover up a sex scandal involving Stormy Daniels in the days before the 2016 election.

Harry Enten is here to take a look at where the polling stands around this before we jump into this case.

What is the view of this case as it relates to the other indictments that Donald Trump faces?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, let's put this case into context, all right? View the charges as very serious, just 36 percent of voters - registered voters nationwide view the charges in the New York hush money case as very serious. That is significantly less than classified documents at 15 percent, the Georgia election case, 54 percent, or the federal January 6th case at 58 percent. That clear majority there. So, what we're essentially dealing with in this situation is, yes, there's a good portion of the public that views this as very serious. But the fact is, in context of the other charges, very few, in fact, view the charges in the New York hush money case as very serious.

BOLDUAN: And, Harry, we've heard from Donald Trump and his most ardent supporters over and over again. They do not think - they say they do not think he can get a fair trial in New York, in part because of the political demographics of Manhattan. What are you seeing with that?

ENTEN: Yes, so, you know, yes, it is true that Manhattan went overwhelmingly for Joe Biden last time around. I think it was something along the lines of 86 to 12 percent. But take a look here. I worked out some math here. The chance of just one or more 2020 Trumps supporters on the hush money cases jury. In fact, it's very high. It's at 79 percent if the jury is, in fact, reflective of Manhattan's electorate. Because the fact is, we're talking about 12 jurors here, right? So you just need one -- one, in fact, to throw the trial, to not have a unanimous verdict because you need a unanimous verdict to convict. There's a 79 percent chance that there's at least one, at least one Trump supporter on that trial. So, he's going to have some representation there, even if it's not a lot of representation, as long as this jury is reflective of Manhattan's electorate.

BOLDUAN: It's been asked many times, but I wanted your take on, if convicted -



BOLDUAN: Where do things stand and what do voters, or the electorate, what do they - what do they say the impact of a conviction would have on Donald Trump's support?

ENTEN: Yes, I think the real question is whether or not there are going to be any Trump supporters who decide, you know what, I can't back the former president if, in fact, he's convicted.

So, here we go. Trump voters, would a conviction in the hush money case impact your 2024 vote? The vast majority, 62 percent, say no difference. Just 10 percent say it's less likely to back Trump. So, yes, it could make some difference. But the fact is, looking at these data, even if there's a conviction, it probably will not make much of a dent in Trump's support.

BOLDUAN: That's interesting to see where the view of it, the perception of it stands as we're about to get this all - this get underway very soon.

Thank you, Harry.

ENTEN: Thank you.


SIDNER: All right, joining me now to discuss all of this, veteran jury consultant and founder of The Caissa Group, Leslie Ellis.

Thank you so much, Leslie, for being here.

Can you just give me a sense, how difficult might it be to select a jury in this historic case?

LESLIE ELLIS, FOUNDER, THE CAISSA GROUP: Well, it will certainly be difficult. It will be more difficult than your average run of the mill case. I think the trick is going to be how much leeway the judge gives counsel to ask questions, in voir dire, in jury selection, after the jurors go through the questionnaire to really dig into those opinions and experiences that the jurors disclose while they're answering those questions in the questionnaire.

SIDNER: How large of a jury pool are we looking at? And is the size of this jury pool unusual compared to others?

ELLIS: It's a very large jury pool and it's very unusual. So, we're talking about hundreds of jurors a day, 100 at a time. In your average case, you're bringing in anywhere from 40 to 60 jurors. So, this is very unusual. But again, I think given the issues in the case, given the publicity that the case has gotten particularly from the defendant, a large jury pool is going to be necessary in order to find 18 people who say they can be impartial and who the judge and counsel on both sides really do believe can be impartial.

SIDNER: Yes, it's important to note that it's not that they know what's going on in a trial, that they know who Donald Trump is, that they have some sense, it's whether or not they say they can be impartial in the case.

Did - you got a look at the jury questionnaire. Did anything stand out to you? And does it seem unusual because in some cases that I've covered the jury questionnaire is already filled out, the attorneys have all of that, they've got all of the information. But that's didn't happen in this case either. What stood out to you?

ELLIS: That's correct. It's - some jurors in some cases do get them in advance. Here, they'll be hearing the answers in real time from the jurors.

I think, on one hand, the questionnaire was very thorough and will give counsel a lot of information and meat to follow up on in their follow-up questions. On the other hand, one flaw that's very common is there are a series of questions that ask jurors to report whether they think they can be fair and impartial. And that's a difficult ask of people, particularly when they're first asked, do you have an experience, do you have an opinion, and then it jumps straight to, do you think you can be fair and impartial? And that's where I think counsel follow up is going to be really important to dig into that territory in-between to help understand whether jurors really can be fair and impartial.

They - they'll say yes if they think they can be and they'll truly believe they can be. People want to be fair. The question is, based on those experiences and attitudes, can they - can they actually be fair and will the follow up that they're allowed to do, to dig into that territory between what's in the questionnaire helps them believe that these folks can be fair. And as you said, in this particular case.

SIDNER: I'm curious what - what will attorneys for the prosecution - what will the prosecuting attorneys be looking for in potential jurors in this case?

ELLIS: Sure. I think the obvious thing is they'll be looking - well, first of all, it's important to know that what they're really doing is trying to identify bias, impartiality to strike, right? So, counsel are not looking for their best jurors, they're looking for their worst jurors. And so I think what the prosecutors will be looking for are on the first anybody who expressed some strong pro former President Trump bias and opinions. But I think another thing they will be on the lookout for is a sense that prosecutors overreach, that police are aggressive, that the law enforcement system isn't fair in general given some of the arguments that they've been making in the press.

SIDNER: I just want to note that we are watching the motorcade, Donald Trump's motorcade, headed towards lower Manhattan and to court.

I lastly want to ask you, with 500 jurors in the jury pool, a hundred people a day, how long might this take to actually seat a jury?

ELLIS: It will take several days. Whether it goes beyond a week, I think, is to be seen and will depend on, again, what the judge does. The judge has already said that he'll let anybody go without further follow-up if they say they're impartial.


That might weed out a big chunk of people. But it will certainly take several days, possibly into next week.