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AG Appoints Jack Smith As Special Counsel Overseeing Trump Investigations; Japan Defense Minister: North Korea's ICBM Could Reach U.S. Mainland; U.S.& South Korea Hold Joint Exercises After N. Korea ICBM Launch; Investigators Release Map, Timeline Of Idaho College Students Before Deaths; Coroner: One Slain Idaho Student Had "Defensive" Wounds. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired November 18, 2022 - 14:30   ET



ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's going to take him some time. But it is a well-developed investigation. He's not starting from square one.

And he will ultimately have at least the initial call on, do we indict or do we not? He will have some level of independence, significant independence, from Merrick Garland and everyone else at the Justice Department.

But ultimately, Merrick Garland will retain that power to agree or disagree. If he disagrees, to override whatever recommendation Mr. Smith offers up.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Elliot Williams, CNN legal analyst, is joining us at well.

The attorney general said that the extraordinary circumstances demanded this.

And he said that -- he identified, as a catalyst for this decision, the announcement or the declaration of former President Trump as a 2024 candidate and the inclination from the current president to run for re-election.

Your reaction to what we just heard from A.G. Garland?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Victor, there really isn't a roadmap for a circumstance like this because of how remarkable the circumstances are.

As the attorney general laid out, you have a former president being investigated by the Justice Department.

To do this by the book, to conduct these investigations in a way that the textbooks would say to do it, yes, the attorney general had to appoint a special counsel here. What you have to do is take out even the appearance of impropriety.

Look, we all know -- I wasn't born yesterday. And within hours, the record of Jack Smith is going to be picked apart. And he will probably be seen by some or criticized by some as being a partisan political hack or tool. We saw this play out with Robert Mueller several years ago.

The simple fact is, removing it from the chain of command to some extent, as Elie said, from the Justice Department, is very valuable.

One more point I would make here, as an interesting bit of stagecraft, the one person who was not there on the stage was Jack Smith. That was to give at least the sense of clarity that this is a separate individual from outside the Justice Department who is coming to take this matter over.

And it's almost the best of all worlds. At least in the Justice Department's perspective. Because, number one, as has been said, he gets all of the staff that have been working on this for quite some time.

And, number two, a future president cannot really fire a special counsel except some extraordinary reason to do so, like he literally shows up to work drunk or something like that.

The attorney general doesn't have the same latitude he would with a senior political appointee.

So, yes, I know there are people who might criticize this decision, but it had to be done regardless of what the president's actions were previously.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Evan, you were reminding us that, in terms of the histories of special counsels, that actually the Robert Mueller investigation was wrapped up more quickly than many others, including the John Durham one, which is ongoing and has been, I mean, for, you know, roughly -- well, two years now.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Going on three years. More than three years.

CAMEROTA: Is that right? It's been going on for more than three years?


CAMEROTA: OK. That's interesting.

So, any way to know -- since some of this work, as Elie was point out, has already been done and the Department of Justice has been working on it, any idea about what the timeline would look like?

PEREZ: No. And I think one reason -- you guys just before the attorney general walked out reported on some of the reporting from Kaitlan Collins, who heard from inside the Trump camp that this is something they were dreading.

Look, I think part of the reason why is because of the nature of special counsels. Inside this building, the idea of special counsels, it's not very popular, simply because you're out of the control of the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, the direct daily control.

And they have a way of just taking a life of their own, right? And there's no easy way to shut it down once you get started.

And so what you're pointing out, Alisyn, you raised it very early on, is exactly right. That is the nature of them and that is the problematic thing.

Real quick I want to just go back to something Elliot just mentioned.

I'll just say, real quick, that the reason why Jack Smith was not in the room today is actually he had been injury, apparently fell during a bike accident, and had some recent surgery or some kind of medical attention, which means that he could not be present today at this announcement.

But we expect -- he's already now the special counsel as of this moment. So, he is now going to be running this investigation.

And back to the point that you were making, look, it does have a way of taking on a life of its own. They have kind of really unlimited budget. And that's part of the problem with them and why I think there was some hesitation upstairs about naming a special counsel.

The other part of this is that, you know, they scour. They spend weeks trying to think of a former judge, a former DOJ official, somebody who could pass the test.


And they finally landed on a war crimes prosecutor, somebody who I'm told is a political independent, somebody who's going to pass that smell test that I'm sure Trump and Republican partisans are going to be doing right at this moment.

Trying to figure out whether there's anything in his past that might indicate that he is a partisan or that could obviously give them reason to have pause about how this investigation is going to be conducted -- Victor and Alisyn?

BLACKWELL: Evan, I'm sure it wasn't just finding someone who could take the job but someone who would do it, all that's coming --


BLACKWELL: -- for them now that they're going to head up this investigation.

Jessica Schneider, let me come to you on what we heard from the attorney general.

He said he's confident that the appointment will not slow down the investigation. We've heard Alisyn discuss that with Evan.

But what's the ramp-up time? He's coming into this. There's a team already established. He's got to, as we say in news, read in to get to a point where he can lead this investigation.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, two very wide- ranging investigations that have been ongoing for quite some time. The Mar-a-Lago one, not quite as long into the investigation into January 6th here.

Despite these two wide-ranging investigations, the new special counsel, Jack Smith, he's been given fairly specific instructions, at least as it pertains to January 6th.

The attorney general mentioned it at least twice when he came out to reporters. You know, he said he'll be looking into potential interference into the transfer of power, the certification of the vote in 2020.

So, that January 6th investigation that's been ongoing now for almost two years, it has many different facets. The rioters, all of those rioters who have been arrested, charged with -- we're now seeing the Oath Keepers' trial, that will continue to progress under the purview of the U.S. attorney here in D.C.

But it's this very specific question about interference into the transfer of power, the certification.

In particular, our team, led my Evan Perez, has reported that it goes to the heart of this fake electors scheme, where these Trump supporters were fake electors. They wanted to try to disrupt the electoral count here. So, that's the primary focus of that facet of the investigation.

But then the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation, we saw that peak with the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago back in August. But that has been ongoing for several months as well.

So, you're right. It will take time for this new special counsel to get up to speed here.

And the big question is, how quickly will he act? Will this be a wide- ranging investigation or a long investigation, as we've seen with John Durham?

Especially complicating things, the fact that the former president will be running for president again at the same time this investigation is ongoing from the special counsel. So, a lot of outstanding questions here.

CAMEROTA: And in fact -- and I want to make sure Kristen Holmes is still with us because she has the reporting on the reaction from the Trump team.

It is so interesting, Kristen, the law of unintended consequences because President Trump, many people in his orbit, felt he announced so quickly for another run at the White House in order to insulate himself from any indictment.

When, in fact, it was announcement that the attorney general just said was the catalyst for naming the special counsel, who may end up with an indictment.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. And I just got off the phone with the source that is familiar with how the campaign is operating, and they are -- they were aware of this. As Kaitlan says, they believed this could be coming.

And we have to continue to say that part of the reason that allies believe that former President Trump was announcing so early, in addition to wanting to freeze the field and get out there, was also that he wanted to, as you said, insulate himself and have these legal protections.

And be able to continue to campaign on the idea that he is the victim of a political witch hunt. This is something that we have heard from him since these investigations began.

And we heard it on Tuesday night when we were at his announcement. He referred to himself as a victim multiple times. He said that the Justice Department was weaponized against him. He has continued to talk about the FBI in the same way.

And this clearly, as you said, this was a catalyst not serving as what they hoped it would do, which was give him back those legal protections.

However, I do not think that it seems, at least now, that Trump is going to change his tactic in any way. We know that he has doubled down on this idea that he is a victim of this as all politics. To see him shift away from that seems very unlikely.

BLACKWELL: In fact, some of the developments in this investigation, the former president has used to increase fundraising. After the search of Mar-a-Lago, they had a couple of million-dollar days in fundraising. That tapered off. But that's been the pattern that we've seen.


Elliot, let me come back to you on some of the logistics that are happening soon.

There are obviously two established investigations that have been going on for some time now. How many extra hands come in? How broad does this special prosecutor now make his team beyond the people who are already doing the work?

WILLIAMS: That just remains to be seen based on what they feel they had had to do. There are probably people at Justice Department headquarters here in Washington working on this. Some of those would be pulled in.

Frankly, that's what happened with the Mueller investigation. There were a number of folks -- for instance, the U.S. attorney's office in the Eastern District of Virginia, sort of out by the Pentagon, were working on the matter there. Some of them got transferred over to being under the purview of the

special counsel. That kind of thing will happen here. I am certain that either, over the last couple days or today, they're figuring out those staffing questions. It will be complicated.

To be clear, it will all be -- as Elliot said -- it's pretty vast, the authority the special counsel will have and the kinds of staffing and budget and resources that will be available to him once he gets started.

CAMEROTA: So, Elie, does the investigation now become a locked box? As reporters we were frustrated when we didn't know everything that was happening in the Mueller investigation. And certainly there hasn't been a lot of transparency with the John Durham investigation.

Is that how this will work?

HONIG: Well, there will still be plenty we will learn both through public proceedings. If people receive subpoenas, those can be made public. We'll know what's happening in court.

I'm sure that Evan and our reporters will continue to get us valuable and reliable information from the inside.

And one thing this will do, Alisyn, I think inevitably, is slow the pace a bit. Now you're bringing in Jack Smith from the outside, had no part in this case, and he's going to have to get up to speed.

And these are two sprawling, complex investigations. They're not the kind of thing where you can take a memo home and read it over the weekend and be completely up to speed.

So, he's going to take some time and he's going to have a monumental decision to make.

Another important thing here is there's going to be a new boss in charge of these investigations. Jack Smith, he may want to do things a little differently.

He may say, well, let's subpoena these witnesses we have not subpoenaed so far, or let's try to get up a wiretap or let's get these records. So it's a new quarterback and he may have a new strategy.

So this is going to take more time, and time really does matter. And time really does matter. We now have an active presidential campaign by the person who's the subject and the target of this investigation.

But this will invariably push it back to some extent.

BLACKWELL: Evan, moderate some expectations here. I remember the Mueller investigation. We were running the same B roll of him walking down a hallway on Capitol Hill because there were no public statements. There were no speeches. There were no releases.

What should people expect, as we start to get into this special prosecutor footing, that posture? PEREZ: Victor, they had a special spokesperson, whose job it was to

give no comment. So, that was certainly one of our frustrations.

But I think -- look, I think what Elie just pointed out is there's two things that we -- first of all, especially on the January 6th investigation, and we're talking about the former president, who the people, the people around him leak like sieves.

They do nothing but the talk about what they're hearing and what they're -- subpoenas and so on and so forth. I think we'll get a lot more of a window from that side than we will from the special counsel.

But I think you're right. I think part of the issue here is we already saw some of these investigations -- for example, the decision to bring the charges against the Oath Keepers.

And those charges were prepared pretty quickly, like within the first five, six months of that January 6th investigation. But it took another eight or nine months before the new attorney general was comfortable with that.

So, when you have a new boss taking over an investigation, it has a way of delaying things. That is just a fact of life. I think people here in this building are trying to say, no, it's not. But it will.

And so then that really does push you up into the realm of the 2024 election, which when the Justice Department has to stay quiet.

So, it's going to be a very, very, I think, challenging thing for the Justice Department to handle simply because, you know, of the nature of the person they're investigating and the people around him, right?


And just the nature of the fact that there's a campaign that is going to really get going very, very quickly -- Victor and Alisyn?

BLACKWELL: All right. Evan, Jessica, Elliot, Elie, thank you all.

We, of course, will continue to have more on this the breaking news, the appointment of this special counsel to lead these two investigations into former President Trump.

But of course, we have other news.

CAMEROTA: We do because the father of one of the University of Idaho victims is speaking out and revealing new details about his daughter's death. We have that ahead.

BLACKWELL: Plus, North Korea launches its 34th missile test of the year. And one official says this latest ballistic missile could theoretically have the range to threaten the U.S. mainland. How the Pentagon is responding. That's next.



BLACKWELL: North Korea's launch of an intercontinental missile today sparking new joint military exercises and emergency meeting with the U.S. allies.

CAMEROTA: This missile landed about 130 miles from the west coast of a Japanese island. Japan's defense minister says this type of weapon could reach the U.S. mainland.

CNN's Oren Lieberman joins us from the Pentagon.

What have you learned, Oren?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You've saw that map right there. That gives you an idea of how far this traveled. Only about 640 miles if you look at it laterally.

But in terms of how high it went, nearly 4,000 miles, according to Japan's Defense Ministry. And that's why if you were to take that trajectory and spread it out, as the Defense Ministry said, theoretically this intercontinental ballistic missile could have reached the mainland United States.

And that's why the U.S. views this so severely, even after all the ballistic missile tests we've seen throughout the course of the career.

There have been other ICBM tests coming from North Korea, one in March, and there was a similar test in 2017 that everyone is looking at to compare those tests.

Regardless, the U.S. views this severely and condemned it, along with U.S. allies.

Vice President Kamala Harris making it brutally clear how the U.S. sees this test.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This conduct by North Korea most recently is a brazen violation of multiple U.N. security resolutions. It destabilizes security in the region and unnecessarily raises tensions.


LIEBERMANN: The White House said it's still open to negotiations or some sort of dialogue with North Korea while acknowledging it certainly doesn't look likely right now.

In response to this ICBM test, the U.S. and South Korea conducted a live fire exercise in the air, four South Korean Jets flying with four U.S. Jets. And there was expected to be an exercise with the U.S. and Japan.

Even as these missile tests continue, there's a continued effort from the U.S. and its allies to show they will continue to have a strong presence in the region even militarily.

BLACKWELL: All right, Oren Liebermann for us there at the Pentagon. Thank you.

We're just getting a new development in the breaking news, the appointment of the special council, Jack Smith. And we're hearing from him for the first time.

The statement released from the Justice Department in which he says:

"I intend to conduct the assigned investigations and any prosecutions that may result from them independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice."

"The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch. I will exercise independent judgment and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate."

That's the first statement we're getting from the newly appointed special counsel Jack Smith. And of course, at the top of the hour, we'll have more on this breaking news.

CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, we have new information on the shocking murders of four Idaho college students. Investigators now releasing a map and a timeline of what happened and where on the night of the killings.

BLACKWELL: We're also learning that at least one of the victims had what they call defensive wounds.

CNN's Veronica Miracle joins us now from Moscow, Idaho.

Veronica, tell us more about these details.

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor and Alisyn, the map that police just released shows a taco truck, a bar, and a fraternity house.

And police were hoping that by releasing some of the information around where these are located and around the times that those victims visited these locations before the murders, they're hoping it will jog people's memory.

Maybe a witness statement could help them, possibly surveillance video. They're hoping that the community can help them piece more clues together.

We also learned this morning about how those murders may have unfolded inside the home. Police told us that those victims were found on the second and third floor of the home.

They were also stabbed multiple times, according to the coroner, by likely one weapon, possibly a medium-to-large knife.

There was also at least one -- one of the victims had stab wounds on her hands which would show possibly defensive injuries. According to the coroner, and she wouldn't tell us which victim that was.

However, Xana Kernodle's father said her body showed signs of a struggle.


JEFFREY KERNODLE, FATHER OF XANA KERNODLE (voice-over)Bruises, you know, maybe by the knife or whatever.


KERNODLE: She's a tough kid. Whatever she wanted to do, she could do it.


MIRACLE: The coroner also told us that there was no evidence of sexual assault.

They are also trying to figure out exactly what time the victims died, whether they were all killed at the same time, or whether it happened at a different time.


However, we do know that all of those victims arrived back at the home at 1:45 around the same time and those murders happened sometime in the early morning hours on Sunday.

We also understand that the roommates were home at the time of the attacks. That's what police have told us. And when we asked them if the roommates are being considered as witnesses, victims, suspects or persons of interest, they said they are trying to figure that out now.

They hope to release that information soon -- Victor, Alisyn?

BLACKWELL: Veronica Miracle with the latest there from Moscow. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right. We continue to follow the breaking news that we just had here. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointment appointing a special counsel to oversee the criminal investigations into former President Trump. And we have new reaction from Donald Trump just ahead.