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NY Grand Jury Will Not Meet Today As Indictment Decision Looms; Denver Mayor: Male High School Student Shot Two Staff Members. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired March 22, 2023 - 13:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Brianna Keilar in Washington. And we begin this hour with breaking news. We just learned that the Manhattan grand jury hearing evidence in the Donald Trump hush money case will not meet today. That is a big development given they were expected to meet today and could vote soon to indict the former President.

As that plays out, we have new movement in the Justice Department's probe into Trump's mishandling of classified documents. A federal appeals court is now weighing whether to force a Trump lawyer to testify, after sources say a lower court judge has seen compelling evidence that Trump used the attorney to help further a crime.

We're covering every angle of all of these fast-moving developments. And I want to start with CNN's Kara Scannell, who is outside of the Manhattan DA's office. Kara, what more are we learning about this grand jury in Manhattan not meeting today?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, sources tell our team that the Manhattan grand jury that is hearing this testimony about the hush money payments is not meeting this afternoon. They have met on Monday, Wednesdays and Thursday afternoons, according to our reporting. They just had heard testimony on Monday from Bob Costello, who was a witness at the request of the Trump attorneys. They wanted him to go in because he said he was going to provide contradictory testimony to Michael Cohen.

Now, Cohen has gone in twice before this grand jury and is one of the key witnesses in the government's case here because he is the person who had made these payments and was reimbursed by the former president.

Now, sources tell us that the DA's office is regrouping following that testimony on Monday. You'll recall, Cohen was on standby, but Costello's testimony went until the end of the day. He was there to be a potential rebuttal witness, but he wasn't called. And source tells -- sources tell our colleagues that in the last 24 hours, the DA's office has reached out to an attorney for one witness, saying they may want that person to appear again for testimony before the grand jury. Brianna?

KEILAR: And I want to ask now our CNN Senior Crime and Justice Reporter, Katelyn Polantz, who is talking to us about this latest ruling in Trump's classified documents case. Katelyn, what does it tell us that a Trump lawyer may soon be testifying to a grand jury?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, he may be testifying and maybe answering additional questions, but he isn't yet. That's because there's an ongoing court fight, Brianna. But there's been a very significant lead up to where we are right now in this court fight. There was a trial judge that looked at the Justice Department's argument saying that they really needed to get in before the grand jury again, Evan Corcoran, Donald Trump's Defense Attorney because they believed that conversations that Corcoran had with Trump would show that Trump was trying to break the law somehow.

So very significant conversations they're trying to get testimony about. We know now, too, that the Trump side has rushed to the appeals court to try and get Corcoran not having to go into the grand jury right away. That's before three appellate judges at the D.C. circuit right now. All Democratic appointees, Nina Pillard, Michelle Childs, Florence Pan. They haven't decided yet today, but they put things on a very tight schedule, demanding within hours, the Justice Department respond about what to do next. They haven't come out and said exactly yet whether they're going to have Corcoran testify.

But we also know that this is significant just because of the history here. This is a lawyer who was beside Donald Trump throughout the entire classified documents probe and talking to the Justice Department at a time where they were saying, there's no more documents here. He was talking to Donald Trump. And at the -- at the end of the day, there were additional documents at Mar-a-Lago. Brianna?

KEILAR: Yeah, is very significant. CNN's Kristen Holmes is near Trump's home in Mar-a-Lago. So, Kristen, where we have seen his supporters showing up to protest there, what does it look like now and how is the Trump team reacting to all of this?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, it's maintained the same small amount of protesters, supporters out there in front of his house, waving their flags, honking as people go by. It hasn't really grown to any full capacity. And when it comes to how Trump's team is reacting, look, there's a lot of speculation and a lot of spin around the fact that the grand jury was not meeting today, but they are operating under the exact same guise that we are, which is people don't really know exactly what's going on.

Of course, we have the reporting that they are regrouping, but they are still kind of in the dark about what this would look like in terms of a potential indictment and what that timing would look like.


Now, we have talked to a number of aides and advisers who all tell me the same thing. They have all, including the former President, resigned themselves to the fact that this is likely going to happen. They believe that. And so now the next step is figuring out how to operate in this new normal, how to create a 2024 presidential campaign with a candidate who has been indicted.

And, of course, as we know, this is completely unprecedented. He's not only a candidate, he's the former President of the United States. And so that is what his team is working on right now. And I will say, from those who have been around him every single day for the past week, they essentially describe him as going through a full range of emotion and reaction to this potential indictment.

He has ranted at times about how it's unfair. He has celebrated how this is going to help him politically, and at times he has altogether ignored it. And that is what leading a lot of these aides and advisors to believe that he has, in fact, resigned himself to the fact that this is going to happen.

KEILAR: All right, Kristen, thank you so much. Kara and Katelyn, thank you to you as well for your reporting.

Joining us now to discuss, we have Renato Mariotti. He is a former Federal Prosecutor. And we have Ambassador Norm Eisen. He was special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee in Trump's first impeachment trial.

Renato, to you first. Here in this classified documents case, you have the DOJ convincing a federal judge that Trump used his own attorney, Evan Corcoran, in the furtherance of a crime. How significant is that?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It is absolutely remarkable, Brianna. You know, I have been practicing criminal law for around 20 years or so, and I have never seen a prosecutor invoke the crime fraud exception to the attorney client privilege, much less obtain a ruling from a federal judge. And this is not the first time that that has happened to former President Trump, very significant. And here you have an attorney who potentially has his own liability. This is an attorney that allegedly caused false statements to be made to the Justice Department. That is a federal crime.

And so I could see reasons why that attorney may cooperate with the Justice Department against the former president. So a lot of danger for the former president, in many ways, something he should be more concerned about than this Manhattan case that we've been talking so much about.

KEILAR: Yeah, Norm, do you agree with that?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Brianna, I'll throw my 30 years of criminal law experience on top of Renato's 20 for a half century of experience that teaches us to have the crime fraud exception used to pierce the most sacred privilege, the attorney client bond, something really bad has to have happened for a judge to find that. So this is significant.

I think Trump does have greater peril on the federal side from the Mar-a-Lago documents case, where there seems to be such strong evidence that he intentionally withheld these documents, maybe even deceived his own attorneys more than the federal January 6 crimes.

But I have to disagree with my friend, Renato, the Manhattan DA investigation is just as serious. You have a potential felony there for falsifying financial records and for campaign prosecutions, campaign finance violations, and New York has prosecuted that before, Brianna. There's nothing novel about it. The Clarence Norman case, it's been done around the country as well. That is also a great jeopardy to Donald Trump.

KEILAR: Renato, why do you think it's a lesser deal, what we're seeing in Manhattan?

MARIOTTI: A number of reasons. So first of all, what we're seeing in Manhattan, I think based upon what's reported, because obviously we haven't seen the charges yet, we don't know exactly what they look like and what the evidence is. But based on what's been reported, Brianna, I think there are significant questions about that case. I disagree with norm. I have great respect for regarding how novel some of the potential charges are there, the reported charges are there. I think there are also factual issues there that are challenging, like the reliance on Michael Cohen's testimony and so on.

I also just think, as a practical matter, the likely sentence in that matter is going to be less than it would be in federal court. And I think the jeopardy that comes from having the United States Justice Department interviewing your attorney and the grand jury about matters in which you not only withheld top secret classified documents that you knew existed, but also potentially obstructed justice, lied to law enforcement. I just think that the jeopardy there is more significant.

KEILAR: Norm looking at the classified documents issue, so given that Evan Corcoran drafted a statement signed by a fellow Trump lawyer, Christina Bobb, in June of 2022, it said that Trump's team had fully complied with the DOJ subpoena. We know that Bobb has testified before the grand jury.


Does all of this suggest that Corcoran is now being a cooperative witness, as Renato thought may be a possibility against Trump due to his own criminal liability?

EISEN: Well, Brianna, it's very tough to tell because, like the New York case, where there's a grand jury operating, grand jury secrecy, here you have grand jury secrecy. And we have filings in the district court and now in the appellate court that are all under seal, it's possible that Corcoran has gotten immunity. He may have his own exposure. There is a law that would allow prosecutors to immunize him so he can't assert the Fifth Amendment and testify.

I just don't think we know if he's a cooperator or not. But by piercing the attorney client privilege, they not only get his testimony, they can get documents, records that can corroborate what happened.

KEILAR: Yeah. EISEN: So I agree that great peril for Donald Trump in the documents case. Even if I disagree with Renato on questions like Michael Cohen, who is also Trump's lawyer, testifying in Manhattan and talking to the prosecutors 20 times, knowing much, much more about Donald Trump than Mr. Corcoran does. I think there's peril on both fronts.

KEILAR: Yes. Well, listen, I think it's great to have the discussion where you have differing views on these things here. Renato, thank you so much for being with us. Norm, we appreciate your time as well, thank you.

MARIOTTI: Thank you.

KEILAR: So now to talk about the political implications in all of this, we have Scott Jennings, former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush. We have Ron Brownstein, Senior Editor for The Atlantic.

OK, so, Ron, when asked if an indictment in the hush money case could help Trump politically, west Virginia moderate Senator Joe Manchin said, it just emboldens him. He's the type of person that sometimes -- that's sometimes emboldened by more outrageous things. There's many reasons not to be for him. And I think that when the court system is perceived to be used for something different, it could have a completely reverse effect. What do you think about that? And what do you think about, politically, what this does for Trump?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think there are issues about what this does for Trump and also what it does for the party. Thinking about the Republican primary, I think it furthers the divide that we see. I talked to a number of Republican strategists this week. There's no question that for a portion of Trump's base, this will be a galvanizing event. This will be proof of his frequent argument that they, the establishment, are going after me because they really want to silence you.

But there is also, Brianna, a significant piece of the party, especially after 2022, that is worried that he cannot win again. And for those voters and donors and strategists, I think this is confirming information. It's sort of a mix. So I think this will reinforce both sides of the Republican divide.

The biggest political impact, I think, of what we have seen so far is that it has further stamped the House Republican Party as essentially remaining subservient to Trump. They are going to extraordinary, unprecedented lengths to try to intimidate and interfere with this investigation. And sending voters a very clear signal that if Trump is returned to power, their posture will be the same as it was when he was in power the first time. Maybe even more so in terms of a willingness to defend him from consequences for almost any of his actions. So I think that is a very clear message in the Republican primary, I think it furthers the divide which is emerging about Trump himself.

KEILAR: Scott, I wonder what you think about that and also how Republicans are viewing this. You heard that discussion I was just having with Renato and Norm about how they have differing opinions on which of these cases is a bigger deal. But I wonder, in particular in the Manhattan case, how that -- which Republicans are really dismissing as just political, how that may color how they see the other legal woes that former President Trump is facing?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, I think there's no doubt that if he faces indictment over this seven-year-old paperwork misdemeanor in New York, that it's going to taint in a bad way what could be coming down the pike for him.

I mean, he's facing, I think, much more serious issues with the Mar-a- Lago case and much more recent issues the Georgia election case, the January 6 case. I mean, all these things were sort of direct presidential conduct. This New York case, you know, a paperwork misdemeanor being contorted into a novel theory to get to a felony at a time when the prosecutor here is downgrading, you know, pretty serious criminals into misdemeanors. I mean, it just strikes Republicans as political.

And so the ordering of this, I recognize none of these cases have anything to do with each other. But the ordering of it, I do think has an impact on how Republicans view Trump. And there is -- and Ron knows this, there's been a reflexive sort of rallying around Trump effect every time the world seems to be crashing down on him, even when it's crashing down on him for, you know, pretty horrific judgment or terrible personal behavior.


We wouldn't be having this conversation if he hadn't, you know, had this tryst with Stormy Daniels. I mean, that's his fault. It's not Ron DeSantis' fault or Alvin Bragg's fault. It is Alvin Bragg's fault to put his, I think, personal ambitions ahead of what might be best for the country here, which is to let the Feds and the State of Georgia go first.

KEILAR: Ron, what do you think?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, like Scott says, I mean, you know, they don't get to sequence these. I mean, these are all independent investigations. I do think the challenge for Republicans is that they have now put a stake in the ground that they will go to these extraordinary, unprecedented lengths to try to interfere in this investigation if this is what they will do over the Manhattan investigation, what Scott calls a seven- year-old paperwork mistake.

Norm Eisen obviously thinks and others think is more significant than that. But if this is what they will do over Manhattan, what's coming when these further investigations reach fruition? I mean, the House Republicans are going to be in a position of whack-a-mole, where they are going to try to discredit every investigation as a political hit job. And it really raises the question for the other Republicans in the presidential field because Donald Trump is the biggest figure in the Republican Party. I mean, right now he is polling at about the level he did in 2016 when he won with about 41%, 40% support. He's winning support for about half of Republicans without a college degree. Again, exactly what he did in 2016.

If you want to displace him, you have to give her voters an explicit reason why. And you see DeSantis kind of tiptoeing, you know, basically trying to have it both ways, criticizing the DA, but jabbing Trump over his conduct. That exemplifies his strategy of offering Trumpism without Trump. I'll fight the same fights that he does. I'll fight these liberal DAs, but I want to have all the personal baggage.

I do think that ultimately, if you're going to be Donald Trump, you're going to have to give voters a more explicit reason in the primaries than his opponents have been willing to do so far.

KEILAR: Yeah, we'll see what that is if they can offer that as this field forms more fully. Scott, Ron, thank you to you both.

We have some breaking news right now. There is a shooting at a high school in Denver. Police say a student shot two faculty members. CNN's Whitney Wild is joining us on this. Whitney, this student was being patted down every morning for safety checks, as we understand that's your reporting here. What happened today?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we understand from officials, both at the school and from Denver police is that this specific student had a safety plan that he was supposed to undergo every day. And as you said, he was undergoing this safety check, basically being patted down when he produced that firearm. According to Denver Public Schools, he shot two members of the faculty. They were school administrators.

At this point, the weapon has not been recovered. That male student, the accused shooter, has not been put into custody yet. So there is an intense manhunt right now surrounding the school and, you know, throughout Denver searching for this alleged assailant.

As they move forward, Denver police are going to be contacting as many people as they can to find out as much information as they can about how the student obtained the gun. Who may have seen this shooting incident.

Brianna, I can tell you that it just so happened that inside the school on another -- for another reason, paramedics happened to be inside. So fortunately, they were able to rush outside or rush to the faculty rather, and administer life-saving aid within seconds, Brianna, just by sheer luck.

So those faculty members being transported to the hospital. We don't yet know their condition. And just, you know, more broadly, Brianna, when you look at this school, this is a large school, it's 2500 students. Here's how some of them are reacting to today's incident.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were sitting outside and all we heard was trucks going past. Like, we just kept hearing trucks passing by. Then somebody said something about lockdown and all I seen was a truck sitting. Like there was mad cop cars. And I was like, what is going on? Came out side and I've seen it was all -- like, flooded out. Everything flooded with, like, cops, ambulances. I'm seeing people get put in the back of their cars and stuff.


WILD: An absolutely terrifying scene for any child who would have to witness that, Brianna. Again, this happened about an hour ago. The latest headline here is that these two faculty members have been shot. And that student, the person that they believe fired upon those two members of the faculty, is still outstanding. Again, no weapon recovered yet, and that student not in custody yet. Brie?

KEILAR: And Whitney, we did just get some information in from a press conference with police there. So I just want to update what we've learned, which is the condition of these two victims. One of the East High gunshot victims is in serious but stable condition. We've learned and the other is currently in surgery, in critical condition. So one of them is serious but stable, one in surgery in critical condition. Both of the victims are male.


So of course, we're going to be following that. I know you will, Whitney, to see how they are faring as time goes on here. But there's going to be questions here, right? I mean, this -- if this is a student who had this process of needing to get security check, clearly there was some reason I don't know if we know anything about it, why that would be required. But also, how do you provide a security check safely for someone who you may have some safety concerns about?

WILD: Absolutely. And that's the major question here. Clearly, the safety check did not do enough to keep the people surrounding this student safe. And so as they move forward, certainly what was clear in this press conference is that they believed that they had been vigilant, the school administrators. You know, the Denver officials more broadly believed that this was a vigilant approach to whatever threat they believed this student possibly represented.

But clearly there needs to be more done. And when -- you know, I worked in Denver, this is a state, this is a city that is just all too familiar with shootings at schools. It rocks you. And to have to go through this for communities to have to go through this over and over and over, especially there, it's really heartbreaking. It reopens those wounds. It tears open those sutures every time they see another incident like this, because sadly, they are just so familiar with it, Brie.

KEILAR: Yeah, they certainly are. In February of 2023, there was an East High student who died a week after being shot near school grounds. I mean, this is a community that has seen gun violence, right? And they've gone through some of the heartbreak of that.

I do also want to add, Whitney, that we learned from the police chief in a press conference that actually a handgun was retrieved, so that a handgun was retrieved and that several shots were fired during the search, that these shots struck both men who are school administrators.

The suspect fled the school, according to the police chief. And like you said, the search for him is still underway. So that's really where we are at this point, Whitney, right, where they are looking for this student. And I wonder if you have any idea about how they will be going through that process and the resources that they could be using for that, because obviously this is going to be a huge undertaking.

WILD: Well, certainly if they -- if this student has a prepared safety plan, they know a lot about this student. They know where the student lives. They likely know who to contact in his orbit to try to find him. So my anticipation is that Denver police is already at his house. And at this point, what they're going to try to figure out is how this student was able to obtain this firearm and then further this firearm, you know, if it was obtained legally, if it was obtained illegally, if it had ever been used in any other incident.

So these are all the things that police are going to be working through as they move forward with this investigation. But, you know, it does raise questions. If you know that someone presents a dangerous threat, why is this person allowed to continue to go back to school? And those are the questions. And that's the balancing act that Denver Public Schools are going to have to face. Denver police are going to be questioning as well. So as far as this investigation goes, Brianna, what we understand is that Denver police certainly know who this person is. Again, highly likely Denver police is already at his front door.

KEILAR: Yeah. And just to be clear to our viewers what they're looking at here, these are a number of police vehicles outside of East High there in Denver, where there has been a school shooting, two administrators shot, and obviously, Whitney, we're getting some new details in. I'm going to let you go so you can keep looking into additional information.

It is coming at this -- it is coming in moment by moment at this point, as the alleged student behind this is still right now not in custody. And we are going to be right back.



KEILAR: We're monitoring breaking news right now, a shooting at East High School in Denver, Colorado. Police say a student there shot two faculty members. They say that this student is still on the loose. Denver's police chief says one of the victims is in surgery in critical condition. The other is in serious but stable condition. The school district says the school will be out of session for the rest of the week. Stay with CNN for updates on this breaking story. And we'll bring those to you.

Here in less than one-hour, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell will announce his latest move on interest rates. And what he does will have big consequences for home prices, credit card bills, student loans, car loans. Another rate hike means those all get more expensive for you. Mortgage rates alone have skyrocketed because of the Fed's war on inflation, 6.6% right now, believe it or not, they were even higher before this banking turmoil began.

And that is the Fed's other goal today, trying to calm those fears about the banking sector. It's a very tiny needle that the Fed is trying to thread here. And we have CNN Business Correspondent Rahel Solomon following this closely.

Rahel, is a rate hike inevitable today or is a pause still possible?

RAHEL SOLOMON, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, a pause is certainly possible. There's certainly a chance, although that is the minority view. Most traders, 8 out of 10, 9 out of 10 are largely expecting a rate hike up a quarter of a percent. If in fact, we do see a rate hike, Brianna, that would be the 9th rate hike in about a year. And I can show you all of the rate hikes over this most recent rate hiking cycle. You can see it started in March with 25 basis points, or a quarter of 1%. And it has gone on and on and on.


Now, on the one hand, that has made, as you pointed out, rates for practically everything higher, right?