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CNN INTERNATIONAL: Court Hearing Underway In Georgia On Trump's Efforts To Get Election Subversion Case Dismissed; NTSB: It Could Take Two Years To Complete Crash Probe; Sentencing Underway For FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired March 28, 2024 - 11:00   ET




ERICA HILL, HOST: Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, depending on where you're joining us. I am Erica Hill in New York.

Happening now in Georgia, a key hearing is underway in the election interference case against Donald Trump and a number of other defendants. Trump's attorneys arguing the case violates the former President's right to free speech and should be thrown out. In just moments, President Biden is scheduled to depart the White House, making his way to New York City for a star-studded fundraiser, which his campaign says has already brought in some $25 million. Plus, disgraced crypto mogul Sam Bankman-Fried in court at this hour for sentencing. The FTX founder is facing potentially decades in prison for fraud and conspiracy that prosecutors say accounted to billions.

We begin this hour with a court hearing in Georgia that could be critical to the race for the White House. Right now, attorneys for Donald Trump are seeking to dismiss the election subversion case against him in the state of Georgia. Among the charges, the former President is accused of engaging in an illegal conspiracy to overturn his 2020 election loss. Trump's attorneys have been arguing this morning the First Amendment protects, what they call, his political speech, and therefore the indictment should be thrown out. Prosecutors, however, stressed that speech is not protected if that speech involves the commission of a crime, and they want the judge to set a trial date before the November election.

Zachary Cohen has been following all of this closely for a long time, and is an expert on all things here, and joins us now. So, as we're watching what's happening here in court, they've been there I guess for about an hour or 90 minutes, maybe. What are we hearing from the attorneys and from the judge?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Yeah. They're really wrestling with this question of, is false speech a crime? And prosecutors are making the case that under Georgia law it is, if it's used to try to incite a criminal act. And of course, in this case, prosecutors allege that criminal act would be an attempt by Donald Trump to overturn the 2020 election results. And look, prosecutors notably pointed to the fact that the judge in Trump's federal case, the one overseen by Jack Smith, the Special Counsel, has already evaluated this question of First Amendment protections and whether Trump's false statements about voter fraud and allegation the election was stolen fall under the umbrella of political speech, and denied that they did. She has already denied that motion from Trump in the federal case.

And so, prosecutors leaning on that today and also leaning on the fact that they say, you have to -- at this stage in the process, you have to assume that everything alleged in the indictment is true, and that it's up to the jury in a trial phase to determine whether or not the speech is in fact false. Steve Sadow, the lead attorney for Donald Trump in the Georgia case, has tried to push back and then tried to argue. At one point, he said, look, if you take out the speech, there is no underlying basis to charge Donald Trump. So, trying to make that distinction between the issue of false speech, potentially false speech and the criminal acts outlined in the indictment.

HILL: All right. Zach Cohen, appreciate that. We're going to continue to follow it.

I do want to check in, though, with our legal panel. David Weinstein is a former State and Federal Prosecutor. Misty Marris is a Defense Attorney. Good to see both of you.

As we look at all of this, Misty, as we've been listening to the team for former President Trump, as they're making their cases, there is a little bit of precedent here and that there were two similar motions that were filed by other co-defendants in this case out of Georgia. Both of those were dismissed. Steve stayed out. The former President's attorney has that to go on, right, before he, of course, made his way into court today. Do you see any evidence in his arguments that he is maybe taking into account what the judge had to say when it came to assessing those motions in the past?

MISTY MARRIS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY, & TRIAL ATTORNEY: Yeah. So, Erica, I think the only difference between the arguments that we heard relating to those two other very unsuccessful motions is that there is -- they're trying to make a distinction about Donald Trump as an individual. Right? They're saying that he at the time was the President, and they're trying to say that there is a difference because of who he was looking back through that prism. Now, I don't think that argument is actually swaying the judge. And we heard them kind of going through certain counts of the indictment and saying that the allegations as written in that indictment are based on words alone and do not relate to an underlying crime, and those are the distinctions that they're trying to make from the two prior motions.

However, the arguments themselves, they are largely the same. The premise is the same, and the legal precedent and legal arguments are the same.


So, they're really trying to make that minute distinction. But, it does not really seem to be weighing the judge based on the questions that we're hearing, and pushback from the judge in the arguments. HILL: To that point, we heard a short time ago with Steve's data going

through all these different counts, right, talking about a letter from September of 2021 that went to the Secretary of State in Georgia, Raffensperger. Then we're talking about some of the charges that fall under the RICO statutes.

When you're hearing all of these, David, do you get the sense that in breaking all of this out, some of those charges could, in fact, that the judge could look at some of them individually, and say, well, maybe actually, in that case, you were right when we look at count 27?

DAVID WEINSTEIN, FORMER STATE AND FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, & FMR. ASST. U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA: Well, Erica, that's what the defense is hoping he is going to do. But, I agree with Misty on this. He is going to look at these arguments. He is going to see how unsuccessful they'd been, and granted, they're not breaking them out as to individual arguments. But, most of the arguments that are being made are fact-based. And based on the facts that he has in front of him right now, which is simply what's contained in the indictment, there is not going to be very much there for him to throw them out in the fashion that they're asking for them to be thrown out.

Different situation when they filed prior motions when they were claiming, you didn't tell us enough about what was being charged and what we've done to violate that. And so, therefore, you're not giving us due process. These are arguments you are saying that, look, the facts don't support what the charges are. I don't see, even though they are breaking out individual accounts, if this is going to get them to the point where he is going to out now dismiss different charges and counts continue in this indictment.

HILL: What does this say, if anything, what we're seeing, what we're hearing? And if this motion is in fact denied by the judge, Misty, what does it tell you about the potential strength of this case? Is that something we can glean from these hearings?

MARRIS: Well, from these hearings and every point that they've made, it's excellent. And really the issue at this point is that these arguments are premature, that based on where we are in the process at the indictments stage. To throw out an indictment, you have to assume that everything in that indictment is true. That's the legal standard. So, what we're really seeing from these arguments, we're getting a forecast of what types of arguments we're going to see when it comes down to the trial. So, we know that this First Amendment issue is something that the defense is going to argue before the jury. So, that's really what we can glean from these arguments. They're being made right now for the defense for the purpose of trying to get the indictment thrown out. It is unlikely that it will be successful, if not almost an impossible hurdle.

And so, what we're seeing is arguments that will be made before the jury who are the finders of facts. So, we're getting a real preview into the defense's case.

HILL: I also just want to let folks know with who they see right now. This is Craig Gillen. So, he is actually an attorney for David Shafer, who is another one of the co-defendants. They have filed motions as well. David Shafer is the former Chair of the Georgia Republican Party and also the alleged point man for this fake electoral scheme. So, that is who is up and speaking at this moment.

As we look at moving forward here, we know from CNN's own reporting that Fani Willis does really want to get this trial back on track. She wants to continue moving forward, and initially asked the judge, David, for a trial date of August 5. We don't have an answer on that. But, reporting from my colleague, Zachary Cohen, and his colleagues is that she may, in fact, push and ask again for a summer trial date. Once the judge has ruled on this motion, how quickly, David, is your sense that we could see a trial date set?

WEINSTEIN: He could set it depending upon the schedule of the people who are representing the various defendants, relatively soon to when the DA is asking for it. Look, these are preliminary matters. They're separate and apart from the preparation that counsel takes to get ready for trial. So, while they're putting their heart and soul into arguing these motions, they also have to be getting ready for trial. It's up to the judge to decide if you've had enough time. He can't simply listen to you say and I haven't had enough time. He is going to look at the volume of documents. How much is there? What do you need to do? How do you need to get ready? How do you need to prepare? Look at his schedule. Look at the other trials that are going on.

And so, he could look at all of this and say, well, you know, August is perhaps a little bit early, beginning of August. But, I think by the end of August, we're in March, almost April here, that's enough time for you all to get ready. So, I'm going to set the trial date, and you keep moving forward to get ready. If you think you're not ready, come back to me again and tell me why you're not ready, and I'll think about maybe perhaps setting a later trial date.

HILL: And Misty, I'd asked you in the last hour if you think that defense has had enough time and you said really at this point, yeah. They should be ready to go to trial, possibly by the end of August.


But, I think you brought up a really interesting point and that is even once a trial date is set, jury selection, specifically in Fulton County, could take a very long time.

MARRIS: Absolutely. I think, and David is spot on on this, because the judge has a lot of discretion to make that determination about when the trial is going to go forward, and merely saying I need more time isn't enough. It has to be backed up by some form of an argument or it has some substance to it. So, end of August, I think, just based on everything we know to date, would be a very reasonable timeframe. But, jury selection in this case is going to be a beast. And in Fulton County, I have covered other cases with you, Erica, and with others on CNN, where jury selection was taken months.

So, in this case, with the most -- one of the most high-profile cases ever, right, and certainly one of the most high-profile in the country, jury selection could certainly go for months. It could go for two or three months. It's going to be a difficult case.

HILL: Yeah. It is going to be one that we'll be watching closely as well, waiting to you and monitor this hearing. Appreciate you both joining us with your insight this hour. David, Misty, thank you.

Just ahead here, we do want to get to the latest on the bridge disaster in Baltimore. There is new video today from just moments before that crash. Look at this, one of the traffic cameras. We will bring you more of that. Plus, it is sentencing day in one of the largest white collar crimes in history, Sam Bankman-Fried. What could that punishment be? Stay with us.


HILL: We are tracking developments in the U.S. city of Baltimore after Tuesday's bridge collapse there. Authorities say the bodies of at least two of the missing construction workers have now been recovered. They were found in a submerged vehicle. Six workers were missing and then presumed dead after the Dali container ship slammed into the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

There is new traffic camera video showing you the moments leading up to that collision. So, if you watch this here, you'll see the ship visible. You see it moving on the right side of your screen. It's about halfway under the span, though, when this video stops. The images also showed traffic was able to be stopped before impact. That, of course, thanks to the ship crew, which notified officials with a mayday call. The Maryland Governor has said repeatedly that call, that emergency signal likely saved lives. One rideshare driver was there.


GAYLE FAIRMAN, RIDESHARE DRIVER: I was approaching the bridge and got stopped by the police right at the front line, and had no idea what was transpiring.


HILL: That traffic cam video will be part of the investigation into, of course, how and why this disaster happened. The probe itself, we're told, could take up to two years to complete. That's according to a top U.S. federal safety official.

Joining us now from Baltimore, CNN Correspondent Gabe Cohen who has been covering this story. Gabe, what more do we know that this morning about the investigation?


GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, this morning, this has become a salvage operation even with four of those construction workers still missing in the river, because officials say it is just not safe for divers to go down into the water anymore, given the amount of steel and debris down there. And so, now the process begins to try to get all of it out of the water. They are bringing in a lot of very large equipment, barges and cranes, the plan being to cut up those pieces of the bridge and remove them from the water. And officials have said, when that is done, those divers are going back in to find the remaining construction workers and bring closure to the family.

But, look, one major roadblock here is going to be some hazardous material that has been found around the ship, 56 containers, more than 700 tons of hazardous material, flammables, corrosives, lithium ion batteries. We heard the head of the NTSB yesterday say, it's not a safe area right now for federal officials, first responders to go into. This is right along the bow of the ship, right where the bridge came down. And so, it's going to take time to clear that to make sure it's safe, and that's going to be part of this salvage operation.

Meanwhile, investigators are having a very busy day today. They are interviewing the two pilots who were on the ship, as they have gone through the black box of the ship, constructing a much clearer timeline, Erica, of the minutes that led up to this catastrophe. When the ship experienced that major power outage, that total blackout, as it was previously described, when the pilot lost the ability to steer the ship, we have learned from that timeline that the pilot called for tugboat assistance that they radioed in that mayday call, that they dropped the anchor and they were trying to slow down the ship. And with that mayday call, they were able -- police on shore were able to stop traffic onto the bridge.

But, it was seconds and not minutes, Erica, until the collapse. They knew about the crew. But within just 30 seconds or so, the bridge came down before they could reach those construction workers. As you said, that investigation could take possibly two years. And we still don't know what caused that power outage. There has been talk of potentially contaminated fuel in the shed, maybe some sort of electrical issue. And the NTSB, when questioned about that, has really pushed back and said, look, that's why we're doing this investigation. We want to know what happened, and that's what investigators are working on now.

HILL: Yeah. They don't want to jump to conclusions. But that additional timeline, the information about the call for the tugboat, for example, so helpful for so many people to start to get a better understanding even that -- if that final investigation may not be released for some time. When we look at the bridge itself, this is critical to the area, some 30,000, 35,000 people a day would cross that bridge. We know there are also a number of jobs that have been impacted by the port being shut down. What are you hearing from folks in Baltimore today?

G. COHEN: Well, look, there is obviously a lot of grief about the lives lost. But, when you look at the loss of such a critical artery here in Baltimore and really for this region, the economic implications, as you brought up, are massive. Thousands of port workers are concerned about having a job because the port is basically shut down, ships stuck on either end and basically being rerouted to other ports across the East Coast. The economic implications for people across the country are significant there. But, we're talking about potentially millions of dollars within the Greater Baltimore area that are going to be lost between wages and business operations. And so, Erica, there is a lot of concern there. And we know that the

federal government has said they are going to step in and assist any way they can. But, people are definitely on edge here in Baltimore, knowing that the port remains shut down and the timeline to get all of that cleared is really fluid right now.

HILL: Yeah. It really is. Gabe, really appreciate the reporting. Thank you.

It is sentencing day for Sam Bankman-Fried. He, of course, is the head of the former FTX crypto exchange, who was convicted in November for fraud and conspiracy. Prosecutors in his case estimate that customers have FTX lost more than $10 billion. The 32-year-old is facing potentially decades in prison. This sentencing comes nearly five months after he was found guilty of one of the largest white collar crimes in history.

CNN's Kara Scannell has been covering this very closely for us. And Kara, I understand Sam Bankman-Fried just speaking in court and apologizing. What else did he say?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Erica. He just spoke to the judge for just under 20 minutes. This was his chance to try to address any questions the judge has, and to urge him to give him leniency in his sentencing. And what Bankman-Fried had said to him, he said a lot of people feel really let down and they were let down, and I am sorry about that. I am sorry about what happened at every stage.


He also went on to say that he and his colleagues had built what he called a beautiful business, and he said it was something I threw it all away. It haunts me every day. He acknowledged that he made a series of bad decisions. He said he was the CEO. He said, I was responsible. My useful life is probably over. Then, prosecutors had just spoken and they were saying to the judge, this wasn't a series of bad decisions and mistakes, but this was a criminal enterprise from essentially the beginning. They said it was not a liquidity crisis, not inactive management or poor oversight. It was the theft of billions of dollars.

Now, the judge is now speaking in the case. He addressed this at the outset, and he said he believes Sam Bankman-Fried perjured when he testified on the stand. He said he didn't believe Bankman-Friend's attorneys' arguments that all the investors would be recovered. He said that was speculative. It was logically flawed and misleading. So, he is now speaking. This building up to the moment of when he will deliver this sentence to Sam Bankman-Fried. Prosecutors are asking between 40 and 50 years in prison. Bankman-Fried is 32-years-old. His lawyers are saying he should get no more than six and a half years in prison, saying that this is not the same kind of fraud as Bernie Madoff. His lawyer telling the judge that Sam was not a ruthless financial serial killer who set out every morning to hurt people.

So, we're waiting now. I'm just going to see if we have any update, but we're waiting now for the judge to issue this sentence. Certainly, the stakes are very high for Sam Bankman-Fried. He was the face of the cryptocurrency industry and the collapse of FTX and reverberations throughout it. Erica.

HILL: Yeah. It certainly did, and part of what will be considered by the judge, not just yes, sir. Those words from Bankman-Fried. But, his pretrial actions, what was he doing, the scope of this loss, the impact on the victim, just walk us through again what that impact was for so many?

SCANNELL: Yes. So, one of the victims spoke in court today, and he also had testified at the trial. And for some of these victims, they had put their money into FTX, the trading platform, as a place where they could make trades in some of these cryptocurrencies. Some investors wrote to the judge, saying that this was a place, because they live overseas, where there is not a strong banking system, this was where they stuck their money in order to keep it safe. So, once FTX filed for bankruptcy in November of 2022 and collapsed, their money was essentially gone.

Now, through this bankruptcy recovery effort, the person now overseeing FTX says that they have recovered a lot of money, but the individuals have not gotten it back. And they certainly haven't had the benefit of the more than 400 percent increase in some of these cryptocurrencies that have experienced since the bankruptcy of FTX. So, a lot of people still waiting to see if they will get back their money, but they're certainly not getting back the gains that have taken place in the market since then.

HILL: Yeah, which is so important to point out. There was -- when we talk about Sam Bankman-Fried and his behavior, his character, if you will, there were moments even leading up to this, even leading up to trial, where I would say some of those perhaps decisions by Sam Bankman-Fried likely would be frowned upon.

SCANNELL: Yeah. And it's so frowned upon that the judge revoked his bail and threw him into federal detention. That began almost from the beginning where Bankman-Fried was let out on bail, but a lot of -- he had a lot of restrictions on his use of electronics, electronic devices, because this was the crypto industry he built. He knew computer codes. He knew how to do sophisticated things. And it began as simply as him being restricted from using any VPNs that can hide where your computer is. And he was doing that in order to watch the Super Bowl. The judge didn't like that. Then he also had made contact with the former general counsel of FTX. The judge viewed that as witness tampering.

And in addition, he was in communication with a reporter, providing them with information about one of the government's key witnesses, Bankman-Fried's former girlfriend, the former CEO of the hedge fund, and providing information that could have been viewed as negative against her before she was testifying against him in this case. Now, she has pleaded guilty to numerous crimes as well and will be sentenced later. But, the judge viewed all of that as witness tampering and revoked his bail, put him in detention back in August. He has been in federal detention since then. And he walked into court today from detention. The question is, how many years will it be until he can walk outside as a free man?

HILL: Yeah. That is what we are waiting for. Kara, really appreciate it. Thank you for walking us through all of this, and we'll wait for that word from the courthouse. Thank you.

Still to come here, we're also monitoring activity in a different courthouse, this one in Georgia, where Donald Trump's attorneys are arguing that the elections subversion charges against the former President should be thrown out. We'll bring you up to speed on that hearing.

Plus, what will it take to be Donald Trump in November?


The Biden campaign has some very big star-studded, very pricey plans tonight. You see the President there arriving at Joint Base Andrews, about to make his way up here to New York City for a star-studded fundraiser. We'll tell you more about who will be there, including the former presidents who will join him.


HILL: Welcome back. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Erica Hill in New York.

Let's caught up in some of the international headlines we're watching on this Thursday. Japan's SLIM moon lander has sent back new images to Earth, after surviving a second two-week lunar night. This is really an unexpected development. The lander wasn't designed to survive the moon's harsh temperatures for long. The lander has been on the moon since January.

A transitional governing council for Haiti issuing its first public statement on Wednesday, despite the fact that it actually hasn't yet been officially formed. That statement noting the need for a clear action plan aimed at restoring public and democratic order amid an epidemic of gang violence. The council will now have the task of appointing a new Prime Minister to replace the outgoing Ariel Henry.

And in a rare legal development, Ireland is set to make a formal intervention in the genocide case taken by South Africa against Israel in the International Court of Justice. This follows strong calls domestically from opposition politicians and members of the public to do so.

Here in the United States, we are keeping a close watch on developments out of Baltimore, Maryland, where, of course, a cargo ship struck in the wee hours, struck a bridge there, leading to at least six deaths. We're also just hearing now from the governor of that state and from the mayor of Baltimore as well. Let's listen in.

WES MOORE, MARYLAND GOVERNOR: -- happening as we speak. The best minds in the world are coming together to collect the information that we need to move forward with speed and safety and our response to this collapse. Government is working hand in hand with industry to investigate the area, to clear the wreck, and to move the ship. Leaders from across local and state and federal levels are gathering funds.

HILL: So, it's Wes Moore speaking there. He was actually speaking. Today is opening day for baseball in the United States, the Baltimore Orioles. The team for that city will be playing this afternoon. A moment of silence is expected. So, the governor also speaking there with the Orioles and then updating, of course, on the investigation.

We are also following very closely this story out of Georgia where Donald Trump's election subversion case is now back in the spotlight.


His lead attorney is arguing now for a motion. That's not him. That's a different attorney. But, the lead attorney for Donald Trump had filed a motion. They want the indictment against the former President thrown out because they say his political speech is protected by the First Amendment.

CNN reporter Zachary Cohen has been following this all very closely for us. I believe that's an attorney for another of the co-defendants, David Shafer. As we're watching this play out, where do things stand? What are we hearing from the judge and also both the defense and the prosecution in terms of the arguments that they're making in regards to this motion?

Z. COHEN: Yeah, Erica. Big picture, this is really about Donald Trump's attorneys trying to get this indictment tossed out before even getting to a trial and try to avoid a trial scenario. And what they're trying to do is they're trying to argue that. You can't be prosecuted for lying, essentially, and that false claims, which Donald Trump made plenty of them in the lead up to and after January 6, about the 2020 election, do not represent criminal acts because they're protected under the First Amendment, under political speech protections given by the First Amendment.

Now, prosecutors have made very clear that they think the idea of whether or not something is false and whether or not that is -- was set in furtherance of a criminal act, that's up to a jury. They want to get this case to trial. That's something that we've seen Fani Willis really pushed for since coming out of the last two months where we were frankly focused on her and her personal life as defense attorneys were trying to get her disqualified. But, now that she has been told by the judge in this case that she could remain on the case, she has been pushing to set a trial date here. She has asked previously for an August 5 trial date. The judge has not weighed in on that yet. I'm told that she may re-up that request if something's not put on the calendar soon.

But, today in the courtroom, it was really interesting, because we did see Judge McAfee give defense attorneys ample opportunity to make their case as to why the indictment should be thrown out. Defense attorney Steve Sadow ran through every count charged against the former President in an effort to maybe even get some of those counts trimmed, for example, because the judge has dismissed some of the charges in the past. Ultimately, the judge did not seem very receptive to the argument that the indictment wholesale should be thrown out.

We should note that there were two other Trump's former co-defendants who have made similar First Amendment arguments and those failed, and prosecutors leaned on the fact to that federal -- in Trump's federal case that was seen by Jack Smith, the judge has already evaluated the First Amendment question there, denying a similar motion to dismiss the federal indictment against Trump.

So, all these things sort of coming to a head. But, big picture, it's really important that this hearing and the fact that it's happening is evidence that the case itself is moving forward, that Judge McAfee is hearing oral arguments on motions that don't have to do with Fani Willis' disqualification. And it's continuing to march towards a potential trial once one is set.

HILL: All right. Zach Cohen, appreciate it and appreciate the breakdown. We will continue to check in with you.

We also do want to bring you up to speed on some political news. We're just seeing the President. We're seeing Air Force One taxiing. I think we have those live pictures, taxiing there at Joint Base Andrews. The President onboard, making his way up here to New York City for quite an event this evening. Talk about star power. You've got two ex- presidents and the Queen to give the Biden campaign a huge boost. President Biden, former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, will be taking the stage together at New York's iconic Radio City Music Hall tonight for a fundraiser with a number of big names, celebs, including that Queen, Queen Latifah.

The event is raising some serious cash, already some $25 million for the Biden campaign coffers. And that also really extends what is -- its sizable fundraising advantage that the President has right now over the former President, as they both, of course, ramp up their election efforts.

CNN's Arlette Saenz joining us now from the White House. So, yes, they hope to bring in a lot of money here, right, as these fundraisers. That is one of the focuses. But, it's also the people who will be joining the President there, former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. There is also some hope that they can help boost enthusiasm for Joe Biden.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and it really presents a unique moment in presidential politics, Erica, is you have three Democratic presidents teaming up with the goal of defeating a former President, Donald Trump, and it really signals how both former President Barack Obama and Bill Clinton hope to be active heading into November's election. We know conversations I've had with Biden's advisors and Obama's advisors as well, is that they're trying to strategize about the most impactful moments that they can use Obama heading into November's election. He has already taped some fundraising videos, also messages when it pertains to the Affordable Care Act, that signature healthcare law of Obama.

But, we expect this fundraiser tonight really to be an attempt to draw in and energize Democratic supporters. It's unlikely that Obama would be hitting the campaign trail himself until the fall. That is similar to what we've seen back in 2020 when he campaigned alongside Joe Biden as he ran for election.


But, really, this moment tonight is giving the Biden campaign an opportunity to flex their organizational and their financial muscle. As you mentioned, this fundraiser is expected to bring in more than $25 million. Tickets started at $225 a person. It went all the way up to $500,000 a person. The more money you pay, the more access you get, including one tier that will get people a photo with the three presidents, a photo taken by famed photographer Annie Leibovitz. Stephen Colbert will be moderating a discussion between the three presidents. And then there is also a separate online component to this, a separate event where those small dollar donors will also get to hear from the three presidents.

There is a star-studded a list of people who will be performing, including, as you mentioned, Queen Latifah, Lizzo, Ben Platt, Lea Michele, all as they're trying to drum up this Democratic support. Of course, Obama has been a huge draw for Democrats in the past. And so, this will also be a key test to see how much support, how much energy they can bring among voters, as they're looking to turn up the vote heading into November's election against Trump.

HILL: And then, of course, after this big event with all those big names, how much will we see of some of these folks, surrogates out on the campaign trail? Has that been released at all by the campaign? How are they hoping to continue that involvement?

SAENZ: In conversations that I've had with people, they really think that they're going to try to use these key moments really to maximize the use of surrogates, like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Barack Obama spoke virtually at the 2020 convention. We'll see if he has a similar role coming up at the Democratic Convention in August. But, it's unlikely that we will see him actively out on the campaign trail until you get to the fall, into that get out the vote period. But, there have been conversations behind the scenes, certainly from both former presidents, offering advice and counsel about how they think the campaign should progress. Of course, it's worth noting, both Obama and Clinton won second term. So, they do have some insight into what it seeks -- to what it takes to seek a reelection.

We know that Obama speaks frequently with Biden, so does Bill Clinton, and they're also both in touch with top advisors here at the White House. Jeff Zients speaks regularly with Obama. Steve Ricchetti, a counselor to the President, had worked in Bill Clinton's administration, he is in touch with Clinton. So, these two former presidents are always keeping tabs on not just what the White House is doing in day-to-day governing, but also in how this campaign is playing out in the coming months.

HILL: All right, Arlette. We'll be watching for all of that. You mentioned too, of course, that the former President and the current President still speak often. Do we have a sense? I'm putting on the spot a little bit here. So, I have to apologize, my friend, if you don't have this answer. But, do we have a sense of whether those conversations have really ramped up a little bit as the campaigning has started to ramp up for Joe Biden?

SAENZ: They're always engaging in these kinds of check-ins. And we do know that President Obama was here at the White House last Friday for several hours. Now, there have been a few times where he has come up -- come in to have lunch with Biden, but also really to try to tape some of these messaging pushes for the campaign. They just did a big one last Saturday around the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. So, you do see them at least here at the White House. They've been meeting, I would say, I want to say at least three times since Biden has launched his campaign, if I'm thinking back to the calendar correctly, but they do talk on the phone from time to time as well.

HILL: Absolutely. Arlette, appreciate it, as always. Thank you. Thanks for letting me put you on the spot.

We have been following very closely, of course, the developments also out of Fulton County, Georgia, today. That is where for the last couple of hours a hearing has been underway for a motion related to the election subversion case. The election subversion, it's a tough one to say, case in Georgia, and specifically as it relates to the former President. His attorneys had filed a motion. They want those charges dismissed because they say whatever the president -- the former President was saying, his political speech is protected under the First Amendment, and therefore none of these charges should be brought against him.

Zach Cohen is joining us now. He has been monitoring this hearing throughout the day. The hearing just wrapping up, Zach. Is that correct?

Z. COHEN: That's right, Erica, and no decision was made from the bench by Judge McAfee, which isn't really unusual. I spent a lot of time in Judge McAfee's courtroom over the last several years, and he very rarely rules from the bench. Now, we have to wait and see if he issues a written order or if he waits to hear more of these similar arguments made by Trump and his fellow co-defendants, and then sort of issue one overarching decision to whether to grant or deny all of them, grant or deny some of them, grant some of them too.

So, there has been decision made today after today's hearing. Judge McAfee did listen and did push defense attorney for Donald Trump, Steve Sadow, on this First Amendment argument. He repeated asked him to explain why this should be a question that should be answered before a trial takes place.


That's what Steve said Donald Trump want, they want, this indictment to be thrown out before getting to a trial scenario. Prosecutors, obviously, arguing the exact opposite, saying the question of whether or not Donald Trump's false statements about the 2020 election and widespread voter fraud, as he put it, worse that in furtherance of a crime. They -- prosecutors say that that question is for the jury. This question of intent needs to be handled by a jury of his peers. So, ultimately, have to wait and see what McAfee says. He didn't seem very receptive to the argument that the indictment or should wholesale be thrown out.

But, he did allow Steve Sadow again to march through the each count against the former President, and did seem open to the idea that potentially some of those counts could be trimmed. Again, we'll wait and see what he says, whether it's a written order or one big order that encompasses all these different similar motions.

HILL: We're waiting for that order. There is also a question of whether perhaps a trial date could be set soon. Was there any indication from the judge that that is imminent?

Z. COHEN: No. There really wasn't. He has been holding his card very close to his chest here. As we've said before, Fani Willis, the DA in Fulton County, has asked for an August 5 trial date to be set. She asked for that several months ago, even before the controversy about her relationship with her top prosecutor came out. That request is still going on to this day. And I'm told that she may re-up that ask if Judge McAfee does not put a date on the calendar soon.

But again, the fact that this hearing today was even happening is a sign that the case continues to move forward. McAfee hearing oral arguments on motions that have nothing to do with Fani Willis' potential disqualification, really checking the different boxes and really working her way through the stack of motions that have to be addressed before a trial can even happen. So, we'll have to see if something gets put on the calendar soon. But, McAfee not showing his cards today.

HILL: All right. Zach Cohen, appreciate the reporting, as always. Thank you.

Still to come here, two very different days ahead for the contenders for the presidency, former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden. We will tell you what they have planned for the day and why they look so different. We will break that down with our panel, just ahead.


HILL: Welcome back. Joining me now, Faiz Shakir, who is head of the nonprofit More Perfect Union and an advisor to Senator Bernie Sanders, and Charlie Dent, former Republican Congressman, currently with the Aspen Institute. Good to see both of you today. We have a lot of things playing out on this Thursday here. Let's start if we could with the former President, with Donald Trump, whose attorneys, of course, just finished their argument to have the charges against him in Georgia dismissed. We don't know yet how the judge has ruled. Similar motions haven't done so well.

Charlie, as we look at that, this is one of the last hurdles, right, before getting that case, really, on the calendar. What does it mean if this is not, right, this motion, in fact, is denied?

CHARLIE DENT, FORMER U.S. HOUSE REPUBLICAN, & EXEC. DIRECTOR, ASPEN INSTITUTE CONGRESSIONAL PROGRAM: Well, look, I think I'm not a lawyer, but I will tell you, I think Donald Trump has a -- they're making a real stretch of an argument here about a First Amendment matter.


I think that'll be for the jury to decide. Clearly, the President's speech where he was trying to coerce the Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find him nearly 12,000 votes, I think it's a tough call to say that's a First Amendment issue. It clearly looks like a crime may have been committed. So, I suspect the judge will dismiss this motion, and the jury will be set to decide this. I'm not saying this is a slam dunk case for the prosecution. But, I would rather be the prosecution and the defense right now in this matter.

HILL: Fair enough. As we look at where the former President is today, he was not in that courtroom. We know that he was going to be attending the wake for an NYPD officer who was killed in the line of duty. Flags have been ordered to half-staff by Governor Hochul in the state today. The former President putting out, I guess, in some ways a typical statement, noting that he would be there paying his respects.

And also, Faiz, noting where the current President will be, which is at this star-studded fundraiser here in New York City, which the former President said. Meantime, the three stooges, Biden, Obama and Clinton, will be at a glitzy fundraiser in the city with their elitist out-of-touch celebrity benefactors. It is quite the juxtaposition. When you have Donald Trump going to the wake of a fallen NYPD officer and then we're talking about this star-studded event, what do you make of that?

FAIZ SHAKIR, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MORE PERFECT UNION: Well, it's campaign season. So, you appreciate that people are going to have their perspectives and that's fine. But, each has to play in a strategy to win. And if you look at -- what's interesting to me as a former campaign manager, is you look at the schedules of these two particular candidates. Since Donald Trump clinched the nomination, he has largely been inactive to the extent that he has been out there in public, largely court hearings or this type of event today.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden has been extremely active. He has barnstormed basically the entire country. He is doing this event tonight. He is going to have some other events coming up. He is basically ramped up since the State of the Union in a big way, part of what is the reason for that is both the money, Biden is well positioned financially. He is hiring a bunch of people in the states to do grassroots organizing, and he is raising money tonight. Donald Trump, on the other hand, is cash struggling at the moment, and you can see that in the way that his campaign has really kind of grinded down where it's less active than it ever was during the primary season.

HILL: We're talking about cash. I mean, this is a major fundraiser for President Biden tonight, $25 million raised already with some very big names, big celebrities, Charlie, but also you have two former presidents. They can each speak to their own audiences, especially former President Obama. What does it say, though, that the Democratic, right, the presumptive Democratic nominee for President can have his predecessors there with him? I mean, I don't see the same thing happening where you're going to see George Bush appear at an event with Donald Trump.

DENT: I really don't think these presidential endorsements really mean much, frankly. This race is between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Everybody knows that. Everything else is just, it's a sideshow. I don't think it matters. That said, the money issues that you just highlighted are very real. Trump is struggling, and the Trump campaign raised $20 million in February. The Biden campaign raised one heck of a lot more, I think, over $53 million. The cash on hand advantage is almost four times more for Biden than Trump. The RNC is broke. They have $11 million, I think cash on hand or financial train wreck.

I mean -- so, I think right now it's hard for Donald Trump to be both a criminal defendant and a presidential candidate. So much time and effort is being distracted and moved away from the campaign toward his legal defense. I mean, this is just an incredible amount of money that is not being used for real campaign purposes. And he is down ballot candidates, Republican candidates, are going to struggle because of this financial inequity. This money is really needed to help with the grassroots operations at the state level. It's not there. And so, if I'm a Republican, I'm really worried about this money disadvantage.

HILL: Got it. Now, listen, they're great points. We've been talking for some time about the money issues, specifically for the RNC. And when we're seeing it play out in this way, as the legal troubles continue, it is important to always look at that. When it comes to Charlie's point about -- and these endorsements don't really matter. Do the celebrities matter? Either we see all these big names. What happens, though, after tonight? If you're not Faiz, if you're not one of those people who is paying -- the cheapest ticket was $225, the most expensive was half a million, if you don't want to shell out that kind of cash, do those celebrities have enough power that they are going to sway votes?

SHAKIR: No. I think we're in the same category that Charlie Dent was just talking about with respect to presidential endorsements. I'd say the same came about celebrity endorsements.


They help generate some intensity and some attention, which is nice. But, we're still many months away and they're not going to be determinative to this election. I would just say on the money matter. I think every -- I agree with everything that Charlie just said. But, I would also note that we're talking in a week in which Donald Trump became a paper billionaire, like a wealthy paper billionaire. And I think what's going on here too is that the Trump's social is just -- the paper that is now delivering to Donald Trump, I think we need to be worried about the influence of large investors, large billionaires over the Trump campaign, given his cash-strapped nature.

HILL: Follow the money. We've heard it for years. Faiz Shakir, Charlie Dent, good to see you both. Thank you.

SHAKIR: Thank you. HILL: We do want to get into some breaking news. FTX founder Sam

Bankman-Fried has been sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for his role in the collapse of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX. This is considered, of course, one of the largest white collar crimes in history.

David Weinstein, former State and Federal Prosecutor, and Misty Marris, Defense Attorney, are both back with us now. This was -- the prosecution had been asking for 40 to 50 years. The defense said that would be medieval. He will spend the rest of his life in prison. How about six and a half? The fact, Misty, that the judge settled on 25, does that surprise you? What do you make of this sentence?

MARRIS: It doesn't surprise me at all. I kind of thought it would fall into that realm. It would be on the upper echelon a little bit, more towards what the prosecution was asking for. Sentencing guidelines would have allowed them to go up to like 110. And I think there was something in this case that Judge Kaplan, who have appeared before many, many times, it was not really buying. And one of the arguments was that all of the people who had been wronged by this widespread financial scheme would be made whole through the bankruptcy proceeding. He was not buying that argument.

And also, remember, Judge Kaplan, during the trial, had found that Sam Bankman-Fried lied and perjured himself on the stand. None of that is going to help in the context of a sentencing hearing. So, not surprised to see that 25 years is the result.

HILL: Yeah. David, there was a little bit of surprise, I think, from some folks, at least as we were reading the updates here in the breaks that he did speak today and apologize. But, there was so much, David, prior to that moment that the judge was also weighing, as Misty just pointed out, part of that.

WEINSTEIN: Well, I am somewhat surprised that he actually had that much to say. Look, a defendant very often puts their foot in their mouth during sentencing. And keep in mind, he is also appealing his convictions. So, he has to be careful what he says about admitting anything. And so, he gave sort of a (inaudible) apology on behalf of what he had done, and the people he had offended perhaps had shaved off a couple of years on his sentence, finally showing his acceptance and responsibility here. And that's why the judge came down a little bit. Not surprising to me that the sentence fell where it did either. I was kind of thinking it would go in the 30-year range. So, I was a little off.

But, again, a dangerous line that he was walking there. I've often seen a client who snatches defeat out of the jaws of victory, but there was no way he was going to sentence him to the low end that they were asking for.

HILL: David, what is the message that this sentence sends, these 25 years?

WEINSTEIN: I think the message that it sends is one -- two. And I don't know how often this works, because we've seen other people sentenced to 30 years plus for doing the same type of thing. And people do it again. But, I think the sentence sends the message to the people who were victimized that the system cares about you, then we're going to punish the people who did this. And it sends a message to others who are perhaps thinking about this or are involved in this, that there are going to be some serious repercussions to what their actions are. And finally, he was similarly situated to people like Madoff and others. So, it sends a message that we have a general idea as to what your punishment is going to be if you do this. And so, that's where you're going to get slotted in all of this.

HILL: Misty, we have about 30 seconds left. I'll give you the last word on this.

MARRIS: Yes, deterrence, and that's a pillar of the criminal justice system. And the other piece of this is a message that white collar crime is not going to be a slap on the wrist.

HILL: All right. Misty Marris, David Weinstein, appreciate you both rolling with us throughout our coverage this morning. Really good to have you along with your expertise and your insight. Thank you.

And thanks to all of you for joining us. I am Erica Hill in New York. Be sure to stick with CNN. One World is up next.




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