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David Schoen is Interviewed about Being Removed as Bannon's Lawyer; One of a Kind AFC Championship Game; Daniel Roher on Navalny. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired January 13, 2023 - 08:30   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, there was a remarkable moment in a New York courtroom yesterday as Steve Bannon's attorney, David Schoen, pleaded with a Manhattan judge to relieve him from representing Bannon in his charity fraud case. As you know, that is Bannon facing charges for allegedly defrauding donors who gave money to a non-profit that said it wanted to build a wall on a southern border, but prosecutors say actually Bannon pocketed the money. He has pleaded not guilty to that. But he may now be without an attorney.

David Schoen told the judge yesterday there was a complete breakdown of communication, and he can no longer defend Bannon in the case, saying that Bannon and his legal team have, quote, irreconcilable differences. The judge has granted Bannon until February 28th to find a new attorney and reportedly told Schoen that once the lawyer was found, quote, you never need to come back.

So, joining us now to discuss this remarkable moment that played out is Steve Bannon's attorney, David Schoen. Maybe not his attorney for much longer in this case. He was also, we should note, former President Trump's defense lawyer during that second impeachment trial.

Good morning, David, and thanks for being here.

I guess the first question that I have for you is, when was the last time that you and Steve Bannon spoke?

DAVIS SCHOEN, ATTORNEY FOR STEVE BANNON: Well, we speak, we just don't speak about this case. We -- I concluded that we had irreconcilable differences about the approach to the case, the defense of the case, the strategy in the case, the resources for the case.


And so the best policy on that was just not to talk about it anymore. I talked to him through a third-party lawyer.

But, you know, I still represent him in the case in D.C. And I certainly speak to him and we're cordial. COLLINS: So, you still talk to him about other cases, but when it comes to this border wall case that he's facing, you speak through a third-party attorney to talk to Steve Bannon?

SCHOEN: Yes, just -- there's no point any further in discussing issues surrounding this case. We have very different views of how it should be handled. And when I take on a case, I need to be able to handle it in the way that I see appropriate.

Frankly, you know, there was a bit of a breakdown in the D.C. trial. I disagreed with the trial strategy in the case. And so when the trial came, I refused to participate in the examination of witnesses and argument. I just handled the legal issues in that case, even though I had been hired to be the lead lawyer. But I, you know, I have to be sort of -- follow what I believe to be the appropriate defense in a case. And a lawyer has to be in sync with the client, frankly, for it to work effectively. And that's part of the rules of professional conduct as well.

COLLINS: You mentioned resources as an issue. And oftentimes when, you know, through my reporting I've seen relationships like this break down it's over that. That is part of the issue, lawyers getting paid here. Is that part of the problem here?

SCHOEN: No. First of all, if it were, I wouldn't say so. But it's not in this case. When I say resources, I mean the resources surrounding how the case is to be prepared, experts, that sort of thing. Very specific approach to the case that I have council to take. But I can't go into those details, of course, as I know you know. And Steve Bannon may well be right and I might be wrong in how the case should be approached, but it's his case and his life after all and he deserves to be able to proceed with a defense that he thinks is appropriate.

COLLINS: The judge seemed to think this was part of a delay tactic because now Bannon has until the end of February to come up with a new attorney. All of this is going on with the discovery and the evidence. Is this a delay tactic? What would you say to that?

SCHOEN: No, it's not a delay tactic. That's where the thing blew up yesterday, frankly. You know, the prosecutor in this case, they investigated the case for two years. They had, by their own account, 47 employees working on the case. They told us a trial -- we set a schedule based on representations they made in September and October. Then in November they produced a 20 terabyte hard drive which they produced secretly under a protective order without having ever reviewed it. And, you know, that's -- they characterized it as twice the print collection of the Library of Congress. So they asked for a 90-day extension.

Yesterday, the prosecutor stood up and said, this is a delay tactic, judge. We already gave them 90 days. That's when I went emotional, let's say. And I said, judge, they've just omitted a major fact. They asked for the 90-day extension. And I said, and you know what you told them, judge, when they asked for it? You said, oh, you need 90 days, you've got it. So, that's what set the judge off. He called us up to the bench and he

said, you know, something like, I don't approve of this conduct in my courtroom and you've insinuated I'm unfair. And I said, judge, let me say, you know, frankly, I think you're unfair. And so then I said, there was no point in dragging us up here. All you had us do was restate what I said in my letters to you. That was the problem going into the hearing. He had said - he issued an order saying he needed details showing good cause for the withdrawal. He's just wrong on the law. And when I saw in the newspaper they quoted him as saying I was wrong, he was just mimicking what I said. I said, judge, you're absolutely wrong about the case.

I've litigated right to counsel of choice cases for many, many years in different courts around the country. There's not a lot I know about many issues. That's an issue I've just done a lot of work on. And he wasn't correct on the law.


COLLINS: I don't think any judge likes being told that.

SCHOEN: Right.

COLLINS: But, David Schoen, we now know Bannon has until the end of next month to find a new attorney. We'll see how that search goes.

Thank you for joining us on that remarkable showdown in court.

SCHOEN: Thank you very much.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: That is so interesting and so rare, and they're still talking, just not about this, but this through a third- party attorney.

COLLINS: So they basically use someone else to communicate about -

HARLOW: Don, can you tell Kaitlan something?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: What? Oh, sorry, someone was talking to me.

HARLOW: All right, this morning's number is zero. We'll tell you why, ahead.

LEMON: I'll tell you the producers are saying go to the tease.

COLLINS: Get out of this segment.

HARLOW: We didn't hear that.



LEMON: So the NFL playoffs begin this weekend. And if the Bills go the distance, the AFC Championship game will look very different. Here to explain, Harry Enten, our senior data reporter. OK, so I guess it has to do with this morning's numbers.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes. So, this morning's number is, if we can get this to roll, zero. That's the number of NFL conference championship games at neutral sites in years past before a possible Chiefs versus Bills one in two weeks in Atlanta. It wouldn't take place in Kansas City or in Buffalo.

Why is that? OK, why would a Chiefs/Bills game take place at a neutral site? The Bills would have hosted if the teams had the same record. They held the tie breaker because they beat the Chiefs in regular season. But the Chiefs have one more win and the same number of losses and the Bills couldn't lie the Chiefs because of the canceled games a few weeks ago between the Bengals and the Bills.

So, essentially we're in unknown territory. This is very unique that's going on.

Now, the question I have, is this neutral site of Atlanta truly neutral? I think the answer to that is yes. Why is that? Because both teams' home cities are 11 to 13 hours away by car, so the fans could drive down to Atlanta. Both cities have airports that have flights directly to Atlanta. Southwest, I believe, flies from Kansas City. Delta flies from Buffalo. So the fact is, the fans can get to the game.

But I think is real question, Don, here is, what's the chance that this actually happens? OK. It's about a 52 percent chance of happening, so there's a better chance than not that we could actually have history. The Bills have to win their two next games. The Chiefs must win their next game. They have a bye this week. The Bills are playing Miami. And we'll see what happens, Don.

But, to me, I love history. I love football. The two of those have come together here. And we're maybe making history. And, hey, maybe you and I can go down to Atlanta and also go down to (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: It's exciting. It's, obviously, exactly what you say, because you're blowing my eardrums out.


You're like, ahhhh! Right?

ENTEN: You know what the fact is, we need a - we need a little wake-up call in the morning. A little cup of morning Harry.

HARLOW: Oh, my.


LEMON: Thank you, Harry.

ENTEN: Thank you.

COLLINS: I've got no comment on that. LEMON: Yes.

COLLINS: OK, also this morning, Russian President Putin has lashed out over a lack of warplanes and the wife of Alexei Navalny is pleading for help. She says her sick husband is getting weaker behind bars and not getting the care he needs. Daniel Roher, the director of CNN's award-winning film "Navalny," is going to join us next.



New this morning, Russian President Vladimir Putin losing his temper and publicly berating a senior minister in a televised meeting, scolding him for not completing orders to build military and civilian aircraft fast enough.



VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Mr. Mantarov (ph), you say everything is ready to go, but there are no contracts. This is what I am telling you. Let's discuss this after the meeting. There's no point in our splitting hairs at this point. I know no contracts have been signed with the enterprises. The directors have told me so. Why are you fooling around?


HARLOW: This all comes as Alexei Navalny, Russia's most well-known political prisoner, is sick, very sick, according to his wife, behind bars. She is begging for medical treatment that she says he is not getting.

She posted on Instagram that Navalny is being kept in a two by three meter cell, just like what you're looking at there, possibly with someone sicker than him in the same cell to infect him. You see those dimensions taped on our studio floor. It's tiny. His daughter says Navalny is 6'3". His wife also says he's not allowed to lie down during the day despite a high fever.

In the CNN film airing tomorrow, you can watch the story of how Navalny ended up in a Russian jail after surviving an assassination attempt and then tracked down his own would be killers. It is a remarkable film. If you haven't seen it, here's a preview.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you come to room of a comatose patient, you start - you just tell him the news. Telling him his story. Alexei, don't worry, you were poisoned, there was a murder attempt. Putin tried to kill you using novichok. And he opened his like blue eyes wide and looked at me and said very clear (Speaking in foreign Language). ON SCREEN TEXT: What the (EXPLETIVE DELETED)? That is so stupid!

ALEXEI NAVALNY: Come on, poisoned? I don't believe it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like, he's back. This is Alexei.

NAVALNY: Putin's supposed to be not so stupid to use this novichok.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His wording, his expletives, his intonation.

NAVALNY: If you want to kill someone, just shoot him. Jesus Christ.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like real Alexei.

NAVALNY: It's impossible to believe it. It's kind of stupid. The whole idea of poisoning with a chemical weapon, what the (EXPLETIVE DELETED). This is why this is so smart because even reasonable people they refuse to believe like, what, come on, poisoned? Seriously?


HARLOW: The Kremlin, Russian security services, of course, deny that they played any role in Navalny's poisoning.

With us now is the director of the film "Navalny," Daniel Roher.

Daniel, thank you for being here.

DANIEL ROHER, DIRECTOR, "NAVALNY": Thank you for having me, guys. Appreciate it.

LEMON: Good morning. Good to see you.

HARLOW: Let's begin, though, on the news, and that is what his - his wife is saying. Obviously, you know her well. She's an integral part of the film. Do you have anything you can share with us?

ROHER: It's not good. The situation is very bleak. Navalny, as we know, as you illustrated on your studio floors, is in a very small cell. We know that he doesn't have access to medical care. We know that he's very sick. And it's very challenging. And we're all worried to say the least.


ROHER: But, at the end of the day, we know that the man's resolve is extraordinarily strong. He is a courageous guy. His spine is made of iron. His character is, the last I was able to communicate with him, was intact and his sense of humor was intact.

LEMON: What do you worry about most, physical or mental? Both?

ROHER: Yes. I mean he's in a gulag. It's cold. It's winter. They don't provide him with winter clothing. They don't provide him -- it took him four days to get hot water as a - as a small remedy for his illness. So, this is what I worry about. It almost seems as though the regime is trying to murder him slowly.

And I think it's the responsibility of the international community and people with influence to speak out against this.

I was actually heartened to see yesterday 200 Russian physicians actually signed a public letter demanding that the regime provide him with medical care.

HARLOW: Yes. Yes.

ROHER: And that was unprecedented. In its own way an act of dissent. And that was encouraging to see.

COLLINS: And Germany is part of that. They're saying that he needs to get that medical care. They're speaking out publicly this morning.

I think one thing that's fascinating is, we talk about him being sick in this small cell and what he's going through. He's speaking out when he can from here.


COLLINS: You talked about the contact, though. He's not able to make phone calls.


COLLINS: But when he does have access -


COLLINS: They post on his (INAUDIBLE). He's speaking out against the war in Ukraine and being very critical of the Kremlin, even though he is being held here.

ROHER: If there's one message that I could get across to the world, this is the most critical headline, Alexei Navalny is in solitary confinement. He is languishing because he is the number one outspoken critic of this war. He is the number one anti-war advocate in the country. He has no concern for his own longevity. He has no concern for his own survival. His concern is with the people of Ukraine and ending this egregious war. And it's stunning to see because if he stopped speaking out, if his organization stopped publishing their investigations, I'm sure that he would be released back into the general prison population, he would be taken out of solitary confinement.


HARLOW: He had a huge - had - has a huge amount of support within Russia -


HARLOW: Which is a part of the reason, right, for the attack on him.


HARLOW: You still hold out hope, which I find to be fascinating, that perhaps one day he will be on the ticket -


HARLOW: Or become the president of Russia.

ROHER: Absolutely. I think Navalny's cornerstone value is hope. This is his orientation is to have hope. And something that was really inspiring for me as I was taking this film around the world is the dozens and dozens -- the hundreds of young Russian people, newly exiled from their nation, who are despondent and sad about the state of affairs, about what's going on in their country, about this egregious war, who come to the screenings, who approach me after the screenings crying because for the first time in a long time in our film they were able to see a glimmer of light, a little bit of hope, something to be optimistic about for the future of their own nation.

And that's what I think of when I think of Navalny. He is a little flicker of light in a very, very dark context. And I think for millions and millions of Russians, that sense of hope is really inspiring and very meaningful.

HARLOW: Yes. And standing for something at all costs.

ROHER: Absolutely.

HARLOW: Well, the work you've done, you and your team with Bellingcat, has just been extraordinary.

COLLINS: Amazing.

HARLOW: Daniel Roher, congratulations.

ROHER: Thank you so much.

HARLOW: Thank you. I hope all of you who have not seen this film tune in to CNN tomorrow night, 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN, and watch "Navalny."

We'll be right back.