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CNN This Morning

Trump Says He Expects to Be Indicted, Timing is Unclear; House GOP Requests Manhattan D.A.'s Testimony; Putin, Xi to Hold Second Day of Talks in Moscow; Will Fed Raise Interest Rates During Banking Crisis?. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired March 21, 2023 - 06:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Thanks for joining me. I'm Christine Romans. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, my gosh. Everyday there is something that unfolds when it comes to this Donald Trump indictment thing.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. There's a lot of it today, too.

LEMON: Yes. One of us is missing, though.


LEMON: Poppy is off. Good morning, everyone. Poppy is off.

Welcome in. This is CNN THIS MORNING. We have a lot to get to, but we're going to start you off with the five things that you need to know for this Tuesday. It is Tuesday, March 21.

The NYPD on alert today in response of Donald Trump's call for protests ahead of a possible indictment. A source telling CNN that all officers are expected to be in uniform, ready to deploy. We're told no specific threat has been identified, and there's still no word on a charging decision from the Manhattan D.A.

COLLINS: Also today, a massive strike has shut down Los Angeles public schools. Thousands of teachers and other workers are set to walk off the job for at least three days with negotiations in the district stalled. That means nearly half a million students will be out of school.

Also, we are tracking a high-stakes summit just two hours away in Moscow. Russia's President Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are set to hold more formal talks today. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called Xi's visit, quote, "diplomatic cover" for Russian war crimes.

LEMON: New development on this one. FOX News and Dominion voting systems back in court this morning. A judge in Delaware going to hear arguments in Dominion's $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit. Both sides asking the judge to rule in their favor before a potential trial. COLLINS: And the Boss is headed to the White House. President Biden is

set to award Bruce Springsteen and many others with the National Medal of Arts. Other recipients and attendants are going to include Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Gladys Knight, Mindy Kaling.

CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.


LEMON: Do you know this dance?

COLLINS: Of course.

LEMON: That is Courtney Cox. She jumps up on stage with the Boss in that.

COLLINS: I love Bruce Springsteen.

You know what's funny about Mindy Kaling getting it? It's because, you know, "The Office" was such a big launching pad for her career.


COLLINS: It made her famous, and it was obviously taped in Biden's hometown, Scranton, Pennsylvania.

LEMON: Yes. I'm going to have this song stuck in my head, by the way.

COLLINS: Yes, I bet.

LEMON: So thank you, producers, very much. Welcome.

COLLINS: OK. We will get more to what's happening at the White House with Bruce Springsteen. But this morning, we're going to start here in New York, in Washington, because police are on high alert in both cities after former President Trump called on his supporters to protest and "take our nation back." That's a quote from him.

He said today was the day he might be arrested. We should note, so far we have no indication that it's actually happening today. The timeline on a potential indictment is unclear, but security fences still going up around the Manhattan district attorney's office and the U.S. Capitol this morning.

The New York Police Department has told all officers to be in uniform and ready to deploy today, as a possible indictment is still looming over the city. That's according to an internal memo that was obtained by CNN.

But Manhattan's district attorney has not actually said if or when criminal charges are coming against Trump in the investigation of hush-money payments to the porn actress Stormy Daniels.

CNN senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid is here with us.

Paula, there have just been so many developments in this. And we are tracking so many of them. Right now, we still don't have an indication that Trump is going to be indicted today. It does still seem imminent.

But we did see Robert Costello going before the district -- or going before the jury yesterday. What do we know about what was said there?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It was a pretty wild day in court yesterday, Kaitlan. I mean, this was a last -- a last-ditch effort by the Trump team to try to avoid an indictment.

They asked prosecutors to bring Robert Costello before the grand jury to attack Michael Cohen's credibility. Cohen is, of course, a central witness here.

And back in 2018, when federal investigators were looking into these hush-money payments, Costello had several conversations with Cohen, where he says Cohen insisted that it was his idea to make these hush- money payments. And that contradicts other statements he has made.

Now, following his appearance before the grand jury, Costello gave a little press conference of sorts. Let's take a listen to what he said.


ROBERT COSTELLO, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL COHEN: The only thing I'm doing is trying to tell the truth to the grand jurors. Listen, if they want to go after Donald Trump, and they have solid evidence, so be it. But Michael Cohen is far from solid evidence.

This guy, by any prosecutor's standard -- and I used to be deputy chief of the criminal division in the Southern District of New York. I wouldn't have touched a guy like Michael Cohen, especially if he's a convicted perjurer.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I have truth. I have the documentation. Let me rephrase that: the district attorney has the documentation in order to validate every single statement that I've made.


REID: Clearly, both men making their arguments in the court of public opinion. But yesterday, Cohen was at court, but he did not actually go before the grand jury. It was thought that he might be called in to rebut Costello's testimony.

COLLINS: It's just fascinating, if you've been, as we have, like, following these people for so long, given Robert Costello used to be a legal adviser to Michael Cohen.

I think the question, though, now is when this indictment is going to happen. I think this is still a question even Trump's legal team has.

REID: Exactly, Kaitlan. At this point, we just don't know if and when he will be indicted.

Now for any other defendant, the way this would work is a grand jury would vote to indict. If they choose to indict an individual, their attorneys are then notified that they've been indicted but not necessarily on what charges.

And then there's a negotiation for self-surrender and an initial appearance.

Now talking to sources close to the former president, I am told that there won't be any problem, if he is indicted, with a surrender. There's not going to be any kind of standoff anywhere. And that he does want to appear, if he is indicted, in person, despite all the security concerns.

Now, we've also learned that, if he is indicted this week, any initial appearance wouldn't happen until next week. And we're learning that not only from sources in Trump world but also law enforcement.

COLLINS: Yes. And clearly, law enforcement is preparing for when that indictment could come down. Paula Reid, you're going to be very busy over the next several days. Thank you.

LEMON: And there's so much to discuss when it comes to this. We're joined now by someone with an intimate knowledge of how things work inside the Manhattan district attorney's office. And that is Jeremy Saland. He worked as assistant district attorney in Manhattan for seven years before current D.A., Alvin Bragg's, tenure.

So happy. Good morning.


LEMON: Thank you for joining us this morning.

So listen, we heard yesterday from Mr. Costello. We heard from Mr. Cohen, as well. Michael Cohen was expected to go in yesterday to rebut what Costello said, but prosecutors determined somehow it wasn't necessary.

Does this speak to anything that -- that we should be looking forward to in the future that possibly what Costello actually had to say didn't affect what -- what Alvin Bragg and his investigators believe about this investigation?

SALAND: Well, the grand jury has a right to call a witness. So they very may well say, Today we want to hear from Michael Cohen or hear from another witness. They have that ability to call for whatever testimony they think is important.

LEMON: Yes. I want to play this. This is what Costello had to say about Michael Cohen after testifying yesterday. Watch this.


COSTELLO: The only thing I'm doing is trying to tell the truth to the grand jurors. Listen, if they want to go after Donald Trump, and they have solid evidence, so be it. But Michael Cohen is far from solid evidence.

This guy, by any prosecutor's standard -- and I used to be deputy chief of the criminal division in the Southern District of New York. I wouldn't have touched a guy like Michael Cohen, especially if he's a convicted perjurer.


LEMON: Listen, Michael Cohen did plead guilty, right, went to jail. But also, Robert Costello has credibility issues, as well. He's mentioned in the Mueller report, his role in this whole hush-money investigation and coverup, as well. He has credibility issues.

So why on earth would they call him to testify?

SALAND: Everyone is going to get evidence against those who are involved in these allegations. That's what you're going to get. You're not going to find a choir boy. You're going to find somebody who's immersed in it. And those people, unfortunately, may have some baggage.

LEMON: Yes. So we've heard from -- at least the reporting is that Stormy Daniels, right, has appeared before the grand jury, at least by Zoom. Not sure if there was testimony but saying that she would be available. She and her attorneys, she would be available.

We heard from Michael Cohen. We've heard from Robert Costello and others.

This appears to be wrapping up. Everyone wants to know when it's going to happen. What is the timeline? Is it going to be today? Is it tomorrow? Is it next week? Having worked in the D.A.'s office, is it possible to put a date or a time on that?

SALAND: Within reason there is. This is an ongoing investigation. It's not a reactive investigation. It's proactive.

So the D.A.'s office should really know at this point, in fact, well before who is going to testify and what, if anything, is going to happen to throw that off-course.

So I'd expect that they should be summing up or wrapping up soon. And then once that happens, it becomes a procedural issue. The indictment is filed, and ultimately, they reach out to the team for Trump to take those next steps.

LEMON: You say wrapping up soon. So what -- what are the considerations now? If you're looking at someone who has insider knowledge, if you're looking at what is playing out, seeing Costello and Cohen, et cetera, go in, what is happening inside of the office right now?

SALAND: I expect that all the evidence that they've wanted to present, "they" meaning the district attorney's office, has been presented. And if anything, for lack of the term rebuttal or to clarify or to bolster, if that's the right term we want to use here, the credibility or what may have happened, that's going to come out now.

But again, it's the grand jury's determination to decide what witnesses, if anything, they want to hear. But once that's wrapped up, the D.A.'s office is ready to make those next steps.

LEMON: Jeremy, is it the grand jury's determination? Because the grand jury can -- can a grand jury vote to indict Donald Trump, and then Alvin Bragg say, Even with that, I'm not going to do it?

SALAND: Once a grand jury -- once a grand jury indicts, or what we call a true bill, they have to take that next step. Ultimately, the D.A.'s office can decide what they want to do going forward, but once there's indictment, it has to proceed.

LEMON: Yes. Here's a thing. This investigation has been called a zombie case. Everyone thought that after Cy Vance, that nothing was going to happen, that nothing would happen for so long under the current D.A., Alvin Bragg. Nothing happened.

So what happened? How was this resuscitated or resurrected?

SALAND: The argument from the D.A.'s office is that it wasn't resuscitated; it's been going on all along. It's an ongoing investigation. These things don't happen overnight. It takes time to develop.

There's those who will argue that there's political pressure with the -- with the Pomeranz book and what's happening sort of socially. But the D.A.'s office will take the position that, We've always been doing our due diligence. This is about justice. This isn't about politics. And now we're at the point we have to move it forward.

LEMON: Yes. If you're looking at this, people are expecting, you know, will Donald Trump be handcuffed? Are we going to see him in a jump suit and what have you? It doesn't really work that way, especially when you have a high-profile defendant. Unless he wants to be paraded in front of cameras. There will -- there are means and --- and efforts to sort of mitigate that possibly going in, probably through an underground entrance and having this sort of expedited.

About him, my reporting is seeing a judge and doing it quickly, having the process play out quickly so that he doesn't have to be photographed or seen doing any of these things.

SALAND: Well, he shouldn't be photographed once he's inside the building but he'll be taken in by --

LEMON: Except for a mug shot.

SALAND: Well, absolutely. He'll be taken in. There will be a mug shot. There will be a fingerprint. And then they're going to expedite him, walk him to the courtroom. He'll have to walk down the hallway unless, for some reason, they decide to bring him up through the judicial areas. So there's a separate set of elevators he can come up through.

But otherwise, he's going to be brought in like anybody else. And to your point, he may very well want to be seen. He may very well want to make this an issue that there can be a public showing or display where he can make sort of a statement.

But in court, I would expect he'd be relatively quiet, and his attorney will be doing most of the talking.

LEMON: So you think they'll expedite the court process, seeing the judge part of it? Right? Because that can take some time.

SALAND: It can take some time, but they have to wait for the fingerprints -- "they" meaning law enforcement -- has to wait for the fingerprints to get back.

But yes, it should move pretty quickly and efficiently. There's no reason to keep him there, especially with security risks and the concern that, obviously, the NYPD has.

LEMON: Are we talking hours?

SALAND: Hours from time of print very well potentially. But once he's in front of the judge, that's pretty quick. I mean, I wouldn't say snap of the fingers, but it could be a matter of minutes.

LEMON: Jeremy Saland, thank you so much.

SALAND: My pleasure.

LEMON: We appreciate it. Have a good day.


COLLINS: Also this morning, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is an expected 2024 presidential hopeful, is breaking his silence on Trump's legal troubles and the looming indictment.

DeSantis calling the Manhattan district attorney's investigation politically motivated and vowing that his office won't get involved if the matter reaches his state, though it's not expected to.

At the same time, though, he made a point of highlighting the conduct at the heart of the investigation.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I don't know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair. I just -- I can't speak to that.

But what I can speak to is that, if you have a prosecutor who is ignoring crimes happening every single day in his jurisdiction, and he chooses to go back many, many years ago to try to use something about porn-star hush-money payments, you know, that's an example of pursuing a political agenda and weaponizing the office.


COLLINS: So you know, he was getting asked that question by a reporter, but he had been facing some pressure from Trump's allies.


COLLINS: Why haven't you said anything about this? Because we saw a lot of other Republicans weighing in as soon as on Saturday, and DeSantis didn't weigh in until yesterday. But notable, you know, he got criticized by Donald Trump Jr., who said he thought he was minimizing it.

LEMON: And his response is a little shady. Right?

COLLINS: Yes. He didn't have to point out --

LEMON: He did not have to point out --

COLLINS: -- what's at the heart of this.

LEMON: The obvious, yes. Yes.

Well, House Republicans trying to intervene to defend, you know, ahead of this Donald Trump possible indictment here. House Judiciary (ph) Chairman Jim Jordan and two other committee chairs are demanding testimony for -- from Manhattan's district attorney.

It's an extraordinary move, because Alvin Bragg doesn't work for the federal government. He's a local prosecutor, and this isn't a federal case.

In a letter, the chairman abused Bragg of unprecedented abuse of prosecute -- prosecutorial authority. Congressman Jim Jordan, though, admits that he doesn't actually know the full scope of potential charges.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But you don't know what charges are against Donald Trump?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): No, we're going with what you guys have told us. That's all. There's been reporting.

RAJU: Yes. Are you jumping to conclusions? I mean, he may have broken the law. Does that concern you?

JORDAN: We don't think -- we don't think President Trump broke the law at all. But what concerns me is what they're going to do, based on what's been reported. That's what I said.



LEMON: Yes. It's interesting they're making all of these comments, and they don't even know what's going to happen, if there's even going to be an indictment.


So that's why we turn to CNN's Melanie Zanona, live in Orlando, where House Republicans are having their annual retreat. So I'm sure she's got information on that.

Good morning to you, Melanie. What's the latest?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Don, from chilly Orlando.

But House Republicans are turning up the heat on the Manhattan district attorney's office ahead of a possible Trump indictment.

Three committee chairmen yesterday fired off a letter to Alvin Bragg. They are seeking both documents and his testimony by March 23rd. They want to know whether federal funds were used to investigate Donald Trump over this hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels. And they also want to know whether there was any communication between the Manhattan D.A. office and between the Department of Justice.

I want to read you part of a letter where they explain some of their reasoning. They wrote, "Your decision to pursue such a politically- motivated prosecution requires Congressional scrutiny about how public safety funds appropriated by Congress are implemented by local law enforcement agencies." Now, Republicans admit they don't have any knowledge of whether federal funds are actually used in these sorts of cases. And they also admit they don't know the full scope of the charges that Trump might be facing.

So, it really shows the extraordinary lengths that House Republicans are willing to go to defend Trump and to try to discredit this investigation.

LEMON: Is pressing Bragg something the entire GOP agrees on here? I mean, could they be jumping the gun, since they don't know, as I said? They don't know if charges will even be filed, Melanie.

ZANONA: Right, Don. We've actually been asking that question, that exact question to Republicans here at their policy retreat. So far, I've only talked to one Republican, Don Bacon, who represents a Biden district, who said it would be more appropriate to wait until they see the actual indictment.

But most Republicans are defending this effort to intervene in an ongoing criminal probe, again, a very extraordinary and unprecedented move.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy, in a pen and pad with reporters yesterday, said they have a right to ask questions. Scott Perry, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, told me they don't need to wait, because they see the writing on the wall here.

But Democrats see this as an abuse of power, a waste of congressional resources. And the Manhattan's district attorney's office said they will not be intimidated by any effort to interfere in the justice system -- Don. LEMON: Melanie Zanona, someplace -- you don't hear these words --

"chilly" and "Orlando" -- in the same sentence. But that's where she is this morning. Thank you, Melanie. Appreciate that.


COLLINS: OK. Also this morning, in a few hours, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Putin are going to meet for a second day of talks as they are meeting in Moscow.

Xi and Putin held four and a half hours of talks yesterday, calling each other "dear friend" during those discussions.

The White House, on the other hand, remains concerned that China is still considering, still has on the table this idea of providing weapons for Russia to use in Ukraine, as the two countries are working on strengthening their relationship.

CNN's Matthew Chance is live in Moscow.

Matthew, I know there haven't been any real breakthroughs, it doesn't seem like, on Ukraine. But it's very clear that Xi is committed to strengthening this relationship with Putin.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean, this is the basis of the relationship, as far as both Russia and China are concerned.

Russia is a vast pool of resources -- -raw materials, oil, forestry, things like that -- for the expansion of the Chinese economy. And, of course, China is an important market, the most important market for Russia, especially since those tight international sanctions have really tried to strangle the Russian economy from elsewhere in the world.

And so, in some ways these two leaders have been forced together into this relationship. And they're -- and they're deepening it as much as possible.

There is that issue of military aid that China has stopped short of providing Russia so far. It's not been discussed openly, but I expect that behind closed doors that's something that -- that's being talked about.

They're also discussing that Chinese peace plan, a 12-point plan to try and resolve what they call "the Ukraine crisis," although, you know, in the West, of course, the United States has lost skepticism about whether that would work.

COLLINS: Yes. The White House has noted that peace plan doesn't include Russia withdrawing its troops from Ukraine.

But the U.S. is also responding, saying they believe this meeting, basically, is diplomatic cover for Putin. And there's no ignoring it comes after that International Criminal Court arrest warrant for the Russian leader. CHANCE: I mean, there's no doubt this is of immense symbolic

importance, this meeting with Xi Jinping. I mean, you've got a situation where this is the first time Xi Jinping has visited Russia since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, you know, more than a year ago.

But it's also just days ago that President Putin was indicted at the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

And so this sends a strong message that Russia, despite all that, is not isolated in the world. And I think, you know, the photo op of Putin standing side by side with one of the most powerful leaders in the world, Xi Jinping, the president -- the leader of China, just sends an important message to Russians and to the international community, as well. Again, that Russia isn't isolated.


COLLINS: Yes. No doubt. Clearly not from China.

Matthew Chance in Moscow, thank you.

Also this morning, the Federal Reserve is now considering its next move on rates, a decision that has only been made tougher amid the banking meltdowns we've seen in recent days. Christine Romans is standing by.

LEMON: And a warning from the CDC. Alarming new details we're learning about a deadly fungus that is spreading rapidly in the United States.


LEMON: All right. Well, you see that. That is Jerome Powell right there. Happening today, all eyes are going to be on him as the Federal Reserve meets to decide whether to raise interest rates yet again or to let dust settle from the biggest banking crisis since 2008. That's a big decision, right?

Stocks rallied yesterday following turbulence from the collapse of two U.S. banks and the takeover of Credit Suisse. Banks involved in the takeover saw stocks jump, but mid-size bank First Republic took another major hit, its stocks falling another 47 percent as questions about its future persist.

There's a lot to discuss with our chief business correspondent and anchor of "EARLY START," Christine Romans. She's on top of it all.

ROMANS: Good morning.

LEMON: Good morning. Jerome Powell really is walking a tight rope. What is he balancing here?

ROMANS: Absolutely. I mean, look, if you look at the economic data, really, over the last -- since they met last, it's been strong. Right? All of these interest rate hikes have not really cooled down decisively the American economy.


Inflation is still, you know, 6 percent; still three times what the Fed would like to see.

But then you have this banking crisis, which shows that all of these rate hikes are revealing some cracks in the system. We've had all of these things that regulators have had to do to calm the banking system.

And so the question is, does that change the Fed's calculus today when it begins a two-day meeting on interest rates?

COLLINS: So essentially, they're deciding, and they're deciding very quickly, what to do here. What are the options, really, that they have when it comes to this?

ROMANS: Well, I mean, a week and a half ago, honestly, a week and a half ago we thought the Fed would probably raise 50 basis points, because the U.S. economy was so strong. But everything has changed since the banking system started showing that turmoil.

So there's a case here for no rate hike. Prudent to pause after the banking system had started to wobble here.

The con, though, is does that spook international markets, that there's something out there that the Fed sees that means they have to slow down on their -- on their rate hike campaign?

So the consensus is a 25 basis point rate hike. It shows the Fed is serious both about inflation and about financial stability. They can do both at the same time, right?

And then I guess there's a small, small chance they could be like the ECP, the European Central Bank and say, No, no, inflation is so important, and we believe in our banking system. So we're going to raise interest rates 50 basis points.

Goldman Sachs is out here saying the stress on the banking system is -- is just too much. They need to just take a pause in the inflation fight.

And so what do we think? What does the market think? The market thinks they do 25 basis points today.

Again, ten days ago, I would have said it was a slam dunk for 50. Twenty-five seems to be the consensus, you guys.

LEMON: I think -- is it fair to say that he's facing some criticism on how he's handled inflation, chief among them Senator Elizabeth Warren? Let's listen. We'll get Christine's response. Here it is.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): He's failing in both jobs, both as the oversight --


WARREN: -- manager of these big banks, which is his job, and also what he's doing with inflation.

I don't think he should be chairman of the Federal Reserve.


LEMON: So what do you think? And can he restore confidence, Christine?

ROMANS: So she has been a critic of the Fed's rate hikes, you know, so that's not really new. Calling for his ouster is -- shows how concerned she is about the fact that the Fed does have supervisory oversight of SVB, that bank that failed. And she's saying there should have been better red flags. The Fed should have known that this was going to be a problem.

She's also criticizing the Fed because, look, all of these rate hikes, remember way back when we were talking about transitory inflation, the Fed chief, also the treasury secretary. And a lot of chief economists for big banks thought that inflation was just going to be temporary. It wasn't.

That was a fatal flaw in their calculation, which means they started raising interest rates too late, and then they started going too aggressively here. And that's what's caused the turmoil in the market overall.

So you know, he's going to have to restore confidence, I think, Don, to answer your question, by transparency. By being very clear at his press conference tomorrow about what the Fed is seeing, what has changed and how you can do both. You can fight inflation, and you can have a banking system that is strong at the same time.


LEMON: Christine Romans.

COLLINS: Tough call.

LEMON: Yes, a tough call. Watching all of this for us. Thank you.

ROMANS: I would not want that job. I'm telling you right now, I'm glad I'm sitting there talking about that job and not doing that job.

LEMON: That job. And I don't know why anyone wants to be president of the United States. But you know, hey, that's on them. Job that I would never want.

Thank you very much, Christine.

Straight ahead, Republican Congressman Byron Donalds from the Financial Services Committee will join us. His thoughts on what he thinks the Fed should do next.

In the meantime, the aftermath of Alex Murdaugh's sentencing for double murder. A mysterious death near his home from years ago is drawing renewed attention.

COLLINS: Yes, we'll check in on that. And also the anticipation of a possible Trump indictment is extending well beyond the United States. The world is also watching, keeping close tabs on how the criminal justice system is going to potentially treat a former American president. We're going to get the reaction live from London.