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CNN This Morning

Sources: Judge is Convinced Trump Used Lawyer to Further a Crime; Emails Between Stormy Daniels, Trump Lawyer Turned Over to D.A.; Today: Fed to Decide on Interest Rates amid Bank Fears; Judge Peppers FOX Lawyers with Tough Questions in Dominion Case; U.S. to Send Patriot Systems, Abrams Tanks to Ukraine Much Sooner. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired March 22, 2023 - 06:00   ET


CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Rain in places that typically don't get it this time of year. Certainly, through the desert. Many areas here again in the Sierra, a foot of snow or more.


This is going to have to melt and go downhill, and we're worried about that.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR/CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Unbelievable. It's just been what a ride for California. All right. Nice to see you. Chad Myers, thank you so much.

And thank you for joining me. I'm Christine Romans. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. We are so glad you are with us on CNN this morning.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: It's like, are we on TV? That, like, came really, really fast.

HARLOW: I thought so, too. But, yes, we're here, and here are the -- here are the five things.

LEMON: Welcome back, by the way.

HARLOW: Thank you. I feel so much better. I love kids, but --

LEMON: Yes. Well --

HARLOW: Thanks for the strep, kiddos.

LEMON: -- we don't have them.

HARLOW: Thanks for the strep. All better. Thank you, modern medicine.

Anyways here are the five things you need to know for Wednesday, March 22. Former President Donald Trump facing two intensifying investigations.

Overnight, we learned that the special counsel in the classified documents probe has evidence to suggest that Trump used his attorney to further a crime. This marks the first time that the Justice Department is arguing it has evidence that Trump may have committed a crime.

And here in New York, the grand jury in the hush-money case is set to reconvene today ahead of a potential vote to indict Trump.

LEMON: Also today, all eyes on the Federal Reserve. The chairman, Jerome Powell, set to announce a critical decision on whether to raise interest rates once again.

The Fed having to weigh the fight against inflation with the recent banking crisis.

And a new twist related to the Murdaugh family. State investigators in South Carolina say the 2015 death of Stephen Smith near the Murdaugh estate is now being looked at as a homicide. No member of the Murdaugh family is considered a suspect in this.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Also, Gwyneth Paltrow in court after she is being sued over a 2016 ski accident in Utah. An optometrist accused her of skiing -- a skiing hit-and-run on the slopes. But the actress claims it's actually the other way around, that she's the one who was hit.

Also, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis going on offense, hitting Trump's character and his leadership skills ahead of an expected 2024 fight. And when it comes to that DeSanctimonious nickname, the Florida governor says you can call him whatever you want, as long as you call him a winner.

HARLOW: We do begin this hour with two major developments in two different investigations into former President Trump.

First, the special counsel's probe of those classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago. We have now learned that a federal judge is convinced that Donald Trump may have used one of his own defense attorneys to break the law when federal agents were trying to retrieve those top- secret files stored at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

So this means the attorney may need to testify again and answer questions that he previously refused to answer by claiming attorney- client privilege.

Trump has not been charged in the documents case, but this may prove significant in the obstruction probe being pursued by Special Counsel Jack Smith.

So this all comes as Trump prepares for possible indictment in a separate case here in New York, in the Stormy Daniels hush-money case. The grand jury is set to reconvene on that today. We're waiting to see if they will decide to indict and pursue criminal charges.

So they're two different things, but two huge developments overnight. We're going to break it all down.

Straight to the big news in the Trump classified documents case. A key deadline passed just moments ago at the top of the hour. Kaitlan, this is extraordinary in so many ways.

Can you walk through your reporting?

COLLINS: Yes, and there have been deadlines that we've just hit one that happened at midnight for the Trump team, one that just happened a few minutes ago at 6 a.m. for the Justice Department.

Our colleague Caleb Poland said they did meet both of those deadlines.

And there are a lot of investigations happening here. So to be clear, there are several going on surrounding the former president. Right now, what we're talking about is the classified documents probe.

This is the special counsel's investigation into the documents that Trump took with him when he left office. This is the latest that is what's happening.

At midnight, there was a deadline for Trump's attorneys, who are seeking an emergency intervention. Basically, they don't want his defense attorney, Evan Corcoran, to have to go testify again before the grand jury without being able to cite attorney-client privilege, which he did previously, declining to answer some of their questions.

What we were told was the 6 a.m. deadline was for the Justice Department to respond to what the Trump team had in by midnight.

So we are told both of these deadlines have been met. Now it all depends on the D.C. Circuit Court. They will be making the ultimate decision here.

If they do not step in, if we do not hear from them, we could see Evan Corcoran, Trump's defense attorney, having to go before the grand jury and testify again, this time without that protection of attorney- client privilege.

It would be a monumental ruling here.

And the reason this matters is because, for the first time, we are getting the clearest view yet that the judges agreeing with prosecutors here, the judge who ruled on Friday that Trump may have used Evan Corcoran, this attorney, in furtherance of a crime.


Before it was a little ambiguous, whether it was Trump or Corcoran who they believed and they were alleging may have committed a crime here or used them in furtherance of a crime. Now it's making clear they believe it's the former president.

They -- the judge on Friday believes that prosecutors met that burden, that threshold to have him come in and, in this remarkable testimony, not be able to use attorney-client privilege. But now it is up to the D.C. Circuit Court to make the ultimate decision, because the Trump team has gone to them.

We also know the Justice Department is saying they have evidence to back up this decision. We know they have surveillance videos from Mar- a-Lago. That could be part of what's happening here.

Those surveillance videos of the rooms where the documents were kept, and that is a big aspect here.

The reason, you know, and what this all means is that attorney-client privilege may not apply. The DOJ still wants to talk to Trump, Trump's attorney, Evan Corcoran, and Jennifer Little. But the focus here is really been on Evan Corcoran, and the testimony of this could be critical here.

So we are waiting, ultimately, just to see what the D.C. Circuit Court decides. If they do decide that Evan Corcoran should go and testify without attorney-client privilege, it would be one of the biggest rulings we've probably ever had in this nation.

LEMON: So Kaitlan, to clarify, it has been filed, but we don't know yet what's in the filing? Correct?

COLLINS: Essentially what we don't know, because all this is under seal, which means we're learning a lot of this from what's being posted on the docket and what we're hearing from our sources with understanding of what's going on behind the scenes.

And so we're waiting to see what they filed overnight. We believe it was just really more of an explanation of their opinions. But this all happened very quickly. I think we found out about these deadlines around 8 or 9 p.m. last night. That's not a lot of time for the Trump team to file or the Justice Department to have that 6 a.m. deadline.

So really, everyone is waiting to see what this decision is going to look like.

LEMON: Yes. And specifically, this is the classified documents case. We have two other cases that we're following, actually three, because there's E. Jean Carroll. There's the --

HARLOW: Georgia.

LEMON: Yes. There's the Georgia attorney general. And then, of course, the Manhattan D.A. --


LEMON: -- that we're going to get to.

COLLINS: Yu could forgive people for being confused.

LEMON: Yes, confused, but thanks for laying it out. The Georgia district attorney. So we're going to check all of it out.

We're going to turn now to the -- thank you, Kaitlan. We'll check back with more of your reporting.

Turning now to the exclusive CNN reporting on the hush-money case here in Manhattan that we just spoke of. We're learning that emails between Stormy Daniels and one of Trump's lawyers have been turned over to the district attorney and the communications apparently dates back to 2018 when Daniels was looking for an attorney to represent her. And Daniels' lawyer claims that disclosed confidential information that Joe Tacopina, who would later become Trump's lawyer, right?

Well, Tacopina denies that there is a conflict or that confidential information was shared with his office. And he says he neither met nor spoke to Daniel's.

But I want you to listen. This is what he told me back in 2018.


JOE TACOPINA, TRUMP ATTORNEY: And I can't really talk about my impressions or any conversation we had, because there is an attorney- client privilege that attached, even to a consultation.


LEMON: He went on to explain, but Kristen Holmes broke this story for us.

Kristen, that was the first time that he talked about it. Part of the evidence in this case. Kristin joins us now from West Palm Beach, Florida near Mar-a-Lago.

Good morning to you.

What does this mean for the case and now for Joe Tacopina?


Well, the big question here is what a judge will decide to do, because that's who it's ultimately up to. Whether or not this rises to a conflict of interest that would require some sort of limitation on Tacopina's role or even disqualification from representing Trump.

And the big question, as you said, was whether or not Daniels shared confidential information that could be used in this case and used against her. If this were to go to trial, could any information that was given to Tacopina to his law firm be used against her in a cross- examination, for example? Or would it give Tacopina and Trump a leg up?

Now, talking to Stormy Daniels' current attorney, Clark Brewster, he believes that there is confidential information that was shared between Daniels, Tacopina and his firm. And he at least believes that it rises to the level of needing to be reviewed.

And as you said, Tacopina says that there was no wrongdoing. There's no conflict of interest. But again, pointing to your own interview with him in 2018 when he suggests that there was an attorney-client privilege established between he and Daniels, suggesting that he had had some sort of interaction with her all of this, raising a giant question mark right now and again, it'll be up to a judge to decide what level this rises to.

LEMON: Beyond the airplane taking off or landing behind you, I understand you have some new reporting of what's going on behind the scenes at Mar-a-Lago ahead of a potential indictment. What are you learning?

HOLMES: Well right now, Trump and his team are essentially just preparing for this indictment. Yes, it has not come down yet, but they are resigned to the fact that this is going to happen.


I think what was interesting to me, for the last several days, we've heard Republicans rallying around Trump. We've heard this spin from Republicans saying that this is going to help Trump politically.

And while his team does believe that this is going to give a boost in the polls, particularly in the contested primary, a lot of them were much more subdued and a lot more, or a lot less, adamant about how helpful this really was.

There was a lot of questions about what this would do long term. They're now operating in uncharted territory. So they were trying to plan a campaign, trying to run Trump as a 2024 candidate, under this looming indictment and under the possibility that he will actually be indicted and be a candidate.

And one thing to keep in mind is they already have a big rally, Trump's first big rally, planned for Saturday in Waco, Texas. It's a campaign rally.

And I have one adviser telling me, so what do we do? If he gets indicted on a Friday, do we just go to Texas the next day?

So this is the new normal, and they're trying to figure out how to actually work within this, again resigning themselves to the fact that they believe this is going to happen.

LEMON: All right. Kristen Holmes in a very noisy and windy West Palm Beach this morning. Thank you, Kris.

HARLOW: Yes, with really fascinating --


HARLOW: -- reporting, both hers; yours, Kaitlan.

I cannot believe what happened from just 8 p.m. last night.


COLLINS: It was like rapid-fire.

HARLOW: It was.

COLLINS: It's truly amazing.

LEMON: But also, I mean, think about the weekend, right? What happened over the weekend. It was rapid-fire over the weekend, and then it slowed for just a moment, right, waiting for what Trump said would be Tuesday. And then now this reporting that you have.

I mean, it's like --

COLLINS: I know. Imagine being that legal team.


COLLINS: I mean, they're dealing with these filings. They're waiting to see -- the other attorneys are working on the Manhattan case, but it's still all in the same realm.

LEMON: Yes. And we didn't forget the E. Jean Carroll. They merged the two cases of defamation and -- and you know allegations of rape, as well. So there's a lot going on.

HARLOW: There's a lot going on.

Also there's a lot going on with the economy. The Fed has a huge decision to make today in this war on inflation, and what does it mean for the banking system?

This afternoon, Fed Chair Jay Powell will announce the Fed's decision on interest rates. What are they going to do? Will they hike them once again, perhaps take a pause?

The only clear consensus seems to be that the Fed has an impossible job. Inflation is rampant, serious threat to the economy. But the Fed is also trying to navigate a soft landing, avoid a recession and now -- oh, yes -- all the turbulence in the banking system.

Chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here with more.

ROMANS: Other than that, everything's great.

HARLOW: It's all fine.


HARLOW: What do they do?

ROMANS: So they either pause, they raise interest rates 25 basis points, or they say, Look, we're really serious about inflation. And we think the banking system is very strong and they hike 50 basis points.

HARLOW: That's what Europe did.

ROMANS: Europe did 50 basis points, because Christine Lagarde -- and she was speaking this morning again and saying, we have an inflation fight on our hands. And we are -- are dedicated to getting inflation down, because longer term, that is a real problem, and our banks are strong.

Most people think the Fed is going to go 25 basis points. I think if you look at, I think, 88 percent almost is what the guessing is in the Fed funds futures markets. So they're looking for 25 basis points. That's what the market is expecting here.

HARLOW: What is the significance of Janet Yellen yesterday, speaking to the American Bankers Association? This was after her testimony.

ROMANS: Right.

HARLOW: Saying, yes, we the government -- I'm paraphrasing here -- needed to intervene to protect the depositors of these two collapsed banks. And by the way, we might do it again.

ROMANS: If we need to, we will do more, she told -- she told the banking industry. And I think that really helped calm some nerves.

You've been hearing all the right things from regulators and from financial chiefs around the world. And so that's why I think you have banking stocks rally yesterday and the overall market rally yesterday.

And the overall market rally yesterday, the overall market saying, We don't see a widespread banking credit crisis here. We think that regulators have it under control.

And she's not explicitly guaranteeing deposits. At some point, Congress needs to figure out if they want to do that.

But if another small bank were to fail, she would make sure depositors are made whole.

HOLMES: Yes. Really --

LEMON: Does half the medicine, does -- I mean, 25 -- you know, you give -- you take half the medicine or you give your kid half the medicine. If you give the economy half the medicine --

HARLOW: Yes, does it do anything?

LEMON: Does it do anything?

ROMANS: Two weeks ago, we thought it would be 50 basis points. Since the Fed last met, you guys, all of the data has been strong, showing a strong economy, showing inflation still there, you know. So everything has been so strong.

We have seen where the Fed's interest rates have been working in the housing market.


ROMANS: Home prices for the first time in a decade fell. I can't believe for a decade, I have not been able to say home prices fell. LEMON: That's good.

ROMANS: I mean, home prices fell a little bit, and that shows you where that tough medicine from the Fed has been working through. That chart shows you home prices falling now.

Regionally, you still have prices up, I think, in the Midwest and in the South. The Northeast and the West is where prices really kind of fell, year over year, because those have been really high, high-price markets, right?

And the -- the chief economist there at the National Association Realtors says this isn't the bottom. Prices will probably keep falling, because you have all that Fed medicine working in the housing.

HARLOW: So glad I just bought a home.

ROMANS: Wait. Did you get a low rate?


ROMANS: Oh, Poppy.

HARLOW: Thanks, Romans.

COLLINS: What about those of us who don't even own homes. OK?

HARLOW: All right, fine. Fair, fair, fair.

Thank you, Romans.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

COLLINS: We'll wait to see what they decide.

Also this morning, attorneys for FOX News and Dominion Voting Systems are going to be back in court. They are going to continue their face off over the lawsuit that Dominion has filed with a $1.6 billion tagline.

The judge in the case peppered FOX attorneys with tough questions about the network's embrace of lies and conspiracy theories following the 2020 presidential election.

So joining us now is Sara Fischer, CNN media analyst and senior media reporter at Axios.

Sara, I mean, the hearing went very long yesterday. We know it's going to pick up again in just a few hours. If you weren't watching yesterday as this was going on, what were the biggest takeaways?

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Yes, Kaitlan, I think the biggest takeaway was that the judge seemed pretty skeptical of FOX's defense, arguing you can't claim neutral reporting privilege and, at the same time, knowingly put guests on your air that are putting out baseless claims.

Now, the judge also said that he's not going to rule from the bench, so we should expect some sort of written decision. But that doesn't necessarily mean that he's going to side either way.

And if he doesn't, of course, Kaitlan, the next step would be that we see these two sides, Dominion and FOX, square off in court on April 17.

Of course, there is a chance that they could settle before then, but at this point, so much has come out on both sides that there's not really much incentive, unless one party believes strongly or another that they could get a smaller lawsuit or a better, more favorable amount.

You mentioned $1.6 billion. That's a pretty hefty price tag, especially considering the fact that Dominion's not that big, you know. I think it's about 100 million or so in revenue every year.

LEMON: Yes. Talking about summary judgment, which means that the case will be decided before it would go to court. But unless we were talking about all the cases involving Donald Trump, this one also involves Donald Trump, because it has to do with his election lies about, you know, winning, that he's saying that he won the 2020 election.

Let's talk a little bit more about the judge, what the judge is possibly thinking here.

The judge overseeing the case hit FOX's lawyers with a lot of tough questions yesterday about the network's embrace of election denialism in 2020, at one point, even suggesting that it could have been -- and I quote here -- "a bigger story that a president who lost an election was making all these unsubstantiated, false allegations."

What do you glean from the judge's thought process, based on that line of questioning?

FISCHER: You know, I think he's basically implied that FOX's defense is intellectually dishonest. You know? How can you argue that you should be covered by neutral reportage, that you should be protected here? And at the same time, there's been so much proof that's come out that FOX's personalities and leadership knew that what they were putting on air was false. And they knew that the guests that they were having on air that was supporting some of these claims were not spewing the truth.

And, in fact, in a lot of the things that have come out in the recent weeks with some of these defamation suit depositions, has been that the hosts have called these allegations crazy and nonsensical.

And so I think the judge is really skeptical of FOX here. It doesn't necessarily mean he's going to side with FOX, but I think it makes it a lot harder to, you know, imagine FOX getting a win before this thing goes to trial. LEMON: Yes. The hosts are calling what Trump was alleging, Trump and

his acolytes, what they're alleging, saying that it was nonsensical and they didn't believe it. But that's not exactly what they were portraying on the air.

HARLOW: But if this goes to trial, right, if Dominion isn't -- doesn't settle. Dominion wants Rupert Murdoch and CEO Lachlan Murdoch on the stand.


HARLOW: Which will be fascinating.

COLLINS: Yes, it will be remarkable.

LEMON: That will be another show.

FISCHER: Yes. But you know, we've -- we've seen some of the depositions uncovered already. And so the question is what would be new here?

I'm not sure that it can get more explosive than it's already been.

HARLOW: That's fair. That's fair.

LEMON: Yes, but it will be interesting to see those folks on the stand, right, to hear from them.

COLLINS: Yes. All right. Sara Fischer, thank you so much.

HARLOW: Thanks.

LEMON: Thanks, Sara.

FISCHER: Thank you.

LEMON: So Patriot missile defense system set to arrive in Ukraine much sooner than expected. CNN got an inside look at Ukrainian soldiers training for 10 weeks. We're live at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

COLLINS: And quote, "Nobody likes Mike Pence." That is the headline of one article after a reporter spoke with Republican voters in one focus group. They had a blistering assessment of the former vice president. We'll tell you what they said, and also how Pence's team is pushing back.

HARLOW: Thank you, guys, for --


LEMON: Here's what the Pentagon is saying, that the U.S. will be sending Patriot missile defense systems and Abrams tanks to Ukraine much sooner than expected.

Ukrainian soldiers have been training intensively on the systems here in the U.S. at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Now, officials are saying that the Ukrainians have excelled, and the system is set to be deployed in the coming weeks.

We turn now to CNN's Natasha Bertrand joins aside from Fort Sill. Good morning to you.

This is a welcome -- this is welcome news, I should say, for Ukraine. What are you hearing from the White House this morning?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Don. Well, the White House is acknowledging, as of yesterday, that they have wanted to ramp up this Patriot defense training and that it has been expedited, essentially, because the Ukrainians have just proven so good at it.

So they are set to receive those Patriot systems in the coming weeks, likely in time for that looming Ukrainian counter-offensive.


BERTRAND (voice-over): The United States fast-tracking key weapons for Ukraine's fight against Russia. Heavy U.S. tanks now are set to be deployed to the country faster than originally planned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: DOD, in close coordination with Ukraine, has made the decision to provide the M1/A1 variant of the Abrams tank, which will enable us to significantly expedite delivery timelines and deliver this important capability to Ukraine by the fall of this year.

BERTRAND (voice-over): Patriot missile defense systems, also due to arrive in Ukraine in the coming weeks, defense officials told CNN much sooner than anticipated.

JOHN KIRBY, COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATION, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: They're wrapping up training on things like the Patriot air defense system. I mean, we're doing everything we can to make sure that they're ready as best they can be for these critical weeks and months ahead.

BERTRAND: CNN was invited to observe the Patriot training here in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where 65 Ukrainian soldiers, ages 19 to 67, have been undergoing an intensive 10-week training course on the Patriot systems.

Here you can see behind me a decommissioned system much like the one the Ukrainians will be using once they get back to their home country.

BRIG. GEN. SHANE MORGAN, COMMANDING GENERAL, ARMY'S FIRES CENTER OF EXCELLENCE: Our assessment is that the Ukrainian soldiers are impressive and absolutely a quick study, due to their extensive air defense knowledge and experience in a combat zone.

It was easier, though never easy, for them to grasp the Patriot system operations and maintenance concepts.

BERTRAND (voice-over): But the stakes are so high that CNN was not allowed to film or photograph the training, an effort to protect the Ukrainians who will be back on the front lines in just a matter of weeks and to shield the U.S. from blowback from Moscow, U.S. officials emphasizing that the Patriots are purely defensive and not a threat to Russia.

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's a point defense system. It's got to be placed in a location that is defending a target like a capital city, Kyiv or a port city like Odessa.

So it this is not a weapons system that can be moved around on the battlefield based on changing threats.

BERTRAND (voice-over): The systems will, however, help defend Ukraine against near daily missile barrages by Russia. And will now likely be on the battlefield in time to support a looming Ukrainian counter- offensive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did Zelenskyy say? When I met him in Kyiv, he said, Help us win quickly. It's exactly what he said when he visited Washington, D.C., recently and is even what Secretary Austin said. He said Ukraine doesn't have time. The spring offensive is coming.


BERTRAND: So Don, the Ukrainians have acknowledged that what they have right now, these air defense systems that they currently employ against the Russian missile barrages, they are not enough to prevent against a Russian ballistic missile attack, for example.

And it is unclear whether the Patriots that they're set to receive can protect against a hypersonic missile attack from Russia.

But they all acknowledge that this Patriot system is really going to be a game changer once they do receive it in the next coming weeks -- Don.

LEMON: All right. Natasha Bertrand, thank you this morning.

Straight ahead here on CNN THIS MORNING, we're going to speak with former Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

HARLOW: A huge development in the case of Stephen Smith. Authorities are now ruling his death a homicide nearly eight years after he was found dead near the home of Alex Murdaugh.

COLLINS: We'll stay on top of that. Also coming out of Florida, there's news. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is now weighing in on the Trump nickname he likes best.


PIERS MORGAN, JOURNALIST: What's your favorite nickname that Trump's given you so far? Is it Ron DeSanctimonious or Meatball Ron?


COLLINS: Rather be called savage (ph). That's next.