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Judge Reportedly Convinced Former President Trump Broke Laws in Case of Classified Documents Kept at Mar-a-Lago; D.C. Circuit Court to Rule if Attorney for Former President Trump Evan Corcoran Must Testify without Attorney-Client Privilege; Trump Lawyer Joe Tacopina May be Disqualified from Representing President Trump Due to Conflict of Interest Because He Previously Consulted with Stormy Daniels; Judge Hearing Arguments from FOX News and Dominion Voting Systems to Determine Possible Summary Judgment; Judge Peppers Fox Lawyers With Tough Questions In Dominion Case; Trump Awaits Possible Indictment In Manhattan Hush Money Probe; DeSantis Calls Trump Verbal Attacks "Background Noise''. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 22, 2023 - 08:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: We're not learning that a judge is convinced that he may have used his own attorney to break the law when federal agents were trying to recover classified documents from Mar-a-Lago.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And all this is coming as Trump is preparing for what could be an indictment in the Stormy Daniels hush money case here in New York. Now Trump's lawyer in that case, the one you've seen on television recently, is also under scrutiny for emails exchanged with the adult film actress.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And the Federal Reserve is getting ready to announce a crucial decision today. Will it keep hiking interest rates to fight inflation in the middle of a banking crisis?

LEMON: But here is where we begin, and it is a lot of big developments in two different investigations of the former president. I'm talking about former President Donald Trump. First, we are learning that there's evidence of a potential crime in the special counsel's probe of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. Sources are saying that a federal judge is convinced that Trump may have used his own attorney to break the law when federal agents were trying to retrieve top secret files stored at his private club in Florida. That attorney may need to testify again and face questions that he previously refused to answer by claiming attorney-client privilege. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is going to break down the reporting in just a moment, so stand by for that.

But here in New York, the grand jury in the Stormy Daniels hush money case set to reconvene today. We are waiting to see if they make a decision to indict the former president. We have exclusive reporting, CNN reporting, that Trump's lawyer is coming under new scrutiny for emails that he exchanged with Stormy Daniels years ago.

Straight now to the big news in the Trump classified documents case. DOJ responding at 6:00 a.m. Kaitlan Collins, what are you learning?

COLLINS: Yes, important to note this is the classified documents case given we are talking about so many different investigations right now, including what's happening with Stormy Daniels here in New York. This is focused on classified documents.

And while you were sleeping overnight, there were a flurry of deadlines for both Trump's legal team and the Justice Department when it came to this effort by the Justice Department to get one of Trump's defense attorneys Evan Corcoran, to testify, piercing that shield of attorney-client privilege, basically not being able to sight it when he has asked questions by those attorneys.

Now, this is all up to a D.C. circuit court. But at midnight, Trump's attorneys had to essentially make their case for why they believe that Evan Corcoran should not have to go and testify without attorney- client privilege, why it does not mean that threshold. The Justice Department also had their own deadline at 6:00 a.m. for prosecutors. Both of those deadlines were made overnight. And now this is all in the hands of the D.C. circuit court, this three panel of judges who are going to be making this decision.

And the reason this is so critical here and it could be so could have such implications for where this case goes next is basically what we are seeing is that a judge has ruled that she does believe prosecutors met the threshold for the crime fraud exception. But what we've learned that's new here is they believe that it is Trump who potentially committed that crime. There has been some gray area whether or not it was Corcoran they were going after or Trump himself. Now it is clear that they are referencing Trump here.

The judge has ruled that prosecutors met that burden. The Justice Department, according to that judge, has the evidence to back up that decision. Some of that could be the surveillance tapes from Mar-a- Lago. We know that is something that prosecutors subpoenaed. They got those surveillance tapes regarding those areas where the classified documents at Mar-a-Lago were being kept. So that is why that is so critical here.

And so what it means and what we could see next is that Evan Corcoran, this defense attorney, may have to go testify again. He's already done so previously for about four hours. But this time he would not be able to cite attorney-client privilege when being asked questions, which we know from our reporting he did the last time he testified. So they are still seeking this testimony.

They also want this, it could be critical to the probe. When it comes to obstruction. We don't know if this goes forward what Evan Corcoran would have to say. What we do know is that he was ordered to turn over some of his own notes and audio recordings of notes that he made to prosecutor -- or to the judge here, so that could be significant as well. But what we don't know is what we're waiting for, this decision by the D.C. circuit court, which we could learn potentially as soon as today.

LEMON: And that is, we're talking about in this case, specifically, this is the classified documents case. But remember, we haven't happening in Georgia and also what is here in New York, and that's where we turn.

HARLOW: Yes, that is where we turned to new CNN exclusive reporting on the hush money case right here in Manhattan. We have learned that emails between Stormy Daniels and one of Trump's current lawyers have been turned over to the District Attorney Alvin Bragg and his team. The communications are from 2018. That is when Daniels was looking for an attorney to represent her. Daniels' lawyer now claims that she disclosed confidential information to Joe Tacopina who would become and is now one of Trump's lawyers. Tacopina denies that there's any conflict of interest or that any confidential information was shared from Stormy Daniels with him or his office.


He says neither -- he neither met nor spoke with Daniels directly. But listen to this, OK? He didn't interview with Don on this network back in 2018. They were talking about this. And here is what Tacopina said.


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


HARLOW: Kristen Holmes broke this new development overnight. She joins us from West Palm Beach, Florida, near Mar-a-Lago. Kristen, can you just explain for people, sort of big picture, why this matters?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so right now what we're waiting for is to see what a judge decides, because that's the ultimate conclusion here. Does a judge decide that these communications merit some kind of attorney client privilege and conflict of interest that would limit Joe Tacopina from being able to actually represent Trump or even disqualify him from doing so?

And when you ask about what is the importance here, it's about that confidential information. We know that Stormy Daniels was looking for an attorney. Did she give Tacopina and his law firm confidential information in this case that would give them a leg up in this case but could actually impact Daniels herself. Let's say this goes to trial. Could any information that she gave them be used against her in a cross examination?

So that is what the judge will have to look at and determine when he sees if these communications amount to a conflict of interest? Of course, Stormy Daniels' attorney turned these over because he believes that there is confidential information that was shared with Tacopina and his firm. And as you noted, Tacopina has said that there was no conflict of interest, that he never met or spoke to Stormy Daniels. But then there is the tape where he essentially said that some sort of attorney-client privilege had been established. So again, this is in the judge's hands, and that will be the ultimate

determination as to whether or not there was a conflict of interest and if Tacopina can continue forward representing Trump.

HARLOW: Kristen, thank you. Before you go, you've got new reporting also on sort of what aides to the president, folks around him at Mar- a-Lago are saying now as he plans to go to Texas, for example, this weekend, yet they expect an indictment. What are they telling you?

HOLMES: Yes, Trump has been behind closed doors, really running the full spectrum of reaction to this potential indictment. There are times when he has complained it is unfair. There are times he has celebrated at saying that it's going to help him politically. And there are times where he has just ignored it altogether.

And his aides say that part of this, they believe is compartmentalization, but also the fact that he has resigned himself to the fact that he is going to likely be indicted. And what they're gearing up for is preparing this new normal. How exactly are they going to run a campaign under this indictment? And they're not operating with a lot of information, as all of us are, in terms of timing and what that would look like. I had one aide talking to me about that trip to Texas in particular saying, OK, so if the indictment comes down on a Friday, Saturday we just go to Texas? There's a lot of unknowns here. This would be an unprecedented move, having a 2024 presidential candidate and former U.S. president being indicted.

HARLOW: Kristen, thank you. Great reporting, as always. Thanks very much.

LEMON: Alright, so let's talk about some of this, especially the new reporting. I want to bring in now legal analyst, CNN legal analyst and federal prosecutor, former federal prosecutor, Jennifer Rodgers. Good morning, Jennifer. Thank you so much.

Let's talk about this. The Justice Department has convinced a federal judge that the former president used one of his defense attorneys in furtherance of a crime. That's huge.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, yes, that's a big deal. I mean, the crime is directly in furtherance of is obstruction of justice, of course, which is part of what Jack Smith and his folks are investigating. But these communications will also likely give them information about the underlying crime of the classified documents. So this is really blockbuster stuff. It's currently with the circuit. But if it gets turned over to the prosecution team, and they get to speak further to Evan Corcoran, it could be a big break for --

HARLOW: What are the Trump team chances on appeal here to the D.C. circuit?

RODGERS: So what Judge Howell ruled is that they made a prima facie case of breaching the attorney-client privilege, and it's hard to know without knowing what the communications are. So it has to be relatively clear that that's what's going on. But you know, Judge Howell is a very good judge. I don't have any reason to believe she got it wrong. And this D.C. circuit is unlikely to overturn it, assuming she got it right.

COLLINS: So what's at stake here is whether or not he has to go testify and not be able to cite attorney-client privilege for not answering questions. We still don't know, though, if that does happen, what he would actually say.

RODGERS: No, we don't know what he would say. But we were in the period where Justice Department is asking for things, is asking for things to subpoena, the subpoenaed is issued and he's huddling with his lawyers. What do we do? What should we do? And if it is true, as it seems like it is that instead of saying, yes, I have these documents, what is our strategy? He says, I don't have them, go off and tell them I don't have them.


That's a pretty clear indication of a commission of crime, and he's going to have to tell, he's going to have to talk about that when he testifies. So that's why it's so critical. I mean, that could prove the obstruction case and, again, help on the underlying case as well.

LEMON: I want to get to this Joe Tacopina thing that we have been talking about it because it could be a game changer when it comes to representation and so forth. I'm going to play what he said back in 2018 and then what he's saying now. Here it is.


JOE TACOPINA, DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: I mean, you know once that net is out, once the microscope is on you, everything is fair game. And it's hard to argue, oh, you can't look at this or you can't look at that. So yes, if there's an issue with that payment to Stormy Daniels being that it was made on behalf of the candidate, OK, and it was not declared, that's fair game. That a lawyer took out a home equity loan with his own money, paid somebody that he didn't even know on behalf of a client who, by the way, had the wherewithal and the money to afford $130,000, and, by the way, didn't tell the client about the settlement agreement. It's an illegal agreement as to fraud, if that's in fact, the case. It doesn't make sense. It doesn't pass the straight face test. And quite frankly, if that is what happened, we have a potential campaign finance issue.

Does anyone actually believe -- anyone, left, right, middle, whatever, that that if someone else were accused of paying hush money to avoid a public sex scandal in the manner that Donald Trump is alleged to have avoided the public sex scandal, they would be prosecuted? The answer is on 100 percent no.


LEMON: OK, so you have the Stormy Daniels the current possibility of piercing attorney-client privilege. Let's set that aside. He is now representing Donald Trump. Back then he was making it appears, correct me if I'm wrong, the complete opposite argument of what he's making today.

RODGERS: So this is why people make jokes about lawyers, right. Lawyers are advocates. They're not fact witnesses, so he's representing one client. Now he's going to put forward that position. Back in the day he was maybe not representing Stormy Daniels, but was kind of talking about what her side of things would be. So he's not a fact witness. It's OK to take a different position or put a different position out in the press.

The real question is. Did he represent her? What did he learn from her? And does that mean that he now cannot represent Donald Trump? And the judge will sort all that out. Usually in these cases, they don't actually disqualify the person. Courts do like to honor a criminal defendant's choice of council. So probably they will say you can't use anything you learned, you can't cross examine her if this goes to trial, but they'll probably let him stay on the case.

LEMON: Jennifer Rodgers. Thank you so much, appreciate it.

COLLINS: OK, also speaking of another legal case, this time not dealing with Trump directly, lawyers for FOX News and Dominion Voting Systems are going to be back in a Delaware courtroom for the second day. Both sides of an arguing over Dominion's $1.6 billion defamation suit against FOX. They are seeking what is called and known as a summary judgment. That means each side wants the judge to rule in their favor, basically skip a trial altogether. The proceedings yesterday went on for about six hours, with the judge hitting FOX attorneys with some tough questions about their embrace of election denial in 2020.

Our CNN senior media reporter, Oliver Darcy is tracking it all. OK if you weren't watching all this yesterday, this is quite the scene in that courtroom.

HARLOW: But you were watching all of it.

COLLINS: Yes, right, well, you were watching it. As you were watching and seeing what was coming out of this, what are the biggest takeaways?

OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: I think the big takeaway is how the judge is reacting to some of the arguments being put forth by both parties in this case, because we knew the arguments that FOX was going to make. We knew the argument that Dominion was going to make. They've made them in legal filings over the past several weeks and several months.

What we didn't really have an idea of is how they were going to hold up in court when the judge is looking at them and asking questions. And what we saw yesterday was the judge was quite critical at times of FOX's arguments. At one point, he even said, you know, I think the argument you're making is, it feels intellectually dishonest. And so I think that is really interesting as we take a look at this case, and as this judge is being asked to rule in favor by, FOX is saying you should declare us the winner, Dominion is saying you should declare us the winner. This might give us some window into his thinking as he's being asked by both parties to just avert a trial and declare an outright winner.

LEMON: We should say what some of what the judge said. This is just one quote, but there were some others that were scathing, and even the questions about, well, wait a minute, it doesn't seem like you're operating in good faith here. But he said, "It could have been a bigger story that a president who lost an election was making all these unsubstantiated, false allegations." So what is he doing here to the FOX lawyers?

DARCY: It's certainly not good for the FOX lawyers, right? The FOX lawyers are not necessarily, or yesterday, on the friendliest turf. That's not to say that some other arguments won't hold up. I mean, it's not unheard of for a judge to question both sides so he really can kind of interrogate the legal theories in court. But it's not great news for FOX as they're trying to advance these arguments.


And I think that judge's kind of like almost like, wait a second, it was a much bigger story that Trump was lying in the aftermath of the election. Not necessarily. It's strange then to embrace those lies versus calling them out. If you're a news organization.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, that doesn't fit the narrative so.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we'll see what happens on day two. Oliver, thank you so much.

DARCY: Thank you.


COLLINS: All right, we also have more this morning on our breaking news, a residential building in Zaporizhzhia was hit by a missile it's killed at least one-fourth person. We know that dozens more have been hospitalized including children.

HARLOW: Also, this morning, could Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, hold back? Not charged former President Trump. Our next guest thinks that is the case. And Jones is here.

LEMON: Man, why you always start in stuff man.

HARLOW: You know that too should have been.


HARLOW: All this morning really significant new details on how President Trump and his advisers are preparing for possible indictment for Manhattan's district attorney's office. Investigating the Stormy Daniels hush money scheme this morning. Our Kristen Holmes is reporting that Trump is celebrating and complaining. Sources say he's saying how quote unfair an indictment would be also weighing, how it might help him politically? Also, this reporting from the New York Times Maggie Haberman, they quote, Trump is ready for his perp walk. She and Michael Bender write quote, "Behind closed doors at Mar-a- Lago, the former president has told friends and associates that he welcomes the idea of being paraded by the authorities before throng of reporters and news cameras. He's even mused openly about whether he should smile for the assembled media, and he's pondered how the public would react and is said to have describe the potential spectacle as a fun experience." close quote. She also writes, "He wants to be defiant, to show the world that if they can try to do this to him, they can do it to anyone."


Our next guest not so sure an indictment is going to happen very soon. He thinks the Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, could hold back on charging Trump. Let's talk about that and a whole lot more. Here with us, CNN Political Commentator and Former Special Adviser to President Obama, Van Jones. Good morning.

LEMON: Why are you staring at the hornet's nest? Not wrong, because we don't know. But still, you know.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm just saying that, you know, you have this found across the country. A clack, clack, clack, clack of Democrats knees knocking together. Afraid that the political ramifications of this is did make Trump who seems to be on the decline into a martyr and resurrect his political career, over not the strongest of his.

HARLOW: I just --

LEMON: That's on our legal system.

JONES: Well, you're a purist. So, you actually believe in all this stuff? Our political act dude. I'm just telling you that passives of --

HARLOW: Don's right.

JONES: What else matter? But it doesn't matter.

HARLOW: Don's right, that should be factored into legal decision. But to you -- I just want to be clear to viewers what you're saying.


HARLOW: Are you saying that you think Alan Bragg might not charge because of what Trump is doing?

JONES: I'm saying that -- I'm not saying that.

HARLOW: OK, good.

JONES: That'll make me sound like I'm thinking he's like a -- he's a crap of clack.

HARLOW: Right. JONES: That's why I'm saying is that -- this is going to be I think, a tough decision, because unless the grand jury is just overwhelming.

HARLOW: Right.

JONES: If there's any breaks or cracks within the grand jury, you add to that just a psychological reality that a lot of Democrats think, we should let Georgia go first, get your -- put get Trump in trouble for the coup? Do we have to start with pornstar payouts? That's just a political reality and he is at the end of the day trying to figure out the right thing to do. And he hasn't -- and he is not as best we can tell made the decision.

LEMON: But we don't know yet.

JONES: We don't know -- we don't know.


LEMON: We're going to be a decision.

JONES: We don't know.

COLLINS: Everyone wants to know.


COLLINS: But the reporting does indicate that it's coming. I mean, Trump is preparing for it like it's happening. And they're even thinking through Maggie's reporting is right, obviously, that they're thinking through what that would look like that walk, you know, past the reporters, once someone has been indicted. And how they could use that to your point about making a murderer how they could use that? You know, in campaign footage.

JONES: Well, Trump is going to come down there like it's a soul train line, he's going to be so happy to get the attention.

COLLINS: What they actually be happy? And what have they indicted? Still.

Jones: The thing about Trump.

LEMON: He loves attention.

JONES: He loves attention --

LEMON: A spectacle.

JONES: Whether it's bad or good. Everything happens for Trump is both bad and good. It's just it's kind of, I mean, it's Tuesday, it's Wednesday, whatever he does, some people hate it, some people love it. But he's going to be the center of the world attention. Whenever he says that day, 7 billion people will hear it, and he will turn it to his advantage as he always does.

COLLINS: Can I push back on that just a --


COLLINS: -- little bit in another lens of how to view this? I do think obviously, Oh, that's right. I covered Trump when he was president. The other part of this though, is that it's about Stormy Daniels, and that is one of the most politically or personally sensitive --


COLLINS: -- things for Trump, especially with the First Lady -- former First Lady Melania. Trump. When this happened in the White House, it was one of the biggest sources of tension between the two of them. So, I actually think, yes, all of that could be right of the political aspect of this, but it is not, you know, some great story that he, that they like having resurrected.

LEMON: That has been said that's the reason he wanted to do this is to because of Melania, right? So, that --

JONES: So, listen, nobody wants to be indicted. But I'm going to tell you what if you're Donald Trump, the personal stuff, you're correct, but would you rather be indicted about a pornstar pay out a long time ago or for the insurrection a coup and trying to steal an election? Look, if you have Republicans watching and they think there's some sophisticated conspiracy by progressives to take over. You can relax now because this is not well coordinated. A well-coordinated progressive conspiracy would not start with the with the pornstar, it would start with a coup. And so, I just think that at the end of the day, this he hasn't made a decision yet, and we don't know.

HARLOW: Quick this before we go.


HARLOW: Talk about Ron DeSantis in this new interview that he gave to Piers Morgan, I just want people to see a clip of a quick.

JONES: OK! Good, good.


PEIRS MORGAN, HOST OF PIERS MORGAN UNCESORED: Who's your favorite nickname? Trumps given you so far. Is it Ron, the sanctimonious or meat moron?

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Why can't?

MORGAN: But even he went off meatball, right?

DeSantis: I can't, I don't know how to spell the sanctimonious. I don't really know what it means. But I kind of like It's long, it's got a lot of value. I mean, so, we'll go with that. That's fine, you know, you call me -- you call me whatever you want. I mean, just as long as you, you know, also call me a winner.


HARLOW: Now, lack of confidence there from DeSantis who also says, by the way, I wouldn't be running against Trump. I'd be running against Biden. You think DeSantis needs to in your words, eat his Wheaties?

JONES: He's going to have to eat Wheaties, he's got to get ready. Like it's I think it's great, he's showing confidence. He's, he's growing, he's showing a little bit of charisma, but you're dealing with Donald Trump. Donald Trump has not lost anything when it comes to the Republican Party, his approval ratings are high. There's not one state word DeSantis is beating Trump yet. So, he's got to -- he can talk all he wants to he can smile, he talked to an interviewer. When you're face to face with Donald Trump. It's a different story, buddy. Eat your Wheaties.


LEMON: It's early on. It's early on.

JONES: It's political hack.

LEMON: You called yourself. I'm not saying that. It's early on.

HARLOW: Don't call my buddy Van that's, I know.


LEMON: He just said it like two minutes ago that -- I'm going to say --

JONES: Compared to you.


JONES: You're a purist, you believe this stuff. I'm just telling you from the political point of you out.

LEMON: By the way quickly, before we let you go on the spectacle part is, you know, the reporting is that they would prefer, right? The authorities, right? And secure for security reasons not to have the spectacle to have him going through underground.

JONES: Sure.

LEMON: And have all of this done without the cameras. But I don't know if it's up to Trump, because if he had his druthers, he might. Do it in front of everyone.

JONES: Look, if you -- you're going to do it, you may as well get his attention. He might --


JONES: -- moon walk.

LEMON: At the park walk? JONES: I'm just -- you guys, I don't think he's going to --

LEMON: Oh, boy.

JONES: (INAUDIBLE) about this. Something about the moon walk.

LEMON: It's time for you to go Van.

COLLINS: We'll wait to see. It is good to have a word of caution. We have to wait for that Trump.


JONES: By the way this --

COLLINS: We haven't seen it yet. So, it's very good word of caution. Thank you, for joining us.

JONES: Thank you.

LEMON: Good to see you Van Jones.

JONES: Many thanks.

COLLINS: All right, we have more this morning on breaking news. This is in Ukraine, incredibly important. You see this video dramatically, that is where a missile struck a residential block in Zaporizhzhia. You see all the cars just right in front of that. We're going to talk about that and what could come as an outcome of this meeting, this has three-day meeting between Xi and Putin. Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper is going to join us live, that's next.