Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Former President Trump Indicted in Manhattan on Business Fraud Charges Related to Hush Money Payments Made to Stormy Daniels; Lanny Davis, Attorney for Michael Cohen Who Testified to Grand Jury that Indicted Former President Trump, Interviewed on Nature of Charges Likely being Brought against Trump; Trump Expected To Surrender Next Week; Trump Facing 30+ Counts Related To Business Fraud; House Republicans Blast Indictment, Rally Behind Trump. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired March 31, 2023 - 08:00   ET



DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And we don't even know what's in the indictment.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, let's wait.

LEMON: Let's wait and see.

HARLOW: OK, we have a lot ahead.

LEMON: CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.

LEMON: Good morning, everyone and here we are on a historic day here in the United States. Very big news, big news this morning. The former President Trump.

HARLOW: That's right, sources tell CNN Trump is expected to turn himself in just days from now as he is facing more than 30 counts related to business fraud. The key witness in this case, Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen. His lawyer will join us live in just a few minutes.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: We're also going to have expert analysis on just how historic this indictment really is. The political fallout that's unfolding, how it could potentially benefit Trump.

HARLOW: I'll tell you what's happening right now. Moments ago, here in New York City, Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, arrived at his office just hours after former President Donald Trump was indicted. We've learned this morning that Trump had been asked by Bragg's office to turn himself in today to face those criminal charges here in New York, but his defense lawyers say that Trump and the Secret Service needed more time to coordinate his surrender after yesterday's historic indictment. Sources tell CNN the former president is facing more than 30 counts. They're related to business fraud. And he is expected to turn himself in on Tuesday.

The Manhattan district attorney's case is centered around those hush money payments surrounding Stormy Daniels. Kaitlan's reporting the number of members of Trump's camp were caught off guard by that indictment yesterday because they thought perhaps the D.A.'s case might be falling apart.

So Leyla Santiago starts us off this hour in Mar-a-Lago, near Mar-a- Lago. First though, let's go right downtown, Brynn Gingras outside the courthouse in Manhattan. Brynn, good morning to you. We just saw Alvin Bragg arrive there, and the NYPD has really been preparing for this.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, listen, they have been preparing this for a couple of weeks now, of course, because we also thought this was going to happen last week. So their preparations have been in place, certainly ramped up.

Let me show you around a little bit. As you guys just mentioned, the district attorney, Alvin Bragg is now in the building where he works at. That's his car right there. We are now seeing an increase in security, even more than what I saw just about 45 minutes ago when I last saw you guys. Of course, though, there is a lot happening behind the scenes that we do not see. Of course, the intelligence officials are monitoring online chat rooms, social media, keeping an eye on how things progress in terms of chatter in case any sort of protests or demonstrations are planning to come to New York and start to break out.

That is partly why the entire NYPD force, every single person, no matter the rank or position, is going to be in uniform today, so there can be quick mobilization should any protests break out today into the weekend. And, of course, now, all eyes on Tuesday when that arraignment is expected. learning from a source that still the planning, the conversations have begun in terms of that arrangement, how that will take place, where that will take place, and those conversations are ongoing. Of course, will be continuing to check in with our sources to find out how those conversations continue, guys.

HARLOW: All developing very quickly, Brynn, thank you for that.

Leyla Santiago live in West Palm Beach, Florida. Leyla, good morning to you. What do we know about where the former president is now, and have we heard from him?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We understand he's right here, right behind me at Mar-a-Lago, as you see. And listen, a lot of eyes are there right now to see if there's any sort of movement, any sort of insight as to what the former president's next move could be on this. I got to tell you, this morning we haven't really seen anything out of the norm from the outside. But here's what we've learned about what happened on the inside last night, CNN learning that President Trump was here prepping political attacks against Governor Ron DeSantis when his team learned of this indictment, something that they were bracing for but were caught off guard by the timing of this.

We also understand through our CNN reporting that he was still moving forward with dinner with gas, had dinner with Melania last night also here at Mar-a-Lago. And I want to read to you the statement that he put out yesterday after this indictment, and I'll quote him. It says, "This is political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history. The Democrats have lied, cheated, and stolen in their obsession with trying to get Trump. But now they've done the unthinkable, indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant election interference.

Now, listen, a lot is still unknown right now, but again, keeping a close eye here to see if there's any movement and any indication of how this could move forward on Tuesday, preparation for Tuesday, when we believe he will be arraigned.

I have spoken to local law enforcement to see if they have been requested for anything at this point. I have been told that is not the case. But this is something that Secret Service would handle. So we will continue to monitor not only Mar-a-Lago but also the Trump plane, which still remains at the local airport here.


HARLOW: Very good point. Leyla Santiago, thank you for that reporting right near Mar-a-Lago.

LEMON: So we know Michael Cohen played a central role in the hush money episode. He is deeply involved in the investigation. He met with the Manhattan district attorney more than 20 times, and he spoke to my CNN colleague Alisyn Camerota and me just last night. Listen in.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: I am a convicted felon. I am a disbarred lawyer, but I also brought the documents. There's plenty of testimony, corroborating testimony to go around. And at the end of the day, we have an indictment today. So clearly, that means that the information provided was more than enough for the grand jury to come back with the determination for an indictment. by the way, for Donald, since we're talking about convicted felons, see you on Tuesday, pal.


LEMON: It was a wide-ranging interview about 20 minutes or so last night here on CNN, his first on camera interview after the indictment was handed down. There you see Lanny Davis, Michael Cohen's lawyer. He joins me now. Lanny, good morning to you. Thank you so much for joining us.


LEMON: So I need you to respond now to Trump's attorney, Joe Tacopina, speaking out this morning. This is what he said about your client. Watch.


JOE TACOPINA, TRUMP ATTORNEY: If we don't know what the actual charges are, but we do know it centers around a legal, a very common confidentiality agreement that was signed two years and years ago with Stormy Daniels and between her attorneys and Michael Cohen. Those were the parties to the confidentiality agreement. so it's nothing more than that, which is really what makes this shocking.


LEMON: Lanny, what's your response?

DAVIS: Well, first of all, let's all remember from Vice President Pence last night not telling the truth on CNN to Mr. Tacopina, who I've worked with. Nobody knows the facts in this case, so let's start with three questions I hope you'll be asking your guests, including the politician from Florida. That one is the Southern District of New York, federal prosecutors conducted a thorough investigation involving an extensive search Michael Cohen's office and apartment. They found as a matter of fact that Donald Trump directed, the word they used, Michael Cohen to pay the hush money. And they found the seriousness of this crime to be so serious that it endangers our democracy because it thwarts the American people from knowing information such as a possible affair with Daniels. So that's fact one about the Southern District of New York's --

LEMON: Two and three quickly, please, Lanny, we don't --

DAVIS: -- remember.

LEMON: I want to make sure we get it all in. So what's -- you said there are three things --

DAVIS: The second one is the fact of whether Donald Trump is to be believed versus Michael Cohen and all the documents and all the witnesses, whether he had any political motivation to make that a direction, according to federal prosecutors, to Michael Cohen to pay the hush money. That's the question before the jury. Mr. Tacopina isn't addressing that question. He's going to have a hard time convincing a jury that Donald Trump had no political motivation, waiting just before the election to direct Michael to pay the hush money.

LEMON: OK, that's one of my questions. And number three is what?

DAVIS: Number three is credibility of Michael Cohen and whether that matters a lot. Of course, it matters. He testified in public under oath before Elijah Cummings and tens of millions of people. He did not take the Fifth Amendment, as did Mr. Trump before the grand jury. And as you said, 20 interviews corroborated by documents, and that's the main thing I wanted to stress this morning.

I've been in the room with Michael all 20 times. This group of prosecutors in New York are depending upon emails, text messages, telephone calls, other witnesses. There is so much corroboration here that everyone speaking with rhetoric about politicization and weaponization, all these adjectives. I'm talking facts. This is a very factual case corroborated by a lot of information. Everyone is going to be surprised how extensive the documents and the corroboration are in this case.

LEMON: OK, so let's talk a little bit. I want you to drill down on that, because you can -- you're in the position as an attorney to say more than Michael Cohen can say as a witness or potential witness in an upcoming trial. So let's dig in on that. Does the district attorney have documents for trial that go beyond what is publicly known? It sounds like that's what you're saying. Are there more financial dealings that we don't know about, Lanny?

DAVIS: A lot more. You do know about something I don't hear your reporters mentioning, which is the president of United States as a sitting president, writing $35,000 a month checks and mislabeling them as legal fees, which he knew was a lie. So the federal prosecutors said, no, they weren't legal fees. They were reimbursements for the direction to pay hush money. That's the fact that you know.

But what you don't know is the extent of corroboration of everything to prove political motivation, and that's what the case is about. Mike Pence said last night it's about lying to congress. He didn't finish the sentence, and I would appreciate everybody on CNN finishing the sentence.


He lied to Congress at the direction of Donald Trump. He paid the hush money at the direction of Donald Trump. That's not me speaking. That's the federal prosecutors in a document filed publicly. So the amount of corroboration and detail are more than anybody knows, and Mr. Tacopina using rhetoric isn't going to get around the fact that he's faced with corroboration, witnesses, documents, telephone calls, emails, all of it corroborating that Mr. Trump was politically motivated. And the Southern District said this is a serious crime. Mike Pence said last night it's just a campaign finance violation. No, it's not.


DAVIS: What the Southern District prosecutor said publicly is it's such a serious crime that impairs our democracy because the American people were prevented from knowing information by somebody paying hush money.

LEMON: OK, Lanny --

DAVIS: In this case, Michael Cohen went to jail, but now we have to look at Donald --

LEMON: Lanny, you've got to let me get in here. OK, again, I'm going to ask you the question again, because you said there's a lot. I want to know what. Does the district attorney have documents for trial that go beyond what is publicly known? And are there more financial dealings that we don't know about? You said a lot. Like what?

DAVIS: Like documents memorializing the decision to pay the hush money, like telephone calls, like emails, like other witnesses involved in the payment of the hush money, like another crime called Karen McDougal, which Michael Cohen was forced to plead guilty to as a politically motivated payment to keep her quiet. So there's two crimes that Michael played guilty to that Donald Trump with another witness will be corroborating this. So that's what you don't know is the substantial volume of these documents, of witnesses, of emails, text messages that corroborate the crime of politically motivated hush money.

LEMON: OK, my colleague John Miller is coming up shortly here. He has been reporting since yesterday that it's 34 criminal counts. OK, do you know anything about what the charges will be Lanny?

DAVIS: I don't know the number 34. I know that Donald Trump committed financial fraud by not booking and writing checks as a sitting president. I'm just imagining if another sitting president had written checks on his personal checking account while in the Oval Office, that's a fact, to Michael Cohen and called them legal fees knowing that they were reimbursements. His own lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, contradicted Trump and said, no, they're not legal fees. The federal district said no, they're not legal fees. So those are where the fraudulent activities occurred by Mr. Trump.

And it's not in dispute. That's what's amazing to me that Mr. Tacopina has to face Mr. Giuliani contradicting his own client that no, these weren't legal fees. The federal district prosecutors, no, they're not legal fees. That's where I suspect a lot of fraudulent accounting will come from.

LEMON: All right, Lanny, listen, I have to go. But I want to ask you. You're an attorney. You're sitting there. You have been in with clients before. You were there for every, you said, interview that he did with Alvin Bragg's office, correct, the D.A. here. So judging by the questions, and every time you went back, I'm sure the questions, they went from 30,000 feet to three feet, or however you want to classify it, however you want to put it here. So considering what the questions were and what you were observing, where do you think the charges will go here? What do you think it is?

DAVIS: I think the charges in the granular detail that this group of professionals that we spent so much time with asking Michael about different documents and all of the corroborating evidence, I think where this goes to is a jury with a single question. Do you believe Donald Trump's denial that just before the election, directing Michael to pay this $130,000 from his own funds, do you believe that Donald Trump was politically motivated? That is the only question between a crime and a non-crime. And it's about American democracy, as the Southern District said.

So that to me is a way of simplifying it all down. And please finish the sentence. Yes, Michael Cohen lied by the direction of Donald Trump. Please, all of you, finish that sentence.

LEMON: Lanny Davis, thank you very much. I appreciate you joining us this morning.

DAVIS: Thank you.

HARLOW: Significant news out of that interview with Lanny Davis. We'll continue on that. The news of Trump's indictments sending shockwaves across Washington. How are Democrats on the Hill reacting? Congressman Dan Goldman who was a lead counsel in Trump's first impeachment trial, now a member of Congress, he joins us.




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning and welcome back to CNN this morning. We have been discussing a lot when it comes to the historic indictment of former President Trump that happened yesterday. Joining us now with their perspective on this is former federal prosecutor of the Southern District of New York and Cardozo, Law School professor Jessica Roth. And our CNN Chief Law Enforcement and intelligence analyst John Miller, both here with us this morning. Thank you so much for being here, Gloria Borger is also here, I should note, she is joining us remotely from Washington, D.C. Hi, Gloria.


COLLINS: You're not here with us but still there.


COLLINS: Gloria, I actually want to start with you Gloria, because you know Lanny Davis and Michael Cohen very well. You are incredibly --


COLLINS: -- well sourced. What do you make of what Lanny Davis just said?

BORGER: Well, I think Lanny Davis says, Michael Cohen's attorney wanted to get out there and say to the American public, don't forget that Michael Cohen is someone who went to jail over some of these issues. And by the way, he was directed to pay the hush money to Stormy Daniels, by Donald J. Trump, as he put it. And I think, that's the message he wants to sort of get over and over and over again. And I think, you know, Michael Cohen, being out there himself, your attorneys can tell you whether that's wise or not wise, but he's trying to restore his credibility with the American people.

And say, OK, I'm not just a guy who went to jail, I'm not just the fixer. I know exactly what happened, and I paid the price, and Donald Trump should then pay the price as well. What neither of them can answer or did answer, I think, is the question of whether what started as a paperwork issue has apparently evolved into a criminal felony. Again, we don't know what's in the indictment, but we don't -- we have to understand the arc of the paperwork to criminal felony which we, at this point don't know.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Jessica is watching you, watching Don's interview with Lanny Davis. And there was a moment where you were nodding when Don kept pressing him to answer the question of well, are there more documents we don't know about? Are there more payments we might not know about? Why were you nodding? What's the significance?



HARLOW: You think he answered it?

ROTH: He seemed to indicate that there were documents, I'm very curious to know what those are since reportedly, Donald Trump doesn't use text, he doesn't use email. And so, unless that's not true, and we actually have text and email and documents with Donald Trump. Perhaps, these are communications with other people that reflect communications with Trump, or that also show how the records were used at the Trump organization.

LEMON: Go on why you said you want to know that too, why?

ROTH: Because I want to know what corroboration there is for Michael Cohen. That's key and we know that there is David Pecker, who will give corroboration. I imagine for why these payments were made to stormy Daniels and to Karen McDougal because David Pecker was part of conversations about them, being part of campaign expenditures to help Donald Trump in his campaign. So, David Pecker is going to be critical people from the Trump campaign like Kellyanne Conway and Hope Hicks will also be critical if they were involved in communications about those payments, and can testify that they work to further Donald Trump's campaign interest. But I also want to know who from the Trump organization has testimony and documents that will reflect, how those payments were reflected in the business records of the Trump organization and for what purposes, those records were used.



JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: So, a lot of things happening today. There will be a meeting today with the New York State court officers, the NYPD, the secret service to go through the mechanics of Tuesday. There will also be a walkthrough, where they actually go through the route of how they're going to bring the former president into the building, up to where he will be booked. And then the critical route, which is between there and the courthouse where he's going to be arraigned.

And that walkthrough will examine, do you freeze public hallways to bring him through without access to the press in the public? Do you take him through some kind of controlled gauntlet with barriers? Do you bring him in a back way that is used to transport prisoners to the holding blocks and into the courtroom? So, they're going to walk through all of those versions and figure out which is the most practical and which is the most lower risk.

And at the same time, they are still having everybody show up in uniform today. They'll decide today, whether that goes through the weekend, while they're scanning social media for news of demonstrations. That's how the modern demonstration is born, is it's born on social media, and it grows there. And so far, what they're not seeing is anything major that's unfolding there. But that'll be something that they're doing right up to the moment.

LEMON: That is New York City.


LEMON: You know, New Yorkers really like to think we're the center of the universe. This is when it comes to this particular thing. What about the rest of the country, John?

MILLER: Well, so, the rest of the country is doing the same thing. There's a group called the major cities chiefs, which is the 70 some odd major cities in the U.S. and their intelligence commanders are all linked in a network. And they trade information back and forth. What are you seeing there? What are you seeing here? What we learned from, you know, the time a couple of weeks ago, when Donald Trump was saying publicly, I'm going to be indicted on Monday, I'm going to be arrested on Tuesday.

COLLINS: Well, he was right, just two weeks later.


HARLOW: I see you, two days later.

MILLER: You know, the model they were saying is, you know, she controlled the narrative by saying, I'm going to have a rally in Texas, you know, this is going to be my gathering. It's not going to be something where I'm calling on people, you know, to show up at the courthouse. So, what they're looking for is will it be similar? Will it be an event that he controls at a venue that he controls? Maybe not outside the courthouse and then there's the other question is, does he address the press at the courthouse?

LEMON: There you go.

MILLER: Does he address the press? Does he address the press somewhere in New York later in a controlled environment or back down in Palm Beach?

COLLINS: Yes, those plans are still being finalized, we're told. All right, John, Jessica, thank you both, Gloria as well. Thank you all for joining us.

BORGER: Thanks guys.

LEMON: Gloria, come back and see us more often.

HARLOW: We miss you.

LEMON: We miss you.

HARLOW: You're too far away.

BORGER: I know, maybe I'll come back to New York and sit around the table.


LEMON: I will love too. We love to have you.

BORGER: I will again. Well, thanks, guys.

LEMON: Bye, Gloria. Bye, everyone, thanks to you.

HARLOW: All right, thank you all very much. We're going to talk about how Democrats in Congress are reacting to the Trump indictment with us, in studio Congressman Dan Goldman, next.



HARLOW: Welcome back. A source tells CNN Donald Trump was rallying support among his allies on Capitol Hill yesterday, vowing to fight these historic charges against him. And a number of congressional Republicans responded blasting the indictment and defending the former president. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy called the indictment of quote, unprecedented abuse of power. House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan called it outrageous. White House -- well, House, I should say, Majority Leader Steve Scalise accused Democrats of weaponizing the government to attack their political opponents. Well, let's talk to a democratic congressman about it. Daniel Goldman, see what he thinks, he's a former federal prosecutor, very apropos right now. Also was the lead counsel, democratic counsel and Trump's first impeachment trial. Good morning.

REP. DANIEL GOLDMAN (D-NY): Good morning.

HARLOW: Thank you very, very much. So, let me just actually start out. Kaitlan of this great interview with a one of Trump's attorneys not in this case but representing him in the documents probe and others. Jim Trusty, here's what he said in terms of how the Trump team will likely respond in the next few days here he was.


JIM TRUSTY, TRUMP ATTORNEY IN CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS CASE: Legal gymnastics, they're going to fall apart. So, I would think in very short order, you'll see a motion to dismiss or several motions to dismiss talking about this kind of impossible theory of stalking a federal crime into a state misdemeanor statute of limitations issues. And very importantly, the intent to defraud that's an element of these false record keeping charges that's just not present here.


HARLOW: Motion dismiss coming soon, your response?

GOLDMAN: Well, my response is nobody knows what the indictment says.