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Sources: Trump Discussed Classified Doc on Tape; House Passes Debt Limit Bill, Bill Heads to Senate; Three Killed in Kyiv as Missile Strikes Averted by Defense System; Denver Nuggets Face Miami Heat in Finals Tonight. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired June 01, 2023 - 06:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR/CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Six seasons and two movies but famously declined to appear in the first season of the reboot series, and just like that. Media reports say her cameo for season two was secretly filmed in March in a Queens, New York parking garage.


Oh, the glamour.

Thanks for joining me. I'm Christine Romans. CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. It is Thursday.


HARLOW: Yes, I am off tomorrow for my daughter's first play.

HILL: Yay!

HARLOW: This is very exciting.

You're looking particularly beautiful this morning.

HILL: Thank you. Oh, gosh. You're so sweet.

HARLOW: Good to be with you. It's true.

And we have a lot going on this morning. So let's get started with "Five Things to Know" for this Thursday, June 1st. Oh, also my mom's birthday.

HILL: Today?

HARLOW: Happy birthday, Mom!

HILL: Happy birthday.

HARLOW: But this really significant news first here on CNN. Caught on tape. Federal prosecutors have Donald Trump in his own words acknowledging he held onto a classified Pentagon document after he left the White House. And told people he couldn't share it with them. This is first on CNN reporting. What does it mean for the investigation?

HILL: And speaking of Trump, his former No. 2, Mike Pence, about to officially take him on for the White House. Pence will officially announce his run next week, as will former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

The House overwhelmingly passing that debt limit deal in a move to avert a national and global economic crisis. The fate of the bill which, of course, garnered fierce backlash from the far right and the far left, well, it's fate now lies in the Senate.

HARLOW: And to basketball. The NBA finals start tonight. The Denver Nuggets take on the Miami Heat in game one.

HILL: "Sex in the City fans" rejoice.

HARLOW: Woo-hoo!

HILL: The band is really getting back together. Samantha in for the reboot. We're told it's only for one scene in the season two finale. But that still counts. What we know about Kim Cattrall's quick return and just like that, CNN THIS MORNING starts right now.

HARLOW: I can't wait. I'm super-excited.

But here is where we start this morning, with again, first-on-CNN reporting. Sources tell us there is a tape, an audio recording of former President Donald Trump admitting that he held onto a classified Pentagon document and suggesting he wants to share that information, but he's limited bid by his post-presidency ability to declassify records.

So there's a whole lot there.

CNN has not listened to the recording, but Special Counsel Jack Smith has it in his possession. And sources describe it as a, quote, important piece of evidence in the possible case -- possible charges against Trump.

Here's what there is. It undercuts his argument that he declassified everything. And it shows that he knew he wasn't supposed to share sensitive information with others.

We are told the recording is about two minutes long from July of 2021, and in it, Trump talks about a document involving a potential attack on Iran.

So Abby Phillip asked Trump attorney Jim Trusty about this last night. He deflected.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR/SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Did you know that this tape existed? And are there others? JIM TRUSTY, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I am not going to try a case

based on the government leaks.


HARLOW: CNN senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid helped break this story. Good morning to you. So walk us through what is in those two minutes.


This was a meeting that occurred at Trump's Bedminster golf club in the summer of 2021. And in it, among the people in attendance were several Trump aides and two people working on an autobiography of former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows. Meadows was not in attendance at this meeting, but during this time, Trump was in the habit of having his aides record conversations with journalists, writers, anyone working on a book. So he was aware that he was being recorded.

And while we have not heard this tape, multiple sources have described it to us, and they say that on this recording, Trump makes it clear that he is still in possession of at least one classified document from the Pentagon describing a possible attack on Iran.

Now, we're told that you can hear paper rustling, as if he is waving some sort of document. But it is unclear if it's the document he is referring to or something else for theatrical effect.

But most importantly for investigators, on this recording, Trump is heard acknowledging the limits of his ability to declassify materials once he was out of the White House which, of course, undercuts every public defense he and his attorneys have provided for why he was still in possession of some of the nation's most sensitive secrets.

HILL: And Paula, this is really significant, I would say for two reasons. No. 1, because we're talking about a recording, not simply witness testimony.

REID: Yes.

HILL: But also because of what it shows, based on the other public comments that have been made by the former president and his legal team.


REID: That's exactly right, Erica. Over the past year, he and his attorneys, they've given various, at times conflicting, explanations for why he did not intentionally retain this sensitive information.

They've said that he had a standing declassification order. So anything that left the Oval Office was automatically declassified.

He told FOX News that he declassified things just by thinking about doing so.

But his lawyers have also told Congress that he was only in possession of these materials because it was so chaotic at the end of the administration, and he wasn't aware.

But this recording, it really shows that none of those statements are true. And this also exposes the true legal jeopardy that the former president is facing.

Also important to note that most of the reporting up until now has focused on classified materials down in Florida, at Mar-a-Lago. But here in this recording, it reveals that at least one classified document was up in New Jersey.

Now, Trump's attorneys searched Bedminster late last year. They didn't find anything. But again, raises new questions. How did that document get there? And where did it go?

HARLOW: So many questions. Really phenomenal reporting, Paula. Thank you.

HILL: Joining us now, Bradley Moss, a national security attorney and deputy executive director of the James Madison Project.

Good to have you with us this morning. Based on what we have learned from Paula and her team's reporting overnight, what sticks out to you here? Are there potential charges that you see?

BRADLEY MOSS, NATIONAL SECURITY ATTORNEY/DEPUTY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, JAMES MADISON PROJECT: Yes, what sticks out to me is the comprehensive nature of this factual background that Jack Smith appears to have been compiling, in the case that he does choose to bring indictments.

We've always expected there would be an obstruction angle. That we've already heard tons of media reporting about. We've seen a lot about that in the search warrant back in August 2022.

But this shows not just that Donald Trump had brought documents, classified documents to Mar-a-Lago, but he knew he had them. He knew that they were still classified, and he knew he couldn't disseminate them to other people.

This goes to the intent. This underlies and undercuts the potential defense issue that he was going to raise of he had automatically declassified it or he didn't know.

No, he clearly knew. And that is knowing and willful retention of national defense information. That's the Espionage Act provision right there.

HARLOW: Yes. Let's talk about the Espionage Act and where this -- that could play in. Because I thought it was interesting last night, former Defense Department legal expert Ryan Goodman brought that up to CNN.

But before we get to that, listen to this sound. This is some sound of the former president, talking about how he believes he could or did, he says, declassify documents.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It doesn't have to be a process, as I understand it. You know, there's different people say different things. But as I understand it, there doesn't have to be. If you're the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying, it's declassified. Even by thinking about it.

No, I don't have anything. I have no classified documents. And by the way, they've become automatically declassified when I took them.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: When it comes to your documents, did you ever show those classified documents to anyone?

TRUMP: Not really. I would have the right to. By the way, they were declassified after --

COLLINS: What do you mean, "not really"?

TRUMP: Not that I can think of.


HARLOW: Can you talk about that? Because the reporting is that this memo has to do with Iran. And when you look at the Espionage Act, it prohibits the sharing of information that could harm the U.S. or given an advantage to foreign countries.

How would a charge under the Espionage Act look?

MOSS: Yes. So the Espionage Act predates the modern classifications system. It came out of World War I. And it doesn't actually refer to classified information, per se. It refers to national defense information.

Now generally speaking, whenever there is a prosecution for leaking or mishandling or stealing classified documents, they still use the Espionage Act, and they demonstrate it qualifies as national defense information. But it doesn't have to be.

But here's the thing. Donald Trump has a slight bit of truth in his statements. This is the most dangerous place for him.

Yes, when he was president, he had all kinds of authority to declassify documents. But the courts have weighed in, saying there has to be proper declassification. Every single time it's been handled, there has to actually be the demarking, the documentation of the declassification.

He can't just walk off with it as he flew down to Mar-a-Lago and say it's declassified. It's not the way it works.

He understands a small bit of the legal theory, and he's taking that to the extreme. And that's going to be his undoing here. HILL: Be his undoing in terms of all those past statements. What about

what we've heard from his attorneys? Because what's interesting, too, is his attorneys have avoided saying, it seems, as much in court that -- that he followed every single legally-mandated procedure. They've been very careful, understandably, on their language.

MOSS: Yes. So, this legal defense that we've been hearing on TV and that I heard James Trusty last night, saying, I'm not trying this case in the media, as he sat there very long with your colleagues last night and tried it in the media -- is what I would describe as a political set of talking points masquerading as a legal defense.


He's not going to say just how, you know, on point how much he -- how much did or did not happen. Probably because he doesn't really know one way or the other.

But these are arguments they're not likely to make in court because they would face potential ethical issues if they were to misrepresent things to the judge.

That's why they refused to do so when dealing with the special master, where they kept balking and refusing to indicate whether or not Trump had actually declassified these documents and if they could prove it. They don't want to get to that point, because they don't ultimately have anything other than Trump saying, Yes, I looked at them and said in my mind, Oh, it's declassified.

They know that's not going to work in the end. But they can play this game in the media in the interim.

HILL: Bradley Moss, great to have you with us this morning. Thank you.

HARLOW: The race to avoid a catastrophic U.S. default is now in the hands of the U.S. Senate. Last night, House lawmakers voted to raise the debt limit through the end of the year.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On this vote --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeas are 314. The nays are 117. The bill is passed. Without objection. A motion --


HILL: That 117 voting "no" was made up of 71 Republicans and 46 Democrats. They voted against a bill, arguing there were just too many concessions given to the other side.

Now the Senate has until Monday to get this thing to the president's desk before the U.S. could default.

Our Lauren Fox following all this on Capitol Hill. So it's through the hurdle of the House. Now to the Senate. We've heard senators publicly saying they'll oppose it. like Bernie Sanders. But in the same breathing, saying, but it will pass. I'm just, you know, essentially saying this, because I don't believe in it.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, last night's vote in the House of Representatives was really a blowout. And Kevin McCarthy had a huge victory, in part because he got far more than just a majority of his Republican majority. That was a key hurdle for him to clear; really, to secure the support from conservatives, some of whom did not back this legislation and were threatening his speakership.

Now the hope from Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate is that momentum is going to follow across the Capitol and really put them on a path to pass this very quickly. That is the hope, in part because we are bumping up against that deadline on Monday of June 5th when the country could default on its debt.

A couple of things at play here right now. There a number of Republicans and Democrats who remain undecided about this legislation.

There's also a huge question of how quickly the Senate is going to move. You heard yesterday from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that he was hopeful that they could put this in motion and pass it as soon as Thursday or Friday.

But you have to get a time agreement. And there are a number of members who want to have amendment votes. The big question and the big problem for an amendment vote is none of them actually can pass. Otherwise, you have to send this back over to the House, and you are in a position where you would definitely miss that Monday deadline.

So, they have to have a couple of amendment votes. They have to get some kind of time agreement. How quickly that all comes together today, that is a huge question. And we're going to be watching very closely on what happens next -- Poppy.

HARLOW: No break for Lauren Fox as she tracks it all.


HARLOW: Appreciate it, thank you.

HILL: Overnight, strikes in Kyiv have killed three people, including a child. We're live in Ukraine as talks of the country joining NATO ramp up.

HARLOW: Plus, what CNN sources are saying about Mike Pence's plans to join the 2024 race for the White House.



HILL: This morning, Ukrainian forces destroying all ten missiles targeting Kyiv. Also reporting, however, that falling debris has resulted in the deaths of a 9-year-old girl, her mother and another woman.

Ukraine's minister of internal affairs says all three deaths were tied -- all three, rather, tried to enter a bomb shelter that was closed.

You may recall, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he launched this invasion to stop NATO from getting closer to the Russian border. Well, now NATO's Secretary-General Stoltenberg says that is exactly what will happen.


JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: As late as last year, all allies agreed that Ukraine will become a member of this alliance. And -- and we are making concrete steps, because Ukraine is moving towards NATO. Meaning that they're coming closer and closer. Meaning that they are moving from the Soviet standards to NATO standards equipment doctrines and we are helping them doing that as we speak.


HILL: CNN's Sam Kiley joining us this morning live in Eastern Ukraine with more on this.

So, first, Sam, let's talk about those attacks overnight on Kyiv. What more are we learning?

SAM KILEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we understand, Erica, that these ten missiles were shot down over the Ukrainian capital after a brief sort of nearly-a-day-long lull in which there'd been no attacks. That was the first day that there'd been no attacks, more or less for about two weeks in the Ukrainian capital, which has been the focus of attention of the Russians bombardment.

But tragically, three people killed. And a number -- well, they were all killed and a large number injured when they found themselves locked out of a significant bunker.

Now, these are Soviet-era bunkers that are built around the city, very frequently close to or underneath tower blocks and residential blocks. But for reasons that are now subject to an official investigation in Kyiv, more than a year after the war, somebody had locked the door, trapping people outside. And then tragically, they were hit by debris descending.

This all coming on a day in which the Russians continue to be under pressure, too. They are saying in Belgorod province in the South of Russia, on the Northern border with Ukraine, that a large number of villages along the border are being evacuated. More than 300 children. They're talking about evacuating -- evacuating women.

And that's because a number of towns, they claim, are being hit currently with Ukrainian artillery and mortars.

And this is now a part of a new pattern of cross-border operations being conducted by Ukraine into Russia. They had been extremely rare in the past. Now they're becoming more routine. [06:20:04]

So you're seeing a lot more of this tit-for-tat effect on civilians on both sides of this conflict.

HILL: So there is the tit-for-tat aspect of it, and then there's also what we could potentially see on the heels of these comments from Stoltenberg, saying that NATO members agree Ukraine should be a member.

What is the sense this morning in terms of what that could prompt in terms of attacks from Russia?

KILEY: I don't think the Russians have a good deal in their armory that would be deployed in some kind of response to this sort of event. It's always a mistake to think that people, when they're prosecuting a war, will react to anniversaries or retaliate in kind for certain acts. They are prosecuting an ongoing campaign here.

They will use this statement coming from Jens Stoltenberg domestically in the Kremlin to kind of prove their point to the Russian population that they needed to go to war to prevent NATO doing just this.

And then it will be up to the Russians to decide whether or not the -- Ukraine's closeness to NATO is a consequence of the Russian invasion rather than anything else.

HILL: Sam Kiley, live for us in Ukraine this morning, thank you.

HARLOW: Well, the NB -- NBA finals tip off tonight. It is the Heat versus the Nuggets. Butler versus Jokic. We have a preview of this game ahead.



HARLOW: Tonight, the NBA finals get under way in Denver at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The Nuggets will face off against the Miami Heat in game one.

The Heat are coming off a tight series against the Celtics. Well, the Nuggets took out the L.A. Lakers with a four-game sweep.

If Denver wins the best of seven games, they will clinch the franchise's first ever title.

CNN sports anchor Andy Scholes joins us now. Andy, 47 years in the trying. And now the Nuggets get a chance.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes. Yes, so you know their fans are very excited. Good morning, Poppy and Erica.

And the Denver Nuggets, they are well-rested for their first NBA finals in team history. They haven't played in nine days since sweeping the Lakers, while the Heat, they haven't had much rest at all after beating the Celtics just on Monday.

Miami also going to have to deal with that altitude there in Denver, where the Nuggets haven't lost a play-off game yet this year. They're a perfect 8-0 at home.

The Nuggets, they're the one-seed. Heat, the second eight-seed ever to make it to the finals.

Denver, 4-1 favorites to win it all. But their superstar, Nikola Jokic, he isn't taking Jimmy Butler and this Heat team lightly.


NIKOLA JOKIC, DENVER NUGGETS CENTER: This is going to be the hardest game of our life. And we know that, and we are prepared for that; we are preparing and prepare for that. So I think there is no favorites. And definitely, I think we are not favorites in this series.

JIMMY BUTLER, MIAMI HEAT FORWARD: The guys that we have on this team, on this roster, can really play some high-level basketball. And we're going to stay confident, because, like I said, we -- we're in the grind every single day. Guys have been out of the lineup all year long. Guys step up, fill in, and do their job. So, we're never going to be surprised.


SCHOLES: It is a great time to be a fan in the Miami area. They are in both the NBA finals and Stanley Cup finals.

Five metro areas have made it to both at the same time. Most recently, the New Jersey Nets and Devils back in 2003. But no one has ever been able to complete the double and win them both.

Game one of Panthers and Golden Knights in Vegas, Saturday night. Puck drops at 8 Eastern on our sister channel, TNT, for that one.

But tonight, we get to see Nikola Jokic on the biggest stage for the first time ever. And guys, his rise to stardom is one of the biggest we've ever seen in NBA history.

He was the 41st pick in the second round back in 2014. The ESPN broadcast went to a Taco Bell commercial during his selection.

I think it's safe to say that we will never have a two-time MVP in history of the NBA that's ever drafted again during a Taco Bell commercial.

HILL: Oh, my gosh. Wow.

SCHOLES: That's how special Jokic is.

HARLOW: I agree he's special. And you know why. But I think also -- wasn't Tom Brady, like, the 99th draft pick or something like that?

SCHOLES: Yes. He was -- he was also a sixth-round pick. So yes, these things do happen, I guess.

HILL: And they make for great stories.

HARLOW: Yes. Great stories.

HILL: There we go. Andy, appreciate it. Thank you.

SCHOLES: All right.

HILL: The 2024 candidates are hitting the trail. The stops they're making as the GOP field gets a lot more crowded this morning.

HARLOW: Also this. Why the Pentagon is canceling what would have been an Air Force base's third annual drag show.