Return to Transcripts main page

CNN This Morning

Feds Inform Trump He is Target of Classified Documents Probe; Wildfire Smoke Engulfs East Coast, Pushes South; Gov. Doug Burgum (R- ND) Running for President. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 08, 2023 - 07:00   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: This could mean that the special counsel's investigation is moving closer to a possible indictment.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Jack Smith seems to be moving on a very fast timeline. He understands the political pressures.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not just people around that person, it's that person themselves.

MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Indicting former president of the United States sends a terrible message to the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How does he separate himself from the man that was his president --

PENCE: I know the difference between a genius and war criminal and I know who needs to win.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it's not going to happen in Iowa, it's not going to happen anywhere.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When you remember what were you doing that day when all of a sudden everything changed?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything just fell when it happened.

JIMENEZ: While help got to the scene quickly, they couldn't get Peach out for at least six hours.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't take my hope. You can't take my power. I refuse. That's why I'm still here fighting. You can't take anything from me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupts spectacularly on the big island, spewing lava and ash for the second time this year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The shakes were scary. I've never experienced an earthquake but I didn't expect that. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bright orange, it is more amazing than I actually pictured in my mind.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: As you can see, there are so much going on. It is the top of the hour. We're so glad you're with us on this Thursday. So glad you're here, Phil Mattingly, because a lot of this news has to do with Washington.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: That's often the case these days. But this is major news both from the weather front to some degree, climate change front, but also major news with a former president in a very unprecedented moment we find ourselves in.

HARLOW: Something happening that has never happened before. And that is where we begin this morning with new developments in one in one of the many investigations facing former President Donald Trump. Federal Prosecutors have informed Donald Trump's legal team that he is, indeed, a target in Special Counsel's Jack Smith classified documents investigation. Sources tell CNN that Trump's legal team received a so- called target letter. Those sources have been filled in on the contents of the letter. They have not seen it themselves.

MATTINGLY: On Truth Social, the former president responded, quote, no one has told me I'm being indicted and shouldn't be because I've done nothing wrong. The special counsel has been investigating Trump's handling of classified documents and looking into whether he broke any laws or obstructed justice.

So, let's bring in our CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig, he is also former assistant attorney for the Southern District of New York and former New Jersey State prosecutor. Okay. When Trump said on the Truth Social post and the target letter are not -- they're two different things, no one is saying he was indicted. A target letter, though, is a very significant thing and indicates that an indictment may be coming. Where do things stand right now.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Phil. Nobody has ever been happy to get a target letter. However, important to know, it is different from an actual indictment.

Let's look at what it means. In any federal investigation, a person can really have one of three statuses. Best case scenario, you're a witness, meaning, you just happen to see something, no reason to think you did anything wrong. The middle ground is you could be a subject, meaning, you're within the purview of what the grand jury is looking at. Worst case scenario is you are a target.

Now, let me show you exactly what it means to be a target. If you look at the justice manual, now, this is a book on every federal prosecutor's desk, it binds federal prosecutors around the country, here is the actual definition. It means two important things. It means that prosecutors have substantial evidence linking the person to the commission of the crime, and who in the judgment of a prosecutor is a putative defendant. That is the word of the day. It's a lawyer word because it can mean different things to different people. It means an assumed defendant, a likely defendant. Not a necessarily a certain defendant. So, that means different things to different people. In my experience, Phil and Poppy, when a person gets a target letter, it's quite likely, not certain, but quite likely that they will get indicted.

HARLOW: The other question about this target letter is does it stem from both grand juries, right, in Florida, what has been convened in Washington, what's been convened. We know it follows or, I guess, it preceded the meeting, the big meeting at Main Justice this week with Trump's lawyers, right?

HONIG: Yes. So, that meeting tells us a lot about timing. Because you're not going to have these meetings where a prosecutor invites a defense lawyer in, says to the defense lawyer, go ahead, make your pitch to us, try to convince us why maybe we're wrong to bring this case. Those meetings are naturally going to happen only at the very end of a proceeding. That meeting happened on Monday. We are now on Thursday. So, everyone is saying, when, when, when?

Important to keep in mind, we don't know. This is up to DOJ. They're not facing any external statute of limitations or deadline but we do know that meeting happened. And, to me, that's the biggest indicator that a decision, indict or don't indict, has to be close at hand.

MATTINGLY: Poppy mentioned this. I think this has been a wrinkle of this week ever since the discovery that there is a second grand jury down in Florida. It seems to be more active at the moment than the Washington grand jury, we think, or at least it appears, which had been very active up to this point. Explain why.

HONIG: Yes. So, this is a really interesting wrinkle.


Everything had been happening in D.C. But now, it looks like Florida has become a new locust of this investigation. Prosecutors are going to have to make a very important decision here, which is where do they charge the case. You have to charge a case where at least some portion of the crime was committed. Now, we're seeing action in Florida. It could be that they're considering indicting some of the maybe lesser players in Florida, other players in D.C. It's so important, though, because you're looking at very different jury pools.

Donald Trump, politically, very, very unpopular in D.C. He got just over 5 percent of the vote in D.C. in 2020, 95 percent or so of the voters went against him. Of course, he won Florida. Prosecutors are not supposed to be thinking about this, by the way. So, if they're playing it by the book, Florida is really where more of the action happened. But if they're thinking strategically, prosecutors do sometimes, then D.C. is where they're going to look.

HARLOW: That's really interesting. Steve Bannon, a name that everyone knows, now has been subpoenaed by Jack Smith's investigation. Obviously, there're questions about will he comply. This subpoena, will this lead to a long, dragged-out fight? But if he does, what would prosecutors want to know from Steve Bannon on both these fronts of what they're probing?

HONIG: Yes. So, Steve Bannon's main involvement, as far as we know on this, is January 6. He was part of several meetings in those crucial days leading up to January 6. And then he made some statements that raised a few eyebrows at DOJ. Let's take a quick listen to what he said.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: What Trump is going to do is just declare victory, right? He's going to declare victory. But that doesn't mean he's the winner. He's just going to say he's the winner.

All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this. All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.


HONIG: So, now we know that Steve Bannon joins the ranks of other high ranking White House officials, including Mike Pence, who had testified to the grand jury, on January 6th and potentially on Mar-a- lago as well. Steve Bannon, by the way, we remember, was convicted of contempt of Congress because he defied the January 6th committee. He was sentenced to four months in prison. He doesn't have to serve that yet because he's on appeal. But now, he's been subpoenaed to talk to this criminal grand jury. We'll see if he complies. Prosecutors have a lot of questions for him.

HARLOW: No question. Elie, thank you. It helps so much to have you walk through all that.

MATTINGLY: Let's bring in Attorney David Schoen. He is one of the attorneys who represented the former president during his second impeachment trial. He also represented ex-Trump adviser, Elie was just mentioning, Steve Bannon in 2022 after Bannon was indicted for contempt of Congress.

David, I want to start with what is an actual unprecedented moment. If feels like we've had many of them over the course of the last several years, but the target letter. What is your read on what this means? And if you take a step back for a minute, what does this tell you about what is potentially about to happen to a former president of the United States?

DAVID SCHOEN, TRUMP'S DEFENSE LAWYER DURING SECOND IMPEACHMENT TRIAL: Well, Elie Honig is exactly right in his description of what a target means. It is based on -- it's a term used in the Department of Justice manual. It means substantial evidence linking a person, a putative defendant to a crime.

I don't know that it tells us much about the timing, although I would credit some of the pundits who have been saying something may be imminent. But, you know, you can get a target letter at the beginning of a long investigation or right at the end before an indictment. And you're right also, it is unprecedented.

HARLOW: The question then becomes is there any chance in the world that Trump would speak, would testify before the grand jury?

SCHOEN: Right. Well, it's another good question. One often thinks that a defendant has a right to testify if he gets -- he or she gets a target letter. That is not exactly accurate. It is Department of Justice policy to allow a defendant who's gotten a target letter to testify if he or she requests it. I can't imagine in this case it would be in President Trump's interest to testify. I think that there's an agenda here, one way or the other, and I think decisions have been made. That's the way I would read the situation.

An interesting element of this is what charge would be considered. There is a lot of speculation. Several of the charges to be considered wouldn't revolve around the idea of there being classified documents.

I do think, though, while this is unprecedented, that it would hold a great danger to President Biden if they were to charge him -- charge President Trump under 18 USC 793E, which is one of the charges they talked about. Now, that's the retention of government documents.

I think there is a real danger there given the document were found with President Biden because this just requires them to show that the information was national defense information broadly construed and that the person knew he or she did something wrong by retaining it. President Biden has got a great deal of experience in government. Much President Trump was a businessman.

HARLOW: But, David, that's a political consideration, which shouldn't be part of this legal calculus, no?

SCHOEN: I think you're right, except that there are credential considerations that attend every decision whether or not to indict. And I think those credential considerations are very important here.


I don't think there is any purpose, any meaningful purpose served in an indictment in this case. It's not a question of someone being above the law. There are decision that's have to be made. I think I personally do not believe that President Trump, in any way, knew or believed he was doing anything wrong or illegal with respect to any of the documents there.

MATTINGLY: You mentioned two things that I want to follow up on, one, the idea of an agenda. I just want to get clarity on what you meant by that, in particular, but also that it wouldn't be in the president's interest to testify. Why not? Is that based on your experience with him? Is that based on just how he operates generally? Is that what you would advise any client?

SCHOEN: I generally would advise any client that unless there was some compelling evidence that I knew that the government wasn't aware of, that I thought at that point in the investigation would change minds, I certainly wouldn't have my client testify. First of all, a lawyer cannot be in the room with the client. The grand jury is really run by the prosecutor. It's a very dangerous situation, even for an innocent person. So, that's sort of, I guess, the second part.

By an agenda, I mean that this thing is pretty well along right now, this investigation had been going on quite some time. I'll tell you what concerns me, to be perfectly frank. I don't like the specter of having folks like Andrew Weissmann, Norm Eisen and others who have made a career now over the last couple of years of going after Donald Trump, writing a memo, for example, to the Justice Department, to Lisa Monaco, advising her on how you could prosecute President Trump. It plays into the suspicions that maybe half the country has about this sort of shadow government and these conspiracy theories. I think it's just a bad idea.

HARLOW: Just to not also, if Trump were to testify for the grand jury, he wouldn't get his lawyers in there with him. He could consult them out of the room, but he wouldn't have them by his side.

But I just want to ask you, you represented Steve Bannon. You don't anymore, right?

SCHOEN: I represent him in the appeal of his contempt conviction. One thing I would add to what Elie Honig said is not only is the case on appeal, the trial judge who presided over the conviction has written that he believes it's likely that the appeal will result in a new trial and reversal of the conviction.

HARLOW: Okay, but not in this probe. My question to you is about right now.

SCHOEN: No, I only represented I'm sorry. I only represented for the appeal and for a sanctions motion we have pending in court.

HARLOW: Okay, fair. So, now this, now that he's been subpoenaed for this probe, jack Smith's probe, how would you advise him if he were your client and do you think he'll talk?

SCHOEN: It's too speculative, I think, for me. I haven't seen any subpoena, and I don't know exactly what the subject is. But assuming it's January 6th, again, I can't tell you how I would advise Steve Bannon. I would advise any client that I have in this situation, especially when that person is thrown around in the media, at least as someone who people would like to get, let's just say, I would advise him, it's not in his or her best interest to testify.

MATTINGLY: We've only got a few seconds left, but I do want to follow up on what you were saying about the memos written. Have you seen any -- I understand perception. Have you seen any evidence that the special counsel's team, that Jack Smith, that anybody that's involved in the current investigation on a ground level that could be in the process of working towards an indictment has had a specific agenda? Have you seen something publicly that gives you a sense that this is political? Because that was the implication you seem to be making. At least Monaco is not. While she's the deputy Attorney General, she's not on Jack Smith's team, technically. SCHOEN: She's certainly a person in a position to make a decision. What I've seen is 185, 186-page memo by Andrew Weismann, Norm Eisen and others who have been after Trump as a career for the last couple of years, Andrew Weismann very close with Lisa Monaco. She was sort of an acolyte of his coming up. I worry about those kinds of things. They send the wrong message. We shouldn't have an agenda by people who hold themselves out on television, otherwise former prosecutor, a member of the Mueller commission --

MATTINGLY: I just don't understand the connection. I get what you're saying. I don't understand what this has to do with the team that's actually working on this investigation. I understand the perception. I understand what people say on Twitter.

SCHOEN: I'm sorry.

MATTINGLY: No. I'm just -- I'm trying to --

SCHOEN: I think it's intended to influence them.

MATTINGLY: Okay. And you think that it would have an effect even though there's no evidence that it has or has played a role?

SCHOEN: I think it is -- I cannot tell you there's any evidence whatsoever that It's had any effect. That's 100 percent true. I think it's intended to have an effect.

MATTINGLY: Yes, understood. David Schoen, this is a really helpful perspective across the board on this one. Thanks so much.

SCHOEN: Thank you.

HARLOW: Nice to have him. Really important point, intended to have an effect versus any evidence of an effect are very different things.

MATTINGLY: Two different things.

HARLOW: Thank you. It's good to have his perspective.

Okay. This morning, to this, you're waking up, if you're in many parts of this country, to thick smoke from Canadian wildfires continuing to smother the East Coast and the Midwest, air quality plummeting for tens of millions of Americans.


This is a live look at New York City, currently the most polluted major city in the entire world, the most polluted in the world, this morning. Yesterday, Manhattan looked like, well, the surface of Mars. You can barely see the skyline through the orange haze. The governor of New York has called this an emergency crisis.

Take a look at this now, a time lapse of New York City turning dark orange in a matter of a few hours as waves of smoke continue to pour down from Canada. Hospitals saw many more patients come in with respiratory issues. MATTINGLY: And this isn't just a public health problem. The FAA has just issued a ground stop for New York's LaGuardia airport. Big sporting events, Broadway shows, they were canceled. Some public schools are closed today. And the bulk of this smoke is shifting south to D.C., Baltimore. This is what it looks like at the Capitol right now.

Brian Todd is live on the streets of Washington, DC. Pete Muntean is standing by with information about flight cancelations. I want to start with you, Brian. Compared to yesterday, what are you looking at, as this seems to be shifting toward D.C.?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Phil and Poppy, it is miserable and getting worse. It is worse than yesterday. They knew it was going to get worse when they figured that the smoke and the haze was going to start to shift from the New York City area down here. And we're going to show you just how bad it's getting.

Our photojournalist, Steve Williams, as I step out of the shot here, he's going to train his camera down Pennsylvania Avenue here toward the U.S. Capitol. Now, on any normal day, even if it's raining, you can see the Capitol really clearly down Pennsylvania Avenue. But take a look. Steve is going to go in as tightly as he can, but even then, you can barely make it out. Take a look at that. It's really extraordinary.

When I was driving in here from across the river in Virginia, you could also barely make out the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial coming across the bridge. And if Steve, you know, trains his camera down to street level, you can also kind of see what pedestrians and tourists and commuters are up against. The visibility is not great. We've seen a couple of joggers come through here and bicyclists. That's what you're not supposed to do. It's just dangerous to be out here.

I can also tell you what it feels like physically. It feels -- it gets into your lungs. It gets into your eyes. It's very irritating. We've seen people donning K-95 masks to the old COVID masks that they've had during the pandemic. They're breaking those out again just to get to work.

Now, here's what officials are telling people at this code red air quality alert. They're telling people avoid exercise and any strenuous activity outside for people who are older, 65 and older, also children, people who -- pregnant women, people who have pulmonary issues. You really have to stay inside is what they're saying today. Keep your windows and doors closed. You can run your A.C., but keep the outdoor air intake valves closed so that smoky air from the outside does not get inside. Also, make sure your filters are clean. Those are warnings from D.C. and Maryland and Virginia officials to all local residents this morning.

What we also can tell you is that Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, they told CNN yesterday they had double the number of patients that they usually have coming in with pulmonary issues. So, it is worse today, and it's going to get worse later on. Phil, Poppy? HARLOW: Brian, thank you very much.

MATTINGLY: Well, let's bring in now CNN Aviation Correspondent Pete Muntean. There's a ground stop at LaGuardia Airport. Pete, what can you tell us about the schedules right now?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Things changing by the moment, Phil. The ground stop was just put in place by the FAA at LaGuardia, lasts until 7:45, but the FAA says it could be extended. And the agency is warning of ground stops from Charlotte all the way up to New York today. BWI, Dulles, DCA, all the way to Philadelphia, Newark, JFK, all under the possibility of ground stops as the day goes on.

Yesterday was really a banner day for delays and cancelations in the U.S. And we know that when these happen, there is really a cascading effect. More than 5,000 delays nationwide yesterday. Today, so far, just check FlightAware, we've seen about 470 nationwide, about 50 cancelations so far, but the day is still pretty young. Think back to yesterday and I want you to look at this incredible video that a passenger took as this plane that he was on was descending into Newark. He said you could smell that thick red smoke from the seat he was sitting in. So, we will see as today develops, there could be even more delays, more cancelations on par or higher than yesterday. Phil, Poppy?

MATTINGLY: So, Pete, you're a pilot. I'm not. And I'm blissful in my ignorance about what safety issues this might cause. What are they? What should flyers, what should pilots, what should airlines be concerned about right now, safety wise?

MUNTEAN: The visibility is the big issue, Phil. And the reason why the FAA puts in place these ground stops and ground delay programs is to essentially extend out the conga line of planes coming into busy airports when they can't see each other eye-to-eye. They need to keep the space between them much further apart to make it so it's safe.


So, really, this is a safety issue, but also that equals a scheduling issue, making these delays and cancelations really pile up.

MATTINGLY: Pete Muntean, solid conga line reference, my friend. Thanks, buddy.

HARLOW: Thank you.

New video just into CNN, this is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visiting the Kherson Region devastated by that flooding after the destruction of the critical dam. We'll get the latest on those evacuation efforts that are still underway.

MATTINGLY: Plus, a second Republican billionaire, actual billionaire, just jumped into the 2024 race.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R-ND): Today, I'm officially announcing I'm running for the president of the United States of America.


MATTINGLY: That would be North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, and he is going to join us next.


MATTINGLY: This morning, we're following some developing news out of France overnight. Police in the French Alps detaining a man after he allegedly attacked at least six people in the city of Annecy just a short time ago. Now, French officials say there were four children among those hurts.

CNN's Melissa Bell joins us live from Paris. And, Melissa, tell us what actually happened here.


MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're beginning to get, Phil, from eyewitnesses, French media sources as well, is a pretty horrific picture of what happened in a park just alongside this very picturesque lake in Southeastern France. Children, families would have been out there. It's really hot in France right now. And what we understand is that this young man, who's now in police custody, went on the rampage with a knife, hurting two adults.

But more troublingly, I think, for the entire country, as we watch this unfold, four very small children are now understood to be in critical condition. And when I say very young, we're looking at preschool aged children at this stage. Phil, a fairly frenzied attack. He was unusually in these cases, not neutralized as the French tend to do, but taken into custody. So, we do hope to find more about what his motives may have been.

For the time being, I think I should say that the anti-terror unit has not been seized of this. They are keeping an eye, but there is no suggestion this is part of a terror plot. We await more details even as France starts to come to the terms with something that is very unusual in this country and that is an attack on small children, Phil.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Melissa Bell please keep us posted as we learn more. Thanks so much.

HARLOW: In Ukraine, rescue operations ongoing in the southern region in Kherson, in that region this morning, after the devastating dam collapse earlier this week. Russian officials say at least five people have died from that flooding. They're also warning of unsanitary conditions and mines in the area. Ukraine's military says about 1,500 residents have been evacuated from that region so far, with more than 230 square miles flooded. I mean look at that video. Look at all the flooding. These are entire communities that remain underwater this morning. And the flooding has also spurred fears of an ecological catastrophe. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the area on Wednesday. He met with rescue workers. He also urged the international community to come forward with a really swift humanitarian response.

MATTINGLY: Well, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum is in. He just threw his hat into the already crowded race for the GOP nomination.


BURGUM: We need a leader who's clearly focused on three things, economy, energy and national security. And that is why today I'm officially announcing I'm running for the president of the United States of America.


MATTINGLY: So, let's give you a little bit of a rundown about the governor, grew up in a small town in North Dakota, a town with a population of just over 300 people. In the 1980s, he mortgaged part of the farmland he inherited to invest in a software company, then became that company's CEO and sold it for a billion dollars to Microsoft in 2001.

In 2016, he pulled off a major political upset when he won the Republican primary for governor. The question is, of course, can he do it again and on the biggest stage? And, oh, by the way, he's running against the former president and at least eight other major candidates. Well, we're going to ask him.

Joining us now to answer that question is the candidate himself, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. Governor, thanks so much for your time. I do want to start there, though. I don't think there's any equivocation with your record in North Dakota, both from a conservative perspective, also from a results perspective to some degree.

But Rob Port is a political writer in the state who I've followed pretty regularly since 2016 during your race, wrote something in the Grand Forks Herald. He said, Burgum has to do something to address his obscurity problem. He needs a hook that will get him attention. He didn't provide one today, talking about your announcement. He's going to have to soon.

Rob is a very astute observer of these things, and I think he makes a good point. People don't know necessarily who you are nationwide. How do you change that? And tied to that, how much money are you willing to spend to ensure that change happens?

BURGUM: Well, I think the first thing we have to do is introduce ourselves to the American people. And we're excited to get started doing that yesterday and today. We're heading to Iowa today and tomorrow will be in New Hampshire this weekend. But we've got a great story to tell.

North Dakota has been thriving. Our state is growing and getting younger, where our economy has become so diverse, we're on our way to having the highest GDP in the nation. And one of the things that we think is missing in this race is people actually talking about the issues that are the most important issues to the most number of people, and, of course, that is the economy. Inflation is cutting into every single family in their budgets across the nation.

Gas prices are too high. That directly relates to energy policy. And, of course, there's a lot of concern about the future because, from a national security standpoint, these are all interrelated. I mean, Putin never invades Ukraine if he doesn't have Western Europe entirely dependent on his energy sources. We're looking at the possibility of the same things --

MATTINGLY: Yes. No, I was going to say I understand, and watched your announcement.


Many of those issues, minus the North Dakota origin, are what several candidates are laying out as key priorities.