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British Prime Minister Touts Transatlantic Cooperation Helping Ukraine In Russia's War; Trump Charged With 7 Counts In Documents Case; Some 2024 GOP Rivals Rush To Trump's Defense. Aired 5:30-6a ET
Aired June 09, 2023 - 05:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RISHI SUNAK, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: But I think Russia completely miscalculated.
And the Ukrainians have been incredible in their bravery, their resilience. They've now recaptured almost half the territory that Russia originally seized. They've been given an enormous amount of support by the U.K., the U.S., and other allies in the form of heavy tanks, long-range weapons, the training of soldiers. All of that is going to help.
KAITLIN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: You mentioned those long-range missiles. Your country is the first one to give them to Ukraine. How effective do you think they have been so far, and are you concerned about how Putin will respond if Ukraine uses them to strike into Russia?
SUNAK: I think what we've provided are called Storm Shadow. They're a longer-range weapon. And that's because the battlefield has evolved and it's important that Ukraine has the resources it needs to defend itself and to make sure that its counteroffensive is successful. And I think they can make a difference and they are making a difference on the battlefield.
And when it -- when it comes to retaliation -- and we have to remember nothing that Ukraine or the West, or NATO did that caused this war. This war was just an active, unprovoked illegal aggression on Russia's part.
COLLINS: And you just met with President Biden. The two of you were standing side-by-side. President Biden was talking about how important Ukraine is and funding Ukraine.
The Republican frontrunner here -- of course, we're in the middle of an election season in the U.S. -- has not even said if he believes Ukraine should win this war.
Does that make you as a world leader who may be working with him, potentially, uncomfortable?
SUNAK: Obviously, it wouldn't be right for me to comment on domestic politics here.
But I did spend a good amount of time in Congress yesterday talking to leaders from both parties and I think there is strong support for the efforts that America is putting into to support Ukraine. I think there's an acknowledgment, as I said, that the values that we're fighting for are universal. They're values that America has always stood up for, which is democracy, freedom, the rule of law.
But I think it's entirely reasonable for people to ask is everybody doing their bit. I'm proud to say the U.K. is behind the U.S. We're the next largest contributors to the effort to support Ukraine. And more broadly, when it comes to defense spending, we're one of the few countries that invest two percent of our GDP in defense. That is a NATO commitment that we've made -- that we've adhered to. And I think reasonable and right that we expect other countries in the NATO alliance to increase defense spending up to those levels, and that's something that I speak to other leaders about as well.
COLLINS: One of the people that you met with on Capitol Hill yesterday -- while you were here was House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Did he offer you assurances that Republicans will continue to back funding for Ukraine?
SUNAK: I think we had a very constructive conversation about support of Ukraine. I think what everyone wants to know is that money that we're all spending is going to be used well. And I think that's where I'd say I'm confident that Ukraine can succeed.
COLLINS: But there's some fierce resistance from some Republicans here on funding Ukraine. Are you confident that you can still count on the U.S. to continue to do so?
SUNAK: I think -- look, the U.S. has a long track record of making a difference in matters like this and it -- you know, I continue to believe that it will do so.
COLLINS: Last question. Given the big picture, what you often hear from President Biden on the world stage is he says America is back, making a clear reference to his predecessor, former President Donald Trump who, as I mentioned earlier, is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.
If he does succeed and you are working alongside him, what do you envision a Trump-Sunak relationship would look like?
SUNAK: You know, I think the great thing about the U.K. and the U.S. is the strength of partnership between our countries has endured for decades regardless of almost who is sitting in these various jobs, and that's because the values between our two countries are so aligned. I think we see the world instinctively in the same way.
Our two countries have stood together in all the major times of crisis. We've come together. We've shed blood together. We've fought for peace together. And those bonds are incredibly strong.
But look, we can't dwell on history is my view. We have an incredible history together -- our two countries -- but we've got to reimagine our relationship to make sure it's relevant to now. That it's dealing with the particular opportunities and challenges that we face today.
And that's why the declaration that President Biden and I announced today -- that closer partnership between our two countries -- is so important. It's the first type of agreement like that that either of us have reached and it speaks to making sure that we are ready for the future, and that's what I'm excited about.
Our values are enduring. The strength between our two countries is evident for everyone to see. It's delivered incredible benefits, I think, not just for our two countries but for the world, and I think that will always be the case.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Fascinating interview. You can see a lot more of Kaitlan's exclusive sit-down with the British prime minister online as well as throughout the day.
Well, plenty of Republicans are rushing to defend Donald Trump after his federal indictment, but not all of them are. We'll discuss ahead.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: And later, Trump and his aides ready to fight back. One of his former lawyers will talk to us live.
MATTINGLY: Welcome back to our special coverage.
Throughout the course of last night and this morning, Republican presidential candidates reacting to former President Donald Trump's indictment in the classified documents case. Now, those reactions -- they've varied a little bit depending on who you talk to.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeting, "We have for years witnessed an uneven application of the law depending upon political affiliation. Why so zealous in pursuing Trump yet so passive about Hillary or Hunter? The DeSantis administration will bring accountability to the DOJ, excise political bias, and end weaponization once and for all."
Then you had former New Jersey governor and, notably, former prosecutor Chris Christie tweeting, "We don't get our news from Trump's Truth Social account. No one is above the law no matter how much they wish they were. We will have more to say when the facts are revealed."
Well, joining us now are CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Alice Stewart, and CNN political commentator and political anchor for Spectrum News, Errol Louis.
Alice, I want to start with you. Look, there were I think one or two Republican candidates that either said push pause on making a judgment or Asa Hutchinson, as he has before, calling for the president to -- former president to step aside. The vast majority of Republican candidates very quickly moving, like Ron DeSantis, behind the individual they're trying to beat.
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Exactly. I think my friend and former governor Asa Hutchinson is really on an island right now. He is -- he is the main person who is in this race that is so forcefully against Donald Trump, saying as much as he should step out of the race because it is a distraction and needs to address these charges ahead of him.
TEXT: "While Donald Trump is entitled to the presumption of innocence, the ongoing criminal proceedings will be a major distraction. This reaffirms the need for Donald Trump to respect the office and end his campaign."
STEWART: Look, it is amazing to me the level to which Republicans have fallen in line.
Speaker McCarthy -- he has -- was very forceful in saying that this is -- this is wrong. This should not be happening. He puts this on President Biden and how dare he have -- take this action against someone who will be a top challenger. Of course, this is not --
HARLOW: President Biden didn't take this action.
STEWART: Of course.
HARLOW: The independent Justice Department did.
STEWART: Exactly -- my point being that it is not the president. And they look at this as a political issue.
And President Trump, himself, saying I am innocent. I did not do this. This is the weaponization of the DOJ.
And I spoke with someone who was with President Trump earlier this week at Bedminster and he is going to fight this. And people believe that he has done nothing wrong and he is going to stand up to this. And I would not be surprised if this becomes a cornerstone of his campaign moving forward and using this as a way to show that if this can happen to me this can happen to everyone.
MATTINGLY: This is what I don't understand though.
STEWART: And people are believing it.
MATTINGLY: And you make a great point. The cornerstone of the campaign. This rallies people around him.
These individuals are trying to defeat him for the Republican nomination. Like, what are -- we've seen this before.
STEWART: Well, to their -- in their defense, they -- many of them actually do believe that this is an overreach of the Department of Justice. The FBI and the DOJ are targeting certain people. Senator Tim Scott said the scales of justice are leaning in one direction and not the other. And they truly believe this.
But there is also the political calculation. They realize that a large part of Trump's base -- or basically all of Trump's base is fully behind him and they need to make sure and keep those people on board and in their good graces. And if they go along with the narrative that this is overreach by the DOJ and the FBI, then they will be able to keep those people in their good graces. And they are going to fully stay behind this.
But again, many of them do believe this is complete weaponization of the Justice Department.
ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, POLITICAL ANCHOR, SPECTRUM NEWS: There's a very narrow window in which they can jump out there and defend him sort of sight unseen. If there is, indeed, an indictment unsealed on Tuesday, some of it is going to look pretty awful.
And they're trying to appeal to the base but not attack Donald Trump, but also take the base away from him. They're trying to speak up for him and his legal problems without knowing really what the extent of them are -- is, and they're going to learn on Tuesday.
So, right now, it's the safest time to sort of --
HARLOW: It's a window.
LOUIS: -- say hey, we're with Trump. This is all unfair. Wait until we see the indictment.
I think Chris Christie is being very wise. He knows how federal prosecutors operate and he knows that they get --
HARLOW: Yes, because he was one.
LOUIS: -- 95 percent of their indictments result in a guilty plea or a conviction.
LOUIS: They're not doing this idly and there's going to probably be some really important information unveiled.
HARLOW: One of Trump's rivals, Vivek Ramaswamy, is saying already that he'll pardon Trump, by the way, if he becomes -- if he becomes president. He's going -- so --
LOUIS: Sight unseen.
HARLOW: Such a difference between him --
LOUIS: Whatever the crime is I'll forgive him.
HARLOW: Exactly. LOUIS: That's wonderful.
HARLOW: But Errol, it would be extraordinary if all we were talking about this morning were a former U.S. president being indicted on federal charges. What makes it so much more extraordinary is that he is by far the frontrunner for the GOP nomination.
By the way, if he gets that his rival will be President Biden, who appointed Merrick Garland. It isn't an independent Justice Department. And that this comes two months after dozens of felony charges in the New York case.
I mean, all of that together is just so mind-boggling.
LOUIS: The legal problems are piling up at a rate and to an extent no one could have anticipated. The fact is -- and we've heard it and you'll hear a lot more of it -- yes, you can run for president if you're 35 and lived in the country 14 years, and are a natural-born citizen. So he can run completely independent of his legal status, whether he's indicted, whether he's convicted, whether he's in prison he can run.
HARLOW: Right. That's not really a debate, is it? One of our attorneys is saying that's a legal debate. Is that a legal debate?
LOUIS: I don't know about that.
HARLOW: I think it is.
LOUIS: I mean, there's some debate about whether -- you go state-by- state whether or not he could vote for himself, you know? Certain people don't allow --
HARLOW: Yes, but he still can run or be president from prison.
LOUIS: We've seen it happen before. In 1920, Eugene Debs --
MATTINGLY: Eugene Debs.
LOUIS: -- was sitting in the Atlanta penitentiary and he was a candidate for president.
STEWART: There's also the question or speculation about a pocket pardon.
Jonathan Turley, a conservative legal scholar --
STEWART: -- mentioned the notion that he could have already pardoned himself, potentially, while he was in office and basically, has that in his back pocket and pull that out as a get of out jail free card. HARLOW: I don't think he can do that for things that happened after he was in office.
STEWART: That's -- exactly. And so, that just -- but that is another --
LOUIS: If there's anyone who would try --
STEWART: Yes, not just further speculation but also to his point, he could very likely use this as, again, a message to campaign on. And being the brand master that he is I can see the bumper stickers "Make American Bail Again" out there --
STEWART: -- on cars across America.
LOUIS: I mean, as always, I think the question is there's what happens to Trump and then there's the much more important question about what happens to the rest of us -- what's left of the country.
HARLOW: You're right. That's so right.
LOUIS: How do we move forward?
And the polls suggest that 65 percent of Americans think that these are very serious charges. Unfortunately, you start breaking it out by Democrats and Republicans and you get a much lower percentage of Republicans who think these are very serious charges regardless of whether or not he committed them.
I think that's the thing to really watch. The integrity of the court system -- you know, it was a grand jury. This is -- this is self- government, you know? I mean, we -- you know, we talk as if it's oh, the Democrats are controlling the government. The Republicans are.
We're -- as citizens, we are the people who do it. It's a bunch of ordinary citizens -- 23 people in a grand jury who made this call. It's the people that we elected. It's the career professionals who operate the Department of Justice.
STEWART: And that's one thing that some of his supporters are saying is that the venue will be critical.
STEWART: The fact that this is in South Florida will be more favorable to Trump.
HARLOW: I'm sorry that we have to leave it there. We appreciate you guys very much. Alice Stewart, Errol Louis, thank you.
MATTINGLY: Well, once again, Donald Trump and America in totally unprecedented territory, as we've been discussing. More on this historic moment just ahead. HARLOW: Also, how law enforcement is preparing for the former president's court date. That is Tuesday afternoon, his team says, in Miami. Secret Service will meet today. We'll take you live to the courthouse next.
MATTINGLY: Welcome back to our special coverage.
This is an important thing to note. Former President Trump's new federal indictment isn't just another legal battle. It's not just another political battle. It's unprecedented in every way.
The current frontrunner for the GOP nomination is the first former president in U.S. history to face federal charges. This is the second indictment for the former president. Just months ago he became the first ex-president to be charged with a criminal offense getting charged in New York with 34 felony counts relating to the Stormy Daniels hush money payments.
Joining us to somehow, some way put this into perspective is Tim Naftali, CNN presidential historian and former director of the Nixon Presidential Library.
You know, Tim, there's some common wording when you read the reporting this morning in The New York Times and The Washington Post. The Times writing, "The Justice Department, on Thursday, took the legally and politically momentous step." The Post calling it a, quote, "seismic event in the nation's political and legal history."
Is presidential in the middle of legal and political history a Venn diagram?
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, FORMER DIRECTOR, NIXON PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY: Well, why don't we step back and look at what's at issue and then maybe people -- it will be easier for people to understand why this is a seismic moment.
I don't think many Americans would be that concerned if the president, in leaving the White House, took things that he shouldn't have taken because it's a hurley burley big rush at the end, especially when you have a transition that president didn't believe should happen, all right?
NAFTALI: Twenty-twenty-one was, as we know, a traumatic year to put it mildly.
But it's the issue of keeping the material when the U.S. government said hey, you've got stuff that you shouldn't. And then when that stuff includes top secret materials and it appears that the president -- former president shared them with people, and then it appears directed others to move them so that federal and national archives employees and federal lawyers couldn't get at them, then it opens up the question of is someone above the law because they became president. That's the question I think people should keep in their minds.
Do you want to live in a country where once someone is elected president they can decide which laws to follow and which laws not to follow? I mean, I think that's the basic issue here.
HARLOW: And it's beyond the time of the presidency, which I think is important to focus on. These charges are about what happened after he left office. And the consistent claim from the former president, despite his shifting defense about how he says he declassified it with his mind or whatever, is that he believes that because he was president he has this right -- this right to have all of these things.
NAFTALI: Poppy, I think this is a symptom of a problem with the entire Trump presidency where President Trump understood that he got powers when he was elected, but he didn't understand that he had obligations and that we live in a constitutional democracy. Everybody, including the president, is bound by the Constitution and there are limits to their power. And President Trump not only had a hard time with limits, he didn't respect them.
And this is a case where he was told repeatedly that there were limits to his ability to keep materials and he said I don't care.
HARLOW: We're going to hear a lot, I think, from the Trump defense team and from Trump allies about the Presidential Records Act. The president has brought that up a lot. And just to be very, very clear, the former director of the National Archives has said very clearly that is just there -- wrong as a matter of law to say that it extends beyond the minute that he's not president.
Saying, "When President Biden took office, all presidential records of the Trump administration came into the legal custody of the archives of the United States."
There's no legal question about that.
HARLOW: It's just a fact.
NAFTALI: None whatsoever. I mean, I was a federal library director.
NAFTALI: My particular president was Richard Nixon, who actually gave birth to all of this because he wanted to destroy records that would have put him in legal peril.
Let's make it absolutely clear to everybody you, the American people, own all presidential records. The President of the United States -- the minute he -- and someday she -- leaves office, they must turn over to you all presidential records, except for a very narrow band of things that are considered private, including a diary.
There is nothing from the FBI materials that have been --
NAFTALI: -- nothing that the president with -- the president kept in Mar-a-Lago --
NAFTALI: -- that is within the band of private. He kept our materials.
MATTINGLY: Tim Naftali, appreciate it --
HARLOW: Thank you.
MATTINGLY: -- so much.
NAFTALI: Thank you.
HARLOW: There are seven counts in this indictment, we are told, just brought against former President Trump. We go inside each of them just ahead.
MATTINGLY: And he's not just the former president, he's the current GOP frontrunner. More on what all of this means for the 2024 race when CNN's special live coverage continues.
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ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": For the first time ever, former.