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Trump Charged in Classified Docs Probe. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired June 09, 2023 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: For the first time ever, a former president of the United States has been indicted by a federal grand jury.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: The former president preempted any Justice Department announcement.
JIM TRUSTY, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: They basically break out from an Espionage Act charge, which is ludicrous under the facts of this case.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't imagine a worse phrase to be used with the president of the United States.
ALINA HABBA, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I am petrified for the country; sad for my client, although he is resilient and strong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He would have won in 2020. He's going to have a much more favorable jury pool politically.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a range and a scope here that is truly unprecedented.
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we see is a justice system where the scales are weighted.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's called election interference. They're trying to destroy our reputation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a perfect example of somebody who just kept digging a hole deeper and deeper.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a second-tier double standard of justice in this country.
RANDI KAYE, CNN ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: I think this indictment is only going to make the former president stronger.
CARL BERNSTEIN, JOURNALIST: Jack Smith has got his ducks in a row.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no reason in the world to think that a special prosecutor would risk his career for nothing.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Quite a morning. Quite a last 12 hours, what has happened. Good morning, everyone. We are glad you're with us for this special coverage on CNN THIS MORNING. Phil Mattingly is here.
And just stepping back from this moment, that was more and more expected in recent days, but it has happened for the first time in history that a former president has been federally charged.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR/CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think it's important to step back, because we've all expected this to some degree. We knew it was coming, and yet, to recognize what this means, what this means going forward, and what this pertains not just for a former president but a current Republican frontrunner.
HARLOW: That's right.
MATTINGLY: A lot going on.
HARLOW: And most importantly, for you, for Americans, for this country, Donald Trump is now the first former president in our nation's history to be charged with federal crimes.
A grand jury indicting him on several counts in the special counsel's investigation into classified documents that Trump allegedly kept after leaving office. His lawyer says he is facing a charge under the Espionage Act. Also, charges of obstruction of justice, destruction or falsification of records, conspiracy, and false statements.
MATTINGLY: Right now, the former president is at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. He says he's been ordered to appear at a federal courthouse in Miami this coming Tuesday.
Trump announced the indictment himself on social media and declared his innocence in a video last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It's election interference at the highest level. There's never been anything like what's happened. I'm an innocent man. I'm an innocent person. They come after me because now we're leading in the polls again by a lot against Biden and against the Republicans, by a lot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: So we begin with team coverage this morning. Alayna Treene is in Bedminster with reporting on what is going on behind the scenes there with Trump's team. Katelyn Polantz is outside the courthouse, where the president -- former president will show up in Miami on Tuesday.
We start with Sara Murray in Washington. Sara, let's just walk through what we've learned about these charges that have been laid out. Not that we've seen the indictment, but by Trump's attorneys.
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's a very unusual situation, a historic situation, as you guys pointed out, the first time a former president has ever been indicted on federal charges. And we have not heard from the Justice Department.
We have not heard from special counsel Jack Smith. We haven't even seen this full indictment. Donald Trump himself broke the news of this on his social media page.
MURRAY (voice-over): Former President Donald Trump indicted, again. The special counsel investigating his alleged mishandling of classified documents indicted Trump on seven counts, including a charge under the Espionage Act, and charges related to obstruction of justice, destruction or falsification of records, conspiracy, and making false statements.
TRUSTY: They basically break out from an Espionage Act charge, which is ludicrous under the facts of this case, and I can certainly explain it. And several obstruction-based type charges, and then false statement charges, which are actually, again, kind of a crazy stretch just from the facts as we know it. So there's a lot to pick at eventually from the defense side.
MURRAY (voice-over): Trump denies any wrongdoing and says the indictment is political.
TRUMP: I just want to tell you, I'm an innocent man. I did nothing wrong, and we'll fight this out, just like we've been fighting for seven years.
MURRAY (voice-over): As Biden earlier Thursday denied playing any role in tipping the scales at the Justice Department.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you notice, I have never once, not one single time, suggested to the Justice Department what they should do or not do, relative to bringing a charge or not bringing a charge. I'm honest.
MURRAY (voice-over): This is the first time a former president is facing federal criminal charges.
The classified documents fight began in May 2021 when the National Archives and Records Administration started reaching out to Trump aides for missing documents.
In January 2022, Trump sent 15 boxes of documents to the National Archives. In those boxes, classified documents were uncovered. As a result, the Justice Department got involved, and a subpoena was issued for any remaining classified material.
In June, Trump's lawyers handled over an additional 38 classified records.
In August, the FBI obtained a warrant and searched Trump's residence at Mar-a-Lago, where more than 100 classified records were found.
In recent weeks, CNN has learned of mounting evidence against the former president. Trump's former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, testified before the grand jury, along with at least two dozen close aides and employees from Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.
The prosecution has also viewed security footage that showed, just one day before federal agents searched the property last summer, Trump's body man, Walt Nauta, and a maintenance worker were seen moving boxes of classified material. Neither has been charged with any crime.
In October that same maintenance worker was reportedly seen draining the pool at Mar-a-Lago, flooding a room where surveillance footage was held, according to sources familiar with the matter.
This incident raised suspicions for prosecutors, although no equipment was damaged in the flood.
At the end of May, CNN was also told by sources that an audio recording existed of Trump speaking to at least three people with no security clearance at his Bedminster golf club about classified materials he had retained. A recording that could directly contradict his past statements.
TRUMP: If you're the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it's declassified, even by thinking about it.
I have no classified documents. And by the way, they become automatically declassified when I took them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How did you plead, President Trump?
MURRAY (voice-over): In April, Trump was indicted on 34 felony counts in New York for his alleged role in falsifying business records in connection to hush-money payments made in 2016 to former adult film star Stormy Daniels. Trump has pleaded not guilty.
MURRAY (on camera): Now, we are still waiting to see whether this indictment could be unsealed today, and frankly, whether the Justice Department is going to say anything about it.
We do know, because Donald Trump shared it, that he is slated to appear at a federal courthouse in Miami at 3 p.m. on Tuesday.
MATTINGLY: And certainly, I think it's important to note in the piece this is the former president's second indictment this year. There could be more coming. How does the Florida indictment compare to the criminal probes -- the other criminal probes that he's facing right now? MURRAY: That's right. I mean, this is the second time around. I think,
you know, Donald Trump's team was certainly more worried about federal charges than what we have seen on the state level.
You know, what we saw with this indictment in New York was a case that appeared like it was going to fall apart a couple of times, came together, you know. He was charged with these 34 felony counts and pleaded not guilty.
But again, this is just sort of the beginning of his criminal exposure. We know the special counsel still has this ongoing investigation into January 6; the attack on the Capitol, the effort to subvert the peaceful transition of power. And of course Donald Trump is at the center of that.
And we know that there is a prosecutor in Atlanta who is still deciding who, if anyone, to bring charges against in her investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election there. She's expected to make an announcement on who could face charges in August.
So there's still a lot of scrutiny hanging over Donald Trump's head, even though he's already faced two indictments.
HARLOW: Sara Murray, thank you for all the reporting this morning.
You know, let's not forget, Bill Barr, the attorney general under Trump, said that this probe, of all of them, posed the most threat to the former president. Bill Barr.
MATTINGLY: And if you talk to Republicans on Capitol Hill, and I know Alayna Treene, we're going to bring up in a second, does this almost every day. Actually, every day. They have also pointed to this as their biggest concern.t
I want go now to CNN's Alayna Treene. She's in Bedminster, New Jersey, where the former president is huddled with a small group of his aides. And Alayna, you have some brand-new reporting about that response we saw last night from the former president. What can you tell us?
ALAYNA TREENE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, Phil, I mean, before the Justice Department even informed Donald Trump and his team that he was going to be indicted, they had pre-recorded that video that Sara just showed for a response for him to release on social media. And we saw him release that shortly after news of the indictment broke.
Now, this is a strategy, I think, that we've seen multiple times with Donald Trump, especially when he was president. I mean, we also saw him take to Truth Social to announce the indictment himself and try to control some of the news cycle and the narrative around these charges.
And I did speak with some of his team. They said that this was an attempt for them to try and get ahead of this and, again, try to message it on his own terms.
Now, I've also spoken with some of his advisers who are with him right now in Bedminster, and were with him last night following news of the indictment. And they tell me that they're unsure what next response will be if he's going to give more remarks, if he plans to do live remarks like we saw after the indictment in Manhattan, where he took to Mar-a-Lago, to a stage at Mar-a-Lago, his resort in Florida, and spoke publicly. They said they expect that he will do that. But it's unclear what the timing is.
And so, really, they're still formulating what the fallout of this is going to be.
But I do know that they're not feeling too anxious about it yet. A lot of people who were speaking with him last night said that they're feeling jacked up. That's a direct quote from one of the people who have spoken directly with Donald Trump.
They also said that they feel emboldened. But of course, that's the immediate reaction. And we have seen in the past, and I know from covering Donald Trump for several years now, that that -- his moods are likely to change. That he might be feeling emboldened now, that he might feel like this is a political boost for his reelection campaign in the short-term.
But no one wants to be indicted. I know that Donald Trump does not want to be indicted. He's said that to his aides before. And so we'll see if that remains to be how they're feeling today.
MATTINGLY: Good reporting, as always. Alayna Treene for us in Bedminster. Thanks so much.
HARLOW: All right. Let's turn to our senior legal analyst, Elie Honig, for a lot more on this.
Yes, history was made, but given all of our expertise as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York for former, federal and state prosecutor --
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes.
HARLOW: -- talk to us about what we're looking at this morning.
HONIG: So we know that there is a federal indictment, United States of America versus Donald J. Trump, but important to know, we've not seen the indictment. It's under seal, meaning it's not available to the public. In fact, Donald Trump's lawyers have not seen it.
The way we know about it is because they've been given what we call a summons, which is basically just a work sheet that gives some basic information, and they've shared this with the public, and our reporters have confirmed with them.
So we know, first of all, there are seven counts in this indictment. There's not all that much significance to that. Some federal indictments have one count. Some have dozens. It's really more about what's in there.
Now, we know one of the counts is for willful retention of defense information. Now, that's part of the Espionage Act.
But the word "espionage" sort of has a broader meaning. All it means here is if somebody intentionally held onto defense information. Important to know, it doesn't have to be classified. So for this particular law, it doesn't matter if it was classified or declassified, as long as it's defense information.
Second of all, obstruction. We expect that this could have to do with moving documents around Mar-a-Lago. Any attempt to interfere with the investigation can be obstruction of justice.
We also know there's at least one charge for destruction or falsification of records. Now, I'm really interested to see this one, because it could mean they destroyed some of the records, but it also could mean they falsified records that they submitted to the government.
Remember, there was a moment where Trump's team submitted a certification saying, hey, DOJ, we searched. Here's what we got.
HARLOW: That attestation.
MATTINGLY: Signed by lawyers.
HONIG: Signed by lawyers. Turned out there was a lot more stuff. So if that was intentionally -- intentionally false, that would be that crime.
We also know there's a charge of conspiracy. Now, conspiracy means any two or more people who reach a meeting of the minds in an agreement. So that tells us that somebody else was involved, at least one other person, with Donald Trump and agreed to commit this crime with him.
And finally, we know that there are -- is at least one charge for false statements. And again, that could get back to that same certification. So we have a good sense of what's in there. Of course, there's a lot we still need to find out.
MATTINGLY: And that's what I want to ask you about, particularly as it relates. We know at least on one side of things, conspiracy, there's got to be somebody else involved. At least one other person involved. What else do we not know at this point in time?
HONIG: Important to know what we don't know. First of all, when is this thing going to be unsealed? When are we going to get to see it?
Now, the latest that will happen is at the arraignment, which is going to be Tuesday at 3 p.m. This is up to DOJ. If they decide they want to unseal it today, if they decide that the public needs to see it, they can do that. They might.
The reasons you seal a case, Poppy, is because you're worried the guy might flee. You're worried the guy might cause a danger. I don't know that those apply to Donald Trump.
So we're going to be -- I'm going to be on hold today. MATTINGLY: He's ready for this. Jack Smith says --
HONIG: That is entirely up to DOJ. So could be today, could be Tuesday at 3. Could be anytime in between.
What are the specific counts, again? We have a sense of what some but not all are. Is this going to be what we call a speaking indictment, meaning are we just going to see a recitation of the law, like we saw in Manhattan, or are we going to see some narrative detail? Knowing how the feds do things at the DOJ, I absolutely do expect detail.
HARLOW: With the conspiracy charge, it would be.
HONIG: Exactly. I think they're going to have to lay this out in some detail.
And then third, to your question, are there others charged? Could be in this indictment. Could be United States versus Donald Trump and so and so. Could be in a separate indictment. Could be that the other people involved were given immunity. But I want to see, are other people charged in this case?
HARLOW: That's a really interesting point, given immunity. OK. Florida.
HARLOW: We just learned this week, by the way, that this grand jury had been convened in Florida, and now, these are all stemming from Florida.
HONIG: This is such an important turn of events, or it's about much more than procedure. Up until just recently, all the grand jury action was in D.C. Very abrupt turnaround.
Now they've gone and charged this case in Florida. And here's why that matters. I think it's the right move legally. You have to charge a case where at least some of the criminal conduct occurred.
No question they're going to be OK on what we call venue in Florida. They might have had a legal issue in D.C. There's some questionable aspects to that. Let's talk strategy here.
Donald Trump very unpopular politically in D.C. He got 5.4 percent of the vote in D.C. in 2020. Ninety-four-plus percent voted against him, but he won Florida. Now, jurors are not supposed to bring their political persuasion into the courtroom.
But they're human beings. You're not going to be able to separate that. So I think prosecutors have done the right thing here legally.
MATTINGLY: This is what we're all trying to figure out now. You're supposed to tell us. What happens next? HONIG: Yes. Let's run through real quick. We're going to have the arraignment on Tuesday. That's the first appearance. He does have to physically be there. He'll be advised of the charges. That's the latest that we'll see the indictment.
Prosecutors have to turn over discovery, meaning you give over all your evidence. Donald Trump will have several motions to dismiss. His lawyers were talking last night to Kaitlan. They're going to say there's been prosecutorial misconduct.
Then we'll have a trial. Of course, only if there's a conviction, we have sentencing. And then Donald Trump absolutely, if he is convicted, will have the right to appeal. This is going to be with us for quite a while.
HARLOW: Oh, and by the way, right as we head into the heat of the political --
HONIG: Right, there's an election next year, I hear.
HARLOW: Elie, thank you very much. That was great.
Next, we'll dive deeper into the nature of these charges and the defense Trump's team could tee up. This is CNN's special live coverage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUSTY: His reaction was personal, but it wasn't. You know, he thought about it. He said, this is just a sad day. I can't believe I've been indicted. You know, those are kind of my -- my summary words of what he had to say. But at the same time, he immediately recognizes the historic nature of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: That was Donald Trump's attorney talking about his client's reaction to being indicted on federal charges.
"The Washington Post" called it seismic. "The New York Times," legally and politically momentous. The former president has been charged with seven counts in the special counsel's classified documents probe.
He's facing a charge under the Espionage Act, according to his attorney, as well as charges of obstruction of justice, destruction or falsification of records, conspiracy, and false statements.
Now, it marks the first time a former president has faced federal charges.
Back with us, CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig, and former Manhattan assistant attorney and former prosecutor, Jeremy Saland. Jeremy, I want to start with you. Let's take a listen to what Trump
attorney Jim Trusty said about the charges.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUSTY: They basically break out from an Espionage Act charge, which is ludicrous under the facts of this case, and I can certainly explain it, and several obstruction-based-type charges and then false statement charges, which are actually, again, kind of a crazy stretch just from the facts as we know it.
So there's a lot to pick at eventually from the defense side. But that appears to be the charges, and it appears to be something that we'll get off the ground on Tuesday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Based on that, and we have not seen the indictment. Nor has he, I should point out. What's your sense of the defense strategy as it's shaping up right now?
JEREMY SALAND, FORMER PROSECUTOR: They have to find something, and unfortunately, the president, or former president, routinely says things that sinks his own proverbial ship.
So here, they're going to say, he didn't do anything wrong. He didn't say anything wrong. Are they going to attack the search warrant? That's probably not the best route. That's probably not the best charge.
Are the grand jury minutes going to be sufficient that a judge would look at? That's probably not the right approach either.
So I think here, they're going to look at, is this political? Try to make it look political. They're going to try to draw attention away from the merits of it and make it look like, as the president said, this is a witch hunt, which we all know that's not necessarily the case.
So I think that they're going to try to make a little bit of a show boat initially. And once they get some more information, and understand what they have, we'll take the next step.
But there are certain things that are so damning that the president -- former president is going to have to deal with, which, again, are some of his own statements and some of his own actions.
And I think you mentioned before about the certification, that that was false. There's a lot of real issues. And if we had Meadows who's testified against him, then we're going to have to deal with that, as well.
HARLOW: Jeremy's assertion is that the defense will show boat. What -- what of these charges can you not showboat around?
HONIG: So a couple of things whenever we're talking about a defense here. First of all, we always like to say what's the defense? A defendant does not need to make a defense, as Jeremy well knows. We as prosecutors have the burden of proving a case beyond a reasonable doubt.
And so the first thing first is prosecutors have to show not just that all of this stuff that's been charged happened.
HARLOW: See intent, right?
HONIG: Yes. Tie it to Donald Trump and show that he had the intent.
HARLOW: That's why they've been trying to get into his brain with all of these interviews that our great reporter has found out about --
HARLOW: -- before the grand jury so much has been about the president's mindset and intent.
HONIG: And the statements he's made to some of our great reporters. Jeremy's right. Those public statements are going to be very valuable to prosecutors in proving his intent.
Also sort of important, I think, here. People sometimes say a little bit dismissively, well, they're just -- the defense is just throwing things against the wall. That's what defense lawyers and defendants do. That's what they're supposed to do. You don't make frivolous arguments in court, but whatever you can do to defend your client, that's our process.
So I think it's important that we not be just dismissive; they're just trying out different things.
MATTINGLY: Jeremy, Elie makes a fantastic point. This -- the burden is on the prosecutors here for this case. We're going to see a lot more in this indictment, which nobody has seen up to this point.
Based on what we do know, what do you think are the critical facts that they have working in their favor at this point?
SALAND: "They" meaning the defense or "they" meaning the prosecution?
MATTINGLY: The prosecution.
SALAND: Well, again, we keep on referencing the statements. We have potentially -- we have Corcoran. We have Meadows. So there's a lot of things that we have direct evidence of the president, former president --
MATTINGLY: Corcoran is part of his legal team, where they have --
SALAND: Correct. Because the crime-fraud exception that pierced that veil that allowed certain information to come out, and we don't know what that is. We don't know who has immunity. We don't know, for example, if Meadows has actually been, you know, facing charges himself. MATTINGLY: Mark Meadows, his former chief of staff who was brought in
to testify, as well. So you're pointing more to the witnesses and what they could provide as being critical.
SALAND: They have some valuable information. What I was saying before to Poppy very briefly, for example, we look at Mark Meadows. He wasn't just a fly on the wall. He was that wall protecting the president.
He was there, having conversations, potentially, with the National Archives. So he could have direct evidence. And when these people are testifying against you, if true, that is very damning and very difficult to overcome.
HARLOW: Elie, the conspiracy charge, can you speak to that? And also, at least we don't -- if someone else has been charged, we don't know about it, and a conspiracy takes more than one.
HONIG: Yes, so a conspiracy can be two or more people involved in the criminal conduct. And that means this is not Donald Trump acting alone.
And interestingly, I think importantly, we've heard a lot about Walt Nauta, who is the -- the president -- former president's valet, body man. We've heard about this unidentified maintenance worker who helped move boxes around.
Some of them may have not known this was illegal. If somebody is told, hey, maintenance worker, I need you to move a box from room A to room B, and doesn't know what's going on, he's not liable.
But the fact that there's a conspiracy charge tells me for sure somebody else knew this was a crime, and there was coordination. And by the way, a conspiracy can have two people. It can have 11 people. It can have any number of people.
HARLOW: You don't have to have carried out the crime.
HARLOW: With conspiracy it also can just be conspiring and not even executing.
HONIG: It's the plan. It's the meeting of minds, right.
HARLOW: Thank you.
MATTINGLY: There's a lot to dig into on this, and a lot we still don't know.
Elie, Jeremy, thanks so much.
HARLOW: Thanks, guys.
Former President Trump is expected to make his first court appearance on Tuesday afternoon. Next, we're going to take you live to the courthouse in Miami, the federal courthorse [SIC] -- house where it will all happen.
MATTINGLY: Welcome back to CNN special coverage. Former President Trump is expected to be arraigned Tuesday in Miami federal court, following his historic indictment for mishandling classified documents.