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CNN Obtains Transcripts Of Trump Saying On Tape He Didn't Declassify "Secret Information"; Trump Expected To Be Arraigned Tuesday In Miami; Trump on Tape: "I Can't Declassify Sensitive Docs I Took; Trump Indicted On Seven Counts In Docs Case; Trump Admits On Tape He Didn't Declassify "Secret Information"; Twice-Impeached Trump Faces Second Criminal Indictment. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired June 09, 2023 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But what is your sense of how this will factor in to things going forward or into the indictments that we haven't seen yet?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: When we were doing our reporting on the existence of this audio recording last week, I mean, one source close to the legal team told me, look, this audio recording, this is a problem.
And the former president's legal team only learned about this a few months ago in March, when a witness was asked about it before the grand jury.
I also want to note, the prosecutors subpoenaed the document that he refers to, and they still don't have it. It's unclear one, what this document was, if it was indeed a real document, though it appears by this transcript, he does clearly think that he is in possession of something that he is showing them something that supports his argument against Milley.
But at this point, it's not clear that the government even has this document in its possession. So, we don't have the indictment at this point. It's unclear when that will be unsealed. But it would not be surprising if this audio recording or quotes from it come up in the indictment.
But, at this point, we don't know. It's clearly though a piece of evidence that even the former president's legal team acknowledges is a problem for him.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: This is remarkable in every way, Paula. Everyone should go on cnn.com right now and read through your report, because you have all of these stunning quotes in there. Thank you for this.
Stick with us. Let's also bring in Katelyn Polantz, live outside the courthouse in Miami, where Trump will appear Tuesday afternoon.
You were one of the reporters who broke the story of that taped conversation. This development to that is extremely significant.
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: It is. Poppy and Phil, we knew what this was going to sound like because it had been described to us. But to see the words there on the screen to hear Paula read those words that President Donald Trump -- former President Donald Trump uttered after he left the White House in this meeting, where it's capturing the sound of him rustling through papers where there are multiple witnesses in the room.
And you know, the big question here, as Paula was saying is, is this going to be part of the charge explicitly? And if it is, that sets this recording up to be a key piece of evidence as this heads to trial, it would be something that the justice firm would very likely play to the jury almost certainly if that is part of what is indicted here as a retention charge.
And once they have that retention charge -- that is something we know that is going to be charged in the case because Donald Trump's attorney last night, Jim Trusty said it would be.
We don't know exactly what paper it will be around, what classified documents. But if it is about this document he's describing in this audio tape, and that episode is part of this from July 2021 at Bedminster, if that's part of the case, they have to prove to things that Donald Trump knew he had a classified record or a National Defense Information piece of paper in his possession, and that he was willfully keeping it from the federal government outside of a protected classification area.
And not that he has the ability to declassify it, although it is quite sensational that he says, as president, I could have declassified, but now, I can't.
But the other words in this, I'll show you. Look, look at this. Highly confidential, this is secret information. It doesn't really get much more explicit than that.
HARLOW: It really doesn't. Katelyn Polantz, also, stay right there.
Let's bring in our colleague and friend, CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins, who was also on that team that broke the stunning reporting last week. CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez also joins us.
And CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams is with us. And CNN political analyst and senior political correspondent for The New York Times, Maggie Haberman. Paul Reid also back with us.
I want to read part of this transcript, "As president, I could have declassified, but now I can't.
HARLOW: Perhaps the most stunning line of all -- of all of this.
Kaitlan Collins, let me go to you for your thoughts, given you were a key part of this team that broke the original reporting. Do you expect that, that would be a key part when this indictment is unsealed? Everyone will be looking for was this tape a key part of it? Because this was again, about Iran. This is about a key national security issue.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it completely undercuts everything that Trump and his legal team has said publicly about the powers that he had after leaving office or what he could do with these documents.
And I do think that is one of those damning lines of the transcript, of this tape that we reported on. And there was a reason this tape has caused so much consternation in Trump's legal team.
They didn't learn about it all that long ago. It was only in March when this recording was played during testimony from another Trump aide, or they heard it. And then Trump's legal team was alerted to the fact that prosecutors did have this audio in their hands.
And having Trump on tape admitting that he doesn't have the power to declassify, which we all knew because we've read the Presidential Records Act.
We've looked at what that declassification process is. But it completely undercuts any of the defenses that you've seen Trump's legal team offer up publicly.
And so, that is why this is such a central piece in this reporting, of course, in the bigger context of what we saw last night, with the former president being indicted in this, and of course, now going where Katelyn Polantz is on Tuesday, to that Miami courthouse.
This is going to be something that is a real problem for his legal team to try to defend in court and explain. And it's something that they are pretty candid about behind the scenes when it comes to just how crucial this tape is.
MATTINGLY: Elliot, as a lawyer, when you look through or listen to that transcript, there is yes, him acknowledging that he can't unilaterally declassify things by magic.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right.
MATTINGLY: Or after the fact.
He also seems to be holding and talking about a specific time. What stands out to you as most problematic for the former president's legal team?
WILLIAMS: Well, what's -- what helps the former president is it appears that they have not found this document. And appears based on what we know about the charges thus far, that he was not charged with disclosing the contents of a document to another person.
That, itself would have been a federal offense if he had access to something sensitive and shown it to somebody else, if it could hurt the national defense.
Look, the -- a challenge here is that, declassification reclassification doesn't really matter as an element of the offenses he's charged with.
Merely what matters is their government records. And most importantly, that there was a series of acts taken to obstruct the justice department's investigation.
So, it's a little bit of a red herring to go down the road of saying, you know, if he declassified it, therefore, there would not have been crimes committed here, because the simple fact is once the documents were removed, mishandled, misappropriated, whatever words you want to use, that's when the crimes were committed.
And then a series of crimes beyond that obstruction of justice and false statements, or even tampering with witnesses, potentially.
HARLOW: Maggie Haberman, you're reporting on all of this leading up to the bombshell reporting that we just got from Paula, in terms of how the president's team may defend this.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think they quite know how to defend this, Poppy. From what we have heard, you know, they were, as Kaitlan said, very startled by the existence of this tape. This tape was something that they learned existed.
When this aid to Trump testified, the prosecutors were already in possession of this tape. They didn't get it from the aid, although it appears the aid had a copy when it was subpoenaed later.
But this is -- and has been described to us this way by multiple sources, since you guys broke this incredible piece of reporting many days ago, as a really problematic piece of evidence for Trump.
Now, I think they're going to stick to their line of, you know, he says things, he didn't mean it a certain way. You know, I'm sure that they can come up with all kinds of explanations for why he used the language he used, but it's on tape.
And one of the thing that's really striking, Poppy, about this, to me again, is this is someone Donald Trump, who is incredibly paranoid over many decades about people taking notes of what he says, and people taking notes of what he's doing.
And here he is, with people, because he also has a habit of showing off when he is in certain meetings, and trying to, you know, sort of puff himself up. And that, you know, is what many people close to him said to me they thought he was doing in this tape.
And it's not as if he didn't know, you know, tapes were -- or audio recordings were rolling. He knew what he was doing. And he went ahead and just said this. So, look, we don't know whether this will be part of a criminal complaint. But there's every reason to assume this would be because it's been said to me by several people. This is the most significant piece of evidence that they know of that the government has.
MATTINGLY: You know, Evan, the idea of the evidence or the various pieces of evidence that could end up in this indictment. We haven't heard from the Justice Department. The former president announced the indictment, his legal team doesn't have the indictment as far as we know, we don't either.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right.
MATTINGLY: But get at that point, the idea of there seems to be between tapes, between phones, between obviously the witnesses, there is a lot to work with for what they're putting together.
PEREZ: Yes, there is. There is a lot to work with. And one of the things, I think, we're looking for this morning, if the justice department goes to a judge and gets to release this, this indictment, the criminal complaint against the former president, what we're expecting to see is, you know, a -- what they call, a speaking indictment. An indictment that tells a narrative that really gives a lot of the information that they believe proves why the former president -- the former president should be found guilty of violating multiple, multiple criminal laws.
And if they don't do that, if this criminal indictment of this criminal information that they put out, doesn't have those details at the start, I think what it does is it helps give the former president, certainly continue to have the field to be able to mold and drive the narrative about what this case is about.
He's already doing that. He's already doing that. And the fact is that the justice department, probably, you know, if they had done this the right way, they would have -- they should have had a judge already sign off on releasing this last night, so that the public can see what it is behind these charges.
Now, here is the deal about this tape. It is possible that they might not mention it in the criminal complaint, but I would bet that they, at some point, when this goes to trial, that they will present this because it will be proof even if the fact that, you know, the former president didn't declassify things, right?
What they want to prove is that the former president knew these things were a national defense information. And one way you prove it is by saying these things are classified. And the president -- the former president knew that.
And so, you can bet that this is going to be part of the criminal case.
HARLOW: Yes. Paula, you're a lawyer. It's -- most apparent, I think, to everyone that this could tie in to the first charge willful retention of defense information.
What I'm interested in is your perspective on if you could think this could play into the latter charges, especially obstruction and false statements. And that, the timeline. Because this is a recording from 2021.
HARLOW: So, he's already out of office. So, what should we consider around that until at least we see the unsealed indictment?
REID: It's a great question, Poppy. Look, when we broke this story last week, it really changed, you know, my personal understanding of this investigation. Katelyn, Kaitlan, Evan, our competition, Maggie and I, we've all been reporting on this for a really long time. And it wasn't clear to me that the former president was absolutely going to be charged. And if he was charged, what they could possibly charge him with beyond obstruction?
But once we got this recording, it was so clear that this was going to be a key piece of evidence. I didn't need his legal team to tell me that. It was pretty obvious because in here, he is admitting in his own words, this is a recording. This is the one of the most damning kinds of evidence that a prosecutor can have against someone.
He is admitting that he willingly knowingly retained secret information. He seems a little confused about the classification level of this alleged document.
But that is incredibly damning. We also don't know where this document is. So, I am sure that prosecutors are working on that, why they -- if they have -- if they don't have it back, why they don't have it back?
But then also the fact that he's undercutting his own claim of his power to declassify, so, if at any point in this investigation, they have argued that, again, to prosecutors, that they didn't have to return something because he had declassified it.
Well, this completely undercuts that, and could potentially go to obstruction. But it will be interesting to see, we don't know at this point how this recording will factor into the indictment. But it's clear, it's one of the most valuable pieces of evidence.
And as we've reported before, this really changed our entire understanding of this investigation; the time, right? The place, and the kind of evidence.
I mean, the time, this goes all the way back to the summer of 2021. It's a year before the search of Mar-a-Lago. This is the kind of evidence that they have.
Remember, he's at Bedminster. Up until now, we didn't believe that there were any classified documents that had been found at Bedminster. So, this takes this into yet another theater.
And then, lastly, Maggie alluded to this. You know, the former president is someone who's very careful not to e-mail, not to text. That has really been an obstacle in previous investigations. They didn't have the kind of evidence that they needed to tie him to any alleged crimes.
And here, really, arguably, are probably one of the first times they have this recording, and it is so incredibly damning. So, we're waiting to see if and when the justice department unseals this indictment, how these factors in?
But it will likely be a key piece of evidence. It's the strongest thing we know from our reporting that they have so far.
HARLOW: And thanks to your reporting. Now, the American public, everyone knows it's the president's own words. And what he said? Please stick around everyone. Have a lot more ahead on this breaking news.
Also, this historic indictment of former President Trump and the legal and political implications. What we're hearing from Trump's camp as well? CNN's special live coverage continues next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM TRUSTY, DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: 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 out eventually from the defense side but that appears to be the charges. And it appears to be something that will get off the ground on Tuesday.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And is there a conspiracy charge in here?
TRUSTY: I believe so, I don't have it in front of me right now. Again, this is not biblically accurate because I'm not looking at a charging document, I'm looking at a summary sheet. So, there's language in there that might actually be reflecting a single account instead of two. But I think there was a conspiracy count as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: That was Donald Trump's Attorney Jim Trusty talking to obviously our own Kaitlan Collins. Helpfully detailing the specifics of the tops or the seven charges that are in the indictment, which we still haven't seen. And didn't believe he had either, but he had a summary now. Trump faces seven federal charges, tied to his potential mishandling of classified documents.
The former President has denied all wrongdoing claims the investigation is a politically motivated sham. Let's bring our team back, including the one and only Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, it was fascinating, we had to be up very early. So, I can't say I was awake for that interview, but I did read the transcript this morning and then reread it -- and reread it. You know, what was your takeaway about how this legal team is going to operate going forward now that this moment has come?
COLLINS: Yes, I like the dramatic music pair to that. And to be clear that was not playing during the actual introduction.
MATTINGLY: Actually, your whole your whole show just has that music behind me the entire time.
COLLINS: Yes, but it was -- it was -- it was Trump's attorney. It was his first interview since the news, the indictment broke it and he confirmed that yes, it is seven counts. Maggie was one of the first to report last night what some of those charges are. And he did confirm several of them there and so that was helpful. They have not actually seen the indictment. I don't believe as of this morning that they have seen it yet either. They basically got a summary of what these charges look like. And so that was -- that's what he was able to shed some light on last night talking about this.
Obviously, he maintains that his client is innocent and he's defending him there. But we did drill into the details of what Tuesday is going to look like, he says there's not going to be where Trump is actually arrested. He will obviously go to that courthouse in Miami where Kaitlan Collins is. The one question that he did leave the door open on, was what his -- Trump's legal team is going to look like on Tuesday. Right now, Jim Trusty is one of several attorneys who has been handling the documented case.
But he essentially said you have to wait to see who shows up with the former President. And he was one who informed Trump that he had been indicted. He talked about a mix of a reaction of anger at being indicted, but also defiance at the fact that he was indicted. Once again, Jim Trusty is the one who said that they essentially received this summary of what these charges look like. And then, of course, informed their client. But as we know, they had been bracing for this to happen. They actually pre-recorded a video that Trump put out shortly after and, of course, it was Trump himself is ever noted who announced this not the Justice Department.
MATTINGLY: Kaitlan, can I ask you a quick just because I was really stuck on, and you clearly perked up when he couldn't give you a straight answer necessarily on who would be representing or who would be with the President. Why? Is that because they don't know? Is that because it's a decision that will be made going forward? Is there an issue? What struck you on that?
COLLINS: I think it's because the trajectory of this investigation has gotten very serious very quickly. And initially, they had been in this period where they did not believe that he was going to be indicted here, that there was no real legal trouble. I think the audio recording changed it as well as several other factors into this. It will be done in Florida now, not in Washington, which is what we had been expecting.
And now we've got that grand jury there. They did say they believe everything is going to happen in Florida, it's not going to be split between Florida and Washington. I think obviously, Florida attorney would be helpful. He does have two attorneys who are barred in Florida on his team, Chris Kise and Lindsey Halligan. But it did sound very much like they are going to potentially have some shifting around of who's going to be there with him.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Elliot Williams, now comes the question of defense and how do you -- how do you go into this courtroom, whatever the team looks like, and how do you defend your client? What was notable, in case -- so much was notable in Kaitlan's interview with Jim Trusty. Just getting from him all of what the charges were including that conspiracy, charge. But also, notable was the fact that it sounded from Trusty and also from Trump's former lawyer, in this case, Tim Parlatore asked this morning that they are going to try to argue multiple counts of prosecutorial misconduct. That they have not presented evidence of.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right.
HARLOW: And we have not seen evidence of. But you've heard a lot more of that defense on T.V. than the defense is the President has made about declassification --
HARLOW: -- in his mind or otherwise.
WILLIAMS: Now, let's talk about sort of when we talk about a defense that some of you could use at trial. And you're not going to be able to make a prosecutorial or misconduct defense at trial, that's the kind of thing that we argued beforehand, it's a legal question, right? So, he will file a motion saying that prosecutors have it's been a witch hunt.
HARLOW: Would that be a motion to dismiss or? Yes.
WILLIAMS: It'd be, yes. It'd be a motion to dismiss the indictment. He's not going to win on that, absent some revelation of major misconduct by prosecutors or whatever. And even if it reached that point, a judge could move a prosecutor off the case or something like that. Now, if it were to get to trial, the defense is virtually all of these crimes involve an element of willfulness, that the person intended to commit the crime. Now, we were talking a little bit earlier about saying that he could declassify documents that suggest willful possession because he knew he had them in his person, and he knew they retain them.
And argument to make a trial, though, would be, well, you know, there's a lot of documents. It's very chaotic at the end of the administration. We didn't know where the boxes were, the President doesn't even know where his own boxes, how -- ladies and gentlemen the jury, how could you possibly convict the defendant of this crime? But, you know, back to the prosecution -- HARLOW: I mean, he's holding a document in Bedminster a year after he leaves the office.
HARLOW: That he says, I know, basically, I know, it's classified.
WILLIAMS: Hey, I'm just telling you what a defense attorney --
HARLOW: Yes, yes, yes.
WILLIAMS: I mean -- no. I mean, it's -- this is.
MATTINGLY: If Poppie's prosecutor now.
WILLIAMS: This is -- it is -- it is based on what is publicly available now. I hesitate to say it's damning evidence, but it is certainly not good for this defendant. It really is not, that's the lemonade you have to make. Because at trial, you really are barred from making an argument about the prosecutors because you want to resolve that already by the time you get there.
MATTINGLY: Hey, Evan, can I ask you the political reporter in me is watching what the current Trump attorney was telling Kaitlan last night. And pitching to Kaitlan last night with the former Trump Attorney Tim Parlatore was talking to me and Poppy, about this morning and saying, they're ceding the messaging ground right now. If there's an air war, and I understand that that's not necessarily what prosecutors want to do. But they're not politically naive, I think they understand that. Why are they deciding to keep the indictment sealed? Do you think that will be maintained and kind of what's their thought process to the extent we even know it because of how closely held they've kept things about the fact that the President's got free run right now to try and kind of lay the groundwork messaging wise for what comes next.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And look, I mean, it's not just the political and the fact that the public sphere has been -- has been -- has been ceded to the former President who -- let's just say, has a history of lying about everything, right? So, big and small, things big and small the former President will just lie about it. So, the problem for the Justice Department is that there's real consequences to letting Donald Trump run with the again with an open field. And that includes, of course, what we saw after the search in August. We saw someone go to an FBI field office, tried to attack it.
There were threats against FBI agents who carried out the search because their names were in court documents. The former president posted on his -- on his social media page. The names of those people, essentially encouraging people to go after those people. So, that's the -- that's the reason why it's dangerous to cede the ground to the former President. Now, the reason why, you know, the Justice Department is behaving this way is I think, you know, Merrick Garland and I think that the former -- I'm sorry, the Special Counsel believe that they should just speak through their court documents.
They don't want to engage and litigate this stuff in the public sphere, in the media, and I get that. But they're making a mistake, it's very clear that they're making a mistake. And I think there's some conversations going on in the building today about, you know, how quickly can we get a judge to unseal this? Are we really going to wait till Tuesday, when the former president comes to Miami for his first appearance? And, you know, does Jack Smith owe the public a public appearance where he speaks to the cameras.
He doesn't have to take questions but explains what his team has done over the past 18 months and why they've done this, and what's the importance of this work? And I think, you know, if, again, they don't have to engage in the politics of this. But that is important for the institutions of this country to hear from the people who are behind this, not only from court documents for months and months to come.
HARLOW: Transparency and sunlight. Paula Reid, let's end on you. This is your stunning reporting. What should you be left with this morning?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I agree with Evan wholeheartedly. Even a member of the former -- the former President's legal team told me that they were a little surprised that the Justice Department called them knowing this would come out on social media and had not already lined up. You know, permission to unseal this indictment that if they want to speak through their indictments, that's fine. Speak through your indictment and make it public. We know that the former President is not always truthful in his statements.
He certainly has an incentive to spin the narrative about what is happening in this criminal case his way. But in the absence of anything from the Special Counsel, the country is relying on good accurate reporting. Which is what we have all been doing on this team, Kaitlan Collins, Katelyn Polantz, Evan. The entire team, we are trying to make sure that the American people understand the facts of what is happening here. And that's why this reporting both the original scoop on the existence of this recording, and now the transcript is so critical until the Special Counsel gets around to unsealing this indictment.
HARLOW: That's right. And that could be today, it should be soon, right? That is for transparency reasons. But they could wait as Evan said until three o'clock on Tuesday. Thank you very much. Evan, Elliot, Paula Reid, Kaitlan Collins. Appreciate it.
MATTINGLY: Well, once again, Donald Trump and America are in totally unprecedented territory. Congressman Daniel Goldman served as a Lead Counsel for the Democrats in Trump's first impeachment trial. He joins us in studio, coming up next.