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CNN This Morning

For Third Consecutive Night, Russia Attacks Odessa with missiles; Grand Jury Anticipated to Convene as Trump may be Charged with Crimes Related to Election; Trump Quietly Expands Legal Team with a New Criminal Defense Attorney; Trump's Attempt to Have Hush Money Case Heard in Federal Court Fails; Trump's Request for New Carroll Trial Rejected by Judge; Women Give Testimony in a Lawsuit Challenging Texas's Abortion Laws. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired July 20, 2023 - 08:00   ET



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Russian missiles raining down on a city far away from the frontlines. Ukraine says, the Russians are striking grain facilities which would feed the world. We're going to take you there, live.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR AND SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And a big day ahead as Donald Trump faces yet another potential indictment -- potential indictment, I should say. The grand jury is getting ready to meet as it prepares to decide if the former president will face federal charges for trying to overturn the election.

MATTINGLY: And this morning, somebody out there who is named neither Abby Philip nor Phil Mattingly is $1 billion richer. The Powerball's third biggest jackpot ever has a winner. This hour of "CNN This Morning" starts right now.

We begin this morning with the worst night in Odessa, Ukraine, since the start of the invasion. Russia's third straight night of attacks on the southern port city leaving at least one person and two others injured. Officials urging people to stay in their shelters until the sirens end. Ukraine's air force now pleading for better defense systems after they downed only five of 19 Russian cruise missiles.

PHILLIP: The E.U.'s top diplomat calls this series of strikes on Odessa barbaric due to the large scale of destruction of food infrastructure. He says, not only did Russia withdraw from the Black Sea grain deal, they are also burning the grain now, too. Officials claim that the previous two days of attacks destroyed 60,000 tons of grain, food that millions of people in developing nations rely on.

CNN's Alex Marquardt is in Odessa for us.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This city has never seen anything like this since the beginning of the war. I can't overstate the terror that the citizens of this city have had to experience over not one, but the last three nights, and it is no mistake that Odessa is home to Ukraine's most famous port.

I want to show you some of the destruction from last night. This is an administrative building. It looks like it was around four stories high. You can see it has completely collapsed. We are told this is still a search and rescue operation. We know that at least one young man was killed. There were several people who were injured. You can see those firefighters trying to put out the fires in this building, both in -- from among the rubble and up on that ladder up there. There are firefighters, there are rescue workers, there are volunteers, and residents of this neighborhood who are just trying to make sense of what we experienced last night.

We are on the edge of the port. The -- one of -- the biggest port in Ukraine, which we can't show you for security reasons. But that is almost certainly why, according to Ukraine authorities, Russia has been carrying out strikes on Ukraine.

Now, this attack started just before 2:00 a.m. local time. It was a combination of drones and missiles. We could hear those drones very clearly buzzing the rooftops in downtown Odessa. I want to play you some of the video that -- sorry, we're just going to get out of the way of this water. I want to play you some of the video shot by photojournalist, Scott Mc Kiernan (ph), of one of the explosions of the missiles here in Odessa last night. Take a listen.

That is the kind of thing that we heard for an hour and a half. Now, it was not just Odessa that was hit, it was also Mykolaiv, which is another southern port city. There, 19 people were wounded. This was an incredibly sophisticated attack. Almost 40 drones and missiles. Most of the missiles got through. Russia used long-range strategic bombers, supersonic bombers, they used four different kinds of cruise missiles, they used those Iranian kamikaze drones.

Just the symbolism of what they used is sending a very large message to Ukraine. President Zelenskyy has said, it is very clearly Russia trying to target the grain infrastructure just a few days after Russia pulled out of that critical grain deal.


MATTINGLY: That's Alex Marquardt live on the ground in Odessa, Ukraine. Thank you.

Well also today, a federal grand jury is set to meet as another potential indictment looms over Donald Trump. The panel in D.C. will be hearing more testimony from Special Counsel Jack Smith's witnesses as they prepare to decide if Trump will face criminal charges for trying to overturn the 2020 election. Today, is also the deadline for Trump's lawyers to tell Jack Smith if they want to offer any of their own witnesses, including, potentially, Trump himself.

Now, we're now learning Trump quietly hired another attorney to beef up his defense teams on the case. And sources are telling CNN that the former president's lawyers have been scrambling to find out if the special counsel has more witnesses, more evidence, that they don't know about. I want to bring in CNN's Senior Crime and Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz. Katelyn, it's unclear when the jury's big decision on potential charges would come. What do we expect today?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Phil, we do expect the grand jury to be in. It is a Thursday.


One of the days they typically meet at the federal courthouse in D.C. to work with those prosecutors from the special counsel's office who have been investigating Trump, January 6th, the 2020 election. And we expect there will be two witnesses, at very least, today. One of whom has been into the grand jury twice before, Will Russell, an aide to Donald Trump, who also worked in the White House. We don't know what his testimony is going to be about or how long he will be in there. It could be quite short, since he's been there before.

And we really don't know what the grand jury does in secret. It stays secret, what happens in that room. When they're asked to approve the indictment, they do vote. But all you see at the end of the decision- making process, the Justice Department's work, the grand jury's work, is the indictment itself. And that it's signed off by the foreman of the grand jury, a jury -- one of the juries who appears that can happen in something like this.

So, this is something that we're watching. But court is really unpredictable. And grand juries, since they take place in secret, they can be quite unpredictable as well. It's going to be a long day.

MATTINGLY: You know, Katelyn, it's often disappointing to me when I come to you thinking I know something new, and you make very clear you've known all of these things for a very long time, which is why this is a valuable question for my purposes. What don't we know? What are still the pieces that are out there that need to be sorted out?

POLANTZ: Well, Phil, there's a really tantalizing thing in the letter that Donald Trump received on Sunday, this target letter. In that -- we now know that the Justice Department indicated what they are looking at charging him with. But the meat of the case is such a huge question. We don't know what will actually be in that indictment. How many counts there will be? I mean, in the Florida case, there were 37 charges against the former president, that was quite a lot and quite a surprise when it happened.

And then, there also were allegations that the Justice Department can make in an indictment where they will reveal what they've been doing with the secret grand jury over the months and months that they have been gathering evidence, and that can be witness testimony. From witnesses no one knew even spoke to the grand jury, who remained completely secret even to lawyers working on the case.

And also, of course, there is all kinds of evidence, documents, records, phone records, all kinds of things the Justice Department has the ability to pull in and show the grand jury when they are building the case. That stuff is often quite a surprise when the indictment is released.

MATTINGLY: Yes, there is a lot hanging out there right now. And I think I'm going to quote you here. You have a long day ahead. Katelyn Polantz, we appreciate the reporting as always.

PHILLIP: All right. And joining us to discuss all of this is CNN's Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig, he's also a Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. So, as Katelyn has laid out, all eyes on this grand jury. What is the realm of possibilities here from what we could see?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY, AND FORMER FEDERAL AND NEW JERSEY STATE PROSECUTOR: So, it's clear we are in end game. We don't know precisely when anything will happen, but we are in end game. Here's what we know is yet to come. First of all, the final witnesses will testify. We do know that one former White House aide to Donald Trump, a guy named William Russell, will be testifying today. What we don't know is whether Donald Trump himself will be testifying. He has that opportunity. I would bet no.

PHILLIP: Does it surprise you that they're hearing from witnesses even at this late stage?

HONIG: No, you want to hear from witnesses all the way through, really, up until the moment that you're actually ready to do the next stage here, which is when you are done with the witnesses, as a prosecutor, you then present the grand jury with your draft indictment. You say, here are the charges we propose. Here are the elements of the charges. And then the grand jury will take a vote.

Now, you often hear how easy it is for prosecutors to get an indictment from a grand jury. Let me tell you from firsthand experience, that's true. And let's understand, why.

PHILLIP: I thought you were going to say it wasn't true.

HONIG: No, it's very true. I completely subscribe to that.

There is a big difference between a trial jury, sometimes called the petit jury, and a grand jury. Trial jury, of course, has 12 members. Grand jury though is bigger, hence the word grand, 23 members in a grand jury. A trial jury, it's much more difficult because you need all of them. You need all 12 to convict. In a grand jury, you'll only need a bare majority of 12.

And the biggest difference is at trial, the proof burden that prosecutors have to prove is beyond a reasonable doubt, that's the highest legal standard in our system. At grand jury, it's just probable cause. A much lower standard. The other thing of course at a trial jury, there is a defense lawyer. Grand jury is just prosecutors, witnesses and grand jurors. So, when you're done, they vote. And then, if they vote yes, you have an indictment.

PHILLIP: And real quick, in your experience, does it take long time to get to a vote with the grand jury? HONIG: Not at all. From the moment you present a grand jury with a draft indictment, you can have a vote and an indictment within an hour.

PHILLIP: So, tell us a little bit about what we know about the potential charges now that Trump could be facing. We have more detail on that.

HONIG: Yes. So, really interesting. We're learning there's three potential charges, of course, we don't know for sure. The first one is a broad-based conspiracy to defraud or commit a crime against the United States. It looks to me, this means Jack Smith is taking a very broad view on this. He's going to charge the entire effort to steal the election, including the weeks and days leading up to January 6th.

New interesting development, deprivation of rights. What that means is, it is a federal crime to interfere with -- forget about all these other legalese -- any legal right or privilege.


What could the legal right or privilege be here? The most reasonable, I think, assessment here is the right of all the American people to cast votes and have those votes -- those votes counted.

And then, finally, witness tampering. I did have an asterisk here put here, that's on purpose because we have to be careful. There is a law called the title is witness tampering. Part of it does deal with typical witness tampering, trying to influence or intimidate a witness. But a separate part deals with obstruction of an official proceeding which could include the effort to interfere with congresses counting of the electoral votes. So, that one, we got to wait and see.

PHILLIP: All right. Elie, we're going to need a lot of you over the next couple of days. Thank you.


MATTINGLY: You know, Abby, we can't sleep on New York. And that's why we have Kara Scannell here, because when you look at the full scale of the former president's legal issues, there are still significant issues here, including two pretty major developments yesterday over the course of the last couple days. What's going on?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, I mean, if we start with this -- the Manhattan indictment, right, the hush money case related to that. Trump had tried to move that state case into federal court because it would afford him different legal defenses. And now, there is a whole hearing on this, and the judge -- Judge Alvin Hellerstein issued an order yesterday that said that, you know, this was a purely -- the hush money reimbursement payments, even though Trump was signing checks in the Oval Office, this was a purely personal matter. So, you would not move the case into federal court.

And he went beyond that though because he pointed to some of the defenses that Trump wants to one. One is that, even though this is a case where he's charged with falsifying business records, it -- you know, the theory is that he was doing this to commit or conceal another crime. And one of those crimes could be influence in the election, the 2016 election.

And the judge is saying, there's no federal preemption here by the federal election law because this is a narrow -- you know, you have -- there's a narrow exception there if you're going to try to do that. In this case, all that they have to prove to convict Trump is that he falsified these records with the intent to commit or steal another crime. They don't have to prove what that other crime is. Now, that is a crux of what Trump's defense here is going to be. They will be able to make that argument before the state court judge.

MATTINGLY: OK. So, that's one issue.

PHILLIP: No, go ahead.

MATTINGLY: OK. You got off the wall with Elie.

SCANNELL: It's exciting stuff.

MATTINGLY: I'm jealous and all. I want personal time with Kara.

But on the second issue, there is obviously, the sexual assault and defamation case. What happened there?

SCANNELL: Right. So, remember that verdict with E. Jean Carroll, the jury had awarded her $5 million after finding that Trump had sexually abused and defamed her a couple of months ago. Well, Trump had moved to get new trial. The judge had denied that request for a new trial, and also set -- denied Trump's appeal of this $5 million verdict.

And one of the arguments Trump had made, as you remember, E. Jean Carroll had alleged that Trump raped her in a department store in the mid-19190s. And on the jury form, they were given a choice of rape or sexual abuse and the jury checked sexual abuse. So, Trump was saying, well, they didn't find I raped her. I should get a new trial.

So, Judge Lewis Kaplan, in his filing he wrote, the finding that Ms. Carroll failed to prove that she was raped within the meaning of the New York Penal Law does not mean that she failed to prove that Mr. Trump raped her as many people commonly understand the word rape. Indeed, as the evidence at trial recounted below makes clear, the jury found that Mr. Trump in fact did exactly that.

So, really endorsing Carroll's argument here. And this whole litigation is not over. She has another lawsuit and that is set for trial in January. But Trump's calendar is getting pretty crowded with legal cases, let alone the primaries.

PHILLIP: Yes, and that's all I was going to say earlier, which is that we can't even keep up with all of these legal developments involving Trump these days.

MATTINGLY: Yes, and as I expected, it was like a really good point. And I shouldn't have tried to just take all the questions with you because Abby's --

PHILLIP: We need Kara to sort it out for us.

MATTINGLY: They're sorted out. We're trying to figure things out.

SCANNELL: We got to remember New York, there's a lot here.

MATTINGLY: We're just very upset about the Powerball and all the other things right now. We're a little spinning now. Those are powerful (ph). Thank you very much, Kara Scannell.

SCANNELL: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And it was an emotional day of testimony in Austin, Texas, where a lawsuit challenging the state's abortion ban was heard there. 13 women and an OB-GYN who are the plaintiffs say that the law is too vague on what constitutes a medical emergency. Now, three people testified that they were denied abortions in Texas. One woman says, one of her twins had a fatal condition and that it could have caused her to miscarry. The other twin, unless she could travel out of the state for care.


ASHLEY BRANDT, DALLAS RESIDENT: I've had to watch twin A, Aila (ph), deteriorate more and more (INAUDIBLE). Sorry. I would have to give birth to an identical version of my daughter without a skull and without a brain. And I would have had to hold her until she died.


PHILLIP: Another plaintiff recalled the moment she learned her pregnancy was not viable.



SAMANTHA CASIANO, PLAINTIFF: And I can see her pain in her eyes. And she told me that my daughter has been diagnosed with NSF late and that means that her (INAUDIBLE) and her brain is not fully developed. And then, she was sorry, I don't have any option since I was pregnant. She then called her the caseworker. Caseworker came in and they handed me a paper that said funeral homes on top of it. She told me that I didn't have any options because there was a law that the Texas Abortion Law prohibited, I wasn't able to get her. So, I felt like I was abandoned.


PHILLIP: That woman grew so distressed on the stand. You see her there, she started to vomit. This hearing is set to continue today.

MATTINGLY: Well, the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on new ethics requirements for the Supreme Court partly a response from Democrats after revelations the two justices accepted gifts from GOP megadonors. Senate Republicans that blasted the bill.


SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): The only crisis at the Supreme Court is the tantrum that the Democrats are throwing and trying to undermine its legitimacy.


MATTINGLY: Democratic senators Richard Durbin and Sheldon Whitehouse are going to respond to that and much more, coming up next.


MATTINGLY: And today, the Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on a bill that would impose new ethics requirements on the Supreme Court. And this move comes after a series of high-profile revelations about. Some of the nine Justices most notably Clarence Thomas, who accepted gifts and luxury trips from Republican megadonor Harlan Crow.

Justice Samuel Alito also reportedly failed to disclose trips from billionaire donors and neither Justice Sonia Sotomayor nor Justice Neil Gorsuch recused themselves from cases involving their book publishers. Now, according to bill sponsors, the measure would require justices to adopt their own code of conduct, create a protocol for investigating violations of that code, improved disclosure and transparency standards, and require justices to explain their recusal decisions to the public.


Joining us now Democratic senators, leading the charge on this bill, Judiciary Committee Chairman, Dick Durbin and Senior Committee Member, Sheldon Whitehouse. Senators, thanks so much for taking the time. I think the question that I've had throughout the course of this debate. We saw the news reports, we saw kind of the public response to those news reports. We have seen no movement from Republican Senators on this issue. Have you behind the scenes had any engagement, about a way to try and bring Republicans on board?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Well, I'm surprised in fact, disappointed, because ethical issues involving the Supreme Court have been bipartisan in the recent past. Whether it's an issue of declaring stock ownership and making a public disclosure, or cameras in the courtroom, these have always been bipartisan issues. But yet, when it comes to the Supreme Court, apparently the Republicans in the Senate are taking the same position as the Supreme Court.

It's none of our business. We want nothing to do with it, but the public knows better. That's why the opinion of the public on the court itself has plummeted. Chief Justice Roberts has the power and the opportunity now to take control of this situation. He's failed to do that, I hope he changes his mind soon but we're not going to wait.

MATTINGLY: Mr. Chairman, before I turn to Senator Whitehouse. Is that the point here from your perspective? Is you're trying -- you're going to move this through committee to send a message and hope that kind of unlocks the Chief Justice's willingness to do something.

DURBIN: Well, it's more than just a message, Senator Whitehouse has really led the effort in building this legislation into incredible reform of ethics in the Supreme Court. I wrote a letter to the Supreme Court Chief Justice 11 years ago calling on him to do this and he refused. We invited him to come before the committee and testify on the issue. Again, he declined. He has the power to take control of the situation. Because he has failed to do so, we're moving forward with this legislation.

MATTINGLY: And Senator Whitehouse said Chairman Durbin makes a great point. You've been working on talking about pushing on these issues for a long time. But you said something to Politico yesterday that struck me. You said, this moment the committee vote, which doesn't have a clear pathway through the Senate, "Think of a boxing match, if you don't fight the first round, you can't win the match." What's a -- to carry the metaphor a little bit further forward. What's a knockout here for you? What's a win TKO to some degree on this issue specifically?

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-RI): Well, a win here is a Supreme Court that serves the people of the United States by adhering to the most basic standards of process and ethics that they actually impose on other courts and on the rest of government. So, if there's a question about a Supreme Court Justices conduct, basic fact finding to find out what the truth is, rather than a cover up.

Clear application of the ethics code to these Judges. And whether that's done by the Chief Justice or the Judicial Conference, which the Chief Justice Chairs. Or whether we have to do that in the legislature and Congress. One way or the other, it has to end there, because it is untenable to have a Supreme Court that is unhinged from these very, very basic tenets of proper ethics and proper due process and procedure.

MATTINGLY: And Senator Whitehouse, I was struck by something Republicans had a press conference yesterday, opposed to this bill, that they haven't been secretive about that. But something Senator Lindsey Graham said, take a listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Two things can be true. The court probably needs to address that issue. I think they do. I believe they will, and Congress needs to stay out of the court's business.


MATTINGLY: I think that the first part was interesting, particularly the part where he say he thought they will, and I don't know if maybe he knows something here. But his point -- the second part that was -- is a fair point as well, that Congress should stay out of the courts business. This is a separate branch of government is something you've repeatedly heard from Republicans. Why are they wrong about that?

WHITEHOUSE: They're wrong about that because the financial disclosure rules that are at the epicenter of most of these ethics' complaints are actually passed by Congress. It's a law passed by Congress. And the failures of the Supreme Court Justices to recuse actually are a violation of a law passed by Congress.

And the administration of those two laws passed by Congress was done by the Judicial Conference, which was a body created by Congress. So, what the Republicans are saying is the Congress has no authority to oversee how a body created by Congress oversees and implements laws passed by Congress. And that's simply makes no sense.


MATTINGLY: Senator Durbin, a cynical person would say, Supreme Court particularly being in its conservative majority at this point. And some of the rulings that they've had is a political boost for Democrats. It was certainly an issue in the midterm elections on abortion specifically. And that there's some incentive for Democrats to keep the Supreme Court as an issue even when the court is not in session right now. What do you say to those who feel like this is a political maneuver ahead of 2024?

DURBIN: I wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court 11 years ago. I think only two or three of the current justices were on the court at that time. Urging him to establish a code of conduct for the Supreme Court. So, this is not personal to these justices. It would apply to all justices, whether appointed by a Democratic President or Republican, as it should.

It is a nonpartisan effort to establish the same basic rules of conduct for these public servants, as all the other Federal Judges face currently. I want to add one point that should be part of this conversation. Federal Judges across the United States are not happy with run that Supreme Court is doing.

The Supreme Court refuses to abide by the same standards of conduct, as they are required to abide by. It is not making them happy at all. So, I think we go forward with this for the good of our judiciary, we have the authority to do it. We've given Chief Justice Roberts the opportunity over and over to take control of this situation. He hasn't done it.

MATTINGLY: Mr. Chairman, before I let you go. Are you confident that you have all 51 Senators that caucus with the Democrats on board for this?

DURBIN: One step at a time, as Sheldon Whitehouse just said, we're in the first round. We believe that the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee will support our effort today for Senator Whitehouse's bill. And we hope that some Republicans will join us.

MATTINGLY: All right. Senator Richard Durbin, Sheldon Whitehouse, thank you very much for your time.

DURBIN: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And ahead for us, the wife of an accused serial killer in New York, now taking legal action of her own. And new details about how the suspect is acting in jail.


PHILLIP: New developments in the case of Rex Heuermann, the suspected serial killer accused of murdering at least --