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Special Counsel Says, Trump Risk Tainting a Jury With Daily Statements; Ex-Proud Boys Leader Enrique Tarrio Gets Longest Sentence of 22 Years; Soon, Blinken Set to Meet With Zelenskyy in Kyiv. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 06, 2023 - 07:00   ET




JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Not lost on fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium, named for the only black man to win singles titles at the U.S. Open, Wimbledon and the Australian Open, are the number of players of color advancing at this year open.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this sport have been opened up to more people. And I think USGA has made a concerted effort to expand the presence of tennis without amongst different communities. And I think it's working.

CARROLL: It's clearly working for this nine-year-old player.

Do you hope to be, what, some day like those you see up here?

GRACIE WACHIRA, NINE-YEAR-OLD U.S. OPEN FAN: Yes. My dad always says that when we were up there and everybody was cheering for Coco, he said that one day that's going to be me.

CARROLL: Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: I love that piece.

CNN This Morning continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Kyiv right now meeting with Ukrainian officials.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is going to be very much about taking a fresh message back to Washington, but also to the United Nations as they seek to hold support together for this war now in its 19th months.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Special Counsel Jack Smith is accusing the former president of making daily statements that could prejudice future jurors in the January 6th case. PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: We don't have the opportunity to watch the judge weigh in on scheduling and whether this case should be broken up into smaller cases.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: And you have Mark Meadows trying to get over it into federal court. Fani Willis took a big bite here. And now she has got to deal with it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The longest sentence yet for January 6th insurrectionists, 22 years. That is how long the former Proud Boys leader will be in prison.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is not the first time that we have heard defendants suggest that Trump is behind what they did that day.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Enrique Tarrio wasn't even here that day. The importance of the sentence was one of deterrence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The community is on high alert as the search expands now, that escaped murderer in Pennsylvania.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a dangerous game of tactical hide and seek.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The moment of, oh, my God, this guy is down there.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Senate minority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to talk to his caucus behind closed doors about his health.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: What you're seeing there is something very specific. I'm not sure if we still have answers to what caused that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who is ready replace him and step in?

SEN. TOMMY TUBERVILLE (R-AL): But can he do it? I mean, it's like being a quarterback. I hope he can.


POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. We are so glad you're with us this morning. D.C. is back, as you know well fully.

MATTINGLY: The Senate is back. The fall has started. The school year has started. But we're also keeping an eye on international news because the secretary of state has made a surprise visit into Kyiv. We're going to keep you updated on that as the morning continues.

But we want to start with a new development this morning in the federal election interference case against former President Donald Trump. Special Counsel Jack Smith says Trump's, quote, daily extrajudicial statements are threat tong taint the jury pool.

HARLOW: This allegation is part of a court fight that remains largely under seal, meaning the public doesn't get to see it, that the special prosecutor, Jack Smith, has been sparring with Trump's team to get on the public docket. The judge ordering both sides to submit their arguments next week. What is this all about?

Elie Honig is at the table with us this morning. Good morning, Elie. Let's begin here.

I think your take on this is that prosecutors need to tread carefully here. Why?

HONIG: So, there's competing interests. On the one hand, any defendant does have the right to criticize his prosecutors, criticize his prosecution, even the judge. You do have broad First Amendment rights to stand up for yourself. You don't have to demure and sort of mind your manners if you have been charged as a defendant.

On the other hand, there is a line that can be crossed. The most serious line is when you get into the realm of potentially intimidating witnesses or victims, right? There's a specific bail term in Trump's case that he can't do that.

There's another line when you potentially start to say things that are so inflammatory that you might infect the jury pool. Because let's remember, jurors are just regular civilians polled from the population. It looks like DOJ is trying to find a way to do something to rein Trump in without infringing on his First Amendment rights.

MATTINGLY: The question I had, and you can tell if this makes no sense, whatsoever, but is this because they feel like they have to in this moment or because they actually want something done?

HONIG: It's a good question. I think they feel like they can't do nothing. It's really hard to sit there and watch, as they say, daily, a lot of times, four, five times a day, these statements may-- let's be candid, in an ordinary case, some of these statements would absolutely cause prosecutors to go to a judge and say, we need to either up the bail conditions or, in some cases, lock this person up.

I do not believe that's going to happen here. I think any notion of Trump being locked up on a bail violation is really just a fantasy. Perhaps, and to be clear, a normal person might be, but this is not a normal person. This is a person running for the presidency.

HARLOW: We already know that Trump's legal team wants this case out of D.C. They had suggested places like West Virginia. Doesn't Jack Smith have to be careful that he could later argue, look, you have made this jury pool unfair by doing this and now you really have to move it?


HONIG: Exactly. If prosecutors are going to argue to a judge, hey, he's tainting the jury pool, Trump's team is going to respond, that's why we have what we call voir dire. That's why we have jury selection because it will weed out people who are unduly prejudiced either way. Well, let's fast forward, hypothetically, a couple weeks. Donald Trump is going to say, I need to get out of D.C., because you know what, 95 percent of people in Washington, D.C., voted against me. This jury pool hates me.

HARLOW: And now you didn't let me say what I (INAUDIBLE) to those people.

HONIG: Exactly. And Trump is going to say, this jury pool hates me. And you know what Jack Smith's going to want to say? Well, that's why we have voir dire. That's why we have jury selection, because we weed out people who are unduly influenced. So, to me, that's a much bigger fight about where the case goes.

So, I'd be very careful if I was Jack Smith about arguing. He's hopelessly prejudicing the jury pool, because Jack Smith is going to want to make that argument at some point down the line.

MATTINGLY: And the jury selection is going to be fascinating. I don't know anybody who doesn't have an opinion on the former president. I don't know anybody who doesn't know who he is at this point in time.

HONIG: I picked a jury pool for John Gotti here in New York City, John Gotti Jr. And we thought that was hard. I mean, picking one for Donald Trump is going to be. Everyone has heard of him. Everyone has opinions, but our system can do it.

MATTINGLY: Yes, that's why it exists. All right, Elie Honig, thanks so much.

HARLOW: This morning, Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio has received the longest prison sentence so far of any of the January 6th defendants. The judge sentenced him to 22 years behind bars and called him the ultimate organizer of the insurrection. Tarrio was not actually at the Capitol the day of the attack. He was banned from entering Washington.

Sara Murray joins us now with more. So significant here what was handed down and how the judge explained why.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it really is. I mean, the judge handing down the longest sentence we have seen for any defendant related to the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, clearly trying to send a message about the importance of the peaceful transfer of power in this country and send a strong signal that this is a deterrent for anyone who may think about doing something like this in the future.


MURRAY (voice over): More than two decades behind bars for the man U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly called the ultimate leader behind the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

In Tuesday's hearing, Kelly said former Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio was motivated by revolutionary zeal. What happened that day did not honor the founders. It was the kind of thing they wrote the Constitution to prevent, the judge said.

Before being sentenced for seditious conspiracy and other charges, Tarrio apologized for the, quote, pain and suffering that was caused. Quote, I am not a political zealot. Inflicting harm or changing the outcome of the election was not my goal. Tarrio also adding, I held myself morally above others and this trial has shown me how wrong I was.

Tarrio was not in D.C. on January 6th, having been arrested days before and ordered by a judge to leave the city for burning a D.C church's Black Lives Matter banner and bringing high capacity rifle magazines into the district the previous month.

But the judge said even though Tarrio wasn't there, the Proud Boys leader, quote, had an outsized impact on the events of the day.

During the months-long trial, prosecutors showed evidence that Tarrio was readying for a revolution and helped create a command structure within the Proud Boys in the run-up to the insurrection. Make no mistake, Tarrio told other Proud Boys on January 6th, we did this.

During Tuesday's sentencing hearing, the prosecutor called Tarrio the leader of this conspiracy that targeted our entire system of government, Tarrio's attorney, promising an appeal.

NAYIB HASSAN, ENRIQUE TARRIO'S LAWYER: We respectfully disagree and we respect it. There will be a day and a time when an appeal will come and we expect it will come soon.


MURRAY (on camera): Now, Tarrio's attorney also said the sentence caught them off guard even though Tarrio now faces the longest sentence of any of these defendants we've seen. It's still well below what prosecutors asked for. They had asked the judge to put Tarrio behind bars for 33 years. Poppy?

HARLOW: Sara Murray, thank you very much.

MATTINGLY: Well, right now, we're going to show you live pictures in Kyiv, Ukraine, where Secretary of State Antony Blinken is there. It was a surprise visit to the country. He's set to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at any moment now.

Now, this trip comes at a critical moment in the war. Ukraine's counteroffensive is struggling to break through and President Biden pushing for more funding, the American people less than convinced at this point. Moments ago, the Kremlin weighed in on this visit.

HARLOW: Vladimir Putin's spokesman told reporters that Blinken's visit will not change the course of the war and that the U.S.'s intent on keeping the war going, quote, into the last Ukrainian, as we continue to watch those live pictures and look at these images.

Our National Security Correspondent Kylie Atwood joins us from the State Department. So, surprise trip, his third-- Secretary Blinken's third since the war broke out and a critical phase, right?


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a really critical phase. I mean, the war has been grinding on now, as you guys know, for more than a year, heading into a year-and-a-half now, and the Secretary of State already making remarks this morning talking about continuing the U.S. commitment to the war in Ukraine.

It's a really pivotal moment, a strategic moment, for the secretary to be on the ground in Ukraine for a number of reasons. Americans are headed back to school, headed back to work after the summer, getting caught up on the news. Having the secretary of state in Ukraine sends a very clear signal that the Biden administration is still prioritizing this war.

It's also at a moment when there's going to be this funding fight, again, in Congress with the president putting forth $24 billion in proposed new funding for this war to Congress. And there has been some criticism continued in Congress about new funding. And it also comes as the U.N. General Assembly is later this month in New York. And as you guys know, that's when world leaders from around the world are going to convene.

And according to a senior State Department official, this is an opportunity for the secretary of state to meet with the Ukrainians ahead of that pivotal meeting in New York and to really align as to what their message is going to be.

Now, when it comes to the counteroffensive, obviously, that has been a grinding, really troublesome, also with moments of breakthrough for the Ukrainians in recent weeks, in the south and the east. But the secretary of state, according to a senior State Department official, wants to be on the ground there to assess what the Ukrainians are actually seeing, what they are hearing, what their plans are in the coming weeks and months on the counteroffensive.

And we should also note that he's expected to announce about $1 billion in new U.S. support for Ukraine, humanitarian support, economic support, military support, so all of these things, while he is on the ground there.

He will be meeting with President Zelenskyy. As you guys said, that should be coming up soon. He'll also be headed to lay wreaths at a cemetery for fallen Ukrainian soldiers. And so there's a number of things that he's going to be doing there, meeting with U.S. diplomats who have been on the ground and really learning what those on the ground are seeing and what the future of this war could look like.

MATTINGLY: All right, Kylie Atwood, for us at the State Department. We're going to be keeping an eye on those pictures. You've been looking at in Kyiv, that meeting expected between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

You're looking at top State Department officials right now, including I think Matt Miller, who I saw there. You also saw Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S., who is back in Kyiv for this meeting.

HARLOW: Yes, we'll keep a close eye on that.

Also the first televised hearing of former President Trump will take place today. It's going to happen in Georgia. We'll explain why and what you can expect ahead.

MATTINGLY: Plus, Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville could jeopardize the confirmation of the nation's highest ranking military officer, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Why? That's ahead.



MATTINGLY: We're still keeping an eye on Kyiv, where Secretary of State Antony Blinken has made a surprise visit. He will be meeting shortly Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

HARLOW: Also happening today back in the U.S., the first televised hearing in the case against Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants. This is in the Georgia state election subversion case. Significant, it's the first televised proceeding for any of Trump's criminal cases, and it has to do with the critical issue of that busy calendar you see on your screen.

The D.A., Fani Willis, pushing for all defendants to begin facing trial on October 23. Former President Trump is opposing that speedy timeline. Many of the defendants want to break up the case.

With us at the table, Jennifer Rodgers, Elie Honig, John Avlon, along with Political Anchor for Spectrum News, Errol Louis. Good morning to you all.

Jennifer, it's on T.V. Does this mean everything is going to be on T.V. in this case?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, pretty much. I mean, there's some things, of course, that are done at sidebar, maybe even in chambers, if it has to be secret. But everything that is public that would happen in the courtroom in full view of people who could walk in off the street will be televised, which is terrific for all of us, right? We can see the wheels of justice turning.

HARLOW: So, what do we see today, then?

RODGERS: Well, the judge has to get everybody together and set some dates, right? We have 19 defendants. Two of them are going to go early. The other 17 won't be forced to do that. So, he's got to impose some order on this schedule.

So, I think prosecutors are going to want -- let's put these two defendants who are going early in October where they're going. I think she's going to ask for one trial date for the remaining 17 and then start to thin that herd, right? Some of the low hanging fruit will plead out, some cooperators will plead out, and they're going to want to end up with about six to eight defendants for trial.

MATTINGLY: I want to ping pong back and forth between the legal and the political because they are so intertwined in this moment, as we've all discussed. Errol, the new CNN poll that shows 68 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters do not think that the charges against Trump, even if they are true, are relevant to his fitness to be president. He is currently the leading Republican contender by like one to 60 points at this point. Especially when you line it up with that, it's going to be on T.V., people are going to be watching. What's your read on that?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think you'll see -- first of all, you'll start to see some of those numbers change.


LOUIS: Because, well, look, we saw this with the January 6th committee hearings. You start watching it. You start going through the evidence that's allowed or not allowed, and there's ongoing discussion and there's conversation on national news about what has been happening piece by piece. I think people will start to be a little bit more informed about it, and that ultimately will flow through to the polls and people's political decision-making.

But at the same time, what you're going to see is a number of people who have decided, I want to be with Donald Trump. I don't really care about these legal charges. However, that same poll, the latest CNN poll, shows that they think it's very serious. If he, say, gets convicted, will he be able to actually serve? And then it starts to really start to matter.


So, then you can believe that he's innocent, you can believe that the charges are B.S., you can decide that you're going to support him, say, in the primary, but if he actually gets sort of starts going down the road toward conviction, I think people start to think about it very differently.

HONIG: There's an interesting sort of legal and political overlap here, which is, let's say, we have two sets of trials. As Jen said, I think that's virtually certain. We're going to have the early trial, the later trial. Legally tactically, big advantage for Trump. You want to go second, you want to see all the evidence come out early. You can scout it, you can see what worked, what didn't.

On the other hand, if there is a televised trial of Cheseboro and or Sidney Powell, Donald Trump will be what Jen and I used to call collateral damage, meaning he's going to be taking shots from those witnesses that may resonate over T.V.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I think that's exactly right. This poll is fascinating, but one of the things that reinforces is that you've got 37 percent to 42 percent of Republicans who are hardcore Donald Trump supporters no matter what. That's still a lot of folks room to erode, right? You've got around 20 percent who aren't going to support him no matter what, and then you got folks who are persuadable.

And it shows that there is an emerging top tier in the Republican candidates, people that are willing to be considered, including Tim Scott, Nikki Haley, Ramaswamy and DeSantis, although he's slightly on the decline.

The other thing that's striking is that Trump's support is under the rubric of I support his policies, which is something we've heard a lot. And I do think as that starts to collide with basic values, what is policies and democracy, peaceful transfer of power, that that could have a further negative effect. So, I'm with Errol on that.

HARLOW: It's always good to be with you when you're on. Thanks.

AVLON: Occasionally.

HARLOW: John, I want to switch topics here. Enrique Tarrio, leader of the Proud Boy, sentenced to 22 years. Notably, Jack Smith did not charge former President Trump with seditious conspiracy. The judge yesterday in the sentencing of Tarrio said you were the ultimate leader. You have some thoughts on this.

AVLON: Yes. I don't think Enrique Tarrio is the ultimate leader. He was a leader of one of the self-styled militia groups, the Proud Boys. The fact that the leader of the Oath Keepers, Stewart Rhodes, and Enrique Tarrio, the leader of the Proud Boys, have both been convicted of seditious conspiracy is incredibly significant. Historically, that is a very tough charge to prove.

But the ultimate leader, according to the people who were told stand back and stand by, the people they thought they were doing this for, in the expectation of the case, the Oath Keepers, that the Insurrection Act would be invoked, was Donald Trump.

And I think the judge had a lot of clarity in his comments around the sentencing yesterday, which was very tough. But the ultimate leader was not Enrique. Nobody was storming The Capitol for Enrique Tarrio.

HARLOW: I was just looking, glancing back. We have your book, Lincoln and the Fight for Peace, just thinking about a Republican president in that moment in this country at that time, and just the juxtaposition to today, striking.

MATTINGLY: Can I follow that thread, though, Elie? The decision by Jack Smith, people refer this as the January 6th trial to some degree, or second key indictment that he's brought. It's not. It's about everything around it leading up to it and after it. But to Avlon's point, why not?

HONIG: So, I think one of the great misconceptions about this case writ large is that it was all one nice, neatly organized, coordinated conspiracy. And I think this was the error in Merrick Garland's initial approach. What did he always used to say? We're going to start at the bottom and work our way up.

That was never going to work, because what we have here is multiple conspiracies separate from one another, but with a similar goal. In other words, Enrique Tarrio never conspired with Donald Trump. They never met, they never spoke. They never had any even indirect connection. Donald Trump was running his own conspiracy to try to steal its election, most of which happened before the actual date of January 6th.

Then you have these other people clearly acting on his behalf, at his urging. He lit the spark who went in and stormed the Capitol. And that was sort of the way I viewed it from the start.

I will say the way that it's been charged has played that out. And so when this judge says Enrique Tarrio was the ultimate leader, or whatever he says, I think that means of the Oath Keepers, of the people who physically stormed the Capitol. But Trump still absolutely was the spiritual leader.

AVLON: Stand back and stand by.

HONIG: That's what I mean, yes.

HARLOW: Circling back to what your point that you think there will be defendants, co-defendants of Trumps that plead out and that you'll end up with six or eight defendants, not 19, which makes this a slightly more simple case to try when you're looking at the RICO charges. Michael Cohen, the former president, one of his lawyers and fixer, said something interesting on CNN last night. Here he was.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: My recommendation for them would be speak now. Because as soon as the guy next to you or the woman next to you starts speaking and spilling the beans, your information is not as important, it's not as significant. So, the person really who starts to speak first is the one that will get the benefit.


RODGERS: So, that's true here, like it's always true, but not as much. Because, first of all, we were talking about this earlier, there's not a lot of cooperation that they need here or that they're going to get, to be honest. Some of these lower level people might want to cooperate.

And I think they will use a couple of them, but it's not like they're going to have I was in the room with Donald Trump when we talked about we lost this election, how are we going to steal it? That's not the kind of evidence you're going to find anyway.

I do think they want to get people out of this case for the logistical reasons that we discussed. You can't do all of these trials. So, they'll thin that herd, they'll get a couple cooperators and then I think they're just going to plead a lot of people out cheap, as we would say, to like a lesser offense than the --

HONIG: Yes. There are some cases you charge, Jen used to approve my indictments, where you would go, boy, we're going to need --

HARLOW: Not that little tidbit.

AVLON: A little nugget.

HONIG: Where you go, boy, we better hope one of these guys flips or else we're going to have a little shaky case. I agree with you. I don't think that's the case here. I think cooperation will be lovely, but I don't think they need it.

HARLOW: It's not like you getting cooperated with John Gotti's case?

HONIG: We had a few. Yes, they were tougher guys than this, yes.

MATTINGLY: That sounds interesting. I'm more interested in Jen's actual critique of your work.

All right, guys, thank you very much, as always. We will be carrying that televised hearing from Fulton County live here on CNN starting at 1:00 P.M.

Now, it's been nearly a week since convicted a murderer made his escape from the Pennsylvania prison. Ahead, we're learning new details about the strategy law enforcement are using to try and find him.

HARLOW: Also, the disgraced South Carolina lawyer convicted of murdering his wife and his son, now his defense says they have new evidence and they want a new trial.