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Hearing in Fulton County, Georgia, Case against Former President Trump and 18 Co-Defendants for Election Subversion to be Televised; Senate Republicans to Meet with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell Regarding His Recent Health Issues; Tropical Storm Lee Expected to Rapidly Intensify into Hurricane. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 06, 2023 - 08:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. So glad you're with us. It's the top of the hour. And something pretty remarkable is going to happen today. In just a few hours we're going to see the first televised hearing in the Fulton County case against Donald Trump and his 18 co-defendants who allegedly tried to overturn his election loss in Georgia. It could give us a real clue if the former president will stand trial next month.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: And we're continuing to follow the breaking news out of Kyiv, where Secretary of State Antony Blinken has made a surprise visit. He is there right now. He's set to meet with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

HARLOW: Senate Republicans getting ready to meet with Mitch McConnell behind closed doors today as concerns grow over the GOP leader's health after he froze in front of reporters again.

This hour of CNN THIS MORNING starts now.

Here's where we begin. In a few hours, the first televised hearing in the Georgia election interference case will begin. This again is the first televised proceeding of any of the former president's criminal cases. Judge Scott McAfee says that he is going to address critical scheduling matters for the trial. It could begin as soon as October 23. There are 19 defendants. They have all entered not guilty pleas. They've waived their arraignments. The hearing will also look at possibly breaking up the case and trying some of the defendants separately.

MATTINGLY: Yes, that's a loaded calendar you were just looking at there, because meanwhile, in the federal election interference case, Special Counsel Jack Smith is accusing former President Trump of making, quote, daily extrajudicial statements that threaten to threaten the jury pool.

Joining us now to discuss is CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig and former U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia Michael Moore. Elie, I want to start with you on the federal side of things. What we have seen from prosecutors, it echoes a little bit what they were doing the start of the case. What does it mean? And will it have any teeth or substance here?

ELIE HONIG, SENIOR CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, so in going to the judge to try to put a clamp on Donald Trump, a lot of this is under seal, which means they're doing a lot of it behind the scenes. So we don't know exactly what they are asking for. But what it seems to me is they are trying to find some workable middle ground, because Donald Trump is taking to social media daily and making aggressive, perhaps over- the-line pronouncements.

I think prosecutors understand they do nothing. They can't sit idly by and let this happen without asking the judge to do something. I think prosecutors also probably understand they can't ask to lock up Donald Trump just given the reality that he is running for president. Fair or not, special treatment, which it would be, I think they have to be aware of that reality. So my best estimate here is they are asking the judge to take some sort of middle ground.

I will say one thing judges can do, is they can impose financial penalties. If you are -- if a defendant is violating an order of a court, then a judge can say you are in contempt and I am going to fine you a certain amount each day. They may be. But they need some middle ground. They need to do something here.

HARLOW: Michael, to the Georgia proceedings and what we are going to see on television today, I think it's 1:00 p.m. eastern time will air it, people will get to see it. That's just important for transparency purposes, given this is a state case, cameras in the courtroom, et cetera. But can you explain to folks what is actually going to happen as they watch this today?

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: Yes, sure. I'm glad to be with you. Today is nothing unusual that doesn't happen in courtrooms every day in Georgia. It's different only because of the players sort of in the play and the media interest in the case. The judge will talk to the lawyers. He will have a lot of lawyers there because of the number of the defendants, and he'll say, look, I want to find out how we are going to try this case. Madam District Attorney, what's your plan to try the case, or do you have a certain number of defendants that you are willing to separate off, or are you still insistent that you push forward with this sort of a joke October date?

He will also hear from the defense lawyers about the need to be prepared, the fact that there is no possible way they can get prepared. They will be building a record, the defense attorneys will be building a record to make sure that any appellate court will know that if they are pushed to trial in October that there was no way they could provide effective assistance or counsel to their clients.

We've had a little bit of the drama removed because the defendants will be there. It sort of minimizes some of the circus a little bit, since they have waived their arraignment. But this will really be almost like a status conference and scheduling conference with the judge. The difference, of course, is the magnitude of the case and the significance of the parties involved.

MATTINGLY: That's a pretty big difference, to some degree, but it's important context, too, that this is a very normal procedural part of the process, but an important one nonetheless.

Elie, I want to ask something about the classified documents case. One of the former president's attorneys, Evan Corcoran, we know took voice memos about conversations with Trump from the indictment itself. Now, ABC News has transcripts of those voice memos.


To be clear, CNN has not reviewed them. Based on what we have seen up to this point and what we knew prior, what stands out to you?

HONIG: So I think the importance of these transcripts is it sets the stage for the obstruction of justice. Again, now, we are talking about Mar-a-Lago, the classified documents case down in Florida. And remember, what Donald Trump is accused of doing is essentially hiding those documents from not just the grand jury and the FBI but from his own lawyer. He intentionally duped his own lawyer, Evan Corcoran.

And there comes a moment, according to the reporting, where Corcoran says to Trump, hey, you got a subpoena. We need to comply with this. This is serious. We need to turn everything over. And the reporting is that Trump essentially flipped out and basically became defiant. And I think if you are trying to explain to a grand trial jury, how do we get to the point -- or to a trial jury, how do we get to a point when Donald Trump was obstructing justice, was hiding documents, this is the setup for that.

MATTINGLY: I was going to say, we should note the Trump spokesman told ABC, quote, these reflect legal opinions and thoughts of the lawyer, not the client.

HARLOW: For anyone wondering, Michael, what about attorney-client privilege and when that can be pierced, can you just explain how that would play in here?

MOORE: Well, attorney-client privilege is sacrosanct. And I think people are probably -- if you think about a priest in a confessional and how you keep things quiet, the priest is not allowed to talk about it. The difference would be if, in the attorney-client scenario, if there is some type of effort to commit a crime and to involve a lawyer in a crime. So if you think about it from simple terms, you can't ask your lawyer where can I bury the body and get advice on where to do it and somehow claim that's attorney-client peripheral. There'd be a way around that.

So I do think it raises some interesting questions. We have seen courts kind of go across the line and back and forth as they've navigated the attorney-client privilege aspects in some of these cases. I think this is one that will likely wind its way into some appellate brief at some point, but it's one they will have to deal with now as they try to move forward.

HARLOW: Michael Moore, Elie Honig, thanks to you both.

MATTINGLY: Today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will talk behind closed doors with the Senate Republican Conference about his health. This comes after he froze in front of reporters twice in two months. We're going to tell you what the Capitol Hill doctor said and didn't say about those recent health scares. That's next.



MATTINGLY: In a matter of hours, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to address his recent health scares in a closed- door meeting with Senate Republicans. This is after the Capitol's attending physician released a new letter yesterday. It read, quote, "There is no evidence that you have a seizure disorder or that you experienced a stroke, TIA, or movement disorder such as Parkinson's disease."

When McConnell froze in front of cameras last week, it was the second time this summer. That's what that note is in reference to. The Kentucky senator later made his own passing reference to his freezing episode on the Senate floor yesterday. Take a listen.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Now, one particular moment of my time back home has received its fair share of attention in the press over the past week. But I assure you, August was a busy and productive month for me and my staff back in the commonwealth.


MATTINGLY: Joining us now to discuss, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, I'm most interested in terms of the letter, the tests that they mentioned. Tell us more about the tests that they would have run and whether this would be enough to explicitly rule out those conditions as the physician did.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So the first question in terms of what the tests are, it was pretty exhaustive, Phil. They did a brain MRI scan, which would be to look for evidence of a stroke or a tumor or something like that. Sounds like that was a normal result. He had an EEG, not an EKG, but an EEG which is to get a snapshot in time, if you will, of what the brain's electrical activity is. I'll come back to that in a second.

And then also a consultation, it sounds like, with four different neurologists, according to Manu from his reporting. I don't know if Senator McConnell met with those neurologists or the Capitol Hill doctor talked to those neurologists. But basically, after all of that, that's what they concluded -- no seizure, no stroke, and no evidence of something like Parkinson's disease, a movement disorder.

One thing I will just tell you real quick, if you look the video, again, one of the things, obviously, when you look at all these tests is that there was a level of concern. When you order tests like this, it's a pretty significant level of concern. When you see this aide come up to the right side of his body, he is frozen. Also, his eyes are sort of deviated but he is not looking to his right over there. It's only when the aide comes to the left side where we actually see him turn his head to the left.

Why is that relevant? It's relevant because it sort of gives us an indication that there is something, what we call focal going on, something that's involving a specific area of his brain, which is apparently what the doctors thought as well, which is why they did all these tests. What doesn't sort of describe this is lightheadedness. That's not focal. That's general. That's somebody says my head hurts, or I feel lightheaded, I've got to sit down. That doesn't match here. What they sort of concluded was that, look, he had this fallback in the spring, got a concussion, which is a sort of -- which is a brain injury, and that brain injury has led to lightheadedness and led to these episodes. Those dots don't quite connect there, and I think that's why there are still a lot of questions.


HARLOW: Right? So, this letter rules some things out. Sanjay right. but leaves us still with a number of important questions, given his important role in our government.

GUPTA: Yeah, I mean, look, first of all, he's totally entitled to his privacy, but if the letter was sort of designed to answer of these questions, it still didn't really do it. I will say there's exhaustive testing here, which is really important. But take that EEG, for example. Again, it's sort of a snapshot in time. So, what people will do is say, look, I have a high level of concern for seizure.

They'll actually monitor the EEG for a period of time, not just one EEG. They might even do what are called challenge tests to do things to see if you can elicit a seizure and find that on EEG. Important to do, mainly to make sure that this doesn't keep happening to him. Whatever it is, thankfully seems to very quickly come and go.

And I think that's an important clue as well.

MATTINGLY: Sanjay on a different topic, but one you've spent a ton of time working on, also happening in Washington yesterday, we saw President Biden presenting a Medal of Honor, but he wasn't wearing a mask. We know he was exposed to someone with COVID-19. 1st Lady Jill Biden's CDC guidance has constantly changed, especially early in the pandemic. T

he question I had as I was watching this yesterday is what is the actual guidance right now? What should people be doing? Should Biden have been wearing a mask there?

GUPTA: Yeah, look, I think what was particularly confusing about President Biden was that he was wearing a mask and then he took the mask off. And I think that that's understandably very confusing to your first question. Let me tell you what the CDC guidance is. Now, if you've been exposed to COVID, which basically says day zero through ten, you should be wearing a mask and watch for symptoms.

If you develop any symptoms, you should test immediately. That's what the guidance is now, one caveat there is that if you're testing regularly and you're getting a test known as an antigen test, that can give you a good indication of whether or not you have enough virus in your nose and your mouth to actually spread it. So he's probably had those tests done.

And if you have those and those are negative, that can be a reason not to wear a mask. But I think, again, what was confusing about President Biden, he was wearing a mask, and then when he got around the individual in close proximity is when he took it off. That didn't make a lot of sense either. In that case, you wear it or you don't wear it.

And again, if you've been tested and the tests are negative, especially if you've had two tests over 48 hours, then you really don't need a mask because you're not likely to transmit at that point.

HARLOW: Okay. Super helpful on all those fronts. Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thank you. So, there's a new warning by the National Hurricane Center. Tropical Storm Lee is expected to rapidly intensify into an extremely dangerous hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean by this weekend. Our meteorologist Derek Van Damme standing by.

It is one after the next, after the next.

DEREK VAN DAM, AMS CERTIFIED METEOROLOGIST: Yeah, that's right, Poppy and we're about this close away from calling this and referencing this as Hurricane Lee. It is gathering strength. It is organizing as we sit here and analyze this satellite imagery, currently at 65 miles per hour winds, of course, you need 74 miles per hour plus to be considered a hurricane. And clearly and explicitly the Hurricane Center showed the strengthening of a tropical storm into a hurricane, into a major hurricane by this weekend.

And look at this. Leeward Islands. Yes, you are not included in this cone. But remember, the average error from the center of the storm is roughly 150 to 200 miles on day four and day five. So, if that deviates further south and west, you bet you Puerto Rico into the Leeward Islands, you'll feel the impacts of this. At the very minimum, we will have high surf rip currents and large waves, potentially some coastal erosions in those areas.

This is moving into an area of above-average record temperature water, so that is fuel for strengthening storms. That's exactly what we anticipate with this particular incoming hurricane, which will be a major hurricane by this weekend. So where does it go? Well, the consensus is clustered in the near term, but in the far term, the long term, we're talking day five and beyond.

Well, it's all about what's happening in the upper levels of the atmosphere. A ridge of high pressure to the north is helping steer this to the west. And whether or not that breaks down, does it interact with a trough over the eastern US? That is going to be a big deciding factor on any potential impacts along the eastern seaboard of the US. For the second half of next week. Something here this team of meteorologists at CNN will be monitoring

very closely.

HARLOW: We know you will, thank you.

MATTINGLY: Well, this morning, a new report shows that this blistering deadly summer was far and away the hottest on record. From June to August, the planet's global average temperature was around 62 degrees Fahrenheit. That's the warmest that period has been since records began in 1940.

It comes after a summer riddled with extreme weather events, including the historic wildfires in Hawaii, strong winds, and a drought-stricken landscape that sent flames tearing through homes and businesses in Lahaina District in August.


In Florida, obviously, there was Hurricane Idalia just last week, slamming into the state's Gulf Coast, leaving behind buildings, missing walls and windows, and masses of wreckage that block traffic. In Greece, dozens of fires have been breaking out across the country since last month, scorching more than 230,000 acres and stretching firefighters' forces to the absolute limit.

Right now, parts of Europe are dealing with historic floods. You're looking at video from this morning in Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. CNN's Bill Weir joins us now. Bill, you were covering Idalia on the ground. You were covering the Maui fires in Lahaina. You've seen this up hand connect the dots from what Derek was walking through to this report.

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: All of human civilization grew up in a goldilocks climate. The world we grew up on, we had predictable patterns. We don't live on that planet anymore. We are now setting records at a broken record pace. You can feel know, anywhere from Europe to Africa to Japan, to most of the United States. This summer, it felt like living in a giant pizza oven. And look at that.

That reminds you of the famous hockey stick graph where we will go back and look at carbon dioxide temperatures through the ages and how temperatures mirror how much planet cooking pollution we're putting into the sky. But this is a sort of record that usually gets broken by hundreds of degrees. It got shattered by three tenths of a degree this summer.

It's when everything became so obvious.

HARLOW: I could be wrong. You're the expert, but isn't what we're feeling now in this pizza oven? We're living in a reflection of what has already happened, what we've already done to the environment?

WEIR: Yes.

HARLOW: So, then it's just going to keep getting worse.

WEIR: Yeah, the really bad headline is this is one of the coolest summers of the rest of our lives, that this is not reversing itself. The polar caps are not freezing no matter what we do. Now there's new science that says if we can stabilize the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the warming will stop relatively quickly.

Michael Mann, the scientist who put out the hockey stick graph, that's new science from him saying if you can stabilize it, it won't be this delayed stunted effect.

It'll turn off pretty quick, but it has to happen fast. And if you look around, Saudi, Aramco ExxonMobil, the most profitable companies in history of humanity, getting the biggest subsidies in history right now, and they're still the society's license to keep burning because they're just fossil fuels are everywhere.

So entrenched in our lives. And these companies show no interest of change in business models, regardless of what we're experiencing.

HARLOW: And beyond you know, you mentioned one US company, Exxon. This is about globally, what choices weaned other leaders and leaders are making. Right, so if we make a lot of changes in the US. It doesn't make as big an impact unless China, India does the same.

WEIR: This is all hands-on deck. It's not just one moonshot, it's every country trying to achieve this at the same time. But historically, the United States is the biggest offender and has the moral responsibility as the richest country in human history to step up and lead on this. And you're starting to see that.

You're starting to see huge innovations uncorked by the Inflation Reduction Act. And there's governments in Australia and Brazil have gone back to

trying to get back in touch with the earth and take care of it. But everybody's going to feel this regardless of where you live, if you live on the coast or not, because insurance now is affected.

Five major insurance companies this week told the regulators that they're going to stop covering fire in California, for example, or hurricanes in Florida. They'll still cover your house against theft or whatever.

But the major disasters that threaten these communities won't be insurable in this new world.

MATTINGLY: The entire business model is unsure.

WEIR: It is and then what happens to your mortgage? What happens then to property values and tax bases which pay your cops and your teachers? All of it. And when you want to live in paradise and you say it's worth the risk, what happens if you have to assume all that risk on your nest egg, your home?

These are really dangerous times and we should be talking about it with an urgency, I think.

HARLOW: Well, you have been for many years, but it's amazing because you've been the one who's shown us so many of these incredible places around the world, paradise. And then you literally go back when paradise is burning.

WEIR: And we'll be doing that from Maui to whatever happens with this tropical Storm Lee. But knowledge is power, hopefully.

HARLOW: There you go. Thanks, Bill. So, the special counsel, Jack Smith, accusing the former president of making daily statements that could prejudice future jurors in the January 6 case. There's a new poll that shows, though, a conviction in that case or others likely would not impact his support from Republicans. Harry Enten with this morning's number, is next.



MATTINGLY: We're following a new development this morning. Special counsel Jack Smith is alleging that former President Donald Trump's quote extrajudicial daily extrajudicial statements are threatening to taint the jury pool in the federal 2020 election subversion case. Now, we don't know the legal implications of that, at least not at the moment.

But based on new CNN polling, there are signs that it really would put a dent in Trump's political support, at least among Republicans. That same poll showing that Trump still has a massive lead in the Republican primary. And there are certainly no signs of that lead shrinking anytime soon.

CNN Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten is here with a closer look at those poll numbers from the CNN poll. I want to first differentiate this is not actually the morning number. This is a polling deep dive. And I think people need to separate those two things.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: This is a serious polling deep dive with me and of course, Philip over there. Take a look here. The top choices for Republican nominee. Look who's at the top. A familiar face. Donald Trump. Look at that. 52%. Ron DeSantis 18%.

Nobody else even close, not in the double digits. But it's not just the top line here with Trump having a well over 30-point advantage. It's in the cross tabs. So, you know the cross tabs, your demographic groups, age, race, education, et cetera.15 groups with a cross tab.

How many groups does Trump lead in our poll? 15 mean he leads across the board. Doesn't matter how old you are, how young you are, whether you have a college education, whether you don't, whether your income is below $50,000.