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CNN This Morning
Former President Trump Testifies in Defamation Trial Concerning Sexual Assault Case; International Court of Justice Imposes Provisional Measures on Israel over Its Military Operation in Gaza; ICJ: Israel Must Take All Measures to Prevent Genocide in Gaza; Some GOP Senators Seethe as Trump Blows Up Compromise. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired January 26, 2024 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KEVIN O'CONNELL, MINNESOTA VIKINGS HEAD COACH: There will always be time down the road to make up for your personal time loss, but there's not going to be time to make up for their time with you. There's times where I am tired, I am exhausted, and all I want to do is just sit down and not think about football or anything like it, but then it's time to go play football in the basement. And that's their Super Bowl. That's what matters. It's their time with dad. And I don't ever want to get to a place -- the moment I ever get to where I don't have the energy and the focus to give them everything that they need, I won't do the job anymore.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: You'd walk away.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
HARLOW: From one great dad to another great dad.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: I told you earlier that last point is, like, it's gold.
HARLOW: It's everything. Powerful to hear from him. I'm very grateful. Next year is our year, by the way. Skull Vikings. Skull Vikings.
CNN THIS MORNING continues right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
HARLOW: Breaking news at the top of the hour. The International Court of Justice has just imposed provisional measures on Israel over its military operation in Gaza. That court says Israel must take measures to prevent acts of genocide in Gaza, to allow in more humanitarian aid, and to make measures, more measures to protect civilians. This ruling is legally binding, but it's important to note in practice, there is no way of it being enforced.
MATTINGLY: The International Court of Justice has also called for the release of all hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. Our Clarissa Ward is following this story. She's going to join us live from Jerusalem in moments.
HARLOW: We are also following a pivotal day in the defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump. At any minute, he is set to head back to the courthouse here in New York City for closing arguments. This is a live look at Trump Tower, his motorcade just about to leave. A jury will soon decide how much the former president needs to pay in damages to writer E. J Carroll for falsely branding her a liar and calling her sexual assault claims a complete con job and a hoax. Remember, though, a jury already found Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation.
MATTINGLY: Today's closing arguments come after Trump briefly took the stand yesterday, testified for only a few minutes, telling the court he was trying to defend himself and the presidency against Carroll's accusations and did not intend to harm her. Trump was strictly limited on what he could say on the stand, but just after midnight, he lashed out in a short video he posted on social media.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I have no idea who she is, where she came from. This is another scam. It's a political witch-hunt. And somehow, we're going to have to fight this stuff. We cannot let our country go into this abyss. This is disgraceful. You have somebody running for office. The whole thing is a scam, and it's a shame, and it's a disgrace to our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Kara Scannell is live for us outside the courthouse. Kara, it was a fascinating day yesterday. What are we expecting today?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: So good morning, Phil and Poppy. We're expecting closing arguments to get under way in just a little over an hour from now. That will be the party's chance to give the jury their best arguments about, in Carroll's case, why she was harmed and why Trump should pay her millions of dollars. Carroll has told the jury herself this trial began with her testifying. She told the jury that she was scared after Donald Trump made his statements denying that he attacked her, saying she made up the story to boost sales of her book, that she received and was inundated by threatening emails, mean emails, emails that scared her enough that she bought bullets for a gun she kept by her bed.
Trump's lawyers are going to argue that just because E. Jean Carroll made these accusations, she may have invited some of the negative emails and negative tweets that she received and that they have not linked Donald Trump's statements to the harm that she says she has suffered, including harm to her career. So both sides giving their best case. And I did follow Donald Trump's testimony yesterday. The last witness to testify on the stand for three minutes, which was much shorter than the time it took them even to figure out between the judge and the attorneys what questions they would ask him. And Trump answering only a handful of questions, one of them posed by his attorney, Alina Habba, asking if he instructed anyone to harm Ms. Carroll. He said no, he was defending himself, he was defending his family, and, frankly, the presidency.
Trump, of course, is expected to arrive in the court shortly where he'll be here for the closing arguments. Phil, Poppy?
HARLOW: Do we know how soon a verdict could come? Closings are today. Are we talking about a matter of days?
SCANNELL: What's interesting is in the trial last year, the jury had to evaluate whether Trump had sexually abused Carroll, whether he defamed her, and then come up with a dollar amount. They did all that in less than three hours. So this time, this jury, they just have to decide if Carroll suffered harm, and if so, how much Trump should pay her. They're expected to get this case by lunchtime. So a verdict coming up as soon as today.
MATTINGLY: Kara Scannell, keep us posted. Thank you very much.
And joining us now is Trump's defense lawyer during his second impeachment trial, David Schoen. He's also Steve Bannon's attorney. We always appreciate your time. If you were giving the closing statement today as Trump's lawyer, what do you say?
DAVID SCHOEN, TRUMP'S DEFENSE LAWYER DURING SECOND IMPEACHMENT TRIAL: I think this one has to be focused, and the judge has made clear that he's going to keep it focused, so he has to say certainly he didn't intend any harm.
Their theme has been that he didn't know her and certainly didn't defame her and so on. I think a key issue in this case for appeal is going to be the judge's ruling, which I think is a very dangerous and probably wrong ruling. That is, as you'll recall, the original jury found in President Trump's favor on the specific rape claim, found that she didn't prove rape. She's proved sexual assault. I think that the judge, by finding that Trump is barred from arguing that he didn't rape her and therefore he wasn't lying when he said -- that he wasn't defaming her when he said she was lying, is a very tough call. The judge said in common parlance, he really did rape her. But that's not what the elements were that the jury was asked to find. I think it's a big issue in the case. I don't think he's going to let them get into it in closing arguments.
HARLOW: So David, it's an interesting legal point, and I don't want to relitigate what that jury of his peers decided, but I will just note when Judge Kaplan made that statement and made that explanation, he cited both the Department of Justice guidance in 2012, which was expanded in terms of defining rape, and he also cited the American Psychological Association. So there are those as well.
I wonder, also, if you look at this for Trump, he's going there as a campaign stop also, but you have some issues with how his legal team, his legal representation handled this case in the courtroom.
SCHOEN: Well, I mean, a lot of people had issues with that, but they feel they're really up against it. I think President Trump feels very strongly that this was politically motivated. And the terms he uses for it. I think how I might have handled it differently, once the judge made these rulings, I think the record was set. If a client wants to testify and he or she understands the risks and all of that, it's the client's decision.
So in this case, he's a communicator. He wanted to testify. But once we knew that the testimony would be limited to a certain amount of questions and yes-or-no answers, I personally thought the better course might have been for a lawyer to make a proffer as to what his testimony would have been point by point and how that testimony was barred by the court's rulings, and then have the record for the appeal.
I also thought, frankly, on the other side, I was shocked, if these are travel time lawyers, they didn't make more hay with the cross- examination. Once President Trump endorsed fully his deposition, I think a trial lawyer would have taken him point by point through that deposition. But anyway, that's sort of trial tactics, and I guess that's what makes horse racing.
MATTINGLY: Why do you think they took a pass on it?
SCHOEN: I really don't know. I'm not sure -- they're very aggressive lawyers, but I'm not sure that this is exactly their field. Cross- examination is both a science and an art, and I think they missed an opportunity.
But in any event, I think that because of the judge's rulings, this is more of that situation where much of the public sees it as unfair, and he goes up in the polls.
HARLOW: I want to turn now to a case you've been following, a lot of people have been closely, that is Peter Navarro, former Trump adviser, was sentenced yesterday to four months in jail for contempt of Congress. He repeatedly denied subpoenas from the House January 6th Committee. And it was fascinating to see the language of the judge in saying, basically, you wrote about this in your book, you talked about it in interviews with "Rolling Stone," and yet you wouldn't go before the committee. This is most identical to what your client Steve Bannon was convicted on contempt charges in 2022. He's appealing that with your representation. But why do you think Navarro has had this outcome? And do you think he prevails on appeal?
SCHOEN: He has got a different case on appeal. You're 100 percent right. It's the same statute Steve Bannon was convicted under. But according to Judge Mehta in Navarro's case, Judge Mehta found that Navarro, despite being asked repeatedly to prove it, never proved when or where or how executive privilege was invoked. And that's the key to Steve Bannon's case, a key to Steve Bannon's case. Also, Navarro didn't have the defense of reliance on the advice of counsel. Steve Bannon's lawyer told him he was not permitted as a matter of law to respond to the subpoena for a number of reasons.
But I think that the -- ultimately, the main underlying issue is the question of willfully under this contempt of Congress statute, and as the judge in Steve Bannon's case said, he said specifically that he believes Steve Bannon's conviction will be overturned because he thinks previous law on that issue is simply mistaken and Steve Bannon was entitled to put the issue willfully before the jury. I think Navarro has a tougher case.
HARLOW: And hearing Judge Mehta say yesterday the words "executive privilege" are not magical incantations nor a get-out-of-jail-free card, it's going to be fascinating to watch for just the scope of executive privilege writ large, both Bannon's case and Navarro's. David, thank you.
Breaking news this hour. The U.N.'s top court said Israel must take more measures to prevent a genocide in Gaza. This ruling is legally binding, but it is not enforceable. We'll take you live to Jerusalem with much more on this.
MATTINGLY: Donald Trump is strongarming senators and House member alike to reject a border security compromise with President Biden. Why he wants to kill the bill. It's politics. That's next.
MATTINGLY: Breaking news this morning. The International Court of Justice has just ruled that Israel must do more immediately to prevent genocide in Gaza. In a series of provisional measures, the court also says Israel must do more to prevent the killing and harm of civilians and allow more humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. It's also called for the release of all hostages being held by Hamas. The court did not order a cease-fire as requested by South Africa. The ruling is legally binding, but in practice, there are no means of enforcement.
HARLOW: Let's bring in our chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward, who joins us from Jerusalem. Obviously, Israel argued vehemently against this during the three weeks of proceedings, but what does this actually mean on the ground given that it really lacks enforcement teeth?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In terms of what we will see on the ground, I would not expect any major imminent changes, Poppy. But certainly, this is important symbolically. As you mentioned, Israel had pushed very hard to have the case thrown out entirely.
The fact that the president of the court came back today and said that they will hear the case, that they do have jurisdiction over the case, and that they believed based on the evidence that South Africa supplied to the court that there is at least evidence of possible scenarios of some cases where Israel may have violated the Genocide Convention.
She did, of course, emphasize that this is not a ruling or a verdict; that it will take them many months, potentially years to actually hear and arrive at a verdict on the entire case, but it is still significant and a blow to Israel, Poppy, that she did say that they will hear the case, that there is at least enough merit on the face of it for it to proceed.
Now, as you mentioned, Phil, as well, they did not say that there needs to be an immediate cessation of hostilities, but they did order these provisional measures, so-called provisional measures, urging Israel's soldiers and also its citizens to adhere to the Genocide Convention, ordering Israel not to destroy any evidence that may be pertinent to the case, ordering Israel to improve the situation on the ground in terms of the humanitarian situation, allowing more aid in and also, as you mentioned, ordering Hamas to release those hostages immediately.
We haven't had any official reaction here yet. It is likely to be one of indignance. Israeli see this as a perversion of justice. Palestinians, on the other hand, feel that they have seen a glimpse of justice, and there is a sense that on the global stage, given that this is the UN's Highest Court, this is a stain for Israel.
And even though this isn't, as I said before, a conclusive verdict, it does by proceeding forward with this case and hearing this case gives somehow credibility or legitimacy to South Africa's contention that Israel has violated the Genocide Convention.
MATTINGLY: And Clarissa to that point, as Poppy knows, because of the lack of an enforcement mechanism, that world perception, world opinion would seem to be the kind of most critical part of this and I think, it also underscores why Israel, so vigorously denied it, defended themselves and have disputed this. Is that fair?
WARD: I think that's fair, and I think it'll be very interesting to see not just what Israel's reaction is, Phil, but what America's reaction is.
You may remember we heard from the White House when this case was first announced that they thought South Africa's case was without merit. Now, having heard the judge's provisional measures today, what will the US say? What will they recommend to Israel? Will they push Israel to adhere to those provisional measures?
We, of course, have heard the US taking a much stronger tone with Israel in recent days and even months, 112 days into this war, really urging a dramatic need for a reduction in civilian casualties and an improvement in the humanitarian situation.
HARLOW: Clarissa, along with this breaking news, I want to point everyone to the piece you wrote in "The Washington Post" and the headline is "Israel needs to let journalists freely report news in Gaza." Here's an excerpt: "Journalists must be able to exercise our duty to bear witness no matter how difficult or dangerous that may be."
You had two hours on the ground as I believe the only Western journalist allowed in Gaza and all our viewers will remember the images and the horror that your report displayed. Talk about why you wrote this. WARD: Well, we felt it was very important to underscore the fact that
while journalists in Gaza have been doing heroic work at an absolutely horrifying, in terms of the scope of the loss of life, more journalists killed in Gaza than the entire Second World War, the journalists in Gaza cannot do this job alone and they should not have to.
There need to be international journalists inside as well who can add to the work that they're doing, who can provide a different perspective, especially in this age of misinformation, of claim and then counterclaim, it becomes all the more important to have people who are one step removed from the conflict on the ground to see with our eyes and ears ourselves what is going on.
Now a handful of journalists have been allowed to go into the Gaza Strip, but they've had to do that with an IDF escort under a sort of IDF embed. It is really important to allow journalists in to report independently, to do the work that we do.
And I think, everything that we're seeing happening now with the ICJ really underscores that.
WARD: There is a huge amount of information out there on social media, amazing reporting from Gaza as journalists, but there needs to be international journalists on the ground as well to help sift through make sense of it all.
HARLOW: And Clarissa, quickly to that point, your petition, your letter along with CNN to Israel and to Egyptian authorities to request that access that is not supervised by the IDF. Has that been answered?
WARD: We haven't received a reply, not from Israeli authorities, not from Egyptian authorities.
When I've pushed Egyptian authorities, I think it's important to underscore that their attitude has been, listen, this isn't about whether we would let you in or not. The reality is nothing goes across that border into Gaza without explicit permission from the IDF, from Israel. So if you want to get in, it's the Israelis who are the only ones who can really grant you that access.
MATTINGLY: And that should be granted.
Clarissa Ward, thanks so much, as always.
The United States now assisting Ecuador in its war on criminal gangs. CNN rode along with the country's security forces as they carry out raids on suspected gang members. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I think the border is a very important issue
for Donald Trump and the fact that he would communicate to Republican senators and Congresspeople that he doesn't want us to solve the border problem because he wants to blame Biden for it is really appalling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: On Capitol Hill, there is growing outrage, a lot of frustration amongst some Senate Republicans that Donald Trump may have killed or be in the process of killing their best chance in decades to secure the southern border.
Sources tell CNN, the GOP frontrunner has been lobbying Republicans behind closed doors to stop a border compromise. It's being hashed out between a group of senators. Now why? He wants to campaign on the issue in November and he doesn't want Biden to score a key legislative victory before the election.
HARLOW: Trump is saying the quiet part out loud in no uncertain terms. Listen to what he wrote on Truth Social yesterday: "What is currently being worked out in the Senate will be meaningless in terms of border security and closure." He added: "If you want to have a really secure border, your only hope is to vote for Trump in '24."
Scott Jennings is with us, our political commentator and former Special Assistant to George W. Bush, also a very close friend and former aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
There is no love lost between Mitch McConnell and Trump, especially on an issue like this.
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes.
HARLOW: Just the fact that he -- but the fact that he posted this at a time when Republicans have gotten, Phil knows this better than I do, more than they've gotten in that gate --
MATTINGLY: Border security, I have never seen anything like this policy-wise.
HARLOW: Yes, ever? They're going to stick with him, even if he is the reason that this sinks? And is he the reason this thinks?
JENNINGS: Well, he certainly has the political capacity to kill it in the US House. he may have the capacity to kill it in the Senate. I think it's really 50/50 right now on whether this package moves forward.
I mean, I think what the Senate Republicans are facing is a world where even if they could pass this deal, it gets you immigration, Ukraine, Israel -- the whole thing -- that the prospect of it failing in the House is high. So then you have to come back and say, what's our next play? The political reality here is, is that Donald Trump is the most
influential policy person, I say policy and air quotes in the Republican Party, and he has a lot of Republicans who are going to listen to him on it.
He could never get this deal. No one could -- this is a unique moment to get everything Republicans are going to get in this and their parole and asylum changes that even Trump asked for when he was president that they're going to get, they've effectively got Joe Biden on his knees here on an issue that is the most important issue to Republican voters.
We've told Republicans, the party has, that this is an invasion at the southern border. And what Trump is now arguing is, well, yes, but we can wait a year and I may or may not be president. So we'll deal with it then. These are not congruent statements.
MATTINGLY: And also, he won't have 60 votes for whatever it is that he plans to do if he becomes president.
JENNINGS: No way.
MATTINGLY: There is no chance of it.
You know, this kind of all underscores something that I think you and I, if we are being candid, and we always are, Scott Jennings, with one another. This is a surprising moment for a lot of people because of things like what your former boss told Jonathan Martin, friend of the show, Jonathan Martin for his book with Alex Burns about Trump where like in the wake of January 6th, he is quoted in a book saying, "I feel exhilarated by the fact that this fellow totally discredited himself," when he was asked about his feelings on the violence and the rioters about Trump.
He said, "He put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Couldn't have happened at a better time." And yet, Mitch McConnell, the leader of Republicans in the Senate is once again, dealing with the same exact stuff he dealt with for four years in the US Senate, and it seems like there's more people in his conference that are listening to Trump now than ever before.
JENNINGS: Oh, no question. Look at the last election. I mean, he traded out Rob Portman in Ohio for JD Vance, who is obviously a lot closer to Donald Trump.
We lost Pennsylvania, we traded Blunt in Missouri for Josh Hawley. I mean, the conference got closer to Donald Trump in the last election. The House has been steadily moving that direction as well.
So when it comes to policy, influence, and overall political influence, there is no question that Donald Trump has the upper hand and can probably enforce anything that he wants to do.
My question for Republican voters, though is, do you believe this is an invasion or not? Do you believe that we can stand another year of the southern border being in total chaos and crisis or not? I think Republicans have come to believe this situation needs to be
dealt with now, and then to be told, well, we can put it off. That's significant whiplash, and what my political concern is, is that Joe Biden is going to use this as a weapon against Republicans in the fall and say, I came all the way to their side. I wanted to give them everything they wanted and they still wouldn't do it.
It makes us look not serious about governing, I think by -- I think the ship has sailed for Biden on the immigration. He can't fix himself on it now. So for Republicans to solve it would make them look like a responsible governing party.
HARLOW: But he could at least have a couple of months that aren't record highs like December was, but Chris Murphy, Democratic senator said the legislative text is 95 percent there.
When they put it out and people can actually see then, Scott, how much is according to those who are writing it on the Republican side here, will that change anything?
JENNINGS: Maybe for some people, but I think that for a lot of these Republicans especially in the House, they fear Trump more than they fear not passing a bill.
Also remember, the conference is -- you know, it has a very, very small majority over there, and the complicated issues of Ukraine as well, which they really don't want to do. I mean, it is a complex situation.