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New York Prosecutors Willing To Delay Trump Hush Money Trial; Today: Irish Leaders Meet With Biden Amid Gaza Tensions; Judge Denies Motion To Dismiss Classified Documents Case. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired March 15, 2024 - 05:30   ET




KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: All right, 5:30 on the East Coast. A live look at New York City. Good morning. Thanks for being up with us. I'm Kasie Hunt.

On the same day a judge denied one of Donald Trump's motion to -- motions to dismiss charges in his classified documents case, the former president did get a small win in New York. New court filings show the Manhattan district attorney's office is willing to delay Trump's criminal hush money trial for up to 30 days. That would push the start date of that into April, giving Trump's lawyers time to review new materials that were turned over by federal prosecutors this week. That has played right into Trump's hands.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We don't know what's going to happen. We want delays. Obviously, I'm running for election. How can -- how can you run for election and be sitting in a courthouse?


HUNT: "We want delays, obviously," he says.

CNN national political reporter Daniel Strauss joins me now with more. Daniel, good morning.


HUNT: It's great to see you.

So this delays -- honestly, it was -- you could probably lay the blame at the feet of prosecutors in the Southern District of New York for this. Alvin Bragg, the D.A., going along with this. They have to read the material as well. But it really does play right into the Trump strategy overall, which is try to delay all of these until the election.

STRAUSS: Right, right, and that's a big part of -- I mean, for two reasons, the Trump team really wants to hold back on and delay as much as possible. One is just more time for him to be on the campaign trail. And two, raises the chance that he won't have to worry about any conviction until if he's elected president -- being in office -- and then he can pardon himself.

HUNT: Yeah. Well, I mean, it's more complicated in the New York case, specifically, but I take your point -- kind of broadly, especially with the -- with the federal cases.

What else did you see? I mean, we're expecting a ruling from the judge who is considering whether or not Fani Willis is going to be thrown off of the case in Georgia. He's already made a couple of moves that seem to side, at least a little bit, with the defendants in throwing out those six charges.

What is your sense of how this is going to cut?

STRAUSS: I mean, look, it's a funny situation because, on the one hand, Trump and his team really want to highlight the situation that Fani Willis is in. They want to argue that this is a larger sign of unfair play and corruption. But at the end, it really doesn't affect what Trump is facing -- the charges he's facing in that whether she had this -- I mean, whether she's convicted of -- not convicted. Whether she is facing --

HUNT: Whether she is thrown off the case or not?

STRAUSS: Whether she is thrown off the case or not -- thank you -- does not affect the -- whether Trump is still facing these accusations in Georgia.

And I think in the end, it's for him, very much a P.R. battle. He sees this as sort of a fight in the public arena and public perception. And if he can delegitimize his prosecutors he feels that he's going to win in the end.

HUNT: In some ways, he's already made some progress on that front.


HUNT: Daniel, let's talk for a minute -- change gears and talk about your reporting because as obviously, the legal cases are proceeding against the former president he is also moving forward with what is going to be the longest general election campaign.

And one of the things they're doing is trying to consolidate power at the Republican National Committee. I mean, this is not an uncommon way of doing things but I know that you've been kind of reporting it out and digging into what they're doing differently. What have you learned?

STRAUSS: Well, this is -- unlike most cycles, this is a campaign that wants to be in lockstep with the RNC, so much so that they want the RNC to focus only on reelected Donald Trump. And usually, a national committee has other mandates helping to reelect or elect Republicans across the board.

[05:35:05] But here, the new team that Trump is putting -- installing at the RNC wants the committee to focus on election integrity -- and a lot of that -- and fundraising, but not so much geo TV or boosting --

HUNT: Get out the vote.


HUNT: Yeah.

STRAUSS: Or boosting lower-ticket candidates, which is unusual because again, the job of the RNC in general is to help Republicans at every level and really support them across the country, especially among state committees. And the Trump team sees this as just something -- they want to meld the organization with the campaign as closely as possible.

HUNT: Yeah. I mean, I will say it's not unusual that a president will kind of not, like, take over the committee but it really does become kind of an arm of their campaign in its own way.

I find that election integrity focus to be interesting. I mean, the word that they're using is aggressive.

What do you -- how do you see that playing out?

STRAUSS: I mean, it falls into sort of a key sentiment that the former president feels right now about the 2020 election and the RNC, which is that he feels that the RNC did not do enough to pursue claims of election fraud and he wants to see a more aggressive push on that front. He wants to see more lawyers. He wants to see a more robust election integrity division within the RNC. And he wants to see, essentially, a more focused committee on that single --

HUNT: Right.

STRAUSS: -- pillar of its jobs.

HUNT: Yeah. Well, we should -- and we should see that as foreshadowing what we're going to see in November.


HUNT: Daniel Strauss. Daniel, thank you very much for --

STRAUSS: Thanks.

HUNT: -- that. I appreciate it.

All right. This Sunday is St. Patrick's Day and Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar is expected to make his annual visit to Washington this weekend. But this year it's a bit more -- there's some tensions. He is planning to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza when he arrives.

CNN's senior White House producer Betsy Klein joins me now. Betsy, good morning to you. Thank you so much for being here.


HUNT: So this is typically -- you know, I've covered a bunch of these on Capitol Hill. The Taoiseach comes in. There's a big lunch. Irish- American members of Congress are usually particularly excited to see him. I remember when Ted Kennedy was a member. Everyone is in green ties. It's typically festive.

It seems like this visit is going to have much more serious overtones. Why?

KLEIN: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, this is an annual fun and festive tradition but this year really overshadowed by Israel's war in Gaza. And as my colleague Kevin Liptak reports, that is informed by this very close ties between the Irish people for the Palestinian cause -- informed by what many regard as the shared history of oppression and violence. And so there is enormous pressure on the Taoiseach this year.

You know, it's a fun event. They have the White House fountains dyed green. There is this big lunch, as you mentioned. They exchange a bowl of crystal -- a crystal bowl of shamrocks. But this year, that is -- there are overwhelming calls for the Taoiseach to boycott this visit and -- from his constituents and also from political leaders in Ireland.

HUNT: So how do you expect him to handle this, and how do you expect President Biden to handle this as well? Because, of course, Biden is Irish-American, right? He embraces those roots. He's visited Ireland. This is something that's very kind of personal to him and we kind of know how his personality can come out in these kinds of settings. But potentially, there's a difficult line to walk because it's so politically challenging for him here at home as well.

KLEIN: Yeah, that's absolutely right. And he -- the Taoiseach has made clear he is not canceling this visit but he is going to make a very clear and forceful call for an immediate ceasefire for a peace process. And, you know, that's not that different from what Biden recently has been stepping up those calls for a ceasefire. The difference here is that the president does not plan to condition U.S. military aid to Israel.

HUNT: Betsy, more broadly -- I mean, the -- how do the Irish view kind of what President Biden has done for them in looking at how he has navigated thorny questions around Northern Ireland and his general support for them?

KLEIN: I think there is enormous support for that. And it also comes as he's facing this political pressure at home for his handling of this war more broadly. That's with -- from Irish-Americans and Americans in his own party. We saw what happened in Minnesota. We saw what happened in Michigan where all those Democrats voted uncommitted.

The White House trying to do this outreach to the Muslim and Arab- American communities but really struggling to break through. A lot of those leaders that we've talked to in the course of our reporting have said that they're not interested in meeting with the president and having any engagement with any White House officials until there is a full ceasefire.


HUNT: All right, Betsy Klein for us on this Friday. Betsy, thank you very much, and Happy St. Patrick's Day.

All right. Just in, we've got brand-new video of one of several tornadoes that tore across the Midwest. This one hit in Kentucky. Look at that. And we're getting new information about the destruction that they left in their wake.

Plus, police investigating a sexual assault allegation against Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.


HUNT: Motion denied. U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon declining to toss out the classified documents case against Donald Trump. It was one of two motions heard on Thursday. The former president's lawyers tried to make the argument that the law prohibiting the unlawful retention of national defense information was too vague to apply.


And that's just one of several Trump legal developments unfolding -- that unfolded Thursday. More is set to unfold today.

Joining us to discuss is David Schoen, Trump's trial defense lawyer in his second impeachment trial. David, thanks for being here.


HUNT: So we've got a lot to get to here. Let's start with what happened yesterday.

Judge Cannon told a Trump lawyer that throwing out these charges because the law was vague would be "extraordinary." But there's still another piece of this motion that she has to rule on -- a second motion, although she seems to express skepticism, and that's around the Presidential Records Act, which the Trump team is arguing requires the case be thrown out.

What did you make of the way Judge Cannon handled this yesterday? And do you think the Trump team is going to be successful in this second motion?

SCHOEN: Very interesting questions.

I think she handled things very well, frankly. I think that she acted in a reasoned and measured manner. I don't think that the denial without prejudice of the void for vagueness motion was a critical development I think. And she's absolutely right it would be an extraordinary measure. I say she acted in a reasonable measured fashion in the sense that she said we'll revisit this perhaps during the jury instruction -- jury instruction period or something like that.

She said that they raised serious considerations but that she wasn't prepared to dismiss it, and I think that's entirely appropriate.

On the other issue -- I think there are several other issues, but on this Presidential Records Act -- you know, the sides are absolutely as polarized as they could be. The government's position is the Presidential Records Act is completely irrelevant to the question. It's a different context completely. And the Trump team is -- position is it's everything in a sense.

The Presidential Records Act is somewhat -- it's a statute that describes who has the right and responsibilities with respect to presidential records.

What the defense team is relying on primarily is this 2012 case from Judge Amy Berman Jackson -- ironically. She's not a fan of President Trump as some of her past decisions have indicated. But that case involved former President Clinton. And in it, she said basically, looking at the statute that the statute only designates one person who can determine whether records are personal or presidential, and that's the president. The Archives doesn't have a role in that designation process. And so, the defense relies on that.

But whether or not one says the Presidential Records Act applies, I think it's directly relevant to the mens rea, the mental state required under the statute. The statute requires that the defendant willfully have misused, in one way or another, national defense information. I think the defense would argue that --

Willfully, by the way, means, of course, in the criminal context, that one does something that he or she knows to be wrong or against the law.

They would say that the Presidential Records Act at least informs the mental state of the defendant -- in this case, President Trump -- former President Trump. And so that when he got advice that he had the right to designate and that he designated while in office and these were personal records, he couldn't have had a criminal state of mind and therefore shouldn't be prosecuted criminally, and so on.

It's a -- it's a very interesting and real issue.

But there are some other things, by the way. I think that one of the primary issues in this case ought to be whether Judge Howell in the D.C. court, who ordered Evan Corcoran, President Trump's former lawyer -- his records to be turned -- his notes to be turned over almost in wholesale fashion -- whether that violated attorney-client privilege and tainted the grand jury process.

There are a number of interesting issues. I'm sorry to talk so long. HUNT: Yeah, we've kind of dug into a lot of details here.

Why don't we -- why don't we sort of pull out and do a little bit big picture and then we can drill down if we need to.

There are obviously four situations playing out now. I mean, three of them have kind of developments over the course of the last couple of days. We've been talking about the classified documents case. There's this delay in the New York case. Then there is also the Georgia election case. We are anticipating a ruling from Judge Scott McAfee as to whether or not the D.A. Fani Willis can continue in her role there.

When you look at these, if you are thinking about all of Trump's legal problems in a holistic way, which one are you most worried about and focused on, and why?

SCHOEN: Ah, that's a great -- another great question.

I don't know the answer to that. I think that each case presents its own challenges. What I have felt most recently is that the focus really must -- for the defense team must be on the New York case. Whether they and the public think that's the least serious case or not.

When one is sitting in a courtroom, especially with a judge like Judge Merchan, who is -- I hate to say it but a real Trump hater -- he -- it's not a pleasant situation. And I find him to be very prosecution- oriented and a very sensitive public opinion, and so on.


So I think that's the one that really ought to be the focus now.

The other cases really are sort of on hold in a sense. We are waiting for the immunity decision. I think they have to wait for the obstruction of justice decision from the Supreme Court also for the D.C. case.

The Georgia case, as you say, is playing out with this Fani Willis issue. I think the conventional wisdom among local lawyers here, both involved in the case and not involved, is that the judge is going to have to disqualify her, especially based on her testimony and Mr. Wade's testimony, which many people feel wasn't truthful.

And I don't know. That's kind of where you have it.

HUNT: If she were to be disqualified, what do you see as the future of the case?

SCHOEN: I think the case goes on, frankly. I know a lot of people have said skeptically that it wouldn't, but as you know, the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council then would appoint another district attorney around the state to take over the case.

I think politically and otherwise, since the grand jury has returned an indictment here it probably doesn't go away. I think there are a number of issues in the case that could make it go away. But I think politically, that would be a tough one but it certainly would be delayed.

HUNT: Yeah.

All right, David Schoen for us this morning. David, thanks very much for joining us. I really appreciate your time.

SCHOEN: Thank you. Thank you.

HUNT: All right. Dallas police confirm Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is being investigated for his involvement in an alleged sexual assault that took place in 2017.

Carolyn Manno has this morning's Bleacher Report. Carolyn, good morning.


The investigation is the result of a complaint filed Thursday by a woman who alleged that Prescott assaulted her in the back of an SUV seven years ago. And according to the complaint obtained by CNN, Prescott allegedly exposed himself to the woman and then when she refused his advances, the woman claims that he physically forced himself on her.

Now, the investigation comes just days after Prescott filed a lawsuit accusing the woman of trying to extort him for $100 million. Police in Prosper, Texas have opened up a separate investigation into the quarterback's claims.

In a statement to CNN, Prescott's lawyer denies the woman's allegations, saying, "The timing is important here. The extortion investigation began first. She didn't go to any law enforcement for over seven years. But once they became aware that the $100 million extortion plot had failed and that they are the subject of a criminal investigation they, for the first time, file a police report in a different jurisdiction."

CNN has reached out to the NFL and the Cowboys. They have not immediately heard back. So far, we're waiting to see.

Elsewhere, a swarm of bees on the tennis court forcing world number two Carlos Alcaraz and number six Alexander Zverev to run for cover during their Indian Wells quarterfinal yesterday. Play was suspended for more than an hour while a specialist from a company called Killer Bee Live Removal sucked up around 3,500 flying insects into a device.

Alcaraz eventually won in straight sets. His agent said that the Spaniard was stung on the forehead during the incident but is fine.


CARLOS ALCARAZ, WORLD NO. 2: Yeah, it was -- it was strange. I've never seen something like that on a tennis court. I mean, at this match. When we ran out of the court, we were watching the -- you know, the bee invasion on the -- on the TV over there. And yeah, we laughed a lot about the (INAUDIBLE). It was -- it was funny for me. But yes, it's going to be remembered for that -- not for the tennis, but for the bees.


MANNO: In hoops now, the Celtics are the first team in the NBA to clinch a playoff spot. Boston needed a win over the Suns and needed the Sixers to lose to the Bucks last night to earn a top-six position and they got both.

Jaylen Brown dropped 37 points to get past Kevin Durant and the Suns 127-112. Boston improving to an NBA best 52-14 on the season with a 9 1/2-game lead over second-place Milwaukee in the east.

And this is -- this is really something, Kasie. Last night was supposed to be Jaromir Jagr bobblehead night in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, the shipment of nearly 18,000 bobbleheads was stolen after arriving in California. State and federal authorities are now searching for the brazen bobbleheads bandits and they're going to have a little bit of help from the 51-year-old hockey legend.


JAROMIR JAGR, CZECH PROFESSIONAL ICE HOCKEY RIGHT WINGER: Buckle up, baby. Let's go find your friends.


MANNO: Yeah. So last night's game against the Sharks given a voucher that they can redeem for a bobblehead at a later date.

The Penguins ended up winning this game 6-3.

I am just -- I am fascinated by this. I don't know if these bandits decided to plan the Jaromir Jagr bobblehead heist of 2024 or when they open up the cargo shipments they realized that they had thousands of bobbleheads that they now have to figure out how to monetize. But either way, I think they'll become an interesting piece for collectors, no doubt about it.


HUNT: Uh, yeah. I mean, what do you do with 18,000 bobbleheads? Sell them on -- I mean, if you try to sell them on eBay aren't you going to get busted, like, immediately? I'm confused.

MANNO: That's the thing. There's a paper trail here. A very specific image of this bobblehead circulating around. And now Jaromir Jagr is apparently on the case. It's very interesting fodder. But I bet you they'll start to maybe show up somewhere and hopefully, collectors will go crazy.

But these poor people that drove to get these bobbleheads. At least they get a voucher. At least they'll get one.

HUNT: Yeah. Well, we'll see if they can ever apply it.

All right, that's a great way to kick off our weekend. Carolyn, thank you.

MANNO: Happy Friday.

HUNT: Up next here, we are getting new video from the deadly tornadoes that hit overnight. At least two people killed, RVs flipped over and destroyed, and more storms seem to be firing up now. We'll bring you that.

Plus, a Georgia judge will soon decide whether to disqualify D.A. Fani Willis in Trump's election subversion case.