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NYT: Judges Urged Cannon To Hand Off Classified Docs Case; U.S.-Russian Ballerina On Trial For Alleged Treason In Russia; Extreme Heat in East & Midwest, Storms Over New Mexico & Four Corners. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired June 21, 2024 - 05:00   ET



MANU RAJU, CNN ANCHOR: It's Friday, June 21st.

Right now on CNN THIS MORNING:

The judge in Donald Trump's classified documents case ready to hear a request by the former president to invalidate the appointment of special counsel Jack Smith.

Millions of Americans facing life-threatening flooding and suffocating heat with no let up in sight.

And new concerns that Israel's Iron Dome could be overwhelmed if a full-blown war breaks out against Hezbollah.


RAJU: Five a.m. here in Washington, here's a live look in New York City.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Manu Raju, in for Kasie Hunt. It's great to be with you this morning.

Later today, Donald Trump's lawyers will be in a Florida courtroom taking aim at the prosecutor who brought criminal charges against the former president over his handling of classified documents at Mar-a- Lago federal judge, Aileen Cannon will hear arguments on a request by Trump to declare Jack Smith's appointment as special counsel in the case invalid. Trump is not expected to attend.

But the decision by the judge to hear that request adds to the growing questions and criticism of our handling of the case and whether she slow-walking. Similar challenges from Trump and other high-level special counsel targets like Hunter Biden and Paul Manafort have fallen flat. Yet this hearing comes as "The New York Times" reports two federal judges urged Judge Aileen Cannon to hand off the classified documents case, but Cannon, who was appointed by Trump, wanted to keep the case and brushed off the requests according to that report.

One of the judges named in the article, Cecilia Altonaga, chief judge in the Southern District of Florida, declined to comment to CNN. "The New York Times" did not name the other judge.

Now, joining me now to discuss, CNN legal analyst, Joey Jackson.

Joey, great to see you. Good morning.

This is pretty unusual request to -- unusual to hear a quiet to dismiss a special counsel. Is there a legitimate reason for Aileen Cannon and granting this hearing today?

JOEY JACKSON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So I think that the ultimate and bottom-line -- good morning to you, Manu -- is it has to be about public confidence, right? I think what occurs and we could seriously have an argument as to whether she's drag this out, slow roll this, gone down rabbit holes, entertained issues that should not be entertained, but ultimately, if you're going to look at the special appointment and its propriety. I think it's important then to determine whether or not the special counsel was appointed properly, whether or not it should have been done by Congress, whether or not the appointment being done by the attorney general was appropriate?

I don't think it carries much weight, but I think ultimately if the American people after hearing reached the determination that there's nothing to see here, then the matter goes forward confidently. Nobody questions that dynamic of whether this is a political prosecution or otherwise. And so I don't question whether or not this should be this proceeding. I just question then the nature and manner, Manu, in which she is handled the entirety of this proceeding from the outset.

RAJU: Yeah, and I want to draw -- I want to get your lay out, your thinking on that because given the way that Judge Cannon has handled this case and repeatedly siding with Trump's team, essentially grinding this case in some ways to a halt. I mean, is there let me validity to the criticism that she is not handled this case neutrally.

JACKSON: Yeah, I think there is validity to that, and that's what -- that's a problem. And I think that's why, you know, potentially people are just looking at this saying, hey, what's going on?

Judges are going to make decisions, monitor that people don't agree with, right? That's a judge's job. It's not to be popular, it's the focus on the law.

But generally, my experience as a practitioner is that judges liked to move the calendar along. What does that mean? It means that if a defense attorney has an issue, whether it be at appointment of a special counsel, whether it be, how we're going to review classified documents, whether it'd be that this is indicative prosecution, you submit your motion, you have a hearing.

You just don't hold on to things, not make decisions and drag matters out and go down rabbit holes. And so it's a valid criticism. I don't question again, her competence, right?


I think you could say she's inexperienced. Okay. Everybody once upon a time is going to be an experience. You could say she was only U.S. attorney for several years, you know, but she comes from great -- great law schools. She's done great things but the bottom line is move the matter along, make decisions, right? Give opinions, and you have law clerks, right?

There are people who you work with as a judge who can write opinions for you. You have other judges. You can consolidate resources. So I just think that nature of how she's handled this really suggests it to the scrutiny that you and I are having this argument, and it's a fair debate to say, what are you doing, Judge? Get this case on the road. She is not.

RAJU: What do you make of "The New York Times" reporting that there were two judges apparently who asked her to essentially hand off the case and she declined that request.

JACKSON: So, listen, as a federal judge, your appointed for life and you do what you think is most appropriate, though, I make of it that there are other judges who did a look see at this and said, hey, maybe you're not the one to be evaluating this case. You are involved in this case in an earlier time.

There was a search warrant dealing with Mar-a-Lago that you may rulings upon, the optics may not be fair or appropriate, particularly when you made decisions early on in terms of the FBI's looking and search warrant, and it was favorable to Trump. It got reversed by an appellate court. They really use some strong language against you, maybe you should move on.

And so, she made the decision not to and to keep the case what she could. But the fact that other judges came to her says that it's not just the public who had been a concern at the outset. Her colleagues had a concern and that's troubling.

RAJU: You know, I want you to just kind of way you in about how Trump has long said that this is a two tiered system of justice. Yet he in this case, for instance, he has succeeded in getting Judge Cannon in drawing this out.

He went to this -- gone to the Supreme Court to ask for immunity. Maybe they'll ruled in his favor, but a very least, they have some key succeeded in delaying the two federal cases against him.

In a lot of ways, Trump is benefiting from the same justice system in which she has criticized.

JACKSON: Yeah, Manu, that's a great point, right? The reality is, is that as I said at the outset, judge is going to make rulings that we don't agree with. That's the nature of it, happens all the time, right?

But the reality also is, is that it's a system that is available to everyone. You just can't cherry pick and when a judge doesn't do things that are favorable to you, say hell two-tiered system, it's rigged, it's ridiculous. But when they do things your way, oh, great, judge. This is how it should be. So, you know, you say great things about a judge who makes rulings that are favorable, but anyone who makes a ruling on favorable to you, oh, it's a rigged. It's, you know, it's really a political hit job. That's not the way it works. We've seen the prosecution of Hunter Biden really, Joe Biden's son, that to me demonstrates that everyone's being scrutinized and looked at, and people are being held accountable for conduct, whether you're Democrat, Republican, or otherwise, this is our system of justice.

RAJU: All right. Joey Jackson, always appreciate your expertise. Thanks for joining us early this morning. I appreciate it.

All right. Up next, a ballerina facing child in Russia on treason charges.

Plus, new details about how Biden and Trump are preparing for next week's CNN debate.

And why FBI agents just raided the home of Oakland's mayo.



RAJU: A Russian-American ballerina going on trial for treason after visiting her parents in Russia. She's accused of being a spy and giving money to the Ukrainian army, allegations that are common for U.S. nationals caught up in the rising tensions between Moscow and Washington.

CNN's Matthew Chance reports.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CHIEF GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yet another U.S. citizen on trial in Russia. This is Ksenia Karelina from Los Angeles, now in a glass cage near Yekaterinburg. The dual Russian citizen, the 33-year-old, was arrested on treason charges earlier this year while visiting family.

In the U.S., she's a beautification and amateur ballerina accused of donating just over $50 to a Ukrainian charity.

Her boyfriend, Chris Van Heerden, issuing a new statement obtained by OUTFRONT calling for her immediate release.

It's hard to believe Ksenia that's been in Russia on unable to return to the U.S. for over six months, he wrote. She is an innocent young woman with her whole life ahead of her. Her friends and supporters are hopeful that the Russian courts we'll see that prosecuting her is a mistake, and send her home to Los Angeles.

Hi. Matthew from CNN. Are you holding up, all right?

No, no questions. But Russia is now holding a growing number of U.S. citizens in jail,

like "Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich, whose trial for espionage is set to start next week.

The 32-year-old journalist denies allegations he was gathering information on a Russian tank factory for the CIA.

Paul Whelan, a 54-year-old former U.S. marine, serving 16 years in a Russian prison.

PAUL WHELAN, IMPRISONED IN RUSSIA: I am innocent of any charges, all of this is political kidnapping.

CHANCE: What U.S. officials say they were trumped up spying charges.

And Alsu Kurmasheva, a dual U.S. citizen working for Radio Free Europe, accused of failing to register as a foreign agent.

Critics accused the Kremlin of collecting Americans as bargaining chips to trade.


Not every detained American is accused of spying. School teacher Marc Fogel was sentenced in 2022 to 14 years hard labor for bringing medical marijuana into the country.

STAFF SGT. GORDON BLACK, U.S. ARMY: Just like to say hi to my mom and dad back home in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Love you. Have a happy new year.

CHANCE: And Gordon Black, 34 year-olds staff sergeant in the U.S. Army, was recently sentenced to nearly four years here for stealing money and assaulting a woman believed to be his Russian girlfriend.

There have been prisoner swaps before, like the U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner convicted for carrying cannabis oil into Russia, in exchange for a convicted Russian arms dealer in the U.S. jail.

But the prisoner Kremlin most wants now is this man, Vadim Krasikov, an FSB agent convicted of killing a Chechen dissident in a public park in Berlin. But Germany is reluctant to bargain a convicted Russian assassin for the American prisoners the Kremlin maybe willing to trade.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


RAJU: All right. Next, why a judge dismissed charges against dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters who took over a building at Columbia University?

Plus, we are on Supreme Court watch awaiting a ruling on Donald Trump's claim of absolute immunity.


RAJU: All right, 20 minutes past the hour. Here's your morning roundup.

A New York judge dismissing trespassing charges against 30 people who were arrested inside Columbia University's Hamilton Hall during pro- Palestinian protests in April. Reason, a lack of evidence. Fifteen suspects still face charges.

Federal agents raiding the home of Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao. Law enforcement sources telling CNN's local affiliate that the raid is related to political corruption case against a mayor and others. And "The L.A. Times" reporting the search included agents from the FBI, the IRS, and the UPS Postal Service -- U.S Postal Service.

Extreme heat up to 120 degrees killing more than 300 people at the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, thousands more are being treated for heat stroke. Officials say the death toll is likely to increase the summer begins.

An extreme heat impacting cities in the East today with Washington, D.C. set to hit 100 degrees for the first time in eight years. The Four Corners and parts of New Mexico bracing for flooding.

Meteorologist Derek Van Dam tracking all of it.

So, Derek, just how bad is it?


Here's the deal. Some people getting relief this morning, mainly northern New England while the Midwest and the mid-Atlantic start to build up the heat once again.

So you see all the heat alerts in place, New York, Philadelphia, all the way to Washington stretching westward towards the southwestern portions of Michigan. But it's not just there.

Look at the western side of the country as well. So over 100 million Americans impacted by this excessive heat today, some of the records we broke yesterday. Here's a few examples. Hartford, Connecticut 98 degrees.

So here's what it feels like as you step outside today, this includes the humidity and boy that is just plain old uncomfortable for the nations capital. It's tomorrow where we believe the mercury in the thermometer will climb to at least 100 degrees. So yes, records that's in the forecast through the weekend. And you can see that triple-digit heat impact in places like Philadelphia and D.C., New York shy of that, but still hot, very humid, more the same across the southeast as well. So that's the big story along the East Coast. Rain in the potential of flooding across the upper Midwest, namely into Minnesota.

And this is the remnants of Alberto. And remember fires across portions of New Mexico, ongoing drought conditions rained too much of it in a short period of time and very drought conditions. And that, of course, leads to the potential of flash flooding. So that's why we have of these flood watches in place for the area and not to mention the heavy rain that is ongoing across a southern sections of Minneapolis.

You can see some of our rainfall totals through Saturday could exceed a half a foot and we don't take much rain to really start to bring some problems to the southwestern parts of the U.S.

So, Manu, from heat to flash flooding. We've got it all covered today.

RAJU: Yeah. I mean, it just summer just starting, and already, so it's brutal conditions.

VAN DAM: Yeah.

RAJU: Derek Van Dam, thanks for that.

And up next for us, how President Biden and Donald Trump are gearing up for next week's historic CNN debate.

Plus, U.S. officials very worried, but Israel's ability to defend itself against air attacks.



RAJU: Five twenty-eight a.m. here in Washington, and here's a live look at Capitol Hill.

Good morning, everyone. I'm Manu Raju, in for Kasie Hunt. It's great to be with you.

The Supreme Court could rule on Donald Trump's claim -- immunity claim as soon as this morning, and a former president arguing, quote, official acts as president should be protected from prosecution, including his alleged role in attempting to overturn the 2020 election. It's one of the most highly anticipated opinions this year with major political implications.

I caught up with Republican Senator Mike Rounds and asked him whether he thinks presidents should be granted full immunity.


SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R-SD): I personally do not think that a president, while he is in office, has 100 percent immunity against anything he does. I don't -- I don't think that's the way the Founding Fathers had expected it to be. But I do think for a lot of the things that a president is expected to do within his job description that I do think he has a significant amount of immunity.

RAJU: Do you have a view on whether there should be a verdict but reached before the election? ROUNDS: Yeah. I think there should be a verdict. I don't think

anything should be delayed on something like that. And this is of consequence to the country to actually hear what this is.


RAJU: Joining me now to discuss, "Nevada Independent" D.C. correspondent Gabby Birenbaum, and "Washington Examiner" congressional reporter, Samantha-Jo Roth.

Good morning to you both. Thanks for joining me.