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Trump And 18 Others Charged In Georgia Election Inquiry; Trump Now Facing 91 Criminal Charges In Four Criminal Cases; Trump, 18 Others Charged in 41 Count Georgia Indictment. Aired 1-2a ET

Aired August 15, 2023 - 01:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good evening, everyone and welcome back to our special breaking news coverage. I'm Laura Coates on this stunning night in American history as the 45th U.S. president is criminally indicted now, for the fourth time. Donald Trump now say accused of leading a criminal enterprise to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kaitlan Collins. It's not just Trump, 18 others also have been charged alongside him in this 41-count indictment tonight including his former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Its former attorney Rudy Giuliani and the one time mayor of New York, all 19 defendants are facing racketeering charges.

COATES: I mean, the indictment states all quote, refuse to accept that Trump lost and they knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump.

Joining me now here in DC CNN's Evan Perez, also the Washington correspondent of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Tia Mitchell and Norm Eisen back as well former House Judiciary, special counsel and then President Trump's first impeachment trial.

Look, this is happening in Georgia, all their other states are implicated here. Tia, Georgia is unique for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that you've got Republicans who were really in the crosshairs essentially of the wrath of Donald Trump, and also those who were solicited specifically. This is not me -- this is Brian Kemp. This is Brad Roethlisberger. This is Gabriel Sterling, to name a few.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Yes, and it's interesting. I actually started out the day in Atlanta. The first person I saw when I got to the courthouse was Gabriel Sterling arriving for his interview with the grand jury today.

We don't think Raffensperger was called for the grand jury. But it's likely if this thing goes to trial. Raffensperger could be called, of course, we know Jeff Duncan, the former Lieutenant Governor went to the grand jury today, he's likely to be called, it could even go up to Brian Kemp.

And there are when you read through the indictment, there are a lot of Republican state senators that are also mentioned, as people who were pressured to either take action that the district attorney believes was illegal or --

COATES: Or they were lied to.

MITCHELL: Or that they were lied to in these legislative hearings that, you know, all these various of these indicted co-conspirators that said that they went to these legislative bodies and either solicited them for unlawful activities, or did not present factual evidence to them.

And so it is really interesting that this is happening in Georgia. So it isn't as partisan as Trump and his allies and his attorneys might try to make it seem. There are Republicans who have repeatedly said what he was doing around the 2020 election was wrong.

COATES: And by the way, I mean, just think, right. You know, we know this is televised, I mean, unlike the remaining trials, this -- I mean, the fact that you're going to have television, able to be seen here. First of all, we're talking about Donald Trump, who has not shied away from a camera in recent times, who's way thrived in that medium in space. But also you're talking about you imagined, and Tia's point, a parade of Republicans of these highly, you know, prominent officials who might be witnesses to testify in Georgia.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: All did the right thing. You know, certainly these are very important witnesses. These are people who stood up and, you know, abided by their oath, right, to do the right thing, to do the things that they were sworn to do to uphold their -- the state constitution.

And just, you know, stood up for their voters, the voters of that state. They knew there wasn't fraud, and they did the right thing, just like Mike Pence did right. And that's what's going to be probably one of the more powerful aspects of this because Donald Trump is and his allies are really painting this picture that people are out to get him, that it's all Democrats.


And here you have, as you pointed out all of these important Republican figures that will be called an bear witness.

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And on the other hand, you have the David Shafers, the head of the Georgia Republican Party, the Cathy Lathams, the Shawn Stills, you have other very active Republican leaders in this state who allegedly, were part of our RICO conspiracy, and racketeering enterprise instead of to steal money or goods to steal the rightful electoral votes from Joe Biden for Donald Trump.

PEREZ: The question is --

EISEN: So it's like the -- it's -- what's going to be on trial in that televised trial is the two faces of the Republican Party. And we see that a lot here in Washington to in the struggle between the MAGA group and Congress. And the Mitch McConnell's, the main stream, mainline Main Street Republicans.

COATES: But you heard from David Schoen earlier in our conversation, right, he was the counsel and the second impeachment trial for Donald Trump. But he made the comment, look, this might not stay in Georgia, at least in the state level. He talked about maybe having it removed federally, and I can tell you right at the table, and I know I saw that familiar Norm Eisen rock forward, leaning into the moment, but let me -- let you release that tension.

EISEN: I -- first of all, David is a very fine criminal defense lawyer. But he's absolutely wrong about Section 1442, the removal statute. And here's why. The law is that you can only remove a case the Supreme Court has held in Nixon v. Fitzgerald, you can only take a case out of Fani Willis talked about this very eloquently in our press conference, state elections, state jurisdiction to protect democracy.

We don't just let you yank that willy-nilly. It's only if it is within the outer perimeter. So quote from the Supreme Court of your official duties, well, how is a political candidate staging an attempted coup within the constitutional job description of our president's official duties, and I'll see David's 11 Circuit case, the federal jurisdiction with a controlling case Baucham v. Martin, which says an officer who acts out of any personal interest, check, malice, check, actual criminal intent, check, or for any other reason that to do his duty, no removal.

This case Trump will try. David didn't mention it was tried with the Manhattan case. Alvin Bragg, Judge Hellerstein body slammed that effort at removal of the Bragg case by Trump. Same thing is going to happen here.

COATES: Well, before we venture into true Law School nerd territory --

EISEN: We're beyond.

COATES: We're beyond that. I know. I was like (INAUDIBLE). May I ask you about this, Evan, because listen, you know, there was a moment when that Brad Raffensperger call is going to come up. Right? It's we've heard it so many times. We've heard about the idea. I just want to find that 11,780 vote just one more.


COATES: You know, there is this thought that somehow that's only part of the story, that if you were to play more of the tape, it would show you something that's beneficial to Donald Trump.

PEREZ: And I think David Schoen kind of address that. And he said that if you play the full context of the tape, that you -- that the jury will have a different opinion or might get a different picture. Well, the problem with that is prosecutors will show the full context of this. And they'll show that by the time that phone call is made, and it's included in count number 28. By the time that call is made, the former president and his allies

know full well, that they have no support for their fraud claims. As a matter of fact, they're exchanging emails, and there's a lot of things that she cites here that the DA cites in here, that shows they were fully aware that there was no fraud, or at least not the fraud to support this. Right.

And very importantly, I think, just you know, in the past year, you know, David O. Carter, the judge, who really pierced the veil of all of this, ruled that that that somewhat John Eastman was doing with Trump was violating, you know, basically by virtue of the fact that they were in a criminal conspiracy meant that they, you know, that you could access all of his attorney client product. And so, one of the things that I think is a problem for the former president is that the full context here is very problematic.

MITCHELL: And I think this is going to be the core we know of President Trump's defense. A lot of these indicted conspirators, co- conspirators defenses is that well, we believe the election was stolen.


You have a right to say what's on your mind first amendment if they believed it. And they all were acting in this way, not because of some conspiracy, but because they all just kind of agreed. But I think what Fani Willis is trying to do in this indictment, what we know will unfurl during trial is they will say, but they were told repeatedly that this wasn't the case.

And there are plenty of people who aren't indicted, but were in these rooms are mentioned, and could be called to testify to say, hey, we told them the evidence wasn't there. We told them what they were doing wasn't legal. We told them what they were doing wasn't going to pass muster. And they continue to forge.

And quite frankly, this indictment starts names, things preceding the 2020 election. And there are dates that go all the way to 2022 and some of the acts that are mentioned. So again, it's interesting, because they really laid out a timeline that spans almost two years.

COATES: You know, I'm wondering, first of all, this is going to be the same if this judge will still be the judge. At the end of this, by the way, and also the conversation surrounding Kaitlan, as we look at unpack the rest of this continuum and analyze it, you know, who's not here? Who are these co-conspirators that were unindicted, who might be shaking in their boots this evening wondering, well, is that going to change all of a sudden?

COLLINS: Yes, and 30 people is obviously no small number there. Another aspect of this is, of course, the breach of voting systems in Coffee County, Georgia, and CNN's national security reporter, Zach Cohen is outside the courthouse in Atlanta and has been covering this.

Zach, I mean, you were -- you and Sara Murray broke the story yesterday. This kind of got into this small county only has about 43,000 people or so and it, but it is, you know, maybe not one of the most well-known aspects of what is now in this indictment, but it does feature pretty prominently including on the list of the defendants here.

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Kaitlan, it really does play a central part in this alleged broader conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election results. And as you said, we've been tracking this story for the better part of almost two years now, this breaching Coffee County, Georgia, which about 200 miles south where we are right now in downtown Atlanta.

But four of the co-defendants named alongside Trump in this indictment are linked to the Coffee County breach and several charges that they face are for their alleged involvement in what took place on January 7, 2021 and in the weeks after. The evidence, really details some topics that we've covered previously, some text messages, surveillance video that were first emerged several months ago and really continued to come to light since then, as part of this long running civil lawsuit here in Atlanta that was filed by a group of election security advocates, but they really deserve a lot of credit because this evidence does underpin a lot of the criminal charges that these four co-defendants that were involved in the Coffee County for each face.

Now there's also several the unnamed co-conspirators, unindicted co- conspirators, who are also mentioned in reference to Coffee County, Georgia. And what we reported yesterday was really a continuation of the storyline. We've been tracking for the last few years that these text messages, these communications, these emails, draw a direct line from these on the ground operatives who gained unauthorized access to the elections office in Coffee County, all the way up to some of Trump's personal attorneys at the times when the members of his legal team like Sidney Powell.

The indictment specifically talks about how Sidney Powell contracted this cyber forensics firm to examine voting systems that they had in Coffee County that they had no authorization to have access to. That really is the crux of the broader sort of conspiracy that they lay out in the indictment. And it really does is it through line throughout the entire charging document itself.

COLLINS: Yes, I mean, and so when you look at the names, I mean, Jake and I were reading through the names earlier, and we missed the second half of it initially, as you were like scanning it so quickly. When you look at the first half of the names, people at home would probably recognize a lot of them, obviously, Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, but it's that second half that you pointed out, more of those are the ones who are tied to what happened in Coffee County. And these are people who were once, you know, pretty prominent, you know, county Republicans in Georgia now have just been indicted on charges in their state.

COHEN: Yes, one that was just mentioned a few minutes ago, I believe was Cathy Latham, who was a Republican official in Coffee County, and who was caught on surveillance video that we reported almost a year ago, opening the door to the elections office in this county and letting the cyber forensic team into the restricted voting system area.

So you know, prominent Republican officials like that the elections supervisor, former election supervisor in Coffee County, Misty Hampton, also one of the co-defendants named in this indictment as well as a man named Scott Hall, who's a local bail bondsman here in Fulton County, and he was caught on audio as part of this, the civil suit admitting that he was the one who helped coordinate and facilitate and was actually there on the day that these operatives gained access to voting systems in Coffee.


So really from all the way from members of Trump's legal team down to a local bail bondsman here in Atlanta, you really see the scope of the charges and the people that are being charged, that Fani Willis is really covering here.

COLLINS: Yes, Zach Cohen, great reporting on this outside the courthouse in Atlanta. Want to bring back in my panel and Jennifer Rodgers, as you look at this and what Zach was reporting there about Coffee County and how this goes from the 45th President of the United States down to a bail bondsman in a county in Georgia that has about 44,000 people just speaks to the scope of how detailed and broad this indictment is.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, that's right. I mean, you can't do everything yourself, right? You need these people on the ground. And remember, we're not just talking about Georgia in this indictment, we largely are. But in the broader scheme, there were a lot more states that were in play, and they had people on the ground in those states doing the fake electoral scheme and other things to try to overturn the election.

So, there are a lot of people here who have to act, right in order to make these things happen. And, you know, all the way down to the bail bondsman. I mean, the indictment is so, so detailed. And that's the thing that really strikes me so granular in the details in here about what everybody did.

And, you know, it's not quite as easy to read as much of a narrative as the January 6 indictment is, but if you do read through it, it just gives you so much detail. And it goes in pretty much chronological order, the acts of the RICO charge. And so you can just go through and it says, you know, in Coffee County on this date, they picked the guy up from the airport, they took him to the -- where the voting machines were. And then the next paragraph talks about the next action, and these are the overt acts.

And so it's not quite as narrative as it could be. But if you kind of try to avoid the legalistic language and just read the meat of each of these paragraphs, it is telling you the story and then includes all of these details.

COLLINS: Yes, and almost every paragraph ends with this was an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy, as Bakari was noting just how many different acts are in there. And, Temidayo, you worked on the January 6 congressional committee. I

mean, just knowing what you didn't have access to people like Mark Meadows who fought what cooperating and working with your committee, when you read through this, I mean, what stands out to you, not just from Coffee County, but everything?

TEMIDAYO AGANGA-WILLIAMS, FORMER SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL, JANUARY 6 COMMITTEE: The what stands out is what the tools that we didn't have at our disposal. One thing we didn't have was the power to charge. And I think here, you look at the extensive number of defendants, these are folks who presumably either chose not to cooperate or were asked or were not asked to cooperate. So I think that's one thing that we didn't have in our investigation.

The second thing is time. I mean, we really were under the gun with the select committee. And here, we've they've had the opportunity in Fulton County to take two and a half years to truly develop this to get into this kind of granular detail that's now reflected in the indictment.

So I think while the subcommittee I think we did a, you know, frankly, an amazing job. I think we put forward a thorough case to the American people. But I think what Fani is done here is take some of our work the same way Jack Smith did dig in deeper and present a compelling story.

COLLINS: And one thing Scott was noting the -- what we've heard from Republicans already, one thing from Trump and Republicans is why this took so long, why it's been, you know, this period of time. I mean, even the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp complained to me about a month ago about how long it was taking, is it pretty normal and standard, I mean, is unusual and abnormal is this is for it to take this long to bring charges like this.

RODGERS: Well, two and a half years is a long time, but you're charging the President of the United States, right? I mean, you really do need to be careful. A lot of these people challenged their testimony wouldn't come in, they wanted to litigate, that takes a lot of time.

So you know, I think, given the circumstances of what she ended up putting together, the president, all these other people, you know, the challenges that she had to litigate, it's not an unreasonable amount of time. And I'll also say, if she rushed it, man, they would have been screaming about this. Oh, you know, I'm a presidential candidate, so you rush to indict me so that I can't run. You know, if they had rushed it, we would have a whole another set of complaints on our hands much better that she takes the time she make.

COLLINS: And Scott, the whole premise that they have is that these charges are bogus. I mean, it is kind of a weird argument for them to be making. Why didn't they charge me sooner with these charges that I disagree with?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, they just want to cast the whole thing is an attempt to interfere in his campaign prospects and toss it out here. You know, in the, at the height of his popularity in the Republican Party, he's crushing everyone. He's tied with Joe Biden in the national polls, and now you drop all this stuff on me. It's a huge conspiracy.

And so, I mean, that's why they're making the argument. As I read through all this, actually as I sit out here all these nights and read through all these things, I just keep going back in time, like Thanksgiving 2020. If Donald Trump had just said, you know what, you're going to have it. You're going to have Joe Biden. I'm going to go play golf, and I'll see you guys in four years. Had he just done it? He'd be up 10 points right now and Bakari would be the head of the site selection committee for Joe Biden's nursing home.


I mean, the Democrats will be in a meltdown right now instead, we have five indictments, and all these jurisdictions --

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And I'm in charge of is making sure he moves back in smoothly (INAUDIBLE) second term.

JENNINGS: I know. It's -- just -- you go back in time, and you see how much how different this could have played out for Donald Trump. But instead, they went down this crazy road with these crazy people.

COLLINS: Trump himself even called Sidney Powell crazy.

JENNINGS: Yes. And instead of maybe coasting back in over a very weak incumbent. He's now facing jail time in a whole bunch of different places.

SELLERS: Crazy. I mean, look, and just to put a fine point on everything, Scott, so just amazingly articulated here. There's not a Republican in America that can beat Donald Trump for the Republican nomination, which tells you how in disarray, the Republicans are.

I do want to talk about just some magnificent figures again, in this indictment. I mean, I just think back to 2001, when Rudy Giuliani was America's mayor, and their people who worked with Rudy Giuliani, John Avlon was a speechwriter very close to Rudy Giuliani, you know, Rudy Giuliani could have had a statute erected for him in about 2002 or 2003, in the center of Times Square.

I mean, that's how popular he was. And now he's being indicted in Atlanta, Georgia. You have lawyers who are involved in this. You have bail bondsman who are involved in this. And at the top of this game, you have the president of the United States.

I know we have writer's strikes and everything going on in Hollywood, you could not jump the shark like this with this indictment. And when you look at how detailed this is, when you look at some of the things they went out of their way to do, to abuse people to torment people, when you look at the fact that they were breaking into facilities that they were going into voting booths, when they have text messages and emails that back all of this up. So this isn't something and I, you know, I don't like when people say

that Fani, respectfully to my friend, Scott. They say that Fani is partisan, because this isn't partisan when you read it. I mean, if you take Democrat and Republican, off anybody's label when you read this indictment, you see just an unjust. You see accountability and you see law breaking. And then you get to the political aspect of it, where all my Republican friends Nikki Haley, Chris Christie, all of them are running on law and order.

Well, what you see in this is an abuse of law and order. That's what this is. So I don't know how you -- I don't know how you fence it, or you thread this needle, but they have a whole problem on the Republican side. And their problem is called Donald Trump.

JENNINGS: Well, you raise an interesting point. There are a lot of Republicans right now who think the institutions of law and order are broken. I mean, there's a whole big chunk of the Republican Party --

SELLERS: As a black man in America, I've been trying to tell you this for long period of time. So welcome. I'm not going to fight you on that, but welcome.

JENNINGS: But you listen to him, the FBI is corrupt, the Department of Justice is corrupt these prosecutor and look, I mean, it's --

SELLERS: We have two prosecutors here. So just slow down.

JENNINGS: It is -- but it is stark -- but it is startling when you have, you know, essentially half are approaching half the country that have lost faith in this and I mean, this is a true test of institutions right now, and also a test of whether Americans are willing to accept outcomes. Do you accept outcomes or not? And, you know, we're going to say faced several tests in the next 12, 18 months.

COLLINS: Understatement of the night.


COLLINS: Morning, whatever we're in. Thank you, everyone. Fani Willis says that she is wanting to plan to try Donald Trump and the 18 co- defendants within the next six months as a trial date. She says she's shooting for all together. Question is, of course could that work. We'll break it down with our legal analyst, next.



COATES: Former President Trump indicted tonight in the 2020 election subversion case in Georgia. Prosecutors allege that Trump and 18 others including the likes of Rudy Giuliani and Mark Meadows and John Eastman joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election.

I want to bring in former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman. Harry, my friend, so good to see you.


COATES: You and I have been talking about the prospects of this happening for quite some time. I wonder what sticks out to you because this is now the fourth indictment we're talking about, what, 91 cumulative charges over four cases. This is a significant one.

LITMAN: It really is on. On the hand, Laura, it's a recapitulation of everything we've seen dating back to the January 6 committee, the 161 over to X, most of them are not new, there's a few little snippets, but they're panoramic and encyclopedic in what the Chronicle on the one hand.

On the other, it really is something new. First, and I'd say foremost, the 18 other defendants. So this is the first time that all the President's men and women including Giuliani, Mark Meadows, I'll say that twice, Mark Meadows, Eastman, Chesebro, et cetera, are all charged and when you think sort of in a long range way, about accountability from the country, for everything that happened, it must include these folks. So this is the first one that will.

And the second thing that so distinct --

COATES: Well, Harry, on that -- before for you go any further second point. Let me lead in for a second on the idea of Mark Meadows and Rudy Giuliani, perhaps many thought Giuliani, Mark Meadows, though many thought the reason he was not on the indictment from Jack Smith is because he was a cooperator and was providing information of some kind, and therefore was able to achieve some level of special status or immunity. He is in this one. So, this say to you that he did not cooperate with Fani Willis?

LITMAN: Yes, so it's a very important puzzle. He's got a great lawyer, George Terwilliger, and when it came out at first, what a genius he had gotten them out of that scrape, but oh, maybe not so much. Because if he doesn't cooperate and strike some -- if he had struck a deal, Laura, and in the January 6 case, you would think it would have had to encompasses exposure here. His lawyer would know enough to do that.


So right now, he is in terrible hot water Because, if in this case, he is indicted, his cooperation -- and he's convicted -- his cooperation does not avail him what we might have thought it did in the other indictment.

And maybe it means he is just a witness there, which would be very strange if he did testify in the indictment. Now -- excuse me -- in the federal case. And I thought that must have meant some kind of deal.

Right now, we don't know, but the -- that is the question mark. The exclamation point is he has been charged and from the start, he has been neck-deep second perhaps only to Trump or Giuliani in his involvement here.

And so it is a really important kind of potential blow for justice that he has been named.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: I mean you mentioned the first point as well, and you asked for the second one during that conversation, but you know, on that point while you read (INAUDIBLE) that, you know, there are about what, 30 unindicted co-conspirators that are listed in this indictment? I wonder, what you make of, that because some would suggest that, when you say unindicted co-conspirator, that might as well be a signal blaring that it is a cooperator. What do you think?

LITMAN: That is what I think, except, 30 -- that is a big number that is hard to get to.

COATES: It is.

LITMAN: There are about 18 electors, and many of them came forward for immunity and received it. So that is an obvious big chunk of the 30. But there just must be other, you know, state election workers, maybe people in Coffee County who are -- were involved, but in a minor way, and Willis was more than happy to sign them up to make her case. And that is why they're co-conspirators, but they haven't been named.

So you know, it's such a panoramic indictment, Laura, all of Georgia but also all around the country, that is because of the RICO law. So yes, 30 is a very big number, 161 is a very big, number, 98 pages is a very big number. This thing is huge in so many ways.


COATES: On that notion --

LITMAN: And we'll find the details, yes.

COATES: Excuse me, on that notion of RICO, I think it is still eludes many people, right. RICO, they think of the mob, they think of, you know, if you have things like criminal enterprise, or official acts, or the way that it is phrased in here, you know, the many charges, or statements suggesting this was an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy throughout.

You know, you mentioned Coffee County, we are hearing a lot about Coffee County. We also know Fani Willis is the D.A. of Fulton County, not Coffee County.

There is mention in this specific indictment Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Georgia, just to name a few.

LITMAN: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania --

COATES: Wisconsin, I mean, the list goes on. How is she able to envelop all of this into the full RICO?

LITMAN: The miracle of RICO. The reason, by the way, where it's hard to understand, it is just because it is hard to understand. It is pretty amorphous.

Here is the idea. It was created, RICO for the mob and they sort of what looked like a legitimate business out front was really just a shield for all criminal activity. By analogy, a sort of analogy that has prevailed in other cases, this group of people fighting to give the election unlawfully to Donald Trump was a criminal enterprise, the whole thing is like one rotten business with a business goal -- a criminal goal of getting the election to Trump.

That is RICO.

Here is even a step removed, because it is section C of RICO -- conspiring to do it. So what she is saying is, the people agreed to try and to get the election swayed to Trump, committed 161 overt acts of which they have to prove, stick around two -- two overt acts in order to make RICO stick.

So it is first and foremost a way to get so much activity in under an umbrella, but the idea of it at least is basically everything he was doing from November 3rd to January 6th, indeed the indictment goes to September of 2022 when there were lies, was all one big criminal enterprise. That is the key concept. And the enterprise had an objective and the objective was to put Trump unlawfully back in office.

COATES: And really quick, Harry, the word "conspiracy" make people say, you mean to tell me that Donald Trump, you have to prove that he conspired, had a meeting of the mind with each one of these defendants personally in order to prove the case?


LITMAN: More beauty of RICO, right. You just -- he does it with one person that's sprawling (ph), we call it a hub and spoke, but basically as long as he agreed with one person -- and everybody of the 19 did -- that is all it takes.

COATES: Hub and spoke, everyone. We are learning new terminology from Harry Litman. This isn't quite the crack of dawn, Kaitlan but we are getting there. But we're seeing a lot of history being made right now.

Kaitlan Collins, take it away.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we are losing track of time here. But we have a lot more to discuss on the implications of this. I mean it is a sweeping indictment.

What is the impact it has on the 2024 race that we are currently in the middle of? To the Republican nomination?

Our CNN political analyst Ron Brownstein joins us now.

Ron, I mean, I just wonder, when you are reading through this, what you're thinking -- everyone who just a few days ago was hanging on in Iowa, what they are thinking, I guess and what it means to them. RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. You know look, in the context -- I think you have to separate what all of this means for a Republican primary, nomination play and what it might mean if he wins that fight and advances on to a general election.

In the context of the Republican primary, Donald Trump will see it through his (INAUDIBLE), he is foot -- he has folded in these indictments into one of the most powerful strains of the thought that hold together the modern Republican coalition. And that is the belief that conservatives are the real victim of bias in a diversifying society.

You know, that bias against whites is now the biggest problem as bias against minorities, Christianity and America's under assault, that men are punished just for being like him.

70 percent or more of Republicans in polls say they agree with all of those propositions, and what Trump has done from the beginning is -- braid all of these criminal indictments into, you know, an advancing of that argument.

I mean, he calls the prosecutors, the African American prosecutors leading cases against him racists, you know. And he basically says they are going after me because they really want to silence you.

No question that that argument has proven very powerful, and I think in the Republican primary because it reinforces what is already an existing belief among most GOP voters.

In a general election it is a whole different question. I think, you know, we saw that in the "New York Times"/Siena poll that over 55 percent of voters think he is -- Independent voters that he has committed a serious federal crime. Nearly 60 percent even before this indictment said that what he did after the election threatened American democracy. And we also know from multiple Marist polls for NPR and CBS -- that three-quarters of Independents say he should not be president again if he is convicted of a crime. By the way, 60 percent of Republicans say he should even if he is.

So again, right now, clearly strengthening him in a Republican context. What this might mean in a general election, particularly if one of these trials is actually going in much less if he's convicted, that is a whole other issue.

COLLINS: Yes. It is a whole other issue. But before we get there if you are Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Mike Pence -- any of these other Republican candidates who are running against him typically when your opponent gets indicted four times it is a political gift, the biggest political gift.

But instead, I mean there are also polls that show they don't like -- even if they don't like what Trump has done and what he's accused of doing, they don't like when other Republicans attack him.

So what do you do if you are one of those other Republicans? BROWNSTEIN: They had painted themselves into a corner, the same corner

the Republicans have painted themselves into for what, eight years now? You know, we are eight years since the escalator.

I mean essentially, they have argued themselves in a circle. They have said, we can't challenge Trump when he crosses a line, when he breaks a norm. And certainly getting, you know, indicted four times as a former president is about as big a norm as you can break.

We can't challenge him because the base supports him and the base will, you know, rise up against us. Well, one of the reasons why Trump's hold on the base has been so unbreakable is because no one they trust or very few people they trust will make the case to them that his behavior is unacceptable, I mean.

So, you know, in many ways, they have laced the street jacket that they are living in, and to the extent that the other Republican candidates, I think Mike Pence has deviated from this now, certainly getting closer to like a Christie, Asa Hutchinson.

They sent someone like DeSantis or Hawley -- I'm sorry -- Scott or Haley, have echoed Trump's arguments that he is the victim of this weaponized conspiracy so vast as Kevin McCarthy calls it, they have made themselves bit players in his drama. It's the deep state and (INAUDIBLE) are pulling out all these stops -- all of these efforts to stop Donald Trump, why would you bypass them as a Republican voter and go to someone that they are not as worried about.

So they have kind of made their bet, I'm not sure they can find a different pathway at this point. But certainly it is kind of a syllogism for them to argue that they can't speak truth to power here because they have created these circumstances in the day they were met in private.


COLLINS: What is it -- what do you make of the fact that it is 1:39 in the morning. Here we are talking, I mean the front-runner for the Republican Party right now keeps posting on his Web site about this indictment, criticizing the fact that some documents were apparently briefly posted online, but complaining about the fact that this is coming now and calling it a witch hunt.

I mean he has been able to effectively use that with the Republicans before. I mean the idea that that's going to stop because this indictment number 4 seems unlikely.

BROWNSTEIN: Right, highly unlikely. I mean the die is cast in the Republican primary. Now whether, you know, there are still some Republicans who hold out, the Republicans critical with Trump or who do simply believe that can't win again, they hold out hope that actual trials might be the straw that finally breaks the camels' back, it is not likely.

As we are saying, that anything is going to convince Republican voters that this makes him, any of these actions make him unfit to be president. I think a big part of that is because so few Republicans who believe that have been willing to take the chance of trying to tell their voters that.

But again you know, Americans are very reluctant to give Joe Biden another term, no question about it, you know, The majority of the public says he is too old, concerned about whether he's too old to serve four more years. They continue to be negative on the economy.

But when you look at how general election voters are responding to these indictments, even before you get to the issue of trials and possible convictions, there are real yellow warning lights on the dashboard for Republicans here. As I said, I mean we have seen pollings -- multiple polls, significant majorities of Independents say he should not be president again if he is convicted of a crime.

Now will we get there before the election? I do not know. But Donald Trump is the one, if he's the nominee has increased his votes from last time. He lost by 7 million votes. He's got to expand his coalition. It's hard to see what is in here, you know, in all of these indictments, that are going to cause people who did not vote for Trump in 2020 to go oh, yes now I think he's right plus you have the added issue of abortion in those states as we saw in Ohio this week.

So again, for Republicans, you know, they are the ones who are questioning whether Trump can win again, they have ammunition in that argument, but you don't see the other candidates making that very strongly. And as a result it really isn't yet part of the dialogue.

Maybe that will change in the debate and thereafter, you know. The prospect of hanging concentrates the mind as they say and all the Republican candidates, I mean you have to acknowledge that whatever they're doing so far is not working given the magnitude of his lead..

COLLINS: What was that phrase you used about concentrating the mind?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, you know, I think it was -- I think it was in a revolution, the prospect of hanging concentrates the mind. And in this case -- in this case, the prospect of getting trampled in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina ought to concentrate the mind. We'll see if it does.

COLLINS: Ron Brownstein, we're going to leave it there. Thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks for having me.

COLLINS: Up next, what the Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis is saying tonight in the wake of this historic 41 count indictment, and what she believes is next.



COLLINS: Donald Trump and 18 others now facing charges in Georgia in what prosecutors allege was a criminal enterprise for their efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Not just in that state, but in several other key swing states.

This indictment is bringing charges against some of the most prominent advisers to Trump. The Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis spoke publicly tonight after that indictment and the chargers were unsealed.


FANI WILLIS, DISTRICT ATTORNEY -- FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA: I'm here with the prosecutors and investigators who have worked diligently on the investigation of criminal attempts to interfere in the administration of Georgia's 2020 presidential election.

Today, based on information developed by that investigation, a Fulton County grand jury returned a true bill of indictment. Charging 19 individuals with violations of Georgia law arising from a criminal conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in this state.

The indictment includes 41 felony counts and is 97 pages long. Please remember that everyone charged in this bill of indictment is presumed innocent.

Specifically the indictment brings felony charges against Donald John Trump, Rudolph William Lewis Giuliani, John Charles Eastman, Marc Randall Meadows, John Chesebro, Jeffrey Clark, Jenna Lynn Ellis, Ray Starling Smith III (ph), Robert David Chili (ph), Michael A. Lowman (ph), David James Shaffer, Sean Micah Thresher Steel (ph), Stephen Cliffgard Lee, Harrison William Prescott Floyd. Trevian P. Couty (ph), Sidney Kathryn Powell, Kathleen Alston Latham, Scott Graham Hall, and Misty Hampton, also known as Emily Misty Hayes.


Every individual charged in the indictment is charged with one count of violating Georgia's Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act through participation in a criminal enterprise in Fulton County Georgia and elsewhere to accomplish the illegal goal of allowing Donald J. Trump to seize the presidential term of office beginning on January 20th '21. All elections in our nation are administered by the states which are given the responsibility of ensuring a fair process and an accurate counting of the votes.

That includes elections for presidential electors, Congress, state officials and local offices. The state's role in this process is essential to the functioning of our democracy.

Georgia, like every state, has laws that allow those who believe that results of an election are wrong whether because of intentional wrongdoing or unintentional error to challenge those results in our state courts.

The indictment alleges that rather than abide by George's legal process for election challenges, the defendants engaged in a criminal racketeering enterprise to overturn Georgia's presidential election result. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: I mean, Laura I have got to say just listening to her read out those names, when I was reading through it initially a little bit before we heard from her reading Mark Meadows' name, I think probably stood out the most. I mean just seeing that he, the former White House chief of staff had been indicted here.

COATES: It was unbelievable. You think about the names that were read, some perhaps you expected, but the others maybe not. And just the sheer scope of all this and what sticks in my mind is this notion, rather than abide by the legal process by which you are to challenge the election results, they chose the allegedly criminal enterprise instead.

It goes back to a point I think Scott made earlier on your panel Kaitlan about but for had Donald Trump just done something different or all these different players, we would be in a very perhaps very different political landscape today.

COLLINS: And something even Jack Smith noted in his indictment, in the introduction there, saying, you know, there is a legal avenue to challenge results you don't like. It's not just that you are stuck with this and that's it.

There is a legal avenue. There is this avenue that's alleged here.

COATES: You can contest, you can challenge, you can't conspire. And here again you already see the beginning of trying to educate a potential jury pool, right. She goes on to ascribe the difference between an overt act and of course a predicate act. She's educating already on the RICO and she's showing people look, the reach of her jurisdiction because of RICO goes even beyond her county and even beyond her state. We will see what happens in the actual proof though Kaitlan.

COLLINS: I have a feeling you're going to be very busy at 11:00, Laura.

Panel, back with me now. Scott, I mean she invoked your name. They're the point of what could have been avoided, what is your final thought here tonight.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, if ifs and buts were candy and nuts every day would be Christmas. I mean that's the thing. I mean you go back in time and wish people had made different choices but we are where we are. You know, my final --

COLLINS: I'll let that slide. Just given it's 1:53.

That political analysis.


JENNINGS: A broad, broad majority of the American people are very dissatisfied with the prospect of a rematch between Trump and Biden. I think there is going to be even more dissatisfaction if we don't get the results of some of these cases before people vote next November.

He has been charged with, you know, mishandling national security documents. He's been charged trying to overthrow the government on January 6th. He's been charged in the Georgia case.

To me, not getting -- not letting him resolve these things before he stands for the office of presidency, if he is a nominee, I just do not see how we can stand for it.

COLLINS: But do we think it is likely. I mean maybe not -- you both seem skeptical, the attorneys at the table, skeptical that this case itself --


COLLINS: I'm sorry. You are but you're wearing your political -- you're wearing your political hat tonight.

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I took the bar a couple of times.

COLLINS: All right. Good point. Non-attorney at the table. We will wait to hear your answer in a moment. But what do you all think?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There is no way. There is no way. There're all these defendants. I mean the most exciting --

COLLINS: Just this one.

RODGERS: Yes, just this one. The most exciting thing about this case is that there's going to be so much movement, right.


RODGERS: I mean there are so many people here. A lot of them are going to plead out. Some of them are going to flip. It's going to change the complexion of this case a lot as we go along.

But I don't know how she can talk about six months when we have all these other cases. Some of them set for trial, others about to be set for trial. You can't tell Donald Trump he has to go to trial in two places at the same time.

So, you know, this is never going to happen in six months. I don't think it'll happen before the election.

COLLINS: Your prediction?

TEMIDAYO AGANGA WILLIAMS, FORMER SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL, JAN 6TH COMMISSION: I agree. I don't think it's going to happen in six months. It's probably not before the election. But I do think that Jack Smith 's January 6th case is likely to go to trial before the election and that will give the American people and Donald Trump the chance to defend himself on these very facts here.

COATES: Although not on TV. WILLIAMS: Not on TV.

COLLINS: All right. (INAUDIBLE) last, in favor of attorneys at the table. Thank you. Thank you so very much.

SELLERS: I just feel like we are on the precipice of very dark times in this country. I think we forget how fragile democracy is. I think that we should've learned that lesson from 2016 where this conversation was about Russian interference and all of these other things. And democracy is very, very fragile. And I'm not sure we learned that lesson.

I think Donald Trump going through all of these issues, we talk about a constitutional crisis, we talk about all of these other things that could be on the forefront. It's going to be exciting, it's going to be good TV but at the end of the day, what truly happens when this individual with all of his legal issues continues to fracture the country. And how do we recover?

Because even once if Donald Trump is found guilty, long and years ahead the cancer that is Donald Trump will still be a part of the fabric of this country.

COLLINS: All right, thanks to all for joining us tonight, breaking down that remarkable, remarkable indictment which we will be doing for the days to come, Laura.

COATES: History again in the making, another historic night.

Rosemary Church picks up our coverage in just a moment.