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Ramaswamy Reacts To DeSantis Debate Memo; Trump Lawyers Pitch 2026 Trial In Election Interference Case; Far-Right Sites Publish Pics, Addresses Of Trump Grand Jurors; Mistrial In Case Of White Men Attacking Black FedEx Driver. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired August 17, 2023 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And that's it for me her on "CNN PRIMETIME." CNN TONIGHT with Jim Acosta starts right now. Jim, I know you got a great show ahead. Have a good one.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Abby. Great to see you. Thanks so much. Good evening. I'm Jim Acosta. Joining me in moments, presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy Vivek, whose name showed up in a Ron DeSantis debate memo as the rival to attack on the stage. He'll respond to that and more in just a few moments.
But first, in 958 days, the date on the calendar will be April 2026. That's two years, seven months from now. That's nearly a year and a half after the 2024 election and just a year and a half before the 2028 election. And yet, Donald Trump and his lawyers are suggesting that date for his trial in the federal case on his efforts to overturn the election. It's their counter to Jack Smith's proposal to start this January.
Meantime, the former president in his first on-camera reaction to the Georgia indictment has a warning to his party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Disgraceful thing. And Republicans can't get let them get away. The Republicans have to be tough. The Republicans are great in many ways but they don't fight as hard for this stuff. And they have to get a lot tougher. And if they don't, they're not going to have much of a Republican Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Well, they haven't been very tough on Donald Trump. And one of the Republicans who is defending Trump is Vivek Ramaswamy. And today, a memo from Ron DeSantis's Super PAC laid out some advice for the Florida governor ahead of next week's debate. Among the suggestions, defend Donald Trump but -- quote -- "take a sledgehammer to Ramaswamy." And joining me now is the candidate mentioned in that memo, Vivek Ramaswamy. He's giving a speech at the Nixon Library tonight. Welcome, Mr. Ramaswamy. Appreciate you joining us.
VIVEK RAMASWAMY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Good to see you, Jim. How are you?
ACOSTA: I'm good. Hey, let's get right to this. A pro-DeSantis Super PAC, I'm sure you've seen this, has posted documents online that show DeSantis's upcoming debate strategy. That includes not only attacks on President Biden as well as media but instructions to -- quote -- "hammer Ramaswamy." Are you preparing to be hammered?
RAMASWAMY: You know, I have been prepared for that for a lot of my life, and I'm prepared to take that on. The truth is I'm an outsider in this race, and I think that is threatening a lot of the professional politicians, understandably. A guy like me is not supposed to be in this race, according to their book.
I'm approaching my debate strategy a little bit differently. I think many times, if you don't have a message, you look to attack other candidates. I'm preferring to stand for my own message, asking the question, what are we running to? I think if we're guided by that purpose, the attacks from the other candidates are not going to stop me.
ACOSTA: And the latest Fox polling shows you gained ground, more ground, since June than any other candidate. Why are you gaining ground while candidates like Ron DeSantis are struggling to catch on?
RAMASWAMY: I think the reality is I'm unconstrained in speaking the truth. There are many forces at work in both political parties, in the establishment of the Democrat Party and the Republican Party alike, that constrains what candidates can actually say. A lot of that comes from the donor class.
In the Republican Party, you have a lot of super PAC puppets. I'm not one of them. I am a patriot who speaks the truth. I am independent. I am putting my own money into this campaign precisely to avoid taking a tin can with a hot hand (ph) asking a bunch of donors for permission to run. And I think that's a very different model from any of the other professional politicians in this race.
And the good news is voters across our country, in our base, they can tell the difference between somebody who's actually sharing their own convictions versus somebody who's parroting off talking points served up to them 15 minutes or 15 days before a debate.
I think the reality is also the message of my campaign is resonating. Shut down the administrative state, declare independence from China, grow the economy, revive national pride, revive our national identity itself.
We as conservatives, we can't just be complacent with criticizing the radical Biden agenda. That's boring. It's trite at a certain point in time. We have to stand for a vision of our own. And I think I'm the only candidate who's actually offering that. I think that's a big part of why we've been successful.
ACOSTA: Well, you've got a big test coming up with next week's debate. And eight candidates, including yourself, have met the donor and polling threshold for that debate. You've signed the loyalty pledge. Former President Donald Trump has refused to sign the pledge.
Are you OK with Trump getting special treatment? Shouldn't he have to play by the rules?
RAMASWAMY: I expect Trump to be on that debate stage later this fall, and I expect him to play by the same set of rules of everybody else. But I am fine with him missing the first couple of debates. He's been on that debate stage many times over. Heck, he was president for four years.
For me, this is an opportunity to introduce myself to the country. I'm looking forward to that. Many people don't yet know who I am or don't really know certainly very well who I am. And so that's the opportunity I'm looking forward to. I do expect President Trump to show up down the line, but I think it is fair game for him to miss the first couple.
ACOSTA: What if he doesn't sign that pledge, just refuses to sign it? Does he get a pass on that?
RAMASWAMY: Look, I think -- well, look, I think if that's a condition to make the debate stage, then I think he's going to sign that pledge to make the debate stage. But the reality is I believe he's waiting based on his public comments at least, it seems like he's waiting for a smaller field.
So, I look forward to being on that debate stage with him. But for now, I'm focused on the path to next Wednesday. I'm in eight states in the period heading up to between now and the debate stage. But I'm looking forward to introducing myself to the people of this country and hopefully drawing some important policy contrasts from the rest of the field.
I think this is an important moment for the GOP, to stop obsessing over the who. There has been so much obsession over Donald Trump or somebody else. Forget the who for a second. Let's first focus on who we are, but what do we stand for and why we stand for it. That's a discussion we actually haven't had in the GOP for a very long time.
I think this debate stage is actually going to be good for the evolution of our party, really defining our agenda rather than devolving into biographical brawls. Even though certain other candidates, say Ron and the Super PAC, want to go to the direction of the biographical brawl, I prefer to go in the direction of substance. Answering what we stand for and why. That's what's going to make our party stronger.
ACOSTA: Well, I think the former president is going to come up at the debate whether he's there or not, and he's now facing his fourth criminal indictment, this time in Georgia, on forgery, false statements, election fraud and racketeering charges. You have said that these are political or politicized prosecutions, politicized persecutions through prosecution. Let's listen to what his former attorney general is saying about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: People who defend him say that he genuinely did feel that he was robbed and this was the good fight and the proper fight.
WILLIAM BARR, FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, even if he did, and I am dubious about that, but even if he believed that, that doesn't mean you can use illegal means to rectify it. If you think the bank is unfairly keeping your money, there are many things you can do to get it back. You can't go and rob the bank.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: What's your response to the former attorney general?
RAMASWAMY: Look, I think there are deep legal flaws with this case. I'm talking to you from the Nixon presidential library, where I'm delivering a speech later tonight. We'll look at Nixon versus Fitzgerald. This is something that the press has altogether ignored.
A president's acts while in office are something that he actually enjoys immunity for other than through the impeachment process. So, if he believes, even incorrectly, that he was looking after election fraud, that alone could be a defense.
I also think there are deep due process failures. Let's start with the fact that they actually, Fulton County, publicly posted the charges of the indictment even before the grand jury had signed them. That's a grave, prosecutorial, bushy-tailed, over-excited mistake. That's a due process violation that itself could be grounds for a motion to dismiss.
We also have to look at this prosecution in the context of the fact that there are three others, now four prosecutions in a series of months, all convening around a presidential election that sets a god- awful precedent, Jim, for this country.
We do not want to become a nation where the party in power uses multiple different legal cases at the same time, pushing untested novel legal theories to knock out its opposition in the middle of a presidential election. That is not how we do things in the United States of America.
And I say this as somebody who in many national polls is now polling second. It would be easier for me if Donald Trump were eliminated from competition. That is not how I want to win. I stand on the side of principle, not politics --
ACOSTA: But there have been four different -- there are now four different indictments --
RAMASWAMY: -- when I say we need to unite this country.
ACOSTA: Let me jump in. There have been four different indictments. You don't think he has committed any crimes in any of these indictments?
RAMASWAMY: I don't think any of the indictments have demonstrated that he committed a crime. No. And I've written on the pages of "The Wall Street Journal" and elsewhere wearing a technical legal hat. You and I can go into that detail if you're interested --
ACOSTA: Refusing to return classified documents.
RAMASWAMY: But I think these are clearly politically-motivated -- well, let's just take that one as an example. That indictment made zero mention of the Presidential Records Act, the most recently passed act that relates to a president, including an outgoing president's access to documents. The fact that this is a 49-page indictment, that one was, that was silent on that fact reveals smacks of politicization.
I also think that the fact that they used the Espionage Act, one of the most un-American acts in U.S. history that has been used to round up anti-war activists, that was used to lock up Eugene V. Debs when he ran for president --
ACOSTA: Do you think it is okay to have classified documents --
RAMASWAMY: -- high crime of criticizing that act.
ACOSTA: You think it's okay for you to have classified documents laying around the Ramaswamy household?
RAMASWAMY: No, it's not. But I think that there's a difference between a bad judgment and a crime. And the Presidential Records Act expressly gives the U.S. president access to those records.
ACOSTA: But they asked for the documents back and he didn't return them. They asked for the documents back and he just refused.
RAMASWAMY: Again, I would have made very different judgments.
RAMASWAMY: Look, I will remind -- I mean, Jim, I am running in the same race that Donald Trump is. So, I'm not -- I'm not saying that every judgment he made was the same judgment I would make. In fact, it wasn't. But that is different from charging it as a crime, which I think sends an awful precedent in our country. If you want to get a little technical about it, Jim, I know you like to go into details at times.
ACOSTA: But in the federal election case, he lied about the election, he tried to overturn the election results. Why not call him out for that as well? RAMASWAMY: I will remind you -- well, I will remind you the Supreme Court's precedent in Alvarez, a 2012 case, withheld that public officials, including politicians, have a First Amendment right to lie, to tell the truth, to even make statements they didn't believe, let alone the fact that there isn't a shred of evidence to suggest that Trump didn't even believe his own claims.
And so, we can get into the legal technical details all we want. That's going to happen in the courtroom. But as a matter of judgment, as somebody who is --
RAMASWAMY: -- running to and expects to be the next president of the United States, my top job is to reunite this country. And my way of doing that is going to be to pardon Donald Trump on day one and to pardon really anybody else who was also the victim of a politically- motivated persecution through prosecution. We have to move forward as a country. And I think this sets a dangerous precedent unless we actually pardon.
ACOSTA: But Mr. Ramaswamy, you just said you want to wait for all the details, the technical details to come out at trial, but you're declaring beforehand that you would pardon him. Why not listen for the facts to --
RAMASWAMY: Well, I didn't say that I want to --
ACOSTA: -- come out at trial and then make that determination?
RAMASWAMY: I'm saying it based on one assumption. The assumption is that the statements in each of the indictments are the most prosecution favorable statements we're going to get. Any legal scholar would tell you that is a fair assumption. In any case, the prosecution always puts up its strongest foot in the indictment itself. We haven't even heard from the defense.
So yes, if there are gaping surprises that come up. I mean, there's zero evidence to suggest that Trump was selling those secrets to foreign adversaries for private gain. But if those facts come up, of course, I would revisit my judgment.
But the fact of the matter is the prosecution obviously makes the most aggressive statement of its case in the indictment. And assuming that's the case here, as it is in any other case, I will absolutely pardon Trump on day one, January 20th, 2025, when I'm in office.
ACOSTA: Would you pardon Trump's other alleged co-conspirators in both the documents and the election cases?
RAMASWAMY: It depends on how the facts match up to the law. I mean, you have to take about the documents case. There are special features of the law that apply to a U.S. president. Literally, the Presidential Records Act treats past U.S. presidents, the law does, differently than it does other actors. ACOSTA: But why say you would pardon Trump on day one but not -- but why say you're going to pardon Trump on day one but not the -- not make that kind of blanket promise to the alleged co-conspirators? Shouldn't they get that kind --
RAMASWAMY: I'm favorably --
ACOSTA: -- of same pardon offer?
RAMASWAMY: I'm favorably inclined. I'm favorably inclined to do it. But right now, I'm a competitor against Donald Trump in this primary, and I want to be very clear on the side of principle though it's against my interest in this race. That's why I think in the interest of uniting this country, it is especially important to be clear about that fact.
I expect to maybe making tens of pardons on day one. I think there are countless Americans who have been the victims of politically-motivated persecutions through prosecution. Peaceful protesters on January 6th, January 6th defendants who actually have had constitutional due process violations. Julian Assange is someone I've specifically identified as somebody I would absolutely pardon. Ross Ulbricht, Douglass Mackey, others.
But I think that the only way we're going to move forward as a country, there can be no reconciliation without truth, we have to put that past behind us. And my top job is going to be to heal the wounds of this nation to lead us forward because --
ACOSTA: Pardoning Trump is going to heal the wounds? Pardoning Trump is going to heal the wounds of the nation?
RAMASWAMY: I do. I do think it will be a step towards healing the wounds of the nation. I think there are deep wounds in this country that are the consequence of systematic censorship. The weaponization of police force to accomplish political goals through the justice system, that is wrong. This is not an easy project ahead for the next president.
I am in this race because I do see a lot of candidates on both sides motivated by vengeance and grievance. I am motivated by leading this nation forward. And the way we're going to do it is by restoring one standard of the rule of law for all Americans, restore the integrity of the justice system, and leave politics to politics.
The people of this country should decide who the next president is. They're free to take in to account all of the information that has been laid out by left-wing media, right-wing media, et cetera, to make their decisions. If they think Donald Trump made good decisions, then they should take that into account when voting him out. But that is not the basis for a prosecution.
ACOSTA: What about Trump making these threats and making these kinds of inflammatory comments about the judge, about the special counsel, and so on in some of these cases? Do you defend that? Should he knock that off?
RAMASWAMY: So, I'm not familiar with the specific nature of which inflammatory comment you're referring to or not. He's clearly deeply aggrieved by the fact that he's being prosecuted through four separate cases that have arisen at the same time in the middle of an election.
Again, from my vantage point, I would make very different judgments and would have made very different judgments than Donald Trump. But that is a different point than saying this should be criminalized. That's where I'm at. So, I'm not in this to defend Trump or anybody else.
ACOSTA: He says, I'm coming after you if you come after me.
RAMASWAMY: I'm in this to defend the nation.
ACOSTA: But you've heard him say -- you heard how he said, I'm coming after you if you come after me. I mean, you've heard that, correct? Is that appropriate?
RAMASWAMY: I mean, if he means that he's going to file a motion -- if he means he's going to file a motion to dismiss, then he should absolutely file a motion to dismiss, which I think will be very embarrassing for the prosecutor and frankly very embarrassing for the entire law enforcement apparatus, if that's a need granted.
ACOSTA: But you don't think that's what he means when he says that?
RAMASWAMY: I'm going to be very honest with you. I have not clearly studied every word. Look, I'm going to be very honest with you, Jim. I have not read the specific tweet or social media post that you're referring to. I'm running for president. I'm looking at reviving our economy and declaring independence from China. I'm not parsing every social media post from every one of my other candidates.
But broadly speaking, my whole point is, there's a difference between a bad judgment and a crime. And the moment that we conflate the two --
ACOSTA: A lot of crimes start with bad judgments.
RAMASWAMY: -- that is the moment that we have a threat to liberty.
RAMASWAMY: Well, that's okay. You actually have to have committed a crime to be prosecuted for one. So, making a very bad judgment as a politician, that's a basis for a voter to make decision. But that's how we've got to do things in the United States of America.
We have to let the people of this country decide who actually runs the country, not a federal administrative police state. And I just think that sets a dangerous and deeply problematic precedent in this country. That is why I've been so vocal against it. That is why I'm clearly committed to pardoning Donald Trump if he is convicted.
ACOSTA: But you said earlier you would wait for the facts to come out. If there are some big surprises, you may reconsider that.
RAMASWAMY: My assumption is that the worst statement of the facts, the most prosecution version, favorable version of the facts, is in the indictment. In 99.9% of legal cases, that's exactly how it works in the United States. And I said that on day one when I made my commitment that was my assumption.
ACOSTA: Let's talk about China. You talked about China. You proposed to radio host Hugh Hewitt this week that the U.S. should help Taiwan deter a Chinese invasion until the U.S. has achieved -- quote -- "semiconductor independence." Does it really serve our long-term interest to say we support territorial integrity until the country is no longer useful to us?
RAMASWAMY: I think that moving from strategic ambiguity to strategic clarity is actually a good thing for the United States to both advance our interests and to avoid war, as well as to be a more trusted partner. I don't think it's credible when we make hollow proclamations to defend democracy or to defend the territorial sovereignty as a principle when, in fact, we choose that principle selectively anyway.
I think it's far more credible for us to be honest, to say that I will, as the next U.S. president, I stand for advancing American interests, period. That allows other nations to actually trust us. Just as we can trust them to follow their self-interest, they can trust us to follow ours.
ACOSTA: But are you sending a signal that an ally --
RAMASWAMY: -- conservatism or liberal hegemony.
ACOSTA: But are you sending a signal that an allied democracy could be taken over by another power just because they're no longer making something that we need?
RAMASWAMY: Well, let's get real, Jim. I mean, the fact of the matter is our current posture towards Taiwan is that the U.S. embraces the one China policy in the status quo. The standard protocol is the U.S. president isn't even supposed to pick up a phone call from the leader of Taiwan. In fact, when Trump did it, they laughed at him as though he was an outsider rub.
And so, the reality is that line of reasoning that somehow, you're now going to call them an allied nation selectively, to push back on my vision of strategic clarity, is just a farce and betrays exactly what our current posture is in the first place.
What I'm bringing to our foreign policy is honesty that will advance our interests. I'm moving from strategic ambiguity to be strategically very clear that we will defend Taiwan until we achieve semiconductor independence. I expect that to happen by the end of my first term, by 2028.
ACOSTA: But then China can have Taiwan? RAMASWAMY: And after that, our commitments necessarily will change.
ACOSTA: But then China can have Taiwan?
RAMASWAMY: To be clear, after that, by being clear, not necessarily. What that really means is Taiwan between now and then can actually spend what it should be spending on national defense. Taiwan spends less than 2% of GDP on its military. That is shameful. Taiwan needs to be spending over 4% of its own GDP. But by being strategically clear, we give Taiwan a chance to build up its own defense capabilities.
And China will also know that it is absolutely not in China's interest. Not any rational actor in China would want to make that move before 2028. In the meantime, what am I going to do? Achieve semiconductor independence for our nation and also build up our homeland defense capabilities. That's something that's badly lacking. Super EMP defenses, cyber defenses, nuclear missile defenses.
But if we're at that point by 2028, along with semiconductor independent, then no, I don't expect to wan to send my sons, our sons and daughters, in this country to die to fight over somebody else's territorial dispute. And I think that that's exactly what this Chinese civil war dating back to 1949 was all about.
There are two reasons why China might go after Taiwan. One is to lord over an economic gun over the United States. I refuse to let that happen. But a second is sorting out business dating back to 1949 between Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong. That's not something that I'm going to send our sons and daughters to settle.
ACOSTA: And you've also suggested that Vladimir Putin be allowed to keep parts of Ukraine as part of a way to solve that conflict. What if he wants parts of Poland next?
RAMASWAMY: You leave out the most important part of that deal.
ACOSTA: -- more of Ukraine next?
RAMASWAMY: You --
ACOSTA: Aren't you letting some of these authoritarian leaders off the hook?
RAMASWAMY: -- what actually advances -- far from it. I think that the Biden administration is so stubbornly attached to the idea of getting Xi Jinping to drop Vladimir Putin. What I think we need to be doing is get Vladimir Putin to drop Xi Jinping. Just like Nixon went to China in 1972. I think Putin is like the new Mao. I will visit Moscow and I will pull Russia out of its military alliance with China.
The Russia-China military alliance is the single greatest military threat that we face today. Hypersonic missile capabilities, nuclear capabilities in Russia, far ahead of us or China. A naval capacity in China ahead of ours combined with an economy that we depend on for our modern way of life. Those two nations are in a military alliance with one another and nobody in either political party is talking about it. Worst of all, our engagement in Ukraine is further driving Russia into China's arms. So, my foreign policy centers on weakening that alliance. That advances American interests.
ACOSTA: But you would let Putin have parts of Ukraine.
RAMASWAMY: That is how we actually secure peace.
ACOSTA: But you would let Putin have parts of Ukraine.
RAMASWAMY: I would freeze the current lines -- I would freeze the current lines of control, and that would leave parts of the Donbas region with Russia. I would also further make a commitment that NATO will not admit Ukraine to NATO. But there are even greater wins that I will get for the United States in return.
ACOSTA: That sounds like a win for Putin.
RAMASWAMY: The top of the list. Our goal should not be for Putin to lose. Our goal should be for America to win. That's what we have forgotten in this country, is that driving Russia into the ground is not a U.S. strategic goal. A U.S. strategic goal is to secure peace and prosperity for Americans.
And so, you know what? I do think many of those military resources being used to protect against an invasion across somebody else's border halfway around the world should be used to protect against the invasion across our own southern border right here at home.
And in the meantime, yes, we need to pull Russia apart from China instead of driving Russia further into China's hands. And I think that we have a foreign policy establishment in both parties, frankly, Republican Party and Democratic Party alike, that behaves as though we're in still the Cold War of the last century, forgetting that the USSR does not exist anymore and that the real threat we face today is communist China, which is that much stronger when Vladimir Putin is in Xi Jinping's camp.
ACOSTA: All right. Vivek Ramaswamy, we'll have to leave it there. Thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.
RAMASWAMY: Thank you, Jim.
ACOSTA: Thank you. All right, coming up next, we'll dissect the Trump team's proposal to delay their election trial until 2026. Yes, 2026. Plus, Trump is now calling off the event he teased to presumably push more election lies.
Also, emotions high inside a courtroom after a judge declared a mistrial in the case of two white men who shot at a Black FedEx driver here. Why? And I'll speak with the driver coming up live in just a few moments. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNKNOWN: Why -- why is it 92? Why is it --
UNKNOWN: To grant the motion for a mistrial.
UNKNOWN: There you go.
Let me go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Just hours after Donald Trump's fourth criminal indictment was announced in Fulton County, Georgia, the former president promised to present a -- quote -- "large, complex, and detailed report" -- unquote -- on voter fraud in the state at a press conference next Monday.
But tonight, Donald Trump is saying the press conference is not happening after all. He posted this evening, saying -- quote -- "Rather than releasing the report on the rigged and stolen Georgia 2020 presidential election on Monday," his words, "my lawyers would prefer putting this, I believe, irrefutable and overwhelming evidence of election fraud and irregularities," his words, "and formal legal filings."
Of course, that is not true. Most of that is not true. The election was neither rigged nor stolen. It comes shortly after sources told CNN his original announcement caught several of his own lawyers off guard.
Also, tonight, Trump's lawyers are presenting their proposed date for a trial in the election interference case in April. Three years from now.
Joining me now to talk about this is former January 6th investigative counsel, Marcus Childress. Marcus, good to see you. Thanks for being here.
MARCUS CHILDRESS, FORMER JANUARY 6 INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL: Thanks for having me.
ACOSTA: This trial proposal that they're talking about, April 2026, what did you think of that?
CHILDRESS: So, you can tell a lot about how a defense feels about the case by where they want to schedule that trial. As a prosecutor, when you move forward with indictment, you're ready to go to trial at that point or you should be ready to go to trial.
And defense counsel can take one or two approaches. They can rush you to trial to call your bluff so you can't further corroborate that evidence or develop additional evidence or they can slow roll it to trial. And I think that's what we're seeing from the Trump team, is clearly slow rolling it till 2026.
ACOSTA: Yeah. And the other thing that they, I guess, may be pushing back, it sounds like his lawyers are talking him down from this Monday press conference. Maybe we won't get a press conference of what he was proposing. What does it say that he's not doing this press conference anymore? What do you think?
CHILDRESS: I think --
ACOSTA: And he's saying that, well, we're going to put it in legal filings.
CHILDRESS: Well, I think his lawyers, I'm sure they're checking to make sure it's actually true before they put in the legal filing before the court, right? That's probably their primary concern. But this has been consistent.
ACOSTA: But none of it is true.
CHILDRESS: This is just -- but this has been the primary thought. The thing with Donald Trump is that he doubles down on the election fraud. We saw it leading up to January 6. We saw it after January 6. It has been detailed in reports. And it's a big part of the mental mind state of what the special counsel alluded to and alleged, and also what the Georgia prosecutor, the Fulton County prosecutor also alleged.
And so, this is something that I'm sure his lawyers don't want him outdoing, because we've seen false statement, charges pressed against him for his comments. And I'll be curious to see if it actually ends up in a legal filing because again, you can't make false statements to the court as an attorney.
ACOSTA: Yeah, the lawyers might want to watch out. One of the constants in this entire Trump legal saga is lawyers needing lawyers on his behalf. And CNN has now identified nearly all of the 30 unindicted co-conspirators in Georgia. It's not just fringed figures. We're talking about elected figures as well.
You had such great insights into what took place on January 6th, being a part of the investigative team up on Capitol Hill. You had so many conversations with a lot of these Trump allies and aides and so on. Why did they get involved in all this? Why did they do this sort of thing? I mean, some of them are ending up as indicted co-conspirators.
CHILDRESS: Right. I mean, it shows the power of Trump's words and just how powerful he has, the control he has over this orbit. One of the main challenges for us was always trying to figure out who was actually co-op or conspiring with the president versus who was just acting off of his words.
And I think what we've learned from the Fulton County indictment as well, the special counsel's indictment, is who was actually working with Trump's inner nucleus, his inner circle. It's hard to know why these individuals who --
ACOSTA: Did you ever hear any reasons, any rationale? CHILDRESS: I think the committee folks would be willing to tell you that they actually believe that the election was filled with fraud. We know that from the indictment, the allegations not to be true. They were told repeatedly by election lawyers and campaign folks that it wasn't true that there was fraud.
It's hard to actually try to figure out the logic behind why these folks have risked legal trouble over what is clearly lies, the big lie that has led to all this.
ACOSTA: All right. Marcus Childress, great to talk to you. Thank you very much. Appreciate the perspective.
CHILDRESS: Thanks for having me.
ACOSTA: In the meantime, threats against grand jurors and a federal judge. The dangers facing civil servants on Trump cases is getting more worrisome. I'll speak with a judge who lost her son in a target attack on her home two years ago. That's next.
ACOSTA: Judges and now jurors are under threat tonight. Far-right sites posting the names, pictures, and even addresses of the grand jurors in Donald Trump's Georgia indictment. And it's not just jurors. A woman is charged with threatening to kill Judge Tanya Chutkan, who's overseeing one of Trump's cases. She also called the judge a -- quote -- "stupid slave N-word" and said, "if Trump doesn't get elected in 2024, we are coming to kill you, so tread lightly."
My next guest is unfortunately familiar with all of this. In July 2020, U.S. District Court Esther Salas was targeted by a men's rights lawyer. The lawyer came to her home where he shot and killed her 20- year-old son, Daniel. Her husband was also seriously injured.
And Judge Esther Salas joins me now. Judge, thank you so much for joining us. We appreciate it. I'll just get right to it. As you know, these threats against the grand jurors and judges are incredibly alarming. Are you worried that something like what happened to you and your family could happen to them?
JUDGE ESTHER SALAS, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE: I worry about that all the time. That's probably one of the reasons that Mark, my husband, and I have not stopped since we started really this journey to try to ensure that all judges at every level of government are safe.
So, yeah, to answer your question, you always worry about the safety of a colleague, especially when, you know, the rhetoric and the words just seem to get more, you know, inflamed, if you will, and we seem to throw words around without really thinking about what they mean. You know, words matter. How we treat each other, it matters. And the value of life, we know only too well. It matters since we lost our only child on July 19, 2020.
ACOSTA: Words do matter. And to that point, judge, last week, as you know, former President Trump posted on his social media site, if you go after me, I'm coming after you. I guess -- what did you think of that rhetoric? Do you think rhetoric like that is fueling these threats?
SALAS: You know, I like to think about the problems that we have right now, which is not only the physical violence against judicial officers and the threats of physical violence. You know, I'm also concerned about the language that is being used by our leaders, both on the right and left.
When we question the justice system, when we start to, you know, perpetuate false narratives about judges being in cahoots with conspiracies, that really feeds into the third major issue that I'm concerned about, that we're eroding the public's trust in our justice system.
This country is, you know, founded on the Constitution and democracy. And when we take these actions so carelessly, both on the right and left, we are doing some serious damage to our country and to democracy and to the Constitution at large.
ACOSTA: I wonder, judge, how close do you think Trump has gotten to the line? Has he crossed the line in terms of breaking the rules of his release?
SALAS: You know, I'm more focused, Mr Acosta, on talking about what we all can start trying to do at every level, even the level of, you know, you and I, how we talk to one another, the civility, the way that we choose to treat each other, the value of human life.
You know, I -- rather than talking about that, I want to focus on really challenging our leaders and every one on down to start speaking to one another in a more responsible, in a more civil, in a more humane way.
ACOSTA: Our condolences once again to you and your family. What you've gone through is something that no family should go through. We really appreciate your time. Judge Salas, thank you so much for your time.
SALAS: Thank you for having me on, Mr. Acosta.
ACOSTA: Case of the attempted murder of a Black FedEx driver by two white men declared a mistrial. The driver joins me next to react to the stunning moment in court. That's coming up in just a few moments. Stay with us.
ACOSTA: Tonight, a mistrial declared in the case against Gregory and Brandon Case. The white father and son were accused of chasing and shooting at a black FedEx driver who was delivering packages in Brookhaven, Mississippi last year. The judge's decision followed the defense attorney's motion for a mistrial after one of the city's police detectives acknowledged under oath that he didn't give the prosecution or the defense a taped statement from the driver, D'Monterrio Gibson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: And with great reluctance, the court has no choice in this matter but to grant the motion for a mistrial.
UNKNOWN: There you go. Let me go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And joining me now is D'Monterrio Gibson, the driver at the center of this case, and his lawyer, Carlos Moore. Gentlemen, thank you very much for being with us. What a day! I can't imagine what you're going through right now, D'Monterrio. That was your mother right there reacting to the judge granting the defense's request for a mistrial. Can you put it into words? How disappointed you are right now?
D'MONTERRIO GIBSON, FEDEX DRIVER WHO ALLEGES HE WAS CHASED AND SHOT AT: I can't exactly put it into words, but it's definitely disappointing and frustrating. I feel like if a lot of people understood what we had to endure over this past year and a half, going through different processes, trying to get them, even putting them in jail, they'll understand why it feels like a lifetime, why it didn't feel like a year and a half. So, you know, it's just more stumbling than a rule and more steps in the process now.
ACOSTA: And do you mind, D'Monterrio, CNN has reached out to the Brookhaven Police Department for comment about not turning over that video. What do you want to say to the police? I mean, it sounds like a screw up.
GIBSON: It's definitely a screw up. It's not the first one that they've had dealing with my case and other cases. It's just like due to negligence on their part. I feel like -- I'm not going to say everything was purposely done, but it's just like a lot of incompetence in that police department. You know, for them to not turn up a certain piece of evidence, it just doesn't sit right with me.
ACOSTA: And Carlos, as his attorney, are you able to tell us what this taped statement actually was? Do you know why it wasn't handed over? Could this have been something that was done intentionally?
CARLOS MOORE, ATTORNEY FOR D'MONTERRIO GIBSON: Jim, I do believe it was very intentional and deliberate on the part of the detective, Fernando. This was an interrogation tape, interview tape at the police department of D'Monterrio when he gave his witness statement. And everyone knows those statements are always recorded. It was at the police station in the room. It was recorded and he should have given up -- given over the tape.
And so, I believe this was a delay tactic because they have always been on the side of the cases. It seems the police chief, assistant police chief, Chris Case, was in charge at the time of this murder, attempted murder.
ACOSTA: And D'Monterrio, you were just 24 years old when this incident happened. What has happened to your life? How has it been impacted since then?
GIBSON: Honestly, if I could just be completely honest, I feel like it took a turn for the worst because it's more stress on my life now than it was beforehand. I was kind of reluctant about speaking up at first. Even though it is harder, I'm definitely going to keep up the fight, though. I deal with certain things, such as anxiety, depression, insomnia. Just thinking about the incident more than I should, it just affects me negatively, mentally, more than anything.
ACOSTA: And Carlos, are you confident that you'll get a new trial? What about filing a lawsuit?
MOORE: We are confident that we will get a new trial. I've spoken with the prosecutor debates. The earliest new trial will take place is October, but that's not promised. It may be next year. Indeed, retires in December of this year. So, a new prosecutor may have to present the case sometime next year.
We will file a civil lawsuit against the cases for what they've done. We will also file an obstruction of justice, a civil suit against the city of Brookhaven. They have been just nothing but obstructionists. In this instance, there was a 10-month delay in getting an indictment. This is clear as day what these people did was wrong and they should be in jail sooner than later. Prison doors is where they belong, behind prison doors.
ACOSTA: And, of course, we've reached out to the police department. If they want to come on, we'll talk to them about it. But in the meantime, D'Monterrio Gibson, Carlos Moore, I hope you get justice. Thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.
MOORE: Thank you, Jim.
ACOSTA: All right. And just in to CNN, a big resignation from Maui's Emergency Management Agency days after the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century. Talk about that next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ACOSTA: Just in, the head of Maui's Emergency Management Agency is resigning, citing health reasons. This comes one day after he faced questions about not using sirens to warn Maui residents about the onset of the deadly wildfires. Wildfires have ravaged the Hawaiian island for 10 days, marking the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than 100 years.
Thanks for watching. Our coverage continues next. I'm Jim Acosta. Have a good night.