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Federal Court Holds Crucial Hearing On Trump Immunity Appeal; Trump Appeals For Immunity Days Before Iowa Caucuses; Blinken To Hold News Conference Soon In Tel Aviv. Aired 11:20a-12p ET
Aired January 09, 2024 - 11:20 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(CNN U.S. SIMULCAST)
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD: Welcome to our second hour of Connect the World. The focus of Donald Trump's legal battles squarely on
Washington today. We have just heard arguments in a D.C. court over whether or not the former U.S. President and Republican frontrunner, remember, in
this year's election, is immune from prosecution on election subversion charges. Well, that happening while one of Trump's opponents, Nikki Haley,
has brought Trump's lead in the Republican primary race in New Hampshire to single digits, according to a new CNN poll.
Well, here to break all this down for us is CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson. Good to have you, Joey. What's the fundamental argument of Trump's lawyers
here about presidential immunity? What's the headline, a key take out from today's court hearing?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, Becky. Good to be with you. That the President can do whatever the President wishes and could never be
prosecuted, that's the big takeaway. Now, remember, Becky, huge. Why? Because if you have an issue, an instance where a President is immune from
criminal prosecution, that would, number one, make the President above the law, but number two, it would mean that the President really is not subject
to any criminal consequence. In the normal system of justice in the United States, 350 million people, everyone and anyone could be prosecuted for any
alleged transgression of law. The President's essential argument is that since you're the President, you can do whatever you want, whenever you
want. And as a result of that, there will be nothing to see here.
So, the essence of the argument is that a President can't be touched and would have absolute immunity. That's what Trump's team argument is in the
D.C. Circuit Court. That is below the Supreme Court. Those three judges will make a determination. Majority will prevail. And I would suspect no
matter what they decide, Becky, it will then, that is the decision, be appealed again to the next highest court, which is the United States
ANDERSON: Right. Okay. Let's just have a -- let's break down what we heard because it was -- it was -- we were taking this live on CNN, listening to
what was going on in the courthouse. Trump's lawyers saying that a President must be impeached before he can be prosecuted. But, let's be
quite clear here for the benefit of our viewers. Impeachment is political, Joey. Prosecution, legal. So far, they've been totally separate processes.
JACKSON: Yeah. That's a great point. I mean, I get the argument. I just don't know that it carries the day. In fact, I'm sure it does not. Why? In
the United States, we have a Department of Justice. That's the federal department, the Attorney General being the highest law enforcement officer
in the land. What's the relevance of that? The relevance of that is that the Justice Department allows anyone to be criminally prosecuted if you
transgress the law. However, that's the legal process.
The criminal process, to your issue, Becky, there is a political process, and that is when you impeach. Well, what does impeachment mean? If the
President engages in high crimes and misdemeanors, they can be charged. That is a sitting President. And the process provides for the House of
Representatives, which consists of 435 members, we know that, as congressmen and congresswomen, they would take up an Article of Impeachment
and they can by a majority vote, right, of the 435 members, proceed to impeach a President. That's what happened with Trump, a majority of the
House of Representatives.
However, we also have another House. What is that called? It's called the Senate. There are 100 of those senators, and you need two thirds in order
to convict once impeached. The essential argument here is to the extent that Mr. Trump was acquitted by the Senate, impeached by the House, but
acquitted by the Senate. Well, how then could he be prosecuted because it's double jeopardy? Meaning, you can't be held accountable for the same
The Department of Justice has already ruled on that issue back in 1973, and has concluded that you don't need to be impeached and otherwise convicted
by the Senate in order to be criminally prosecuted. So, there is guidance that would suggest that it is constitutionally permissible in order for a
President not to have yet been impeached at all, you could just be prosecuted. And so, I don't think that's an argument that the Trump team is
making that will carry the day. They're making the argument. I just don't think it has any merit and has been rejected in the past, Becky.
ANDERSON: Let's have a little listen to some of what was discussed today. One of the judges hearing this argument took this argument to an extreme
hypothetical, and I want our viewers just to hear that, Joey. Standby.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE FLORENCE PAN, U.S. COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT (VIA TELEPHONE): Could a President ordered SEAL Team Six to
assassinate a political rival? That's an official act, an order to SEAL Team Six.
D. JOHN SAUER, ATTORNEY FOR FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP (VIA TELEPHONE): He would have to be and would speedily be, you know, impeached and
convicted before the criminal prosecution --
PAN (VIA TELEPHONE): But there would be no criminal prosecution, no criminal liability for that?
SAUER (VIA TELEPHONE): Chief Justice's opinion in Marbury against Madison and our Constitution and the plain language of the impeachment judgment
clause all clearly presuppose that what the founders were concerned about was not.
PAN (VIA TELEPHONE): I asked you a yes, no, yes or no question. Could a President who ordered Seal Team Six to assassinate a political rival, who
was not impeached, would he be subject to criminal prosecution?
SAUER (VIA TELEPHONE): If he were impeached and convicted first.
PAN (VIA TELEPHONE): So your answer is no.
SAUER (VIA TELEPHONE): My answer is qualified. Yes. There is a political process that will have to occur under the structure of our Constitution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Joey, this was a pretty explosive question from one of the judges. Can you just explain what was going on here?
What was the point that she was making?
JACKSON: So, what happens, Becky, is that when you go in front of judges to make oral arguments, as today with this three-judge panel, what judges will
do is they will pepper attorneys with hypothetical questions in order to discern points of law to find out what are you arguing. Remember the
essence here. Trump's team is saying the President has absolute immunity. Anything he does in his official capacity, that is the President, could not
be criminally prosecuted. Right? That's the one point. And the judge, I think, in asking that hypothetical question, was saying, wait a second. You
mean to tell me if the President ordered the assassination of the political rival? They couldn't be prosecuted? Are you kidding? That's the first
Now, the attorney had to answer yes, but it was qualified. What was qualified? The answer. The attorney for President Trump indicated, you
could be, but you have to go through a process of impeachment, and then the Senate would have to convict you before you could get to criminal
prosecution. And that's just not the law. The reality is, to your earlier very good point, Becky, impeachment a political process. During the
impeachment, the House of Representative takes up in our full impeachment the majority vote. They take it to the Senate, 100 members of the Senate.
If two thirds of them, 67 say you're guilty, you're guilty. That's political. That has nothing to do with the criminal justice process.
And I think the point of the hypothetical was to point out, listen, it's just not so. If a President even while sitting as President does something
illegal, there has to be accountability. And I think that's what the hypothetical was getting at. And to suggest otherwise, it would be a
ANDERSON: Got it.
JACKSON: -- threat that would defy common sense.
ANDERSON: Bottom line, let's just be quite clear here, Donald Trump is the out and out frontrunner, although a CNN poll today certainly suggests that
Nikki Haley is doing a lot better than previously suggested, at least in New Hampshire. So, there seems to be at least some momentum for another
candidate at this point. But, what's at stake here, ultimately, with these hearings for Donald Trump?
JACKSON: So, Becky, the answer is everything. And it's not only for Donald Trump. I think it's for the American democracy and how the system of
government has to work. Personally to him, obviously, what's at stake is whether he can ever be held accountable for any of the alleged crime. Now,
I say alleged crimes. In our system of justice, anyone could be caught (ph), and you're presumed innocent until proven guilty. But, if the
President has absolute immunity from anything that he ever would do in office, there'd be nothing to see for anything a President ever done.
So, if the President gets a ruling from the court that says, hey, do whatever you want. It's okay. What's at stake is that he gets a -- get out
of free -- get out of jail free card. He can go do whatever he wants. But, not just him, Becky, any other President that came after him. And what
signal does it send to other citizens who have to follow and obey the law? And so, what's at stake is the future of democracy. What's at stake is
precedent. What's at stake is really what the essence of the law means. And that's what the determination that's being made by that three-judge panel
ANDERSON: Yeah. This is fascinating stuff. And let's be quite frank, this is historic stuff and extremely consequential. It's a reason why we are
ensuring that we are covering this and explaining what is going on for the viewers. It's good to have you, Joey. Really good to have you. Thank you,
sir. It is -- your analysis and insight is so important.
Still to come, America's top diplomat trying to keep the Israel-Hamas war contained. We will bring you details on who he is meeting and why, during
his stop in Israel.
ANDERSON: Welcome back to "Connect the World" with me Becky Anderson. Well, we are watching for a news conference from the U.S. Secretary of State
Antony Blinken. America's top diplomat is now in Tel Aviv where he has been having what can only be described as high-stake talks. So, that sounds
somewhat of a cliche. Doesn't it? But, they are high-stake talks with Israel's top officials, with tensions mounting in this region. And
remember, we are broadcasting to you from Abu Dhabi in the UAE. A major part of Blinken's tour is aimed at stopping the Israel-Hamas war from
escalating across the Middle East. The Secretary of State is also trying to persuade Israeli leaders to take more precautions to protect civilians in
CNN's Nic Robertson is covering this for us. He is live from Tel Aviv. Nada Bashir is in Beirut. Nada, we're going to get to you momentarily. I want to
start with you, Nic. It has to be asked what Blinken has actually achieved on this multi-stop trip. And let's remind our viewers before Tel Aviv, of
course, he was across this wider region in Jordan, across the Gulf here. And also, speaking to President Sisi on this trip in Egypt and also getting
into the West Bank, of course.
When you listen to what has been said to date and ahead of this press conference, I mean, he is clearly trying to persuade Israel to be -- to use
more precautions to curb the assault and offensive on Gaza to protect civilian lives, to get more humanitarian aid into the Enclave also, trying
to ensure that this doesn't spread and trying to get some momentum for a, as it's known, day after sort of strategy going here. There is little
evidence I have to say at this point certainly on the first two points that Netanyahu and his war cabinet are listening when it comes to more
protection of civilians in Gaza, and indeed on trying to ensure that more humanitarian aid desperately needed. Humanitarian aid is gotten to the
people who need it most. How do you read what's going on here?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: That there are a lot of meetings for Secretary of State Antony Blinken today. He kicked off by
meeting with the President. He has met with the Foreign Minister. He has met with the Prime Minister. He has met with the Defense Minister. He has
with the war cabinet. He has met with Prime Minister Netanyahu's main rival, if you will, Benny Gantz, who is in the unity war cabinet. He is
knocking on all the right doors. And what we're hearing and seeing from outside, when he goes inside those rooms, behind those doors, is very
little to give any clue that there is much of success of anything.
I think if Secretary Blinken feels he has something to bring in here to urge Israel to curb the war in Gaza, to damp down the tensions on the
northern border, it is the encouragement that others in the region, the regional partners, if you will, or potential partners in the future, like
Saudi Arabia, do still see a horizon when this rift and tensions that has happened right now can be resolved, with the practicalities of it is such a
far way away. What we hear from Israeli officials is that they are toning down and reducing the military activities in Gaza.
But, witness events of the past 24 hours, nine IDF soldiers killed, the overwhelmed hospitals in the center and the south of Gaza still receiving
dead and wounded Palestinians. And we've seen images today in Gaza of humanitarian supply trucks essentially being overrun by desperate civilians
who are pulling off sacks of flour and everything else they can get because the humanitarian supplies are so short.
So, that message that Secretary Blinken brings, which is protect, absolutely imperative, I think was his word that civilian life should be
better protected, and more humanitarian supplies should get in. The evidence on the ground is it is much needed and hasn't happened in effect
yet. And to the tensions on the northern border, we're only seeing an uptempo in Hezbollah strikes back at Israel, and Israel's targeting --
ROBERTSON: -- of Hezbollah targets as well. So --
ANDERSON: Nic --
ROBERTSON: -- you feel from standing outside the rooms, yeah, it falls on deaf ears.
ANDERSON: Yeah, and we've just been showing a map of where he has been around the region. And he has made a point of releasing a statement, or
certainly the State Department has, saying that, having spoken to leaders around this region, he will -- he has been listening, and he is bringing to
Israel the message from around this region, which continues to be, because I talk to my sources around this region all the time, it continues to be a
call for a ceasefire.
Now, the U.S. is certainly standing by Israel and suggesting that Israel has a right to self-defense in the wake of the Hamas massacres of Israeli
civilians on October 7th. And that will be a message that he has continued to underscore as he does the tour of the region. But, that is ultimately
what this region is saying. We need to see an immediate ceasefire, that there seems to be no evidence that Israel is prepared to sanction that. So,
what Antony Blinken brings, as you rightly point out, is real concern about the fear of this conflict in Gaza slipping and becoming a wider regional
war at this point. Just how concerned should we be about that?
ROBERTSON: I think there is reason to be concerned. I think there is also reason to be optimistic that -- the reason that I say is we don't know what
goes on behind closed doors, is because I think there is some -- there is actually some more frank conversations happen and more pieces, if you will,
that are required to move -- being moved. I mean, there is a recognition in the region that once the war cabinet falls apart here in Israel, there
would be elections, and Prime Minister Netanyahu and his far right wing government would be gone, and that would give a better political
dispensation in Israel for what Secretary Blinken said is the belief and understanding of the regional partners here, that if Israel can accept a
two-state solution and give rights to the Palestinians, etc., then there is hope.
So, I think perhaps behind the scenes, there is a little bit more brass tacks reality, but it's also true. The United States is saying, look, we
believe that Hamas needs to be defeated. We believe and understand that Israel needs to have the fight. You won't find any of the regional partners
here saying that publicly. But, behind closed doors, there will be a recognition that a Hamas victory or even survival represents a
strengthening for the morale, if you will, of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region, and that's antithetical to Egypt, to Saudi Arabia, and to others in
the region. So, while there is a call for a ceasefire, there is also a real politic behind the scenes and nobody will say this publicly.
ANDERSON: Nic, let me stop you there because the former President of the United States, Donald Trump, who has just been listening in on his own
immunity appeal in a D.C. court is about to speak. Let's listen in.
JOHN LAURO, DONALD TRUMP'S LAWYER: -- (inaudible) whether or not a President of the United States could be prosecuted for carrying out his
responsibilities, doing his job as the President.
We can't have a country where for every four years there is a cycle of political recrimination where one administration attacks a prior
administration, when in fact that candidate is leading in the polls, and will be the next President of the United States. As our legal team, as our
appellate team made clear, that would be a disaster for our country. That would be a direct attack on democracy, and that cannot happen. What was
very significant today, and I'm sure you're all caught it, is the special counsel conceded that if it was President Obama, who was being prosecuted
for a drone strike, then they'd have to consider immunity. But, when it's not, when it's President Trump, then they're taking the position that there
is no immunity for presidential acts that were required when a President is carrying out his job responsibilities.
If we adopt what the special counsel wants, if we adopt what President Biden wants, then we open the Pandora's Box to political prosecution after
political prosecution after political prosecution. In fact, Joe Biden could be prosecuted for trying to stop this man from becoming the next President
of the United States. We don't need political prosecutions. We need political process. I'd like to introduce President Trump.
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, I want to thank you all, and we had a either a very momentous day in terms of what was learned and what
they've conceded. They conceded two major points that were -- they were right in doing it. I don't think they had much of a choice. But, they're
very, very big, very powerful points. And I think we're doing very well. I think it's very unfair when an opponent, a political opponent is prosecuted
by the DoJ, by Biden's DoJ. So, they're losing in every poll. They're losing in almost every demographic. Numbers came out today that are really
very mindboggling if you happen to be Joe Biden. And I think they feel this is the way they're going to try and win. And that's not the way it goes.
It'll be bedlam in the country. It's a very bad thing. It's a very bad precedent.
As we said, it's the opening of a Pandora's Box. And it's a very sad thing that's happened with this whole situation. When they talk about threat to
democracy, that's your real threat to democracy. And I feel that, as a President, you have to have immunity, very simple. And if you don't, as an
example of this case, we are lost on immunity. And I did nothing wrong, absolutely nothing wrong. I'm working for the country. And I worked on very
hard on voter fraud, because we have to have free elections. We have to have strong borders. We have to have free elections, those two things
almost above all. And we found tremendous voter fraud. We have a list of it. We have some findings, if you want. The press doesn't like importing
it, but we found tremendous voter fraud, determinative voter fraud. But, we worked on that. That's what I was doing.
And they were talking about after -- well, nothing has to do with after I left. It was during the time. And that was what they really focused on
today during the appeal. And they can see that and everybody can see that. And if it's during the time, you have absolute immunity. So, we'll see how
it all works out. We have a great argument. We have an argument where they conceded two major points today. In fact, I think it's probably a
concession. You have to ask their lawyers, Todd, if you'd like to talk about it. But, they can see the two points that I think were by normal
standards if it weren't me, that would be the end of this case. But, sometimes, they look at me differently than they look upon others. And it's
very bad for our country.
You had a very big event yesterday, as you saw in Georgia, where the district attorney is totally compromised. The case has to be dropped. They
went after, I guess, 18 or 20 people. They wanted to go after a lot of other people. They want to go after senators. She was out of her mind. Now,
it turns out that that case is totally compromised. In fact, they say she is in far more criminal liability than any of the people she is looking at.
So, I think that when you look at --
ANDERSON: Well, you've just been listening to the former U.S. President Donald Trump responding after listening intently in the court room to a
hearing on his immunity appeal.
We all back after a quick break. Stay with us.
ANDERSON: Well, a massive winter storm is bringing severe weather threats to large parts of the United States. Several tornadoes have been reported
this morning. Northwestern Florida has a strong line of thunderstorms, moves through that area. A storm chaser observed a tornado touchdown and of
course damaging Grand Lagoon in Florida. You could hear people screaming and helped rescue a woman trapped in her home.
Well, a new report is confirming what we, well, frankly, we already knew, 2023 was the hottest year on record. Europe's Copernicus Climate Change
Service just released the data, showing an alarming leap in global temperatures, bringing the world dangerously close to a critical climate
I want to bring in CNN's Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir. Bill, the EU's climate and weather monitoring agency just released this report. What
does it tell us that we didn't frankly already know?
BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Becky, it just puts the accounting to, as you said, the obvious case that 2023 will go down as a
red letter year, pun intended. It is 1.48 degrees of global warming above pre-industrial levels. That, of course, is just a couple hundredths of a
degree away from the 1.5 that almost 200 nations agreed to avoid back in Paris in 2015. Our annual average temperature is the hottest, pretty much
over all over the globe. If you look at the map, only parts of Australia were cooler than normal. If you look up in candidates, three degrees, four
degrees of warming.
So, it is not even everywhere. And every day of 2023 was at least one degree hotter than this corresponding day back in 1850 or 1900 there.
That's never happened before. A couple of days in November were two degrees higher. So, shattering this record, and because El Nino, the natural
variability, is just beginning in the Pacific there, a sign it says it could be even warmer in 2024 as well. But, as long as it doesn't stay
there, as long as we're sort of dipping the toe in these hot tub waters and then pulling back with -- through decarbonization, they say, we can avoid
really the worst.
ANDERSON: So -- and I've got just over a minute or so. So, keep this brief, if you will, because I know your head is full of sort of thoughts on this.
What's the best action that we might see in 2024, and are we closing in on some solutions that are going to help at this point?
WEIR: Well, it's just the one number that matters, how much CO2? How much of that planet cooking pollution is continuing to be emitted? And we're on
track to more than ever was emitted in 2023. It's corresponds. But, if you look at the $24 billion disasters just in the United States, we have a map
of that, the cost of doing nothing is already extraordinarily high. And so, we're looking to see the transition. We're looking to see how fast that
pollution comes down, and how much BiON (ph), true BiON we get after the big conference we saw in Dubai, COP28 there, to decarbonize this fairly and
as fast as possible.
ANDERSON: Yep. I mean, the road towards transition at least is one that has been set out. There is a pathway. The question is, how effective and
efficient can the world be in getting on that pathway and getting there?
All right. You've been watching Connect the World. Thank you, Bill. One World is next.