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Erin Burnett Outfront

Donald Trump Indicted, Likely Arraigned Early Next Week. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 30, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news and it is historic. Former President Donald J. Trump has been indicted by a New York grand jury investigating hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels. It is the first time in American history that a current or former president is facing criminal charges.

And CNN is now learning that Trump is expected to be arraigned early next week.

Now, the grand jury has been hearing evidence and witness testimony related to $130,000 that Trump's former fixer, Michael Cohen, paid Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. That money was paid in exchange for her silence about an alleged affair she had with Trump.

Now, a source telling CNN -- and this is really important information we're just getting -- that Trump was completely caught off guard, that right now, he's in Florida at a Mar-a-Lago that he had been caught off guard, and that he thought that this was sort of maybe -- maybe over, maybe Bragg had gotten cold feet.

So he suddenly released a statement after this news broke, saying, quote: This is -- this is in part. It's a longer statement. But he says: This is political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history, and accusing Democrats of now doing the, quote, unthinkable -- indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant election interference.

Now, we are following all these developments. We have reporters breaking this story here on so many angles as we are learning what is in this indictment about this arrangement.

And on that, I want to go first to Paula Reid in Washington.

Of course, Paula, our viewers know you've been breaking this throughout. And you are learning more tonight about the timing of former President Trump's arraignment.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. His attorneys say he is expected to appear for his arraignment early next week. Now, notably, the former president's attorneys have been informed that there is an indictment. They were certainly caught off guard by this.

But they were not informed of the specific charges, and that's in keeping with what we were told by a source close to the district attorney's office. That's how they intended to handle this. There would be an indictment will be filed under seal, attorneys will be notified, but not informed of the specific charges.

Those would not be revealed until an arraignment. They said that's because they want to treat this exactly like any other case.

But, Erin, of course, this is not like any other case. But what will happen between now and an arrangement, they will have to negotiate the terms of a self surrender, and we know the former president certainly intends to cooperate. He wants to appear in person like any other person would in this kind of process because he believes that leaning into this could be politically advantageous.

But to take a step back, Erin, there are some political questions here. The former president's legal team argues that this is politically motivated. This is something that happened seven years ago. This investigation has been going on for five years. It's unclear why this is suddenly heated up again.

Though, in the past few days, the district attorney's office has been amplifying the argument that even though this appears to just be a paperwork, crime hush money that they do believe that this hush money may have impacted the outcome of the 2016 election. And that is what elevates this case. But, of course, we're still waiting to see the exact charges.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you, Paula. And as Paula gets more information, she's going to bring that to us.

Evan Perez is OUTFRONT in Washington, also breaking so much of the story.

So, Evan, what are you learning about the -- I guess terms of surrender here, right? So we're -- we understand here that our Kristen Holmes is reporting, the former president was surprised, did not expect that this was coming.


BURNETT: And now, of course, you're going to have to have this surrender, secret service preparations and arrest, right. So what are you learning about all that?

PEREZ: Yeah. It's going to be a delicate orchestration certainly for the security part of this, Erin, because, you know, the Secret Service certainly had a lot of discussions. They had -- they had many meetings with prosecutors, with the NYPD last week. In anticipation as something could happen, and then everybody thought perhaps it wasn't going to happen so soon. And so, now, we're told that they're still waiting for the official

notification of exactly what day of something that as Paula just hinted at. The lawyers have to work this out with the prosecutors. When is it the best time for him to continue to Manhattan and present himself? The -- from the security standpoint, from the Secret Service standpoint, they need to make sure that they can find -- a secure way for him to go down to Manhattan and get in and out with the most minimum, danger to the former president.

And so that's one of the things that they certainly we are working on right now, as we speak. One of the things that I heard today was, you know, talking to officials. You know, they said that they had heard from the NYPD that there were increasing security for the next few days of the grand jury, and that seems strange to secret service officials because they had anticipated perhaps that there was going to be some kind of break.

And so, now, we know why that that's -- that that position has certainly changed from the NYPD. And now, they're anticipating as Paula just reported that he will be presenting himself in Manhattan in the next couple of days in early part of next week.

BURNETT: All right, Evan. Thank you very much.

And, of course, Evan is going to come back as the story is developing tonight.

Ryan Goodman, Karen Agnifilo, John Dean, and Laura Coates, familiar to all of you, are with us tonight.

Karen, let me start with you.

The former president, our Kristen Holmes is reporting, was surprised. And frankly, so were a lot of people because all the headlines that we've gotten over the past 24 hours were the grand jury's going on hiatus for the next few weeks, and basically nothing's happening until then, and it raised the whole question and maybe nothing's happening at all. So this is a surprise.

KAREN AGNIFILO, FORMER PROSECUTOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yeah, I mean, it certainly seems like it's caught a lot of people off guard by this news. I mean, we have been talking all week about how there's still two days left that they could vote this before they go on hiatus, we said Thursday and Monday, and things were getting really quiet at the D.A.'s office. People weren't talking. They were on super lockdown.

And I -- that to me signaled that there might be something going on because nothing was leaking out. And they really treated this with the secrecy that the grand jury deserves in every case.

BURNETT: Yes, and what's amazing, Ryan, all this is nothing's leaking out. And here we are tonight. I wanted to -- we know he's indicted, right? We know that there's going to be arraignment early next week from Paula's reporting. We do not know the vote split on the grand jury. We do not know what

is in the indictment. We do not know any of the specifics of a surrender or an arrest. It is pretty incredible at this point. I don't know all of those things.

What is your view of a possible indictment here? We're looking at a few charges or what?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: I think we're looking at felony charges in all likelihood based on everything we know in the public record, and it seems unlikely that they would go forward with just misdemeanors. But I think the key question is, are those feeling charges based on election law and campaign finance violations only, or also state tax crimes?

So I think these are some of the open questions which --

BURNETT: We don't know the scope.

GOODMAN: We don't know the scope --


GOODMAN: -- and it's bad to prejudge the strength of the case, even if we're right now, we don't even know what the charges are or what the evidence is behind those charges.

BURNETT: Right, and, Laura, that is pretty incredible here, right? That we -- right at this very moment, right, we know history has been made, right? A former president has been indicted.

We don't yet know what for.

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This is an extraordinary moment in history. And mind you, you don't go forward with an indictment if you got a meh sort of majority or the simple 12 out of the 23.


COATES: You have an eye towards not only the probable cause standard but also towards especially a case of this magnitude that you think you can win your case beyond a reasonable doubt and that the jury was actually behind you in that.

And so I would not expect the vote tally here for a grand jury willing to indict a former president, albeit as a controversial one as Donald Trump, to have a mediocre or tepid response. Instead, whatever evidence they were able to present was likely so overwhelming and the probable cause center to say this warrants this extraordinary moment in history.

And, Erin, let's not undercut how extraordinary it is. We've never had a president sitting or former ever be charged with a crime. And here we have one, and it might be one of many. BURNETT: And that's the question. Again, we don't even know, right,

even in this own -- in this indictment, the number of charges or what they're for, never mind obviously what's going on at the Department of Justice or in Georgia.

And, John Dean, still when, when, when Laura puts the exclamation point on that never in history, have we seen what we've seen tonight, may be the last closest time was obviously when you were dealing with then President Nixon. And here we are tonight.

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We have been close before. We have never been at this point. No president, prior president, former sitting or otherwise has ever been indicted.

It's been close with Nixon, they actually drafted an indictment one point for perjury and -- excuse me -- for obstruction of justice and bribery were the offenses they had thought about bringing against him, but he was pardoned before they ever got that far, although they did have a draft. With Bill Clinton, there was a possibility for perjury. And the special counsel in that case decided not to go there.

So this is history being made. It's a new chapter. It is -- it's uncharted territory. And, of course, as we say tonight, so many things we don't know and so many questions, right, where this -- this is new -- new ground that we are all going to see unfold in front of us.

I want to bring in Lanny Davis now to the conversation, Michael Cohen's attorney.


So, Lanny, thank you very much.

We -- our Kristen Holmes has been reporting their surprise -- from Donald Trump, that he does not expect this would happen now. Are you similarly surprised?

LANNY DAVIS, MICHAEL COHEN'S ATTORNEY: I'm not surprised by the fact of the indictment, but by the timing. I was not aware. They kept it very close to the vest, as they're required to do. But I was not aware that it was going to happen today. No.

BURNETT: All right. Which, you know, just as important as much information as we can get here.

So, then, Lanny, I maybe know the answer to this given what you just said. But do you know anything about what the charges will be in the actual indictment?

DAVIS: So I don't know the actual substance of the indictment. I can tell you what I believe is in the indictment, and I would also warn all the pundits and everyone speculating, including those who are on your panel, that there are lots of facts, lots of documents, lots of evidence of multiple crimes. And before anyone guesses the strength or the weakness of this case --

BURNETT: Uh-huh.

DAVIS: -- wait to see and read the indictment.

I'm just predicting there will be a lot of people surprised at the level of evidence, at the detail of evidence based on my experience in watching this group of prosecutors developed this case.

And I would also remind Mr. Trump's lawyers that Mr. Cohen and myself regard Mr. Trump innocent until proven guilty. He's entitled to the protection of the very Constitution that he was ready to repudiate. And he's innocent until proven guilty.

So let's at least start with that note, Erin.

BURNETT: So just to be clear, though, you're saying you think from what you understand, your exposure to the grand jury, your client, Michael Cohen, obviously central to this, testifying in front of that grand jury, that you believe that there is going to be an indictment for multiple crimes because of the evidence that that you're aware of one?

DAVIS: One correction, I was not in the grand jury room.

BURNETT: That you were next door.

DAVIS: I was sitting next door and consulting with Michael every so often.

But yes, I have no doubt, after months and months and months of being exposed to this case, and Mr. Cohen being questioned about the case and observing this group of professional, meticulous, careful, very discreet prosecutors that this is about facts, documents, text messages, other witnesses, not just Mr. Cohen. It's a very strong factual case.

I heard Mr. Honig speculating about whether the law is applicable, and it's a good question, whether federal law being violated applies to a New York state law.


DAVIS: I can assure Mr. Honig that there are a lot of lawyers who has researched that question, and we'll leave it to the New York D.A. to say they have laws that were violated based on these facts that I am aware of.

BURNETT: I want to ask you about something Ryan Goodman said. I don't know if you heard it a moment ago. But, you know, his view was that if you're going to go ahead and do this indictment, that his expectation would be that they would try to charge for a felony, not just a misdemeanor. Do you agree with that, Lanny?

DAVIS: No doubt.

BURNETT: No doubt? DAVIS: No doubt. There are -- there are felony violations if the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt is presented to a jury. I think this is a much stronger case than people recognize, attacking Michael Cohen, which is Donald Trump's way of deflecting and accusing and personalizing. He's going to be faced and American public opinion, right, left, Trump or not, are going to be faced with a lot of evidence that will surprise them, a lot of witnesses, a lot of documents.

It's not just about one person's testimony, and I think everyone who is out there talking about this being a political case or witch hunt are going to be sorry when they actually read the substance of what these prosecutors have developed in several criminal charges.

BURNETT: All right. And, of course, as I have to keep emphasizing, right, uncharted territory. We don't know what's in the indictment yet.

Lanny, what is your sense of what happens from here and these uncharted waters in terms of timing, right? You get it.

And I will just say, by the way, everyone to know what you're seeing on your screen. Alvin Bragg, the district attorney, just departing the Manhattan -- Manhattan courthouse downtown. So you can see that happening. We had known where he was. So we couldn't tell you that he left but obviously just getting into that SUV as you can see there into that Chevy.

Lanny, let me just ask you though. Do you have any sense as to the timing? What happens here, right?

Right now, we're in the very first step, which is our reporting is early next week, Donald Trump will surrender, right? We'll have the arrest, right? And then we move from there.

How does the timing go from there as far as you understand it?

DAVIS: Well, the speedy trial process will occur, but Mr. Trump is entitled to a strong defense. I am familiar with his defense attorney. We worked together in his past. He's a very good attorney.

And as I reminded your viewers, I hope not without surprising anyone that Donald Trump is presumed innocent. And while he is politicizing by calling it a witch hunt and all the things that Trump does to deflect, I would ask everybody watching tonight -- keep your minds open to the actual evidence, documents speak for themselves, witnesses that are more than one witness speak, and then the juries will have to decide whether they're credible.


But, Erin, the most important thing I would urge all of your panelists is to at least know what they don't know and wait for the evidence --


DAVIS: -- that we'll see in the indictment, and then, of course, in the trial that I believe will be relatively soon.

BURNETT: Lanny, I mean, in a sense, right now, you're being -- you're not being emotional about it. Obviously, our client, Michael Cohen is less judicious with his words, right? He's referred to Trump's evil deeds.

Do you think that he should not do that, that that's gone too far?

DAVIS: Well, this is the expression Michael Cohen used with me when he asked me to help him and I said, tell me what you did for the last 10 years. How can I possibly defend that when you worked for Mr. Trump and all the things that I believe you did? And he used the expression: I cannot defend the evil deeds I did for Donald Trump.

So, on July 2nd, 2018, he became a new Michael Cohen. He decided to speak truth to power and take the consequences. He went to prison for the very same crimes that the Southern District of New York federal prosecutors described as a threat to our democracy.

It's not just a hush money sex crime. It is what the Southern District prosecutors under Donald Trump said he directed Michael Cohen to do these crimes. Those were the dirty deeds. He paid the hush money on behalf of Mr. Trump for Mr. Trump's benefit.

But I still want to remind everyone, Mr. Trump deserves his day in court. He can demonize the opposition. But I am saying, let's wait for the evidence and give him the presumption of innocence that the Constitution provides.

BURNETT: Right, right. And, of course, to remind our viewers, hush money payments themselves are not what would be illegal here. It would be how they were accounted for and how they were handled.

DAVIS: But the motivation --


BURNETT: So while the sex part may seem salacious, it's not -- it's not at the center.

DAVIS: If I can interrupt here, Erin, is -- it is about motivation.


DAVIS: And the jury will have to decide that Mr. Trump had no political motivation about the harm that might occur --


DAVIS: -- to his political chances that the Stormy Daniels alleged affair came out and that is the issue before the jury. And I trust the jury system.

BURNETT: Lanny, thank you very much. I appreciate your time tonight.

DAVIS: Thank you, Erin. Thank you, Erin. BURNETT: And I want to go back to Kara Scannell now OUTFRONT outside the courthouse in New York.

And, Kara, I know that you're breaking some more details here and you've got something from the district attorney's office.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Erin. We have the first statement from the Manhattan district attorney's office. Since we've been reporting that the former president has been indicted in a statement, the D.A.'s office says: This evening, we contacted Mr. Trump's attorney to coordinate his surrender to the Manhattan D.A.'s office for an arraignment on a Supreme Court indictment, which remains under seal, guidance will be provided when the arraignment date is selected.

Now, attorneys for the former president say they expect him to be arraigned next week at some point in time, but again, this is something that they're going to work out. And as we've been reporting, this indictment was returned under seal. The grand jurors voted on this indictment late in the day today, right toward the end of their five o'clock deadline for when they meet each day that, they said.

Now, Trump's attorneys have said that they did not commit any crime and that they will vigorously fight that what they call this political prosecution. Certainly, a historic moment with the Manhattan district attorney's office confirming that they have sought and obtained an indictment against the former president, and they expect to provide more details on his arraignment when they become available -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Kara, thank you so much for those breaking details.

Ryan, Karen, John Dean, Laura Coates -- and John Miller also joins me now.

So, John, since you're joining the conversation, you've been obviously breaking a lot of details here as well. Can we talk about what Kara's -- we're talking about, which is this arraignment and surrender here?

This is very important. Former president -- there had been an expectation when this conversation started two weeks ago that he would have a heads up. And you would have coordinated and coordinated and handled the surrender in the arrest, all the plans would be in place before the indictment.

That did not happen. At least he was surprised by it as we understand. So what happens now?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, what happens now is, the surprise part that comes from us, right? This is an indictment that's under seal. It's not supposed to be public knowledge --


MILLER: -- and we've run and reported that. So that bits on us. The plan stays the same as you and I discussed two weeks ago, right, which is ah, a date will be set for an arrangement. That date will be the same day he surrenders when he surrenders on these charges. And I am told by my sources that this is 34 counts of falsification of business records, which is probably a lot of charges involving each document, each thing that was submitted as a separate count in a couple of matters.



MILLER: So he would surrender to the district attorney's office.

Now, presumably, that would happen at the district attorney's office. He'd be taken upstairs to the detective squad. He'd be fingerprinted and photographed, mug shot.

They would be given a conference room because, remember, nothing is the same here. He's a defendant who is under guard by the United States Secret service. I can't remember in history that ever occurring before.


MILLER: But his detail will be with him. Presumably they would put him in a conference room and say, all right, you are now booked.


MILLER: And your information is get -- being entered into the system now will have an arraignment judge. They'll bring him to the arraignment judge and will be released on his own recognizance.

BURNETT: And, okay, just a basic thing here. I just want to go through that. So it's under seal, and we know what happened. Okay, but Ryan does -- this just for anybody watching who doesn't know the basics here, does Trump know all the counts? He's seen it.

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: Apparently, he's not seen it yet, and he might see it at the arraignment.

BURNETT: Right. So he doesn't he's not sitting here knowing. So he's hearing you, and now he's learning from your reporting that there's 34 counts of falsification of business documents. Do you understand that there are more or possibly more different charges or is that you understand the totality of it?

MILLER: I believe that that is the grand jury's work in this case. Now, they could add additional charges later as other information comes up with a superseding indictment.

But let's go on the premise that 34 counts of anything is a pretty complete and thorough look at something.


MILLLER: So, let's start off with that.

BURNETT: Okay, so now let's get the legal reaction to that, if this is what it ends up being, and as John points out, right, there could be other matters. But in this particular indictment, if this is the scope, what does it say to you?

KAREN AGNIFILO, FORMER PROSECUTOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yeah, so we've always thought that they were going to be multiple charges based on the fact that there were multiple entries, right? He structured the payments so that you wouldn't see what they were for and so each business record entry where he said it was -- it was for illegal retainer, is it different, is it a new crime, right? Each one.

And so it makes sense that there are multiple charges here and that this is a thorough indictment. We've also been hearing reporting that there was evidence presented to the grand jury about the Karen McDougal payments as well and that was --


BURNETT: Appeared in Playboy and also had received a payment --

AGNIFILO: Exactly, exactly.

BURNETT: -- of $150,000.

AGNIFILO: -- which I -- which is also makes sense why this is such a sweeping indictment.

And one thing that Lanny Davis said about how you're going to hear it. See the facts once you read the indictment.

And that's very interesting to me because indictments are usually very bare bones and really all you see is the charge, unless there's a conspiracy charge. And if there's a conspiracy charge, that's where you have what you call a talking indictment and you'll hear a lot of facts about the case and you'll tell the story of the indictment. And so I suspect we are going to be told a story and we are going to hear the evidence.

And one last thing, Donald Trump's statement where he talks about how this is election interference also tells me that the theory of the falsifying business records is the election interference because for him the best often -- the best defense is an offense, so he's trying to spin the exact theory --


BURNETT: What he believes it will be.

AGNIFILO: Yes, exactly.

BURNETT: All right. What do you -- what is your reaction here to John's reporting here, if this ends up being that the scope of this particular indictment and I think it's important, John points out that we don't know what else could come, but the scope of this particular historic indictment would be 34 counts of falsification of business documents. What does that mean?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'm looking to see if it's in connection with the second part, which is essentially the misdemeanors of falsification and second part would be in connection with a different crime, notably trying to elevate it to the felony level. If it's a campaign financial crime, I'm looking for that second part.

But I also want to point out for many people who are watching their first wondering Erin now which case which investigation is this again? We're almost color coding at this point between Jack Smith and Fani Willis and now, of course, Alvin Bragg.

That's important to keep separate here because, as the former president is talking about a political persecution that he perceives these are all separate sovereigns who do not need to coordinate and frankly, Alvin Bragg does not work for Merrick Garland.


COATES: A quick review of the org chart will tell you that even if Donald Trump says this is about trying to silence or hurt a political rival of President Biden, Alvin Bragg also does not work for him. And so the differentiation between each of these entities is so important, but the idea here as Lanny, the attorney for Michael Cohen intimated, one of the big questions here has been, will they try to connect to federal campaign finance laws or will there be state laws in some respect to look at here?

I'm curious what those will be.


COATES: The only 30 plus or more, but I'm very eager to see as I'm sure the former president is as well.

BURNETT: Right and just to make the point here, Ryan, as you're saying that the former president, as far as we know, doesn't know what's in this, and may not know until arraignment. But when you hear falsification of business documents, if that indeed ends up being the scope does that -- what does that do to your thought process here, which was misdemeanor versus felony?


GOODMAN: So it doesn't really answer the question because it could easily be the case that it's 34 felony charges and that the felony charge of falsification of business records, you don't actually have to charge the other crime. The way that the offense is written is that they commit falsification of business records, calling these legal services rather than the hush money payment --

BURNETT: Right. GOODMAN: -- with the intent to commit or conceal another crime. So maybe they don't follow through on the other crime, but they had the intent to do it like deduct this from his taxes, like Michael Cohen claiming it is income, like not reported as a campaign contribution. So it could all just still be packaged right in there, and it's a solid kind of an offense because this is an offense that district attorney's bring all the time, the falsification of business records.

MILLER: And, by the way, and I defer to Karen on this as the real expert, but you can commit all kinds of state crimes in furtherance of committing a federal crime. You know, we did cases when I was with the NYPD's intelligence bureau of COVID fraud where we prosecuted them, federally. But along the way, there were numerous state crimes of falsification.


MILLER: That we could have arrested them for separately.

BURNETT: John Dean, I do think in this moment that we're sitting here, with so much that we don't know in this historic moment, there is this big question here, and John is giving the reporting on when the former president will be arraigned. But in these hours, these days right between now and then that is a really important and precarious moment, isn't it?

JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It is. I hope his lawyers have advised him again to keep his lips zipped. I doubt that he will necessarily do that, as his statement already indicates, but he's got to remember that all of his says now can be used against him and will in a trial. So he is in a very precarious situation, and it sounds like Bragg is very conscious with John Miller's reporting of the importance of this case and the scrutiny this case. Case is going to course get.

So a 34-count indictment is probably a talking indictment. It'll explain to the public why this case is unfolded the way it has. It will present a story about it, and that will have a much more powerful impact. So Trump's got to be absorbing that information as well.

BURNETT: Well, important that you all seem to be saying that it's not going to be bare bones, which would be the standard but there will be a story because there is in the -- in the context of where this country is, the need for that.

I want to go to Jeff Zeleny.

Jeff, as we talk about these next hours and days between now and when the former president would be formally arrested, you just spoke to someone who has communicated directly with him. What more do you know?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Erin, we do know that the former president was caught off guard by this. They were planning for it last week, but were simply blindsided by the timing of this. Of course, that was by design.

What's happened since then? Of course, we've seen his reaction. We've seen everything fall into place.

And really, the sound we hear tonight is the sound of Republican circling the wagon, but in a slightly nuanced way. It's not necessarily in support of Donald Trump. It is against the indictment virtually every Republican statement from some of his 2024 arrivals, from members of Congress, from governors and others, to a person, they are saying that this is a wrongheaded indictment. They're going after the D.A., after this process.

But some of these Republicans are not necessarily supporters of his candidacy in 2024, so I was just talking to top Republican operative who explained this to me and he said, look, we can be against the indictment and against Trump candidacy as well.

So in the coming hours in the coming weeks and months, we simply do not know the long term politics of this. The short term politics without question are almost certain to benefit Donald Trump. The long term politics, we do not know.

Of course, there are other legal cases still hanging out there, but in the short term, one thing we have not seen, as John was just saying, we have not heard, him called for protesters or things. We'll see if that happens.

But there's a lot of angst and unease in the Republican Party. But again, the criticism is toward the indictment, not necessarily always in support of his candidacy.

BURNETT: Right, right.

Okay, Jeff Zeleny, thank you.

David Axelrod's with me now, along with Stephanie Grisham and David Gergen.

Okay, so thanks very much to all of you.

Let me start with you, David, to the point that Jeff was just making that what you're hearing right now is Republicans against the indictment. And also, but not necessarily for Trump that right now, that seems to be the line that they're trying to walk and that may change, but that that's where it is in this moment.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah no, I think that that's right. I think it is very hard to predict what's going to happen, but I think the likelihood is that this can both cement Trump's base and cement his ceiling. And the question is, which is which -- you know, where do they all land?


AXELROD: I think his -- they're -- his core support -- remember he once said he could stand out on Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and you wouldn't lose his supporters. You know that turned out to be pretty prescient. There are people who believe that he is, in fact, being victimized here -- BURNETT: Yes.

AXELROD: -- and they will stick with him through thick or thin. His numbers have gone up in polling since all of this began. But I do think it also makes it more and more toxic for a lot of other voters, including some Republican voters, and we'll see how it all plays out.

BURNETT: Yes, and the stakes for the indictment seemed to be incredibly high, David, as we're sitting here talking about, you know, something that could be 34 counts that the expectation is that would be what people are calling a storytelling indictment, right, that it wouldn't be bare bones, that it would lay out a story, because it needs to make a case and the reason for that is the political reality, right?

The most recent poll we have David from Quinnipiac, 93 percent of GOP voters think this was politically motivated. Okay, no surprise there, 30 percent of Dems. No surprise there, although that may be higher than some might expect.

But 70 percent of independence, right, who are the largest, you know, technical share of voters in this country believe politics is the main motivation and a case needs to be made to them.

AXELROD: I didn't know whether you meant David Gergen or David Axelrod.

BURNETT: Oh, sorry, David Gergen. I'm sorry. Yes, David Gergen.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I do -- I do think a case needs to be made to those voters. It's very important and choosing Stormy Daniels is your opening bid. I don't think it was very helpful, and I was still surprised by that.

But I must tell you that overall, I think that basically Donald Trump has done as a future president. I did. It just -- it seems inconceivable to me that a man has been indicted on the kind of charges he had, and the fact that he may well go to jail. It's just inconceivable that we as a great nation will turn to him for leadership after this, you know?

And I -- and the fact is that the people who brought this indictment we're not the FBI, you know, top people. They weren't the top people in politics. There were -- there was a grand jury of Americans, cross country, cross fertilization of Americans.

So you put all that together and it just seems to me. It spells the end of Donald Trump as president.

BURNETT: And reminding everybody on the 23 members of the grand jury. We do not know how they voted, right? We know you had to have a majority to secure this indictment. We expect that it was much more than that, that it was a super majority. We don't know if it was unanimous or not. We simply don't know those facts right now.

Stephanie, we do know that Republicans are coming out and commenting and to Jeff Zeleny's point against the indictment, but -- but. So, Kevin McCarthy just tweeting a moment ago, Alvin Bragg has irreparably damaged our country in an attempt to interfere in our presidential election. So, you've got McCarthy speaking.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, of course, the presumed number two nominee for the GOP, although undeclared so far, coming out and saying of Bragg, he is stretching the law to target a political opponent. Florida will not assist in an extradition request, given the questionable circumstances at issue.

And the former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, also a likely candidate in the GOP field: It is a dark day for America when a former president is indicted on criminal charges. Donald Trump should not be the next president. But that should be decided by the voters.

Stephanie, obviously interesting, he took the hardest the hardest line there. But from McCarthy and from DeSantis, loud and clear, they're going to slam the indictment but not endorse the indictee.

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yeah. Well, coming from McCarthy, that doesn't surprise me at all. I've got to say that. And I think that DeSantis is playing to Trump's space.

But I do believe that once this indictment, people are able to see it, the rubber is going to really meet the road for Republicans. Is this what the party stands for?

Right now, it's one man with multiple investigations, questionable morals and somebody who takes the air out of the room every single day, rather than us talking about immigration, crime, et cetera. And I've got to say, how long are we going to say it's the world's biggest conspiracy that the DOJ, a state AG, local D.A.s, members of Congress and the media are all out to get this one man? Voters are just not stupid.

And I have to say that I think his base is loud on social media. His base is very loud at his rallies, but people are watching and waiting and seeing his corruption and his base is clearly not loud enough at the polls. You could see that in the last two elections, the midterms in the last presidential election.

BURNETT: All right. All of you stay with me.

I do want to remind everybody that we're going to hear from another obviously contender and someone who now has been told they have to appear before that grand jury with the special counsel, Mike Pence, later tonight at 9:00. So he is going to be breaking his silence on all of this, then.

Right now, Ty Cobb joins me, the former Trump White House lawyer.

And, Ty, let me ask you, you know, you and I have been speaking for months about Trump's legal perils. A lot of those conversations frankly, the majority of them have focused around the special counsel, the DOJ, Georgia and yet here we are tonight breaking news and indictment in New York, the former president expected to be arraigned early next week here in New York.


What's your reaction when you heard this?

TY COBB, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: So, I'm not surprised, Erin. I think we discussed recently, even after Mr. Costello's testimony that, you know, we thought an indictment was imminent. But, you know, on the timing issue, I think there's a little bit that distinguishes this case substantially from the others, which is Alvin Bragg has an extraordinary raging statute of limitations problem. Speed -- speed was required.

I mean, if -- if they were, if they were misdemeanors, they died years ago, under the New York statutes, you know? They're going to -- there's going to have to be some pretty significant legal arguments by the prosecutor as to why even a felony is still alive at this stage of the game. So I don't think people should be surprised that this case came as soon as it could. That's that -- I mean, that's one thing I would say.

You know, as an American, I will say, you know, it's a sad day. Not sad because Trump got indicted, but sad for all of us. I think that, you know, we're now among the countries where former presidents have been indicted.


COBB: You know, you know, for better or for worse.


COBB: I think it's a sad -- it may be historic, but it's the sad day. Well, I think it's an important thought to put out there, just to think about the significance of the moment for everyone, all politics aside.

BURNETT: Ty, I want to ask you about what we understand, which is that Trump who is in Mar-a-Lago, as we understand it , say it on our screen right now. He's there. He's not in New York.

Multiple sources close to him have been telling Kristen Homes, Jeff Zeleny that Trump was surprised that he was blindsided by this, right? Like many, he had seen the headlines that the grand jury was going to go on hiatus over holidays for the next several weeks, and they thought the case might have been falling apart.

So what do you think Trump does in these next few days, right? As we were describing, this is an important moment here where he knows he's indicted. He has to appear for the arrest.

What does he do between now and then? You know him.

COBB: Well, I think -- I think he gave us the recipe in his statement, you know, screaming about -- yeah, this being purely political and intended to influence the election. I don't really actually see any indication that I haven't heard of any evidence that would suggest that, you know, Bragg is doing this to interfere with the election. I mean, if he was going to bring this case, he had to bring it. He had to bring it soon.

But I do think that, you know, we're going to see Trump just continue to bash the press and, the process and the prosecutors, and insist that every thing is like the Russia collusion case where there was no evidence. We don't know that there's no evidence in these other kids. We haven't seen what the talking indictment.

BURNETT: And he did bring up in his -- and talking indictment again. Just so everyone understands sort of an indictment that would have a lot of description in it, would tell the story of exactly what it is alleging happened with the charges include.

Those charges, as we understand from our John Miller, Ty, include 34 counts of falsification of business records. John is saying there could obviously be other things that that indictments could come down for, but it is understanding of where this is, it's under seal, but that it's 34 charges of that falsification.

What do you -- what's your response when you hear that detail?

COBB: Well, I mean, you know, without seeing the indictment, we're all using a little bit of crystal ball, but that sounds to me like it could easily be the number of payments that were made, coupled with the accounting interests? Yeah, because keep in mind, Cohen was paid overtime on a monthly or weekly basis, I can't remember which, and that there would have been an entry for each one of those things. So, you know, it's likely that the bulk of the accounts are related to that.

BURNETT: And what -- you talk about how it was sort of now or never right in terms of running out the statute of limitations and that you think there's still a case to be made, right, to explain why it would still be within that range. But what -- what do you see here, Ty, as the timing for how this unfolds?

We understand. Obviously, you've got the DOJ special counsel, Fani Willis in Georgia all coming as well. But I mean, just in terms of this case, which we have all been told, is going to be likely, the fastest to move from start to finish. How does that timeline look?

COBB: Well, I think you'll definitely see a motion to dismiss, and that will -- the resolution of those will dictate, you know, the pace of the fuller revolution. There may be attempts to take matters up on appeal during the course of the case, that could slow things down.

I don't think anybody can be sure. Until we see what legal theory is how quickly the case can proceed. But definitely of the three cases -- of the four cases. I count the federal case as one case because it's all under control of the special counsel.

But, you know, between New York, Georgia and the special counsel's case, New York case is the one likely to move quickest.

BURNETT: All right. Ty, thank you very much.

And I want to go to Kara Scannell now. She's got some more reporting here from Trump's legal team. And as bus from Trump's team.

Kara, what have you learned?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Erin, we have another statement from another one of Donald Trump's attorneys, Chris Kise. He's been representing the former president in a New York civil investigation, as well as some of the document probe in Mar-a-Lago. He's saying that this is the lowest point in history for our criminal justice system, what was once the most respected and revered district attorney's office in the nation has been fully bastardized by an opportunistic politicians seeking like many others to cash in on the Trump brand.

The complete lack of legal basis, coupled with the politically targeted nature of the prosecution, should strike fear into every citizen in this country, irrespective of their views of President Trump.

Now, this statement coming after we've learned that former presidents been indicted. We do not know what these exact charges or how many charges there are. But again, they're calling this a political process prosecution and saying that they believe that these charges even though we don't know yet, but they are have no legal basis -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Kara, thank you very much.

So, now, you've got a statement from Trump himself, a statement from his -- his lawyer's, but you've got days here between now and when he actually will surrender.

So, Stephanie Grisham, what does he do in that time? You know, I understand that his lawyer are going to say keep your mouth shut until we see that, we all know what they're going to say. But what he actually does is often very different.

GRISHAM: Yes. Don't I know it? I imagine that right now, the team is just chaotic and scrambling. I think there's going to be two camps within the Trump world, and there's going to be the more conservative, the lawyers, the people that want him to remain quiet because things can now be used against him.

But I think there's going to also be the people who are going to want to really lean into this, who are going to want to make a spectacle of it, whenever he does go to New York. They're probably sending an advanced team out there to try to see what opportunities they are -- there are, to be honest.

I think you will hear from him. He's going to play the victim. He's going to attack people. He's going to do all the things that he does. He's going to try to change the narrative because, you know, he's his own best spokesperson.

BURNETT: So, David Axelrod, how does the D.A. in Manhattan? How does -- how does he prepare for to make the case that that he will need to make that this is not politically motivated, that he had a choice, he could have brought this. He didn't have to bring it. He's bringing it and he needs to answer specifically as to why it was imperative to do so.

AXELROD: Yeah. Look, first of all, let me say relative to what Stephanie just said Donald Trump only has -- he doesn't have any R on his gear shift, right? He only has a D.

And deny and attack has been what he's done all his life. I can't imagine that he won't do that here.

But in terms of the D.A. -- look, I think he'll make the case that, no man -- no person is above the law. There is a clear violation of law here and he was and he's going to treat Donald Trump as he would any other citizen.

I think we should make this point: I don't -- I'm not one who believes that he is bringing these charges that based on nothing. I think he's going to make a very strong case, it sounds like. But it's also true that for him, he does have politics. He's an elected official, and I -- you know, he was roundly criticized when he dropped the case against Trump last year.


AXELROD: And so, you know, he in this in the borough of Manhattan -- I don't think he's going to, you know, he is going to feel a ton of pressure to justify bringing this case and the best thing that he can do, just as a professional is to be as low key as possible and present the facts in the case.

BURNETT: Right. And, of course, obviously, his jurisdiction, you know, it's an incredibly Democratic, right? It's the Democratic base so that that's what obviously how he was elected by that particular group of people. But this is -- this is a national thing, and it's a national stage and it's a national moment of importance. And I'm sure he realizes that.

All right, thanks very much to you, David.

So there was something that I wanted to bring up here about -- Ty Cobb was making the point about statute of limitations. We know there have always been questions about that and differences in that for misdemeanor versus a felony.

So can you both explain how this works? Is there a case still to be made by Bragg, Karen, on statute of limitations here for felony?

KAREN AGNIFILO, FORMER PROSECUTOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yeah, absolutely. So, the statute of limitations for a felony is five years, but there is an exception.

BURNETT: This happened seven years ago.

AGNIFILO: Correct. But there's two areas where they -- where I think the D.A.'s office is going to rely.

Number one, when a person is continuously out of a jurisdiction, that time is tolled, meaning it doesn't count. It stops the clock. So that's --

BURNETT: So, Washington and Mar-a-Lago?

AGNIFILO: Exactly.


AGNIFILO: And he changed his official residence from New York to Florida, at a certain point. So that will toll the statute of limitations.

The second thing I think that they can rely on is the fact that during the pandemic, the governor of New York actually tolled the statute of limitations for criminal crimes for any prosecution for over a year, and so, that period of time will be tolled for all felonies, including this one.

And I think the third potential legal argument that they're going to rely on for tolling is the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice. Although it's a separate federal entity, there is a policy about not indicting a sitting president. So, one could argue that at the time that he was president, you could not -- you could not indict him.

Karen makes it sound like it's this one pretty much, at least in the way she lays it out. So clearly, yes, you're going to have to make the argument, but that the argument seems pretty clear on the side of your within the statute.

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: That's right. It's he's not the first person that would complain about the statute of limitations under these circumstances.


GOODMAN: It's been litigated. So the governor's order on COVID's extending the statute limitations, that one's already been litigated in New York courts. The presidential immunity is a special one that hasn't been, but if they needed to turn to that, then that one would be a novel question.

But I just wanted to say one thing about Chris Kise's focus on Alvin Bragg and his painting him as a political animal.


GOODMAN: Two data points. One, his predecessor Cy Vance, as the district attorney on his way out the door wanted said that he supported an indictment of Trump for these financial charges, but he left it to Bragg to decide. So --

BURNETT: Professional courtesy, you're saying. GOODMAN: Absolutely, but also a person with not future political ambitions, and he supported an indictment based on the evidence that they handed it to Bragg. Then, two senior prosecutors in Bragg's offices bring it now or we're going to go public against you. And he said, it's not ready.

He did the opposite of a political thing. He said, the evidence is not there yet.

BURNETT: And also, Laura, to make the point here, if from John Miller's reporting, right if this is 34 charges for falsification of business documents, John was very careful to say that this indictment, right? We do -- this grand jury is not disbanded, right? I mean, we don't know what else is coming. We don't -- there's a lot still that we don't know as to whether this is the beginning the middle or the end, for Alvin Bragg charges against Donald Trump.

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. They sit for a six month period. We don't know all the cases are actually looking at whether there is a larger scope in all of this.

But I do want to point out Governor Ron DeSantis extradition statement, about how he's not going to support.


COATES: His law -- his rule as a governor of a different state in a country where the constitution requires interstate extradition to have the role of the governor be very ministerial. He will have to essentially have the sign off from Governor Kathy Hochul, he can slow roll it, he could try to use a committee or delegate responsibility about signing off on it and figuring out whether or not all the I's are dotted and T's crossed, but the only other avenue that Trump would have if the slow rolling does not actually occur is to appeal to a judge to say this indictment is not lawful and try convincing a judge that a grand jury and what they have decided is somehow not to be credited.

So his statement, although lengthy doesn't have a whole lot of meat on the bone.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. And all of you, please stay with us. Our breaking news coverage will continue. We're just going to take a short break.



BURNETT: And welcome back to our breaking news coverage of former President Trump has been indicted. It is an unprecedented moment in American history. This has never happened. We've never had a former or current president facing criminal charges, a line many Americans would all have hoped we never had to cross and here we are tonight.

Trump right now is at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. CNN is learning that he is expected to be arraigned early next week in New York.

Manu Raju joins me now from Capitol Hill.

And, Manu, obviously, this is not what people expected, right? If they expected it, they didn't expect it now. People thought maybe the grand jury gone away for a few weeks. So what is the reaction in Congress tonight?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, we're seeing a bit of a divide within the top Republican ranks here on Capitol Hill. The House Republican leadership rushing to Donald Trump's defense. We have seen Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy go after the prosecutor Alvin Bragg, saying that they're going to go after his, quote, unprecedented abuse of power that they would hold him to account.

The House Republican leaders have indicated they want brad to come to Capitol Hill testify. This is before today's indictment. Expect that effort to intensify even as Bragg has resisted those calls and those whose to push back against us, said that the Republicans are simply trying to interfere in an ongoing criminal investigation before even seeing any of the evidence and the indictment itself.

Now, one Republican in the Senate, Senator Rick Scott, also aligning himself with Donald Trump. He called on Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republicans to get behind Donald Trump in support this effort by Kevin McCarthy to go after Alvin Bragg.

But remember, Republicans in the Senate are in the minority. They do not have subpoena power, unlike in the House where they do have subpoena power.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, has yet to issue a statement about Donald Trump and this expected indictment.

Also the number two Senate Republican, John Thune, yet the issue a statement about Donald Trump, and it's indictment, showing the divide within the party about Donald Trump.

Mitch McConnell, John Thune want to move forward, want to move beyond Trump. Kevin McCarthy very much knows that Donald Trump has been central to him as sending to the speakership, aligning himself with Donald Trump and planning to use his power to go after Alvin Bragg here, showing just how the part he is still grappling with struggling with dealing with Donald Trump as he could be expect these criminal charges for the former president to come here being sealed in the coming days here, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Manu, thank you very much.

And let's go to Washington and Evan Perez.

And, Evan, I understand you're learning a bit more about this wrinkle, this possibly very interesting wrinkle about Ron DeSantis and the extradition policies from Florida. EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, Erin, the Florida governor issued a statement just a while ago in which he, you know, said this much.


He said, Florida will not assist in any -- in an extradition request, given the questionable circumstances at issue with the Manhattan district attorney. And, look, it raises some very interesting and possible issues here because, you know, if Donald Trump decides that he doesn't want to show up in New York, and if he believes that, that that he wants to wants to challenge this, then the governor of New York would have to issue, essentially, an arrest warrant and ask the Florida governor to enforce it, which would then fall on the Florida department of law enforcement to go to Mar-a-Lago and try to take custody of the former president.

Of course, he is protected by the Secret Services. It raises a lot of security issues --


PEREZ: -- and raises a lot of constitutional issues.

We've never -- look, personally, I can't remember the last time I've seen a governor say essentially that, you know, they won't -- they won't, you know, honor an extradition request from another state. That's the whole concept of the United States, right? You can't use state borders to hide from charges in another state.

So, stay tuned. We may see some interesting things in the coming days here.

BURNETT: Right, right. Not, not, not what many would have defined federalism as.

David Urban joins me now.

David, you know the former president, right? And one thing from the statements we've seen tonight, and how he's looking at this is he's looking at these next few days and this arrest and deciding what he's going to do.

So, how does all this play out for him, right? I mean, he wants -- he wants the attention. He wants all of that, and he's a showman.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. So, Erin, you're exactly correct. I don't think -- look, I don't think Donald Trump wants attention this way, but you know, you'll see the president being defiant. I think and, and pushing back harder than you've ever seen before.

You know, viewers and people in America I think are asking right now, you know, what's changed? What's changed in the six years? This case has been lingering for six years. Cy Vance, the former district attorney for Manhattan, had it -- took a look at it, decided to take a pass. Southern District of New York looked at it, took a pass.

And so what has changed over six years? And I think people have come to the realization that politics have changed. That's the one thing is changing. I think they view this as a persecution, not prosecution, and I think that's Republican wide.


BURNETT: You have a lot of points and independents too.

URBAN: -- people supporting him.

BURNETT: Independents do as well. We saw 70 percent of that --

URBAN: Yeah, right, right.

BURNETT: -- felt that this was politically motivated.

But what do you think about the point Ryan Goodman made, which was when Cy Vance left, he said he supported charges, but he was leaving it to Alvin Bragg.

URBAN: Why didn't -- didn't he bring them?


BURNETT: Well, I mean, I guess it's a professional courtesy that the new elected guy was going to be was going to be the person to do it. I mean that, but does that matter to you?

URBAN: No, I don't think it does matter. It seems a little politically convenient to do it now, right, for Cy Vance to say, oh, I was going to do it, but I was leaving, right? I mean, it seems a little too cute by half.

And honestly, I think that Republicans view this as they view the first impeachment, right? The second impeachment. The -- you know, every time, since Donald Trump is president, is correct in this when he came down the elevators, right, the first on inauguration day, "The Washington Post" said, you know, Democrats looking to impeach Trump, right?


URBAN: So he views it -- his supporters view it kind of the same way they viewed everything, political, political, political.

BURNETT: And, of course, he said, the golden escalator. I mean, there's some things you know the things that so many have tired of from him are still the things that I would, yeah. Hmm.

URBAN: I would want to chip from the golden elevator. There you go.

BURNETT: Yeah, just adding to the conversation, Ryan, I want to give you a chance to make the important point here, which is that you have an indictment under seal, possibly 34 charges of falsification of business documents, as John Miller has said, but this grand jury is not disbanded. They stay until June. They're looking at other Trump matters -- in fact, a bigger matter.

GOODMAN: That's right. So, Alvin Bragg promised that he would publicly tell us the public if he decided to either drop or indict Trump for the investigations that he inherited and the other investigation that he inherited from Cy Vance is a big one on what we can think of as bank fraud, but it's the false statements to banks have overvaluing or undervaluing property when it suited him.

We don't know what's happened with that. The same grand jury might be sitting on that one. And that would come just as a superseding indictment, as John mentioned is totally conceivable.

BURNETT: We don't know, and they have time.

AGNIFILO: Yes, they do. They're still sitting, yes.

BURNETT: And, David Urban, I'll give the last word to you. That is the big question for the -- for the former president.

There's this indictment. There's possibly another one. There's Georgia. There's the special counsel.

We are at the beginning of the beginning here, not the end.

URBAN: Right, yeah, I know. It is the beginning of the beginning, and that's the troubling part, Erin, is that there may be serious charges down the road like that. You know, there's this involving January 6th, involving other things, but by the time we get to those, the American public will just be hearing white noise. It'll be just be, you know, white noise to most of Americans by that point in time, and that's a shame.

BURNETT: All right, and that is the big question and again, we can confirm more than 30 counts are expected in this indictment, which is still currently under seal. And we understand that includes a former president himself has not yet seen these charges.

Thank you so much for joining us. Our breaking news coverage continues right now with Anderson and "AC360".