Return to Transcripts main page
Erin Burnett Outfront
Trump Travels To New York Monday Ahead Of Arrest On Tuesday; New Details On Team Trump Plans For His Arrest Tuesday; CNN Fact- Checks GOP Claim Manhattan D.A. Is "Funded" By George Soros; Tornadoes Touch Down In Arizona, Dozens Injured In Little Rock. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired March 31, 2023 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next new details into OUTFRONT on Trump's arrest and arraignment. Sources are telling us what the Secret Service is planning right now, as Trump tonight rips into the judge who we now know will oversee his case.
Plus, Stormy Daniels speaking out tonight for the first time since Trump's indictment. The woman at the center of all of this the center of those hush money payments, breaking her silence. And you will hear what she is saying tonight.
Caught red-handed? That is what the Kremlin says about that American reporter who has been arrested on espionage charges. Red handed. Well, a lawyer with detailed knowledge of the case warns us that there's virtually no chance of him prevailing in court.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, Trump plotting his next move. The former president we understand weighing legal options tonight after becoming the first former president to be indicted. We know that Trump will return to New York on Monday night and time to formally surrender. That's the term on Tuesday.
His attorneys say they will challenge the indictment over hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
Now, in a moment, I'm going to speak to Jim Trusty. He's one of Trump's attorneys. That's coming up in just a moment, but the context here is important. You got the Secret Service meeting with officials to prepare for that surrender and arraignment on Tuesday in Manhattan. The former president, we understand, faces more than 30 counts related to business fraud.
On Tuesday, the president will be processed in this sense, just like any other defendant, mug shot, fingerprints. Of course, the way it's handled will be very different than anybody else given who he is. But these are the basics. True for anybody, true for him.
We are also learning tonight that cameras are expected to capture Trump as he walks down the hallway and into the courtroom to appear before that judge.
Now, as for the judge, I mentioned we've just learned who this person is going to be. Trump's already lashing out at him. His name is Judge Juan Merchan. Trump's declaring that Merchan is the same judge who, quote, railroaded his former chief financial officer of Trump Org, Allen Weisselberg, and he said that Merchan treated his company's viciously.
Well, tonight, outside the courthouse, there are growing concerns about security. The NYPD has been installing new cameras downtown as Trump's allies are calling for action.
Republican Congressman Marjorie Taylor Greene, case in point, saying on Twitter: I'm going to New York on Tuesday. We must protest the unconstitutional witch hunt.
Senator Lindsey Graham, quote, on the way to the D.A.'s office on Tuesday. Trump should smash some windows, rob a few shops and punch a cop. He would be released immediately.
Of course, Graham trying to make a statement about policy currently in New York, but obviously in light of the potential violence here, concerning.
Kara Scannell is OUTFRONT live outside the courthouse in New York. Evan Perez is live in Washington.
And so, let's begin with you, Evan, because I know you've been talking to your sources. What are you learning about plans for Tuesday.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, we saw Secret Service there today at the courthouse, working with the NYPD, as well as well as some of the court security. They were doing a run through to prepare for what's going to happen on Tuesday, and we've learned a little bit about what they're what they're getting ready to do.
One of the things we saw Secret Service there today, they were testing someone in magnetometers. They want to make sure they -- it's up to their standards to control who has access to that area, and it's screened to their standards.
What we're expecting to see is when the former president finally gets in there and is making his way into the court into the courtroom. We're going to see him walking down this hallway. He's going to be flanked by the court security but also by the Secret Service. Armed federal security agents are going to be around him, obviously. And then once he gets in into the courtroom. We expect that the court the security secret service is going to have extra people in there to create a barrier to prevent anybody from perhaps reaching for the former president.
All of these things, of course, are carefully orchestrated. They've designed a number of routes for the former president to get from Trump Tower to the court house. They don't -- they won't decide which route they're going to take until the morning of, Erin, because again, they want to make sure that they have, you know, that they want to make sure the security is up to the standard.
A lot of concern, obviously, that there are things that the former president who likes to create a bit of a media spectacle, that at the last minute he might decide to do other things -- Erin.
BURNETT: Right. Absolutely. I mean, talking about people lunging for him, but he may want to interact. He may want to talk. We just we don't know. That is the great unknown.
All right. Evan, thank you very much.
And let's go to Kara Scannell. She's outside the courthouse right now.
And, Kara, I know you've been talking to sources close to Trump on the Trump team as well as from D.A. Alvin Bragg's team.
What are you learning?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin. I mean, we've seen the former president lash out against the District Attorney Alvin Bragg, saying that he was a psychopath. Today, he's taking aim at the judge who will oversee his case. As you said, he's saying -- he's suggesting that the judge had railroaded his former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, into pleading guilty.
It's a false claim. Weisselberg agreed to plead guilty on his own. It was a voluntary plea, and he got a pretty good short prison or jail sentence for making that deal.
Now, he's the -- Trump is also saying that the judge was vicious for his companies. The company went to trial. It was convicted by a jury of 12 New Yorkers, and the judge sentenced that company to the maximum sentence of $1.6 million fine.
Now -- at the same time that all this is going on kind of publicly, and we have all these concerns as Evan was just describing about security. The D.A. is putting out this image that this is business as usual. We saw him today inside the courtroom. He went to attend the sentencing and in a completely unrelated hate crime case, he spent the entire time during the sentencing inside the courtroom when he left. I asked him if he could explain the significance and the importance of yesterday's indictment, but he was surrounded by increased security and just walked off without answering any questions.
But he certainly is projecting the image that he is here doing his job day in and day out like you would if there was not this historic moment that was made yesterday -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right, Kara. Thank you very much.
And joining me now, our team, Karen Agnifilo, Ryan Goodman, John Miller, Basil Smikle, and former Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger.
Karen, let me start with you. Obviously, you're very familiar with this D.A. office. You worked there.
So what is your latest thinking on what we're going to see in this indictment when it is unsealed, and of course, John here has reported that there will be 34 charges.
KAREN AGNIFILO, FORMER PROSECUTOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. So it makes sense, given what John said that there's 34 counts. Given that there are 11 different payments that were made, that in order to cover up the crime here and make it look like it was legal retainer, which it wasn't, they structured the payments and pay them overtime in 11 different payments. And each payment will have its own charge.
And in addition to that, each business, each payment was made with a check. That's one charge and then there was a business entry for that payment in his ledger -- book and ledgers. That's another charge.
And then Michael Cohen would give him an invoice, saying this was a legal -- a legal fee. That's another charge. So there'd be three charges per payment is what I think, so that equals 33. Then I think we could anticipate potentially seeing a conspiracy charge. There was a conspiracy here between Donald Trump, David Pecker, Michael Cohen and others to interfere with the election, and the conspiracy charges would allow -- that would allow the D.A.'s office to do what we talked about yesterday, that speaking indictment or the talking indictment that would talk about all the facts, and evidence in this case.
BURNETT: And evidence which would be unusual -- usually, these which be the bare bones. But this might provide that.
Now, if this is the case, these are the 34, interesting just that, Ryan. We don't know you could have one felony and 33 misdemeanors or you could have 33 felonies and one misdemeanor. It's unclear what this would mean in terms of the level of charge, right?
RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: That's exactly right. So they might strategically actually when I charge some of them as misdemeanors and others as felonies, just in case the felonies dropout, there's something at least they fall back on, and there's a much clearer case of convictions and the misdemeanors, because the felonies are more complicated after tie them to another crime, that the falsifying business records were in further inside of either committing or concealing. So that's complicated.
GOODMAN: But that's why we will see how many are actually felonies, how many are misdemeanors when this is revealed on Tuesday, right? And, of course, because it is under seal. So, obviously, you know, you had reported those 34 charges. You know, you've been doing so much reporting on this.
What is the latest that you're learning about the situation?
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, the indictment remains under seal. So most of the work today was really about logistics, which is how do you arrest the former president of the United States? Who's under secret service guards? So, a meeting this afternoon with the court officers? The Secret Service, the NYPD, the investigators from the district attorney's office who will be placing him under arrest from the D.A. squad.
Then, a walkthrough of routes that they could use at the courthouse. So, there is the entrance to the D.A.'s office. There's the floor where he's going to be processed on for his arrest, and then they chose a route that keeps him out of most of the public corridors right up until you get within a few feet of that courtroom door in the hallway and a -- in a -- in a four that they basically isolated, they're going to taper off the activity in other courtrooms in the afternoon so that when his arraignment comes up, the building will have almost nothing else going on, except other arrangements downstairs.
BURNETT: And, of course, in this, though you're talking about in an ordinary.
There's nothing ordinary about the situation, so it's hard to even use those words.
But most people would say all right, I'll do it. My Secret Service tells me to do, but that's not who we're talking about. In fact, Basil, this for him, they've just put out but he has raised $4 million since the indictment. That's $4 million in I'm just looking here, what, 26 hours.
BASIL SMIKLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Yeah.
BURNETT: Okay, this has been at least financially for him, the exposure is benefiting him.
SMIKLE: And as you're talking about the details of what will happen tomorrow. I used to do White House events in another life. And so, I -- you know, I understand that the work that the Secret Service to do and NYPD.
And you're right. They'll try to keep them safe and keep him away from the cameras and away from as many people as possible. Will he take them on a trip to be in front of these individuals and grandstand and performative for his supporters, because if he's raising that kind of money, there's no disincentive for him to get out of the race or to cower behind, but -- you know, in Mar-a-Lago, as opposed to being out in front among his supporters and essentially being lifted, elevated, which I think is what he wants to do.
MILLER: It comes with two essential options. One option is the normal one. We see in other cases where you come out on the courthouse steps. You don't do the quick, you know, entrance into the car.
BURNETT: Right, and you get the kind of microphone and the steps are beneath you, the other side. MILLER: The other option might be more comfortable for both Donald
Trump and the secret service, which is your schedule something later in Trump Tower. You control the environment, you're on home turf. It's your tower with your name in gold letters.
BURNETTT: And your escalator.
BURNETT: There's something to be said yeah.
MILLER: You're speaking from a position of control.
BURNETT: Right. Now, you know, it's interesting, Congressman, is that there has been this -- and we don't know, right, what this is going to mean politically. Interesting, Bill Barr raised a point.
Now, Bill Barr has obviously not been afraid to call Trump out and pretty aggressively. So he testified before your January 6th committee. He's saying he believes this is a weak case legally, but then he went on to say something interesting. Here is that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Politically, it's a -- it's a -- it's going to be damaging. I think to the Republican Party simply because I think it's a no lose situation for the Democrats. I think they're actually -- I think the impetus is really to help Trump get the nomination. Focus the attention on him for two years have this thing swirling around plus whatever else comes, which I think will be damaging whoever gets the nomination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, Congressman, I just putting aside the point. He's making about motivation for the charges. I want to ask you about his other point, right, which is that he is saying that this is politically bad for the GOP, no matter who gets the nomination, even if it isn't Trump. Is that true?
ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think so, because, look, maybe again, not in the primary. This I think probably is Donald Trump a little bit of help in the primary. Let's see what else comes if Georgia and DOJ et cetera, but, yeah.
I mean, look, one of the Republicans' reputation, like Republicans or hate them, used to be that they would shoot straight. You know, they tell you the things you didn't necessarily want to hear. You know, it was all about commitment to the country.
Well, what is it now? It's about, you know, defending a man to the end, regardless of what the facts are. It's about making a statement without facts. And it has nothing to do with kind of this fiscal conservativism.
So, yeah, I think it is damaging in the general election for sure. BURNETT: And I think that's significant because, you know, you have
these other charges that could be coming and from the special counsel in Georgia. We don't know what those will mean for him. But right now, they're really is him and Nikki Haley. You don't have a field.
Ryan, let me ask you about the other thing that the former president is doing and I mentioned this in the beginning of the show. He's slamming the judge, right, slamming the judge who has been involved in other cases involving Trump Org. Allen Weisselberg, right, miscalculate, miscounting or categorizing. I'm sorry for tax purposes.
Juan Merchan, what do you know about this judge?
GOODMAN: So, the judge has handled these other cases with the ways in which we want to see judges do this, which is with the core. He's not ruffled by this. He really controls his courtroom.
And I don't think that it's going to disturb him in a certain sense. But at a certain point if Trump crosses the line, then I do think the judge has to do what a judge would do in an ordinary case, which is to raise the specter of a gag order, and the gag order could say. You may not use social media to speak about the case that's ordinary for ordinary situations. At least the specter in this situation, we've got somebody with --
BURNETT: Who is running for president of the United States.
GOODMAN: Yeah. It's political speeches where is weighing in the balance and the other side of the equation.
But if you have a gag order, and if you violate that gag order than in New York state, you can be in contempt of court, which is another crime, and that could be dispatched with very quickly by a judge.
So I think that there's -- I do think we'll have this conversation at some point in the future because it does seem as though Trump is not going to be able to control himself or his incentives for why he wants to raise these kinds of --
BURNETT: Right, and you know, you know, this judge well.
AGNIFILO: Yeah. I appeared before him many, many times. He has a great reputation. He is a balls and strikes calling kind of judge. He's not a -- you wouldn't call him a pro prosecution judge or pro defense judge. He's very just judicious in a way and he's -- he has a background, I think in real estate, accounting or real estate.
So he's good. He's pretty --
BURNETT: He understands this area.
AGNIFILO: Exactly, so he has that background. He's been on the bench, I think for, I think 16 or 17 years and he's handled some the most serious cases in Manhattan. He's just a low key, really smart, well- reasoned judge. He's the kind of judge that you think about on TV. You want him to be a judge. He's just fades into the background. But
he keeps control over his court, and I don't think this is going to go very well. Having Donald Trump go after him the way he's going after him in Truth Social.
He's even making little racial, you know, by including his middle name. His name is Juan Merchan, but he made sure he added his middle name, Juan Manuel Merchan. It's like his little code signal.
BURNETT: Like Barack Hussein Obama.
AGNIFILO: Exactly right. Exactly right.
Congressman, what's your response to some people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, right, for example, said, you know the witch hunt that she's going to be here, protesting. What do you say to that?
ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's dangerous. It's funny about Marjorie Taylor Greene. She asked people convinced that she actually has power and I've been trying to make people aware of this as a member of Congress. You have no power except when you vote except maybe bringing attention to something.
But when you go to like this and say I'm going to protest, I'm going to be the one to call out injustice. She has no power to do that, except to bring attention. It's dangerous, quite honest.
But she has the right to protest. I mean, Democrats do this kind of stuff. They'll show up and in protest as well. It just depends what the rhetoric tied with it is.
And we're at a moment right now, Erin, where everything is so tense, and when there are people talking about violence, that any kind of match right now could set that off.
BURNETT: Basil, one final question, if there is a pursuit of a change in venue here, which we understand the Trump team may pursue. Do you think there's anything to that in the context of obviously this being Manhattan being a very Democratic base from which to pull a jury?
BASIL SMIKLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: There are a lot of rural communities, suburban communities around the state that are probably a lot more pro-Trump than Manhattan. It's possible. I don't know how likely it's going to be.
But I will add -- This is a very dangerous time. I'm concerned about Alvin Bragg and his family, concerned about the judge and his family, because this is a moment where Trump is going to want to be the martyr. And I am concerned around the potential violence.
So I understand the change of venue might be in the -- in the works, but I still see this is going to be an issue no matter where he goes.
BURNETT: Right. Fair point.
All right, thanks very much to all of you. I appreciate it coming into these crucial days.
And next, we have new details just coming in on Trump's plans for Tuesday, and we're going to take you live to Mar-a-Lago where our Kristen Holmes is breaking those details. Also Trump's attorney, James Trusty will join me next.
Plus, enemy number one. Republicans now zeroing in on the man at the forefront of Trump's historic indictment, the Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg. Do their attacks on Bragg personally add up?
And the breaking news, a tornado emergency now in effect for parts of the South as crews frantically searched for survivors. A powerful twister has just torn through Little Rock.
BURNETT: New details just in to CNN about Trump's plans for Tuesday.
I want to go straight to Christian home. She's at Mar-a-Lago where Trump is at this hour.
And, Kristen, what are you learning from your sources there?
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Erin. I just got off the phone with the source literally just minutes ago, who described the trip as a quick trip. They told me that Trump is going to be coming in on Monday, and they're still working on the details for what Tuesday will actually look like.
But it was really interesting to me that this was the first time they really seem to have a grasp on the situation. When I have spoken to sources in the last 24 hours, they have been operating mainly in the dark. As we reported yesterday, they were taken off guard by the timing of this indictment. They had been planning for indictment, but because of the reports about the grand jury essentially going on hiatus, not hearing the case beforehand, they thought they had time or, in some cases, they thought that the case itself might be falling apart.
Every single time, I spoke to member of the Trump team or sources close to the former president, they were telling me they were learning about what was going on with this indictment from news media reports. That seems to have shifted. They seem to be in control of the situation and planning for this event, planning around this event.
Of course, as we have seen, this team is on the offense. Part of that plan, whether it's logistics and travel is also their media and their optics and that they're going to get in order, as they hear from the Secret Service as they hear from the security in New York because that's going to dictate what they can actually do while they are on the ground in New York in terms of that media in terms of that optics.
BURNETT: All right. Kristen, thank you very much, with those new details from Mar-a-Lago. I want to go now to President Trump's lawyer, Jim Trusty. He is
representing Trump in all the federal investigations, so the classified documents and the January 6th cases before the special counsel. Jim, I very much appreciate your time.
So, we understand. Trump is facing more than 30 counts related to business fraud. John Miller's reported its 34. I don't know if you just heard the discussion here, but the belief is that it would be possibly three charges per payment, which is 33, then one for conspiracy.
Do you believe that that's what you're looking at? Do you believe all of these are related to Stormy Daniels?
JAMES TRUSTY, TRUMP ATTORNEY: Well, you have to be careful because, you know, none of us have seen the indictment. We're hearing all these leaks, which is a great reminder of the starting point here that there's different rules for President Trump. We're talking about a leaked fact of an indictment and even speculating on the exact charges because when it's Donald Trump, nobody actually obeys rules.
So, look, I would say this: we have a pretty good idea because they've leaked so much. During the grand jury process of the legal theory and the witnesses they're relying on. We don't know with certainty. We have to certainly look at the indictment and give a keen eye to whether they can possibly clean up some of the fundamental problems they're going to have and whether they try to expand it.
But the bottom line is, you know, we focus all about procedure and protocol and what's coming up next week.
But you got to start with the big picture. Prosecutors are supposed to be judicious. They're supposed to start off seeking the road, the evidence takes them down, not targeting a man and putting charges on him, no matter who it is.
So we've really crossed the Rubicon in this country with politicized prosecution. Alvin Bragg needs to be the focus of a lot of attention because he's ushering in a new criminal justice system right now.
BURNETT: And look, I know obviously, you spent many years at the DOJ. You don't as you point out, none of us know formally what the charges are. How can you be so certain that this -- that they don't add up, right, that that all the T's aren't crossed and the I's are dotted when, as you say yourself no one's actually seen it?
TRUSTY: Right. I mean, look, I'm happy to see it. I'm not going to prejudge it with 100 percent certainty. But what I will tell you is the leaks that have come out have defined the case as being the same case. It was passed over by federal prosecutors in Southern District, passed over by Bragg's predecessor, passed over by Bragg and a case that relies upon the credibility of a convicted perjurer, disgraced former lawyer felon --
BURNETT: They're now saying that there's documents --
TRUSTY: Hold on, who perjured himself --
BURNETT: OK, but are you worried that maybe there are documents to back this up in this case is not, in fact, based on Michael Cohen?
TRUSTY: Look, the case, it's in the interest of Alvin Bragg to announce and to pretend and Cohen's been doing this on your network, saying, of course, it's not just me. I'm corroborated. Of course, he's going to say that.
But at its heart, you have two very difficult lanes. I would say impossible lanes for Alvin Bragg to have a legitimate prosecution here. The first is the inherent impossibility of relying on Michael Cohen, who probably lied in the grand jury duty again, add another perjury to the stack.
But you also have legal deficiencies. There's this legal gymnastics that seems to be at work here. Just stack misdemeanors to rely upon a federal election predicate, which is just impossible as a matter of state jurisprudence. That's the way to try to avoid the statute of limitations. It's already run.
TRUSTY: But then you have a fundamental problem that even liberal lawyers are pointing out, which is this case does not have an intent to defraud, is that's defined under New York case law. So you're going to see very robust motions, I think, in the near future variety of motions, perhaps motions to dismiss that I think may take this away.
If the judge is as good as your guests are saying, he's going to look at this and recognize the law calls for dismissal if it's the indictment that we're anticipating at this point.
BURNETT: Right. Again, you know, as you say, if it's the one that we're anticipating, and we'll see, right, because we don't know and --
BURNETT: -- obviously, he would have coming into this know full well what? What your team was going to say so with we all wait, we all wait to see what's in there, and what we expect, of course, will be a talking indictment and give us all these details.
Jim, thanks. I appreciate your time.
TRUSTY: Sure. Good to see, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. You, too.
And next, Republicans now targeting the D.A. who charged Trump , Alvin Bragg. Well, you just heard Jim Trusty talking about Alvin Bragg, saying that's where the conversation should be. TRUSTY: Well, what they're doing now, the GOP is accusing him of
answering to liberal billionaire George Soros.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: The Soros district attorney.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Soros-ification of the criminal justice system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, Soros is long but a four letter word for Republicans. So what really is the relationship between brag and Soros?
Plus, president by now demanding Putin released the American journalists detained in Russia. We are going to speak tonight to an attorney who has an inside knowledge of this case, and you'll hear why he is very concerned tonight.
BURNETT: All right. You just heard Jim Trusty, one of Trump's attorneys, telling me he expects a motion for dismissal for the former president's legal team, and that would keep this hush money case from going to trial and said, you know, multiple motions. He seemed very confident in that now.
Now, the former president, of course, is set to travel to New York on Monday and then would appear in court on Tuesday to face these charges for the formal booking.
OUTFRONT now, Lanny Davis, attorney from Michael Cohen, is back with me.
And, obviously, Lanny and I spoke last night on the news of the indictment.
So, you just heard Jim Trusty. He's very confident. He thinks they're going to be able to get this case dismissed.
Based on your exposure to this grand jury, your client's exposure, obviously, and the evidence in this case that you are aware of beyond your client, Michael Cohen, do you think that there is a chance of motion to dismiss could be successful.
LANNY DAVIS, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL COHEN: Very small because there's so much factual dispute on the material issues. A court doesn't deprive a jury of making a decision. A motion to dismiss is a decision to deprive a trial by jury. And that's a very high standard, as a lawyer. It's very rare that a judge will deny a jury the right to decide factual disputes.
I do want to correct the record. It's very important that I do so. You seem to respect this gentleman. I don't know him, who is the defense attorney for Mr. Trump, but he got a basic fact wrong and he probably knows better and just didn't just misspoke.
Nobody passed on prosecuting Donald Trump. They actually in their memorandum and criminal information against Michael Cohen charged Donald Trump with being director of the crime that Michael --
BURNETT: Individual one, individual one.
DAVIS: They called him individual one. But they said he directed the crime that Michael Cohen did the time. So the person that directs the crime is usually part of the criminal conspiracy.
BURNETT: But they did not go ahead and charge him at the time.
DAVIS: The reason that he didn't say and I'm so astonished because I gathered that you know him and that you respect him and I --
BURNETT: Well, he is a law -- he spent many years at the DOJ.
DAVIS: But here's what he could not possibly get wrong. So I'm thinking he just made a mistake. The reason that he was not charged, the word passed on is just flatly wrong, is that he's president of the United States and he can't be prosecuted. And we know that from the 1977 memo in the Justice Department.
How he could say that the southern district of New York passed on Donald Trump without knowing that he can't be prosecuted but they charged him with a crime because they couldn't prosecute him. They said he directed the conspiracy and the hush money was illegal. And then they said that he wrote checks.
BURNETT: And, Lanny, I'm not trying to relitigate -- I'm not trying to relitigate all of this. But there are many who have said that the fact that Stevens did not charge and maybe he was passing it along out of professional courtesy to his replacement, but he did not. And Bragg did not initially and now here we are coming up against the statute of limitations, and it's happening, that has raised questions for many.
DAVIS: I thought he was talking --
BURNETT: But those have been legitimate questions that have been raised by many.
DAVIS: Sure, sure. And I thought he was referring to the Southern District passing on. Cyrus Vance didn't pass on anything. He handed over complete case that was -- we were in the room when that case was being looked at through all the financial statements, but that was a judgment Mr. Bragg made. I happen to disagree. I thought there was a strong case. We were in the wrong room with Mark Pomerantz, who was the lead prosecutor. But I just wanted to correct the record if he was talking about the Southern District prosecutors and when he charges Michael Cohen with all these personal attack words, he should at least complete the sentence with one other fact, which is everything that Michael Cohen did, but for the tax charges were at the direction and for the exclusive benefit of Donald Trump.
Now, how could he not add that fact. It's like, had to say.
BURNETT: But, Lanny, one thing he said, one thing he said, right, is that this is based upon the testimony of a person or a couple of individuals, right?
BURNETT: Now, I did say that there's been an indication and certainly you've given that that there's been documents to back all of this up.
BURNETT: How confident are you that that this case does not rely on Michael Cohen?
DAVIS: Very because everybody, with all due respect to the gentleman, and everybody else who's on CNN, are all speculating. I know. In the room what we did day after day after day, hours after hours after hours, and what we did with Michael is to look over specific documents that speak --
BURNETT: So you're saying there will be no charge here that will rely on Michael Cohen's word?
DAVIS: None. Michael Cohen's word will be corroborated by others, so that will be one exception to my saying none. If Michael Cohen says something happened, there will be many ways of corroborating that microphone is telling the truth.
And by the way, Michael Cohen on September -- excuse me, March, February 28th, 2019 in front of Congress said what I did for 10 years for Donald Trump was wrong. I'm ashamed. And now for my country and my family, I'm going to tell the truth.
So at least we should remember that Michael Cohen's credibility in front of a jury will take that into account that he turned the corner and told the truth.
BURNETT: All right. Lanny, thank you very much. Good to speak to you.
DAVIS: Thanks, Erin. Thank you.
BURENTT: All right. And meanwhile, the Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg was not answering any questions about Trump's indictment as he left his office tonight. Quiet but Bragg is lashing out against House Republicans in Washington in defense of his decision as a D.A. to indict. He's accusing them of collaborating with Trump to, quote, vilify and denigrate the integrity of the prosecution. Bragg has become a target for Republicans who have been trying to link
him to liberal billionaire donor George Soros like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: The George Soros money machine that spends a lot of money on the prosecutors.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Ordinary Americans and all these different jurisdictions that they get victimized every day because of the reckless political agenda that these Soros D.A.s bring to their job.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): This is a D.A. that got more than a million dollars from Soros.
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): It seems to leave a nation on the edge as we witness the Sorosofication of the criminal justice system in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Daniel Dale is OUTFRONT now to fact check those claims that you just heard from Republicans.
And, Daniel, obviously, George Soros is a longtime supporter of Democratic campaigns. That has been true in case after case. But what can you tell us specifically about the relationship between George Soros and Alvin Bragg?
DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: So there is no sign of a personal relationship between Soros and Bragg. Soros spokesman told me, Soros has never once communicated with bragging anyway, not in person, not on the phone, not even on Zoom and Soros did not make any donations to Bragg's 2021 election campaign.
Soros did, however, Erin, play an indirect role in that Bragg campaign by making donations to a PAC, political action committee, that supported Bragg. Now, here are the specifics. Soros is again a longtime supporter of criminal justice reform and D.A. candidates promoting that reform, and his spokesman told me that Soros and an affiliated PAC gave $4 million between 2016 and 2022, including one million in May 2021, not specifically earmarked in support of Bragg, but a million in May 2021 to a racial justice PAC called Color of Change, which, like Soros also backs reform minded D.A. candidates around the country.
Now, Color of Change tells me it ended up spending just over $500,000, so not over a million, but just over $500,000 in support of that Bragg campaign.
Now, Erin, Bragg was outspent by millions by his main opponent in the Democratic primary that he won and Color of Change president Rashad Robinson told me it's a major overstatement, he said. A big reach to suggest that Color of Change's 500K. Spending was like the one thing that won the election for Bragg, who is a Harvard law grad, a former state chief deputy attorney general, former federal prosecutor.
Robinson told me that his group was important in the race, but merely one of many factors, and Robinson said, quote: Up until last week, we couldn't get people to write about our PAC.
Now, all of a sudden, we single handedly elected the Manhattan D.A. When he was elected, I didn't get that credit.
Now, Robinson also called the Soros related attacks antisemitic and, he added, also anti-Black since, he said they suggest that his experienced Black lead PAC wasn't making its own decisions on who to support and how -- Erin.
BURNETT: So, Daniel, you know, you just mentioned those accusations of antisemitism. And to that point, I do want to show some of how Republicans have depicted Soros in the past.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD ANNOUNCER: Left wing mobs paid to riot in the streets. Billionaire George Soros bankrolls the resistance and Dan Feehan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, Soros, obviously very controversial among Republicans and it often does, Daniel, boiled down to a very thinly veiled attack on his religion.
DALE: Yeah, so there is a centuries old antisemitic trope Erin about like sinister Jewish puppet master somehow orchestrating us and international events with their cash and attacks on Soros are often either explicitly antisemitic attacks or dog whistle attacks, invoking that trope.
Oren Segal, an executive of the Anti-Defamation League, which works to combat antisemitism told me today that the Trump campaign's own fundraising emails about Bragg have, quote, increasingly promoted potentially problematic language often used as antisemitic dog whistles, including calling Soros, a, quote, puppeteer or puppet master, and on from there.
Now, Erin, it is certainly possible to talk factually and responsibly about George Soros's role in races and us politics. Generally he's a major political donor political player in this country, but this kind of puppet master language just is not that responsible, factual language.
BURNETT: Right. All right, Daniel, thank you very much.
And next, Stormy Daniels tonight, breaking her silence, saying she now fears for her safety after Trump's indictment.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) STORMY DANIELS, ADULT FILM STAR: The first time it was like gold digger, slut, whore, you know, liar, whatever. And this time, it's like, I'm going to murder you.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: Plus, breaking news, devastating tornadoes right now tearing through the south major cities like Nashville now in the crosshairs. There are already reports of entire neighborhoods leveled. And people rushing to hospitals.
BURNETT: Tonight, monumental and epic. That is how Stormy Daniels is describing Donald Trump's indictment tonight in a new interview with "The Times of London". Daniels, of course, is at the center of this entire case. She's the adult film star who received the $130,000 and hush money payments during Trump's presidential campaign.
Kyung Lah is OUTFRONT.
STORMY DANIELS, ADULT FILM STAR: I don't know, like I still feel kind of numb. It's starting to sink in now, but not in a good way.
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Stormy Daniels in her first interview since Donald Trump's indictment tells "The Times U.K." this is a vindication.
DANIELS: I -- you know, I get these mullets where I get emotional. I'm like I wish I had never done. This is so stupid, but I still do the same thing because it was the right to do.
LAH: It's a legal decision that's been years in the making, since Daniel's first burst into the public spotlight.
She's known as the adult movie actress tied to the former president, but she was born Stephanie Clifford, she writes in her biography about a childhood in baton rouge, Louisiana, neglected left alone without food by her single mother.
She also describes a childhood assault by a man who lived next door to a friend. I was nine. I was a child, and then I wasn't. Her path out of poverty was first stripping, then pornography.
She became Stormy Daniels as an adult actress, then a director. In 2006, Daniels was in Lake Tahoe, California, promoting her adult film company at a celebrity golf tournament where she met Donald Trump and says she had consensual sex with him. Trump has consistently denied the affair.
Fast forward to October 2016, Donald Trump is a Republican nominee for president. Court filings in the federal prosecution of then Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen show Trump Org executives authorized payments days before the 2016 election to cover Cohen's $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels. The goal to silence her from going public about the alleged affair.
But Daniels has already tried to tell her story. In 2011, Daniels agreed to talk to tabloid magazine "In Touch" for $15,000. The story was not printed in 2011, but in 2018, Daniels did go public with the story that was now a spectacle. Trump former reality TV star was the president of the United States.
DANIELS: My attorney and I are committed to making sure that everyone finds out the truth and the facts of what happened.
LAH: They put her in the center of the media, political and pop culture storm.
DANIELS: Hello, Donald.
LAH: Today, Daniels continues her adult movie career, remains private about her daughter. And while there's an occasional dig at Trump and her social media accounts, Daniels has avoided directly talking about this case. But now that this historic indictment unfolds, Daniels tells "Times U.K." that her safety is more in jeopardy than ever before.
DANIELS: The first time it was like gold digger, slut, whore, you know, liar, whatever. And this time it's like, I'm going to murder you.
LAH (on camera): And Daniel's continued on that the threats this time around are more violent. They are more graphic of the very first time, she says that she is terrified and the real big difference this time, Erin --
LAH: -- is, she says that it is Trump who is inciting the violence, so it is very different this time.
BURNETT: You know, it's amazing, and obviously just to hear her say this, right, the person at the center of all this speaking out.
Kyung, thank you very much.
And coming up on "AC360", journalist and author of "Catch and Kill", Ronan Farrow, is going to join Anderson and they will talk about Trump's indictment.
And next here, the breaking news of a devastating tornado outbreak across the south happening right now. We already know buildings are leveled and these are still happening. The governor of Kentucky, saying this is the worst forecast he's ever seen as this is now moving across the region.
Plus let him go. Biden is demanding Russia released the American journalist that Russia claims that caught spying.
But an attorney with inside knowledge of the case tonight tells us he's very worried.
BURNETT: Breaking news: Major damage tonight from a tornado in Arkansas, as there's a threat of more dangerous tornadoes across the South, including in Nashville. At least 24 people already hospitalized after a massive tornado hit near Little Rock, Arkansas. The state's governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, declaring a state of emergency, activating the national guard.
Derek Van Dam joins me now on the phone. He's on the way to Arkansas right now.
And, Derek, what is the latest that you're seeing, as these tornadoes are even now continuing to move through the south?
DEREK VAN DAM, AMS METEOROLOGIST (via telephone): Yeah, Erin, it has been a tumultuous day. In the south, and we have been very close to this storm that has caused so much destruction really speeding on the environment around here, the volatile environment so it's formed across central Arkansas. You saw the damage in Little Rock. Then it moved through a town called Wynne, Arkansas, and that is where we are currently headed.
So that's west of Memphis, where we had pre deployed for this tornado coverage and we know and have seen social media posts of the damage that was caused by the storm. I want you to get to the graphics because we have 12 states under tornado watches right now, but I want to zoom into the super cell that is causing so much destruction across Arkansas and western Tennessee because it has really just been incredibly devastating.
What we're seeing is just this classic super cell formation and I really taking advantage of this volatile environment. So what it's doing is long track super cell tornado that it was weather service had warned us about and unfortunately it is coming to reality, Erin.
BURNETT: How much longer does the threat remain when you're talking about obviously, you know, you've got dozens of people hospitalist neighborhoods leveled. I mean, how much more could there be?
VAN DAM: Look, we've got several more hours. It's going to take at least two about midnight to 2:00 a.m. local time before the storms kind of outrun this unstable environment that helped fuel of these thunderstorms for traumatic development. But it's not just the Deep South. We're talking about eight or nine tornado warm storms across central and northern Illinois. We need to watch out for this area heading into Chicago who's under a tornado watch right now. This is a large major and significant tornado outbreak that is
unfolding right now across the nation's midsection, so we're going to track these as best as we can. We're going to be reporting from the damage and we will bring you all the latest figures as soon as we get them -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Derek, and stay safe out there as you can hear your turn. Signal on. I know you're on the way on the road now.
And next, an attorney with inside knowledge of the case involving the American journalist now being held in Russia tells us why he's so worried.
BURNETT: Tonight the White House calling for the immediate release of the American journalist Evan Gershkovich, who is detained in Russia tonight. The Kremlin accusing "The Wall Street Journal" reporter of trying to steal state secrets about a Russian military factory, saying today, quote, in this case we're talking about espionage activities under the guise of journalistic activities since this journalist was caught red handed, this situation is obvious. He gave no details on what red handed means.
We spoke to an attorney with extensive experience representing journalists who have been prosecuted by Russia. He has spoken to people who know Gershkovich in Russia, and he's very worried about his fate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YEVGENY SMIRNOV, HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER (through translator): The FSB is trying to isolate him to prevent him from contacting his relatives, his colleagues and this was done so he wouldn't feel any support, so he would be in a vacuum.
Unfortunately, there are practically no chances for him to win the case or for his acquittal in modern Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: It's incredible thing to say, right, a reporter doing his job with "The Wall Street Journal". Think about what a conviction could mean.
President Biden was asked about this today, said Putin needs to, quote, let him go, but so far has not committed to any consequences for Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Have you got expelled Russian diplomats or journalist?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's not the plan right now. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: The White House says no one has been able to speak with Gershkovich since his arrest.
Thanks for joining us. Anderson starts now.