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Erin Burnett Outfront

Trump Huddling With Advisers In Trump Tower Ahead Of Surrender; Awaiting Judge Ruling On Allowing Cameras During Trump Arraignment; Awaiting Judge Ruling On Allowing Cameras During Trump Hearing; Special Counsel Has Secured Notes, Texts, Photos In Trump Docs Case; New Video Shows Moment Of Blast That Killed Russian Blogger. Aired 7- 8p ET

Aired April 03, 2023 - 19:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, we're standing by for an important court ruling in Trump's hush money case as we are getting new video of the former president arriving at Trump Tower tonight, hours before his arrest.

Plus, another Trump investigation heating up. The special counsel in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case right now, coming through notes, texts, emails and even photographs. It's new evidence. So how significant is it?

And who is the judge Trump claims hates him. We have a special report. Let's go, OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, Trump's back in New York, and this is video just in to CNN of Trump arriving at Trump Tower right here in New York, his former home. It is there where the former president is said to be huddling with advisors ahead of tomorrow's arraignment, where he will spend the night and, of course, then he will get up and go downtown in New York City.

This is the building where he is expected to surrender, in the Manhattan criminal courthouse. Unclear exactly what time tomorrow, how early it will be. Right now, we are standing by for what could be two major developments.

At any moment, the judge in the case is expected to side whether to allow cameras in the courtroom tomorrow. Trump's team opposes that request. They say cameras will pose a security risk.

We are also standing by for the judge to possibly unseal the actual indictment against Trump ahead of the former president's court appearance. Sources tell CNN the former president faces more than 30 counts related to the $130,000 hush money payment to adult film star, Stormy Daniels, and that payment, of course, was made in those days before the 2016 election.

This has been a day of very high drama. The former president left Mar- a-Lago this afternoon. Once in New York, highways leading into Manhattan were shut down, all somewhat of a circus, and the spectacle continues tomorrow when Trump is expected to arrive at the courthouse in the early afternoon, and that's when he'll be booked and what that means and, you know, as it would for anyone, fingerprints, possibly a mug shot in his case, then he goes to a court room. He will walk we expect before the cameras at that time.

Just like Steve Bannon did last year. Just like Trump's former chief financial officer, Alan Weisselberg, also did in that same courtroom, all in that same hallway.

Trump's campaign today was busy. They sent out more than a dozen fundraising emails. They say these have been working. In fact, they say that they've raised $7 million since Trump was indicted.

All right. Our team of reporters are standing by with the latest developments in these hours before Trump's formal arraignment.

I want to begin with Kara Scannell because she's OUTFRONT live in New York outside that courthouse.

And, Kara, we know the president obviously is in Manhattan and huddling with his advisers. What more you learning about what's to come tonight and tomorrow?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, as you said, we're still waiting for the judge to rule on two motions by the media. CNN and other news organizations have asked for there to be cameras in the courtroom, saying that given the huge public interest in this the historical nature of it and then like just the moment monumental moment that we're going to experience here for the first time in our nation's history, we're asking for there to be cameras in the courtroom so the public can watch the arraignment unfold.

Now, Trump's legal team opposing that, saying that they're concerned it would only increase the gravity of the situation. The potential for the exacerbation of a circus-like atmosphere, and they said they're concerned about Trump's presumption of innocence, if people are able to see him sitting behind the defendant's table and having to enter a plea.

Now, we're also waiting for the judge rule and another motion by the media, which is to unseal the indictment before the arraignment, so we can see what are these 30-some charges that he is facing. The judge said he would issue a ruling tonight. It's unclear exactly what time so we're standing here on standby, waiting to see what this order will be whether, he will allow cameras and if he will unseal this indictment.

Then tomorrow, of course, Trump will come in. He will -- he will be arrested. He will be processed. He will have his fingerprints taken. And he said he will. As you noted, go in the hallway and enter the courtroom, where he will be asked to enter a plea as lawyers say he will plead not guilty.

Now, we do anticipate that the district attorney may hold a press conference, given the criticism that he's faced, given the big decision to bring the first charges against the former president, and to hear what their theory of the case is, to actually hear them lay out why this case is important and why they brought the charges they did and what the underlying significance is bringing this case now, some six or seven years after these hush money payments were initially made -- Erin.

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

And I want to go now to Trump Tower, Jeff Zeleny is outside there.

And what are you learning, Jeff?


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Erin, we're learning tonight that the former president after he arrived here, he met with his political advisors as well as his legal advisers. And for all this circus-like atmosphere, and for all the spectacle that indeed has been surrounding this, the former president his team are taking this very seriously. That was underscored today by the hiring of a new criminal defense attorney, also underscored by the fact that tomorrow I'm told his lawyers are going to do via talking.

The former president of at least is not scheduled or expected to speak here about the charges. He's going to save that, of course, until he returns to Mar-a-Lago in Florida tomorrow evening. But for the next foreseeable future, weeks and likely months, perhaps even longer to come, this is the presidential campaign. The presidential campaign is inextricably linked to his legal case here.

So he does arrive as the Republican presidential frontrunner. His campaign says they raised $7 million, largely through small dollar donations because of those fundraising appeals sent virtually on the hour throughout the weekend, his rivals have effectively spoken up in support of him. He has brought this race to a halt. But tomorrow, it is an entirely different matter when he heads to lower Manhattan into the courtroom to be fingerprinted.

It is a new chapter for Donald Trump, who has made a name for himself in the entertainment business, and then later as a presidential candidate.

Of course, this is uncharted territory for him, but his advisers say he's going to take a two tier approach to this the legal case. He's going to let his lawyers do the talking. And then once he gets to Florida, he will do the talking and present a full-throated defense of this case as well as other cases pending, potentially in Georgia and in the federal court in D.C. as well. But, certainly, a new moment for the former president, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Jeff, thank you very much. Interesting how much he'll address those other cases as I'm sure he anticipates there will be further indictments possibly coming in the coming months.

All right. John Miller with me. Karen Agnifilo, Karen Finney and Jonah Goldberg, all joining.

So, Karen, we don't yet have the indictment. We don't know the time Trump will arrive in the courthouse and there had been, maybe it would be the afternoon. Maybe it would be the early morning and where were the cameras be? And what happens to everybody else? Who is around that courthouse in a given day?

Allen Weisselberg, former CFO of the Trump Organization, when he had his day they did it at 6:15 in the morning. That's basically to avoid it.

So what do you expect?

KAREN AGNIFILO, FORMER PROSECUTOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: So it's common when somebody is surrendering that they go early in the morning so that they can get all the processing done and make it to court by 2:15 because the paperwork does usually in in regular times, take some time to generate, for example, a rap sheet and in New York state I d number and all of the other arrest processing.

So, normally it happens early in the morning, and then they take them up to court by the 2:15 --

BURNETT: But that 2:15 part would still be there, this whole part of when he walks across you know, in the part in front of the cameras and all of that.

AGNIFILO: Yes, exactly, exactly. And also just right before we walked in here, the Manhattan D.A.'s office announced that they are going to have a press -- hold a press conference at 3:30 right afterwards. So Alvin Bragg does intend to address -- address the public directly following the arraignment.

BURNETT: And there's a lot of pressure on him. You got a public that whether they support this or don't support it does, you know, believe that there's a political motivation as well?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLINGENCE ANALYST: Well, this is this is the prosecutors day, which is you know, the indictment has been sealed, so the prosecutor is as barred from talking about it as anybody else.

But once it's unsealed, not only do we get our first chance to look at that legal document and examine the charges, but the prosecutor Alvin Bragg gets his first chance to speak about it in detail publicly.

And, you know, as we all know, because we've been in this conversation for a week now, that's going to be put to the test with a lot of questions about this case, so it's his chance to defend this indictment.

BURNETT: Right, which he has to do. And, of course, Trump will be speaking later. But, Karen, what's interesting? Is that okay? Yes lots of social media posts, but to the cameras, Trump uncharacteristically silent, right? There was almost as if he was taking this with a level of seriousness. KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It actually seemed that way. And it actually seemed that perhaps his legal team may have said, look, here's the carrot. You get to talk when you get back to Florida, but between now and then let us do the talking, do as we say, carrying themselves with the level of seriousness.

And let's also remember, I mean, over the years, Trump has avoided the exact moment we're about to see tomorrow and that is, he will be facing a judge in court. He has been a master of avoiding this. Many cases have been brought against him. He has avoided this very moment that we're going to see tomorrow.

BURNETT: Right, depositions, but never this moment, Jonah, and it does seem you know, advisor said he's defiant and focus.

Now, of course, they're going to spin this. However, they want to spin it, but, at least at this moment, he isn't treating it like a like a joke, or just a showman's moment at this moment.

JONAH GOLDBERG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, I get the sense that he's a little schizophrenic about it and the campaign is. I mean, there's this weird tone of gloating from some of his campaign people.


Look how much money we're raising. Look how great we're doing in the polls.


GOLDBERG: And the other side of their mouth, they're saying, this is so terrible. This is dark day for America. This is shameful.

Maybe a little less glee if you really felt that way, because I think there are parts of Trump world that are really enjoying themselves, and I think Trump loves the media spectacle of it. But at the same time as Karen was saying he spent his whole life trying to avoid actually getting having this moment. You can imagine him going, yin and yang on this very quickly.

BURNETT: And -- yeah?

MILLER: And irony here, though, which is, you know, for a guy who is very attuned to the media, for his lawyers to say we don't want cameras in the courtroom as he's asserting his citizens because it will bring a circus like atmosphere, Donald Trump is not a guy who doesn't enjoy a circus from time to time, he's had rallies across the country and all kinds of showmanship.

I think the difference here is he is not the ringmaster in this circus. The judges in that courtroom and it's a place where he has no control, which is why I think he's moving his show to Mar-a-Lago, home turf, home advantage --

BURNETT: Right. And keep it out of New York.


BURNETT: So, Karen, what do you make about this videography? And we don't know this ruling at any point tonight, but whether there will be cameras allowed. Should they be or shouldn't they be?

AGNIFILO: So judges are starting to allow cameras in the courtroom more and more, especially because the public is very interested. This had this has a great public interest. And so I think the judge is going to consider two different things.

I think he's going to consider on the one hand. The best way to make sure that accurate information gets out there is just to allow cameras in the courtroom, so that way when Trump gets back, he doesn't spin it however he's going to spin it. At least there's a public record of it.

But then there's obviously the flip side of it, which is he'll use it. That's his next campaign ad, right? He'll clip from it and show how he's being persecuted and --


AGNIFILO: -- et cetera, and, more importantly, for putting the campaign aside, it contained future juries, and that's the way he spins it, and I think that's the concern that the judge. This judge is going to be solely focused on politics isn't going to come into this presidential election is not going to come into. He's solely focused on keeping the integrity of the criminal justice process and making sure that nobody can taint that and taint any future jury pool.

BURNETT: And yet, Jonah, you know you're going to have this speech tomorrow night. We understand right about 8:00, 8:15 tomorrow night at Mar-a-Lago. Trump gets to speak.

Now, if we find I've emphasized his silence today, but it has not been a silence on social media, and certainly in past days, we haven't seen that, right? He's been eviscerating the judge, saying that he hates him and all sorts of things, right?

So what is this going to be? Is this just going to be more of the election was stolen from the and they're trying to do it again?

GOLDBERG: I think he'll do the political persecution stuff that we've we would expect from -- expect from him.

Just very quickly on this point about cameras in the courtroom, imagine being Trump's lawyer and having to take Trump's word for it that he won't behave inappropriately in front of the cameras for days or weeks on end, right? It's a huge risk.

On the -- on the Mar-a-Lago point, I think the thing to watch for is less what he says, and more what Republicans show up. There a lot of reports that he wants a lot of Republican wants a lot of wants. So he wants to say that he's basically the leader of the party by acclimation, and he wants to prove that with a lot of props of various Republicans. It'd be very interesting to see who actually willingly gleans their face to that. BURNETT: Right, right.

FINNEY: It's going to be interesting, though, since Alvin Bragg will actually get to go first, he will actually get --

BURNETT: Right, Bragg's press conferences in the afternoon. As you're saying, right, 3:30.

FINNEY: That's right. So let's say there aren't cameras in the courtroom or even if they're still images. Alvin Bragg gets to come out and frame what happened inside, frame as we see the indictments before Trump gets to have his say.

And we -- and Trump knows that's what we'll be talking about from the time Alvin Bragg speaks until the time Donald Trump speaks. So I would not be surprised if his attacks loop in whatever it is, Alvin Bragg says tomorrow.

BURNETT: That's the moment, get in the moment, he gets upset about something said specifically.

Now we keep talking about his legal team. And you're saying, how can they, you know, would take this risk of what he'll do for days and weeks on end, change in the legal team is happening. We understand his new lead counsel, Todd Blanche.

Now, some say Blanche was hired to sideline Joe Tacopina, who in recent years had said that this was a terrible case for Trump and Trump. It was bad, right? And now, he's defending him. Tacopina said, though, I will be the lead trial lawyer when the bell rings.

So what do you think this says about the Trump team?

AGNIFILO: So I think the addition of Todd Blanche is interesting because he also represented Mr. Manafort when Cy Vance brought charges against Mr. Manafort and that case resulted in ultimately in a dismissal for double jeopardy reasons. And so, that was successful legally.

I think Trump is looking at that because he has several legal arguments he's going to make here like the statute of limitations has run or that if it's falsifying a business record based on a federal felony, and that's the bump up that we've been talking about for a week. You know that's the charge. We think that that might be charged.

There are some that argue that that legal has legal issues that are -- have not been tested. I think Trump is looking to Todd Blanche to be the one to test those legal issues since he did successfully for another one of his people.

BURNETT: Right, right. And as you pointed out, so much of you're going to have a lot of charges with every entry that was put in here, every piece of paper that was put in. But even though these falsification of business charges are very common in New York, as the meat and bread and butter of a case, perhaps less so, right? So that there is an unusual set of circumstances here. JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLINGENCE ANALYST:

Well, that's why unsealing the indictment is going to be really interesting because the indictment, if there's a conspiracy charge, it's much more likely to tell us a story, where each of those individual crimes, are markers along that story about a plot for deception and concealment. That was a violation of more than more than one law.

BURNETT: All right. All thank you very much.

And next, New York city's mayor with a message to Trump, supporters of security grows ahead of Trump's historic hearing.


MAYOR ERIC ADAM (D), NEW YORK CITY: Control yourselves. New York city is our home, not a playground for your misplaced anger.


BURNETT: Plus, the special counsel investigating Trump's handling of classified documents is picking up steam. We are now learning of new evidence, which includes details about Trump's personal handling of the documents.

And tonight, police releasing chilling new details about the shooter who killed six people at that private elementary school in Nashville, including just how many rounds were fired in the shooting.



BURNETT: Tonight, a major security presence around the courthouse where former President Donald Trump will be arraigned tomorrow. The NYPD says there are no specific, credible threats at this time. But the mayor of New York, sending a message to Trump supporters, including Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene specifically, who have said they are traveling to New York to protest.


ADAMS: Control yourselves. New York City is our home, not a playground for your misplaced anger. If one is court participated in any act of violence, they will be arrested and held accountable, no matter who you are.


BURNETT: Shimon Prokupecz is OUTFRONT at the courthouse.

And, Shimon, what is the latest you're hearing tonight?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, certainly this is the area we are going to see. The former president arrived and surrender. It's just up the block here in the middle of the street here, where the former president will be coming to his motorcade arriving here sometime tomorrow are either late morning or early afternoon.

And here, let me just show you around there in the courthouse, the barricades that are already set up. We have officers who are usually not out here at this time, the court officers, but they are keeping security pretty tight. They're keeping watch all across the building.

And then let me just show you on this side where you have most of the media and other barricades. But here is this park you talk about Marjorie Taylor Greene, the congresswoman and the mayor, this is where she's supposed to be with her supporters and supporters of the former president, the NYPD saying that this is where they're going to gather. And obviously the mayor, saying he hopes everyone behaves.

He's specifically addressed her, but you could just see how close all of that is to the courthouse is just merely across the street. So, certainly, there are a lot of concerns that perhaps people may try to break through barricades. And so that's why we're seeing all of these barricades. This is essentially at some point once the former president is here, is going to become a frozen zone. He will be in this building for quite some time, perhaps a couple of hours as they process him fingerprinting, and then he's going to make his way over to the courtroom where he will be arraigned around 2:30 or so in the afternoon, and then he will leave and things will obviously open up.

But there is concern over people who come out here in support of the former president. And that's why we're going to see some of the security here tightened, and that's why more of these barriers tomorrow and obviously more police officers will be out here, through the day tomorrow -- Erin.

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

And Shimon is there now and we'll be there tomorrow. And, of course, tonight we wait for that crucial decision on cameras in the courtroom as well as whether that indictment is unsealed in these next hours tonight.

Lanny Davis is with me now, Michael Cohen's attorney.

Lanny, good to have you back.


BURNETT: So, obviously, we're waiting tonight on Judge Merchan. So he's expected to make these crucial decisions on cameras. There are security concerns for that team. Trump opposes cameras, they say, for that reason. They say it will create a circus-like atmosphere at the arraignment.

Where do you stand on this? What do you think the judge will decide?

DAVIS: Well, I tend to favor transparency not only because the media deserves transparency under our system of justice, but also because there is an important principles at stake here. And I do want to speak for my client tonight in a personal way, Erin.

Number one, there's no celebration in the Cohen household. He suffered a great deal of risk and a great deal of pain when he decided to speak truth to power in front of tens of millions of people on television, and he's never been contradicted since that day.

Secondly, his principle and the one I support the reason I worked so hard for him is that every American should be treated equally under the law, including an ex-president. Michael Cohen did time for a crime that the federal prosecutors in Manhattan said Donald Trump directed him to do. And it was only for his benefit. And so, Michael Cohen did the time. Now it's time for equal justice.

Donald Trump is an innocent person until proven guilty, and both Michael and I believe in that due process system. Different from Russia where no Russian president is ever going to be indicted.

But that's really the mood of my client tonight. It's sober and the principle of equal justice is the only issue at hand here.

BURNETT: So I want to ask you about something because you talk about who benefited from this and this is actually a crucial point, right, a legal point, Lanny, as you know.

DAVIS: Yeah.

BURNETT: Falsifying business records, right? What? What a crucial part here is to be a misdemeanor. You have to be trying to defraud somebody.

And, you know the former Attorney General Bill Barr has been very critical of Trump in many ways. Over the weekend, though he spoke out on that particular issue regarding the payments to Stormy Daniels.


And I want to play for you what he said.


BILL BARR, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY GENERAL: They're saying he falsified the corporate record. But for that to even be a misdemeanor, you have to be trying to defraud somebody, and it's unclear exactly who was defrauded. This is his own company.


BURNETT: So, Lanny, does he have a point? I mean, this was his own company, right? So this point that Bill Barr is making about defrauding.

DAVIS: Well, first of all, this is the same Bill Barr that picked up the telephone and tried to interfere in the prosecution of Michael Cohen, according to the U.S. attorney, Geoffrey Berman. So his credibility to me, at least, is quite low with that interference. Secondly, let the evidence speak. I'm not going to debate whether

there's enough evidence of intent. I know I sat with Michael in a room with very meticulous and very careful prosecutors who had compiling evidence to corroborate one another. There are more than one witness here. And Michael Cohen was forced to plead guilty or he did plead guilty to crimes that benefited Mr. Trump.

Now, it's time for equal justice, and I'm not going to prejudge what a jury might do. I believe in the jury system, and I don't know what Mr. Barr thinks of opining on the evidence when he doesn't know what the evidence is. I do refer back to his weaponization of the Justice Department against Michael Cohen, targeting Michael Cohen, sending him to jail and back to jail on the pretext that he was doing something wrong when it was really about preventing him from writing a book.

So the record of Mr. Barr and the Trump administration is at least not subject to a lot of belief at this point.

BURNETT: Right, of course, he has taken him on aggressively on January 6th and other things, but I know that is outside the scope of this particular case, but I think worth meriting a mention.

One quick final point, Lanny, you told Dana Bash, my friend, yesterday that both Michael Cohen and David Pecker from the "National Enquirer" provided evidence about a hush money payment that could be illegal made on Trump's behalf to Karen McDougal, a former playmate, Playboy model, in the summer of 2016. So that would have been before the payment to Stormy Daniels.

Are you aware of any evidence on this that would implicate Donald Trump directly?

DAVIS: Well, I was -- you summarize what I said correctly, Erin, but I was quoting from "The Wall Street Journal" article. I can't reveal what I heard and saw in the room when Michael was interviewed, the documents, and clearly, there have been public reports that Mr. Pecker was granted immunity and that Michael Cohen pled guilty to two crimes.

One was the Stormy Daniels hush money payment. The other was his facilitation of an arrangement between Mr. Pecker and Mr. Trump for the buying of silence of Karen McDougal.

So Michael went to jail for those two crimes and I repeat, he didn't have the alleged affairs. He didn't benefit by writing a check to keep quiet Ms. Stormy Daniels or Karen McDougal.

So he's been the target. He went to jail. Now it's time for equal justice.

But beyond that, I don't want to comment about Mr. Pecker versus Mr. Trump. That will come out in the public testimony.

BURNETT: All right, Lanny, thank you very much. I appreciate your time. Lanny Davis is representing Michael Cohen.

And we are standing by for the judge of Trump's case to make those decisions, both on cameras in the courtroom as well as unsealing the indictment. Two crucial motions we expect to hear possibly tonight as Trump is planning to speak publicly before cameras after he's indicted.

Plus, Trump's former White House lawyer, Ty Cobb, is next.

And the judge presiding over Trump's case has a history with the former president. Trump claims the judge hates him. Those are Trump's words. So who is Judge Juan Merchan?



BURNETT: Tonight, as Trump gets ready to face a judge in the New York hush money case. There are late developments, important ones in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case. This is moving tonight.

Sources are telling CNN that the special counsel has some specific evidence now notes, texts, emails and actually photographs and that these are related specifically to Trump's personal handling of those classified documents at his Florida home.

Evan Perez is OUTFRONT.

And, Evan, obviously, this is very significant, right? This isn't necessarily just what somebody said he did. This is a photograph, perhaps of him.

What are you learning?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Erin. And one example of this is molly Michael, who was a personal assistant of the former president, and she provided texts and other documents that prosecutors have been using to get other people to come in, and we know that they've interviewed a number of aides and number of workers at Mar-a-Lago.

The purpose appears to be from the witnesses who have gone in, it appears to be that they prosecutors are trying to catalog how the former president handled classified documents, documents that perhaps should not have been shown to people. And I think you focused on the right thing, which is photographs, right, if there's somebody who has photographs that were provided to the prosecutors is a reason for that.

And all of this activity we have seen picking up in the last few weeks and we know of witnesses who are coming in really gives -- it gives the -- gives us the impression that this is an investigation that is near its end. This is an investigation in which you know pretty soon, prosecutors are going to have to make a decision as to who and when to charge the case. And one of the one indication of that is that they have witnesses who have already been interviewed by the prosecutors, who are now being brought before the grand jury again, an indication that prosecutors are trying to lock down that testimony in preparation for a decision on whether to break charges -- Erin. BURNETT: All right. Evan, thank you very much.

And I want to go now to Ty Cobb, the former Trump White House lawyer.

So, Ty, Evan's reporting here, he's talking about a vast amount of evidence in the Mar-a-Lago documents case that we didn't know about, right, and that this is, you know, text. This is this is photos. These are witnesses who have been questioned about what they saw in Trump's private residential as well as his work areas.

So what do you hear when you hear all these details?

So let's remember Erin. We knew that these documents had been subpoenaed and or seized during the search warrant and that they got videos, they got host of additional documentation, and they have had access both prior to that, and subsequently to many of the employees at Mar-a-Lago, to interview them about particular attention movements of documents what the president was doing with the boxes in which some of the documents may have been found in his office.

I think we have known that the investigatory steps were underway. We just haven't known alleged results until the day and I think that I think these are highly consequential. As you and I have discussed, you know previously, I think Jack Smith is, you know, he's definitely on the on the right hunt.


The obstruction of both pence proceeding and of the efforts the government made in terms of trying to attempt to get the Mar-a-Lago classified documents back. You know, has been moving inexorably and building it brick by brick, so it sounds like it's almost completely built, which I think will be a powerful and forceful case. Unfortunately, I feel it's going to be, it would have been powerful to everybody in America before this week. It may not be as powerful now to some who like Andrew Cuomo have said, this is just politics.

BURNETT: Right. So let me -- and, of course, Andrew Cuomo, former Democratic governor of New York.

Ty, though, when you mentioned the inexorable kind of brick by brick that Jack Smith has been building, the two separate charges that you have seen, most likely, right, obstruction of official proceeding and also in the documents, obstruction -- do you think that those come simultaneously?

COBB: They don't -- they're not. There's no obligation for them to come simultaneously. They may be at the same stage and, you know, it's totally up to the independent count -- or the special counsel whether he brings him as part of the same case, or he brings them as separate criminal charges.

BURNETT: So I don't know if you've heard, but a few moments ago, Lanny Davis was on obviously, Michael Cohen's attorney. And he has been talking about the second hush money payments. Actually, it was the first. It was second one we've been talking about, but it was made prior to the Stormy Daniels payment to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, and that would payment we understand was made in the summer of 2016.

If that is included in this case, do you think that makes the case stronger or not?

COBB: I think it probably makes the case weaker, but the one problem we have in terms of assessing it is we still don't know what this case is. I think everybody is waiting to see the indictment to see whether notwithstanding the fact that Lanny Davis believes that Michael Cohen is in most upstanding citizen in the history of America. Whether there's any piece of evidence recited in the indictment that corroborates the single thing, he said.

Keep in mind that his previous attorney never heard anything about, you know, a campaign contribution, and it actually wasn't until Lanny himself came on the scene that that entered the conversation and became part of the guilty plea.

And also keep in mind, that shortly after he pled guilty, Lanny insisted that Michael was going to -- was going to testify that he was present in the room when President Trump was told about the -- you know, famous Russian meeting with the Russian lawyer, Veselnitskaya, at the Trump Tower with Don Jr.

And he had to walk that back. Why? Because he completely made it up.

BURNETT: Right. And a quick point to you on this, we do know that in 2011, there was a Stormy Daniels story that was going to be put another -- you know, one of those weekly entertainment magazines, and it went away after threats as reported by "The Washington Post" and the "AP" from team Trump to the magazine.

Doesn't -- I mean, doesn't that show or how useful could that be and showing that they would do this regardless of a presidential election cycle?

COBB: I think -- I think that and the fact you know if you step back at you don't even have to go to 30,000 feet. You only have to go about 15 feet, or at least anybody who's married only has to go to about 15 feet to, you know, understand that you may have seen some benefit in the campaign cycle.

But you also you know, didn't want your wife to find out about that or your children.


All right. Ty, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

COBB: Always a pleasure. Take care, Erin.

BURNETT: You, too. Goodnight, sir.

And next, Trump ramping up his attacks on the judge presiding over his case, a judge who is no stranger to Trump's allies and Trump's organization. This is a story you'll see first OUTFRONT. Who is Juan Merchan?

Plus, new video, just in of the moments before Putin ally was killed and that mysterious mass explosion Russia now pointing the finger at a woman known for her anti-war views, but her husband says she's being framed. That story ahead.



BURNETT: You're looking at live pictures tonight if Trump Tower where the former president is said to be hunkered down with advisors as we are now, just hours from Trump's surrendering to authorities here at the courthouse you see on your screen in downtown Manhattan.

And we are awaiting two rulings which could happen at any time now. The judge in the case is set to decide on whether there will be cameras in the court, number one, and the second is whether to unseal the indictment tonight. Before tomorrow's arraignment, we will see. We are literally standing by here waiting for those decisions in tonight.

It comes as Trump has already attacking that judge that he has set to face in court calling. Judge Juan Merchan a, quote, Trump hating judge, which is just the latest in a series of attacks on the judge, that attacks that, frankly, Trump's own lawyer says is not a good idea.

Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.


REPORTER: Mr. President --

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A billionaire former president and adult film star, allegations of an affair and hush money, and in the middle, Judge Juan Merchan, born in Colombia, immigrating to the U.S. as a child, the first in his family to go to college. Merchan started in the Manhattan D.A.'s office and has been tied to the New York state Supreme Court for years. Handling big cases and earning big praise for his no nonsense approach.

So is that good enough for team Trump? Sort of.

JOE TACOPINA, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I have no issue with this judge whatsoever?

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Well, you're quiet does. He says that he's --

TACOPINA: His reputation. Well, when my -- but my client has a right to have an issue with everything. He's been politically persecuted.

FOREMAN: On his Truth Social app, Donald Trump, who says he's done nothing wrong, has posted the judge assigned to my witch hunt case hates me and railroaded my 75 year old former CFO Allen Weisselberg to take a plea deal. Merchan did preside over that case, sentenced Trump's longtime money

man to five months in jail for a decade long tax scheme. And find the Trump Organization more than a million dollars.

But the judge also said he would have made the sentence longer, only he had promised not to as part of the plea deal.

So, Weisselberg's lawyer says the judge was efficient, practical, well-prepared, accessible and a man of his word.

Almost a dozen years ago, Merchan presided over the sensational case of the so-called soccer mom madam. He's shown compassion to defendants with mental health issues, toughness to violent criminals --

STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: They will never shut me up. They have to kill me first.

FOREMAN: And even as he also presides over a fraud case against Trump insider Steve Bannon, who says he too is innocent, court watchers warn this judge has no tolerance for delays or grandstanding in his court.

TIMOTHY PARLATORE, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: I know Judge Merchan. I've tried the case in front of him before he can be tough. I don't think that it's necessarily going to be something that's going to change his ability to evaluate the facts and the law in this case.


FOREMAN (on camera): Think of all the questions here. Do you allow cameras? Do you not allow cameras? If there's a mug shot? What do you do with the mug shot is released? If you put out a gag order, what do you do if it's violated?

There are endless, endless questions here. The Trump team is promising even more questions, and the central problem through all of this, Erin, is no matter how experienced you are as a judge, no judge in this country has ever had an experience like this.

BURNETT: Right, talk about unprecedented, to use their word.

Okay, thank you very much, Tom.

And coming up on "AC360", DeSantis versus Disney. Did the Florida governor get outplayed on this one? Anderson has that. That is tonight at 8:00.

And next here, we are standing by for that. Judge Merchan in Trump's case to rule on those two crucial motions, plus new video taken just moments before Russian blogger was blown up inside. Russia we have this for you. As the finger pointing tonight escalates over who was behind this stunning and brazen attack.

And Nashville police tonight, releasing new details on the shocking number of rounds fired inside that private elementary school where six people were killed.



BURNETT: Tonight, new video into CNN of the moment just before a bomb exploded inside of St. Petersburg's cafe, killing a high profile Russian blogger. You can see Vladlen Tatarsky there, the pro-war blogger who was giving a speech to supporters. He was handed a figurine as a gift. Moments later, the figurine explodes, killing him and injuring dozens more.

Russian state media says the explosive may have been hidden in that figurine. Under interrogation by Russian officials, this woman Daria Trepova admitted to handing Tatarsky the figurine. But, of course, we do not know if she was forced to give that admission or not. Trepova's husband tells an independent Russian publication, "The Insider", that, quote, she was really just set up and used over the last day I contacted her, but I lost contact about 4 to 5 hours ago.

Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The moment a massive blast ripped through a St. Petersburg's cafe, wounding dozens and killing prominent Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky.

This video shows the run up to the blast as Tatarsky received a statuette authorities believed was laced with explosives, allegedly given to him by this woman, Daria Trepova, now in custody.

In an interrogation video released by Russian investigators, they asked if she knew why she was detained. Trepova says for giving Tatarsky the statuette.

It's not clear whether Trepova was being coerced to speak in the video, but Russian authorities released images showing a woman looking like trip over entering the cafe before the blast. After giving the box with the statuette to the host, Trepova went to a different part of the room, a witness says. Investigators asked her where she got the statuette from which she declines to answer.

The Kremlin calls the killing an act of terror, and investigators say they believe Ukrainian intelligence agencies and the organization of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny were involved. Supporters of Navalny have denied that while Ukraine has brushed off the allegations altogether.

Vladlen Tatarsky's real name was Maxim Fomin. Military bloggers like him have become extremely influential since Russia's full on invasion of Ukraine.

Tatarsky was a staunch supporter of the war but sometimes critical of Russia's military leadership, which he felt was not effective enough.

We will beat everyone, we will kill everyone. We will rob everyone who needs to be robbed. Everything will be the way we love. God is with us, he said inside the Kremlin after Russia annexed four Ukrainian regions last year.

The St. Petersburg cafe that was blown up, was once affiliated with the head of the Wagner private military company, the spearhead of Russia's efforts to take Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin even commemorating the blogger's death.

Behind me is the Bakhmut City administrative building, he says. This is a Russian flag, it says on the flag in good memory of Vladlen Tatarsky.

But Russia's pro-war establishment fields is under attack. Vladlen Tatarsky was acquainted with hard line political scientists Daria Dugina who was assassinated in Moscow last year. The Kremlin, then also pointing its finger at Kyiv.

This is a regime that has been behind killings for many years since 2014, the Kremlin spokesman said. This is why the special military operation is being carried out.


PLEITGEN (on camera): And, Erin, tonight, Daria Trepova remains in custody. She said to appear in front of a court tomorrow for what they call a preventive detention hearing, which essentially means that she's going to remain in detention until her trial starts against her. Obviously, this will be an anti-terrorism trial by the Russians.

He's, by the way, not going to be in front of the court in St. Petersburg, but in Moscow, but then also to give you an idea of how important this military blogger was to the Kremlin, he already after his death has been awarded the order of courage by Vladimir Putin -- Erin.


BURNETT: Incredible and, of course, gives you true perspective on the use of the word trial.

Thanks so much, Fred.

And tonight, people in the United States can now see the horrors that have been taking place in Ukraine. There's a new exhibit at the United Nations. The organizers tell us it contains a number of things collected from cities that were occupied by Russia during this war, including this green door from a small town north of Kyiv.

This door was to a basement where Ukrainians have been locked up for days, and you can see that they had literally etched the rates of captivity into that wooden door. Of course, eventually those people were freed.

Well, coming up after this, we're learning new details about the mass shooting at the Nashville elementary school where six people were killed three children, including just how long this attack had been planned.


BURNETT: Tonight, 152. That is how many rounds the shooter in the attack at a Nashville Christian school that killed six people, including three 9 year olds fired off, 152 rounds in an attack that lasted less than 15 minutes from start to finish. And this is the latest from Nashville Police.

And we are also learning tonight that the shooter acted alone, that the shooter spent months planning the attack, months and studying other mass shooters. Police are continuing to analyze Hale's journals but have yet to determine a motive. Funerals continue this week.

Thanks for joining us. I'll see you back here at 9:00.

Anderson starts now.