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Erin Burnett Outfront
Trump Hires New Lead Counsel To Fight Criminal Charges In NY; Dem Responds To Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Calling Dems "Pedophiles"; Russian State Media: Arrested American Reporter Files Appeal Against Arrest. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired April 03, 2023 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST, ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT: OUTFRONT next, we are awaiting two key rulings, from the judge, in Trump's hush money case. And we are now just hours away, from Trump's historic arrest, as our Jeff Zeleny, has new reporting, from inside Trump's camp, this late hour, this evening.
Plus, I'll be joined by a reporter, who's talking to Trump insiders, and why they are worried, tonight, about the protests, tomorrow.
And new word, about the American journalist, jailed in Russia. As one of Evan Gershkovich's closest friends is here, what Evan said to him, the night before his arrest?
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I am Erin Burnett. And welcome to a special edition of OUTFRONT, tonight.
Hours from surrendering, former President Donald J. Trump, right now, huddling with advisers, in New York, as he is about to make history, as the first President, to formally be charged with a crime. In just hours, Trump will head Downtown, and he will turn himself in.
And, at this late hour, this Monday evening, we are still waiting for the judge, in the case, to rule, on two important motions. And this could come at any time.
The first of these is whether to allow cameras in the courtroom. Trump's legal team opposes that move. They say, it would create a circus-like atmosphere. That's the first motion.
And then, the second one that we're awaiting, a ruling from the judge on, is the motion to unseal the indictment, before tomorrow's arraignment.
Again, we are told that these rulings could be issued, tonight. And if they are, it would be an incredible cap off, to what has been a pretty unbelievable day.
The former President, leaving his home, in Mar-a-Lago, this afternoon, followed there in his convoy, supporters lining the roads, flying to New York, where he made his way to Trump Tower, cameras catching the former President waving, as he entered his home.
Sources telling CNN, the former President faces more than 30 counts. These are related to business fraud. And the charges come after a lengthy investigation, into Trump's alleged role, in a hush money payment, to the adult film star, Stormy Daniels. And that payment, of course, happened, just before the 2016 election.
Our Kara Scannell is OUTFRONT. She is outside the courthouse.
Jeff Zeleny is at Trump Tower, with new reporting, there.
Let me begin though with you, Kara. Because I know, we are waiting, and this could come down, at any time, here, these crucial decisions, from the judge, on these motions. What's the latest you're hearing?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erin, so, we are waiting to see, when the judge will issue these rulings. He did indicate, earlier today that he would, or he was expected to issue a ruling, on these, tonight.
And just a reminder, CNN and other news organization has asked the judge, to allow cameras, in the courtroom, to capture the moment, the first time in the nation's history that a former President will be arraigned, on criminal charges. And the media request is, given the historic nature of this, given the great public interest in this, this should be something that Americans can tune in and watch.
Now, the Trump team is opposing this. They're saying that this could add to the potential circus-like atmosphere, here. Now, it is - there are a lot of media cameras, here. We don't know what kind of protest or counter-protests could show up tomorrow, if any.
And they're saying that it could also harm the former President's presumption of innocence, by allowing the public potential jurors, to see him, sitting behind a defendant's table.
Now, the District Attorney's Office is saying, in this manner, they're not going to weigh in on it. They have noted in the past, in other high-profile cases, they've allowed a still photographer, to come in, and capture the moments, before the proceeding begins.
We're waiting for the judge to rule on that.
The media has also asked the judge, to unseal the indictment. We've been reporting, there's more than 30 charges, and some of them will be felonies. We're asking the judge, to unseal the indictment. Still no word on whether he will do it ahead of the arraignment, tomorrow afternoon.
So, these are the key things that we have teed up. It's also possible, we'll hear from the District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, tomorrow. They have been silent, on this, other than this statement, last Thursday, confirming that the grand jury had returned an indictment. We'd be interested in hearing from him, what the theory of the case is, and why he thought this was a significant case to bring, an important case to bring, the first case to bring, against the former President. Erin?
BURNETT: All right, Kara, thank you very much.
And you heard Kara's reporting that some of the charges, likely to include felonies, and that the judge had indicated this decision on these motions could come tonight. So, we await that.
And, as we do, I want to go to Jeff Zeleny, outside Trump Tower.
And Jeff, as I said, you've got some new reporting. What are you learning?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Erin, we are learning that the former President, after he arrived here, at Trump Tower, he spent some time, meeting with his political advisers and his legal advisers as well.
And, of course, we are on the eve of a very historic moment, for him, but a first, for Donald Trump, appearing in that Manhattan courtroom. And I am told that his advisers hope, I should emphasize "Hope," that he deploys a two-prong strategy.
One, in the court of law, tomorrow, they do not want him to speak at all, really here, in New York, publicly. They want him to wait and save his comments, for tomorrow evening, in Mar-a-Lago.
This really speaks to a two-pronged strategy that they hope he will employ, over the next several months, perhaps even longer than that, as this legal case proceeds, as his campaign proceeds as well.
So, on the campaign trail, yes, he can unleash just some of the vitriol that he's been doing. But in the court of law, here in the courtroom, they hope that he essentially allows his lawyers to speak for him.
But this certainly highlights one point. This legal case, now, is at the center of the 2024 Republican presidential campaign. It has essentially frozen this campaign into place. He's raised some $7 million. His rivals have been watching all of this sort of, happen, throughout the day. He's consumed all the oxygen, in the race.
But, tomorrow, Erin, will be a key test, to see if the former President? He's famously bombastic, particularly here, in his native New York City. If he can hold his tongue, and save his remarks, for this evening political speech, he's set to give at Mar-a-Lago.
But he's in Trump Tower, tonight. And I'm told, tomorrow morning, is likely to start the process that includes fingerprinting, at the D.A.'s office, and moving on to that court appearance, in the afternoon, before flying to Mar-a-Lago.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much.
BURNETT: Jeff Zeleny, outside Trump Tower.
And OUTFRONT now, Ryan Goodman, Rebecca Roiphe, Margaret Hoover, and Basil Smikle.
And thanks so much to all of you.
So Ryan, awaiting word, from the court, tonight, as we said, on two motions, and as Kara reported, right? We had anticipated we may hear on these, tonight.
First, when the indictment and unsealing of this indictment, do you think this could still come tonight?
RYAN GOODMAN, JUST SECURITY CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: I think it could come, tonight. At least the judge would let us all know, in a certain sense of what his decision is.
GOODMAN: And I do think that the standard approach is what he'd probably adopt, which is just to release it, tomorrow, at the time of the arraignment, so that doesn't look as there are anything prejudicial, or different is happening, with President Trump, in this instance.
BURNETT: So, as a former Assistant Manhattan District Attorney, right, you know everything at play here, right? You know the precedent. You know what the pressure they're under. You know this decision.
What would be - where do you think they are here, on this? And why, I mean, in a sense, why are we waiting so long, to even get an indication?
REBECCA ROIPHE, NEW YORK LAW SCHOOL PROFESSOR, FORMER MANHATTAN ASSISTANT DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Well, I mean, that's the way prosecutors operate.
ROIPHE: But I also think they're really keeping their heads down, and blocking out all of this white noise. So, it's like, we're in this swarm of white noise, so that we don't quite--
ROIPHE: --understand that what prosecutors do, in an instance, like this, is, obviously, they can't insulate themselves, completely. They're hearing it. But they're trying their best to really focus on what they're doing. And they don't speak except for through indictments in situations like this.
So, I think, it's unlikely that we're going to hear, from Alvin Bragg, at this moment. Maybe later on, at a certain point. But I think it would be really highly unlikely.
BURNETT: So, Margaret, the other thing is cameras in the courtroom. Now, obviously, you heard Kara say, the media, CNN has said that there's an interest in this being in the public eye.
Trump's team, interestingly? Trump loves cameras, and has made no shy part about that even in this case. But they think it would be bad to have him be sitting behind that defendant's desk.
MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, HOST, PBS "FIRING LINE": The imagery - look, there are some things that Donald Trump can spin. But, I think, it is a real reveal, about what he is afraid of, and what imagery he can't step away from, and he can't change.
And the fact is Donald Trump has been fighting the justice system. I mean, he has been prosecuted, for most of his 45 years that he has been in - he has been a private citizen. Even in real estate, he has been investigated. He has been fighting lawsuits. He has been suing people. He has been the victim of suits.
HOOVER: But he has always won. This will be the first time, he has been, in front of a judge, and he has been indicted. He has lost the legal - he is not a winner anymore. And that imagery is very difficult to counterbalance. That's a whole new narrative he's going to have to come up with.
HOOVER: And you can understand why perhaps he wouldn't want those images.
BURNETT: Right. Basil, and what do you think? I mean, obviously, he'd be prepared for it if it happens. But still, there's a moment, where there's a protocol.
BASIL SMIKLE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, FORMER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEW YORK STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Right.
BURNETT: And you can't be playing to that camera. It's just they're watching.
SMIKLE: Right, which has got to be burning him that he is being told he can't have a camera, in a courtroom. It is not in his best interest to have a camera in a courtroom, and he has to keep his mouth shut.
Don't know whether he can actually do that.
SMIKLE: But it is in his - it seems contrary to everything that we know, about Donald Trump that he has to do, in this moment, of time, to keep from being prosecuted further. That is a situation that I can't imagine that he is in. But he is absolutely in that situation, right now. BURNETT: So Ryan, does it matter, as we await the possible unsealing, of this indictment, tonight, does it matter - John Miller has been reporting 34 charges. We know it at least is more than 30.
We just don't know the felony misdemeanor breakdown. How significant will that breakdown be?
GOODMAN: I think it could be very significant. So, if this ends up being like one felony and the rest are misdemeanors? Doesn't look like such a strong case.
The greater degree to which there are felonies being charged, out of those 34, I think, suggests the strength of the case, and the confidence that the Attorney General - that the Attorney General - that the District Attorney has in his case. So, that's what we will see. We'll see that immediately. We'll know that from the indictment.
BURNETT: So, would you read into that more felonies indicates that they really do know they have a stronger case?
Or is this sort of a case of optics matter, so go ahead and throw as many felonies on the table as you can, Rebecca?
ROIPHE: No, I don't think it's optics matter. I mean, I really think it is about the strength of the case.
And, I mean, this is a serious charge. The felony charge is one that the District Attorney's Office uses, quite frequently, in white-collar cases.
And charging a felony is serious. Charging 34 felonies is serious. And sometimes, it can be broken down by the number of specific business records that were fabricated. But no matter what, each one of those times, if they have the backup evidence, each one of those times is a crime.
BURNETT: Right. Right. And we understand, right, 11 possible transferrals, right? You enter that into a document, and right, a ledger, three times, each document could be three charges. But it's unclear, obviously we just don't know.
But Margaret, it comes as we also are hearing that Trump asked the judge to dismiss a wrongful death lawsuit.
"Wrongful death lawsuit," you're looking at me. And you should be looking at me going, "What is it?"
Well, this is related to January 6, and Brian Sicknick, one of the Capitol Police officers, who died, after responding. So, the family was suing Trump for wrongful death. This is, I simply make that point--
HOOVER: Yes. BURNETT: --to say, there are other business cases, in New York. There are cases, in Georgia. There are DOJ cases. There is a rape case, E. Jean Carroll, in New York. There are a lot of these things.
HOOVER: And there's developments in another DOJ case, in the context of the Mar-a-Lago's documents case, and potentially obstruction, coming forth, and looking at the fact that perhaps he was involved in with obstruction, in which makes that case so different, from the case of President Biden, who also ended up with classified documents, in his garage, in Delaware.
HOOVER: That's exactly right. I think placing this in context, there are some, who regret that this is the first case of indictment, against the former President.
HOOVER: I think if there are more indictments, in other cases, we will look back not worrying which one was first.
BURNETT: Interesting point.
HOOVER: But hoping that the gears of justice have ground through fairly, and honorably, in the context of a former President.
BURNETT: Now, of course, he's going to make the case, Basil, the more of these, that it shows just the political motivation, where all of this is.
BURNETT: And that he will actually use--
BURNETT: --that "The preponderance of this shows that they're just out to get me." Do we reach a certain point where that just becomes impossible to believe, for people? Or does it become more believable?
SMIKLE: Yes, I try to center the voter, in all of this night.
SMIKLE: And there are polls that say that 90 percent of Republicans think this is a political hit job. You can understand that.
SMIKLE: Up to 73 percent of Independents actually believe that, and many of them feel that he should not run, if he is - while he is under indictment. That Independent piece is a little concerning, because Democrats did very well, with Independents in 2022. But I imagine, to your point, if - as these lawsuits, become more and more prevalent, and he's going to have to respond to them more, one wonders, whether you're Republican, or an Independent, "Look, enough is enough that we need to move on." But I don't know that Republicans can move on wholesale, from him. But they're going to need to, at some point.
BURNETT: Right. I mean, it's just kind of brought everything to a halt. And this is just the first, right? This is just the first.
Now, there's also been a shake-up, on the legal team, which I know we've become accustomed to. It's not abnormal to change our lawyers. But certainly, Ryan, in Trump's case, he does it a lot.
So, Joe Tacopina says he's going to be the lead trial lawyer, on this. Joe Tacopina, of course, has been the face, people have seen. It's been a broader team.
They've now added Todd Blanche, who I know, you're aware of, in the New York legal community, and that he may sort of take a bigger role.
What does it say to you that this is happening now?
That's the video that we have Mr. Blanche.
GOODMAN: So, it's a shakeup, on the eve of his indictment. I would imagine Donald Trump does not necessarily want Joe Tacopina, to be his lead attorney, in that courtroom. I think he might do well, on TV, but maybe not in that courtroom.
BURNETT: Yes. And is that because of Joe Tacopina, being on the record, on television, saying Stormy Daniels' case was terrible for Trump, or just other reasons?
GOODMAN: I think the biggest one is actually Joe Tacopina, being on the record, at CNN, in 2018, saying that he, for time being, did have a attorney-client relationship, with Stormy Daniels.
GOODMAN: And I don't know - I don't know how well he will do in a hearing, if the judge says "What's going on here? That's a direct conflict. Can you really be representing the adverse party, according to New York State ethics rules?" I think that's a problem, for Joe Tacopina.
BURNETT: What do you make of the legal changes?
ROIPHE: I think Trump's somebody, who cares about prestige. And Joe Tacopina and Susan Necheles are actually quite effective trial attorneys. They have a sort of brawling kind of attitude, and they're good.
But I think he wants to bring in a former federal prosecutor, for the gravitas for - and then - and I think that he cares about that. And I think it's more that than anything else. I mean, we'll see if he actually took over the case, then I would reassess. But I think it's more about bringing in somebody, who carries a different kind of weight than--
ROIPHE: --Joe Tacopina and Susan Necheles.
BURNETT: Well, it's interesting. For all that he says, he's one way? Then when push comes to shove, wants to go the other.
So Margaret, we know that Alvin Bragg is supposed to speak, tomorrow. And then - and Trump is supposed to not speak. And then, Trump is going to get in a plane, and go to Mar-a-Lago, and he's supposed to speak.
BURNETT: So, we'll see if it plays out this way. But we do know he will speak, at least in Mar-a-Lago.
But he was very quiet, today. Outside his Truth Social, his website, he did not - he didn't approach the cameras, and he didn't say anything, which is unusual.
HOOVER: Yes. It's also advised. I mean, he's about to be a first president, to be formally indicted, tomorrow. I mean, he shouldn't say anything that could sway a potential jury that would anger the judge, before he shows up, in front of the judge.
And he's going to have plenty of time, in front of the cameras, when he gets back to Mar-a-Lago. Make no mistake. That speech, talk, rally is going to be his beginning of his political rebuttal narrative, OK? That will be his response, to all the wall-to-wall cameras, talking about Trump, as a victim, prior.
And so, he will have his moment. It's going to be more than a moment. He'll string it out, we all know, tomorrow night, at Mar-a-Lago.
BURNETT: Which is interesting, I mean, I understand, you go to another state, Basil. You do it in another state. But, I mean, the whole country is going to hear it.
BURNETT: It's not as if a juror in New York isn't going to hear it, or the judge isn't going to hear it. But somehow, this distinction seems to matter.
SMIKLE: Well, the distinction matters, because he wants to be in sort of more controlled territory, something that's familiar to him.
BURNETT: Right. SMIKLE: But a point about Alvin Bragg? Because I do think that a lot of what he says is going to be directed toward Alvin Bragg, directly or indirectly.
BURNETT: Right, right.
SMIKLE: I'll make this point about there have been three district attorneys, in Manhattan, in the last 48 years, six in the last 80.
Alvin Bragg in himself, and in his ideology, represents a change that is threatening for a lot of people. So, as Donald Trump, in 2016, and going forward, railed against the Supreme Court justices, railed against judges? It is this Black man, in Alvin Bragg that has bought him, from Florida, to appear--
SMIKLE: --before a court, in New York City.
And I will tell you, the much-maligned Alvin Bragg? He is the center of this firestorm. But he showed that, in a methodical way, he has a tremendous amount of power, to bring that President - that former President, back to New York.
BURNETT: Right, he certainly does. And we should say, of course, when he was running, for District Attorney, he did brag that he had sued Trump 100 - more than 100 times.
BURNETT: And so, we're going to talk about that coming up, in just a little bit.
All right, thanks all very much.
And next, some new inside Intel, from the Trump orbit, on their concerns, about protests, getting violent, tomorrow.
Plus, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene's planning a protest of her own, after spewing wild QAnon conspiracies, on "60 Minutes," calling Democrats, "Pedophiles."
Well, one of her Democratic colleagues will respond.
And some news about a jailed American journalist, in Russia, he is appealing his arrest. This is according to Putin's main propaganda outlet. But one of the reporter's closest friends, is here, spoke to him, the night of the arrest. And that's coming up.
BURNETT: Tonight, looking at live pictures, from Downtown Manhattan, where security is being ramped up, ahead of Donald Trump's arraignment, which is just hours, from now. This, as Trump and some of his allies have urged his supporters, to protest his indictment.
And The Atlantic's McKay Coppins says he's talking to Trump allies, who admit that they are nervous, about tomorrow.
And McKay is OUTFRONT with me now, along with John Avlon, David Axelrod, and Astead Herndon.
So, McKay, you have been talking to a lot of people, close to Trump. Trump allies, people like Roger Stone. And they are worried. What are you hearing from them?
MCKAY COPPINS, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: It's interesting, I reached out to Roger Stone, shortly after news of the indictment broke, and asked him, if he planned to be at the protest, if he planned to, organize anything.
He of course, has a history, as a Republican operative, of making mischief, and trouble, and creating these political spectacles.
COPPINS: He was very adamant, immediately, that he would not be participating in any protests, and that he was urging any Trump protesters, to stay peaceful. And that same sentiment has been expressed over and over, from people, close to Trump, or in Trump's orbit, which I think is interesting, because you have Trump himself, out there, calling for people, to come to the streets--
DAVID AXELROD, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yes.
COPPINS: --to make a lot of noise.
And I think that people in Trump's orbit believe that he will benefit from this, politically, as long as the protests, like the one, planned for tomorrow, don't turn violent. If they - if we see a repeat, of something, like January 6, the political advantage that Trump gets, from this, probably disappears.
AXELROD: Well probably also--
COPPINS: At least that's the thinking, inside Trump's camp.
AXELROD: --when you're under investigation, for fomenting a riot, fomenting another riot, at the same time that you're under investigation, probably isn't helpful.
AXELROD: I'm sure his lawyers are expressing that as well.
COPPINS: Yes. BURNETT: Yes. I mean, but it is actually interesting, when you think about Republican lawmakers, right? They by and large - maybe there was a moment. There was a moment, for McCarthy.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No.
BURNETT: There was a moment.
BURNETT: But then they kind of got back in line, on January 6. And now, they've been trying to walk this line, of saying that this is politically motivated in terms of the charges. That's their political line. But not going so far as to defend Trump. So, they have to walk a fine line.
AVLON: Yes. And if the protest turns violent, which makes it a riot, then, it will be more difficult for them to walk that line.
AVLON: But this sort of tiptoeing around Donald Trump, at some point, folks need to wise up about the fact that it's a fool's errand.
We get why Kevin McCarthy went and kissed the ring, in Mar-a-Lago, weeks after January 6, singing a different tune. But at least the people running for president ought to have the integrity to call him out, and this out, for what it is. And yet, we've seen a lot of pulling of punches.
BURNETT: Right. And now, Astead, meantime, since the indictment, Trump says - his team says that they've raised $7 million.
ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes.
BURNETT: And we can't verify that at this point. But they say $7 million. And what's interesting is they say that what, a quarter to a third of that is new donors.
BURNETT: Right. So, they're saying so far, this is obviously helping them, and significantly so.
HERNDON: Yes. I mean, we don't know about the money.
But we do know about the public polling, which is that we have seen Republican voters, fairly rally around him, in the last couple months. Now, maybe not all of that is the indictment. But it is increasingly looking like a Republican primary, where Donald Trump is, again, blocking out the sun, to other candidates.
To your point, we have not seen other candidates really decide they have space, to attack Donald Trump, on this issue.
HERNDON: And now, and so it is a question of integrity. It's is a question of leadership, to whether they'll go out in front--
HERNDON: --of the politics of it. But they are looking at a Republican electorate, where they are not seeing space, to really criticize Donald Trump, and make a leapfrog over him--
HERNDON: --with this case in mind. And so, that is the calculus that's happening, on the 2024 side, which really speaks to, where we - where, at least those folks think the Republican electorate is, on this issue.
BURNETT: And shows David that they're just following the polls. Because, we're at the beginning of, as you said, could be a lot of indictments, who knows, right?
BURNETT: Who knows where public opinion is going to go on this?
BURNETT: But they're following what they perceive is public opinion.
AXELROD: Listen, I've always been of the mind that a lot of Trump's motivation, in running for president, was that the campaign would be a shield, and his supporters would be the sword that keeps Republican politicians, focused on, in his defense.
And I think you're seeing that now. They're not worried about Trump. They're worried about the people, who follow Trump, and not offending them.
BURNETT: Right. Right.
AVLON: But what they should be focused on, what we're talking about public opinion, right, is?
AVLON: Independent voters, right?
And CNN has brand new poll out, today. And you see the Republican Party coalescing around him, still around a quarter holding out.
But it's Independent voters, 62 percent.
AVLON: Approve of this indictment.
Only 8 percent think Donald Trump did nothing wrong. That's 8 percent of Independent voters.
And then the number that blows my mind is his support, his general approval, Donald Trump's approval, among Independents, is down to 26 percent.
AVLON: So, the Republican Party's got to look real wide-eyed. And everyone's focused on winning a nomination. But you got to win an election.
AXELROD: Yes. But John?
AVLON: You don't do that which 26 percent Independents.
AXELROD: Isn't this the dilemma they've been in for some time?
AVLON: Yes. And they keep losing.
AXELROD: Which is you can't live with him, and you can't live without him? To survive a Republican primary, you need to have him. And to survive a general election, you don't want him. And that's the position they're still in.
AVLON: Well, you know?
BURNETT: They're still in now, yes.
AVLON: It's the definition of insanity, is doing the same thing, expecting a different outcome.
BURNETT: And McKay, he does appear though, right now, at least what we've seen, from him, to just be handling this moment, a bit differently than other moments. I mean, yes, posting on social media.
But he was quiet, today. He was quiet, today. And I know that a source told CNN that he left dinner earlier than usual. I mean, this may sound like ridiculous things. But this is the life that he leads.
COPPINS: No, true.
BURNETT: This is how he indicates his state of mind.
COPPINS: Well, I think that you have to understand Trump's background, right, like, this is a guy, who has been driven to a large extent, by fear of public humiliation, right? There is nothing that bothers him more than the prospect of being humiliated in public. And I think that, he's trying to turn this into something that he can rally his base around. But there's also the possibility that, being - becoming the first former President of the United States, to be indicted, to face criminal charges, will not turn out well, for him. I know that it's a kind of that might be an understatement.
But, I think, he realizes that this could end up, making him look silly, or stupid, or bad. And that eats at him. That idea that he won't, he still can't capture the respect of the people that he's always wanted, in kind of the political elite, the business elite? That stuff? That stuff really matters to him.
BURNETT: And then, to someone like Ron DeSantis, or others that could emerge?
BURNETT: I mean, now the story is "Oh, Ron DeSantis' poll numbers are falling." Again, who the heck knows where they're going to be in a few months.
BURNETT: But, where they just sit back, and are paralyzed, and wait, to see what Trump's base does?
HERNDON: Yes. I mean, the actions of that kind of Republican class had been perplexing, over the last couple months. But I think it speaks to a group of candidates, who have really been waiting, for this legal indictment, to do the work, for them.
HERNDON: The idea that when Trump gets indicted?
HERNDON: Maybe this is the first of many? Then, we'll see those poll numbers fall, then, we'll see the supporters fall away from him, when in fact, because of the rhetoric that's been coming out of the Republican Party, for a long time, that's anti-DOJ, that's anti-FBI--
AXELROD: Yes, yes.
HERNDON: --that's based in victimhood, you've actually had a lot of people, on the Republican primary side, rally to him.
HERNDON: And so, when you have the - when you have Republican opponents, who aren't doing what you would expect to be their role, in terms of using this, to kind of siphon off his support? It's allowed him, to really coalesce a small plurality, of Republicans. Even though, to John's point--
BURNETT: Right. HERNDON: --he is continually putting off the Independents, the swing voters, the long-term.
HERNDON: It's just the short-term picture that looks bad.
BURNETT: And we don't know, again, on the reality of the money. But they are saying a quarter to a third of those donors are new donors.
BURNETT: Now if that's true?
BURNETT: Does that mean anything?
AXELROD: I think that they are trying to turn lemons into lemonade, here.
The fact is that, yes, I'm sure he's benefiting in the short run from this. Anybody who says though, that he would prefer to be indicted, because there's some political advantage? That's just nonsense.
AXELROD: He doesn't want to be in this position.
But he is doing, to your point, Astead, he is rallying the base, on familiar ground, which is the "Deep State, and, all of those plotters against us are using the system, the corrupt system"--
AXELROD: --"to try and stop you from having your voice heard."
AXELROD: And there's a reason why he declared that he was going to be arrested that Tuesday. I think he had no idea whether he's going to be arrested that Tuesday. He probably had an idea that he was going to be arrested, at some point.
But he was sending a clarion call, to his supporters, and have them send a call, to the politicians that "Circle the wagons, guys. We have a situation."
AVLON: Well, he has used threats, to avoid accountability.
And the thing is, as justice moves forward? And no one should cheerlead this. This is a bad day for America, to see a former President, indicted.
BURNETT: Yes, absolutely.
AVLON: But equal justice under law is a more important concept than anything political. And it's the limits of his ability, to intimidate people, with threats, to avoid accountability. That's what tomorrow may be getting.
BURNETT: All right. Well all, thank you. We will all be watching.
AVLON: Thank you.
BURNETT: And next, a former top Democratic congressman, going as far as calling this indictment, a mistake, and you're going to hear why.
And controversial GOP congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Greene, got the "60 Minutes" treatment, and used the platform, to push wild conspiracies.
BURNETT: Tonight, a "Bad" indictment. Those are the words of former Democratic congressman, Barney Frank, who happens to have a law degree from Harvard, in addition to having spent a lot of time, in government. He is breaking, publicly, with many, in his party, by calling out District Attorney, Alvin Bragg's case.
Listen to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARNEY FRANK, (D) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: I think it's a bad indictment. I don't think it should have been brought. I think it is a kind of technical violation at most. That should be if anything pursued civilly by the election law people. I think it is a mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Democratic congressman, Jason Crow, of Colorado. He's on the Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees. And also, as you surely know, was an Impeachment manager, during Trump's first impeachment trial.
So Congressman, I really appreciate your time.
What do you think about what Barney Frank has to say? He says, "It's a bad indictment. It shouldn't have been brought. It's a technical violation at most. If anything, should be pursued civilly." Do you think it's a mistake, as he says?
REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Well, hi, Erin, good to be with you.
First of all, I haven't seen a bad indictment, and I haven't seen a good indictment, because I haven't seen an indictment!
The indictment hasn't been unsealed. Nobody has seen it. So, everybody weighing in, about the nature of this indictment, and what's in it, what's not in it? Hasn't seen the indictment. That's just the bottom line, here.
So, we have to let this process play out. Grand jury proceedings are some of the most secretive proceedings, in our criminal justice system, as they should be. They're brought by grand juries, which are a regular jury of men and women. That process is a non-political process, inherently. And we have to see how it plays out.
BURNETT: All right, when you point out that it's a non-political process? Of course, this gets to the heart of it. Frank happened to warn that the indictment may backfire. He said, will backfire, against Democrats.
Republicans, as you know, Congressman, had pointed out that Alvin Bragg is a progressive, who was elected by Democrats. That is those two (ph) things are true. And they say that he was elected to go after Trump.
Now, on that front, I will note that during his campaign, he did boast that he sued Trump. In fact, I found Congressman Crow that at one point, Alvin Bragg said, quote, "It is a fact that I've sued Trump more than 100 times. That was important work." And he said that in the context of his campaign. He said it repeatedly.
Are you comfortable with Alvin Bragg, as the voice of this, as the District Attorney, who is bringing the first indictment, against a former President, in American history?
CROW: Well, Erin, here's another fact. The fact is Alvin Bragg did not indict Donald Trump. A grand jury indicted Donald Trump.
So, this is how this works. Everyone gets those jury notices, in the mail. We all do. We show up to the courthouse. We wait for our number to get called. And a certain number of us get pulled away, for grand jury service. It's the same jury pool, the same people.
You serve in a grand jury. Evidence gets presented to you. And the majority of those folks have to decide whether or not to indict.
CROW: And the next step, in the process is--
CROW: --if Donald Trump decides to go to trial, then he'll also have a jury.
BURNETT: Right, completely true. But, of course, this wouldn't have happened, and wouldn't have been brought, in front of the grand jury, if Alvin Bragg hadn't chosen to do so. Just to state the kind of obvious on that. But you're comfortable with the overall situation, is what you're saying?
CROW: Well, we need to see the indictment. We need to see what's in the indictment, and make that decision. But what is absolutely true is Donald Trump has a history of violating the law, of breaking the law, of incitement - inciting violence.
He is entitled, though to due process. He's entitled the equal protection, like we all are. He is not above the law. He should not be above the law. The analysis of whether or not he is or is not, a former President, should be irrelevant.
Because, in almost every courthouse in America, there is the statue of Justice. And the statue of Justice is holding scales, and weighing the evidence. And she is blindfolded. And she's blindfolded, because it shouldn't matter what position you are, what title you hold. This is a matter of the evidence. That's the process, when it's at its best, the process that we should see play out.
BURNETT: And I want to ask you one other thing that happened in the past 24 hours.
This is Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. She's planning a protest, by the way, here in New York, ahead of Trump's arraignment.
But I wanted to play, for you, Congressman, again, some of what she said on "60 Minutes" last night. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESLEY STAHL, "60 MINUTES" CORRESPONDENT, CBS: "The Democrats are a party of pedophiles."
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I would definitely say so. They support grooming children.
STAHL: They are not pedophiles. Why would you say that?
TAYLOR GREENE: Democrats - Democrats support, even Joe Biden, the President himself supports, children being sexualized, and having transgender surgeries. Sexualizing children is what pedophiles do to children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Congressman, how do you even respond to that?
CROW: Well, first of all, Erin, you can put me in the category of people that thinks that it was a very big mistake, to platform somebody, like Marjorie Taylor Greene. This isn't a policy debate. This isn't a situation, where you have people of like minds, who can differ, on the margins, on issues and facts.
Marjorie Taylor Greene is not well. She's not well. She's a QAnon conspiracy theorist. She incites violence. And it's not OK, to platform somebody, like that, and like, we're just having a discussion, on a Sunday evening, with friends. That's not what's happening here.
She is a dangerous person, who is going to try to incite violence, this week, because she has a history of doing it. And we should all be able to agree on that, regardless of your political affiliation.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Congressman Crow, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
CROW: Yes, thank you.
BURNETT: All right.
And next, an update, on the Wall Street Journal reporter, detained in Russia, tonight. It's from Russia. They're painting a rosy picture. But he is now in solitary confinement. And a close friend of that reporter is my guest, OUTFRONT.
Plus, new video, in tonight, right as the bomb was about to rip through a St. Petersburg cafe, an influential pro-war Russian blogger was killed. So, who was behind it?
BURNETT: Tonight, we're learning, the woman, Russia is blaming, for a deadly explosion that killed a vocal pro-war blogger, will be in court, tomorrow, for a detention hearing.
A new video into CNN shows the moments, just before a bomb, ripped through a St. Petersburg cafe, killing Vladlen Tatarsky.
(VIDEO - RUSSIAN BLOGGER VLADLEN TATARSKY)
BURNETT: You see him there. He's just about to address supporters.
You see that figurine he's holding? Well, he had just been handed that. It was a gift at the event. Moments later, it explodes, killing him, and injuring dozens more. And Russian state media says the explosive may have been hidden, inside that figurine.
Under interrogation, by Russian officials, Daria Trepova (ph), the woman you see, on your screen, admitted to handing the figurine, to Tatarsky. But, of course, we don't know if she was forced to give that admission, or even would have known anything, about it, about what was inside it.
Trepova's (ph) 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 four to five hours ago."
Fred Pleitgen is OUTFRONT.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The moment a massive blast ripped through a St. Petersburg 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 (ph), now in custody.
In an interrogation video, released by Russian investigators, they ask if she knew why she was detained.
Trepova (ph) says, for giving Tatarsky, the statuette.
It's not clear whether Trepova (ph) was being coerced, to speak, in the video.
But Russian authorities released images, showing a woman, looking like Trepova (ph), entering the cafe, before the blast.
After giving the box, with the statuette, to the host, Trepova (ph) 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.
MAXIM FOMIN/VLADLEN TATARSKY, RUSSIAN BLOGGER: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
PLEITGEN (voice-over): 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.
FOMIN/TATARSKY: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
PLEITGEN (voice-over): 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.
YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN, HEAD OF THE MERCENARY WAGNER GROUP: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
PLEITGEN (voice-over): "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 feels it's under attack. Vladlen Tatarsky was acquainted, with hardline political scientist, Darya Dugina, who was assassinated, in Moscow, last year.
The Kremlin, then also, pointing its finger at Kyiv.
DMITRY PESKOV, KREMLIN SPOKESPERSON: (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
PLEITGEN (voice-over): "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."
BURNETT: And thanks so much, to Fred Pleitgen, for that report.
As we get more? As I said, she's going to be appearing, for a detention hearing, tomorrow, we understand, from Russian state media.
And it continues, this busy news day. On "CNN TONIGHT," at the top of the hour, you see, Alisyn, and she will host, along with Mike Rowe, of "Dirty Jobs" fame, among her guests, coming up, next hour.
Meantime, next here, Russia now claims that the jailed Wall Street Journal reporter's appealing his arrest. And one of the American's closest friends is appealing for his release. We'll see him next.
BURNETT: Tonight, detained Wall Street Journal reporter, Evan Gershkovich, appealing his arrest, in Russia. Now, this is according to Russian state media. It's the only source on this, right now.
They're also reporting that a Russian prison supervisor met with Gershkovich, and described him as quote, "Cheerful." We should note, we understand he's in solitary detention. They report that he has access to some walks and a library. Again, I just want to caveat this. This is Russian state media.
Gershkovich was arrested, last week, on spying charges, which U.S. officials vehemently deny. And he now faces up to 20 years in prison, just for doing his job, reporting in Russia.
Joining me now is Chuck Rollins, one of Evan Gershkovich's closest friends.
And Chuck, I know you have known Evan, for many years. You were roommates, in college. And you shared some pictures, of you, and he, and some of your friends, so everyone can understand, what he's like.
It's got to be incredibly difficult, to hear Russian state media, describing his detainment. I mean, how does it even make you feel, to hear this, and to be in this situation?
CHUCK ROLLINS, CLOSE FRIEND OF EVAN GERSHKOVICH, WSJ REPORTER DETAINED IN RUSSIA: Yes, it's really, it's really hard. It's confusing, honestly, because looking at these photos, of getting really happy. He's my best friend. He's my favorite friend. He's the best friend a guy could ask for.
And so, I'm looking at these photos. And he's stuck in prison. And so, it's really confusing. It feels surreal. It almost hasn't set in yet. But we need to really kind of dig into that feeling, because, it's real. He could be there for 20 years. And that's terrifying.
BURNETT: Absolutely terrifying.
And again, right now, the only source of anything we have is Russian state media. So, we do know solitary confinement. And then they're acting, as if he's cheerful, there!
And, as you describe, Chuck, he's your best friend. You talk to him, or you were in touch with him, the day before he was detained. I know it was quick. But you said he cracked a joke. And you were talking, texting. What can you tell us about that?
ROLLINS: Not much. It was just the college friends' group chat. And he sent a meme, or something like that. And it's just crazy that the next day, he was getting booked, in a restaurant, in Russia. Now, he's in jail.
BURNETT: And, of course, he was doing his job, right? He was doing some reporting, we understand, on military facilities.
And we spoke to an attorney, who has extensive experience, representing journalists, who have been persecuted, or prosecuted, in Russia. And he has spoken to people, who know, Evan, in Russia. So, this was sort of someone, who knows the most that we could find.
And here's what he said about Evan's case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Unfortunately, there are practically no chances, for him, to win the case, or for his acquittal, in Modern Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Basically, what he's saying is, right, "You're not going to win this in court. That's not the way this is going to go, is this is essentially a prisoner swap. That's the way that this would happen."
I mean, is that your understanding, right now? Obviously, you're his best friend. I know you're in touch with other friends, his family. That a prisoner swap is the way he would be released?
ROLLINS: I don't think I can speak on that. If anything, I'm a professional on Evan. I'm not a foreign affairs professional.
And so, really, what we're trying to do is just keep the focus, on Evan, right now, and who he is, and what he was doing, over there.
And what he was doing was his dream. This was his dream job. Evan wanted to travel the world, meet people, tell their story. Evan believes in the Free Press, and he believes that a just society is built on that. And so, that's what he was doing on in Russia. And that's - it's just a shame. It's heartbreaking.
BURNETT: And I know you, and his other friends, have been brainstorming on what to do. What can you tell us about your efforts so far?
ROLLINS: Right. So, we're all banding together. And we've put together an email, so people can contact Evan.
All of the letters he receives need to be written in Russian. And so, we're having his friends, in Russia, translate those letters, and deliver them, to the prison. Because we've heard, from some former inmates, that that's really the one thing that keeps you going in there, so.
BURNETT: Well that makes such a difference. Because, you just don't know, you don't know how long, and what to do anything, just to buoy his spirits.
BURNETT: Well, thank you so much, Chuck, for coming on, and talking about Evan. Really appreciate it.
ROLLINS: Thank you.
BURNETT: And thanks so much to all of you, for joining us.
"CNN TONIGHT" with Alisyn Camerota is next.