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Erin Burnett Outfront
Trump Indicted On 4 Count In 2020 Election Probe; Special Counsel Indicts Trump: January 6 Attack "Fueled by Lies". Aired 7-8p ET
Aired August 01, 2023 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: And good evening and welcome to a special edition of OUTFRONT. I'm Erin Burnett, along with Wolf Blitzer.
And we are following the historic and breaking news of the third criminal indictment of former President Donald J. Trump. Federal prosecutors charging Trump with four counts in his connection with his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. They include conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights.
Moments ago, the special counsel Jack Smith spoke more about animate and the charges Trump now faces.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACK SMITH, SPECIAL COUNSEL: The attack on our nation's Capitol on January 6th, 2021, was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy. It described in the indictment, it was fueled by lies -- lies by the defendant, targeted at obstructing the bedrock function of the U.S. government, the nation's process of collecting, counting, and certifying the results of the presidential election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, the indictment went on to say that Trump had six coconspirators, Wolf, but, of course, it did not name them.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: This is truly a remarkable moment in American history. The former president of the United States who is now the current front runner for the Republican presidential nomination, charged with trying to undermine the will of American voters in order to cling to power.
We have a team of reporters standing by. I want to get to Sara Murray first. She got the new details about the identities of the six Trump co-conspirators.
Sara, what can you tell us? SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, as you
noted, there are six coconspirators who are unnamed in this indictment. We are prepared to identify five of them at this point based on reporting from our CNN team. I think most notably, the first unindicted coconspirator who, again, is unnamed indictment, we have identified as Rudy Giuliani. The indictment this is someone who called the Arizona speaker of the House, that was Rusty Bowers, somebody who made a presentation before Georgia state lawmakers and the person that Donald Trump tapped to lead his post election legal efforts. That is all Rudy Giuliani.
Number two in this indictment is former Trump attorney John Eastman. This is a person who wrote this two-page memo. This was the plan for Mike Pence to be able to essentially overturn the 2020 election, while presiding over the Electoral College certification.
Number three on this list, another former Trump attorney, Sidney Powell. They point out that she filed a lawsuit against the governor of Georgia, which we knew. They also point out in this indictment that Donald Trump was espousing the theories of this coconspirator, even though he had privately admitted that they sounded crazy. We know all of that to be Sidney Powell.
Coconspirator number four on this list is someone we've talked about a lot, former Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark. The indictment identifies him as a Justice Department official. It also points to an email that a top DOJ person sent to Clark, rebutting his efforts to try to use the department to overturn the 2020 election.
And again, number five, we have a pro -- another pro-Trump lawyer. This is Kenneth Chesebro. He was someone who was very involved in this fake electors plot. The indictment points to an email memorandum that he sent to Giuliani in December of 2020 about the fake electors plot. So, based on everything that we have previously reported, everything we know, what our sources are telling us, of course, the work of the House committee that investigated January 6, those are the five coconspirators we are prepared to identify at this point. Notably, all attorneys who worked alongside Donald Trump in his efforts to try to overturn the 2020 election, Wolf.
BLITZER: Really significant reporting. Thank you very much for that, Sara.
BURNETT: All right, Wolf. And, of course, now, you can go through this, and when it says coconspirator one, two, three, four and five, fill in those names.
I want to go to Katelyn Polantz outside the courthouse.
And, Katelyn, on the back of Sara's reporting, you have to information about something here in this indictment. What are you learning?
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Erin, we are learning a senior campaign adviser who is signified in this indictment as one of the people who was giving Donald Trump the harshest assessment that there was no fraud after the election that would overturn the vote, that person is Jason Miller. I have been able to confirm that. I reached out to a representative of his, and he received no comment back. But I have been able to confirm that that is indeed Jason Miller.
And this episode is one of the highlights of how the special counsel's office was using information that the close advisers to Donald Trump on the campaign, people who even stuck with him after the 2020 election, Miller continued to work with Donald Trump, continues to work with him, these are people who were telling him that there wasn't fraud, and that Donald Trump and the alleged coconspirators, or the coconspirators in this indictment who are not charged at this time, that those people were doing something anomalous with what the campaigned knew, that there wasn't fraud.
And this particular mention of Jason Miller in the charging document, it notes that he spoke with Donald Trump on a daily basis, informed him in multiple occasions that fraud claims were untrue, informed him that ballot stuffing that was being alleged in Georgia was not happening, that there were not a number of dead voters in Georgia that would be sizable enough to swing the election.
And he, wrote in an email, this is according to the indictment, on December 8th, so a month after the election, before the Trump electors come together to try and certify Trump won, Jason Miller writes in an email: When our research and campaign legal team can't pick up any of the claims made by our elite strike force legal team, you can see what we are zero 32 on our cases. I'll obviously hustle to help on all fronts, but it is tough to own any of this when it is all just conspiracy beamed down from the mothership.
So, that's what Jason Miller, senior campaign adviser, was saying to Donald Trump. And yet Trump and the coconspirators in the indictment continued on, pushing this myth of an election fraud.
BURNETT: All right. Katelyn Polantz, thank you very much. Pretty powerful sentence there from Jason miller. There was an expletive in there, too.
I'll obviously hustle up on all fronts, but it's tough to own any of this when it's all just conspiracy, expletive, beamed down from the mothership. That's the level of disdain and disgust expressed by one of Trump's key inner circle, individuals charged with putting this forward -- again and again telling Trump it was false.
I want to go to Ty Cobb, the former Trump White House lawyer.
Ty, I know you've had a chance to read through all 45 pages of this indictment. What stands out to you so far?
TY COBB, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: Several things. As we've discussed previously in terms of what to expect, we got exactly what we expected, which was a very, very detailed, laborious, easy to follow narrative exactly why Donald Trump failed the country and put his own interests over those of the United States.
It is -- there's nothing in here that's gratuitous. There's nothing in here that's obscure. It's very easily understood. And I think most sane Americans reading this will understand that something very grave happened.
I would like to articulate the gravity of this, but I can't possibly do better than the letter from Judge Luttig that was -- or the statement from Judge Luttig that was just moments ago read on your air. I think he has always been a straight shooter. I think he, like me, feels that the Republican Party really cannot sustain itself without an abject rejection that Trump needs to go in the rear view. And I think he's a great statement. When he said what he said about the significance and consequences of this day, having to take this, you know, sad step with regard to a former president.
BURNETT: And our Jamie Gangel just sharing that statement that she obtained from Judge Luttig. Is there anything, Ty, as you read through, you say there's nothing gratuitous in here. Is there anything that you think is not here that should be here? Is there anything here that is missing?
COBB: No. I don't -- I don't believe so. I think it is -- this states the charges in a very understandable way and in a very -- in a difficult way because he's the only defendant, it makes it very difficult for Trump to deflect blame here and to spin it.
Now having said that, you know, the reference to the co-conspirators is that they are conspirators, not they're unindicted coconspirators, which raises the possibility they may well have been indicted. And justice may be following the traditional step that justice follows of not announcing an indictment unless a defendant is, you know, arrested and/or arraigned.
So it's conceivable that there is a fuller indictment upcoming. It's conceivable that some of these people have already pled guilty. It's conceivable that some people may read this, some of the people named may read this and go ahead and plead.
But I don't believe that, you know, anybody who's listed as a co- conspirator was surprised to see themselves mentioned in the way they are today.
BURNETT: Right. And, of course, we have identified, Sara Murray was just reporting, five of the six. The sixth being a campaign -- or a political consultant who was instrumental --
COBB: Political consultant.
BURNETT: Right. And there's a few people that that could possibly be but we're not going to make assumptions here until we know for sure. But we do know who all the others are.
BURNETT: Interesting, Ty, that you say they could have already pled or they could already be charged, that we just don't know. We don't know the status of any of those.
I do wonder, Ty, your view on the timing here. We were having a robust conversation a few moments ago about whether the American people deserve a verdict in this case from a jury of their own peers ahead of an election given that this alleges that a former president tried to, you know, basically stage a coup and it lays it all out.
Do you think that there's any chance that this happens, that there is a verdict in the case before the actual election in 2024?
COBB: I think there's an outside chance. I do think this raises some -- this case raises -- unlike Mar-a-Lago, this case raises some significant First Amendment issues, and Jack Smith eludes to what Donald Trump's First Amendment rights are and accurately identifies --
BURNETT: Yeah, right at the beginning.
COBB: Yeah, and accurately identifies, you know, where those rights meet the wall, you know, at the point of, you know, the deception and conspiracy that are charged.
I want to apologize if I said the co-conspirators might have pled. What I meant to say if I said was they may have already agreed plea because had they pled, we would know that.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Ty, thank you very much. And thank you for that, making that clear. I appreciate it.
All right. Ty Cobb there, former White House counsel.
COBB: Thanks, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. And my panel is back. Karen Friedman Agnifilo joins us, the former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, also a close former colleague of special counsel Jack Smith, Elliot Williams, Ryan Goodman, Scott Jennings are all back.
So, Karen, let me start with you because you do know Jack Smith and we did see him briefly come to the cameras. It's a brief statement. He clearly doesn't like being in front of the cameras, I think that was clear, but he's put this out.
Knowing him, reading this, what do you think this day was like for him?
KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think he did his job. He's a public servant and he did what he had to do. He wanted to get the information out there clear and from his words before Donald Trump had a chance to spin it.
I think he also kept it short and sweet. I thought it was wonderful that he praised the heroes of the Capitol that day who -- it gave me the chills when he said they protected the building and the people in it but really just our democracy, and our country and our values.
That's who Jack Smith is. That's what he believes in. He's a public servant. He's been a public servant his whole career. I met him when he -- it was both our first jobs out of law school. We worked at the Manhattan D.A.'s job together and we were a small group and we were trained together.
And I wasn't surprised to see a stream lined indictment against Trump just four charges with all of the facts in there. But this is neat, and clean, and this has a chance of going to trial before the election and that's exactly what Jack Smith did.
He knows what he's doing and he did it here.
BURNETT: So, Ryan, neat and clean. Is that how you would describe it? I mean, I was just asking Ty to try to get to this. When you look at a Behemoth -- this is laid out very clear. Very focused on the things he said, they knew they were false and he continued to say that, right? And again, again, again in painstaking, excruciating detail this is laid out.
Could you have gone broader? What do you feel about the actual charges and statutes used? I mean, is this all fool proof?
RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: I think it's very strong. These are statutes that have been used in the past. They've been used against other folks that were responsible for the violence but it's also like the Section 241 denial of rights. That is when you conspire to prevent people's votes from being counted. So the allegation is President Trump conspired to prevent people's votes within seven different states from being counted.
Pretty much, you know, hand in glove with some of these statutes. I don't think that was an issue. It was already a federal court opinion that found that Trump and Eastman had conspired under two of these statutes to try to overturn the election with the same set of facts. That was not beyond a reasonable doubt but it was more likely than not was the standard. That's a pretty high standard.
So, you even have a judicial ratification of these particular charges.
BURNETT: So, Elliot, let me ask you about what we were just hearing of the reporting from Katelyn Polantz about Jason Miller, who's a very close, obviously inner circle, Trump campaign, appeared on air as a campaign official many, many times, stayed in that Trump inner circle.
That it lays out very carefully that he said again and again and again to Trump that these are false whether it was dead voters in Georgia or -- and other claims as well and then goes on to say, if you want me to keep hustling on this, sure, even though this is conspiracy expletive being beamed down from the mothership.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. So let's just back up and talk about what you have to establish as a prosecutor. You have to establish some level of corrupt action or intent on the part of the defendant.
Now a number of people, the louder the chorus is and the bigger the chorus is saying, these claims you're posting are false can help prove the case, but you really need to get inside the defendant's head, and as to what he was thinking. I think the far more compelling same is when we talked about the last network which is the president ultimately threw his hands up on page 30 and saying, you know, I guess this is the next guy's problem, acknowledging that he lost the election.
But again the Jason Miller statement with every other one, just the volume of them helps prosecutors prove the case but none of them --
BURNETT: And, Scott, to this point we counted 37 times knowing or knowingly are used. That's what's in painstaking detail. Not just showing every lie but showing that Trump had been told again and again by allies that it was a lie.
But it is the crucial thing on page 30 he admits that he lost the election. He's in a meeting on January 3rd, so well after he lost, with national security team, national security issue. They don't talk about the issue, it's not relevant. The point is they talk about it and he says, yeah, you're right, it's too late for us. We're going to get that to the next guy.
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. That was noteworthy because I assume what Trump's going to argue is that he won, just as he argues in every speech that he gives and just as he has told people in private and whether that's in small groups or large settings. So, I found that to be noteworthy.
The other thing about this that I found noteworthy how much apparent reliance there was on Mike Pence, who's the vice president. A lot of the information appears to me to have come from Mike Pence. He has put out a statement saying that he was asked to choose between --
BURNETT: Let me read it actually, because --
JENNINGS: Yeah, you got it.
BURNETT: -- it did just came out, in this indictment talks about notes that he took, contemporaneous notes.
BURNETT: Vice president just put out a statement reading, in part, our country is more important and one man. Our constitution is more important than any one man's career. On January 6, President Trump demanded that I choose between him and the Constitution. I chose the Constitution and I always will.
JENNINGS: Also in that statement, he makes the point that this indictment which he says he'll have more to say about guarantees that in the election, we'll be talking more about January 6th then we will be about, say, Joe Biden's handling of the economy. And so, he appears to me, at least in the statement tonight, to be pleading with Republicans, if you want to have a reform them on Joe Biden, you're going to have to nominate someone other than Donald Trump. That is in stark contrast to what we've heard so far out of DeSantis and Ramaswamy and some other Republicans.
BURNETT: Right, who immediately came out and called this as bogus, obviously, they didn't read it before they did that. They just immediately went and jumped to do that.
Ryan, to the point to the vice president though, clearly contemporaneous notes that that is mentioned more than once in here we had not known that specific detail, but, Olivia Troye, who was -- worked with him, briefed him, was his national security adviser, she said that he did this many times.
In fact, she described the way Mike Pence took notes. It was interesting. Black sharpie, preferred by the former president too and an index card, and that she said he did it many times. So it does seem to Scott's point that some of those notes may be very important in this indictment.
GOODMAN: Absolutely. It goes to his credibility as a witness. He had high credibility. He has said the same thing over time consistently. His book is its own indictment of the president. In his book, he lays out a lot of the allegations against the president in a way you don't need to for book to have it sell copy, and it's just remarkable.
So, the fact that he seems to be somebody who will be a solid witness, lets it put that way, and a star witness.
JENNINGS: Can I ask a question?
JENNINGS: How likely, reading this document, do you find when this goes to trial, that the former vice president will have to take the stand against his old president?
AGNIFILO: A hundred percent.
JENNINGS: Do you think they'd put him on?
AGNIFILO: A hundred percent. Yeah, he's -- first of all, he's a victim of this crime, right? He was there on January 6 where they were saying "hang Mike Pence". He's an eyewitness to all of the events surrounding that, plus many -- much of what's in here. I mean, the entire, I think it's count number three, all about the pressure campaign against Mike Pence. I mean, he is -- he is absolutely going to testify, be called as a witness to testify at trial.
WILLIAMS: We can't make that point enough, the victim point.
And Ryan and I, during commercial breaks we've been talking back and forth for quite some time. You have to have someone who is fundamental right was violated to get a conviction under 241, that last statute. And now, who is that victim? Is it voters, or is it Mike Pence, whose ability to do his job on January 6 was obstructed?
And I actually think they're charging -- Mike Pence, he's literally the victim of the crime here and it would be odd to see if he didn't testify.
Now, you're right, Scott, as a practical matter, how do you get --
BURNETT: Well, you now have to be them run, just to be clear, right?
BURNETT: That he is a declared presidential candidate for the GOP nomination. So you would have that in court. One, running against the other taking the stand.
JENNINGS: Yeah. I mean, by the time this goes through trial, I suspect Mike Pence won't be in the race anymore.
But, but, and -- we don't know. Donald Trump could be the de facto nominee of the party, you know, when this goes to trial but maybe not nominated yet at the convention. Just to me, the idea that you have one of your closest advisers, Jason Miller, possibly in the middle of this trial, and he's one of the president's top spokesman -- former president's top spokesman today, and your former vice president probably, possibly testifying against you in an open court, what an absolute spectacle.
But it underscores to me what I said earlier. I don't -- most Republicans are going to view this as a political document until Donald Trump gets his day in court. And I just don't see how you can have an election with Donald Trump in the middle of it without having been adjudicated for the American people to see it.
WILLIAMS: Yes, I guess the question is, it's a political document until he gets a day in court. But I don't know if Donald Trump getting convicted actually changes anything for literally anyone in America.
BURNETT: OK, I want to give you a chance to disagree, but let me have this in the conversation. A poll out this weekend, Ron Brownstein, you know, amazing -- follows all these things, he highlighted NPR/Marist/PBS, only about half of independents in America -- independents, right? This lauded, oh my gosh, they're going to decide everything group that people like to point to. Only half of them agree that Trump, quote, has done something illegal.
BURNETT: That's prior to today. But again, while there's lots of new information here, the actual storyline of what the lies are, we already knew. The independents, only half of them thought that. JENNINGS: Well, he hasn't been convicted of anything yet. And that's my point, is if he ever goes to a trial and is convicted, there will be a cohort of voters. By the way, some of them will be Republicans.
BURNETT: That will say, now, that the court has spoken, they're going to change their view?
JENNINGS: That will say -- look, I don't feel good about pulling this level. Now, I think it's query as to whether it's in Trump's best interest to try to get this trial. He might want to go to trial in Florida where he thinks he could win with the jury, and not a D.C., where the jury is going to be more difficult.
BURNETT: In the Mar-a-Lago case, yeah.
JENNINGS: But just for the average -- I saw a survey on this the other day. Overwhelming majority of American said, I'd like to see how these things turn out before I make a decision, because, you know, there ain't any great love for Joe Biden in this country right now either. And both of these guys, you know, obviously have different reasons for wanting to be elected president.
BURNETT: So, can I ask you about when this goes to trial, not just the timing and I know that it could possibly be earlier than some of these other cases. Alvin Bragg in New York for example has indicated he might move each try to accommodate, but what we know about jurisdictions, what we know about jury, what we know about the judge, Tanya Chutkan, we know who happens to be in an Obama appointee, who is known for tough sentencing.
But what do we know about how this will play out?
GOODMAN: I think it could play out pretty expeditiously. This is the kind of judge that would see, I think, that this could happen quickly. I also think Jack Smith might pull something that he's pulled in Mar- a-Lago, which is actually to say, look, here's all the evidence for discovery really early on, so that we can expedite this process.
So, whatever you think about the normal trial, that would be this trial, they are going to try to front load it I think at once again, and because it's in D.C. --
BURNETT: And it will be in the D.C., I just want to be clear, loud and clear.
GOODMAN: Oh, yeah, it will be in .D.C., and D.C. has very settled case law on things that otherwise might matter here, like attorney-client privilege with respect to the president, executive privilege with respect to the president. And then there's Nixon v. United States, which is a criminal trial process, so other evidence that will come straight in. I think a lot of other questions that might be the kind constitutional questions that would hang this up are not going to be real issues in this trial.
BURNETT: All right. Yeah? AGNIFILO: And on top of that, there's no -- there's no classified documents, so you don't have to go through the top secret clearance and Classified Information Procedures Act.
AGNIFILO: So that should make his go fast as well.
BURNETT: All right. All stay with us.
BLITZER: Erin, I want to go straight to our senior justice correspondent Evan Perez, who's been covering the story, of course, from the very, very beginning.
Evan, Trump is now charged with these four new felony counts. These are very, very serious charges, potentially, carrying long prison terms even.
So what happens next? Will the former president actually be arrested?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We, he will be -- well, he will be formally arrested. It's all part of the process, Wolf. The question that is not clear right now is whether the former president is actually going to come to the courthouse. This is something that this court allows for initial appearances to be done over Zoom.
And so, the former president was already previously booked.
He was -- he was formally arrested when he was indicted in the southern district of Florida. So, some of those steps could be skipped as part of this process. The question, though, of course is does he want to have the entire show, so to speak, because he knows he uses this as a fundraising mechanism.
And so we know that law enforcement certainly have been planning for this event. They were certainly, I think, hoping that the former president would take the opportunity to use the Zoom process whereby the booking and everything can be done remotely, and then you don't have any kind of security issue around the courthouse, certainly a lot easier to predict courthouse that way.
But obviously, it's up to the former president if he decides that he wants to come to Washington and do this, then that's how it's going to go. Again, we haven't heard yet from his legal team how they want to proceed. It's certainly an option that was presented to them.
BLITZER: As you know, Evan, Trump's cases been assigned to a judge here in Washington known for handing down very harsh sentences of January 6 rioters.
What more can you tell us about this judge? PEREZ: Right, her name is Tanya Chutkan, Judge Tanya Chutkan, who was
appointed -- she's been on the bench since 2014, appointed by former President Obama, Wolf. She is absolutely one of the tougher judges in that courthouse. She has handled a lot of the January 6 cases and has gotten a reputation for being among the tougher sentencers in that courthouse.
Some judges who have sort of pushed back on the Justice Department over some of these January 6th cases. She's not one of them. She has been very harsh in speaking out about what happened on January 6th, of course, right across from the court houses where some of the key events happened there on the west side of the Capitol.
We know, Wolf, that this was a selection that was done randomly. That's how they choose which judges get these cases. So, it was a random assignment.
And so, of course, you know, you expect the former president will have some opinions of the fact that she was an appointee of former President Obama. And, of course, then we will see how she deals with this with the former president as a new defendant in this court -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very interesting indeed.
I want to bring back our legal and political experts who are poring over this indictment and all the new developments.
And, Norm Eisen, I understand you know this federal judge.
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Judge Chutkan is one of the pillars of the D.C. bar where I practice for the past 30 years, and in particularly emerged as one of our leading defense lawyers, part of the defense bar, when she was at the public defenders service.
And, Wolf, the D.C. public defenders service is the premier public defender service in the country. While I sit on the defense side of the table, Shan and Laura are former prosecutors, so they know they put up a fight. She was one of their great trial lawyers. And then she was in private practice as well.
Why does that matter here? Because we heard Jack Smith, I thought, in an incredibly powerful press conference, the two most important words that I heard were "speedy trial". Alvin Bragg has a March 2024 trial date. He said he would -- he's hinted he would step a flat aside, publicly, to make room for this case.
Judge Chutkan knows how to move the case quickly. They'll be none of this dallying that we saw before Judge Cannon in Mar-a-Lago. She will move this case quickly.
I'll disagree with my friend, Ty Cobb, also a longtime defense lawyer, I think we're going to see this case go to trial before the 2024 general election.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there's a sense among many people that you ought to before you vote, that this is important, that if someone is charged who is running for presidency with these kinds of charges, i.e. trying to overturn a free and fair election, that it is something that people ought to know and to hear about and to see for themselves.
Now, another thing that has struck me in reading through all of this is about Mike Pence. The Mike Pence gave a statement tonight, a very strong statement, as this has progressed his statements have gotten stronger and stronger against the former president of the United States. But there is a quote in here. It was kind of shocking to me, from the former president.
There is this now infamous meeting in the Oval Office on the evening of January 3rd. And the lawyers are gathering and the president is gathering.
And there was an offer from the assistant attorney general for the Office of the Legal Counsel to explain to everybody why the Justice Department shouldn't let the vice president do what the president wanted him to do. And you know what Trump's response was at that point? It was, no one here should be talking to the vice president. I'm talking to the vice president. And that ended to the discussion.
LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: That really undercuts, right, any potential argument that in the future that he was somehow led by somebody else, which is part of the foundational work you are doing in a court of public opinion in defense is to say, listen, I was getting counsel by many lawyers.
The fact that these are now potential coconspirators potentially indicted, coconspirators who might say something different, very interesting. I will say, one thing I was really struck by in terms of what Jack Smith had to say, he is well aware that no one is watching this in a vacuum. He knows there are weaponization of government subcommittees happening. He knows that talking point is happening quite well.
And what did he say? The grand jury indicted this case, return an indictment in this case. The grand jury, of course, finding probable cause. We talked about these are allegations until the evidence have a chance to be tested in court.
One could argue that the notion of filing this case, knowing full well of that being a request to have the Mar-a-Lago documents case pushed back, he's well where the that this could happen and sooner without the CIPA implications, the idea of classified documents and beyond.
So, it comes down to one more point here, is that he's aware of one of the arguments that Donald Trump is going to have, which is, don't I have a right to criticize democracy? Don't I have the right criticize I think this issue?
Paragraph three says the defendant has a right like any American to speak publicly about election, even claim falsely that there had been outcome and fraud. He goes on to say, a fancy way of saying, you are entitled to your opinions. You're not entitled to your facts.
And the fact of the matter is, our democracy requires the peaceful transition of power. The entire indictment outlines the way in which he crossed a line.
But again, this has to be tested. He was well aware, a man a few words, to know that for those who are going to claim this is weaponization, just look at the people who are actually listed in here in conjunction with the dozens, almost 1,000 witnesses, actually, on the January 6th Committee.
BORGER: And, by the way, you can't blame everybody else for your actions because they were telling you, you were wrong, and you are saying to them, I am the one who's going to talk to the vice president United States, not anybody else. I'm the one who's going to.
BLITZER: Shan, what do you make of the argument that Trump and his legal team and his allies almost certainly will make, that the former president can't get a fair trial here in Washington, D.C.?
SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I don't think that's going to be true. They could have better places they would defer prefer to be in. But my own experience as a prosecutor in D.C. is that jurors are very fair. In fact, they tend to be somewhat pro-defense-oriented in D.C.
So, I don't think that's going to fly for him because he'd make that that argument any place in the country. I do think both to Laura and Gloria's point, I sense in here the time pressures that Jack Smith's team felt. In that sense, it's a bit of a hurry up indictment. Not that it's overlooked in the details, but possibly this strategic choice of naming these -- or not naming these coconspirators and if they're the attorneys but not charging them, that may reflect a couple of things, one of which is it's faster and more efficient to just charge Trump right now and deal with the others later.
I think in an ideal prosecutors world, they would wait until everything is wrapped up, all the I's are dotted, T's are crossed, but here they understand the clock is really taking.
BLITZER: Let me ask, Carrie, how strong of a case, how strong with a case be against these coconspirators?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the facts are laid out certainly implicate them. But I do think that this blank space here under Donald Trump's name, where the names of the coconspirators should be, I do think that if not as a matter of law, certainly as a matter of optics, it matters and it would have been better if they would've been at the point in the investigation where they can include it, because a conspiracy involves more than one people -- more than one person, excuse me.
So if what the indictment is laying out is a set of facts that this was a plot, this was a conspiracy amongst a number of people, to prevent the rightful outcome of the election, then I think at least from an optical standpoint, it would have been stronger to be able to come out all at once and have identified all of the other individuals, including the lawyers who were involved in this conspiracy.
But that being said, I think the indictment answers a really important question, which is that from the public's perspective, there's no question when they saw people storm the Capitol and attacked police officers and crashed the windows, that that was a crime.
And the question that this answered was, you know, the question I'll have is, is the work that was going on behind the scenes to try to mess with electors and pressure legislatures and all of that, was that a crime? And with this indictment, with the Justice Department, the U.S. Justice Department is now saying, is that corrupting the institutions, trying to corrupt the institution of the vice president, trained corrupt institutions of the state legislatures, trying to corrupt the institution of the Justice Departments, to trying to get the Justice Department to get in on this from an institutional perspective, that is illegal according to the special counsel and the Justice Department.
BORGER: You are the lawyer. Is it possible that these unnamed coconspirators could find themselves getting target letters tomorrow?
CORDERO: They could tomorrow. I think probably my estimate of what the approach was here was that some might be farther along than others in terms of their willingness to try to not end up a name on this front page. And so perhaps the release of this indictment will be not pressure but an incentive.
EISEN: Carrie, you make such a good point about explaining what the crime was, a reverse engineering from the violence of January 6th. And I think we're going to be talking about this indictment for weeks to come. It is a very rich and I think historic document in the story of our country and our struggles with our democracy.
But part of what's remarkable about it is what Jack Smith doesn't do, because to Laura's point about his speech on the ellipse, Trump's speech on the ellipse, Smith doesn't charge of the speech on the ellipse.
He has to talk about January 6th. He asked talk about the violence. That's the endgame.
How does he do it? He says Trump exploited the violence. He talks about the 2:24 pm Pence tweet, targeting Pence, and then the ways Trump allowed the violence to further his scheme, including the calls that came in from the coconspirators on that day to push forward even through the violence.
It's very subtle and it cites a huge amount of First Amendment litigation. It's another reason that I think this is going to move fast.
BORGER: So he didn't want anything to complement complicate the case. And that would've complicated.
EISEN: Like the coconspirators.
BORGER: Like the coconspirators would have complicated it.
EISEN: As you said, Gloria, our country has a right to know.
BLITZER: And the coconspirators, just to point out, they're coconspirators but they're not cited as defendants, at least not yet, but we shall see.
Erin, back to you.
BURNETT: All right, Wolf.
Well, Kristen Holmes is standing by near former President Trump's New Jersey home.
Kristen, this is now the third indictment in four months for the former president, right, a second major indictment from the special counsel and the Department of Justice among them. So, is there any reaction tonight from the Trump team?
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, we know that Trump himself has been lashing out on social media, that he is with some of his top advisers, several others are meeting before that arraignment date. They've essentially been having conversations about what this looks like in terms of strategy legally, as well as in terms of strategy politically.
And as we continue to report out, these have turned into, one, the legal and the political because they believe that part of this is fighting it in a court of public opinion and really holding on to the fact that they want to continue this narrative that this is election interference by Joe Biden, that this is all politically motivated because he is so high in the polls right now. And I will say, I have noticed in calls with advisers and allies to the former president, but they do seem more confident in this approach in the last week, having actually seen new poll numbers that show him leading by such a large margin. They do feel confident that they can paint this as election interference.
Now, obviously, it's not a legal strategy in the court of public opinion. The other thing I want to mention is they are watching how the coverage is all unfolding right now. We know that several of Trump's lawyers have been across different networks. We know the surrogates have been out there.
They have been prepping House members, senators, on what exactly to say when this happened. They felt like they had time to get that narrative out there. Of course, now, they are watching that unfold, but the big question still remains whether or not there is potentially indictment fatigue, and that is something when I talked to an ally moments ago, we're just not sure.
While this does give them a boost in polls, while this has given them a boost in fundraising in the past, there is still so much that is unknown. As you said, Erin, this is a third indictment of a former president who is currently running for president. This is completely unprecedented, and they just don't know how this is going to play out.
BURNETT: And one thing, as we look at the calendar here, there's been lot of conversation, right, over this past hour we've been having, Kristen, about when this might come to trial, whether we will get a real verdict for the American people before the election. We do know that Trump is expected in court on Thursday at 4:00 p.m. for his arraignment. So that's going to happen obviously extremely quickly.
What do you know about that?
HOLMES: Well, there are still questions as to whether or not he's going to show up at court. We know that there was some conversation with the DOJ about a potential Zoom showing. But as we know about the former president, he likes to create a media narrative and he likes to create a spectacle.
If it is a Zoom showing, he does not get the cameras on him, his travel, he doesn't get to then use it later in another video for his campaign, which is something we have seen him with both of the previous indictments. They actually brought a videographer to New York and cut campaign ads with that footage. It's unlikely they would do a zoom, but I am told by advisers that has not been completely ruled out now.
BURNETT: All right. Kristen, thank you very much. I want to go now to the former Republican Congressman Fred Upton from Michigan. He voted to impeach Trump over his role in the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
Congressman, I really appreciate your time. Obviously, not only did you cast that important vote, but your state, Michigan, is probably featured in this indictment.
Let me start with his moment for you, because you are there, on the Capitol on January 6. You are one of only 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump afterwards. But now, this day has come. You've seen the former president facing four criminal counts for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, which led to January 6th.
How does this moment feel?
FRED UPTON (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE FROM MICHIGAN: No regrets, no regret. You know, 10 of us have voted to impeach him and none of us have a regret. We all saw firsthand exactly what happened.
I've got to say that, frankly, we thought this day would come. You will remember that the former president said shortly after January 6th that he did everything in his words totally appropriate. That was the deciding factor for me, when I decided to impeach him.
I was one of the first Republicans to congratulate Joe Biden that first week after the election. I heard the former President Trump say a number of times in the weeks afterward that the election had been stolen. There's a process in every state. We look at that and if in fact there is fraud, we do a county by county check here in Michigan.
There's 154,000 vote difference. There was a Republican state Senate investigation that looked at, where they're dead people voted, where, you know, a whole number of different things that were out there. They might have found two cases, I think, as it turned out, clearly not overturning 154,000 votes, and as this document shows in the indictment today, Michigan was one of those states where they tried to send fake electors to cast the electoral votes on January 6th in December and then counted on the house floor in January 6th.
Thank goodness they were caught. So again, there was a conspiracy. And I guess the thing that I'm really had a lot of misgivings about, were those that were on the inside, those in the administration that saw this. I saw it firsthand being at the Capitol that day and obviously the insurrectionists that were their talked to Officer Fanone and others.
But those were on the inside, they didn't come forward even a month or two later. It took them a couple of years, in fact, even Vice President Pence hasn't fully told his story, I don't think, in terms of what really happened and how this really could have turned out very bad.
But, you know, the bottom line is, this is something that I expected to see happen. I have not read the indictment. I'll read it a bit later tonight when I take it off my printer. But it's -- it's not a surprise.
BURNETT: So, let me ask you, you know, when you do read it, I'm sure you'll hone in on Michigan, in pages 17 and 18, it goes into detail on your state, Congressman. And what I found interesting about it is it basically lays out by Trump.
Trump says there was this mass fraud and vote dump in Detroit. He's told us that we're looking into it, he's told it's false, he says it again. They look into it there. They go through it. They come to a meeting in the Oval Office.
They say it's false. He says it again. He says it again over two months. One thing I found significant about that is, to me it was very powerful.
The consistency with which he repeated lies in the face of being told they were not true was part of the reason they became so pernicious and people believe them. You point out that state senate, that state -- the Michigan house speaker comes that with a public announcement.
I fought hard for President Trump. No one wanted him to win more than me. I think he's done an incredible job, but I love our republic, too. I can't fathom risking our norms, tradition, and institutions to pass a resolution retroactively changing the electors for Trump. He talks about how I cannot stand for that. I won't.
He puts that out. A few days later Trump repeats it again. That a lie happened. That repetition, and there are still people in the face of these facts, they believe it. UPTON: Erin, even more than that, he called a couple of these state
senators to the Oval Office in December. No, he tried to brown beat them, tried to break their arms, try to get them to go the other way, similar to what he tried to do in Georgia, although in Michigan it was 125,000 votes. And to their credit, they walked away, they said it wasn't true.
So over and over, he got the message and yet he still moved forward with this massive lie, practically, so many Americans believe him just because they do, which is one of the reasons why he has a commanding lead as he looks at the primaries next year.
BURNETT: Yeah. Well, it is amazing to me how much of this debunking was so clear and so loud and frankly so public. And yet he's using the power of frankly his office had so many people believe that he was the one telling the truth even as he knew it was a lie.
Congressman Upton, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Erin, I want to bring in Manu Raju right now. He's up on Capitol Hill.
Manu, Trump has been working his allies where you are on Capitol Hill tonight. What are you learning?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, behind the scenes, this effort has actually been taken place over the past several weeks, which Donald Trump and his campaign reaching out to his top allies in the House and the Senate preparing for the potential of a third indictment. Well, in the aftermath of the news that Donald Trump indeed was indicted by a federal grand jury in January six investigation.
Immediately afterwards, there are a whole host of reactions, from top Republicans in the House, including Elise Stefanik, someone who has spoken to Donald Trump in the last couple of days, attacking the special counsel, attacking the Justice Department, accusing the Justice Department of moving forward on this indictment and ordered to hurt Donald Trump's campaign.
This was something echoed by the speaker of the House himself. Kevin McCarthy, issuing a statement saying that the indictment is trying to distract from the House GOP investigations into the Bidens. It's also Trump and his campaign circulated talking points to his surrogates, hoping they echo those talking points, including the suggestion the down Trump, in the words of the talking points, at no point acted without the consultation of his attorneys while seeking to overturn the 2020 election results.
Now, Democrats, of course, have a much different view. They view this as, in the words of Hakeem Jeffries and Chuck Schumer, the top Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, the most serious case that Donald Trump has faced so far of the three criminal indictments. But even as House GOP leaders are rushing to Donald Trump's defense,
Wolf, tonight there is silence from top Senate Republicans, Mitch McConnell and John Thune, number one and number two Republicans, who have yet to weigh in on these charges. McConnell has had little, if nothing, on the previous two Trump indictments, has not weighed in on this, underscoring the divide among top Republicans about how to deal with Trump in these new charges -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very interesting indeed.
All right. Manu, thank you very much.
Let's discuss this and more. Joining me now, conservative lawyer George Conway, former Trump White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, and CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod.
Stephanie, let's talk about these six coconspirators, five of whom CNN has already named, including Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Sidney Powell, Jeffrey Clark, and Kenneth Chesebro.
What's your reaction to these people being named here?
STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I wasn't surprised at all. I think it made perfect sense. But I also think that they are the ones that are going to get thrown under the bus by Donald Trump. It sounds like, as talked about on CNN all this evening, they are already saying that, you know -- or the president is already saying that he was just listening to his counsel.
And so I think of those people are smart, which I guess they have proven not to be in many ways, they will understand stand that they need to watch out for themselves right now because they're going to be the ones who are going to take the fall for this.
BLITZER: Yeah. They've got to get lawyers, and quickly.
David Axelrod, what do you make of the messaging that's coming in from Trump's team and from his allies up on Capitol Hill?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, this is a continuation of what we have seen for months and months and moths, Wolf. The message is that this is an assault by Joe Biden and the administration and the Department of Justice and the FBI, with the intent of trying to disrupt Donald Trump from becoming the nominee and the president of United States again.
That these -- and they are singing from his hymn block. And even his opponents, and I notice that Governor DeSantis put out a statement, and rather than talking about the substance of these historically disturbing charges against the former president, he talked about weaponization of the justice system.
And so -- and, Wolf, we have to, I mean, people may not like it to hear it, but he is very effective at this. He is diabolically effective. He has a feral genius for setting the narrative, and he is setting the narrative here.
And it was obvious that knowing that this indictment was coming, that he had lined up all the statements and they fired them off like missiles, one after another after another. What it does is essentially partisanized public reaction to what really should be viewed by every American as an unprecedented and shocking intrusion on the most fundamental process of our democracy.
BLITZER: Good point. Stephanie, as a former Trump communications director, White House press secretary, what are your thoughts on the Trump team's messaging here?
GRISHAM: Well, again, it completely makes sense to me. As we all know, Donald Trump doubles and triples down, and they're looking at the poll numbers and feeling extremely confident right now. So the messaging makes sense. He's done great with fundraising. Again, I mentioned the poll numbers.
I do want to echo, though, what David just said. Donald Trump lives in his own reality and he lies casually but he's very good at it. He used to teach me, Stephanie, as long as you keep repeating something, it doesn't matter what you say.
And I will bring us back to 2019 when Hurricane Dorian was coming and Donald Trump wrote on a map that it was going to hit a part of the country and it wasn't really going to hit, even after being briefed by the National Weather Service. So this is something he is done over and over and I really hope that people will understand that this is just what he does.
BLITZER: You know, George, the federal judge in this case has handed down very tough sentences to January 6th rioters and said one rioter went to the Capitol, quote, for one man, that is Donald Trump. The Washington, D.C.. jury could also be less friendly to Trump.
How do Trump's lawyers mount a defense here?
GEORGE CONWAY, CONSERVATIVE LAWYER: I think they're just going to have to -- I don't know what they're going to do, frankly because the evidence is overwhelming. And that's the reason why it is taking so long, if you think it's taking so long.
And all the evidence comes from Republicans. If you go through this indictment and you annotate the paragraphs to figure out who the witnesses, the special counsel will use to prove particular points, I mean, they're all Republicans, because those are the people having the discussions, those telling Trump, you lost. That's how the people who are telling Trump, like the vice president with his notes saying, I don't have the power to do that.
All the witnesses are going to be Republicans and that's the important -- that's the difficult problem he has. Not just the jury pool but the fact that the witnesses against him are people who don't have an incentive not to be witnesses against him. BLITZER: It's interesting, David, the Trump is clearly, right now, and
I'm sure you'll agree, the Republican front runner according to the polls out there. Today he was tied in a general election, tied up with President Biden.
How much does this impact, do you believe, the 2024 race?
AXELROD: Well, I think that in the short term we have seen the effect of these indictments that people thought these would be bricks on Donald Trump's load, but they turn out not to be kryptonite but battery packs. He's become more familiar formidable as a Republican nominee, because he sold the narrative that this is a politically inspired set of indictments against him. I think it becomes more difficult for him in a general election.
But I just want to say, you asked George what his strategy -- his legal strategy would be. I think his legal strategy and political strategy are very much intertwined now. And I think what he's going to do in the courtroom is these trials as long as he can and hope that he can push them after the election, and then hope he can win the election and obviate these cases, in which case the election itself would become his trial and a trial for the country.
BLITZER: You know, George, speaking of that, how complicated will the timeline before this case, given the 2024 election next year?
CONWAY: Well, I agree with Ryan and -- Ryan Goodman and Norm Eisen earlier. I think this case could be tried within a year. I think it should be tried within a year because I think the public interest demands it. And I think the reason why we don't see massive caption here with multiple defendants like we're probably going to see in Georgia, is that Smith has tried to streamline this.
Focuses on Trump's state of mind, not focus on everything that happened as a result of Trump doing what he was doing, because that's just overwhelming. The January 6th committee report is about this big, because there are so many different levels to which this conspiracy or these efforts were carried out. And then you can slice it in a number of ways.
This is directed specifically at Trump, and it's like the GoPro cam, or whatever you call it, on his head, like everybody is coming to him, telling him no, you lost. And he just lies the next moment. He nonetheless goes and searches for people who tell him what he wants to hear, even though they have no support for it.
BLITZER: All right, guys, thank you very, very much.
Erin, back to you.
BURNETT: All right. Wolf, in this 45-page indictment, it talks about former president's efforts to have false slates of electors to overturn the election in the Electoral College. It mentions seven crucial states where this happened. One of them is Georgia. In fact, there's five pages dedicated even to some of the president's -- as indictment says, knowing lies about dead people voting in Georgia.
Well, of course, this comes as Fani Willis is Georgia is the prosecutor says she is ready to go, you could have an indictment, another indictment coming for the former president there, coming in just days.
And one person who will likely be testifying as part of that is George Chidi. He is a journalist who is likely to appear again in front of that grand jury ahead of a charge in Georgia. He saw false electors, he saw what was happening, actually came into a meeting, stumble into a meeting on a day Georgia was to certify its electoral college votes.
So, George Chidi is OUTFRONT with me now.
George, we're looking at a picture. You actually walked into a room that we're looking at here. You walked in, you're in the state capital, the real slates of slate electors is -- formal proceeding, it's happening on the flight above, and somehow you're on the wrong floor, you walk into this room.
This is the fake -- the false slate of electors. You start filming and this is a still of your filming. Tell me what happened?
GEORGE CHIDI, WRITER AND PUBLISHER, THE ATLANTA OBJECTIVE: It's interesting, I walked in because I saw an old friend who happen to be, somebody would started be -- would have been one of the electors.
And I started a Facebook Live out of a self-defense and said, hey, what's going on? And almost immediately, they keyed on the fact that I had a camera going. They said, wait, he's got a camera. Two people start hustling me out of the door and I asked, so what kind of meeting are you having here?
I'm told by a female voice, it's an education meeting and then they pushed me out the door essentially and put a guard in front so that I couldn't go back in.
BURNETT: I mean, it's amazing. So they're there we now know, right? This was -- they were there to certify a false slate of electors in Georgia that would say Trump won the state. If we're looking at trying to understand, George, whether they knew what they were doing, everyone in that room knew what they were doing was wrong, I guess they are, what, 16 of them, eight of them I believe have been maybe granted immunity by Fani Willis in the investigation, but they -- they tried to obfuscate to you, an educational meeting, even as they were to certify fake slate of electors?
CHIDI: I mean, obviously, it's not in hindsight. We know now that an email was sent to the people in that room telling them to be quiet, to maintain secrecy and specifically not to speak to the media. And that's what happened when I first walked in. Only after that once they realized that I guess their cover was blown did they start talking to other journalists.
BURNETT: So would you say only after when they realized their cover was blown. Now, I should say, George. You've been subpoenaed. You've appeared
before a grand jury in Georgia. But you've been subpoenaed by Fani Willis to appear in front of a grand jury sometime this month and at the end of that presentation, which she will make ostensibly you are going to be a part of they may return an indictment on the former president.
Can you walk me through what you've been told the process will be from sneer any sense of timing that you have?
CHIDI: Only this. I'll have 48 hours of notice, give or take, before when I'm called to testify, assuming I am actually called to testify. It's entirely what I've seen for them to make a decision.
There are two grand juries and they've done that and I think it's extremely clever so that any given grand juror can say, well, I'm not on the grand jury that's looking at the Donald Trump stuff. And that's clearly to avoid harassment, because harassment has been an issue.
BURNETT: It certainly has, for many involved in what's been going on in Georgia. Hopefully, it won't for you if you do appear and tell your story as I'm grateful you shared with us. Thanks so much, George.
CHIDI: Happy to be here.
BURNETT: All right. And thanks so much to all of you. I'll be back later tonight.
Our breaking news coverage continues now with "AC360".