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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Trump Hours Away from Arraignment at DC Courthouse; U.S. Orders Embassy Staff, Families to Evacuate Niger; Today: Death Sentence to be Handed Down in Pittsburgh; Growing Speculation About Meadows' Role in Trump Case. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 03, 2023 - 05:00   ET



OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Omar Jimenez.

Always a lot happening. Today is another day, another arraignment for Donald Trump. The former president set to appear in person in a Washington, D.C. federal courtroom today to face a judge in his third criminal indictment. This one handed up this week charges Trump with four counts related to subverting the result of the 2020 election.

CNN's Paula Reid has more.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Former President Trump is expected to come here to Washington to appear in person for this hearing which is expected to be both an initial appearance and also an arraignment. It's unclear if we'll see him arrive because this federal courthouse, it's designed to deal with people who have security details and VIPs. So, it would be easy for him to pull into the underground garage and we won't get to see him at all.

But once he is inside the federal courthouse where, of course, there are no cameras, there are no photographs, he is effectively under arrest, and it is expected that he will be processed like any other defendant but we don't expect a mug shot because those are used to identify suspects if they go on the lam. He's, of course, one of the most famous people in the world, so need for that.

But this will be a quick procedural hearing. This will not be in a front a judge who'll oversee his trial. This will be in front of a magistrate judge.

This is expected that he will hear the charges, have the opportunity to enter a plea, and it should all be over pretty quickly and this will be the third time that he has done this, this year alone. So he should know what to expect.

Paula Reid, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) JIMENEZ: Now, the law sees Donald Trump as just another citizen like anyone else, but of course, from a security standpoint the former president is not like anyone else. The Secret Service did a walkthrough at the Washington courthouse ahead of Trump's appearance there today.

CNN's Brian Todd has more on the special arrangements being made.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The nation's capital in an enhanced security posture ahead of former President Trump's arraignment on Thursday. D.C. Police saying they're, quote, working closely with our federal law enforcement partners to monitor the situation and plan accordingly. The U.S. district courthouse, at least temporarily being turned into a fortress.

MATT DOHERTY, FORMER SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, U.S. SECRET SERVICE: They're going to have a surge of manpower around this building.

TODD: CNN is told multiple agencies are combining forces to secure Trump's appearance, including the Secret Service, D.C. Metropolitan Police, the U.S. Marshals, Capitol Police and Federal Protective Service. Sources tell CNN law enforcement has been looking closely at online platforms where threats could come from.

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Find out what's going on on social media, what are they hearing in the street, are they going to have protesters show up, all these kind of things. They'll be checking like bus companies to see whether or not buses have been rented to come into D.C., hotel reservations.

TODD: CNN is told federal law enforcement officers have been patrolling the area outside the courthouse this week, along with bomb- sniffing dogs and have stabbed a security perimeter around the building.

Trump's two previous indictments in Manhattan and Miami have seen more of a carnival atmosphere. But since these events have often drawn a mix of Trump supporters and Trump critics, tomorrow could still be a potentially volatile situation.

RAMSEY: You've got to keep those groups apart. Otherwise, you're going to have chaos on the streets.

TODD: This is a city well-versed in the highly charged atmosphere that Donald Trump can create. After the 2020 election, there were clashes and even violence between partisan groups at two Stop the Steal rallies in Washington. And the January 6th riot at the Capitol took place just a few blocks from the D.C. courthouse where Trump will appear.

What's the biggest lesson that law enforcement learned from January 6th?

DOHERTY: To do more than just send an email out, the old-fashioned, pick up the phone and talk to a body and let them know how operationally relevant it is, the information you have.

TODD: And there's the question of Trump's safety. One former Secret Service agent says he will likely not be brought in through a sidewalk entrance.

DOHERTY: When it's a very public event, you prefer covered arrivals, as much cover as possible, less exposure to the public on the sidewalk.


TODD (on camera): So far, sources tell CNN there is nothing to indicate an active threat to this U.S. district courthouse where Trump will be arraigned. The Secret Service pledging, quote, the highest level of safety and security for the former president while minimizing disruptions to the normal court process.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

JIMENEZ: Former Attorney General Bill Barr is calling Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election nauseating and despicable in an interview with CNN last night. The one time Trump loyalist telling CNN's Kaitlan Collins that criminal or not, anyone who did what the indictment accuses Trump of shouldn't be anywhere near the Oval Office.


Take a listen.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST, "THE SOURCE": Do you think he knew that he lost the election?

BILL BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Do I personally believe that? At first I wasn't sure, but I have come to believe that he knew well that he had lost the election. And now, what I think is important is the government has assumed the burden of proving that. The government in their indictment takes the position that he had actual knowledge that he had lost the election and the election wasn't stole up through fraud. And they're going to have to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt.

COLLINS: Which is a high bar, of course.

BARR: That's a high bar. And that leads me to believe that they -- we're only seeing the tip of the iceberg on this.

COLLINS: You think Jack Smith has more.

BARR: Yes, I would believe that he has a lot more. And that is one of the things that impressed me about the indictment. It was very spare and there were a lot of things he could have said in there and I think that there is a lot more to come and I think that they have a lot more evidence as to president's state of mind. COLLINS: You said you've come around to the idea that you do think he

knew that he lost. Why have you come around to that?

BARR: Number one, comments from people like Bannon and Stone before the election, saying that he was going to -- he was going to claim it was stolen if he was falling behind on election night. And that that was the plan of action. I find those statements very troubling. And then you see he does that on election night, and then the evidence that has come out since that -- you know, the press reports and the indictment.


JIMENEZ: Now, these were Barr's first public comments since Trump was indicted on Tuesday.

Meanwhile overseas, the State Department is now evacuating non- emergency personnel and family members from the U.S. embassy in Niger. The Biden administration is joining with the French and Italian governments pulling diplomats and staff out in the wake of the military coup in Niger.

CNN's Larry Madowo is following the story from Nairobi, Kenya. He joins us live.

Larry, good to see you.

So, can you explain for us what triggered this partial evacuation of the U.S. embassy here?

LARRY MADOWO, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Omar, the main reason appears to be because of severe limited flight options since last Wednesday when the military junta claims to have taken over power. They have restricted air space, closed land and aerial borders for the most part. And right now for instance, it's Niger's independence day, there are some protests and the U.S. worried that it could lead to civil unrest and political instability even though so far that has not happened.

So the only personnel that are left at the U.S. embassy are those dealing with U.S. citizens emergency requests. Most of the embassy has scaled back down.

The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has spoken one more time to President Mohamed Bazoum who was ousted by the head of his presidential guard and assured him that the U.S. supports him and his democratically elected government. But this military junta appears to be reaching out to the Wagner Group. The vice president of that council that purports to be leading Niger has been over to Bamako, in Mali, meeting with the military leader there. He is backed by the Wagner group.

And they talked about deepening the security cooperation in case Niger has a military intervention which the West African Bloc has threatened. He's also been over to neighboring Burkina Faso, meeting with the military leader there as well, Captain Ibrahim Traore, and said that they don't want Niger to be the new Libya, and they'll be working on some things to protect their populations.

So, fighting words there. Also, a reach out to the Wagner group which the U.S. State Department is talking about.


MATTHEW MILLER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: I would not be surprised to see Wagner attempt to exploit this situation to their own advantage as they have attempted to exploit other situations in Africa to their own advantage. And when I say their own advantage, I mean their own personal financial advantage as well as their attempt to expand their influence on the continent.


MADOWO: The Wagner Group operates in Mali, like I mentioned, but also the center of Afghan republic, parts of Sudan. So there is some straight line that can be drawn between these actions and potential entry into Niger.

A short while ago, the U.S. President Joe Biden sending a message on Niger's independence day. He says that he supports President Mohamed Bazoum. He should be released and reinstated and the U.S. supports the long held, decades-long friendship and democracy that is shared between these two countries, Omar.

JIMENEZ: Yeah. Larry Madowo, thank you as always for following. Appreciate it.

Here in the United States, in just a few hours, court will reconvene in Pittsburgh to formally impose a death sentence on synagogue shooter Robert Bowers. It represents a milestone on the long road to justice for the victims of the 2018 anti-Semitic massacre.

CNN's Danny Freeman has the story from Pittsburgh.


DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After more than nine weeks of trial, over 100 witnesses, and nearly five years since the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, a jury of five men and seven women unanimously voted to sentence shooter Robert Bowers to death.


The jury deliberated for 10 hours.

ALAN MALLINGER, SON OF ROSE MALLINGER, SHOOTING VICTIM: Today was the hardest day, and I think it was the hardest day for the jury, too. And it was a hard day for the judge. I'm sure everyone here as we move on and, you know, see justice, the justice system work and just thankful for, you know, the jurors doing what they did.

FREEMAN: As the verdict was read, survivors of the shooting hugged each other in the courtroom. The judge presiding over the case choked up as he thanked the jury. Fifty-year-old Bowers only briefly looked up at the jurors as they affirmed their death penalty decision.

ANDREA WEDNER, INJURED IN SHOOTING, MOTHER KILLED IN SHOOTING: Returning a sentence of death is not a decision that comes easy, but we must hold accountable those who wish to commit such terrible acts of anti-Semitism, hate and violence.

FREEMAN: The verdict includes a stunning rebuke of the defense's core arguments to spare Bower's life. The jurors were not convinced Bowers suffered from schizophrenia or was motivated by delusions, and not a single juror believed he committed the offenses under mental or emotional disturbance.

During the trial, the prosecution detailed how Bowers had been convinced of the anti-Semitic and anti-Latino white replacement conspiracy theory that has been pushed by some on the extreme right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you guys have any statements?

FREEMAN: His defense team not commenting on the verdict. In contrast, the jurors unanimously agreed with federal prosecutors the killing of 11 Jewish worshippers was premeditated, motivated by his hatred of Jews. And the jury found Bowers had no remorse for the attack.

ERIC OLSHAN, U.S. ATTORNEY: When people who espouse white supremacist, anti-Semitic and bigoted views pick up weapons and use them to kill or to try to kill people because of their faith, our office and our partners in law enforcement will hold them accountable to the fullest extent of the law each and every time.


FREEMAN (on camera): Now, formal sentencing is expected to happen on Thursday morning and during that proceedings, we're also expecting to hear more impact statements from some of the victims who were impacted most by this shooting.

Danny Freeman, CNN, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

JIMENEZ: Coming in, an Oregon woman escapes after being kidnapped and kept in a homemade dungeon.

And a strange quiet from Trump's former chief of staff. Details on where Mark Meadows might be, next.



JIMENEZ: Welcome back.

There is growing speculation that former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is cooperating with the Justice Department in the latest indictment of Donald Trump. One reason, Meadows was not named as an alleged co-conspirator.

CNN's Tom Foreman has more from Washington. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before the mob raged, before police were beaten and lawmakers ran, there was White House chief of staff Mark Meadows telling his aide Cassidy Hutchinson, according to her testimony --

CASSIDY HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO MARK MEADOW: There's a lot going on, Cass, but, I don't know, things might get real, real bad on January 6th. That evening was the first moment that I remember feeling scared.

MARK MEADOWS, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: This is about Donald Trump and about actually going after him once again.

FOREMAN: Although Meadows dismissed the committee's work early on, if anyone knew then-President Trump's plans for the lost election, it might have been Meadows.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I just want to find 11,780 votes.

FOREMAN: After all, he joined that phone call when Trump leaned on Georgia's top election official to overturn his loss there.

MEADOWS: We believe that not every vote -- or fair vote and legal vote -- was counted.

FOREMAN: The latest indictment notes at one point, Meadows told Trump the Georgia officials were doing an exemplary job, but one day later, Trump called them terrible people covering up fraud anyway.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): The ultimate check and balance is the United States Congress.

FOREMAN: On January 5th, Congressman Jim Jordan messaged Meadows, insisting Vice President Mike Pence should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional and stop certification.

Meadows response: I have pushed for this, not sure it is going to happen.

And when the mob tried to violently force what Pence would not, could not do, Donald Trump Jr. messaged that his father had to act, he's got to condemn this. Meadows' reply: I am pushing it hard, I agree.

Witnesses place Meadows in meeting after meeting with others who were allegedly pushing slates of fake electors, disingenuous lawsuits, and bogus claims of bad voting machines, saying little about it publicly. Meadows sat down with the grand jury earlier this year.

And since then, he's been even more tight-lipped, spurring some to wonder if what Mark Meadows is not saying speaks volumes.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That looks to me like somebody who's cooperating with the federal government.


FOREMAN (on camera): It is not clear if Meadows is cooperating with the feds or if he is in any sort of legal jeopardy himself. All that is clear is that lot of people in this town want to know what he is doing.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

JIMENEZ: Thanks to Tom for that.

Let's bring in legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson.

Joey, always good to see you even if it is very early in the morning here on the East Coast.

Let's start on that last point that if you are part of Trump's legal team, how concerning is it to hear that mark meadows could be cooperating and is that sound logic here that if someone is cooperating, they are more likely to be left off of an indictment like this if he was even considered in the first place?


JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah. So Omar, good morning to you. The answer is that it's, of course, very concerning.

When you look at any legal case, particularly this case against Trump when you are focusing on the state of mind, you are trying to know what was the president thinking, what did he really believe. And then you look at the indictment which lays out in real detail that so many people at the highest level, director of national intelligence, your cybersecurity expert, you know, was explaining to you, top White House lawyers were explaining to you, there was no fraud, Mr. President. It goes on. So many people telling him that.

And then you have Mr. Meadows your chief of staff who was with you, they would get you into the state of mind of the president. Did the president know this was bogus, did he adopt the fact that it was bogus privately but publicly was he saying these things. That gets us in to the universe of what the president was thinking.

So, yes, he is a very troubling witness if you are on the defense team. The issue then would be, is he cooperating and what leverage if any the federal government would have over him to cooperate. Is he just being an altruistic citizen or is there something that they can leverage, that is the federal government to force him to cooperate?

And so, the essence of it, at the end of the day, we can't presume that Mark Meadows did anything wrong, right, without any evidence of that, but if he is a witness and he is on team USA and you are the defense for Trump, certainly, he is the guy that can tell you what the president was thinking, who he was talking to and what his state of mind actually was. And that's critical in these cases.

JIMENEZ: Yeah. I want to play a little bit of what Trump attorney John Lauro had to say on Wednesday. Take a listen.


JOHN LAURO, TRUMP ATTORNEY: You are entitled to believe and trust advice of counsel. You have one of the leading constitutional scholars in the United States, John Eastman, say to President Trump -- this is a protocol that you can follow, it's legal. That eliminates criminal intent.

INTERVIEWER: That is one lawyer, he had his White House counsel saying that was not true. This is a fringe legal theory.

LAURO: You don't have to count lawyers. Here is the thing though. The government in a criminal case has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt criminal intent and corrupt intent.


JIMENEZ: So, Joey, is the lawyer told me it was okay defense a strong one?

JACKSON: Well, it is a defense, Omar. In terms of whether takes strong defense, in this particular case, it's not. I mean, people rely upon lawyers and they should. A long time spent in law school, you are advising several clients. You know, not that lawyers are know it alls, but you expect that your lawyer would give you valuable information.

The problem here is that the indictment lays out that so many people advised the president at the highest levels that this is false. And then, Omar, it goes down to every state. Arizona, the specifics of what was happening there, and what he was told, no fraud, Mr. President. Georgia, no fraud, Mr. President. Wisconsin, no fraud, Mr. President, right? Nevada, no fraud, Mr. President.

So, so many people, so many state people on the ground there was no fraud. And then when you determine that, you have the state electors scheme. Well, did lawyers advise you do that?

You have pressing the vice president to do something unconstitutional. Did lawyers advise you to do that? So it just doesn't carry much muster. I think, at the end of the day, it's not a defense that is really going to get him out from under this indictment, Omar.

JIMENEZ: Yeah, and Donald Trump expected to appear today for his arraignment after what is now a third indictment over the last few months.

Joey Jackson, thanks so much as always.

JACKSON: Always. Thank you, Omar.

JIMENEZ: Coming up, how will Trump's latest indictment impact the Republican Party and 2024? New insights ahead.

Plus, Israel's Supreme Court right now weighing a law that protects Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from getting kicked out of office. We'll explain.


JIMENEZ: The FBI is looking for more victims in at least ten states this morning after a woman escaped a makeshift cinder block dungeon in an Oregon home near the California border.

Officials say 29-year-old Negasi Zuberi is in federal custody on kidnapping charges. The FBI says he targeted sex workers or roommates by putting drugs in their drinks or posing as a police officer before sexually assaulting them.


STEPHANIE SHARK, FBI ASSISTANT SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: The victim's focus, actions and her will to survive triggered a law enforcement response that may have actually saved many other women from a similar nightmare. Through quick and decisive law enforcement action across many local, state and federal agencies, we were able to get Zuberi into custody in Reno, Nevada, the following day.


JIMENEZ: Zuberi -- the FBI says Zuberi also targeted other victims in these ten states, you can see stretches coast to coast.

Twenty-nine minutes past the hour right now.

We want to take you to Israel where right now a panel of three Supreme Court judges are hearing an appeal to a new law that makes it more difficult to declare the prime minister incapacitated or unfit for office.

Meanwhile, mass protests continue over a separate judicial overhaul plan that prevents judges from reviewing unreasonable government decisions.

Elliott Gotkine joins us now from the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on this latest appeal to a new law.