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Parts Of Fulton County Grand Jury Report Released; Fulton Co Grand Jury Recommends Possible Perjury Indictments; Grand Jury: No Widespread Fraud In 2020 GA Presidential Election; Special Counsel Investigating Trump Subpoenas Mark Meadows; Pence: I'm Going To Fight Special Counsel Subpoena; Trump's Former Natl Security Adviser Before Federal Grand Jury; Biden Back At White House After Physical; Biden Is 80 Years Old, Would Be 82 At Start Of Second Term. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 16, 2023 - 12:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm Abby Phillip in Washington. Nine pages, our first glimpse at the final report from the Georgia grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump has landed. Two lines, though, are guaranteed to send witnesses who went under oath into a legal panic.

Plus, the president gets his physical and it underlines that uncomfortable question for Mr. Biden, and for the Democratic Party is 82 old to run again. And today, new details in the Michigan State rampage. The students who were wounded, they are improving but they're not out of the woods yet. And the gunman who took his life as officers closed in, and this.


CHRIS ROZMAN, MSU INTERIM DEPUTY POLICE CHIEF: The shooter had two handguns on his person when he was located. Those handguns are both nine-millimeter. He also had additional magazines and ammunition on his person. Our investigative team did work with our federal ATF partners to trace those weapons. And we've learned that they were purchased legally by the shooter, but they were not registered.


PHILLIP: But up first for us, the breaking news out of Georgia, pieces of that special grand jury report are now public. And there are two significant takeaways. A majority of the panel says, at least one witness lied under oath, and should be indicted for perjury. And the panel voted unanimously to reaffirm the clear truth that there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election in the state of Georgia.

With me to help break all of this down is CNN's Sara Murray, CNN legal and national security analyst Carrie Cordero, and former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams. So, all three of you, thanks for being here. I mean, we now know a tiny bit more at emphasis on tiny, this - we knew that this was going to be redacted. But this is pretty bare bones. What does that tell you? SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it is pretty bare bones. And I think that the judge was really clear that he was not going to make a lot of this public because, I think a lot of the report names, names, to be honest. A lot of the report names, names, some of people who did not appear before the grand jury, and perhaps some of people who have not been charged with anything yet.

So, in the interest of fairness, in the interest of due process, he didn't want to make these names public, while the district attorney is deciding who if anyone, she's going to bring charges against. But I do think you get a little bit of a tone and tenor of the grand jury in these limited sections.

They release, you know, they're very explicit in saying that they have interviewed all these witnesses. They've talked to all these technical experts. And they see, there was no evidence of widespread fraud. And they're also very explicit in their belief that one or more witnesses lie to them. And essentially telling the district attorney look, if you agree with us, if you think the evidence is there, go for it.

PHILLIP: Yes. I'm going to read that section from the report. It says, a majority of the grand jury believes that perjury may have been committed by one or more witnesses testifying before it. And the grand jury recommends that the district attorney seek appropriate indictments for such crimes where evidence is compelling. I think it's striking to me also, Carrie, actually that we have this part of the report. Maybe it suggests that the part that we don't have is even more significant than that.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well. So, it is unusual just to even have this type of report issued from a grand jury. Georgia's rules are a little bit different than other locations. And when the judge had to make the decision whether or not to even release this. What he was most concerned about was the issue of fundamental fairness.

And that's why we don't see any names in here. That's why it's such a limited amount of information. Because the individuals who were affected by this, if they are potentially charged, they need to be able to have due process and they need to be able to have constitutional protections and defend themselves. And so, that's why this is so limited. And again, it's up to the prosecutors whether they think there is compelling evidence to move forward at this point.

PHILLIP: So, shortly before this, over on Capitol Hill, our Manu Raju was able to speak with Senator Lindsey Graham who did testify before this grand jury. Take a listen to what he had to say?


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Are you confident in your testimony?


RAJU: You haven't heard from them after that. What's your reaction to that that general recommendation?


PHILLIP: So, Graham says, he's confident but clearly someone lied.


ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Somebody lied. Sara can confirm by numbers on this. I believe it's 75 total witnesses testified before the special grand jury. That is a lot of witnesses. Now, I mean, when you're building a big case that somebody you talk to. And in order to prove that someone is guilty of perjury, you have to prove number one that they lied. Number two, that it was something material that it actually mattered, but also three that they knew that the statement they were making was untrue.

So, there's a few pieces of evidence there. It could be anybody. You know, I only want to speculate because I think it'd be irresponsible to do so at this point, given just the sheer number of witnesses they spoke to, up to and including elected official.

PHILLIP: Yes. So, we've got Lindsey Graham, who has testified Rudy Giuliani, current governor Brian Kemp, John Eastman, a Trump attorney, Cassidy Hutchinson, whose testimony is pretty significant, because she was in the White House at the time as an assistant to Mark Meadows.

So, there are a lot of potential people, potentially at play here. And Sara, this investigation is so broad. It looks into this idea of a conspiracy. There's so much that is not in these documents. I keep coming back to that. It is almost telling in some ways, how little there was that was released.

MURRAY: Yes. I mean, I think that this is also because they are trying to protect what is very clearly an ongoing investigation. You know, when we saw the district attorney in court last month, she was arguing against the release of this report. And she said, charging decisions are imminent. She kept referring to future defendants when she was speaking in court.

So, you know, she was definitely sending the signal that indictments are likely to come. And you know, in my previous conversations with her and other interviews that she's done, she's laid out the potential of pursuing, you know, a RICO case, a racketeering case. So, that allows you to say, you know, there was more than just this call between Donald Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, that set this all into motion.

There were lots of other pieces at play, whether that was, you know, attempts to harass election workers, whether that was attempts to lie to state lawmakers, whether it was the fake electoral scheme. So, it's possible, she could be building this kind of multi layered case that tries to bring in a bunch of different elements of ways Trump and his allies were trying to manipulate the election in Georgia.

CORDERO: You know, one of the issues also is that the prosecutors and the DA are the ones who need to decide what charges are actually brought. And so, they're looking at the bigger issue of the violation of election laws, but then they need to, as Elliot was describing earlier, they need to go through the elements of perjury as to each individual person. And there's nothing in this portion of the report that has been released so far, that indicates which individuals might have potentially perjure themselves.

PHILLIP: What do you think, Elliot about what comes next when you're trying to basically claim to prove that there was perhaps some kind of conspiracy? I actually want to play just to remind folks, Sara just brought it up, the infamous call between former President Trump and Brad Raffensperger that is at the center of all of this.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT (voiceover): All I want to do is this, I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have because we won the state.


PHILLIP: So, the grand jury makes it clear, there was no fraud in the state of Georgia, no significant fraud. But the question now becomes, was there anything more behind that call for finding a very specific number of votes that would be a crime?

WILLIAMS: It could based on what it seems like the few election related laws in Georgia are at play here, solicitation to commit election fraud, conspiracy to commit election fraud, interference with primaries and elections. Those are the few different things.

Now what? Now that's a valid point. This question that the grand jury finds that there was not election fraud. Now, it was made known to the former president and individuals around him, and yet they still proceeded with trying to find the extra votes and so on, then, yes.

Any number of those charges could be brought, including things that have nothing to do with elections, such as lying under oath, and so on. It just all is going to come down to what it is clear that and that they can establish that the president knew that the president people around the president knew and just how they prove it and bring it in. But merely, that I will tell you right now as a foreign prosecutor, that phone call alone is not enough to convict anybody of a crime.

PHILLIP: Yes. And your take on that, Carrie?

CORDERO: Well, there's the phone call. And there's the bigger piece of this. I mean, one of the interesting things about this report in and why I think the DA didn't want it to come out is, she doesn't want the things that the grand jury puts in this report to tie her hands in any way, to affect what future jurors might consider in a case that she might bring.

I actually think - I questioned whether or not it's the appropriate role of this grand jury to weigh in on whether or not there was fraud. They looked at evidence, but this isn't the actual trial. This isn't where a decision is being made. This was their initial special geographically roll.

WILLIAMS: That's a critically important fact and it is a valuable piece of information that there wasn't fraud in the election. But that specific line that finding that they make, isn't relevant specifically in that form to any of the statutes. It all gets back to what the individual people who might be charged with crimes knew what they given. So, it's helpful and enlightening, but it's not mandate of a criminal offense (Ph).


PHILLIP: We have so much more to learn. A real quick before we go.

MURRAY: I think one of the things you have to remember about the special grand jury is their mandate is so broad. You can make recommendations about things in government you think should change about the way the government should operate differently. So, it's possible. This line has something to do also with future recommendations they're making.

PHILLIP: And as others have pointed out, this particular charge for this special grand jury really doesn't have a whole lot of precedent. So, they're really kind of flying on their own here. Sara Murray, thanks for coming in for us. Elliot and Carrie, both of you just stick around.

Right now, President Biden is heading back to the White House after completing his physical and we'll have an update for you. Plus, a new subpoena targets a member of Trump's inner circle. And we have details about the special counsels' investigation and the secret court battles that he's been locked in.




PHILLIP: Two pieces of new CNN reporting gives us more signs that special counsel Jack Smith is turning up the heat on former President Donald Trump. The first, a source tells CNN that Smith hit Mark Meadows, the former Trump chief of staff with a subpoena. And sources and court documents hints at the big legal net that Smith is casting a special - casting the special counsel quote, is locked in at least eight secret court battles that aim to unearth some of the most closely held details about Donald Trump's actions after the 2020 election and his handling of classified materials.

With us now is CNN's Paula Reid, along with Carrie and Elliot who are still here. So, Paula, you're breaking a lot of this reporting. Tell us about what you think this is showing about where we are in Jack Smith's special counsel investigation. He's on the scene now and he's making his presence known. PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, and Mark Meadows is not just a witness, he is the witness, particularly when it comes to January 6. We know from the House investigation. We know from our own reporting that all roads, all questions eventually end with Mark Meadows.

He is the man with the information and the answers. He was in the Oval Office on January 6. He was at these meetings, key meetings in the course of this timeline, even starting before the election and past January 6, trying to push false claims about election fraud, pressuring the states. But we know this is setting up a legal fight. And the question is what form will that take?

Former President Trump's lawyer told me just a few days ago, they will assert executive privilege over any key top Trump adviser who goes into testify. So, there'll be a privilege fight. And it's unclear if he's going to bring his own claims or his own legal fights. And he can also ultimately try to take the fifth if he does have to testify here. So, it's clear why they want him, not clear if they'll get them.

PHILLIP: Yes. And I want to come back to the privilege thing, because obviously there are a lot of questions there. But Elliot, I wonder what do you make of them going back to Meadows? Meadows provided documents, the same ones that he gave to the January 6 committee earlier when the DOJ, in its previous iteration was looking at this, now it's a special counsel, they're going back to him. What do you think they want from him?

WILLIAMS: Yes. The unfortunate thing, Abby, is that because of how secret this portion of any investigative processes, we don't really have a lot of insight. Now look, we can read between the lines and see a couple of things. One, if Mark Meadows were cooperating with law enforcement before, it seems that that's kind of gone south, right? Because they just would not issue a subpoena to somebody that they were actively working with getting testimony from. So, there's that.

Number two, he probably might have provided documents or something useful before. And maybe they want to now get him sworn and put on the record in some way. It's just hard to tell what they have, what they don't have and what they still want to get from him right now.

PHILLIP: And then let's dig into this privilege thing because I think this is really significant. We also have Mike Pence being subpoenaed; Mark Meadows being subpoenaed. It seems that both men will try to claim some way of getting out of this that involves privilege, a privilege does not cover crimes. And that is the central issue here.

CORDERO: Right. So, you know, this is an area where constitutional law is going to be developed as the course of this investigation unfolds, because they really are going to push the bounds of executive privilege as it relates to Mark Meadows and some of the other executive branch officials.

And then it appears that former Vice President Pence is going to actually use a different argument in his role as in the Senate when he was vice president and claimed separation of powers and speech and debate clause and things normally reserved to the legislative branch. So, we have all these different branches of government that where they are asserting privileges. And that process will play out.

One of the questions I've always had, Abby, when it comes to the Trump administration is, even though he claims have strong executive authorities, and they are trying to push the bounds of those, whether the end result will actually be a weakening of the institution of the presidency.

If the justice department is able to push through the courts, and actually compel testimony from the former chief of staff, from the former vice president. That actually in the really longer term is going to weaken the institution of the presidency and future presidents and executive branch officials' ability to use these privileges.

PHILLIP: That's such a great point.

REID: Yes. It's really wild, this claim that Pence is making because when the January 6 committee wanted to talk to him, he was saying, well, I'm a member of the executive branch, I can't be compelled to testify by Congress. Now he's inverting that a really, a truly novel interpretation of the constitution, even though that that speech and debate clause has been pretty broadly interpreted.

PHILLIP: We're just getting some new information now that Trump's former national security adviser Robert O'Brien appeared before the federal grand jury. Paula, what do you make of that?

REID: Well, this is interesting, because we knew we reported recently of like, we broke the news that he had been subpoenaed. And again, former President Trump's lawyer said this is among the witnesses. This is one of the people where they were going to have them assert executive privilege when they went into certain questions.


And then of course that will be litigated, and it'll be really interesting to see what it is that they want to know specifically from him and how this Pence out. But we talked about where is the Jack Smith investigation right now. Where's the special counsel?

Certainly, they're in that top tier of witnesses. These are the most inner circle advisors, but it's going to take a while to litigate a lot of these issues. Not only do we have these questions of privilege, we also have a secret grand jury proceedings that we've learned about. So, there's a lot of litigation still ahead.

PHILLIP: Yes. We were just showing both Pence, Meadows and now O'Brien, all subpoenaed as well. So, the cadence here, Elliot, I mean, what do you make of how quickly we are moving? It's not like there is not a time limit here on the work of the DOJ as it relates to a former president, who is now a declared candidate for the presidency again.

WILLIAMS: Right. Look, in real terms, in legal terms, there is no time limit because a special counsel can last beyond a presidential administration. He can last 20 years if it happens. Now, look, we all live in the real world and that's not the way this works. There's a presidential election coming up in two years. And that's going to unnecessarily accelerate the timeline for witnesses and candidates and how the justice department proceeds.

So yes, in law enforcement terms, this is moving at a breakneck pace. I think we and our world expect things to happen the day that they have. This is a very fast investigation.

PHILLIP: And a real quick before we go. A lot of this is going to be constitutional lobbying worked out in the courts. Does the DOJ have time for that?

CORDERO: Well, you know, to Elliot's point, the DOJ is on an investigative timeline and a litigation timeline, and the judicial branch is going to have a lot to say about the timeline, whether they expedite certain decisions or whether they just let this play out. Because there's really isn't a particular urgency from the judicial branches' standpoint, which is not on the political clock.

PHILLIP: Yes. And we have video of Robert O'Brien going into the courthouse to meet with the grand jury. There he is walking in with presumptively I think his attorneys and others. And clear ongoing case that is accelerating in these coming days.

CORDERO: I will be curious to see as we learn about sort of how some of these testimonies play out over time whether there's a difference between how the national security official someone like O'Brien choose to answer questions or not answer questions as compared to how some of the political affiliations may have.

PHILLIP: Exactly. And we should always remember, I don't have to remind everyone, Mike Pence is also someone who may be running for president as well and has some political interests as well. But coming up next for us. 80 years old, President Joe Biden gets his annual physical as questions swirl around his age and his health, amid a looming reelection bid.




PHILLIP: President Biden returned to the White House just moments ago after getting his annual physical exam. One of his last two dues before announcing a likely reelection campaign. Meanwhile, his top allies are swatting down concerns over his age. CNN's Isaac Dovere reports that, Biden's age is omnipresent in nearly every conversation, at a time when he's preparing for a reelection announcement that would try to extend his time in the Oval Office until he is 86 years old.

Let's discuss all of this with CNN's Lauren Fox, Tolu Olorunnipa of The Washington Post, Tarini Parti of The Wall Street Journal, and CNN's own Isaac Dovere. So, the elephant in the room. And can we even call it that because it is being talked about so much, is President Biden's age. And the White House is actually, they're not just ignoring it, they're doing things. That's what was so striking to me about it?

EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Right, this isn't like breaking news, Joe Biden is 80. We know it. And the question that we went into this with was, how are they going to make this into, for them strength rather than a liability. One Biden adviser said to me, I've got two words for you, wisdom and experience. That was a thing that was pressed by a lot of people that we talked to.

Other people talked about how they would try to make him out as the guy who's been around, who's calm and competent, knows what he's doing. And have that be a contrast to the chaos that they're going to try to play up from the Republicans.

There's a story in there from Mitch Landrieu, the White House infrastructure coordinator, who was meeting with a bunch of Democratic mayors who were really feeling antsy about the age question. And he said, people want to talk about one number that the president is 80, but we got to talk about all these other numbers, like the number of COVID shots that have been put in arms, jobs, unemployment rate, where all those numbers are and talk about the record.

But all of that is with this very clear thing that is very much showing up in a lot of people's minds and focus groups and polls. The president is old. It's a concern for people. I talked to one person who did, who was part of a number of focus groups that were done last year all over the country said that words like brain musher that he's not up to the job, come up all the time. And those are things that the Biden campaign, if there is one, we'll have to address.

PHILLIP: And they're not going to be able to ignore it on this day. In particular, he is just getting back from Walter Reed for his physical. He went for his physical last year or back in November of 21. And here's what the report said. He's healthy and rigorous. He has more frequent and severe throat clearing which you can see when you hear him talk. His gait is stiffer and less fluid, but there were no cognitive test results.

So, we'll see what written report comes out of the White House today. They want to show Biden as someone who is has vitality. They loved what they saw at the State of the Union.