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Inside Politics

Law Enforcement Prepares For Trump Protests; NYPD Installs Cameras, Sets Up Barricades; Ex-Cohen Legal Adviser Gave 300+ Emails To Manhattan D.A; Trump Legal Team Asks Judge To Toss GA Special Grand Jury Report; China's Xi Meets With Russia's Putin; China's Xi, Russia's Putin Meet For High-Stakes Summit; Dow Rises After UBS Agrees To Buy Credit Suisse; Regulators Scramble To Calm Markets, Stem Banking Crisis. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 20, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thanks for sharing your day with us. The docket and Donald Trump, today a witness tries to undermine Michael Cohen's credibility and help Donald Trump avoid indictment in a hush money pot. The former president though predicts his arrest and already House Republicans now wargaming to attack the prosecutor.

Plus, China's Xi Jinping touches down in Moscow for his face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin. Xi says China and Russia share key goals, unclear though is whether Putin gets the help he wants from China in his war on Ukraine. And $3 billion, a Swiss bank spends big to take over its struggling rival. Financial markets are reacting positively, but what does this mean for your money?

Up first for us though, the week that could bring history, criminal charges against Donald Trump. The former president predicts as much, saying he expects to be arrested tomorrow. New developments today underscore the tension and the high stakes. That issue, the 2016 hush money payment paid to the adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

Longtime Trump fixer Michael Cohen made that payment. Cohen says, Trump reimbursed him and falsify business records in the process. Today, a potential final witness, Robert Costello is a Trump connected attorney who wants represented Michael Cohen.

Costello asked to speak to the Manhattan grand jury. He says, he has emails and other records that undermine Cohen's credibility. Cohen says, he's on standby, as a rebuttal witness camped out right now with Manhattan prosecutors.

The Manhattan D.A. says, he communicated nothing to Trump or his lawyers about his decisions or his timing. But the former president over the weekend, foreshadowed a Tuesday arrest, and in one of his postings urged his supporters to protest.

Let's get straight to CNN's Kara Scannell, live for us in New York. Kara, a lot of dust flying here. What do we actually know? KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we are expecting Bob Costello that Trump connected attorney to appear next hour so and go before the grand jury. Now sources tell us that he reached out to the Manhattan district attorney's office and Trump lawyer saying, he had information that would contradict Michael Cohen's previous statements.

Cohen of course pleaded guilty to federal charges several years ago. And at the time he said that he made the payments in coordination with an app the direction of former President Trump. Now Costello has already turned over hundreds of documents and emails to prosecutors to support his position. And Trump's lawyers asked them to call him before the grand jury.

They said Costello would be saying that Trump - excuse me, that Cohen said that Trump did not do anything illegal in connection with these payments. So, the D.A.'s office conducting this long investigation looking right now we're kind of in the endgame, whether the former president - whether to charge the former president with a number of potential crimes.

Those could include falsifying business records for how those invoices were that Cohen sent and how the payments were reimbursed to Michael Cohen, that would be a misdemeanor. They could also try to make a felony case here, that is charging the falsification of business records to commit or conceal another crime.

There's also the possibility they have some other legal theory up their sleeve. But, you know, kind of reaching the end game of this because we've seen a number of the major witnesses, the people that had inside knowledge about these hush money payments already come in and meet with prosecutors and go before the grand jury.

So, we expect a decision in this case to be made in the near term. Now, of course, Trump going public over the weekend and making this claim that he thought he was going to be arrested, bribes office saying in an email to their employees that they will not be intimidated. John?

KING: And Kara, even before the former president's weekend post saying, he wants his supporters to protest. There have been conversations among law enforcement, among city officials and among federal officials here in D.C. about the possibility of stepping up security. What do we know about that?

SCANNELL: We're already seeing signs of that. This morning, our team spotted the NYPD putting cameras on top of some of the lights all in the vicinity of the courthouse here. They've also just put out a bunch of barricades, you know, kind of showing that they are expecting there to be potentially some kind of event or protests as the former president has called for some of his followers to come and protest.

There are also the potential security risks are being discussed in NYPD and federal and state and city briefings among law enforcement personnel and there're also sources tell us monitoring social media posts for any potential unrest. John? KING: Kara Scannell, on the ground for us in New York. Important reporting, Kara. Thank you. We know you'll stay on top of this as the day and the rest of the week plays out. Let's bring the conversation in the room. With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN' Evan Perez, CNN's Sara Murray, and former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams.


Let's start with what we do know. And I just want to start with you counselor on the history here. No sitting or former president in American history has been charged criminally. So, if this happens, Donald Trump says it might happen tomorrow. We don't know. That's just pure speculation whether his lawyers believe that to be the case. What is the burden on the prosecutor, knowing you have the details of the case, but you have a rendezvous with history?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Rendezvous with history. Look, there's two answers to that, John. The burden on the prosecutor is the same as it would be in any other case, which is that if you have probable cause to bring charges, and you can get them past the jury beyond a reasonable doubt, then you get a conviction. That's the simple, easy, obvious answer. But like you said, it's a rendezvous with history. This is a profound moment.

And we live in the real world. It's the charging of a president with a crime and to sort of quote the wire, the TV show, you come at the king, you best not miss. You have to, if charging for president of the United States know, or feel confident that you can proceed with something that's going to win. This is not just an ordinary criminal case under any circumstance.

KING: And that's why there's been such a great debate. Is this the case? If you're going to have a rendezvous with history, is this at least the case that should go first facts of the case. We know he, the president had some kind of whether it's a friendship or an affair with Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress. She received $130,000 payment in October 2016, right before the election.

Michael Cohen made that payment. He wrote the check. He used to allegedly buy her silence. That was the idea. And then, the investigation is the Trump organization reimburses Michael Cohen. Do they falsify business records to cover up what this was? And so, as Kara laid out, could be a misdemeanor, could be a felony? Where are we?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. I mean, and the idea that you would bring a misdemeanor against the former president right, that doesn't seem to make any sense. So, everyone - and again, there's a lack of information from the district attorney, but everything indicates that they're going to go bigger on this.

And so, the question is, you know, the former president is facing multiple investigations, including this one, the one in Georgia, related to the election, and the one that the justice department, which has too investigations going against the former president. The other thing that I think, we can't forget is that, you know, some of this that this stuff related to Stormy Daniels was looked at by federal prosecutors in New York some time ago, and they decided not to bring those charges. So, we'll have to see what the district attorney has turned up in their investigation that's different, and obviously different under New York law. That makes them believe they should bring this case.

KING: And one of the issues is the quality of the witness. You're trying to make this allegation. You have Michael Cohen, who is an admitted liar, but was prosecuted for lies. He says now, he's telling the truth. He says, he was paid to lie for Donald Trump. And that's what he did. And now he's telling the truth.

Mr. Costello reaches out over the weekend. Robert Costello tells CNN, he's handed over hundreds of documents to the Manhattan district attorney, including more than 300 emails related to Trump's former fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen. So, you have, once represented Michael Cohen, but he's in the Trump orbit. I mean, who are you to believe in this cast of known liars?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: All right. I mean, you're already in a somewhat unusual situation by having, you know, a witness go in that is providing essentially a defense for the former president and then having Michael Cohen on standby to rebut that that doesn't happen all the time.

Again, there have been issues with Michael Cohen's credibility. There have always been issues that that came up when federal prosecutors looked at this. The other thing we do have to remember, though, is grand juries deal with witnesses that have these kinds of issues all the time.

When you are dealing with regular murder cases, and you're dealing with regular drug cases, you're not dealing with the most pristine of figures who are making these cases, who are appearing as witnesses before the grand jury. But this is the case involving the former president and again, brings you to the question of, is this really the case you want to pursue, this is really the witness you want to hang your hat on?

KING: And yet, to your point, if they believe they have the evidence, it's their duty to bring it, whether he's Donald Trump or John Doe. The question is, New York State law allows you if you think you're getting close to the finish line, you reach out to Trump and you say, you want to testify for the grand jury. He declined that.

But Mr. Costello is essentially coming in on the Trump legal team's behalf here. At the end of this investigation today, Costello. Over the weekend, Trump says he'll be arrested. Last week Michael Cohen was back for the grand jury. He's actually with prosecutors today in case they think they need him to go in to answer Costello.

Trump was invited to testify and said, no, you had Kellyanne Conway and Hope Hicks. So, you do have new witnesses being brought in who were around Trump at the time of all this. So, there's no question there at the end. How do you make that decision?

WILLIAMS: Well, how do you make the decision? Look, it's in the prosecutor's interest to have Costello come in. Because if this - if a matter were to go to trial, you would have heard from Costello anyway, and you don't want the first time you hear from a witness to be when you put him on the witness stand for the first time.

So, look, I think it's pretty clear that prosecutors have sussed out what their case is, but also trying to figure out what the holes might be in the case. And at some of these credibility issues with Michael Cohen, bless you for making that point because it's very important one. You can still get convictions in drug and homicide cases where you have ugly and dirty witnesses, but you just got to know what you're going to court. I think that's what they're doing.


PEREZ: Prosecutors I'm sure going to show the video of Trump being asked on the plane during the campaign or you know, early on in which he said, you know, he'd never heard of this payment. He didn't know anything about it. And obviously, now, they've made their new excuses that were their new response to this is that, yes, we paid it, but it was all Michael Cohen. So, you know, that's the thing that I think will come back when - if and when this goes to.

KING: And as we wait for the decision in New York, and we see the security. Where we are reminded, there are federal investigations of Donald Trump. There's also the special Fulton County grand jury in Georgia. You have some new reporting there that the Trump's lawyers have essentially gone into court to essentially try to throw the whole thing out. Say, we know you're near the finish line there as well. We don't think you have anything throw it out.

MURRAY: Very interesting timing, that all of this isn't the first time that Trump attorneys in Georgia have decided that they are going to wait in legally on this case. And essentially, they're saying, look, we want the last sort of eight months to not have happened toss. The report from the special grand jury tossed all the evidence collected by the special grand jury, which is really meaningful.

And by the way, also disqualify the district attorney's office from even investigating this. They take issues with the judge's ruling in this case with the way the district attorney has comported himself with, of course, the four persons media tour that she went on.

So, this is quite an aim to disqualify a whole lot related to this case. They're asking for a judge, not the one who oversaw the grand jury, basically anyone else on the bench to listen to this. And you know, we'll see how it sits with the judges.

KING: Make any sense?

WILLIAMS: You know, it really does. It's hard to get a case thrown out, because the law presumes that people and jurors can actually set aside some of the silliness. But look, you know, to be clear, that grand jury did - special grand jury did no favors the prosecutors by being out there talking.

The prosecutor herself was is pretty clear on the record that she intended to indict the president even when she was running for office. So, you know, look, they have an argument. They're not going to win on it and it's not going to get tossed.

KING: But it is another reminder that, you know, Trump has done this for years. He plays very aggressive when it suits, whether it's about his business, whether it's presidency, whether it's about this he's very aggressive with his lawyers. We will watch and see what happens. Up next for us though, President Xi and Putin holding a big summit in Moscow. Just the meeting is a boost for Putin, but what he wants most is help on the battlefield in Ukraine.




KING: Right now, incredibly high stakes meetings playing out in Moscow. China's Xi Jinping telling the Russian President Vladimir Putin, at the beginning of those talks that the two leaders, "share similar goals" they are meeting face-to-face.


PRESIDENT XI JINPING, CHINA: It is true that both of our countries share the same or similar goals.


KING: This is Xi's first visit to Russia since Putin's invasion of Ukraine began little more than a year ago. The war top of mind as Putin aims to secure lethal aid for the fight. China though maintaining it is neutral in the conflict. That is its position publicly. And President Xi's team says, this is a visit "a trip for peace" being watched around the world this meeting.

Let's bring in CNN's Will Ripley, who's joining us now live from Taiwan? Will the Chinese say, this is all about peace, but around the world people are quite skeptical.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely. When you have Chinese war planes flying near this self-governing democracy that Beijing's communist rulers have been coveting for more than 70 years, even though they've never controlled it. In fact, there's a tweet out from the president spokesperson Yokoi Yutaka, that kind of sums up the view, I would say of the Taiwanese government.

It reads, trying to keep sending war planes and ships to harass Taiwan every day. Unless China stops his dangerous provocations. How can Xi Jinping visit to Russia offer any chance for peace?

This is where this whole neutrality narrative really comes into question. Because what Xi is expressing willingness to work with Putin to do is to, in their words, safeguard the international order. But the international order in the eyes of Putin, and Xi involves destabilizing the peace that the United States has enforced, you know, globally, since the end of World War II.

They want to disrupt the influence of the United States and the west. They share that ideology. And that is more important to Xi Jinping apparently, than alienating the United States and Europe, even though there are vast political and economic consequences as a result. And that's why probably, John, you see Xi Jinping, you know, putting on this diplomat hat going to the Middle East, for example, to broker, you know, the latest attempt that a peace deal between Saudi Arabia and there.

And so, obviously, this is something that - I'm sorry, John, I just lost my train of thought, it's about very late, late at night here. But as you can see, this is certainly, yes, this is certainly a very significant moment, and we'll have to see how it all plays out.

KING: We'll watch what actions come beyond the words. Will Ripley, live for us in Taipei. Will, thank you. Let's get some important perspective now from the former Director of National Intelligence and our CNN national security analyst, James Clapper.

Director Clapper, grateful for your time. Today, the picture is - just the picture is important. This is Xi and Putin essentially saying to the United States and to the west, it's us versus you, essentially, but beyond the picture and beyond President Xi saying we have shared goals. What are you most looking for out of this meeting?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I don't, what I'm most looking, for course, is what kind of announcement they make, which I think will be a good bit of form and of solidarity - evincing solidarity. And I think there'll be emphasis on trade and economic relations.

Interestingly, Russia knowledge is past Saudi Arabia and exporting oil to China. And I think that sort of thing. I don't look for China to provide major weapon systems, for example, to Putin. I think Putin probably has high expectations, which I don't think are going to be fulfilled.


KING: Why is that? In the context of, you know, Xi is the big power at this meeting. If we were at having this conversation 10 or 20 years ago, you might view Russia as the bigger power or at least them as equals. There's no question Xi is the tail wagging the dog at the moment forgive the expression. Why do you think Xi does not want to get involved from a lethal aid or at least a significant visible lethal aid perspective?

CLAPPER: I think what's really important is Xi at this point is coming on the heels of this Mideast agreement, in which he brokered an arrangement whereby Saudi and Iran recognize each other diplomatically. I think he wants to be seen as a statesman above all. I could be wrong about that, but I think that's uppermost in important.

I also don't think, and I've said this since the outset of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, that he wants to look the image of Chinese weapons systems being used to kill innocent Ukrainians and bomb Ukrainian infrastructure. So, I think from an image standpoint, which he's trying to burnish on the heels of his unprecedented election to a third term, as an international statesman and international leader, I think that's uppermost in his mind.

KING: Putin needs the help, because he's had a tough year on the battlefield, especially if you're looking at big picture, you could look at individual battles and maybe say the Russians won that one. But big picture Russia is on its heels, and actually, in many ways you might say, you ameliorated. Putin needs the help, because the United States, NATO and others have held together in supporting Ukraine.

What's the flip side of that from Xi's perspective? Has the solid resilient western alliance perhaps changed his thinking, knowing that he's publicly on the record saying, I will take Taiwan at some point?

CLAPPER: Well, I think it's the whole experience that Russia has, and Ukraine has, I believe, given pause to the Chinese about an invasion of Taiwan. You know, the Chinese haven't fought an act of combat since 1979 against the Vietnamese and they didn't do so well.

So, I think Xi got to think twice, about assessing the will to fight of his own forces, and the will to resist on the part of the Taiwanese. So again, I think he's going to be - he's got a balancing act clearly. But I think he's going to be very careful about extending himself too much to the Russians.

KING: Director Clapper, appreciate your insights at this delicate moment. We will watch what the leaders say, and of course then more importantly, have a watch what they do in the days and weeks ahead. Appreciate your time, sir, very much.

CLAPPER: Thanks, John.

KING: Thank you. Up next. You see a look right there at the Dow. Financial markets weighing new developments positively so far, in the banking crisis. The Swiss government stepping in to orchestrate a major bank takeover, that to open a week in which the Federal Reserve also faces a big decision about interest rates.




KING: This is a big week for economic news and it's off to a positive beginning, if markets are your barometer. U.S. markets are up mostly today. You see right there, the NASDAQ down just a little bit, that after a shotgun wedding between two big Swiss banks. UBS, Switzerland's biggest bank, agreeing to buy its former rival Credit Suisse for cents on the dollar. That is regulators scramble to stem a global banking crisis.

The Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chief Jerome Powell both applauding that move orchestrated and announced by Swiss authorities over the weekend. Let's check in with CNN's Matt Egan in New York live with the latest. Matt, this merger if you will, this takeover, designed to calm things down. How's that going?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Well, John, so far so good. I think Wallstreet is breathing a sigh of relief after another tense weekend in Washington and really across capitals in Europe. UBS coming to the rescue of Credit Suisse. You know, this bank, Credit Suisse, it's been a problem for years, long before the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank. And really it was facing a crisis of confidence.

Share price was imploding, billions of dollars were coming out of Credit Suisse. It was unsustainable. So that's why regulators pushed UBS to come to the rescue and bail this bank out. Now the hope is that this will restore some confidence in the banking system and shore up one of the weakest links.

Now, we also have to take a look at what's going on in the U.S. regional bank sector, because that has really been moving the wider market and regional banks are moving mostly higher. Well, they were moving mostly higher. We see that some of the banks have turned negative. First Republic has been in the red most of the day, but it's actually near session lows right now down 41 percent.

Now this comes after First Republic was downgraded over the weekend, further into junk territory by both S&P and Moody's. That's despite the industry lead rescue that First Republic got just last week. We did get some encouraging signs, though on the regional bank front because more important than the share price is what's happening with the deposits.

Now, we don't have a great view into deposits, but regulators do and they're watching very closely in it. U.S. official telling CNN's Phil Mattingly and I, that deposits at the small and mid-sized regional banks that they have stabilized. Those massive deposit outflows, they've either eased or stopped or even reversed altogether and that is really important.