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Inside Politics

Trump Leaving Florida, Bound For NY. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 03, 2023 - 12:30   ET



EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: So I think if you're a former president and the fact that, you know, he's got all of these legal issues all coming to a boil and he doesn't have the protection of the office anymore.

So, it's -- he has no control over what happens next, not only in New York, his fate is in the hands of a judge, but also, you know, with the judges here in Washington and perhaps soon a judge in Georgia if the D.A. there decides to bring charge.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, it's also important to note it's not just the possession or mishandling of the documents themselves that is what's being investigated in this federal investigation. It's potential obstruction of justice that actually, after having received a subpoena, the former president is at least being investigated for having moved or tampered with or hidden documents as a means of frustrating an investigation.

That in many respects is almost more serious than some of the other things. You're talking about frustrating law enforcement.

PEREZ: And that's the reason why they did that extraordinary search. I mean, one of the things that they said in court and in that search warrant was they had evidence of obstruction, which is what made this a big deal for the former president.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the first issue for the former president, of course, is this case in New York City, where, if you're just joining us now, Donald Trump leaving his home in Florida on his way to New York, where he will be arraigned tomorrow, becoming the first ever former president to face criminal charges.

But back to West Palm Beach and CNN's Kristen Holmes. Kristen, there is a big effort among the former president's team to turn what we are watching now into a political win.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Manu. And, in fact, over the weekend, his advisers and the former president were talking about ways to capitalize on this politically. And one of the things that they came up with was this potential of putting his mug shot on different t-shirts and mugs, campaign merchandise, fundraising off of it. Now, of course, as we know, we are not sure that he will actually get his mug shot taken. Authorities had expressed some concern about that leaking and violating state law. But it just goes to show you where their heads are at right now.

And it wasn't just his team coming up with these ideas. I was told by a number of people who spoke to the former president himself over the weekend, saying that he was calling up allies, calling up supporters, texting, talking about how he believed that this was a political plus. He was going over poll numbers. They had an internal poll.

They also -- there was another poll that he was showing around, talking through this with trying to shore up that support and, of course, Manu, talking about that money. We know that they have had an extreme fundraising effort since this indictment was announced. It was not just his team blasting out emails.

The former president himself recorded a video asking essentially his supporters to donate because of this indictment. And he posted that on Truth Social. He sent this out in an email. And they have raised about $5 million, more than $5 million in the first 48 hours after the announcement of that indictment.

But again, all of this is the political side of this. And that's what's really interesting, too, when you look at who is traveling with him today. You have the heads of his campaign, Susie Wiles, Chris LaCivita. You have the senior campaign advisors like Steven Chung, who runs communications, Jason Miller, Boris Epshteyn, who is legal adviser and senior campaign adviser.

So, you know, you have a lot of politics around you as well. And as I said, you know, his lawyers are in New York, and he is expected to hold meetings with lawyers at Trump Tower. But there is a huge part of this that is political, and that's also likely what we're going to see in Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday night when he comes back and delivers those remarks.

But the one thing, again, that we are going to be watching closely is if any of this political rhetoric changes once we actually learn what those charges are. And Manu, you've been following this closely, obviously, on the Hill. So many Republicans have come out in defense of the former president, and they have also gotten on board with this narrative that this is a political hoax, a political witch hunt.

Do they continue with that narrative once we learn what those charges actually are? Of course, remains to be seen, Manu.

RAJU: Yes, that's right. And we'll see if anything changes in that rhetoric once these charges are unsealed. We have CNN's John Miller, he's still with us. John, you've dealt with so many security events in your career and working in law enforcement. You see on these remarkable pictures on your screen the size of the former president's motorcade really hammers home the giant security task here at hand.

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: It's very significant in that, you know, you've got two competing elements here. Number one, you have a person who's a criminal defendant who is on his way to surrender on felony charges in New York City.

On the other hand, you have a person who's also a former president of the United States. So the competing interests here are, number one, the desire of the criminal justice system to treat him like any other defendant, and the needs of the Secret Service to ensure that while he is still a former president and under their protection and innocent until proven otherwise, that their security needs are met.


And that's the balancing act we're watching now, which is, we've never really seen this before, which is a former President of the United States on his way to surrender to a court, to a district attorney's investigator who will officially arrest him, take his fingerprints, charge him with a felony, and then deliver him to a courtroom where he has to enter a plea.

RAJU: And we're watching on our screen as Trump's motorcade has now arrived on the tarmac at Palm Beach International Airport. We'll see if we can actually get a shot of the former president. That appears to be him. It's hard to see from our camera angle here. That was Donald Trump, I'm told. He's walking up the stairs onto his plane there in the Palm Beach International Airport as he heads to New York City.

And Evan Perez, you're with us. You're watching this. This is quite a moment.

PEREZ: That is quite the moment. And look, I mean, you saw that security posture there. It's a lot of concern about the former president's safety. And part of the reason why is because of what he himself does. Some of the media spectacle that he likes to embrace, that he loves to create, frankly.

And one of the concerns that the security folks had was that he would do something at Trump Tower in New York, either ahead of him going to court, something unscripted. It looks like the former president has decided to at least stay with the advice of everybody around him.

You know, Secret Service comes up with three and four of everything for the former president. So they'll have three or four routes to design for him to get from Trump Tower to the courthouse. Those are all things that they've rehearsed, and they're going to make -- they're going to pick which route to use at the last minute as a way to, you know, to protect him, right?

The element of surprise is what they want. And I think everybody's breathing a bit of a sigh of relief. They've got him safely to the airport. Now he's going to go to New York, to LaGuardia, and then on his way to Trump Tower, and then hopefully everything stays on script. His plan now is to come back to Palm Beach and do a big national address from there.

Hopefully, he -- the security people certainly are hoping that he doesn't do anything unscripted, because that's when, you know, the possibility of something bad happened. RAJU: And that's the real issue. And I just want to point out Donald Trump walking onto the airplane. We expect him to travel with a small group of aides and adviser to New York City in this rather remarkable moment. And that's the concern of Trump and his legal team, right.

If he speaks out, as he does on social media, he's been attacking various parts of the D.A., the judge and the like. They want him to stay quiet. That's the hope here. Can they do it?

WILLIAMS: All right. Look, any defendant ought to stay quiet in advance of a criminal proceeding because every word you say literally can be used against you in a court of law. Just like the same the TV shows. Like Evan had said a moment ago, unscripted is the important thing here because that's when you get yourself in trouble as a criminal defendant.

Look, Donald Trump is perhaps the most legally, pardon me, the most media savvy criminal defendant, perhaps, or criminal investigative person in American history. And we'll -- we can count on the fact that he will be out there talking to the press and so on.

But when you start getting into the world of threatening judges and court personnel, that can actually lead to additional criminal charges, it can lead to problems with the jury, it can lead to problems with the judge, and it's incredibly risky even from a defendant who sort of does this for a living.

RAJU: Yes. Remarkable moment. Thank you all for taking in this moment as Donald Trump boards his airplane on his way to New York City. History in motion.

Now, moments ago, Donald Trump boarding that plane, headed to New York and his arraignment. But up next for us, new CNN polling. Majority of Americans say they approve of the decision to indict Donald Trump.



RAJU: Moments ago, Donald Trump boarding a plane for a court date with history. And this morning, our brand new CNN poll looks at what you think of former President Trump's indictment. 60 percent of Americans approve of a Manhattan grand jury's decision to indict Donald Trump in connection to hush money payments made to an adult film actress. 40 percent disapprove.

Now, let's discuss all this and more with CNN's MJ Lee, Alex Burns of Politico, and Tia Mitchell of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. So, digging a little deeper into those polls, you know, it says that a majority of Democrats and Independents back this indictment decision. 94 percent of Democrats, 62 percent of Independents, just 21 percent of Republicans.

But also a majority of them believe that politics did play a role. 76 percent in the CNN poll said that they believe politics played a role. What do you make of that discrepancy? Yes, I think it's not at all surprising that we clearly see a political divide. That you ask Democrats, and they tend to think, yes, he definitely deserved to be indicted. You ask Republicans, and they don't approve as much of the decision to have Donald Trump be indicted.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is interesting, though, even among the people who don't necessarily think that he should have been indicted, they do tend to think that something was wrong about his behavior, right. So surrounding this whole saga is this air that, yes, there was something off and something probably sinister about the whole hush money payment situation.


RAJU: Yes. And you're seeing on your screen there Donald Trump's plane in motion as he heads off to New York City for his historic court date tomorrow. Alex, that same poll had that a majority of Independent's approve of the decision, 62 percent. Do you think that's significant?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I do. And I think the two numbers, you know, not surprising that Democrats overwhelmingly like the indictment, but the fact that a majority of Independents approve and even the fact that 21 percent of Republicans approve, that's obviously a minority of the party. But one in five members of Donald Trump's own party thinking that it's probably a good thing that he's being criminally charged.

It's the kind of thing that wouldn't stop him from winning the Republican nomination. And if you're one of those other Republican candidates, you're looking at those numbers and saying, I'd better be pretty careful about how I talk about this for a while.

But it's why, Manu, so many Republicans think he is just not necessarily DOA in a general election, but he is going to have a one hell of a time uniting that party now or at any point in the future when one in five fellow Republicans thinks that you deserve to be indicted.

RAJU: Exactly. Or in -- a lot of -- obviously concern that that independent number shows why they're concerned he can't win a general election. We've seen how he struggled in the past. What was also interesting in this poll that his favorability rating at 34 percent, that's generally where he's been for most of his presidency and before that has not moved. It'll be interesting to see if when we learn more about these charges and potential other charges, if that changes.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Right. And I think there's also the concern, you know, we initially saw a lot of Republicans that were critical of the decision to indict him that have really come to his side to defend him. And I think this polling shows that that could be a risk not just for Donald Trump, that these charges could start affecting his public perception, even among Republicans, but that other elected officials might not fare so well if they continue to defend him. Because even, you know, people might not necessarily think that what he did was criminal, but they're not necessarily critical of the decision to indict him and let the court play it out.

LEE: And could I also say, you know, on the one hand, yes, we could say it's remarkable that Donald Trump has been indicted, and still people's views of him remain basically unchanged. If you're for him, you're still for him. If you're against him, you're against him.

But I think the issue for him, as it has been for so long, is that even when he faces a political obstacle and the support for him doesn't change, that support has stayed in sort of the 25 percent, you know, to 30 percent range among Republicans, right? And if you're running in a Republican primary, that's not going to be enough. And the issue for him, again, going forward is, how does he broaden that so that he can actually win the primary and the nomination?

RAJU: And they've been touting these big fundraising numbers in the aftermath of the news of this indictment. They said they've raised $5 million since Thursday. Does that translate into real energy for his campaign, Alex?

BURNS: I think it's a reflection of energy behind his campaign within the base that we already know he has. But money was never going to be the deciding factor in whether Donald Trump gets nominated or elected president again. I think it'd be a real alarming sign if that small donor base, which gets really revved up at moments like this.

If it wasn't there, that would be a really, really alarming sign for Donald Trump. But if I'm Mike Pence, if I'm Nikki Haley, I'm not looking at that $5 million number and saying, that tells me something I didn't know already.

RAJU: Yes. And Donald Trump put out an email today saying, I'm about to be arrested tomorrow. So they're trying to, of course, seize on this and use this for his advantage. How -- you've covered, Tia, Donald Trump for a long time, how do you think he is viewing this moment?

He, you know, there's lots of reporting over the last several days from various news outlets, CNN, Washington Post, others talking about, you know, his -- him being not throwing things at the wall angry, but obviously, not happy about the situation. How do you think he's personally dealing with this and going to be able to pivot to the campaign?

MITCHELL: Well, number one, I think he's a human being. And any of us, if we found out we were facing, like, dozens of charges, it's not going to be your best day. You're going to be worried about what the ramifications are. So in that way, he's having kind of a normal response.

But I think what's just so interesting with Donald Trump is, yes, he's having that normal response, but he's also like, I can make a lot of money off of this. I can drum up my campaign off of this. My base is going to be with me to the point that he's going to make these, you know, huge remarks surrounded by supporters tomorrow night. So it's, to me, that both sides of his reaction is what makes it so interesting.

RAJU: As we wait here, we're seeing Donald Trump's plan here in motion on his way to New York City. We'll take off momentarily. And MJ, we heard yesterday the first candidate in this presidential race, Asa Hutchinson, the former Arkansas governor. He announced his run. He called on Trump to drop out of this race.


Is there a lean for that kind of politics and this kind of campaign with this kind of Republican base?

LEE: I mean, those comments sort of stood out because I think in general, even post the indictment news, we've seen Republican candidates and political figures be pretty reticent still to explicitly attack and go after Donald Trump. You know, no matter what political obstacles he is facing right now, I think that still just goes to show. Even if you're a candidate that is trying to take him on, you are pretty worried about the potential backlash that you could face if you are really publicly attacking him.

RAJU: Yes, that's right. And -- go ahead.

BURNS: I thought one of the most interesting things that Governor Hutchinson said over the weekend was, yes, he said Trump should drop out, but it was particularly the construction he used where he said, no, I think he should really focus on his right to due process, where, you know, it does sort of create a template for other Republicans, not necessarily to go double barrel that Donald Trump is a bad guy and he shouldn't be in this race.

But if you're a Ron DeSantis, if you're a Mike Pence, if you're a Nikki Haley, and you want to find some way to sort of nudge Donald Trump to the side without sort of duking it out with him, I do think that kind of language gives you a path to doing that, to say, look, this guy has some pretty big problems of his own, and maybe he should focus on that, because I am in this race to beat Joe Biden.

RAJU: Yes. And you mentioned Ron DeSantis, it was interesting to hear him over the weekend and speaking in New York. He was attacking the prosecutor. A bit of a different than his first comment on this. Remember, he actually invoked the hush money scandal and said that, you know, I don't have to deal with hush money payments. That's something that I don't know anything about.

Now he's sort of recalibrating his message. It seems like DeSantis, he certainly is not in the Asa Hutchinson lane of you should drop out, but he's kind of been playing a little bit both sides.

MITCHELL: Yes. And I think DeSantis keeps finding out that he hasn't found the right tone to be the Trump person, but also a Trump alternative. Like, the lane he's trying to carve for himself is not necessarily a lane that's easily carved because he's doing so much that's just like Trump. But then he tries to create difference between himself and Trump, but then there's pushback when he tries to do that. For example, his kind of shady comment about the hush money. And I think he felt that pushback and then had to recalibrate. But when you do that, what's the difference then between you and Donald Trump?

RAJU: That's right.

LEE: Yes. I mean, for the Ron DeSantiss, the Nikki Haleys of the world, if you are deciding to jump into this race, you are making the decision to set yourself apart from Donald Trump, to make sort of a distinct case for yourself.

If you're not willing to take on the former president at a moment when he has so many political obstacles and serious political obstacles, kind of makes you wonder in the coming weeks and months, in what ways are they prepared to actually say, here is a way in which I am different from Donald Trump.

RAJU: It looks like Donald Trump's plan is just moments away from takeoff there from Palm Beach International Airport on its way to New York City. Trump traveling with a small group of aides and advisers as he prepares to meet his fate in court tomorrow, where he'll plead not guilty in his arraignment in this investigation led by the New York District Attorney's Office.

We have not, Alex, heard much from Democrats about this. Joe Biden wants nothing to do with this. He's not talking about it. Democrats on Capitol Hill, Chuck -- other than a statement from Chuck Schumer saying we should not let political interference affect this investigation. Hakeem Jeffries really hasn't said anything either. What do you make of the Democrats sort of staying away from this?

BURNS: Look, I think that the Democrats recognize that this is going to be a political problem for Donald Trump, and they don't want to give him more fodder to say this is all a political conspiracy among Democrats. You mentioned Hakeem Jeffries, you mentioned Chuck Schumer. Now those are two of the leading Democrats in New York where this case is happening.

I think they have very good prudential reasons to keep their hands off of it. I am very curious to see whether they can keep up that posture of restraint if there are more charges against Donald Trump in other jurisdictions. If Hakeem Jefferies is suddenly in a position where he's being asked to comment on a case in Georgia rather than a case in Manhattan, I do wonder whether he would show somewhere restraint.

MITCHELL: And I think what we're hearing a lot from Democrats is no one is above the law. And I think that's what we see playing out in the CNN poll, for example, I think that line really resonates that, you know, if they're making the case, this is not political. This is about the fact that no one is above the law, and therefore, if he did wrong, he should face the charges.

RAJU: Yes. Rather historic moment here. We've been watching unfold all hour here. Donald Trump about to take off from New York ahead of that arraignment, where he is expected to fight these charges, one of potentially many here.


MJ, you've been covering the President for for us here at CNN, do you think that Joe Biden, once this out, is going to weigh in here?

LEE: Well, so far, he has been very careful not to. You know, there was a day a couple of days ago when he was taking off from the White House, getting on Marine One, asked a bunch of different times in a lot of different ways, Mr. President, what is your reaction to this? And he really doesn't want to weigh in right now.

And you can tell why the political calculations are such that what do you have to gain to make any kind of proclamation about such an unusual set of circumstances? About, by the way, a guy that you might be running against again in 2024.

RAJU: Yes, and we'll see when Joe Biden decides to announce. Thank you all for joining us. And thanks for you for tuning in.

Special Edition of CNN Newsroom with Dana Bash, Phil Mattingly and Kaitlan Collins starts after this break.


DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. You are watching the former President's plane take off, heading to -- heading up in the air and heading back to his home state of New York.