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Inside Politics

Key Trump Attorney Departs Legal Team; CNN: Biden Bets DeSantis' "Blueprint" Will Help Flip FL In 2024; Judge Enters Not Guilty Pleas For Idaho Murder Suspect; Delaware Sen. Tom Carper To Retire Next Year; Lizzo Holds Back Tears At Concert Over NE Anti- Abortion Bill. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 22, 2023 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: In an exclusive interview with CNN's Paula Reid, Timothy Parlatore says his departure has nothing to do with the case itself or with the client, the former president, of course. Instead, Parlatore says, there was infighting on the Trump legal team, and he singled out one particular member.


TIMOTHY PARLATORE, FORMER DONALD TRUMP ATTORNEY: The real reason is because there are certain individuals that made defending the president much harder than it needed to be. In particular, there's one individual who works for him, Boris Epshteyn, who had really done everything he could to try to block us, to prevent us from doing what we could to defend the president.


KING: Paula Reid is here with us, along with the former federal prosecutor, Defense Attorney Shan Wu. So, that's, number one, it's important for a number of reasons. Just the fact that he's speaking publicly is rare. But let's start. He says that Mr. Epshteyn blocked them and kept them from defending the president. Meaning, the lawyers wanted to do x, and the answer was no?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Not only was there a disagreement over strategy, how to communicate and what to communicate with the Justice Department, he also goes so far as to accuse Boris of trying to obstruct their efforts to conduct additional searches for classified documents.

And that was really extraordinary because, of course, the special counsel is looking at several potential crimes, including obstruction of justice. And again, it's nothing new infighting in a Trump team, or if it just spill over in the public like this, that is truly significant. And I'm sure the special counsel is also watching.

KING: Infighting in a Trump team is not unusual, but in ongoing investigations, and in a moment, we'll show there are several. But just in this one, Mr. Parlatore, very important in the classified documents investigation, in fact, was called before the grand jury in the classified documents investigation. To be talking publicly and criticizing your fellow team members, that is rare, is it not?

SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, it's an extraordinary interview, I have to say. And there's some concerns ethically. I mean, there are rules that say you cannot reveal client confidences. And certainly, infighting within the legal team about what's happening is part of the client confidences, and it could be detrimental to the client Trump.

I mean, I really found it amazing that he was actually explaining his view of what Evan Corcoran should have done in that writing, because implicit in that is all sorts of criticisms of the writing itself, which, again, is potentially detrimental to the client Trump. So a very unusual situation to see that sort of disagreement spill over. Not unusual to have disagreements among a team, but you got to keep it quiet.

KING: Right. Especially when the issues are so complicated. And so I just -- I want to be fair to Team Trump. They issued a statement after your interview. "Mr. Parlatore is no longer a member of the legal team. His statements regarding current members of the legal team are unfounded and categorically false."

So they're taking issue with the substance part of Mr. Parlatore's conversation in which he said, a, we had strategy differences and particularly took after Mr. Epshteyn.

REID: Yes. And what I'm interested to see is if this interview has what I think was the desired impact, will it cause the former president to change up his team, change the strategy going forward? We know there are some conversations going on down in Florida, so I'm very interested to see what the impact is on the investigation and on the defense side. Will he change his strategy based on what Tim told us?

KING: And again, I want to come back to the point that he was a witness before the grand jury, Mr. Parlatore. And on television there, he just blamed another member of the legal team. So I assumed that had to be a -- the question before the grand jury was, the FBI sent you notice, the archive sent you notice, we wanted documents back. And from the government's perspective, Trump Team knew they had the documents. Trump Team was slow or reluctant or obstructive in giving them back.

That's a Justice Department view to get one of Trump's lawyers before the grand jury, who then publicly criticizes another one of the lawyers.

REID: Who also went before the grand jury.

KING: Right.

WU: And not only just did he criticize Epshteyn, but he's also criticizing Corcoran, and he's revealing what Corcoran did. I don't know what Corcoran testified to, but he's basically saying, this is what Corcoran did, this is what he should have described it as. And, I mean, that just does not make any sense he's revealing that. So, I mean, maybe he's really pissed off and wants to sort of inflate himself, but it's really a very bad thing to do for your client.

KING: And so we have Jim Trusty, John Rowley are now the two lead attorneys. But again, Boris Epshteyn, who's both a political adviser to the president and an attorney, is part of this too, and he's very close to the president. But you have these two lead attorneys here we can just show you.

There's a classified documents investigation, but there's also a hush money payment investigation. There's the election interference both in Georgia and a federal investigation into election interference in January 6, et cetera. Is it Mr. Trusty and Mr. Rowley who are now leading the team?

REID: Is it a lot more complicated than that. It's a lot more complicated than that. It's always more complicated than that, right? When you have this many investigations and active prosecution in New York, you also have Joe Tacopina, who's helping to represent him along with Susan Nicholas in the criminal prosecution in New York. In Georgia, he also has some local attorneys as well.

But these two are really fronting the special counsel's investigation, which is both into interference in the 2020 election and the handling of classified documents. But it is truly extraordinary.


Now, Tim did deny that the reason he had to leave the legal team was because he had testified before the grand jury. But, of course, other attorneys on this team, including Evan Corcoran, who they were able to get around attorney-client privilege, have also had to go before the grand jury.

KING: If we rolled the tape back a little bit, there's been a lot of turnover in Trump's legal team. Some of that is because the issues have changed. You had attorneys for the impeachment investigations, for the Mueller investigation.

Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell have had to leave because, well, they said lunatic things about election interference that simply was not true or could not be proven in court. Is this -- again, I'm trying to get it to how unusual is this.

WU: It's very unusual to have this amount of turnover in a legal team, particularly for a high-profile client where there's a strong interest in having sort of a universal approach to how you're going to deal with this. I will say that I can't think of another situation where a high-profile client like this has so many cases rolling downhill at them. So it certainly is a uniquely challenging situation for any legal team.

KING: Paula and Shan, appreciate you being here.

Another legal news just in, very different from an Idaho court. Bryan Kohberger, he's the suspect in last year's fatal stabbing before University of Idaho students, has just moments ago pleaded not guilty. Kohberger remained silent at his arraignment hearing, the judge entering the plea not guilty again on his behalf.

Up next, Florida has a Republican governor, two Republican senators, and Donald Trump won it twice. Yet team Biden says it is taking a very close look as it studies how to expand its 2024 map.



KING: Ron DeSantis sees his record as Florida governor as his springboard to the presidency. But team Biden sees the same record as an opening to perhaps target Florida's 30 electoral votes next year. After speaking to a dozen top democratic officials, CNN's Isaac Dovere reporting this, Biden bets DeSantis' Florida blueprint will help him flip the sunshine state and win reelection.

Now, the president's disdain for governor DeSantis is no secret.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over 1.1 million people in Florida would be eligible for Medicaid if Governor DeSantis just said, I agree to expand it. What's going on in Florida? Is as my mother would say close to sinful. I mean, it's just terrible what they're doing.

I had a lot of Ron DeSantis jokes ready, but Mickey Mouse beat the hell out of me and got there first.


KING: Isaac Dovere joins our conversation along with our other great reporters. You also, in your piece, very smartly lay out Florida Democrats known more for dysfunction than winning. This is a state, and we can put up on the screen. If you look at the demographics and then you look at other key battleground states, you can say, OK, OK, if Democrats do it right, that you can build the Biden coalition out of those numbers.

However, Florida has not been kind to Democrats at the state level or, as I noted in the tease before the commercial break, two Republican senators now, Republican governor now. Democrats used to win those offices. It's been a while.

ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: It has been a while. The only Democrat to have won statewide in over a decade is Nikki Fried, who won for agriculture commissioner in 2018. She ran for governor last year, didn't win the primary. Now she's the state democratic chair. She says that there's a path forward here.

But for the Biden folks, this is not just about Florida. It is about Florida and trying to see whether they have the opportunity to compete there. But it's a bigger thing than that to be able to say that Ron DeSantis' legislative record, the bills that he signed into law on abortion, on the crackdown, on immigration, things about LGBTQ rights, gun laws all of those things are a vision of what the -- what would be in Washington if a Republican were elected president, whether it's Ron DeSantis or someone else.

And for Biden, that is a way of talking about all of this all around the country, trying to run that against Republicans and say, this is serious. This is what it looks like.

KING: And so if you look at that list, he signed a six-week abortion ban. He ended a concealed weapons. You needed a permit form. You don't need a permit anymore. He banned gender affirming care for transgender youth. He restricted drag shows. He expanded what they call the Don't Say Gay law in Florida. He blocked that Advanced Placement African American Studies program. Prohibited vaccine mandates.

Again, if you're Joe Biden and you just look at that list and you think about, you know, the Biden coalition, right? Women, especially suburban Republican women who voted Republican in the past, young people, it's right there. The question is, can you do it in Florida?

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think that's the question. I mean, it's a state that's very consistently voted for Republicans the last few cycles. Democrats have invested a lot of time and money in there and not gotten the results. They were bolstered, I think, a little bit by the Jacksonville mayor's race, where a Democrat had a surprise victory recently.

I would say also that the Latino vote in Florida is a problem for Democrats. They are very supportive. There was a lot of support for former President Trump. And so, there's a lot of pieces to this. And I think the primary focus is going to be in the states that we know, right? Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Georgia. But they are categorizing Florida and North Carolina as possible.

KING: But it's interesting you list Arizona and Georgia in there because, again, they're all very different, right? I've spent a lot of time looking at the states. They're all very different.

But if you look and look at the margin of victory, George W. Bush wins Florida by five. Barack Obama in the historic 2008 year, African American turnout goes up. A lot of people say, let's make over history wins by a decent margin, just barely wins it the second time. Trump wins it and much more comfortably the second time around.


But back to your point, Florida is a giant suburb. If you look at Florida, you can put the pieces together like you can in Georgia, like you did in Arizona, which makes North Carolina so appealing. The question is -- but it's been -- but Democrats have said we can do this and they've just failed.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And look, it's an unbelievably expensive state to campaign.

KING: Right. RAJU: If you want to win Florida, you got to just dump a ton of money. So we'll see if they actually carry through on this strategy or not, maybe look at the polls and decide their money is better spent elsewhere.

Well, it'll be interesting, yes, this record will be litigated by Biden, who may see him as a potential opponent. How will Republicans who are going to face DeSantis in the primary also go after that record? A lot of conservatives like how he deals with abortion, immigration and other issues.

Will they go and say that those issues are going to make him unelectable in a general election? Essentially run to the left of him on issues like abortion. That's going to be complicated for some of these --

KING: This morning on CNN This Morning, Jared Moskowitz, who's one of the Democrats in the Florida congressional delegation, he says, Democrats, be careful. Do not underestimate this man.

REP. JARED MOSKOWITZ (D), FLORIDA: Said he's data driven, so he's going to look at the numbers, right? And so if you look at the national numbers, he's been going in the wrong direction.


MOSKOWITZ: If you look at the state numbers in both Ohio and New Hampshire, he's a little closer. And so, listen, he's going to look at those numbers. He's going to test his messages. I mean, he's going to do all of those things and, you know, because that's what I've just seen how, you know, he works.


KING: It's important Democrats should listen to Democrats closest to DeSantis as they watch him. But if you're team Biden and you're trying to put this math together, I mean, 30. If you can get 30 electoral votes, it's an addition for you, but more importantly, it's a subtraction from them.


KING: So you test it.


KING: The question is, when do you have to make that decision about spending what is a boatload of dimes?

RASCOE: Well, I mean, I think that, you know, everyone has made a good point that they just haven't gotten the results recently. So you would have to start thinking like, is this more of a national thing where you could talk to, you know, people on the left or people who are, you know, not -- who are concerned about what Ron DeSantis is doing and really bring that to women elsewhere but not really work in Florida. I mean, when you look at the -- especially the Latino base there, there are a lot of concerns about socialism and things like that. And those sorts of anti-socialism messages are working very well there. And you saw that in the last election.

KING: How dependent is the Biden testing, right? Obviously, this year you tended on whether it's DeSantis or Trump, or does that matter?

DOVERE: Well, first of all, they are taking a cautious approach to the testing here, putting in a little bit of money. They'll see if they put in more money. But a big part of this is also just playing DeSantis and Trump off against each other. And that is hugely a goal for the Democrats here. They are salivating over every one of those attacks that one of them makes or the other.

One thing that came up in my reporting is that there was a moment at the end of March where Donald Trump took a shot at Ron DeSantis over a tort reform bill that he had signed into law that Trump said was a scam and worst in the country. Part of the way that that happened was that a big Biden donor reached out to Roger Stone, the Trump adviser, and said, hey, can you make this happen? And it happened. That's the kind of thing that's going on here.

Another -- one of the senior Democratic operatives that I talked to, somebody's close to the campaign, said to me, look, we'd rather have Trump. We hate DeSantis just as much. But to go at them, to see them go at each other like this makes Democrats feel as good as Democrats can feel.

KING: Roger Stone and Six Degrees of Donald Trump. Save that one for the Internet.

Just moments ago, the man charged with murdering four University of Idaho students appeared before a judge. New details of that court hearing. That's next.



KING: This hour, Bryan Kohberger, the suspect in last year's fatal stabbing of four university of Idaho students appeared in court. He remained silent throughout that arraignment hearing as a judge entered not guilty pleas on his behalf. CNN's Jean Casarez has been tracking this for us. Jean, what else did we learn?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well his attorney in doing that said we will stay silent until the judge himself said entered the plea of not guilty on his behalf. But there were other questions and the judge informed him of all of his rights, his rights to an attorney realizing he already has the public defender, Anne Taylor, so we don't have to worry about that.

But then when he said I've got to tell you that anything you do say other than just to your attorney can be held against you. Do you understand that? He answered in a booming voice, yes, I do. I noted the indictment when it was read to him by the judge delineating every single charge, four counts of first-degree murder, account of burglary.

He read the indictment along with the judge and he even looked at his attorney at this point. A trial date has been set, October 6 of this year. It should last six weeks because he has a right to a speedy trial. But, John, the prosecution has 60 days to file notice of intent to seek the death penalty and that's what we have to wait for because that could turn this case on its head.

KING: That would make a big case even bigger. Jean Casarez, appreciate that important update --

CASAREZ: Thank you.

KING: -- and we'll track the latest. Thank you.

A big announcement from a Democratic senator. And Lizzo tears up at Nebraska concert. Her message next.



KING: Topping our political radar today, Tom Carper, Delaware senior senator, will retire next year. Senator Carper announcing that decision last hour in Wilmington. The 76-year-old thanked fellow Delaware Democrat President Joe Biden for his friendship and support.

Lizzo taking time during a Nebraska concert to make clear she opposes a major new law there. Nebraska's governor today will sign a 12-week abortion ban into law. All so part of that legislation, limits on transgender youth from receiving gender affirming care.


LIZZO, SINGER: You are valid. You deserve to be here in every form. You contain multitudes. These laws are not real. You are what's real. And you deserve to be protected.


KING: Thanks for your time today. I hope to see you tomorrow.

CNN News Central starts right now.