Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Trump Aide Walt Nauta Indicted In Docs Case; Trump Facing 7 Counts In Classified Docs Probe; Trump Shakes Up Legal Team In Docs Case; Exclusive: CNN Obtains Transcript Of Trump On Tape Saying He Didn't Declassify "Secret Information"; Trump Indictment Crashes Into 2024 Campaign; Pence: Garland Should Unseal Indictment Today, Let The American People Judge For Themselves. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 09, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing a simply wow breaking news day with us. Legal and political history, Donald Trump indicted. The former president calls it another hoax. And there are a host of new details coming in this morning. Another indictment for a Trump aide, a change in the former president's legal team and details about the Trump appointed judge who will oversee this case.

Plus, an admission on tape that is part of the classified documents case. CNN learns Trump acknowledged in a 2021 meeting. He had secret information, and he did not classify it -- declassified it before taking it from the White House. And the political fallout. One Republican rival calls for Trump to get out of the race, another promises to pardon him. Trump allies including the speaker of the House, called baseless and bias and indictment they have not seen or read.

We begin with new details of a chapter in our history that has an unprecedented beginning and a to be determined in. Donald Trump is under federal indictment over his handling or mishandling of classified documents. There are several brand-new pieces of information just coming into CNN in the last hour, including the last few minutes.

First, one of Trump's aides has also been indicted. According to a source familiar with the matter. His name is Walt Nauta, and he was the president's body man. Just moments ago, we learned from a Donald Trump post. He's making a change to his legal team. Two of Trump lawyers issued their own statement saying, they have resigned.

And also new this hour, we understand the judge overseeing the case. You see her right there as a Trump appointee, federal district judge Aileen Cannon. You might recall, she handled the Trump challenge to the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago and her pro Trump ruling was overturned by a conservative appeals court that said she ignored basic law.

Plus, some brand-new CNN reporting on a critical building block in the government's case. CNN now has the transcript of a meeting in which Trump acknowledges on tape. He kept secret military information. In his own words, "as president, I could have declassified, but now I can't."

With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Evan Perez, CNN's Paula Reid, former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams, and former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers. Just wow, new developments keep coming in.

Evan let's start with, we knew last night, we learned last night from the former president himself. Donald Trump is now under indictment. We were told there was a conspiracy count. Takes two to have a conspiracy we now know more. Tell us?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And Walt Nauta is the person who has been now -- who's now been indicted as part of this case down in Miami. We do not know the specifics of the charges. Everything is still under seal in that federal court in Miami. But Walt Nauta has played a sort of an outsized role for somebody who, you know, frankly, was not a well-known name in Trump circles.

We know a lot of the names of people around the former president. He was his body man. He was somebody who, in the White House was in- charge of bringing him his diet cokes, you know, for instance. And, but after the former president left office, he moved down to Mar-a- Lago to help -- to again to work for the former president.

And crucially, he was involved in moving some of those boxes allegedly, and prosecutors have long suspected that he was essentially part of this conspiracy, is something we've heard, certainly from witnesses that were being asked to who were being talked to in the -- as part of this investigation.

Some of the witnesses who appeared before the grand jury that they believed that Walt Nauta was involved in perhaps the former president's obstruction activities. And so, again, we do not have the specifics of the charges, but that perhaps explains why Walt Nauta is facing those charges, based again, on some of the testimony we've heard.

KING: All right. Let's go through each of these new developments, and then get some smart legal analysis from our pros here with us. Jennifer Rodgers to you first on this. Again, Walt Nauta was a witness for the grand jury. Evan just laid out that we know from testimony he was involved in moving some of the boxes.


If you're trying to prove that the former president United States misappropriated, mishandled classified documents then tried to obstruct the effort to get them back into government. Why is it important that somebody who's at his side all the time, who has eyes and ears on Donald Trump is a coconspirator allegedly?

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, they appear to be trying to make him into a cooperator in addition to a coconspirator, John. I mean, there was reporting that they were leaning on Walt Nauta to try to get him to cooperate. He apparently didn't. So now, that he's been charged, maybe he'll change his tune and agree to cooperate.

You know, someone who was around the president all the time, who moved the boxes and who prosecutors are alleging knew what was in there and they had a criminal meeting of the minds. That's what a conspiracy charge alleges that he knew he participated with the object of that agreement being to hide and mishandle these documents. And so, he now has been charged. I think prosecutors hope that he will now flip and get on team USA to have to ultimately testify against the former president.

KING: Another big development again, they keep coming in and they are wow after wow. Joint statement here from Jim Trusty and John Rowley, two of the former president's attorneys up to now. Jim Trusty was on our air last night. We were sitting here, and he was defending Donald Trump the way Donald Trump wants to be defended, saying he was a witch hunt, saying he was bias, saying he would prove itself.

Today he issued a statement along with his colleagues saying, we tended our resignations. What's that play here?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, if you watch Kaitlan's interview with Trusty last night, at one point she asked who would be representing the former president down in Florida. Part of that is a question of well, who has the experience and the license. But you could tell in Trusty's body language, he kind of shrugged and said something to the fact that well, we'll see about that.

Now, I've heard from sources that following the news of the indictment, that trustee had expressed frustration. He was scheduled to talk with the former president this morning about his future on the legal team. There is some frustration behind the scenes about meddling. I've talked specifically about Boris Epshteyn and others behind the scenes. Todd Blanche, who is apparently going to be leading this case. He is also someone who represents Boris Epshteyn.

So, Boris is one of Trump's top advisors. There have been other lawyers who have complained about his "meddling" in the legal team. But he plays a key role in assembling the teams that represent the former president in various different cases.

KING: He is very combative, but the former president trusts him, which is the issue here. Elliot Williams again, for the legal analysis. Tell me if you think this piece of this is wrong. Number one, Donald Trump, like any defendant deserves a good legal team. Number one, Donald Trump's new legal team, I guess or new additions to the legal team deserve the time to go through what is a very complicated case? We haven't even seen the indictment yet.

But we know it's complicated. We know there's weeks, if not months of discovery. Is part of this, is this to get lawyers who are in the Florida bar who can walk into that courthouse without having to file any papers? Or could part of this be, I need more time. Let's delay this. And guess what, it runs until after the November 2024 election? ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It could be all the above, John. You know, the most important thing to recognize here is set aside the fact that he's the former president of the United States or the politics. These are simply complicated charges. It's based on the ones that we've heard about in bodies of law that number one aren't litigated that often. And number two, aren't litigated in the context of high elected officials or foreign presidents of the United States.

You really need not just people who are admitted in the Southern District of Florida to practice, but you need people who really understand some of the minutiae of how documents are classified and declassified how the branches of government interact. How the National Archives and Records Administration takes custody of documents at 12:01pm on inauguration day and on down.

And these are the matters, setting aside the factual questions of whether Donald Trump committed these offenses. These are legal questions that are going to have to be resolved, many of them in advance of trial, and you just need experts, not people that are your buddies to try the case. And so, you know, I just think it's important that they get a good team on board, it's not clear that they do.

KING: We will not be able to have a fully contextual conversation about this until we see the indictment, right? That's when we start from there. What have they charged? How much did they say in the indictment? You can make it that's in and of itself as a strategic choice. You can issue an indictment that just lays out the basic, so we can have a so-called speaking indictment that gives you a lot more evidence. We don't know the answer that question.

But your reporting has now brought into CNN's position, a critical piece of critical building block. Part of it is to Donald Trump know that what he had. He was not supposed to have what he had. One piece of it we play at the top of the show is in this -- it's an audio tape and we have a transcript of it. As president, I could have declassified, but now I can't. That is knowledge. Tell us more?

REID: That's exactly right. Well, as evidence -- -

KING: And you see this piece on the screen there. If that's (crosstalk), put it back up the screen for purposes.

REID: As evidence as reported multiple times because the Justice Department is not unsealed this indictment. We are relying on good reporting like this to really understand what's at play here. So, in this audio recording, which we reported on last week, the former president is in a meeting at his Bedminster golf club in attendance are two of his aides and two people working on an autobiography of former White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows.

That's significant because when he says the things, I'm about to read. He knows he's being recorded. He's very frustrated at this time with an article that just came out about General Mark Milley, saying that Trump wanted to attack Iran. And he says, in part, he says "he said that I wanted to attack Iran." Isn't that amazing?


I have a big pile of papers. This thing just came up. Look, this was him. They presented me this. This is all off the record, but they presented me this. He goes on to say, all sorts of stuff, pages. Look, wait a minute. Let's see here. I just found, isn't this amazing? This totally wins my case, except it's like highly classified secret. This is secret information.

Look, look at this and then acknowledges that he doesn't have the power to declassify it. But here he's telling people at a golf club in New Jersey about six months after he left office, that he has secret or highly confidential information. This is incredibly damning because it undercuts all of the public defenses he has put forward.

KING: And so again, back to legal experts. Jennifer Rodgers to you on this one. If you look at Donald Trump's statements about this. I'm going to talk about those later when we get into the politics of the case. But he's blaming everybody else. He says, this is Joe Biden. This is the FBI. This is his critics.

What is the power of a case where you have grand jury testimony by people who worked with Donald Trump, whether in the White House at Mar-a-Lago, or Donald Trump's own words, you hear his voice, saying he knows he has something he's not supposed to have?

RODGERS: Yes. Prosecutors love recordings. I mean, that's like gold. You know, it's one thing to have witnesses who testify about what defendant did, obviously, you need that too, you need to prove every element of every count of your case.

But to have the defendant, in his own words, in his own voice, say the things that you're trying to prove. And in the, you know, in the same vein knocked down all of the defenses that he's been trying to throw up there. I mean, it is absolutely gold.

They certainly will use that recording, front and center is much stronger now that we're hearing some of the transcription of it than it had been reported previously, before I thought, oh, that's good to have. But who knows when it comes out what it will be? It's very, very strong if this transcription is correct. They will certainly be relying on this heavily.

KING: And Paula, I would just want to continue on this. How much do we know obviously, it's Trump, in his own words, about sort of how they view it as a building block of state of mind. Because it not only possession of the documents, but knowledge he's not supposed to have them.

REID: So, we know that witnesses have been asked about this tape before the grand jury, in fact, his own lawyers only found out about it a few months ago, which they found out after witness was asked about it. And then they were asked to provide any recordings that they have. But prosecutors clearly view this as a very significant piece of evidence. Even the former president's legal team, when we first broke this news last week, they said, yes, this is a problem. But John, one of the things that's so interesting about this transcript is in one breath, right? He's arguing about plans to invade Iran. He's seeming to acknowledge this is highly confidential, secret information. But at the very end of the tape, he just calls off to someone in the distance, and says, like, hey, can we get some cokes in here? He clearly doesn't have any concerns, any reservations about how sensitive this conversation is.

PEREZ: And I think when this gets to trial, that's part of what prosecutors were are going to argue. When the Trump team says, when the Trump legal team comes back and tries to minimize the import of what the president -- the former president was possessing. What they can -- what prosecutors can say is, look, this is Iran, one of the United States most serious national security threats.

The former president is being cavalier. He's being -- he's putting stuff at risk to people who don't have the clearance to see this stuff. And this is how he behaves with classified information when he is no longer president. And so, that's part of what the hurdle former prosecutors will be to try to convince a jury in southern Florida that the former president is guilty of doing these things.

KING: All right. We're going to end this conversation for now here. But much more on the legal issues ahead, including when will we see the indictment and what about the judge overseeing the case. But next, the immediate political fallout. Defendant Donald Trump is also Republican front runner Donald Trump. And reaction from 2024 rivals ranges from please quit the race, you don't worry, I'll pardon you.




KING: We don't know the long-term political impact here. Republicans in the states that come early on the GOP nominating calendar are just like reporters frenetically sharing texts and emails and phone calls, trying to sort out how the indictment of Donald Trump impacts the 2024 race.

A few areas of mourning after consensus. This helps Trump in the short-term because his base is fiercely loyal, and even Republicans who might think it is time to move on. Listen, when he says the FBI is out to get him. Those who don't support Trump are worrying even more today that a crowded field only helps the former president.

Yet, get this activist in Iowa and New Hampshire report phone calls today and late last night from allies of Republicans who decided not to run, asking if maybe, just maybe there's an opening here. So, a lot of uncertainty to say the least, but not for Trump. He has a playbook for these moments, play victim and raise money.

This from a fundraising email last night, no matter how viciously they attacked me. I will never ever surrender our country to the radical left. And I will never end this presidential campaign that puts you first. With your support, we will once again surge even higher and prove that our America first movement is truly unstoppable.

With me to share their reporting and their insights, Astead Herndon of The New York Times, CNN's Dana Bash, and Seung Min Kim of the Associated Press. His playbook is a predictable playbook. And he knows how to use it and whether people watching agree with him, disagree with him, like him or dislike him. He can raise money and the grievances they're out to get me does rally his base without a doubt.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Without a doubt, which is why you are seeing some caution in some respects. When you look at his competitors for 2024 and others like his biggest competitor just completely going all in with weaponization and playing to the same kind of people, who would and do support Donald Trump.


It's very -- they're very few I think maybe Asa Hutchinson is the only one who has gone full, this guy should not be president of the United States. And it does speak to how what you're hearing and how absolutely interested the base is in in getting riled up about the FBI and about these investigations.

KING: And so, the nine other candidates in the race with Donald Trump have to make a choice. The terrain may change once we read the indictment, once we see the charges as they can go forward. But they have to make a choice today because they're doing events in the states. So, you mentioned Asa Hutchinson, former governor of Arkansas, a major distraction need for Donald Trump to end his campaign. It's not going to happen.

Chris Christie, let's see what the facts are. Governor DeSantis says, his administration would bring accountability to the DOJ. Senator Tim Scott, I would purge all the injustices and impurities in our system. Vivek Ramaswamy going as far to say, I commit to pardon Trump. So, most of them, most of them if not defending Trump, or at least playing to the grievances the Republican base has with the FBI, the so-called deep state, et cetera.

ASTEAD HERNDON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, absolutely. For any of the serious candidates in this race, the ones who are kind of leading the pack, there is a understanding that the baseline of what you have to do for the Republican electorate is talk about the weaponization of the federal government.

And that's not just because of what's happened to Donald Trump and these indictments. That's because it's been building over years from the first impeachment while he was in office, throughout the Trump administration, through January 6, there has been a continued narrative of victimhood that has come from this -- come from this party to say that any attack against Donald Trump credible or not, factual or not, is a proxy for the attack against the Republican base.

And there is not enough voters that are anti Trump and still Republican for really an Asa Hutchinson in the lane that's been really explicit about these charges to be able to do that alone. That's why you're seeing those candidates really start at the baseline of defending Trump, because they simply know that's where the voter in the electorate base is.

The question will be does that shift as this goes along? Someone I talked to today said, the facts might actually be the problem here. Maybe not necessarily that he committed a crime, but that he looks cavalier to things like national security. They can maybe use those things in the debate moment to attack Donald Trump. But the indictment itself is not really threatening to really shift voters. And based on the information we know so far.

KING: And so again, each of these candidates and their team have to think what do we want to say, or do we want to say anything? How do we say it? In our townhall the other night, you had Mike Pence on the stage with you in Iowa. Before the indictment, he said he thought it'd be a mistake for the Justice Department do that right now. He said it would be divided the country. It'd be too distracting.

Listen to Mike Pence, the former vice president, now candidate for president on Hugh Hewitt this morning.


MIKE PENCE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (voiceover): Today, the attorney general the United States should be standing in front of the American people, should unseal this indictment to provide the American people with all the facts and information here. And the American people be able to judge for themselves whether this is just the latest incident of weaponization and politicization at the Justice Department or it's something different.


KING: So, he changed. He shifted to try to get to a more of a middle place that, you know, be transparent, let us see what the charges are. But the no one's above the law part is different than the, you know, it would be a mistake,

Seung Min Kim: Right, right. So, if you want to rank these people on a spectrum, you have the DeSantis and the Ramaswamy on the world. On one end, the Asa Hutchinson is a little -- and the Chris Christie's world the other end, and then obviously you have Mike Pence, who elsewhere in the interview did say he was quote, deeply troubled by the news of the statement, but again stressed that no one is above the law.

Now you have Mike Pence in a tricky situation here. He has been willing to criticize Donald Trump on a separate matter on January 6. So, you do see how he's trying to really carefully play both sides or like deal with these issues on both sides. But the other thing that he pointed out in that anecdote, or in that clip there, is the fact that we just don't have the information yet.

And I think what we have been talking about all morning, what I have heard several times is that because the Justice Department has yet to unseal this indictment, we're not working off actual facts, the legal facts of the indictment here, so we don't know. That's why Chris Christie has said he is holding off and there is a vacuum of information here that Trump himself is filled. BASH: I do think Mike Pence is Exhibit A of how tricky it is for candidates, even those who really, really are deciding that they're going to stick their entire candidacy on standing oppose Donald Trump when it comes to defending the constitution. That was Mike Pence's entire announcement speech. And that's his whole campaign.

But then when you get to the specifics, as you said, the other night in our townhall, he said, you should be very careful about indicting a former president. Even the next day, he said, he kind of shifted it a bit, saying, well, there should just be a high threshold. And then today, he's going even further. It is very, very tricky terrain for all of these especially. Well, people who are trying to get the Trump base.


KING: And is it fantasy for people making phone calls, you know, whether your friends of the current governor of Virginia. Some of the Republicans decided, no, I'm not going to do it. Is it fantasy to be poking around or smart politics say, what do you think, is it any different today than yesterday? Do we know the answer that question?

HERNDON: We don't really, I mean I think that there is a real true plurality of Republicans who are looking for other options that aren't Donald Trump. You see why those phone calls are being made. There is money. There is donor energy around that. There is just not ability for those people to cobble above the floor that he has. He has this 35 percent. They're not going to be moved from this and it's unclear anyone else can exceed after that.

KING: And his number went up after the New York, Manhattan indictment. We'll see what happens when we get a week or so when we see the numbers after this one. Up next for us though, the Biden challenge. He wants to run against Trump. And his political team think, the indictment adds only more baggage, but silence is the immediate strategy.