Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Says He Expects Indictment In Jan. 6 Probe; Ex-Trump Atty: "Deprivation Of Civil Rights" Charge Would Be "Novel"; Lawyer: Trump Would Face "Worst July Pool" In D.C. Trail; Ex-Trump Atty: Trump's Intent May Hinge On Timeline; Trump's Rivals Struggle To Respond To Target Letter; DeSantis: Don't "Criminalize" Political Difference; Key GOP Lawmakers Rush To Trump's Defense; Top GOP Senator: "Distractions" Surrounding Trump. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired July 19, 2023 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MANU RAJU, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Today on Inside Politics, Donald Trump screams persecution as federal prosecutors ready a January 6 indictment. What do we know about the potential charges? And what questions do we still need to answer?
Plus, if not now, when? Former president's 2024 rivals shrink from a chance to criticize the frontrunner. In minutes, I don't ask one, Doug Burgum. If he plans to tell Mr. Trump, enough is enough. And new CNN reporting on a plan to get Donald Trump to go along and not intervene in the Republican plot to retake the Senate majority.
I'm Manu Raju in for Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at Inside Politics.
Up first, what we know about what we have not seen, a grand jury may return to Trump indictment as soon as this week. The former president expects it after you receive a target letter. And that letter is still not in the public record. The reports have laid out what some of in that history setting document, and that could include three potential charges that threaten to imprison the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.
Now in his first interview, since receiving the target letter, Mr. Trump took particular offense at the manner and method employed by the special counsel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: No, it bothers me. It bothers me for everybody in this incredible sold-out audience and it bothers you. I got the letter on Sunday night. Think of it. I don't think they've ever sent a letter on Sunday night. And they're in a rush because they want to interference with the election. It's election interference never been done like this in the history of our country and it's a disgrace.
(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: Now we start in Washington with CNN senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez. So, Evan, walk us through what is in these potential charges and how the Trump team plans to respond?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't know yet whether they're even going to respond to the special counsel. They have until tomorrow. The former president has until tomorrow to say that he wants to come to the grand jury, present evidence if he wants to, and perhaps try to find a way to avoid what seems to be destined, which is that they are going to bring charges. That was the warning that he received in that letter on Sunday.
The former president was told in that letter, the Wall Street Journal's reporting and other news outlets are reporting that they include a conspiracy count, they include a deprivation of civil rights count as well as a tampering count.
Again, we haven't seen the target letter. We haven't actually seen what the documents will be when and if this indictment is broad, it'll probably be a lot more detailed. There are parts of the statutes that may be more specified when such charges are laid out.
But what we know, Manu, is that the clock is ticking beginning tomorrow. We expect that the special counsel could, could bring an indictment as soon as tomorrow. They could ask the grand jury to vote on an indictment. We know of two witnesses, two Trump aides who are coming in to provide testimony to the grand jury, but those are expected to be very brief appearances.
And so, the grand jury could end up voting on an indictment. And then, of course, the grand -- the special counsel would notify the former president that he has been indicted. And then of course, he's free to go public, and say, what he has learned as he did when the Mar-a-Lago indictment came down. Manu?
RAJU: Yes. I think we can probably bet on Trump making that announcement as assuming it does happen as soon as tomorrow history, history in the making. Evan Perez, thank you. And now here to share their legal insights, former federal prosecutors Elie Honig and Shan Wu, and CNN's Katelyn Polantz.
Elie, I'm going to start with you to get the sense of really what it, Evan laid out here, with the three charges that are reportedly being considered how serious are they? And how big of a hurdle will it be for the Justice Department to prove the case?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the very serious charges, Manu. And I think one thing that we learn when we look at this list of charges, is Jack Smith, A, is taking a very broad view of the conduct here. He's charging this as an overarching conspiracy to defraud the United States and to deprive probably the voters. I think, is the safe presumption of their civil rights to cast their votes.
And in order to make that case, he's going to have to cast a very wide day. And look at this as a whole scheme from the pressure on the state legislators. The fake electors' scheme, the pressure on Mike Pence, all the way up until January 6. The other thing that I think is important to note.
The third charge that we're saying is listed in the target letter. Witness retaliation, we need to be careful there because there is a broad federal statute that yes, one subsection covers witness retaliation, but another covers obstruction of justice, obstruction of an official proceeding more broadly. So, we don't know which one of those it is. But Manu, this tells me that Jack Smith is looking at this broadly and aggressively.
RAJU: Yes. And one of the charges that has gotten a lot of -- got a lot of attention, but the deprivation of civil rights charge. The former Trump attorney, Tim Parlatore just was recently dismissed from being part of Trump's legal team, discussed it this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: The deprivation of civil rights charge, that does seem to be something that they're going to try and apply in a novel fashion, which is not something you would generally want to do in such a politically charged case. They potentially open it up to where he can get discovery, and look into just about everything, all of the claims of election fraud that they raise back then, can all be relitigated here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Shan, what do you think about that deprivation of civil rights?
SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. That's an interesting charge. I think we have to caution ourselves that on reports we've had of the target letter. It's not that clear yet exactly how the charges are going to narrow down. The deprivation of rights, I mean, it could be in a deprivation of all the U.S. voters rights were being interfered with. Or it could be as narrow as his interference with Pence's duties, or these fake electors, the actual electors, their rights were being interfered with.
So, it's a little bit clearer. I'm not sure I agree with Tim's comments about how this would open up everything for real litigation. I think a judge can easily control that, but really depends on what they're focusing on in those charges.
RAJU: And it can be more than those three charges.
RAJU: Yes. And one of the things that we're hearing from people who sympathize with the former president is the impact of this being prosecuted in the District of Columbia, assuming this prosecution and this indictment actually come to light in the coming days. Of course, we don't know exactly what's going to happen here.
But this is what Jonathan Turley. He is a conservative lawyer, someone who has argued in Trump's defense and a lot of occasions. He says Trump would face what it is for him, arguably the worst jury pool in the country. Trump lost the 2020 presidential vote in the District of Columbia, receiving a mere 5.4 percent of the vote. That means finding a Trump supporter in the district's jury pool is only slightly more than finding a snow leopard.
So how do you think this impacts the Trump legal team strategy here?
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Manu. There's always going to be politics that the Trump legal team wants to inject into whatever proceedings would come. And you know, juries when they're selected, they control for that. They find ways to make sure that people are coming, understanding that they have a civic duty to do.
But I have been sitting in on several of the January 6 trials against rioters that largely the Justice Department has won almost without fail. And in those cases, there are jurors that are so deeply affected by January 6 people who worked on Capitol Hill, people who saw the violence in a way that was up close because it disrupted their daily commute.
It was they couldn't walk in parts of the city without seeing people with guns and armor and fencing, really affecting the city. But those people often are not the people on the juries. And there are people that really don't even follow the news that much, who can be seated on these juries. And so, the special counsel's office, they're going to have to argue that they can do this in a way, they're already arguing in in Florida. I imagine they do it again.
WU: Yes. And actually, that's such a good point about the effect of the violence in the area. I mean, for me, if I was a defense counsel, that's a bigger issue than the politics because people have been affected by violence, they're really going to care about who is behind that.
POLANTZ: And the flip side of it is that that is the jury pool that should be weighing this sort of chart.
RAJU: And let's get right back into the legal side of it. But there is some new reporting right now from CNN's Kristen Holmes in New Jersey. Kristen, you've been talking to Trump lawyers and advisors all morning. How did they feel about the case?
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It was a long drive from D.C. to Bedminster, but I did fill it with those phone conversations. And people I'm talking to have really started wondering and having these conversations again, these are Trump advisors and Trump lawyers. As to whether or not there is some evidence or some additional witnesses that they didn't know about it.
Essentially, many of them are scratching their heads over these potential charges because of the fact that the laid out in that letter, it appeared that Jack Smith was actually going to prosecute a bigger case against Donald Trump than what they had previously thought. Now, the other part of this is whether or not a witness or additional evidence that they weren't keeping track of is going to be used to bolster this case. The thing we keep in mind here is that many of these witnesses, who have appeared in the January 6 investigation were represented by lawyers who were paid for by Donald Trump's orbit.
They have kept a very close eye on this investigation, which is why they did not believe this case was going to be as big as it seems to be laid out in that target letter. And as you said, we have not seen the target letter, so we are going off their word right now.
But this is a completely different reaction from when I saw -- when I talked to them after that indictment, after that target letter in the Mar-a-Lago documents case. It just, that seemed to be more laid out to them. They seem to be expecting that, anticipating that. Now they are wondering if there is something there that they potentially miss that is leading to this case.
RAJU: It'll be interesting to see what the political responses and how that's different than the legal response. Thanks for that new reporting, Kristen Holmes. Turning back to our panel. Now, Elie Honig, you heard that the how the Trump legal team has been grappling with this. What do you make of their assessment of this case?
HONIG: Oh, I think they're certainly right. If they're expecting there to be more, I promise you, there will be more. It's always a safe bet. Prosecutors always know more than any of us in the public or the media know. For example, there could well be witnesses that we've not yet heard of that have spoken with special counsel.
But even if you look at the witnesses who we do know have spoken with the special counsel, we don't know exactly what they've said. We don't know exactly what Mike Pence said about his one-on-one conversations with Donald Trump. We don't know specifically what Mark Meadows said. And those are probably the two most important witnesses.
So, if and when we see an indictment, we may get a sense of that. And that will come out in the coming weeks. But safe to say, Donald Trump's team is right to be worried, and safe to say Donald Trump's team is right to expect that there's more there that they don't know yet, either.
RAJU: It'll be interesting to see how they make this case in court. What they say in court? We did mentioned Tim Parlatore. He's got some insight into this because he has been part of the legal team for some time until recently. This is how he said about how he was discussing. This could hinge on the timeline in Trump's mindset.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PARLATORE: On January 5, did he believe at that point that he had lost the election? Or did he believe at that point that that there was fraud? To some of the witnesses I've spoken to, it certainly struck them as this was more of a scope of work within a short time period than a directive of, you know, you must find this many votes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: And but one thing we heard from the January 6 select committee is that Donald Trump was told repeatedly over and over again that he lost the election.
WU: Yes, absolutely. I don't think it's going to be super tough to show his state of mind here on that. I think, I have to say I personally find it very puzzling that the Trump team is saying they're blindsided by this legal team, that they're blindsided by this, and they don't understand where this has come from. I mean, I think it's quite obvious what the evidence is.
To the extent that Smith's target letter is narrow or broad, it's kind of meaningless. It's just telling them that he is in jeopardy. This is the general area of it. And we're really not going to know the specifics until we actually see the indictment.
RAJU: Katelyn, do you think that they're going to be able to try to wrap this up before the election? As we've seen in the classified documents case, they've tried to get this done in December, or at least begin the trial. That doesn't seem the judge will allow it in that case. This is a much more complicated case. If it comes together, how quickly could it get to trial?
POLANTZ: Gosh, that's going to be the question from now until the -- until it actually goes, until the day the trial starts. I mean, in this court, in this federal court in D.C., if that's where this case is charged. They do typically take a full year to get a case to trial.
Even more simplistic cases, Steve Bannon, I think was one year in full on the contempt of Congress charge pretty straightforward. He didn't turn over documents. He didn't show up. That's it. So, this is very likely a case that would be more robust than that. And there are legal issues.
Now the one thing that works on the prosecutor side here is, there aren't a lot of opportunities that if Trump loses along the way for him to go to an appeals court and trigger a situation where everything is stopped, and waiting for an appeals court, that tends to drag things out really long.
That really is not what would happen in most criminal cases. It could arise you never know how things will play out. But I would imagine the special counsel's office is going to want to do this as fast and as distinctly as possible.
RAJU: And Trump we want to try to push it as long and long as possible, just a huge, huge potential gays, major political ramifications panel. Thank you. Up ahead for us. How many ways can you not answer the same question? Republicans running for president, Bobi Wine around Trump target letter questions. That's next.
RAJU: It's all about that base. Donald Trump's leading Republican rivals are struggling to respond to the frontrunner's latest legal woes. A GOP strategist and Trump's former deputy campaign manager tells the New York Times, it's hard to see how another Republican breaks out, when primary voters are rallying around their most recent president in any challenges have to hold their fire.
Take Governor Ron DeSantis, who more than held his fire in a rare interview with CNN's Jake Tapper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Are you saying that if he finds evidence of criminality, he should not charge Donald Trump anyway?
GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What I'm saying is, when you're going after somebody on the other side of the political spectrum, if you're stretching statutes, to try to criminalize maybe political disagreements, that is wrong.
Now, look, this is all speculation. But I think we've gone down the road in this country of trying to criminalize differences in politics, rather than saying, OK, you don't like somebody, then defeat them in the election, rather than trying to use the justice system.
So, we don't know what's going to happen. But I can tell you with the Bragg one that was stretching criminal law, the evidence of criminality was very weak. And even if that existed, other people would not have been charged under those circumstances. That's the problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: I'm here to share their insights, Jackie Kucinich to The Boston Globe, Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times, and The Washington Post Leigh Ann Caldwell. Guys great to see you. Guys thanks for being here.
Let's the candidates have sort of gotten used to this by now. We've had two indictments. We may get a third indictment. We've seen this familiar reaction and Republican presidential candidates largely sidestepping this issue or defending Trump?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VIVEK RAMASWAMY, (R) PRESENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do not want to see my opponents eliminated because of the actions of a corrupt federal administrative police state.
MIKE PENCE, (R) PRESENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have an election contest coming up. We're all involved in a primary. I trust the American people to judge that.
SEN. TIM SCOTT, (R-SC): That day the DOJ continues to try to find a way to weaponize its powers.
NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESENTIAL CANDIDATE: The rest of this primary election is going to be in reference to Trump, it's going to be about lawsuits. We can't keep dealing with this drama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: And make of the fact that all these allegations, very serious allegations are coming forward. We've not seen a criminal indictment before of any former president. This is happening time and time again. Yet these rivals refuse to use that for to their political advantage. It would seem to be a layup for a lot of them.
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, right now, what they're worried about is Trump's fans rallying to him, and that's who they're trying to pick off. That's who they want to vote for them. Because you look at the likes of Asa Hutchinson, who actually did condemn him.
Then there's, you know, it's tumbleweeds at some of his events, he's really not creating any kind of buzz or any sort of popularity with that stance, whether or not, you know, it's the right direction. But in terms of the public and base, they're not having it.
RAU: Yes. The fear, it seems for many of the GOP candidates is that these different federal -- these different indictments or potential indictments against Trump are not just an attack on him, but an attack on the base as well. Or that the base will perceive it on as an attack on them, as well, but it's fascinating here.
I mean, when you think of something as extraordinary, as a former president getting indicted or even a target letter and a potential indictment, you would think that that would be a means, especially for his political opponents and a primary to attack him.
Instead, in our current state of politics, it's become a means to attack the Justice Department, or it's become a means to attack a New York prosecutor as well. And in them doing that also, let's be clear, is a political maneuver to try and galvanize that same base, that Trump without a doubt, still has a grip.
RAJU: Look, the question is, does that work? And I want to remind the viewers, we don't know what are in this potential indictment. We have not seen the evidence, no one has, but still, there's that rush to defense. And that's happened on Capitol Hill as well.
We already have a Congressman Matt Gaetz, who plans to introduce legislation. In fact, he just did, to defund Jack Smith's witch hunt, as he calls it. And other Republican lawmakers who allied, that are aligned with Donald Trump rushing to defend him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R-SC): I don't think there's any way in hell that Trump would get a fair trial in Washington, D.C.
J. D. VANCE, (R-OH): It's further evidence that we have a politicized department justice.
REP. CHIP ROY, (R-TX): The American people want to move forward and they're trying to go backwards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: In the last conversation, Chip Roy who backs Ron DeSantis, but also defending Donald Trump. That's been the -- we've seen this happen time and again. The House Republicans try may try to use their power to try to muddy the waters on this investigation.
LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. First on the presidential candidates. I do want to say that no one's going to out Trump. So, the fact that they are trying to defend or at least not completely attack Trump over this issue is just, you know, we'll see if it works. As far as on Capitol Hill is concerned, Manu, we spend a lot of time up there.
We could have predicted exactly what every single Republican lawmaker was going to say before this latest news came out and they have made a decision of where they stand, they are not going to back away from that part of their entire posture is talking about a weaponization of the federal government and the Department of Justice is central to that. And so, they're putting this cross in the ground and die by with (crosstalk).
RAJU: Right. And look, it's been familiar with Kevin McCarthy rushes to Donald Trump's defense. Mitch McConnell has not said anything about it. He hasn't said anything. But the last two indictments, we'll see what he says to me, he talks to reporters this afternoon.
But in the Trump critics in the Senate GOP have made clear about their positions are what their as well. This is what Mitt Romney told me yesterday. I asked him about this, so called two-tiered justice system that Republicans continue to rely on. That's what he said, he said, I know that we do our best to try and fire up our base. But the reality is that President Trump did a number of terrible things On January 6.
So, I think Mitch McConnell said that the legal system would love to look into it. That's the way our system works. And when I asked the number two Senate Republican John Thune about his concerns, about nominating someone with this many legal problems, he made clear, he does have those concerns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Does it worry you about nominating someone with this many legal problems?
SEN. JOHN THUNE, (R-SD): Well, I mean, I think it's just -- it's part of the distractions that are always going to be surrounding the former president. And people have to make their own judgments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: There are concerns, but those people are generally in the minority within the republican conference,
KRISTEN HOLMES, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: Or they won't speak out about it. But I do want to mention one thing about that DeSantis interview. He kept on going back to the New York indictment. He wouldn't respond to. He didn't talk about what could be coming. He really did sort of leave himself a little bit of wiggle room that should something else come down the pike, you know, we'll see what he says. But he didn't close the door completely on the other things that we that may or may not be coming down the pike?
RAJU: Yes. And we're going to see what that another Republican hopeful says to us, next? That's coming up, presidential hopeful. North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum joins us live. What does he make of a possible third Trump indictment? And will he make enough -- will he qualified for that debate stage next month? We're going to ask him, next.