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Inside Politics

Trump Hours Away From His 3rd Arrest In 4 Months; Today: Trump To Be Arraigned For Actions After 2020 Election; Soon: Trump Leaves NJ, Heads To D.C. For Arraignment; D.C. Preps For Trump's Return As Criminal Defendant; Bill Barr: I Believe Trump "Knew He Lost" In 2020. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 03, 2023 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: A historic day here in Washington. The former president and current GOP frontrunner will be arraigned for allegedly orchestrating a plot to overturn the free and fair election that he lost. For keeping watch as Donald Trump gets ready to leave his golf club in New Jersey to board his private jet and make his way to a federal courthouse, just steps away from where democracy was under siege during the January 6 insurrection. Hundreds of pro Trump rioters already faced justice inside that very same courthouse.

And that's where we begin this hour with CNN's Paula Reid and Evan Perez. Evan, what can we expect to unfold in that courthouse out of the public's view?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, once the former president gets into Washington, he'll be brought into the federal courthouse. We're probably not going to see much of him before he finally gets into the courthouse. He'll be processed by the U.S. marshals as they do with everyone who is arraigned here in the federal courthouse, he'll be under arrest.

And then he'll be brought into the courtroom at around four o'clock. We expect that the magistrate judge is going to read him. The four counts, the four charges that the former president faces. And we expect also that he'll be given a chance to enter a plea. This is also likely to be an arraignment. And so, we anticipate that the former president is going to plead not guilty.

And then the hearing will probably be over very, very quickly. This is something that this courthouse has been doing a lot as you pointed out, several hundred rioters from the January 6 riot have gone through a -- have face prosecution in this courthouse.

But in fact, today it's business as usual for the courthouse. We know there was a sentencing earlier today for a January 6 rioter, a member of the Proud Boys. And the judge who is overseeing that brought up the former president's appearance later this afternoon.

Hannah Rabinowitz says that he made mention of it. Said, it's not going to affect how he sentences that prisoner. We expect that there's a number of other sentencings that are going to be taking place today. This courthouse as you know, Dana, is very secure. It's very used to a lot of major events like this, including terrorism trials. So, we expect that this should go very smoothly.

BASH: So interesting, Evan, that there are people who were inside the Capitol, having their trials and having their days in court on the same day that the president is coming into that courthouse, really fascinating.

And I want to go over to you, Paula, because this afternoon, what the president is going to have to answer is several charges, including that he used, "unlawful means to subvert the 2020 election."

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Dana. He faces four felony counts. He is charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstructing an official proceeding, and also deprivation of rights. And those charges are supported by the story that is laid out in the indictment.

Prosecutors allege that he lost the election. It's the third sentence in the indictment. And that he knew he lost the election, but he continued to perpetuate these claims of a stolen election while working with six other people to try to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

And they alleged that he did this through trying to install slates of fake electors, by pressuring the individual states, leveraging the power of the Justice Department, and also by pressuring his own vice president. And they allege that pressure campaign lasted all the way up until January 6, the day that the vice president was to certify the election results.

They alleged that this conduct is lies that he was pushing, and this helped give rise to the violence that we saw on January 6. They also allege to the president's associates continue this pressure campaign, even after the violence unfolded on January 6.

Now, we've seen the broad contours of the defense that his attorneys intend to lay out. They are arguing that this is criminalizing free speech that he had a good faith belief that he had won the election. But Dana, even his own former Attorney General Bill Barr has thrown cold water on these saying, look, you have a free speech right, you can even lie, but you can't then engage in a conspiracy.


And of course, prosecutors saw these allegations that he knew he didn't -- he believed, truly believe that he had won the election. They saw that coming, which is why they use so many examples in the indictment of times where he conceded that he had in fact, lost the election.

BASH: Absolutely fascinating. Thanks to you both. We'll obviously be getting back to you as we see and hear the former president is actually inside that courthouse. And in just moments, Donald Trump will be departing from his golf course, in Bedminster, New Jersey. That's where CNN's Alayna Treene is doing some reporting, talking to Trump's team about what they expect his day to look like.

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Dana. I am in Bedminster right near the former president's golf club. And soon his motorcade will be departing and passing on this road, just near here to head to New York airport, where he will board his private plane and travel to Washington D.C. for his 4 pm court appearance.

Now my colleague Kristen Holmes and I have learned that Donald Trump will be traveling with his senior campaign advisors, people like Susie Wiles, Steven Cheung, Jason Miller, and also some of his attorneys. And that includes Todd Blanche and John Lauro, who were told are also expected to appear with Donald Trump in court this afternoon.

Now, they know what is likely to transpire in court later today. This is the third time in months now that Donald Trump has gone through this type of court appearance. And so, they know what they're walking into.

But, Dana, I also want to just talk to you about Donald Trump's mood heading into the debt. I've spent the last -- spent several days now speaking with Donald Trump's advisors and his aides, and they tell me that he is very concerned about this indictment. He recognizes the seriousness of these charges, but he's also quite frustrated about having to go through all of this yet again.

BASH: Alayna, thank you so much. We appreciate it. We'll be getting back to you as well. And back here in D.C., authorities are preparing for what is likely the highest profile court appearance in the city's history.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is joining us now. Shimon, you are out there looking at the security perhaps talking to law enforcement sources about that. What can you tell us?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. So, I want to kind of, Dana, give our viewers sort of a sense of what's going on outside here at the courthouse. This is Constitution Avenue. This is where all the media has been gathering. So, all down this street, it's just all hundreds and hundreds of media.

And one of the things that I think has been remarkable and being out here this morning, that we're not seeing the number of Trump supporters that we certainly saw at the other two arraignments that I was at. You can see some Trump supporters. This is where some of them have been gathering. They're not here.

And then when you go -- I just also actually, Dana, I want to show you, this is where the Capitol is. So, this is how close we are to the Capitol, of course, the importance of that and all of this is not lost on anyone here.

And then when we go across the street here, I want to show you. This is the street where we believe the former president will be arriving, where he will drive to enter into the courthouse. There's a back entrance, a garage here, and this is where most of the security right now, Dana, is focused because this is where they believe, is where we believe the motorcade will be arriving.

And so, when you look just here up the street, there are snowplows here. They've set up the snowplows for extra security. And there are more barricades here. And then if you look here in the distance here, you'll see that's the entrance into the back.

That's the back of the courthouse. And that is where we believe the former president will go. He will arrive in there and then go inside, and then begin the process of being arraigned. He will be arrested and brought to the courtroom.

BASH: Really interesting to show us all of the preparations, but you know, specifically to show our viewers just how close you are. Just how close that courthouse is to the United States Capitol that everything that is going to go on inside the court today, really did happen right there. So, the location is very telling. Appreciate that Shimon.

And Donald Trump's Attorney General Bill Barr says, the former president knew he lost the election. Why that is key to the special counsel's case against Trump. Stay with us.




BASH: Just a few hours from now, former President Donald Trump will appear in court to be arraigned on federal charges that he tried to overturn the 2020 election. A moment ago, he posted on his Truth Social, "I am now going to Washington D.C. to be arrested for having challenged a corrupt, rigged and stolen election. It is a great honor. It is a great honor because I am being arrested for you. You make America great again."

Well, last night, Trump's former Attorney General Bill Barr weighed in on the case against his ex-boss and he told CNN that he thinks Trump knew the election was not stolen. That's a really important point in the prosecution's case against him.


BILL BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: At first, I wasn't sure, but I have come to believe that he knew well that he had lost the election. And now, what I think is important is the government has assumed the burden of proving that. The government in their indictment takes the position that he had actual knowledge that he had lost the election and the election was in stolen through fraud. And they're going to have to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt.


BASH: Here to share their insights CNN's Laura Coates, CNN's Andrew McCabe, and CNN's Jeff Zeleny. Just the contrast between what the former president is still saying about the election being stolen. And how he's trying to make himself into a living murder and what you hear from the man who was in the job as the top person at the DOJ who looked into this, spent time looking into the evidence around the fraud claims, and the election being stolen claims, and concluded they were not accurate.


LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: This is part of the recipe he knows quite well, right. He's baked this cake now at least three times. And the theme of being the person who is in between justice or the Department of Justice and the rest of the world.

Looking at the proxy argument, he's talking about, why this is so significant to hear from the former attorney general, who, of course, was the highest prosecutor in the land for quite some time. And on his second tour, in that respect, is this notion of even he believed that Donald Trump was aware that he had lost the election.

Why is that important? Because it tries to, on the one hand, put to "cold water" an idea that he's just using political speech, and he can say whatever he wants, it's saying, no. They are alleging as part of a scheme, that based on his knowledge, he knew that what he was saying would be part of a conspiracy to overturn and overthrow the election results.

That's very significant to come from a Torino a bar. It's also one of the people that are really excited as part of a collection of people about what knowledge Trump had. And just for people to realize, you don't have to essentially public to a lie detector test in the courtroom. The jurors aren't saying, can you please give me indication, you know, specifically his mind and his brain activity right now. There's a whole lot of contextual clues and a lot of maybe direct or indirect evidence to prove your case, its intent.

BASH: Its intent. And on that note, another thing that Bill Barr said, our colleague, Kaitlan Collins, really excellent interview with him last night. He poked holes in one of the primary ideas that Trump's defense attorneys are trying to put out there that this is just the first amendment.


BARR: He can say whatever he wants. He can even lie. He can even tell people that that the election was stolen when he knew better. But that does not protect you from entering into a conspiracy. All conspiracies involve speech. And all fraud involves speech. So, your free speech doesn't give you the right to engage in a fraudulent conspiracy.


BASH: Such an important point here.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Hugely important point. And he's right on the law, right. There is nothing to that defense. It sounds great on television. It may sound great to his face, it will not work in court. However, it's so significant that this is coming from Bill Barr, because let's remember who Bill Barr is, right.

Bill Barr is the guy who campaigned for the job of attorney general, basically by laying out of course, a 17-page memo that he would come in and serve as the president's personal defender, which he did. He lied to the American public about the results of the Mueller report. He subverted the Justice Department in an effort to get the president's cronies out of trouble, dismissed the case against Mike Flynn, undermine the sentencing request for Roger Stone.

So, this is a guy who during his term as attorney general, was firmly in line with everything the president wanted him to do. But as the elect -- aftermath of the election, even Bill Barr couldn't countenance the lie that the election had been stolen. So, I think it's an important voice, but it's one that we have to put in context.

BASH: Put in context, that's true. But is that context going to fall on deaf ears, with the Trump voters that you speak with out and about in the country?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think all of this has to be digested. I mean, there is so many cases in so many jurisdictions and venues. But that's why this indictment, and they must all be looked at individually. That's why this one is so different, and so much more consequential. Because many of the witnesses, many of the, you know, the arguments here inside this indictment are from Trump's allies.

And this is something that's much more consequential than the Manhattan indictment in the spring, perhaps even in the classified document. What I mean, this is something that is about larger matters. Will Trump voters view it differently? We'll see. The reality is they view it as it's presented to them.

BASH: Yes.

ZELENY: And the facts are not in agreement across communication, television channels, let's just be honest about that. But I do get a sense, talking to Republican voters who are interested in just being done with the chaos, that this case is different. Is everyone going to suddenly turn away from him? Of course not, that these indictments must be looked at differently. And I think this is of the four potential ones. This is certainly more consequential.


COATES: And by the way, when people say political speech, that term actually means something legal in how the Supreme Court will analyze it, how courts will analyze it. It doesn't mean anything coming out of the mouth of a politician. It's intended to be something that we know we do not want to have people silent and their ability to redress grievances. We don't want a king who can throw you into jail because you have a problem with something. It means something, but it does not mean action relating to conspiracies. BASH: Right. Sort of the political equivalent of yelling fire in a crowded theater, and then go to law school, but I think I've learned that.

COATES: That's a great one. You did it.

BASH: The former president as he is getting ready to come here to D.C. is very active on his social media. You know, it's a big day when we've got to all cap, one sentence post. I need one more indictment to ensure my election. Wow, there's a lot to unpack in that. But he is stating what he thinks is the obvious, which is, the more he's up against it, the more he can rally the American people to feel that he somehow is a mirror of them in all of their grievances.

ZELENY: In a primary election for sure. But to win the White House, you must win a general election. So, that is what worries Republicans. The question is when the of the House Republicans sort of talk truthfully about this, no, they won't because they're still afraid of Donald Trump. Speaker McCarthy needs Donald Trump. But to win an election, we're talking about the primary burst, and that is still an open question. We are still in the early days of August.

BASH: OK. Everybody standby, because in his strongest words yet, former Vice President Mike Pence slammed his former boss and his "crackpot lawyers."




BASH: Any moment now, former President Trump is expected to depart Bedminster for Washington D.C. where he'll be arraigned in federal court. And as much as today is about the law. It is also inextricably linked to politics.

My excellent panel is here to discuss, Leigh Ann Caldwell of The Washington Post, Seung Min Kim of the Associated Press, and CNN's Jeff Zeleny is still with us.

Inextricably linked because he is making it so. A, by running in the first place, and B, by all of the communications. We've played in the last segment his most recent Truth Social, saying that he's honored to be going to Washington to be arraigned on behalf of all of his supporters. And it's something that is mirrored in his fundraising emails.

This is just one example of this week. If these illegal persecutions succeed, if they're allowed to set fire to the law, that it will not stop me. Their grip will close even tighter around you. It's not just my freedom on the line, it's yours as well. And I will never let them take it from you. I mean, to me, that says it all about how he is -- when it comes to the Republican electorate so far, successfully, making people feel like they have a stake in defending him. LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY-202 CO-ANCHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. And it's not just how he is messaging. It's also how he's spending his money. We found out with these FEC filings that his Super PACs are spending a majority amount of the money that they have been raising on his legal funds. And so not only is this an inextricably linked legal process with his campaign, his campaign money is also funding his legal defense fund.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS & CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, right. And I also think that he has so much power here in convincing voters convincing his base, what he is saying, even if they don't contain any mode of truth. And I was really struck by the new polling that CNN has about the percentage of Americans who believe these election lies. And now it's up to almost 70 percent of Republican and Republican leaning independents who believe that the 2020 election -- -

BASH: That actually show that as you talk about it. We'll put it up there. You're right, almost 7 & 10, Republicans say that they do not think that Joe Biden legitimately won the election. That's huge.

KIM: Right, right. And I think it's part of what Leigh Ann mentioned and what you mentioned, is that he has this power to make his own troubles whether they're legal, political, personal, about his voters and about his base. And I think that's why he's had this grip over them despite the lies that he had been spreading about the 2020 election.

BASH: Let's look at something that our friend Ron Brownstein wrote on this theme, because it's like everything he writes really, really smart. Trump may constitute a unique threat to America's democratic traditions. But he has always connected his claims of pervasive electoral fraud to the widespread anxiety among white, Christian conservatives that they are losing control of the country to a racially diverse, secular, and LGBTQ friendly Democratic coalition centered in the nation's largest cities.

As Trump put it during one 2020 rally before a predominantly white, rural audience in Georgia. This is our country. And you know this, and you see it, but they are trying to take it from us through rigging, fraud, deception, and deceit.

ZELENY: The city be a candidate born in New York City, I mean, so that's what's always been the irony of this. But look, there aren't many people in Trump's base, many true Trump believers, the one who are contributing to the Super PAC in small dollar donations and large who will never abandon him, who believe him without a doubt.