Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Now: Georgia Prosecutors Present Election Subversion Case Against Trump To Grand Jury; Exclusive: Prosecutors Have Texts Linking Trump's Team To Voting System Breaching In Coffee County, GA; DeSantis Plows Ahead After Praised & Heckled In Iowa; Trump, DeSantis Vie For Attention Of Iowa Voters; Ramaswamy Raps In Iowa, Courts Young Voters; Judge In Trump's Hush Money Case Refuses To Recuse Himself; Hunter Biden Lawyer: Trial "Not Inevitable". Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 14, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics. What comes after three? Indictment number four, maybe. Today Fulton County prosecutors start presenting evidence. As soon as tomorrow, they hope to secure a sweeping indictment against former President Donald Trump and those who aided and abetted the conspiracy to steal the 2020 election.

Plus, this is what you'll get. A Biden presidential run, doge by Hunter Biden legal problems. Democrats Fred's lawyers for the president's son insist an election year trial is not inevitable. And Republicans get a close up with Iowa voters. Who impressed, who disappointed, is Ron DeSantis do both. Iowa's Republican party chairman joins me live in just a few minutes.

I'm Jessica Dean in for Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at Inside Politics.

Up first, today the clock ticks toward another potential Trump indictment, and today, action in Georgia. That bus and the caravan police surrounding it, whisking grand jurors to work. The heightened security comes with the serious business today in Fulton County.

What we know is right now prosecutors are giving that jury the sizzle reel of their case against the former president of the United States. And as that's all happening behind closed doors, Donald Trump is doing as Donald Trump tends to do, unleashing online at the public servants prosecuting his alleged crimes, calling the district attorney's "slime," "out to get Trump."

CNN's Paula Reid is live outside the Fulton County courthouse. Paula, walk us through exactly how long this presentation of this case is expected to take.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, just the District Attorney Fani Willis is expected to need two days to present her case to a grand jury in this courthouse right behind me. And she's been investigating this for over two years now. And the evidence that she has gathered includes, evidence to support allegations that state officials here were facing enormous pressure that there were alleged efforts to install fake electors to subvert the electoral college process.

She also detail allegations about trying to use the Justice Department up in D.C. to overturn the election results here as well as these meritless lawsuits that were filed by the Trump campaign.

Now we also have new reporting from our colleague Sara Murray and Zach Cohen, detailing how Fani Willis also has evidence that former President Trump and his allies were trying to breach a voting system in rural Georgia as part of these alleged efforts.

Now, at least one witness is already inside court today and we expect two more will be appearing tomorrow including, former lieutenant Republican -- former Republican Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan. So, the earliest any potential indictment could come is tomorrow.

DEAN: And Paula, Donald Trump, we've also noticed is saying a lot on Truth Social, including directing a message out a witness. What can you tell us about that?

REID: Exactly. That message was directed at the former Republican Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, suggesting that he shouldn't testify as a witness in this case. Now, this is not the first time that former President Trump has attacked this investigation, attacked the D.A. Fani Willis. He has called her for example, a racist and a Marxist.

Now his own attorneys in conversations with them, just they have told me that they think it's legitimate to question whether an elected prosecutor in this case a Democrat should be able to bring charges against a former president.

But the former president not making that argument instead of taking to social media, appearing to attack the prosecutor and appearing to put some pressure on at least one witness. Also, important to note because this is a state case. If Trump is reelected, this would be outside his power. He cannot fire the prosecutor and he cannot pardon anyone who was charged in this case.

DEAN: Really separates it from the federal case on that level. All right, Paula Reid for us in Atlanta. Thanks so much. And here to share their insights, CNN's Evan Perez, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, and former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams. It's great to have all of you here, on a day where we're digesting a lot about potential movement down in Georgia.


Elliot, I want to start first with you. And just kind of giving us an overview of where you think the next couple of days are going. And also, as we start to kind of pieced this together in the broader theme of all of this, the broader story of all of this being potentially the fourth indictment. How this kind of -- this case lines up against the others?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR & CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it seems like we will see an indictment in the next couple of days. Certainly, the grand jury is meeting as we know, today and tomorrow, and hearing evidence. Now the way it works in Georgia is that, at least for this case, there was a special grand jury that made a recommendation to the district attorney, and now she's presented the state's attorney.

Now she's presenting that evidence to this real grand jury, the full grand jury to bring charges. It appears that not just the former president, but a number of other people either connected to around him, may also be brought in here.

What's striking and notable is the possibility of racketeering charges, in effect, arguing that the defendants engaged in a criminal enterprise to commit a few crimes at once, and that is quite significant as everything -- -

DEAN: Right. And it's what a so-called RICO case, but it involves a number of defendants, not just the former president likely, and it's very layered. And Evan, I want to talk more about, Paula touched on this new reporting from our colleagues on the text messages and the emails connecting Trump's allies to this data -- this voting systems breach in Coffee County. How significant is that?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's very significant that there are -- they have this evidence that makes this -- at least seems to support the idea that prosecutors have been pursuing that this was a, an idea that came from the top, that came from the White House.

And we already knew some of this. We knew that there was a discussion at the White House in that very chaotic meeting where Sidney Powell was trying to become a special counsel and they had the overstock guy. And it was just a really insane set of circumstances.

And we knew that during that meeting, there was a presentation or there was -- the idea was broached, which was that we can get an invitation from a county to get access to their voting machines. And the idea being that we're going to find proof of the fraud. Of course, it's a county that Trump won by 70 percent. It's a very Republican County. It's kind of a really insane and kind of dumb idea.

If you're looking for fraud, it's probably not the best place to go look for it. But that's where they were. And so, you know, I got to hand it to Zach Cohen, who is one of my colleagues. And he's been after this idea and has suspected that there was going to be reporting on this and really pursued it all to the end. And that's where the story came from.

And I will say, you know, certainly it does seem to show that it didn't come organically from these people. And so, the question will be, you know, did that invitation, this letter that they got from someone inviting them to come examine these machines. Was that person authorized to do that? It appears not.

WILLIAMS: And it's legally significant in that, the president knew sort of defend against all of this by saying, I didn't know what those other people who committed these crimes were doing. I don't have a connection to it. If he can establish that, he can get out of a RICO charge or a conspiracy charge, because he can say, look, you know, other people were engaged in crimes. I'm just the president of United States. And so, having this evidence of some link between the campaign and the folks in the states could actually work against the president.

DEAN: And it's interesting, Elliot, you bring that up, because we do have a clip of Donald Trump from Saturday. And Andrew, I want to get your response to this. Let's play it for everyone, kind of saying essentially that. Let's play that clip.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you defend the actions of your allies following the 2020 election in Georgia?

DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: Many of the allies I don't know, because to be honest, we have so many allies, a lot of them I don't know. So, I don't exactly know what you're talking about.


DEAN: And there was kind of laughter around the table as he said that, but we've heard him saying this so many times, somebody who has been his ally gets in trouble. And it's like, well, I don't know that person.

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, FBI & CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: This is the position taken by every alleged leader of a criminal enterprise, right? The danger for the person at the top of the pyramid is to be connected with the work that's going on, on the ground. And they typically do that by not sending, not making notes, not sending emails or texts or things that we know that Donald Trump behaviors that we know that he's engaged in as well.

So, that danger becomes more prescient as you develop reporting, like we have about text messages that land -- lead directly to his closest advisors, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, it is almost unthinkable to think that those folks attorneys who were brought into this kind of plotting and planning on his behalf or carrying out these activities without any visibility or interaction to the guy at the top of the food chain here, which is of course, Trump.

The dam breaks when one of those people decides to cooperate. When one of those people is facing such significant charges and potential jail time that they say, yes, I had a conversation in which he told me to do x, y or z.


PEREZ: And you're kind of seeing that with, you know, certainly Rudy Giuliani's attorney saying, hey, you know, this crazy idea didn't come from Rudy, it came from some other people in that meeting. And so, that's where you might be able to get for prosecutors. If you can get them to not be essentially on the same story that really is helpful for building your case. DEAN: There's so much to come on this. Thank you all. It's great to see you. Coming up at the Iowa State Fair. The frontrunner, Donald Trump, does what he does best. Stealing the spotlight and all of the oxygen for the time he's there. But could Florida Governor Ron DeSantis actually have left a more lasting impression on voters in the Hawkeye State. We're going to talk about it. That's next.


DEAN: Drama in Des Moines. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis saw praise and hecklers as he walked through the Iowa fairgrounds with his family over the weekend. There was more the reaction as a badge of pride.



GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When the left comes out, that's a sign of strength because like they know that we will be Biden, and they know we will be able to turn this country around and they do not want that, that's why you (crosstalk). What's that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you can bring some people who maybe don't like this, right?

DESANTIS: We could bring a lot. Not those radical leftists who are screaming, no, but I think average Americans I think are open to a new direction.


DEAN: And there was also the Trump show. The GOP frontrunner and his entourage made a splashy and short appearance. Donald Trump is spending a sliver of time there on the ground compared to his chief rival Ron DeSantis. While DeSantis rode the Ferris wheel and crashed bumper cars and blue jeans and a button down. We saw Trump signing hats and addressing his supporters in a suit and cufflinks.

This, of course, as he's now facing a potential forth indictment. My colleague, Jeff Zeleny, asked Iowa voters about that very topic.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Are you concerned about any of these indictments?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, because I actually asked Ron DeSantis to declare what he thought of what's going on with President Trump. And he says, it's all politics, politically motivated. So, they stood up for Trump and what's going on.


DEAN: And here to share their insights on this well, Jeff Zeleny is back from Iowa, and right here in the seat, which is great Leigh Ann Caldwell of The Washington Post, and Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times. Great to have all of you here.

I want to start first talking about the fair and DeSantis and Trump. We had a column from Dan Balz of The Washington Post over the weekend, and he talked about DeSantis plowing forward after early (Inaudible) and staff problems.

And he wrote on a day when DeSantis competed for attention with former President Donald Trump at the Iowa State Fair, there were reminders of why the Florida governor, though distantly trailing remains Trump's principal rival for the nomination.

You know, there is this national narrative over the weekend, Jeff, that Trump came and sucked all the oxygen out that he was the guy that he really overshadowed DeSantis. And as the frontrunner by double digits, of course, he got a lot of attention. But you were on the ground. DeSantis was there for hours with his whole family. What's your sense about all of this?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's no doubt that Donald Trump has he has at every Iowa State Fair since 2015, when he came in offering free helicopter rides, every day since then, really, of course, he dominates the headlines. He dominates the media coverage. That's a little bit different, necessarily then actually touching voters and building a caucus campaign.

I think the most important thing that probably happened over the weekend for the Florida governor was in addition to the fair. What he did on Thursday and Friday. On Friday, he made eight stops alone in small venues, talking to people in eight counties. As you know, you spent a lot of time with him on the road, you cover his campaign. He's trying to hit all 99 counties in Iowa, but the reason for that is organization.

So, I was watching the former president as he came in with his Florida, a delegation there were nine members of Congress from Florida. Most Iowans had no clue who they were. He was trolling the Florida governor. So yes, Donald Trump is the frontrunner. He came in with this big crowd and energy, but no one could get anywhere close to him. And DeSantis touched a lot of people that usually matters. But of course, he has to get, you know, closer to Trump in the head-to-head for it to matter.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I feel like even the attempts that just the amount of times we see Trump also trolled DeSantis, bringing members of the Florida delegation, attempts by Trump allies as well. The plane going by saying, be likable, Ron, while DeSantis is trying to talk to voters. It also just shows how much DeSantis is on the mind of Trump and his allies. It's very clear that he is the primary rival here.

So yes, obviously, we should talk about still what polls say, the substantial leave that Trump has, the grip that he still has on the party. But it's absolutely also fair to say that DeSantis is seen by his ally. He's on the mind.

DEAN: Listen, he's living rent free in Trump's hand, as it were right now. Leigh Ann, we on Cable News talked about this Trump indictment all weekend as possible indictment that's coming down. And yet, in Iowa, you know, it didn't seem like that was really on the minds of a lot of voters. There is obviously a Trump fatigue out there. But there's also an incredible amount of people who still very much support him.

At this point doesn't seem like there's anything that can shake that loose that can move the needle for these other candidates.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: So, for his hardcore supporters, no, absolutely not. This actually further endears them to Donald Trump. But Jeff, that soundbite you got from that voter was just so telling. And I think that that encapsulates the entire dynamic of this presidential campaign.

Donald Trump's biggest weaknesses are probably his, you know, his lying about the 2020 election and these indictments. But you have most presidential candidates Ron DeSantis, included who are usually unwilling to attack him on it, his voters, Donald Trump supporters see that. So, why is there any sort of alternative? And I thought that that quote was just closing (Ph)


ZELENY: It was interesting, and I asked him afterward, you know, I said if he also went on to say that if -- I asked him if he was open minded to anyone else. And he said he likes DeSantis actually. He saw him last week on a bus tour. He's from decor Iowa. He manages a feedlot. And he said, I liked DeSantis, but as of now, he says Trump is OK. He says, he hasn't done anything wrong, so almost using that as the validation.

So, his open though to and many voters are open to seeing how this goes. The caucuses aren't until five months from tomorrow. Iowa voters, it's New Hampshire and South Dakota, they make up their minds late in the process. So, I talked to the governor last week, Governor Kim Reynolds. She thinks it's much more fluid. And you know, just sort of stay tuned here. Don't look at the poll.

DEAN: And she kind of seemed to leave the door open to potentially endorsing someone down the road. She hasn't done that yet.

ZELENY: She did. Yes, she did. She wants Iowans to have their say, but she left the door wide open.

CALDWELL: Go ahead. I was just going to say, and Ron DeSantis is placing a lot of cards in Iowa wanting to win that. I was in South Carolina last week, not for work, for vacation. It was just so interesting that there was a presidential primary wasn't even happening. There was very little evidence of it. Most of the attention is in Iowa right now.

DEAN: Yes. It is interesting to see that. I want to also play a clip from the weekend that's a little bit different than what we normally see here on Inside Politics. This is one of the candidates wrapping. We can watch that. (PLAYING VIDEO)

I see Vivek Ramaswamy rapping there. Jeff, did anyone get to see that in person?

ZELENY: Sadly, I was not there in person. But boy, it's spread around, and people were talking about it. And look, he is without saying so, he's saying, look, I'm a new generational candidate.

DEAN: Right. And he's trying to make the point that he's young. Yes.

ZELENY: Explicitly, and he is young. He would be the youngest president ever. He has a few steps to get there before that.

KANNO-YOUNGS: 8 Mile came about 21 years ago. Yes. I would just ask Ramaswamy this a bit. Also just based off of how that crowd was looking at, it didn't look too energetic. I mean, I do think this is an attempt to make a name for yourself through sensationalism in this new sort of Trump era of politics. And it's not always by trolling, but it can by be doing something, you know, like this, too. But yes, I'm interested just which voters -- -

DEAN: Who he's going to pull in?

KANNO-YOUNGS: No disrespect to Eminem, though.

DEAN: No, no. But quickly before we go, is there a point there, though, about pulling in engaging those younger voters, especially for the Republican Party, Leigh Ann?

CALDWELL: I think so. I mean, yes, absolutely. They're trying to find voters that are willing. As you said, Jeff, to look elsewhere other than Trump and perhaps it's the younger ones, are trying to reach voters wherever they can.

DEAN: Wherever they can. All right, thanks so much. Stick around. Just into CNN, a new development in the New York hush money case against Donald Trump. CNN's Kara Scannell is in New York. Kara, tell us what we're learning here.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, the judge overseeing the hush money case, Judge Juan Merchan. He has denied former President Donald Trump's request for the judge to recuse himself from this case. Now, Trump had asked for this because of some small dollar donations that the judge has made to Democrats, as well as his daughter working for a digital advertising agency. That also does work for Democrats.

So, the judge revealed in this order that he had raised some of these issues with the judicial ethics commission and they did not see a conflict. And in denying Trump's request, the judge writes that he's carefully weighed the arguments and finds that recusal would not be in the public interest. Further, this court has examined its conscious and ascertain its ability to be fair and impartial.

So, last year for Trump who wanted to remove the judge overseeing the case. And as a reminder, Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records. That was for the reimbursement of payments to Michael Cohen, who had facilitated the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. He is set to go to trial next March. Jessica?

DEAN: Right. And that is that that first indictment of the three we've seen so far. All right, Kara Scannell for us, thanks so much. It is a reality of the White House hoped it would not have to contend with the now, but all assured fact that Hunter Biden's legal troubles will cast a shadow over his father's reelection campaign. We've got details on that next.




DEAN: Today is word of the day inevitable. It's what Hunter Biden's lawyers insist a trial isn't.


ABBE LOWELL, HUNTER BIDEN ATTORNEY: It's not inevitable. And I think what I -- -


LOWELL: Yes, we were trying to avoid one all along. And so, were the prosecutors who came forward to us, and we're the ones to say, can there be a resolution short of a prosecution? So, they wanted it and maybe they still do want it.


DEAN: But advisors to the president, where it is inevitable that Hunter Biden's legal troubles will overshadow his father's campaign. Let's go live to the White House, and CNN White House correspondent Arlette Saenz. Arlette, President Biden's orbit seems somewhat resigned that Hunter headlines are going to become a regular feature in the 2024 contest.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jess. And you'll remember back in 2020, President Biden back then was grappling with the fact that his son Hunter's personal and legal issues were in the spotlight during that campaign. And that is certainly to continue now as he did not just have a Republicans up on Hill, talking about investigations. But the appointment of a special counsel has really entered some new territory, ensuring that Hunter Biden will remain front and center in the campaign.

Now, so far advisors here at the White House and at the campaign have really adopted this, the stay silent strategy. They're not weighing in.