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Trump Criminally Charged in 4th Indictment this Year; Trump, 18 Others Indicted in GA Election Subversion Case; Trump Rages in the Wake of 4th Indictment; Trump Campaign: GA Indictment is "Un- American". Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 15, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: He was in the NFL playing football all the time. He didn't have time to think about all this other stuff. Now that his carrier is over, he is now only realizing what took place before him, he says.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right and it's important to know also the -- say that they were able to actually adopt him, because he was 18 years old when this paperwork was signed. So conservatorship was the only option, especially because he went to Ole Miss. There was the whole, you know, we know from the film with, you know, all that could have happened there with NCAA guidelines. But yes, so anyway, it's to be continued on this one for sure.

BERMAN: Brynn Gingras, thank you very much.

SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST: And thank you for joining us. This is CNN News Central, as you know, Inside Politics up right now.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, a criminal enterprise with Donald Trump at the top. The charges from Georgia prosecutors trace 161 criminal acts starting before Election Day. The chronicle, the conspiracies, the phone calls, the emails, the oval office meetings and the videotape lies that follow.

Plus Trump's aid team. The Co-conspirators in the former president's election heights featured two movie poster names. Mark Meadows is the one time Trump White House Chief of Staff and Rudy Giuliani, the Mayor who built his brand on locking up the mob and a pivot point or a shrug at the surreal.

Indictment number four will test Donald Trump's theory that another set of criminal charges will clinch the Republican nomination. I'm Phil Mattingly in for Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines on Inside Politics.

Up first for us today what Georgia Prosecutors say they can prove against Donald Trump? Forgery, intimidation, fraud, perjury, hacking, all in furtherance of a racketeering scheme is helmed by the former president. The Atlanta Journal Constitution on the front page laying out the sprawling scope of the new charges with Trump at its center. The Drudge Report captures the law and order like drama, prosecutors painting the former president as a 21st century Corleone, the Head of let's call it La Cosa Trump. Last night America watched the indictments make its way in and then back out of a Fulton County courtroom.

A choreography that previews what could be a rolling spectacle, potentially live televised trial of the former president. The next important date on the calendar, August 25, that's the deadline for Mr. Trump to surrender. We start our coverage outside the courthouse with CNN's Paula Reid.

Paula, you've been covering this so closely, along with the other indictments as well. What stood out to you in these 98 pages?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Phil, two key things really stuck out to me. The first is how the District Attorney Fani Willis chose to structure this case for suing racketeering or Rico case. Now, these are laws that were designed to dismantle organized crime. So here she is alleging a conspiracy and charging not only former President Trump but 18 of his allies, even if each of them were not involved in each of the alleged acts.

She's charging them as a unit. Now, it's also notable that she is charging other people, not just former President Trump, which is what we've seen so far with the special counsel. And here are two of the names that stick out of course, Rudy Giuliani and Mark Meadows. Rudy Giuliani was mentioned in the federal indictment, but he was a co- conspirator, he wasn't charged.

Mark Meadows, the man at the January 6 committee said was at the center of this entire conspiracy was conspicuously absent from the federal indictment, so notable that she chose to charge so many co- defendants, including these big names. Now, Phil, of course, there are some logistical questions about exactly how she was going to prosecute a case like this, given the time constraints with the election. Let's take a listen to what you said last night.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you intend to try all of these defendants together?

FANI WILLIS, FULTON COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Do I intend to try the 19 defendants in this indictment together?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And have you had any contact with the Special Counsel about the overlap between this indictment and the federal indictment?

WILLIS: I'm not going to discuss our investigation at this time.


REID: It's notable Phil that she wouldn't answer Sara's question there about whether she had spoken with the Special Counsel, there would be nothing wrong with them speaking and coordinating. At some point they will likely have to know as part of this nearly 100 page indictment.

She lays out specific actions that she alleges that the defendants undertook including lying to state officials and state lawmakers creating fake electors as part of that plan to subvert the electoral college process in Trump's favor, harassing election workers pressuring the Justice Department to interfere in Georgia.

The pressure campaign on Vice President Mike Pence is breaching voting machines and an alleged coordinated cover up. And Phil, former President Trump has denied any wrongdoing. In a statement he called this shocking and absurd, and he has until next Friday to negotiate his surrender.

MATTINGLY: All right, Paula, stay with us. Also here to share their political and legal insights, CNN's Evan Perez, CNN's Carrie Cordero and former Federal Prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, Elie Honig. Carrie, I want to start with you in terms of actually digging in as Paula did to the indictment itself to the 98 pages. We've seen four indictments; we've seen 91 charges against the former president of the United States.


And just a little more than four months, it's easy to get things lost, given the scale here. This case specifically, Paula hit on this point, the RICO charges. Why and what does it mean going forward?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think one of the most interesting things about comparing this particular indictment to the one that is most similar on the federal side, which are the special counsels charges related to the election. It has to do with the fact that the DA, named many of the Co-conspirators.

And what that does and how that's connected to the RICO charge is it enables this indictment to really tell the story of the conspiracy that is alleged, which she under the law asserts is a violation of the Georgia racketeering statutes. And so what you're able to do by seeing all of the named co-conspirators is it just I think, much more clearly than the federal indictment that only named the former president.

It enables the reader to really understand the broad scope, the number of people involved, from the highest levels, to the lowest levels of individuals who purported to be electors. And so, I think that's one of the biggest differences between the two.

MATTINGLY: Evan, I want to play some sound from you that we just got it's from Chris Christie, the former New Jersey Governor, obviously presidential candidate who has not hesitated to attack the former president on any range of issues, but in particular, his legal troubles. But he had an interesting take on this indictment in particular. Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm uncomfortable with what I read last night. I think that this contract is essentially covered by the federal indictment. Election interference, this election interference has been charged by Jack Smith, I would have less of a problem with this if she decided OK, and I'm not going to charge Donald Trump here because he's been charged for essentially this conduct by Jack Smith.

But Giuliani and Meadows and others have not been charged at the federal level. That would be a more defensible indictment, I think.


MATTINGLY: Evan, you're a lead Justice Department Correspondent, I'm not going to ask you about the political strategy behind those statements. But the question was, for me is the Special Counsel's Office, the Justice Department, I know they're not talking about these things. But is that an issue that they potentially have here, given this is all stacking up together and targeting the same person?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Look, I do think eventually they're going to; they're going to run into each other. And I think at some point, there might be some conversations perhaps triggered by a judge who wants to understand, OK, how you are going to do this, especially because Jack Smith has already laid out a very aggressive schedule.

The judge in Washington, Judge Tanya Chutkan has already laid out a very aggressive schedule to put Donald Trump on trial, well, before the 2024 elections. So there is going to probably have to be some kind of workout between the special counsel and the state. But I think, you know, the former governor's criticism is kind of an odd one.

Because, you know, this does happen all the time. And sometimes, especially when there's a major crime, you see this all the time, that state charges and the feds charge, and sometimes the feds decide to go first. And then the state comes in afterwards. One of the things that happen often is, in case of a case that, for example, one of the prosecutions fails, you have another one that backs it up.

And in this case, for instance, there's a concern that if Donald Trump wins election, he's going to pardon himself, right or Republican wins the election, they'll pardon him. And so the state charge could be a way for Donald Trump to face some consequence. That is not at the mercy of a Republican president.

MATTINGLY: It's a great point and Rico in Georgia has -- it carries a five year mandatory minimum. And that brings up a point I want to talk to you about Paula, because you were reporting about this this morning that one of the first potential actions we expect the Trump defense team to take is to try and shift this from a state to a federal jurisdiction, talk about that, and whether or not that's viable at this point. REID: That's right; the argument they're going to make is that the former president will not be able to get a fair trial here in heavily Democratic Fulton County. And if they are able to remove this from Fulton County at the state level to the federal jurisdiction, the biggest advantage the former president will have is it will expand the pool of potential jurors and make it arguably more fair, they would argue to the former president.

Now there's of course the added bonus for him if this is removed to federal jurisdiction. If he is convicted, there would be the possibility of a future president offering a pardon or a commutation. But that's just the first line I think of attack. They're willing to levy against this indictment.

You're going to see them also try to fight some of the actions, the 161 actions that were laid out on First Amendment grounds. And look, that's what's going to happen in court, but in the court of public opinion they're also going to continue to argue that this is politically motivated. And that there are problems with elected political prosecutors pursuing former presidents.


MATTINGLY: Elie, I wanted to say this one up for you, because you're an SDNY, Southern District of New York alum. So it was Rudy Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani kind of made his name on busing mob bosses and breaking up the mafia, now being charged in a RICO case.

He's also being charged in with making false statements. I want to play something for you to listen to, listen.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: After they say there's no fraud, look at that woman what could have taken those ballots out? Look at them scurrying around with the ballots. Nobody in the room is hiding around. They look like this. They look like they're passing out dope, notches and pounds. It is quite clear they're stealing votes.


MATTINGLY: Ellie, he's talking specifically about Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, the two election workers who testified behind closed doors and publicly at the January 6 committee, very powerful statements of the personal pain they've had to deal with for being falsely accused not just by Giuliani, but by the former president, as well of wrongdoing.

There is zero evidence of that. And they are at the center of this case; they are one of the primary pillars. What do you make of that?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, thank you for saving the Rudy Giuliani question for me.

MATTINGLY: You're welcome. HONIG: Look, he, I'll just say straight up. He has disgraced himself. I mean, he was a figure that we held in very high regard at the Southern District of New York. He was the U.S. Attorney in the 80s. I arrived a couple of decades later, but I ended up going into the organized crime prosecution field as well.

And he did do great work using the RICO laws in the 1980s to take down the mafia here in New York City. Those statements that we just heard him say that he'd said several times in front of Georgia officials are to me the most easily provable piece of this entire case they are outright lies.

There's proof that he knew they were lies. They are vicious lies, and that is charged as part of the crimes in this indictment. And I should add those two victims, Ms. Moss and Ms. Freeman, you should expect them to testify at trial and wow, are they going to be extremely powerful witnesses for a jury to sit there and watch their testimony. Their lives were destroyed by these lies, and they deserve their day in court.

MATTINGLY: All right, Paula, Evan, Carrie, Elie, great context and reporting. As always guys, thank you.

PEREZ: Thanks guys.

MATTINGLY: Well, now I want to back down. Former President Trump teases what he calls a "Major news conference on the Georgia indictment" when and where that will actually happen, that's next.



MATTINGLY: So if the third time's the charm, what exactly is the fourth time? Evidently something that induces rage. Donald Trump's 2024 campaign released this scathing statement last night "Fulton County radical Democrat District Attorney Fani Willis is a rabid partisan called election interference or election manipulation. It is a dangerous effort by the ruling class to suppress the choice of the people. It is un-American and wrong"

CNN's Alayna Treene is live with the latest. Alayna, what's the word inside Trump world right now?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Well, Phil, they have been through this now three times before. And so, they have a playbook that they have cultivated over the past several months. And they believe it is working and so they're going to continue to use it his team tells me. But one thing that I found really interesting is what Donald Trump posted this morning on true social.

He said that he was, "Hosting a major news conference at 11 a.m. on Monday of next week in Bedminster, New Jersey". And Phil, he said that he's going to use those public remarks to present a report that his team has been working on, riddled really with the false claims that the election results in Georgia in 2020 were rife with fraud. Now, of course, we know Donald Trump has been peddling these claims for years now. And we know they're just simply not true. There were two recounts in Georgia that show Joe Biden won the majority of votes in the state. But this is clearly what Donald Trump and his team are using to deploy as their strategy to defend him.

But one thing that I found really interesting about this is they're not just going to be arguing that this is election interference, and that Donald Trump is a victim of political persecution. Of course, they will argue that, but they're also going to be disputing the facts of the case. And that is a bit different here.

And one thing, Phil, that I'm really watching for is how Donald Trump's allies will react to that report. Specifically, we know that they immediately came to his defense last night after the indictment dropped. But will they you know, echo and share his continued false claims really, that the election was stolen in Georgia?

MATTINGLY: Yes, it'll be very telling who decides to go down that path. I think we both probably have some ideas and some names here. Appreciate Alayna, as always, I'm here to share their reporting and their insights. CNN's David Chalian, Seung Min Kim, Associated Press and Republican Strategist and Pollster, Kristen Soltis Anderson.

SMK, I want to share with you because you are perhaps the most rigorous reporter I know also very careful and fact based. Elena made this point, but I just want to double check it with you. Has there been any evidence of widespread fraud in Georgia based on all of the court cases and all of the investigations and all the audits?


MATTINGLY: OK, that's helpful.

KIM: Yes.

MATTINGLY: I joke, but honestly, this is going to become important if they actually go down this route to not allow this to spread to some degree. And I guess that's my question. Alayna makes a great point. They had a strategy and a playbook, which they have deployed over the course of the last three indictments all of which have seemed to have been effective for their Republican primary audience. This is different, why do you think they go down this route?

KIM: So I think they will. First of all this, this indictment is so much more sprawling, so much more sweeping that we have seen in the other previous three indictments. Obviously there are indicted, other people indicted in this case making this instance so much more far reaching than in the previous cases.


But I think they, I feel like the Trump team perhaps needs to feel like they need a broader base of attack in responding to these charges. I think that's a part of it as well. And I also think one thing you're going to see from the Trump team, is that what the clerk's office in Atlanta says was a mistaken posting of that early version of an indictment that named President Trump.

They are claiming that it wasn't an error that it was the wrong document. But you already see Trump's team kind of point that out and really see that on to make their case. But I do agree with Alayna that when, when the Trump team produces their so called report next week, how many of their allies you know, not only just the people in the presidential primaries supporting them, but their allies on Capitol Hill, who actually sees on the reported use it to bolster Trump's defense?

MATTINGLY: Yes, again, it's going to be worth watching and taking names on that one. Kristen, it's important, in my view, you're the expert here. But to differentiate a Republican primary electorate and the general election, we're right now by 20 plus points the former president seems to be headed towards.

But on the primary front, I want to play something that the former president said a couple of weeks ago, listen.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: Every time they file an indictment, we go way up in the polls. We need one more indictment to close out this election, one more indictment, and this election is closed out. Nobody has even a chance.


MATTINGLY: I mean, I don't think it's a scientific or calculation there to some degree. But to that point, we have not seen any slippage in his polling over the course of the first three indictments. Do you think that this kind of locks things up for him, given where the race stands right now?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST & POLLSTER: Well, I don't often agree with the former president's interpretation of the polls. But in this case, while I don't think that each indictment has caused him to have a massive spike, or however he defined it, it certainly has caused a bit of a rally around him effect.

And it has made it harder for his opponents who are trying to introduce themselves to the Republican field, to be able to get oxygen airtime and to be able to differentiate themselves. Of course, so many Republicans, even those who aren't necessarily planning to vote for Trump, nevertheless, are sympathetic to his arguments that he's being prosecuted because he is a political opponent, because he is who he is that the charges are too sweeping that they're unfair.

And because Republicans are sympathetic to this, it's put his opponents in the primary in a box, where they are unable to really say, hey, Donald Trump could be facing prison time, we cannot nominate this guy. It winds up meaning that folks like Ron DeSantis are in a very tough spot. They can't differentiate themselves effectively.

And it's made it harder for them to gain traction. So while these indictments, I wouldn't expect Trump to bounce 15 points in the polls, per se, it does further solidify, I think his larger gains that he's seen over the last couple of months.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And Phil, just to underscore something Kristen said there that I think is so important. What some polls have shown, I think largely most of the polls since these indictments, Kristen correct me if I'm wrong. But even people who are supporting candidates in the primary not named Trump don't want to hear those candidates go after Trump as it relates to the indictment.

So it is broader than just Trump's base of support inside the party that just doesn't want to hear an attack on him on this.

MATTINGLY: Yes. I mean, look, you wouldn't have the top tier candidates going against Trump refusing to do this if they were seeing something that gave them any indication that it would be a value to their campaigns. I fully understand I don't necessarily get it when you're down by 30 points.

But I understand that there's nothing telling them to do. David -- I do want to ask you, the thing I've been thinking about all day, and I definitely don't have an answer to yet is, we have been talking about the cash crunch based on the legal issues that the former president has been having over the course of the last couple of weeks.

The FEC filings really kind of laid that bear to some degree. This is the former president another indictment 18 co-conspirators, he's been helping or financing all of the legal fees for his allies here. You kind of map this out going forward into a general election.

How big of a problem, if you look down over the course of the last four and a half months Manhattan district attorney indicted. DOJ Special Counsel documents indicted, DOJ Special Counsel, January 6 indicted Fulton County DA 2020 election indicted. That money is still going to be going other places than his campaign organization.

CHALIAN: There's no doubt about it. And you'd see in recent social media posts from the former president that's getting under his skin of it, right. I mean, recently, as recently as last week, I think he was sort of bemoaning that money that he would rather be spending on television ads or campaign proper expenditures. He is spending on legal fees not just for himself, but for his allies and that's not where he wants to go.


I also think it gets at, again how inextricably linked the political and the legal here is that is the definition of Trump's 2024 candidacy.

MATTINGLY: All right guys, stick with us. We got much more to get to on this. And coming up, do you hear that sound? Probably don't. It silenced from most of the top 2024 GOP contenders on their main rivals, historic fourth indictment when if ever will they attack the front runner for his legal woes? That's next.