Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Today: Trump To Surrender At Fulton County Jail In Atlanta; Raffensperger Subpoenaed To Testify In Meadow's Hearing; Trump Rivals Spar For Attention At GOP Debate; Pence Refuses To Commit To Blanket Trump Pardon; Haley Seizes Momentum At First GOP Debate; DeSantis Cedes The Spotlight At First GOP Debate. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 24, 2023 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, the former president, the fingerprints, the jail and the picture that will live forever. Tonight, Donald Trump surrenders in Atlanta and collects a mugshot. Already today, he's shuffling the legal lineup, he hopes will keep him out of prison.

Plus, a Milwaukee mirage. America gets a glimpse at what the Republican field looks like without Donald Trump. But one key debate moment was about the frontrunner, and if his party would be willing to put a convicted criminal at the top of the ticket. And an accident or an assassination. The world suspects Vladimir Putin got his pay back after a plane carrying the mercenary who led a revolt inside Russia falls out of the sky.

I'm Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at Inside Politics.

Up first, the pomp and criminal circumstance, we are watching in Georgia. Today Donald Trump surrenders to authorities. Again, this time, it's the Fulton County jail, where we expect the former president to appear later today and go through a process like any run of the mill defendant, but the booking and the fingerprinting and the weighing and measuring of a former president is anything, but ordinary.

And his alleged crimes of law breaking are of an insidious kind. Prosecutors are accusing Mr. Trump of leading a criminal enterprise with one mission to subvert democracy by stealing a presidential election. We're going to start in Atlanta outside the Fulton County courthouse, where Sara Murray is. Sara, what are we seeing there so far?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, we're already starting to see some Trump supporters gathering, waiting for the former president to arrive later on this evening. And look, this is going to be different than Donald Trump's previous arrests. We saw him before going into courthouses. This time he is going to be going into the Fulton County jail.

And ahead of this appearance this evening at the jail, Donald Trump is making a big switch to his legal team here in Georgia. He was previously represented by Drew Findling who is a prominent criminal defense attorney here. Frankly, one who's better known for representing hip hop stars than high profile conservatives like Donald Trump, he is now replaced through Findling with another very well- known criminal defense attorney here in the Atlanta area, Steve Sadow.

Again, just days ago, Findling and his team had negotiated bond for the former president, Senate $200,000, as well as some other release conditions, which could make his appearance at the jail shorter than what you would see from a typical defendant. You know, typically it takes defendants a few hours to be processed here at the jail. We expect this is going to be a pretty quick turnaround time for Donald Trump.

As you pointed out, normally, defendants would have to go through a medical screening. They would be searched. They would be fingerprinted. They would have their mugshot taken. It's unclear one of these steps Donald Trump may be able to skip. The sheriff here as sad defendants in this case will be treated the same way. But Trump obviously has not gotten the mugshot in any of those previous arrests. And we're going to wait and see if he gets one today, Dana?

BASH: And we know that he is actually interested in getting a mugshot, at least the people around him are on the political side of his world. Thank you so much for that, Sara. Appreciate it. And here with me, CNN's Evan Perez, and CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero and J. Tom Morgan, former DeKalb County District Attorney.

I will start with you there. Mr. Morgan in Atlanta. What should we be looking for today, as the former president goes into this courthouse for his arrest?

J. TOM MORGAN, FORMER DISTRICT ATTORNEY, DEKALB COUNTY, GEORGIA: Mr. Trump will be treated just like any other defendant who has an arrest in Fulton County, Georgia. He will go to the Rice Street jail which is notorious. It is been under a court order many times. It is in a very rough section of Atlanta, Georgia.

He will be escorted in. He will be fingerprinted. They will take his mugshot. He will be processed. I doubt if he will spend much time in there. But other than the fact that he's bail has already been negotiated. He will be treated like any other inmate and then release.


BASH: And Evan and Carrie, I want to play what the former president said to the former Fox host Tucker Carlson in anticipation up tonight.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: I got indicted four times, all trivial, nonsense, bullshit. It's all bullshit. It's horrible when you look, and you look at what they're doing.


BASH: And, of course, the indictment suggests the opposite of that. And as I mentioned, the allegations are incredibly serious, just like January 6, on the federal level. This is on a state level. The allegation is trying to overturn a free and fair election in a key state.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. And look, we expect that the former president is going to make a bunch of legal moves. He already shook up his legal team today. And I think what this portends, and I think this opens the way for is a bunch of legal motions to try to take on this case.

And, you know, among the things that he's going to argue is that, you know, this case should be heard in federal court. He can get a better jury pool, perhaps, you know, from the wider Atlanta metropolitan area, not just Fulton County.

And then secondly, you know, the idea being that, you know, he is immune because everything that he was doing, he was doing as president to try to ensure that the election was free and fair. And of course, the indictment paints a picture of somebody who is doing everything beyond that, right?

BASH: The opposite.

PEREZ: Right. He was just trying to steal the election according to Fani Willis. And, and so what's really going to be interesting is, is when they make their arguments, you know, the former president, you know, in what capacity was he acting? Was he acting as president? Was he acting as just a candidate?

And certainly when, you know, they play that phone call, the 11,780 votes that he was trying to get from the secretary of state there in Georgia, you know, I think that's going to be sort of at the center of all this, right? The question of where does he's office stop, and the political candidates begin?

BASH: Yeah. And he's doing everything he can to sort of meld those, particularly when you're talking about his candidacy to get, right, blurred lines to get his old job back. Carrie, I want to read you something that Andrew McCarthy, who's a lawyer wrote in the National Review today. He's conservative lawyer, I should add.

Fani Willis has a case. It's just not the case she brought. They seek to prosecute Trump's nonviolent political chicanery, much of which is constitutionally protected, because they are unable to make the case on which they have already convicted him in the court of public opinion, the January 6 insurrection.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, so interim, because he's also a former prosecutor with the Justice Department. And I think he does point out what is a potential weakness in the Georgia case, in particular, as you compare it to the federal January 6 special counsel indictment, which is that the Georgia indictment contains much more information that the former president will be able to argue is First Amendment protected.

A lot of the information in the indictment, the actual tax, the anecdote, the examples that are given are things he said. And so that will be an argument he can make on the First Amendment, which is different and things that he tweeted, right, which is different than what the federal indictment focused on, which was what he did his actions, not just his words.

And so, I think it's a valid criticism. It also speaks to the former president's statement that you played earlier in his interview, which is he wants to lump all these four cases together. He wants to say this is the conspiracy against me. Whereas in reality, certainly from my perspective, each of these four cases, New York, January 6, Mar-a- Lago classified documents, and now the Georgia case are very, very different prosecution's each one of them.

BASH: And J. Tom, you are an attorney in DeKalb County, one of the through lines of Donald Trump, even pre-politics has been, who his lawyers are, how he keeps the lawyers, can he keep lawyers, does he pay his lawyers? There has been a shift in his team down where you are in Georgia.

Steven Sadow, am I saying that right? Sadow, is a new attorney now. And here is what he said. I have been retained to represent President Trump in the Fulton County, Georgia case. The president should never have been indicted. He is innocent of all the charges brought against him. I should say that CNN's Kristen Holmes reported that he has been retained.

First, what do you know about him? And how significant is it that he is now on this case?

MORGAN: Yeah. I know both these attorneys very well. As a district attorney, I tried cases against both of them. Steve Sadow, it's pronounced Sadow.

BASH: Thank you.

MORGAN: So, it's all his clients are innocent. As soon as they pay his retainer, they are innocent. Steven is a courtroom lawyer. I am not surprised that Mr. Trump change his strategy. Once his case was indicted, from all appearances unless they moved this federal court, he will be tried in the Fulton County courtroom.


Mr. Sadow is very experienced in Fulton County courtrooms and has done very well as a defense attorney in Fulton County. So, it comes no surprise as those of us in the legal profession in Georgia, that he would hire Steve to be his attorney.

BASH: Okay. Everybody standby because we are looking at Georgia, not just because of the former president, but there are 18 other defendants, co-defendants in the Fulton County case. Mark Meadows is one of them. And we're just getting some breaking news about a hearing set for Monday.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz is in Atlanta. Katelyn, what are you picking up about what's going to happen on Monday? KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Dana, this is going to be a big hearing where the district attorney's office for the first time is going to present evidence in court about what they have gathered. And the way they're going to do that is they have subpoenaed Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state in Georgia to testify the man who had received that call from Donald Trump after the election where Trump asked him to find votes.

And they're doing this because there's a hearing before a federal judge, prompted by Mark Meadows and others to including Jeffrey Clark, other administration officials who want the judge to look at whether this case could be moved to federal court.

Their argument is that they were federal officials, they were working for Trump. They wouldn't have been doing what they were doing after the election, if they hadn't been employed either at the White House with the Justice Department or elsewhere.

And so, a judge is going to take a look at that, the district attorney has fought back on this very aggressively and said, everything that Mark Meadows is accused of doing for Trump, including establishing that phone call with Brad Raffensperger. That was political activity.

There is also some other arguments out there that the judge might be looking at about how the federal government had no role in determining Georgia state electors after the election. And that may be something that leans against having this case move to federal court.

But we're going to be watching quite closely what happens in the coming days, not just with Meadows and Clark with this hearing. What not just with those witnesses, but how it reflects upon Donald Trump? Would Donald Trump too get this level of protection to move to federal court. And we are seeing some lawyer activity here at the courthouse too, Jeffrey Clark's lawyer just spotted here to potentially be negotiating a bond agreement.

BASH: And Katelyn, real quick. The petition to move to federal court is a delaying tactic that you said it was a way to protect themselves. Can you briefly just explain to people who aren't familiar with the ins and outs of state versus federal and what this would mean on a criminal level?

POLANTZ: Well, it is a way for these people who are working for the federal government to get a little bit more favorable terms on their behalf. So, what they're trying to do is shield themselves with the constitution by saying, we believe this could go in federal court for a number of reasons as federal officials. And then if they got that, they could argue additionally that they had First Amendment protection. They had some other protections of the constitution, immunity, even as people working for Trump.

BASH: Really important. Thank you so much for clarifying that and of course, for your reporting. And thank you everybody here. Coming up. We have a lot more on the latest out of Georgia. But first, as one of the moderators said, he was the elephant not in the room, did any of the 2024 GOP candidates do enough to cut into Donald Trump's commanding lead during last night's debate. We're going to talk about that next.




BASH: And the night filled with one liners crosstalk, some policy and a whole lot of ambiguity about Donald Trump. Milwaukee debate was equal parts, serious and spicy.


VIVEK RAMASWAMY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm the only person on the stage who isn't bought and paid for, so I can say this, the climate change agenda is a---

MIKE PENCE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Now is not the time for on the job training. We don't need to bring in a rookie.

CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The same type amateur -- says tonight. (crosstalk)

NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is exactly why Margaret Thatcher said, if you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.

GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This election is not about January 6 of 2021. It's about January 20 of 2025.

PENCE: I have no right to overturn the election.

HALEY: It is time for a new generational conservative leader. Trump is the most disliked politician in America. We can't win a general election that way.


BASH: Let's get some insights from CNN's Jeff Zeleny, Laura Barron- Lopez of the PBS NewsHour, and Tia Mitchell of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Hello, everybody. Jeff, you and I flew in at 0.100 this morning from Milwaukee. But we are back and we're ready to talk about this. You can hear my voice maybe is a little tired. What was your sort of overall big picture takeaway?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, I mean, this was not Donald Trump's debate. But this is his Republican Party. I mean, everything about it was the Trump era of the party. What I was struck the most by, in the first hour, we did get almost a glimpse of what the post Trump era might be like, at least without him on stage, but his policies still driving all of it.

But I do think there was a lot of substance there that really is what campaigns are all about on Ukraine, on abortion, on government spending. Nikki Haley, at the very beginning out of the gate took on Donald Trump, not on his indictments, but on spending. Of course, she's trying to differentiate herself from her rivals there who voted for some of those spending bills, and she was surrounded by all of them.

BASH: And I want to talk a lot about Nikki Haley because we both thought that those -- that moment and others were really interesting. The other person who was maybe a bit surprising, given how low key he has been on the campaign trail is my pets. I mean he was out there, and he was one of the several people kind of, you know, trying to give it to Vivek Ramaswamy. Let's just show one little part of that.



RAMASWAMY: Join me in making a commitment that on day one, you would pardon Donald Trump. I'm the only candidate on this stage with the courage to says it. That is not going to move our nation forward and turn the page forward. That's exactly right.

PENCE: I don't know why you assume that Donald Trump will be convicted of these crimes. I've actually given pardons when I was governor state of Indiana. It usually follows a finding of guilt and contrition by the individual that's been convicted. So well, if I'm president of the United States, we'll get fair consideration, and he pardoned request.


BASH: And I asked Vivek Ramaswamy afterwards about that, like why wouldn't you do what Mike Pence said. Just wait, A, to see if he's convicted, and B, see if he has any contrition. And his answer was what you would expect, which is this is a witch hunt. And this is this whole, all these prosecutions are political and so forth. But on the more about the dynamics that we saw there. What was your takeaway?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: Well, again, I think that exact clip speaks to what Jeff was saying about the fact that this is Donald Trump's Republican Party, which is a litmus test that is being created from one side of the candidates, which is are you going to pardon the former president? Would you still support him if he is a convicted felon of any of these crimes?

And everyone on that stage raise their hand that yes, they would still support him as if he were the ultimate GOP nominee, even if he is convicted, except for Asa Hutchinson and Chris Christie, who made very clear that they wouldn't. I think that that was one of the biggest takeaways of the night because of the fact that they are ignoring that he may very well be convicted. The vast majority are ignoring the substance of what is in all of these indictments.

And they're saying that ultimately, at the end of the day, they would still support him. How they end up coming from behind Trump and winning a nomination when they're not willing to talk about the substance of those indictments. I mean, the Republican strategist I've talked to since the debate last night have said, the fact that they won't take shots at the former president around any of the indictments is just another reason why he is still leading the party. BASH: And yet, you saw Chris Christie, the guy who tried to do that. Asa Hutchinson, in his own way as well. And the moderators had to turn around and shush the audience, because they were booing so loudly. So that's maybe an indicator of both -- what both of you are saying, its Donald Trump's party, and why they're not -- right, and why they're not being as aggressive.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: Yeah. And I thought it was interesting for Chris Christie. We know where he's coming from, the crowd knew where he was coming from, even in the introductions before one question had been asked. There were boos when Chris Christie was announced. And I think it's, there were some applause for some of the things he said.

But I think it's again, indicative of the fact that by and large, the Republican party, the Republican voters aren't necessarily looking for someone to challenge Donald Trump. Matter of fact, it might help you, if you don't challenge Donald Trump. If you indicate, you support Donald Trump, and we're seeing that with the surge of the Vivek Ramaswamy.

I mean, there are a lot of points of the debate, where I looked at Ramaswamy and felt like he was like Trump's standing. Was there anything that he said last night that Donald Trump wouldn't have said. And I think there was very little. I think, we thought going into this race in the early stages that Ron DeSantis was going to be Trump 2.0, but it turned out that that might be Ramaswamy.

BASH: Well, and we're going to show a little bit of Ron DeSantis from last night. I want to go back to your original point, which is about Nikki Haley. We did mention that Mike Pence was very much a presence on the stage, so as Nikki Haley. In a way that we really haven't seen when it comes to the campaign trail. Let's listen to some of that.


HALEY: No one is telling the American people the truth. The truth is that Biden didn't do this to us. Our Republicans did this to us, too. I am unapologetically pro-life. Let's treat this like a respectful issue that it is and humanize that situation and stop demonizing that situation. The problem that Vivek doesn't understand is, he wants to hand Ukraine to Russia. And you are choosing a murderer over a pro- American country.

RAMASWAMY: You brought that up.

HALEY: You want to go and give Ukraine to Russia.


HALEY: Under your watch you will make America less safe. You have no foreign policy experience, and it shows.


BASH: This is what debates are for is to allow people to have breakout moments. And we just saw several of them from somebody who has had some trouble getting there.


ZELENY: We sure did. And this is something that you can hear the cheering in the crowd. It was a crowd of about 4000 people, all Republicans who are at this event. But what that display is there, it's theatrical that's what debates are for. But it is going to be a fascinating window into where the Republican Party is today? Is it an isolationist party? Like he was essentially saying, or is it a hawkish party, at least when it comes to Putin and Ukraine.

And I thought, she showed her experience. She's really been emphasizing her credentials as a governor a lot. But in this moment, she emphasized her foreign policy credentials and really took it to him, I think. The question is, is that what the base is looking for?

I think she did herself a lot of good in terms of getting attention for her. I'm sure donors will like it. I think a lot of our supporters were likely in the suburbs of Milwaukee, which is a critical area there. But I think overall, some of the base of the party questions that Ukraine funding. So, the Vivek Ramaswamy also represents them. So, that exchange really crystallizes a big part of what we're going to see play out for the campaign.

BASH: A really important substantive debate within the Republican Party, Ron DeSantis, you mentioned him. It was so fascinating that he was one of the two people in the center, and there were many moments where it was almost like he wanted to recede into nowheresville. Let's look at a little part of his performance.


DESANTIS: We will be energy dominant again in this country. I showed it could be done in the state of Florida. I pledge to you as your president, we will get the job done and I will not let you down.


BARRON-LOPEZ: So, DeSantis, I think that that was potentially in response to the climate change question, which at first, he clearly did not really want to answer. To your point, Dana, because it was asked for them to raise their hands if they thought that climate change was a manmade cause, are caused by manmade behaviors. And he said, we're not school children. I don't, you know, and try to avoid raising his hand.

And so, I think that he -- yes, there were times where you could forget that he was on the stage. That bill may have been the kind of night that he was looking for where he was not attacked as much as Vivek Ramaswamy was. And that Ramaswamy took the incoming and it may help him preserve his standing where he is at right now, which is 30 to 40 points, depending on the polls you look at behind the frontrunner, Trump.

BASH: So interesting. Okay. Everybody standby. We have breaking news just in condolences from Vladimir Putin, for a man much of the world suspects he ordered dead. What the Russian president said, after a quick break.