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Inside Politics

Trump & 18 Co-Defendants Have Surrendered; Chesebro Asks For Speedy Trial; Judge Sets Oct. 23; Palin: Do Prosecutors Trying Trump Want Civil War? Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 25, 2023 - 12:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Today on Inside Politics, the final deadline of the week that shook up the world. All 19 men and women charged in a criminal conspiracy to subvert the election have surrendered in Georgia, including the former President. Plus, the mug shot on front pages everywhere. In the merch, Donald Trump wants everyone to buy. His campaign is hocking T-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers and everything in between stamped with a picture for the ages. And a chance at a breakthrough debate for Donald Trump's rivals gets eclipsed by the former President's fourth indictment. I am Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines and inside politics.

Right now, the Georgia case and a new form of presidential portrait. We are seconds past a noon deadline in Fulton County, Georgia. All 19 defendants charged in the criminal conspiracy to undermine the 2020 election showed up as demanded and submitted to the process. That, of course, includes Donald Trump, and the mug shot seen around the world. Go to a newsstand in his former hometown, for example, you can't miss it. The Wall Street Journal under the headline "Trump booked". The New York Post "Let the mug shot speak for itself", and the more liberal New York Daily News brands Mr. Trump an enemy of democracy.

The former President also returned to Twitter, the platform formerly known as Twitter, whatever we're calling it these days, for the first time in 959 days, a tweet with his new tagline, a link to his website, with his mug shot, of course. And the last week before that was from two days after the insurrection.

We start with CNN's Katelyn Polantz who is in Atlanta. Katelyn, it's probably pretty quiet there at this point, as everybody has surrendered.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: It is, on one front, but we have a lot of moving parts still, Dana, in this case, this sprawling case against 19 defendants. As of now, all of the defendants have been arrested. There is one that is remaining in jail. There is a possibility he is going to be detained for a bit longer because he doesn't have a bond agreement like all of the others had. So, they could get into the jail, arrested and out just like Donald Trump did as well last night. But, as this case moves forward, where we are today is that there are a lot of options that these criminal defendants have, Trump included. But, what we're watching for is splits between them, essentially. One defendant did get a trial date set last night. He asked for a speedy trial. That was attorney Ken Chesebro, who was part of the group that was plotting out this plan that Trump used to overturn or to try to overturn the election results. Chesebro got what he wanted, a speedy trial, which he had asked for, and a judge had set the date yesterday for October 23. Really a quick turnaround. That would be a trial just for him. We're not exactly sure if that date will hold. They often do move.

But, Donald Trump does not want to go to trial anytime soon. And so, you're going to see him start to distance himself from defendants that want something different from him. The other thing that's happening, Dana, is that we have these federal court proceedings where individuals who had some sort of affiliation with the federal government, either worked for Trump or were fake electors, are starting to ask federal judges, move my case out of state court because I was acting as a federal official at the time or I was acting at Donald Trump's direction, another thing to watch for that defendants might be saying, as we had forward in this case. Dana.

BASH: Katelyn, thank you so much for that reporting, as always. And here with me to share their legal insights, former FBI Director Andrew McCabe, former Federal Prosecutor Shan Wu, and former U.S. Attorney Michael Moore. Nice to see you, gentlemen. Happy Friday.

As we start to discuss this sort of substance of this and the strategy behind all these legal cases, I just want to put up on the screen for our viewers what we all saw last night when we were right here, the booking sheet for the former President. And you know, just not something we've ever seen, I believe, a booking sheet for a former President.

Andrew McCabe, when you see this and when you think kind of big picture about the spectacle and the gravity of what happened in Georgia and what is happening in Georgia, what comes to mind?


ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY DIRECTOR, FBI, & CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Georgia, to me -- there is an undeniable kind of raw quality to the case that you see going forward in Georgia, and you compare it to Jack Smith's indictment, the federal indictment involving January 6. That was really kind of a soaring narrative, very focused on just a few charges, obviously, isolated on one defendant, Donald Trump. And really, the themes in that indictment were the significant effort to undermine the counting of the votes and the certification the election.

You look at that booking sheet, you get a very different story. This is the down and dirty, the nitty-gritty of what the prosecutors alleged happened over the course of, what, 160 something separate acts, which are all violations, according to the indictment of the RICO statute in Georgia. It gets you inside the conspiracy to phone calls that made, messages that are left from people, pressure that was put on witnesses, efforts to get federal, or I'm sorry, state officials to walk away from their duty to their position and their oaths of office. It's really very granular and kind of gritty.

BASH: Such an interesting way to describe it. It's so true. And because I have three attorneys at the table, this is not going to surprise you, because you probably don't all agree on how this case will go. We've seen a lot of commentary from others who are on different sides of kind of the strategy here. One criminal defense attorney, his name is Jack Cunha, he just spoke in the Wall Street Journal. He said about this case. "They'd say that there may have been a similar goal that Trump remain President, but there was no coordination. They're going to say this isn't the mafia or a street gang. They'll say this is just hardball politics."

MICHAEL MOORE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, & PARTNER, MOORE HALL IN ATLANTA: I think that's a fair point, I mean, frankly, going in at this stage. And the question, ultimately, for the trial is going to be whether or not we're criminalizing both legal advice and political strategy. And I'm not suggesting that this was a criminal. I'm just saying that I think will be the defense at the end of the day. And it will be that this was not an effort by all of these people acting in concert for this one thing. It may be that they were acting in concert, or at least acting to protect the interest of their party at the time and to make sure that they remained in power. But, was this concerted or controlled at the top?

And so, that's always the question. Trump has been a master throughout his time of stay and removed, sort of from the wrong side of the "versus" mark up until recently. He has s always kept somebody in between him and the jailhouse, whether that be a lawyer, that'd be an aide, somebody else. And so, the question will be, here, can the prosecutors put his fingerprints on the facts of this case enough to make it so?

BASH: Yes. And you mentioned that this is very granular when we look at the booking sheet and of course the charges. Shan, another attorney, the former DeKalb County Prosecutor, his name is Chris Timmons. He said "Anytime you bring a RICO case when it's not against the mafia, there is a chance that the jury thinks the case is overcharged. There is a massive danger of jury nullification." What do you think? You don't agree?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I don't really agree with that. I mean, sure, the traditional notion of a RICO case, it originated with Rudy Giuliani's use of it --

BASH: Exactly.

WU: -- against the mafia. But, as long as you make the legal elements, you can charge it, and this particular office is quite expert at using RICO in the non-traditional ways. It's a broader statute. So, from a legal standpoint, they'll know this is an issue. They are going to try to use during the application, but probably not based on that. I think that assumes the level of actual sophistication among the jurors. They go. You shouldn't use RICO cases in anything but the mafia. Their challenge is, as Michael was pointing out, really connecting the dots to these masterminds, because it's not looking like a violent crime enterprise. So, you do have to connect those dots.

But, as a legal matter, I don't think that's going to be tough. The real challenge for them is the logistics of having that many defendants in the case.

BASH: Well, and on that note, we talked a little bit about this, and Katelyn mentioned, the idea that Chesebro, one of the attorneys, is asking for and was granted, at least on paper, a speedy trial. The trial would start October 23. And it's the question of these co- defendants splitting. How does that affect? What people are the most interested in? Of course, it's the former President and his case.

MOORE: Well, just because Mr. Chesebro asked for a speedy trial, he did that under the Georgia Speedy Trial Act, which guarantees him a right to have his case heard the following term after he was indicted, under certain circumstances in this fit. That doesn't mean that everybody else gives up their right and time to prepare. And so, essentially, what he has done is he has called the prosecutors bluff. They had no option but to move the case forward quickly. And now, everybody who follows, if they move forward that trial, will have a chance to have a dry run at it.


BASH: I want to play something for our viewers that we don't always do, but we thought it was important because it speaks to what a lot of -- shouldn't a lot of, but a growing number of Republicans are starting to allude to, and that is the question of potential violence here. This is Sarah Palin speaking on Newsmax.


SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Those who are conducting this travesty and creating this two-tier system of justice, I want to ask them, what the heck? Do you want us to be in civil war? Because that's what's going to happen. We're not going to keep putting up with this. And Eric, I like that you suggested that we need to get angry. We do need to rise up and take our country back.


BASH: As somebody who is in the FBI and law enforcement for a very long time, how does that strike you?

MCCABE: It's outrageous. I mean, to have political leaders, and she is certainly one, use language that validates and seems to permit -- creates a permissive structure around this idea of political violence, it's absolutely irresponsible. It's dangerous. She knows better. I don't know what her calculation is for saying things like this, whether it's just a kind of a desperate shot at attention or relevance, who knows. But, it's --

BASH: The words matter. MCCABE: It -- they do matter. And what she is proposing is essentially extortion. Right? You don't make decisions to not go forward with a valid prosecution with an indictment that's been returned by citizens who serve on a grand jury simply because you're afraid that the supporters of the person who you're indicting might cause a riot. That's the end of the rule of law, and that's not accepted.

BASH: Thank you for that important discussion. I've learned a lot, always do here.

Our coverage of the historic moment continues. We're live near the former President's Bedminster golf course with what he is planning to do next.




BASH: The mug shot seen around the world, the 45th President, also now known as inmate number PO1135809, posted this instantly iconic image on social media after he was booked at George's Fulton County Jail. Now, the 2024 Republican frontrunner is back at his Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey, and that is where CNN's Kristen Holmes is. Holmes is right near his estate, I should say. Kristen, what are you hearing today from the President's aides, from your sources, about how he believes, really believes that yesterday went.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's actually a number of advisors this morning, Dana, who said they believe it went as well as they could have. They were really harping on the fact that he got back onto "X", formerly known as Twitter, as one of the big surprises of the day. And they told me that actually it was a spontaneous decision, as something that as we know former President Donald Trump likes to do, take control of the media narrative and really capitalize on a situation when he has everyone's attention.

Now, when it comes to that mug shot, I was also told they liked the way that it turned out. But, many of his advisors did not actually want him to take that mug shot. They were hoping that it wouldn't happen, because it's not something they can control. They liked the idea that they had already put some of these fake mug shots on merchandise and sold it. However, as you said, they fundraised off of it. They plan to continue fundraising off of it. And of course, we can hear -- we believe that we will continue to hear Donald Trump pushing it out there, saying again that this is election interference, as he moves forward with this campaign and all these legal issues.

BASH: Kristen, I bet, with all of your years of journalism experience, you did not expect the sentence they liked how his mug shot turned out to come out of your mouth. But, thank you very, very much for that reporting.

HOLMES: Certainly not about a presidential candidate. BASH: Exactly, or former President. Thank you so much, Kristen. And shortly after the former President returned to New Jersey last night, he fed the conservative media ecosystem with his thoughts about his trip to Atlanta.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: Terrible experience. I took a mug shot, which I never heard the words mug shot, that wasn't, they didn't teach me that at the Wharton School of Finance. It's a very sad experience and it's a very sad day for our country. This is a weaponized Justice Department.


BASH: Here to share their insights and their reporting, CNN's David Chalian, CNN's Gloria Borger, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report, and CNN's Daniel Strauss. Welcome.


BASH: Nice to have you here as part of the team.

So, let's just look at what the former President is saying on his fundraising appeals, because that's always a very good insight as to where they think they can stir up their supporters. "If you can, please contribute. Please make a contribution to evict Crooked Joe Biden from the White House and SAVE AMERICA during this dark chapter in our nation's history." Gloria.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what do you expect? I mean, this is, of course, what he has been doing, and he is going to continue to do this. And they're going to use that mug shot, that menacing mug shot to raise money. And he is going to continue to portray himself as the victim in all of this, who is somebody who represents your grievances, and is martyred (ph) because he is actually doing this for you. So, this will not happen to you in the future. And, we're going to be hearing that for the entire campaign.

BASH: And our colleague, Stephen Collinson, who sort of tries to wrap up everything that happens on a daily basis, put it this way, and it's just so true. "For any other politician, a mug shot would be the end. For Trump, it's a springboard."



BASH: In the short term, it seems to be.

CHALIAN: And maybe -- yes. I don't know how much spring he needs right now. He is 40 points ahead. But, there is no doubt that in the short term it can be helpful to his campaign. I don't know if it's a real springboard back into the Oval Office, which is his ultimate goal here. This iconic photo now in American history, it's so intriguing that it really encapsulates, I think, where we are in politics right now, because it's not just Donald Trump who is selling merch on this and raising money on this and his allies. The Democrats are doing so as well. The House campaign arm for the Democrats, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, put out a fundraising appeal featuring the mug shot.

So, it just is this moment where you saw Democrats last night gleeful, thinking it sort of validated their arguments against Donald Trump for the last eight years, and you see the Trump MAGA universe, as Gloria said, using it to say how victimized they are here and a rallying cry for more and more support to galvanize around the former President. The fact that a mug shot of a former President can serve both of those interests right now, I think just captures where we are.


BASH: And as you're talking --


BASH: -- I just want to put up on the screen the merch that we're talking about. This, what we're showing you, is just from Trump's own campaign, never mind all the other outlets, so to speak, that David was talking about. Go ahead, Amy.

WALTER: And we've been living in this time for the entirety of Trump's presidency. I mean, think about the events that we've had over these last few years. We've had two impeachments. We've had January 6. We've had COVID. We've had once in 100 year events, and sometimes once in never year events that don't move the needle in terms of voter perceptions of the two parties, of the candidates. They still sort of -- we stay in the same place. So, you are seeing events, even something like this having very little impact.

At the same time. I go back to this -- what David said about where -- it's not really clear that it's a springboard, of the people who aren't really involved in politics, the people who don't pay attention to this. What are they going to do about this in November of 2024, and I can't believe that for folks who turned out and voted in 2020, who voted for Joe Biden, they're going to see that Donald Trump looks more acceptable as a candidate than he did in 2020.

BORGER: Yes. He just got indicted for the fourth time. Yes. I've changed my mind.

WALTER: And that's really --

BASH: I really totally agree with both of you. The other alternative is, I'm just going to stay home.

STRAUSS: Yes. But, I want to go back to the expression of this mug shot. I think it's really important, not only that Trump himself likes to always appear tough and as a fighter, but that's what the GOP wants, and maybe this mug shot isn't a springboard to the White House. But, at this moment in the primary, it's a springboard for him to stay at the head of the pack (ph). This is a primary electorate that wants a fighter that wants someone who is pugilistic, who is combative. And it's speaks to, I think, the sense of where the primary electorate is among Trump's team, that they really want to push this out more.

BASH: Yes.

BORGER: It's so menacing that picture when you look at it.

BASH: But, intentionally.


BASH: Yes.

BORGER: Absolutely intentionally, and it's a Rorschach test.

STRAUSS: Wait. Wait. I mean --

BORGER: It's a Rorschach test.

STRAUSS: -- I mean, that's -- but that's what it is. This --


STRAUSS: -- primary electorate really wants someone who they feel is fighting for them. They don't -- we saw this in the debate and in the aftermath, they are not responding as, like, actively to Tim Scott's sort of happy go lucky, very cheerful approach. They want --

BORGER: Exactly.

STRAUSS: -- someone who is flexing their muscles, and showing that in fundraising, in fighting the establishment, even though the establishment here is the criminal justice system, and just sort of acting. It's not even like an anti-establishment thing, but fighting --

BASH: Institutions.

STRAUSS: -- all the powers. Yes.

CHALIAN: We were talking about the politics of this mug shot right now. We also should not lose sight. I think it also puts the stakes of the 2024 election front and center. I mean, this is going to be a test of our democracy in a way that I don't even think the 2020 election was. I mean, given that -- what we're talking about are events that all came after the 2020 election that led to this. So this -- that mug shot, to me, also represents the stakes in the 2024 election for our system and institutions themselves.

BORGER: And each side thinks it's existential.

BASH: A lot more to talk about after a quick break. Donald Trump's surrender stole the spotlight from the first 2024 primary debate this week. Yes, that was this week. So, how do the others vying for the nomination plan on stealing the spotlight back? We're going to talk about that after a short break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)



BASH: Today, the reality Republican candidates not named Trump, wish they had, versus the photo and the headlines consuming much of the oxygen. Last night, Ron DeSantis engineered an Iowa nice moment, throwing batting practice to his kids at the iconic Field of Dreams.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you think about this split screen of you here in the field of dreams and former President Trump being arrested in Georgia?

RON DESANTIS (R), 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm glad I'm at the Field of Dreams.