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Judge Sets Start Date For Trump Trial March 4, 2024; Start Date Set For Trump's Federal Jan. 6 Trial; Meadows Takes The Stand In Critical Fulton County Hearing. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 28, 2023 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: The breaking news, a judge locks in a Trump trial day. Hello and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm Dana Bash in Washington. A federal judge just set the country on a road towards a legal and political collision. March 4, 2024, is when Donald Trump's federal trial will now start. March 5 is Super Tuesday when Mr. Trump's name may be on the ballot in at least 15 states.

CNN's Evan Perez is outside the Alfred E. Prettyman courthouse here in Washington where all this just went down. Evan, what a morning.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: What a morning, Dana. This got really heated very, very quickly. The prosecution, as you know, was asking for a trial in January, which the judge immediately said was too soon. But they laid out that they had provided about 12.8 million pages as part of the discovery. They said only 47,000 pages were really key documents that they prosecute -- that the defense would need to prepare for trial.

And of course, that prompted a very impassioned response from John Lauro, who is the lawyer for the former president. He said that this was an absurd and ridiculous plan by the prosecution. He said, this is a request for a show trial, not a speedy trial.

And that's where Judge Tanya Chutkan, finally, she could had a little bit of enough of what he was doing there. And she said, let's take the temperature down. And then she said, I understand Mr. Lauro, but you are not getting two more years. In the end, as you pointed out, she decided on March 4, 2024, which is one day before Super Tuesday.

What this really means is that, you know, the four or five weeks that the prosecution says is going to take for this to go to trial for at least from the prosecution side. During those weekdays, the former president is going to be in this courthouse, not necessarily on the campaign trail. That's, of course, a big, big issue for him as part of his run for office.

The judge, however, said that the public, the public had an interest in a prompt resolution of this case. She said, by the way, Dana, that she had actually talked to a judge in New York, Judge Martin who's about to -- who's going to hear the criminal case there in New York, dealing with hush money payments. Again, that's another criminal trial one of the four that the former president is facing. She said she had talked to him because she knew that it overlapped with his plans for his trial. But in the end, she chose March 4 as the date for this trial to get started here in Washington, Dana.

BASH: So interesting. Evan, thank you so much for that reporting. Let us know if you hear anything else coming out of the building behind you. Here with me to share their reporting and insights, CNN's Carrie Cordero, former federal prosecutor Shan Wu, and CNN political director, David Chalian. I mean, where do we even start? I guess the first question I have Shan, is how set in stone is this?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think it's pretty set in stone. It's not quite the ides of March, but it's pretty close to that period.

BASH: Few days before.

WU: Few days before. It may slip a little bit. I mean, things can happen within the trial. But I think the critical point is she's laid out a marker that says, she thinks it's reasonable for us to go in March, and hauled may slip some it's not going to slip by six months or a year and absence something we haven't thought about before. And also, I think importantly, she was really taken down a notch. The defense lawyer is kind of histrionics, which probably is putting on a show for his client, really to make remarks like that.

BASH: Yes. And let's just go back to Evan talked a little bit about what John Lauro, Donald Trump's attorney said during this hearing. Again, he said this is a request for a show trial, not a speedy trial. He also said, Mr. Trump is not above the law, but he is not below the law. It's an interesting phrase.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. I mean, this tension was always going to exist between the political calendar, the interests of the former president wanting to push this out as far as he possibly could, and the interests of the justice system and the public interest in seeing this trial take place sooner rather than later.

I think March indicates that the judge has said indicates that this trial will take place this spring. But I do think also, she's left a little bit of room for it potentially to get pushed. I think what she's also done as she showed that this case is coming first before the state and local cases that are also out there.


DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes. I mean, that Alvin Bragg case up in New York is scheduled for the end of March, right? And, you'll remember Fani Willis had actually when she was proposing dates down in Georgia, this March 4 date was what she proposed to start up before there were any requests for speedy trials down there. As you noted, the collision of the political and the legal was always on course here. I would note, Dana. Just think about the political calendar for a moment. So, March 4 is the day before Super Tuesday. Well, what does that mean of where we are in the process, right? We will have had those four early contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, that dictates so much about momentum and sort of the status of the race.

In terms of viability and donors, but actually mean very little in terms of the battle for delegates, which is how you win the nomination. Because it's not that big of a delegate prize, those first four contests combined.

When you get to Super Tuesday and you're talking about 15 states. This is where the real battle for delegates for the nomination began. And it is still when the RNC demands that the delegates be awarded proportionally in some way, either statewide or by congressional district. It's not a winner take all fest for if you just get a plurality the votes, you get all the delegates in that state.

That doesn't begin until March 15. So, we're going to be in a period where Donald Trump could potentially still be despite as leaving the polls right now, in a real delegate dogfight, and yet, he's going to be having to show up in trial.

BASH: It's such an important, we're going to drill down even more on the calendar and show our viewers in the next segment. Just broadly about something that David mentioned about, one of you mentioned about this trial versus not just the other federal trial, but the state trials. I found it very interesting that Evan reported that this judge today, Tanya Chutkan, said that she called the judge in New York to make to coordinate, to make sure that there was no conflict there.

CORDERO: I think it's a courtesy in terms of her reaching out. She didn't have to do it. But I think it also I certainly, you know, we're all would be curious what took place in that conversation. But I think the interests of this federal case from her perspective has to come first, particularly as it relates to the New York case.

You know, the New York case is very, very different. It's not related to the functioning of democracy. It was this personal behavior that took place prior to when he was even president. So, it's just very, very different. And perhaps, she was focusing on the public interest and why this federal (crosstalk) first.

BASH: Just want to read. Yes, absolutely. I want to read, Shan, a couple of more quotes from what the judge said during this hearing. She said, referring to the argument that Donald Trump's attorneys were making about how this complex with his presidential campaign. She said setting a trial date does not depend and should not depend on the defendants personal or professional obligations, but she said that she would consider the trial schedules for Trump's three other criminal indictments.

WU: Yes. She is making an important point for history, as well as saying that when you have a court date, when you're in the justice system, that takes precedence over other things, your dry cleaning, pick up that day, your professional networking commitments, your job. The court dates are what counts, that's why she's coordinating with the judge.

Now, that also undercuts little bit arguments by the defense lawyers trying to say, we can't be here today, because we have to be somewhere else having that coordination takes it away. But she's saying when you're in the justice system, that comes first.

BASH: Guessing picking up his dry cleaning is probably not on the president's agenda at all, David, no. But I take your point, I'm just, David, the judge also warned, and this is also interesting that she would be watching carefully for anything that might affect the jury pool, or poison that jury pool. And this is something that she said about comments that might come from the president or his legal team.

CHALIAN: Yes. So, this is now -- I just think we're going to be in a series of weekly warnings now, to Donald Trump and his team about how to he has to behave within guidelines here. We've seen this already about certain concerns about words that can be deemed threatening or perceived that way on his social media.

And here, it seems as tied to the trial date. If you're going to go outside the bounds of what we're setting here of how a defendant should exist that can alter when we need to start this trial, so that you don't solely the potential jury.

CORDERO: Well, and of course, what's totally different about this than most other cases is the fact that she also has to have heightened concern for the First Amendment rights of the former president because he is going to be campaigning at the same time. And so, that intersection between the political calendar his campaigning and public statements that he is going to make during that period are all relevant to her overside (Ph) of the case.


BASH: Yes. The finest of fine lines. As I mentioned, this is legal, but it is very much smack dab in the middle of a political campaign. A lot more on this breaking news ahead and how seismic of the impact this new court date could actually have on the 2024 race. We're going to give you more details about the specifics of the calendar.


BASH: We're back with our breaking news, circle on your calendar at least for now, and get ready for a dramatic collision between politics and the law. That circle should be March 4, when Donald Trump's election subversion trial is now set to start. The very next day is one of the biggest halls, the biggest hall at that point in the -- excuse me, the Republican nominating process for president of the United States, Super Tuesday. And it is possible that Donald Trump will be the nominee for the Republicans, and it is possible he will be on the ballot.

[12:15:00] I want to go back to the courthouse where Evan Perez is still standing. Evan, you were inside the courthouse. You heard of the back and forth between the lawyers and the admonitions from the judge who decided on this date. What specifically did she say about the political calendar?

PEREZ: When she said it was something that obviously was notable, but it wasn't something that was going to change or alter the way she was approaching for the -- approaching her decision. For a trial date, she said that, you know, there were a lot of competing interests here, including, of course, the interest of the defendant, the former president to get a fair trial.

But she said that the political calendar could not be necessarily more important than the public interest. The public interest for a speedy trial was also she said something that was going to take precedence over his own political campaign.

She said, one of the things that she compared it to is, is having a sports figure or somebody who works -- who plays for like a major league sports team, being charged and being -- and going on trial. And she said, it would be inappropriate for the church -- for the for the court to take into account the fact that that person has games to play. So, she compared it to that kind of a situation and said, that the former president doesn't get two years to put this off just because he's running for office.

BASH: Really, it's an interesting analogy, when that I'm guessing that the Trump campaign is going to push back on nevermind his legal team. Evan, stay right there, because I'm sure you're going to have more news and we will get back to when you do.

Here with me at the table is CNN's Jeremy Diamond, Rhonda Colvin of The Washington Post, and David Chalian is still with me at the table. David, last segment, I promised you we would have a graphic, so we can better explain to our viewers.

CHALIAN: (crosstalk) and now you have it.

BASH: It's amazing poof, there it is. Let's just zero in on March because we were talking about that. Well, actually, let's go back to January. Why don't you take us through that and talk about. I know there's some dates that we don't yet have.

CHALIAN: Correct.

BASH: We don't have New Hampshire and we don't have Nevada. I don't believe.

CHALIAN: So, nothing is set in stone yet because each state party has until October 1 to get their plan approved by the RNC. But we have a vague sense of how the calendar is and Iowa was announced as January 15. As you said, we don't have New Hampshire. New Hampshire moves. Iowa could move. You know, nothing is set in stone here just yet.

But look, E. Jean Carroll civil trial coincides with the Iowa caucuses there in January, Dana. And then when you advance up until March, now we have this new date. And what is so consequential here is that Donald Trump is entering into this early period, turn of the year starting to build momentum. Let's say, he does well in Iowa, he does well in New Hampshire.

A lot of previous cycles, you'd say, oh, he's wrapped it up. It's done. I could imagine candidates now hanging on longer than they would, donors being willing who were opposed to Donald Trump and supporting some of his opponents to put more money in because they know this trial is pending. And so, I can imagine this will prolong potentially, even if Donald Trump was building up ahead of steam, the new trial date could prolong this nomination.

BASH: It's such an important point. And when we say Super Tuesday, we're talking about a day where you have contests all across the country. We're talking about Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia.

I think I did that without taking a breath. (crosstalk) That's a big, big haul and the key, one of the key things that David said, was about that, unlike on the Democratic side, you get that it's a winner take all, this is proportional.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I do think that we have to kind of ask the question about, you know, the Trump campaign is arguing that the president being in federal court, and so as the president's legal team, that this would impact his candidacy or that would hurt his candidacy. I think we have to question that. I mean, will it really?

You know, Donald Trump is already leading by tremendous amounts in most of these states in national polls. There is nothing about these cases so far that has impacted his ability to maintain support with the Republican base. These trials will not be televised, which is I think, something that's also important to note.

But the attention will remain on these trials and on Donald Trump, and if anything, perhaps it hurts the other candidates more who aren't able to get their message out in the same way because everything is being so dominated by Donald Trump. So, I'm not saying there's a clearcut answer of whether it hurts or helps him. But I think it's fair to raise that question of whether or not the Trump campaign and the Trump legal team's arguments are actually.


BASH: It's a known unknown as Donald Rumsfeld used to say. And one sort of data point to back up your very smart question about whether it could actually help them in the short term is what the Trump campaign claims that they raised in the 24 hours after that. Now infamous mugshot $7.1 million since Thursday evening, little more than 24 hours.

We'll see if that actually is true after we get the FEC reports. But we know that he was selling a lot of merch, and they're going to keep doing that. They're going to keep playing on and preying on the notion of him being a victim here.

RHONDA COLVIN, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, that's right. He was able to find donors who are willing to give to him all the way back when the Alvin Bragg, the D.A. in New York that case started. So, he's been able to fundraise off of the indictments and off of the mugshot last week, that could continue, especially with grassroots support. I'm not sure about the big donors.

But to Jeremy's point, I do wonder as reporters, you know, a year from now what we will be talking about, because I wonder if voters are going to get fatigued after a while. These dates are getting really real. They're bumping into each other. They're a part of the cycle right now are, you know, just an average Americans going to say, you know what, I'm going to look at some of these other candidates.

And to your point about people staying in longer than usual. I think that's a really wise thing to look at, because this is going to impact pretty much everybody in the field, also Biden a bit because they're all going to have to comment on whatever comes from the court cases. We know the federal ones won't be televised, but Georgia will. And whatever news comes out of that, the candidates are going to have to respond to it.

CHALIAN: I mean, just two things can be true. It could generate enthusiasm among the supporters as we've seen. It can bring in more money, and it could continue to have lingering questions for some Republicans about whether or not he's the strongest nominee in November.

BASH: A lot more to talk about, including more breaking news right now. Mark Meadows, Donald Trump's former White House chief of staff is testifying inside a Georgia courtroom. We're going to tell you what's going on as we speak after a quick break.




BASH: More breaking news now in Fulton County, Georgia and a star witness there. Attorneys are inside the courtroom as we speak, fighting it out over whether Mark Meadows should be tried in state or federal court. The evidentiary hearing also has the look and feel of a Trump trial preview minus the red lights of cameras of course, including, as I said, the former White House chief of staff. He's there. He's sitting in the witness chair. He's answering questions under penalty of perjury.

I want to get right to Sara Murray, to give us a sense of what's happening in that courtroom right now.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, this is remarkable for a number of reasons. I mean, one of them is Mark Meadows has kept such a low profile during these various criminal investigations into Donald Trump. Of course, now they're co-defendants in this case that's going on in Georgia.

The other is it's a risky strategy to take a criminal defendant and to put them under oath, even if it's something like an evidentiary hearing. And what we are seeing, you know, according to our colleagues who are in the courtroom or sending us these updates, is Mark Meadows under oath giving this pretty significant recounting of what happened in the aftermath of the 2020 election and his tenure as White House chief of staff.

You know, he's talking to the court. He's saying these were challenging times, bluntly. Referring to his White House tenure, he said I would get invited to almost every meeting that the president had. He's also up for cross examination from the prosecutor. So, the prosecutors are asking him, you know, when you were joining these calls after the election with Donald Trump, with his private personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, what was the federal function of that? What was your White House duty in that?

And he said, he was a schedule manager. He was a timekeeper for the former president that there is a federal interest in making sure elections are secure. And this is what Meadows has to argue. He has to argue that what transpired in the wake of the 2020 election was somehow related to his official duties as White House chief of staff.

And what's not clear is how much longer this is going to go on because we know that the district attorney has lined up a number of witnesses that she may call, including Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger.

BASH: Sara, a lot happening down there. Thanks for keeping us up to speed on it. Shan Wu and Carrie Cordero are back with us, and joining the discussion is former DeKalb County District Attorney J. Tom Morgan.

I'll start with you because you are in Georgia, J. Tom. What do you make of the arguments that Mark Meadows is making on the stand right now? As we know, as Sara said, these are the key questions that he wants the judge to answer in the affirmative. And the question is whether or not they should be tried in a state court rather than a federal court because he was doing the job on a federal level as the chief of staff to the president of the United States.

J. TOM MORGAN, FORMER DISTRICT ATTORNEY, DEKALB COUNTY, GEORGIA: Dana, just because you receive a federal paycheck, doesn't mean that everything you do comes under the guidelines of your job description as a federal official. What Mr. Meadows is doing was helping the president and others to overturn the Georgia election. And that's what the D.A. is going to argue.

You're exactly right. It's a calculated risk to put a defendant on the stand at any time, certainly during pre-trial motions. And usually, the calculation goes against the defendant. I'm absolutely amazed that he is taking the stand.