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Judge Orders Release of Former Trump Attorney's Emails; Putin Tightens Grip on Ukraine With Martial Law in Four Annexed Regions; Texas Sending Vote Inspectors to Democratic-Leaning Harris County. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 20, 2022 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The judge ordered these emails to be turned over to the January 6th committee because he says they contain evidence of crimes, specifically conspiracy, to defraud the United States and felony obstruction. The same judge in March said that Trump more likely than not committed federal crimes in trying to obstruct the congressional count of Electoral College votes on January 6th.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now CNN Senior Crime and Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz. Tell us a little bit more about this, because this was about attorney/client privilege, but, of course, if there's criminality, the privilege doesn't exist.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. So, John Eastman was trying to keep these emails away from the House select committee and actually any other investigators who may want to get them. And this is the second time this judge has found that these emails should be released, they can't be protected specifically because they could be evidence of the furtherance of a crime. It's called a crime fraud exception to attorney/client privilege. It allows investigators to get access to things.

And this really is a monumental finding from a federal judge. It does two things, potentially very quickly. Right now, Eastman is in a position where these emails could be released to the House select committee. Previously, they got emails right around January 6th. This is a much wider portfolio, the entire month of December of 2020 leading up, so, a lot of additional context that the House may not have had before.

And then the second thing that it does is it has a federal judge on paper looking at documents that could be potential evidence and saying what they actually mean. And his finding is that these emails, eight of them in particular, could show a crime in progress.

KEILAR: Any indication what is actually in these emails?

POLANTZ: Yes. And, actually, that's one of the things about this opinion. The judge walks through what he's finding and why these could be furtherance of a crime in these eight emails in particular, four of them, he says, are part of the lawsuits, the lawyers of Trump knowing that they're filing lawsuits that could potentially delay -- they're acknowledging it could delay the certification of Congress for the presidency on January 6th.

And then there's four other emails that are even more significant, including ones that show that Donald Trump himself attested, in court, that he believed facts were correct, even though at that time the facts that were being presented in court essentially trying to argue that there was fraud in the election, that he and his lawyers knew those facts were wrong.

And so that is all going to go to the House. We're already seeing a little bit. And we can even look back at those previous court filings. They knew that it was false and there's Donald Trump's signature at the bottom saying, I attest this is correct.

KEILAR: This is really a case to watch. Katelyn, thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Let's dig a little more now. With me is CNN Senior Legal Analyst and former Federal Prosecutor Elie Honig.

Sir, walk me through this ruling from the judge.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, John. It's not every day you see a federal judge make an opinion that a former president has likely committed a crime, but that's exactly what happened here.

Now, this started when the January 6th committee issued a subpoena to John Eastman. Eastman, of course, is the conservative attorney and law professor who helped Donald Trump push some of his election fraud theories leading up to January 6th. But Eastman said, hang on a second, some of these communications are between me and my client, Donald Trump, therefore, we're protected by attorney/client privilege.

Now, let me say a word about attorney/client privilege. Let's say, hypothetically, you, John Berman, God forbid, were charged with a crime, bank robbery. You hire me as your lawyer --

BERMAN: Would it be smart?

HONIG: I would do it for free for you, by the way. I just want note.

Now, if we communicated about strategy on the case, are we going to take a plea, are we going to go to trial, who's our witnesses going to be, what arguments are we going to make, that's all covered by attorney/client privilege, it's between you and me, no one else gets to see it. But if we start talking about maybe we'll rob another bank together, maybe you'll drive, maybe I'll wear a mask go in, that is not covered by attorney/client privilege. That is what we call the crime fraud exception.

Now, in this case, Eastman claimed attorney/client privilege over 536 documents. And the judge found that only a few, but a very important few, eight of them were not covered by the privilege because they fell under crime fraud exception. So, eight is not a lot but when you're talking about documents that go to a potential crime, that is an awful lot. Now, the judge did not show us the actual emails but the judge described them. One set of emails the judge said, President Trump filed certain lawsuits not to obtain legal relief but to disrupt or delay the January 6th congressional proceedings through the courts. Keep that in mind, disrupt or delay.

The other batch of crime fraud documents the judge described, he said, President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers to the public both to the court and to the public. Now, the public, not great but not a crime. The court, that's potentially a crime.


And the most important thing here is President Trump knew.

BERMAN: I'm going to star this here, because this is just a big deal in terms of so much of what we've been hearing for the last year. So, what's the relevance of all of this when we talk about possible prosecutions going forward?

HONIG: So, this judge before had ruled that it was more likely than not that Trump was involved in two crimes, obstruction of an official proceeding. Remember that we talked about how one of the goals here was to stop or delay the January 6th count. And conspiracy to defraud the United States, knowing what you were saying is incorrect.

Important to keep in mind, though, the judge here is using a different standard. Correctly, he's using a standard that it's more likely than not. Prosecutors will ultimately have to make a decision to charge, have to meet a much higher burden to proof, proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Importantly, though, these emails, these crime fraud emails now go to the January 6 committee, very short, a skip and a hop to prosecutors who may already have them, but if not, they can now get those from the January 6th committee.

And, John, it's just more bad news for John Eastman, this lawyer. He was searched by the FBI back in July of 2022, and he has taken the Fifth Amendment twice, once in front of the committee and once in front of the Fulton County Atlanta, Georgia prosecutor.

BERMAN: It just has so many implications. And when you look at those words, Trump knew, it could matter in the Georgia investigation, it matters in the DOJ investigation of January 6th. State of mind matters so much in all of this.

HONIG: Exactly.

BERMAN: Separately from all this, our Gabby Orr and others reporting that in the Mar-a-Lago documents case, the Trump team is now considering, not that it's totally up to them, but allowing Department of Justice investigators to come search Mar-a-Lago to see if there are documents still there. What's going on here?

HONIG: Yes, it's an interesting development. I guess it, first and second and third, you don't succeed, maybe try and try again.

Let's just go through the history real quickly. Back in January, the Trump team turned over 15 boxes of documents to archives. Then DOJ realized there's more. They served a subpoena in May and June. Trump's team said, okay, here's what you have in response to the subpoena, that's all the classified documents. That turned out not to be true. And, finally, in August, DOJ went and did the search warrant.

So, now, what options does DOJ have if they believe there're still documents there? They can negotiate nicely, they could try another subpoena, they could do a search warrant. This option, if you believe it, is sort of a hybrid of negotiation will do a quasi search warrant escorted through Mar-a-Lago by Trump's team. I don't know if anyone is trying to send a message here or trying to play games, it's an unusual creative solution. We'll see if it actually plays out.

BERMAN: All right. Watch this space. Elie Honig, that was terrific. Thank you very much.

KEILAR: This morning, there is growing scrutiny of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' crackdown on alleged voter fraud after video shows both the former felons and the officers them arresting equally confused by the arrests.

The defendants feel blindsided. They had no idea that they were not eligible to vote after voting rights for some felons but not all were restored in Florida. Now, they're speaking out to CNN.

Leyla Santiago is live for us in Miami with more. I mean, part of the confusion is they were able to register to vote and they were listening to instructions about being able to vote here, Leyla.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's correct, Brianna. We've spoken to about four of these arrested individuals, and when I talked to them, they were pretty quick to admit to what they called big mistakes from their past. But they also are quick to mention they served their time, felt they paid their debt to society, and thought that the changes in the law here in Florida gave them the right to vote again, until the arrests.


RONALD MILLER, MIAMI RESIDENT ACCUSED OF VIOLATING FLORIDA'S VOTING LAWS: A hard, conniving slap in the face by the state of Florida.

SANTIAGO (voice over): That's what Ron Miller says he felt when he was accused of voter fraud. He was one of more than a dozen arrested as part of a far-reaching state operation to crackdown on supposed voter fraud in Florida, arrests that left many confused.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Voter fraud? I voted but I ain't commit no fraud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is wrong with this state, man? What are you talking about voter fraud?

What's this about?

SANTIAGO: Newly released body camera video first reported by the Tampa Bay Times gives a fresh glimpse of the confusion and the many questions from those arrested.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): These folks voted illegally, they are disqualified from voting because they've been convicted of either murder or sexual assault.

MILLER: It wasn't my mistake that was made. I trusted in the state of Florida to let me know what's going on and they failed me.

SANTIAGO: He says he thought he was allowed to vote. Miller has a list of convictions under his name, including second-degree murder. But he tells us he's tried to stay out of trouble since his release. And then in October of 2020, he tells us he was approached by someone registering voters at the grocery store who told Miller he could restore his voting rights. Miller signed off on the registration and then this voter I.D. came in the mail a few weeks later, just in time for the November 2020 election.


MILLER: I was happy I was able to vote again. Wow.

SANTIAGO: So, he voted, he says, even kept his I Voted sticker. But then two years later --

MILLER: They were like this at my door.

SANTIAGO: In 2018, nearly two thirds of voters passed Amendment 4 in Florida. It restored voting rights for those convicted of felonies, not including murder or felony sex offenses. Legal battles ensued, confusion spread, voting eligibility remained unclear for many.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As if I had robbed a bank or something.

SANTIAGO: Adam Goodman is the attorney defending Nathaniel Singleton, also among those arrested.

ADAM GOODMAN, ATTORNEY FOR NATHANIEL SINGLETON: It's seems kind of improper that the government is saying, hey, go ahead and do this, we got you. Now, you're in trouble. It seems like they're taking advantage of people.

SANTIAGO: In Florida, state law requires the state to notify local supervisors of elections about voters convicted of a felony who are not eligible to vote. In the five counties where these voter fraud arrests occurred, local election officials tell CNN the state did not informed them the arrested individuals were not eligible to vote before they cast a ballot in 2020.

TONY PATTERSON, TAMPA RESIDENT ACCUSED OF VIOLATING FLORIDA'S VOTING LAWS: Why is it you're all doing this now and this happened years ago?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I have no idea, man.

PATTERSON: This is crazy, man.

SHARON AUSTIN, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA: I think it's not coincidental that these arrests occurred before the midterm elections.

SANTIAGO: A voting rights expert we talked to called this a political ploy.

AUSTIN: The danger, as I see it, is that it's intimidating and that it is voter suppression. It is, I think, designed and targeted at lower income voters who also disproportionately tend to be men and women of color.

SANTIAGO: For Ron Miller, he wants nothing to do with the election process anymore after the arrest.

MILLER: I want them to drop the charges on me and just leave me alone.


SANTIAGO (on camera): As for Miller, for now, he is pleading not guilty, plans to file a motion to dismiss, hoping to get before the court tomorrow. But, ultimately, Brianna, he calls this a setback. He now has to figure out how he's going to pay someone back who helped him pay for that bond. For Governor DeSantis and his administration, they are standing by these arrests.

KEILAR: Leyla Santiago live for us in Florida, thank you.

BERMAN: This morning, Martial Law is now in effect in four regions of Ukraine that Russia claims to have annexed. Overnight, Ukrainian officials say a Russian rocket attack hit a children's school in a village in Zaporizhzhia. There are no reported injuries. They also report serious disruption after another night of strikes targeting energy infrastructure in the Kryvyi Rih region, that is in the southern part of Ukraine.

CNN's Matthew Chance is live in Moscow for us this morning. Matthew, let's start with the martial law in these four territories claimed now by Russian.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, this is a very serious development because, basically, it gives the Russian military almost absolute power in those regions that Russia has claimed it's annexed in Ukraine. And authority to, for instance, carry out arrests, to seize property, to force people to the frontlines and join sort of like people's battalions and things like that. So, it's a really extreme draconian set of legislation which has been introduced, martial law, in those areas.

The caveat, of course, is that, first of all, these areas are already, for the most part, under -- they're in a wartime situation. There's fierce fighting going on, particularly around the area of Kherson, to the southeast of Ukraine. But also Russia doesn't control large areas of these places as well. And so it's not able to impose its jurisdiction sort of physically on the ground.

I think we have to remember, though, John, that this is all about Vladimir Putin showing what he's capable of doing. He's had a lot of criticism inside Russia that he's not being strong enough in Ukraine, right-wing hardliners, military hardliners in the country saying he should do more. And this is his message, that he will do whatever it takes to defend these areas that, of course, Russia claims as its own. John?

BERMAN: So, the martial law decree is getting a lot of attention, Matthew, but you point out what's happening inside Russia proper might be of even greater significance. Explain.

CHANCE: Yes, I think it is, because while on the ground, the martial law doesn't really change anything in effect. As I say, it's already pretty much a military zone anyway. But when you look at what's happened in the rest of Russia, the border regions, for instance, close to Ukraine. They've had very -- not just short of martial law but very strong military restrictions imposed at the same time, checkpoints.

Again, the authorities are able to sort of marshal resources to support the military, all opposition activity and protest and strike activity has been outlawed, essentially. So, that's really serious, as well a real suspension of civil liberties.

And then you extend further to the east, towards Moscow, and other provinces as well, and you're seeing a much tighter form of authoritarian control across the country.


So, this is the Kremlin really tightening its grip, not just in those areas of Ukraine but across the entire region of Russia.

BERMAN: Matthew Chance reporting from Moscow, as always, thank you, Matthew. Thank you so much for your insight.

Ahead, John Kirby from the White House joins us for the Biden administration response to the martial law decree.

SOS, officials in a Democratic-leaning county announced an inspection of the election count less than a week before early voting.

KEILAR: And in a newly obtained clip, former President Trump is heard making insensitive comments about Jewish people.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Is this a good Jewish character right here?


TRUMP: You've got to love Trump.



BERMAN: New this morning, election officials in Arizona have referred a case of possible voter intimidation to the Justice Department. A spokeswoman for the secretary of state tells CNN an unidentified voter reports being approached and followed by a group of individuals when a voter was trying to drop off a ballot at an early voting drop box on Monday.


It happened in Maricopa County, where officials were already on alert over people reporting voter activity at various drop boxes. CNN has reached out to the Justice Department for comment on this.

Democrats in the most populous county in Texas say Republicans might be trying to sow doubts in the election process j8ust days before early voting begins there. The Secretary of State's Office says it will send inspectors and a task force to Democratic-leaning Harris County for the general election.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Texas this morning. So, Ed, what are these inspectors going to be looking at?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in this letter that the Texas Secretary of State Office sent to the election administrator in Harris County, it says that they have concerns over breaches of chain of custody issues related to mobile box voting sites that were used during the 2020 election. This was one of the ways of voting that was presented there in that county that led to some of the highest voter turnout that that county had seen in some time. But it has come under a great deal of fire, especially from Republicans here in Texas.

This letter outlines what they believe what the secretary of state says they believe is breaches of security and chain of custody and the way information was gathered from those mobile ballot boxes. But this has really come under fire from Democrats, especially in Harris County who say that the timing of this letter is, from in the words of the county judge there in Harris County, is the timing of all of this just days before early voting starts is, at best, suspicious. The Texas Civil Rights Project went on to describe this as saying that it was an effort to intimidate voters in Harris County.

The Texas Secretary of State's Office said this is something that is often done and there is some truth to that, that there are inspectors that are often sent to counties across the state in moments like this. In this letter, the Texas Secretary of State's Office writes, these inspectors will perform randomized checks of election records, including tapes and chain of custody issues that will -- involved in the handling of the electronic data and ballots, excuse me, my eyes are going on me here. So, those are some of the issues. But the letter also goes on to say, John, that the Texas Attorney General's Office will be sending inspectors and a task force as well, and that is one of the issues that is really raising alarms among Democrats. The attorney general, of course, on the ballot, he's a very controversial figure here in the state, and they say that it really kind of sends a wrong message that this A.G., who's so controversial and involved in his own election, is going to be responding to questions raised by voters, inspectors, as well as people who are poll workers, who are working on that.

And that's significant because last year, the Texas legislature passed a law that gives poll watchers, especially poll watchers that are partisan poll watchers far more powers here in this state for this election. John?

BERMAN: Ed Lavandera on the case for us in Texas, great to see you this morning, Ed. Thank you.

KEILAR: With less than 20 days to go now before the midterm elections, President Biden's schedule this week is really providing a roadmap of the real-time triage effort to bolster Democratic prospects. On Tuesday, Biden vowed to send a bill to codify abortion protections if voters elect Democratic senators and keep the House.

On Wednesday, he announced a series of steps aimed at lowering gas prices. Today, the president is in Pennsylvania, he's talking about infrastructure and he's following that with a fundraiser for Senate Candidate John Fetterman. On Friday, the president will be in Delaware to talk about student loan forgiveness.

Joining us now is CNN Anchor and Chief National Affairs Analyst Kasie Hunt. So, if you look at Biden's week here, you really do see this roadmap. It's what Democrats are trying to emphasize, what they're trying to maybe compensate for and who they're trying to shore up.

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Right. And it's really about who they're talking to, right, so, a series of these events. And I think you've seen this from Democrats come across the board. The focus is really on trying to turn out their base voters. That's what abortion events are about. That's what the student loan forgiveness policy is about. It was about getting Democrats who were perhaps a little disenchanted with the Biden administration to get back on board, get excited, get out to vote.

That enthusiasm gap is just so important in any midterm election. And over the summer, Democrats closed it a little bit, especially with abortion. But as we've seen, the momentum seems to be shifting back to Republicans, as some of these other issues that voters see Republicans as leading on come back to the forefront, particularly in inflation and gas prices.


And so, yes, he's trying to kind of shore that up. I mean, the unfortunate reality is anyone can look at their bank account, their grocery bill, 401(k) and they feel that personally. It's a really difficult message for the White House to sell.

KEILAR: It's inescapable, right, what they're facing here.

Okay. So, this isn't the first time that he's campaigned for John Fetterman, and Fetterman still facing this issue over his health. He suffered a stroke several months ago. And now he has a letter out from his doctor. And I'm wondering if you think -- this is something Democrats are dismissing, but he has a letter out from his doctor attesting to his good health and that he's making a good recovery. Is this going to be enough?

HUNT: So, it's clear to me that the fact that they put this letter out shows that they realize that the perceived lack of transparency, the fact that they weren't -- it wasn't perceived. The actual lack of transparency about his stroke was becoming a political problem for them.

So, the question is going to be is it enough? I think there are a couple things that are going to tell us how this going to play out. One is his performance in the debate against Dr. Oz. The Oz -- the Mehmet Oz campaign kind of fumbled how they handled this in the beginning. They really made some nasty comments about his health. And there are a lot of voters out there who grapple with health challenges in their own lives that seen as really alienating.

BERMAN: it's a nasty race but, I mean, that sort of don't go there.

HUNT: Right. I mean, it was very -- like this could happen to any one of us, right, and especially because Oz is relying on his doctor title as a credential that he has. I think people were pretty taken aback by that. But they have adjusted in how they framed this, and instead they're saying, okay, is he fit to be your senator?

Now, this letter says -- it's from his general practitioner, right? It's not from the doctors that treated his stroke, so I think that's important to note. But that said, I mean, I think the question for average Americans is if your primary care doctor wrote a letter to your boss and said, hey, you're good to go to work, would that be good enough for you? And I think for a lot of people, the answer is going to be yes, but I think there are still some twists and turns left in the race to see, for sure.

KEILAR: Yes. This letter says he's spoken with his neurologist and cardiologist, but this isn't a letter from the neurologist or the cardiologist.

HUNT: Right.

KEILAR: So, we are going to see former President Obama campaigning next week. He'll be in Wisconsin, he's going to be in Michigan, he'll be in Georgia. What can Obama do that Biden can't?

HUNT: Yes. This is a really, really interesting question. And one of the things I think Obama has been very careful about when I talk to Democrats is he knows he can be a polarizing figure for independent voters. So, one of those states have in common. I think you're looking at particularly black voter turnout. If you're talking about Wisconsin, if you're talking about places like Milwaukee, I'm not sure exactly what city Obama is going to but there are several that would fall into that category. Stacey Abrams, same kind of thing down in Georgia, turning out the black vote.

I think the comments that Obama has made recently in public are actually kind of pretty introspective and interesting about kind of how he sees his role in where our politics stand today, what voters are looking for from their politicians, some of the mistakes perhaps that progressive Democrats have made. But I think he's acutely aware in the Trump era of the way he comes across.

KEILAR: Yes. It's going to be interesting to see what he says, and if he's saying it too late, right, if it's too late to change the messaging here.

Kasie Hunt, great to have you this morning.

HUNT: Great to see you, Bri.

KEILAR: Thank you so much.

Meghan Markle opening up about the last few months in a new interview with Variety, what she had to say about Queen Elizabeth, ahead.