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Quest Means Business
Report On Biden's Handling Of Classified Documents Released; House Republicans: Hur Decision Not To Prosecute Biden A Double Standard; President Biden Not Facing Charges In Classified Docs Probe; Arguments Wrap In Trump Ballot Case At The Supreme Court; President Zelenskyy Fires His Top Military Commander. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired February 08, 2024 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: And good evening. I'm Paula Newton in New York.
And we have breaking news, the US Department of Justice has just released the special counsel's report on President Joe Biden's handling of
Now, you'll remember these were the documents found at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, DC, and also at the president's home in Delaware.
Earlier today, the White House declined to assert executive privilege over any of this report. And that's why we have it in our hands now.
We want to go straight to our Katelyn Polantz who has been reading through it, and Katelyn, I mean, from the few lines that have I've seen, this is
quite a bombshell for the Biden administration.
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE SENIOR REPORTER: It is, Paula.
The finding here after a year-long investigation by the special counsel, so a prosecutor looking at possible criminal charges for the Justice
Department with a little bit of distance from the administration itself, someone with a level of independence found evidence that Joe Biden
willfully retained and disclosed classified materials after he left the vice presidency during the Obama years of the presidency.
Now, there's a big but here. The but is there are no criminal charges being filed here. Special Counsel Rob Hur found that there should not be criminal
charges, that even if department policy at the Department of Justice said you can't indict a sitting president, which Joe Biden is currently and that
is the department policy, they still wouldn't be bringing charges.
The reason for that are many different mitigating factors, specifically pointing out that Joe Biden had a failing memory about some of these things
and even if he was willfully retaining and disclosing classified information, especially about Afghanistan, the Afghanistan military,
foreign policy, as well as handwritten notebooks he kept from his vice presidency, even though he shared them at some point with a ghostwriter he
was working with on a memoir, it was not enough to convince a jury that there was guilt on his mind or that he willfully wanted to keep these
things in violation of the law.
NEWTON: Yes, still absolutely stunning in terms of the language that was used here. And Katelyn, I know how closely you follow this. I just want to
remind the audience that President Biden was interviewed for two days by the special counsel, that was last October.
I mean, how do you think that played into what we see today in terms of the results of this investigation?
Paula, the Special Counsel Rob Hur in this report, it's more than 300 pages long. He points that out as one of the mitigating factors here. One of the
reasons that factored into what a jury may believe here, or see here, if they were to see the evidence, and also what he was looking at, that Joe
Biden was cooperative with this investigation sitting for interviews.
He also turned the documents back over to the Justice Department once they were found, and Special Counsel Rob Hur's especially goes through exactly
how this is different from the case against Donald Trump, the case that has been charged in criminal court and is headed toward a trial.
The difference here where Donald Trump is accused of keeping records at his estate, Mar-a-Lago in Florida after his presidency, is that in that case,
they have found evidence of the obstruction of justice, a refusal of Donald Trump to return documents and his wish that witnesses in that case would
lie to federal authorities.
NEWTON: Yes, and we should remind people as well that former Vice President Pence also faced an investigation. He was cleared of any wrongdoing. I
guess it was June last year.
And Katelyn, just before I let you go, can you remind us where are we are at right now with the Trump case in terms of the documents case now?
POLANTZ: We are -- in that case, still, Paula, it is on the calendar for May to go to trial. There is a big hearing coming up at the beginning of
March in it, but what is happening right now is both sides are picking through the evidence and there is a lot of classified material in that
evidence against Donald Trump that the defense team is looking at.
They're trying to get some of it thrown out, they are trying to get parts of the case dismissed or the entire case dismissed. And they also are
before a judge with a lot of proceedings happening confidentially, under seal is what they say in court, all of these proceedings are happening
under seal because the case involves so much classified material here they have to be very careful with it because of national security reasons --
NEWTON: Okay, Katelyn Polantz, really appreciate you getting that to us quickly.
We want to go now to CNN legal analyst, Joey Jackson and Norm Eisen both joining.
Norm, I'm going to go to you first. On the case itself. I mean, okay, you say the logical thing, relief from the White House that there aren't any
charges. But my gosh, the language in this is absolutely startling when you think about it as a former vice president who was in office for a very long
time and now a sitting president.
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, it's strong language that's appropriate. No matter who you are, if you are handling our nation's
classified secrets, you have to do so with care, and the current president could have done better with that.
But let's note the important distinction here: No evidence of intentional wrongdoing, not enough evidence to establish a criminal prosecution whereas
in the case of the former president, Donald Trump, you not only have the mishandling, you have evidence that he was intentionally mishandling
documents and instead of cooperating as President Biden did, former President Trump allegedly obstructed justice, interfered with the
So these two cases are apples and oranges, but that does not mean that Joe Biden did the right thing, he did not.
NEWTON: It certainly seemed from what the special counsel was saying that the best case would be that he was being careless.
Now, that does not jive with the word "willful." Joey, do you believe that the president, President Biden served himself well, by agreeing to
cooperate with this investigation? Again, it was two days with the special counsel.
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So Paula, I do.
I think it's very important, right? It goes to the issue of intent. It goes to the issue of criminality, it goes to the issue of putting things in
In this world, we have context, and we have perspective. And when you can sit and give your perspective in terms of mishaps that you made, it makes a
big difference. It is what we, lawyers, call mitigation, mitigating circumstances.
And so when you cooperate fully and completely, when you indicate that you had no ill-intent, when you don't instruct other witnesses to cover or
otherwise lie for you, it makes a difference in terms of what prosecutors are going to do and what they did do in this case.
The issue then becomes, Paula, how it's going to be received politically. Obviously, the former president is going to say, a-ha, you see, it's a
gross distinction. I'm treated differently. They prosecute me. They don't prosecute Joe Biden, but we'll get ready for it, in addition to that, his
allies will do it.
As Norm said, and I do agree, it's apples and oranges in so many regards, but people who don't follow the niceties and the fine distinctions are not
going to see it that way and this is going to be political fodder for those who are the enemies of Biden in a campaign to say that the Justice
Department is bought and paid for, and there's people who are -- who engage in similar acts, but it is not, but are being treated, you know,
dissimilarly, and that's what's going to come for sure and soon.
NEWTON: And now, Norm, the question I would have, and it's a question of privilege, and I'm not talking about the legal kind. If you were a
government employee working in any departments in Washington or beyond, and you did this, some may believe that the president, former vice president
has been treated differently, because they will assume that if you were sitting there and you were an official in the Transportation Department,
let's say, and you were found guilty of this, the charges would be laid against you.
EISEN: I understand those who will ask those questions, and certainly, President Biden's political opponent, former President Trump will say so,
but that's just not right.
I make that judgment based on having held our nation's highest security clearances myself as a United States ambassador, and having been when I was
in the White House, White House counsel lead on Executive Order 13526, which governs the handling of these documents.
If others had inadvertently or as the special counsel himself, a Trump appointee, Robert Hur, as he said, at best a case for careless, negligent
handling. That's not right, but that doesn't establish criminality, that and the full cooperation would lead to this kind of a reprimand that we do
see in this extensive special counsel report, but no one else would be prosecuted for this either if it was inadvertent.
NEWTON: Understood. And Joey, when we talk about the contrast, again, in the case with a former president, Donald Trump, which is still pending, how
do you think people will see this because again the special counsel despite what was said in this report said that Joe Biden did cooperate.
Is that just the mere difference here that the former president was seen not to be cooperating and the current president is?
JACKSON: So that's one difference, Paula, it's not the only difference. In terms of the first question, how it will be seen? I think it depends upon
who's seeing it and who is -- you know, the function of where you sit depends upon where you stand. And obviously, the opponents of Mr. Biden,
President Biden will argue that this is the Justice Department covering for him, so what? That he got a report where he is rebuked for negligently
handling documents, he should be prosecuted, like President Trump is being prosecuted, et cetera, everyone's out to get President Trump and that's
what will be the political narrative.
However, to those of you who parse it and look at it closely, I think they will see vast distinctions between the two with regard to intent, number
one, in terms of whether or not you actually had classified documents, knew you had classified documents, were sharing them for reasons that are
untoward, inappropriate, illegal, et cetera, I think the cooperation component gets a lot of points.
I think the fact that you're not directing or orchestrating a cover up gets a lot of points. I think the fact that you take ownership of the
mishandling and your misconduct, I'll call it, not criminal misconduct gets a lot of points and there are other distinctions, and anyone who reads the
indictment of President Trump will know that.
And so I just think that the Democrats will have a lot of messaging to do with respect to pointing out the distinctions, pointing out that there are
apples, pointing out that there are oranges, and explaining why there was no prosecution here.
Final point, Paula, and that is that prosecutors move forward in cases that they believe they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. If you don't think
of that standard, you do not go forward, and I think that's the basis for which they decided that as prosecutors, that they will not be pursuing a
criminal prosecution here.
NEWTON: And yet it is that point that I believe will likely, as you said, perhaps pose some political risk for President Biden.
Norm, look, you've been in this situation before in terms of being in the government. If you are the Biden administration right now, how do you react
to this? And can you explain, does it look good on the White House, because they did not exert executive privilege on this report, and they were
allowed to just release it this way as quickly as it was prepared.
EISEN: I think they're making the best of a challenging situation.
First of all, if I'm in the White House, as I sat in the Obama White House on the good days and the bad ones, this is going to be a rough few days.
But mostly, I'm feeling relief that there were no criminal charges, because this could have been so much worse.
I think the American people understand that everyone, even presidents can make a mistake. I think my advice to President Biden would be to say, it
wasn't intentional, but everybody has to be careful with classified documents.
To err is human, I err, to forgive divine. I'm asking you, you know, to forgive me for this. I'd make that kind of a statement. I think it's early
enough in the campaign season and it is enough of an exoneration that the American people will move on.
I think it probably is going to lead to a bad few days for President Biden, however.
NEWTON: Yes, which leads me to the logical conclusion, perhaps you shouldn't have turned down the opportunity to speak to the country before
the Super Bowl so that you could actually go and do that. We're going to leave it here for now. Both of you though, standby.
We are going to go for some reaction to this, I believe -- do we have Manu Raju out of Congress? Okay. All right, guys, we're going to -- stick with
Joey, back to you. Given what I was just talking to Norm about and the White House reaction here, I'm going to get your side of this. Again, they
did not exert executive privilege on this. Joe Biden is on his way to an event right now. He will be in public, perhaps he will speak, perhaps he
won't. But how do you handle it?
JACKSON: I think as he always does, you know, he has -- he is pretty clever. Don't judge me against the almighty, judge me against my opponent.
He says things like that, you know.
And so, I think he just has to own it, though. In essence, it is very serious, it is not to be quipped with, but at the end of the day, I think
that this is something that should not have happened and he should have as an official, who has been in government for most of his life had known a
At the same time, Paula, you ask about the executive privilege. The thing I like about the no exertion of executive privilege, is that it always has
the smell of you trying to hide something, conceal something. Why do you use executive privilege? So that information is not placed in the public
domain, so when people hear about executive privilege, okay, you're using executive privilege on something you don't want the American people to
I think you have to be transparent. I think you have to own it. And as you know, Norm mentioned, in terms of the divine issue when -- you know,
perfection eludes us all, that's the reality, and that's basically what I would say if I was him. He's not perfect, he made a mistake, own it and
move on and get to work for the American people.
NEWTON: All right, we're going to -- again, standby for me here. We're going to bring in our Katelyn Polantz again, who has been going through
Can you just let me know what else you are learning here as we continue to parse, as I said, what is very strong language, despite the fact that there
are no criminal charges?
POLANTZ: Right. One of the episodes that is discussed in this report by Special Counsel Rob Hur, more than 300 pages, is the interactions that Joe
Biden had with his ghostwriter in 2017, a man that he had hired to write his memoir for him at that time, and one of the things that happened is
that he told his ghostwriter in 2017 that he found all the classified stuff downstairs.
Now, when they had subsequent conversations about that, it wasn't coming up in their interactions and it wasn't part of the memoir itself, disclosing
this information, but that seems to be a core piece of what the special counsel found here, as he is outlining how these classified materials were
kept within the possession of Joe Biden, how he was willfully keeping them, and then how he disclosed them to someone else. That other person being
this ghostwriter in 2017.
Now, of course, the ghostwriter wouldn't be a person with the ability to have access to classified or national security records.
NEWTON: Yes, Katelyn, I mean, it certainly goes to the issue again, willful, right? But I'm going to go back to Norm here and ask you, given
what's gone on here with both the former Vice President Joe Biden, Donald Trump, do we not need a whole new system in the United States in terms of
how to handle these documents during one's time in office? When you leave office? It seems to me that these documents actually did escape, certainly
the scrutiny of officials who should have been safeguarding them?
EISEN: Well, we have an excellent system that we've worked on for over a year, it's captured in Executive Order 13526. The problem is that the
system wasn't followed. You have to distinguish the Biden and the Trump cases.
Trump -- and Biden needs to do this, in addition to saying I was wrong, and I should have done better. He needs to say, but there was no evidence of
intentionality, whereas my opponent is being charged with intentional violation of the law and there is no evidence of cover up, I cooperated. He
is being charged with covering things up. So don't compare us.
Beyond that, every president we need to have a new system, every piece of paper that walks out of the White House has to be checked not once, but
twice. Nobody should be allowed to take papers, thumb drives, or any other materials without double checking, that needs to be a new protocol because
whether it's intentional, as is alleged, with Trump or accidental, not willful as is alleged with Biden, the documents are getting out in the
chaos of those last days. We can't have that. The law has to be followed. We need new procedures.
NEWTON: I just do want to go through some reaction that we are getting in from Capitol Hill and House Judiciary Republicans called the Hur decision
not to prosecute a double standard, and I quote them now: "Despite the fact that Hur acknowledges Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified
materials after his vice presidency when he was a private citizen," they are calling this a double standard.
I mean, Joey, do they have a point there, especially as you know, you let me in on this in terms of what the distinction is, between not just the
Trump case, but also the case against the former vice president, Mr. Pence, and Donald Trump. What is the difference here? Because they're saying if
you can prosecute Donald Trump, you can prosecute Joe Biden?
JACKSON: I don't think so. Do they have a point? They do not. Do they have a political point that will score points tremendously? Yes, they do. I
think that's how they are going to sell this case. They're going to sell it as the issue of here we go again, everyone after Trump. Trump getting the
brunt of everyone's prosecution and frustrations, Biden gets a pass. Everyone else gets a pass. Trump never gets a pass. Why is that the case?
There are reasons as to why that's the case. What are the reasons? We've talked about them? Number one, in the event that you have classified
documents and you return those documents that is important. You don't, as in the case of the former president tried to hide documents, conceal
documents, speak with people you know to attempt to avoid the fact that you even have them.
There was no elongated discussion, right, with Archives in terms of giving back. Oh, I gave everything back. Never mind, I didn't. There was no real
effort to cooperate, to sit down to speak to the issues of why you had them, what you were doing with them, what was the nature of them?
So there's many distinctions in terms of someone being fully transparent, someone being forthcoming in the event of Biden and in the alternative,
someone who is not forthcoming who in fact is obstructing who, in fact, is given every opportunity to come clean and who does not.
And so what I think you're going to see Paula is you're going to see the Democrats eventually, in addition to the president, develop a factcheck,
right, and that factcheck will be crystal clear, but has to be made simple in terms of what the significant distinctions in this case are, and why
it's not the case of a double standard. It's the case of one standard and that standard is either you've acted with criminal intent on the one hand,
and you didn't act with criminal intent on the other, and that's what this boils down to.
NEWTON: Okay, Katelyn, here you have some reaction from the White House. What are they saying?
POLANTZ: We do. We actually have a statement from the personal attorney to President Joe Biden, that man is Bob Bauer, and he is accusing the Justice
Department of investigative excess here saying the president's keep personal notes and diaries. The Justice Department has always been aware of
this. It's something that presidents do, and they hadn't investigated others in the same way that they investigated Joe Biden here.
Now, that's a pretty strong pushback from the personal attorney to the sitting president. One of the things that Donald Trump in his own case has
also been bringing up, that he believed the documents were his, but of course, there are distinctions here in the report, in the findings by the
special counsel, yet there is going to be criticism from all sides of what the special counsel has said today in this 300-page report -- Paula.
NEWTON: Yes, like you said, that is quite a pushback and quite a pushback in the face of what the special counsel says is evidence. I mean, Norm, I'm
reading right here. The materials included marked, I underscore, marked classified documents about military and foreign policy in Afghanistan, and
notebooks containing Mr. Biden's handwritten entries.
Norm, that is pretty clear in terms of what they found. Again, if we're being completely charitable, we can say that President Biden was quite
careless with these documents that were clearly marked classified.
EISEN: Well, we'll need to see how the White House position evolves. You can have an investigation that goes too far on some of the issues and is on
the mark on others. Ultimately, I think there is legitimate grounds, both to say there are documents that were held here that should not have been
held and handled by Joe Biden.
At the same time, there was not a level of criminal intent that was found by Mr. Hur, there was no cover up that was found by Mr. Hur. Mr. Hur was
himself a Republican, so there's no issue of bias, and we will do better next time and move on.
So let's see how the White House position evolves, and whether the president is willing to say, look, there are some things here that I could
have done better, I think he should.
NEWTON: Joey, I want to bring you back in this with the quote in terms of from the report itself, calling Mr. Biden a sympathetic, well-meaning
elderly man with a poor memory.
I mean, what do you make of that? They really went out of their way to really characterize the two days of interview that they had for him. And
then, you know, the White House adviser shooting back and saying, look, it was right after the Israel -- the Israel-Gaza War broke out, and he was
JACKSON: So Paula, what happens is that in criminal law, you look to the state of mind. And when you sit and you speak with investigators, as
sometimes us, lawyers do, we bring in our clients and we have a queen for a day, we call it. We sit down and prosecutors ask them all sorts of
questions. You get perspective, you get to examine the issues, you get to parse out what's important in terms of meeting the criminal elements of the
Did you willfully do it? Did you do it for nefarious reasons? What was the motivation behind you doing it? Was there any criminality associated with
you doing it? You get to look at that, right?
In criminal cases, intent is everything, right? There are other cases where it's not intent, it's negligence. This is not such a case. And so the
reality is, is that politically yes, it damages him to talk about an elderly old man with a bad memory, that's terrible politically, but from a
legal perspective, I think that they assess the situation and they said, what really happened here?
Do we have a case we can prove beyond the reasonable doubt showing someone had a motivation who possessed classified documents that were untoward,
that were certainly illegal, and that certainly rise to the level of criminality beyond the reasonable doubt. And they assessed that and they
said that, yes, they may have been marked classified. Yes, he may have had them in two different locations in Delaware and DC, but no, we did not
believe that from an intent perspective in examining his mind and examining his statements, that there was anything improper, or certainly criminal
And I think that certainly goes a long way, especially when you're sitting and speaking to people and getting the perspective and getting that
And so I think prosecutors were satisfied that although they would score him as they did in the report with how he handled the documents, they were
not satisfied that they can go to a jury and make a case that it was motivated to obstruct, they were motivated to do anything other than to be
careless, perhaps negligently so and perhaps overboard so, but not criminally to the extent that he intentionally did anything that was
NEWTON: Okay. Joey, Norm, Katelyn, please stand by all of you because it has been a quite an epic legal day. We are going to go to break, but when
we come back, we're going to tell you about the Supreme Court hearing a case that will have major implications for Donald Trump and this year's
Stay with us. We are next with that breaking news.
NEWTON: And we are learning more about the report on Joe Biden's handling of classified documents. The special counsel said Mr. Biden willfully
retained and shared classified information. Robert Hur, though, did not recommend charges partially because of the president's cooperation with
this investigation. The Republican House Judiciary accused the DOJ of having double standards.
The White House says it's pleased that no charges were recommended, and an attorney for Joe Biden said the report contained, and I'm quoting now,
extraneous unfounded and irrelevant information.
We want to go straight to our Katelyn Polantz. And I know you've been working your way through this report, but you know what's going to come up
politically as well when you point to the special counsel himself. It is Robert Hur, of course a Trump appointee, and perhaps the language in this
report was a bit more descriptive then he really needed to be.
POLANTZ: That's right. Paula, there's a lot to grapple with within this report. The finding that Joe Biden willfully retained and disclosed
classified information specifically whenever he was sharing his recollections from his vice presidency, his handwritten notes with a
ghostwriter in 2017, who was working on his memoir. That said, he is not being charged with any crime.
The special counsel explicitly said that there was not enough there to bring a charge. It would be very unlikely that they would be able to
convince jurors that Joe Biden was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. One of the reasons they say in this report is that Joe Biden may appear to jurors
to be so sympathetic and well-meaning. An elderly man with a poor memory. So a searing description of the current president who is running for
reelection right now from this special counsel.
A personal attorney to Joe Biden came out saying that this was investigative excess. Another attorney working for Joe Biden within the
White House called some of these comments in the special counsel's report inappropriate, and yet all of the people representing Joe Biden, those
attorneys, they are relieved and they're applauding the special counsel for not bringing charges here, for making that decision as an independent
investigator, criminal investigator here, who had the authority to charge Joe Biden if he wanted to.
Because the other thing out there, Paula, is that a very similar investigation had taken place against Donald Trump that ultimately resulted
in a subpoena, a search warrant of his estate, Mar-a-Lago in Florida, and then criminal charges against the former President Donald Trump. That is a
different thing than this. The special counsel outlined today in his report the reason is because Donald Trump was obstructing the investigation, doing
more, having more intent of keeping the document knowing he had them and willfully keeping them from the federal government. whereas Joe Biden
cooperated with this investigation and turned those documents back over once they were found.
NEWTON: Yes, of course, it's a very important legal distinction in terms of their actions. And yet, as we've been discussing here, politically may mean
something completely different.
Katelyn, thanks so much for guiding us through that.
And we want to go to the other breaking legal news today at the U.S. Supreme Court. A landmark case that could decide Donald Trump's fate on the
ballot. Now justices heard oral arguments on whether the former president's actions on January 6th make him ineligible for office. Colorado removed him
from the state's ballot using the 14th Amendment.
Now that part of the Constitution goes way back to the Civil War, and it says those who have engaged in insurrection are disqualified from holding
future public office. And so far it looks like the justices are skeptical of the Colorado ruling. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS, U.S. SUPREME COURT: It will come down to just a handful of states that are going to decide the presidential election.
That's a pretty daunting consequence.
JUSTICE SAMUEL ALITO, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I'm not getting a whole lot of help from you about how this would not be an unmanageable situation.
JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Why should a single state have the ability to make this determination not only for their own citizens but for
the rest of the nation.
JUSTICE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, U.S. SUPREME COURT: If there's an ambiguity, why would we construe it to, as Justice Kavanaugh pointed out, against
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: Donald Trump did not attend the arguments as he did for his civil defamation lawsuit. Instead he spoke at his resort in Mar-a-Lago, Florida.
He said Colorado's ruling was a result of Democratic interference in the presidential election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: An argument that is very important is the fact that you're leading in every race. You're leading in
every state. You're leading in the country against both Republican and Democrat, and Biden.
You're leading in the country by a lot. And can you take the person that's leading everywhere and say, hey, we're not going to let you run? You know,
I think that's pretty tough to do, but I'm leaving it up to the Supreme Court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NEWTON: Jessica Schneider is in Washington, D.C. And that part of leaving it to the Supreme Court seems to be a bit better for him today. I'm sure
our viewers noticed as well that this wasn't just the conservative justices that were skeptical of Colorado's argument. It also came from the more
liberal side of the bench.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right, Paula. And you heard it there from the liberal-leaning Justice Elena Kagan,
where she chimed in with these other conservative justices really saying why should one state have the power to decide who appears on the ballot?
Justice Alito saying wouldn't this really lead to chaos throughout the country if states individually decided who can appear on the ballot.
And that really was what emerged toward the end of these two-and-a-half hours of arguments. The justices all sort of had this consensus surrounding
this idea that the 14th Amendment probably doesn't give states the unilateral power to decide who are these ineligible insurrectionists.
And that might be the point that Donald Trump wins on. You know, either way it does look like a majority of the justices are poised to rule in favor of
Trump. That would be overturning the fact that the Colorado Supreme Court took Trump off the ballot.
So when it comes to a ruling, you know, the justices really expedited the arguments in this case to try to decide this case very quickly. So we could
see a ruling from them in just a matter of weeks. They want to get something on the books before too much of the election already happens. You
know, that Colorado ruling was actually frozen. It was paused while the Supreme Court decision and the arguments play out.
So basically, Donald Trump's name will be on the ballot in Colorado when they go for the primary vote. But the question, the larger question is, you
know, will those votes count? And what will happen for the general election if Donald Trump is the nominee. That's why the Supreme Court really has to
try to settle this very quickly.
We also -- you know, we heard a number of issues here that the Supreme Court could really seize on. There were questions about, you know, whether
this is even the court's role to decide if it's not really up to Congress to step in and decide when certain office holders might be ineligible, if
this even applies to running for office. You know, there are specific civic language in the Constitution that says holding an office and that was a
point of contention as well.
One thing we didn't hear a lot of argument on that was somewhat surprising, especially because the voters who brought this case against Trump, it's
what they focused on. They focused on the fact that January 6th in their view was an insurrection, that Trump engaged in insurrection and as such
should be removed from the ballot. We didn't hear a lot of argument on that. There was a bit of back-and-forth between Justice Ketanji Brown
Jackson, the newest justice, as well as Donald Trump's lawyer.
Donald Trump's lawyer saying, look, this was criminal, this was chaos, but this wasn't insurrection. That was really the only point we heard what
about that. It's likely here, Paula, that the justices won't wade into this factual question as to whether or not this was an insurrection, whether or
not Donald Trump engaged in insurrection. It is very likely that they will look for maybe a narrow off-ramp here to decide this whole case.
So they might say, you know, court shouldn't even step in. This is only for Congress. They might say that the president is not an officer of the United
States therefore this section of the 14th Amendment doesn't apply to him. There are many routes here for Donald Trump to win. And what we saw from
the arguments today is it looks like he probably has enough justices on his side to decide this case one way or the other on any of these issues but
probably in Donald Trump's favor -- Paula.
NEWTON: Yes, which will likely mean he'll remain on the ballot not just in Colorado but on other states that were looking to do it.
NEWTON: But on other states that we're looking to do it, and on that he has agreement apparently from both Nikki Haley and Joe Biden that he should
remain on the ballot.
Jessica Schneider, thanks so much for wrapping that up for us.
We do want to go back to our breaking news. The Justice Department has now just released the first images of the classified documents held by Joe
Biden. You are seeing them there. We want to go straight to Katelyn Polantz, and unfortunately, it looks sometimes like our garages like any of
our garages would and likely not a place where classified documents should be held.
POLANTZ: Right, Paula. We did also just receive a statement from President Joe Biden in response to this report saying he should not be charged with
any crime here, but that he did willfully retain and disclose these documents at his private residence after he left the vice presidency. That
statement says, "I cooperated completely, threw up no roadblocks and sought no delays. In fact, I was so determined to give the special counsel what
they needed that I went forward with five hours of in-person interviews over two days on October 8th and 9th of last year, even though Israel had
just been attacked on October 7th. And I was in the middle of handling an international no crisis."
Now the story of those interviews is an important part of this because the special counsel found that if they had charged Joe Biden they may not have
enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt his guilt before a jury because he had so much memory loss. Some of the things in the interviews
that he sat for with Special Counsel Robert Hur, that they noted was that he couldn't remember the year that his son Beau Biden died.
He also couldn't remember the years of when he stopped being the vice president when he started being the vice president. And also had a hazy
memory about the Afghanistan surge, something he opposed when he was a senator and then vice president, and something that he had felt quite
strongly, so strongly about that these classified records that he had kept in his possession were about that and some of the things that he spoke to
his ghostwriter, his biographer, about.
NEWTON: You know, Katelyn, a lot will be made of this because the special counsel is a Trump appointee. In terms of the language in the detail that
was used in that report, in your estimation, have you seen reports like this before? Is that kind of detail usually offered in this kind of
POLANTZ: There is extensive detail typically offered in a report like this. We've seen it in the special counsel report from Robert Mueller about
Donald Trump, especially as it pertained to obstruction. Maybe not characterizing him as a person, but trying to get inside of his thinking
and his mindset because there is a very important question that a prosecutor has to answer here. The intention. It's not just the willful
retention of documents. It's is there an intention to break the law as well.
And so the prosecutor in interviewing Joe Biden in this does seem to be trying to characterize his mindset here. Now, that is to say the special
counsel to the president. So a lawyer that works in the White House for Joe Biden named Richard Sauber put out a statement calling some of the comments
in this port inappropriate. He didn't specify which ones, but one that was so searing in this report from Special Counsel Rob Hur says that Joe Biden
may come across to jurors if he were to testify to them as a sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory -- Paula.
NEWTON: Yes. It may make that more of a political statement than a legal one and some may think that that's what's going on here.
Katelyn Polantz for us. Again, please stand by as we continue to parse all this news. We'll be right back with more news in a moment.
NEWTON: And we are following breaking news. We have just received images of the documents that a special counsel says Joe Biden willfully mishandled.
You can see them there on your screen now. That looks to be in some kind of a study and that clearly is a garage.
CNN legal analyst Joey Jackson and Norm Eisen join us again.
Joey, first to you. You know, I was just asking Katelyn about how much detail was put in the special counsel's report just characterizing, you
know, how the president presented himself and what the opinion was. I mean, you kind of alluded to this in our conversation prior. You're saying that
that's necessary, right? That that kind of detail is necessary in order to explain intention.
JACKSON: So it is, Paula. I would say that this report on the whole appears to be a political disaster, but a legal victory. Why do I say that? The
language that's used with respect to classifying the president's memory, with respect to saying that he didn't have much of a memory, he's an
elderly man. Obviously, when you're running for president of the United States, that becomes problematic.
At the same time from -- and in addition to that issue with respect to the willful retention of documents, et cetera, that's not good. And I would
look certainly for his opponent to capitalize on that, perhaps make commercials out of that. But when you look at the legal issue of intention,
I think that plays huge, and to the core of your question, whenever you have a criminal case, prosecutors focus in on intent.
What kind of criminal intent, if any, did you have if you are person who's being looked at as the defendant in a case which Mr. Biden was? Were you
doing this for nefarious reasons? What was your motivation? What was your state of mind? And I think Paula with regard to the interview that
prosecutors conducted of the president over the course of a couple of days, they concluded that it was at the end of the day best classification and
A careless one, one that should not happen, one that by all means should have been prevented, but not criminal nonetheless in terms of him not
concealing documents, giving them back right away, you know, expressing why he had them in the first instance, et cetera. And so while not good for him
politically, certainly legally not to be charged is a major victor.
NEWTON: And, Norm, look, we just broke down the case as well that what happened in the Supreme Court also very historic. What happened there this
morning. How did you see that? Because as I was saying, it wasn't just the conservative justices that were giving the Colorado attorney a hard time.
It was actually a couple of the more liberal justice distances as well.
EISEN: I listened to the full argument and both of the counsels for Mr. Trump and for the individuals seeking disqualification, both counsels got a
thorough grilling from the Supreme Court. That was a healthy day. It's good for our democracy whenever we apply the Constitution and ask how it should
What really jumped out to me was nobody seriously question, among those nine justices, the conclusion of the Colorado courts of every fact finder,
the January 6th Committee, the main secretary of state, to have reached the following question. Did Donald Trump engage in insurrection? Everybody to
reach that question has found that he did engage in insurrection and the Supreme Court didn't challenge that.
So that large finding was looming over this hearing. I think it's likely that the Supreme Court is going to split the baby here. They're going to do
one for Donald Trump and refuse to disqualify him. But then the immunity case, absolute immunity, can Donald Trump, as his lawyers put it in the
D.C. Circuit, the appeals court, assassinate political opponents, that came up a little bit, too. Justice Alito raised it.
And I suspect reading the court today, they're going to rule against Trump on that. So I thought on the whole, it was a landmark day. Another historic
argument at the Supreme Court. This one will probably go for Trump.
NEWTON: And a reminder on that immunity case, you must appeal by Monday. I mean, they have already signaled that indeed they will appeal.
Joey Jackson, Norm Eisen, can't thank you enough on what have been some extraordinary legal developments. Really appreciate it.
And for us next, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy just fired his top generally. It's the biggest military shakeups since Russia's full-scale
invasion. We will have a live report from Kyiv right after the break.
NEWTON: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has dismissed his top general, Valerii Zaluzhnyi. He's the country's biggest military -- it's the
country's, pardon me, biggest military shakeups since the start of Russia's invasion. Tensions between the two surfaced last year after the general
described the situation on the ground as a stalemate.
Now Ukraine's new military chief steps into what all of us know is a very tough job. He faces a renewed Russian onslaught, ammunition shortages, and
wavering support from the United States.
Fred Pleitgen is in Kyiv. He's been following all of this, and not just today, Fred. I mean, look, you've been covering this for months and weeks
and especially in terms of inside ball as to all of this happen. But at the crux of it, what is going to be different? What is the president of Ukraine
hoping will be different now on the ground, given, you know, the difficulty that the military has been having?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's a really interesting question. I think that in the end it doesn't come down
to a personality of Valerii Zaluzhnyi who has just been a dismissed by the Ukrainian president and the new person is going to be in charge, Oleksandr
Syrskyi, who until now has been the head of the land forces of the Ukrainian military. Of course, someone who's really well-known here in
Ukraine, instrumental in the battle of Kyiv, instrumental also in Ukraine's offensive in the Kharkiv area late in 2022 when they made some gains there.
But also his forces bogged down in the east of the country recently as well. I think one of the things that we've seen from Volodymyr Zelenskyy
today is he came out and he said that there needs to be big changes within the Ukrainian military if they want to try and turn the tides in light of
everything that you've just been saying, the ammo shortages, the fact that there's help that's waning from the United States, European allies
obviously not able to make up for that.
Zelenskyy believes that the Ukrainian military needs to rely more on drones and other unmanned systems and needs to become more agile. And that
therefore change was something that was necessary. I want to listen to some of what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I am grateful to General Zaluzhnyi for two years of defense. I'm grateful for
every victory that we achieved together and thanks to all Ukrainian soldiers who are heroically enduring this war. Today we had a frank
discussion about what needs to be changed in the army. Urgent changes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PLEITGEN: Urgent changes. One of the things, of course, Paula, that Zelenskyy has done in the past couple of days is he signed a decree to
start an unmanned systems area of the Ukrainian military, obviously wanting to bank more on that. One of the other big issues, though, and this was
definitely something was a point of friction between Zaluzhnyi and Zelenskyy is further mobilization, the draft.
The fact that the Ukrainians don't have enough troops right now fighting on the frontlines, are having trouble especially rotating forces through. Of
course, some of the troops that they do have on the frontlines have been out there and fighting for almost two years, and all those soldiers very
tired. A lot of the soldiers saying they need some sort of rotation. So that is going to be a big issue. It's also something that Zelenskyy spoke
And finally, what I thought was very interesting when he gave his reasoning today, he also acknowledged that the counteroffensive of the Ukrainians
that of course started in summer of last year, that that had essentially failed, that the Ukrainians were now going to have to look at other
directions to try and make headway and beat the Russians back -- Paula.
NEWTON: Yes, listen, Fred. I don't have a lot of time, but how closely are people in Ukraine watching what's going on in Capitol Hill and on how the
Senate has at least taken up the Ukraine aid bill?
PLEITGEN: Very interesting. Actually very closely. It's interesting that you mentioned that because both Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his chief of staff
under Yermak commented on the fact that this has happened in the U.S. Senate. I can tell you there's almost no topic here in Ukraine that people
are talking about more than the support of the United States. I think a lot of people here have no illusions about the fact that it's looking very
difficult for that aid to come through.
I think a lot of them were very happy to hear today about what happened in the Senate. I think they do understand, though, that it's still a pretty
long way to try and push that through. But it is definitely something and I've seen this also on the frontlines that Ukrainian troops are talking
about, that Ukrainian civil society is talking about. They understand that the help that the United States has granted them so far has been
instrumental and there's no other country that can really make up for it -- Paula.
NEWTON: Yes. And you've done a brilliant job bringing us those stories. I encourage everyone to go to CNN.com to see them. Fred, you've been there at
the frontlines and you've spoken to those soldiers about that.
So we will be right back with the latest on the special counsel's investigation to Joe Biden's handling of classified documents. Stay with
NEWTON: Now to a final recap of our top story. A special counsel report concluded Joe Biden willfully held on to classified documents from his time
as vice president. It had also said no criminal charges are warranted. The special counsel Robert Hur wrote it would be difficult to prosecute Biden,
saying he could appear to a jury as a, quote, "sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory."
He also said President Biden cooperated with the investigation and returned the documents once they were discovered. The documents were found at the
Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C. and at the president's home in Delaware.