Return to Transcripts main page
CNN Live Event/Special
Soon: Trump Expected To Surrender At NY Courthouse; Manhattan DA Removes Meet Our Team Page From Website Over Security Concerns. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired April 04, 2023 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: You're looking at live pictures. The venue for an American first. 100 Centre Street in Downtown, Manhattan, playing host to a new chapter in U.S. history. Today, the arrest and arraignment of Donald Trump. Former President Trump is back in the city that made him famous but this time to face the new reality.
The first ever former president to face criminal charges. Good afternoon to our viewers around the world. I'm Anderson Cooper in New York.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, DC. We're just hours away from the opening gavel of the people of the state of New York versus Donald J. Trump. This is the scene of the Manhattan criminal courts complex where Mr. Trump will surrender we're told, and then where prosecutors will drop an indictment, spelling out multiple charges against him at this very moment.
We still do not know exactly what those charges are, and how many there are connected to Mr. Trump's alleged scheme to buy the silence of adult film actress and director Stormy Daniels at a pivotal 2016 campaign moment.
As we come on air, we are told that the former president remains inside Trump Tower in Manhattan. We're told that he will soon leave his namesake New York high rise for a trek to the 15th floor courtroom, a journey that required days of negotiation and planning with officials.
Every single police officer in New York City, some 35,000 has been told to be ready for well, for anything. Our reporting team will be inside the courtroom to bring you all the information about the arraignment. We'll see photographs of the former president in court but the actual court proceedings will not be on camera.
CNN's team of reporters is embedded at every step of this unprecedented moment in U.S. history. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is outside court right now. And Kaitlan, you're getting word that Mr. Trump plans to speak briefly before going into the building.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake, the former president has been itching to talk about this looming indictment ever since he arrived here in New York yesterday. Of course, he is going to become the first ever ex-president to face criminal charges when he enters the Manhattan criminal court building behind me. That is what he is expected to do just shortly and he's wanting to talk publicly about this.
He has not done so yet. But he will soon. And one thing that his own team is worried about is what he will say because they are hoping he does not come before cameras before he enters that courtroom and says something that could further inflame the situation, or potentially hurt his case, which as of right now, even though they have yet to see the indictment either Jake, they do believe is one that will ultimately benefit them and fall in their favor in the end.
Of course, that is far from certain at this point. And at this stage of where we are at as he is about to turn himself into the authorities. But Trump has been wanting to speak publicly. He did not want to wait until he returned to Mar-a-Lago tonight where he is still scheduled to give an address or on 8:15pm in front of surrogates and supporters.
He wanted to talk about it here in New York. Initially, they had planned for maybe him to deliver a speech outside of the courthouse after he left. Now he's expected to do so when there is a camera outside of the courtroom before he goes before the judge. And he has been trashing, of course, the district attorney that he has also been criticizing.
So his own team isn't quite sure what he's going to say. They're hoping that he will stick to their talking points about how they believe this is a political prosecution, Jake. But certainly a historic day as the President has been on the phone with aides and advisers all morning.
TAPPER: Paula Reid is also in New York for us. And Paula, Donald Trump is already out there publicly questioning whether he can get a fair trial in heavily Democratic Manhattan. Tell us more about that.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. But at this point it's more of a political argument, one the former president is making on social media, one his advisors were pushing over the weekend. But I've spoken with his legal team, and they've told me, look, we're going to wait until we see this indictment, before we decide which motions we're going to file.
But I would, Jake, eventually expect that they will likely file a motion to change venue just so they can preserve all of their possible options on appeal, that they have to be able to convince a judge if there is potentially a conviction here that they tried everything they could for a different outcome.
So I think eventually we will see a motion for a change of venue. But I've spoken with a source familiar with the Trump legal teams thinking and they believe that he can possibly get a fair trial in Manhattan because they believe that without seeing the indictment, they believe that there are a lot of highly educated people on juries here in Manhattan that will see through this and see it for what they believe it is, which is a political prosecution.
Now once they see the indictment, I'll circle back and see if that see if that is still the thinking but as of now the lawyers are not working on any attempt to move this case to Staten Island.
TAPPER: All right Paula Reid and Kaitlan Collins, Thanks so much. Anderson.
COOPER: Jake, thanks very much. John Miller first actually joining the team. I'll start with John, what are you expecting?
JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, we're going to have a move from Trump Tower. It's not what President Trump is used to. This is an 11-car motorcade, but without the phalanx of, you know, 25 motorcycles leading it and the entire route frozen along the way. And a lot of specialized vehicles, this will be a police escort, front and back.
And basically, his secret service detail and some staff cars, so a lot less pomp. But for a very different circumstance, in that he's in a situation where they are balancing the need to deal with security needs to protect a former president, while making an effort to treat him throughout this process as close as they can to any other criminal defendant. They're not going to come that close, but they're trying to split the difference.
COOPER: Also joining us is former Chief Assistant District Attorney under the former Manhattan DA Cy Vance, Karen Friedman Agnifilo.
Karen, welcome to CNN. You -- you know this courtroom, you know this judge, you know this process. What are you looking at this morning?
KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, FORMER CHIEF ASSISTANT DA, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE: So everybody's, of course, waiting to see what the charges are. And we want to see the indictment and exactly what it looks like, what he's charged with, and what the theory under which many of the case - the charges are being brought. Looking to see what the judge does. Is the judge going to try to restrict anything?
COOPER: It's unlikely that and there's been talk about some sort of a gag order, that seems highly unlikely.
AGNIFILO: I think a gag order is unlikely given the First Amendment constraints. That being said this judge, Judge Merchan is somebody who's going to - going to keep a tight control of his courtroom, he's not going to think about politics, he's going to think about this case.
From now on, he is defendant, Donald Trump. He's not presidential candidate Donald Trump. And so you have to protect the integrity of the jury process and the trial process. So I think he's going to make sure that these - these threats and these comments that that defendant Trump will - has been making all morning about - about the judge about the prosecutor, he has to rein that in, and this judge will not allow him to in any way, make it so that the integrity of the process--
COOPER: So do you think it's possible, he may caution, the former president?
AGNIFILO: I think at a minimum, he will caution him and tell him he has to stop. It's clear, Donald Trump is trying to somehow either get the judge off the case or the DA off the case or get the case moved to another venue that he thinks is more friendly to him. And this judge is not going to allow him to do anything to cause that to happen and to somehow, you know, make this this prosecution be less than exactly the way it should be, which is fair.
And - and for him to get a fair trial.
COOPER: Do you also have a sense of when the president or the former president and his attorneys will actually get the indictment when they will actually know the charges? Because they'll know obviously, before the judge reads them out aloud in court to the defendant?
AGNIFILO: I would expect around the time that - that he gets - that Mr. Trump gets processed, arrest processed the way the way John Miller was saying, I would expect that at that point, that's normally when the lawyers would, would receive the charges. That being said in this case, Mr. Trump has been talking about speaking before he goes into court. So there may be some consideration about whether he should be permitted to speak about it before the judge is speaks about it to him.
ELIE HONIG, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: And Anderson, to me, the biggest moment of today will be when we see that indictment, that will be our first meaningful, substantive look at the prosecution's case here. And there's a couple of things I'm looking for. First of all, how much detail do they put in the indictment? As Karen knows, prosecutors have completely waived. Indictments are written by prosecutors, some indictments are very bare bones could be that's - if it's 34 accounts, there's a chance this could be 12 pages.
However, sometimes, especially in high profile occasions, prosecutors put much more detail in there. So that's number one. And the second big question is, What are the charges, dividing into sort of two lanes here? Is it all based on the Stormy Daniels hush money payments? Or is there something else? How many different fronts is Donald Trump going to have to defend himself on here?
MILLER: So I think we have some signals there, which is 34 accounts could be 12 pages, or it could be 50 pages, but the signals are that the district attorney has called a press conference for this afternoon after the indictment is unsealed.
COOPER: What does that tell you?
MILLER: What it tells you is district attorneys generally confine themselves to only what's on the printed page of the indictment in their comments. And if the indictment is only the essential charges without the story behind them. That will be a very difficult press conference to call and get through with any substance so it's a tell, a hint at best, that there's more to it.
And that this will be his first opportunity to not just release the document after the judge unseals it but explain what it means.
COOPER: Karen, you also said that it's important to look at what's not in the indictment or what's there and what's not there.
AGNIFILO: Yes. So there's been so much speculation about what this indictment could be, as John said, perhaps there could be a conspiracy charge and that would tell a whole story about election interference, not just about this one, this one scenario of hush money payments to Stormy Daniels.
If the theory could be here that this has been a conspiracy to influence the election, the 2016 election by the various catch and kill stories with - with David Pecker who was the CEO of American Union.
COOPER: With Karen McDougal prior to this.
AGNIFILO: Yes, exactly with Karen McDougal and perhaps others - other situations where they agreed to do things to influence the - the election. So will they confine this to just the false business records which - which we think it will be? Or will they make this a bigger sweeping case about election interference? And - and Donald Trump sitting in the Oval Office as sitting president writing these checks, 11 checks as President of the United States.
AUDIE CORNISH, CNN HOST, THE ASSIGNMENT WITH AUDIE CORNISH PODCAST: And right now he's going through this as the GOP front runner, right? So we're in this moment where typically kind of post term immunity was a kind of legal courtesy extended to former presidents culturally, the U.S. kind of said, especially with Gerald Ford, pardoning Nixon, that, look, we're not going to do this.
We want to back away from the brink when it comes to these kinds of prosecutions and the fact that we're here now and the fact that it might have been unavoidable given that there, what two other investigations going on that could also have implications is pretty straight.
COOPER: And there could be, frankly, more indictments?
CORNISH: Yes, I mean, I'm sure Jack Smith is watching. I'm sure that Fani Willis and Fulton County, Georgia is watching. I'm sure they're both glad they're not going first. But in a way, it's - it's almost unavoidable. Remember the roots of this come out of the Mueller investigation, where they kind of unearth this idea about the payments. And here we are all this time later.
COOPER: The ripple effects of this.
DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I was going to say, listen, if it's just, if it's just the Stormy and I don't mean to minimize it. But it's just the Stormy Daniels things that we know about. Right. I think this is going to be really bad for this district attorney and bad for America that this is the first prosecution brought against a former president and it's something that's deemed to be, I'm not trying to minimize again, but being to be minor. Right? Not expansive.
I think it's going to be really--
CORNISH: That we would have said the same of documents. People would say, oh, it's just documents. I think every case. No I'm not -- I'm saying none of the cases would be considered the same.
VAN JONES, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, if this is the only pebble that gets thrown at Donald Trump, after all, he's done. I agree with David. This could be the first pebble in an avalanche, and then we're going to look at it very differently.
COOPER: Right now. Donald Trump is preparing to go to Manhattan criminal court to turn himself in. Next, new move from District Attorney Bragg in the wake of repeated personal attachment to former president. Senior special live coverage continues right after a quick break.
TAPPER: Four miles. That's the distance between Trump Tower in Midtown and the Manhattan criminal courts building in the southern tip of Manhattan Island where Donald Trump will soon turn himself in. You're watching CNN special coverage. The Arrest and Arraignment of Donald Trump. Soon we're going to find out which laws Manhattan Prosecutors claimed Trump broke when he allegedly orchestrated a hush money scheme in 2016.
Let's go to CNNs Kara Scannell who's in New York and Kara, what signs are we seeing today of the heightened security measures, we were told about from the Manhattan District Attorney's office?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, me as you can see, behind me, the crowd of reporters and photographers has really grown. That's because the Manhattan District Attorney's office is directly over my shoulder. And that is where we expect Trump's motorcade to drop him off.
Now sources tell our colleagues that they're going to have some kind of white curtain or draping as an additional security measure. So when Trump exits the motorcade in his car, he will go right into the district attorney's office. And that is when he will be under arrest and the processing will begin. We expect that to be expedited. And then he'll go into the courtroom, enter his not guilty plea and then exit. But one other thing that we've noticed today is that on the Manhattan District Attorney's website, they have a section that says meet your team where it identifies the top prosecutors in the office. That appears to be taken down. It says the page is not working. And you know, this comes as the former president has called for protests.
We've seen some flags here. We've seen some Trump 2020 flags here of a small crowd, but it's a growing crowd. And there have been threats against the Bragg's office. We didn't remember there was an envelope delivered here with some non-hazardous white powder. And Trump also saying, you know, verbally attacking Bragg. So we're seeing some protections that the office is taking to try to minimize who their prosecutors are given the increased threats and that real security risks at play here, Jake.
TAPPER: That's right. Donald Trump going after District Attorney Bragg with real really harsh invective. Now let's go over to CNN Jeff Zeleny at Trump Tower where eight years ago this June, Donald Trump came down that escalator and changed the world forever. Jeff, you are getting new information from the inner circle of Mr. Trump. What are they telling you?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Jake, I'm told that former President Donald Trump has spent the majority of the morning talking with his political advisors and his legal advisors. And that is significant because both of these two very distinctive teams Susie Wiles, a campaign manager from Florida, Todd Blanche, a criminal defense attorney from here in New York, they all now have the same client, if you will, that is Donald J. Trump.
What they want to know overall, first and foremost is what charges are in this indictment. What are the political challenges going forward and without knowing what is in the indictment they cannot fully assess that.
But once the indictment is unsealed, they do plan to sort of assess what is next from here. Of course, he has been inside Trump Tower for about 20 hours now. Of course, this is the building that made him famous from the apprentice boardroom that took him to the Oval Office, as you said some eight years ago when he first announced in June but once he leaves Trump Tower, the - the confines and the comforts of Trump Tower shortly after lunchtime here within the hour, we believe, he will also be leaving some control that he has long had as he's been going through legal battles, tabloid scandals business dealings here in his native New York City.
Once he heads to lower Manhattan inside the courtroom, Jake, Donald Trump no longer is simply a former president. He's also a criminal defendant.
TAPPER: Criminal defendant. Jeff Zeleny outside Trump Tower. Thanks so much. Let's talk with my panel here. So Dana, in about an hour or so we expect Trump's going to walk down the hallway go to the courtrooms and we expect he's going to say something before he goes into the building. What do you think he's going to say?
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's going to try to put forward a sort of veneer of a fighter of somebody who according - this is according to a source I spoke with this morning who has been in constant touch with him. Team captain, Team Leader, team being of course, Team Trump, he sees it as team, Trump Team Republican. And most importantly, whether he says it today in the hallway, or tonight when he speaks at Mar-a-Lago, today, it's me. Tomorrow, it could be you.
The same kind of message with a different variation that he has been giving since that escalator moment in June of 2015. That what you're seeing now play out is a different version of what is happening to you in your lives, Trump supporters, American people, American voters.
TAPPER: Right. And I understand that that is part of the Republican playbook these days to talk about how Democrats weaponized the government. But this is not a particularly relatable crime. There aren't a lot of Americans out there who were about to be indicted for falsifying records because they helped pay off a porn star.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Correct. And some legal experts have been skeptical about these charges. And but I want to say this, we've talked a lot about how easy it is to get an indictment. Alvin Bragg knows what's at stake here. He didn't do this just to get an indictment. He wants to get a conviction.
And so I think it's worth saying over and over again, not only don't we know what's going to be in this indictment, we don't know what the evidence is going to be. And we've heard from multiple sources, documents, that things are going to be corroborated. Witnesses, we know members of Trump's campaign staff, were witnesses at the grand jury. So I just want to end with two words, under arrest. Donald Trump is going to be under arrest in a couple of hours.
TAPPER: And Abby Phillip, one of the things we hear we and we hear a lot of Defenses coming from Republicans on Capitol Hill, and on right wing media, one of the things you don't hear is there's no way Donald Trump paid off a porn star.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I mean, pretty much everybody's conceding to some degree, that they can't argue on the substance of what he's being accused of. They're just saying that it shouldn't be prosecuted, that it maybe it doesn't rise to the level. And we'll see. We actually don't know whether that's true or not. It could very well be.
But - But I think that when you look at the poll numbers in the CNN poll this week, it's overwhelming that Americans by far think that it was either illegal or unethical. And that's amazing, because you can't get 90 percent of Americans to agree on basically anything.
But generally speaking, they agree on that. And one other point to what you were saying about how this is not a relatable crime. I mean, we've seen this from Trump from the very beginning. He has said it's almost a campaign slogan at this point. They are trying to get to you and I am standing in their way. That's - that's what he tells his supporters at rallies.
But the reality is, is that that's an argument he's been using since the Mueller investigation, and the American people rejected it in 2020. And when you look at the numbers, generally speaking, the partisans are in their camps. But the independents are open minded about what this could mean. And so that's why the substance of what we will learn today is really critically important. It's not baked in politically, the way that the Trump team would imagine that it would - that it is.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I think that - I think that point's critical. This chapter begins today. People have spent five days since we learned of the indictment saying what they think. Today we find out what prosecutors at least some of what prosecutors know, so hit the reset button and start today. We've also seen though, in the last five days, the Trump effect on American politics.
Which is your chairman of House Committees on the Republican side of the House attacking a judge, criticizing an indictment, criticizing a process they know nothing about. They know nothing about attacking the rules, attacking the norms, attacking the system.
That is Trump's playbook so that's the Trump effect but today we'll start to learn the details of what effect this might actually have on Trump going forward.
Yes, he's the front runner today. Yes, this will help him. It has helped him in the polling today and tomorrow, next week. Nobody votes for 10 or 11 months, we have a lot - a long way to go.
TAPPER: And Andy and Carrie, just as the legal experts on this panel, it seems from what we know, and again, we'll see what the actual facts are in a few minutes. But it seems a pretty open and shut case, in terms of the misdemeanor offenses here.
ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The misdemeanor seems very clear. From what we've heard about what everyone thinks will be in the indictment, it's that falsification of business records, we know simply from the things that we've heard Michael Cohen say publicly after his testimony in front of the grand jury, and others that these payments were made to him and obviously disguised as legal - as payment for legal fees.
And there was a reference to a legal retention agreement, none of that existed, it was all a fraud in that respect. So that side of the case seems very clear.
CARRIE CORDERO, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, CNN ANALYST: Well, and so the question is, you know, what, what actually are the charge is going to be, what is this all about? Is it just going to be about misdemeanors? I mean, are we going through this entire risk to security costs of all of the Secret Service and the NYPD and the court security and all of the attention that's being paid to it for just misdemeanors? Or are there going to be felonies charged as well? Is it going to pertain to one set of facts that exist? Or are there going to be multiple fact patterns that are part of the charges? And these are all the things that you know, we're wondering because what - there are substantial risks, there are risks that people will get hurt if there's some sort of altercation following all of this.
There are risks, if it's just misdemeanors, that that harms the credibility of the justice system that all of this was due to just something small. So we'll have to see what's--
TAPPER: Yes, the theory being obviously as you know, that that misdemeanor, business fraud committed in the name of concealing a different crime can be jumped up to make it a felony, but we'll see. We don't know what's in there, yet as Mr. Trump is about to leave Trump Tower. Tensions are running high as Carrie was just alluding to. The challenge of securing such a historic arraignment. That's next.