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Trump Speaks At Mar-a-Lago After Indictment On 34 Felony Counts; Trump Speaks At Mar-a-Lago After Indictment; Lawmakers React To Trump Speech. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired April 04, 2023 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Not only is this move that started to feel like it's really curdling, I don't think he expands his base tonight.
He just consolidated this curdled milk. And now he is also encouraging people to possibly do things that are dangerous and violent. We could be in a very, very different moment for this president very soon, the ex-president very soon.
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And a factor that I think we have to remember, as many of us have been saying for weeks, that this was the weakest of the cases that he's facing. And, of course, now he is indicted, you can't diminish the facts of the case. But in three weeks, he's going to be appearing in New York for a civil suit with E. Jean Carroll related to defamation and a sexual allegation suit. There's the looming DOJ investigations --
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's a rape case.
GRIFFIN: It's a rape case. As well as Fulton County, all of which I think most observers think have more serious implications for him. So, the legal woes are not, by means, over for him, but I think we saw tonight how he's going to attempt to spin the narrative and capitalize in his favor. And the problem with that many of us were worried about with this case coming first is it makes it that much easier for him to tell his base, these other cases, it's the same thing. It's a witch hunt. Once again, it's a liberal prosecutor. It's somebody coming after me. I think it's unfortunate because there's a lot more steam and facts that are important behind those other cases.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The other thing too is we have talked about -- I just -- I'm picking up and I think a lot of what you said is what I have heard from a bunch of folks, about how they feel about this case, a lot of folks have used the word, weak, to talk about this case. And what I think they really mean is trivial, because I think we don't actually know what the evidence is.
I mean, what was interesting reading the statement of facts is, yes, it relies very heavily on Michael Cohen, especially for two specific issues, but it also relies on David Pecker, who was the head of AMI, the head of the head of The National Enquirer. There was a detail in this statement of fact that I had not known before, which is that David Pecker apparently was brought to the White House to sit with Trump and Trump thanked him for help during the campaign.
And so I think in terms of certainly the implications not just for Trump, but for the country in terms of the types of investigations, this one feels more trivial, but it's still a criminal case, assuming the judge allows it to go forward.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Also speaking of the campaign and what that platform is, I don't know of any other major campaign events he has coming up. He just did that rally in Waco, Texas. He's got something coming up in New Hampshire, I think, but nothing, no massive rallies that I have seen, any notices go out about or anything like that.
HABERMAN: He's got something coming up, I think, in Iowa, is what I was told as well.
COLLINS: That or New Hampshire as well.
HABERMAN: Yes. I think that he's got some early state travel. But I think you're right, I don't think they're planning on doing big rallies, whether it is because of not being able to get the same crowds or because of money or because of what have you, but I think that that is not how they're approaching this campaign right now.
And it's almost -- you saw tonight how much he needs that. He needs that energy from people applauding him. And if he doesn't have it, he looks for it elsewhere.
COOPER: If you're just joining us, this is a special CNN coverage, the first former president ever to face criminal charges, returns home and vents.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And vents. We're at the beginning of a new chapter for Donald Trump and the end of an historic day, a day that saw Mr. Trump arraigned in a Manhattan courtroom on charges that are experts have been saying are not as clear cut and as a successful prosecutor might hope for, at least as far as we can tell from the court documents that we have as of now.
COOPER: Tonight, the former president returned to Mar-a-Lago to a campaign-style rally, where, as we've been discussing, he lashed out at Prosecutor Alvin Bragg, the judge, the judge's wife and the judge's daughter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: And now this massive election interference at a scale never seen before in our country beginning with the radical left, George Soros-backed Prosecutor Alvin Bragg of New York, who campaigned on the fact that he would get. President Trump. I got to get him. I'm going to get him.
I have a Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife and family, whose daughter worked for Kamala Harris and now receives money from the Biden/Harris campaign and a lot of that. We recently had another trial and the same judge told the fine man who worked for me for many, many years, that if you admit your guilt, you will be in jail for 90 days. But if you don't, if we go through a trial, and you're found guilty, you're going away for ten years and maybe longer, which for a 75-year- old man with a great family, really means life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Again, consider the judge's instructions in the case here, and I'm quoting now, please refrain from making comments or engaging in conduct that has the potential to incite violence, create civil unrest or jeopardize the safety or well being of any individuals.
And in just a moment, former Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance joins us. First, CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez is here. I mean, you've been following all the legal back and forth in this case, certainly the classified documents case. What stood out to you about today?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, I think like you, you know, we were certainly expecting a lot more of a narrative from the prosecutors and the district attorney there of the legal theory of this case, and what we don't have is exactly how they're tying it to a second crime, which makes it a felony.
And, you know, one of the things that we were watching, of course, when the district attorney was speaking later after the court had wrapped up was he made reference to a possible tax crime, possibly under New York State tax law.
Now, that's what we're going to be watching for in the coming weeks when the district attorney has to present more of the evidence for this case. They point out, for instance, you know, the cross -- the issue of intent for Donald Trump by saying that he personally signed these checks, right? So, at least they established that they believe they have evidence that Donald Trump intended to violate these laws.
The question is, you know, how does this cross into a felony, and, again, what's where -- we are surprised, frankly, that we didn't see more of that in the statement of facts or in anything that the district attorney presented today.
COOPER: And I'm wondering if you're hearing from any sources within the Justice Department about their reaction to the indictment today.
PEREZ: I think like that, like us, Anderson, I think there was a lot of consternation that there wasn't more here to be seen. Again, they are not privy to the evidence that the district attorney has, certainly, you know, for the president presentation of this case. A lot of this stuff, of course, is what, you know, federal prosecutors in New York had looked at, Anderson. They had chosen not to bring a case against Donald Trump based on many of the things that you saw today.
It is possible that, Again, Alvin Bragg has facts that violate -- that show a violation of state law that, of course, the feds would not have looked at. So, again, they're not privy to everything here but they are, like us, I think, a little bit underwhelmed by the facts they saw presented.
COOPER: Yes. Evan Perez, I appreciate it. Thanks. Jake?
TAPPER: Thanks, Anderson. Joining us now, District Attorney Alvin Bragg's predecessor, Cy Vance, was Manhattan district attorney when the initial probe into Donald Trump began. Mr. Vance, thanks so much for joining us.
What do you think of the case you saw outlined today? Would you have brought, based on your knowledge of the case, based on your knowledge and reading of the indictment, would you have brought this to trial?
CYRUS VANCE, FORMER MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Well, Jake, I don't want to put myself in the shoes without the full information that the current district attorney has. I've read the statement of facts and I think the statement of facts was really quite detailed and provided information that I think is going to be very relevant to the question of whether or not the D.A.'s case can be proved.
We made a decision in our office to move on to a financial crimes investigation after we had initially looked at the hush money payment because the federal government asked us to stand down in our hush money payment inquiry because they were they were handling the case with Michael Cohen. And as I said, before, I was surprised when then the Southern District, an office that I have enormous respect for, stopped the case, and it didn't go anywhere.
And at that time, therefore, we had moved on to financial crimes investigations , which led us to the Supreme Court twice and to the discovery of President Trump's tax returns and ultimately to the indictment of his company and his CFO. So, we were involved in many of the significant chapters that lead up today, but we did not charge. We did not make a decision to charge the former president on hush money payments.
And I think the question, Jake, is not so much why didn't we bring the charge but why is District Attorney Bragg bringing the charge. And I think what his attempt today to lay out the facts is -- he was answering that question.
TAPPER: Well, he said that there was new evidence. Because, obviously, as you know, he declined to bring this case about a year ago, but now he's bringing it forward. And when asked why, why he changed his mind, he said there is new evidence. Obviously, what was released today is not the documentation, is not the evidence itself but did you see anything in the indictment or the statements of fact that would suggest any new evidence that you did not know about when you were district attorney?
VANCE: Well, Jake, I think there are factual allegations that at least myself, personally, I cannot recall that we were aware of. I think, for example, Ms. Habermann was talking about the meeting at the White House with the head of the media group. I can't recall whether or not that was in front of me back in 2017. So, there's no doubt that District Attorney Bragg has dug deep, believes in this case and, you know, I think we need to have confidence that he has done the work necessary to bring this case forward.
And so I -- my answer is we now have to wait and see without getting into political hysteria, as we do outside the courtroom.
TAPPER: What do you make of the legal theory, which I do not believe has been put to test in New York. Maybe I'm wrong, correct me if I am, please, that the idea that these business -- the business fraudulence is misdemeanors, but because it was done allegedly in the act of hiding other crimes, presumably campaign finance crimes. Although District Attorney Bragg was not clear about what the other crime was, but that makes these 34 felonies instead of 34 counts of misdemeanors.
VANCE: First of all, Jake, number one, we used the false business records statute regularly during my time as district attorney. It is, as someone has said on this show earlier, a bread and butter charging decision by the D.A.'s office.
During my time as district attorney, we also elevated the false business record charges to felonies, particularly in cases that we had brought against foreign banks who were hiding the source of their funding to move through the financial system that it was coming from sanctioned countries or entities. And that we did use that in some cases to elevate the misdemeanor to felony, but those were never tested by the defense counsel or by the defendants in those cases, they were simply not tested.
So, it is an area of law that has not been fleshed out in New York. We never did a case involving where the object crime was an election law violation election. And law violations are quite specific. You know, they're quite technical. So, I do think that the first run of the defense will be to attack the legal basis for the charges in the hopes that they can knock the felony counts out and leave the case with a series of misdemeanor counts, which they will consider a victory both legally and would be considered a victory politically.
TAPPER: What is your reaction to Donald Trump this evening attacking the district attorney, attacking the judge, attacking the judge's wife, attacking the judge's daughter, what do you think of all that?
VANCE: Donald Trump has in his mind a game plan, which I think is completely unrelated to what happens in court. I think he's looking to how he advances his political stature such that he becomes the presumptive nominee. And as a nominee, it would be much more difficult for prosecutor to then go to trial and convict him. So, that's what I think it is in his mind.
Where I counsel to the former president, in an answer to your question, I think what he is saying is very, very ill-advised and repugnant and wrong. I think there is no place in this case for him to make the ad hominem and personal account personal attacks against the judge, the D.A. or family members. And I think it's also legally risky. As I've said before, there's a statute called obstruction of governmental administration in New York statutes and it is essentially impairing the operation of the functioning of government by threat or intimidation. And I think the president is drawing very close to the line where he could be at risk of being charged with those offenses.
And the significance of that, if that were to happen in a superseding indictment, is it could turn a perceptually week indictment, on technical violations of election law, into something a jury would understand and be much more concerned about and of elevate the strength of the overall indictment against the president. So, if I were his lawyers, I would tell them knock it off.
TAPPER: They probably have. I don't know that he would listen to them.
Donald Trump said in a post on social media that, quote, the hearing was shocking to many in that they had no surprises and, therefore, no case. Is an arraignment hearing such as this where you would expect to find surprises related to the case, were you taken aback by what you saw today in the sense that were you expecting more than what we saw?
VANCE: No I wasn't expecting more but I was very gratified, Jake, by something I also didn't necessarily expected that we all should be grateful for, which is that the proceedings in court went off without violence, calmly, professionally.
And I think that's the result of great work by the NYPD, the federal law enforcement, the D.A.'s office and the court system.
I think what we should all take solace today and looking at how this potentially very dramatic, potentially very dangerous situation that was predicted to be a situation that might attract violence ended up being handled by the judge very professionally, and I think the judge set the tone for what is expected from the parties going forward. So, I'm encouraged by that.
The politics outside the courtroom, I think, will continue to be very divided and very passionate. But as a country, we've been here before with presidents. President Clinton was under investigation by Ken Starr for five years. And the Republicans in that mirror image of this investigation felt very justified and looking at President Clinton for sexual dalliances he had in, you know, in his personal life. Today, we have the reverse situation where the Republicans are outraged that it's being investigated at all. So, the politics is going needs to be addressed by the parties, but the judge needs to control the courtroom.
TAPPER: The judge set the next in-person hearing for December 4th. It's April right now. What happens between now and December 4th? What are the next steps in this case?
VANCE: Well, since the amendment of the discovery laws in New York State in January 2020, there was a whole new requirement that the prosecution essentially turn over to defense virtually every document that bears upon the investigation of this case. And that statute changed during the time that I was district attorney. It imposes a huge burden on the D.A.'s office. But the good news is, or at least from my perspective is, we were already prepared when I was district attorney when we indicted the Trump Organization and the chief financial officer. All that information was managed to be turned over to the defense in an organized way, in an earlier case, the one I've just described, and I'm confident that District Attorney Bragg and his team are going to be able to right away move to get the documents to the defense that's obligated, and that will be the first thing I think that happens.
Then there will be, as I've said earlier, I think it attack on the legal sufficiency of the indictment and y on we go there's. And then, of course, the lawyers are doing supplemental investigation and trying to prepare their case and the witnesses ultimately for how this is going to be played out in court.
TAPPER: All right. Former District Attorney Cyrus Vance, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time.
VANCE: Jake, thank you very much.
TAPPER: Back now with the panel. Joining us this hour is CNN Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger. Gloria, what's your reaction to what happened today and then the strength of this case?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think earlier on in the day, as Donald Trump himself said in his speech tonight, that the reaction to this indictment was muted in the legal community, to say the least. And then this evening, so he goes into this evening at Mar-a-Lago with a little bit of wind on his back, and what does he do? He turns it upside down.
He just took the momentum, I think, he may have had and blew it with this speech that he gave, which was not about how he had been vindicated or, you know, how this indictment was wrong, which he talked about a little bit, but instead he goes to Russia, Russia, Russia, Ukraine, impeachment hoax number one, impeachment hoax number two, the illegal rate on Mar-a-Lago, the FBI and the DOJ relentlessly pursuing Republicans, and on and on, a litany that lots of the American public is sort of turned off on the rigged election, et cetera, et cetera.
So, he had a little sympathy today, I think and then I think he just flipped it, not to mention attacking the judge and attacking the D.A., and he had been warned against it. And I think if I were his attorney, I would be telling him not to do that. And if I were Jack Smith, I'd be happy he talked about the boxes. As Jamie was saying earlier, he effectively confessed to moving boxes. And that's something that I think Jack Smith is going to be interested in.
TAPPER: You know, John King, one of the things that's interesting about this case, according to polling, at least the last polling I saw, most Americans were supportive of the indictment even before we knew what was in it. I mean, the reporting was accurate in terms of what we speculated was going to be in it. But also a majority of Americans thought it was political.
And it's interesting because that doesn't necessarily mean something pejorative, and I was thinking about the House Oversight Committee's investigation into Hunter Biden, which is -- which possibly is going to turn up some malfeasance by Hunter Biden. it wouldn't surprise me. I think it's a political investigation. That doesn't necessarily mean that they're not going to find anything.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. There is perfectly legitimate oversight of Hunter Biden and Biden family's enterprises in what we call the swamp here in D.C. The question is do you overdo it. Former D.A. Vance just mentioned Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton actually benefited politically from being impeached, which is embarrassing and it's not a good thing, being indicted is not a good thing. Can Donald Trump benefit politically like Bill Clinton benefited politically from something bad I think is the question before us.
And it was a great interview in the sense that we're also sitting here wondering why is this process going to take so long, and he laid out the New York State law and he laid out the documents. So, you just talked about how the politics of this, the Hunter Biden investigation is could be, in many ways legitimate, but also has a heap load of politics on it. The case against Donald Trump, read the statement of facts, read the indictment, legitimate inquiry into bad business practices, cheating, if you will, hiding the hush money payments. How do you -- can you prove your case?
August 8th is the next court hearing. This Republican debate, I think, ten days from that. Roughly, that point in August is the first Republican primary debate just after that hearing. In-person hearing on December 4th.
Now, the people of Iowa kick off the actual voting, what, in early February, right, so two months from that. This case, as now scheduled, is going to track the American political system, and it starts with the primary system. And can Donald Trump -- you know, can he keep his hold? Can he -- right now, he's the Republican frontrunner. Can he keep that? So, you're talking about legitimate legal cases, a political debate, they're on a parallel course, and they're not going to be separated.
TAPPER: And Donald Trump might be might be happy for that because this prosecution seems to help him politically with Republicans.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And this is a person, Donald Trump, who doesn't really plan beyond what is directly in front of him. He tries to attack what's right in front of him. In this case, it's Ron DeSantis, who is his next closest potential competitor, and that's what he's thinking about right now. He's oriented his campaign around that, and you saw that tonight.
He's not really thinking about the long-term implications, which I don't think it's a stretch to say are bad. It is bad to be indicted, and it's certainly bad to be indicted on these kinds of accusations. Because I think, you know, maybe you -- a lot of voters maybe may not know. Do they think it was illegal? Did they think it was bad? But some of these details are kind of bad. I mean, you were talking to Cy Vance about the David Pecker of it all, and he -- it was notable to me, but he said that might have been new. He doesn't recall that evidence being a part of what he was in charge of.
What that evidence says is that Trump basically called the tabloid guy to the White House and said, thank you for helping me in the campaign. I mean, those types of allegations which are here in the statement of facts and the documents, if people care to look at it, the details in here are not good. And it will be a while before we find out through the legal process whether they were criminal, but that does not help Trump.
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: There are some interesting details in this statement of facts. I thought in paragraph 19 where he talks about the defendant instructed Lawyer A asked if they could delay the payment until after the election. They could avoid paying all together, because at that point that would not matter if the story became public. That goes directly to the defense of, oh, I didn't I didn't pay to suppress this story because I was trying to affect the campaign, I did it because I was trying to protect my wife and family. Well, this piece of evidence was specifically designed to counter that.
There's another piece in here where it talks about --
TAPPER: It's the same thing, by the way, in paragraph 12 about the Karen McDougal charges. Trump did not want the information become public because he was concerned about the effect that could have on his candidacy. That's referring to Michael Cohen.
MCCABE: That's right.
TAPPER: So, it's both women.
MCCABE: There's another interesting one here where he's talking about how Lawyer A, who we know to be Michael Cohen, is working with the Trump Organization CFO, who is on Allen Weisselberg, and they're calculating out the reimbursement amount that Cohen will receive. And at the end, it says the CFO memorializes calculations and handwritten notes on the copy of the bank statement that lawyer A had provided.
I would guess fairly confidently that Lawyer A has now provided those handwritten notes to the prosecutor. So, there are interesting things in here.
TAPPER: Coming up next, another Daniel Dale fact-check on Donald Trump's speech this evening. Also reaction on Capitol Hill to what Trump said tonight and the charges he is now facing. And later, what the polls are saying about indicting a former president.
COOPER: Our special coverage continues. The former president's response to a truly historic day, the first ever former president criminally indicted. Earlier, we referenced to what voters told CNN recent poll conducted before today's events about the decision to indict the former president. I want to dig in with dig in on those numbers.
CNN Political Director David Chalian joins us.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Anderson, our new CNN poll taken in the immediate aftermath of that historic indictment of Donald Trump shows majority approval for that indictment. 60 percent of Americans in this poll approve of the indictment, 40 percent disapproved.
Take a look at this party, Anderson. You see 94 percent of Democrats approved, probably not terribly surprising, but 62 percent of independents, those critical voters in the middle, approve of the indictment.
We also asked if people thought Donald Trump's behavior was illegal or unethical. Take a look at this, Anderson. 37 percent say his behavior was illegal in the Stormy Daniels matter, 33 percent say, unethical, not illegal.
Add that up. That's 70 percent. Overwhelmingly, people think Donald Trump was up to no good here. In fact, only 10 percent say the former president did nothing wrong at all, Anderson.
And you know, one of his biggest talking points is that this is a political prosecution. Well, guess what? The American people see politics at play here, 76 percent. Three-quarters of those in the polls say politics is at play, including 52 percent, a slim majority of Americans, say that it plays a major role in this case. So that's an opening for Donald Trump to continue that line of attack.
You also might ask, Anderson, does this change people's opinion of Donald Trump at all? Look at his favorability rating now, 34 percent favorable, 58 percent unfavorable. In January, it was roughly the same. It's largely unchanged. And if you look at that by party, 72 percent of Republicans have a favorable view of him, but only 26 percent of Independents, Anderson. This is a huge warning sign as Donald Trump continues his 2024 campaign.
COOPER: David Chalian, fascinating numbers. Thank you. Joining our panel, CNN's Audie Cornish and David Axelrod, and Senior Political Commentator, Former Senior Adviser to President Obama. David Axelrod, if you are a Republican watching that and/or an Independent and care about the Republican Party, and its ability to win the White House, what do you take away from those numbers?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Those numbers that we just heard?
COOPER: Yeah. AXELROD: Listen, I don't think Donald Trump cares about any other column right now but the Republican column. And he's got a 72 percent approval rating among Republicans despite all this. And he's just trying to -- right now, he's trying to win the Republican nomination. And he thinks that he can turn lemons into lemonade through this indictment that he can, in fact, invigorate his base, and that his base is large enough that he can survive.
Now, it doesn't help when you make a speech like he did tonight and you look like the guy in a bar stool who's telling you about his bad divorce, which is exactly what it felt like. I don't think he helped himself. And he -- you know, he did miss an opportunity tonight, I think. But you know, these numbers should be more worrisome to other Republicans, because what it means is if Donald Trump gets elect -- nominated, he almost certainly will not get elected. But to his base, I don't think they care. I'm not sure they believe it. And that's what he's counting on.
COOPER: I mean, I'm just thinking of what other Republican candidates who are already running and those who are thinking about getting in are thinking, watching the former president in his rambling remarks tonight, and yet, realizing he is the person to beat in the Republican Party.
AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, there's silence is deafening for sure if they wanted to jump into the breach and say something, they're not exactly doing that. And it's interesting because the definition of insanity, et cetera, et cetera, and we're all doing the same thing over and over again, which is opening up the microphone and expecting him to say something different, which, of course, he did not word for word. We heard the same. And at this point, what we know to be lies, because what we have learned about what he knew about his election, for example, is very clear at this point.
So, I think people can hold two things in their minds at once, which is what we see in those numbers. They can think he did something wrong, possibly illegal. They can be hardened in their stance about whether they like him and are okay with that or not. And the question is, can they be okay with it for the long run, month after month, after month of being in this investigation, in these suits while you're in the middle of a campaign?
COOPER: And David, when there are other indictments, very likely.
AXELROD: Yeah, and that is the unknown. What is the compilation of all these things due to him? But you talk about these silent Republicans. They're silent because of that 72 percent number and they are frightened of the base. And Donald Trump, you know his whole political project and you guys worked for him, you know this, has been predicated from the beginning on the notion that there is -- that the system is corrupt, that it's rigged against everyday people, and he's the avenging angel.
And now, he's associating these indictments with that same corrupt system, and he's trying to tell his base, you know, if you side -- you know, I'm fighting them, they're trying to silence you. And he's saying the other Republican politicians, if you -- if you walk on me now, you're gonna be siding with the evil empire here, so it's, you know --
CORNISH: -- I just want to jump in.
AXELROD: Yeah, sure.
CORNISH: It means they're also not offering their own voters a choice. It is not a real choice. If essentially what you're saying is, of course, the system is corrupt. Everything he's saying is, oh, it's kind of true and also vote for me. Why vote for that person? I see not a single reason. You can have the real thing, and Donald Trump, who will air those -- were calling them grievances over and over again, when in many cases they are lies , right? When we're able to fact check them, not always on the fly, but I don't think that it's -- I think we're letting people off too easy by saying you want to be President of the United --
AXELROD: I'm not excusing it. I'm just explaining it.
CORNISH: No, no. Obviously, obviously. But I'm just saying, like, the idea that you can't say anything because he's too popular. Well, someone's got to make the effort to --
AXELROD: Well, you know, Asa Hutchinson, we talked about him earlier. We'll see where he goes but he's making a bet and that bet is, you can go a different way and you can say no. The system isn't -- the system isn't corrupt. And you know, the things that Donald Trump has done or not things that we should defend and we need to go on a different direction. We'll see if that has any -- you know, whether he is the person to do it and whether that has any take.
CORNISH: But, maybe --
VAN JONES, FORMER SPECIAL ADVISER TO PRES. OBAMA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Somebody's got to --
CORNISH: -- oh, go ahead.
JONES: Yeah. Yes. Somebody has to believe something and be willing to be wrong, be willing to get beat up and be there when the thing breaks. I think what happens is people follow, follow, follow, follow, and then when there's actually a break and opportunity, there's nobody over there. And so, I do that -- I don't know if it is Asa, I don't know who it is. But somebody in that party's got to believe something and stand for it.
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: One, I think the challenges of being that a lot of the other Republican candidates' calculation is they're just going to wait out an indictment that sticks. They're hoping that there will be something that weakens him enough then that's going to open the door for them.
But what they're not doing is offering contrast. So today, as I mentioned, Nikki Haley is smart that she's at the border. That's something that plays well in Republican primary politics. But that's not enough for the juxtaposition. You've still got a significant portion of Republicans who want to see something other than Donald Trump. And they want someone to offer that. But again, you can --
CORNISH: Isn't there a little bit of a waiting for Godot element to that.
GRIFFIN: There very much is.
CORNISH: Essentially, what I was saying about the definition --
CORNISH: -- of insanity, I think the party has seen enough times that you cannot wait for the mysterious big investigation that this time will make a difference. As certainly after January 6 --
GRIFFIN: That's -- it's exactly --
CORNISH: -- like, what more can it --
GRIFFIN: It will never come --
DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: But Audie, to your point then -- into David's point, you look at the base. The base says we don't care if Trump wins the general election or not. He's our candidate. We're going to vote for him. He's going to be our guy throughout. They're gonna ride or die. Trumpers are going to put them in the nomination. And so, there's nobody else to aspect of it.
CORNISH: Because they're not a ceiling to the base --
GRIFFIN: There is at a certain point.
AXELROD: But people say how big is that base? That's the point.
URBAN: That -- they don't care at some point, right, David. You -- you get this --
DAVID: No, but I mean, question is how many people --
DAVID: Is it 35, 32 -- right.
AXELROD: And is it enough --
GRIFFIN: But it's a minority within the Republican Party, yet the parties beholden to that.
URBAN: Well, will they get fatigued at some point, that's the question, right? So, if you get -- they will they get fatigued enough that they're going to be willing to abandon him or will they say we want to win in a general election broadly -- more broadly and 34 senate seats that are up in these governor races. And there's lots of other races that are gonna be on the ticket in '24.
COOPER: The problem is all these other public candidates will look at fatigued long before the former President left.
GRIFFIN: He's completely into the fatigued --
COOPER: I mean DeSantis already seems a little like -- just a little bit (inaudible)
URBAN: And I think, you know, don't forget that the point that I'm making like how many people or like in Pennsylvania, my home state, does Dave McCormick get in the race to run against Bob Casey. He's gonna be on the ticket with a guy who took -- you know, a baseball bat to him in the primary. Like how does Dave McCormick running the race on a ticket with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, who criticized Dave McCormick from being a rhino, but how do those -- how do those people who are otherwise good candidates get in?
AXELROD: But to Van's point, you know, you talk about the border, Donald Trump is one border that I don't think you can straddle. You gotta be on one side or the other at the end of the day. And a lot of these candidates think that they can finesse this issue.
And I'm not sure at the end of the day that that is going to make it -- I mean, DeSantis' bet and -- is that, you know, you can be sort of Trump --
AXELROD: I've said it before you can be like the methadone for people who are hooked on a --
URBAN: But you know, there's --
AXELROD: -- (inaudible) and want to quit the habit. You know, it's better for your health and you get the same culture war high. We'll see if that works. URBAN: Because I -- you know, the push back, I get hurt in that it's
like, why do we need a tribute band when the original band still playing?
AXELROD: Right, right.
URBAN: You have Trump, why do you need not Trump?
GRIFFIN: But the American voter has not been offered a real alternative in the Republican Primary since 2016. And I think that there is a much bigger appetite than people realize to just see somebody take him head on. You do not beat him by being Trump-like that's why I argue Ron DeSantis for all the strength he has, in many ways, is very overhyped, because he's never directly really taken Donald Trump on, nor has anyone significantly in the field.
JONES: I just feel like tonight, there's just a little bit of a sense of disappointment overall. In other words, you had this moment where for the first time in American history, an American President was actually indicted, walked into a building, wasn't handcuffed, but was fingerprinted and walked out.
And that should really sober up a country. Instead, I think the indictment was weak enough that it depressed some people on the left, and it animated people on the right. And Trump didn't learn anything. And I just -- I think we're still in some process, I don't understand.
ELIO HONIG, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: The point of waiting around for something that sticks as Audie and Alyssa were saying, they may be waiting for quite a while. I'm just putting a legal overlay on all this. This is the first case out of the chute. And the next appearance is in December.
I mean, realistically, they were talking in the -- in the transcript today about a possible trial in spring. But there seems to be a consensus how realistic is that. These other cases, if they're going to come along, which they may, well, I know how long these things take to get to trial. You're looking realistically at a year or so.
AXELROD: (Inaudible) a year in my calculation.
HONIG: And I don't know that the judge is going to be willing to try these cases in the summer of 2024, when you all will be at the conventions, and there will be primaries and debates.
COOPER: The question is, we're just having the other indictments, will that have some sort of cumulative effect, and then, the question is, when do those actual other indictments, if they're going to come at all, when would they actually be?
HONIG: That could be. And the other indictments are gonna be much harder to roll your eyes at.
AXELROD: So, Van, I heard you say earlier about and I agree with you guys, it was dreadful to hear Trump say what he said about the judge and what he said about the prosecutor, and involving their families. And you said you just don't do that. But you know what? Part of Donald Trump's gestalt is, he does the things that other people don't do. He's a rule breaker.
COOPER: That's right.
AXELROD: And in some ways that certifies him as not a politician. I'm willing to say stuff other people aren't going to say I'm -- you know, that's -- I don't think if you're waiting for him to develop the quorum, I think you've got a long way ahead.
JONES: I'm not waiting for a quorum. But what I'm saying is that he's playing with something that's very dangerous right now. And there is -- there could be a moment -- and I hope it doesn't happen -- where he licenses someone who actually does something.
JONES: He already did it. And they attacked a building full of lawmakers and people died. It's not that hard to imagine someone attacking a human being. And if that happens, I do wonder if this idea that I can shoot somebody in the avenue, nothing happens. That will be a moment the Republican Party is gonna have to look down a very different.
AXELOD: Well, they're going to have to make the realization because he will not.
GRIFFIN: That's already happened though. Alvin Bragg is getting death threats. People that he's come after have already got death threats.
COOPER: We already had more than 100 police officers attacked on January 6th. I mean, it's not as if people have not been injured.
URBAN: And I would just say this about the election -- the upcoming election. In 2016, when I joined the campaign, it was a nascent stages. Everyone said, you know, this guy is never going to win, it's never gonna happen, it's crazy. All the things that I can hit you to hear every day, so never say never. Never say never began 75 million plus people that voted for him.
GRIFFIN: I agree.
URBAN: And people are not so happy. If you look at Joe Biden's numbers --
AXELROD: And so by the way, I described the whole thing to you joining the campaign.
COOPER: Thank you, everybody. Coming up, Capitol Hill reaction to stunning images like this, the first in American history.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [22:45:00]
COOPER: The former president tonight mentioned the reaction on Capitol Hill to the indictment today, as you might imagine, he did not cover the entire spectrum of it, so I want to go to CNN's Melanie Zanona, who's at the Capitol. So what were the Republicans and Democrats saying both about the indictment and the former president's speech tonight?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yeah, Anderson. Well, Republicans are rallying around the former president, both figuratively and literally. Marjorie Taylor Green was in New York City this morning for a pro-Trump rally. She then flew to Florida to be with Trump at Mar-a-Lago. And she told me that Trump is angry but focused and he has committed like I've never seen him before.
She also told me she cried during the speech tonight. She called it incredible, one of the best speeches she has ever heard Trump give. And she also told me she has been talking with her GOP colleagues on House Oversight Committee, as well as Speaker Kevin McCarthy about ways to hold Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan District Attorney, accountable. That is something that McCarthy said also earlier in a statement today.
A trio of House committees have been trying to investigate Bragg. They're trying to seek his testimony. But so far, Bragg has rebuffed their requests. But they are getting some support from Senate Republicans for this effort to investigate Bragg that includes someone like Thom Tillis, a member of GOP leadership, who hasn't always been aligned with Donald Trump. He has some significant comments from him there. We are still waiting to hear, though, from Mitch McConnell. That is one significant Republican that has yet to weigh in.
And then, on the other side of the aisle, you have Democrats who are offering a pretty restrained response. You get a sense that they're trying to stay above the political fray. Chuck Schumer put out a very brief statement and just said that he hopes that Trump has a fair trial and that there is no place in our justice system for intimidation. And then, we have yet to hear from Hakeem Jeffries, the House Democratic leader.
COOPER: You mentioned a bit earlier -- can you talk a little bit more the reaction of Senator Mitt Romney, who is obviously a staunch Trump critic.
ZANONA: Yeah, I found Romney's comments some of the most notable today. He had been silent up until now. He was clearly waiting until seeing these charges come out and actually seeing the indictment. But it's notable because he is someone who voted twice to convict Trump in his impeachment trials. He has said he is not going to vote for Trump for President again.
But he had some very critical words for the district attorney. He said in his statement, I believe that President Trump's character and conduct make him unfit for the office. Even so, I believe the New York prosecutor has stretched to reach felony criminal charges in order to fist a political agenda.
So even some of Trump's fiercest critics are coming to his defense, which really just shows which way the political winds are blowing inside the GOP right now, Anderson.
COOPER: Melanie Zanona, I appreciate it. Thanks. Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, thanks so much. The former President's attacks on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg tonight mirror similar attacks by his political allies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I think the entire thing is crap. He hates Trump.
(UNKNOWN): The person denigrating integrity -- the integrity of our entire judicial system is Alvin Bragg, this Soros-funded political activist who is occupying the Manhattan DA's office.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): This is selective prosecution. If I were President Trump, I take this all the way to the Supreme Court.
SEN. BILL CASSIDY, (R-LA): No one should be above the law. But no one should be a target of the law.
REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): It actually helps Donald Trump become the 47th President of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Let's bring in someone who led the first impeachment of Donald Trump in the House of Representatives and also served on the House Select Committee investigation into the January 6th riot, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California.
First, a reminder that we asked each and every single member of the Republican -- every Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee to come on the program this evening, none of them told us that they were available.
Congressman Schiff, we've heard from a lot of legal experts, including those sympathetic to those who want to prosecute Donald Trump, who say that they are underwhelmed by the indictment that they are not sure that it is strong. Some found it disappointing. What was your reaction?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, my reaction both to the indictment and to those images today was this is what accountability looks like. Michael Cohen was sentenced to time in jail for his participation in the same scheme. And I don't remember Republicans coming rushing to Michael Cohen's defense. This is what the law should do that is prosecutors should follow the evidence when they lead to probable cause and proof beyond a reasonable doubt in the prosecutor's view. That is they believe that they can prove to a jury satisfaction, they should be charged. Donald Trump has been charged. He will get a fair trial.
What I found most notable about the factual summary was the evidence of Donald Trump's knowledge and intent. That is evidence that, for example, he was talking to others in this scheme about trying to delay the payment of the hush money until after the election, when it might not be need to be paid at all. That says this is about the election. This is about keeping information from voters and hiding that, not reporting that, is a campaign crime.
So it looks like that they -- they're alluding to very direct evidence. Whether the jury will be convinced, that will be up to the jury. But I do think that this is what accountability is about. And there can't be a different standard for presidents any more than ordinary citizens.
TAPPER: Well, I mean, theoretically, you're correct. But also, of course, this is the first time in the history of this Great Republic that a former president has been indicted and arraigned. It is not the first time we should note that a former President stands accused of committing crimes.
Therefore, the point I'm trying to make is that one would think there would be a higher bar for this case, even though we are, yes, a country of laws, not men. Do you think this case is strong enough to warrant these historic charges?
SCHIFF: I don't think there should be a higher bar when it comes to presidents or ordinary citizens. I think it should be the same bar. You do have to look at can you prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt, knowing the likely defenses and we hear the defense from Donald Trump the defenses, this is a politically motivated prosecution, I'm innocent, I never had that affair, et cetera. So you know, the prosecutor has to determine whether they believe they can prove the charges. The Manhattan D.A. believes that he can, and that would be put to the test.
Now, I do think there are more serious charges against Donald Trump that are being considered in Georgia, and even more serious charges being considered by the Department of Justice. And I wish the Department of Justice, in particular, hadn't taken so long that that investigation wasn't taking so long because you would ideally want to see the strongest, most serious charges brought first.
But that's not the fault of the Manhattan D.A. who brought the charges when the charges were ready, when the evidence, in his view, was present. But I do think that the Justice Department ought to have moved with a much greater sense of urgency. And then, we might be in a different case, different situation, at least in the order of charges.
TAPPER: You talk about how these payments from David Pecker, the CEO of American Media, the parent company of the National Enquirer, $150,000 to catch and kill, the story of Karen McDougal, the Playmate of the Year -- Playboy Playmate of the Year, basically, hush money to keep her story away from the voters allegedly.
Same thing with Michael Cohen, $130,000 to porn star and director Stormy Daniels, and you're suggesting that those payments because, according to the statement of fact, in the indictment, those payments were meant not to hide this from Melania Trump, but to hide these incidents from voters. And I hear you.
But I would note that while you're talking about the Department of Justice, the Department of Justice, according to reporting looked into charging Donald Trump with that specific campaign finance crime. And they declined.
SCHIFF: Well, that's what the reporting says. And obviously, they didn't bring charges the way they did against Michael Cohen. But it's also the case that the U.S. attorney at the time, apparently wrote about this in his book that Bill Barr was seeking to interfere in that case and prohibit the Justice Department from going forward when those charges were being considered.
But -- but at the end of the day, it's up to the Manhattan District Attorney to determine whether he believes that a state laws have been violated. And the proof is there, regardless of whether Bill Barr or others decided differently.
And so, the Manhattan D.A. has gone forward. The proof will be what it is. Is it sufficient to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt? But I don't think the Manhattan DA has a choice. If the DA concludes this is where the evidence led, we would charge others in like circumstances. Then you go forward. To do something less to basically say, no, we're gonna give presidents a pass, we're gonna treat presidents differently, that's something less than justice, and in my view, something less than democracy.
TAPPER: Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, also running for the U.S. Senate in California, thank you so much. Good to see you. We'll be right back.
COOPER: In addition to making history, this has also been a jarring day, not just that the former president of the United States has been charged with multiple felonies.