Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

Donald Trump Indicted on Seven Counts in the Special Counsel's Classified Documents Probe. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired June 08, 2023 - 23:00   ET



SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: My worst nightmare when it comes to keeping myself out of jail. I mean, he is an elderly guy. You don't want to go to jail at that age or any age, really.


ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Of course, raises questions about what he would do in this situation because it is very likely that he is going to be facing -- he is facing multiple indictments. He's already facing two. It could be three. It could be four.

MONDAIRE JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. Look, it's -- it's a Pandora's box. I mean, with this guy and I think the Fulton County DA has given enough of an indication to the courts that there is an indictment that is eminent in that jurisdiction.

So, look, I think, again, this is a really sad day for this country in terms of any, you know, former president being indicted for anything.

But as I survey the landscape and I see this assault on our democracy, whether it takes the form of January 6 or the voter suppression that we are seeing in jurisdictions around the country or the commitments that even presidential candidates on the republican side like Ron DeSantis have made about the kinds of people who they will appoint as FBI director in Department Justice, I take solace in the fact that the rule of law persists such that even a former president of the United States can finally be held accountable for some of the crimes that he has committed.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: And we're back with more on our breaking news tonight, the federal indictment of Donald Trump. I'm Dana Bash.

BURNETT: And I'm Erin Burnett. The former president has been indicted in the classified documents probe for the Special Counsel Jack Smith. Seven counts, we understand, are the charges. We do know from a source, one of them is conspiracy.

It comes, Dana, of course, as he is the Republican frontrunner by a long shot, let's just be honest right now, early polling. But right now, he is the frontrunner by quite a bit in the race for the White House, and that's -- that's the reality, the political situation. You simply can't deny it.

So, let us go to Evan Perez, our senior justice correspondent, and our chief CNN law enforcement intelligence analyst, John Miller.

Evan, you know, this was not unexpected. Okay, I will start there. It wasn't unexpected. But the timing was unexpected. Right? So much so from your reporting, right, that the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals, they did not know that this was happening. They weren't in place. It was Trump himself who was the first to put it out there.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. That's right, Erin. The Justice Department, the components of the Justice Department, the law enforcement components, you know, really want to make sure they have the assets. They want to make sure they've done the threat assessments before the former president is brought down to the courthouse there in Miami.

Now, there were some preparations that were being done behind the scenes, but they didn't know if this was going to happen, when it was going to happen, and they finally got that notification after the former president had already gone on his social media platform to say that he had been notified of the indictment.

And so, it gives you a sense of how tightly how this information was, that Jack Smith, the special counsel, you know, who does -- who has been operating independently, that even within the Justice Department, the components that are in charge of some of the security issues, which is the U.S. Marshals are going to help secure that courthouse.

The Secret Service, of course, is going to be responsible for bringing him to Miami and getting him to that place, to that courthouse. All of that didn't really get going until -- until shortly after the former president put out that post on social media.

And so, what's happening now as we speak is that the Secret Service and Marshals, everybody is now getting themselves ready. They're going to send additional people down there because they don't know what this is going to look like by the time Tuesday comes.


PEREZ: Certainly, the security is going to be a big concern.

BURNETT: Yeah. I mean, John, it is sort of stunning. I don't want to say they are on their heels because I, you know, can't know exactly what the strategy was or their timing. But it does -- it sorts of feels that way, right? With something that -- that you know is this significant and this big to basically allow it to come out on his terms and his way seems a bit surprising.

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Well, they're following the law. I mean, the grand jury investigation is secret, under Rule 60 of the federal -- the federal code. It is not uncommon for the prosecutors to share with the defense lawyers that your client -- you know, that this is going to go to a vote tomorrow. Okay, today, your client was indicted, we will see you Tuesday at 3:00.

So, I mean, I think this came out the other way. But for now, the charges are still sealed. We might see them if they are unsealed, but we might not see them until the appearance.


It really depends on how the Justice Department and the court proceeds on this.

BURNETT: And John, I know you have one important thing that you are looking for here just in terms of the classification itself. What do you mean by that?

MILLER: Well, when you look at the documents, here is something that we really haven't talked about and we've been talking about this for months, which is the president of the United States doesn't have a top-secret clearance, yet they are the chief classification officer of the United States. They can classify or declassify by virtue of the office.

The important point there, Erin, is that at the stroke of 12, when they start to not be president, at the end of their term, all of that disappears. They are not to authorized to possess classified information. You can't erase what's in their memory but it is the current president who decides whether or not former presidents can get classified briefings or updates on things involving foreign travel.

So, in the Trump case, there has been a lot of overcomplicated conversations about whether he could have had them, should have had them. Once you leave office, all presidential records, classified or unclassified, except for personal records, are the property of the government and the National Archives. Classified records, of course, takes that up several levels and --


MILLER: -- once you left office, his clearance by right of being president disappeared that day.


PEREZ: Erin, just really quick. I think John is raising a really, really important point and a fascinating issue, I think, that may have very much affected why suddenly we saw this case being brought in Miami instead of Washington where we've seen witnesses being brought before this grand jury for months and months and months.

The former president, if you remember, left Washington hours before the new president took office, at noon, on January 20th, and that's a key thing. I think you have heard Trump lawyers on our air point out that when he left Washington, he was still president.

So, they are saying or what they are trying to -- I think what they are building up to say when they go to court is that, well, you know, the former president was still authorized to have this stuff when he left to go to Mar-a-Lago. That is one reason why they raised the issue of venue --


PEREZ: -- why this case needed to be brought not in Washington, and why, you know, is being brought in Miami. You know, in the end, the former president left hours before Biden took office in part because, you know, he was just mad. Right?


PEREZ: He was mad about losing the election.


PEREZ: But in the end, it may have made a difference in why these charges being brought in Miami instead of Washington.

BURNETT: Which is just unbelievable, right, when you just think about the chance of that, right, because, as you point out, I guess all these things are tied together, he left early because he did not acknowledge that he lost. Right?

PEREZ: Right.

BURNETT: So, remember, he gave that speech at the hangar, and then he left. And, of course, every other president is there for the hand off. So, it doesn't --

PEREZ: Right, he's playing Laura Branigan's "Gloria" and all that whole thing.

BURNETT: Right. Right. Oh, I remember. I remember it well. All right, thank you both very much. Dana?


BASH: Erin, thank you. And back with me here in Washington, Laura Coates, Carrie Cordero, Andrew McCabe, and Paula Reid joins the table as well. Paula, you've been talking to your sources?


BASH: What are you hearing?

REID: What is interesting to me is we are obviously not hearing anything from the special counsel today. It is unclear if we will hear from him tomorrow. But in speaking with a source familiar with the Trump legal team, even the legal team was a little but surprised that the special counsel made this choice, to inform the Trump legal team -- you knew that that was going to wind up on -- anything you tell is going to wind up on Truth Social -- but without any plan to share any facts of their own.

I was told it was a little bit surprising that they hadn't already teed up sort of in order to unseal, they hadn't already gone to the judge to get that permission, that they hadn't tried to put together even a press release or anything. They are like, look, this is interesting, we are getting at least 24 hours to flood the zone with our version of facts. Again, that's a choice by the special counsel.

I am also told that after we get through the process on Tuesday, they do intend, not surprisingly, to file a motion to dismiss. They are really going to lean into these arguments that they are making about prosecutorial misconduct. They haven't presented a lot of solid evidence for that.

They also may make argument that this whole investigation was conducted in Washington, D.C. even though the case will be brought down in Florida because they will try to argue that the prosecutors wanted to go before more favorable judges up here in D.C., particularly on all of these privileged fights.

So, that's what we can expect, but it is sort of interesting to get some insight into how they are thinking about all this choreography with the prosecutors. Again, it's unclear when we are going to see this indictment or if and when we are going to hear from Jack Smith.

BASH: That is really interesting. What do you make of that, Andy? About the initial -- the fact that even the Trump team was surprised on how -- the sort of the mechanics of it tonight.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think it is consistent with what we've seen from the Jack Smith team from the very beginning. I don't know Jack Smith personally but I've been watching, you know, this story developed very closely as everybody else has. And the one thing that we have seen is that he does not talk about what he is doing.


We learn about things coincidentally. There has been numerous motions and arguments before the judges here in D.C. that were conducted in a secret, sealed basis, things that we did not learn about until maybe the judge released some sort of order memorializing what happened.

There are many subpoenas that went out that we did not learn about until witnesses started talking about them. We knew nothing about this infamous audio recording until last week and that was revealed in grand jury testimony a few months ago.

So, I think it is absolutely consistent that they were quiet about this development. I think it also suggests that they may likely be just as quiet over the next few days. I think that Jack Smith may rely on kind of normal order and wait until the indictment is presented officially at the arraignment to the defendant, then it is traditionally unsealed, and that may be the first time we hear from them.

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I am uncomfortable with the notion that anyone would anticipate someone as a special counsel that when Trump says jump, he is supposed to say how high. He is supposed to run an effective and respectful investigation that is supposed to protect the rights of the defendant. One reason we do not disclose all the information in the Department of Justice is because we do not want people to have an unfair system. It's already a great amount of weight to have the United States the -- ahead of your name.

BASH: And Andy was saying during the break that one of the reasons -- maybe the reason that the indictment is sealed is to protect the defendant.

MCCABE: To protect the defendant.

COATES: That is the reason because you do not want to have a jury population or a pool having the information making assumptions because although you have a burden of proof as a prosecutor beyond a reasonable doubt, obviously, grand jury is a probable cause standard. You still want to respect the weight of the hammer that is the Department of Justice against someone.

It is a system that is going to benefit those with the vast resources of the government more than it will the individual defendant. But, also, keep in mind this, we are hearing a lot about classification of the documents, whether he declassify them or whether he did not, whether it is the magic wand or otherwise.

The Espionage Act actually predates the classification system that we have as a part of our government. It's not actually an element of the crime that they have to show, that a document was actually classified at that juncture. So, one of the reasons --

BASH: What they have to show?

COATES: They have to show that there was the unlawful retention of a document where somebody had subpoena power or otherwise authority to have return to them. That you are no longer in a lawful custodian of that record. And when told that or you knew that, you had to return it.

Now, that could also be somebody who had the clearance to do so and was careless in a way that it was displayed as well. There are all sorts of guardrails you put in place for that reason. But the idea of the classification specifically, they need not prove that in this case. But, obviously, it's going to be a consideration.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYT: I think one way to think about the way that the special counsel's office is handling the public aspect of this is that they are currently operating according to the default. So, the default, the normal way, as Andrew said, the normal order of the way that this would work is exactly how it is playing out.

What is different is the way that the former president handles these types of situations and his legal team being on television the night before when he has not even seen -- the day of the announcement when he has not even seen the actual indictment. Yeah, that's unusual.

The way that the former president publicly announced the physical search at his residence which, by the way, we never needed to know about at that time. The only reason the public and the media ended up knowing about it was because he announced it, and then the Justice Department went and made a motion to unseal it so that they could show what actually was going on.

That similar situation could happen in this. Tomorrow is a new day. It's going to be a long day. And there is a possibility that the Justice Department could then change based on the behavior of the former president and the Trump legal team. But the current situation is the way that it normally would occur in a normal case.

BASH: Right. This is anything but normal for a million reasons, not the least of which is a former president and a current president -- candidate for president of the United States. Erin?

BURNETT: All right, Dana. I want to bring in now Nick Akerman, former assistant special Watergate prosecutor, into this conversation. All right, Nick, so you bring with this the historical perspective of when the country went through, you know, sort of the gut-wrenching process of Watergate. From what we understand so far tonight as this is starting to come out, what stands out the most to you right now?

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Well, I think the fact that the president -- the former president has been indicted. We were not able to do that with Richard Nixon because President Ford pardoned Richard Nixon. That is really the big difference that stands out here.


If we had been able to indict Richard Nixon back in 1974 and tried him for conspiracy to obstruct justice, this wouldn't be quite the big deal it has become with both the indictment in New York and now this indictment in Miami.

BURNETT: It's interesting. It raises a lot of questions as this goes ahead. When you bring that precedent, right, pardoned by Ford, obviously, you know, had been -- had been his vice president. But, you know, there will be real questions maybe as we reach the end of this process here this time.

But thus far, when you look at what we know to be in there and not in there and we don't fully know everything, Nick, but we know that there is some sort of a conspiracy charge. We obviously know there is obstruction. We do not see at this point dissemination.

AKERMAN: That's right. But I think the real key issue that I'm looking for when that indictment hits my desk is, do they allege the motive? Why is it that Donald Trump stole those records in the first place? And why did he go to great lengths to obstruct the government in actually getting those documents back?

I mean, we have some hints out there, but we don't know until we see the indictment. We know that Jack Smith subpoenaed the Trump Organization for records relating to seven countries that, presumably, the Trump Organization does business in. Now, does that mean that Donald Trump was using those documents, holding on to them to actually facilitate his business?

We know that in his private safe, in his office, they found documents relating to the commutation of the sentence of Roger Stone, who is convicted for basically covering up for Donald Trump, and documents relating to the president of France, Macron. Now, what was he doing with those documents? Why did he hold on to those documents?

I mean, you can rest assured that he was not using those documents to add information to his Christmas card list the following December. I mean, there are a lot of unanswered questions here. Sometimes, an indictment, a criminal indictment, will provide you with information on the motive. Sometimes, it won't.

Keep in mind that motive is not an element of any of these crimes, but it is an important part in terms of how significant the case is. It goes to many of the issues that have been raised before by Scott Jennings in terms of how the Republicans and the public view this case.

So, that is what I think we've got to be looking at. It may turn out in the end that we are not going to really learn what that motive was until we get a bill of particulars or until we actually get to trial.

BURNETT: All right. Nick, thank you very much. It is so crucial, as you say, though, when you talk about just basic obstruction, Dana, when he talks about these things. You know, you don't need a motive, right? Did you do it or did you not do it?

But in the court of public opinion, which is where this is going to be tried for many, many, months, right?

BASH: Uh-hmm.

BURNETT: If he was doing it because he wanted to get more money from Saudi Arabia, if they are able to somehow tie a bow there and make an argument, that sort of thing may be very significant in the court of public opinion.

BASH: That's exactly right. I mean, when you are talking about the short term, the court of public opinion that he cares most about, of course, are Republican primary voters, and that is why you are seeing him jump on this, you are seeing him fund-raise, and you are also seeing what the base is by Ron DeSantis, Kevin McCarthy and the Republicans appealing, calling the Department of Justice weaponized and things of that nature.

I want to bring in somebody who knows Donald Trump, who knows people in the Trump world, who worked for then President Donald Trump. It's Sarah Matthews, former deputy White House press secretary. Thank you so much for coming on. You, again, as I mentioned, know the former president. You were around him on many different occasions up until January 6th. What is your sense of what is happening in Bedminster right now?

SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that while him and his team are putting on a brave face, they definitely have to be panicking a little given that no one wants to be indicted, not just once, but this is the second time now being indicted.

And I think that they know that this case is far more serious than the case with Alvin Bragg where -- that one, we were talking about hush money payment to a porn star and the public already was kind of largely aware of his affair with Stormy Daniels, whereas this is a whole different level of the kinds of charges that he's facing. We are talking about violating the Espionage Act.

But I do think that his team is going to try to spin this as a win. The way that they are going to do that is that they are going to rally the troops, get his most staunch supporters out there on TV and flood the airwaves. And then on top of that, you are going to see them fund- raise on this just as they did after the Mar-a-Lago raid and the first indictment.


BASH: Yeah, they are doing that right now. But again, you sort of make an important point about what is going on. The forward-facing strategy, the political strategy, to be defiant and to try to use this as a political plus, which still, as somebody who has covered politics for a long time, kind of blows my mind, that there is a world in which this can be a political plus, but it is at least in the short term and appears that way.

But behind the scenes, what actually happens in these moments with the former president, that is the kind of thing that you have witnessed.

MATTHEWS: Yes, exactly. Definitely, working for him, it was always kind of crisis communications. There was always something popping up. But nothing, I feel like, of this level.

BASH: Of course.

MATTHEWS: I think that while they are going to say that this is a win for them and the team, sure, in the short term, this might serve to help him in a primary and it will definitely harden his support among the base, but I do think that this is just going to serve as a further reminder to independent voters who he would need to win a general that has too much baggage, too much drama, and that there are still other potential indictments looming.

BASH: Sarah Matthews, thank you so much for joining us tonight. Appreciate it.

MATTHEWS: Thank you.

BASH: We will be back with much more in our breaking news tonight. Donald Trump indicted on seven counts in the special counsel's classified documents probe. Stay with us.



BASH: Former President Trump says he has been summoned to appear at a Miami federal courthouse Tuesday afternoon after being indicted on seven counts in the special counsel's classified documents probe.

Joining me now is Marcos D. Jimenez, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida. Thank you so much for joining me. I should note you were a U.S. attorney during the Bush administration. In recent years, you have been quite critical of former President Donald Trump. I'm going to ask you questions specifically about the southern district in Florida because that is where this is going to happen on Tuesday.

First and for most, we were talking here about the jury pool. You know a lot about the jury pool because this is where you were a U.S. attorney. Is there any indication that the kind of jury that will be pulled from there will be anything other than genuinely objective, either not for or against Donald Trump? It seems like it is a pretty broad swath of community and society that you can pull from there.

MARCOS D. JIMENEZ, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA: Yes. Thank you for having me. I agree with that. I think that, generally, the jurors in our district, I suspect in most districts, if not all districts, take their jobs very seriously.

You know, when we pick a jury in a federal criminal case, you pick the jurors that you think you want. So, what I find very interesting about this case is that here, the prosecutors may not pick the jurors that normally you would pick in a federal criminal case.

Generally, federal prosecutors prefer conservative jurors, jurors who are extremely concerned about the law. But they may have some questions in this case because conservative jurors may like Donald Trump. So, I think it will be an interesting dance, if you will, that both sides will pick, if this case ever gets to a jury.

But to answer your question, our jurors are really excellent. Our judges are really excellent. We have some at the best criminal defense attorneys in the district. It is not Miami. Miami is part of the Southern District of Florida. So, I think we need to start thinking in terms of what the district is.

BASH: Uh-hmm.

JIMENEZ: The case was charged here because the offense was committed here. Both the Constitution and the rules of criminal procedure state that a defendant must be charged in a district where the offense was committed. So, the Southern District of Florida, which includes Mar-a- Lago, where this offense really occurred, I suspect for the most part, is where this case has to be tried, and the department brought the charges here to eliminate, as has been noted by some of your other guests, to eliminate any potential venue defense.

BASH: As a former top prosecutor, federal prosecutor in this district in the past, what else are you looking at and looking for as we look ahead to what we are going to see on Tuesday?

JIMENEZ: Well, on Tuesday, it is going to be pretty perfunctory, even though it's the president at the United States. I do agree, despite my personal feelings in the past, that this is a sad day for this country. You have a former president coming in.

But the court will treat the president like any other defendant. He will be informed of his charges against him. He will be asked if he has counsel. Of course, he will walk in with his counsel. And then he will also be -- that is his initial appearance. Then he will also be arraigned where he will be asked to plead either guilty or not guilty to the charges. He, of course, will plead not guilty.

And then the terms of his release will be set. In this case, clearly, I don't expect that the judges will impose a bond. I think that they will require him to just be released on his own recognizance, the fact that he's a former president, and he will come back to court.


So, despite the historic nature of this indictment, on Tuesday, he will be treated just like any other defendant that walks in to the court that day.

BASH: Except that he will have Secret Service and, I would imagine, there will be a lot of security around that courthouse.

JIMENEZ: Yeah. So, we're used to high-profile cases down here. Remember, we tried General Noriega (ph) down here. That case also involved classified information. I was a very young prosecutor in the office that actually in that case received sensitive compartmented information, which is a very high classification that is required for you to review evidence. That is what this case is really going to be about, which is classified information.

We also had Bush V. Gore down here. I was also involved in those cases and dealt with the press and the media. So, we are ready to handle this. The judges in this court are ready to handle it. I can tell you from personal experience that every federal judge in this court is committed to the rule of law, is an excellent judge, has tried lots of cases and will give the president a very fair trial when it comes to that.

BASH: Fascinating. Thank you so much for your perspective. We appreciate it. We will be checking back with you, Marcos D. Jimenez. Erin?

BURNETT: All right, Dana, you know -- look, there was a lot in that conversation. But can I just start here, Elliot, that he brought up, saying that when they got high-profile cases in Southern Florida, Bush V. Gore came up, without that, we wouldn't have you --


BURNETT: -- if you would never been born --

UNKNOWN: Love it.

BURNETT: -- and then Manuel Noriega (ph), which you have been pounding the table here. None of you have seen it out there because it has been in secret.


BURNETT: -- waiting for a mention of this case.

WILLIAMS: Donald Trump would not be the first former head of state to be tried in Miami federal court. Manuel Noriega was, in fact, the first. We did say it. So, you know, I'm simpatico.

UNKNOWN: You said it.

WILLIAMS: I said it, yes. But I'm simpatico with my former federal prosecutor brother who just made that point.

BURNETT: All right. Now, Ryan, one other thing that you have been talking about, I think it is important because he was talking with the system there, right, with Dana in South Florida, how it works. The judge, the judge is crucial here, and it seems to be a sort of choose your own adventure. How does this happen?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: It's a metaphor that is put in that, spin a wheel essentially that will randomly select the judge. And so, the judge could be -- we could see once again Aileen Cannon in the news and that was the federal district court judge that intervene in this case in such an extraordinary way that was so far into everybody in the legal community.

And she was overturned pretty astoundingly by a 3-0 panel of the court of appeals, all Republican judges. So, she could get the case. The trial judge has enormous discretion.

BURNETT: If she gets the case given that, that just stands?

GOODMAN: I could imagine that there would be an argument for her to recuse because she demonstrated such level of bias in that proceeding. But that is also a hard argument.


BURNETT: But this is amazing. We are talking about, okay, this is who you get, you could get her, and this could be how this goes. I mean, talk about an unbelievable development, not just legally but politically.

JENNINGS: Oh, yeah. I have been thinking about the macropolitical implications at this. Every Republican is going to see it this way. The current president of the United States is trying to throw in jail his chief rival for the White House who used to work there.

BURNETT: But Asa Hutchinson doesn't see it that way.

JENNINGS: One Republican. BURNETT: Chris Christie does not see it that way. Both of those guys, though, are people with prosecutorial experience.

JENNINGS: But the reason I bring it up is because when virtually every Republican is going to believe that the real issue for me long term is what does this do to the trust of institutions? You cannot have a criminal justice system where half the country believes it is weaponized, biased, politically motivated, whatever you want to call it.

And so, we're in the cycle now where that is becoming more true every day. There will be a Republican president someday. And, you know, what will the pressure be on them to continue that cycle? It's very troubling to me.

BURNETT: It's very troubling because to the extent that you have a point, which is that people see it as weaponized, okay --

JONES: Who is responsible for that?

BURNETT: But it's not even that, Mondaire. Is it? The reality is that then you don't have a system that works because the only way that people trust it is for to not do its job.

JONES: Yeah.

BURNETT: Right? I mean, isn't that -- how do you function?

JONES: I don't think the solution is to -- is to inoculate people who may be political actors from accountability simply because they were or are the leaders of their party or the president of the United States.


I think the solution is for people to behave responsibly and not immediately say, especially people who know better, which is mostly any elected officials who weighed in on the republican side thus far --

BURNETT: When you say all Republicans --

JONES: Let's wait to see -- let me finish. Let us wait to see what the evidence is. Let's see this adjudicated in a court of law. Don't we still believe in courts of law to fairly and impartially decide cases like this?

JENNINGS: If the implication is that people should act responsibly, a Republican might say to you, did Hillary Clinton act responsibly with her server? Has Hunter Biden acted responsibly on a number of fronts? Why is it that certain Democrats seem to be able to act irresponsibly, yet the wheels don't turn the same?

JONES: The Republican FBI director declined to move forward with a recommendation that Hillary Clinton be prosecuted. That is not equivalent to the situation that we're talking about right now.

JENNINGS: I am just telling you how people are going to see it.

JONES: I know, but the problem is because of rhetoric and false equivalencies like the one that you just drew, it causes people to further believe that these agencies are out to get one particular party when, in fact, if there had been a Democratic president who had the same kind of state of mind, who declined to produce documents to the FBI when he was subpoenaed to do so, that person would also be prosecuted. But Donald Trump in this situation is distinct from both Joe Biden and Mike Pence.

BURNETT: Well, I mean, all right, thank you all. Much more to come. Our breaking news coverage continues here. Former President Trump now is the Republican frontrunner in the 2024 race, indicted tonight on seven counts in the special counsel's classified documents probe.




BURNETT: The White House declined to comment on the federal indictment of former President Donald Trump. So, let's go to our CNN White House correspondent, Jeremy Diamond. Jeremy, what are you learning? Obviously, declining to comment even as, I can imagine, they're watching this as closely as everyone else's?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are watching this. But listen, the White House did not get a heads up when Jack Smith was appointed as special counsel. They did not get a heads up when a search warrant was executed at Mar-a-Lago. They did not get heads up once again tonight as this indictment came down.

Instead, I am told by a White House official that the president and the White House learned about this like everybody else, through these news reports which initially came from the former president's social media account.

So, the White House learned about it that way and they are not commenting at this point. The closest that we got to a comment was when the White House spokesman, Ian Sams, told me that they were declining to comment and referring questions to the Department of Justice, which he noted, and this is notable, he said, which conducts its criminal investigations independently.

That was by choice because, essentially, the White House's strategy here of not commenting on various indictments, whether it is this one or the one that happened back in New York or any of the other criminal prosecutorial activities at the Department of Justice, they want to make sure that they maintain the independence of the Justice Department, that they don't give any credence to these notions and attacks that are coming from Republicans that President Biden was somehow involved in this decision to indict the former president, that there is some kind of politicization of the Department of Justice. The president spoke to this today when he was asked, how do you convince Americans that they should trust the independence of the Justice Department? Listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have never once, not one single time, suggested to the Justice Department what they should do or not do relative to bringing a charge or not bringing a charge. I'm honest.


DIAMOND: And Erin, that was obviously earlier today before that indictment even came down. But it does speak to this broader point that President Biden came in to office following the former president who had repeatedly sought to politicize the Department of Justice, who has sought to interfere in the Justice Department's investigative activities.

And so, he did try and set a tone very early on about not getting involved in these kinds of investigative matters by the Department of Justice. Tomorrow, as President Biden heads to North Carolina, there will be plenty of opportunities for reporters to shut questions at him about this. I expect that he will ignore all of those. Erin?

BURNETT: All right, Jeremy, thank you. Dana?

BASH: I want to bring back Laura Coates, Carrie Cordero, and Andrew McCabe. I want to discuss some of the specifics of what we believe is in this sealed indictment and go to an interview that Kaitlan Collins did with Jim Trusty, one of Donald Trump's lawyers.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And does it say how many charges there are against your client?

JIM TRUSTY, TRUMP'S ATTORNEY IN DOCS CASE: Again, it doesn't perfectly mirror an indictment but it does have some language in it that suggests what the seven charges would be. Not 100$ clear at all. Those are separate charges.

But they basically break out from an Espionage Act charge, which is ludicrous under the facts of this case, I can certainly explain it, several obstruction base-type charges, and then false statement charges, which are actually again kind of a crazy stretch just from the facts as we know it.

So, there's a lot to pick at eventually from the defense side, but that appears to be the chargers and it appears to be something that will get off the ground on Tuesday.


BASH: And Laura, I know that you're particularly interested in the false statement charges.

COATES: I am because I want the public to understand that false statements charges can mean that you are the direct speaker of the statement or that you can induce somebody to make a false statement to the authorities, to law enforcement, in this case, the DOJ.


I am particularly interested in seeing and learning more about it. Remember, the attorney, Evan Corcoran, who testified in front of the grand jury, who had the piercing of the attorney-client privilege, we don't know who is the person who made the statement or whether that is the nature of it.

But it is not just that Donald Trump himself would have had to say it. If he induced somebody else to make a false statement, he could be found liable and guilty as a principal speaker.

CORDERO: I got to say, Dana, I continued to be shocked that someone currently on the president's legal team is out talking about an indictment that he hasn't read the underlying facts about.

We've been talking about the politics a little bit and the public messaging that is involved, we are talking about the legal case that is going to be brought, and those are two really different things.

This former president is facing, if the weight that it is being described, the potential charges that will be in this indictment. Really serious federal crimes. This is not a political game.

BASH: It is not a political game, but he is a political candidate. Even if you are not a political candidate, that is the lens through which he sees this.

MCCABE: He is, but his attorneys are not running for office. Their sole function right now is to try to keep him out of trouble. I agree with you, Carrie, they are skating out on to a pond. They don't know if that ice is feet thick or millimeters thick. They have no idea really what is going to be -- what sort of facts are going to be alleged in this indictment. Ans they are making a lot of statements about things, subjects that they might very well want to base motions on later.

There have been all kinds of kind of pretty vague claims of prosecutorial misconduct and things like that. I think they are really taking on easily avoidable risk by maybe (INAUDIBLE) to the demands of their very politically focused client.

BASH: I was going to say, I mean, it might be very difficult when you are representing somebody, and they are just (INAUDIBLE) here saying, get on television, go explain and go defend me.

COATES: That misconduct part is going to be really important because you can speak and run your mouth in the court of public opinion, but at some point, a judge will be aware of the comments made and want them to actually detail the allegations they made. If they failed to do so, you can undermine your own credibility before your actual case and the motion practice even begins.

BASH: All right. We will look at what Donald Trump's indictment might mean for the 2024 race. We'll talk a little bit about it. There's a lot more to digest and discuss on that. Trump's challengers are reacting. That is next.




BURNETT: All right, the 2024 presidential candidates, Republicans, are reacting tonight to the news of former President Trump's indictment.

Ryan Goodman, Elliot Williams, Scott Jennings and Mondaire Jones are all back with me. They are now responding, Mondaire and Scott. You've got two tiers of justice from (INAUDIBLE). DeSantis, weaponization. Chris Christie. We don't get news from Trump's Truth Social, I'm going to wait, but making it clear pretty much, he is going to stick up for justice. Asa Hutchinson, he's talking about Donald Trump's actions, willful disregard for the Constitution, disrespect for the rule of law. You see the split.

JENNINGS: Pretty good barometer for where most of the Republican Party is going to come down, where most of Trump's opponents have come down, which is to defend him on this just like they have mostly defended him on every other legal happening in this case. I suspect that is going to continue to be the case as they all take the temperature of their supporters out there.

I think Asa Hutchinson is going to be on an island. Cristie, being a former federal prosecutor, maybe he is in a different position. I think by and large, you are going to see the Republicans rallying around Trump.

By the way, can I just say, listening to Joe Biden a minute ago saying that he does not comment on federal investigations, he may not have commented on this one but he has repeatedly commented on Hunter Biden, he has commented on January 6, and I just -- he needs to not comment on this. I do think that's important. But he has not been the paragon of virtue when it comes to commenting on DOJ.

BURNETT: So -- okay. Mondaire, can I ask you one thing here? I want to ask you one more thing from Asa. He ends a statement with -- Asa Hutchinson, I'm sorry, former Arkansas governor. This reaffirmed the need for Donald Trump to respect the office and to end his campaign. You get that from him.

Tim Scott, by the way, is talking about a two-tiered justice system. To Scott's point, you've got one, and Chris Christie, we'll see where he falls, but he thinks Trump has no business running for office. Okay, but Scott has a point.

JONES: About what?

BURNETT: About what you are going to see on the republican side. You are already seeing it.

JONES: Okay. Yeah. Look, I -- absolutely. I mean, I don't think any of us is surprised by that. It is sad as it is. I hope someone like a Chris Christie would get traction for speaking the truth within the Republican Party.

But, you know, what stands out to me is that those two individuals you mentioned who are on an island of their own are not going to come close to getting the republican nomination. So, query (ph), how many people actually care, I think, who have a vote and who the next nominee is going to be?

BURNETT: It's unbelievable. Of course, on legal system so far, at least in the special counsel, they are sticking to business as usual. They are not trying to make a political case, not that they should, but in a world where that is how it is going to be seen.


GOODMAN: That's right. A lot of the conversation tonight has been about the pure legal question that the prosecutors have in front of them. It sounds like they have, speaking about the law, a rock-solid case. They did not go too ambitiously with dissemination or something like that. The charges that we've heard are the ones that match the facts that we have seen alleged by the government itself and other court filings. I think this looks very strong. We'll see what the evidence provides.

BURNETT: But by the book --

WILLIAMS: This pullback, this whole thing is a test of us as a nation, right? It is a criminal case that may well be a perfectly virtuous criminal investigation where the facts and the law support a conviction. That does not mean the public is going to support it. I do think it is a test of who we are and if our vaunted justice system can actually work in a truly impartial way that the public can get behind.

BURNETT: Thanks to all. Dana, it is such an incredible test, right, for the country when you think about it. When you think about the seriousness Americans take their jury duty, right, that they are Americans. Everyone on the jury is going to have a strong opinion about Donald Trump. Right? They are going to be asked to, without favor or fear, apply the law. It is an incredible moment.

BASH: It certainly is. Look, there is a reason why when you have a sitting president, these things do not happen. And the fact that we have a former president that is now facing not one but -- had faced one indictment, now facing a second, it is kind of hard to wrap your mind around.

Thank you so much, Erin. If I had to spend 10:00 to midnight with anyone, it would definitely be you.


BURNETT: Thank you. You too, Dana. Thanks so much to all of you for watching. Our coverage continues.