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CNN Live Event/Special

In Historic First, Former President Donald Trump Pleads Not Guilty To 37 Charges For Alleged Mishandling Of Classified Documents. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired June 13, 2023 - 23:00   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to CNN's continuing coverage of the arrest and the arraignment of Donald Trump. I'm Kaitlan Collins in Miami.


COLLINS: As, of course, we both know, it has been a long, historic day. The former president returning to his New Jersey golf club tonight after his appearance at this courthouse behind me to arousing reception from his supporters that also, we should note, is a campaign fundraiser.

PHILLIP: And in an angry and rambling at times address, Trump told them that he is the victim of political persecution. And earlier today, in Miami, at a federal courthouse, Trump was arrested and arraigned on 37 counts for his alleged mishandling of classified documents.

COLLINS: And in that courthouse today was CNN's senior justice correspondent Evan Perez, who is joining me here in Miami. Evan, what I keep thinking of is just the big picture of this, which is that next year, as he is the Republican frontrunner for the nomination right now, he is going to be dealing with all of these court dates in between running for president and doesn't have that insulation. He has never been under investigation in this way where he does not have the insulation of the presidency.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, he doesn't have the shield. And the Justice Department doesn't have any prohibitions, any internal memos to say, you can't bring charges against him because he is running for president. Right?

It's one of the things he is claiming. He's claiming that this is election interference. But I think people might forget that one of the reasons why he declared, perhaps, a lot earlier than he planned to is he thought that this would dissuade the Justice Department from pursuing this investigation. He thought that this would make Merrick Garland, the attorney general, and everybody just kind of stand down. And that's not how it happened. He ended up getting a special counsel as a result.

COLLINS: And that special counsel is Jack Smith. I was talking to some people in Trump's orbit today, asking them whether or not they believe, they knew or if they knew that Jack Smith is going to be there. A lot of them were surprised by it. He was not required to be there, I believe.

PEREZ: He was not.

COLLINS: Why do you think he showed up today?

PEREZ: Well, I think, you know, one of the things that the Justice Department wants and certainly that the special counsel wants is to be more visible. I think they understand that someone has to be behind these charges, someone has to tell the American public.

You saw the extraordinary thing that he did, which is was we heard his voice for the first time after this indictment was released. And I think you are going to see more of him because I think they have learned their lesson from the last special counsel, Robert Mueller, who was never seen. The first time we saw him, of course, was when he testified in the Senate after the report, after the Mueller report.

So, I think they want to take it a lot different. They want to make sure that the American public knows that he is the one behind this charge and it was independently of Merrick Garland, who is a political appointee of the former president -- of the current president.

COLLINS: Right. And one thing that did not come out of today is an understanding of what comes next, where we are next, what is the next court appearance, what does this look like? Beyond Walt Nauta, we know he has to show up here in two weeks with his Florida-based attorney. What is next?

PEREZ: Well, the -- I think what is next is going to be a lot of legal fighting. Of course, the former president still has to secure his legal team. He is going to be hiring, you know, we assume, more lawyers to represent him in this case. And then we are going to see some of the briefs start showing up in court, court dates -- the first court date before Judge Aileen Cannon in West Palm Beach, in the northern division of this district. And then the legal fighting will begin.

You saw a little bit of it today. Right? The judge tried to put some restrictions on who Trump can talk to, including Walt Nauta, whether they can have communications about -- well, what they could talk about. And so, you saw the pushback from his lawyers, who were trying to protect him.

And so, that's a preview of what is to come. We are going to see a lot more fighting, including over Evan Corcoran, that incredible testimony and his notes, which are a big part of this case.

COLLINS: Yeah, and then Nauta and his attorney, and Trump and his attorney all flew back together to New Jersey tonight, Evan.

PEREZ: Which really tells you how close they're going to -- they're planning to remain as this plays out.

COLLINS: It really does. We will see what that looks like. And, of course, how the judge here responds. Evan Perez, great reporting today. Thank you.

Abby, of course, big questions on what that legal team is going to look like going forward.

PHILLIP: Absolutely. That's going to be one of the biggest questions, I think, facing us. But we were just telling you about that rambling at times, speech that the former president gave. And as is often the case, it was also filled with a slew of lies and falsehoods.


Let's get straight to a fact check on Trump's address tonight to his supporters in New Jersey. CNN's resident fact checker Daniel Dale is here to save the day. So, Daniel, you have been through Trump's speech at Bedminster tonight. Tell us what stands out to you.

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: I usually like to do a deep dive into a couple of false claims from a big speech like this, but former President Trump delivered just so many lies and wildly misleading claims about this indictment that I want to go through a whole bunch of them quickly because I think they're all important.

So, Trump kept claiming that the Presidential Records Act said he has every right to keep these classified documents. He said they were his own documents. That is not only absolutely false. It is like upside down world. That act is clear and concise. You can go and read it online. The very purpose it was passed in the 70s was to make clear that all official documents from the presidency, classified or not classified, belong to the federal government the moment a president leaves office.

Trump also claimed the Presidential Records Act says he was supposed to negotiate with the National Archives and Records Administration about what to return. Also, absolutely false. That act, again, says all official records belong to NARA. There is no provision for any negotiation.

Trump claimed just about every other president has done what he did. Again, absolutely false. No president in the Presidential Records Act era has taken home troves of sensitive records and refused to give them back when NARA asked.

He also claimed that the FBI or DOJ illegally released to the press a photo the FBI took where they laid out classified documents they had found at the Mar-a-Lago search. They didn't illegally release it to the press. They included it legally in an August 22 court filing.

Trump claimed that Biden had him arrested. There is zero evidence. We know that Biden had anything to do with bringing these charges. They were brought by special counsel and approved by a Florida grand jury of ordinary citizens. Trump mocked the use of the Espionage Act. He claimed it was not meant for this purpose. Also, again, falls. That law, despite its name, is not only meant for classic spying. There is a provision that specifically prohibits the willful retention of national defense information, usually classified documents, which is what trump and many people prior to trump have been charged with.

Trump vaguely talked about Biden sending 1,850 boxes of documents to the University of Delaware. That is highly misleading. He did not mention those boxes are Biden's legally and properly donated papers from his years in the U.S. Senate or that critically, unlike presidents, senators own their offices' records and can do whatever they want with them.

Trump claimed that Biden won't let anyone see these Delaware boxes. False once more. He has permitted to FBI searches at the university, as CNN's Paula Reid has reported, and the FBI found no initial sign of classified documents in them.

Trump hinted conspiratorially about who topple the spilled box. We saw in that indictment document, insinuating to his supporters maybe the feds did it, maybe it was the FBI. That is nonsense. That photo was taken, per the indictment, by Trump aide, Walt Nauta, eight months before the FBI search. It cannot possibly have been the feds.

And Abby, Trump even lied about something we could see with our own eyes. He said Jack Smith was trembling during his post-indictment speech. You can go watch that two and a half-minute address. Jack Smith absolutely was not trembling.

PHILLIP: Some of these are just incredibly brazen. Daniel Dale, thank God for you. Thanks for bringing that to us. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: And for more on all of this and not just what the former president is saying tonight, but also what could happen going forward, I want to bring in criminal defense attorney David Markus, who recently succeeded in defending, we should note, the former Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Andrew Gillum.

Also, recently turned down a job to defend the former president in this case. It is happening here. We are talking about it tonight. Tell us why. Why did you not want to take on this case?

DAVID OSCAR MARKUS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know what? I can't really talk about that particular thing, Kaitlan. I can talk about the circus that was brought to town, the roosters and the chickens and the --


It has been wild -- heat and the humidity that you, guys, are putting up with, but trying to stay away from talking about the specifics of that.

COLLINS: Well, in a bigger, broader sense, I've talked to some attorneys about this today, the pros and cons of taking this on. obviously, it is a historic case. You would be representing -- the first time a former president has ever faced federal charges. What do you see as the cons of representing him?

MARKUS: You know, it's a full-time job. That's number one. And so, any lawyer who takes the case needs to make sure they have enough time, enough energy to devote their entire practice to it. And so, if you have a busy practice, if you are trying cases all around, it's going to be hard to turn away those cases and tell the current clients, listen, I'm going to be spending all my time on this. That's a difficult thing for a lawyer to do and to get involved with.

COLLINS: Is it complicated by what we saw happened tonight where Trump leaves here, he gets on his plane, he goes back to Bedminster, he delivered his speech that I'm told his current attorneys reviewed where he said he had every right to take these documents? He said, I did everything right, and they indicted me. How much does that complicate a search for an attorney?

MARKUS: You know, I don't think it does all that much. A person should have the right to defend themselves in public.


I think what is much more interesting is why nobody is criticizing Jack Smith for getting out in front of the public the night after the indictment, having a press conference like a peacock with an American flag behind him and saying the public should read the indictment and make decision for themselves. That is wrong. A judge is going to instruct the jury not to make decision based on the indictment, to wait for the proof.

So, I'm not sure why Jack Smith did that. I'm not sure why prosecutors are holding press conferences. I think it is unseemly, and I think it is wrong.

COLLINS: It's interesting for you to say that because what we had heard as we were covering it in the immediate aftermath of learning that Trump was indictment was the silence from the Justice Department and the fact that Trump himself was the one framing the narrative of what had happened and we were not hearing anything from the Justice Department. Isn't that just as problematic?

MARKUS: Trump beat them to it, you know, as Trump is up to do. But Jack Smith held a press conference. Maybe, you know, too late for the media, but why is he holding a press conference at all? It is odd. Right? He had a speaking indictment, what I call a show and tell indictment with pictures and everything. That should speak for itself.

It's weird that a prosecutor would get in front of the camera and sort of preen about we want a speedy trial. The government does not get a right to a speedy trial.

COLLINS: But don't you have a right to a speedy trial as a person? Is that preening, about a speedy trial?

MARKUS: Yes. So, the defendant has a right to a speedy trial under the Constitution, the Sixth Amendment, not the prosecutor. So, for the prosecutors to say, we want to be the trial, well, I think that was just for the cameras because he doesn't have a right to a speedy trial. Only a defendant does. And so, this case is going to take a long time.

COLLINS: You don't think he was saying that in the interest of the Republican frontrunner that they are investigating, saying that's why they should have a speedy trial?

MARKUS: No, I don't think he was looking out for Donald Trump when he said that we should have a speedy trial. Donald Trump's lawyer should have the opportunity to prepare. The government has been investigating this case. For two years, they have been putting this case together. Trump is going to have a new legal team. They need time.

It is only fair, right, that they have the same amount of time to prepare. There is no chance that this case gets tried before the election. I'm telling you, it will not get tried before November 2024.

COLLINS: One thing I should also note about what we heard from Jack Smith -- I'm very sensitive to this as a member of the press. It wasn't at press conference because they didn't take questions.


COLLINS: It was he came out and delivered --

MARKUS: Statement.

COLLINS: -- a very brief statement. When you saw, though, the former president repeatedly attacking Special Counsel Jack Smith -- I mean, if you scroll through his social -- his Truth Social posts, he calls him deranged, he calls him Trump hater, he attacks his wife.

MARKUS: Not right. I mean, clearly not appropriate. Nobody should be name-calling. So, Trump should not be doing that. Nobody is going to defend that. But, again, I do think we should be asking questions about why Jack Smith is on air making those kinds of comments also.

COLLINS: He does not speak very often. That was the first time we had heard from him. I will note. We did see him today. He was in the courtroom today. I know that cameras in the courtroom is something that you care a lot about as well. We will have to leave it there.


COLLINS: David, thank you very much for joining us here in Miami.

MARKUS: Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Appreciate that. Abby, back to you.

PHILLIP: All right, I want to bring in Democratic Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger of Virginia. She is a former CIA case officer. She sits on the House Intelligence Committee. Congresswoman, thank you for joining us. Look, the indictment lays out pretty clearly the nature of the documents that the former president is being charged with. They have to do with U.S. defense, intelligence capabilities, nuclear capabilities. And yet you hear Trump saying tonight, I had the absolute right to take the documents. What does that make you think as a former intelligence officer yourself?

REP. ABIGAIL SPANBERGER (D-VA): You know, Abby, in the indictment, it lays out that these documents detail U.S. capabilities. They detail U.S. plans in the event of an attack. They detail our capabilities. They detail the military and technological capabilities of our partner nations.

As is laid out in the indictment, these documents are the roadmap to keeping our service members safe in the event of any sort of conflict. They talk about the United States' biggest, deepest secrets. And anyone who has access to this level of classified information, as for what was listed in the indictment, has an absolute duty to protect them.

And so, as a former intelligence officer and as a member of Congress now, I think it is absolutely horrifying that anyone would downplay the seriousness of what these documents represent.

PHILLIP: I want you to take a look at this graphic showing the areas in the Mar-a-Lago Club where these documents were found. They were, frankly, all over the club. And some of your colleagues in the House today, one of them in particular, said, well, there are 33 bathrooms. You can't just walk into any bathroom at Mar-a-Lago or the idea that the bathroom has a lock --


PHILLIP: -- and that that is a secure place. What is your reaction to that?

SPANBERGER: There are absolute protocols for how classified information is supposed to be maintained and protected. Certainly, in the House of Representatives, we have a SCIF. We have -- it's a special facility. Documents are locked up. You have to have access to the rooms. No electronic devices. Right?


Members of Congress should be very clear on the protocols that go along with being able to even read or access classified information. The fact that there would be classified information -- some of our nation's biggest secrets just strewn about in this resort where we know people are coming and going, including foreign nationals, it's just unthinkable.

And then when confronted with this reality, as the indictment lays out, the president engaged in efforts to conceal that fact.

PHILLIP: And some of your colleagues are also now saying, in the Senate, they are going to grind Department of Justice nominations to a halt. That was from J.D. Vance, a senator. But also, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene is saying that she will try to defund Jack Smith's office. How do you see this all playing out? Are these real threats or empty threats?

SPANBERGER: I think these are deeply tragic threats, frankly. This is a question of national security. And national security issue should not be partisan. The fact that there are documents that might outline U.S. capabilities and that they were treated inappropriately, they were placed at a hotel in Florida and that they were not returned to the U.S. government at the time that they were supposed to, and now, as the indictment lays out, the former president engaged in a potential conspiracy to conceal them, the fact that any member of Congress would be saying anything other than we need to have the case go through the court system, we need to understand fully what happened, the fact that they would defend this treatment of classified documents, is deeply detrimental to our national security.

And, notably, as laid out in the indictment, some of the documents were labeled five eyes. That's information that we share with or received from some of our closest allies and partners. The implications for our national security are not just to our own country but it impacts the relationships and the information sharing that we may have with some of our closest, closest allies.

PHILLIP: Yeah. And, you know, voters will ultimately decide. You come from the state of Virginia where a lot of people in your state know all about how to handle classified documents --


PHILLIP: -- because they deal with them all the time.

SPANBERGER: That's right. And they would lose their jobs and go to jail if they engage in this sort of behavior.

PHILLIP: Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, thank you for joining us.

SPANBERGER: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And coming up next, two arrests for Donald Trump in just a matter of weeks. And with more lawsuits and investigations still swirling, what are the potential legal troubles that he faces going forward? We will talk about all of that right after this.




PHILLIP: Former President Trump's arraignment in the classified documents case is just the latest in a series of legal troubles that he has been facing. He is under indictment in New York for allegedly making hush money payments to an adult film actress.

And last month, in a jury, a civil trial found Trump liable in the sexual abuse and defamation lawsuit filed by E. Jean Carroll. He's being investigated for alleged election interference in Georgia and, also, as part of the January 6th probe.

My panel is with me. CNN political commentator Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican strategist and pollster. We got legal analyst Elliot Williams, former federal prosecutor. And Sarah Matthews is here as well. She is a former Trump White House deputy secretary. CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem, and former Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman, who is an advisor to the House January 6th Committee.

Denver, welcome to the program. I will start with you on all of this. This is really, I think -- you know, we thought January 6th was a pivotal movement. Right? We haven't even gotten to the federal investigation into that. But this is a pivotal moment because of the seriousness of the charges against Trump. When you look at the array of things that he could be facing from a legal perspective, how much worse do you really think this could get?

DENVER RIGGLEMAN, FORMER VIRGINIA REPRESENTATIVE, FORMER ADVISOR TO THE HOUSE JANUARY 6TH SELECT COMMITTEE: I think it always gets worse. I still think with January 6th on the way, when they are starting to look at January 6th, I think the classified documents debacle is awful. I still think when we look at what happened on January 6th, I think it is going to get worse.

What amazes me is my background, counterterrorism background for 20 years, National Security Agency, I was talking to Elliot beforehand, you know, I've seen top secret SCI, I've seen top secret SCI, TKG, HCS (ph), I've seen all these complete, different types of caveats, but I've never seen top secret third (ph), you know.

So, you know, with him having actually, you know, classified documents in the bathroom, I found it almost amazing. And, again, talking to Elliot, that we had a leader of the house talking about, well, they locked the bathroom? You know, I've built SCIFs.


RIGGLEMAN: Right? You don't have bathrooms in SCIFs, usually, for multiple reasons. But I just find it amazing that they are taking this or lightly or trying to defend something that is so over the top illegal, especially about classified documents.

If I did this or if Juliette did this or somebody in here did something like this, you know, we would be dragged to the woods. I think -- and rightfully so.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I want to add to this, I think what links a lot of these cases and what my work is on it is just violence for the threat of violence. I think we tend to forget how much that animates the political discourse and how unique that is in our adult lifetime.

I mean, it is now sort of -- violence or the threat of violence is sort of an extension of politics. You start to January 6th. But even think of the Georgia case. The Georgia case is fundamentally about buying time so that they can have the fake electors, you know, sort of submit their votes. How do you buy time? It was essentially January 6th.

Fast forward to Mar-a-Lago and the cases around that, it is a president who is -- who threatens our peace as a nation, right? I mean, that may not be violence as we often think about it but it is also a piece of it. And I think we just should not get used to that, to the extent that is part of our discourse.


PHILLIP: You make such an important point about the seriousness of the January 6th investigations, both the one in Georgia and the other one that Jack Smith is dealing with. And Elliot, do you think that is federal case that we are seeing now start to play out will have any effect on some of these other cases?

If you are -- if you are the district attorney in Georgia, are you looking at this and saying, do we need to take a step back? Do we need to wait? Do we need to wait for it to play out?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So, it's not uncommon in prosecution for one sovereign or jurisdiction to have a case that they are working on when another one, maybe the feds, are working on something else.

And I think what you might see, as you get down the road, is a request just made to the Justice Department saying -- you know, asking, when are you going to trial? How much time do we have? And, at a certain point, it becomes a pure logistical matter where it's just, look, the defendant in this trial that we are having in some state court can't appear because he is on trial in another court or he has a hearing up in Washington, D.C. or in Florida or elsewhere.

And so, it really -- in many respects, it's just administrative more than anything else. Now, in terms of whether it might have an impact on either of these jurisdictions, you know, maybe not. Now, what is notable about Georgia like this matter is you have audiotape there of the defendant in his own words committing or at least allegedly committing at least part of the offense. And so --

PHILLIP: And another potential allegation of conspiracy at hand there, too.


PHILLIP: Sarah, I wonder about, you know, the politics of this all. Obviously, the Trump team, they're always trying to put on a brave face saying, oh, well, this is going to help us politically, we are going to raise a ton of money. But to Elliot's point, they have a calendar problem, too. I mean, they've got cases. Some of them have not even come to fruition. And then they also have primaries beginning in January.

SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Yes. And I think that we saw today, though, that they are going to try to spin this into a win. Obviously, it wasn't a good day by any measure. Donald Trump was arraigned and federally indicted.

And I think that, as evidenced by them taking him to that restaurant in Miami, they knew that there were no cameras in the courtroom, so this was their chance to get him into front of a camera and to put on a brave face, as you said, and to show him in a crowded room full of supporters who were cheering him on.

And he was thriving, he seemed in good spirits, which is surprising given the day he had. But they are going to try to spin this into a win, as they usually do. And the message that we heard from him tonight in his speech was they are coming after me because I am fighting for you. And so, he is going to stick to that message and try to force his rivals to come out and defend him.

But what I think is so funny about that is, if you are a 2024 rival taking on Donald Trump, it is interesting that you are not making the case then for why you are running if you are afraid to criticize him, and I think that they should be out there taking him head on.

PHILLIP: Yeah, it's very hard to understand. There are also a lot of theories about what kind of timing benefits Trump and what kind of timing doesn't in terms of these cases moving forward. What is your take, Kristen, about how this play into the republican primary? As we know, (INAUDIBLE) was coming up in January and he also has a court date for next March, I believe, in the middle of the primary season.

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, whenever something like what we have seen over this past week happens within the republican primary, there tends to be this -- within the republican electorate, there is like circle the wagons effect, right? Let's all rally around our guy. Let's -- even if I don't like some of the stuff he has done, I don't like his enemies more. And it is a reminder to Republicans, hey, there may be things that Trump has done that you don't like but you stand with your guy.

So, if there are big developments that happen on the eve of the big primary, there is an argument that that could be beneficial. But the countervailing argument is Republicans really don't want to lose the general election in 2024.

And if there are Republican primary voters who may like Donald Trump but are really worried about him as a risky nominee, some big development in a case like this on the eve of a primary could remind those Republican voters of just how risky a candidate, a potential nominee Donald Trump would be.

PHILLIP: Yeah. I mean, I think that that is definitely kind of a very logical view of it, but at the same time, I mean, this is the same Republican Party. They have been indoctrinated in this idea that Trump is such a strong candidate. But he did not even lose the last time when he actually did.

RIGGLEMAN: Yeah. I think, you know, being a former Republican congressman, if I am looking at what is happening right now, we've been talking about Mar-a-Lago and the SCIF and the incredible opinions around here, we are looking at the judgment of somebody who is holding these classified documents, you know, at a resort. But the second thing is if I am running against him, I am saying you have somebody who has shown the judgment to really invite dollar store Nazis to lunch. Right?


And these individuals that are around there and all the people that have gone through Mar-a-Lago and you have defense of, you know, bathroom locked doors on this thing, it just seems to me, right now, if there is a Republican candidate who can make those type of arguments against Donald Trump, I think they actually have a chance to maybe find an inside lane.

Again, you know, I was around, obviously, when Donald Trump was there. It is very difficult to sort of break that lock on a party. But what are you doing right now and the disrespect you showed to the military and the disrespect you showed to the American people, on the individuals he is allowed to Mar-a-Lago, you know, like the Nick Fuentes of the world, I think, at this point, maybe there is a Republican out there who can go into the inside lane here.

KAYYEM: I think there is something happening today that is interesting and who knows if other Republicans will take advantage of it, but for those of us who have been monitoring sort of violent extremism, not Trump supporters but the violent side, and the language that had come out after the indictment, that was not a crowd today.

And if you are Donald Trump and you live off the mythology that the crowd is not only for you but that the crowd will fight for you, they did not deliver today. And I think it is really important for people to see that, you know, he is a lot of bark right now and he is obviously the frontrunner, but that was -- imagine how we would feel if 100,000 people had shown up. You feel very different.

I think we have got a couple hundred, right? There might have been more reporters there. That is good news in terms of breaking this aura that he has created around himself. So --

PHILLIP: Yeah. I mean, I think it's -- this is now the second time that law enforcement, rightfully so, has prepared for --


PHILLIP: -- crowds that didn't show up. Do you think that that is significant?

SOLTIS ANDERSON: I think we saw, from the first indictment, that there was not a big crowd. Obviously, that was in New York. I don't think it was anticipated that there was going to be a big crowd there.

Florida, I did kind of expect there to be a larger presence, but there really wasn't. I think the estimates I heard were something like there were 20 people outside the courthouse and there were more reporters there, actually, covering it. WILLIAMS: One caveat there is that I think a trial is very different than --

UNKNOWN: Well, there is --

WILLIAMS: -- appearance or --


KAYYEM: And the arrests after January 6th clearly had an influence. But that's good, I mean, in the sense that people will not do what he -- remember, his language --


KAYYEM: -- was to fight on the violence side. I think it is really important that that is sort of what is animating a lot of -- he has nothing else.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely. I just mean a trial starting of the former president of the United States, if we reach that point, is very different than showing up for a 32nd hearing and then being advised to your rights. We will see. Who knows? I don't know if people have that level of analysis in their minds when they are going in but, again, he is not on trial when that day comes. I think it is different.

PHILLIP: And unfortunately, Trump is known to just simply upped the ante every single time, rhetorically. Great discussion. Guys, thank you all for being with us. And Republican leaders are weighing in now on today's event. Stay with us for their reactions.




COLLINS: The 2024 GOP presidential candidates are weighing in on Trump's arrest and arraignment today. Some Republicans in Congress are also reacting as well. So, what are they saying?

Let's get right to all of the reaction with CNN's anchor and correspondent Audie Cornish, also Republican strategist Jason Osborne, and CNN political commentator Karen Finney. They are all joining me tonight.

Audi, I want to start with you on what we are hearing from the former vice president, Mike Pence, who offered quite an answer to Dana Bash in his CNN town hall recently about whether or not he thought Trump should be prosecutor here, but now says, having read the indictment, these are very serious allegations, and I cannot defend what is alleged. But the president is entitled to his day in court, he is entitled to bring a defense, and I want to reserve judgment until he has the opportunity to respond. That's a shift from what he was saying in that town hall, even if it is just a slight one.

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPODENT: Yeah, I can see you sort of looking for some differences there, but the truth is, at best, he's going to be careful, more careful than some others in the race. We have heard another candidate talk about the idea that in some future scenario, if he was president, he would pardon Donald Trump of any conviction.

There is a real bafflement by the sort of establishment republican base about how to deal with Donald Trump that they have experienced since 2015. It has not improved. And you see the struggle in the split answers from those in the Senate versus those in the House and those people who are out to score points.

COLLINS: Yeah. And Jason, I want you to hear an answer that stuck out to me today. Two answers, one from Kevin McCarthy yesterday, one from Byron Donalds today. Obviously, both Republicans, both in the House, the House speaker and the Florida representative. This is what they said in a defense of what Trump is alleged to have done.


UNKNOWN: Is that a good look for the former president to have boxes in a bathroom?

KEVIN MCCARTHY, SPEAKER, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: I don't know. Is it a good picture to have boxes in a garage that opens up all the time? A bathroom door locked.

REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): As somebody who has been to Mar-a-Lago, you just can't walk through Mar-a-Lago of your own accord because Secret Service is all over the place. There are 33 bathrooms at Mar-a-Lago. So, don't look act like it is just in some random bathroom that the guests can go into. That's not true.



COLLINS: Jason, I'm not sure I would -- I thought I would ever hear Republicans insisting that the bathrooms at Mar-a-Lago are secure is a defense here.

JASON OSBORNE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, FORMER SENIOR COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGIST FOR BEN CARSON'S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Yeah. I don't understand why they are making that argument, quite frankly. I mean, I did like Pence's statement. But frankly, the better statement, in my view, was the one that Governor Kemp made last night or two nights ago with Robert Costa, which is all of this is a distraction and we need to start moving on.

And I think why that is important is that it is signifying that there is, you know, for lack of a better term, blood in the water. And so, folks, they are inching out against Trump a little bit more and more and they are saying what kind of feedback they are getting and what the voters are saying in terms of their polls, et cetera. I think you are going to see more and more Republicans coming out and saying like Nikki Haley did where she said two things can be true at the same time, which is the Justice Department needs to be reorganized, and yes, what Trump has done or what he has alleged to have done is a bad thing.

COLLINS: And Karen, yeah, we are basically seeing these Republicans who are running against Trump almost contorting themselves to try to walk a certain line on this. One of them, Vivek Ramaswamy, today was calling on the other Republicans to promise to pardon Trump if they were elected. What do you make of that?

KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that could very easily become the litmus test. They can certainly say they don't want to talk about Watergate and the tradition of President Ford pardoning President Nixon, but that's absolutely going to jam up and make some of these Republican candidates figure out, how do you thread this needle and create what we would call a permission structure for those voters who might be willing to break with Trump and, as we were saying with Nikki Haley, creating for people the possibility that two things can be true at the same time?

You can love Trump and be loyal to trump, but also want to support a different candidate for 2024. Those candidates are going to have to increase the risk of voting for Trump in 2024 and push the desire to actually win. So, how those candidates do it? That is going to be an interesting thing to watch. And maybe it is the case that the way to thread that needle is going to be to say, I will pardon him and that is the way that we can win and move forward.

COLLINS: Yeah --

OSBORNE: I would disagree on the pardon question --

COLLINS: -- caucuses in the middle of court dates. This is -- we are going to have to leave it there. We are out of time. But we will get back to you because there is the question of whether or not that is going to be something realistic if it gets to that. Of course, these court dates coming up for the former president.

More tonight on the arraignment, the historic arraignment, of Donald Trump and whether or not it could change the way we see the presidency forever. We have a presidential historian, Doug Brinkley, here to give us his perspective.




PHILLIP: This has truly been a momentous and a sad day in American history. Donald Trump is the first former president to face federal charges. He was arrested and arraigned today in federal court on 37 charges for allegedly mishandling classified documents. Joining me now is Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian. Doug, thank you for joining us. You have studied so many administrations, so many presidents, and yet this was a surreal scene. What do you think history will show this all meant?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think there is sort of a suffocating arrogance of Donald Trump that was on display today, once again, putting himself above national interest. We have so many real problems in the world: Ukraine, climate change, homelessness, the economy. The list is long. And yet, he is putting our country through such an event simply because he wouldn't return documents that did not belong to him.

Nobody could argue that these documents belong to Donald Trump, hence he needed to turn them over and he didn't. Luckily, our nation produces great government leaders. I think Jack Smith is one of those. For a lot of years, he did great work for the U.S. in the Hague, Kosovo, dealt with issues of genocide, crime syndicates. He has masterly put together 37 indictments against Donald Trump.

And I did not expect him to be there, Abby, but he was there today, apparently just glaring at ex-President Trump because he really knows what this is all about. It is all on that very biting indictment.

PHILLIP: Yeah. Do you see the circle around Trump changing in any way, in the reaction that you have seen from Republicans who were, you know, until recently very supportive of him?

BRINKLEY: You know, last evening, I did an event in California with Leon Panetta and Bob Woodward. The big question that all of us keep having, where is the spine of the Republican Party? What happened to the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Reagan?

I think we are starting to see it for the first time today. I mean, over the weekend, it was former Attorney General Barr speaking out. Nikki Haley joined. You just played a clip of former Vice President Pence. You are starting to see a distancing in the Republican Party from Trump. Obviously, not from Kevin McCarthy and Jordan and many in Congress.


But I think it is going to be curious to see if a group of senators can really take Donald Trump to the woodshed over this, not just a Mitt Romney figure but maybe 10 leading Republican senators that will say enough is enough.

By doing so, not only will they save the country, this sort of curse really that Trump has put on us or distraction at the very least, but it might very well allow something like DeSantis or Scott or Haley or one of the others to emerge and actually win and not be winning while they were indicted multiple times.

PHILLIP: The interesting thing about some of those things that you mentioned is that many of these people worked for Donald Trump, including his own former running mate, former Vice President Mike Pence.

Doug Brinkley, as always, great to have you and your insights in this incredibly historical day that we all just witnessed. Thank you. And Kaitlin and I will be right back.




COLLINS: It has been a historic day here in Miami for some good reasons and some, obviously, not so good reasons. But before we go tonight, I do want to give a shout out to the students from Miami Palmetto Senior High School who played a crucial role in CNN's work at this Miami courthouse today.

Sebastian, Lucas A., Lucas H., Casey Fida (ph), Michaela (ph), Isabela (ph), Emily, Janna (ph), Sam Eisenberg, all helped either by waiting in line overnight, writing information out of a courthouse where, as we know, cameras, recorders and even cellphones and Apple watchers were banned today.

These students, so young, they even had to search and learn how to use pay phones because that is how they were getting information out of that courthouse today.

Because of them, we were able to give reporting from our reporters inside the courthouse to you, the viewers, faster. And for that work, we are very grateful tonight. Abby?

PHILLIP: Truly the unsung heroes of this incredibly historic day. And Kaitlan, it has been great to be with you tonight. And thank you at home for watching us. Keep it right here on CNN for all the very latest on this story.

We continue our coverage. In just a few hours, 5:00 a.m., we are gathering reporting and information on all the reaction. CNN has expanded coverage starting at 5:00 Eastern right here. Don't go anywhere. We will see you tomorrow.