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CNN Live Event/Special
Trump Indicted In Push To Overturn 2020 Election; Trump Indicted In Jan. 6th Probe, Appears In Court Thursday; CNN Follows Breaking News Of Trump's Third Criminal Indictment. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired August 01, 2023 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: And it is Thursday. Just two days from now, whether in person or by video link, a former American president will face charges for doing what no president has ever been accused of before.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And, of course, we will be there when he does.
Right now, though, the news is going to continue. Thank you so much for joining us. But we want to turn things over to CNN Primetime with Laura Coates and Erin Burnett.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: And our special breaking news coverage continues now, the third criminal indictment of former President Donald Trump. I'm Erin Burnett in New York.
LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Laura Coates in Washington, D. C.
And, look, this indictment is like nothing we've actually ever seen before in the history of this entire country. And looking at it in black and white is absolutely extraordinary. And it begins with this, everyone. Quote, the defendant, Donald J. Trump, was the 45th president of the United States and a candidate for re-election in 2020. The defendant lost the 2020 presidential election.
BURNETT: And as you say, Laura, it begins that way with those simple words he lost. That is a fact. But, of course, the person who had sworn to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution instead tonight is accused in this 45-page indictment of trying to overthrow America's free and fair elections in an attempt to stay in power.
Now, it has been 1,001 days since the 2020 election, exactly. It has been 937 days since the January 6th attack on the Capitol. It is now, though, and only now, that Donald Trump has been indicted on four criminal counts, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and an attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights. Laura?
COATES: It's extraordinary, I think, about that being on the screen and, of course, that being a former president of the United States, let alone the fact that this is now the third criminal indictment of the former president. And, by the way, that's just this year alone, really, in, what, four months. It's also not about hush money. This is not that. This is not about the classified documents. This one is about a threat to our democracy.
I mean, listen to what Special Counsel Jack Smith had to say about it tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACK SMITH, DOJ SPECIAL COUNSE: The attack on our nation's Capitol on January 6th, 2021 was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy. As described in the indictment, it was fueled by lies, lies by the defendant targeted at obstructing a bedrock function of the U.S. government, the nation's process of collecting, counting and certifying the results of the presidential election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: Let's take a step back, everyone, for a moment here, and let's begin with exactly what we've actually learned tonight from this historic indictment.
CNN Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez actually at the courthouse in Washington, D.C. Evan, I mean, another historic indictment against the former president. Walk us through exactly what is being alleged tonight.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Laura, the former president obviously stands now as the first ever president to be indicted for crimes that he committed while he was in office. And that is what we have here in this 45-page indictment.
These four charges stem from what the prosecutor said, Jack Smith said was essentially three conspiracies, all of them built on a web of lies, that the former president, along with his co-conspirators, who are not named here. But we, of course, have identified him simply because we've been reporting on everything that has happened since January 6th on the efforts to overturn the election.
And one of the most important parts of this is that this indictment, in this indictment, the special counsel, Jack Smith, says that the former president knew he had lost the election. He knew that these were false claims about vote fraud.
He was told -- they list all of the different people in the former president's own government, from his vice president, from his former attorney general, from his acting attorney general, his head of Homeland Security, people who were there to secure the elections, his intelligence community, his White House counsel. Everyone was informing him that these claims were false, and yet he persisted in listening to people like Rudy Giuliani, who is listed in here. He's not named, but we've identified him as co-conspirator number 1. John Eastman, a former lawyer who was helping him to come up with this fake electors plot, helping him also come up with this idea that Mike Pence could overturn the election results.
[22:05:10] One of the most important things of this, though, in this indictment is that they clearly say that, like every American, the former president had the right to say that he had lost the election, that he had a right to challenge the results. He had a right to lie. What he did not have a right to do, according to Jack Smith and the prosecution here, is to engage in these conspiracies with his co- defendants.
And what they say, they say it's a conspiracy to defraud the United States by using dishonesty, fraud and deceit to impair, obstruct and defeat the lawful federal government function, which is to certify the results of the election. They also say he was a conspiracy to corruptly, obstruct and impede the January 6 congressional proceeding, again, a ceremonial proceeding, and then a conspiracy against the right to vote, denying the right of Americans to have their vote counted. Laura?
COATES: I mean, Evan, it's striking and frightening (ph) to think about that. And it almost reads in that one paragraph you're referencing the idea of, look, you're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. Evan Perez, thank you so much. Erin?
BURNETT: All right, Laura. Well, let's go to Kristen Holmes, because she's in New Jersey, just a few moments away from Donald Trump's golf club, which is where he is now.
And, Kristen, I know you've been reporting various phone conversations, including one with Elise Stefanik, talking about GOP response. I mean, he's been busy tonight. What has the reaction been, as you've been hearing it, from people around him, as this new indictment, the news of it, the details of it, are sinking in?
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, it's exactly what you would expect. They are painting this as political, as something that they really have been doing since the beginning, and they really feel at this point that they have some ground to stand. And that's because of recent polling that shows that Donald Trump is still leading in the primary. They say that it shows that he could likely be the nominee and that this is political. But, of course, as we know, Donald Trump likes to play things out in the court of public opinion.
Now, earlier tonight, talking to Kaitlan Collins, one of Trump's lawyers laid out what might be one of their legal strategies. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN LAURO, TRUMP ATTORNEY: Our focus is on the fact that this is an attack on free speech and political advocacy. And there's nothing that's more protected under the First Amendment than political speech. So, at the end, our defense is going to be focusing on the fact that what we have now is an administration that has criminalized the free speech and advocacy of a prior administration during the time that there is a political election going on. (END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: And, Erin, I want to make one thing clear. I don't know if this lawyer, John Lauro, is going to argue this at trial, if there is a trial. But part of this is just putting this into the public narrative. Part of this is saying that this is why the Biden DOJ is bringing this. And that is what Trump wants. They want to be convincing voters that that is why this is happening, not because Donald Trump has committed any sort of crime.
So, whether or not this is actually a legal argument that could hold up in trial, that could hold up in a court of law, it really is not what we're looking at right now. What they're looking at, they're watching the response to this as they try to, again, get voters behind him.
And as I've been reporting all night, when I talk to these voters on the road, they are behind him. I have heard a number of voters saying that they believe it is a two-tiered justice system. They believe what he is saying. And, again, looking at those polls from earlier in the week, it is clear that at least some Republicans or at least some voters are standing behind Donald Trump. So, something to keep in mind as we talk about how unprecedented this is, as we talk about how historic this is.
This is a man who is running for president still for the third time and is leading the field in the primary at the stage.
BURNETT: Absolutely. And we're going to speak to one of those people who are running against him, Will Hurd, the former congressman in, just a few moments. Thank you, Kristen.
Laura, it is amazing, though, in the context of all of this, this unprecedented history-making indictments, right? You still have a country in the latest poll split 43-43 in terms of Biden versus Trump. It is pretty incredible to think about that.
COATES: It is. I mean, there's even the fundraising that this seems to be something that is a bit of a feather in the cap of this person who is running and still a presumptive frontrunner.
I want to bring in my panel here in Washington, D. C. starting with former Trump White House Lawyer Jim Schultz. I got to tell you, first of all, the lawyers in the room have been champion at the bit ever since we heard from the -- we were in the green room, like, wait, what, what was the argument being made? You've been a former Trump White House lawyer. I got to know what is your reaction to the fact that this indictment is here, it's in full black and white.
JIM SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: So, I look at this, I'm sorry, it's very thorough, it's very smart and it's very careful, right? And I'll start with careful. It's careful in that they took the First Amendment issues, addressed it and got it off the table, right?
[22:10:06] They addressed the issue of he has this right to free speech. He can say a lot of things. What he can't do is conspire to overturn the outcome of that election.
It was very smart in that he kept the folks, the co-conspirators out of the indictment. I think that's very smart, because what it does, it signals that Donald Trump was in charge of this and everybody else was being used as his tool to accomplish his goal. I think that's the message they were trying to send when they left out those co- conspirators.
COATES: But is it smart, though, from the actual defense counsel? Now, obviously, we don't know if that's going to be the lawyer. We've already seen how this goes, right? The idea of we'll have people on who are Trump's lawyers, the next day they're like, oh, actually, we're no longer there any longer.
But on the front of the First Amendment and the political speech, it seems to be from the lawyer's perspective that, look, every kind of speech is protected, and this is an example of a weaponization based on political speech. You buy that?
SCHULTZ: I don't. And I don't think a jury is going to buy it, right? And I think the way they've crafted this and saying, yes, he has the right to say whatever he wants in the political realm, he does it all the time. What they're saying here is you can't conspire with others to lie to people and lie to folks to get them to overturn the outcome of an election, lie to the electors, lie -- to essentially lie about everything associated with that election in order to commit fraud.
COATES: I mean, look, Norm is like bursting at the seams. He's like, hold on a second, I want to get it. Tell me.
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Laura, as you know, I used to practice law with John Lauro. So, he has to say something, right? How do you defend this egregious conduct that is laid out in this massive document? So, of course, you're going to say First Amendment, but there are limits. I can't go into the bank and say, stick them up, give me all the money in the cash drawer and say, First Amendment, you can't prosecute me. Then he says --
COATES: Defamation, too, right?
EISEN: Then he says -- yes. And then he says, oh, his second argument was advice of counsel. Eastman was one of the most preeminent, my client is a businessman. No. These arguments that Eastman were making were bizarre. They were off the wall. The Constitution doesn't let Mike Pence march in there and suspend.
COATES: Do you agree with this?
SCHULTZ: I agree with them wholeheartedly, right? The Constitution does not permit Mike Pence to go in and do those things, right? And he did the right thing by coming forward and said, no, I'm not going to do it. And when he said he wouldn't do it, the president went out and tweeted that he said he would do it. COATES: I might need some ice skates, because these two agreed wholeheartedly. Hell has frozen over. Just so we're all clear, take note, climate change, FYI.
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, the First Amendment argument, as you've said, is perhaps unlikely to work in a court of law, but in the court of public opinion, especially in a Republican primary, I see it being very potent.
ANDERSON: And here's why. So, if you look at the other things he's been accused of, let's take the Mar-a-Lago documents, Donald Trump is always positioning himself as I am, the one standing between the deep state, the Democrats, and you. They really want to come after people like you. On the Mar-a-Lago documents, what is it? They want to prevent people from keeping documents in their bathroom? Like that one is a little harder to make that case, they have the classified.
On this one --
COATES: As if they had the classified status --
ANDERSON: -- a lot of Republicans feel very strongly that they are not allowed to say things that they believe to be true. And that's not just about the 2020 election, whether it's COVID and its origins, whether it's all sorts of stuff about social and political issues. They believe, I'm not allowed to say this in society, and they come after me. So, this really taps into an emotional argument that many Republicans will say, yes, I'm with him.
SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I mean, look, Laura, that's true. I travel the country all the time. And many Republican voters view themselves as pawn in an overall political game. It's not just Democrats that they dislike and distrust. It's for the Republican establishment that they dislike and distrust.
And to that very salient point, Donald Trump, for them, is their final arbiter against this entire political mechanism that is against them. These elites, these highly educated individuals, telling them how they should live their lives, telling them what is best for them --
COATES: Or what's true or not.
SINGLETON: Or what's true and what's not. And they believe those things has been fundamentally offensive to them and in many ways a violation of their very freedoms.
And Donald Trump, in a very unique, interesting way, has presented himself as the only individual who is standing up for them. Whether that may be true or not, there's a reason why 65 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. You look at the approvals between Trump and Biden. 41 percent approve of Joe Biden right now, 43 percent approve of Donald Trump. That's why they're in a statistical tie, 43 to 43. MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But do you know why I think this whole issue among the Republican primary, the whole First Amendment thing, the whole Trump base, they feel like they are the ones that everyone else is going after? It's because no one else in the Republican primary has had the guts and the backbone to say Donald Trump is wrong, to say Donald Trump is not the leader that this country deserves.
Look, I heard earlier on our air New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu saying that he was very concerned about this indictment because it was very clear everything that you said, James, but it was also very simple. The simplicity of what is laid out is so very clear for anyone to really understand.
And I think his point was, look, this will absolutely continue to be fodder for the Republican base, especially the MAGA base, right, everyone who supports Donald Trump. But Governor Sununu is right. You're not going to have independents, suburban women going to say, oh, yes, now I'm going to support Donald Trump even more.
COATES: Everyone, great point. Everyone, stick around. We have a lot more to talk about, a lot more to unpack. Erin?
BURNETT: All right. Well, Laura, let's bring in one of Trump's 2024 rivals, the Republican presidential candidate, Will Hurd, now. And, Congressman, I appreciate your time.
All right, so here we are, 45-page sweeping indictment. You just heard Laura speaking to the former Trump White House lawyer, Jim Schultz, when he was saying that he thought it was very well laid out and very strong. What sort of stands out to you the most about it now that you've had a chance to read through it?
WILL HURD, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Look, I think it's real simple, Erin. This is not about the weaponization of the government. This is not about the people that serve on grand juries in Washington, D.C. This is about Donald Trump losing the election, trying to use everything possible within his power to overturn that election, failing to accomplish that and then now running for re-election so that he stays out of prison.
This is -- it's real simple. We need to recognize that he needs to be held accountable. And everybody who is sick and tired of Donald Trump, we're not going to see Donald Trump go away because of these legal cases. He needs to be beat in a primary. And, yes, he's the presumptive nominee. The elections are 25 weeks away. There are more people that would rather not see Donald Trump as the Republican nominee or on the ballot ever again.
Those people are the ones that have to get activated, vote in primaries, and that's how we're going to solve this problem of Donald Trump once and for all.
BURNETT: How do you make this argument, though, Congressman, to Republican voters, right? Obviously, a majority of Republican voters don't think Trump has done anything wrong. I mean, it's very strong. It's very consistent. In fact, I pointed out earlier, because it really stood out to me, only about half of independents in the latest poll from NPR and PBS and Marist agree that Trump has done something illegal, only about half of independents. I mean, and they're not even voting in your primary.
How are you going to convince your voters -- fine, it can be as detailed and foolproof of as an indictment as possible, but what moves the needle here?
HURD: Well, look, national polls are different than local polls. Polling is different than voter I.D. When you start drilling down in a place like New Hampshire, there are significantly more people that dislike Donald Trump than like Donald Trump. In a place like New Hampshire, 40 percent of the folks that are going to vote in a primary are unaffiliated voters. These are people that take their responsibility seriously and are going to get engaged.
Elections always tighten the closer you get to the election. And so the case to be made is actually show up and talk about this and show that you're not afraid. This is what the GOP needs. We need someone who's not afraid of Donald Trump but is also articulating a vision.
It's hard. Don't get me wrong. It's hard. It's just not complicated and requires work and effort, and it requires activating a group of people that are going to vote in that primary that haven't traditionally voted.
And there're examples of being able to pull this off, and we just need folks that are willing to do that. And if the folks watching today want to see me on that debate stage and help me do that, go to hurdforamerica.com and help me out by donating at least $1.
BURNETT: So, Congressman, you are being clear about where you stand. Governor Asa Hutchinson, formerly Arkansas, he's been clear, also Chris Christie, obviously, former governor of New Jersey, he's been clear. So there's you three.
But then there's others, including the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis. Here's what -- he just came out tonight, and he's making no bones about it. He didn't bother to read it. He said, while I've seen the reports, I have not read the indictment. I do, though, believe we need to enact reforms so that Americans have the right to remove cases from Washington, D.C., to their home districts. Washington, D.C. is a swamp. And then says, no more excuses, I will end the weaponization of the federal government.
So, he's not even pretending to read it. He's saying it's actually not worth reading.
HURD: Look, I get why Ron DeSantis is scared of Donald Trump. Ron DeSantis wouldn't be governor of Florida if it wasn't for Donald Trump. Now, Ron DeSantis is also someone who thinks that there's an upside to slavery. So, this is not the guy who's going to be the savior of the GOP. And anybody who's running in this race who's afraid to criticize Donald Trump is not prepared to be president of the United States.
And this is part of the problem of, you know, everybody is trying to audition for his vice president or something in his cabinet, rather than explaining to the American people, explaining to the GOP voter about if we want to make sure that we're done with Joe Biden, if we want to make sure Joe Biden is accountable for the allegations about abusing his position to help his son, if we want to deal with things like actually fixing the border, then we have to win elections.
And putting Donald Trump as our nominee, we are going to give four more years to Donald Trump because there's no independent, there's no Democrat that's tired of the direction the Democratic Party is going, who's going to all of a sudden, 25 weeks from now or actually more, that's the primary, that's going to vote for Donald Trump. And so we need candidates and that are willing to take it to Donald Trump.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Congressman Hurd, I appreciate your time, thank you very much.
HURD: Always a pleasure.
BURNETT: All right. So, let's go straight to my panel here.
Scott, let me start with you, because I just talked about what Ron DeSantis said, and he's certainly not alone, right? You know, Elise Stefanik, as I said, obviously, senior member in the GOP House, I had a conversation with Trump tonight, the whole point of it, according to a source was, how she could help him more with Republicans and get the House Republicans to stay behind him.
Marjorie Taylor Greene has just tweeted, I will still vote for Trump even if he's in jail. This is a communist attack on America's First Amendment to vote for who the people want for president. You know, just putting that aside, wrong amendment. This is the sentiment among many in the GOP.
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's the sentiment among most of what I would consider to be the establishment of the GOP. I mean, we used to think of Trump and the Trump folks as kind of the --
BURNETT: Right, you're changing the word, establishment, now, right?
JENNINGS: This is what the establishment leadership of the party, at least a good chunk of it, believes and is willing to espouse publicly. Most of the presidential candidates are going to be on roughly the same message, weaponized government, you know, I'm not going to replace head of the FBI, whatever, you know, that kind of stuff, it's all very, very similar and coordinated by Trump, who is the de facto head of the Republican Party, which this is the establishment opinion.
So, I don't think you're going to see people deviate from that too much, as long as he remains as popular among Republicans as he is. There is a smaller faction of people who believe what Will Hurd believes, but, you know, Will is at 0 percent in the primary.
And so, you know, if you consider political parties to be derivatives of the opinion of the people who consider themselves to be members, none of the reactions should surprise you.
BURNETT: And, Jamal, you're at a point of pride, and I'm making the point about DeSantis, right? The point that they're all making is it's not even worth reading this. Forget how well-written it is, forget how well-reasoned it is, forget how foolproof it is, it's not worth reading because it's a weaponized document. That's their argument.
JAMAL SIMMONS, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: This is not going to help him, but I like Will Hurd. I think he's a decent public servant. Where he was wrong today, though, was talking about DeSantis being afraid of Donald Trump.
I don't think these candidates are that afraid of Donald Trump. They may be, I don't know. But they're certainly afraid of Donald Trump's voters, which maybe what Scott was getting at a second ago. They're afraid of the voters. And I don't know how you get nominated in the Donald Trump MAGA party and be against Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a defining factor of whether or not you are considered legitimate or illegitimate.
And I've got a friend, Hasan Jeffries, whose brother is Hakeem Jeffries, the minority leader. Hasan is a professor in Ohio. He said to me, Donald Trump is the first president that we've had who is not bound by either party, principle or patriotism. And if you think about it that way, he is completely uncontrollable. And it is a tragedy. It is a tragedy that here we are in the beginning of the -- or late beginning of the 21st century where we've had a United States president who really is not a patriot. He's the least patriotic person that we've ever seen in the office.
BURNETT: And I will say, and I'm not trying to make light, a Marjorie Taylor Greene's tweet, Harry, but it is -- we're at a point where there seems to be just an incredible lack of knowledge about basic things, like the Constitution and how government works. And in this space of that lack of knowledge, it has been filled with lack of respect and lack of trust.
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Into the breach.
Look, from a lawyer's point of view, you've got the lawyers on this side here, the only sane thing to do is try to ignore that part and think what Jack Smith is going to do and hope that he'll be able to make the case.
To me, the indictment was very interesting because we are blitzing through it, does he have those co-conspirator and that. You can imagine that this was wordsmith, so to speak, very carefully, for a very long time. He decided to tell a story. There are many ways you could have told the story. He's telling a story about truth and lies.
As you said, in the very first sentence, he lost the election, forget about that. But you go through then the paragraphs, fraudulent, lie, again and again. And that really rather than other kinds of sort of abuse of power is what anchors everything about the story.
It will be interesting, I agree, there is no First Amendment argument that he can try to make, but that rather than some more crass power play is the way that Smith has chosen to frame this and very carefully.
BURNETT: So, Ryan, back to these co-conspirators, now that we know who at least five of the six of them are, and they're not listed as unindicted, so maybe they are already indicted, maybe this is some effort to get them to turn, I don't know, but how important is finding that information out to understanding where this goes from here?
RYAN GOODMAN, CO-EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, JUST SECURITY: So, I think it is important in the sense that these co-conspirators might very well flip. There is a lot of pressure on them in this indictment, in many ways, because the indictment actually has allegations that put them in greater criminal jeopardy than even President Trump, because there is strong evidence here that Giuliani knew that there was not fraud and he was making it up, that Giuliani and Kenneth Chesebro agreed that the false slate of electors were not to really contingent on the litigation, if they lost the election, they are still going to send across the false electors. All of this information about them puts an amount of pressure on those people to probably flip, and I do think that is phase two of what is coming.
BURNETT: And, Karen, to this point, I mean, I don't want to put too much emphasis on this because I know that there is a wide range of latitude, but these charges bring with them maximum of 20 years in two cases, ten years. These are very serious, very long times that anybody could be spending in prison. And the judge, Tanya Chutkan, who we know is going to be overseeing this, is known for being tough on sentencing. So, the pressure is extraordinary.
KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, absolutely. Extraordinary for them to cooperate if they can tell the truth, because we have to be able to -- in order to cooperate, you have to be able to admit to what you did, admit to all of it and do it truthfully. And we will see if people like Rudy Giuliani are capable of telling the truth at this point because they really have dug in so deeply and are so entrenched in believing or being part of this lie and this world. So, we will see.
I do think it is stunning that, normally, indictments say that unindicted co-conspirator number 1, unindicted co-conspirator number 2, and here, they say co-conspirator. He's specifically -- as harry was saying, this is very wordsmith, right? Every word is painstakingly gone over by 100 people. They chose to take out the word, unindicted, which to me says they are indicted.
BURNETT: Right. I should point, every word chosen and every word not in, obviously, chosen as well. All right, all staying with us as our special coverage continues. Laura?
COATES: I'm still waiting to find out. I know our reporting, we identified the first five, but who is this sixth co-conspirator?
BURNETT: Yes, you're right. Who is number 6?
COATES: Who is number 6? Who is behind this door? We might be surprised.
Listen, in the wake of the charges against former President Trump, there are, of course, comparisons that are coming to mind, ala- Watergate. Well, next, John Dean is going to weigh in, plus, Daniel Goldman, who is the lead counsel in then-President Trump's first impeachment.
This is CNN's special live coverage.
BURNETT: I'm Erin Burnett, back with Laura Coates, of course. And it's not just the latest indictment against former President Trump that's causing massive legal issues for him. There are other very serious cases against him. So, this adds to a mounting crisis for the former president. Tom Foreman is standing by to explain all of this to us. So, Tom, what are -- now that you've got this latest indictment, what are the other cases that Trump is dealing with?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's hard to keep up with all of this, Erin, because there is a constellation of problems about him. Different courts, different judges, different cases. Look, the classified docs case, an indictment. The hush money payments, an indictment. The E. Jean Carroll lawsuit, he was found liable. The Georgia election interference, that's at the grand jury, seems like it's about to come out. Maybe the DOJ investigation, the new thing we have now, another indictment and more.
Look at the classified documents case. He's accused of mishandling classified information, accused of trying to delete security footage along with an aide, Walt Nauta, and with his property manager there. He and Nata have both denied doing anything wrong but this is currently supposed to come to trial in May of 2024. The hush money case, this is up in New York State Court. He tried to get it moved to federal court. The judge said, no, this is just an embarrassing thing you did when you were a private citizen trying to become the president.
And this stays where it is. Accused of conspiracy to undermine an election, accused of unlawful plan to suppress information. The accusation is he passed money through his attorney Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels to hide things that he didn't want people to know about in his personal relationships there. That case, again, he's denying doing anything wrong, but that could beat the other case by coming out in March of next year. That's just two of them that are in the works right now in addition to what we learned today, Erin.
BURNETT: All right, so, that's just two of them and those are cases where you already have charges, right?
BURNETT: You already have, you got a process in place and there still could be more coming.
FOREMAN: Yeah, absolutely. This is the stuff that is baked in now. This is for real now. This is happening. Look at the Georgia election probe though, which I mentioned a minute ago. This has been in the works for more than two years now. Fani Willis, the Fulton County District Attorney says, "We're ready to go." They're looking at the efforts to overturn the election results there. Remember, the president's call to the Secretary of State trying to find votes that he wanted down there. She says there will be a charging decision announced by September 1st. Maybe they won't charge him, but if they do, that's another one that goes on the docket.
And then we have follow-ups on the E. Jean Carroll case. There's an area of Arizona. Look into what he might have done there. And I think, Erin, constantly with Donald Trump, the former president, you have to think of the wild cards, the things that we haven't even thought of yet or that may arise out of these cases, all of which, put aside the election, puts a very, very busy legal docket in front of him.
BURNETT: That's incredible. You're looking at that. You juxtapose it with a political calendar. I mean, it is incredible to think what the country is going to be watching during what should be an election process. Tom, thanks so much.
FOREMAN: You're welcome.
COATES: Unbelievable to think about all of that swirling around the former president of the United States. And that's not even the investigations or those who are his associates, by the way. Those are just the ones involving really him. And look, the language in this indictment against Donald Trump is strong and it's precise. They say, keep it simple, stupid, right?
When you're thinking about how to actually write something, that's a story and actually relays the information. Special Counsel Jack Smith is alleging that Trump was so determined to remain in power that he, quote, launched his criminal scheme and that he spread pervasive and destabilizing laws about election fraud that he knew were false.
Joining me now is John Dean, former Nixon White House Counsel. John, I'm so glad to see you. I have to say, I'm not even sure we can use the word unprecedented anymore. I think it meant something, maybe two indictments, two impeachments ago. Can you believe that with all of this happening right now has really become almost routine. This notion -- we're talking about a former president being indicted three times in four months. Did you ever think we'd be here?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Never, never. And the stakes went up considerably with this indictment because what's really on trial, Laura, in this case, is democracy. If Trump can get away with what he has done, what's spelled out in this indictment, our system of law no longer works and our election system is in jeopardy and he, in effect, will have pulled off a coup. So, this is a big stakes case.
COATES: I mean, it could mean to that point. The idea of, if there's no accountability pursued, and again, presumption of innocence is still there with good reason in a democracy and a just system. That would mean it would be the subversion of the peaceful transfer of power that he's being charged with and trying to keep himself in office. It's extremely consequential. But to your larger point, and I'm reminiscent, of course, of Ford and Nixon, some say because it goes to the core of our democracy, it's not good to have a former President of the United States punished or have the prospect of punishment. Do you buy that?
DEAN: Well, in an earlier panel, I was listening to the reaction describing how Republicans are dealing with this, and they're politicizing it. So, they're trying to take this case in the public arena, the court of public opinion, and make it a political case. That won't happen in a courtroom, of course, as you well know. Politics will be pushed aside, and they'll look at the facts. But as you politicize this, you really do change the dimensions of the case, and that is troubling.
COATES: You know, I'm reminded of that saying, and you'll know this well, if the president does it, it's not illegal. Well, the defense counsel for Trump, and obviously I'm paraphrasing, seem to suggest if it's spoken, then it's automatically covered by the First Amendment. What do you make of that initial defense?
DEAN: I don't think that's going to work. In fact, I think the crafting of this indictment really avoided that issue. They don't rely on his "steal the vote" speech on the ellipse. It's really focused on his behavior that's not First Amendment protected. As one analogy was given earlier, you can't go on a bank and say, stick him up and say, claim the First Amendment. I was just expressing myself. So that's what -- when you have a conspiracy, the words that bring the conspiracy together are not First Amendment protected, I assure you. Lots of law on that.
COATES: Don, do you think the other co-conspirators are going to be charged? They're not presently on this heading in caption as you know, but we've identified at least five of the six, waiting to figure out who they are reporting might be for that six. Do you see them being co-conspirators, co-defendants or charged?
DEAN: Well, it's interesting that they're named as conspirators in this indictment. That has implications for the evidence that's admissible during the trial. But what happens to them as to whether they'll be charged separately, I suspect that's the case.
[22:40:00] They're trying to probably get them to cooperate. They've made a very clear statement. They've described their behavior. Limited, but sufficient to identify them, all except the six, which I'm scratching my head on, as well. But I think that's the effort. They're going to indict them if they don't cooperate, and they're going to have to pay for the folly they engaged in with Trump.
COATES: John Dean, always good to hear from you. We'll hear a lot more in the days to come, I'm sure. Let's go back to our panel here in Washington, D.C. Shan, I'm really eager to get your perspective on all this because, I mean, we've heard a lot. We've heard First Amendment claims. We've heard about, from Jack Smith, talking about, and really not in a vacuum, that this is a grand jury, obviously, who's fighting probable cause, but these are just allegations. We've talked a lot about the fact that the Mar-a-Lago documents case might be less complex than of course a January 6th case. Did he make a powerful statement in this indictment to streamline this?
SHAN WU, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I think he did. I think the indictment reads very well as a narrative. It was carefully word-smithed that way. And I think what you opened with in that first paragraph, that it's about the fact that Trump lost, that is so central because it is about the fact, the fact, that he lost and what allegedly did to overturn that loss and that's what the indictment's really about.
So, in that sense, it takes away the notion of what do you as the country believe? It's a statement to the country from Smith, too. It's not about whether you believe he won or lost. It's about the fact that legally he had lost and what he allegedly did illegally to overturn it. So, it really comes down to that. I think the indictment does streamline the really vast efforts that were made in different ways. DOJ, state electors and Pence, all of that. And it's so interesting to see John Dean on because after all, Nixon was vice president and had to certify his loss to Kennedy.
COATES: I mean, the irony is just thick. Jack Smith in a way, Norm, is making a hell of a bet, isn't he? when he talks about this case compared to Mar-a-Lago.
EISEN: He is. The reason -- as Jim said, the reason you name one defendant, the reason you tell this very simple story that you can lay out in one paragraph. He didn't want to admit he lost, so he squeezed the state officials and legislatures. He squeezed his own DOJ. He got those phony counterfeit electoral slates. I can no more use one of those. Then you can -- a $3 bill. When that didn't work, he applied the screws to Pence and then finally he exploited the violence.
Well, that's simple and it's three conspiracies. Defraud the United States, obstruct Congress and take away all our civil rights, 81 million Biden voters at least, civil rights. Why do you do that, Laura? To go to trial, and to go to trial, fast. And that's the bet. He's gonna put this case before the American people, we're gonna get a jury verdict, I think we'll get one within the year, and then these polls, you know, Trump, Biden, 50-50, the American people are gonna make a choice, and that's the way it should be.
COATES: You're nodding your head, you think so?
JAMES SCHULTZ, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: So, they lined up, and there's a little something from everyone, right? The former Chief of Staff, the Vice President, and his note, contemporaneous notes. The former Chief of Staff, political advisors. And then folks that, you know, that MAGA might call the swap. The folks who were DOJ folks who have been in DOJ for years but that are trusted folks in the Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel, Deputy Counsel to the President, the Counsel to the President. All of those folks kind of saying the same thing that you lost the election and we can't do this.
COATES: You know, that's a good point that the indictment raises. The idea that in any other context he seems to rely on the people that he's trusted unless they are no longer yes men. Stand by everyone. Erin.
BURNETT: All right, well, Laura, next, the surprising role that Mike Pence played in this indictment. As you read through it, it's really fascinating. Plus, former D.C. officer Michael Fanone will react to the indictment more than two years after he was attacked on January 6th.
COATES: Well, we are following the breaking news of now the third criminal indictment of former President Donald Trump in four months. He is now charged with four counts in connection with his efforts to overturn the 2020 Presidential Election. And as he faces a new legal fight over 2020, he still has to manage a campaign schedule to try to win in 2024.
In October, Trump goes on trial in New York to defend against charges of fraud in his business. Then in January, on the same day as the Iowa caucuses, by the way, and one month before the South Carolina primary, the former president will face off against E. Jean Carroll, who as you know sued him for defamation. Now, fast forward to March. There are more than 20 primaries that month alone, and Trump will face a jury in the criminal case surrounding the hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. The judge has warned that he must attend each day of the trial, which really could pull him off the campaign trail for several weeks.
And in case you thought that come spring, he could just go full force into the final months of the campaign? Nope. He's due in Florida in May for his criminal trial tied to his handling of classified documents once he left office. It's a lot, Erin.
BURNETT: It's just a drumbeat, and as you point out, we don't know the schedule, right? I mean, that's what it is now, and the dates move and everything shifts as we have this constantly moving beast. Joining me now, our senior political commentator, David Axelrod. So, you know, David, in that context, how does someone even navigate this? As a campaign person, as a voter? I mean, we have obviously never seen anything like this before.
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah, exactly. There's not exactly a handbook on what to do if your candidate is faced with multiple trials in the course of a campaign. It's never happened before.
But, Erin, in certain ways, this whole legal tussle has become Trump's campaign. He has used these cases as a rallying point and in a weird way, the more indictments that are piled on, the more he makes the case that it's all just an effort to stop him. And so, I don't know how they're gonna manage his time, but he's certainly going to use these trials and use these prosecutions to try and press his case that he is a victim and that he's being persecuted because he is a threat to Joe Biden. He could be president again, and that the elites and the deep state want to stop him. That has become the essence of his campaign.
So, we're going to hear a lot of that, maybe from courtroom steps and not in town squares along the campaign trail. But that's what he's counting on. Listen, the danger here is, Donald Trump from the beginning, from the time he came down that escalator, you know, it's very clear he does not believe in rules or laws or norms or institutions. He thinks the world is the Hunger Games and the strong take what they want, however, they need to, and the weak fall away. So, when he lost the election, he had no problem trying to persuade the election. It had been stolen from him, and we saw some of that laid out in this indictment today.
And now in this campaign, he is under enormous pressure, and he's decided that he's going to navigate it by persuading Americans that the system of justice in our country is corrupt, that prosecutors are corrupt, the FBI is corrupt. And so, you know, this is really a moment of peril for our country because he is very good at this. As I mentioned to you earlier, seventy percent of Republicans still believe that he -- that the election was stolen because he's told them that. And now, many believe on that side that the system is indeed corrupt and knew a lot of Republican politicians echoing his meme.
BURNETT: Well, you know, I'm curious what you think from your role, obviously having been the White House and worked with the former President Obama as well as Biden himself about Mike Pence's role in all of this. He came out tonight, and obviously he's very specifically laid out in this indictment, right? And he's a player in it in terms of the fact that he took contemporaneous notes. We now know of his interactions with Trump.
So, his statement tonight, after he sees the indictment, is on January 6th, former President Trump demanded that I choose between him and the Constitution, I chose the Constitution, and I always will. And then Pence's former Chief of Staff, Mark Short, goes on Fox and says, Trump asked Pence to overturn the election. In the GOP, who listens to statements like these at this point?
AXELROD: Listen, I think, you know, one of the tragedies of this, you know, however you feel about Pence or politics is, here's a guy who was, you know, probably as loyal to Donald Trump as a person could be as vice president through all the controversies and all the crises he held firm for Donald Trump. But the one thing he wasn't willing to do was defy the Constitution and overturn a lawful election. And for that, he's been purged. I mean, here's Mike Pence sitting here tonight.
The former sitting Vice President of the United States, we don't even know if he's going to be in the debate on August 23rd because he hasn't mustered enough support to qualify as fundraising and his polling is anemic. Even among evangelical voters who were his base before he got together with Donald Trump. That's why Trump picked him to be his ambassador to the evangelical vote. Now, Trump has the majority of them in Iowa, and Pence is at four percent. So, this is the price that Mike Pence has paid for being, for that moment of such extraordinary importance and courage when he refused to do what the president wanted him to do, but he's paying a big price for it.
BURNETT: That's pretty incredible when you think about it. David Axelrod, thank you very much.
AXELROD: Okay, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Laura.
COATES: I mean, just imagine that Mike Pence might very well be testifying against the person as David talks about. He was so loyal, too. Listen, my panel is back with me right now. For everyone wondering, when was Chris Christie going to weigh in? Well, he has. Let me read for you a little bit of what he says. This is on Twitter. He says, "The events around the White House from election night forward are a stain on our country's history and a disgrace to the people who participated.
This disgrace falls the most on Donald Trump. He swore an oath to the Constitution, violated his oath, and brought shame to his presidency." It's no surprise he's been one of the most outspoken critics of Donald Trump. It's not gaining him a lot in terms of polling, though.
ANDERSON: No, and part of that is just that there is not a huge appetite in the Republican Party for a candidate whose primary message is Donald Trump is bad. It's just -- that's not what Republican voters are looking for. And frankly, even if you are kind of a never Trumpy Republican, Chris Christie's kind of a challenging sell because he was originally one of the establishment figures who stood behind Donald Trump at the very beginning when it was, was it possible to stop Trump? Maybe not.
So, I think Chris Christie is, he's got a really low ceiling. However, will he make a debate stage very interesting? Potentially.
COATES: I mean, no one really has clean hands in politics overall. But you're right about that aspect of it. Shermichael. SINGLETON: I mean, you know, she is right. But the problem is you're
running in a Republican primary against Donald Trump. And so as silly as the point may be that the former governor made, who's listening to this? Maybe Democrats, maybe some independents, maybe the 25 percent of never-Trumpers. But the 37 percent that Trump already has, they're not listening. The 37 percent, 17 percent of which are more persuadable to Trump, they're not listening. And then you have 12 percent that aren't. You break that down, you have six percent, either way.
COATES: We're doing math right now?
SINGLETON: So, who exactly are you talking to, Laura? I'm not sure.
ANDERSON: I totally disagree, though, that you shouldn't have a message against your opponents in a campaign.
SINGLETON: No, no, I agree. I think you should.
ANDERSON: I just think that the timing right now, I mean, there was a moment right after the midterms when I do think Republicans were saying, maybe we want to look somewhere else. But in the last couple of months, every month that I've done my polling, Donald Trump's lead over the second place contender grows by 8 to 10 points.
CARDONA: And here's, I think, this is the point, because it's way too late now for Republicans to say, oh, we don't want Donald Trump. There were so many of them saying that at the very beginning. You're right. Even right after the 2020 election, right, people, because people knew, Republicans knew that he was going to run again. They could not get it together to figure out who it was that they wanted to put their support behind, because we all knew that if it was going to be a splintered Republican primary, the focus and everything was going to go toward Donald Trump.
And by the way, all of these indictments make him a martyr. There is so much power in martyrdom. And I think that's something that Democrats need to be careful about.
UNKNOWN: And Laura --
COATES: A good point. We're going to come back for more of it. And leave at Cliffhanger, because he said, and Laura. I wonder what Michael's going to say next, everyone. So, you have to stand by. You got to come right back, because there's much more on our breaking news. We'll actually talk with one of the lead investigators on the January 6 Committee on what surprised him. And Michael Fanone will also join us in the CNN's Special Live Coverage.