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CNN Live Event/Special

Washington On Alert Ahead Of Trump's Arrest, Arraignment; Trump's Lawyers Appear To Start Putting Blame On Advisers; Judge In Trump Case Has History With Jan. 6 Defendants; Laura Coates Talks About 2024 Presidential Debate And Campaign With Asa Hutchinson; Travis King's Family Continues To Search For Answers About His Welfare And Whereabouts. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired August 02, 2023 - 22:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, the U.S. Secret Service is conducting a sweep of the federal courthouse here in Washington, typical for what they do when someone like a former president is going to be arraigned tomorrow, taking those precautions. That comes as law enforcement tells CNN they're also monitoring for potential threats, protests and online chatter.

I should note that where Trump is going to be tomorrow for this arraignment, which we are told is going to happen at 4:00 P.M. Eastern, is the same courthouse in Washington where you've seen so many of the January 6th defendants prosecuted.

Of course, thank you for joining us. CNN Primetime with Laura Coates starts right now.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Wow. That was a really fascinating interview. We've all been leaning in to say what Bill Barr had to say, a lot of us waiting to figure out what he would think about all of this.

I'm Laura Coates, everyone, and thank you all for joining me right here in Washington, D.C., It's a capital on high alert tonight? Why? Because the nation is bracing for the arrest and arraignment of a former president. Should I say again the third time in, what, three months.

He will appear in court tomorrow, as expected, and now his third indictment on charges of trying to overturn an election. And we learned at CNN that the Secret Service has already done a walkthrough of the courthouse and law enforcement is even monitoring any potential threats.

Meantime, everyone, we're getting an early look at what his potential defense strategy might be, including what's called -- this is not my term -- but the delusion defense, that he actually believed his own lies. Plus, the suggestion he's about to throw his legal advisers under the bus. I can't imagine that happening.

And just moments ago, Trump's former attorney general, Bill Barr, spoke to CNN with his very first reaction to this new indictment.


WILLIAM BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: At first, I wasn't sure, but I have come to believe that he knew well he'd lost the election. And now, what I think is important is the government has assumed the burden of proving that. The government in their indictment takes the position that he had actual knowledge that he had lost the election and the election wasn't stolen through fraud. And they're going to have to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt.

COLLINS: Which is a high bar, of course.

BARR: That's a high bar.

Now, that leads me to believe that they -- we're only seeing the tip of the iceberg on this.

COLLINS: Do you think Jack Smith has more?

BARR: Oh, yes, I would believe he has a lot more.


COATES: Well, in the case of this magnitude, one would assume he would. He also poured cold-water on the First Amendment defense that some Trump allies have already been floating, including, I might add, Trump's own lawyer.


BARR: As the indictment says, you know, he -- they're not attacking his First Amendment right. He can say whatever he wants. He can even lie. He can even tell people that the election was stolen, when he knew better. But that does not protect you from entering into a conspiracy. All conspiracies involve speech, and all fraud involves speech. So, you know, free speech doesn't give you the right to engage in a fraudulent conspiracy.


COATES: Just because you've said something does not mean that you are totally immunized and inoculated from ever being held liable for it. We'll talk about the specifics of those comments in just a few moments.

But I've got an amazing group of legal experts standing by and dissect and walk through all of this. But, first, I want to begin with CNN's Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid. Paula, look, Bill Barr set up today's developments. So, I want to know what do we now know tonight about what the plan is for Trump to build a defense.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: We're starting to see the broad contours of a legal defense here, and they're really trying to hit on this idea of infringing on his freedom of speech and saying that, here, the government has allegedly criminalized political speech. But what that fails to take into consideration is the fact the indictment outlines exactly how this went so much further than just words and lays out the specific series of alleged actions that the former president took.

Now, in the alternative, they're also arguing this good faithful leap, that the former president really believed that the election had been stolen. But prosecutors were one step ahead of him laying out in the indictment multiple instances where he either admitted that he did lose or that he had officials telling him that, in fact, there was no basis for these claims.

COATES: Paula, stick around. We need your insight tonight. And right now also, I'm joined by David Aaron, a former federal prosecutor with DOJ National Security Division, we got Sophia Nelson, CNN Opinion Contributor, and also former House Republican Investigative Committee Council Vida Johnson is also here, and associate professor of Law at Georgetown University, Ankush Khardori, who is a former federal prosecutor as well.


In other words, we've got us a panel.

And I'm glad you're all here because the number one question I keep getting, including at the grocery store today, was what's up with this whole free speech discussion, the political speech notion? Is it true as long as Trump was saying something about his views on the election that he's protected? What do you think?

SOPHIA NELSON, CNN OPINION CONTRIBUTOR: Well, yes and no. The attorney general, the former attorney general said it best. You can have free speech, you can say what you think, you can even lie, but you can't engage in a conspiracy to commit fraud and do other things that are crimes. That's the line that Jack Smith is going to have to walk.

COATES: I mean, the indictment -- and that's a great point because, first of all, we already have laws that say if you say certain things, you're going to be liable. If I were to then try to hire a hit person with my actual words, because I said it, I'm not protected, right? Defamation is part of it, threats a great example of it. But why is this having legs? Is it because people believe, like, what, it's so nuanced and political, and can he criticize people?

VIDA JOHNSON, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF LAW, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: I assume it's people who haven't read through the indictment and see all the actions that are being alleged that former President Trump actually took to bring about his plan to overturn the election results. I mean, if you look through what is being alleged, there are actually concrete steps, like trying to line up the slate of fake electors. So, there're certainly things beyond just words here in this indictment.

COATES: So, it's the fact that the words are part of the action. It's not like you're saying -- and I think maybe he's trying to avoid a First Amendment defense in many respects, right. He lays it out and says he's got every right, I'm paraphrasing here, to say these things. But they were likely prepared for the First Amendment, but it's the action you're talking about that, look, I'm putting these words in here to show you that it's part of the overall conspiracy. Is that right?

JOHNSON: I think that's right, and I think you're absolutely right. The special counsel saw that this might happen, because it's in some of the first pages where he lays out the fact that Donald Trump had every right to talk about and even to lie about what he believed took place in the election.

COATES: What do you think?

ANKUSH KHARDORI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Every time, you know, sort of significant legal news pops around Trump, an indictment or some investigation, there's always a few days where they're like test driving these really bad arguments, right? And then they eventually settle on one or two that maybe will sort of carry them through. And we're in sort of the test driving phase.

I think this is kind of a crazy argument because like I used to prosecute financial fraud cases, they're all about speech, right? When someone calls you on your phone, you get a spam call, someone is trying to get your iCloud credentials or get you to turn over your credit card, the fact that they're speaking to you does not somehow make -- protected by the First Amendment. It's a crime, right?

COATES: They're saying, look, it's political, though. I mean, this is obviously a campaign. And one of the things the lawyer said yesterday was, hold on, what if the -- and this is a kind of forward thinking whataboutism, which I love that sort of creativity after a long day news. It was the idea of what if one day Joe Biden says something that you don't agree with, is that going to be criminalized? This is different.

DAVID AARON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY PROSECUTOR: It is. I do think the political character of the speech is what's giving this theory the legs that it has. I also think it's a theory that's probably aimed more at the public than at a judge or at a jury. And a lot of members of the public, as well-written and concise as the indictment is, a lot of people aren't going to read it, they're just going to hear about it. And the fact that this speech was political in nature, I think, will lead a lot of people to attach that First Amendment idea, at least temporarily.

COATES: Political in nature -- sorry, Sophia, but political nature, you have to shrink. I'm going to -- so what was going on here?

NELSON: No, no, no.

COATES: You stopped dead in your tracks now. All I was going to say was political in nature, meaning it's coming from a politician's mouth?

AARON: Correct, and it's tied to a political process. It doesn't make it any less fraudulent. It doesn't make it any less dangerous, but because it's not made in the course of a financial fraud or -- sorry, go ahead.

NELSON: I think for the public, we should define what is political speech and why it's different from regular speech. Political speech is probably, and correct me, from the most protected or the one that we really look at, want to guard because you're saying something that has to do with an election or your opinion, or your assessment, or analysis or you're saying how you feel about it, right? He did all of that, for sure, but he crossed the line, as the former attorney general said. And that's what I think the public needs to get. I think we're all telling you, yes, he can say what he wants but there's a line of criminality that none of us can cross with our words.

COATES: I'm hearing some amen nodding over here.

KHARDORI: Yes. I think the key point was the one that you made, which is it's not just words. The words were intended to produce actions, right? And I think calling this political speech, I understand that, but -- and there are real First Amendment issues surrounding criminalizing certain types of speech. I don't want to just be flippant about it. But the First Amendment is designed to promote truthful public debate, right? And so it's for that reason that the First Amendment does not protect fraud, right?


And, yes, it's political speech. But in this instance, it's not just like talking about his position on a bill or something, right? We're talking about speech that was aimed at overturning an election, right? We're talking about the most dangerous, quote/unquote, political speech, right, subverting our democratic process.

So, I think, like I said, I mean, they're throwing things against the wall, in my estimation, and we'll see what sticks.

COATES: Well, I'm surprised that panel for a lawyer is not one of us said the word, allegedly. So, I'll say the word, allegedly, to give us some cover for all the things that had just been said.

But let me just play for a second what Bill Barr had to say in terms of how he felt about Jack Smith's integrity. Listen to this.


BARR: He's an aggressive prosecutor. He's the kind of prosecutor, in my view, that if he thinks someone's committed a crime, he hones in on it and really goes to try to make that case. There's no question he's aggressive. But I do not think that he's a partisan actor, he, personally.

COLLINS: And you think he's treated Trump fairly here?

BARR: I don't know whether he's treated --

COLLINS: From what you've observed, I guess. BARR: Yes, from what I've observed. I don't know him, but I know a lot of Republican lawyers who have worked with him over the years, and they tell me he's a tough hard-nosed prosecutor but that he's not a partisan prosecutor.


COATES: I mean, that seems to belie some of what we're going to be hearing of this language of the weaponization of the government, and that I think the word was deranged that Trump used on Truth Social describe --

NELSON: One of the nicer words.

COATES: As one of the nicer words, right, which is saying something.

But, I mean, this idea, the partisanship of a prosecutor, it's always called into question whether they have some sort of axe to grind. We hear that all the time. But is there any evidence to support this talking point? It doesn't mean he's not going to have any legs, but is there evidence to support this view?

AARON: Absolutely not. Jack Smith comes from the Manhattan D.A.'s office and then career job at Justice. He's a classic product of those institutions playing it down on the middle, going very aggressively when he believes that someone is guilty and that he has the evidence to prove it, staying within the ethical lines, for sure. I just don't think there's any evidence of that at all. And I would say the same about his team.

COATES: There's also another clip he talks about where he was asked about who's paying it, right, the old, where is this money coming from, who's paying for the legal fees. Listen to what he had to say.


BARR: I find that sort of nauseating. This guy claims to be a multi- billionaire and he goes out and raises money from hardworking class -- hardworking people, small donors, and tells them this is to defend America and to, you know, take care of the -- he didn't provide any significant support during the '22 elections and a lot of this money seems to be going to his legal fees.


COATES: Well, He's nauseated. I want to ask you, Vida, because you have been and also received public defenders, where you're talking about people who, as much as discussions are happening and politics right now about this haves and have-nots and a tale of two justice systems, which I think is true. The haves and have-nots are in stark contrast in terms of what they're able to access for justice. But that conversation doesn't really contemplate something like this.

JOHNSON: Well, I think that's what's so interesting about this case, is that it took so long to even be brought. I mean, what everyone saw on January 6th was truly mind-blowing, and it really is the most dangerous kind of act for our country to try to undo the election results of American voters. And so the fact that it took 2.5 years for there to be charges I think is really the surprising part. And so that's sort of my answer to some of the questions about whether this is a political prosecution.

But every day in superior court, where both you and I have practiced, we see the poorest people, the people with the least social capital prosecuted by the Department of Justice. And so for the rule of law to mean anything, there has to be people with power, and Donald Trump had the most power of anyone at the time, who get prosecuted when they cross lines. I mean, otherwise the rule of law doesn't mean a thing.

COATES: I mean, he was at the time that they're alleging some of these things the head of the executive branch of government, whose job it is, of course, to enforce the law. Look at this civics lesson happening on a Wednesday night at 10:00.

Everyone, standby, we've got more to talk about, including more about these donations and what Bill Barr has to say and others.

I want to go quickly back to Paula Reid, though. Paula, Trump is set to appear in court tomorrow. What do expect to take place tomorrow?

REID: Laura, we're expecting the former president to come here to Washington, D.C., to attend this hearing in person. It's unclear if we're actually going to get to see him. There's no cameras in federal court, and this particular courthouse is very custom to dealing with VIPs, people with security details. And you can easily drive into the garage underneath the courthouse and not be seen at all.


But once he's inside the courthouse, he is effectively under arrest. He will be processed. We expect they'll take his fingerprints.

We don't expect, though, that he'll have a mug shot. This is an issue they dealt with in Manhattan and Florida. The consensus is mug shots are used by law enforcement if someone goes on the lam, but everybody knows what former President Trump looks like.

Now, the hearing itself will be pretty quick, procedural. We expect he will hear the charges that have been filed against him, have the opportunity to enter a plea, and this hearing also is not going to be before judge Chutkan. She's the one who will oversee this case in a possible trial. Instead, this will be before a magistrate and likely have another date on the calendar for his first hearing before a trial judge.

COATES: In case you're all wondering, yes, Paula Reid does, in fact, live in this building and reports all the news from here constantly all the time.

Everyone, we're going to go back to the table right now, have a bit of round robin, because the viewers, I told you, they are asking questions. One of the questions they're asking is, look, can he serve if he's convicted? NELSON: Yes.



COATES: That's a short answer. There you go. The answer is yes, America.

But, number two, if he were to go behind bars for any of these alleged crimes, could he be elected from prison?






NELSON: Go back to the Eugene-Debs case in the 1920s, right, socialist, got, what, 1 million, 2 million votes, something like that. I mean, wow, that's where we are.

COATES: But it's surprising to people. I just want to unpack a little more. Because it might surprise people to know, as we talk about all the different qualifications that it takes to get hired in most professions, right, and the resume-building and all the things that are going on, when it comes to the presidency, the Constitution governs. And it didn't contemplate perhaps this scenario. Just unpack a little more as to why the Constitution doesn't say, no, he can't run if this happens?

AARON: Maybe it wasn't contemplated as a possibility. There is in the 14th Amendment some provision for disqualification on very narrow grounds relating to insurrection, but that's about it.

COATES: Otherwise he's qualified based on age.

NELSON: Yes, 35, got 14 years and you've got to be a natural-born citizen. We were talking about -- I was born in Germany. I wrote to the secretary of state when I was in the eighth grade, and he said you can be president because your dad was in the military and you were a citizen born abroad, like John McCain. So, yes, I did, I wrote to the secretary of state.

COATES: Well, when I turn 35 -- I don't know why you guys are laughing, but thank you very much.

Question number three, number three is, if Trump was elected -- and this is a question that came up early, of course, in his own initial presidency in the first term -- could he pardon himself?

JOHNSON: I don't think anyone knows the answer to that question because it's never happened before. No president has attempted to pardon himself because no president has been charged formally with a crime. But I do think it's possible that we could see President Trump sworn in behind bars and then pardon himself to walk out of prison.

KHARDORI: Can I just add one note to that? Because I totally agree that, as a theoretical matter, legal matter, it's unclear. As a practical matter who's going to stop him? This is the problem. He will be coming at the start of his presidency. The statute of limitations would run on the offenses while he's in office. His own Justice Department is not going to do it. I don't think anyone else would have standing to even raise this issue potentially. So, I think, as a practical matter, that would be the bigger problem even in the sort of abstract legal question (ph).

NELSON: Laura, I also think that his Republican rivals would have to take a pledge if they were -- let's say Nikki Haley was the nominee, I think she'd have to make a pledge that Donald Trump would get a pardon. I really believe they would have to take a blood oath on this that if it was somebody else and Trump does get -- found guilty and has to go into jail, I think they have to pardon him.

COATES: We're already hearing that from Ramswamy. You're hearing that from -- I think DeSantis alluded to it as well. And that is really the new litmus test on what you would do next, ala-Ford-Nixon, although this is a very different scenario and a very different world we live in today.

Everyone, standby, because, next, we're going to look at the judge who's presiding over Trump's case, including her experience with January 6th defendants.

Plus, we're breaking out the Venn diagram, yes, we are, to show you the variety of reactions from his 2024 rivals. And we'll speak with one as well.

And coming up, an exclusive interview, I talk with the family of Travis King, the man you're seeing here, the army soldier who went into North Korea. This as Kim Jong-un's regimes sends some pretty eerie messages.



COATES: So, the federal judge that's going to preside over Trump's January 6th criminal case is Judge Tanya Chutkan, who, by the way, has already overseen dozens of cases against January 6th rioters.

Paula Reid is back with me now. So, Paula, what do we know about her background?

REID: She's an experienced federal judge. She's been on the federal bench since 2014, when she was nominated by then-President Barack Obama. She's a remember former federal public defender. And as you can see, she was confirmed 95-0 by the Senate, and she has been overseeing January 6th cases, dozens of them. So, she's very familiar with the subject matter they're going to cover here.

COATES: So, how has she handled some of those cases, because many judges on the bench right now, especially in D.C., have had to draw some of these cases, they've been assigned some of these cases. None of them is a stranger yet to that. What has she been saying?

REID: She's been tough. Look, this is a tough judge for anyone charged related to January 6th, because, statistically, she's issued some of the harshest sentences nearly a dozen times. She has gone beyond the sentences recommended by prosecutors, and she's overseen dozens and dozens of these. And she has consistently been the toughest judge when it comes to sentencing.

COATES: I mean, 31 defendants already she has sentenced. I mean, they've exceeded recommendations from the prosecutors nine times. That's pretty significant.

REID: Exactly. She is tough. If you had to pick a judge, if the defense attorneys for the former president were looking at the line- up, she probably would have been at the end of their list. This is very different than what we saw in the Mar-a-Lago case where you have a judge that the former president appointed who has already been bench-slapped for being so deferential to the former president. So, this is not an ideal draw for them but it will be up to the jury.

COATES: But you know what, they're going to have the same level of scrutiny, I want to tell you, Judge Cannon and, of course, Judge Chutkan, what they're going through.

Let's talk a little bit about the experience Trump specifically with this particular judge, because she has referenced him or referenced at least the idea and intimated about him through the course of her rulings and sentencing.


REID: Yes. He tried to withhold certain documents from his time as president from the January 6th committee. And this is something that was litigated and she wasn't having it. I mean, this is one of the most famous quotes from that opinion. Presidents are not king and the plaintiff is not president.

So, those are one of the really significant rulings as the January 6th committee was trying to obtain evidence and the former president was throwing any privilege he possibly could trying to see what would stick. And when it came to her, things were not sticking and she ruled against him. It was one of the more significant blows that he suffered during the January 6th committee investigation, not with Jack Smith.

COATES: And, of course, she referenced at one point for one person, she was saying that that person did not go to the Capitol out of any love for our country. He went for one man, obviously talking about Donald Trump. We'll see what happens from here.

But as you mentioned already, tomorrow is in front of a magistrate, not her. We'll hear a lot more, especially in the motion. Thank you, Paula.

And here's a question, everyone, for all of you out there. Should voters know the outcome of all -- and, I mean, all of these cases before, well, the voting begins? We're going to ask one of Trump's 2024 rivals next.

Plus, Barack Obama's private warning to President Biden about what is coming in his battle for re-election.


[22:30:15] COATES: On the campaign trail, look, the reactions from Trump's rivals to his now third indictment, well, let's just say they're wildly different. And for that, I put together a Venn diagram, because what else would we do this evening? On one side, of course, you've got the rivals who are defending Trump. And yet basically, they're baselessly claiming, by the way, that this is Joe Biden weaponizing the government.

Who is in that section of the Venn diagram? I'm talking about Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy, and of course, Tim Scott. Now, who has suggested, by the way, that candidates should pledge to pardon Trump? Now, on the other side of this Venn diagram, you have the obvious reactions from rivals who, well, they're no fans of Donald Trump and they've made it known. Chris Christie, Asa Hutchinson, with whom we're going to speak in just a moment, and also Will Hurd, who says that Trump is only running for president maybe to run away from jail.

And look, you've got in the middle this blurry section. Things get a little bit blurrier, shall we say? Nikki Haley, she has condemned the first indictment, but now seems a little bit exasperated by the quote, distraction. That's the tough language being used. Now, Pence too, who plays a big role in this new indictment, he denounced the first one, but in this one says that anyone who puts himself over the Constitution should not be the President of the United States.

And then seemed to suggest Trump's quote, is his word, crackpot, unquote lawyers share the blame. Then you've got Doug Burgum, everyone, who doesn't like to talk about the indictments at all. And Francis Suarez jumped into the race after one of Trump's indictments. It happened in his own city, but he suggests that he'd pardon Trump to heal the country.

Now, joining me now is one of Trump's presidential rivals, Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. Thank you for joining us this evening. I'm eager to hear your perspective in particular as one of the hopefuls for the RNC nomination. One thing that's been suggested, Governor, has been that voters ought to be able to know the outcomes of these cases before the voting begins. The calendar might not cooperate with that, but is that the right thing to do, that voters would be able to know what's going to happen?

ASA HUTCHINSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sure, the more information to the voters, the better. And so, in an ideal world, these cases would be concluded, and the voters would have all the information they need. But as a practical matter, the criminal docket is not going to allow that to happen. Voting will take place in Iowa and New Hampshire before these cases are concluded.

And so, it puts the voters in a terrible situation. And that's not good for them. More information would be better. We'd like to see them to have that. But the fact is, candidates who's running for 2024 nomination on the Republican side, they've got to take a stand on this. Either you're for accountability and the rule of law, or you're for Donald Trump and chaos. And I think you can't take the middle ground on that. And in this case, whenever you look at what happened on January 6, I've been clear. Donald Trump is morally responsible for that.

COATES: You have been quite clear but also, it's clear that people are not necessarily budging. People are not. And I can't imagine that anyone had on their strategist bingo card. You mean I've got an opponent who's now have three indictments and two impeachments, and I can't use any of it and I can't capitalize or seize on any of it?Why do you think there is that hesitation? And I'm using that term generously here. Why is there the outright refusal in most instances to try to use this, even as a part of one's campaign, to talk about the issues that I know that you also want to actually discuss?

HUTCHINSON: Well, that's what we do. I just came back from New Hampshire, and the voters there are asking me about affordable housing. They're asking me about the challenge of the economy and high interest rates. And so, that's what we're talking about on the campaign trail.

Now, the fact is that they're overwhelmed with the information on the Trump charges, and it's going to be an issue in the campaign. You think about the charges and whether he's found guilty or not guilty is another issue. But here, the special prosecutor says that he actually knew he lost the election, but he tried to overturn the election anyway.

And the defense is that, well, he actually believed that he won the election. So, if you believe the defense, you've got a candidate who wants to be president who's delusional. And if you believe the special prosecutor that he knew that he lost the election and tried to overturn it anyway, then it's criminal conduct.


And so, it's going to be a campaign issue. I want to get on the debate because this issue will come up in the debate. And the difference between the candidates and their approach to this and how they're handling this and the rule of law will be an issue in that debate that comes up in Milwaukee in August.

COATES: You certainly described the consummate rock in a hard place or the lesser of two evils. And I'm not sure which one, voters are keen to attach themselves to, but you do want to be on that debate stage. But in the meantime, I'm sure you've heard the Fox News executives had dinner with Trump last night in an effort to convince him to actually join in on that debate. So far, he is saying he's not going to really give oxygen to the other candidates. What's your response?

HUTCHINSON: Well, whether he's there or not, it's going to be a very good debate. And I'll be prepared either way. If he's there, there's a lot to talk about. If he's not there, just think about the debate between the candidates that are there. There's differences in policy. We're going to talk about real issues that people care about in their pocketbook. And so if you want me to be on that debate stage, Asa is how you help me get there. And I think people want the vigorous debate there, whether Donald Trump is there or not.

COATES: Let's talk about that road to getting there, because there were some interesting warnings that President Obama actually privately gave to President Biden. And one of the comments he made apparently was not to underestimate Trump's political strength. By jumping into the race and so many of the candidates who are hoping to best him in spite of the polling that we are seeing, and it is still early, is there an underestimation about his political strength and the scope of the base that supports him still. Did you underestimate him?

HUTCHINSON: I don't think I underestimated him, but the hold that he has and the loyalty of the base and how they've accepted everything that he's said, they have followed him to the ends of the earth and it's to their detriment. Whenever you look at the fact that he has misled them, but there's still that loyal bond there and I don't know what's going to break it. And I acknowledge that he's at a very high level and you've got other candidates that are in single digits. We'll see where this goes.

But this is a fight that's for the soul of the Republican Party and the future of our country. And it's a fight worth having. And that's why, and I sense in Iowa and New Hampshire, these early states, people are paying attention. And they care about this. And they want to look at the alternative candidates. They want to look at the debate and make a good decision.

So, it is wide open. It is early. And we can't, and this is the most unpredictable political environment I've seen in my lifetime. And so, let's see how it plays out. Let's give the voters a chance. And all the facts we hope will be on the table in regard to this case, the pending cases that are against Donald Trump.

COATES: By the way, Governor, really quick, if for some reason you do not find yourself on the debate stage or qualifying in that realm, would you consider running as a third-party candidate?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I want to run as the Republican nominee. That's the only thing that I'm considering. I expect to be on the debate stage, and I trust that everybody will help get me there. And that's the only goal that I have right now, is to be on that debate stage.

COATES: Governor Asa Hutchinson, thank you so much.

HUTCHINSON: Thank you. Great to be with you. Thank you.

COATES: Let's get back to the table here and, you know, I ask you guys the same question in terms of the time. And we already know the calendar. I'm not going to put up another Venn diagram to suggest it. We know the calendar, though, is not really on the same side of being able to get everything resolved in and according to maybe the schedule you'd like. Do the voters have a right to know the outcome of these cases? Is that part of what ought to be contemplated? You're nodding.

NELSON: Absolutely. I mean, I think that this goes to the very heart of our democracy of this Republic and whether or not it sustains itself going forward. And I know that might sound like hyperbole, but it's not. Donald Trump has been indicted now for the third time.

This new indictment goes to the fact that, like Asa said, either he's delusional and crazy and he believed what everybody else told him wasn't true, including 60 lost lawsuits, et cetera, or worse, he's evil and he's diabolical and unhinged, I'm going to be kind, and he tried to thwart democracy and get his supporters and the vice president to do things that were unlawful and unconstitutional. So, either way, it's bad. So, people should know.

KHARDORI: Well, as a legal matter, they actually do, right? The Speedy Trial Act, which governs how judges are supposed to set trial schedules, includes specifying that it's not just the defendant's interest in a speedy trial, but the public's interest in a speedy trial, too. And you know, about a month ago, over at "Politico", we actually did a poll coming off the last couple of indictments, and we asked people, should the classified documents trial occur before the Republican primary, before the general election?


Almost two-thirds of the respondents said it should occur before the general election. That included nearly half of the Republicans.

COATES: Should it be? I mean, is this one of the cases or, I mean, if there's one case in particular that you ought to know the outcome of, and there's a lot of cases going on, which one is it?

JOHNSON: It's this one.


JOHNSON: Absolutely. It shows how Donald Trump behaved as president during an election, right? There couldn't be anything more important than that. And so, for the American people to have the opportunity to watch the evidence against him, to see his defenses, to evaluate him potentially as a witness, I think that's really important.

COATES: You agree?

AARON: I think so. I mean, this is the nature of the charges are just fundamental to the job description.

COATES: Everyone, thank you so much. We'll talk more about all this, ahead, Michael Cohen joins CNN on whether he thinks the co- conspirators may flip against Trump. And up next, my exclusive interview with the entire family of Travis King, the U.S. soldier who mysteriously fled over the line they say into North Korea and might very well be currently detained, why they noticed some strange signs before he walked across the border.


COATES: Well, the mystery is deepening tonight. The one about the U.S. soldier who ran across the border into North Korea. Now, in just a few moments, I'm going to speak with Travis King's entire family in their first interview since his detention. But first, State Department is now confirming that North Korea did reach out to the United Nations command at the demilitarized zone in the last 48 hours, but says it was not a substantive call and they don't see it as progress.

Now, you'll recall back on July 10th, King was released from the South Korean detention facility. He expected to fly back to the U.S. just a week later. But after King passed through security, he apparently told his staff that his passport was missing. He was then escorted back outside, as far as we know.

Then the next day, he had reservations for a joint security area tour, joining other tourists, it seemed, as they went into the DMZ that separates the North from the South. And during that tour, he apparently broke off from the group and ran off across the border into North Korea, of all places, and has not been heard from since.

United Nations Command says that conversation with North Korea began just a few days ago, on July 24th. And that gets us really to where we are right now. Tonight, King's family continues to search for answers, any answers, about his welfare, his whereabouts. And they say they just want to see their loved one brought back home safely.


King's uncle Myron Gates, along with King's sister, Jaqueda Gates, join me now in a CNN exclusive interview. Behind him, as well, is another relative, Myron's wife, and of course Travis's grandparents. I'm so glad to see all of you today. But I have to tell you, we have conversed in the past. There are so many unanswered questions, Myron. It's been two weeks already since Travis, they say, ran across the border into North Korea. I have to know what this has been like for your family to be getting the reports like this and then, I understand, radio silence.

MYRON GATES, TRAVIS KING'S UNCLE: It's been very, very devastating to my family and I. And for it to be two weeks, we feel like we should know more right now as to what's going on, as is he safe? We don't know nothing.

COATES: Do you know right now where Travis is exactly? Is he alive? Is he in the custody of North Korea's government? Is he somewhere detained? Do you know, sitting here today, where he is?

M. GATES: Sitting here today, I don't know where he is. The only thing I know is there's a picture of him on the news from the backside, and they're saying that Travis King ran across the border. That's the only thing I know. I don't know nothing else.

COATES: So, you don't even have confirmation, it sounds like, that that, in fact, was your relative, was Travis your loved one, that even crossed over that border?

M. GATES: No, I don't. I don't have -- I don't know anything. The only thing I was told was that they're talking to them and they acknowledged that they have him, I guess. But I still don't know, like if he's even really over there. I don't know if he is over there. I don't know. It's frustrating.

COATES: Frustrating of course and Jaqueda, this is your brother and as you heard Myron talking about -- I wonder when was the last time you spoke with him as we talked about a little bit the timeline that the world seems to understand is that he was supposed to get on a flight to return to the United States, did not go on that flight, ended up then in some sort of a tourist area to try to do a tour to cross over that border. Have you spoken to him before that? When was the last time?

JAQUEDA GATES, TRAVIS KING'S SISTER: As far as I -- recently -- allegedly, I guess I heard from him around July 15th. But me personally, I don't believe that's really him talking to me on Messenger. There's a lot of reasons why. I know my brother. I don't know. It just brings tears to my eyes. Just frustrating. He's my baby brother, so yeah.

COATES: Jaqueda, why don't you think that it was him communicating? I know you said you hadn't spoken to him, but there was some communication, right? There was some messaging, some kind of, why not --

J. GATES: Because he's not the type that's -- exactly, he's just, every time, like every time I reach back out to him, like, you know, we're 15 hours apart. So, at nighttime, it's daylight there. So, I worked there to shift. Well, I was working there to shift. And at the time, I'll, you know, tell him, call me. And he'd be like, I can't talk now, or can't talk now. You know, just weird stuff.

And then sending stuff that's just not him, like the rap videos. It was all like suicidal attempt stuff that I personally feel like leads up to this where -- I'm his older sister, so how I personally feel is, it's, he's been missing. We don't know if he ever was, you know, in their custody to begin with, because in all actuality, we lost contact with him. When he left Fort something -- Texas Fort Worth is it Fort Worth?

M. GATES: I think Fort Bliss.

J. GATES: Something Texas. It's -- that would have -- sorry but we lost contact from him when he went to Korea. It's like he had an American phone allegedly you know which is he really did and he lost it. And that's basically how we cut ties with, you know. So, I was asking my mom, do you talk to him? Have you heard from him? Holiday after holiday after holiday, she'd just wait by the phone and hope and pray, hear a call.

But I guess we all get something from his messenger. And that's what don't add up because he's not, he never been social media. And the first thing first, he's gonna do, like he's always been doing, is reach out to our mom and let him hear her voice. He, you know, he's not the type to just disappear.

COATES: Where is your mother right now, Jaqueda?


J. GATES: Actually, I really don't know. I've been calling her. So, I don't know.

COATES: This must be extremely tough for her and what you said to her before, Myron. I know you communicated with her. This is very devastating for her, I understand.

J. GATES: Yeah, I wanted her to show up, but she didn't come, so I don't know. I know the first time she, you know, got on the news, she barely could put a sentence together because, you know, this is really, really hard on my mom, you know. That's her baby boy. His room is still in her house. Like, I tell my mom all the time, like, Mom, you still have this big house, you know, but she won't, she won't downsize her house. That's her baby boy. She always made it where if we need somewhere to go, we can always go back home.

COATES: You, me, Myron, the family, the American public, we're all asking the questions of why and what does not add up or the answers. Has the government given you any indication that they know more information? For example, and especially this, Myron --

J. GATES: We know just as much as you guys know.

COATES: Now, that strikes me as odd, Myron and Jaqueda, that you would know as the family members --

J. GATES: Exactly.

COATES: -- very little about his whereabouts and what happened. And I just -- I have to be very direct here. Do you have any reason to believe that Travis would have intentionally run over the border into North Korea to defect in that way?


M. GATES: He had no reason to do that at all.

COATES: Had he been angry with the government, the military? Had he been angry with the government, with the military, anything like that?


M. GATES: No, I don't believe so.

COATES: I understand the vice president, Vice President Kamala Harris is angry.

J. GATES: He's quiet, he's into himself, he don't even deal with people.

M. GATES: I've been calling the D.C. office, congressmen, senators, we get no answers.

COATES: Nobody has, I mean you talked to, I know that Vice President Kamala Harris is supposed to be in Kenosha tomorrow and I understand that you have had contact with some staff members of members of Congress, but what do you want the administration, the President to be doing? Are they doing anything as far as you are presently right now aware to help find your brother, your loved one, your nephew, your grandson for his grandparents back there? Do you know if they're doing anything right now to try to bring him home?


M. GATES: No. We wish they would come to our house to talk to us and let us know something.

J. GATES: Or let me go get him, because I'm his big sister at this point.

M. GATES: Or let me go get him, because I'm his uncle.

COATES: I know your family is working with an outside group of some kind. Are they working with anyone besides the U.S. government to try to get those answers? Is anyone else involved?

M. GATES: We're working with a non-profit organization called Richardson -- Bill Richardson.


M. GATES: Yeah, he's a negotiator. So, he's going to help our family.

COATES: I understand you've been contacted as well by the Warmbier family, Otto Warmbier's family. Have they been in touch with you to try to help?

M. GATES: Yes, Otto's parents, Fred and Sydney, they have been giving us a lot of advice and we really, really appreciate them.

COATES: Let's just say, if he were listening right now and knowing that you were fighting for him, that you are looking for him, your family loves him so much, he is important, he matters to you, to his family in particular. And of course, as a member of our armed services, the entire nation is watching to understand what has happened here. What would you like to say to him if he were listening?

J. GATES: I love you, bro, the same thing I've been sending on the messages. I knew that wasn't you though, but if it was you, look, I love you. I just want you to be home. You know, I really do want you to be home. The same way you left, I want you to come back, if not even healthier. But all these allegations and stuff, I don't believe them.

COATES: Myron?

J. GATES: I'm your big sister, so I always knew. I just can't believe it for real. M. GATES: I would say, nephew, we love you. You see, we standing here,

we strong. And we're gonna continue to fight for you, and we ain't gonna stop until you come home.

COATES: Myron, Jaqueda, there's a lot of questions that are left unanswered. This seems like the beginning of the story, and I hope that you get the respect of the answers soon. Thank you so much for joining us. We'll keep asking questions.

J. GATES: Thank you.

COATES: I'm Laura Coates everyone, that was difficult to hear. Thank you for watching tonight. Everyone, up next, Michael Cohen is gonna join Alisyn Camerota on this new indictment and Donald Trump's co- conspirators. Plus, Geraldo Rivera also joins live on the Fox executives' meeting with Trump after his indictment.


Don't miss it.


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Welcome to CNN Tonight. Donald Trump is expected to appear in person in a Washington, D.C. courtroom tomorrow. He's facing four federal criminal charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, all in connection to his efforts to undo his election loss. The Secret Service says security will be at the highest levels.

In a moment, I'll ask former Trump fixer Michael Cohen about the defense that Trump appears to be using, and what he thinks will happen next to those six co-conspirators. Plus, our resident fact checker, Daniel Dale, goes through the 45-page indictment tonight to break down every one of the election lies laid out in it.

And former Attorney General Bill Barr tells Kaitlan Collins tonight that Trump knew he lost the election.


WILLIAM BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: At first, I wasn't sure, but I have come to believe that he knew well that he had lost the election.