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CNN Live Event/Special

Republican Voters Increasingly Believe Biden's Win Illegitimate; Trump Set For Arraignment in D.C.; Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired August 03, 2023 - 13:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The former president of the United States heads to Newark Airport in New Jersey. He will take his private plane to the nation's capital and, at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, will appear before a federal judge.

These are the four charges he's facing, based on his efforts to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights -- Erin.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Well, Wolf, the arraignment is at a courthouse that has already handled hundreds of January 6 defendants.

It's just a few blocks from the site of the Capitol attack itself, which, of course, was fueled by lies that Trump had spread about the 2020 election. And it is those lies that are central to the prosecution's case.

And the man behind it all, a man who has been a target of a public smear campaign by the 45th president, is the special counsel, Jack Smith. You see him there.

Our Paula Reid is outside that courthouse right now.

So, Paula, how is this all going to play out, the logistics of this, once Trump arrives where you are?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, this is a courthouse that is very much accustomed to dealing with VIPs, people with security details.

So, the former president has the option to pull into a garage right underneath this courthouse. So, we may not even get to see him at all, because, of course, there are no cameras in federal court.

But once he is inside, he will be placed under arrest. He will be processed. We expect they will take his fingerprints, but there won't be a mug shot. Federal authorities have concluded that they really only need the mug shot if someone goes on the lam and they need to know what he looks like.

He is, of course, one of the most recognizable faces in the world. Now, after the processing, the hearing itself, it's pretty procedural, should be pretty sure. He will hear the charges that have been filed against him, and he will have the opportunity and is expected to enter a plea.

Now, in Florida, he had his attorney enter that please, so also possible we won't hear him utter a word. They will have to contend with his bond agreement. Assuming there are no glitches there, this hearing should be over pretty quickly. And this will all take place in front of a magistrate judge, so not Judge Chutkan, who will oversee the rest of this case and an expected trial.

But this is, of course, his third arrest and arraignment this year, so he knows what to expect.

BURNETT: All right, Paula, thank you very much.

And so let's go now to Bedminster, which you see on your screen. That's where our Kristen Holmes has been in New Jersey, she's near much of the time.

Of course, you have been there reporting. And now I know you're at the airport, going to be joining the former president's motorcade, Kristen, to see where he goes and when he heads over to where Paula is.

What more are you hearing about Trump's travel today?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, we're hearing that he is about to leave Bedminster, that he will land at the airport behind me, Washington Reagan airport in D.C.

He is joined by some of his closest political aides. That's Susie Wiles, Chris LaCivita, Jason Miller, as well as two of his attorneys, Todd Blanche and John Lauro. And we are told that they are going to meet the motorcade here -- and we will be a part of that, as you mentioned -- and then go to the courthouse.

Now, advisers do not believe this is going to be a lengthy time spent at the courthouse. I was told they feel like it's going to be a lot shorter than some of the previous arraignments.

Now, not entirely sure why, for the reasoning, but that is their belief right now. And when he goes into court and it's behind closed doors, he is going to appear with two of his attorneys, Todd Blanche and John Lauro. It's not clear if anyone else is going to join them at that point.

Then he will come back here to the airport before taking off to New York. He wants to get out of here as soon as that arraignment is over. Now, we do anticipate him giving remarks to the reporters traveling with him. But, of course, it will all be dependent on the former president himself, how he feels after that arraignment.

But, given what he has already posted on TRUTH Social today, talking about how it is a great honor for him to be indicted because they are indicting the public and his voters, not really him, he's doing it for the people -- he's talking about how another indictment, it means he's going to be elected president.

Given that stance that he is clearly taking, I would anticipate very strongly that we are going to hear from the former president after that arraignment today, Erin.

BURNETT: All right, well, Kristen, thank you very much -- and Wolf.

BLITZER: Erin, one of the key legal voices condemning Trump's actions in the aftermath of his 2020 election defeat is his former attorney general.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's Kaitlan Collins last night, Bill Barr drilled down on a core issue of this latest indictment, the election lies that Trump kept spreading even after top Trump administration officials repeatedly told him they were false.


WILLIAM BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: 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, free speech doesn't give you the right to engage in a fraudulent conspiracy. I have come to believe that he knew well that he had lost the election.


BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our panel of experts.

And Kaitlan is with us, an excellent interview, indeed, last night.

Kaitlan, were you surprised how blunt he was, the former attorney general of the United States under Trump, in criticizing Trump and criticizing Trump's potential defense tactics?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: I think he's often pretty blunt.

I mean, Bill Barr is typically someone who does say what he thinks. He's always had that characterization from anyone who's ever worked with him, even when he was attorney general overseeing the Justice Department. And he knows Trump so well.

And I think that's why, that moment there at the end, where he did acknowledge that he does believe Trump knew that he lost the election was really notable, but he also -- and I wasn't sure what he would say about the argument that Trump's attorneys are making that this is a free speech -- he was just exercising his free speech, and that they can't move forward with this prosecution, they don't think.

He completely eviscerated that and poked holes in that and said that that's not why Trump is being indicted here, it's a conspiracy to subvert the election, and speech as part of that. And that's what Bill Barr was saying. He also went after the other defense that we have heard, which is that Trump was acting on the advice of counsel, particularly John Eastman, who was the attorney who basically came up with the blueprint for a coup.

And Bill Barr said, A, he didn't really think that John Eastman was giving him, he would qualify that as advice. But he also said he doesn't think that would work, because he thinks it would require Trump to go on trial, to be cross -- to take the stand, to be cross- examined, and that he doesn't believe Trump would be able to essentially remember his own version of events.

I mean, he was incredibly blunt. It was a nearly-40-minute interview, where he really kind of went through all the steps of not just this, also the other federal charges he's facing.


BLITZER: It was a really important interview.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Or to withstand a cross- examination.

I mean, there's not one lawyer I know who has represented Donald Trump who ever wanted to put him on the stand, period, because they know that he -- that he lies, and putting him on the stand would be very, very, very dangerous for Donald Trump.

BLITZER: You agree, of course.


He would make Captain Queeg look like a good witness.


CONWAY: He would just absolutely fall apart in minutes or seconds even.

And that was the conclusion, in fact, if you recall, of Bob Woodward's first book, where he does -- he -- a lot of that seems to have been based upon long, recorded interviews with Jim Dowd, who was Trump's outside lawyer in the Mueller investigation.

And there was a request for an interview of President Trump. And the question was, well, are you going to let him talk to them, to the special counsel? And they conducted, basically, an interview, a mock interview or mock cross-examination of him, and it was a complete disaster.

And the last line in the book is basically Dowd having a soliloquy with himself, saying: He's a liar. Trump is a liar.

BLITZER: We're showing our viewers live pictures. Over there, you just saw Trump getting in his car. He's going to be heading over to the Newark Airport to make the short flight from Newark to D.C. to Washington Reagan National Airport, then driving to the courthouse right here in Washington, D.C.

Norm, Trump's attorney, the new attorney, John Lauro -- and you interviewed him, Kaitlan, the other day as well -- he's expected to be at the hearing today. You know him. What do you think his approach is going to be today?

NORMAN EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: We practice criminal defense law together in the same firm.

I think that, in court today, it's going to be an accelerated proceeding. Trump has already done this once, but, out of court, we're going to continue to see that full-court press where they're previewing the arguments. Don't assume that the arguments we're hearing from them now are the same ones that they're going to use in court.

The government and the defense, of course, always plays a certain amount of a pretrial game. Jack Smith can't talk. He's letting this indictment talk for him. John can talk. And he was also with Kaitlan, and he's been everywhere.

These First Amendment and advice of counsel arguments aren't the version I think we're going to get a trial. These are weak versions. Bill Barr was right to knock them down. They're serving another purpose now, which is consolidating Trump's support.

This is free campaign programming Lauro is taking advantage of. He's consolidating his support. There will be more refined versions that are more dangerous that John and his co-counsel, who is also excellent, Todd Blanche, will launch at trial.

The problem is, they don't have the facts on their side. They don't have the law on their side. And Jack Smith and his team are just as ferocious. Still, it will be a legal battle for the ages.

BORGER: So, what's the other argument? If I didn't take my one argument as it's just listening to my lawyers, this is the advice they gave me -- this is what Barr was talking about last night.

What's the other argument?

EISEN: Well, they're going to...


BORGER: They're what?

EISEN: They're going to also -- Gloria, they're also going to say -- and we also heard this from Lauro -- they're going to say, Donald Trump genuinely believed this. You may disagree with it, but he believed it.

And we heard Lauro say, somebody try to prove that he didn't believe it.

Now, Jack Smith is going to do that. That's the third pillar of their case. Jack Smith has laid out all the reasons that Donald Trump confessed. Privately, he knew he lost the election. So you will see a very ferocious battle across the -- across all the different fronts of the case that Lauro was laying out.

And they're going to try to argue for delay, the unfairness of rushing this case to trial. That may be their most important argument.

BLITZER: We're showing our viewers, Kaitlan, these live pictures of Trump in his little motorcade leaving Bedminster, his country club up in New Jersey, heading to the Newark Airport right now.

What are you hearing from inside the Trump camp when it comes to the co-conspirators, six co-conspirators, and potential witnesses who may actually flip and go against Trump?

COLLINS: They were shocked when the indictment came out this week that no one else had been indicted, that no one else -- we had been trying to find out who else got target letters.

We couldn't find people. And they were surprised that no one else had been indicted, that they're just simply named -- well, they're listed, but not named in there. They have been trying to figure out who Co- Conspirator No. 6 is. No one has really been able to definitively say. There are several names that the Trump campaign believes that it could be, but no one has really been able to say.

But, obviously, that's a huge question here of the role that they play. And the other thing Bill Barr said last night is, he looked at that indictment. He said he found it impressive in its restraint. But he said he believes Jack Smith has a lot more information.

The other thing I will say is, this is not just a legal aspect today. It's a political aspect. And I am told that we will hear Trump speak after he is arraigned today. Where that is remains to be seen. But they are preparing for him to give his version of his defense.

BLITZER: Yes. He's not a shy guy. He likes to speak.


BLITZER: And I assume he will as well.

Do you see this case, George, going to trial before the election?

CONWAY: Well, I hope so. And I think it's quite possible it will.

And I think that is the reason why you don't see any other defendants on here, because you -- he -- the case -- criminal litigation, civil litigation always becomes more complicated the more defendants you have and the more lawyers you have.

You have more pretrial motions. You have more lawyers. Every lawyer gets to cross-examine on behalf of his own witness. The jury has to keep track of the evidence against each defendant.

Everything takes longer and is exponentially more complicated, whereas the reason why this indictment is really -- one of the great things about this indictment is, it first basically tracks Trump, what Trump was told, what he said, what he did, what he's -- what he was told, how he lied about what he was told, and just a continual sequence of following Donald Trump along.

And when you see that he was told by so many people, so many lawyers, Justice Department, private lawyers, a White House counsel, that he lost the election, you cannot -- I mean, that's why Norm is right. The facts are not on their side.

EISEN: Wolf, the -- there's a distinct possibility that this will go to trial as soon as March of 2024, because Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan DA, has a place held on the calendar for a trial in March 2024.

And he said he's willing to step aside for the interests of justice. Jack Smith may take him up on that. And Tanya Chutkan is just the judge who will say...

CONWAY: Oh, she's perfect.

EISEN: ... let's do it.

CONWAY: She's perfect.


BLITZER: She's the judge overseeing this current case.

CONWAY: She's a, you would think, a -- as a criminal defendant, you would like to have a public defender, an ex-public defender like Judge Chutkan hearing your case.

But in this case, it means that she knows all the defense tactics on delaying cases, because that's not uncommon for criminal defendants, because she knows exactly how to do it, and she's done it. And...

EISEN: She was one of the best at it.


COLLINS: But I will tell you, the Trump campaign doesn't see it that way.

As happy as they were to get Judge Cannon in the documents case, they are unhappy about this...

BORGER: Right.

COLLINS: ... because she's been very harsh on January 6 rioters.

And they know she does -- she has a lot of trial experience. And the concern, of course, is that she could move things through quickly.

BORGER: Can we talk a little bit more about these -- this little blank space here and this -- on this indictment?


BORGER: The...

CONWAY: Oh, you filled it in.

BORGER: Right. I filled it in with some scribbles.

But my question to the lawyers here is, is this also a way to overtly pressure people and say, OK, you want to cooperate with us at some point. We haven't indicted you. We've not indicted you. You're a co- conspirator, but we haven't indicted you. So maybe you will think twice about giving us -- giving us a little bit more of what we need to try and convict Donald Trump, so that you avoid it.



EISEN: It's the second act, because the whole investigation to date was a pressure campaign.

The other blank in here that goes to that point is, where is Mark Meadows? Why is he not identified as one of these six individuals? It must be the case -- we don't have -- we don't know it for sure, but logic and experience tells us, he must be cooperating, either under court-ordered immunity, under 18 U.S.C. 6002, or an agreement, or both.

So the train is leaving the station a little bit. This is not the first stop, but, yes, it does apply some pressure

BORGER: And that may be what Barr was talking about to Kaitlan last night, when he said Jack Smith knows a lot more than he is saying in this indictment.

And one of the things he may know more about is what Mark Meadows has to say.

BLITZER: And in his brief statement on Tuesday, Jack Smith flatly said, the investigation is continuing. So, we shall see where it goes.

Once again, these are live pictures coming in from New Jersey right now, the former president in his little motorcade heading over to the Newark Airport to fly to a Reagan National Airport outside of Washington, D.C., and then drive over to the federal courthouse right in Washington, right near Capitol Hill.

We're watching all of this unfold. Our coverage, live coverage, of this historic day is only just beginning.

Just ahead, a new CNN poll shows the number of Republicans who believe Joe Biden's win was not legitimate is actually ticking up.

Stay with CNN for our special live coverage of Donald Trump's arrest and arraignment.



BURNETT: All right, in just a few moments, we expect Donald Trump's plane to take off from Newark Airport. You can see the motorcade there making its way to that airport. He will be heading to the nation's capital, where, at 4:00, he will be arraigned on four federal criminal charges in his alleged bid to overthrow the 2020 election.

Today's arraignment comes on the heels of a new CNN poll that illustrates what's happening within the GOP right now; 69 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters now say President Biden's win in 2020 was not legitimate. That has gone up. In fact, it's gone up six points from where it was earlier this year.

And, of course, it's not true. But people believe it. And you can see that they still believe it.

Our panel is with me now.

And let's just start there, Geoff Duncan, former lieutenant governor of Georgia. So, you obviously saw this from the inside as well.


BURNETT: Front-row seat, let's put it that way.

But here we are. Those numbers have gone up from earlier this year.

DUNCAN: Yes, I mean, hard to explain, from my seat, other than to say it's just another example of the chaos and confusion that Donald Trump has sown through the Republican Party over the time that he decided somewhere around 2016 to become a Republican and run for president.

And it's one of these ultimate Trojan horse moments, right? He came in under the guise of a business-minded change agent, outsider. And what we ended up getting was somebody who's destroying the Republican Party from the inside out,our morality, our fiscal responsibility, and our winning percentage, most importantly.

But this is -- look, if we don't make a correction here, we deserve what we get.

BURNETT: John, he -- so, and the former president, right, he knows. He knows exactly what Geoff was saying.

He says, his posts today: "I'm one more indictment from being reelected," referring it appears to Georgia. "I'm being arrested for you. It's an honor to be arrested for you."

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, that's classic Donald Trump deflect and project. It's what, frankly, demagogues do, right?

You -- every accusation is a confession and everything negative that happened to you is somehow positive. And it's -- he's being persecuted, not prosecuted, for the things he has done. But you talk about the impact on the Republican Party, and just

putting that in perspective, a reality check. Obviously, it's deeply troubling for a country that depends on reasoning together, because everyone's entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. And that's breaking down within the Republican Party.

Why? Because hyperpartisanship is a hell of a drug. But remember this. The country is not actually 50/50 Democrat, Republican. It's a third Republican, third Democrat, third independent, ballpark.

So even 70 percent of the Republican Party is around 22, 23 percent of the American people.


AVLON: That's just important for people to understand.


AVLON: So it's a big Republican...

BURNETT: I mean, look, as we were saying, we were talking this in the commercial break, I mean, that's calming in some senses, but yet it is still a two-party system, right? So, you got to...


AVLON: It is a two-party system. And that is a real problem.

But I just don't want people to think there's a supermajority believing Trump's lies out there in this country, because there is not.

BURNETT: Of people, of American citizens.

AVLON: That's not a majority of Americans.


DUNCAN: And I think that's played out in Georgia really well, right?

Look at the Herschel Walker race, right? He was the ultimate primary candidate. And then he got the brakes beat off him in the general election, right?

AVLON: Yes, of course.

DUNCAN: Because that third in the middle said, you know what, we want reasonable, sound leadership.

And then Brian Kemp, in that same election, beat the brakes off Stacey Abrams with those same voters on those same machines, I might add.

AVLON: Exactly.

DUNCAN: Won the election handily. AVLON: Exactly.

BURNETT: Right, right. And important to say those same machines...

DUNCAN: Those same machines.


BURNETT: ... in the context of what we actually see here in this indictment.

So, Jennifer, on that front, you have got the former president right now in his motorcade, and we understand from Kristen's reporting that Jason Miller's in that motorcade, Jason Miller, one of his advisers who is in this indictment as saying, these claims are B.S., saying: "When our research and campaign legal team can't back up any of the claims made, you can see why we're 0 and 32 on our case. I will obviously hustle up on all fronts, but it's tough to own any of this when it's all just conspiracy 'bleep' beamed down from the mother ship."

And yet he's with Trump today, heading -- defending him.


It makes you wonder how long he's going to stay or if he's going to stay. I mean, he obviously may be called as a witness in this trial, and then it would be very strange for him to continue being -- helping out with the campaign.

But this is what happened. All these people around Trump were telling him the truth about what was happening in the election, and that he had lost the election. And so he kind of had to go outside to what Mike Pence referred to as the crackpots, right, the crackpot lawyers and others, to find people who actually were willing to say, OK, we're willing to pretend that this was a fraud, and we're willing to spread this disinformation and see what we can do with this.


Because the people around him were who were advising him were telling him no.

BURNETT: All right.

And John Eastman is Conspirator No. 2. His attorney last night was saying to me, obviously, they would be thrilled to take some sort of deal. He was very open about that, but trying to say, well, we just have a -- basically, a -- the context is wrong here. We have a different recollection.


I mean, you're allowed to have a different recollection. The jury simply may not believe that. And I think what you're seeing and what we saw last night from John Eastman's attorney is trying to undermine some of the basic points here, which is that, number one, this was really just about free speech, number two, the president was simply relying on the advice of advisers, and so on.

Now, all of those, they can -- if they choose to bring defenses in court, which they don't have to -- they can just let the prosecuting -- prosecution shoot their shot -- those will all be tested.

But I think Eastman's attorneys "this was just a misunderstanding of opinion" point isn't really going to hold, particularly -- and particularly given that at least one other federal judge has already found that John Eastman, more likely than not, committed a crime in concert with the president of the United States.

Now, the way our courts work is that the mere fact that a court in California has ruled something doesn't obligate the folks in D.C. or any judge in D.C. to find the same thing. But it's still persuasive that a federal judge has weighed the evidence, looking in the context of attorney-client privilege, and said, you know what, I think these two individuals committed a crime together.

That's significant.

BURNETT: Right. And, of course, Trump's lawyer is saying, well, it's all John Eastman's fault. He just did what he -- what he told him, so Trump can't have done anything with criminal intent.

RODGERS: Yes, I mean, that plays OK on TV, I guess.

But if you're really going to bring what's called an advice of counsel defense, that means that you waive the attorney-client privilege. That means that you go to the lawyer for his testimony about all of this. You get all sorts of documents about what was said between the two of them.

So, Trump is actually not going to make that argument officially.

BURNETT: Not officially, just in the court of public opinion, as we all say.

RODGERS: Correct.

BURNETT: All right, everybody, stand by.

Well, the aftershocks of the latest Trump indictment are, of course, being felt on Capitol Hill, the epicenter of the attack on American democracy.

Ahead, I'm going to speak to a lawmaker who was among the last to leave the House floor on January 6 as the rioters tried to barge into that chamber.

You're watching CNN's special coverage of the third indictment of the former President Donald Trump.