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CNN Live Event/Special

Trump Departs For Federal Arraignment In DC For Actions After Election; Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) Discusses Trump's Arrest, Arraignment Today; U.S. Marshals, Secret Service & Other Security Detail At D.C. Courthouse Ahead of Trump's Arrival. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired August 03, 2023 - 13:30   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to CNN's special live coverage.

In less than two hours, Donald Trump will appear in court here in Washington to formerly fact the historic charges against him. The first indictment to accuse him of committing crimes while he was president of the United States.

The four counts of conspiracy allege Trump plotted to overturn the 2020 presidential election using fake electors, pressuring then-Vice President Mike Pence, and exploiting the violence of the day to further convince members of Congress to delay the certification of Joe Biden's win.

On January 6, 2021, Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell gaveled the House session in to start the day. But by the time he left the floor, Swalwell had texted his wife that he loved her and to kiss their children good-bye. He was one of the last members of Congress to get out of the chamber.

This video, some of the mob breaking into the capitol, shows a door that was some 30 feet from where Swalwell was. He heard the gunshot that killed a capitol rioter.

And when he finally was able to escape the House floor, Swalwell was wearing a gas mask.

Representative Eric Swalwell of California joins us right now. He was also an impeachment manager in Donald Trump's second impeachment trial, accusing him of inciting the January 6th insurrection.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining us. I hope you're OK.


BLITZER: As someone so close to the chaos that day, I'm curious, what is going through your mind today as Donald Trump begins this process of criminal accountability.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Wolf, first and foremost, I want justice for the police officers who stood between my colleagues and I as we were counting the votes and the violent mob that Donald Trump aimed at the capitol.

I hope every American in the matter of the United States versus Donald Trump reads the indictment. It lays out that Donald Trump lost this election by a country mile. It wasn't close. It was 74 electoral votes, seven million by the popular vote.

After the major media outlets called the race, after every state counted their votes, and after every court denied his bogus claims, he still lied and incited a mob at the capitol.

He's entitled to a presumption of innocence but it's a compelling case this indictment lays out that he was responsible for the mayhem that day.

BLITZER: Did you find anything reading this indictment that you wish you had access to when you made the case to impeach Donald Trump?

SWALWELL: We had a couple weeks to put that case together. We had a pretty compelling case because Donald Trump, in plain sight, said this was going to be a wild day, and he fired up that mob.


But the number of people that told the special counsel that Donald Trump and the people around him knew that what they were saying was false, that fires me up more than anything, is that this also feels a bit like a grift. It's not about anyone but Donald Trump.

The tweet today that he's getting arrested so others don't have to get arrested, this is entirely about Donald Trump wanting to hold on to power in an election that he got smoked in.

And then wanting to use his campaign to raise money for his legal fees. This entirely about Donald Trump and nobody else.

BLITZER: What do you make of the timing, Congressman, of this indictment? Should the Department of Justice have issued it earlier since time is running short ahead of the 2024 election?

SWALWELL: The last thing I think any of us want the Justice Department to do is to think about the politics of this.

I will credit our impeachment team and the January 6th committee for bringing to light the facts. And it looks like the press reporting of that motivated the Justice Department to realize there was more there.

But Donald Trump is entitled to equal protection under the Constitution, dude process under the law, and a day in court.

I trust our jury system, where this will probably go, that every American will treat him no better, no worse than anyone else. And we will get through this.

BLITZER: Congressman, I want you to listen to what Trump's attorney general, Bill Barr, told CNN's Kaitlan Collins last night about what the former president would do if he returned to office.

Listen to this.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Do you worry he would you say weaponize it if he was back in office?

BILL BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Absolutely. And that's why I think it's so ironic where all of these people are getting huffy about weaponization, which they should because we can't go tit for tat.

But Trump, as you say, I mean, he's very clear about it. I think there's no question that he believes these institutions should be used to go after his enemies.


BLITZER: So, Congressman, what would a second Trump term in the White House mean for the rule of law in our country?

SWALWELL: It would be the end of democracy. He tried once to overthrow an election that he lost. It would be, Wolf, the end of our democracy if Donald Trump was able to get back into office.

It's called comfort what Bill Barr is saying, by the way. He also will tell you, if you ask him, if Donald Trump is the nominee, that he doesn't know who he would vote for.

To me, it seems pretty clear, if you think the guy who weaponized government, you should be able to say I'm not going to vote for that guy.

My Republican colleagues can also do a lot more in the Congress to not be Donald Trump's law firm, but rather to unite with Democrats, to make unity the antidote towards these destructive attacks on the rule of law and our democracy.

That's our only shot as we go into this upcoming election.

BLITZER: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thank you so much for joining us.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

BLITZER: A sobering moment today in our nation's history, the third indictment of a former president. Right now, Donald Trump is on his way here to Washington to be arraigned on federal charges.

Just ahead, we'll talk about this moment, what it means for Trump and what it means for our country.

CNN's special live coverage of the indictment of the former president continues right after a quick break.



ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Right now, Donald Trump is en route to the federal courthouse in Washington for his arraignment.

The former president and current frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2024 is accused of undermining the U.S. Constitution, something, of course, that he swore to protect and later questioned the democratic process itself.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will, to the best of my ability --

UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: -- preserve, protect and defend --

TRUMP: -- preserve, protect and defend --

UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: -- the Constitution of the United States --

TRUMP: -- the Constitution of the United States --


TRUMP: So help me God.

The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.

This election will be the most rigged election in history. They know it will be fraudulent. It's going to be fraud all over the place.

We fight. We fight like hell. And if you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore.


BURNETT: Of course, that was the speech where, right afterwards, the riot happened, the insurrection on Capitol Hill.

I want to bring in the former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean.

John, as you sit here on this day and we watch a former president of the United States heading to Washington to be arraigned, charged formally in a federal courthouse for undermining the U.S. Constitution, how do you even put this in context?

We're literally watching him move to go through what would ordinarily be a procedural hearing but today, of course, is a moment of great historical import.

JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: It does not fit in context because it is bigger and more significant than any litigation, any criminal proceeding we've ever had in this country. Democracy itself is really at issue in this trial. If Trump could get away with what he's done, what he's charged with

here, and which I think more people and observers know he undertook these activities, then we don't have the democracy we believe we had, and we're in a lot of trouble, a heap of trouble.

So the criminal justice system is being tested. The Constitution is being tested. All the players are going to be tested. Because this is a really big deal, Erin.

BURNETT: John, you know, when you went through a moment -- and I understand you're saying they're not equivalent. But you went through a moment of a seismic crisis, right, in American democracy, in some sense?


DEAN: Yes.

BURNETT: At that moment, the public was galvanized. There was agreement that what Richard Nixon did was wrong.

We don't have that now. We have -- what we're talking here is 70 percent of Republicans think that Biden is an illegitimate president. Half of Independents think Trump has done nothing criminally wrong, in a poll released just before this indictment came out.

How do you see that?

DEAN: Erin, I see that a little differently than you captured it. Because it didn't happen that way initially. The public was slow to turn on Nixon. And it took an educational process to have that happen.

The Senate Watergate hearings, the House impeachment inquiry. These influenced the public perception of Nixon and his presidency. While democracy was not an issue itself, abuse of presidential power was front and center in the issue.

How much could a president do? If a president did it, was it legal just because he did it? As Nixon later would say.

So it was a different time, yes, but also the public was very slow.

Now, that hasn't happened here, because there's been very little public exposure, particularly to people in Trump's base, as to what he did. Now some will tolerate it. Not all of them are going to tolerate it.

It's unfortunate that we're starting with a trial to educate them. And I hope --


BURNETT: But we had all those hearings, of course. We had hearing after hearing.

DEAN: Yes. BURNETT: I guess you're saying times have changed to the extent of

what maybe then people sort of were forced to watch it. There were fewer choices. Now you can fill your life with media and news consumption and you wouldn't even have to watch those hearing, never mind this potential trial.

DEAN: When I testified in Watergate, all three networks covered it. I reached 85 million homes. That's a lot of people for a week.


DEAN: There was a chance to really tell them what had gone on. We haven't had the equivalent of that. So the education is lagging here.

BURNETT: All right. Well, John Dean, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

DEAN: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: Well, the memory of January 6th is, of course, vivid in Washington, right, where people was -- literally, there was life and death. The chants of "Hang Mike Pence." The city is taking security very seriously as a result of today's court appearance by Donald Trump.

Next, we're going to talk about how Washington is preparing for the former president's arrival, which is expected in the next hour or so, as our special coverage of the indictment of Donald Trump continues after a quick break.



BLITZER: Former President Trump just boarded his plane at the Newark International Airport en route to the nation's capital. Here in Washington, D.C., security is clearly ramping up right now, both inside and outside of the federal courthouse.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is outside where barricades are now up.

Shimon, give our viewers a sense of what you're seeing, how tight security has become.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Certainly, in the last hour, Wolf, we have seen an increase in the police presence, the Washington Metro Police, more resources are starting to come in.

I kind of want to give you a view, Wolf. This is where all of the media has been gathering here on Constitution Avenue, just all of the way down here. This is where the majority of all of the live positions are.

And then looking a little further down here towards the middle, there are a few Trump supporters here. And it is actually quite remarkable, because I have covered the other

two arraignments for the former president, and certainly, we saw a lot more Trump supporters during those moments.

But we are not seeing that kind of presence here. And so far, we are two hours away from the arraignment. We're not seeing that.

And then, Wolf, I just want to show you just how close we are to the capitol. There's the capitol, just across the street from this courthouse. So that is certainly something that is on the minds of many here and law enforcement as they work to secure the area.

Then I want to show you here, this area here, Wolf. We will cross the street quickly. This is the street, we're on 3rd Street, where the former president is going to arrive.

He is going to drive into the courthouse. His motorcade will arrive here. You can see that there are trucks in place already for security. There are snowplows down the street.

And once his motorcade gets here, they will go into the garage here in the back of the courthouse, go inside, and that is when the process will begin.

Technically, he is going to be under arrest. And then they'll take him upstairs to the courtroom where the arraignment is going to take place.

But for now, what we've been seeing, certainly in the last hour, more Secret Service personnel arriving, more law enforcement officials as we get closer to the 4:00 hour -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Shimon Prokupecz, we'll stay in very close touch with you. Thank you very much.

And once his plane lands at Reagan National, it is a short drive of the motorcade, maybe 10 minutes, to the courthouse. We will watch all of that unfold.

We just about two hours away from former President Trump's appearance in that D.C. courtroom. He is going to answer charges in the third indictment.


Right now, he is on the way to Washington for that third appearance. You're looking at live pictures of Trump's plane in Newark, New Jersey. It will fly from Newark to Reagan National Airport just outside of Washington.

CNN's special live coverage of the indictment of the former president continues after a quick break.