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Trump About To Leave Newark For Arraignment In D.C.; Pro-Trump Lawyer Charged In Conspiracy To Seize Michigan Voting Machines After 2020 Election; Trump En Route To Washington, D.C. For Arraignment. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 03, 2023 - 14:00   ET



ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Erin Burnett in New York alongside Wolf Blitzer who's in Washington, and we welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Any moment, Donald Trump's private plane will depart Newark for Washington, D.C. That is where his motorcade there will then head straight to the federal courthouse for his formal arraignment.

The nation's 45th President has been charged with four counts related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of -- an attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights. A 45-page indictment with those four charges. He is expected to plead not guilty to all and be released pending trial, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The significance of where this will happen cannot be ignored. It is the same courthouse that has seen hundreds of January six defendants face justice. And to the east of the courthouse, a direct view of the very building where the violent insurrection unfolded, and led to the deaths of five people.

Let's go straight to CNN's Sara Murray She's outside the federal courthouse here in Washington. Sara, how will Trump's arraignment today differ from the ones that so many of his supporters went through in that very same building?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there, of course, some differences. I mean, the spectacle at the courthouse, the security presence at the courthouse, of course, is different from what we see from a typical defendant. But when Donald Trump arrives here this afternoon for his 4:00 p.m. appearance and goes into this federal courthouse, he will be placed under arrest like other defendants.

He will be fingerprinted digitally. Unlike other defendants, we do not expect that Donald Trump is going to have his mug shot taken as part of this. And then he's going to go into the courtroom for what we expect to be a relatively brief appearance.

He's going to be advised of the charges against him. He's going to be advised of his rights. And he may be given an opportunity to enter his plea in this case. Again, a plea that a fee is given that opportunity we expect to be not guilty.

And this is all as he faces these four federal charges. Conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction or attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights.

Now, we have seen Donald Trump of course in court before for previous arraignments. This is his third. But this one, Wolf, is different because these are the charges that get to the heart of what is essentially Donald Trump's presidential legacy. His refusal to participate in the peaceful transfer of power.

BLITZER: Sara Murray, on the scene for us, thank you very much. The former president is traveling with two of his attorneys and several top aides. CNN's Alayna Treene is over at the Trump campaign headquarters in Bedminster, New Jersey for us. Alayna, what more do we know about his travel today?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Right. Well, Wolf, Donald Trump left just under an hour ago. He passed right by here in his motorcade and he is now currently heading to Washington, D.C. for that 4:00 p.m. appearance in federal court.

Now, you know Donald Trump is traveling with some of his attorneys, including John Lauro and Todd Blanche. Both of whom I'm told, are expected to appear in court with him later today. He's also traveling with some of his senior campaign advisors, including people like Steven Cheung, Jason Miller, Susie Wiles, among others.

Now, his team does have a pretty good idea of what is going to transpire in the courtroom. This is the third time now that Donald Trump has been arraigned in the past several months. And so they have a good idea of what's going to happen.

But, Wolf, I do want to tell you about his mood heading in today. I've been speaking with many of his advisers over the past several days now. And they tell me that Donald Trump is concerned about this indictment, and he recognizes the seriousness of these charges. But he's also frustrated that he has to go through this process yet again.

And also, Wolf, we've heard from the former president today. He's been posting on Truth Social. He's been calling these charges unfair.

He's also been repeating the false claims that the election was stolen. And I am told that he is expected to speak with reporters today after his court appearance. So, we may be hearing from him directly as well.

BLITZER: I suspect you're right. Alayna, thank you very much. Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Wolf, just into CNN. A pro-Trump lawyer who allegedly took part in a conspiracy to seize and access voting machines in Michigan after the election is now facing criminal charges. This makes her the third Trump loyalist charged in that specific case. CNN's Zachary Cohen has the details. And, Zach, what do you know about this lawyer and the charges here? Because obviously, Michigan is also part of the federal indictment against Trump.

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Yes. Erin, these are state-level charges in Michigan and they're being filed against a lawyer named Stefanie Lambert. Now, you may remember Lambert has close ties to another or Trump lawyer, Sidney Powell, who is -- we've identified as a co-conspirator in the federal case.


But at the state level, Stefanie Lambert is facing charges related to this conspiracy -- alleged conspiracy to cease and access voting machines in counties throughout the state after the 2020 election. And this was all part of the effort to find evidence of voter fraud at a time when the lawsuits that Trump and his team were filing were all failing because they didn't have any evidence to prove what they were saying.

You know, Lambert was a key player in this effort to hunt for voter fraud evidence. And, you know, those efforts continued after January six. Prosecutors are alleging that she and a dozen -- several others tried to gain access to and seized voting machines in the state in order to produce that evidence in the months that followed.

Lambert is the third person now facing charges, as you mentioned. And there could be more as this investigation is still ongoing at the state level. And it's an initial overlap with the federal investigation as we see Trump heading to the courthouse here in D.C.

BURNETT: Absolutely. All right, Zach, thank you very much. All right, so my panel is back with us. Jennifer Rodgers, let me start with you.

I mean, you know, obviously, it's a coincidence that this happens on this day. But it just goes to show, right? You've got three now charged in Michigan in the effort to seize and control voting machines in Michigan. And the president -- former president's claim of a big Detroit vote drunk -- dump is also, of course, a big part of the federal indictment.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. You also have all of these fake electors charged, right? And you have maybe charges coming in Georgia around all of the interference with the election there. So, you have this kind of intersection and perhaps collision between state-level charges that are being brought and still being investigated in these federal charges.

It's going to be very interesting to see how the special counsel and the state prosecutors navigate this issue of who goes first, whose witnesses testify first, how are you going to try to reconcile this. Because, I'll tell you, federal prosecutors, as Elliot can attest, never, ever want their witnesses to testify anywhere else first. They want the first crack at a witness for sure. So, it'll be interesting to see how they make (INAUDIBLE). BURNETT: And I want to ask you more about that in the context of Georgia in a moment. But first, Elliot, to Jennifer's point, right? How -- this is -- the numbers of people are growing, right?


BURNETT: You've got three charges just in Michigan.


BURNETT: But it's actually putting the third. None of those who are in the federal indictment is a co-conspirator. I mean the number of people here, it's like an accordion. It's getting bigger.

WILLIAMS: Right. And it's not inconceivable that there will be more people charged in states such as Nevada or Georgia or Michigan or whatever else.


WILLIAMS: Because the same underlying conduct applies in both cases. I think it's important for folks and viewers generally, to know that you have state systems. There are 50 sets of laws across the country -- 51, count D.C., and then beyond that, a federal system. And sometimes the same conduct can apply in both state and federal court.

You're going to see I think people charged in these states in which you had the seizure voting machines and fake electors, and so on. And there's a bit of a template or at least a brief description of a lot of it in the indictment of former President Trump.

BURNETT: All right. And now, quickly, Jennifer, to the point mentioning Georgia. Fani Willis said, obviously, she's the one who would be bringing charges there, as we anticipate she will. As the former president today said he anticipates she will on his social media posts.

She said she wouldn't know Jack Smith, and he stood next to her. And that they aren't coordinating at all. That doesn't appear to be necessarily a good thing.

RODGERS: Well, it's not really quite necessary until and unless she charges if she charges, which I think she will, then they will certainly be coordinating because they will want to talk about these issues around witnesses and also around the timing of the two cases. But until she charges, there's no case. There's no conflict. There's no issue to talk about. But she will get to know Jack Smith, I think, well --


RODGERS: -- if and when she charges.

BURNETT: And of course, the former president appears today. And then those charges are anticipated in Georgia from Fani Willis. She said she's ready to go and just got to present formally to a grand jury, but they're impaneled. So, this could happen at any point right over these next few weeks. So, then you'd have him appearing there. I mean, this is going to be a real boom, boom, boom.

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I need a bigger spreadsheet to track all this legal activity. I need to go to 11 by 17. Yes -- no. And, look. The realities of this, the weight has to continue, right?

Donald Trump is not Superman, right? Although some may think he is, he doesn't wear a cape and he's not a -- he's not a superhero. This has got to start to weigh on him in, from a Republican standpoint, who is concerned about trying to find somebody who can win the White House.

You know, I watched this footage of these motorcades going down there the highway. And for the first time, I've kind of really realized the divide in this country. Both campaigns are probably going to use video from that -- from today in your campaign videos, right? One is going to champion it.


DUNCAN: And one is going to point out the negativeness of it. We've got to figure this out. But it continues to be an embarrassing moment for us as Republicans.

BURNETT: And, of course, now we are literally at this moment, right where he's going to get on the plane. He's going to go there and he's going to go in five minutes it might take, 10 minutes it might take, and then there we are.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And there we are. And we shouldn't lose I think how this moment looks in the eyes of history. This is you know not just the third indictment in four weeks and -- for a former president.


AVLON: But this is about an assault on our democracy by a sitting president, the kind of thing that would have been the Founding Fathers' worst nightmares. And that's where I think we need to keep in mind how this will look in history's eyes. And not just sort of immediately go to horse race politics or the pageantry of this all.



AVLON: This is about accountability. This is about defending our democracy. And good people can disagree about a lot. But this is where you get back to the everyone's entitled their own opinion but not their own facts.

And ultimately, Republicans need to answer for themselves whether or not they think in multiple times an indicted guy is the best person to put forward as a -- as a presidential nominee. You know, Jack Newfield, the great columnist used to say ignoring electability has the fingerprints of fanaticism. It's worth remembering. BURNETT: Does it matter, Elliot, as you see all these cases go through the state level and start to percolate? Is that something that puts more and more of this in the public eye? So, in other words, you're not relying on the American public to read this 45-page indictment which the vast majority of people are not going to do.

WILLIAMS: Right. I think -- I think it confuses people to be perfectly candid, and sort of as someone, and Jen can attest to this too, as somebody who explains the law almost on a daily basis I think people -- many people. And this is sort of part of the argument that Trump's animating -- Trump's supporters, that there is either a conspiracy to prosecute being hatched by --

AVLON: Right.

WILLIAMS: He sent this in a -- in a -- in a Truth and one of his tweet Truths sort of things that there's a conspiracy from the New York DA's office and Georgia and the federal prosecutors, and they are all working together in concert to bring down the former president.

This is the point I made a little bit earlier. There are 51 legal systems in America and the federal government. And the president is being charged with multiple different ones.

It is important to keep straight that they are different. They each come with very different very serious consequences. But it is at our peril that we assume that everything is a conspiracy against the former president because it's very different conduct.

BURNETT: All right -- -- all right. All right. All, stay with us, of course as our coverage continues as Trump faces these federal charges over his alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 election. New CNN polling shows a majority of Republican voters still believe Joe Biden is an illegitimate president, 69 percent of them according to the latest numbers today. We're going to break it all down in detail just ahead.



BURNETT: We are less than two hours from Donald Trump's appearance in federal court for his third arraignment in four months. His plane taking off from New Jersey just moments ago. The latest indictment alleging that Trump broke multiple laws in a plot to overturn the 2020 American election.

And now, new CNN polling shows that Trump's repeated claims of a rigged election are resonating with some voters even now. And our Political Director David Chalian joins me here. I mean, you know, it is incredible.

And I know the former president has always made this his point, if you just say it enough, say it. People will believe you. And this seems to be a case where that is true. DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: People on your political team will believe you because first, you know --


CHALIAN: If you look broadly at this brand new poll that we have, and we checked in on questions that we've asked before about this, overall, he's on the wrong side with the American people. 61 percent of Americans in this poll say yes, Joe Biden was legitimately elected. Only 38 percent say that he wasn't. So, think about that in a general election context, right? A broader electorate.

BURNETT: Right. Right.

CHALIAN: But among Republicans, we've actually seen an uptick in the belief that Joe Biden is not legitimately elected. Nearly seven in 10, 69 percent of Republicans say Joe Biden is not legitimately elected. Only 29 percent of Republicans say in this poll that he is. That is the success of a lie.


CHALIAN: That is the context for what he's going to walk into that courtroom to face today.

BURNETT: Right. And now -- OK. As part of this, then David, he's been saying, so he sees that success. And he's now saying that all of this, this 45-page indictment and all of it is political, and it is about rigging the next election and that that's what it's all about. Now, does that bleed through into how people see elections?

CHALIAN: You know this is, I think, some of the most troubling numbers here because there's a real concern here for the health of our democracy. We asked folks, what is your confidence level that U.S. elections will reflect the will of the people, a majority of Americans in this poll, 58 percent, say little or no confidence that the results will reflect the will of the people. That's the bedrock of our democracy. And then we --

BURNETT: And that's 58 percent of overall.

CHALIAN: Overall, OK? And so, then we also asked whether or not you think that an election will be overturned for partisan purposes, and the country is split, Erin. 50 percent say that that is very, or somewhat likely. 50 percent say not so likely -- not at all, likely.

But 50 percent of the country thinks it's very or somewhat likely that an election could be overturned for partisan purposes because they saw the attempt of one perhaps. And this does not ring like a healthy democracy.

BURNETT: Honestly, it's terrifying. Because if people don't believe in things, then you don't -- then you don't have a thing, right? I mean, that is -- I think it is hard for me. And I know it seems so simple, right? But what this is all about? So -- and have you seen in any of this shift over time, or does this also --- I know you're talking about it's actually been an increase in Republicans who believe that Biden is all legitimate.


BURNETT: But in general, is it getting worse?

CHALIAN: These numbers have been somewhat consistent since this effort at the end of 2020 by Donald Trump was put into place. And you can see obvious partisan divides in here as well. But no, this is -- this is starting to solidify in some ways, which is what makes it so scary.

BURNETT: Yes, absolutely. All right. I mean, you know, Wolf, it is -- it is incredibly scary for lack of a better word, right? When you look at it. I mean, David's saying that you know, the majority of Americans, believe -- Americans, forget your political party, have a -- have a deeply shaken faith in whether the outcome of an election would be legitimate.

BLITZER: Yes, it's very disturbing, especially here in the United States of America. Let's discuss this and more with our experts here in Washington. Dana Bash is here.

Dana, how revealing is this polling? It's really amazing when you think about these numbers that are just coming out. And will a criminal trial of Trump have an impact on these numbers?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The way that things are going with regard to public opinion, the impact that it could have is not in the direction of truth and not in the direction of observing and approving of basic facts. And that is scary.

I mean, I totally agree with what David and Erin were saying. When I read those numbers this morning, I couldn't believe it. Because it's one thing for the Republicans who are -- we haven't been watching because they are -- the electorate is engaged in a debate over who should be their Republican presidential nominee.


It's one thing for them to kind of put their team jersey on and say, I'm going to go with the guy who was in the White House, and he's telling us that this is all about -- all about us and him and all of the messaging that you hear from Donald Trump. It's another thing for the overall electorate. Nearly six in 10 Americans in this poll say that they do not necessarily believe that elections effectively, I'm paraphrasing, are free and fair.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think there's one more thing here that's a little scary. And this is in the Times- Siena poll, which is that they interviewed you know over 300 people who consider themselves really part of a loyal MAGA base. And they asked them, do you support Mr. Trump in spite of his flaws you know, think he has flaws, but you're going to support him anyway? And the answer they got was they support him because they do not believe he has any flaws. That there was not one person -- one person, zero percent of these 319 respondents who said, yes, I think he's got a flaw or two, so -- but I'm -- but I'm willing -- but I'm willing to overlook it.

So, imagine if you're one of the other candidates and you're trying to say, OK, look at what's wrong with Donald Trump. You see what you have in front of you. It's kind of a tsunami of people saying, you know what, there isn't anything wrong with Donald Trump. He represents my grievances.

And as Donald Trump himself says, I am your retribution. And when you think of him that way, if you're DeSantis, for example, or Chris Christie or anybody else, not only do you have to go right through Donald Trump, but you have to find a way to unite these people around something else.

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: But the good news here -- there is good news. The good news is --

BORGER: Tell me, Norm.

EISEN: The good news is 61 percent of Americans when you bring in the Democrats and the independents, a super majority do admit that Biden won when the Trump thesis has been tested electorally it appeals to his base. But it's very alienating for others.

You had Trump a sponsored election denying candidates Arizona, Michigan, and Wisconsin, they were wiped out in 2022. And we're about to have a trial.

BORGER: You're right.

EISEN: I think we're going to have a fast trial by Jack Smith. Trials have -- I've been doing them for over 30 years. Trials have a way.

This will be not the trial of the century, the trial of the millennium, they do have a way of crystallizing things. And if a jury of Trump's peers of average American says, hey, he's guilty, he did this, that is going to send a powerful message to that 61 percent.

BASH: I mean I'm usually an optimist. We all are. But I see the 60 percent that you're talking about. And I'm focused on the 40 percent who say no, this election, it was --


BORGER: Yes. I think there's a possibility, right?

BASH: -- was stolen.

BORGER: I mean, of course, there's a -- there's a possibility that people are going to change their minds. But this has gone on for a lot of years now.

BASH: Exactly.

BORGER: The cake is baked. And people changing their minds because of this one trial. You know --

BLITZER: Let me get to --

BORGER: -- it's hard.

BLITZER: Let me get Jamil Jaffer into this conversation.

JAFFER: Yes, I just -- I don't see it, Norm. I'm sorry. I wish -- I wish I could, but I just don't see it happening.

I mean, I think this trial actually solidifies Donald Trump's base. I think it turns out Trump voters. I think Biden voters are going to be -- are going to be tired and watched this thing for years. Biden himself is struggling.

I think this trial benefits Donald Trump. I think all these charges. I think the more indictments, the more likely he is to be the Republican nominee, which is crazy, and the more likely he is to be reelected. Also crazy.

BORGER: And I --

EISEN: More likely to be the nominee, less likely to be reelected. We've had this thesis tested. Jamil, that's like what people said to President Biden when he went and gave the democracy speech before the 2022 midterms.

Why are you talking about this? It wasn't a close call. It was a wipeout electorally. 61 percent is a big -- you know this, and the political experts on this panel know this better than I do. 61 percent is a huge number in American politics.


BASH: He is. But not when you're talking about something that is true and something that is not. It's just -- it's something -- it's definitely a red flag, but I do like your optimism.

BORGER: Yes. But, you, guys, so he --

BLITZER: 61 percent -- there's only 61 percent believe that Biden was legitimately elected President of the United States. That's a pretty disturbing number, 60 percent.

EISEN: It's concerning. But when it comes to action, when it comes to the electoral output, when it comes to the risk that Trump is elected again, I think that's a large number.


We've seen it work in 2022. This is feeding Trump's base. It's not helping him with this 61 percent.

BORGER: I totally agree with you. You know, short-term --

EISEN: Biden will be very happy if he wins 61 percent of the electorate.

BORGER: I totally agree with you. Short term -- short term, very good for Donald Trump. Solidify the base. The question is how solid a candidate is Joe Biden?

JAFFER: That's the problem. That's exactly the problem.

BORGER: And we think --

BLITZER: What is exactly the problem?

BORGER: That we don't know how solid a candidate Joe Biden is.

JAFFER: We know he's not a solid candidate.

BORGER: Exactly.

JAFFER: He is struggling. I mean, it is hard --

BORGER: Within his own party.

JAFFER: It is hard to watch, right? Why is Joe Biden running for re- election? I mean, this is crazy. I mean, the idea that this is the best our country has offered, Donald Trump and Joe Biden?

I mean, the American public does not want to come out to vote for these folks, and that's why it's going to be all about turnout. And Donald Trump and these indictments will cause his base to turn out in droves. And that is what people should really be worried about.

BORGER: The opposite could also be true, by the way, that it could turn out Democratic voters. We don't -- we don't really know the answer to that yet.

JAFFER: Right.

BASH: Well, there are other issues that people are voting on.

BORGER: Exactly.

BASH: Not just the --

JAFFER: The economy.

EISEN: It's the cocktail.

BASH: It is -- it is a big -- it is a cocktail. We have the abortion questions and many other questions.

EISEN: It's the cocktail of those other issues with democracy that is so motivating. I worked on the Obama campaign. I remember how far down Obama was at this point. And he won, running away the first Obama campaign. It's too soon to judge Joe Biden. He has been an excellent president. He's a very proven candidate. His policies are very good. He may be running against a defendant in four criminal cases. I don't think that is going to help Trump with the 61 percent and it will help Biden.

BLITZER: And November 2024 is still a long ways off.

EISEN: Long ways away.

BLITZER: a lot could happen between now and then. All -- everyone, stand by. We have much more to discuss.

This is truly a historic moment here in the Nation's Capital as Washington prepares for the arrival of Donald Trump for his third arraignment on criminal charges, very serious criminal charges. His plane is expected to land here at the Washington Reagan National Airport any moment now. We'll talk about the precautions the city is now taking for security.

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