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CNN Live Event/Special
Trump Arrested, Arraigned In January 6th Indictment; Trump Pleads Not Guilty In Election Interference Case; Trump's Next Hearing Is August 28th, Five Days After First Debate; CNN Follows Breaking News On Trump's Third Arraignment, January 6th Investigation; Republican Presidential Candidate Defends Trump. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired August 03, 2023 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PETER ZEIDENBERG, FORMER DEPUTY SPECIAL COUNSEL, SCOOTER LIBBY PROSECUTION: He can be cross-examined by prosecutors in a courtroom.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Peter Zeidenberg, I mean, remarkable to have you here. Obviously, you prosecuted Scooter Libby inside the courthouse behind us. Trump pardoned him. I mean, it's just a very full circle moment and we're grateful that you joined us tonight.
ZEIDENBERG: Happy to.
COLLINS: Thank you very much.
It's been quite a day here, of course. It is only the first of many. As we learned today, there are many more court dates to come and the news also continues. I want to turn things over right now to CNN Primetime with Wolf Blitzer and Laura Coates.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Our special coverage continues now on the arrest and arraignment of Donald Trump. I'm Wolf Blitzer alongside Laura Coates. Truly an extraordinary and unprecedented day right here in Washington, D.C.
LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: I mean the former president, at one point, was in the custody of the very government he allegedly tried to overthrow, just a mere step or two or three from the center of democracy of his supporters even attacked on January 6th in the culmination of the plot to overturn the election.
BLITZER: Donald J. Trump arrested and arraigned for the third time in four months on four federal charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiracy against rights.
The next hearing now scheduled for August 28th when the judge intends to set a trial date.
COATES: And Donald Trump was standing up in court today, and he actually pleaded not guilty to all four of those criminal charges. And before boarding his private plane to return to New Jersey, he was railing against the indictment and trying to recast all of this as what he called persecution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This is a persecution of a political opponent. This was never supposed to happen in America. This is the persecution of the person that's leading by very, very substantial numbers in the Republican primary and leading Biden by a lot. So, if you can't beat him, you persecute him or you prosecute him. We can't let this happen in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What happened in that Washington courtroom today is just the very beginning.
Our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is here to break down the next steps in a case that's like nothing we've ever seen before in this country. Paula, a truly dramatic and historic day. Take us inside the courtroom. Tell our viewers what happened.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it really was extraordinary. Here, you had the former leader of the free world standing inside a federal courtroom here in Washington in his own voice pleading not guilty.
Now, it's significant that he entered this plea on his own because at his other initial appearance and arraignment down in Florida on the other federal charges he's facing, he had his lawyer enter this plea. So, it's an open question about whether he would be the one to stand up and speak during this hearing. And we actually heard him speak several times, which, again, it's very different than what we've seen before. We heard him enter his name, agree that he understood the charges and then enter that plea of not guilty.
And, interestingly, before the hearing got started, the judge was running late. There was about 15 minutes of a pretty quiet time in the courtroom. People were just milling about. But I'm told it was so quiet you could hear someone clicking their pen. And during that time, Special Counsel Jack Smith and the former president sort of looked at each other, exchanged glances multiple times. I mean, just truly extraordinary, Wolf.
BLITZER: Paula, the big question tonight, as you know, is how long it could be before this all goes to trial. So, what comes next?
REID: Well, Wolf, this looks like it's going to be a rocket docket because Judge Chutkan, she did not handle today's hearing but she'll handle the case going forward, she's given the government just seven days to tell her when they think they can take this to trial and how long the case will take to try. And then the defense attorneys have one week after that to give her the same information because the next hearing is on August 28th, and at that time she wants to set a trial date. So, that really suggests she wants to move this along quickly.
Wolf, one of the things that could potentially throw off the timeline will be additional charges or additional co-defendants. We know we saw that down in the Florida special counsel case. We know they continue to interview witnesses. So, it is possible that they could add additional charges or a co-defendant.
BLITZER: Yes, the special counsel keeps saying this investigation is continuing, so we shall see. Paula Reid, thank you very much.
Laura, back to you.
COATES: Thanks, Wolf. Tom Foreman is here to help us break down what the former president is now forbidden to do possibly now that he has been indicted for the third time.
Tom, talk to me about what restrictions might be in place. We've seen something similar in the Mar-a-Lago about who we can and cannot talk to.
Is that going to take place here?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's a key issue, and, yes, it will. We don't have all the names, but take a look at the people he was told he either could not talk to about the case at all, even if he's around him, he could talk to them about other things, but if he's going to talk to them about the case, it has to go through his lawyers, so gatekeepers who might be able to communicate some way there.
Look at the names on that list, Mark Meadows, Marc Short, Greg Jacob, Dan Scavino, Pat Cipollone, Patrick Philbin, Stephen Miller, Ken Cuccinelli, on and on it goes. This is a whole lot of people who are very close to Donald Trump whom he now cannot talk about that case, probably a very similar case list on this one. These are the people who talked to the grand jury. There are others on another list also included that he can't talk to who were interviewed by the special counsel investigators, so a whole bunch of people.
The judge was so intent on making sure that Donald Trump not only understood but acknowledged what he had to do here that he was warned that Trump said to him, you cannot retaliate against these witnesses. Meaning not only can you not talk to them, but you can't do like you in an old mob movie, the wink and the nod, that says, you know that thing that I'm not talking to you about, you better not talk about that thing, none of that. And the judge said, are you prepared to comply, and in front of the judge and in front of the American people and in front of the flag, Donald Trump said, yes, he made a pledge that he would play by the rules.
COATES: First of all, that was like an energizer bunny list of things that kept going and kept going. And remember for the January 6th committee, there were, what, a thousand witnesses or more that he's spoken to.
FOREMAN: So, there be many more we don't know about.
COATES: There could be tons. And was just one of the cases. This is now the third indictment.
We know we've heard some part of potential defenses. You've heard about the First Amendment and political speech. We haven't really heard about how he is handling all these charges. Do you have any idea?
FOREMAN: Well, if you look at what he's put on Truth Social, this gives you an idea that he's not liking it. He said he was being arrested for having challenged a corrupt, rigged and stolen election. That's not what he was arrested for. It is a great honor because I am being arrested for you. No, he's arrested because of what he did or what he's accused of doing.
COATES: That's a common talking point for him, though, right?
FOREMAN: Of course, he is, yes. I'm headed to D.C. to be arrested for protesting a crooked election, unfair venue, unfair judge, attacking the judge there and on and on he goes here.
I really think if you look at all of this, what you find yourself saying, no matter how you feel about the outcome of this case is the person who puts out this kind of information, who attacks the judge, who says all of this, is that person capable of doing what he pledged in court he would do, following the rules? And if he does not follow the rules, if he tries to communicate with his people and lets them know what he wants, what price might he pay?
COATES: I'm looking at this as a prosecutor and saying, I see some of my motions that he will file, venue change, the judge is bias as well. But attacking a judge might get him in some hot water. And then look at this, as you mentioned, soon in 2024, it will be our turn. How many times have we heard about the weaponization maybe coming from the other way?
FOREMAN: It's going to be -- as we said, I think he said last night, unprecedented no longer means anything because we're saying it every minute when it deals with issues around Donald Trump.
COATES: Tom, thank you so much. Wolf?
BLITZER: Laura, thank you. I want to bring in our experts and analysts to discuss this truly historic day. Jim Acosta, as all of our viewers know, you've been face-to-face with Trump on many occasions in recent years, in gaggles and press briefings. What do you make of his demeanor today?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I was used to Donald Trump being in the White House. And he's gone from being commander in chief to criminal defendant. He was back at the scene of the crime today or almost the scene of the crime, just down the street of the scene of the crime. And I guess it's no surprise to hear what he was saying out on the tarmac over at Reagan National Airport that this is a persecution. He's going to parlay this message right into the campaign.
But just to play off of what Laura and Tom were talking about a few moments ago, I think we should be looking for Donald Trump to pursue a strategy that can be summed up as the two Ds, delay in the courthouse and disparage and demonize out on the campaign trail. I think that's exactly what he's going to do.
But I talked to a longtime Trump advisor in recent days who said it's going to be incredibly difficult for Donald Trump to win a general election no matter how they campaign over the next 12 months.
And so what remains to be seen at this point is, as Tom and Laura were discussing, can Donald Trump play by the rules? Obviously, we've seen up until this point he's certainly not going to do that. He has demonstrated time and again that he has no interest in doing that, and I think that's what we should expect to see moving forward.
BLITZER: Kristen Soltis Anderson, what do you think?
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think today he sounded very defiant and touched on a message that he's hit on for years, which is this kind of sacrificial martyr-type narrative, that he is somebody who has sacrificed, whether it was during his presidency, he would talk about how he sacrificed his business career for the people who were his supporters.
Now, he's saying I'm taking these slings and arrows from the courts for you.
And this is part of why there are such a large number of Republicans who remain devoted to him personally, that he's built a movement not just around particular policy idea, you want to cut spending, limited government, any of that. He's made it about himself, and this just feeds that narrative further.
COATES: Gene, I want you to listen for a second to see how some of Trump's lawyers are already trying to maybe spin this entire moment. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALINA HABBA, TRUMP ATTORNEY: I think that everybody was made aware that he lost the election, but that doesn't mean that that was the only advice he was given. If anybody understands what happens in the oval office, there are numerous amount of advisers and politicians and lawyers, not just one or two, that are giving you advice and telling you what they believe is true.
So, he may not agree with Mike Pence. He may not agree with one of his lawyers, but that doesn't mean that there weren't people advising him exactly the opposite. And the president has a right, as everyone of us do, to listen to several opinions and make their decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: What do you make of that, Gene?
GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think it's baloney and here's why. When the attorney general of the United States, Bill Barr, tells him there's no fraud, I think you take that to the bank. When Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, says that, you take it to the bank. There is probably only one person who thought the election had been stolen in the White House. That was Donald Trump.
So, according to this indictment, there's not one person who truthfully said to him that he won. And the other thing is he made admissions that he had lost. He said to aides, can you believe I lost to this guy. And he asked Mike Pence on New Year's Day to reject the certification. And he basically said, you're too honest. That's a person who has a guilty mind and knows that he lost the election.
COATES: By the way, Pence is now marketing on that as part of his memorabilia, paraphernalia campaigns that he's doing. But you know how the right hand and left hand are not always on the same body when it comes to trying to have a united front.
You heard from the lawyer. I want you now to listen to what Trump's daughter-in-law said just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LARA TRUMP, ERIC TRUMP'S WIFE: Let me clear it up for anyone who has questions out there. Donald Trump believed on the November 3rd of 2020 he won that election. He has believed every day since that he won that election. He still continues to believe that. So, anyone trying to say otherwise maybe wants to take note of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: You mean like the attorney or someone else on that very point?
ROSSI: Well, here's what I want to say. If you go through this indictment and look at those list of witnesses, I was a former prosecutor for a long time. I am salivating because every one of those witnesses, including Mark Meadows and all the campaign people, including Stephen Miller, they knew he lost the election.
I want to go back to 1960. John F. Kennedy got 306 electoral votes. He beat Richard Nixon by 118,000 votes. Did Nixon do this January 6th thing? No. He was a statesman at that time and he said, you won. Donald Trump lost by 7.1 million votes, and he knew that he had no chance of winning other than causing havoc on January 6th.
COATES: Well, if he's salivating, I saw you chanting at the bit, Jim Acosta.
ACOSTA: Well, I was just going to say, because in the -- I mean, people might not remember all of this all that clearly, but I do. I was there covering the White House in the days after the 2020 election and talking to aides and advisers who said Donald Trump knew that he lost the election. And what he was doing from that point forward was trying to orchestrate an administrative or procedural coup and what led up to January 6th and ended up being almost a coup unfolding before our eyes. I mean, I talked to White House advisers who said, yes, he understands he lost. He will sometimes grumble, I can't believe I lost to this guy, and that sort of thing. And we reported a lot of this at that time. You go back and find it online.
And so, yes, I mean, I think going to Gene's point, there's absolutely a state of mind. And one of the things that we're going to be looking to in this upcoming trial of the 21st century, if you want to call it that, is whether or not his former vice president, Mike Pence, takes the stand and testifies, which I think will be a huge moment. And he says, yes, Donald Trump did tell me you're being too honest. That suggests, going to Gene's point, that Donald Trump was fully prepared to be dishonest and trying to overturn that election.
ROSSI: Can I make one point? Motive in a criminal case is one element, as you know, Laura, but it's relevant. Mike Pence had motive to say the election was stolen because he would remain as vice president. And I've got to compliment Mike Pence. Even though he had the motive to say there was a fraud, he said there wasn't, and I couldn't do this constitutionally and reject the will of the people.
So, I've got to compliment Mike Pence on this.
BLITZER: Let me bring Jamil into his conversation. Jamil, as you probably anticipate, all of us do, the Trump lawyers will ask for a change of venue. They don't think necessarily they can get a fair trial here in Washington, D.C. How do you think the judge is going to react to this motion?
JAMIL JAFFER, FORMER ASSOCIATE WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, look, I think that Donald Trump can get a fair trial in D.C. He's got a judge who's seen a number of January 6th defendants who's got a reputation for being a fair and evenhanded judge. And, look, wherever you go in the country, this is fraught matter, everyone is watching here on CNN, on every channel. If the president can't get a fair trial here, he can't get a fair trial anywhere, this is the locus, the events that took place that day. It was here that he called for the insurrection from The Ellipse. It was here that insurrection took place. This is the place to try to case.
BLITZER: Do you agree, Gene?
ROSSI: In February-March of this year, I had a six-week Oath Keeper trial. I represented (INAUDIBLE), great kid, 21 years old, he swallowed the Kool-Aid. I lost, fought like heck. It was very hard to pick a jury, took us almost a week. And the reason is 95 percent of the voters in D.C. voted against Donald Trump.
Can you get a fair trial here? Yes, but it's going to be difficult. Jury selection in this case is going to take two to three weeks. And the questions and the answers are going to be really hard to deal with. But I experienced it for six weeks. It can be done. My client is going to appeal, but he could get a fair trial.
BLITZER: Yes, I suspect you're right. All right, guys, everybody standby. We have a lot to discuss.
Up next, an adviser to Rudy Giuliani joins us live after the former mayor is named as a co-conspirator in this case.
Plus Tara Swisher is here on the very interesting revelation Chris Christie made to her about Jack Smith.
And Presidential Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy also joins us as he defends Donald Trump.
This is CNN's special live coverage.
COATES: Our special coverage continues on this historic arrest and arraignment of Donald Trump in connection with a wide ranging alleged plot to overturn the 2020 election.
Now, the indictment leaves the unindicted co-conspirators facing some pretty tough choices. Joining me now is a political adviser for Rudy Giuliani, Ted Goodman. Giuliani appears to be, according to reporting, a co-conspirator and likely co-conspirator 1.
Ted, I want to thank you for joining me, and I'm really interested in hearing your responses. Because according to this indictment, it appears Giuliani is in fact one of those unindicted co-conspirators. I want to establish some facts first. Has Giuliani received a target letter from the special counsel in connection with this or -- let me finish my question -- with this or any other case?
TED GOODMAN, RUGY GIULIANI'S POLITICAL ADVISER: So, what I'll say to this is that we can't even confirm if the mayor is one of these co- conspirators. When I read this thing, it reads like some sort of fiction novel. And I can tell you, by talking with the mayor, the facts don't align with what the mayor knows occurred. So, I can't even get to the point where I can confirm this based off of what's in this thing.
COATES: What has the mayor said to you specifically about the allegations that he is a --
GOODMAN: Look, it's not even about -- sorry.
COATES: Excuse me, thank you. What has he said to you about being thought to be co-conspirator 1? Does he not believe that he, in fact, is anyone named in this indictment?
GOODMAN: Well, before we even get to what the mayor and I have discussed on this matter, I want to give you an example, right? This indictment and this document cites trial by combat, right? It cites the mayor discussing trial by combat. What it fails to include is the fact that the mayor's use of that term was clearly in relation to comparing the mechanical functions of different voting machines, right? And an Obama-appointed judge in a related case even said as much, what the mayor said that day was constitutionally protected speech, and in no way did he mean any violence with the term, trial by combat. So, that's just one of many examples, Laura.
COATES: Excuse me. So, Ted, having said that statement, you do believe that he is referenced in the indictment based on what you just said and the explanation you've given. My question directly is has he received a target letter from special counsel at all?
GOODMAN: We haven't -- the mayor has not heard from the special counsel, no.
COATES: So, in terms of that has he been contacted at all by federal prosecutors to either give testimony, to respond to questions in some way?
GOODMAN: Look, as you know and CNN reported, he voluntarily met with the special counsel. And that comes back to my earlier point. What we see in this -- how many pages is this thing? What we see in here are a set of facts in relation to what they're saying, what leaks are telling you is related to the mayor and what was done that day. And what I can tell you is that the facts just don't align.
COATES: What I'm reviewing, and you're calling leaks, and I'm calling allegations, and as you naturally know, it's going to be up to the prosecutors to prove their burden beyond a reasonable doubt. Jack Smith, the special counsel, referenced that just on Tuesday in the released of this. Is Rudy Giuliani -- is he expecting to be indicted?
GOODMAN: Let's not talk about what he may or may not be expecting. Let's talk about the dangerous nature of what's going on here. What they're doing is attacking President Trump's First Amendment rights. This is a -- they're eviscerating the First Amendment by indicting --
COATES: Can you explain specifically how you feel that this is actually addressing the First Amendment, because they only seem to reference his statements in connection with them as a conduit of a conspiracy allegation?
GOODMAN: The Biden administration is going after their top opponent in the upcoming election by weaponizing the federal government. I mean, that's clearly what's happening here. And you don't even have to be a supporter of President Trump to see that. In fact, I think you're seeing a number of folks who don't even support President Trump coming to his defense because they see just the ridiculous nature of what's going on and what a dangerous precedent this would set moving forward.
COATES: Let's talk about the precedent, because, one, to be clear for the audience for them to necessarily follow along in particular, just because a politician says something does not make it the level of political speech that the courts will evaluate to figure out whether the government has infringed on those rights. It has to be something that, according to these allegations, they believe goes beyond political speech. You can criticize, in fact, you can criticize, you can -- the terms they use, you could contest, you could challenge, but the --
GOODMAN: Yes, you could raise concerns, for example. Sorry.
COATES: No, no, it's okay.
GOODMAN: You can raise concerns about an election when you're hearing -- you're hearing from hundreds --
COATES: Excuse me.
COATES: Let me finish what I have to say. I want everyone to get the benefit of hearing what you have to say, that we have a true conversation. You can actually contest, you can challenge. But I think to the point you were going to raise is they're alleging a conspiracy.
And so you've spoken about the First Amendment on trial, but this does not appear to dictate that particular aspect. Do you believe that Rudy Giuliani, in his comments, are protected political speech?
GOODMAN: The president is well within his rights to raise concerns when he's being told by a variety of individuals about happenings, things that occurred on Election Day leading up to the election. He's allowed and well within his rights to raise concerns about these issues.
What's happening here is the sitting president, the ruling regime is attempting to criminalize the very idea and act of raising concerns when we had no doubt hundreds, if not thousands of American citizens across this country raise concerns in all these different areas about what they saw Election Day.
COATES: That's an important point that you raise in terms of potential defense that is being used. And I would note particularly with Rudy Giuliani, with who you're speaking about in particular, he recently actually admitted that his statements were defamatory.
GOODMAN: See, that's not true. That's not true. He did not admit -- he didn't admit to anything of the sort.
COATES: What he -- I believe what he admitted to that he was self- observing his First Amendment rights. He did not believe damages actually could be attached to it, but that he did agree that the statements he made with respect to election workers were inaccurate. Does he believe to this day that --
GOODMAN: He did not admit a single thing. What he did was make a legal maneuver in order to get to a point in the case that allows for a motion to dismiss. To suggest anything else -- you're a lawyer to suggest --
COATES: Oh, I am. GOODMAN: So, to suggest anything else is disingenuous.
COATES: That would be interesting from the judge's perspective to note a legal maneuver as opposed to a statement that they have made on the record.
But I want to hone in and stick to the facts here of what we understand, and I rely on you to relay that information to me. Does Rudy Giuliani sitting here today, although he is obviously not with you, does he believe that the election, in fact, was stolen and that the statements that he has made in the past, in fact, are true, that Trump did, in fact win the election? Does he believe that?
GOODMAN: So, I hear this word, believe, and I hear it so much about this issue, right? And it's not even necessarily about what the mayor believes, right? It's about what he knows. It's about what's been brought to his attention. It's about everything, all the work that he put into this. And so it's not even about what he believes.
And I want your audience to remember who we're talking about. We are talking about arguably the most effective prosecutor in the last 100 years in this country, somebody who took down the mafia. This man cleaned up the streets of New York. Look at the Wall Street criminals he put behind bars. Think of all the corruption cases he handled, including members of Congress. Look how he -- remember how he comforted the nation following 9/11.
So, not only is this someone bringing forth facts and discussing what he knows to be true about the 2020 election, but this is a man who's proven himself time and time again with a career in public service that's second to none.
COATES: I understand the reference points. He's also no longer a barred attorney based on his conduct as of what he has done recently.
GOODMAN: That's not true, right? I don't believe that's true. Those hearings are ongoing. Those bar hearings are ongoing, correct? Are they?
COATES: You fail to put that in the conversation in terms of the challenge that has been made to his integrity as an attorney today. I'm just clarifying that record.
Ted, one final question for you --
GOODMAN: I want to clarify one thing, though. Those are ongoing proceedings with the Bar Association. Those are ongoing proceedings.
COATES: Okay, thank you. Ted, my final question to you, has he been approached with respect to a possible plea arrangement?
And if he were by special counsel, would he take it?
GOODMAN: My understanding is, to this point, he hasn't heard from Special Counsel. And I -- and I want to thank you for giving us the opportunity this evening to give our perspective and we hope to talk again soon.
COATES: Great, but before you go, answer my final question which was, if he were approached with a plea on the front, would he take it?
GOODMAN: Look, I'm not in a position to give you an answer on that question. So again, I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity this evening and allowing us to give you our perspective on what's happening here in this just ridiculous assault on the First Amendment.
COATES: I look forward to that answer when it comes. Ted Goodman, thank you so much.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're back with our panel right now. And Jim Acosta, I'm anxious to get your thoughts.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah.
BLITZER: Rudy Giuliani and these other five co-conspirators, are they going to end up being a real potential threat to Trump?
ACOSTA: I mean, absolutely. And I mean, just to play off of what Ted was saying there a few moments ago, it's refreshing to hear Trump and his team embrace the First Amendment. That's nice to hear that on their part. That wasn't the case when they were in office. But in terms of, I mean, you know, they can say, well, we believe that the election was stolen and we had all these points of view.
We're just trying to pursue a legal strategy here just in case the election, it turned out, had some shenanigans going on and so on. That doesn't necessarily get them off the hook. It doesn't get them off the hook when it comes to trying to go around the country and round up a bunch of Republican operatives in various states to come up with alternate slates of electors and so on, a part of this fraudulent scheme that they went about trying to put together.
I mean, so, I mean, he was certainly trying to skirt around a lot of these issues. I don't think, yes, to your question, Wolf, that Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, I don't think that Motley crew is going to be a big help to Donald Trump when it comes to -- when he's on trial. And I think, he has to worry less about these potential co-conspirators that may be indicted in all of this, and he needs to worry more about who may be testifying in all of this. Might Mark Meadows be one of these star witnesses? As we were saying earlier, the Former Vice President Mike Pence, those are the witnesses that Donald Trump needs to worry about in this case.
BLITZER: Yeah, good point. All right, everybody stand by. There's a lot more we're following. Up next. Kara Swisher joins us live on what Chris Christie actually revealed to her about his role in Jack Smith's investigation. Plus, one of Trump's other rivals is defending the Former President Vivek Ramaswamy. He's joining us live, as well. Stay with us. We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [22:35:00]
BLITZER: Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who's challenging Donald Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, and is one of the former president's most vocal critics, says he was actually questioned in one of the Trump investigations, although he will not reveal which one. He did tell Kara Swisher on her podcast that he was honest in his answers. He also says he believes Trump fears that he could go to jail. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CHRISTIE, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think, there's no doubt in my mind that more nights than not, whether he's in Bedminster or in Mar-a-Lago, he lays down in bed, the lights go out, and he's staring at the ceiling thinking, I could go to jail.
KARA SWISHER, HOST, "ON WITH KARA SWISHER" PODCAST: I could go to jail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's get some more on what Chris Christie had to say. Joining us now is Kara Swisher, the host of the podcast, "On with Kara Swisher". Kara, thanks very much for joining us.
SWISHER: No problem.
BLITZER: He revealed to you that he's been interviewed in one of these Trump-related investigations. What else did he tell you?
SWISHER: Well, he talked about a lot of things. You know, I think , it's probably the January 6th investigation, is my guess of what he was talking about, because he was referring to his state of mind and his intent during the insurrection, I think, or about the election fraud. But he said a lot of stuff. He was talking about his state of mind, he talked a lot about, obviously, their break for lots of reasons. And I think he feels as if he has a lane to be in, even though he's way down in the polls, everybody's way down in the polls. But there's a lane if Donald Trump, you know, has more legal problems and can't continue the race. That's his bet, I guess.
BLITZER: So, he thinks he can still win the Republican nomination. Is that what he told you?
SWISHER: Well, he said he was going to be president and give me an interview, so I don't know. But like, you know, maybe I'll be president and I'll give him an interview. But -- but he -- I think he thinks there is a lane here for someone else who's not Donald Trump, you know.
BLITZER: They're political opponents, Christie and Trump. But Christie knows Trump really well.
SWISHER: Yeah, very close.
BLITZER: What else he said about some insight he had into Trump's thinking right now?
SWISHER: Well, I think he thinks he's scared of going to jail and I think he's probably right. He recounted a dinner that he had with him.
BLITZER: And there where Christie had dinner with Trump.
SWISHER: With Trump. And he and he talked about someone who was going to jail -- powerful --
BLITZER: This was years ago.
SWISER: Years ago. I think it was a New Jersey, senator of some sort, a state senator. And Trump kept saying, he's really going to jail? He's really going to jail? And seemed terrified, is what Christie seemed to indicate. And that was interesting, but that he cannot imagine finally having to pay the legal price that looks like he may have to pay.
BLITZER: Does Christie believe that Trump could wind up going to jail?
SWISHER: I think he does. I'm not so -- I pushed back on that because I felt like they're probably putting a president in jail, probably there's some deal to be made or some plea, but he definitely thought the possibility was there because of the possibility of jail time hanging over his head. But until then he would take advantage of it and raise money which he's already done, which he did the next day.
BLITZER: Christie, obviously is running as a Republican right now, he is a Republican. But he seems to be taking a very different tone on this investigation. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I don't really think there's anything political about what Jack Smith is doing.
SWISHER: How effective is that calling it a witch hunt and stuff like that? It seems to be effective among his supporters.
CHRISTIE: I think it's effective among his supporters. I think once you get into a courtroom, it's not effective at all.
SWISHER: Right, which is what happened with the election lies.
CHRISTIE: That's right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, what do you think? You think voters are listening to him, to Christie, because the polls show that most of these Republicans don't believe Trump did anything wrong?
SWISHER: They do. They do believe that. And I think, ultimately, he's talking to suburban voters, maybe independent voters, Republicans that are persuadable, I guess, or independent people that are persuadable. And that's what I think he's talking about, is that people are tired of it. And I have several Trump fans in my family, and I think they're tired of it. They're tired of the cases. They certainly aren't rallying around Trump the way they were.
BLITZER: What do you think of Trump today, you know, going out there and suggesting he's some sort of martyr?
SWISHER: I think it's, and then getting into a giant limo, sure, and his own plane, okay, with tons of lawyers. I don't know. I think the thing is people are tired of it. There's sort of this silent majority of people who are tired of everything. I think they worry about their kids. They worry about the economy, their jobs, A.I. And I think they're tired of this circus, and that's what it is, is a circus.
BLITZER: Kara, thanks very much.
SWISHER: No problem.
BLITZER: Kara Swisher, joining us. And be sure to check out her podcast. It's excellent.
COATES: Well, while Chris Christie is bashing Trump, another candidate says that he would give the former president an immediate pardon. That's Vivek Ramaswamy and he's going to join me live, next.
COATES: The former president pleading not guilty today at his historic third arraignment now on charges of trying to use his authority to stay in power. The question is, will the new charges actually change his primary opponents and the way they handle Trump on the trail?
Joining me now, Republican Presidential Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy. Thank you for joining us this evening. Vivek, I will say, today you did announce at a campaign event that you would not actually say that Biden was legitimately elected. And I wonder why it is you are reluctant to acknowledge that.
VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, precisely what I said in New Hampshire earlier today is that Big Tech is actually the one that interfered with the election. There is good evidence, I'm data driven, strong polling data that said that if that Hunter Biden laptop story had been released rather than suppressed on the eve of that election that likely would have changed the electoral result. That is hard fact in this country. Now, from "The New York Times" to CNN, we'll admit that was true and
grounded in fact in a lot of corruption that was laid out, laid to bare then, that was systematically suppressed. And I think that is the single greatest form of election interference risk that we face in this election, as well, is technology companies suppressing valid information that the voters need to access to make informed decisions. And I stand by that.
COATES: Well, Vivek, I'm glad you mentioned that. I'll, of course, leave it to voters to decide what was going to be the reason that they would choose a particular candidate. But because you say you are evidence-driven and you want to make sure that the voters have all the information that they need to make an informed decision about who will represent them, do you agree that it should have an opportunity, these cases against Donald Trump, should have the opportunity to have airing before the actual voters? They have a decision as either the jurors or also as voters to know how they should actually select their next president.
RAMASWAMY: So, I want to say something very clearly. My self-interest would be to have Donald Trump eliminated from competition. I'm polling at third in the Republican National primary right now. And you know what? If Trump were out of the way, it'd be a lot easier for me. But I don't want to win this election that way. On principle, not on politics, on principle, we should not be a country where the party in power uses police force to indict its political opponents in the midst of an election.
And Laura, I have a basic rule of thumb. If you are going to indict a political opponent in the middle of an election, it better darn well not be based on a novel, untested legal theory. Yet, that's exactly the case in each of the three indictments. I think it is no accident that you see three independent indictments on novel legal theories coming down at the exact same time during an election. And I think that this is going to be a grave threat to public trust in the justice system going forward.
I'm in this race to unite the country, and I'm sad to say that as our next president, which I expect to be, it's going to make my job that much more difficult to unite this nation when we have set this precedent of the politicization and weaponization of our justice system.
COATES: Well, two points. One, there's truly nothing novel about a conspiracy charge against somebody. It's something that's often charged against a variety of defendants and in and out of who have been the former president or just everyday Americans. That's why it's part of the criminal code. But on the second issue of the weaponization, do you have concerns that this talking point that is raised oftentimes about the Biden administration or the Department of Justice being weaponized?
I mean, we're talking about 115 or more thousand employees of the Department of Justice, 40 separate departments and 40 separate counterparts, et cetera. You've got divisions like national security and antitrust and tax and civil rights, just to name a few. So, to suggest that there is some weaponization, do you think that it would be very difficult if you in fact do get the responsibility to lead the executive branch that you are beginning with the proposition that the entirety of the Department of Justice is weaponized?
RAMASWAMY: So, I want to respectfully disagree with the first part of what you said. This is absolutely an unprecedented legal theory. There's a Supreme Court case called Alvarez in 2012 that expressly held that a candidate for political office and a publicly elected official has a First Amendment right to engage in, yes, false speech. That's hard Supreme Court case precedent.
Is that good judgment on behalf of that elected official? No, it's not. But every bad judgment is not a crime. So, this is absolutely unprecedented. It is also unprecedented for the four co-conspirators to be attorneys who are offering legal advice. For an attorney to use a legal theory and be criminalized for it, for giving a client advice, that endangers the legal system as we know it.
So, my view is that many of these bureaucracies, starting with the FBI, have become corrupted at a level that is really incorrigible. That's why I've said as U.S. president, I will shut down the FBI. We'll take the 35,000 employees, 15,000 of them that are agents doing real work on the front lines, we will reorganize them to the U.S. Marshals, to the Drug Enforcement Agency, to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, agencies that have not been politicized. But this is an agency whose history is still dating back to the legacy of J. Edgar Hoover. It is still the J. Edgar Hoover building of the FBI that people are walking into.
And the remarkable part of this is just rewind a few decades ago, it was the left, Lauren, that was actually complaining about the politicization and the unfairness of the FBI. Today,. it's the right. To me, it's not a partisan issue left versus right. That bureaucracy is a formula for corruption. And that's why as our next president, I will shut it down.
COATES: Well, many people did not have on their bingo card, the Republicans would be calling the FBI or the law enforcement entities of our nation in this fashion and disparaging them. But I will -- and you will not get argument from me about the legacy of one J. Edgar Hoover, particularly as somebody who prosecuted in the Civil Rights Division. But what you will get some pushback, I think, from a great variety of people is this notion of the unprecedented nature of what we're talking about. And I want to home in, yet again, on this point.
Conspiracy is quite a common charge to have, but also, First Amendment and protected speech is something that's so foundational.
RAMASWAMY: Conspiracy to commit what, Lauren? You know better.
COATES: I do know better, which is why I stated it quite precisely, that it is in fact a commonly actually charged crime, but the actual indictment does outline what the allegations are here. But my point is with respect to the protected speech. Certainly, there are the Supreme Court cases that talk about the fact that protected and political speech is sacrosanct.
But the notion here, they allege that it went beyond that in the form of action and conspiring to try to undermine the peaceful transition of power. And for that, I wonder, you've made it very clear that you intend and hope to be able to, if you are the President of the United States, to pardon Donald Trump. Do you think that the American people have a right, however, for the justice process to conclude before you make that statement?
RAMASWAMY: So, look, my assumption is that the worst statement of the facts for the defendant was exactly what you see in the indictment, in each of these three indictments. That's a reasonable assumption. The prosecution states its harshest case in the indictment. I've read all three, and on all three of the indictments, I believe they are politicized. I believe they leverage novel legal theories. I believe if it had been anybody without the last name of Trump, they would not have brought those indictments under those circumstances.
And in the interest of moving this nation forward, and yes, that will be my job as our next president to unite our country and to move forward towards a national revival. It will absolutely be in the interests of this nation to heal and to move forward by making sure that, A, we pardon Trump, and B, we avoid the precedent of this kind of politicization of the justice system. That's the clear right answer.
And we can go through each of those indictments from the original one in New York, Alvin Bragg, an individual who actually pledged to run for office on the pledge of investigating this man, who brought a first-in-class legal theory, to the documents case, which failed to mention the Presidential Records Act, to now this new one, which actually criminalizes the seeking of good faith legal advice, calling that a conspiracy instead, and completely flaunting the precedent in Alvarez.
It is not an accident that you see these three cases at the same time. And I'm sorry to say, the people who have lost their trust in the justice system have lost that trust for good reason. And it's going to make my job, the next president's job, that much more difficult to rebuild it, which is what also gives me my sense of urgency to speak out, even though it's against my interest running against Trump in this primary.
COATES: On the precedent point of it, and again, I push back quite sternly, of course, on the notion that there is something novel about a case involving some of the claims that were made, obviously, in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents. But we need not quibble about our own interpretation of an indictment. I'll leave that for jurors.
But I will ask you, when you're looking at all of this and you are looking at the precedent, do you have some concerns about a precedent that you will not seek to pursue justice if you are a prosecutor against somebody simply because they are a candidate for office.
[22:55:00] Wouldn't that set an awfully dangerous precedent if we were to simply untest that? And I note, of course, Jack Smith is somebody who has been prosecuting cases against other elected officials, including some who do not have the last name Trump. I'll mention just a few, John Edwards or Bob Menendez, people in The Hague, as well. And we could go on in the public integrity section, as well. Do you have concerns that there is going to be a real concern and a loss of faith among the American people with respect to how they perceive our institutions if they do not even endeavor to pursue justice?
RAMASWAMY: My view is that nobody is above the law, but nobody is below the law either. And you know what, even if you just take each of these indictments, there are deeply suspect circumstances, facts, omissions of fact, and both law. And my view is there's a dual standard of justice in the United States now.
I've also said as part of my campaign, I have pledged, for example, to also pardon Julian Assange. This is an individual who sits in foreign exile. Even as the person who leaked the documents to Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, had her sentence commuted by President Obama because she's a member of a favored political class. She's transgender. Again, that's two standards of justice based on your political beliefs.
Now, you have one for Biden, another for Trump. This is not sustainable in our country. I think we have to have one standard of justice for all Americans. I think you and I have a deep disagreement on whether or not this indictment actually sticks to prior legal precedents. I think none of the three do. They're all novel in their own way. And I just think it's a disastrous judgment in setting not a precedent of letting political candidates go. No, as you note, plenty of political candidates who have committed cut and dry fraud claims or otherwise have appropriately been prosecuted. Menendez on down.
But the reality is that in this particular case, the fact that this came in the middle of an election, the timing of this, all the cases coming at the exact same time, let's call a spade a spade, this is to stop one man from successfully holding office. That's not the way we want to do things in the United States of America. The voters should consider this information when making their judgment of how they vote, but not using the police state to eliminate competition from running.
That is an awful precedent in this country. And I am worried that if we fail to acknowledge that, you know, what we saw, even on dark days like January 1st, 2021, January 6th, 2021, I worry that will be the beginning of our march towards a national divorce. That is not where I want to see us go. I am deeply worried about it. I'm in this race to lead a national revival, but we have to be able to move on from the past to the future to do it.
COATES: I understand your position. I think President Obama would deeply disagree with your assessment of the reasons why he was motivated to commute the sentence of at least Chelsea Manning. But finally, I guess it's very clear, I don't think either of us will be a part of the jury selection process in any of these three different indictments. And if there is a fourth, somehow I think they're going to pass us
over in the voir dire process. But as you say, you are evidence and data driven. So, I wonder if the juries will have an opportunity to see that evidence in a trial before they make their decision at the polls. Vivek Ramaswamy, thank you so much for your time.
RAMASWAMY: Thank you.
COATES: All right, let's get some reaction from our panel. And Gene Rossi, you're a former federal prosecutor. What do you think?
GENE ROSSI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Closing down the FBI, 35,000 employees with whom I worked for 20 years, it breaks my heart that a presidential candidate is saying that. The FBI, to me, is a beacon throughout the world of an agency that tries to do the right thing, regardless of fear or favor. I disagree.
BLITZER: Let me get Jamil.
JAMIL JAFFER, FORMER ASSOCIATE WH COUNSEL TO PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah, look, I mean, Vivek makes some interesting points about these novel legal theories. I think the current indictment, the conspiracy to defraud the United States, does have some novelty to it. The idea, though, the Mar-a-Lago case is that all novel is a laughable out of space. Vivek is just wrong about that.
These cases have been brought time and time again on people who mishandle classified information and then are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. He's right. Chelsey Manning was pardoned by President -- or commuted by President Obama. Not because he's transgender, but because of what he believes about what she did. I think it sets a terrible precedent to pardon her. I think it encourages more people to reveal classified information, but it has nothing to do with what Vivek is saying, right?
And so, this idea that he's trying to bring the country together while his own words seek to divide the country is just not, not accurate. And at the end of the day, right, when he talks about Donald Trump and getting past it, here's the reality. The reason why we're not past it is because every day, Donald Trump is out there, you know, banging the drum about how the election was stolen from him. It is not. Because these charges, it's because of what Donald Trump did on January 6th, and what he's doing today.
What he did there on the tarmac at DCA as he left the city after being indicted, saying this is political persecution. Reality is, we're all here today because Donald Trump stood on the ellipse and said to his supporters who he knew were armed and had weapons, and said, go march to the Capitol, I'm coming with you.
ANDERSON: But I think it's important to note that actually what he said on the ellipse on January 6th is actually not on what's in the indictment.