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CNN Live Event/Special

First GOP 2024 Debate To Precede Trump's Surrender In GA; Trump Confirms He's Skipping First GOP Debate; Hutchinson: "I Will Be A Prosecutor" Of Trump At Debate; Trump Expected To Surrender This Week At GA Jail; CNN Poll Of Polls: Trump Has 40-Point Lead Over Closest Rival; GOP Candidates Facing Make-It-Or-Break-It Moment; Hilary Inundating Southern California With Rainfall. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 20, 2023 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Now it's unlikely that will hold but if it does that would mean the former President's trial in Fulton County will begin just one day before the Super Tuesday Primaries. Thanks for watching The Whole Story.

PAULA REID, CNN HOST: Good evening, I'm Paula Reid. Welcome to CNN special coverage of the 2024 election, the first debate and the surrender of former President Trump in Georgia. We are on the cusp of a historic week for the nation and a pivotal week for the 2024 race. First, the former president and the latest indictment; Donald Trump faces a Friday deadline at noon to turn himself into authorities in Fulton County, Georgia, the result of his fourth criminal indictment.

A senior law enforcement official tells CNN, Trump is expected to turn himself in Thursday, at the earliest and that would be just one day after the first debate of the 2024 presidential race, which will take place without Trump who is the front runner for the Republican nomination. Just hours ago he made it official, he won't attend. Now the eight candidates who will attend all trail Trump by double digit margins. And all of them are running out of time if they hope to catch him.

Now let me turn now to CNN Senior Crime and Justice Reporter, Katelyn Polantz. Katelyn, for the first time, this local jail will have to deal with a defendant who has Secret Service protection. So walk us through what to expect later this week.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Paula, the sheriff here has said that Donald Trump and others would be treated like any other defendant. But the bottom line is that Donald Trump is not like any other defendant because as you mentioned, he does have Secret Service protection. However, there are many pieces of the week that we're going to see play out. It's not just Donald Trump and the 18 co-defendants around him showing up at this jail in Fulton County, Georgia.

First, they all have to negotiate. All of their lawyers are going to have to talk to the district attorney, the prosecutor's office that brought these charges related to January 6, and the 2020 election, and they're going to have to negotiate bail terms. Once they get that done, that is something that we could see happen as soon as tomorrow morning where lawyers are expected to be coming in to the area to speak to the DA.

But once they get those negotiations done, then the judge signs off on the bail. And then from some point between that negotiation, and Friday at noon, is when each of the 19 defendants are going to have to arrive at the jail and be processed just like any other defendant. Now, whether that means a mug shot for Donald Trump is still remains to be seen. But it is very likely that the rest of them and Trump included will have their fingerprints taken some of them or maybe most of them would be searched and they will have to wait around inside this jail. A jail that has quite a notorious history for being a very tough place for a lot of the inmates there.

And so the arrest process, the waiting around for things to happen, we're going to have to watch and see just how long Donald Trump is inside the jail building to become a criminal defendant in Georgia.

REID: A busy week for you coming up, Katelyn Polantz. Thank you. And joining me now CNN Legal Analyst, Elliot Williams; CNN Political Commentator Kristen Soltis Anderson; CNN Anchor and Chief Legal Analyst Laura Coates and CNN Political Commentator Paul Begala. All right. We've been waiting for this, right. We've been talking about this for months, Donald Trump's legal problems colliding with the 2024 race. Kristen, what do you make of the fact that he's not going to be at the debate? We didn't expect him to be there. But is it debates, plural, do you think he means all debates are just the Republican ones?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST & POLLSTER: I think it'll depend on how his poll numbers look, after he misses this first one. I actually don't think missing the first one is going to do huge damage to him. What I'm sort of hearing from some Republican voters and focus groups when I've probed on this is effectively that Donald Trump as the reigning champion kind of gets a first round by. the first round, you bring all these people into the debate, you let them hash it out. And then that next debate, once the thresholds a little higher, the stage is a little calmer, then maybe Donald Trump could be expected to come in.

So if he's planning to not show up to any debates, that's a different conversation, but I still suspect him to be the strong front runner even after missing this first debate.

REID: That makes sense. Now, now, Paul, what do you think's the bigger political moment this week? Is it the surrender in Fulton County, or is it the debate?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that surrender is going to be much bigger? It's the biggest thing to happen in Atlanta since they've surrendered the city to Sherman in 1864. It's going to be huge. And the fact that Trump's not at the debate in person now. He'll be there. He'll dominate because he's, he's ahead by so much. I think he -- I think Kristen's right, he's making the right decision not to come to the debate. I think he's making the wrong decision the way he's selected this counterprogramming. He's going on with a fire talk show host on a failing platform.


He's Donald Trump, he should have a rally. That's what he does best. Not sitting around whining with Tucker Carlson. He needs to go to Iowa; the first state, have a big rally and he would blow out the debate. That's me as a strategist. I'm not pro Trump, obviously, I don't support the guy. But he's -- he seems like he's more interested in being petulant and punishing Fox News. Right. You mean going on Twitter with his actor, their ex-star. What he ought to do is worry about winning the election, not about punishing Fox News.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: Well, in part, this could be one in the same, right because part of his strategy and I think you're right in terms of it's more point than peak or more peak than point, really, and thought and thought of it. But when you look at the consequences of this indictment, of one of many indictments, he has had some gains as a result of it, because it seems as though the campaign strategy up till now has been, look, I'm an outsider, their government's weaponized, I am essentially your last line of defense. They're really after you, but they're going to go through me first.

And so if that's part of what he's doing and what he's talking about, I get to the political moment, actually, and during to his benefit of saying, Look, here I am, once again with my back against the ropes. And what did he dance to on his inauguration night? I did it my way, right. So Frank Sinatra, one two, punch is happening, of course. Of course, Sinatra had a famous mugshot. If that's going to happen on Thursday, then or Friday, that will be a whole new ballgame.

REID: That is exactly the mug shot I think of every time we talk about this question, should he do a mug shot? So Elliot, look, he knows that an arrest is not a good look. But if this is going to be the political moment of the week, is there a way for him to spin this and make it worked for him politically?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Of course, there's a way to spin it and make it work for him politically, because just look at I mean, this is the world of the political -- politics people but his numbers haven't really been affected, despite four indictments and sort of multiple engagements with the criminal justice system. Now, you know, the bigger question in all of this is how special is Donald Trump as a defendant?

Now, we hear repeatedly from the folks in Atlanta and elsewhere, it's just going to be like any other case, he's going to be treated like any other defendant. We know that is nonsense. Even this mug shot question like you're saying, which, OK, it makes sense. He's the most popular, famous person on the planet. You don't need a mug shot to identify him. But Frank Sinatra, Wesley Snipes, Tom DeLay, lots of really famous people got mugshots. Why is Donald Trump the one who was sort of getting this a special accommodation?

REID: Yes, that's going to be the -- the question in Fulton County, because, of course, at the federal level, they didn't opt to do the mug shot. But to Elliot's point, I mean, can you really have a former president who doesn't get special treatment? I mean, what do you think?

COATES: I mean, this is going to be a former president who will have unlike most defendants, their attorneys, some of whom are going to be appointed by, you know, the state, if they are indigent, for some reason, you're going to have Secret Service coordinating on his behalf trying to figure out where to bring him in. You also have to be fair, some of the significant national security or security risks of having him walk through the front door as any other person. Be exposed, so to speak, and every other person. Fingerprints for example, I had never having been a President United States, yet.


COATES: Yes! Man! Thank you all for that moment. But never having been the president of the United States, I don't know if having fingerprints of a set of a former president is somehow some sort of breach of some kind, if there are any risks of doing so. I don't know of having him in general population, so to speak, would be something that would be all that different than a notorious or high profile criminal, who is accused of a crime and kept separate from everyone else for security reasons.

So there might be some reasons to keep them separate. But rolling out a red carpet, you know, asking him if he would like a cappuccino as opposed to rolling his thumb, a very different scenario.

REID: Fulton county doesn't feel like the cappuccino kind of County Sheriff's Office. I mean, that could just be my impression from the outside.

WILLIAMS: No, absolutely, absolutely not. And it's sort of notoriously tough prison system. It's a fair question, though and Laura raises an important point here, which is that president of the United States, regardless of what you think of them, get 24 hour Secret Service protection until the day they die. And that involves strict management of where they go, the rooms they are in and the people they're exposed to, who can shake their hand, who can pat them on the back and whatever else.

And it's hard to we've all learned -- Paula, we all have been in prisons at various points before as attorneys. But you know, certainly they're not places that are necessarily easy to control, no matter what Fulton County says, it's still somewhat of a chaotic environment. And you really have to think long and hard about how do you protect the Secret Service, protect it in that environment.

REID: So, at the debate, is it wise for these candidates to call attention to the surrender to Trump's legal problems, or is it better to focus on what they have to offer voters?

SOLTIS ANDERSON: Well, I think if you are the type of Republican who is too tuning in, you're probably the type of Republican who's still shopping around. Maybe you like Donald Trump you're not necessarily tuning in to hear a bunch of people throw punches at Donald Trump but you want to see what else is on the menu. Maybe I'll choose something different than the usual. [21:10:00]

At the same time, these candidates have all been so averse to going after Trump. And they're all in single digits. He's just eating their lunch. At a certain point, don't you have to change up the strategy? What do you have to lose?

REID: I'm very curious to see what happens. All right, everyone, stay with me. We'll have much more on the Republican debate and the impending surrender of former President Trump this hour. But first, we want to update you on Hilary, the storm, which is inundating Southern California with unprecedented amounts of rain. The storm is wreaking havoc on air travel with hundreds of flights canceled. But the rainfall could do far worse to a region that is just simply not equipped to deal with a tropical storm. And in fact, hasn't seen one since 1939. Kyung -- Kyung Lah joins us now. What is it like where you are right now?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Paula, what we've been seeing throughout the day here in San Diego is you'll have these moments of lighter rain like we're seeing now. But a bit more wind and then periods of very heavy rain. It's been very unpredictable. It is extraordinarily rare for it to rain in San Diego in August. And so what the city has done is they have tried to block off areas like this. This is a roadway that typically floods. So this entire street is shut down. They have blocked it off to traffic.

And this is just emblematic of some of the preparation that the city of San Diego has taken part in. the worst of the storm has really been in the desert area. Just about an hour away from here. There have been some mudslides. and part of it is that the infrastructure isn't designed to take on all of this water. So what you're seeing here is, you know, something that that you might be used to in your neighborhood is water going down the drain. But when we're talking about a region like Southern California that is not used to all of this in August, this can create major problems.

So the school system here in San Diego as well as the school system in the Los Angeles district, They have both shut down saying that they simply do not have the staff to go check school by school to see what the damage is. We are hearing reports from other school districts that some schools have sustained some damage. So it's really going to be piecemeal, Paula on what exactly happens overnight. City officials are warning people to remain at home because this is still a very unpredictable situation overnight, Paula.

REID: Kyung Lah, thank you. And coming up, eight 2024 GOP hopefuls will step out in front of the debate lights on Wednesday night. For some this will be the first time voters have even heard their names and they're all hoping the attention won't be taken by someone who won't even be there. All that ahead when CNN special coverage continues.


[21:15:00] REID: It's crunch time for eight 2024 GOP hopefuls, as they polish their talking points and zingers ahead of the first GOP primary debate. Here are the GOP candidates who have qualified for Wednesday's debate so far. Former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, entrepreneur and author Vivek Ramaswamy, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

And if you're wondering where the front runner will be, Donald Trump has just confirmed he will not be attending the debate. He will likely be participating in counterprogramming with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Now joining me now to discuss is former Democratic South Carolina state representative and CNN Political Commentator, Bakari Sellers, and former White House Communications Director under Trump, Alyssa Farah Griffin, also a CNN political commentator.

Alyssa, let's first talk about your former boss. He's not going to be at the debate, we didn't expect him to be. But he's there in spirits, right. How long do you think before he's brought up on that debate stage?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER WH COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I suspect that he'll come up pretty quickly. If not, there won't be opening statements. But I could see him being one of the first questions. The Fox hosts that are leading the debate have previewed that they are going to ask about Donald Trump and his legal woes. So I think that's something unavoidable.

But look, he looms large over anything, he won't be present yet he will take up a lot of the oxygen in the room. And I think as most of us have been predicting, I never really bought the theory that he would turn himself in on Wednesday. But Thursday makes a lot of sense. You know, if Nikki Haley has a really good performance, what better to do than take all the oxygen out of the news cycle by turning yourself in? That's classic Donald Trump.

REID: Classic indeed. Now here's how Asa Hutchinson says he is going to address Trump. Let's take a listen.


ASA HUTCHINSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not going to defend Donald Trump, I will be a prosecutor. I will be telling the truth on Donald Trump. And whether he's there or not he will be a focal point of issue, both what happened on January 6, but also how he will not lead the Republican Party well into the future.


REID: Chris Christie also expected to take a similar approach, those two are going to be produced the only anti-Trump or Trump critical candidates. What do you think of that strategy, Bakari?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I actually think that Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson probably have the ability to perform the best. at this debate, They come in with this prosecutorial experience, both of them had led states both of them have run elections multiple times over. And so I do believe that legal background is going to bode them well in this debate. I mean, we all know -- we all know that the -- the individual who has kind of the -- the most to gain and the most to lose in this outside of Donald Trump's just looming presence is Ron DeSantis.

And I think Ron DeSantis is trying to go up against either one of those two Asa Hutchinson or Chris Christie is not going to go over well in this debate. So I think that strategy, if you can thread that needle and talk about your conservative values or your conservative bonafides and also kind of skewer Donald Trump while he's not there, and he's live tweeting or live Truth Socialing, I don't know how you actually make that a verb. But while he's doing whatever he's doing, I think actually can go a long way to booster to document in the GOP field.


REID: And also to that point. Let's take a look at some of the recent polling on where the field stands. And Trump you can see by far the front runner, DeSantis sits at 17 percent. Vivek Ramaswamy has 6 percent, rest of the field, though, has less than 5 percent. So really who has the most to gain? Is it those folks who are polling so low? Is this their opportunity to try to seize a share of the pie here?

FARAH GRIFFIN: Listen, I agree with my friend Bakari on this. I think that it's the candidates who are actually willing to take on Trump that probably have the most to gain Asa Hutchinson as someone who can burnish his conservative credentials, but also litigate the case against Trump.

But listen, all fire is going to be directed at Governor DeSantis. The theory of the case for the candidates on the stage is essentially whoever can usurp the position of the number two spot, has the potential to kind of rally the donors around them, try to get as many delegates and try to as quickly as possible, make it a one on one fight with Donald Trump.

Now, there's not a lot of data that suggests that is going to happen and that we're going to see a major shakeup, though I do expect to see Governor DeSantis keep falling. I would just know how stark those poll numbers are. Harry Enten of CNN -- Harry Enten has pointed out, there's no historic example of somebody overcoming that big of a margin to go on and win the nomination. For some of these candidates, this is going to be the first time anyone who's really heard their name. For example, Doug Burgum is really leaning into that, right, this is a really huge opportunity for him. Let's take a listen to what he says about this debate.


DOUG BURGUM, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're excited to be on the debate stage, the least known candidate on there. I trust that if we can show that we're a credible alternative, that we can deliver the things that Americans are looking for, because Americans do want this country to move forward. They want presidential -- presidential elections to be about the future, a vision for the future, then we have to offer that.


REID: So, Bakari, what do you make of his comment there? I mean, is that what he needs to do to go get more supporters is instead of focusing on Trump, to lay out his vision for the future?

SELLERS: I mean, he should probably be doing something else with his time. I don't know running a state or you know, becoming a Fox News Contributor, writing a book maybe or going on a speaking tour. He doesn't have a lot of political talent. He's very, very wealthy. So I don't want to say the man doesn't have any talent. He just doesn't have that political talent. And I think he's going to vanish on the stage. Most people don't know him before the debate, they won't know him after the debate either.

I do think that Ramaswamy is unique. I'm not sure who his voters are. I think a lot of people are interested in what he has to say much of what he says is nonsensical. When you watch his interviews, he seems not to have much depth. But I do think that people are just kind of interested in whether or not he is you know, a Herman Cain type figure or an Andrew Yang type figure. But at the end of the day, and I think Alyssa may agree with me on this one, one of the most talented people on the stage, whether or not you like or not, it's going to be Nikki Haley. And I think she's going to probably have the best night of them all.

REID: Alyssa, I'll let you have the last word really quickly.

FARAH GRIFFIN: I expect to see Nikki Haley probably come out the winner but unfortunately, we're not living in a world where the best policy positions for the future are often what win the day. So she's got a lot to overcome, with head to head to Donald Trump.

REID: Bakari Sellers, Alyssa Farah Griffin, thank you. And still ahead, new signs that Mark Meadows is trying to distance himself even further from his former boss, as he joins Trump as one of the 19 co- defendants charged in Georgia. CNN special coverage continues next.



REID: Welcome back to CNN special live coverage. A source says Donald Trump will turn himself in Thursday or Friday to face charges in Georgia. And the sheriff in Fulton County said the former president will be received at the jail like any other defendant. Now our panel is back with us. And look, Paul, let's take a look at the calendar, right. It's getting awfully crowded both with campaign events, but also possible trials. We have a few scheduled so far.

The former President's lawyers say it's unfair to put him on trial before the election. Do you agree or do you think voters have a right to see the resolution of at least some of these cases? BEGALA: He has to stand to trial. I don't know if it'd be before the election or after, judges will decide about the timing. But -- but Judge Chutkan in D.C. said, look the interests of justice come first not your job. And his job right now is to run for president. By the way, his political strategy is his legal strategy, right. We were just discussing that. He goes around the country and says to Republican primary voters, I'm oppressed. He's a billionaire. OK. He's a former president, but he's oppressed. He runs on his grievance. And his voters love that.

In fact, he even said this. If I get another couple indictments, I'll just walk back into the White House. The problem for the Republicans is, as Trump gains strength with these indictments in the party, he loses strength in the general election. He may well be unbeatable in the primaries and unelectable in the general because I just saw polling from Navigators, a democratic firm. 28 percent of Republicans believe Trump committed a crime. Well, he has to get 95 percent of them. Now, the 60 percent who don't, he'll -- he'll steamroll through the primaries and win. But when you're losing a quarter of your party, they just don't think like maybe he's rude on Twitter. They think he's a criminal.

By the way, 61 percent of independents do. So it's a really impossible situation for the Republican Party. So far, great for Trump, but he's a very nearsighted guy. But for the party long term, it could be catastrophic.

REID: Kristen, what do you make of that because I talked to some Trump voters in Fulton County and there was clearly Trump fatigue but when I asked who are you going to support, they didn't have a name. What does it mean for him?


SOLTIS ANDERSON: Right. Well, one, that's why the debates are potentially important. If those folks that have Trump fatigue but are still kind of with him, are open to someone new, something like the debates will be their opportunity to shop around. But it is absolutely true that Donald Trump is a risky proposition for a general election. And yet, polling that came out today from CBS News showed that 61 percent of Republicans think that Donald Trump would definitely beat Joe Biden.

So that actually happens to line up I think almost exactly in their poll with the percentage of Republican voters who are voting for Donald Trump. These things are very related. This argument that he's not electable -- right now, a lot of Republicans don't want to hear it. But the question is, if court appearance after court appearance, after court appearance starts racking up, do some of those Republicans who like him, they think he's being charged unfairly circling, maybe he is vulnerable, that could change things.

REID: So if -- if we're definitely going to get at least one trial is what voters are entitled to you're saying. Obviously, we can't do all four trials, that's just not going to happen. Which one or two, do you think are most important for voters ahead of the election? WILLIAMS: Oh, why you got to ask a question like that? I look --

REID: Because that's my job and that's why I am here today. That's why I've got the big chair.

WILLIAMS: You know, because, look, and I'll say, as a former prosecutor, they're all critically important. But I would say and I push back a little bit, it doesn't matter what voters think, for the purposes of the criminal justice system, what the goal is there is to deter conduct, from people who have broken the law, stop other people from breaking the law in the future and punish people who've done bad things.

And that exists on a scale and timeline totally separate from our political calendar. Now, to the question of what's most likely to come to trial? You know, there's -- there's something getting in the way of every one of the four cases. In Mar-a-Lago down in Florida, there are significant legal questions around handling classified documents, right. In Atlanta, a state case, you have questions about whether it should be brought to federal court, and they're going to litigate that for a while.

So it's hard to see, frankly, any of them making it to trial in the next year. But again, they're all critically important, they crimes and in which they ought to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

REID: Do you agree they're all equally important, even the Manhattan case?

COATES: No, I think that for voters, yes. Taking a step back, I agree with Elliot that every time a crime is committed, there is a severity of an offense against the society at large. Having said that, I think when it comes to voters, they're going to be very keenly interested in what took place leading up to January 6. We are a little more than what 400 plus days away from another presidential election, which means we're about, you know, I'm not going to do the math here more days than math up to another inaugural event.

And so if what the crux of the activity that was taking place and alleged involves someone who is preparing in advance of a presidential election, to undermine the authority of either state officials, full slates of electors, or to disenfranchise collectively, the American votes, that's going to be very serious. I think that also is reflected, by the way in the decision, prosecutorially of Jack Smith, think back to the Mar-a-Lago case compared to the obviously what Fani Willis has done with a number of defendants, to the one defendant streamlined indictment against Donald Trump in Washington, D.C.

I think the reason for that is in the hopes that we'll be taken seriously and because the judge also has said, Judge Chutkan -- look in her prior statements as is -- By the way, other judges in the federal court in Washington, D.C., they've all sort of tackled various issues have talked about the urgency of these matters. But I do think that's going to be very important. However, whether the judges calendar says that, it's very different. But to your point, Paul, look, if I had $1, for every person who was the defendant who said, oh, I'm sorry, I have other things to do. I have things going on. It's like a juror who says, I'm sorry, I really don't want jury duty right now. That wasn't -- it wasn't my plan for this month, you get kind of so wet, too bad, too sad. The allegations are there, and I doubt a judge at the federal level is going to look at that and say, OK, well wait until it's convenient for you.

WILLIAMS: A judge I used to appear in front of all the time when jurors would say exactly that. Sorry, I can't sit for trial for a month, the judge would say, you know, cemeteries are full of indispensable people. There will be a way you can get your butt into that seat. And if it were anyone other than the President of the United States, we would figure out a way to have the trial. I think the idea that somebody's job makes them unable to get into court is sort of nonsense.

REID: Judge Chutkan, the judge who is overseeing the January 6 case, she appears to be moving this quickly. As you noted, it was designed to move quickly, just one defendant, but the two sides are currently over two years apart in terms of their preferred trial date. So we'll see what Judge Chutkan says. But I do think this question about a presidential candidate, is that the same as a juror? I think that is a question that is right for the Supreme Court and may actually get us there early next year.

Everyone, stay with us. Still ahead, after the Right debate lights go dark and all the pundits go home, what happens next? Will the field shift or could it even solidify? More on CNN special coverage ahead.




REID: Wednesday's debate could turn out to be the Hunger Games of the election season. Eight candidates in the arena, one prize. The only difference is the man who is the current favorite to win that prize won't be on stage. So the eight Republicans may just be competing for second place. But could this debate make a difference? Well, I want to go back to our panel.

All right, Kristen, we know Trump has always wanted a crowded field, right. Because that prevents too many people, right, from surrounding one candidate. Given the fact there's going to be eight people on stage, he has -- he won before the debate even starts.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: With a lead this large it would be easy to say this is insurmountable. Everything else that's happening is just sideshow and let's just get to the convention. That's at least what Trump would want you to think.


And it is true, a lead this large, I don't believe historically, we have many examples of it being surmounted, but we do not live in normal times. And that's the reason why I'm not ready to just say this is completely over yet. We've got a long ways to go.

And as Trump's legal situation unfolds, if Republican voters begin to change their minds, they don't currently view him as terribly risky. But if that begins to flip, they may go shopping for another candidate.

REID: And, Paul, some of the people here, they're not household names. This will be their first introduction to many Americans, but Vice President Mike Pence, former vice president, that's not one of those people, and he's currently polling at 4 percent. What would your advice to him be at this point?

BEGALA: He doesn't have much of a chance, he doesn't. Because the few Republicans who don't like Trump, don't like Vice President Pence because he served him loyally. The people who love Trump don't because he refused to -- to do what Trump wanted done on January 6. For all of them though, Chris Christie, Asa Hutchison, the prosecutors, they want to prosecute Trump, I get that. A few others maybe want to just defend him. The rest are really in this. This is what they need to do.

Here's free advice. Don't say he's innocent, because that just helps Trump. Don't say he's guilty. First it prejudges him and second, the voters will hate that in the Republican primary. Say he's distracted, because he is, OK. I've never been under indictment. But my guess is when you're under indictment, once it probably occupies your mind. How about 90 charges? So I think they should say, look, Trump was great when he was talking about building a wall and being tough on China and creating jobs. He doesn't talk about that anymore at all. All he talks about is himself and his legal woes. And that may be prudential, that may be wise for Mr. Trump, and I'm going to be fighting for you.

Because even if Joe Biden locks up Donald Trump, it won't create a job. It won't educate a child, it won't crack down on China, it won't stop a smuggler of fentanyl, right. So there's I think there's a lien here, none of these guys and gals are occupying. They seem to be far too binary about this. Nobody's talking about the voters. Trump is running an ad right now attacking the prosecutors. His political campaign ad is, I hate Fani Willis.

REID: Well, let's talk about that. Because not only ads, also on social media, we've seen him attack judges, district attorneys, line prosecutors, also mentioning the grand jury and witnesses. We haven't heard any GOP lawmakers push back on that. What do you make of this? Seems like a potentially very dangerous situation.

WILLIAMS: It's very -- it's generally a very dangerous situation. And it's also potentially a crime if you knowingly try to prevent or hinder or get in the way of someone's -- someone's testimony before -- before a court. So you know, what are we making the politics of it? Clearly, they're scared of the fact that going after the former president might come back to bite them in some way.

But again, it's like I can't say enough how much it is conduct it strikes at the heart of our system, and it cannot function if people are attacking witnesses or -- or jurors.

REID: These judges seem like they're in an almost impossible situation, if you try to restrict him, right that furthers the martyr narrative. What should they do?

COATES: Well, you know, Judge Chutkan talked about the idea of not, you know, demonstrating a fear, but instead this is going to jumpstart my willingness to make this trial date come even sooner, right. That's a kind of reverse judicial psychology is happening. I'm on point in time. But we know from just within like nine months ago, we heard from the Department of Homeland Security in their bulletin, they talked about political grievances, being like the one of the biggest threats that we face domestically in this country.

Is there anyone who's more of a poster child of political revenge than the former president of the United States and those who have followed. Remember, there was an attack on an FBI building, there was a man shot in Utah who was claiming or allegedly -- allegedly wanting to shoot the president of the United States, you had judges being attacked. One Supreme Court Justice had a man near his home prepared to assassinate him.

Now, I'm not suggesting in any way these are all somehow provoked by Donald Trump exclusively or if at all, but this is a climate of political grievance. And so that's going to be concerned about not the least of which is we all watched what happened on January 6, but I will say when it comes to Mike Pence, who was a noted victim of January 6, I think he's the one person on that stage who, unlike others, are not vying to be the Vice President of the United States again, right.

Everyone keeps saying, oh, that person is really running because they just want to be in the good graces of Donald Trump. I think Mike Pence is legitimately running not to be the vice president under the front runner Donald Trump.

REID: Definitely, probably doesn't want that job.

COATES: Does not want that --

REID: Again based on his experience. Well, everyone, stay with us. We'll have much more of this coverage of this historic week. But first we'll bring you the latest on Hilary as the storm drenches Southern California. That's next.




REID: The Peach State will be back in the national spotlight this week. Former President Donald Trump is expected to surrender at the Fulton County jail after being indicted for election interference. The historic 41 count indictment ended Monday accuses Trump and 18 other co-defendants of being part of a broad criminal enterprise in an attempt to overturn Georgia's 2020 election results. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis issued a deadline for all 19 defendants to voluntarily turn themselves in by noon on Friday.

This all comes the same week as the first Republican presidential debate, which former President Trump is skipping. We'll have some final thoughts from our panel in just a few minutes. But first, we want to do a final check on what's going on with Hilary as the powerful storm barrels into Southern California bringing the potential for catastrophic flooding. You can see the rushing floodwaters ripping away part of the road in Santa Clarita.

The Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second largest and San Diego Unified School Districts are both cancelling classes tomorrow. More than a year's worth of rain is expected to combo Southern California. So let's go straight to CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers in the weather center. Chad.


CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Paula, already a half a foot of rain has fallen in the mountains just to the east of San Diego. And I know it's been raining there for a while. So these numbers are probably already higher than what we're showing here that are about an hour or maybe an hour and a half old. The rain has been falling all night long. flash flood warnings in effect from Los Angeles proper on up into the mountain San Bernardino, Ventura Counties. All of you are under significant flash flood warnings right now. It is still raining.

The waters are running off the top of these mountains. Here's what's going to go on. Still raining right now. Heavy rain, some spots This is the heaviest rain you've seen all day because it's been kind of slow to get to you. But then by later on tonight, it does begin to calm down, it starts to die off And all that rain goes all the way up to Idaho. This is a big, big storm that's going to go all the way to the North, but two to four more inches on top of the six that have already fallen in some spots, making significant flash flood problems tonight. it would be best especially after dark to not even start to drive around.

These roads could be completely washed out. I've already seen pictures now of burn scars and mud debris flows coming down the mountains not that far from Palm Springs. These are the areas especially on top of these mountains where all of the water is right now. And in case you haven't been paying attention to the Atlantic, we have Emily and Franklin and another storm there in the Gulf of Mexico that could become something by Tuesday for the western part of the Texas Gulf Coast.

But the first of all here this is Franklin, any plans for the Dominican Republic or Haiti? Need to check this out because it certainly could be a hurricane By the time it does make a rival. still forecast to be a TS, just a tropical storm. But boy, the waters very warm down there, Paula.

REID: Chad Myers, thank you. And up next, a collision of the justice system and politics this week as the 2024 GOP hopefuls make their pitches to voters at the first GOP primary debate, and Trump faces a deadline to surrender in Georgia. We'll have final thoughts on this historic week just ahead number.




REID: We're about to begin what will likely be an unforgettable week in America. The first Republican debate in the race for the White House. Absent though will be its front runner, the former president who has to surrender at a Georgia jail by Friday. Now some final thoughts now from our legal and political minds. All right. We'll do a lightning round here starting with you, Elliot. What are you watching for Wednesday night at the debate?

WILLIAMS: How everybody handles the criminality or alleged criminality of the former president United States, which is, you know, it's certainly a big deal and profound for our system. You one would think that the party would attack him over it. It looks like they're not going to. I'm looking for who besides Chris Christie pulls that punch.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: I'm looking for, does anybody do anything actually courageous and defying expectations? A lot of what I hear sounds a lot like 2016. Well, I just need to get it down to a one on one contest with Donald Trump and then I'll win. We have seen that movie before. We know how it ends. I want to see if anybody is bold enough to shake things up.

REID: All right, Laura.

COATES: I mean, call me naive. But a civics lesson tells us this is a head of the executive branch. I want to know what you really think about weaponization of the government and if you're going to throw out the baby with the bathwater, because one person was indicted.

BEGALA: The former governor of Georgia, Zell Miller used to tell me a hit dog-a-hauler, right, and Donald Trump is the greatest hit dog ever. You always know who he's afraid of by who he attacks. The morning after the debate. I think he's going to attack Chris Christie. I think Christie is gaining in New Hampshire. He's the toughest, smartest person on that stage and he knows how to get under Trump's skin. The way to win this is to get Trump to attack you. And that's what's going to happen. I think morning after the debate.

REID: All right. Well, let's talk about those headlines. Thursday morning, what is the headline? Is it from the debate or is it something Trump did?

BEGALA: Trump. It's always trump, because he will say or do anything, anything. You know, in these, these are all impressive people, but they're normal homo sapiens, you know, with -- with like the kind of normal manners of a human being and Trump is not. He will do or say anything to command the spotlight and he'll get it. COATES: I hope it's not that the Vivek Ramaswamy with wrapped M&M again. That's right. I certainly hope it's not but I do hope that it's something along the lines of there was actually policy positions that were discussed. Actual substantive principles, were giving the people the voters a chance to actually decide who they might want in that seat for the RNC nomination.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: I believe that the headline is likely to be that more people will watch the debate than this Trump counterprogramming. But this will all immediately be washed out by him showing up in Georgia to turn himself in.

WILLIAMS: If it's not about Donald Trump. It's either Ramaswamy, Burgum or Asa Hutchinson doesn't drool on himself. Literally the expectations are so low for most of the people on the stage that anything they do will be seen as a victory.

REID: Will we see Trump debate at all before the November 2024 election?

WILLIAMS: I think so.

SOLTIS ANDERSON: If his numbers start falling, or if he's bored.

REID: Fair enough.

COATES: It's irresistible. I think he will but on his own terms.

BEGALA: His numbers won't fall, he won't debate.

REID: Really?

BEGALA: It's over.

REID: Not even with -- not even with President Biden?


REID: Not even trying to get --

BEGALA: I don't think Biden should debate with him.

REID: Well, that was my question. Should he get Biden on the stage?

BEGALA: No, it was a disaster. It was good for Biden. He gained votes from the debate, but I don't think the country was edified by that. But that's getting way ahead of ourselves. No one has ever overcome this kind of a lead. You know, Hillary was up 28 points on an unknown Senator Barack Obama and he beat her. 28 points is not 40. And -- and these candidates aren't talented than Barack Obama.

COATES: His new nickname is Paul put a fork in it Begala.

WILLIAMS: How about, the GOP strategist Begala. He has given us some points tonight.

BEGALA: I just can't help it. It's my nature.

REID: Well, this has been wonderful. Thank you so much. Elliot Williams, Kristen Soltis Anderson, Laura Coates and Paul Begala, thank you so much for joining us. And thank you for joining me this evening. I'm Paula Reid. And we'll have coverage of former President Trump's surrender -- surrender in Georgia all week, as well as coverage of the GOP debate.

Join us on Wednesday for the Republican presidential debate post-game analysis hosted by Anderson Cooper and Dana Bash at 11 p.m. Easter. Now, "Giuliani: What Happened to America's Mayor" is up next.