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CNN Live Event/Special
45th President, Inmate No. P01135809, Becomes First With Mug Shot; Donald Trump Surrendered And Took Mugshot At The Fulton County Jail; U.S. Officials Commented On The Presumed Death Of Wagner Leader Yevgeny Prigozhin. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired August 24, 2023 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: One thing that is not a first was the booking itself. This was his fourth in four state and federal jurisdictions. He's on his way right now back to Bedminster, as we speak.
Back now here with the panel. I mean, we now have seen the mug shot. What's stunning to me, I was just looking up the official photo portraits of all the presidents. And, you know, that's how most people view the presidents in history books. This is the picture that will probably stand the test of time of -- for Donald Trump.
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The history books will remember this mug shot as much as they will his official presidential portrait, which hung all over the country in post offices and government buildings.
A first that he did not want, but knowing Donald Trump, as we do, he figured he's going to make the most of it. So, since this has gone out, he's fundraised off of it. He's back on Twitter or now X, I guess, we call it, after not having posted since January 8th of 2021. He's now back posting this and saying, never surrender. Now, of course, the picture is of him surrendering. So, that's a bit off there.
But, listen, his team sent out nearly half a dozen fundraising blasts since he turned himself in. They're going to get use --
COOPER: He had a fundraising blast as he was turning himself -- just before turning himself in?
GRIFFIN: And I would just remind viewers at home that it is donors to his campaign that are paying his legal bills. He's running for president to stay out of jail but he's also running for president to pay his own legal bills.
FMR. STATE SEN. JEN JORDAN (D-GA): Yes. And that's what's crazy because the shot of him when he's coming in to -- you know, when they flew into Atlanta, the person who was at kind of at the top of the stairs was one of his campaign advisers. She was the one that was greeting Steve Sadow, the new attorney, to come on to the plane. And it's kind of this crazy thing where it's like, what's political, what's campaign versus the fact that this is a real legal case where he has some real issues.
COOPER: Is that video you're talking about, by the way?
GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Is anybody surprised, right? I mean, at the end of the day, this is the same game that we've seen going back to 2016, but we especially saw it in the 2020 cycle. I mean, this is just endearing chaos and sowing all of this stuff out there.
You know, I've had some time to think about this, two and a half years to be exact, about what a win looks like here. And I know the attorneys and all the lawyers and the judges and the law talks about time and jail and penalties. But a win, I think a win for this country is Donald Trump having to admit that he's a liar. I think this process getting us to the point where him having to publicly admit that he's lied and he's misled us as a party, we certainly need to hear that so that we can get ourselves back on the tracks. But I think this country needs to hear that.
COOPER: Why would he publicly admit it?
DUNCAN: Well, yes, I know. But it's still -- it's the only thing that's going to get us back on the tracks. Because if we don't use this mug shot as a pivot point for Republicans, it is our fault.
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would say this, Geoff. It's a split screen world we live in, right? I don't know what their Fox is showing right now, but I guarantee you it's completely different than what we're showing. And what the Fox viewers are thinking is completely 180 degrees out. They think -- they believe, right? They believe this is the persecution and prosecution of Donald -- not the prosecution, the persecution of Donald Trump. This is going to -- he's raising money on it because people believe that. They don't mind.
COOPER: Actually, by the way, they're talking about last night's debate.
COOPER: That's what they're talking about right now.
URBAN: They don't mind that their dollars are going to help defend Donald Trump. They're contributing. They know that's happening. So, there's not -- there is no daylight between the folks --
GRIFFIN: I'm not sure they know it's how much is going, the average donor, knows how much is going to his legal bills. I think they think it's going toward his campaign and toward taking the country back or building the wall. But --
URBAN: If you're giving money to Donald Trump at this point in time, you don't where it goes. You don't care if you're doing it to pay his Netflix subscription, right? DUNCAN: If you're giving money to Donald Trump, you're basically paying for a theater ticket, right? And I'm talking about having to get our country back. There's nothing this gentleman is doing or going to do that's going to get this country back on track.
And as a Republican that wants to win the 2024 White House, this is all a charade game going on. This is not going to get us any closer to winning the White House and beating Joe Biden. Every time these mug shots show up, he might get more support inside the Republican Party but he gets less support amongst Americans and he will lose.
URBAN: But I can tell you this from talking to my friends in Western Pennsylvania, right, college -- these aren't people --
DUNCAN: That's where I was born, by the way.
URBAN: I know. But these are people living in a year with no teeth, right? These are these are folks that just -- you couldn't distinguish them from other folks walking down the street, right? They believe that he is being unfairly castigated here, unfairly prosecuted. They are going in this wide-eyed. They believe that he is fighting for them and it's going to fight for him. And he's their best shot of keeping the America they want. That's what they believe.
GRIFFIN: But we live in a media ecosystem where there is so much lying with impunity and a lack of like public people in the positions of public trust that are telling the truth to the public. I mean, and it's not -- we can all point fingers different directions, but when you have most elected Republicans still lying to the public, saying the election was stolen, this is political.
On that debate stage last night, some people did good jobs. Nikki Haley, I think, crushed it. But even so, they still had to pivot back to, oh, but there's a weaponization of the Department of Justice.
Just tell the public the truth that he can -- he is going to have his day in court for the crimes he committed.
DUNCAN: When you've got Kevin McCarthy, when you've got sitting U.S. senators, House representatives, governors telling folks partial truths still, right? The Joe Q. public should trust those elected officials, but they can't trust them because they're not telling them the truth.
I guarantee you there's less than 1 percent if you gave them just an ounce of truth serum, Republicans that actually believe the election was rigged, that actually have some sort of tangible proof that something happened outside the ordinary. But, no.
JORDAN: But instead of pivoting, what we're seeing in Georgia in terms of the elected officials, as you know, are people that are using this moment to fundraise and to get their names out there and to go after Fani Willis. We have people that are calling for special sessions so she can be disbarred, which the General Assembly can't even do.
So, it's not even like they're looking at this as a moment where we can sit there and say, okay, let's take a breath, let's give this guy his time in court and figure out what happened and what didn't happen. They're actually using this to even push even further, more ridiculous kind of conspiracy theories.
DUNCAN: We should be holding Democrats accountable in every way, shape and form for Joe Biden's policy positions on the border, foreign policy, everything, A to Z, right? Even Democrats don't have --
JORDAN: But it's hard to do that when you have your guy showing up and getting booked in and being indicted for RICO.
DUNCAN: That's exactly right. You just made my case for me.
URBAN: So, again, in the split screen world, right, I would say this is the argument the Republicans are making. Well, look what happened when the Department of Justice went to the court to kind of seal up Hunter Biden's plea deal and the judge asked two questions. It fell apart like house of cards, right? Just poof, vanished in the --
DUNCAN: Two things can be true at the same time.
URBAN: No, no, I get it. But the flip side of the world is saying, like they're watching video of Hunter Biden with cocaine and prostitutes and all these things, and yet, and they say, nothing has happened to this guy. What's happened? He's flown around on Air Force, too.
GRIFFIN: But we all agree, every one of us wants to see Hunter Biden held accountable for any wrongdoing he potentially did. He's not the president or former president of the United States.
URBAN: I don't disagree. But I'm saying, Alyssa, when America sees all this going on in the president, right, and they see nothing happening to the Biden family, right, the narrative just gets reinforced and reinforced and reinforced.
DUNCAN: Two negatives don't make a positive. And this is the true spot that our party needs leadership to step forward. Because if the leaders are telling folks this is not okay behavior, this is not acceptable, then the people are going to start to follow. It's a long- term investment in our party.
COOPER: But everybody on that debate stage last night except for Asa Hutchinson, and I'm not sure what Chris Christie was doing with the hand, said that they would vote for him even if he was convicted.
DUNCAN: And that's disheartening.
GRIFFIN: And, by the way, just --
COOPER: And, by the way, the most popular person on that debate stage last night, it seems, if you look, was --
DUNCAN: Without even seeing the charges.
COOPER: -- the guy who was imitating the former president. I mean, he's doing the Trump show just with his own spin on it.
GRIFFIN: I just want to say quickly, Urban is not wrong at all, that that is how most of the right sees this with regard to Hunter Biden. But again, it goes back to people in positions of public trust who are lying. We were watching another network briefly last night. They kept referring to the Biden crime family. Hunter Biden, we know it's being adjudicated by the Department of Justice. You can criticize the process, but that is just such an absurd notion to put out there into feed because you will not deal with this issue that's in front of you.
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The thing that's equally absurd is this entire conversation going back and forth between which of these elites are being treated which way by the system when the masses of people are treated badly by the system every day.
And here we have a mug shot. Just having a mug shot isn't a bad thing. A lot of people in America got mug shots. A lot of people in America got mug -- it's what's the mug shot for, what did you get arrested for. This is somebody who got arrested abusing his power and hurting a lot of people.
But my question to the Republicans who say you're willing to vote for this guy with a mug shot? Well, would you hire somebody with a mug shot? Would you hire somebody with 91 charges against them, but they haven't been proven guilty of anything? Would you give somebody else a chance that you're willing to give this guy a chance? Because I see no evidence yet to the same party that jumped up and down to defend this guy's rights are defending anybody else's rights in the same situation.
And that hypocrisy cuts deep. And I think regular people watching this are getting to ask some questions here. Why now do you care that the criminal justice system is bad because it affects a Hunter Biden or because it affects a Donald Trump or because it affects -- but you don't care about everybody else?
Well, also you argue about the weaponization of the FBI. The FBI was weaponized for decades against Dr. King. I mean, so, it's kind of -- it's incredible.
URBAN: And, Van, your point is well taken about whether -- we saw this on the First Step Act. We worked together on those types of issues in terms of joining together to get things done. But I think a lot of America also is frustrated with, and this isn't necessarily directly related to this, what you see in smash and grabs, it feels like a lawlessness is taking place in America, that no laws are being enforced and they're selectively being enforced against certain people, right?
And so you see whether it's in Kensington, in Philadelphia, zombies walking around under the L with drugs and fentanyl and all these tranq and all these terrible things and no one is going to jail, no one is being prosecuted, drug lords, things are running amok in America. [22:10:09]
That's what I think the feeling is.
JONES: But this idea of lawlessness, from the top to the bottom, you've got lawlessness on January 6th. You've got lawlessness with what's going on with this person. This idea -- and you've got stuff going on in our neighborhood level that needs to stop.
This idea that you can't trust law enforcement, well, welcome to the party, guys. Welcome to the party. We've been screaming for decades now that there're some things in our system that are not fair to people and they can be used negatively.
We've been talking about prosecutors abusing their power and going too far, no offense to my friend here. And the people in the same Republican Party that are now all upset were the ones telling us that we were wrong in being hysterical. And then when we tried to fix it, now there's been this backlash.
So, what I'm saying is, let's take this conversation, if we're going to have it, beyond just these couple of elite families. And we're supposed to pick sides about which elite family is supposed to get treated right. What about everybody else?
DUNCAN: When all this is over, I don't know if this is in a week, a month, 10 years from now. When all this is over, I think Donald Trump's going to go down as one of the biggest mistakes this country's made. We as Republicans have got to figure out how serious do we want to get about fixing this, right?
At the end of the day, when you simplify this problem, 35 percent of people are in love with Donald Trump and they're not going anywhere. There's 65 percent of the Republican Party, 65 percent of our friends and colleagues, right, that are still persuadable. And we need to fight for the keys for this party. We need to go send real leaders forward and we need to fight with them.
COOPER: And 30 years from now, if someone is going to look back and see this mug shot and think that guy was president of the United States?
DUNCAN: But, Geoff, here's the counter of that as well. What is it about the Biden-Harris administration that make Republicans persuadable in that case, right? Why are Republicans needed to be persuaded? It's your point, if this is so horrific, why are Republicans like, oh, this is terrible, we're never voting for this guy again, then they say, well, you know what, if he's on the ticket, I'd rather vote for him than Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, right? I mean, that's pretty crazy.
JORDAN: But that's what the leaders are saying. I mean, leaders that have not necessarily been pro-Trump, they keep saying, well, I'm still going to vote for him. I'm going to vote for whoever gets the nomination, wink, wink, nod, nod. I mean, Governor Kemp has said that. I mean, it's one of those things where it's something -- you can sit here and talk about integrity and leading with truth and all that kind of stuff, but when the rubber hits the road, I mean, you got to be able to act your values, right?
URBAN: But why do you think Governor Kemp is saying that? Do you think he loves Donald Trump or do you think he just fears what four more years that Biden-Harris administration would do to America?
GRIFFIN: I think that we're such a deeply polarized country and people tend to keep their jerseys on. I say that with deep respect for Governor Kemp.
ELI HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I'm going to pick up on that point. One thing that I think that is indisputable about this mug shot, it is polarizing. It will be an indelible image that will live through history, and it's the ultimate Rorschach test.
URBAN: Right, exactly.
HONIG: Liberals are going to look at it and be delighted or think this is a moment of accountability. Conservatives, as you're saying, are going to say, this is persecution.
And let me just say this, as a prosecutor thinking back to this case, that worries me. Because you need unanimity in that jury room, you need 12-0. And if you have different people seeing that and it evokes strong emotions, that's not good for you as a prosecutor.
GRIFFIN: By the way, and this is something that Van Jones has made me think of is, to try to keep myself honest, I think, how would I feel about this if it was Barack Obama? Just that should be the basic question that Republicans ask themselves. If 91 felony accounts were committed, you know, you're still going to go through the judicial process by Barack Obama, would I be out shouting and calling for congressional hearings? Yes, my party cannot hold him to a different standard than they would if this was a Democrat that was there.
I remember when I was working on the oversight committee and we were subpoenaing Eric Holder and holding him in contempt of Congress because he defied congressional subpoenas. Now, Jim Jordan, who put those out, defied a congressional subpoena, as did Mark Meadows. It's the height of hypocrisy. It's unserious. It's not leadership.
And to your point, I don't know that we have a party in ten years if we don't wrap our arms around the direction that it's going.
DUNCAN: My kids would say that Donald Trump's figured out the cheat code for winning this election, right? The cheat code, right? He's plugged in a couple of numbers with indictments and fear mongering and screaming and hollering and he wins the election. But did you really win, right?
When neighbors can't talk to neighbors anymore because they're not in the same party, or they don't go to the same church, or they don't have the same sexual orientation, whatever the divide is, if you can't talk to people at your own office, if you can't talk to people in your own parties, we don't even go to state party functions, county party functions. Brian Kemp doesn't go to the state party functions because it's just a broken system. It doesn't represent America.
And that's my point about the 65 percent. It's here, it's now or never. We're either going to stand up, fight for the keys to this party, redirect our course in a better direction that's not softer and less conservative. Donald Trump, I've got a 13-year-old son who's more conservative than Donald Trump, and been a Republican longer than Donald Trump, right? He's confused the Republican base to be loud and angry as conservative. It's not conservative.
JORDAN: But I think the problem that you all have, really, because this is what showed up in our polling, too, is the people that are identifying themselves as Republican tend to be pro-Trump, right?
So, you have this whole bloc of folks, and I call them Chamber of Commerce or Business Republicans, that are about 10 to 15 percent of the Republican electorate normally in our state, I know, that now identify themselves as independent and not partisan at all.
So, even the polling is off, so when you hear that 35 percent, 40 percent of Republicans feel this way, I don't think -- I think those are the Republicans who will say they're Republicans now, and that's a real problem.
DUNCAN: And, by the way, the Democrats, you guys have the same problem. Only 35 percent of your base really supports Joe Biden, wants Joe Biden to stay in the president. You wish you could -- I won't put you on the spot here on national television, but you wish you had somebody better to vote for that was younger, more vibrant, more policy-centric, more geared, dialed in, but you don't. And that's just -- but your guy didn't have 91 indictments, right? So, the lesser of two evils.
JONES: I mean, I think a couple of things can be true at the same time. I'm actually proud of Joe Biden, I'm proud of what he's been able to do. I'm proud that we're on an economic recovery. The nose of the plane has pointed up, even if the ride is a little bit bumpy. But there's a lot of hurt out there and we're not talking about it.
The main problem that most people have is not Donald Trump and it's not Joe Biden. You know the main thing they're scared of, the check engine light. Because when that check engine light goes on, that's $3,000, baby, but you don't have. And every day you're driving to work hoping it doesn't cut on. And who cares about it? You got people who have real problems out here. And they're watching this and they're saying, one thing I know for sure, none of these people care about me. And that's the big issue.
To me, my concern is that the only thing we have to each other, to your point, it is really good and bad where we can't talk to each other about anything. Listen, you put something on the table, I'll put something on the table. Do I like lawyers getting arrested? That's scary. That's scary. Because a lot of times, the only people I think my people have are lawyers. Now, if lawyers are going to get in the crosshairs, that's scary for me, but I can't say that because I don't want to give any aid and comfort to the other side when these bad lawyers are getting in trouble.
So, the nuances get chased out among the elites, but for ordinary people, it's not nuanced at all. There are real problems, neither of these parties seem to care, and the only people who we care about who go to jail or who get in trouble right now are the people at the very, very top, and everybody else can just go to hell, and that's not right.
COOPER: We're going to take -- let's go down to Kaitlan outside the jail in Fulton County. Kaitlan?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we are still outside the jail here in Fulton County.
I'm joined now tonight by Charles Burnham. He is the attorney for John Eastman, who is one of the former president's 18 co-defendants here. John Eastman is the one who told Trump falsely that Pence could block certification of Biden's win of the 2020 election.
Good evening, Mr. Burnham. Thank you for joining me.
Does your client, Mr. Eastman, also want a speedy trial here?
CHARLES BURNHAM, ATTORNEY FOR JOHN EASTMAN: As we stand here today, we're not prepared to make that demand. It's certainly something we might, you know, think through as a sort of thought experiment, but I think we'd be inclined not to do anything similar to what Mr. Cheseboro has done recently.
This is a complicated case. There's going to be an enormous amount of evidence.
COLLINS: Okay. So, you're not -- go ahead.
BURNHAM: I was just going to conclude by saying this is an enormously complicated case. I can only imagine what the discovery is going to look like, and I think it's going to take some time to work through all that.
COLLINS: Okay. So, right now, you have no plans to ask for a speedy trial for John Eastman, that's right?
BURNHAM: That's correct.
COLLINS: Okay. Will your client tried to move this case from state court to a federal court, like we've seen others attempt to do?
BURNHAM: Well, he may not have a choice. From what I understand, there's at least a viable argument that if a federal officer, an actual, you know, federal officer that worked for the federal government gets his case successfully removed, which could happen. There's a reasonable argument that the rest of the defendants may automatically be removed, whether they're federal officers or not. And so that may be what ends up happening.
If that doesn't happen, we might take a serious look at that, but we haven't made a decision one way or the other.
COLLINS: So, you're saying if one of them moves, maybe potentially all of them could, but if not, you still may potentially ask for that as well.
But I guess my question is, what would your premise be? Because that law pertains to federal officers or agencies, but, you know, Mark Meadows worked inside the White House, Jeffrey Clark worked at the Justice Department. Mr. John Eastman did not work for the executive branch. So, how would you make that argument?
BURNHAM: Yes. It would be a more difficult argument for Dr. Eastman, for sure. We might take a look and see if there's some sort of an agency theory that might apply, but we haven't made any final decisions on that yet.
COLLINS: What would the agency be?
BURNHAM: There may be some support. I don't want to get into the weeds too much here, but there could be an argument that someone who was in a federal employee themselves, if they worked in connection with other federal officers, as Dr. Eastman did, perhaps there's an argument there. We might take a look at that, but we haven't made a decision one way or the other.
COLLINS: But wouldn't that be a pretty difficult argument given -- I mean, he wasn't being paid by the federal government. He didn't have a taxpayer-funded job. So, how was there any stretch of an argument that he was working on behalf of the federal government?
BURNHAM: He certainly wasn't working on behalf of the federal government, and we haven't made a final decision on that. You may wind up being right. We're not sure yet. You've made the counterargument very well.
COLLINS: Will you seek to sever this case?
BURNHAM: I think, again, I want to answer your question directly, but I think any kind of decision, especially severance, even more so perhaps than removal, is going to be made down the road. Certainly there's benefits to going to trial apart from co-defendants. There may be benefits to going to trial with co-defendants.
I'll put it like this. I think the odds we move to sever are significantly greater than the odds that we would ask for a speedy trial. I'll put it that way.
COLLINS: Okay, so that is an option that you're considering. Is your client worried that Donald Trump, Mark Meadows and other co- defendants here will try to pin that activity that happened after the election on Mr. Eastman?
BURNHAM: No, not at all. In fact, counsel for Mr. Trump, not anyone that represents him in Georgia, but I'm referring to Mr. Lauro, has already made fairly extensive comments to that effect in various media appearances that it absolutely is their position that Donald Trump did exactly what we would expect him to do.
He had a serious constitutional question to confront around the certification of the election. So, what does he do? He hires a constitutional law professor to advise him and follows that advice. And we'd have absolutely no problem if that's an integral part of the defense that former President Trump decides to mount in Georgia. That's fine with us.
COLLINS: But he would have been following that advice against the advice of top officials who worked for him, I mean, the attorney general, top election officials, top attorneys in the White House.
When your client left the courthouse or the jail here the other day, he said he still believes that the election was stolen, which, of course, it wasn't. But is that a defense? Why is he saying that still?
BURNHAM: Dr. Eastman believes very strongly, specifically, that there were major problems with election illegalities is the way he would phrase it, which is slightly different concept than fraud.
Dr. Eastman's contention then, and his contention today was, is that many votes were cast in many states in contravention of the manner of the election set forth by the state legislatures, which has constitutional underpinnings.
And in that Dr. Eastman is not a voice in the wilderness. Vice President Pence made statements along very much the same lines. His chief counsel has made statements along those lines. And Dr. Eastman, yes, he does very much still maintain that view today.
COLLINS: But secretaries of state, I mean, they had the right to change the way those elections were administered. There wasn't anything illegal about that. It wasn't fraudulent. It doesn't mean that the 2020 election was stolen.
I mean, if he's indicted over the role he played in trying to overturn the 2020 election, does it help for him to continue claiming that election was stolen?
BURNHAM: Well, I'd say two things. One is Dr. Eastman, if you look at his whole record, he's very much a man of principle and a man not afraid to call it like he sees it. So, when he makes a comment like that, it's not some sort of strategy. That's what he really thinks.
I think when you look at the trial, the issue that's going to be presented perhaps someday to a Georgia jury is, was there a good faith basis to challenge various aspects of the 2020 election, and did Dr. Eastman and the other defendants bring those challenges in good faith? And we're confident the answer will be, absolutely, yes.
COLLINS: Well, I'll say Attorney General Bill Barr has said he disagrees.
You mentioned Mike Pence there, so I want to ask you about something he said because I don't think you've been asked about this. The former vice president said, quote, the president was surrounded by a group of crackpot lawyers that kept telling him what his itching ears wanted to hear. He is talking about your client there.
BURNHAM: Well, I'll say this about the former vice president is I want to -- I think, the former vice president -- let's look at what were his incentives here around January 6th. He really had two choices, right? He could have said, Dr. Eastman, you may have a point, but I just don't think there's any evidence of fraud or illegality here, as you were suggesting earlier.
There would have been nothing inconsistent about that. But the problem for Vice President Pence would be, for obvious reasons, that would be significantly disadvantageous to any future political campaigns, such as he's now undertaking.
The second option the vice president had, which was the one he ultimately chose, was to say, yes, I agree, there was evidence of illegality and fraud, which he said publicly at the time, but I think the Constitution has tied my hands, so I can't do anything about it.
And the consequence of taking that approach on January 6th is it aligns the vice president's interests directly in opposition to Professor Eastman. And I can't read his mind, but he has an incentive to do everything he can to discredit everything Dr. Eastman said at the time. And the statement you just quoted is very much along those lines. And I think that's very important context for anyone evaluating this case to appreciate.
COLLINS: But are you saying that Mike Pence had politics on his mind at the time? I mean, he was the one who came under intense pressure from people, including your client, to try to do something that everyone agrees, everyone looking at the legal basis that he did not have the ability to do. And it sounds like you're saying that he had politics in mind on January 6th.
BURNHAM: All I can say is I can't read the vice president's mind. I don't know what his internal discussions were. But at a trial, the question is going to be presented to the jury.
COLLINS: But you can see what he did.
BURNHAM: Is what were the incentives. And I think it's clear, I don't think it's even debatable that the vice president and his allies have an incentive to discredit, as best they can the theories that Dr. Eastman put forward on that date, none of which, I continue to insist, or foreclose by any Supreme Court or other binding president. You might not like Dr. Eastman's theories. You might think they had bad public policy consequences. But the important point for these purposes is that they were not foreclosed by any binding law at all.
COLLINS: Well, there is no Supreme Court precedent for this, but Charles Burnham, thank you for your time tonight. Thank you for coming on. And with that news that you do not plan to ask for a speedy trial.
Up next, reaction from a Republican Congressman to what we saw here in Georgia tonight as Donald Trump is arriving back in New Jersey after that criminal booking number four.
TAPPER: Donald Trump's 757 has just landed at Newark International Airport. Live pictures there of it taxiing to the ramp.
Let's talk about the day's events with Colorado Republican Congressman and House Freedom Caucus member Congressman Ken Buck. Congressman Buck, thanks for joining us. What's your reaction to the former president's arrest and what you have witnessed today?
REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO), HOUSE FREEDOM CAUCUS MEMBER: Well, first, it's a sad day for America, in my view. Anytime we have a former president going through the criminal justice system, it is, I think, terribly unfortunate. But I look at this case, and I'd love to see what some of the other prosecutors on your panels think, but I think Fani Willis has a very difficult case. She's going to have one defendant, Ken Chisboro, who wants a speedy trial. She has to put 90 percent of her case on with that defendant. So you have witnesses who are gonna be testifying under oath as to a version of facts.
Then you're gonna have another defendant who has a trial in state court and another defendant who gets severed. And so you have three or two or three trials in state court. And then you have one or two trials in federal court because some of these cases will get remanded.
By the time you tried Donald Trump, you've had a witness testify four or five times. And there's gonna be some inconsistencies and that makes the case a little bit weaker. I think the D.A.'s office in Fulton County overcharged this case with the RICO. And I think they overcharged this case by having 19 defendants. She's counting on 16 of these defendants, 15 of these defendants pleading guilty and becoming state's evidence against Donald Trump.
I'm not sure that's gonna happen in a case like this. This is not, you know, RICO has to do with organized crime. If this is a crime at all, I think it's a disorganized crime, and I don't think these folks are willing to testify against the former president of the United States.
TAPPER: To that point, you previously have said that the charges brought against Trump in this indictment are, quote, "comparable to a nuclear bomb, whereas a bullet would have sufficed," end quote. You were a prosecutor. You were a former district attorney. What charges would have sufficed here in your opinion or do you think District Attorney Willis should have just deferred to Special Counsel Smith?
BUCK: Well I think that Jack Smith brought charges. He considered RICO, he decided not to go with RICO. I think that was the right decision in the federal case. This is really a federal case. It is not a state case. She's charging acts that are alleged to have happened in Pennsylvania, and she can. It's not all that uncommon. In a drug case, you may very well have deals that are made outside of Fulton County, outside of Georgia, that she can charge.
But in this particular case, a lot of the activity happened in Washington, D.C. A lot of the activity happened in Pennsylvania, Arizona, other places. So this is really a case that should have been brought by the federal government, was brought by the federal government in a much narrower and more focused way.
TAPPER: You have said you would not support a convicted felon for the position of President of the United States. Does that mean that you, if Donald Trump is ultimately convicted of one of these crimes, whether the two being brought by Jack Smith or this one by Fani Willis, do you think that you will not support him?
BUCK: Well, what I'm what upset is i don't think any of these cases will go to trial before of the election. I don't think that the appeals will be heard so they won't be a final judgment on these cases certainly before the election, but I will not support a convicted felon for the position of President of United States, regardless of who that person is.
TAPPER: As you know the former chief of staff Mark Meadows also surrendered and was arrested in process today, he obviously is somebody that served in the House of Representatives and told relatively recently, and was a member of the of the House Freedom Caucus that the Head of the Free House in caucus at one point. What goes through your mind when you see Mark Meadows headshot is mugshot?
BUCK: Yeah, I have to tell you, Mark is a good friend of mine we serve together, we met every week in the freedom caucus, he was the chair of the freedom caucus at the time that he left to go become the Chief of Staff for the White House. I think it's terribly sad. I think it's sad for Mark. I think it's sad for Debbie. These charges are charges that Mark, I don't know that he ever actually visited Georgia during this timeframe.
TAPPER: He did.
BUCK: Certainly, he set up a phone call, and he did other things at the direction of the president. I think the folks who are saying that this is a political, you know, action and not inaction within his scope of as chief of staff. I -- if i'm going to make a fundraising call as a congressman, I have to leave my congressional office and I have to go someplace else to make that call I can't make it on government property.
The president - United States is exempt for that, people expect the president to conduct political activities at the same time he conducts his other activities in the White House, and so it it's difficult to say where marks where the line is where Mark was acting in his political capacity or in his professional capacity for the president.
TAPPER: And finally sir, this is the fourth time that Donald Trump has been booked on criminal charges. I understand that a lot of people don't take the charges from Alan Bragg in New York very seriously but the Jack Smith charges seem pretty serious the Fani Willis charges seem pretty serious regardless of how heavy a lift do you think it will be to actually bring them forward?
Do you think the majority of Republican voters are paying less and less attention each time this happens? Do you think they rally around him more each time it happens? Or do you think there is a hunger for a credible alternative and will be even more so in the coming days as the presidential primaries continue?
BUCK: Well, I think all of the above. Jake, I think that there certainly is a sympathy factor for a president of the United States. It is magnified by the fact that the case against Hillary Clinton, the case against Hunter Biden don't appear to be treated the same way to Republicans.
I think that there are also many Republicans out there who are saying enough drama. Maybe Mike Pence is the right guy. Maybe Tim Scott's the right guy, maybe the Governor DeSantis is the right person, Nikki Haley to really run against Joe Biden and express our values and be a better contrast.
But I think President Trump has a large support right now. The question really is going to be as this drags on, is he going to continue to have that kind of support?
TAPPER: Congressman Ken Buck, always good to see you. Thank you, sir.
BUCK: Thank you.
TAPPER: Moments ago, we saw Donald Trump's private Boeing 757 wheels down, as they say, at Newark International Airport. In a moment, he will get into yet another motorcade and make his way back to his private golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where CNN's Kristen Holmes is reporting for us and joins us now.
Kristen, Donald Trump, set to arrive back at his golf club in just a few minutes after the historic arrest tonight in Georgia. What is awaiting for him back at Bedminster in the past? We've seen him, I think, when he came back from Florida, from being charged there in the classified documents case. I think there was a fundraiser of some sort. What is happening at Bedminster this evening?
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake, according to Trump advisors, not much. As you mentioned, when he was indicted in New York or arraigned in New York, he had a big party at Mar-a-Lago. He gave remarks, he talked to club members, and he ate a giant dinner with friends on the patio. Then, when he was arraigned again in Miami, he had remarks at Bedminster and gave a big fundraiser. We are told none of that is happening tonight.
Trump is going back to his club with a small group of aides, but those aides don't even stay there at that club. They stay at nearby hotels. They aren't put up in those residences. So it's really just him going back to that Bedminster Golf Club where he is spending the summer.
And we did hear from him moments ago, just in addition to the remarks on the tarmac, we heard from him again in an interview that he did on "Newsmax" where he said that going to the Fulton County jail was a quote. "terrible experience" of course he added that they were very nice to him that is something that he often says, but it was interesting to have him say realistically that this was a terrible experience that he had at the jail today.
TAPPER: All right. Kristen Holmes in New Jersey, thanks so much.
Back now with our panel. Dana Bash, one of the things that's interesting when you talk to Congressman Ken Buck, at no point during that interview did he say, Donald Trump didn't do this. Donald Trump is innocent.
Now, if we had booked Matt Gaetz or Byron Donalds, maybe we would have heard something along those lines. But this is a very conservative member of the House Freedom Caucus, very conservative Republican, not really, you know, not really offering much of a defense.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, and doesn't think Donald Trump should be the nominee. He is -- He's one of the people who we called part of the sort of you know extreme right, back in 2010 and now --
TAPPER: T-party was a T-party guy.
BASH: Yeah. Exactly. And he still considers himself that and it is that part of the party has been totally overtaken by Donald Trump. All of the party has been overtaken by Donald Trump. What was interesting about last night is you started to hear some of the fiscal responsibility arguments see Buck and catch a lot of fire from Nikki Haley and others.
The question is whether the Ken Buck arguments, whether the Nikki Haley arguments and all of those arguments are going to actually have any oxygen when you have what you saw tonight from the front runner.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: And you know what else struck me after last night's debate? The candidates were asked basically the same question that Jake asked Ken Buck. Will you vote for a guy who was convicted of a federal crime or has a felony? Ken Buck said, no, I'm not going to do it. And I think last night it was probably the vast majority of the candidates on that stage.
TAPPER: I think it was six out of eight.
PHILLIP: Six out of eight. TAPPER: Six out of eight for Christie and Hutchinson. Right?
PHILLIP: Right. Who said, who raised their hand and said, yeah, I'll support him still. It really speaks volumes. I think about how far you have to go if you're running for president to defend Trump even if you're running against him, even if you think that his conduct is deplorable, even if you think that he should be charged.
Many of those people still said that they would vote for him. Ken Buck didn't and not very many people in the Congress and the House of Representatives right now are willing to say that to his credit. That was very notable to me.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I thought it was also interesting because if I had a nickel for every time a Republican said privately to me --
GANGEL: -- what they really thought of Donald Trump, I wouldn't be buying any lottery tickets anymore. I mean this is the fact that we are still here today. The fact that Donald Trump still has such a grip not only on the -- the Republican base voters, but on elected officials is just stunning.
TAPPER: And you know it's interesting so much of this is ending in Georgia where there, you know Donald Trump, he waged this campaign to flip states that had voted legally and lawfully for Joe Biden in Arizona, in Pennsylvania, in Michigan, Wisconsin, in Nevada, and Georgia.
I asked the head of one of the states that's not prosecuting Donald Trump, they said that the fake elector scheme was just, there are too many loopholes as opposed to Michigan where we're doing it. But we're really only seeing accountability on the state level in Michigan where there are you're indicted the fake electors and in Georgia.
MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: That that's true but i do think that the special counsel's case covers sure some of this activity on the state level i mean right in the question is do you need to double-dip i mean there there's a there's an argument to be made that it's really not going to matter if he's convicted once or twice if you're convicted on the federal level does he need the state conviction to follow as well and i thought that the cars made a good argument and again a fair point.
And that's what happens when this case is going along, especially if you have, if the prosecutor has to try them at different times. So if you try one and you put a witness up, you know, up and suddenly you've got a record of what that witness says and the next trial if it's a little bit different, they can be impeached by them because they said something different and it goes on and on and on. Not to mention those who are waiting to have their case heard have time to sort of get a dry run and hear the evidence that the government might want to put on against them. So I mean he made some, he made some fair points when it came to the complexity.
TAPPER: Oh, sure.
MOORE: And that's the charging decision right of this we could have seen a case where the district attorney didn't need 2.5 years to investigate. We came in very quickly with a call -- a charge based on the Raffensperger call. That could have been done in early twenty.
TAPPER: But Andy McCabe one of the things that I -- that I sense of course there's politics afoot with a district attorney who was elected and all the rest and Alan Bragg in New York. I do think that there is an incentive for district attorneys and the like, to try to provide a disincentive for any politician ever trying to do this ever again. Not just a president but a local alderman or a Congress, a congressional candidate, this coordinated conspiracy of lying about an election and trying to force through public pressure local officials to overturn an election which would probably be much easier to do on a local level with people not watching as much.
ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: That's absolutely true and I think it tees up a really interesting conflict here. There are some like the congressmen who say it's double dipping, is it really necessary. There are others I think who raise very good questions about should we be in a system where every politically elected county prosecutor across the country can start prosecuting a sitting president or something. So these are all very legitimate questions.
However, the other side of that coin is you have prosecutors, like in this case Fani Willis, who is looking at substantial criminal activity, allegedly, --
TAPPER: And evidence.
MCCABE: -- and evidence in her jurisdiction in Fulton County, Georgia. She was elected by the people of Fulton County to prosecute crimes that happened there. This was, according to her, a very significant one, and that's certainly within her remit.
TAPPER: Thanks, one and all, for being here. I appreciate it.
Just ahead, another important story that we've been following tonight. U.S. military officials giving their first comments about what might have caused that plane crash that appears to have killed Putin, ally turned rival Yevgeny Prigozhin. The analysis of that, plus Putin's remarks today about Prigozhin, next.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: As we've been following the arrest and first ever mugshot of a former president, today U.S. military officials said it is quote likely that the head of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was killed in Wednesday's plane crash. Pentagon also says that it quote "doesn't have any information to indicate right now that the plane crash, which was caught on camera, was the result of a surface-to-air missile." All possibilities are being evaluated, including an onboard explosion.
People familiar with intelligence do believe the plane crash was no accident and that the goal was to kill Prigozhin, a one-time ally obviously, of Vladimir Putin who led a brief failed rebellion two months before the crash. Today Vladimir Putin gave his first public remarks about Prigozhin's death, we're joined by our Melissa Bell in Ukraine and CNN national security analyst Steve Hall, a former CIA chief of Russia operations.
So what did Vladimir Putin have to say about this incident?
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was the first time that there was a break in the silence on the part of Russian authorities. All we'd had, Anderson, previous to Putin's comments, was a mention from the aviation authority about the facts of the matter of this plane crash.
So a break of the silence, and yet, even though Vladimir Putin is not really known for his florid statements or his very obvious displays of emotion, this was a remarkably deadpan assessment of the death of a man with whom he went back for decades. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I knew Prigozhin for a very long time, since the early 90s. He was a man of difficult fate, and he made serious mistakes in life. And he achieved the results needed both for himself, and when I asked him about it, for a common cause.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Very emotional.
BELL: Remarkable criticism really of a man who had just died there, Anderson. And a reminder that Vladimir Putin's opinions of his longtime ally turned foe were at best mixed. Reminder also, no doubt, that the worst kind of enemy really is one that used to be a close friend, Anderson.
COOPER: Steve, I mean, you certainly spent a lot of time thinking about Vladimir Putin. When you see that message, what do you see?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: You know i think most of Vladimir Putin's interactions with other human beings are transactional on so this whole idea that others uses an old friend of mine who came back from the St. Petersburg days, you know i don't know how much that was true what i think he's trying to do when he makes statements like this he's walking a very fine line.
He's already sent the strongest message possible, the most important message for him which is to others who would try to pull off with Prigozhin pulled off, either on mutiny or some sort of coup. He sent the strongest message by bringing that plane down.
However, what he's also gotta do is he's gotta convince the Russian people. And there was some, and the reason he has to do this is because there was some popular support for Prigozhin. And I think he's trying to walk that line by essentially saying, look, yeah, other oligarchs, others who might try this don't because this is how it can end up. But by the same token to the Russian people, listen, this is something liability here. I'm really not sure what happened. It's unclear as to whether it's going to happen to work for him, but I think that's what he's trying to pull off.
COOPER: Well, Steve, also, I mean, the fact that, I mean, assuming he is behind the death of Prigozhin, the fact that he would be willing to kill somebody who he has an economic incentive to keep around is very telling. I mean, the economic incentive was not enough to save Yevgeny Prigozhin.
HALL: Yeah, this is a dance Anderson that we've seen a couple of other oligarchs fail to -- fail to do. I mean, 20 years ago you had Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who not an identical situation, but an oligarch who began to become almost as powerful or at least in the same strata as Vladimir Putin.
He felt that he could participate politically and do some things that Putin was extremely unhappy about and were threatening to him. What happened to him? Ten years in a Russian jail, the only reason he was released because of the Sochi Olympics.
So this is not the first time that an oligarch has expressed and acted on a sense of hubris.
That's a lot of questions that we're all asking ourselves is, why did Prigozhin even try this? Did he think it was going to work? And then two months later is when his plane goes down. You know, this is a guy, Prigozhin, who thought he could pull it off. And Putin now shows him, no, this is not going to happen. And more importantly to others who might try it, no, this is not going to happen.
COOPER: And on the two-month anniversary, as you pointed out last night, Melissa, has there been any further response from Wagner about the decapitation, essentially, of his leadership?
BELL: Well, there have, first of all, Anderson, been these expressions of grief, these makeshift memorials that have been set up in Prigozhin's hometown of St Petersburg, people paying their respects, shedding the odd tear.
But there have also been expressions of anger on the part of Wagner mercenaries on social media, some of them threatening retaliation on part of their former boss. But I think perhaps most worrying to the Kremlin and reflecting what Steve just said there, Prigozhin was, of course, one man, but he represented a particular strand of thinking in Russian politics, and not just amongst his own fighters, but more widely in Russian society, that outflanked Vladimir Putin on the question of the war and on what needed to be done to help to win it. Things like bringing in mass mobilization, that strand of thinking is still very much there. And the question is what it becomes now.
Yeah. Melissa Bell Steve Hall, thanks so much.
Also, my thanks to Jake Tapper, Kaitlan Collins, and all our panel members and correspondents. And after another historic evening, the news continues. John King and Laura Coates, hosting "CNN TONIGHT," right after a short break.