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CNN Live Event/Special

Prison Official: Murderer Climbed Onto Roof To Escape; Mar-a- Lago IT Worker Strikes Cooperation Agreement With Special Counsel, Has Agreed To Testify; McConnell Dodges Reporters' Questions On Health Scares; Judge Denies Chesebro Motion To Sever Case From Powell's; Special Counsel Intends To Indict Hunter Biden On Gun Charges. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired September 06, 2023 - 15:30   ET



JONATHAN WACKROW, FORMER SECRET SERVICE AGENT: You know, any type of, you know, behavior or of an individual or any type of anomalous activity around residences or businesses need to be reported immediately because that can be the critical structure -- critical clue in actually finding this individual.

And final point here, it was raised that communication may be a factor in terms of the interoperability of different law enforcement and response entities. I think that the Lieutenant Colonel from the state police got ahead of that, saying that currently they have an incident command structure and ICS that's in place that should be addressing any type of communication. You know, issues that are out there providing one unified command in strategy to locate this suspect. So a lot coming out of this press conference, but a lot of questions still remain unanswered -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Yes, and one thing that really jumps out at me, Jonathan, I want to quickly get your reaction. Is that -- what, four months earlier -- another prisoner actually escaped from this prison doing exactly the same thing that Danelo Cavalcante was doing.

WACKROW: Yes, exactly. And what we heard is a little bit of that investigation, which was focused primarily on the physical controls, right? So there was a vulnerability that was identified in the physical review of the space. And they -- that's when they again, just what I heard from that the press conference that is when they added that extra layer of razor wire.

What was not in the calculus during that review was the potential for human error and how human error, you know, could contribute to a -- somebody escaping. That's what happened in this case. You know, again focusing in on that tower guard, the roles and responsibilities of that position. How does that play in the overall structure of, you know, securing that facility? And I think that's what investigators are going to look at right now.

BLITZER: Yes, they got to learn the lessons, make sure it doesn't happen again. Jonathan Wackrow, thank you very much for that analysis. Still ahead, we're staying on top of all of the news out of Fulton

County, Georgia today. We also have breaking news in the federal classified documents case against Trump in Florida. Mar-a-Lago IT worker has now flipped, flipped against the former president -- former President Trump. Lots going on. Much more coverage coming up, that's next.



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: And we have breaking news this hour in the federal classified documents case against former President Donald Trump. One of the key players has now flipped against the former president and is cooperating with the special counsel, Jack Smith's team. That is according to the former defense attorney for the Mar-a- Lago, IT worker referenced as employee number four but confirmed as Yuscil Taveras. Who says Tavares has now agreed to testify in the case and in exchange for that testimony, he is not going to be prosecuted?

Both Tavares and Carlos de Oliveira, the club's property manager, were initially suspected of giving false testimony after they denied that they had tried to erase incriminating security camera footage from the Mar-a-Lago property. Tavares was never charged. And this filing that we have just gotten marks the first public acknowledgment that the special counsel, Jack Smith, has now won the cooperation of a key witness in the case against Trump, his longtime valet Walt Nada and of course, Carlos de Oliveira as well.

Our panel is back with me here. And Elie, obviously this is something we had suspected. Because after we got that superseding indictment, we knew there had to be some kind of new testimony. But now it isn't confirmed in these court documents that yes, Yuscil Taveras is cooperating.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, big development and a step forward for the prosecutor's office. If you look at the indictment, it's quite clear that they're basing some of the new allegations. About the effort to delete surveillance footage on testimony that they had to have gotten from Yuscil Taveras, who's identified in the indictment as Trump employee four.

Important to note, the indictment does not actually allege that Yuscil Taveras ever had a direct conversation or direct contact with Donald Trump. The person Yuscil Taveras deals with, according to the indictment, is Mr. de Oliveira.

COLLINS: Who's the property manager?

HONIG: Exactly.

COLLINS: And he's the IT director.

HONIG: Right. And he is one of the three charged defendants. Trump, Nada and de Oliveira. And the most important thing, I think, is there's a moment when de Oliveira tells Yuscil Taveras, who's now cooperating, hey, the boss wants us to take a look at the surveillance video. The boss, I think, fairly clear who that means. But important to know, prosecutors can use that testimony against Donald Trump, even though he's not part of that conversation. They can say this is your co-conspirator having this conversation. And so it's admissible against you, Donald Trump.

COLLINS: Karen, what do you make of this?

KAREN FRIEDMAN AGNIFILO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's big news. I mean, the fact that the defendants are starting to flip on one another. I think that was always the plan with Jack Smith by charging these much lower-level individuals like Walt Nada and Carlos de Oliveira. And now we've got Yuscil Tavares. Now he's flipping on Donald Trump and I think it's big. He's the guy who can tell everybody whether or not, for example, did somebody ask -- what was that flood that was -- everyone suspecting, was that intentional or not, in order to destroy tapes and to destroy evidence. And what was going on there?

I mean, he he's the guy who also said he didn't know how to erase the tapes. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn't. But he felt he couldn't. Right. So I think it's going to be a big deal that you've got an insider who's going to now be able to testify about the efforts not only to possess these classified documents, but to evade law enforcement and make it so that that, you know, the cover up is always worse than the crime. He's going to be able to talk about the cover up.

COLLINS: And Jennifer, the reason this all matters is because essentially his attorney is arguing he should not be allowed to testify. Prosecutors are raising questions about that attorney's involvement. He represents multiple people in Trump's orbit. But we could see where he is cross-examined his former client here.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, well, not just that he's represented other people in the orbit, witnesses and so on.


He represents Walt Nada. So I mean, right. So you can't have someone representing two defendants in the same case like that. There's just all sorts of conflicts that come up. It just shows how smart Jack Smith and his team are being about taking care of these conflicts, right?

Step number one, if you have a lawyer who you think is in the pocket of co-defendant Donald Trump because he's being paid by the PAC. And also, he's representing all these other people, is you have to find a way to at least have the client think about getting rid of that lawyer. If the lawyer is not acting in his interest.

So you go to the court, you have a hearing. The court explains to the defendant, this is where your interest is in having an independent lawyer who has only your interest in mind, nobody else's. And sure enough this client, Mr. Taveras, says, oh well, hey, wait a minute. I think I do want my own independent lawyer. That lawyer comes in. Next thing you know, he has a cooperation deal. And Stanley Woodward is off the case. DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And Kaitlan, we should note

that President Trump, former President Trump, was asked by Hugh Hewitt today on a radio interview. Straight up, whether or not he directed anyone to move boxes at Mar-a-Lago of the documents.

And he said, I don't talk about anything. You know why? Because I'm allowed to do whatever I want. I come under the Presidential Records Act. He went on to say, I'm allowed to do everything I did.

So you see that he is not changing at all from where he's been throughout this entire process. And now, you know, he could keep saying that. But if more witnesses start cooperating, this is going to get much more difficult for the former president.

COLLINS: Yes. Well, and it shows what's happening when Trump is paying for their attorneys, which is when employee number four Yuscil Taveras said he was unaware of efforts to erase tapes. He gets a new attorney, and now he has that -- that testimony. I mean, it's it does speak to the legal fees and who's paying that though.

CHALIAN: There's no doubt about that and you can see the difference when it changes.


HONIG: This this is a tried-and-true Trump tactic. I mean, he's done it to protect himself in the January 6th investigation in Congress. Remember Cassidy Hutchinson, she had a Trump funded lawyer. When she got rid of him, she was able to come clean. And it happens all the time.

COLLINS: Yes. Thank you all. Much more on this breaking story. And also the news that is coming out of Fulton County, Georgia, where we watched that first televised hearing. Right after this.



BLITZER: The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, is addressing his health publicly and privately, but saying much more behind closed doors. He just wrapped up a news conference, the same setting he was in when he froze once again last week. CNN's chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju is joining us right now. Manu did the senator explain what led to his freezing episodes?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he gave more detail to Senate Republicans in their private lunch for the first time that they have met in the aftermath of those two freezing episodes. Indicating to them that his cognitive ability has not been impaired, that those two episodes were the only time that's ever happened. And they also happened in front of cameras. Now that is what he said to his members.

He was much -- when he spoke to reporters. There are still questions about exactly why he froze up. Instead, McConnell repeatedly referred to the letter that his office released yesterday from the Capitol Hill physician that ruled out a number of serious medical conditions that could have led to those frozen moments. Said it was no seizure disorder. It didn't involve stroke. It was not Parkinson's disease and the like. But it did not say a precise reason for his freeze up. And when I tried to ask the leader about that, given that he has had a number of medical evaluations, whether -- what the exact precise reason was? He went -- referred back to the letter.


RAJU: You've had all these evaluations. What did the doctor said is the precise medical reason for those two freeze ups?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY) MINORITY LEADER: What Doctor Monahan's report addressed was concerns people might have had with some things that happened to me -- did happen, well, he didn't. And really, I have nothing to add to that. I think he pretty well covered the subject.


RAJU (on camera): So another question is whether or not the explanation has satisfied Republican senators. Many of them who were concerned about the leader's health and about whether he could continue to lead the Republican Conference. I did speak to many Republican senators leaving that closed door meeting. A lot of them did say that they were satisfied with that, they had heard. They were willing to move on, and that there will be, of course, watching Senator McConnell very closely.

McConnell, indicating privately to his colleagues, Wolf, that he and his outside groups have raised nearly $50 million in their push to try to take back the Senate Majority. Indicating that he is well positioned to try to lead them back to the majority. He did tell reporters too, Wolf, that he does plan to serve out the rest of his Senate term, which is at the ends at the end of 2026. And will serve as Republican leader until the end of this Congress, which is at the end of 2024. But no decision or no announcement about what he would do in in 2025 to stay as Republican leader or step aside -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. Thank you very much for that update.

Right now I want to get back to the breaking news that we're following. The Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee just held his first hearing in the Georgia election interference case against Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants. Ruling that Trump ally and attorney Ken Chesebro and former Trump attorney Sidney Powell will indeed be tried together.


But there's still a lot of logistics that need to be worked out with the other co-defendants and the timing of this trial. The goal, according to the judge, is still to begin. October 23rd.

That's not too far down to be worked out with the other co-defendants and the timing of this trial. The goal, according to the judge, is still to begin October 23rd. That's not too far down the road. Laura Coates, Sarah Murray are back with us. Evan Perez is joining the conversation as well. We just learned more about some of these co- defendants, getting some reaction. What was your bottom-line assessment of what we saw today was very important?

LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this judge has no interest and you're talking about it being inconvenient for you to have a try. You better have a good reason to sever. We know that a trial date stands right now, October 23rd. The big question is, will it just be those two or will it be 17 others who will join?

Remember, the speedy trial rights belong to the defendant. They can ask for it. The prosecution must abide by that in Georgia. But if all don't want to be on that date. Now the ball is in the court of the prosecutor to suggest, well, here's why I can still do it. And I can maybe try to force the hand. The judge wants to have a ruling on that very issue. Because 19 co-defendants in one room is a logistical nightmare.

BLITZER: It's a big deal. Go ahead.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN, SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is. What I think one of the most important things that he did today. Was he said, you don't get to separate yourselves just because you don't believe you were part of all parts of the conspiracy, right? And that's part of the law. That Georgia Rico law is structured that way, and the judge is basically saying too bad. This is what you're going to deal with.

And So what that does is that, you know, I think, you know, it provides an incentive for some of these people to try to figure out whether they want to be tried with former President Donald Trump or do they want to get tried with, you know, with Sidney Powell and Chesebro.

Now the other question, of course, that hangs over this, is what happens with Mark Meadows's request to move his trial to federal court. Because that ruling and the judge indicated this, right. He says, you know, that's going to be part of the litigation that makes this very difficult for you to go forward with an October trial for every defendant.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and we're already seeing more motions to that effect. So we're seeing Mark Meadows now ask the state court judge, can you just put pause on these state court proceedings? Can you sever me from these other defendants? And I'm trying to move to federal court. Jeffrey Clark, who also wants his case moved to federal court, is also asking the state court judge -- now I too, want to be severed. I also have this federal court thing going on. And that is one of the judges concerns in Fulton County is how are we going to proceed with this state court case if there is this parallel effort going on for a number of you to move to federal court.

Essentially, that is the kind of thing that could take months to play out. So how are we going to move forward over here? And he did seem pretty skeptical about the notion that they were all going to be able to move together as a group of 19. But he also made some speedy rulings today and made it clear that he wants to rule pretty quickly on some other scheduling matters in the next week or so.

PEREZ: It is something we've heard about this judge that he is decisive. He is somebody who's willing to make these decisions. A lot of these judges will listen to the proceedings and then come back in a week. And so, at least from that standpoint, it looks like he wants to get things moving and at least give some incentive for people to make some decisions. OK, if you want to go on trial in October, you need to speak now before, you know, we let things go too far.

COATES: And part of the reason, of course, is because a lot of the decisions are made during the briefing on the matter. What's written beforehand, given to the judge. What we saw as an oral argument presentation is just a part of the whole equation there. So he likely knew what he wanted to do based on the case law that was there.

But remember, you're now looking for that federal judge. There's no requirement that the state has to stop all their proceedings waiting for a federal judge to decide. They could have a full-blown trial and still not have that ruling. But I'm hoping the federal judge will look and say, oh, I see there's some urgency here. Let me give my ruling as well.

BLITZER: And there's more breaking news just coming in to CNN right now. The special counsel David Weiss intends to seek an indictment against Hunter Biden relating to gun charges by the end of the month -- that according to a new court filing. Biden had previously reached a deal involving a gun possession charge that would have allowed him to avoid prosecution if he met certain conditions over a 24-month period. Once his plea deal, though, fell apart in court, the future of the gun deal -- the gun deal has been in limbo. Laura, the judge has been highly skeptical of the prosecution's case in this, but what do you think about what's going on here?

COATES: Well, if you're Hunter Biden, you're likely furious that your plea deal did not go through initially, because a lot of this would have been solved for you. On the other hand, David Weiss, who the whistleblower is, we heard testimony on Capitol Hill to suggest that he has somehow his hands were tied. Now he twice told Congress. No, I had the full authority and power to do what I wanted with this case, but he had to limit himself to his actual jurisdiction. Remember, he's out of Delaware, not the entire nation.

Now he's a special counsel, though, now it opens up other avenues. Jack Smith might be based in Washington, DC, but as special counsel, he can look at other jurisdictions to figure out whether there might be a criminal matter that could appropriately be brought there. This now widens it.

I'll be curious to see where a charge will be brought.


Will it be in Delaware? Cause if so, that someone that we've already seen. Will it be in other states as well? But ultimately what went so wrong and what has been the impetus behind this, is going to be found in the pleadings.

BLITZER: Yes, it's going to be --

PEREZ: I think, you know, the Wilmington is where the alleged crime occurred with the gun, so it would make sense that that would be where it was brought. What I don't see -- and I'm reading this this court filing -- is what this does for the two tax charges that were -- that are still standing. That is not clear in this filing that was just (INAUDIBLE).

MURRAY: And there is the question about whether this investigation would broaden further or whether there are other potential crimes that are now back on the table. You know, they brought up the potential, you know, foreign agent dealings. But look, Hunter Biden now has a host of problems that he didn't have or didn't think he had a couple of weeks ago.

BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very, very much. Important news day, indeed. Thank you. And I'll be back at 6:00 p.m. Eastern in the "SITUATION ROOM." "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right after a short break.