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CNN Live Event/Special
GOP Rep. Mike Johnson Speaks After Being Elected House Speaker; Moments Ago, Trump Took The Stand At His Civil Fraud Trial; Judge Fines Trump $10K For Violating Gag Order Again; Judge Warns Trump Over Violating Gag Order: "Don't Do It Again Or It'll Be Worse". Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired October 25, 2023 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): My dad -- it was mentioned my dad was a firefighter. He was an assistant chief in the fire department of my hometown in Shreveport, Louisiana, little town in northwest Louisiana.
On September 17, 1984, when I was 12 years old, he was critically burned and permanently disabled in the line of duty.
All I ever wanted to be when I grew up was the chief of the fire department in Shreveport. But after the explosion on that fateful day, he nearly died and it was a long road back. It changed all of our life trajectories.
I'm the oldest of four kids. My dad, he lived with pain all the rest of his life, for decades more.
I lost my dad to cancer three days before I got elected to Congress. Three days. And he wanted to be there at my election night so badly.
I'm the first college graduate in my family. This was a big deal to him.
So several weeks after that, it was early 2017, it was my freshman term. And it fell to me to be in the roster one night to serve as speaker pro tem.
I thought that was a big deal until I figured out that's what you do for freshmen late at night.
JOHNSON: And I want to -- if my memory serves, Miss Jackson Lee was winding down one of her long eloquent speeches.
JOHNSON: And not that I was not enraptured by her speech. But I looked up at the top of the chamber and I saw the face of Moses staring down.
I felt in that moment the weight of this place, the history that is revered here and the future that we are called to forge. And I really was just almost overwhelmed with emotion.
It occurred to me in that moment, it had been several weeks and I had not had the opportunity to grieve my dad's passing. And I had the sense that somehow he knew.
And I had tears come to my eyes and I was standing here. I'm wiping them away and it suddenly occurs to me, the late-night C-SPAN viewers will think something is very wrong with the young Congressman from Louisiana.
It wasn't her speech, I'm sorry.
JOHNSON: I just knew that my dad, my father would be proud of me. And I felt that he was.
I think all of our parents are proud of what we're called to do here.
I think all the American people, at one time, had great pride in this institution. But right now, that is in jeopardy. And we have a challenge before us right now to rebuild and restore that trust.
This is a beautiful country. It's the beauty of America that allows a firefighter's kid like me to come here and serve in this sacred chamber.
Where great men and women have served before all of us and strived together to build and preserve what Lincoln did refer to as the last best hope of man on earth.
We stand at a very dangerous time. I'm stating the obvious. The world is in turmoil.
But a strong America is good for the entire world.
JOHNSON: We are the beacon of freedom and we must preserve this grand observance in self-governance. It still is.
We're only 247 years into this grand experiment and we don't know how long it will last. We do know the founders told us to take good care of it.
I want to tell all my colleagues here what I told the Republicans in that room last night. I don't believe there are any coincidences in a matter like this. I believe that scripture, the Bible is very clear. That God is the one that raises up those in authority.
He raised up each of you. All of us.
And I believe that God has ordained and allowed each one of us to be brought here for this specific time. This is my belief.
That I believe each one of us has a huge responsibility today to use the gifts that God has given us to serve the extraordinary people of this great American country. And they deserve it.
And to ensure that our Republican remains standing as the great beacon of light and hope and freedom in a world that desperately needs it.
JOHNSON: It was in 1962, in 1962, our national motto, "In God We Trust," was adorned above this rostrum. If you look at the little guide that they give tourists and constituents and visitors to the House, if you turn to page 14, in the middle of that guide, it tells you the history of this.
It says very simply, "These words were placed above us, this motto was placed here as a rebuke of the Cold War-era philosophy of the Soviet Union. That philosophy was Marxism and Communism, which begins with the premise that there is no God."
"This is a critical distinction that is also articulated in our nation's birth certificate. We know the language well. The famous second paragraph that we used to have children memorize in school" -- and they don't do that so often anymore but they should.
G.K. Chesterton was the famous British philosopher and statesman. He said one time, "America is the only nation in the world that is founded upon a creed." He said, "It is listed with almost theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence."
What is our creed? "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal."
Not born equal. Created equal.
And they're endowed by the same "inalienable rights, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness."
That is the creed that has animated our nation since its founding and has made us the great nation that we are.
And we're in a time of extraordinary crisis right now. And the world needs us to be strong. They need us to remember our creed and our admission.
Turmoil and violence have rocked the Middle East and eastern Europe. We all know tensions continue to build in the Indo-Pacific. The country demands strong leadership of this body and we must not waver.
Our nation's greatest ally in the Middle East is under attack. The first bill that I'll bring to this floor in just a little while will be in support of our dear friend, Israel. And we're overdue in getting that done.
JOHNSON: We're going to show not only Israel but the entire world that the barbarism of Hamas that we have all seen play out on our television screens is wretched and wrong and we're going to stand for the good in that conflict.
We have a catastrophe at our southern border. The Senate and the White House can no longer ignore the problem. From Texas to New York, wave after wave of illegal migrants are stressing our communities to their breaking points.
We know our streets are being flooded with Fentanyl and all of our communities, children, and even adults are dying from it.
The status quo is unacceptable. Inaction is unacceptable. We must come together and address the broken border. We have to do it.
JOHNSON: The skyrocketing cost of living is unsustainable and Americans should not have to worry about how they'll feed their family every week because they can't afford their groceries anymore.
Everybody in this room should think about this. Here are the stats. Prices have increased over 17 percent in the last two years. Credit card interest rates are at the highest level in nearly three decades. And mortgage rates are at a peak we haven't seen since 2001.
We have to bring relief to the American people by reigning in federal spending and bringing down inflation.
JOHNSON: The greatest threat to our national security is our nation's debt. While we've been sitting in this room -- that's right --
JOHNSON: -- the debt has crossed almost $33.6 trillion. And the time that it will take me to deliver this speech, it will go up another $20 million in debt. It's unsustainable.
We have to get the country back on track. We know this won't be an easy task, and tough decisions will have to be made. The consequences, if we don't act now, are unbearable.
We have a duty to the American people to explain this to them so they understand it well. And we are going to establish a bipartisan debt commission to begin working on this crisis immediately. Immediately.
JOHNSON: We know that we live in a time of bitter partisanship. It was noted and it's been on display here today. When our people are losing their faith in government, when they're
losing sight of the principles that made us the greatest nation in the history of the world, I think we have to be mindful of that.
We're going to fight. We're going to fight vigorously over our core principles. Because they're at odds at times in this modern era.
We have to sacrifice sometimes our preferences because that's what is necessary in a legislative body. But we will defend our core principles to the end.
In his farewell address --
JOHNSON: Thank you.
JOHNSON: In his farewell address, President Reagan explained the secret of his rapport with people. And I'd like to paraphrase his explanation. He said "They call me the great communicator. I really wasn't that." He said, "I was just communicating great things."
And that's the same great things that have guided our nation since its founding. What are those great things? I call them the seven core principle of American conservatism.
But let me say, I think it is quintessentially the core principles of our nation.
I boil them down to individual freedom, limited government, the rule of law, peace through strength, fiscal responsibility, free markets and human dignity.
Those are the foundations that made us the extraordinary nation that we are. And you and I today are the stewards of those principles.
The things that have made us the freest, most powerful, most successful nation in the history of the world. The things that have made us truly exceptional.
And in this time of great crisis, it is our duty to work together, as previous generations of great leaders have, to face these great challenges and solve these great problems.
I will conclude with this. The job of the speaker of the House is to serve the whole body, and I will. I've made a commitment to my colleagues here that this speaker's office is going to be known for decentralizing the power here.
JOHNSON: My office will be known for members being more involved and having more influence in our processes in all the major decisions made here for predictable processes and regular order. We owe that to the people.
JOHNSON: I want to make this commitment to you, to my colleagues here and on the other side of the aisle as well. My office will be known for trust and transparency and accountability.
For good stewardship of the people's treasure. For the honesty and integrity that is incumbent upon us, all of us here in the people's House.
Our system of government is not a perfect system. It's got a lot of challenges. But it is still the best one in the world. And we have an opportunity to preserve it.
JOHNSON: The last thing I'll say is a message to the rest of the world. They have been watching this drama play out for a few weeks.
We've learned a lot of lessons. But you know what? Through adversity, it makes you stronger. And -- yes.
JOHNSON: And we want our allies around the world to know that this body of lawmakers is reporting again to our duty stations.
Let the enemies of freedom around the world hear us loud and clear. The people's House is back in business.
JOHNSON: Thank you. Thank you.
JOHNSON: We will do our duty here. We will serve you well. We will govern well. We'll make you proud of this institution again. We'll fight every day to make sure that's true.
I look forward to the days ahead. I genuinely believe in my heart that the best days of America are still ahead of us.
God bless you and God bless the United States of America. Thank you. Thank you. (CHEERING)
JOHNSON: Thank you.
JOHNSON: I'm now ready to take the oath of office.
And I ask the Dean of the House of Representatives, the Honorable Harold Rogers of Kentucky, to please administer the oath of office.
REP. HAROLD ROGERS (R-KY): Mr. Speaker-designee, congratulations on your election.
JOHNSON: Thank you, sir.
ROGERS: When our founding fathers chose a bold, new and innovative new self-rule government, it was met by deep skepticism by the world's monarchs. They said self-rule? is only a dream. Our founders said, they're right. It's the American dream.
ROGERS: Now, it's our dream. We're in charge.
The speakership of the United States House of Representatives is the crucial outpost for the well-being of the people's government. The keeper, if you will, of the dream.
Sir, if you wish to assume this awesome responsibility, please raise your right hand.
Do you solemnly swear that you will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same?
That you take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion? And that you will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which you are about to enter, so help you God?
JOHNSON: I do, so help me God.
ROGERS: Congratulations, Mr. Speaker.
(APPLAUSE) JOHNSON: Would you all like to get right into governing?
For what purpose does the gentleman from Louisiana seek recognition?
UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: Mr. Speaker -- that has a nice ring to it, by the way.
UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: Mr. Speaker, a privileged resolution to notify the Senate of the election of Mike Johnson as speaker of the House of Representatives and ask for its immediate consideration.
JOHNSON: The clerk will report the resolution.
UNIDENTIFIED HOUSE CLEAR: House Resolution 810, resolve that a message be sent to the Senate to inform that body that Mike Johnson, a representative from the state of Louisiana, has been elected speaker of the House of Representatives.
JOHNSON: Without objection, the resolution is agreed to and the motion to consider is laid on the table.
For what purpose does the gentleman from Louisiana seek recognition?
UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: Mr. Speaker, to notify President Biden of the election of Mike Johnson --
UNIDENTIFIED CONGRESSMAN: -- as speaker of the House.
And I have the privileged resolution to ask for its immediate consideration.
JOHNSON: The clerk will report the resolution.
UNIDENTIFIED HOUSE CLEARK: House Resolution 811, resolved that the clerk be instructed to inform the president of the United States that the House of Representatives has elected Mike Johnson, a representative --
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: So it's now official. There is a new speaker of the House of Representatives, Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana.
He was not only elected but he has now been sworn in. He's no longer speaker-designate. He's the speaker of the House of Representatives.
David Chalian, this is a very historic moment, indeed. DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: No doubt about that, Wolf. You
heard in his remarks, he said that they've learned something through these last few weeks of turmoil.
He was trying to tell the world that the United States, this body, the House of Representatives, has learned something. And that now they are back in business.
And I think the proof will be in the pudding on that. We have to wait to see what was learned.
I remember Kevin McCarthy said we went through this. Now we've learned how to govern together. And he was out of a job a few months later.
So the challenge before Mike Johnson is enormous. And it is happening at a time where we're not just divided politically, in our corners, as a country like that.
But where his own party in this body has shown an inability to actually assume the majority and move the country forward in some way. That will be his challenge to lead.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He was very generous, I thought, in his remarks. First of all, thanking Jeffries, and then saying that McCarthy was the reason we are here in this majority today, giving McCarthy his due.
And then it was a speech that was heavy on personal history. Not so much on politics. He did talk about support for an Israel resolution and talked a little about the broken border, did not mention Ukraine.
But you know, for a first go, it was sort of what you would expect from a speaker who wants to play indicate everybody, at least in the beginning.
BLITZER: All right. Amidst all of this, there's more breaking news we're following right now. A very, very different story.
I want to go to CNN's Brynn Gingras. She's following the Donald Trump civil fraud trial in New York.
The former president, I take it, Brynn, taking the stand a little while ago to answer questions about the gag order he's under.
What -- what is happening in the courtroom?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, so this is taking the stand. Not as someone to testify but in response to that gag order that was issued by this judge earlier in this trial.
Let me back up to explain what happened. During one of the breaks, the former president went into the hall room, as he usually does, and made some comments. What he said in those comments was he called the judge partisan and he said the person sitting next to him is very partisan. Now, keep in mind that gag order, when it was put in place by this
judge, said that Trump could not speak ill about anyone on his staff.
Well, everyone was brought back into the courtroom. There were a few side bars. And the judge asked Trump who he was talking about.
His lawyers responded and Trump said -- his lawyer said Trump was talking about the judge and the person sitting next to him, who was Michael Cohen, who was testifying at the time.
I need the back up a little to explain what it looks like in the courtroom. In this courtroom, the judge is in the middle. To his right is his court clerk. To his left is the person testifying.
So the judge took it that Trump was talking about his court clerk, which would have been a violation of this gag order.
There was a break in the courtroom. And then once lunch, had come back, the judge made Trump take the stand and, under oath, say who he was talking about.
The former president took the stand and again said he was talking about the judge and Michael Cohen in his comments.
Well, the moment Trump left the stand, the judge said this. "As a trier of fact, I find that the witness is not credible and he was referring to my law clerk."
He fined the president $10,000. Now, again, the former president, $10,000. This is the second time that he has received a fine based off this gag order and violating it.
Trump's attorneys at this point are fighting back, essentially saying that he can't say he was lying. He just took the oath.
And they also were complaining about the fact that this law clerk is seated right next to the judge, calling it unusual when law clerks are sitting usually in front of a judge in the courtroom.
So there is a big back and forth about this law clerk. Trump's attorneys arguing that they're getting this tried by two judges because of the position where this law clerk is sitting.
The judge said that he has reconsidered this fine and he's keeping with it, $10,000 fine against the former president for those comments that he made earlier today.
So a lot of drama happening in regard to the gag order. This is in addition to the drama that has been unfolding all day with Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney of Donald Trump on the stand.
That's what we're hearing from the courtroom about a $10,000 fine, again, against the president in regard to the gag order -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Very interesting indeed. $10,000, that's the fine. For Trump, that is not a lot of money but still significant. Kaitlan Collins is working her sources as well.
Kaitlan, what is your reaction? What should we interpret this development as being?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, Wolf, this gag order has only been in place for 22 days. Now Trump has been accused of violating it twice. He has now been fined twice.
This fine, it is double the fine that happened the first time. The first fine was because Trump's post initially about the judge's clerk, that the judge said he didn't believe Trump was referring to Michael Cohen today. The judge believed that he was referring to that same clerk.
That is something that Trump had posted at the beginning of October, claiming that this clerk was running this case. Implied that she was Chuck Schumer's girlfriend.
Obviously, both baseless claims that Trump had posted simply because there was a photo of this clerk in Senator Schumer posted online.
So the judge put it in place, then saying you can talk about me but do not talk about the court staff. And he is taking this very seriously, Wolf?
And you're right that $10,000 is not a lot of money for the former president. But he doesn't like to be fined any kind of money. He doesn't like to pay any kind of legal fees.
So the notion of the fine in and of itself is not something that will sit well with him. He won't be completely dismissive of it.
It does show how seriously the judge is taking this, Wolf. I think there is a reason why. When Trump posted this, it goes out to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people.
And the reason he got that fine the first time was because the statement was left up on his campaign Web site. It was deleted from his Truth Social account but left on his campaign Web site, which they claimed was inadvertent. The judge still fined them $5,000 for it.
Now Trump is claiming this person is partisan. Again, he was saying it to the reporters outside in the hallway. He was saying the person sitting next to the judge -- his attorney claimed he was talking about Michael Cohen, who was just a few feet away in the witness box.
The judge was not buying that excuse. His concern is that someone is "going to get killed." That's the quote the judge used today.
Because Trump is targeting lower-level court staffers and going after them in this situation.
And of course, I think you have to look at this, Wolf, through the bigger picture. This is not just happening here in this courtroom in Manhattan.
You're also seeing it play out in the courtroom in Washington where Judge Chutkan imposed that that limited order because of what Trump has been saying about Special Counsel Jack Smith, about the prosecutors working for the special counsel's team.
And of course, what he has been saying even about the court clerk, the judge's clerk who is sitting in that courtroom today.
What I think the biggest takeaway here is not the fine in and of itself that it is $10,000. It is that the gag order has been in place less than a month. Trump has violated it twice.
The concern the judge has is that this could have serious consequences on people's lives, regular peoples' lives who were involved in these matters.
BLITZER: Important points, indeed.
I want to get some legal analysis from our Elie Honig, who has been watching and monitoring all of these important developments as well.
Elie, what do you think?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, this happened very quickly.
I think the most important takeaway is that Donald Trump took the stand. He was asked questions about, who were you referring to, the clerk, which would violate the gag order, or Michael Cohen, which would not violate the gag order. Trump said I meant Cohen and the judge didn't believe him.
So there is a question as to whether Donald Trump can appeal this. The answer is, technically yes, he can try to appeal. He has a very low likelihood of success.
What this trial judge has done is make a credibility finding. Those kinds of findings are usually uniquely in the province of the trial judge.
The trial judge will say I was the one in the courtroom. I was the one able to assess his demeanor, to watch him answer.
In my judgment, this judge has said I do not believe Donald Trump. Therefore fined against him. And therefore imposed an increased fine.
BLITZER: So how unusual is all of this?
HONIG: Very unusual. First of all, to see a gag order in the first place. We do see them sometimes. Usually, litigants are very mindful of violating gag orders. Donald Trump has done it twice.
I can't really think of a case. I'm sure it's happened in U.S. history but never in recent history, where a person has violated a gag order or restriction on what they can say outside of a courtroom two different time.
And the judge -- and not just this judge but all the judges in the Trump cases will have to grapple with this difficult question: How do I enforce this? Financial penalties are only so much of a deterrent when it comes to Donald Trump.
They do technically have the option of ordering him locked up. I think that is very unlikely we see that happen, given all the circumstances.
But it is a tough situation for prosecutors, for plaintiffs and judges alike.
BLITZER: So what happens if Trump violates this gag order yet another time, a third time?
HONIG: This judge has a few options at his disposal. One, he can and almost certainly will impose an increased penalty. And I would say he would do it by more than just $5,000 in light of the resources Donald Trump has.
I think the judge needs to make these financial penalties hurt a bit more if they're going to have any magnitude on Donald Trump.
In a very extreme and very rare scenario, a judge has the ability to either impose bail restrictions, though this is not a criminal case so we won't see that here.
But you can technically lock someone up. The judge warned Donald Trump. He said, if it comes to it, I do have the power to imprison you if you continue to violate this gag order.
But again, I think it is extraordinarily unlikely that will actually happen. But it is theoretically possible.
BLITZER: Theoretically possible, indeed.
Paula Reid, our chief legal affairs correspondent, I wonder how you see all this unfolding, Paula.
PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this will be one of the biggest challenges, the judges overseeing the cases, civil and criminal against former President Trump are going to face.
We're seeing it playing out right now in New York. This is also something that at least one federal judge in Washington, D.C., is also contending with.
Judge Tonya Chutkan, who is overseeing the federal prosecution of former President Trump related to election subversion, she issued a gag order. It is on hold while it is being litigated.
She, too, said she is concerned about threats made against court staffers, against prosecutors, against witnesses. She pointed out people who are just trying to do their job or comply with their legal responsibilities. She said that they should not face threats. And as Elie noted, in most cases, this is not an issue. But former
President Trump has shown a pattern of attacking people with the judicial system as well not having much of a reverence for any limitations places on him.
And it's going to be really interesting to see exactly how these judges try to enforce this. We've seen the $5,000 fine, $10,000 fine, talked about home confinement, even imprisonment.
But, Wolf, the fact is that he is a candidate for the presidency. He has a right to defend himself.