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Judge Fines Trump $10K For Violating Gag Order Again; Warns Trump "Don't Do It Again Or It'll Be Worse"; GOP Rep. Mike Johnson Elected House Speaker. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired October 25, 2023 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: We've seen the $5,000 fine, the $10,000 fine, talk about home confinement, even imprisonment. But Wolf, the fact is that he is a candidate of - for the presidency. And like any defendant, he has a First Amendment right to defend himself, but they are all trying to put limitations on what he says about court personnel and it is really unclear how they're going to enforce this as he continues to apparently violate it, as this judge in New York just found.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right. Paula, stand by.
I want to go back to Kaitlan Collins, who's been covering the Trump story for a while, knows a lot about what's going on behind the scenes.
So what do you think, Kaitlan? Is this really going to have an impact on Trump? Is he going to stop making these kinds of public statements, attacking various officials?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Wolf, I talk to people in his orbit as these gag orders have been imposed. As Paula noted, the one in Washington is on a temporary hold, it appears. And I pose this question to them, is this something that he could abide by? And obviously, no one in Trump's orbit can really tell him what to say, what not to say. He doesn't listen to that kind of advice. It's something that they kind of skirt around often.
They'd rather, he didn't say anything at all, they'd rather that he didn't speak to reporters going into the courtroom or post late at night on Truth Social. But obviously, that's the reality. We know this well by now of Donald Trump and who he is and what he does.
What I think is different here is that we're seeing him face consequences for that for the first time. And showing it, it's different when you're walking into a courtroom and saying something than just simply posting it online or complaining about something.
The line that his attorneys have tried to walk is that he has a First Amendment right. He has this right to free speech, that he is able to kind of make these arguments and make his own defenses. And the judges here, I think we should note, they've all gone to great lengths to stress that they do agree with that, that he does have a right to defend himself, to plead his innocence in these cases. But what they say he doesn't have a right to do is attack the prosecutors, attack the judges, attack the clerks of the judges and that's what Trump has been doing.
And I've asked when - earlier this month, when he was going after this clerk, the one that's sitting to Judge Engoron's right. I asked people why and it was something that Trump had read online about this clerk, had seen this photo of her with Sen. Schumer who I can guarantee you is taking pictures with thousands of New Yorkers, Wolf, and people across the U.S. And they said that he had seen that and that he believed she was partisan.
Obviously, there's no basis to that. He made much more ugly insinuations in his post that he had on here. But it wasn't something that anyone on his legal team or his even political team thought was a good idea or thought was wise and yet he has continued to do so. Even walking into that courtroom today, knowing that this gag order is imposed, he still managed or still went on to complain. And they tried to claim he wasn't doing it. The judge clearly saw that differently, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by.
Mike Johnson, the newly elected Speaker of the House is walking down. I think he's going to take some questions, make a little statement to reporters, answer a few questions. We're going to watch this unfold as we're watching what's happening in New York unfold, what's happening in the Middle East unfold. There's a lot of breaking news happening right now.
But Mike Johnson, the Republican representative from Louisiana, is now the Speaker of the House. He's been sworn in, 51 years old, elected to Congress in 2016 and sworn in 2017. Not many years in the House of Representatives, but he is now the Speaker of the House. Let's listen in.
REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): On behalf of the House Republican Conference, we are unified and so proud to have elected Mike Johnson as speaker of the People's House.
As many of you heard and the American people heard, I meant every word that I said on the House floor. I've had the opportunity to work with Mike Johnson as vice chair and I was so humbled and honored to nominate him. Mike epitomizes servant leadership.
He is humble, but he is strong. He is well respected not only across this conference, but across this great nation.
And we know the stakes. We know that we were sent here on behalf of the American people to serve as their voice, to stand up for them, to push back on the failed far-left agenda of single-party Democrat rule led by Joe Biden. So we are here unified in strength to reopen the People's House, and I'm so excited to turn it over to my colleague, Tom Emmer from Minnesota, our whip.
REP. TOM EMMER (R-MN): Thank you, Elise. Good afternoon, everyone. Good afternoon, everyone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good afternoon.
EMMER: Thank you for bearing with us. I know it's been a long few weeks. From an outside point of view these last few weeks probably look like total chaos, confusion, no end in sight.
But from my perspective, this is one of the greatest experiences in the recent history of our republic.
While speakers' races for the last 100 years have been conducted behind closed doors, filled with political promises and tyrannical threats against anyone who would not fall in line, the speakers' races under our House Republic majority have been open, honest, transparent and a true display of what democracy looks like in action.
It took a while for us to get here, but our conference has shown that we achieved tremendous success when we worked together as a team. And I couldn't be more proud to be part of this team with our new Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson, leading the way.
Mike is a strong man of faith, a constitutional conservative and a fierce fighter for a Republican common sense agenda. He has been a leading force on the Judiciary Committee, where he has defended Americans' individual liberties while fighting back against the Democrats' radical agenda and the Biden family's culture of corruption.
He has been an important leader in our conference for nearly three years as vice chairman. And as Speaker, I know Mike will keep our majority united as we continue to deliver on the commitments we've made to our constituents. We've had some challenging times around here these last few weeks, but our country has endured challenging times before and I have zero doubt ...
BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue to monitor these introductory words that will lead up to the statement from Mike Johnson. He's going to answer - we think he's going to answer a few reporters' questions as well.
Once he starts speaking, the newly elected Speaker of the House we'll take that live for our viewers.
John King, we did hear Mike Johnson, when he accepted the speakership, say he looks forward to working with you. He was referring to Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic Minority Leader in the House. He said, we're going to find common ground there. What do you think the chances of that are?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On policy, slim to none, on keeping the government open in the short term, it does appear that even though Mike Johnson just days ago was against the Republican resolution to keep the government open, that he has gotten religion on that, and they realized that after these three weeks of chaos, they need to keep the government open to give him essentially a time out to then try to figure out where do we go from here.
I thought his speech was quite fascinating. He sounds a lot like George W. Bush. He is very conservative, but he's not confrontational and he's not combative. That presents a communication challenge for the Democrats, because they want to paint them as an extremist. And at least in his initial remarks, he was talking about common sense conservatives.
Now on the issues, Mike Johnson is even to the right of George W. Bush. Now, George W. Bush won the presidency twice, it's a long time ago. The question is where do we go now? I'm going to call this an irony to be polite, since we're in the first hour of the Mike Johnson's speakership, but he's now third in line to the presidency.
He talked about the founding fathers and he talked about the founding fathers saying it was the obligation of everyone who came after them to take good care of the American experiment. He voted to derail the American experiment. He led the effort with - he led Donald Trump's fight in the courts to get the House Republicans to subvert a fair and free election. And so how does he - can he ever get out from under that legacy?
House Republicans don't care that he's under that legacy. Donald Trump lost the presidency. Republicans did not perform as well in the midterm elections in 2022, because the swing voters of America care, they see it as a farce.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Not only that they don't care though, we had one Republican member on the floor when the Democrats were criticizing his election position say, damn right.
CHALIAN: I mean, it is a credential. And listening to Wolf give his bio and say he was elected in 2016 reminds me, he is a Trump era Republican.
CHALIAN: Like that - we haven't seen that in this position of leadership before. As much as Kevin McCarthy went down to Mar-A-Lago and kept the party in faith with Trump, Mike Johnson, he came to Congress on Trump's election year and he has nothing but a Trump era Republican, knows nothing else in the Republican Party.
So it is perfectly in line with the modern day Republican Party that he has that position.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, and that's what Democrats are going to do there. I was texting with one who said this is how they're going to define him. He's a MAGA Republican who is against abortion rights and was an election denier to the extreme, to the extent that he was organizing or helped organize this lawsuit to disqualify the ballots in four battleground states.
And so because he's unknown virtually, they feel that they have an opportunity to say, look who the Republicans picked. They picked an extreme candidate. I think their problem is that so far what we've heard is that he doesn't sound like a Jim Jordan, he's not fire- breathing. So ...
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: He's unknown for now, but to John's point, just to say it again, he is third in line to the presidency and the - second in line.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
BLITZER: Well, the President and the vice president.
GANGEL: Well, the president, the vice president ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then the speaker.
GANGEL: Okay. Let me just say a key election denier is now in line for the presidency.
KING: The constitutional office.
GANGEL: Will he now say that Joe Biden won the election?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: He seemed to not really want to answer that question, right, when he was asked and you heard people around him saying shut up to the person who asked that question and Joe Biden himself.
BLITZER: All right. Here he is, the new Speaker of the House has just been introduced. Let's listen in.
REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): Thank you, Steve and thank you, Tom and Elise.
This is an extraordinary team that has been assembled here to serve the American people. Steve Scalise represents so much in our home state of Louisiana. One of the things he truly represents is perseverance and hope. And as he was talking here just a moment ago, I was reminded of the Scripture that says suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character and character produces hope.
What we need in this country is more hope, that the people have lost their faith in our institutions, that their faith is at an all time low. And one of the reasons they've lost it is because the Congress over the years has not delivered for the American people well enough.
We're in the majority right now. We've gone through a little bit of suffering. We've gone through a little bit of character building and you know what it's produced, more strength, more perseverance and a lot of hope and that's what we're about to deliver to the American people.
We are going to speak - we're going to speak with clarity and conviction and consistency to the American people. We're going to tell them what we're for, what agenda we're pursuing and why it is best for every American, why it will give them more liberty, opportunity and security. We're going to speak to that clearly, we're going to act consistently and we're going to exhibit two things here, trust and teamwork. And this group will deliver for the American people.
I said it in the chamber and I will say it here, we're going to govern well and I think the people are going to be very pleased with those results. We're so grateful, I'm so grateful and so humbled to have gotten a unanimous vote on the floor by all of my colleagues here.
We went through a lot to get here but we are ready to govern and that will begin right away. You've all heard me talk a lot today and I'm not going to belabor the point because the sun is bright and it's too warm for the fall.
But I'll say this, we're going to dispense with all the usual ceremonies and celebrations that traditionally follow a new speakership because we have no time for either one. The American people's business is too urgent in this moment. The hour is late, the crisis is great, in America we hear you and we are reporting again as I said in there to our duty stations.
That will begin in just a few moments. This entire group is going to go back to the House floor and we are going to pass our resolution and support of the nation of Israel, our closest ally in the Middle East.
You're going to see an aggressive schedule in the days and weeks ahead, you're going to see Congress working as hard as it's ever worked and we are going to deliver for the American people. I'm grateful of this opportunity. I want to thank you for being patient with us and I promise you it will be worth it. God bless you. God bless you.
BLITZER: ... for the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson. He's over up on Capitol Hill. He's making a lot of promises. He says we will look forward to working with you, referring to the Democrats. He said we're going to find common ground with the Democrats. Let's see if that happens.
He said, we will make you proud. I will not let you down. The challenge is great. He says what we need is more hope.
So let's bring in Dana Bash.
Dana, you've covered Congress for a long time. Those are lovely words. Let's see if he delivers.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And look, one of the hallmarks of the McCarthy era, as short as it was, nine months, was that there were certainly deep divisions across party lines within the Republican Party. But there was a real working relationship between Kevin McCarthy and Hakeem Jeffries.
When McCarthy became Speaker, when Jeffries was elevated, they made a deal with one another that they were going to keep an open line of communication, something that McCarthy and Nancy Pelosi did not have at all. And they certainly agreed on almost nothing, but they talked to one another as people. And you can't overstate how important that is at the basic functioning of that institution.
Whether or not Hakeem Jeffries will have that with this new speaker is a big open question.
In the short term, it's going to matter in a very, very big way because of the critical items that are on the agenda, nothing short of keeping the government open, how he's going to do that. It will be interesting to see if he gets Democratic votes to do that when they, no doubt, will have to pass a bill, a so-called CR, continuing resolution.
And that is one of the things that Kevin McCarthy was fired for, daring to work with Democrats.
BLITZER: Those are important points, indeed.
Our chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, of course, is up on Capitol Hill watching all of this from inside.
What are you hearing? What are you seeing, Manu?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. A lot of members are just relieved that this ugly episode is behind them. One member, Mark Green, just told me moments ago that this has been a traumatic few weeks, but they just want to move on from this endless bickering within the GOP that has left this chamber paralyzed.
But Mike Johnson, they're not answering any questions from reporters about any of the issues that are on the agenda, how he plans to confront some of the key questions as he assumes the speakership. They will come right away.
These three weeks, it may just sound like just the three weeks, but it really completely distracted from their party's agenda, their efforts to legislate, their tactics, none of those things that typically happened in a normal congressional week could happen because they were meeting behind closed doors, squabbling, bickering about this leadership crisis that they caused.
And, ultimately, now that is on Johnson's lap to figure out how to avoid a government shutdown. He did put out a letter to his colleagues earlier today laying out the general agenda for the next six months, talking about how the timeline where they could move particular bills. But it was really light on a number of details, and it did not include how he would deal with the key question, Israel aid and Ukraine aid.
The White House and Senate Democrats and Senate Republican leaders want to tie those two issues together, viewing them as essential. But there's widespread opposition within the House GOP conference to doing that. So how will Johnson confront that first key test? He has not answered that question also. How will he avoid a government shutdown by mid-November? Will he try to move a short-term resolution to keep the government open?
It sounds like, according to reading the tea leaves and some of the language from some of his colleagues here, even some on the far right, that they will allow him some opportunities, some ropes, some leeway to keep the government open for a short period of time. But it's still uncertain what concessions he might seek from Democrats and the White House on that, which could provoke fears once again of a government shutdown if those issues are not resolved. So huge issues confronting Mike Johnson on the policy side, on the political front, as they try to make it sound like they're on the same page, but just simply still a lot of division about the policy and the tactics.
And also notably Kevin McCarthy, the former speaker not at this press conference, as he is now out of his job as speaker, leaving the speaker suite, but was notably not here. A lot of McCarthy allies still very angry about everything that happened in the last few weeks. That'll be one big thing for Mike Johnson trying to repair the badly frayed relations in this conference, Wolf.
BLITZER: And very quickly, Manu, I just want to get your thought. He did say the first thing they're going to do legislatively now is pass a resolution supporting Israel and its war with Hamas. I think that was significant. What did you think?
RAJU: Yes, this is going to happen this afternoon. It's a bipartisan resolution supported by the leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee affirming the United States' support for Israel. This is a non-binding resolution, so we will not carry the force of law or not appropriate any money in any way, but just a symbolic gesture to show that the House is on the same page as the people of Israel as they fight this war against Hamas.
The question will be how many members vote against it. Some members in the far - on the far left of the Democratic caucus have not signed on as co-sponsors of that bill. Will it have unanimous support? Will it have some opposition? That would be one thing to look for, but undoubtedly that will pass with significant support from both sides of the aisle as the Senate and the House try to send a message that the United States is behind Israel, and Johnson wants to put that issue on the floor.
But still unanswered, though, Wolf, the aid to Israel. That is going to be - that has actual real significance in terms of the money and the battle and the war in Israel. Johnson not clear on how that will be resolved, and that's coming to his plate immediately, Wolf.
BLITZER: As all of this was taking place in Washington, there were important developments taking place in New York. Manu, stand by. I want to go to Brynn Gingras. She's outside the courthouse in New York.
Trump took the stand today and I take it Brynn, he just made a statement, is that right?
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. He actually just stormed out of the courtroom, Wolf. Now, I'm still trying to decipher from my colleagues who are sitting inside that courtroom exactly what caused this, but what I do know is that Michael Cohen is on the stand. He is going through cross examination by Trump's attorneys at this point.
And according to my colleagues, I believe there has been a little bit of flip-flopping when it comes to 2019 congressional testimony that Michael Cohen gave to lawmakers concerning him manipulating financial statements for Trump.
Now, the entire cross examination, Trump's attorneys have been trying to catch Michael Cohen in a lie, and it appears, again, that there has been some sort of flip-flopping that has angered Donald Trump, making him throw up his hands and storm out of the courtroom, and then he gave a statement. So, let's listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) ...
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The witness just (inaudible) but we won the trial. We'll the judge end this trial immediately, thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GINGRAS: So, my colleague, and I'm going to read it word for word. Again, it's - getting this from inside the courtroom, the 2019 testimony that's being questioned right now of Michael Cohen," it was - he said that he stands by when he said to lawmakers, "Did Mr. Trump direct you or Mr. Weisselberg to inflate numbers for his personal statement?" "Not that I recall. No."
Now, just yesterday, the direct questioning by the New York Attorney General's office of Michael Cohen was all about fudging those financial statements to the benefit of Donald Trump while he worked for him. So, again, this is what the cross examination is doing. They're trying to catch him in a lie. It appears it's very possible that he did. And so, the president is angry about this and wants the trial to essentially end. That's what his lawyers are arguing for with this judge.
So, again, we're still trying to get this information, but it does look like there is some flip-flopping going on that has angered the president, and he has stormed out of the courtroom making that statement.
Now, how the judge is ruling on this, we're still trying to figure that out, but Michael Cohen is still on the stand being cross-examined at this moment, and the former president is no longer in that courtroom, Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, interesting indeed.
Elie Honig is with us as well. Elie, give us your legal analysis of these dramatic developments unfolding in New York today, including a 10,000 - a second fine of Trump violating the so-called gag order by this judge.
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, well, first of all, with respect to the statement that Brynn just played that Donald Trump made outside the courthouse, that we just won this trial, that is false. He has not won this trial. To the contrary, the judge already has ruled against Donald Trump before the trial on one of the counts in this lawsuit.
So Donald Trump has not won this trial. It seems like what he's saying is, I'm pleased that my attorneys just did a good job on cross- examination of Michael Cohen, and I'm confident we will win. That remains to be seen. To be sure, his lawyers have been aggressively cross-examining Michael Cohen and exposing certain inconsistencies and certain biases on Michael Cohen's behalf. But that doesn't mean Donald Trump wins the trial. The verdict will be up to the judge considering the weight of all the testimony.
And Wolf has, to the other point, about the gag order. So this was really an unusual event here. The judge had issued a gag order about three weeks ago after Donald Trump posted some inflammatory comments about the judge's clerk. And the judge issued a very narrow gag order. It said, you cannot talk about my staff.
Well today, Donald Trump said or just recent - just yesterday he said critical things about the person sitting to the judge's right. And so the judge said, well, I think you mean my clerk there. That violates my gag order. Trump said, no, I meant Michael Cohen, the witness, who's on the other side of the judge.
And so the judge ordered Donald Trump to take the stand a few minutes ago. Donald Trump took the stand and said, I meant Michael Cohen. And the judge said, I don't believe you. I find you non-credible. Therefore, the judge imposed what is now a second fine on Donald Trump for violating the gag order.
BLITZER: Yes, we'll see if there are more fines or even more severe punishment if Trump, according to the judge, continues to violate this so-called gag order.
Kristen Holmes is watching all of this unfold as well.
What are you learning, Kristen?
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, when we talk about Donald Trump's strategy, there is so much there that is based in trying this in the court of public opinion, not in the court of law. And that requires Donald Trump to get out there and take control of the narrative, to put his spin on it, to essentially go out and attack different members, whether it's the clerk, whether it's the judge, whether it's to say that this is election interference, despite whatever evidence they have.
This gag order is going to severely limit that and that is why it is a huge question mark whether or not he can actually abide by it. Also, the other thing to keep in mind here is that he is somebody who just says whatever is on his mind.
We saw last night, after this report came out about Mark Meadows, that he started spewing out on his social media page about Meadows, saying he wasn't sure he was that kind of guy who would take an immunity deal, then saying he didn't believe it. It was very clear he was spun up.
What does Donald Trump do when he is spun up? He talks and talks. And oftentimes, he doesn't control his messaging.
And that is the hardest part for his campaign and the hardest part for his lawyers. The campaign doesn't mind if he's out there attacking people, but they do mind if he's out there saying things that he shouldn't be saying and that's exactly what you saw here today. And in some ways, when you talk to these people who are close to him, he just can't help himself.
So whether or not he can actually abide by this gag order, that remains to be seen, but it seems increasingly unlikely, particularly as we know when he is in this case, in this case in particular in New York, he is spun up. He is anxious. He is annoyed.
This is something that bothers him very deeply to his core because it's about him personally and about his business. So when you take all that into consideration, it seems unlikely that he'll be able to do that.
BLITZER: Interesting. All right. Kristen, stand by. Everybody stand by. We've got a lot of news that's unfolding today.
Still ahead, President Biden's challenge to the newly sworn in House Speaker, Mike Johnson. We'll get details and we'll speak live with the key House Republican, Congressman Bob Good. Stay with us. Lots going on.