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CNN Live Event/Special

Now: Fulton County Hearing In Trump GA Election Case; Bodies Of Two Workers Recovered, Four Still Missing; Crypto Fraudster Bankman- Fried Sentenced To 25 Years In Prison. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 28, 2024 - 11:30   ET



ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: And the allegation here is your speech, yes, it was false, but that's not why we're prosecuting you. We're prosecuting you because your speech was part of an overarching scheme, a conspiracy to try to steal the election. So, what we've been seeing here today, I think, is a microcosm and a preview of what we'll see at trial.

LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR: It's an important point. My panel is back with me as well. Paula, I mean, for many people who are trying to unpack all the different cases, they may be saying, well, I've heard this before.


COATES: But which case was that? Which case is this? And --

REID: That maybe both, yes.

COATES: AND then this is happening, right? And so, this is all connected. You can't look at this in a vacuum, can you?

REID: Yes. Certainly, not. And I think the big question is, OK, well, any of these cases go before the election? That's the first question. And as of right now, I cannot say with certainty that any of the four criminal cases against former President Trump will go before the election.

Right now, we do have a firm date on the calendar for the New York's so-called hush money or 2016 election interference case. That is scheduled to start on April 15. But I'll point out, it was originally scheduled to start on Monday, and it was delayed.

The January 6 federal case is currently on hold until the Supreme Court weighs in on this question of immunity. We are still waiting for Judge Eileen Cannon to let us know when she is going to put the classified documents case on the calendar. It was in late May. We were at a hearing several weeks ago where she heard arguments from both sides about how far to delay that. We're still waiting for an answer there.

And then the outlier is Georgia. Fani Willis, as you've noted, she repeatedly said she wants to bring this in August. That just does not seem realistic. And it's unclear if this will go before the election.

And the reason the election is so key is because if Trump is reelected, those two federal cases, he can make them go away. And it would make it very complicated to proceed with the state cases if one of the defendants was of course in the White House.

COATES: I mean, Sara, this is almost as -- was scripted by his attorneys at the very beginning to delay, delay, and have the uncertainty 200 days away from the election.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that's right. And I think it also sort of tells you what a loss it is to the district attorney's office to have lost the last few months in this sort of back and forth about District Attorney Fani Willis's personal life. Because she had a little momentum out of the gate, you know. She had that indictment, she was notching these guilty pleas from these former Trump election attorneys, and then it was a huge break, in this case, you know, to spend months wrangling over her personal life, her relationship with Nathan Wade, you know, to have this judge decide she could stay on Nathan Wade had to step down, and so forth.

And so, I think that you know -- we're waiting to see I think from this hearing is, yes, it's back on track but what does that mean? Is there going to be any discussion of a trial date? Are we ever going to hear from this judge about what he has in mind, as far as the trial date, or do these trials all sort of become kind of zombie trials as they move past the presidential election?

COATES: And you know, there's another layer here, Kristen, in the political world because Congress wants their take as well. So, usually, Jim Jordan, who was saying, what about us? I want a document. I want you to appear. There's a subpoena outstanding.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And -- I mean, let's not forget the fact that Jim Jordan is one of Trump's most staunch allies on Capitol Hill. They are in lockstep on everything that they do. So, it's not surprising that he would step in here, issued the subpoena to Fani Willis's office essentially asking for documents related to the use of federal funds, that's where his jurisdiction would be, that were intended to support at-risk youth.

Now, they've had a whole back and forth. Now, Jim Jordan said she wasn't responding in time, she complained. She said she was, that it was impossible to get these documents the next day. She also said, which is something that we'll talk about afterwards, she said that you know, nothing you do is going to derail my effort of me and my staff from taking this to trial. No matter what happens, we're going to take this to trial. Obviously, seeing possibly through the subpoena that might be intended to further delay this trial.

But one thing I do want to mention that Paula brought up is that hush money case in New York because we talk a lot about how they want to delay, delay, delay. Well, there is a little bit of a complication when I'm talking to Trump's legal team when it comes particularly to that case. Because, yes, they do not want this to start on April 15, that they want to delay it. But because they know how long the case is likely to be, there is some complication coming up against the Convention, which is in July.

So, how do they delay the case, but not delay it long enough or not delay it so that he's actually in court during the convention something that they are thinking about that could cause a lot of problems for him down the road? So, it is interesting that they're trying to still, yes, completely, they don't want to go to court. They wanted to lay this. But there are other factors here now that they are concerned about.

COATES: This game of chicken, Elie, I want to bring you back into because you know, in a criminal case, he's got to actually sit there in New York. He's got to sit for criminal cases. He may be walking towards his presidential run right now as opposed to really running for president in terms of campaigning, but he's got to be there.

What do you think are the next steps for Fani Willis in terms of her hope to have this case happen in a trial in August? Because, you know there's been other major RICO cases that she has done. Other big defending cases, those are still either ongoing or took a very long time.

HONIG: Yes, Laura, I don't think an August start date for a trial here in Georgia is remotely realistic or plausible. It takes them as you said, months to choose a jury in Georgia State courts. And realistically, what this would mean if the D.A. gets her wish here? It would mean you start jury selection in August. And then jury selection plus the trial carry through October -- September, October, the election itself in November into December.


And the D.A. has even admitted that if it starts in August, it would carry into 2025. That is just not plausible or feasible, especially given the very important fact that you just mentioned, which is that in a criminal case, the defendant, here Donald Trump, has to be physically present in the courtroom every day. This is not like the civil trials that we've seen, the E. Jean Carroll trial.

The New York AG's trial where Trump sort of comes and goes. He's here for a day. He's out for a week. He will be there in the courtroom, and therefore off the campaign trail. And I think everyone, prosecutors, judges have to be cognizant and realistic about that.

COATES: And by the way, I mean, when you think about this, Sara, you know, there's also the possibility that if he were to be reelected or if he -- even if he's not, there's still an election that would take place. And the underlying facts of the case in Georgia as is the underlying facts in the case in Washington, D.C. revolve around the actions taken to accept the results or not the results of an election.

MURRAY: Yes. I mean, I think that that is why that there are so many people who were, of course, very uncomfortable with how Trump behaved after the last election, who thought it was so important for these cases to move ahead to trial. Not just to hold Donald Trump accountable or try to hold Donald Trump accountable for his actions, but also to make it very clear about the conduct that we will and won't allow when it comes to presidential elections. I think if anything that's in a very murky position right now where you have had this process where, you know, Donald Trump was -- went through these impeachment proceedings, he's now been convicted four different times, and he's still just barreling ahead to take on Joe Biden. So, I think that does give plenty of people anxiety, as we head into the next election.

COATES: The hearing is actually just adjourned. The judge has left without making a decision. So, it'll be under advise. We don't know the date that he will actually ultimately decide the issue. But now this goes into sort of the court of public opinion and the politics of it, Kristen, because while there's this huge fundraising endeavor tonight for President Biden, with two former Democratic presidents, you know that Trump has been able to fundraise a great deal every time there has been this in the news -- I mean the spotlight.

MURRAY: Well, absolutely. They've used this both in campaigns and for fundraising. And it has been successful. I mean, we look at those FEC filings, those campaign filing reports, we do see spikes in his numbers, particularly after those indictments or after court appearances.

This is something he's been able to do. He is very skilled at being in control of the narrative and the messaging. And he has painted this as though he is a victim, a victim of Democrats, a victim of political persecution, and he was going to likely do that. Again, I will say they do feel good about the result of what happened after those two months of back and forth over Fani Willis despite the fact that you got to stay on the case.

They feel as though the ruling from the judge was so scathing to Willis that that's something they can use in the court of public opinion, use some of the lines from that report to essentially campaign off of it, to fundraise off of it. And which is interesting, just given the fact that they say that the main goal was to get Fani Willis off the case, but yet they feel like they can still use what they got against her and against this case.

COATES: And the appeal is still ongoing. You pointed that out.

REID: Yes, that's right.

COATES: These are -- these are on dual tracks now.

REID: Yes, that's exactly right. They are appealing that disqualification decision again, delay, delay, delay. And look, even though Fani Willis is still on the case, Nathan Wade did have to step aside. The case remains intact. But in that court of public opinion, which is arguably even more important heading into an election, her credibility took a hit here. I mean, she had a romantic relationship with the lead prosecutor.

She gave them material to work with when it comes to political attacks. And if this case goes forward, which is unlikely for the election, you can certainly expect those political attacks to be ramped up. But again, this was a forced error on the part of the prosecutor even though she was not disqualified.

MURRAY: Yes. And not just the court of public opinion but we're talking about the jury pool here. We're talking about tainting her reputation, her judgment, her decision-making in the eyes of the jury pool. And I think that that is something that could continue to weigh over her and over this case going forward.

COATES: Now, remember the jury pool though they, these -- this is an elected official along with this judge and so you wonder why we're talking about the election of Trump and even false electors, you still have that element as well. We will see how all of this plays out in the days to come. We're waiting to figure out yet another decision as we're in a kind of limbo as relates to now this Georgia case.

Kristen, Paula, Sara, and Elie, thank you all so much. We are also following developments out of that catastrophic Baltimore bridge collapse. Divers were able to recover the bodies of two victims, but several people's loved ones are still missing. The governor, he just addressed this. Stay with CNN.



COATES: Welcome back, I'm Laura Coates. Now, to the situation in Baltimore where authorities have gone from a recovery to a salvage operation after Tuesday's Key Bridge collapse. The bodies of two construction workers have been recovered but four others remain missing and are presumed dead. Bad weather and dangerous underwater conditions are also hampering the search efforts.

And we've got new details from the NTSB about its investigation into the disaster. CNN's Gabe Cohen is in Baltimore. Gabe, what we know now about the latest from the investigation?


GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Laura, Maryland's governor has had an event right now for the city's baseball team. And he just addressed the recovery -- the bridge recovery ahead. Let's take a listen to what he said just a couple of minutes ago.


GOV. WES MOORE (D-MD): I mean, when you look at the size and the enormity of the vessel that hit the Key Bridge, when you're looking at a vessel of that size -- and just yesterday, we were actually out. In fact, I was out with the -- with the mayor, with Senator Cardin, and we've hopped on a Coast Guard cutter to get a close look. The size of that vessel is enormous.

And we are talking about a vessel moving at that speed. The difficulty of not just the Key Bridge but frankly, many bridges around the country being able to take that kind of direct impact is -- was minimal. And so, there is and there is going to be a true full evaluation. And again, not just of that, of just all of our key infrastructure that we have all around the state of Maryland, this is something that happens consistently around our state. But what happened with the Key Bridge is -- you know, was an important reminder of the work and the task ahead.


COHEN: And now, this moves to a salvage operation, even with four of those workers still missing. Because it's just not safe, officials say, for divers to be in that water given how much steel and debris is down there. And so now, the focus shifts to getting all of that out.

We know that the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, all of them bringing in a lot of. Equipment, cranes, barges, the plan being to cut up sections of that bridge and remove it. And then officials say divers are going back down because they want to find those remaining workers and offer closure to their families.

And, Laura, it's also a very busy day for investigators. Federal investigators from the NTSB are going to be speaking to the two pilots of the ship. Again, trying to figure out what caused that catastrophic blackout when the ship lost power and lost the ability to steer, and ultimately led to that collision with the column and the bridge.

Questions have been posed to the NTSB as to whether it could have been an issue of contaminated fuel in the vessel or even an electrical problem. But the NTSB has pushed back on that saying that's what this investigation is all about. We expect some preliminary info on that within the next couple of weeks. But this investigation could take two years, Laura.

COATES: My goodness. Gabe Cohen, thank you so much for all of your reporting.

Coming up. Disgraced cryptocurrency mogul Sam Bankman-Fried, you may know him as SPF, he is in court today for sentencing. What he says, "haunts him every day." Stay with us.



COATES: We have breaking news into CNN. A judge has just sentenced Sam Backman-Fried, the man who was once heralded as the next Warren Buffett, to 25 years in prison. He was convicted of fraud for stealing more than eight billion dollars from customers and investors of FTX Cryptocurrency.

Let's get right to CNN's Kara Scannell. Kara, this sentencing is actually much lighter than what prosecutors were actually looking for.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Sam Bankman-Fried to 40 to 50 years in prison. The Judge, Lewis Kaplan, overseeing this case that he thought that was substantially greater than necessary. But in imposing the sentence, he said that Sam Bankman-Fried, who spoke in court and addressed the judge, he said that despite his saying that he was sorry for mistakes that were made, the judge said that he never spoke a word of remorse for the crimes that he committed.

And in posing the sentence, the judge said there is a risk that this man will be in a position to do something very bad in the future. And it's not a trivial risk. So, he imposed the sentence of 25 years. Bankman-Fried is 32 years old, so he would be about 57 years old if he serves the entirety of that sentence. Still time for him to come out.

But that was one of the concerns that prosecutors had. They said that even after Bankman-Fried was arrested and charged with these crimes, he continued to work on ways to try to devise a rebirth of FTX. Even as the company was falling into bankruptcy, he was working on ways to remarket it.

And the judge noted that saying that he has shown that you know, he is, as he put it, extremely smart, acknowledged that Bankman-Fried suffers from autism, but said that he's also shown that he is very good at marketing. And so, he wanted to impose a sentence today that would serve as a deterrent. So, Bankman-Fried, when he is released does not commit these crimes again.

Now, Bankman-Fried has been in federal detention since August before his trial because the judge found that he had engaged in witness tampering in advance of the trial. So, Bankman-Fried will not be walking out of this courtroom today. He will be remanded back into custody and begin serving this 25-year sentence, Laura.

COATES: 25 years. They had asked for 40 to 50. He was eligible for I think up to 110 years under the guidelines here. Now, he has 25 years. As you mentioned, he's just 32 years old.

Kara, for people who have not been following this case as closely but remember SPF, remember FTX, I mean its name was on a stadium for goodness' sake. And all the celebrity followings around cryptocurrency. How do we even get here?

SCANNELL: Right. I mean, there were the Superbowl ads involving FTX. It was just, you know, a rocket ship in the world of crypto. And he was the face of cryptocurrency, you know, showing -- you know, building this platform, living in the Bahamas, you know, kind of this eccentric guy who was creating this kind of myth and mystique. But prosecutors say that in -- that this was, in essence, just a garden variety fraud. He had stolen money up to eight billion dollars from customers of FTX, from investors in the company, and from lenders to the sister hedge fund Alameda Research.


And Bankman-Fried then used that money to buy real estate in the Bahamas to make riskier investments. But he used it to funnel more than one hundred million dollars in illegal campaign donations into the political U.S. system to try to influence the regulation of the crypto industry. He also spent $150 million in bribes to Chinese officials when they were starting to question and crack down on some of his activities.

So, the judge here saying that you know, this show -- he -- Bankman- Fried knew what he was doing was wrong. And he hasn't shown remorse for it resulting in this big sentence today, Laura.

COATES: A man once deemed the whiz kid, now will be an inmate serving 25 years. Kara Scannell, thank you so much.

And thank you all for joining me for our very special coverage. I'm Laura Coates. I'll be back tonight for a special two-hour edition of "LAURA COATES LIVE," beginning at 10:00 p.m. Stay with me and stay with CNN because "INSIDE POLITICS" with Dana Bash starts after a very short break.