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CNN Live Event/Special

Trump Airs Grievances After Being Convicted On 34 Felony Counts; Protesters Gather Outside Trump Tower. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 31, 2024 - 12:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN Special Coverage. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington, along with Erin Burnett. She's in New York. Last hour Donald Trump spoke over at Trump Tower in New York, railing against the historic guilty verdict in his criminal hush money trial. And I just want to point out this was at Trump Tower. You and I have covered Trump for many, many years. We used to go over there to Trump Tower to interview him. He obviously feels pretty comfortable over there.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Obviously, Wolf, and you know, he spent the night there. Interestingly, we understand his wife Melania was there as well. She did not appear with him today as of course she didn't any day in the courtroom. We're looking at live pictures outside, Wolf, of the people who gathered.

As you pointed out, this was marked to be a news conference, which it was not. It was about 35 minutes or so of Trump speaking. No questions from reporters. A very disjointed presentation of reliving the trial, hit it slamming the judge, slamming the district attorney, and an extremely disjointed and angry. I know, Wolf, one line that that stood out so much to you and me was that he said, this is now a fascist country.

BLITZER: Yeah. It was really brutal. I hated that line. Knowing is -- especially around this time of the year when we respect the United States of America. And he tells the world -- the whole world is watching right now. He says, we're living in a fascist state. That's a direct quote from the former president of the United States because he's not happy with the guilty verdict that he received.

BURNETT: Yeah. And you use the word a few moments ago, Wolf, I think that stood out to so many when you said it was an obnoxious thing, I mean, the power of that word. In this point, you've had Memorial Day July 4. What it means for so many in this country?

All right, as Wolf and I are here, I just want to bring my panel back into this conversation. And John, you know, to this point that Wolf said and the kind of emotional reaction that Wolf has to this is a fascist state. Amidst everything that Trump said in that disjointed 35-minute-long verbal screed. That line stood out.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Look, it is a line that he has used. It's a line that his supporters use almost every time they go on TV now. Members of Congress Marco Rubio, a Senator who ran against Donald Trump in 2016 has been all over TV in the last few days, saying this reminds him of Cuba. In the show trials they had in Cuba where people were then killed afterwards.

So that's the level of rhetoric that's been reached here. And this is the way Donald Trump has always communicated in a way where it's not so much about Daniel Webster level oratory. He's trying to connect with people on an emotional level in stir those emotions. But there does have to be something you can follow in order to get emotional. And I'm just not sure he hit that mark today.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, it crosses the line. I mean -- I think that that's the point Wolf is making here. Donald Trump Jr., the Trump's son called the United States a shithole country basically, saying that this was because of a verdict that they don't like. I mean, you may not like the charges. There were plenty of people who didn't like these charges. There are plenty of people who thought this was a weak case, but there was a process.

BURNETT: Among them the White House -- to make the point, but it's bipartisan.

PHILLIP: There was a process that played out here. And a jury of 12 regular people who sat there, who listened to the evidence for seven weeks basically, they came to a verdict. And Donald Trump, frankly, was handled with kid gloves during proceedings where he tried to mock the court, any other defendant would have been held in contempt. He was not. Why? Because he's a former president of the United States and because he's a candidate.

BERMAN: With respecting the process is now the dividing line inside the Republican Party because when Larry Hogan, the Republican Senate nominee in Maryland, one of the best chances Republicans have of retaking. The Senate came out and said, look, whether or not you like the verdict, simply respect the process here. Donald Trump's supporters went nuts. You know, our buyer Donald's on our air this morning. Attack Larry Hogan say, no, he can't say that. That's ridiculous.

BURNETT: And what would they say, Jennifer, next week, Hunter Biden's case started. So, if that jury comes to a guilty conclusion, I guess that's going to be OK. I mean, that's the reality. This is people saying that the system is corrupt and broken when they lose.


JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah. They don't seem to have a good answer for that. They, oh, well, Hunter Biden's case was so overwhelming that anyone would have to bring it. Wel, Donald Trump's White House (inaudible) DOJ was not going to bring any cases against Donald Trump or any of the people around him. So, the Hunter Biden case does show you whether you agree with the case or not that Biden is non-interfering with what the Department of Justice says --

PHILLIP: Right. DOJ did not bring a case against Hunter Biden. They investigated these charges. They didn't bring them against him either. I mean, I was asked him, he got it about that as well last night. And to your point, Erin, no answer from these potential vice-presidential candidates about what they're describing.

I mean, Tim Scott last night described it as the justice system, hunting Republicans. It's really extraordinary language. And I think particularly for someone who held the office of President of the United States to be endorsing this kind of language, a pot a second run for that same office. It crosses a lot.

BURNETT: And the word hunting, of course, I mean, the violence that it evokes.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: What I'll weigh in here, though, and say as someone who covers legal affairs. As I was in that courtroom with Trump one day when many of us have been in there, you know, I got the message, right. Nobody's above the law. This is a man who used to be in the Oval Office. Now he's in a courtroom, because I'm going to be honest, was like slightly above the average DMV, like I get it. No one's going --

BURNETT: Yes. I like that.

REID: Is accurate. It's not the nicest courtroom I've ever been in. But the fact is that Alvin Bragg is an elected D.A. He was under enormous political pressure to bring this case. It doesn't mean that the case wasn't meritorious. But I do continue to wonder what does this mean. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 years down the line, if there is a district attorney in Texas or in Alabama, you know, where does this go? It's not the takeaway from this entire case. But it is something that I think could potentially be weaponized and then they'll look back and --

BURNETT: We have live pictures and pull them up again, because I was looking at some of those hats. So, outside Trump Tower right now where Trump just finished. This is the crowd. They've got their 45 and 47 to signal that he was the 45th president, and I hope will be the 47th president. It is -- it is interesting to think about this, John, just in the context of where it is.

BERMAN: Look, I don't know --

BURNETT: Which is Fifth Avenue, midtown Manhattan across the street or right up the block from Cardi A.

BERMAN: I'd love to know if this is 20 people or 200, though. It's hard to tell -- from this view because this is on Fifth Avenue is like the crowd that attracts the block.

BURNETT: And it could be very much jam, OK. It could be jammed up against the building, and you know, so that cars can still go down the avenue, which I presume they can, although we'll see if our photojournalist there can give us a little bit more information.

BERMAN: One of the things that actually has been interesting about this case so far in the six weeks in all of you were down there at different points, was there were huge mobs. On either side of demonstrators -- on either side here, this went on, it happened. It was New York, it was another thing. And to an extent, that's what it feels like a little bit today, although there does appear to be nice music on this glorious day on Fifth Avenue, great shopping.

BURNETT: And obviously a lot of -- a lot of reporters and media and see that. And Abby, that was a room full of reporters and media because they were supposed to be able to ask questions. That's how we got the audience he got.

PHILLIP: Yeah, yeah. I mean, look, it wouldn't be the first time that it's been a bait and switch on a situation like this. And I have to wonder if maybe Trump realize once they decided to take those teleprompters out of the way. He said, what he needs to say. There's really not a whole lot else he wants to get across.

I will say, last night I thought there was an attempt to add a message that was calibrated correctly, which is to say, you know, what, the voters will have their say on November 5. And I think that that is actually true that this verdict is what it is.

But at the end of the day, it's still going to be up for the voters to decide how much this matter if it matters at all. And they could very well decide to put Donald Trump in the White House. And that is also going to be something that this country, left or right has to accept.

BURNETT: So, Jennifer, if I ask you a question on this, right. This is very significant because this is the only case you're going to get a verdict in a January 6 Georgia, Mar-a-Lago before the election. And now you've got a verdict, it's got to go through an appeals process. I understand the standard appeals process would get you through that, it would not happen until after election. Is there any way given the situation that they could push it faster?

RODGERS: No, no. They will -- well, you need a couple of months to sentencing. And then the appeals process starts. There's briefing. There's no way --

BURNETT: There'll be no extraordinary circumstances because of what it is that though.

RODGERS: No. I mean, the yields process just takes time. There's no way that they would move it. The only time you expedite an appeal is if it's something like something is coming up. You have a trial coming up. You need a ruling on --

BURNETT: An election --

RODGERS: -- there are some an election as an example, but not -- but not, it doesn't have to do with the election, right. If it was a -- if it was a lawsuit about his appearing on a ballot, right, then that would be something that would move.

BURNETT: But not this.

PHILLIP: There has been some talk. I mean, I don't -- I'll defer to the lawyers and legal experts about the Supreme Court stepping in suddenly and helping him out in this case. I don't know how real that is. But it seems like the Trump allies want to put all available options on the table to basically vacate this this verdict.

BURNETT: Paula, I want to give you a chance to respond on the Supreme Court. These are just more live pictures. I will point out John to your point. You can see the barricades. They're staying within them, and cars are moving on the side. So, in other words, it's not like a close Fifth Avenue. I'm just --


BERMAN: And these are people actually demonstrating against Donald Trump.

BURNETT: Right, right. But it is all very contained.

BERMAN: As far as I could tell but --


BURNETT: So, you've got two groups? I would presume they're separated by the America.


BURNETT: But these are the. If someone can give us a sense of numbers. I do still see media within the group.

BERMAN: I did wonder whether or not Trump would come outside at one point if there was a crowd of supporters there and shake hands, because that's a picture that he could make. It was the same way, I wondered if Melania Trump would come with him to this news conference because that would be a picture he can make.

BURNETT: Oh, well, that would have been an enormous moment. We'll come down the escalator together.

BERMAN: Right. Because he's something like that. But those are not the news moments he chose to make today.

BURNETT: No. And again, I wonder if -- I'm talking to Brian in the control room. If our photojournalist there do have a sense of the numbers of people or the numbers of the kind of anti or pro Trump?

PHILLIP: It doesn't -- it does not look huge.

BURNETT: No. It looks -- it looks small. And you see -- and you see cars going by. And that is -- and that is obviously, you know, you've got Fifth Avenue there. So, Paula, the point, though, that Abby was making about the Supreme Court. And whether because of the situation there, because some kind of an emergency appeal or something of that nature. Is there any avenue?

REID: So, it's a great question. Based on my conversations with the legal team as of now, that is not something that's under consideration. But there are going to be strategy meetings over the next few days. Who knows what kind of creative options they'll come up with.

But remember, there is currently a significant Trump related case pending before the Supreme Court. This is the question of presidential immunity and whether he should be shielded from his federal January 6 case, because he had immunity.

Now, he has lost this argument all the way to the Supreme Court so far. But based on what we heard an oral argument, there is widely an expectation that they might find some wiggle room there, some immunity or at least request additional proceedings and that they'll toss it back down. And it'll have to go all the way up.

Now, if they see any possibility in what the Supreme Court says that could apply to this case. Certainly, I think they would try to relitigate that. But at this point, the only relief that they're seeking right now from the Supreme Court is on that January 6 case. And that's going to be one of the biggest decisions they make over the next few weeks.

BURNETT: All right. We continue here together. Let's send it back down to you, Wolf?

BLITZER: Erin, thanks very much. And David Chalian, you're looking very, very closely at your political Directorate at the poll numbers right now. Is he still Teflon done after these convictions?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, we don't know because we'll see. We don't have poll numbers yet, since the conviction came out last night that are despite what you may have heard Donald Trump touting. We don't have reputable poll numbers that are actually assessing the post-conviction landscape of this race.

But -- and I am super dubious well, about the poll questions that were asked in advance of the conviction. Because asking somebody about a hypothetical scenario in a court case, and then how that may impact your vote several months. It's just a very tough question to get a handle on, on how people will be impacted by it.

Erin, I was just talking -- while our colleagues up in New York were chatting away about how an event like this certainly galvanizes the base of both parties. We know that Donald Trump is a motivating factor for folks on the left. There's no doubt about that.

And so, I would not be surprised to see an uptick of donations on the left as well. Maybe not to the extent that we're seeing to the Trump campaign. And there's no doubt that Donald Trump is a motivating factor for the right.

And we've talked at length over the last nine years about -- you know, I've never seen a politician who has a relationship with his base of support the way that Donald Trump has a relationship with his base of support. And we saw it over the four indictments last year. And I have little doubt that this will energize the right as well.

The question here, of course, is when you're dealing with six or seven battleground states, an election that may come down to 50,000, people are their votes in the middle. From an electorate that doesn't like their options that can be swayed either way because of this, when it has been listed as a low-level issue of importance for voters compared to other things. It's just something I don't think we have the answer to this.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting. On July 11, Judge Merchan is going to sentence Trump for these 34-felony counts that he's been convicted. Over a week or so later, is the Republican National Convention. Do you have any doubt that he will still be officially named the Republican presidential nominee?

CHALIAN: I have. No reason to believe. He wouldn't be -- the only reason would be is if he bowed out of the race and I don't see that happening at all. He is going to be the Republican nominee for president. And by the way, constitutionally he can be -- he can be president as a convicted felon and serve in that capacity.

So, this is not something that is going grim, which is why the one area of agreement that we've gotten from the Biden camp and the Trump camp since the verdict came out is that, if you want to resolve Donald Trump status politically in this country, it is not going to be resolved by a jury. It is going to be resolved by the vote.

BLITZER: I've always thought it was interesting. If you're a convicted felon, you can run for president, you can serve as president, but in some states, you might not necessarily be able to vote for yourself for president.


CHALIAN: But apparently in Florida, the way the law is, he would probably still be able to vote for himself.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, POLITICAL & POLICY COLUMNIST, BLOOMBERG: I think, you know, to David's point about how this will impact. What people want to do in the ballot box? There is a question of people's comfort level in voting for a convicted felon, right? It has never happened. People who voted in 2020 might have some thoughts about whether or not they want to support somebody who is a convicted felon.

Whether or not, they think this is a case who -- that should have been brought, whether or not the appeal stands, wherever it stands. But that is going to be a factor. And if you think about the voters that have sort of bad feelings about Donald Trump, this underscores it, right, that he's a convicted felon. That this was a case that was brought because he had an affair with a porn star while his wife was becoming a mom.

Those kinds of things were sort of decency of Donald Trump. The lack of character. When it comes to Donald Trump, those are the things that resonate with suburban women voters with the sort of Nikki Haley voters, and with the Trump -- Biden voters. So, I know we kind of talked about, oh, it's really going to energize the ride, and they're going to raise a bunch of money off of it. But I definitely think it's going to do the same to the left as well. LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Excuse me. I big spotlights now on who the vice-presidential pick will be. We were learning. I think that he would announce who he would have as his running mate. If not, during the convention in the area directly around the convention.

Now that the convention will take place after the sentencing, I'd be curious to see what your thoughts are all of you on the veepstakes. Because we've seen the barometer and the litmus test now, well the loyalty test are showing up in the courthouse. During the actual trial, the list seems to have gotten smaller and smaller based on who arrived who was outside as well.

And now you got that added benefit or added notion of if this person who will be the nominee, who will all but have the confetti fall on him. Then what is the choice about who is VP running mate (inaudible) to people? Will it try to counter the things you've suggested yet about the perception? Will it be somebody who could serve in the interim if he were to win and have the inauguration or would be someone totally different?

KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: No. I mean, I think you're already seeing the veepstakes play out live, honestly -- excuse me, it's been playing out right here on our air at CNN. I talked to Doug Burgum. This morning. I asked does any of this give you pause about serving his vice president. He was like, no, it doesn't.

So, I think that that question is asked to the answered, I think they're probably watching to see who among them is the most aggressive attack dog on Donald Trump's behalf on this. I mean, that loyal test -- loyalty tests has really been part of it. And I mean, to kind of get it what your other -- were deep in hypothetical territory.

If we're talking about the vice president in the event of a Trump election, having some sort of authority. But it strikes me that he has always not wanted someone who was threatening to him in that role in any way. And that that has always been a calculation and willingness to play second fiddle always to Donald Trump. That doesn't seem to be changing.

But briefly, well, we could go back. This conversation we were having, I think it's important to look at Liz Cheney, for example, has been silent so far, about what we have heard on the -- on the politics of this trial. I think it is telling. It speaks to -- I mean, those Nikki Haley voters who sure have many reasons to have all these issues. And have now been reminded of all of the character flaws that Donald Trump has.

I think that there is a sense from those who have experienced the backlash of the Trump base and the depth of their support. For him the impact that this particular trial could have in a way that is different from things that are more fundamental to our democracy in our country, like the January 6 case.

And I do think that there is a little bit of a warning sign to be found in there. And I think honestly, the Biden campaign's response to this, underscores that. I mean, it has been very restrained.

HENDERSON: Now partly, it's been very restrained because -- you know, you have Donald Trump out here saying, this is the Biden trial. You know that this was all Biden and his team pulling the strings. So, they come out and sort of dance a jig over this. I think that feeds into the Trump sort of rhetoric around this. I think that's why they're --

HUNT: Can I touch a little bit of that when they put Robert De Niro out there before this sort of came in.

HENDERSON: And it's always -- to some people that sort of backfiring, it wasn't necessarily seen by people like David Axelrod as a good move.

BLITZER: Trump claimed in his remarks said, Biden and his people are responsible for everything that's been going on against him. But then he added, it's probably not Biden because he's not qualified to even think along those lines. He went after Biden directly in his comments. I want to get to the whole issue of sentencing. But let's take a quick break. Much more where our special coverage coming up right after this.




BURNETT: OK. I want to go to CNN's Kristen Holmes because she is outside Trump Tower where we've seen obviously, some crowds gather outside as Trump was finishing speaking. So, Kristen, what are you really seeing? Who's there? Are the two groups sort of pro and anti- Trump separate from each other? Give us the lay of the land.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They are separate from each other. But let me tell you, Erin. It has really devolved out here into a circus like atmosphere. I mean, just moments ago, while we were in commercial break, we saw a fake motorcade go by, with a fake Donald Trump waving in the back. We saw some giant trucks on those giant wheels lifted. That had Trump flags and all this in blaze. Trump stuff on the side of it.


Behind me on my left side is an entire group of protesters who are anti-Trump. They have signs that say guilty, that say loser, that say dawn the felon. At one point someone had a sign that said, we don't want a felon in the White House.

Now on the other side of me to the right which you can't see, directly in front of Trump Tower is the pro-Trump group, they are waving flags that are truly bigger than I've ever seen. That's a Trump 2024 waving back and forth. They were shouting as the people were driving by.

Again, kind of a circus like atmosphere here, completely different from what we saw before. We went into his remarks. I do want to stress how this shows just how divisive this trial is. This is not just a normal trial because this is a man who is currently running for president.

We talk a lot about the fact that this is the first man who has been convicted -- excuse me, the first former president who has been convicted of these kinds of charges. But he's also still running for president. Not only that he seems to have the full support of the Republican Party.

We've heard person, after person, lawmaker, allied, all circling the wagons around the former president. Even people like Senator Mitch McConnell, who have a very icy relationship with Donald Trump, saying that this case should have never been brought. This case has now become part of Donald Trump's political campaign.

At least for the time being, he is going to try to capitalize on this as much as he can, financially as well as politically. Obviously, there are no answers as to what exactly this means come November. How exactly this impacts voters? We can do tons of polling and we will do tons of polling. But how this actually plays out. We are in uncharted territory and everyone on both sides of the aisle knows that.

BURNETT: Kristen, can I ask you what your sources are saying? I know you were there, right. And you were told that this was a news conference with the expectation that there would likely be reporter questions. I mean, that would be the definition of a news conference. As you had pointed out, you don't know with Trump.

But we had also anticipated that he would speak for about an hour before those questions even happened. He went 35 minutes. He didn't take questions. Obviously, it was disjointed. He did appear very tired. What are you learning about -- I don't know the reception inside the campaign or those close to him, about how all of this went down?

HOLMES: Well, just now inside of Trump Tower, I mean, just keep in mind, there's a reason it was rambling. They had a teleprompter setup. But then they took down before he came out, meaning that he was completely speaking off the cuff. He was holding a note card that was about this big. And I can tell you right now, it only had a few things on it.

So certainly not enough to fill up the 35 minutes that he was actually speaking. He went back and forth. Keep in mind, this man is still under a gag order. And he called the witness, sure you didn't name him, but it's pretty clear that he's talking about a sleazebag.

When did the last time he violated the gag order? A judge that he considered jail as one of the punishments, yet he went on beyond calling it sleazebag to talk about the case and directly how it related to Michael Cohen.

Now, in the reception inside of the campaign has been the same. They right now are going to campaign off of the fact that he is a convicted felon. And we have seen that he has sent out fundraising emails that have said that he is a political prisoner.

And to some extent, Erin, at least among his base, it is working. I am told that he got calls from allies, from lawmakers, from donors. People that he had not actually spoken to yet, people who say that they were on the fence before this.

Now they say they're coming out to support Donald Trump. Now, whether or not again, that is true, remains to be seen. All of this is going to play out in the next several months, and particularly in November when those voters head to the ballot box.

BURNETT: All right, Kristen, thank you very much. And interesting -- such an interesting detail that the teleprompter is taken down just that one little note card with a few lines on it. Wolf, I mean, just to give a sense, right, of how unexpected that moment was when he decided to go into that 35 minute long, disjointed speech.

BLITZER: And what also jumped out at me, I know to you as well. Erin as he refused to take any questions from reporters to what the White House -- excuse me, where the Trump campaign had billed as a news conference. It wasn't a news conference. It was a statement or a speech that he delivered.

Erin, thank you. Well, the presidential race is clearly now entering a new more volatile phase. Now that the presumptive Republican nominee is a convicted felon 34 times. Joining us now Republican senator from Ohio, J.D. Vance. His name has come up as a potential Trump running mate. Senator Vance, thanks so much for joining us. Are you interested in being the running mate of a convicted felon?

SEN. JD VANCE, (R-OH): Well, Wolf, the entire purpose of this trial was to allow the media and the Democrats to say exactly that's never about justice. This is about plastering convicted felon all over the airwaves. When in reality, the only thing that Donald Trump is guilty of is being in the courtroom of a political sham trial.

BLITZER: This jury was approved by the Trump lawyer. You acknowledge that, right?


BLITZER: Trump lawyers approved the 12 men and women, the six alternates in the jury.

VANCE: My complaint is not with a jury, Wolf. My complaint is with the judge, with the jury instructions that were clearly reversible with the fact that the judge had donated to the Biden campaign, which should force a recusal under the New York rules.