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CNN Live Event/Special

Trump Airs Grievances After Being Convicted On 34 Felony Counts; Biden Campaign After Trump's Speech: "This Man Cannot Be President". Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 31, 2024 - 12:30   ET



SEN. JD VANCE (R-OH): Look, Wolf, the --

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

VANCE: My complaint is not with the 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 a -- to the Biden campaign --


VANCE: -- which should force a recusal under the New York rules for the judge, the fact that his daughter has gotten wealthy off of this --

BLITZER: He donated $15 in 2020 for the campaign.

VANCE: And to stop Donald Trump --


VANCE: Wolf, to explicitly stop Donald Trump. Please let me answer the question. This judge committed multiple elements of reversible error, and he did it while his daughter has made a ton of money off of Democratic candidates. And while he, himself, donated to the Biden campaign --

BLITZER: So let me repeat the question.

VANCE: You cannot say that this trial was anything more than politics masquerading as justice. And yes, I will help Donald Trump --

BLITZER: Whatever happen --

VANCE: I will help Donald Trump. However, I think that I can, Wolf. Because if we allow this to happen, it's so much bigger and so much more troubling than Donald Trump. If we allow the standard that you can throw your political opponents in jail because they're doing better than you in an election, it will be the end of this country as we know it. BLITZER: So you don't think this was a fair trial at all?

VANCE: No, Wolf, I do not think it was a fair trial at all. And more importantly, again, everybody's focusing on Donald Trump. Understandably --

BLITZER: But he's convicted now.

VANCE: Understandably, but the principle that we're establishing applies across our politics. We're basically saying that if you don't like the outcome of election or you don't like how an election is about to transpire, you can try to throw your opponent in jail.

Wolf, the entire predicate here --

BLITZER: This wasn't a trial organized --

VANCE: -- is a paperwork violation.

BLITZER: by Biden. This was a trial organized by New York City, the district attorney in Manhattan.

VANCE: After the number three person in the Biden Department of Justice joined that prosecutor's office and then goes after Biden's political opponent, this absolutely is connected to Joe Biden, Wolf. Beyond that, you had Robert De Niro showing up at a Biden campaign rally on the day of jury instructions. This is politics written all over --

BLITZER: Do you agree with Trump, with what he just said, because this jumped out at me, I thought it was obnoxious. When he said, we're living in a fascist state. Is the United States a fascist state?

VANCE: Wolf, I served in Iraq and the United States Marine Corps, I have multiple family members --

BLITZER: Were you outraged when he said that, when Trump said that?

VANCE: I am outraged at this entire proceeding, Wolf, not at Donald Trump's criticism of it.

BLITZER: Trump is calling the United States of America, the greatest country in the world, a fascist state. Are you OK with that?

VANCE: After the president of the United States uses the power --

BLITZER: Are you OK with that?

VANCE: -- of the courts and his power as president --

BLITZER: So you agree with him that we live in a fascist state?

VANCE: -- to throw his opponents in jail. I think this is disgraceful. I don't care what you call it, Wolf.

BLITZER: That Trump is disgraceful, is that what you're saying? VANCE: I think this proceeding, this legal proceeding is disgraceful.

BLITZER: But what about Trump --

VANCE: And I don't care --

BLITZER: -- calling our country a fascist state?

VANCE: They're trying to throw him in prison for a paperwork violation --

BLITZER: He's convicted by --

VANCE: -- Wolf.

BLITZER: -- by his peers.

VANCE: After the judge --

BLITZER: Other New Yorkers.

VANCE: -- gave those jury biased instructions, after that judge donated to Donald Trump's political opponent, of course, he's going to be frustrated and he has every right to be. I don't care what you call this, but this is not the America that I know and love.

Why aren't we talking about inflation, Wolf? Why aren't we talking about Biden's wide open southern border?

BLITZER: We're talking about history now.

VANCE: This entire trial was cooked up to distract from Joe Biden's failure.

BLITZER: Senator, with all due respect, we're talking about this because this is the first president or former president in American history to be convicted of felonies.

VANCE: So let's talk about precedents. He's convicted of a literal paperwork violation. That is the credit --

BLITZER: He's convicted 34 felonies.

VANCE: All of them paperwork violations rule, a single, single paperwork violation, and they drew 34 felonies out. That should really bother you whether you're a Democrat or Republican. Now, let's talk about precedents. Six years ago, Hillary Clinton played -- paid $113,000 that was misclassified as a legal expense. That's the exact same thing that Donald Trump is accused of.

Hillary Clinton got a slap on the wrist and a fine from the FEC. Donald Trump has had 34 felony indictments. It's so obvious that this is about politics, Wolf. And I understand the questions here. But if we allow this to continue, we are going to wake up in a banana republic where we try to throw people in jail instead of winning an argument in our politics. BLITZER: Let me read to you --

VANCE: That's not what I want. I don't think it's what you want either.

BLITZER: Let me read to you what former Maryland governor and currently Republican Senator Kennedy -- Larry Hogan, said going into all of this. He said he appealed to the public for calm, asked Americans, and I'm quoting him now, to respect the verdict and legal process and to not pour fuel on the fire with more toxic partisanship.

This was met by a response from a senior Trump campaign official who just said to Larry Hogan, "You just ended your campaign." Are you OK with that?

VANCE: I'm OK with the fact that we need to criticize and call this ridiculous legal proceeding out. Larry Hogan's trying to win a Senate race in a blue seat. Obviously, I disagree with Larry Hogan. The problem is not criticizing the sham prosecution. The problem is the sham prosecution itself, and we need leadership to call it out.

BLITZER: It sounds to me like you're totally, totally in supporting Trump right now. And everything that he's done, all of the accusations that have been leveled against him.


VANCE: Wolf, I am absolutely supporting Trump because I think he will make American -- the American people's lives better. But again, this is so much bigger to me than Donald Trump. I woke up heartbroken for our country because the precedent set is that if you don't like somebody's politics, you should use the American system of law and order to try and destroy them.

That's 250 years of legal tradition. The Biden folks are tearing it up to win an election, Wolf. That is what really bothers me.

BLITZER: What is going to happen to the Republican Party being the party of law and order?

VANCE: We are the party of law and order, but you can't have law and order if you have judges --

BLITZER: This former president has been convicted 34 times --

VANCE: Wolf, law and order --

BLITZER: -- of violating law.

VANCE: Law and order is not having a judge who donates to the political opposition of Donald Trump and then tries to throw Donald Trump in jail. That's the opposite of law and order.

BLITZER: $15 donation.

VANCE: A $15 donation combined with -- he said that he wanted to fight Donald Trump. His daughter has made almost $100 million fundraising for Democrats, Wolf. Every single thing about this points to the fact that this was a political sham prosecution.

Now, again, it's not just the judge's financial interests, his commitment to Democrats, multiple reversible errors. Why didn't they change the venue? Why didn't the judge give accurate jury instructions? Why didn't they charge him with something more than a paperwork violation?

The entire argument of this case is that Donald Trump should go to prison because an employee of his filled out paperwork the wrong way, Wolf. This is disgraceful.

BLITZER: Do you believe that his employees with his knowledge were trying to cover up an affair with Stormy Daniels in order of -- this is just a few weeks before the election?

VANCE: I believe that Donald Trump did nothing wrong. But if you take Alvin Bragg's argument, if you take every single thing in that indictment at face value, what it suggests is Donald Trump committed a paperwork violation. Is that 34th felony counts? Not in the country that I want to live in. Not in the United States of America that I know and love.

BLITZER: So you don't want to live in the United States?

VANCE: I don't want to live in a New York sham prosecution. I would not live in New York State right now. Absolutely, I wouldn't, Wolf, because what New York has showed and what frankly the Biden administration has showed is that if you don't do exactly what they want you to do in politics, they will try to use our system, bipartisan system of law and order to throw you in prison.

It's so disgraceful. And I think every American, whatever their party should be worried about this.

BLITZER: How worried are you that there could be violence emerging from all of this by Trump's supporters?

VANCE: Oh, not at all. Donald Trump's supporters are not violent people. You live in a country of 330 million people. Of course, some people are going to do some bad things. But if we want to get back at the New York sham prosecution, my message to every Trump supporter is go to, volunteer, support him and vote in November.

The only language that these people speak is power. We've got to win the presidency, Wolf, and save this country.

BLITZER: Weren't Trump supporters involved in the January 6th violence at the U.S. Capitol?

VANCE: Wolf, a few people were violent, certainly, but I don't think the majority of Donald Trump's supporters are violent because you had a few people get violent on January 6th.

BLITZER: So your message to Trump supporters in the aftermath of these convictions is what?

VANCE: My message is, don't get angry, don't get depressed, get even, get involved and let's win this election because that's the only way to actually fix this country and to save it for the American people.

BLITZER: And you want to be his running mate?

VANCE: Wolf, I want to help Donald Trump however I can. He's got a lot of people he can choose from and he's going to make that decision. But I want to be helpful because I want to save this country. This precedent is going to destroy the country that I love if we let it stand. And really our only way to push back against it is to vote for Trump in November.

BLITZER: But you don't believe we live in a fascist state, do you?

VANCE: Wolf, I think that what happened in New York is disgraceful.

BLITZER: You can't answer that question.

VANCE: Wolf, I think that what happened in New York, if you applied it across all 50 states, would be the definition of fascism. Throwing your political opponents in jail, thank God, it only happened in New York and not in the rest of the country.

BLITZER: Senator, nice of you to come in. Thanks very much.

VANCE: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Appreciate it.

VANCE: Appreciate it.

BLITZER: We'll continue this conversation down the road. Stay with us. Former President Trump just left Trump Tower. Much more of our special coverage coming up after a quick break.



BLITZER: ?There's breaking news we're following. The Biden campaign has just responded to Trump's speech a little while ago. CNN White House Correspondent Priscilla Alvarez is joining us from the White House right now. So Priscilla, what did the campaign say?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're just getting this statement, Wolf, and it says the following. This from Communications Director Michael Tyler, quote, "America just witnessed a confused, desperate, and defeated Donald Trump ramble about his own personal grievances and lie about the American justice system, leaving anyone watching with one obvious conclusion. This man cannot be president of the United States."

It goes on to say, "Unhinged by his 2020 election loss and spiraling from his criminal convictions, Trump is consumed by his own thirst for revenge and retribution." Goes on to say that they will continue fighting against Trump.

Now, Wolf, this is a pretty scathing statement from the Biden campaign, which has been leading the charge in response to the verdict that was reached yesterday. Now, the Biden campaign does not bank on this conviction, really changing the calculus of the election entirely. But certainly, they are making clear their sentiment on the matter, and trying to fire up their own base by also asking for those grassroots donations.


Now, the White House, for its part, has been reluctant to weigh in. In fact, they've been quite brief with the White House council spokesperson only saying, quote, "We respect the rule of law and have no additional comment."

President Biden has really not been in the public eye. He's just now getting back from to the White House. He yesterday was in Delaware commemorating the 9th anniversary of the death of his son, Beau. But we will see him this afternoon, so it could be an opportunity for reporters to ask him a question and for him to publicly weigh in on this. Wolf?

BLITZER: And when we see him, I'm told that the president is also planning on delivering a major speech on the Middle East, specifically the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. What do we expect on that front? This could be very, very significant.

ALVAREZ: It absolutely could. And the White House has been quite vague in saying what this is about by only saying that he'll address the situation in the Middle East. But of course, Wolf, this is against the backdrop of the hostage talks and also what we are seeing in Rafah's Israel moves its forces further into central Gaza.

Now, on those hostage talks earlier in the week, Israel had presented mediators with new ideas. But we don't know what those ideas were. At least it's very unclear. And this is significant because the indirect talks between Israel and Hamas have been on pause for the last three weeks. This, of course, being a key priority for the U.S.

And then not to mention too, Rafah, where the president has said he has a red line. But the White House has said it hasn't been breached yet. So all of this coming together in this address happening later this afternoon. Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll watch it very closely and have live coverage. Clearly, a very important statement coming from the president of the United States.

Priscilla Alvarez, thanks very much for that update. And we'll be right back.


[12:51:17] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: And our special coverage continues. Of course, Donald Trump in a 35-minute long rambling speech that was billed as a news conference referred to, at one point, the United States as a fascist state. Moments later, JD Vance, a senator who is among the contenders for the vice presidential role on the Trump ticket, came on set and sat down with Wolf Blitzer.

And Wolf asked him whether he thinks America is a fascist state. Let me play part of the exchange for you.


BLITZER: -- when he said that, when Trump said that.

VANCE: I am outraged at this entire proceeding, Wolf, not at Donald Trump's criticism of it.

BLITZER: Trump is calling the United States of America, the greatest country in the world, a fascist state. Are you OK with that?

VANCE: After the president of the United States uses the power --

BLITZER: Are you OK with that?

VANCE: -- of the courts and his power as president --

BLITZER: So you agree with him that we live in a fascist state?

VANCE: -- to throw his opponents in jail. I think this is disgraceful. I don't care what you call it, Wolf.

BLITZER: That Trump is disgraceful, is that what you're saying?

VANCE: I think this proceeding, this legal proceeding is disgraceful.

BLITZER: But what about Trump --

VANCE: And I don't care --

BLITZER: -- calling our country a fascist state?

VANCE: They're trying to throw him in prison for a paperwork violation --

BLITZER: He's convicted by --

VANCE: -- Wolf.


BURNETT: And it continued. Wolf came back to it. Abby --


BURNETT: -- an incredible moment because I think, first of all, for all of us, you see Wolf Blitzer and how strongly he feels about this statement, and JD Vance sitting there unwilling to say that the United States of America is not a fascist country.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, look, that -- good on Wolf for pressing on that because the reality is, is that if you can be outraged about the charges being brought, you can also be outraged about Trump taking it too far. I mean, one of the issues here, I totally believe that it is reasonable and on the table to question whether these charges should have been brought in the first place.

That's not out of bounds. But the issue here is that now there's a process for them to appeal. There's a process for them to bring all of their complaints to another panel of judges. That is how this country is supposed to work. This is a state court charge.

The idea that somehow there is this grand conspiracy in which Democrats control all, they control the states, they control all the judges up and down, from federal court all the way down to state and local court, is nonsense. It is complete nonsense.

That is not how the system works. And Trump will have his day in court to appeal all of this. And for that reason -- and it's not a fascist country.

BURNETT: And JD Vance, though, the Hillbilly Elegy, made him famous for -- when he -- what he noticed, what he -- it is amazing to see the evolution of somebody like JD Vance and many others, as they are now focused on one thing and one thing only, which is remaining in the good graces of Trump and possibly becoming a VP.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, JD Vance is running for vice president. You saw it right there.


BERMAN: He won't allow an inch, a scintilla of daylight --


BERMAN: -- between what he was going to say to Wolf and what Donald Trump said short time ago. I mean, Donald Trump called it a fascist country. JD Vance, even if he disagreed with it, I have to say he looked uncomfortable when Wolf was pressing him there.

BURNETT: He did look uncomfortable.

BERMAN: And it may have been that he doesn't like the idea of Trump calling it a fascist country, but he can't come -- bring himself to say it on TV because he knows or he believes it will hurt his chances. He said some things that were factually incorrect there.

He said President Biden is throwing his political opponents at you. It might not have anything to do with this case.


BERMAN: I mean, it's not a federal case. The federal government passed on this case or a version of this case early -- BURNETT: Exactly, which is a crucial --

BERMAN: -- his Justice Department did. You know, and I just -- finally, let me just say, when Wolf Blitzer, he's a child of Holocaust survivors. When he's talking about fascist countries, he knows what he's talking about.

BURNETT: Yes. He does. And when he says it's the greatest country in the world, that's something you would think JD Vance would agree with.


BURNETT: And in a sense, shocking that he didn't. Also just that this complete and lack of respect in any way, shape, or form for the legal process that is playing out.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly the issue. And I think going forward, we have to, as a country, think about how we restore trust in the Justice Department.


Because really, since 2015, the investigation, Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, there has been such a toxicity infused into the judicial process, into investigations, both state and federal, high profile political investigations into Trump, into Hillary Clinton, into Hunter Biden, into the President of the United States right now, Joe Biden.

But it is brought in so much partisanship, and I'm worried that people are going to not trust this system that I cover every day, and I tell you that largely, you can trust it. But if it turns into a political weapon, that is a terrible thing for this country.

BURNETT: And it does raise the question, I don't want to get into something big, I know we have a few seconds left, but why do we have politically elected D.A.s, making the decision on prosecutions? I mean, there are some fair questions to ask.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, because they're independent. That's why. I mean, you know, you have an elected D.A. who, if he does things that are not OK, he's obviously responsible to the voters. But there's now in New York, there's actually a prosecutorial conduct commission that you could be, bring up a D.A. or ABAs.

If they do something wrong, there's a new way to oversee them. But that's why, because you're answerable to the people in the way that appointed U.S. attorneys in the federal system are not.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you all very much. And thanks very much to all of you for being with Wolf and I for the special coverage today. We appreciate it.

Our coverage continues right after this break.