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CNN Live Event/Special

Now, Supreme Court Releasing Opinions; Supreme Court Rules on Trump's Claim of Immunity in Election Case. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 01, 2024 - 10:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington. Welcome to our special coverage, July 1st, 2024, a monumental day that will shape both the 2024 election and beyond that, the powers of the U.S. president. At any moment, the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices will hand down their ruling on Donald Trump's claims of presidential immunity from criminal prosecution.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Kaitlan Collins live outside the Supreme Court this morning. This landmark case, Trump versus United States, revolves around whether Trump is immune from prosecution regarding charges that he used his office to attempt to overturn the 2020 election. But as Justice Neil Gorsuch summed it up, the significance of this is a decision not just for Donald Trump but also for future presidencies, as he said, quote, we are writing a rule for the ages.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper from New York. Today's ruling could boil down to whether Trump's actions were official as part of his presidential duties or private. And the court's decision will determine if Trump could face trial on these federal charges before the November election.

TAPPER: It's really difficult to overstate just how consequential this ruling is going to be, not just for Donald Trump's immediate legal and possible political peril, but for all future U.S. presidents as well. It's taken 67 days to issue this opinion on the final day of the term after U.S. Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments back in April.

Now, Trump's lawyers argued that presidential immunity is an essential protection against overzealous prosecutors.


JOHN SAUER, TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: If a president can be charged, put on trial and imprisoned for his most controversial decisions as soon as he leaves office, that looming threat will distort the president's decision-making precisely when bold and fearless action is most needed.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: But the attorney for the U.S. Justice Department argued that no president should ever be above the law.


MICHAEL DREEBEN, ATTORNEY FOR SPECIAL COUNSEL JACK SMITH: His novel theory would immunize former presidents for criminal liability, for bribery, treason, sedition, murder, and here, conspiring to use fraud to overturn the results of an election and perpetuate himself in power.


TAPPER: Thanks so much. Let's talk about this with my panel in studio with us. We have many experts. I'm going to start with John King. And, John, what happens today is so incredibly important, maybe not as important politically as what happened last week but for the ages, certainly. It took the court 67 days to release this decision, just over four months until Election Day. That in itself is a victory for Donald Trump.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anything that delays the trials. And so the decision today, let's say they, you know, send it back to the court and say, make a distinction, send it back to the lower court, say make a distinction between official acts, because some of this could have been he was president and some of it was he was candidate. Even that causes more delay.

So, in the short-term, Donald Trump, in some ways, has already won in that it's most unlikely, even if he loses at the court today, pretty hard to see that trial taking place before the election.


KING: And that's the more consequential trial than the Stormy Daniels hush money campaign finance. It's a much more serious issue that Jack Smith is trying to prosecute.

So, Trump has won with the delay. The question is what happens today in the short-term in a very competitive race where Trump has to be feeling better this week than he did last week because of the debate. What happens there? And Justice Gorsuch is absolutely correct. Presidents 20, 40, 50 and 100 years from now will be impacted by this decision. In the immediacy because of where we are, 4 months, 18 weeks to a presidential election, we're thinking about Trump and Trump trials, but it is a bigger decision than that.

TAPPER: And with all the cases against Donald Trump, Donald Trump is just promising retribution. He's promising that he's going to go after, you know, these generals, these members of the January 6th committee, et cetera. And then, obviously, there is this question of what kind of immunity might President Joe Biden if he doesn't win in November? What might he have? I actually asked Trump about that on Thursday, about going after his political opponents. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Your main political opponent is standing on stage with you tonight.


Can you clarify exactly what it means about you feeling you have every right to go after your political opponents?

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT, 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I said my retribution is going to be success.

But he could be a convicted felon as soon as he gets out of office. Joe could be a convicted felon with all of the things that he's done. He's done horrible things. All of the death caused at the border, telling the Ukrainian people that we're going to want a billion dollars if you change the prosecutor. Otherwise, you're not getting a billion dollars.


TAPPER: This isn't just about hypotheticals. Trump is already using the rhetoric. This decision today could have an impact. Again, who knows what's going to happen in November, but it could have an impact on what happens after November.

KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: It absolutely could. And, certainly, Trump was -- you could hear there that he had a message that his team wanted him to deliver to steer away. I mean, they know that this retribution kind of line is something that tends to damage his standing with independents and swing voters. So, you could hear him there trying not to, but then you could see what seems to really be there when we hear Donald Trump speaking without a teleprompter in more unfocused, shall we say, situations, right, how he really feels about this.

I think the other piece, when you look at it from the flip side of how it could impact things, let's not forget about how much people have talked about how Donald Trump is running for president to protect himself from the situation that he is facing with the federal judiciary. Because the bottom line is, if he is re-elected, He can make this entire case go away.

TAPPER: That's absolutely true and likely. Everyone stay with me. I'm going to throw it to Kaitlan outside the court. Kaitlan?

COLLINS: Yes, Jake. And, obviously, the Trump team has been weighing all of that as they are at this point waiting to find out just like the rest of us what exactly it is that the Supreme Court has decided here. They have run through basically every option in their mind.

And Kristen Holmes is here with me. And, Kristen, obviously you've been talking to the Trump team about this. They don't expect to outright win. They don't think that the Supreme Court is going to come out and say, actually, yes, you are completely immune from prosecution, but they're looking for a way to essentially have them split the baby where they do they are vindicated on certain points of this, and it does go back down to a lower court to figure out, okay, what's an official act and what's not an official act, therefore, delaying the case even further.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. I would actually argue that they think this went better than they thought it would even at the beginning. I mean, when I talked to them when they were going into the Supreme Court originally, they were like, this is a Hail Mary pass. You know, we're going in there, we're saying blanket immunity, but we don't know if this is actually going to go anywhere. We just know the fact that the Supreme Court is taking it up is going to delay the case.

But when I talk to their various legal advisers, the members of the campaign, they feel cautiously optimistic. And that is not based on just their hopes. This is based on what they saw, particularly the line of questioning from Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Roberts. They're looking at this for any kind of limited immunity. Because, as you said, this is all about how can they delay this case past the election?

Now, I would argue that it isn't just a maybe of whether or not he's going to dismiss the case if he wins in the fall. This is certain. That is part of the plan that they have had all along, that these two federal cases would be gone almost the moment that he enters the White House if he is to win again. So, the whole point has been to push this further and further.

Now, in their mind, their calculus says that if everything goes terribly and they lose on all fronts today, that it's still possible this could get delayed past the election, just given the fact that it would be so close to the election, there might be some kind of conversation around political powers and political sway, but they don't know if that would work.

COLLINS: What's interesting also in speaking to them is that Trump doesn't draw the distinction that his attorneys do and, well, some of this is official acts, some of it is unofficial acts. Trump just argues for blanket immunity. I mean, they're, what they argue in court is different than what he argues publicly and on Truth Social.

HOLMES: Right. Well, I mean, and that's always how it is with him, right? You know, he says one thing just in terms of a statement that's out there and lays there, and then they try to find the nuance. And, you know, we're looking at a case here where they have a very powerful and very smart lawyer, Jonathan Sauer, who has done this before, and is somebody who is well respected on both sides of the aisle and by the Supreme Court itself.

So, you know, what he is looking at, what they are hoping for right now, is this limited immunity so that this does go back to Jack Smith. He has to restructure the case. He has to do sorting between what was personal and what was an official act, and then this will get delayed beyond the election, which, of course, would mean that Donald Trump would eventually be able to dismiss this case.

COLLINS: And we actually heard from Trump this morning. He did a radio interview with John Fredericks, one of his favorite conservative hosts. And this is what he said about this decision that we are waiting any moment to get.


TRUMP: The immunity statement that's coming out, as they say, on Sunday -- on Monday, that is going to be very interesting to see what happens, but I think it has a bigger impact on Joe Biden than it has on me, actually.


COLLINS: I mean, obviously he's implying and what Trump has argued is that future presidents would face prosecution. I mean, he has vowed personally to go after Joe Biden.

HOLMES: Right, in the debate. I mean, we saw what he said to Jake essentially saying, oh, you know, he should be worried at Joe Biden because he's committed more crimes while in office. And also it's almost like, you know, saying if I was to be in office, and this, of course, is his veiled way of saying I might look at his chart, what he did in office as well, which is something he has said before.


This is very important to Donald Trump, no matter what he says, no matter what he says about it being more important to President Joe Biden. That's just how he talks. As you obviously know, this is critical to them because they don't want this case. They do not want this trial happening before the election.

And I think that's what we're trying to figure out, is given all that they have seen, there is still a chance that if he does not get any immunity, which seems highly unlikely again, given what we saw during oral arguments, that this could go to trial. And so for them, it is critical to have any kind of slice here of immunity or vagueness or of nuance, so that the case has to go back.

COLLINS: Yes. And the fact that we're even here showed that the justices at least wanted to explore that question and to see, you know, what it was exactly, Anderson, that what is the limit of presidential immunity because clearly they don't believe it's blanket immunity, but they also don't agree with what a court in D.C. found, which is that there is no immunity for what the president had, what -- whether he was in office, and of course, what he could be held accountable for after he left office.

COOPER: Yes. And the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case back in April after lower courts rejected Trump's claim of presidential immunity. Now, at that hearing, the newest justice on the bench, Ketanji Brown Jackson, questioned if taking liability off the table could embolden future presidents to commit crimes while in office.


JUSTICE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, U.S. SUPREME COURT: If someone with those kinds of powers, the most powerful person in the world, with the greatest amount of authority could go into office knowing that there would be no potential penalty for committing crimes, I'm trying to understand what the disincentive is from turning the Oval Office into, you know, the seat of criminal activity in this country.


COOPER: Here in New York with the team, Abby Philip and Attorney Joey Jackson. I mean, it really boils down to what are private acts and what are official acts.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And I think that, first of all, I think the court did not necessarily buy the idea that what Trump was accused of here were private acts. That seemed like a bridge too far.

COOPER: There were a number of cases during the questioning where attorneys for Trump essentially admitted that some certain things would be private acts.

PHILLIP: And they actually went line by line through the indictment, and in some cases, acknowledge that, at the core, the indictment were public acts. They were -- or, I'm sorry, were not official acts of a sitting president of the United States, not in furtherance of his role as president. So, in a way, they kind of acknowledge that, and I don't necessarily think that that's where this is going to come down to.

I do think that the court has already said by just taking this case that they want to put this issue on the table. They think it's a legitimate issue for them to address on. And, secondly, I think that just that alone is a victory, even if they don't answer the full question, which we've seen just in this term on a number of occasions, they have not decided on the full question, they might leave it open just enough that it keeps this issue alive, not just right now in this case for Trump, but down the road should another situation like this emerge.

And one of the real issues and risks that a lot of people say the country faces is Trump basically being emboldened by a lack of accountability for his previous set of actions and going even further another time around, almost making it certain that this is not going to be the last time we'll revisit this issue.

COOPER: And, Joey, Elena Kagan, Justice Kagan, pressed Trump's lawyers over whether a president staging a coup would be considered a, quote, official act. I want to play that.


JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Let's say this president who ordered the military to stage a coup, he's no longer president, he wasn't impeached, he couldn't be impeached, but he ordered the military to stage a coup. And you're saying that's an official act?

SAUER: I think it would depend on --

KAGAN: That's immune?

SAUER: I think it would depend on the circumstances whether it was an official act. If it were an official act, again, he would have to be impeached.

KAGAN: Well, what does that mean, depend on the circumstances? Is it an official act?

SAUER: On the way you've described that hypothetical, it could well be. I just don't know. You'd have to -- again, it's a fact-specific, context-specific determination.

KAGAN: That answer sounds to me as though it's like, yes, under my test it's an official act, but that sure sounds bad, doesn't it?


COOPER: And, Joey, the court today might not make a decision about whether what Trump did was an official act or a private act. They might just craft a ruling that then sends it back down to a lower court to make to actually define whether what Trump did fits their qualifications.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, that is a very likely outcome, Anderson. And if they do that, that leads to more uncertainty, right, because think about it, the court has a number of options here. One of the options is to create a bright line rule, as did Judge Chutkan when she issued her ruling saying, you know what? Presidents are not kings. They're not popes. They're presidents and they have to follow the law like everyone else. Then you have the court of appeals way in and say essentially the same thing.


Now, if we have a Supreme Court that makes a more nuanced rule, I don't think they'll make that assessment with respect to what's official, what's unofficial, and if it's official, is it criminal, is it not? I think that would be a remand down to the lower court to make that assessment.

One thing further, if they do that, that is the Supreme Court issuing it back to the lower court, do they then make this a judicial determination, a question of law in terms of what's official, unofficial, or does it become a jury question, meaning it's up to a jury after hearing all the evidence to make an assessment as to, A, do you meet the element, if a president is prosecuted, of it official, not official? It can get very complicated. So, it's going to be a ruling with major implications as to whether it's specific and clear and articulable or whether it just put this in a more state of confusion.

COOPER: And, John, this does not affect the classified documents case. This is not about the New York hush money case. This really will affect Jack Smith's, the four felony charges on the election.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, it could have an impact in Georgia also because it deals with actions that were taken during the time in which Donald Trump was president. So, those are the cases with the most clearest, direct impact right now. I will say this as we are waiting for the Supreme Court to weigh in an issue its official decision. It's already made two decisions here, which have effectively gone Donald Trump's way. Number one, Jack Smith asked to have the Supreme Court rule on this last January, like way in now, come early and tell us now what you think about this, they said, no, no, it's not for us. Let's let it work up the court system here.

And then when ultimately it did go past the appeals court and the Supreme Court decided it was going to get in, it's not that they've taken their time, but you will note this is the last case they're deciding in this term. No one said it had to be the last case you decide in this term. They could have issued their decision earlier.

So, the delay or the time it has taken has made this almost impossible, almost, for this to go to trial before Election Day.

COOPER: This should be happening any minute. Jake, let's go back to you.

TAPPER: Thanks Anderson and, and let's talk about this issue of immunity and what it means. Jamie Gangel, let me start with you. What does it mean to Jack Smith? What does it mean to voters, this idea of what the court's going to rule on?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So, apart from the question of whether we can have this trial before the election, if there is a trial on any part of it, it's going on during the campaign. But if there isn't a trial, American voters don't get to hear the evidence. They don't get to hear the grand jury testimony from people like former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Maybe they don't get to see the rest of his text messages from former Vice President Mike Pence, who apparently was taking notes during the time, from the former White House Counsels Pat Cipollone, Pat Philbin and Eric Herschmann, who knew what Trump was doing and saying in real time. So, that could potentially be a game changer in this election.

TAPPER: And frame, Elie, if you would, what the court is looking at here is as a legal matter and whether this is, in your view, going to be a simple, yes, he has immunity or, no, he doesn't have immunity. It's probably going to be something more complicated.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It will be. Now, as we sit here 10:17 A.M., we know nothing about criminal immunity. It's never been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court before. So, we're about to get some really big answers. Number one, is there even such thing as criminal immunity? We've had civil immunity in this country going back 42 years, but we don't officially know whether there's criminal immunity.

Question two, if there is such thing as criminal immunity, what are the parameters? Where does it apply? Where does it not apply? It seems likely it's going to be somehow related to was he on the job or off the job.

And then really importantly, question three, if there is some immunity, we'll get the rules, the parameters. How does it apply to Trump? It's possible, the Supreme Court says, we find it does or does not apply to Donald Trump. That's that. I think it's unlikely. I think the more likely scenario is the Supreme Court kicks it back to the trial court and says, now that we've told you what the standard is, now you have to go about applying that.

TAPPER: And how long would that take, theoretically, if that were to happen, the Supreme Court kicks it back to the district court, what do they do?

JIM SCHULTZ, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: It depends whether they have to have a hearing or not. If they have to have a hearing, some type of evidentiary hearing, then that'll take more time. If they can go based upon the facts they have, then that's going to take at least 30 days, I imagine, to 60 days, until you get an opinion out. I believe there's any way if this goes back to the trial court, there's no way this ends up being tried before the election.

And also, let's talk about the guardrails for a second, right? And I'm going to talk about politics a little bit here. So, let's see, let's see what those guardrails are. And if those guardrails are pointing me by guardrails are --

TAPPER: What do you mean about guardrails?

SCHULTZ: Guardrails, meaning what is immunity and what is right. And if they put some guardrails around what if Donald Trump becomes president, what are the guardrails around what he can and can't do? And I think independent voters and voters who are undecided pay attention, especially likely voters. And that's the folks that are showing up in the polls. Are they going to look at that and say, okay, I feel more comfortable now, given what I've seen in a debate and given what I've seen around, voting for Donald Trump, because there are these guardrails.


I think that's something we have to think about.

TAPPER: And, Elliot, a lot of the arguments when the when the hearing took place at the U.S. Supreme Court were spent on official acts versus private acts. And Donald Trump's attorney, John Sauer, admitted during oral arguments that some private acts should not get immunity. Let's run that sound bite.


JUSTICE AMY CONEY BARRETT, U.S. SUPREME COURT: So, you concede that private acts don't get immunity?

SAUER: We do.

BARRETT: Three private actors, two attorneys, including those mentioned above, and a political consultant helped implement a plan to submit fraudulent slates of presidential electors to obstruct the certification proceeding and petitioner and a co-conspirator attorney directed that effort.

SAUER: You read it quickly? I believe that's private.


TAPPER: That's significant, yes?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. There's no plausible universe and John Sauer seemed to acknowledge at their that this setting -- in which the setting up of fake electors was deemed -- could be deemed an official act of the presidency. It's a campaign act committed in furtherance of some act of fraud.

Now, the gray area that my two esteemed co-counsels here have sort of touched on is the third point made in the indictment, is that the justice -- that the president used the Justice Department to conduct sham investigations.

Now, an argument can be made that any engagement of an executive branch agency is an official act of the presidency, even if it was committed in furtherance of fraud.

Now, look, I don't agree with that, but a court has to sort that out. And I think where this, what the Supreme Court does is take allegations like that and send them back down to Judge Chutkan and say, figure out what's official and what's not.

Now, to be clear, they could have done that and they can do that today if they so choose. But oral argument, they seem to suggest that they would not and send it back down.

SCHULTZ: Looking at it in a corporate setting, right? Are you acting within the scope of your job for purposes of liability? And I think that's what you're looking at here. Was President Trump acting within the scope of his job in the context of what he did with DOJ, right? And I think in the corporate setting, if it's deemed to be a criminal act, it's outside the scope of your job.

TAPPER: Well, explain what you mean by what he did with DOJ because --

SCHULTZ: So, ordering DOJ --

WILLIAMS: Real quick, we've got a second opinion, not free bird, which is what we're looking for.

TAPPER: So, like for instance, when Trump Justice Department Officials Rosen and Donoghue looked into some of the wild stories that Trump was saying, look into this, look into that, look into this, and they would look and they would find out, no, that's just nonsense, that's not true, those election workers in Georgia were doing their thing, that's fine.


TAPPER: That's fine. No one's talking about that.

SCHULTZ: It's the issuance of the letter that had, you know, alleged fraudulent representations in it, right, that you need to do this. The president is directing DOJ to do something that's fraudulent. And if they find that that's outside the scope, then even though he's acting, you know, tactically as president of the United States, when he's directing DOJ, they'll find that that's outside the scope and be deemed a private act there.

WILLIAMS: This was Joey Jackson's point from one minute ago, is that a question for a jury or is that a question that the judge sourced out beforehand?

TAPPER: Very interesting. Our special coverage of the Trump immunity ruling is going to continue. We're going to squeeze in a very quick break. Stay with us. We'll be right back.



COLLINS: Welcome back to CNN's special live coverage. We are live outside the Supreme Court. Decisions are coming down on the final day of this term, where we are going to learn as the Supreme Court has had some momentous decisions before them. But the one we are waiting on right now could have the largest impact, certainly on the upcoming 2024 election, and that is Donald Trump's claim that he is immune from prosecution. We are waiting any moment now to get this ruling.

And, Kristen Holmes, obviously, Trump's team is also waiting any moment now. They have kind of been running through all the scenarios of this in their head based on what I heard. They're kind of just waiting to see what it is into what extent the Supreme Court weighs in on this issue. Maybe they'll get into officials acts and non-official acts. Maybe they won't. I mean, that's just a major question.

But the other aspect of this that I've been hearing in talking to Trump people is about Trump's view of the Supreme Court. I mean, we've seen how he has talked about the three justices that he put on this court. We've seen how his other attorneys, including Alina Habba, have talked about, you know, Justice Kavanaugh remembering what Trump did for him by not pulling his nomination when it was, you know, in the middle of a frenzied chaos and a question of whether he'd get confirmed. I mean, Trump has a very singular view of how this court should act in accordance with the fact that he put three of these justices on that court.

HOLMES: Well, obviously, because Donald Trump thinks everything is about loyalty. And so the fact that he went through the process of nominating them, that they were confirmed, that they sit on the bench, there is some kind of aspect there that they owe him.

Now, obviously, that is not what anyone who sits on the Supreme Court and ends up on the Supreme Court wants to believe in any way, that there is any kind of partisan behavior that goes into the court, even before you get to the Supreme Court.

COLLINS: And I should just note, we do have the decision now from the Supreme Court on immunity. We are waiting. We're reading through it to see what it is. We'll report it as soon as we have it. But, you know, we knew that this moment was coming now because they waited until the very last day. And it was clear when John Roberts announced this day that we would get the decision now.

HOLMES: Yes. And I have talked to members of the team who say they are not going to have any reaction until they read through this entire decision. This is not going to be a split reaction, where they put out a statement or Donald Trump goes on Truth Social. They want to understand exactly what is in this decision. They believe it could be complicated. They believe there could be nuance. And all of that nuance is going to affect what happens next. And obviously that it's going to affect whether or not Donald Trump could potentially be on trial before the election or if this does, in fact, likely push it to past that election.

COLLINS: And Justice Amy Coney Barrett has been one of the most fascinating voices on this, especially during the arguments that we got to listen to live outside here at the Supreme Court. And she was deeply skeptical of some of the arguments that Trump's attorney, John Sauer, was making as far as, you know, what's an official act, what's not, you know, what's in the scope of, of being prosecuted and what's not for a former president.

HOLMES: Well, and I will point to Friday's decision where she was the actual dissenting voice on the January 6 ruling, which had a lot of people skeptical as to what that meant for now in this decision, because there was a lot of conversation as to, okay, the court rules in favor on January 6th, obviously saying the DOJ overstepped on some of these charges.