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CNN Live Event/Special

Supreme Court: Trump Has Immunity For Official Acts. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired July 01, 2024 - 11:30   ET




KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back to CNN's special live coverage as we are reading through this lengthy ruling from the Supreme Court on Donald Trump's claims of immunity, saying that he is absolutely immune when it comes to official acts but not when it comes to unofficial acts. And therein lies the key question of what happens next here? What is considered official and what is considered to be an unofficial act. That is certainly something that the Trump legal team has atop of mind right now.

And CNN's Paula Reid and Kristen Holmes are back here with me. And Paul Reed, basically this ruling means there's a lot on Judge Chutkan's plate now. Judge Chutkan, of course, is the judge here in Washington who is overseeing this federal election subversion case, the charges brought by the Special Counsel Jack Smith.

And just reading through this they're basically remanding a lot of it back to her which means she has to decide, was Trump's influence campaign on Mike Pence to stop the certification official or unofficial? Was his campaign to speak to these State officials, including Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, official or unofficial? His comments at the January 6th rally that day urging people to go to the Capitol and to fight like hell, was that official or unofficial conduct?

They're basically saying we're not deciding any of this. This is up for Judge Chutkan to decide.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: They're giving her a test that she can now apply to all of the actions alleged in the indictment. And then once she decides what are unofficial and official acts, that's going to take some time. That's going to require litigation, briefs from the lawyers, potentially some oral argument. Then they will likely be left with what are unofficial acts or official acts outside the scope of his core Constitutional Powers.

And the reason the Trump team still sees such a quote major victory here is because they believe that Jack Smith would still need certain pieces of evidence in order to prove what's left of his case that would be official acts. And they believe that they could probably get that tossed out. But what we know that that it's clear here is that there's going to be a lot of litigation over the next few weeks and months because I know many people their question is OK, if whatever remains of this case, can that go before November?

And it appears unlikely, almost impossible because it's going to take time for Judge Chutkan to go through this. It will likely be appealed. Possibly even some of the questions back here at the Supreme Court potentially. But you also have an Attorney General who's going to be reluctant to take any case against the Republican nominee for president to trial in September or October.


COLLINS: Yes. And CNN's Joan Biskupic is also following all of this with us. She was actually inside the court as this ruling came down. Obviously, Joan, we heard the oral arguments but we couldn't actually hear them reading this opinion are watching how this -- as this happened. What was it like inside the court today as this ruling came down?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Well, Kaitlan, you see how stunning the opinion itself was. You can imagine how riveting it was in the courtroom as Chief Justice John Roberts read for about 10 minutes and then Justice Sotomayor in dissent, spoke for more than 20 minutes. It was, as I said, a quite a compelling set of moments. And in that courtroom with the justices was Michael Dreeben who had argued the case before the jus justices back on April 25th and several of the Justice's spouses including, Jane Roberts, the wife of the chief.

The Chief Justice, you know, gave the most robust rendition of Presidential Power in this kind of situation more so than I think any of us expected. And he did it -- you know, he was speaking in his usual steady voice but there was a tone of defensiveness as he referred to what the dissenters were about to unspool. He talked about how the pre -- any president, and he kept trying to stress, this is not about Donald Trump, this is about presidents, you know, from here to eternity and how they need to be protected and be able to make decisions without any kind of fear of what could happen to them down the road with any kind of prosecution.

So, Chief Justice John Roberts, I should -- one thing I do want to say, Kaitlan, I had said so many times this morning when I talked to our anchors that past chief justices had worked very hard to get unanimity on these kinds of separation of powers cases. You know in the Nixon case, in the Bill Clinton case, the Supreme Court had been able to do that. But here it was so painful about how splintered they are and how divided they are not just on ideology but on politics.

So, the chief tried to make the best case possible that this was the only way out, but boy did -- was he met by dissenters. He stressed that the separation of powers protects the Office of the Presidency in a way that would certainly prohibit any kind of prosecution for official acts. And there -- he said there has to be that presumption for official acts.

And you know, he stressed that fear and that idea that President should not have to hedge in any way. Then when Justice Sotomayor began her dissent from the bench, her voice was really dripping with disdain. And she talked about how the majority was making a mockery of the notion of that no man is above the law. And she would -- she at several points even addressed the audience and said, you know, how hard could this be to resolve it with a way that it really comports with history. Do you think it's hard? You know, so she was just quite impassioned and as I said had this mocking tone in her voice.

In the end she talked about what a law-free zone the majority had drawn around the president with this kind of a ruling. You know, as I said just a very riveting set of back and forth between these two that pointed up what you see there on the printed page, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yes, that is fascinating, Joan. And even -- there was -- I mean, nothing about this was unanimous. Obviously, we can all read the dissent. And she says out of fear for democracy, I dissent, Justice Sotomayor wrote. But even Justice Amy Coney Barrett who of course was the last Justice that Donald Trump put on the Supreme Court, she agreed with the dissent when it came to being able to use evidence related to official acts to bring charges about what is considered an unofficial act. She said she disagreed with what the majority found here.

But on what you said about Justice Sotomayor and that her voice was dripping with disdain, I mean, Joan, you've watched a lot of these rulings come down and these opinions be read and these dissents as well, have you ever -- have you ever heard a tone like that from her before on something like this?

BISKUPIC: Well, I have to say, Kaitlan, she's been escalating over the last 10 days because Justice Sotomayor has already descended from the bench a couple times. And even today in an earlier case, Justice Jackson, our newest justice dissented from the bench. But today, Justice Sotomayor really was at the peak of her opposition, her protest of what the majority had done.

I mean, it's really -- but it's also the biggest thing the majority has done all session. And probably as long as she's been sitting except for when it reversed nearly a half century of abortion rights two years ago. But this in terms of -- you know, this -- Kaitlan as you know as well as I do, these kinds of questions about the separation of powers and what sorts of protections and also obligations are on the Presidency are so important.

And you should know that when Justice Sotomayor was reading from the bench, she brought everyone back to January 6th, 2021 and said remember what happened, remember these events. How can the majority essentially brush those aside as she felt they were doing? So, I would say, Kaitlan, she certainly escalated for this final day of the term.


COLLINS: Yes. Joan Biskupic, fascinating to hear what it was like inside the room.

And Kristen Holmes, as we sit here, you know, we are squarely centered between the Capitol and the Supreme Court. And I just keep thinking after hearing that what Senator Mitch McConnell said on the days after January 6 saying that, you know, it's not for us to hold Donald Trump responsible, that it's up to a court to handle this essentially that he was not immune from prosecution, was essentially what he argued in that floor speech. It's fascinating to think back to that day in that speech and read through what the Chief Justice John Roberts argues here in this.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, because the courts have now decided, and that's what we're looking at. I think also -- I mean, not to make this completely political because I know we're still talking about the courts, but also look what Mitch McConnell was doing just days ago when it came to Donald Trump here in Washington, D.C. He was singing a very different tune shaking his hand saying I had the most Pleasant meeting with Donald Trump that I'd ever seen.

And we are looking at a very --

COLLINS: After not speaking to him in four -- for four year.s

HOLMES: They hadn't spoke until that meeting until they sat down together. And then of course, they had brought in the photographers. Photographer just happened to be there to catch the critical moment for Donald Trump which was Mitch McConnell essentially saying you are now the de facto head of the Republican Party.

And this is what I'm talking about when we talk about you know how this is political and bringing these trials before the November Election. So much of this really centers around the November election. One thing we haven't mentioned is the fact that there is likely not going to be another single trial after this that's going to go to court before November. And this was really the lone holdout.

They believe that because of Judge Chutkan, because of the fact that she had moved so quickly, that there was still a chance this could be brought. They no longer believe the case is going to be brought in Georgia. The Aileen Cannon case in Florida, the documents case is moving very slowly. They don't believe that's going to come. They feel like this is a win not only on the legal space but also on the political space.

Now they don't have to deal with this again. They have nothing except for the sentencing which we know is next week, on next Thursday, to deal with when it comes to the legal issues if this does in fact not go to court. Now they are just solely focused on the campaign which is also going well for them at this moment.

COLLINS: Yes. I mean, Paula, when you look at this in the scope of -- you covered Donald Trump in the White House as well, between last Thursday's debate and what happened today, I mean, it's probably been one of those promising few days for the stretch -- the stretch of the Trump 2024 Campaign.

REID: Yes, absolutely, but this is still a lawyer Full Employment Act because while we will not have another trial, they're going to continue litigating to try to gut those cases in the off chance that he does not win the White House and some or all of these survive. I mean, obviously, we've talked a lot about the January 6 case, what the future is there.

The Trump legal team telling me they also see the possibility that today's opinion could help them to undermine the Mar-a-Lago documents case going back to official acts in terms of how Trump first came to have those documents, why he had them. Of course, in New York where he's already been convicted, they will likely use this opinion to attack portions of key evidence. Hope Hicks' testimony, key tweets. It's unclear how this will impact Georgia as that's a different legal team, but you can bet there's going to be more litigation there as well.

COLLINS: Those are all great points about how this decision doesn't just affect this case that it's about, it could affect all of them, even state charges as well. Paula Reid, Kristen Holmes, we are continuing to break down every part of this major ruling that we just got from the Supreme Court that doesn't just have implications for Donald Trump, but also for the Presidency overall. You are watching CNN's special live coverage. Stay with us.



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We are back covering the long-awaited decision by the Supreme Court on Donald Trump's immunity. The Supreme Court ruling Trump has immunity for official acts in many cases that is left up for -- to a lower court to decide what are official acts and what are private acts. Back with the team here in New York.

Tim Naftali, you're a presidential historian. You focused a lot on Nixon. What do you make of this?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: This decision was written as if America has never had a corrupt president. This decision is blind to the ways in which presidents have used their core constitutional authorities to hurt the American people. In the 1970s, the Congress of the United States, the courts, and the American people pushed back against something that was called the Imperial Presidency.

The Imperial Presidency was one that used the color of National Security, one of the core presidential authorities, to wiretap people, to break into their homes, to break into their psychiatrist's office.

COOPER: Daniel --

NAFTALI: Daniel Ellsberg -- to audit their IRS files all under the color of what the Supreme Court would describe today as a core constitutional authority. Now, those were official acts according to this court because according to this court, your motive as president doesn't matter. If you do this in order to hurt an American citizen you don't like, to hurt a political opponent, according to this court, it doesn't matter.

You have just talked to the CIA. You have just talked to your Attorney General, you have talked to the Secretary of Treasury, by doing so you are engaging in an official act. This opens the door to abuses of power, the kinds of abuses of power that we had in the Cold War at a time of imperial -- the Imperial Presidency.

It is beyond belief that a court of people who lived through the 1970s would have forgotten how it was that Richard Nixon abused power.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I mean, I think that's being generous. There are a lot of people -- I think we underestimate this. A lot of people on the right who are Conservatives, Republicans, whatever you want to call them, who believe that those Nixon decisions were wrongly decided, who believe that the president did and does have way more power than was applied in that Nixon example. So, the fact that this is be -- is a sort of redo of the Nixon era is not surprising in the least to me because that has been a project on the right for a long time.

And one of the interesting things -- I mean, I'm -- I was reading pretty closely Amy Coney Barrett's dissent in part because she addresses some of the key parts of this. One is that she says it's not right to say that there are not official things that can also be criminal, and that Congress has a say in that, that criminal law has a say in that. And that pushing this to the District Court is a justice delayed justice denied kind of scenario in which you could delay the adjudication of these issues so much so that it that justice is never seen.

And then on top of that, the idea that you can't take evidence of official acts and use them in criminal prosecution, taken together all of those things say that even in the areas where they say a president can be criminally prosecuted, the bar becomes so high that it creates huge roadblocks, that this will happen in any -- in any particular case. And I think it's not -- it's not something that is like completely out of the realm of possibilities. I mean, we are living through it right now.

COOPER: Joey Jackson, just from a legal standpoint, this now moves into the lower court.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, I'm concerned I'd go pretty far in my view. I think it's a disgrace. Let me express why. We look to the Supreme Court for clarity. We look to the Supreme Court to be definitive and give definitive determinations. There's no definitive determination here. They gave uncertainty. They gave more litigation. They gave instances where you can go back to the district court just to be appealed again. And where does it come? To the Supreme Court. That's number one.

Number two, when you look at a court, you look at courts to give that guidance and they should be nonpartisan. One of the reasons you want to talk about 70s, Founding Fathers, and 200 years ago is because you give lifetime tenure so that you can make a decision, and that decision, you know what, you're here, it doesn't matter.

The reality is that so it's partisan. We need to have confidence in our institutions for our institutions to be respected by people. And so, you have six Conservative justices protecting the president and three -- OK, Amy Barrett perhaps dented in part, but six Supreme Court justices protecting the president and the other three Liberal justices saying are you kidding me here.

And then you have, to Tim's point, you cannot use the president's motivation as evidence. You can't use the president's discussion with Department of Justice officials or advisers as evidence. What is that? And so, I just thought that when I'd see an opinion, it would provide some direction, it would provide some clarity. This seems to me to be protection and cover and this is going to go on for years at infinitum and I'm concerned.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I understand the thrust of what you're saying there. I would just say one of the things I find surprising about this ruling is how specific it did get in some instances here, particularly in what it ruled out going forward. And let me just read the citation that both of you were referring to about motive. In divining official from unofficial, conduct courts may not inquire into the president's motives. So, motivation here is no longer on the table at all.

COOPER: Also --

BERMAN: Go ahead.

COOPER: Checking with Van Jones and Scott Jennings very quickly before we go to break. Van?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. And the more you look at it, the worse it looks. And when you put it all together, basically the Supreme Court has said in the past week, no rules for the powerful, no rights for the powerless. So, if you're homeless, you can be thrown in jail for the crime of not having enough money to get a hotel room. But if you're the President of the United States, you can commit an undetermined number of crimes under the color of law and get away with it.

This is not good. I'm telling you this is going to backfire politically because what I'm seeing from the left now, if you thought people were discouraged by what happened last week with Biden's performance, they are now outraged and terrified that Donald Trump is going to get in office and be a complete madman dictator. So, this is -- politically, this is a gift to the left though it is a blow to the country.

COOPER: Scott?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'll take another political view of this. I was thinking about the last 30 or 35 days or so. I'm not sure any presidential candidate in modern history has had the incredible run of luck of Donald Trump. I mean, from the moment he got convicted in New York on a case that broadly unified the right, and he got his big cash infusion, to the debate implosion of Biden last week, to now we know from the Supreme Court ruling today, he's not going to see the inside of a courtroom outside of sentencing in New York before November.

He is on an amazing luck. Democrats were hoping the month of June would totally change the trajectory of this campaign, and it did. Now they're in a nose dive and they have no idea how to pull out of it. He is on an incredible winning streak right now in his campaign 30 days after getting convicted. He's in far better shape than it was.

COOPER: I want to thank everybody for joining us this morning for our special coverage of the Trump immunity ruling. We'll be following this historic decision all day and night on CNN, CNN Max, and "INSIDE POLITICS" with Dana Bash picks up our coverage after a short break.