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New York Grand Jury Votes To Indict Trump; Trump Slams Indictment As Political Persecution; NYPD Ramps Up Security After Grand Jury Indicts Trump; Donald Trump Indicted By New York Grand Jury. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 30, 2023 - 18:00   ET


GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Their relationship as you go back in history, was -- recent history, was when Donald Trump didn't bring him to the White House.


And that was a big clue that all was not well.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And the fact that Allen Weisselberg is now involved as well. He was the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization for so many years. Every time I went up there before he became president, I would see Allen weisselberg walking around. Everybody stand by.

If you're just joining us, I'm Wolf Blitzer. We're here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following truly historic major breaking news.

Sources now tell CNN that a New York grand jury has voted to indict the former president of the United States, Donald Trump. This is the first time in U.S. history, the first time in U.S. history that criminal charges have been filed against anyone who has served as president of the United States.

The charges coming after the investigation of hush money paid to former adult film star Stormy Daniels to cover up her alleged affair with Trump.

This has huge implications not only for Trump but also for the nation as the former president makes another run for the White House right now.

Our correspondents, analysts and contributors are all standing by as we cover this breaking story and what comes next.

Kara Scannell is on the scene for us. Let's go to your first. You're there in New York. You're watching all of this unfold. Tell our viewers what else you're learning.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Wolf, that's right, we learned that a Manhattan grand jury has returned an indictment against former President Donald Trump, as you said, the first time in U.S. history that a current or former president has ever faced criminal charges. This all stems from that investigation into the hush money payments. Now, sources tell us that the indictment is under seal, so we don't know what the exact charges are, but it does relate to Trump's role in paying off women so they didn't go forward with stories ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Now, sources also tell us that this vote occurred late in the day. The grand jury was meeting today from 2:00 to 5:00 P.M. We saw the prosecutors heading over toward the grand jury's room late in the day and then coming back. And our sources tell us that they then turned in this indictment, and it is under seal.

Now, Trump's lawyers have been informed of this. We have yet to hear any reaction from the former president himself. They do not know the charges that the former president is facing.

We do expect us to see -- to have the charges unveiled in the coming days, and Trump's attorneys had worked out an agreement with the D.A.'s office that the former president with self-surrender, to come here in Manhattan, where he would be processed, just like any other defendant, although he is not like any other defendant because he is the former president.

So, we'll see an increased security presence when he does come in for his arraignment, but he will go through the regular process of being -- having his mug shot, taken having himself fingerprinted, and then going before a judge who will ask him to enter a plea before he will be released on bail.

Certainly a historic moment today, the first time a former president has ever been indicted on any charges after leaving office, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's absolutely historic indeed. We will watch it unfold and we'll see what specific charges are being leveled against the former president of the United States.

Sara Murray is joining us right now as well. I know you're working your sources, Sara. What else are you learning?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I mean, I think it's just sort of telling how this came about how the former president had been so convinced he was going to be arrested, albeit on the wrong day, and then sort of how comfortable his team has become in recent days.

When we learned that news, you know, that the grand jury was going to be taking this prolonged break they're expected to take starting on April 5th through essentially the rest of the month, I think there was a real sense among Trump's team that they had dodged a bullet there, that maybe this case was, in fact, falling apart, maybe they would never even bring it before the grand jury for an actual vote for an indictment. And, of course, what we are learning today is that is not, in fact, what happened, that there was a grand jury that was convinced at least, that this indictment should move forward.

I mean, that's been another knock, obviously, from Trump's team, as well as from some legal experts watching this saying, essentially, there was a weak case, they didn't think that you know it was possible, potentially for Bragg to even get an indictment if he brought it before the grand jury, again, wrong. The grand jury went ahead with us Wolf. So, I think it's a big day in sort of a moment of reckoning for the Trump team.

BLITZER: And today was supposedly going to be the last day this grand jury was meeting because they're taking off for all the religious holidays that are coming up. So, we'll watch this very, very closely.

Kaitlan Collins, I know you're getting some more information yourself. What else are you learning?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: I think we should note where Trump is right now, just to bring everyone up to speed. He is at Mar-a-Lago. They're absorbing this information, just like the rest of us are, the former president and his team.

Obviously, as Sara was noting, they had basically accepted the reality that this was going to happen when they were talking about it last week.


Now, that it has actually happened, they were still surprised by the timing of it, particularly with today, but, I mean, they generally had an idea that this was not something that had just disappeared or just gone away. They thought maybe it was delayed slightly down the road. And so I think it changes their immediate plans.

But they still generally had been thinking about what Trump would do, what kind of expression he would make, making sure he didn't look defeated as he was coming into New York to surrender himself, giving remarks potentially on the steps of the Manhattan courthouse. We'll see if that actually comes to fruition, or if he chooses to do that at a different venue.

I think the other thing that's really important to note here is that when Trump predicted inaccurately that he was going to be arrested last Tuesday, he also called for protests from his supporters. That is something he asked for, urged the nation to do. Of course, we later saw him predicting death and destruction could happen alongside a Trump indictment. He backed away from those comments and later interviews when he was pushed on them slightly.

But I do think it's important that when he was predicting that, it wasn't just simply putting out any kind of information he had, it wasn't actually based on information, but he wants to see a response to this, not just from his Republican allies in Congress. He will be watching to see what they're saying on the airwaves tonight, to see that they are defending him.

And you may see some people who don't often defend him choosing this moment to do so. But he also wants to see his supporters out there. That caused concern among some of his advisers that he was going to essentially have something that resembled a January 6th moment on Capitol Hill. BLITZER: Yes, this is truly a moment in U.S. history, a former president of the United States, first time ever in American history, a former president now facing criminal charges of formal indictment about to be delivered to him within the next few hours, we're told.

Kristen Holmes, I know you're working your sources. What else are you learning?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are told that there is going to be some sort of response from Trump's team any moment now. I'm actually just watching my computer to figure out when that is going to come, and so forgive me for continuing to look down.

We are starting to hear from some of Trump's other entities. As Kaitlan said, a lot of this is going to be through Trump's surrogates, through people who he wants out there, not just supporters, but his congressional surrogates. He's going to want to see people on the airwaves, on Fox News. He is going to want to see people on OAN and Newsmax talking about him, defending him, talking about how this is a witch hunt, and that is what we are likely to see from the people who have been out there having his back. We know that Donald Trump cares about the optics of the situation

And, again, this is a unique situation. This is unprecedented. This is the first time not only a former U.S. president has been indicted, but he is also a candidate to run for his third presidential bid in 2024. One of the things I've talked to a number of aides about is how they embrace this new normal. This is not going to, as of now, affect the way that they do business. They are going to continue to run him for office in 2024.

Now, what that looks like, nobody knows. And, Wolf, I do want to mention again here because I've just gotten another several text messages here from allies, advisors to the former president, who all say that they were shocked, blindsided that it came today.

Again, they have been preparing for this. There was a system in motion. There was a plan in place and he has been waiting, as his team, on pins and needles for this indictment to come down. But following those reports in recent days, they had all kind of taken a step back and they felt like they were able to catch their breath. This was a surprise to them.

And, again, as we reported on air, their lawyers did not even know when we broke this story that it had happened yet. So, they are still putting this together. They are still formulating their response. But you can imagine we're going to likely see Trump getting aggressive, lashing out. We just haven't seen that yet as his team is preparing that response.

BLITZER: You know, let me get Norm Eisen on some of the legal aspects into this conversation. Norm, Trump has announced he's running for the Republican presidential nomination. Does that have to factor into the district attorney's decision whether to file formal charges?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, I don't think the district attorney should take account of those political considerations. He needs to ask himself as apparently he has. If anybody else committed these acts, would they be prosecuted?

And it appears to us, based on all the evidence, and we've been talking about it now for weeks, that there is a strong case here. That's my view. Why? Trump paid hush money to benefit his campaign. That -- but he characterized it as legal fees. That's a violation of the New York statute on keeping false books and records. And because of that campaign benefit, it's a campaign finance issue. In a close election, that kind of thing really matters.

So, anyone else would be prosecuted. If that's the case, then Trump should be prosecuted as well. And it seems to me like a strong case.

BLITZER: Let me get Elie Honig into this conversation as well.


Elie, what do you think?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I don't know that this is as quite a straightforward as Norm is saying. Yes, there's no question hush money was paid. There's really no question Donald Trump knew about it. But the crux of the crime under New York state law is the way that those payments were recorded, the way they were logged on the internal books of the Trump Organization.

We know Michael Cohen and Allen Weisselberg we're handling the books, but the trick for prosecutors is going to be tying Donald Trump directly to that, and to that end, it appears Michael Cohen will be the prosecution's star witness here.

Michael Cohen, on the one hand, had access. He was right in the middle of all this. On the other hand, he is going to be eminently impeachable. His credibility will be very much in question. He's been convicted of perjury of other frauds. He has been rejected as a cooperating witness by the U.S. Department of Justice. He tried to cooperate, they said, we don't believe him.

Now, it may well be, it seems clear, the D.A. has reached a contrary conclusion on Michael Cohen, but if and when this case gets to trial, and we're far away off, Michael Cohen is going to be a key witness. Nothing is assured. Nothing is a slam dunk.

BLITZER: And let me read the statement from Michael Cohen, Trump's former fixer and lawyer, that he just released. For the first time in our country's history, a president, current or former, of the United States has been indicted. I take no pride in issuing this statement and wish to also remind everyone of the presumption of innocence as provided by the due process clause.

However, I do take solace invalidating the adage that no one is above the law, not even a former president. Today's indictment is not the end of this chapter but rather just the beginning. Now, that the charges have been filed, it is better for the case to let the indictment speak for itself. The two things I wish to say at this time is that accountability matters and I stand by my testimony and the evidence I have provided to the district attorney in New York. That statement from Michael Cohen that was just released, the former president's former lawyer and fixer for that matter as well.

Let me go back to David Chalian, because, David, I'm just curious the base that supports Trump, is this going to have any impact at all on the Republican process?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, it may fortify the base. Initially, we've seen that when Donald Trump has come up against circumstances like this.

But what is so interesting and to see, Wolf, is that over the course of the last couple of weeks, once Trump went out there and said incorrectly that he was going to get arrested on that Tuesday, what he started doing through social media appearances, through his rally, through interviews was to provide the script to the Republican universe at-large about how he's looking for Republicans to respond to this moment.

So, as we're watching now the reaction coming in from his allies on Capitol Hill, even from some of his competitors in the presidential race, like Nikki Haley or others, who have said this is a political prosecution, you're starting to see Republicans rallying around the very script that Donald Trump wrote for them.

What I think is critical to watch going forward is, are we going to see any Republican use this as a moment to back away from Trump. I would be very surprised if we saw that based on. Again, we don't yet know the charges, Wolf, we don't know the specifics of this, and, largely, the Republican field has galvanized around this notion that it is a political prosecution.

BORGER: I think the question going forward, to follow on David, is whether they regard anything that's going to happen in the future potentially, whether from the Atlanta grand jury or the special counsel, whether then they will regard it in the same way or not, or whether they will say, look, these are different kinds of cases, one is more serious than the other, et cetera. So, you know, they may be setting themselves for a trap.

And one thing I would add is what is often very good for Donald Trump is not necessarily good for the Republican Party, and that's the larger question.

BLITZER: That's a good point indeed. Kaitlan, I understand you're getting some reaction now from the current attorneys representing Trump.

COLLINS: Yes. And to be clear, he has a lot of attorneys that are representing him right now, because this is far from the only investigation that he is facing, and so there are several here. This is Alina Habba. She is the first attorney that we have heard from in Trump's orbit. She says, quote, a former president and current candidate and my friend, President Donald Trump, is a victim of a corrupt and distorted version of the American justice system in history. She says he will be vindicated. That's Alina Habba. She is one of the attorneys that you have seen going in and out of court houses on television, representing Trump at times.

Of course, there are many attorneys that are representing him. There's actually quite some inviting happening within Trump's legal team at these times, as there are these different cases that are happening, the documents case, the January 6th case, obviously this one here in New York that has been a bit removed from those. That is the first statement that we have heard from them.

We're waiting to see what Trump himself says in a statement on this. I mean, it's almost guaranteed that it will include attacks on Alvin Bragg.


Because as we've talked to sources in Trump's world, as they've been plotting behind the scenes preparing for this moment that we're living in right now, they have been thinking of ways to attack Alvin Bragg.

They've been looking at past statements that he's made, past comments about Trump. Of course, he's appeared on CNN a few times looking at those very closely, because they obviously want to try as often you saw happen with Robert Mueller and others who have been investigating Trump. They often try to turn it on the investigators, attack them themselves. But Trump himself here, of course, is the one that we are still waiting to hear from.

BLITZER: Yes, Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, who's in charge of filing these criminal charges against Trump.

Abby Phillip is joining us right now as well. I understand you're getting more information, Abby?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf it looks like, the reaction from Trump based on what we're seeing is that he's calling this a witch hunt, like he has always done. This is a political persecution and election interference in the highest level is one of the things that he is saying right now. That's no surprise. That's been the line for all along.

And as you were just discussing with David Chalian, this is going to be putting a lot of Republicans in a tough spot. I mean, the moment that this country is in is that you have a former president who was running again for that same office and you have a lot of other Republicans in the Republican field trying to challenge him, but they are going to find it very difficult to do that, because I think all of them up until this point have felt compelled to defend him against this particular case, even if they don't think necessarily that he should be the Republican nominee or that he is fit for the office. Republicans have felt compelled to defend Trump.

And so I think this is going to make it actually more difficult for Trump's opponents to challenge him. Long-term, I don't think we know what the political consequences are, but I think in the near term, the Republican base or at least, you know, the 30 or 40 percent of the Republican base that Trump has always commanded is perhaps more solidly behind him now as a result of this than they were before.

Again, I don't think that tells us anything long-term, but in the near term, I think it really scrambles the politics as we go into a really consequential presidential election cycle.

CHALIAN: And, Wolf, I just want to add to what Abby is saying there, because I think it's so important when you're looking at this through the political lens of somebody who is indeed actively engaged in a campaign for president right now, as Donald Trump is, we have to take in the new context in which he's running for this office for a third time.

This is not the Donald Trump of 2015 -- 2016 anymore. This is not the Donald Trump sitting president of 2020. This -- the context now is a twice impeached former president who is being investigated in multiple venues for his role in January 6th for the classified documents and now indicted in this criminal investigation in New York.

That is the total context now in which Donald Trump will run and that is new, that's new for voters. So, we should not assume that the past will be the future here because this is now a new context for people.

MURRAY: And I think to David's point, we don't know how weary voters, even the base that we're talking about here, could get if this ends up being the first of what ends up being multiple indictments. We don't know what the culmination of the investigation in Georgia is going to be at this point if he could face charges in Georgia for election interference there. We don't know if Donald Trump could face charges related to January 6th or related to the Mar-a-Lago documents probe. But it's going to get harder for his allies to say all of this is politically motivated when you're looking across a number of investigations in a number of different jurisdictions.

BORGER: And, you know, in the long term, Chris Christie, I think, said this, and he has been a candidate out there or potential candidate out there attacking Donald Trump frontally, and says, you know, an indictment is never, in the long-term, really good for anyone. And you know Donald Trump will test that hypothesis.

You will see how Donald Trump behaves. And for the -- in the short- term, he's going to be running against Alvin Bragg more than he's running against any of his other opponents, and we'll see how this plays out.

But, you know, as my -- as folks have been telling me, what's good for him is not necessarily good for them and the party. And there may have to be kind of a distance at some point or a separation because, at some point, he's not -- you know, it's going to be more difficult to defend him, as Sara was saying, on lots of these other issues.

BLITZER: And we'll see if this criminal indictment in Manhattan against Trump encourages the other prosecutors, the federal prosecutors, state prosecutors, looking into other potential criminal charges against Trump, if it encouraged them to go forward as well.


Let me go back to Kara Scannell. She's in Manhattan. She's over there. She's watching all of this unfold. What are you hearing, Kara? What do you seeing?

SCANNELL: Well, Wolf, it's still a very serene scene around here. I mean, there had been pockets of activity, particularly last Tuesday when former President Trump predicted inaccurately that he would be arrested. We saw a ton of media presence here and like one or two groups of protesters, then it was really calm today. I mean, we were one of the few media groups that were here. It's now starting to fill up again, as you can imagine.

I mean, one thing that I think is really worth remembering in this, is this hush money investigation began as a federal investigation, the one that Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to. And at that time, the Department of Justice had a policy that you couldn't indict a sitting president, and they never looked to bring charges against former President Trump.

The Manhattan D.A.'s office then picked up that investigation and then they started looking into other things, including the financial records, whether they were -- valuations were inflated on the financial statements.

When D.A. Alvin Bragg came into office last year, his senior prosecutors, the ones that were from the previous administration, they pressed him to move forward to bring an indictment against the former president related to the financial statements. He said he wasn't ready. He didn't think they had a case. And he said then, that he would continue this investigation and would speak either by coming out and saying that he was declining a prosecution because there wasn't the evidence where he would speak through an indictment.

Now, we have yet to hear from Bragg's office today, but this certainly is a turn of events. I mean, Bragg's office went to trial on the Trump Organization in December. They want a conviction of tax fraud charges against the company. The company was sentenced with a fine of $1.6 million. That appeared to really embolden the prosecution team showing that they could win a conviction against a Trump-related entity in New York.

The grand jury kicked into gear in January. We saw witnesses coming in. All these witnesses once close to the campaign, witnesses that were like Michael Cohen, who were involved in this deal and witnesses, including Donald Trump's longtime friend, David Pecker, who was involved in these catch and kill deals.

Now, he went before the grand jury twice. We saw him here on Monday. He seemed to be the grand -- the final witness at the grand jury, heard from. He was at the beginning of these deals. He was the one that was contacted by Stormy Daniels' agent. He got in touch with Michael Cohen setting into this chain of events that led to the hush money payments being made, Wolf. BLITZER: And we're getting reaction now directly from Trump himself. Kristen Holmes, you've got a statement. I know you want to read it to our viewers.

HOLMES: That's right, Wolf. And you have to bear with me. This is a very long statement, and we are going to read it. So, here we go, and we just got this in.

It says -- this is from Donald Trump, former president, it says, this is political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history. From the time I came down the golden escalator at Trump Tower and even before I was sworn in as president of the United States, the radical left Democrats and the enemy of hard working men and women of this country have been engaged in a witch hunt to destroy the Make America Great Again movement.

You remember, just like I do, Russia, Russia, Russia, the Mueller hoax, Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine, impeachment hoax one, impeachment hoax two, the illegal and constitutional Mar-a-Lago raid, and now this.

The Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen in their obsession with trying to get Trump, but now they have done the unthinkable, indicting a completely innocent person in an act of blatant election interference.

Never before in our nation's history has this been done before. The Democrats have cheated countless times over the decades, including spying on my campaign, but weaponizing our justice system to punish a political opponent who just so happens to be a president of the United States and, by far, the leading Republican candidate for president has never happened before ever.

He goes on to attack Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg. He says he was handpicked and funded by George Soros, calling him a disgrace. Rather than stopping the unprecedented crime wave taking over New York City, he's doing Joe Biden's dirty work, ignoring the murders and burglaries and assaults he should be focused on.

Then he says, I believe this witch hunt will backfire massively on Joe Biden. The American people realize exactly what the radical left Democrats are doing here. Everyone can see it. So, our movement and our party united and strong will first defeat Alvin Bragg and then we will defeat Joe Biden and we are going to throw every last one of these crooked Democrats out of office, so we can make America great again.

Now, this is something we had reported he was going to do. He was going to link Bragg to Joe Biden, make this about being a politic opponent that he had been talking about this in their response, saying that this was coming as some sort of favor to Joe Biden from the D.A., Alvin Bragg, trying to link him, he is a Democrat, to campaign contributions to various Democrats.

And, obviously, as you can see here, much of this is the same as what we've heard in many of Trump's responses to legal entanglements. He calls it a hoax and a witch hunt. But, again, he goes after Bragg directly. He says that it's because he's a Democrat and links him to Joe Biden, says he should be working on New York instead.

But one thing is very clear in here, and that is accurate, is that this is an unprecedented move to indict a former U.S. president of the United States.


BLITZER: So, it's totally historic indeed, as you correctly point out. Kristen Holmes, thank you very much for reading that direct statement from Trump.

And let me get reaction right now. David Chalian, let me start with you. Go ahead.

CHALIAN: Well, Wolf, let's just start with the fact that just because Donald Trump calls this indictment election interference, it is not. This is not election interference. And we should be really clear about that with our audience.

He has been labeling it as such. There is no evidence to suggest that Alvin Bragg is attempting to interfere with the 2024 presidential election by pursuing this prosecution and getting this grand jury indictment. So, I just think we need to be clear about that with former President Trump's language here because he is, as you know, somebody who prides himself on his ability to brand and he is going to try very hard to brand this as election interference, and we should just be clear that there is no suggestion here that it is.

BLITZER: Yes. We're looking at these live pictures coming in from New York from the courthouse and you can see police officers arriving there. I suspect more and more will be showing up very soon.

Gloria, let me get your reaction to the Trump statement.

BORGER: You know, I think is Kristen was saying, this is absolutely predictable and was predicted, in fact, that this is the way he would react, and he is reacting as a candidate, as a political candidate, also someone who clearly feels aggrieved. And as I was saying before, he's going to run against Alvin Bragg before he runs against his fellow Republican contenders, and then says, you know, this is somehow Joe Biden's fault. So, I think you're going to continue to see him to see him say that.

He has made this a case or trying to make this a case against the Democrats. He says, the Democrats have lied, cheated and stolen in their obsession in trying to get Trump, and now they've done the unthinkable.

And we know that this is a case that's been hanging around for quite some time. So, it isn't so unthinkable. It's actually been out there. It was out there prior to the 2016 election. So, this gives us a clear indication again, not surprising, that Donald Trump will try and use this to his advantage as the victim and will say that his grievance is also everyone else's grievance against the Democrats. PHILLIP: And, Wolf, one thing I think is really important to keep in mind in all of this is that this is supposed to be a nation of laws, right? And I think that if you look at the argument that Trump is making and that his allies especially on Capitol Hill are making, the suggestion is that, just by virtue of the fact that he's a declared candidate for the presidency, that this is an invalid investigation.

And I just think that, you know, we can't take that premise. We need to see what the facts are of this case. And if they substantiate an indictment, according to a grand jury, that's actually how this system is supposed to work.

And these allegations against him were committed when he was not president of the United States. He was a private citizen. So, at some point, the legal system has to be able to function, no matter what the politicians say about it. And there are a lot of people on the Democratic side and on the Republican side debating about whether this is the best case or the worst case, or what have you, but at the end of the day, the courts will determine that. And I think that there's really no mechanism for anyone to say that this is a lesser crime that shouldn't be pursued and only the more important crimes should be pursued.

If you're a D.A. like Alvin Bragg is, I mean, I think it does kind of -- if you have the evidence, it does kind of tie your hands. And Trump characterizing this as a witch hunt, Trump characterizing this as a political persecution doesn't make it so, but we should still wait to see what the actual evidence is that is against him, and we don't have that information yet.

BLITZER: I suspect we'll be getting it very soon.

Elie Honig, you've been following all of this very closely. Specifically, I want to get your reaction to this blistering statement that that Trump just released specifically attacking the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg.

HONIG: Well, Wolf, I've known Alvin Bragg for a couple of decades now. We work next to each other at the U.S. attorney's office, the Southern District of New York. These attacks that have been building over the last several weeks, not just against Alvin Bragg but against other prosecutors who are investigating Trump, are, first of all, largely inaccurate, second of all, completely unwarranted, and third, potentially dangerous.

It is perfectly fair game for a person to defend themselves. It is fair game to question the merits of a prosecution, but when you cross over into rhetoric, into language that's likely to inflame people, that's likely to put prosecutors, courts, police officers in jeopardy, that is unacceptable.


I think we need to be very clear about that.

Emotions are running high now. This is the first time in our 230-plus years as a constitutional democracy that we've seen criminal charges against the former president. This is a solemn moment. I would just urge everybody there is a long, long way between indictment and whatever the eventual outcome of this case is, let's trust in the courts, let's trust in our laws and let's let this process play out to its end.

BLITZER: Yes, good advice indeed.

Elie, stand by. Manu Raju is up on Capitol Hill, watching all of this. You're getting reaction, Manu. I'm anxious to hear what you're learning.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Donald Trump's defense, these are these are Republicans who are staunch Trump defenders. Remember, the House and the Senate have just left for a two week recess. So, ordinarily, we would be getting them talking to the members themselves in the hallways, getting their reaction, but a lot of them are on planes, are flying back home right at the moment, so we're getting a lot of the reaction via Twitter.

The ones who are quick to defend him are the ones who have been loyal to him for some time, people like Jim Jordan, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, saying it's, quote, outrageous. Really, that was the extent of his statement. Others, like Elise Stefanik, a member of the Republican leadership, is calling this a political persecution. And we just got a statement -- a tweet from the number two house Republican, Steve Scalise, who called us a sham New York indictment. He called it an extremist, extremist Democrats are weaponizing government to attack their opponents. He called that outrageous.

Of course, the Republicans and like everybody else, they have not seen any of the evidence here. We don't know what the charges are, but they are making clear that they still believe that Donald Trump is innocent and that the prosecutor here is going after Donald Trump because he is a candidate for the presidency.

And one Republican who has not aligned himself with Donald Trump, Don Bacon, he's from Nebraska, who comes from a swing district, he just talked to our colleague, Annie Grayer. He said, quote, I trust the system. That's what he said. He doesn't support Donald Trump's bid for the presidency but he supports the rule of law, he says.

Now, Democrats, on the other hand, have some have come out and said that nobody is above the law and others have said that it's just too early to weigh in. Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, tweeted, just a reminder that there is no rule that you have to express your opinion before reading the indictment, and that's how a lot of people feel.

We'll see here, Wolf, though, how the top two Republicans in Congress weigh in. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, someone who has not aligned himself with Trump, someone wants to move past the Trump era, has not yet commented. I have reached out to his office. It's unclear if he will weigh in.

And the Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, who was quick to criticize Alvin Bragg in the aftermath of the expectation, the news that he potentially could -- Trump could potentially be indicted, McCarthy has yet to weigh in here, even as McCarthy has defended House Republican efforts to try to haul in Alvin Bragg to come testify in the middle of this investigation, something Bragg has rejected and Democrats have pushed back against as an effort to interfere with this investigation.

We still have not heard from McCarthy yet about this latest news, but expect to hear something from him potentially soon, and we'll see what McConnell says as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, we'll get a lot more reaction. I'm sure in the coming hours. This is a dramatic indeed historic moment that's unfolding. Manu, we're going to get back to you. I know you're working your sources up on Capitol Hill.

Kaitlan, let's talk a little bit about this, a little bit more about the statement that Trump released bitterly attacking the Manhattan district attorney. Pretty extraordinary, yes, he's being criminally charged, but to go directly after the district attorney, that's pretty extraordinary, isn't it?

COLLINS: It is, and it's not surprising. But I do think there's a line here for Trump and his level of attacks against Alvin Bragg. I mean, he has been going after him. He has called him a racist in recent weeks, as he has been building up to what we believed was this indictment that was looming over him. He has gone after him. He called him an animal in one post. But it was a post that he posted over the weekend that he actually later backpedaled on and I think really indicates where we are in this moment. It was post about Alvin Braggthat he had posted on Truth Social, and it was a photo of Trump holding a baseball bat in a photo that was next to a picture of Alvin Bragg.

And when Trump was pressed by Sean Hannity about that photo later on, he tried to make up this argument, saying that he did not post that, that it was an article that had put those two pictures and spliced them together. Obviously, it's not something he revisited, because even his own attorney, Joe Tacopina, who has been the one that you've seen on television, talking about this case, said that they believed that the post was ill-advised. That was some not indirect criticism of what had been posted on Trump's own feed. That is something that has gotten him in trouble time and time again.

So, I think when he's attacking Alvin Bragg, there is this fine line of where he was posting photos like that and where he has been since then. I think we'll only continue to see those attacks ramp up in the coming days, because when you talk to people in Trump's orbit, that has been their number one line of attack here.


Yes, he has denied the allegation but it is his word against Michael Cohen's when it comes to these payments. And I think when it comes to the merits of the legal case, it's not something he wants to be talking about every single day. BLITZER: And just to remind our viewers, we're covering historic breaking news right now. For the first time in American history, a former president has been criminally indicted with criminal charges.

Kara Scannell is joining us right now. I know you're getting some new information on the timing, how this is all about to unfold.

SCANNELL: Yes, Wolf. We've got some new information from one of former president Donald Trump's attorneys who says that he is likely to be arraigned on these charges next week in New York. So, that does give security some time to get things in place.

We do know my colleague, Brynn Gingras, is reporting that the NYPD, U.S. Marshals and Secret Service have already started conversations to how they would beef up security for this arraignment just because of the magnitude of having a former president come into court.

You know, Trump has called for protests. He has called for people to show up. We have not seen that in any large numbers here outside the courthouse, as we've been on, you know, grand jury watch for the past week-and-a-half. We've seen a handful of people to come but not a big swell of supporters for Trump.

But, nevertheless, it's a high security situation. And the NYPD, U.S. Marshals and Secret Service, according to sources, are in conversation right now had to prepare for that. There will be a big event next week. We can expect to see a real heightened sense of security.

We've already seen in preparation for this that they have installed security cameras on top of the light post around here. They put up barricades. The actual police presence has been relatively low key, but I think as we start to see crowds, we will start to see more of a police presence increase here just to insure the safety of the former president's arrival for this and his calls for protests. They have been prepared for everything. Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Elie Honig, I know you're in a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York. You understand how this process is about to unfold. Could you just elaborate a little bit what we can expect in the next few days?

HONIG: Sure, Wolf. So, the next legal proceeding is called an arraignment. That's where any defendant appears in front of a judge and his advised of the charges, and that typically is where the indictment is unsealed, meaning is made public.

Now, people are probably wondering, is there any way we see this indictment before that court appearance, which Kara just reported will be next week. It's possible there could be motions made by media groups, by journalists to unseal that indictment before then. That will be up to the judge.

The prosecutor also sometimes will send a courtesy copy of the indictment to the defense, which then, at times, can disseminate it. So, that will be a strategic decision by the prosecutor. But Donald Trump will have to be transported up here to New York City, to Manhattan. He will make his first appearance in person in the court.

Now I want to say this. I know that area very well. There are all sorts of underground tunnels, garages. That is a law enforcement-heavy area. I do not expect to see him being perp walked, as they say, or walked out on the street by law enforcement. I am virtually certain they will bring him in through one of those underground entrances.

He will then have to be fingerprinted, and they don't use ink anymore, really. You just sort of put your hand on a computer screen. He will have a mug shot taken. And here in New York State, Wolf, it's really important to know, mug shots are not presumptively public. They're not automatically public. The law here says that if there is some specific law enforcement need, then the law -- then the mug shot can be made public, usually that means a fugitive-type situation, someone on the run. So, we'll see what the decision is there.

Another question is will he be handcuffed ordinarily in the course of an arraignment before the person comes into court. They would be briefly handcuffed. But I think that could be negotiated around here. We'll see what the Secret Service has to say.

At the arraignment itself, here's what will happen. The judge will advise Donald Trump of the charges against him. Donald Trump will enter his initial plea, which almost certainly will be not guilty. The judge will make sure that Donald Trump has a lawyer and has a lawyer of his choosing. I'm sure that will be the case. And then the judge will set some of the next date. Sometimes a trial date will be set, but sometimes judges won't set a trial date at that first hearing. They'll set the date for legal motions and discovery, which is the exchange of information. So, those are the next steps that we're going to look to see in the courthouse.

BLITZER: And they will all be very, very dramatic, indeed.

Brynn Gingras, I know you're working your sources on the security preparations that are underway in New York City, specifically in New York right now. What are you learning?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, certainly, Wolf. The NYPD has sort of been in this holding pattern. They had security in place, as we know, especially after the former president had made that tweet and raised the alarm that the indictment could have been happening before.

But now we were told that they were recently said that they should get back into that posturing position because an indictment was coming down and that's where they're being held at this moment.

We're learning that tomorrow, everyone in the NYPD, whether it be in the headquarter position down to the shifts positions in patrols, everyone one will be in uniform.


And that is part of a security reason but also just to be able to respond to anything, should anything developed tomorrow. We're talking about demonstrations and also anything else that might come about.

I'm also learning from a senior law enforcement source going off of what Elie was talking about when we're talking about the at the arraignment of the former president, there are still conversations that are still happening right now. They're actually just beginning, I'm told, between the Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals and the NYPD about how that arraignment is going to be conducted.

It's still possible there might be this somewhat remote arrangement that could happen in a separate area of New York City, not necessarily at the courthouse. Those are a part of the ongoing discussions and obviously anything could change. But as Elie had pointed out, the courthouse is somewhat of a security nightmare. And, of course, this needs to be extremely secure for the former president come down -- to come down for that arraignment.

But right now, the NYPD, you don't necessarily see them in full force on the streets, but they are ready to react to anything, I'm told by sources, and they are expected to again be in uniform and possibly cover extra shifts tomorrow should anything happen, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. What's amazing is we will see a former U.S. president and all former U.S. presidents still have Secret Service protection, the U.S. Secret Service agents are involved in protecting a former president, we will see a formal criminal indictment handed over with U.S. Secrets Service protecting the person who has been charged with these crimes.

Jennifer Rodgers, what will the defense team's strategy be like in this particular case? I know you've got a lot of experience in that.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, I think that obviously they will have to absorb the charges, like the rest of us will, and then they'll think about motions. They may make legal motions to dismiss the case before it even gets anywhere close to a trial. And, of course, we know a big part of their strategy will be in the press. They'll want to continue pounding the fact that this is a witch hunt. This is, you know, political persecution. They'll try to kind of taint or influence the ultimate jury pool with those sorts of arguments.

And then at trial, I think it's going to be all about, if it's the hush money payments case, attacking Michael Cohen. It will be about his credibility and all about him, and he's a liar. That's really the main focus in a case like this, is attack the cooperators and see if you can get one juror because it only takes one on your side.

BLITZER: All right, stand by. Adam Kinzinger, the former Republican Congressman and member of the House select committee on January 6th, is joining us right now. He's a CNN Contributor. Are you surprised by these developments, Adam?

ADAM KINZINGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I mean, I don't think -- I'm not really surprised by the indictment but I think, like everybody, I'm surprised it came down now. I think we all expected we were going to have a month to sit back as we figured out what happens, but I think this took, you know, by all indications, the former president by surprise, took a lot of us by surprise, and it seems like it's probably fairly well planned out, because if it takes you by surprise from a security perspective, that's probably a good thing.

BLITZER: So, what do you anticipate we'll see next?

KINZINGER: Well, I mean, look, you're going to see certainly the president, the former president come out fighting whatever he can, or can't say, I'm not sure, you know, what's going to be limited to him when you're under an indictment, but, certainly, he'll come out and try to win the court of public opinion. This is the first of potentially many other indictments on the way as well, which this could lead to a pretty bad summer for the former president.

But I think within the party within the Republican Party, this isn't necessarily going to hurt him. I do think it is going to hurt him in the general electorate and the people that are, you know, obviously sick of this drama, but he's going to continue to fight, I'm sure.

And I think we all need to remember, for those of us that are concerned about the future of this country and concerned about the future of the Republican Party, this doesn't mean that the threat, I guess, to democracy is over. We still have to continue to see that with a clear and wide eyes.

BLITZER: But do you think there's going to be violence now as a result of this?

KINZINGER: Well, I don't know. I think the fact that, you know, there is -- law enforcement is prepared. I think that would lead to probably saying that, no, I don't think so. But it's hard for me to say yes or no. I mean, look, it only takes, Wolf, you know, just a few people in a country of 350 million to decide to commit violence.

And when the former president has convinced people that the government is corrupt, that they're going after him personally that he won an election, it doesn't take long to see how somebody believes that can get from, you know, this is just an injustice to, hey, remember how this country was founded? It's time to turn to violence, and why I don't like to talk about that. It's important for us to think about and important for us to take full account of.

BLITZER: Yes. We all lived through the violence of January 6th. And we all remember that bitterly indeed.


And we remember what Trump was saying at the time. Let's see what unfolds this time.

Kara Scannell, what more are you learning about how the Trump lawyers are reacting to this? I know you're getting more information.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Wolf, we you just got a statement from Trump's attorneys Joe Tacopina and Susan Necheles. They're representing him in this investigation and they're reacting to this.

They say that the former president was indicted. He did not commit any crimes. They say, we will vigorously fight this political prosecution in court.

Trump's attorneys have taken an aggressive stance. They have pushed back at multiple times during these investigations, particularly here in the D.A.'s office. Remember, they went to the Supreme Court twice to fight the D.A. from obtaining the former president's tax returns.

Their posture is one that they are going to fight this case. They're saying he didn't commit any crime and they're going to fight this in court, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's going to be amazing, amazing development in U.S. history.

Let -- you know, it's interesting, David. We're just hearing and I'm anxious to get your thoughts that Trump has already fundraising on the basis of this criminal charge. These indict -- this indictment.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah, that did not take long, right? And I don't think this will surprise anyone. But he blasted out a fundraising appeal with "The New York Times" headline of the indictment on it, saying that this is a dark day for the country and asking people to donate to the cause to fight back. Again, this is part of the political playbook that they have written and been sort of previewing for these last couple of weeks.

Wolf, we were also talking about how other Republicans would be reacting, and by far, most Republicans are reading from the script that Trump has written here, going after Alvin Bragg, calling this a political prosecution. And it's interesting to note, one of his potential rivals in the race, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson put out a statement and he called this a dark day for America when a former president is indicted on criminal charges.

He went on to say that the presumption of innocence follows Mr. Trump. But that Trump should not be the next president. But that should be decided by voters and not in a court.

So here was somebody, one of his potential rivals who is choosing not to come in and join in the attack on Bragg and the attack on the prosecution.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: And, Wolf, if I could just piggyback on that for a moment. I've been texting with some Republican strategists who want to remain anonymous at this point, but they are saying that what we're hearing from congressmen, et cetera, which I -- one said to me, you shouldn't believe them because they all know that this is bad for Trump. It could harden his core supporters. But that's not enough to ever win again. And he said, you know, he lost people from 2016 to 2020, and getting indicted for hush money is not going to bring back independent voters.

So when Republicans start thinking about beyond the primary, say, he could be the nominee. They have to start thinking about electability. And we've -- we've seen that seep into the conversation more and more and more as Republican voters start thinking about this, and this does play into the electability question.

That's what Asa Hutchinson is really talking about. That's what Chris Christie was talking about more directly, I think. But I think that Trump people have to be thinking about that as well in the long term.

CHALIAN: Gloria, I would just say that that's a big question mark that hangs over this race. Will Republican primary voters vote with their head that way, or they're going to vote with their heart and their emotional connection to Donald Trump?

I think we have to look at this entirely different in the primary context from the general election context. We don't know if Republican voters will combine the two in there thinking.

BORGER: We don't. And our poll -- one of our polls showed that people -- Republicans want to vote their values and not who can win an election. So we have to see if that -- if that changes when they start, perhaps thinking they ought to be more pragmatic about something and try and lure more people into their camp in a presidential.

BLITZER: And he's really, Kaitlan, I want you to weigh in, Trump in this fundraising pitch that his campaign just sent out. I'll read the first two sentences for you and I want to get your thoughts.

We are living through the darkest chapter of American history, Trump says. The radical left, the enemy of the hard working men and women of this country have indicted me in a disgusting witch hunt.

Not surprising he's using that language so much, but he's using it to fundraise.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Not surprising there, either. I mean one of his best fundraising days, they believed one of his best political days as well was after that search warrant was executed by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago last August, Trump had Republicans on television criticizing in that he raised a lot of fundraising. He's also fund raised a lot ever since he posted inaccurately on Truth Social that he was going to be arrested last Tuesday, which, obviously, as we now know did not happen. So they certainly are using this for that advantage.

One other thing I'll say to watch here as we were still waiting to see what these charges look like. We have no idea what they look like. They're still under seal. We don't know what legal theory precisely Alvin Bragg is going to be pursuing.


We have an idea, but we don't actually know. Other people who don't know, though, are these congressional Republicans. These are Republicans, three of them who are chairman in the House right now, that sent that letter demanding testimony and documents from Alvin Bragg, something that has caused a lot of consternation behind the scenes in the Republican Party because there are Republicans who don't believe that they have the merit to go and ask a local prosecutor to come and testify before Congress.

They noted. Then you know, these charges have not even come down yet. When these three chairman sent that letter to Alvin Bragg, but I had found out that the reason in part why they sent that was because Trump was upset that more Republicans were not out there publicly defending him questioning the merits of the case and actually using their power and control of the House on Capitol Hill to do something about it.

And so, we saw that letter that came from several of these chairmen. Where that ultimately ends up, it remains to be seen because -- I mean, they sent a lot of requesting testimony before an indictment had even happened. And so that is a big part of this as well to keep an eye on, not just help Trump response to this, but also Republicans who were in power on Capitol Hill.

BLITZER: Let me get Elie Honig into this.

Elie, do you have a sense now about these charges that are going to be made public at least at some point? We know that Trump is being criminally indicted right now. We don't know the specific charges. We don't know if they're misdemeanors. We don't know their felonies. But what do you sense?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Right, Wolf. So, just looking at the known fact pattern and applying that to New York state law. It looks like one of the potentially, of course, we have not seen it, but potentially applicable crimes here would be called falsification of business records. That means basically the Trump Organization in its internal record keeping falsely logged this $130,000 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels as a legal fee.

If prosecutors can prove that, and remember proved that Donald Trump himself was part of the way that payment was logged, that's a misdemeanor, which means the maximum penalty is one year but realistically, Wolf, nobody's to go to prison for first time misdemeanor of that nature.

Now, the charges can get more serious under New York law if prosecutors can tie the falsification of business records to some other crime, to some second crime. And so, that's one of the big questions that I'm waiting to see is what will they allege as the second crime?

It could be a campaign finance violation. That's been the gist of a lot of the reporting, and the theory would be that this payment to Stormy Daniels was actually the same as a campaign donation or campaign expenditure. It would have been far in excess of the legal limits.

But there's a big legal problem there, which is we're talking about a federal campaign and federal campaign laws that govern the campaign for the president. But we're talking about New York state law, and it's not at all clear that New York state law could cover a federal campaign.

BLITZER: Let me go to Kristen Holmes.

Kristen, I understand you're getting more information right now. What are you hearing?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. I'm talking to sources who are close to the former president. This actually goes back to what we were talking about with David Chalian in just a moment ago, and what exactly the political implication is of this.

And essentially what they are saying is that they aren't really sure that yes, they do believe that this could potentially help him in a contested primary, but they're not sure what this looks like in the long term. They understand that these legal complications might make him so polarizing that they could hurt him in a general election.

But I do want to point out one thing, and this is when we talk about the contested primary when we talk about where Trump's base is. I was in Waco with Trump on Saturday, there were at least 10,000 people there. This was with an indictment, a potential indictment looming.

We talked to dozens of people in the crowd asking them if former President Trump was to be indicted, do you think that this would impact his political career? His chances of being president? Would it affect the way you think about him?

And every single one of them said, no, that it wouldn't impact the way they think about him and that they believed it would only make him stronger. Now that is a microcosm. It was obviously in a very red state in a very red area, but it was a lot of people gathered there who had to say that they did not believe that this is going to impact him politically.

BLITZER: That was in Waco, Texas.

I want to go back to Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.

Manu, I understand you're getting some reaction that's starting to come in from the Republican leadership. Is that right?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, the speaker of the House just weighing in here, indicating that he plans to use the power of his House majority to go after the prosecutor in this case, Alvin Bragg. Now he just released a statement via Twitter, saying that Bragg has, in his view, irreparably damaged our country, contending that Bragg is trying to, quote, interfere in our presidential election.

He went on to criticize Bragg's record and prosecuting criminals in New York. And then he said, the American people will not tolerate this injustice and the House of Representatives will hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account.

Now, McCarthy does not elaborate what he means by that, but, of course, as we've been reporting, the House Republican chairman with the support of the speaker have issued a letter asking Bragg to come testify before their committee asking about communications that Bragg had, with the Justice Department, contending that they may actually move on legislation to prevent prosecutors, local prosecutors from going after campaign candidates for higher office here.


So, Wolf, the speaker, making clear that he plans to go after Bragg and use the power of his majority even as the Republican leaders and nobody else has seen the charges here. The indictment or any of the evidence.

BLITZER: Yeah, the speaker echoing, echoing what Trump is saying in his statements about the district attorney in Manhattan.

And I want to get some news -- some news coming in now about security preparations underway in New York City.

John Miller is our chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst. He's joining us on the phone right now.

You're well plugged in there, John. What are you hearing?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST (via telephone): Well, as of a few moments ago, and teletype went out to all NYPD commands in New York City, ordering that all members of the department no matter what their rank or assignment show up in uniform tomorrow. So, clearly, the NYPD is preparing to have all of its options open in case they have to mobilize a large number of police officers right now, as they're scanning, they're not seeing any plans for any major protests. But that could change overnight because this news is very fresh.

BLITZER: Very fresh, indeed.

I know that here in Washington when there's a real bad situation unfolding, they start mobilizing military personnel. Any talk of that in New York City?

MILLER: No, we don't do that in New York City. There's 36,000 police officers in the NYPD and large groups of them that are specially trained in disorder control. So this is something that they would want to maintain command and control over in a linear way, without bringing in outside entities, especially from outside the city government.

BLITZER: Yeah. So, the manpower in New York has significant, so it's going to be a little tense -- the next at least the next few days. Is that right, John?

MILLER: Well, I think what you're going to have is the watching. I mean, the intelligence bureau will be looking at social media to see what's gathering any kind of numbers, are around demonstrations that people say they're going to attend. They'll be looking at groups, of course, because you know, we learned lessons from January 6th, groups like the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters, the Oath Keepers and so on. But, I think that they're going to deploy precaution, you know, around

the courthouse for two important dates. One will be tomorrow when this announcement is possibly going to come out publicly, because it hasn't been officially announced yet. And the second day, which will be the real challenge will be at whatever time the district attorney and lawyers for Donald Trump arranged for him to surrender, and that's when I think given past experience the former president's statements and the statements of at least one of his attorneys, it seems like the day that you would see a larger crowd.

BLITZER: This will be the first time that a former president of the United States, John has ever been criminally charged in an indictment. And, obviously, this former president of the United States has Secret Service protection.

So, when he comes to New York with Secret Service protection, how's the coordination unfolding between the NYPD and the Secret Service?

MILLER: So that's something that's already been discussed. They've been through the contingencies of it privately in the back channels, between the NYPD, the Secret Service, the New York state court officers and the district attorneys detective squad about how to do this if it came to pass. The Secret Service maintains their presence with the former president through the process.

But what you could likely expect to see as a surrender, possibly at the district attorney's office. Perhaps at an offsite location where there will be a booking process, and then an arraignment, the same day, where it is entirely likely based on New York state law, and you know his record as a first offender and the criminal justice system that he'd be released on his own recognizance, not -- not even mentioning the fact that he's a former president of United States.

BLITZER: Yeah, we'll watch all of this drama unfold. Stand by, John.

I want to go to our chief White House correspondent Phil Mattingly. He's over at the White House.

So what's been the reaction over there, Phil?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, as you know, quite well, there's really two bedrock principles of President Biden and his administration. It's don't weigh in on ongoing legal cases. And don't get distracted by whatever the explosive news item is of the day stay focused on their agenda, their schedule, their plans.

Obviously, that means they are not going to weigh in or at least at this point, don't have any plans to weigh in on what the reporting has been throughout the course of the night. Now, it is worth noting, especially given what John was laying out just now, they are paying attention on security side of things, but no plan for the president or his team to weigh in anytime soon.

BLITZER: We'll watch it very closely.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Our special live coverage continues right now with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT".