Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Trump Pleads Not Guilty To Four Charges In Election Case; Trump Arraigned On Charges He Conspired To Stay In Office; Judge Releases Trump From Custody, Orders Him Not To Contact Any Witnesses In January 6 Case. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired August 03, 2023 - 18:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And special coverage of today's historic arraignment will continue now in THE SITUATION ROOM with Mr. Wolf Blitzer and Erin Burnett.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington along with Erin Burnett in New York. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM, the January 6th indictment of Donald Trump.

The breaking news this hour, we are following a defiant former president of the United States on the way to his New Jersey golf club right now after being arrested and arraigned on four serious, very serious criminal charges, stemming from his alleged efforts to subvert the 2020 presidential election in the United States. Trump proclaiming his innocence and accusing the special counsel of leading a political persecution.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: And, Wolf, of course, this is Trump's third indictment in the past four months. It is the most serious set of charges that he's ever faced. And as he did in New York and Miami, the former president pleaded not guilty to all four counts today, conspiracy to defraud the U.S., conspiracy to obstruct proceed, obstruction of a proceeding and conspiracy against rights, Wolf.

BLITZER: Erin, right now, I want to go our Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez. He's joining us from outside the federal courthouse here in Washington, where the former president made his initial appearance this afternoon. Evan, walk us through what happened during Trump's arrest and arraignment and where this case goes from here.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this was about a 27-minute hearing. The former president, we heard from him just a few times. He said his name, Donald J. Trump, John, he said, to the judge when asked to state his name. She asked him whether -- she gave him -- read him his right to remain silent and asked him whether he knew, obviously, what was going on in court, that he had not taken any drugs or any alcohol, and spoke very quietly.

The former president, there was a few times are where he looked directly at Jack Smith and Jack Smith also looked at him during the 20 minutes or so that he was sitting it there before the magistrate took the bench. And then, of course, the moment where he stood up -- where he stood and said that he -- that he was pleading not guilty, Wolf.

And, of course, we know now that the judge here has already set a hearing for August 28th. She says that the judge who is going to be overseeing this case, Judge Tanya Chutkan, is going to announce a trial date at that hearing. She ordered the Justice Department and the Trump team to essentially provide their own dates, and then she is going to set a trial date. That's a very, very fast timeline that the judge here is trying to set.

We, obviously, were in this courtroom there for a while. We saw a number of the federal judges who sit in this courthouse, Wolf, who have been adjudicating the hundreds of former -- the former president's supporters, who have been prosecuted for crimes related to January 6th. Of course, you know that the Capitol is right across here from this courthouse.

And even today, as the court was doing some of its regular business, the former president's -- his presence, of course, showed itself. There was a judge who told the defendant who was pleading guilty, a member of the Proud Boys, that he was going to make sure that nothing that the former president's presence here affected that proceeding.

We know, obviously, that the judge is going to hold this next hearing August 28th. That's about five days after the Republican debate that's coming up later this month. Erin?

BURNETT: All right, Evan. And right now, Donald Trump is en route to his golf course in New Jersey. Before he departed Washington, the former president making a brief -- a terse, I would say, statement to the media, in his tone, railing against what he calls the persecution of a political opponent.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This is a very sad day for America and it was also very sad driving through Washington, D.C., and seeing the filth and the decay and all of the broken buildings and walls and the graffiti. This is not the place that I left. It's a very sad thing to see it.

When you look at what's happening, this is a persecution of a political opponent. This was never supposed to happen in America. This is the persecution of the person that's leading by very, very substantial numbers in the Republican primary, and leading Biden by a lot.


So, if you can't beat him, you persecute him or you prosecute him. We can't let this happen in America. Thank you very much.


BLITZER: That was Trump on the tarmac at Washington Reagan Airport. We now have him landing. It was just a few moments ago. But now, here is his plane is getting ready to land in Newark. As I said, this is a very short statement. We have seen him other times given being much more loquacious, but that is not what we saw just about 40 minutes ago as his plane now approaches Newark.

I want to check in with our Kristen Holmes, as we watch this from Reagan Airport, just outside Washington, of course, where the former president departed from. Kristen, what are your sources telling you about the mood for those around the Trump camp? By the way, one of the potential co-conspirators was with him today, someone else mentioned in the indictment, was there today. What are you hearing?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, when we talk about what they are going to do next, and I know that's a big question, they are going to continue doing exactly what they are doing, just making this political, and that's what you heard in this speech.

Now, when I talked to his advisers, when I talked to people close to him, on days like today, they said the exact same thing that they always say, that he is defiant, that he is ready to fight, that he knows this means he has to win in 2024.

However, as you noted, that statement was very short. This was completely different from what we saw the last two times that he was indicted. He held big parties at his resort. He talks for almost an hour. This was short. We yelled questions at him. I think you could hear it at the end, about five feet from him. He did not take questions, even though we were told that he was going to. And I know that I am going to get text messages after this from these Trump advisers, from these allies saying, well, it was raining outside.

But I have seen that man stand in the rain for 30 minutes giving a speech at a rally in Miami. So, I don't believe that that's the only deterrence here. When you look at him and you hear from our own correspondents, like Evan Perez, who was in the courtroom, talking about how he held his head down, how he clasped his hands, it gives you a real indication of where his mind is at.

And one thing we do know is that he doesn't enjoy these days. He doesn't enjoy getting arraigned or being indicted. This isn't something that he wants to do. He isn't reveling in that. But, again, from our own correspondents in the room, from that remarks itself, it seems as though today did hit him, he did realized the gravity of the situation.

BURNETT: All right. Kristen, thank you. Wolf?

BLITZER: Erin, thank you. I want to get some reaction from our legal and political experts right now. And, Laura Coates, you are our chief legal analyst. Trump is pleading not guilty, but this is clearly a grave moment for him, legally speaking, certainly for him and indeed for the country.

LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It absolutely is. And if you think about just the consequences, we were all watching. In fact, the world was watching what happened on January 6th. We saw with our own eyes. Now, this gave some insight into what led up to what appeared to be the culmination, according to the allegations, of a very serious conspiracy.

The fact that he has been indicted before, obviously, this seems to be coming more normalized perhaps, people having seen it, but nothing normal about the fact that you have an American president who is now thrice -- I'll used the word thrice indicted, twice impeached, and this one of extraordinary significant.

He has pled not guilty. But he is now in a Washington, D.C., jurisdiction, unlike perhaps maybe felt a little more comfortable in places like Florida, certainly the talking points indicate that, but he is in front of people, and a potential jury pool who remembers the fencing around the Capitol, who remember what it was like to have their Metropolitan Police Department try to intervene, to give comfort and aid, of course, to the Capitol Police. And they remember seeing all of this unfold.

And so the idea that even when he spoke just now outside of that tarmac, he was very disparaging about the nation's Capitol because it served his own interests in that moment. Those are things that are all together prosecutors will look at to try to make sure they can persuade the jury beyond their own burden of proof.

BLITZER: And we see Trump's plane has just landed over at Newark Airport in New Jersey. They will be going in a motorcade from there back to his country club. And we will watch all of this unfold.

Karl Racine is with us as well. I am really happy, Karl, you are with us tonight. You were the attorney general of Washington, D.C., during the January 6th insurrection. So, you see these historic moments unfolding today. What goes through your mind?

KARL RACINE, FORMER D.C. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I remember very well that entire day, of course, of January 6th, and I also remember well the weeks before January 6th. And I think it bears repeating all of the warnings and all of the threats that were leading up to January 6th.

This is a truly historic day and a day of reckoning. I'm happy that this is happening in a court of law before a very experienced trial judge, who is known as a former public defender and criminal defense lawyer, to be a person who makes the government prove their case.


And, frankly, I don't believe that this is going to be a walk in the park for the prosecutor. Judge Chutkan is tough and she is fair. I think Donald Trump is going to get his day in court, as he is entitled to, as an American.

BLITZER: You think he can get a fair jury here in Washington?

RACINE: I have no doubt he can get a fair jury in Washington, D.C., Wolf. I am concerned about some of the rhetoric that's going on out there from folks, including the governor from Florida, really downtalking D.C. residents. D.C. residents are American citizens. They're fair. And people who practice in D.C. will tell you, getting a conviction in the District of Columbia is not an easy task.

BLITZER: Yes, that's absolutely true.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, if I could add, the thing that we heard today from the former president is something that we have heard before, and we are going to continue to hear again and again and again. And it is about him being the victim. And it is about what he said, you know, the persecution of a political opponent.

It's what he tried to do this afternoon in his brief speech, is to sort of almost take this out of the legal realm and make the jury the country. The jury now, for Donald Trump, are going to be voters, he believes, particularly voters right now in a Republican primary, which he needs to win, if he is going to run against a Democrat, Joe Biden. And so that seems to me to be the case that he is making, and that will -- he will continue to make.

This is his case, not -- it's a legal case, sure, but the case that Donald Trump is making is a political case, a persecution. And he has said -- remember, he says to voters, I am your retribution. So, if you ever think that anything has been done to you that wasn't fair, that wasn't right, look at me. I am going to be the person who is going to defend you because I'm being persecuted just like you have been persecuted.

BLITZER: Norm, it was, I thought, significant, and tell me if you agree, that the special counsel, Jack Smith, was in that courtroom today during that brief proceeding. He was only standing about 15 feet away from Donald Trump. What did you think?

NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It was, Wolf, because today was the day of symbolism. This is a country where no one is above the law. The world is watching us and remarking at the strength of the American rule of law system. One of the ways that we exemplify that is the prosecutors and the defendants show up in court. Our CNN colleagues were reporting that they looked at each other after the terrible things that Donald -- and false things that Donald Trump has said about Jack Smith.

But after the powerful and devastating indictments, this is how Smith has primarily spoken, through two devastating indictments. So, that was just a taste of the drama. This truly will be -- I don't even think trial of the century is strong enough. It's going to be the trial of the millennium, including because American democracy itself and its resilience is on trial.

So, a solemn day, a historic day, but a good day for what we're about. Judge chutkan wrote, presidents are not kings, and Donald Trump is not president, when she overruled him before. And that really was what today's pomp and circumstance represented to me that every individual is before the law and the Constitution is above us all.

BLITZER: You know, it was curious, maybe interesting, you tell me, Jamie, that Trump was joined today by his co-defendant in the classified documents case, Walt Nauta. He was there with him all day today, and so many of his other associates were there with him, as well. Very sensitive moment, and he brought them all in.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Life in Trump world is complicated. There is one lawyer there who is involved with the documents case, who was taking notes about it.

I just want to go big picture for a moment though, Wolf. This did not need to happen today. We are here today for one reason. Donald Trump did not want to be -- what is the worst thing in his world? A loser. He did not want to accept the outcome of the election.

And we now know from our reporting that this was premeditated. For months before the election, his pollsters, his own pollsters were telling him, you're going to lose. So, he started laying the groundwork months before the election to say it was crooked, to say it would be stolen.


So, I just think it's important to remember every time he says he's being persecuted, we are here today because he did not want to accept the fact that he lost, even though his attorney general, his White House counsel, 49 courts, everybody told him otherwise, and he knew that.

BLITZER: How significant, Carrie, is it that the trial judge, this federal judge, has now set August 28th for the start of the trial involving Trump?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it shows she is going to move the case along. This was the magistrate judge today that handled his arraignment, and then it will move to the trial judge. August 28th will be the next hearing. He may or may not have to actually appear at that one. And then the big question is when the actual trial will take place.

BLITZER: This is the start of the next hearing?

CORDERO: We are just at the start of the process, and we will have to see. The judge will have to work out with both the defense and the prosecution as to when the actual trial will take place, and there is just going to be a continuing tension between the political calendar and the way that the legal system is going to work in this matter.

And I think it's also important, Jamie, as you noted, to put this in the context of what the bigger picture is, which is that this -- although this case is about the one defendant that has been charged so far in this January 6th plot to overturn the election, it's part of the Justice Department's adherence to the rule of law and holding accountable all of the different parts that went into January 6th, from the hundreds of people who have been prosecuted for storming the Capitol to the Proud Boys and the oath keepers who were responsible for coordinating that violence. And now we are seeing what I think is probably the first of the charges, because there are co-conspirators who are referenced in this indictment, the first of charges related to the plot to overturn the actual election outcome.

BLITZER: And just to be precise, the trial date will be set at that next hearing, which is August 28th. That's a hearing. And, presumably, they will set a trial date at that hearing. We will watch it all unfold.

BORGER: Can't the defense make the argument that this is too close to the election? I mean, we have heard that argument before with James Comey, right, and Hillary Clinton. And so wouldn't one of their arguments perhaps be that, you know, you can't insert this kind of a case into a political year this close to primaries, et cetera, et cetera, and that's why it ought to be postponed?

COATES: Well, I mean, we're, what, 459 days -- who is counting -- from the actual election. But you are talking about enough of a cushion. Yes, they will make that argument. I think, strategically, Jack Smith anticipated, of course, by being deferential or going along in some respects to the trial date set in Mar-a-Lago, being cognizant of that, because of the nature of those charges, the classified documents, the idea of trying to get multiple co-defendants' counsel up to speed, it's different. This could go faster, I think.

BLITZER: Yes, I suspect you're right.

RACINE: I think you are exactly right in the decision to not name those co-conspirators was a very important decision made by the special prosecutor to try to narrow and focus this case and to eliminate additional potential reasons, valid or it not, for delay.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by. We have got a lot more to assess and discuss. But I want to go back to Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Wolf. And our Senior Crime and Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz was there inside the courtroom for today's dramatic hearing. So, Katelyn, you saw it, right? You saw Trump. You saw his facial expressions, his body language. You saw him interact with Jack Smith. You heard him speak. Tell us what happened.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Erin, I didn't expect to hear Donald Trump speak because the last time he was arraigned in federal court, he did not say a single word. But it this time the judge engaged with him directly multiple times. First and foremost, whenever he had to state his name, Donald J. Trump, John, he said, and later in the hearing, he had to affirm that he was going to be pleading -- entering a plea to these four charges related to January 6th and he said, quite clearly, in court to the judge that his plea was not guilty. That's how he said it. Those were the only words he spoke in response to that question.

But there were several other exchanges he had with the judge that really highlighted how this court is handling this case. How they are going to be treating it going forward. He agreed to the terms of his release. They went over all of the things that they formally do. And then the judge took a moment to step back and make sure that Donald Trump recognized that it would be a crime to intimidate potential jurors, to retaliate against potential witnesses, asked him even to knowledge that, in which he nodded his head. And then she followed up, do you understand this, and he said, yes, vocally, at that point in time.


So, that really was a little bit more of a moment that is so important for Donald Trump in that he has been investigated and charged with obstruction of justice in the Florida case, and this is something that the court is cognizant of going forward now that he is in this court, processed here and is going to be pleading guilty, awaiting trial, and he is out on release.

So, that really was one of the things that summed up the moment that he is in a precarious moment. He is not going to be able to speak to these witnesses, who are potentially going to be testifying at trial in this case about the facts of this case.

The other thing is this is one of those rare moments that you had Donald Trump physically in court right in the same room as Special Counsel Jack Smith and the prosecutors who are charging him. And when he came into the room initially, he had a very clear view of Jack Smith, was essentially turned to face him directly, and looked at him for quite a long time. Smith looked back. They never shook hands. They never really nodded. But it was quite a tense moment. Erin?

BURNETT: Well, it's almost like a staring contest. It's amazing to imagine something that you were able to witness there, Katelyn.

And I know you have new reporting on some people watching the proceedings in court today, important people to this. What can you tell us about them?

POLANTZ: Right. It was a full courtroom, but there was one row in the courtroom full of judges in this court. Seven judges, both magistrate judges, the type of judges, like the judge who presided today, and then also there were several other judges on this court.

The chief judge, Judge Boasberg, he came to observe the proceedings today. This is the judge that allowed Mike Pence to testify in a grand jury against Donald Trump. There were also two other judges. Judge Randolph Moss and Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who were both in court observing the proceedings today, highly unusual. You never see other judges sitting on someone's proceeding.

Both Judge Moss and Judge Jackson are so well known because they handled cases of Trump campaign aides in the Mueller investigation. They sentenced people like Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos. They were there to witness this today.

And it really was just a moment to observe how much this court has been wrapped around special counsel investigations of Donald Trump as well as the aftermath of January 6th. The courthouse is so close to the Capitol building, and this court has had hundreds of prosecutions of January 6th riot rioters, even some who were sentenced today by judges in this court. So, it really was a moment full circle having Donald Trump there in court as a criminal defendant now to see his name announced, to see the case announced U.S. v. Trump. Erin?

BURNETT: All right. Katelyn, thank you very much.

And let's get straight to where -- Katelyn is talking about this row, Elliot, this row of judges, and talking about how highly unusual it is. Going by name, you got the chief judge and you've got judges who have been ruling in other cases. What do you read into that?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I have never seen that, and I have been an attorney 20-plus years at this point, I have never seen that. But I have also never seen a former president of the United States indicted on four federal crimes, including conspiring to obstruct official proceedings and so on. I think it might have been the significance of the moment more than anything else.

The judges are -- look, courtrooms are open to the public, and that includes to court personnel and other court staff. I can't imagine a scenario in which any one of those other judges would have a portion of this case. They all have their own dockets. And I really think it was sort of -- help me come up with a word. Not majesty of the moment, but just certainly the soberness or significance of the moment.

BURNETT: Right, which I understand. I don't know whether you agree with that or not. I ask you, Ryan, that in the context of the point here was that we are going to treat Trump like anybody else would be treated and nothing should be any different. So, while with Elliot's, this may very well be true, if that is the situation, was that a good look?

RYAN GOODMAN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL AT DEFENSE DEPARTMENT: That's a great question. I guess it's just -- unmistakably, it is different in some ways. But in terms of the procedures that he is subject to, the warnings that he is given, we might read something a little bit additional into them given who he is and how he's acted in the past with respect to potential witnesses. But all of that is just like we are going to conduct this a solemn way.

And I think the idea that this is a solemn day is unmistakable for the entire country when Donald Trump says it's a sad day for the country. That's actually -- like everybody can agree to that. Even Judge Luttig said that in a statement to CNN, when he said that it's a historic and regrettable and a tragic day two days ago when he was indicted, and the so it is today.

WILLIAMS: And I've appeared in that court a lot, in the D.C. federal court, and this was a magistrate hearing. It is, in effect, a very procedural event.


It's not the big show. And so it is really remarkable that -- I truly don't know why, Erin. I don't.

BURNETT: Right. It is a mystery. And I think we all would like to know.

One of the things that Katelyn's reporting on, right, she was saying that the judge was giving directions of these basic mundane things you would give anyone. You can't -- witness tampering, you can't threaten, all those things. Trump responded, yes. Now, he actually had to respond. We didn't expect him to speak. But he did in each of these cases.

You, coming from the state of Georgia, have experienced when he tries to pressure people, right? We heard him on the call with Brad Raffensperger, your secretary of state. We have seen this again and again. Is there any chance that he goes -- I mean, he was there today with one of the supposed co-conspirators, with someone who is a witness in the case, with Walt Nauta, right, who is a co-defendant in the Mar-a-Lago case, all people who are still around him, still beholden to him, in his orbit.

GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So, this is a sad day for a proud member of the party of Lincoln and Reagan also, and I think there are millions of folks out there. To that point, I was sitting it there watching the proceedings today and I started feeling this uneasy feeling and this deluge of misinformation.

I just -- and it brought me back to a moment in time leading up to January 6th, right, that we felt in Georgia. We saw this president using the pulpit to continue to steer and misguide people. And I worry that this crescendo moment could be another January 6th type event, right, that there is just this ultimate game of misinformation. When you hear polling come through or 70 percent-plus Republicans think the election was still rigged with no proof, this is scary. This is really, really scary times for us, especially more importantly than just Republicans.

BURNETT: Yes, it is scary times. I mean, and, Juliette, when he came out and he went, and I think this was interesting, Kristen said, he spoke for a very short period of time, he didn't take reporter questions. And I'm sure I will be deluged with texts about the fact that there was a deluge going on, and that's why he wasn't answering questions, and she's like, but I stood there in the rain with him and he has been happy to go on and on and on.

And here he is getting off his plane now. I don't anticipate that he will speak now, although we don't know, but let's see. But, I mean, it was very terse and short.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. So, Trump has two fronts. One is, doesn't want to get into any more troubling in the court. He is in big trouble, I mean, in the sense that this is real for him today and it is a solemn day and he is sitting there and he is going to face criminal liability. And I have a theory of why all the judges are there, which is he is attacking the judiciary and he's attacking D.C. D.C. is going to be a bit player in this, the city of D.C. and what it represents. He is already trying to get out courtroom.

But Donald Trump's second front is social media. And you've got to pay attention to what's going on there, because it's not just what is he saying to reporters and --

BURNETT: And he's been posting all day, although I am not aware that he has after the actual --

KAYYEM: So, he goes out -- right. So -- yes, exactly. So, attacks on D.C., attacks on the judge and judiciary, attacks on America's judicial system, the election, and then, of course, the prosecutor, and then, you know, for fun, the wife, right? Always has to be the wife, because they go after families.

And I think that's the kind of incitement of his people are reading on social media, the people who follow him are reading it. It's getting replayed on television networks that we aren't necessarily watching. And so that's his second front.

We have to remember this. So, it's all quiet, not lots of crowds. He doesn't say much. He is not inciting anything. Don't believe it. Because what is happening online is the same -- that's a January 6th stuff. That is, you know, it's going to be a party, let's go, you know, everyone congregate. That's exactly what happened. It's just happening on forums that a lot of us aren't following.

BURNETT: All right. So, as we just saw him getting off that plane, Elliot, we also -- so he gets off the plane and then -- and he was with a group people, right, his lawyers were there. But there were two people who just got off that plane side by side. Those two people are reportedly co-conspirator number 6 and Jason Miller, who is a witness at least, someone who had actually -- is in the indictment as saying this is all B.S. So, they come from different perspectives, at least in their role in the indictment. But there they are shoulder to shoulder.

WILLIAMS: So, what is fascinating about the Jason Miller presence there is that he's just not named --

BURNETT: Obviously a senior longtime campaign adviser.

WILLIAMS: Yes. But campaign adviser, makes a comment, sarcastic comment about the quality of the attorneys they have and says this is a conspiracy S bleep coming down from the mother ship.

BURNETT: Being beamed down from the -- that's how he refers to the allegations the election is stolen. He's calling it a load of conspiracy, expletive, right.

WILLIAMS: Right. So, number one, you are on a plane with the defendant, and, you know, I would -- frankly, if it were my client, urge -- get away from that defendant right now. Any words you say to him, could potentially implicate you or him.


And it's incredibly risky as a potential witness or co-conspirator, as the case might be, to be in that scenario.

BURNETT: Are there any implications to that, to the fact that these people are all together? In any sane world, let's just say, it is what it is. They are talking about this?

GOODMAN: Right. And this is the conversation we had also right after the classified documents arraignment, in which it was said you, Mr. Trump, and at that time, his one co-defendant, should not speak to each other about the facts of this case, and the co-defendant is his body man. So, the enforceability of this is very difficult to see.

And I could imagine that way in which Trump has used people around him, it could actually be a loyalty test to ensure that the person has conversations with him in defiance of this kind of an order.

WILLIAMS: And to clarify, it is a bad idea to talk to a co- conspirator. It is against the rules of the court to talk to a co- defendant, right? And so that's why with Walt Nauta, they were directed not to speak to each other because they are both charged as criminals, alleged criminals in the same case. It's a little difficult because --

BURNETT: Walt Nauta was with him today holding the umbrella, literally, in the deluge.

Well, coming up, we'll have a live report from where Donald Trump is returning from today's court hearing in New Jersey and we will get reaction from Congressman Bennie Thompson, former chairman of the January 6th committee.

This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM, the January 6th indictment of Donald Trump.



BLITZER: We're back with breaking news. The former president right now in his motorcade making his way back to his New Jersey golf club after being arrested and arraigned on four criminal charges stemming from his alleged efforts to subvert the 2020 presidential election here in the United States. Trump today proclaiming his innocence and accusing the special counsel, Jack Smith, of leading a political persecution.

I want to go to CNN's Alayna Treene, who is joining us live from New Jersey right now. She's near the president's -- the former president's Bedminster golf club. Alayna, you have some new reporting on what's been happening behind the scenes with Trump and his team. What can you tell us?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Right. Well, Wolf, I've learned through my conversations with Trump's advisers over the past several days now that Donald Trump is privately very concerned about these charges. He is also grown increasingly angry about the mounting indictments that he is facing. And I think you could see some of that today during his court appearance in D.C. from our great reporters who were inside the courtroom. They noted that his mood was somber. He had his arms crossed around him. And that lines up with what I'm told he is showing behind the scenes as well. Now, he has also grown increasingly frustrated that a lot of money is being dedicated to these legal fees. I mean, money, tens of millions of dollars that is supposed to be for his campaign, that his campaign has raised, that he has now having to dedicate to his defense team.

Another thing I think is interesting is, earlier this week, his team has been strategizing about how to maximize the political benefit of this latest indictment. They have been trying to boost his fundraising around this. We have seen him issue a number of appeals to donors. And also he has ramped up his outreach to allies, specifically those on Capitol Hill, to defend him publicly, encouraging them to come out and issue statements of support.

And one other thing, Wolf, that I find really interesting, is they had the decision today, Donald Trump's team, to not go in person. They had a choice to do this arraignment via Zoom. But they chose to come in person. I am told the strategy there was really to drum up attention from the media around this appearance today and also try to argue that Donald Trump is being taken off the campaign trail and forced to appear in person for these different court appearances.

And that kind of speaks to their overall strategy to argue that this is election interference and that he is taken away from. But I should note, he didn't have any prescheduled campaign events today. He will be in Alabama tomorrow and South Carolina on Saturday. But that is what they are trying to argue here, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Alayna, thank you very much.

I want to get some more reaction right now, joining us, the former chairman of the January 6th select committee, Congressman Bennie Thompson. Mr. Chairman, thanks so much for joining us.

How momentous is it right now for Trump to return to Washington, D.C., for this arrest at a courthouse, a federal courthouse, just a stone's throw from where the U.S. Capitol was attacked on January 6th?

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MI): Well, thank you for having me, Wolf. It's momentous only in the sense that democracy works. It's saying that we're here on another front because Donald Trump knew that he had lost. He has been told by a number of people that it was over and that we should move forward for the peaceful transfer of power, and he chose not to do that. And so when you ignore the law and ultimately get charged for breaking the law, this is what you have today in Washington.

BLITZER: Yes, that's really important. The charges against Trump, as you know, they mirror most of the referrals that your select committee made. Do these charges, do you believe, do they go far enough and can prosecutors secure a conviction?

THOMPSON: Well, three of the charges came directly out of our body of work as a committee. We felt very strongly that those charges, based on the evidence that we had discovered during almost two years of work, merited charging. However, we were not a body to do that. We shared our work with the special counsel, and it appears that they took that work and did their own work around it, and they agreed. So, I think our staff and the members of Congress who participated on the select committee all are to be congratulated for what we consider a thorough job.


But, you know, it's about saving our democracy. Donald Trump, he started to process to -- likewise, it also shows that no one is above the law, not even the former president of the United States.

BLITZER: What would a conviction mean for all of those who died, all of those who were wounded or traumatized as a result of the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol?

THOMPSON: Well, there is no question that Donald Trump summoned a mob to Washington. He stoked the flames just before the attack on the Capitol. And for those brave men and women who defended the Capitol, those who died, unfortunately, those who were hurt, this is part of the vindication of their defense, that the person who I believe and others believe created this whole situation is now being held -- standard that every other American would be held to in this country if they --

BLITZER: What do you fear, Mr. Chairman, could be the consequences if this trial is delayed until after the 2024 election?

THOMPSON: Well, to be honest with you, Wolf, I don't think there's anything we should look at about the election. It's about a crime having been committed and a trial going forward. It's just unfortunate that Donald Trump is a candidate. But, you know, he is now charged with crimes. He has to have his day in court and prove himself.

I am not aware of any other trial that would be postponed because a -- this is not how our system of jurisprudence operates here in America. Donald Trump is not above the law. Just because he is running for president again is no reason to postpone it. And so he can offer that, but to be honest with you, I think there is no merit to it.

BLITZER: Chairman Bennie Thompson, thanks so much for joining us.

And CNN's special coverage of today's arraignment and arrest of Donald Trump will continue. We will also get reaction and analysis from two former Trump administration insiders.

Once again, this is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM, the January 6th indictment of Donald Trump.



BURNETT: Tonight, Donald Trump is on his way back to his home in Bedminster, New Jersey, after his third arraignment. The former president facing four criminal counts to efforts to overturn the 2020 election in this indictment.

But on social media, he is out now telling his supporters, quote, it's a great honor because I am being arrested for you. I need one more indictment to ensure my election. And in that case, he is, obviously, referring to the state of Georgia.

Joining us now, Stephanie Grisham, former Trump White House press secretary, who resigned from the Trump administration on January 6, and Olivia Troye, worked in the Trump White House as homeland security advisor to Vice President Mike Pence.

So, Stephanie, Kristen Holmes has been traveling with Trump today, all day in that motorcade. And the former president's advisers are telling her he is defiant, ready to fight. That's what they're saying. But the demeanor she saw throughout the day was different and Trump's statement, of course, when he gave it was terse and extremely short, less than a minute. He didn't take questions, even though she and other reporters have been told that he would.

What does this tell you?

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I mean, this is what we were always told to do. You put on a front that we're going to fight, that we're fighting for everybody, we're fighting for the little guy, but I, too, when I saw him get out of the car, I immediately knew with his body language that he wasn't happy. Before he even started talking, I could tell that he wasn't happy, and the fact that he didn't take questions also.

You know, it struck me, I have a feeling with this one, you know, this is third time's a charm, I suppose, not to make light of it. But with this one I think he is recognizing with this particular judge he doesn't have control. He is not going to have control of the calendar.

Not that he has control with the Florida case. I could see in his mind him thinking that judge, since he appointed her, maybe she will be a little softer on him, which I'm not inferring. I just have a feeling today he understood the gravity of what is about to happen to him and that he can't control it.

BURNETT: And, Olivia, to that point, Evan Perez was also in the courtroom. He reports Trump had his head down, his hands were clasped. You know, Trump has warned in the past of potential death and destruction if he's indicted. And today, he called the indictment a persecution of a political opponent.

So, what does it say to you? You know, you combine that body language in the courtroom with the fact that, you know, as he drove in, it wasn't even what he saw in Mar-a-Lago, right? It wasn't overwhelming there, but there were plenty of Trump supporters there.

There were almost none there today. I mean, he didn't have that sort of fuel -- that feeds him.

OLIVIA TROEY, FORMER HOMELAND SECRURITY & COUNTERTERROSIM ACTIVIST TO VP MIKE PENCE: Yeah, look, it sounds like this is someone who privately feels defeated and knows that accountability is starting to finally catch up to him. In terms of not seeing as much support, his supporters, many of them who have gotten in trouble with the law because ever this man have learned that, you know, nobody is going to be there for them in the end. That's not who Donald Trump is and they are face -- you know, they face accountability on their own.

But I'll say, looking at today and watching this, I am glad to sew that this is a first step towards holding a man who basically -- whose presidency was full of alternative facts, to quote his own advisor, Kellyanne Conway, and those alternative facts have finally caught up to him.

BURNETT: So, Stephanie, you know, in your last role in the Trump administration, chief of staff to the first lady, Melania Trump.


And, obviously, she was not there today. In fact, she has not appeared at any of his three arraignments, right? We just -- we just haven't seen her.

Trump mentioned her in a recent interview, though, and here's what he said.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: It's always unpleasant when you have to go and then tell your wife that, by the way, tomorrow sometime, I'm going to be indicted. And she says, for what? I say, I have no idea. I have absolutely no idea.


BURNETT: Stephanie, you know her well. You know that she's well aware of the power she has, the influence she has with him. What do you make of her silence?

GRISHAM: I actually don't make anything of it. That is Melania Trump.

You know, she's saying in her mind, you know, this is his issue, he can deal with it. He doesn't need me there to prop him up. You know, I'm too busy to go with him.

And that's who she is. She will show up by his side when she wants to, when she's perfectly ready. I doubt that audio you just played, if that conversation even happened, which I wonder if it happened.

She knows -- she knows when he's going to get indicted. She knows what's going on. She watches media as much he does. And so she absolutely knows what's going on.

BURNETT: Interesting.

So, Olivia, your former boss, Mike Pence, is now fundraising off this, try to jump on this. Of course, no doubt Trump will as well, but making this campaign merchandise that says too honest, referring to the January 6th call he had where it says Trump berated him for not going along with efforts to reject the election, telling him, quote, you're too honest. And he's also taking -- going after Trump, calling him a person who relied on a bunch of crackpot lawyers.

So he's definitely speaking out in a way we haven't seen before. What do you think about the way he's handling this? Obviously, he's also now running for the GOP nomination.

TROYE: I think it's finally happening. He needs to be separating himself from Trump. I think he's right to run with that. I think wear that as a badge of honor to be called too honest. I think, you know, Pence should run on the make truth great again campaign. We need to be talking truth here and that would be to his benefit.

Look, you know, I actually have seen this dynamic before between Trump and Pence. I saw it honestly during the COVID pandemic where Pence was at times too honest. His press conferences were going a little too well and too factual and Trump was annoyed and got upset with him and then the next thing you know, Trump showed up and was derailing conferences and telling people to go ingest themselves with bleach.

So, this is -- this is not a surprising dynamic to me. But I think that Pence needs to continue to be more forceful and pave a different path. And I would hope he would lead the GOP completely down another direction, which I've been wanting him to do for the over two years now.

BURNETT: All right. Olivia, Stephanie, thank you both very much.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thank you very much, Erin.

After today's truly historic developments, Donald Trump has been arrested and arraigned. Remember, arrested and arraigned in three separate state and federal cases and faces a possible fourth indictment in Georgia.

Brian Todd is keeping tabs of all the criminal indictments and investigations surrounding the former president -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, all of these cases can be dizzying so we wanted to update our viewers on all the cases and what comes next. There are a total of four cases that is the president has been investigated in. Three of which as we know now that he's been indicted in.

We have the special counsel for January 6th case today. And he has pleaded not guilty to all of these cases.

There's also the Mar-a-Lago documents case that he was indicted in a short time ago. He's pleaded not guilty to that one as well.

He was also indicted in the Manhattan D.A.'s case in New York City. That's the hush money case where he was charged with falsifying documents in relation to hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.

One case, though, that has not come down yet which could come down soon is the grand jury investigation in the state of Georgia where Fani Willis, the Fulton County, D.A., has been investigating him. That could come down pretty soon. We're not quite sure. It could come down this month.

We're going to take a look at this month because this is where the next operative dates come into play here. The second Mar-a-Lago arraignment is scheduled for August 10th. That's a week from today in a courthouse in Florida but Donald Trump is not necessarily expected to attend that hearing.

As far as the Georgia case, we're told that case could actually come down on any of these weeks in August, possibly next week or possibly either of these weeks coming up. That's when Donald Trump could be actually indicted in that case.

Now let's take a look at the political calendar here, Wolf, as that kind of a lot of this overlaps with the political calendar.


March 2024, let's look at that. Super Tuesday is on Tuesday, March 5th.

There are several primaries scheduled for that month of March as well. Now the Manhattan, D.A. trial, that's the hush money case involving Stormy Daniels, that is scheduled to begin about three weeks after the hush money case in New York on March 25th. But again, several primaries in the month of March, including Super Tuesday.

In May of 2024, that's going to be a busy month as well. You've got the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case. The pretrial hearing scheduled for May 14th. The trial could begin as early as May 20th. There are several primaries in the month of May as well and the GOP nomination deadline is May 31st.

So that's -- these are some of the operative dates we're looking at in all of these cases. Busy primary season and busy court docket for the former president at that time, too. Also one of the key dates is August 28th when this case that he was just indicted in the January 6th case, that's the next court date where they could set a trial date to start for that case, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll watch it all unfold. Brian Todd, thank you very much.

I want to bring back our political and legal experts for some more analysis right now.

Laura Coates, this is a complicated, legal one. How does this compare to the other cases that Trump is now facing?

LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: This is likely viewed as the most significant as it goes to the core of the democracy. And, obviously, he's running to lead the government again as the president of the United States.

But two things to look out for based on those dates. Venue motions to try to change the venue out of areas he might not find favorable. And also, how do you find a jury in the whole voir dire process. You're thinking about all those things right now.

BLITZER: Carl, do you expect to see a trial for this particular case before the 2024 election?

KARL RACINE, FORMER DC ATTORNEY GENERAL: Put me on the spot, Wolf. I'm going to answer that question -- yes. I think you're going to see a judge running a really tight courtroom. It's going to be incumbent upon the government, the prosecutors to ensure that discovery is given to the president fully and fairly, maybe more quickly than ordinarily.

So I think the court process is going to go on fast forward, with an emphasis on fairness and justice in a result in the court.

BLITZER: We're showing live pictures of the Trump motorcade getting closer to his country club in New Jersey. The drive from the Newark Airport.

RACINE: I have to note the venue question is going to be a real question and you know, Laura's right. A venue of course is normally the place in which the crime was committed. And that's why the Mar-a- Lago matter was charged over in Florida. This is properly in the District of Columbia. They're going to be questions about whether the president can get a trial here fairly because D.C. voters voted overwhelmingly for President Biden.

I'm one who believes the D.C. voters who voted against president Trump can be fair. In a court of law and there are rigorous processes I'm confident Judge Chutkan will deploy.

BLITZER: And they're going after her, too, because she's in an Obama appointee.


RACINE: She is an Obama appointee, and I have to say to you, I was heartened to hear that there were other federal judges in that courtroom, because judges are also under siege, they're being threatened every day and need support to do their job.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, how do we wrap our heads around what's going to be a very intense political and legal calendar this coming month?

BORGER: Well, I was just thinking what is this campaign going to be about now? It's shifted. It's completely shifted.

There are Republican candidates out there who may want to talk about other things. They probably want to talk about say immigration policy. Perhaps they want to talk about the economy.

You know, there are plenty of things they want to talk about. We know DeSantis wants to talk about the woke Democrats. And, of course, they want to talk about Joe Biden, most of all.

And what this does is it resets the campaign completely because they're going to find themselves because we on the media will ask and so will voters, well, we will ask, well, what about this indictment? What do you think about what the president allegedly did? And we know how the MAGA supporters feel. We know there are about a third of Republican primary voters according to recent polls who are still able to be persuaded, one way or another.

But the whole tenor of the campaign changes and if you're a candidate who doesn't want to talk about it, in the end -- because it's not going to help you with the Republican base, and we all understand that. In the end, in the end, you're going to have to talk about these indictments, particularly the one we witnessed today, which is about the future of American democracy. How can you avoid it?

BLITZER: You can't.

All right. Guys, everybody stay with us. We've got a lot more to assess. A lot more news we're following.

Stay with us.