Return to Transcripts main page
The Source with Kaitlan Collins
New Charges Filed Against Trump In Docs Case; Mar-A-Lago Maintenance Worker Named As Third Defendant In Classified Docs Case; Trump's Former Intel Chief Weighs In On Russia's War. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired July 27, 2023 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Yes.
DAVID AXELROD, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Donald Trump could be -- could not be luckier than to have an opponent, like that.
COOPER: See, David, I was right, to let you speak, and not have me ask the question.
David Axelrod, thank you.
Joe Walsh, as well, I appreciate it.
The news continues. That's it for us. THE SOURCE WITH KAITLAN COLLINS starts now.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Tonight, straight from THE SOURCE, new charges, against Donald Trump, and a new co-defendant.
What prosecutors say about how "The boss" wanted surveillance video destroyed, and why the audio, of Trump discussing classified military plans, can no longer be dismissed, as bravado. This, as Trump sees another indictment, in the other investigation, is all but a done deal.
What the former President is saying about today's closed-door meeting, with prosecutors, investigating January 6th, and what the Special Counsel's Office is and isn't telling his attorneys.
Plus, he briefed Trump on classified intelligence, on a near-daily basis, for two years. Dan Coats will join me, for an exclusive interview.
I'm Kaitlan Collins. And this is THE SOURCE.
Tonight, Donald Trump is facing new federal charges, and he has a new co-defendant, as prosecutors are now accusing the former President, of asking Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, to delete security camera footage, from his Florida Resort.
These are new court documents, and they lay out, in detail, intricate detail, I should note, that the steps that were taken, to make sure that footage would be destroyed, after it had been subpoenaed, by the Justice Department.
De Oliveira, who was the head of maintenance, at Mar-a-Lago, is quoted, as saying that "The boss" wanted that server deleted.
Trump has also now been charged, specifically, for withholding top secret plans, for a possible attack, on Iran. It's the very document Trump is heard, here, discussing, on the audio that CNN brought you first.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: This was the Defense Department and him.
TRUMP: We looked at some. This was him. This wasn't done by me, this was him. All sorts of stuff-pages long, look.
TRUMP: Wait a minute, let's see here. [PAPERS SHUFFLING].
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh my gosh.
STAFFER: [Laughter] Yes.
TRUMP: I just found, isn't that amazing? This totally wins my case, you know.
TRUMP: Except it is like, highly confidential.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: "Except it is like, highly confidential," he is heard, saying there.
There are new details, in what is now known as this superseding indictment. It contradicts Trump's denials, about actually having the classified attack plans, in that meeting. But we're going to get to that in a moment.
I'm joined now by CNN's Evan Perez, Laura Coates, Gloria Borger, along with Brandon Van Grack, who is a former Senior National Security official, at the Justice Department.
Thank you all for being here.
Let me start with you. Because, we were waiting, all day, to see if Trump was going to be indicted, in the other investigation. Then, word came down, adding on new charges, to the former indictment, of the classified documents. What do you make of the new charges? What's the most serious?
BRANDON VAN GRACK, FORMER SENIOR DOJ NATIONAL SECURITY OFFICIAL, FORMER MUELLER INVESTIGATION SENIOR PROSECUTOR, PARTNER, MORRISON FOERSTER: I think there are two things.
The first is this destruction of evidence, and not just the co- defendant but again, the destruction of evidence. And I think there are two parts of that, which is it's one thing to lie. The truth still exists. You're just not, if you're the law enforcement, you don't get it.
When you destroy evidence, a tape, it no longer exists, if it's destroyed. So, I think the seriousness of the obstruction, I think, is escalated, based on the conduct here. And what you have is that destruction is directly connected to the former President.
The second piece is one of the documents that you talked about, on there, connecting to the briefing that occurred, at Bedminster. That's now are charged. Before, it was sort of an allegation that there's this disclosure. And now, it's actually one of the criminal charges. So, it escalates the seriousness of it.
COLLINS: But on the idea that there is a new co-defendant, I mean, and the fact that it seemed like it was being orchestrated, at the direction of Trump, Carlos saying that "The boss" wanted this deleted? I mean, what do you make of the fact that there is now a third name, on these charges?
LAURA COATES, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Now, you've got the connective tissue in the thread that you really need to be able to prove that there is some relationship, conspiratorially, between the people, who've already been named, Walt Nauta, and of course, Donald Trump, and now, somebody else as well.
This is really critical here, because normally, we've been talking about cases, when you're trying to infer the conversations, or the substance of communications that would lead you to really have a factual basis, for saying there was a conspiracy.
But you're having, actually plotting a scheme, and you have people, who are still yet unnamed, which to me, indicates that you've got witnesses, who are testifying, who are not being indicted themselves, who have every incentive, to be truthful, to be honest, and to be forthcoming, about what has been seen.
This is the somebody, who was in a position, to oversee the IT technology, at Mar-a-Lago. There is indication, in this complaint, and indictment, saying that "Listen, this person was reluctant to actually erase anything, didn't believe they had the rights to do so. And instead, was told privately, 'What are we going to do because the boss wants this done?'" I'm paraphrasing here.
This suggests to you that through line, the prosecutors would actually need, to establish their case.
COLLINS: And can we talk about who Carlos himself is? I mean, he's not a household name. He's going to be now.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right.
COLLINS: But he's someone, who used to park cars, at Mar-a-Lago. He's the head of maintenance, there. It's a job he took over, just last summer, I believe. And now, he is now named in here, because of what he was urging others to do, and to delete.
PEREZ: Right. And certainly, in our discussions, privately, here at CNN, we've known a lot about him. And we were wondering when he might make an appearance, in this case. And now, we see he's indicted.
We know that he was one of the people that was working with Walt Nauta. They were seen, on video, moving boxes.
Apparently, Carlos De Oliveira is the one, who was assigned to put on the lock, on the storage room, which is what the Trump team had told prosecutors, and told the Justice Department, that they were going to secure all of those boxes, all of those documents, to make sure that they were in a safe place. And then, obviously, after that, prosecutors knew that the box is removed.
One of the things that to me really stands out is, this indictment, this new indictment, really brings forward the timeline, right? Because, the previous one really stops, back in June of 2022, when they come, and they retrieve the boxes. And of course, we know the FBI went and did a subsequent search.
This fills in so many of the blanks that we knew that there was something -- there was something amiss, and that there were witnesses, who had come forward, to the Justice Department, and told them, that box is removed, and that there was an effort of obstruction. This really fills in the blanks on that obstruction picture. And it's a lot worse, once they get the subpoena for their surveillance.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it kind of turns the former President, into the wizard behind the curtain, because that's what this says.
And can you sort of imagine this? You think you've gotten away with it, according to this, and the President himself meets with the FBI, with the Justice Department, with his own attorneys, and he declares, according to this document, that he's an open book. That's the quote. "I'm just an open book."
Earlier that day, he had documents, flown to Bedminster. Then, wait a minute, all of a sudden the FBI discovers that there is a surveillance system there. And they suddenly say, "Oh, no, they know there's a surveillance system there." And then the second part of obstruction takes place, because they have to figure out, how are they going to get rid of those tapes?
PEREZ: A whole new set of crimes. BORGER: So, it's a whole new set of crimes.
BORGER: It's part one, and part two.
COLLINS: Well, and I wonder how you read that.
Because, I mean, there's a very detailed effort, of what went down here, which is the Justice Department subpoenas this footage.
An attorney calls Trump.
Trump then calls his new co-defendant here.
And then, his new co-defendant, is working with his other co- defendant, in order, walking through tunnels, underground, looking at where the surveillance cameras were outside, where the documents were kept, talking to the guys, going in the room, to have a little chat, about what to do about this.
VAN GRACK: So, when you have a trial, like you're telling a narrative, you're projecting a story, to your jury. And what you see here is that narrative coming more into picture, there's more color here.
But I think there's something, and it's a term that we've now heard throughout the day, and we're going to hear, which is consciousness of guilt. This is evidence. And what it means is in our legal system, you don't -- you're not convicted of a crime by an accident, or a misunderstanding. You have to have intentionality, sort of knowledge and awareness.
And the evidence with respect to the destruction, that's the purpose of it. You don't destroy a video, unless you don't want that video to be shown. You want to hide it. That's awareness that there's something on there. And what we know was on there, or appears to be on there was, in fact, the failure, to produce classified documents, to the Justice Department, as required, by the subpoena.
COATES: What they also had was notice, that they wanted this information back.
COATES: This is not something, where in the due course of business that the surveillance footage gets erased, or it's not maintained, in the ordinary course of business.
You have allegations here that De Oliveira went to ask about how long this sort of thing gets retained. And then, there is a timeline that talks about trying to delete it, which you could infer then that they were aware that likely there was data, contained on this surveillance footage, that would be possibly inculpatory, in some respects, and incriminating, to suggest that it's still there, and now get rid of it. And so, being on notice, for several months, really almost the better part of a year that there are documents that we would like you to return. And here, it is.
Remember, the attorney, Evan Corcoran, who everyone thought, "Oh, my God, you mean a federal judge is saying that the attorney-client privilege is going to be pierced, under the crime-fraud exception, because you're trying to use your relationship here, to hide something?" We thought that would be the ultimate moment.
It turns out that attorney was so duped, by this orchestration, and allegations, as they're laid out here, of some greater plan, to hide everything, even from them.
BORGER: But --
COLLINS: And they wanted him to lie to --
COLLINS: -- a grand jury, it says in here. It says that Trump and Walt and Carlos all conspired to keep the classified documents, and conceal them, from a federal grand jury.
BORGER: And their own lawyer --
BORGER: -- and conceal it, from his lawyer, who obviously dictated contemporaneous notes, about every single thing that was going on. And I think that's very damaging, to Donald Trump, as well, because he was apparently lying to his own legal counsel.
PEREZ: And let me add something.
COLLINS: And not just --
PEREZ: I'm sorry. One of the interesting things --
PEREZ: -- here that, where he describes where De Oliveira talks to Trump, and Trump tells him, he's going to hire a lawyer, for him, right?
COLLINS: Yes. That's where I was going next. That's fascinating.
PEREZ: To me, that's fascinating, because, again, you can imagine, at a trial, right, that the prosecutors are going to present evidence that shows that the former President is using this practice, which is to pay for the lawyers, of these people, to try to keep them on the team.
And so, what they have here is Signal encrypted messages, where Trump -- or I'm sorry, where Trump employees are talking amongst each other, about whether, someone wants to make sure Carlos is good, again, someone saying "Carlos is going to be loyal."
And then, again, it's a little bit of a scene from like a mob movie, but really, we're talking about the former President of the United States. And what he's doing here is he's paying for lawyers, for people to keep them on the team. And I think what you're getting a picture here is that the prosecutors are going to tell the jurors, this is how he planned, to help complete the obstruction.
COATES: And, by the way, when was the last time, you had a 24-minute telephone conversation with anyone?
BORGER: Well I was just going to mention that.
COATES: I mean, a 24-minute conversation.
COATES: We've been talking for 11 minutes, so far. Add 13 minutes to that. My math is still good.
COATES: And that's how long the President of the United States spoke to this person. That is it's so telling that someone knew.
BORGER: About what?
COATES: About what?
BORGER: About what?
COATES: What was said? What was the nature of the communication? Where does it fit in the timeline?
COLLINS: Yes. And he's going to court, on Monday, we know. Carlos will appear there, with that attorney that is being paid for -- has been paid by Trump's Super PAC.
But the document, we also talked about that, because we have kind of been gaslit, by Trump's attorneys, and people in Trump's world, who have said, "Well, maybe he wasn't really holding a document, maybe it was just bravado." Trump himself said that the document didn't exist.
VAN GRACK: Right. Well --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There was no document. That was a massive amount of papers, and everything else, talking about Iran, and other things. And it may have been held up, or may not. But that was not a document. I didn't have a document per se. There was nothing to declassify. These were newspaper stories, magazine stories, and articles. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: The document is now charged.
VAN GRACK: Well, and it was a remark -- it was a sort of glaring omission, in the first, the allegation. Again, there's right now, he's only being charged with retention, unlawfully retaining classified documents, not transmitting them. Those are two different charges.
But the original indictment said, "Oh, in these two instances, including the recording, he showed a classified document." But it wasn't charged. And the reality is not every classified document's charged here. But it wasn't charged.
Now that it's charged, it's important to understand the distinction. Retention means there's the possibility that someone could get access to the classified information. You've unlawfully retained it. Transmission means you've disclosed --
BORGER: This was.
VAN GRACK: -- it to someone, who didn't have authorization. So, it actually makes the damage to national security --
VAN GRACK: -- more tangible.
BORGER: And more difficult for Donald Trump. I mean?
VAN GRACK: Well, I mean?
BORGER: It's one thing to have it.
COLLINS: Why would they not have turned out this before?
BORGER: It's another thing to do show-and-tell.
COATES: And charge it now?
VAN GRACK: Well, so, the speculation was they may not have known which of the classified documents, they had, were this one. If he's waving a classified document, how do you confirm it? But the fact that they now are saying, "We can show beyond a reasonable doubt, this is the document in the recording," and it just it's more compelling now.
PEREZ: And it suggests, right, that either they have the document, either probably from the national security, from the Intelligence agencies, or they have witnesses, who have described and corroborated, "This is the document he showed me."
VAN GRACK: Well --
PEREZ: There is some way that they know. VAN GRACK: Well?
VAN GRACK: If I could just make one other speculation, because we don't know why it wasn't charged, which is, there is a process, to get authorization, to charge a classified document. And sometimes, documents are so sensitive, the Intelligence Community says, "You cannot show that to a jury and judge."
For all we know, one of the issues was originally there was resistance to the use, and the showing of this document, to jury.
VAN GRACK: And for all we know, perhaps the judge (ph).
BORGER: And maybe that's why --
COLLINS: For that reason.
BORGER: -- that is one of these documents.
BORGER: Because there were probably many more than one as we know, right?
VAN GRACK: Right.
COLLINS: We'll have to leave it there. Brandon, Gloria, Evan, and Laura, thank you all, for being here.
And stay with our breaking news, because, up next, we are going to get perspective, from someone, who knows how Trump handled classified intelligence, better than anyone.
His former top official will join me, after the break.
COLLINS: Tonight, Jack Smith is adding major new accusations, to the charges, that Donald Trump mishandled national security documents, after he left office. All of this is putting the spotlight, on how the 45th President handled classified and sensitive information.
I'm joined now, tonight, by someone, who provided Trump with near- daily Intelligence briefings, in his first two years in office, the former Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats.
And thank you so much for being here.
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE UNDER TRUMP: Thank you.
COLLINS: I think I should start by saying we brought you on, to talk about election security.
COLLINS: Something that you care deeply about. And then, obviously, this breaking news happened --
COLLINS: -- regarding your former boss.
I mean, as the Director of National Intelligence, you did brief him, on a daily basis. Did you ever have concerns, about how he handled classified information? Are you surprised by any of this?
COATS: Well I assume that his staff, as my staff, did for me, and everybody else, remind him that this is classified, it has to be careful.
I didn't have the direct talk with him on that. So, I'm -- his Chief of Staff, John Kelly, and others, and so forth, were managing that. So, I think, everybody assumed that the President -- knew that President was aware of the fact that classification mattered. And it's sacrosanct, really.
And a lot of times, people say, "Well, what's the big deal about all of this?" If you walk into the lobby, of the CIA, and look to the right wall, you'll see a bunch of stars. Their names aren't there, because they were covert. But they're dead, because somebody got their names out, maybe on a classified document.
If you -- we put millions of dollars, into technology, for gathering intelligence. And if that's breached, because somebody gets a classified document, floating around, and knows of it, we lose that information that we are grabbing.
So, it's more than just a bunch of papers, and "What big deal is this" and so forth. Lives can be lost. Money can be misspent. We can be -- our adversaries are out there, searching, trying to get this kind of information, because they want to undermine us -- these are.
So, we have these threats that come in. And so, it's something that we remind our people, every day, every time, every new person comes in to the DNI, or to any other Intelligence agency, "You must do this. You must take care of it. Don't carry this around. Put it in the safe before you leave."
COLLINS: There's deadly consequences.
COATS: It's -- yes, there are deadly consequences.
COLLINS: And when you hear what we've learned about the new document, it was related to a potential attack plan, on Iran. I mean, as you know, you don't just drop a new plan like that every day, regardless of whether or not you're using it. I mean, the idea that the acquisition, he was showing it to people, who didn't have security clearances?
COATS: And those people perhaps, wouldn't take big deal out of this. There are people out there that know these other people, know they're going to a person, whether it's the President's, whether it's the Director of National Intelligence, or something else, and buying off, or trying to get it, information, from something, something like that. So, you never can be sure.
It's classified, for a reason. It's classified because we don't want others to know what's happening.
COLLINS: And a normal person, a regular person, like me, if I took classified documents, or something like this, would be prosecuted. I mean, we see that happen on a pretty regular basis.
COATS: Well there are people in prison, who have taken stuff home, when they knew they shouldn't have taken it home. Maybe it was truly innocent. But it's so critical, that we abide by the rules.
COATS: And obviously, those of us, in high positions, are surrounded by people, who know that. And so, if I leave something on my desk, and walk out the door, somebody runs after me, or grabs that and puts it back in the safe, saying, "Hey, you left that in the door." I mean, they go through my desk. "It's got to go back into the safe." "Oops, sorry about that."
COLLINS: Yes. And I take it you don't think that classified information belongs at a private golf club?
COATS: That's for sure.
COLLINS: In your resignation letter, in 2019, you wrote, "The Intelligence Community is stronger than ever, and increasingly well prepared to meet new challenges and opportunities."
You have been very vocal, in talking about the security, of U.S. elections, and defending them, and just how important that is.
How do you convince people, in this day and age, that their votes are safe, that they're not being manipulated, when the person, that you used to work for, is saying, on a daily basis that that they were?
COATS: The Intelligence Community deals with foreign threats to the United States. We know the Russians have tried to undermine our democracy, in many, many different ways. We know the Chinese have done that. The Iranians have done that. And other enemies have done that.
And they do it through various methods, cyber, and spreading through media, and so forth, all kinds of conspiracy theories, and undermining the integrity, of our government, who we are, and more than that, undermining our democracy.
We've had 250 years of the most amazing country, in the history of the world. And wasn't it -- Franklin said, "What did we just have? Our Founding Fathers gave us a Republic, if we can keep it."
And so, what I'm really concerned, and why I'm so engaged, in terms of thanking you, for letting me talk about finding -- ensuring our public that we are doing everything, we possibly can, to prevent, whether it's foreign, or whether it's domestic, people who are trying to undermine our democracy, because, if we lose that, we lose everything. We become a third-world country, as which party is -- is which party is the one that has done the most damage, to take over, and they never give up. So, it's all tied into this.
But election security, the American people have to have confidence, in what we've done. And I can tell you a lot of things about what we have done to ensure that everybody's vote is legitimate.
COLLINS: But he knew that.
I mean, we have reported that in the other investigation, Jack Smith is looking into, Trump got a briefing, in the Oval Office, February 2020, was told what Intelligence agencies, and your former colleagues had done, to secure the election.
And months later, he's the leader, spreading conspiracies, about that and making people feel like their votes weren't safe.
COATS: Well, my role was to provide, to the best of our ability, the basic facts of what threats were, to America, and what things, we needed, to be -- we needed to be aware of, and the staff needed to be aware of situations, that would be undermining our very, very wonderful democracy that we have.
And so, what was done, after I -- my job was to present it to them. My job was not to implement policy. But we wanted the President to know exactly what was happening, to the best of our abilities.
COLLINS: Yes. And what did you think, when -- I mean, your concern was that people -- you said this before the election that people would, on Election Night, would be upset that those weren't the results. His votes were still being counted.
He came down and said, "I won the election," before the votes had all been counted.
I mean, what went through your mind when you heard that?
COATS: Well, I knew we had done a major effort, when I took a lead as DNI, with our Intelligence agencies, to put a group together, of like top people, from each of the agencies, saying, "Look, we have to really dig into this, to make sure that our elections are secure."
We worked with Homeland Security, on the domestic side. And we've spent hundreds of millions of dollars. We've sent people out, to work with governors. We wanted to make sure that we had all the implements in place, to guarantee that every person's vote was legitimate. If we lose confidence, from the American people, in terms of their vote doesn't matter? Our democracy will decline. And maybe we won't be a democracy, anymore. We have to have integrity of that.
So, we have to put in place all the systems that if there's a glitch, there is a problem? Let's go after it. We said we must have paper backup. We must have audits. We welcome audits. If something goes wrong, a Republican can stand here, and a Democrat can stand here, and they can watch the count and see what happened.
If there was a fraud, and the other person won, we accept that. But as we know, in 2020, there were what 65,000 court cases? No one could provide --
COLLINS: 65 court cases, yes.
COATS: -- any proof whatsoever. We had audits, many times, some states, three times, some states, people said "Oh, if they hire them, they'll surely be on our side." "Oops, no, we didn't find it."
So, we've done everything, we can, to put in place, a process, to make sure that the people, who are voting, know that their vote counts, as there's no -- no reason why this person should not win that election.
COLLINS: Mr. Dan Coats, we have a few more questions for you. I hope you'll stick with us.
COATS: OK, sure.
COLLINS: I know there are major issues, of course, Ukraine, Russia as well. We'll be back in just a moment.
COLLINS: More of that, also the view of the 2024 Republican primary, back in a moment.
COLLINS: Tonight, we're monitoring new charges, against former President Donald Trump, in the classified documents probe. We'll bring you those developments, as we unfold.
But to continue our conversation, with the person, who briefed former President Trump, on Intelligence, on a near-daily basis, for two years, Dan Coats is back here with us.
I do want to ask you, because one of the points of tension, if I will say this, between you and Trump, was Russia, and how outspoken you were, about them, being an adversary. And you had long said the U.S. should make sure they were aligned, with European allies.
What do you make of what you're seeing, in Ukraine, right now, with Russia's invasion? COATS: Well, right now, I think it's more important than any of us can believe or want to see happen. We cannot allow Russia and Putin to win. It'll be just the beginning of nightmare, relative to NATO, relative to neighboring areas.
Russia was keep -- Putin will keep grabbing pieces of land. He's got a long-term plan. He'll never step down. You cannot trust a thing, he says. He will not give up. He will fight to the end.
It will have major consequences, to the future of this country and many, many other countries, and NATO countries. It'll put us back into a war situation, cold-war situation.
And so, we have to do everything, we possibly can, to support the Ukrainians in this. No one anticipated that they would stand up to the Russians. We've learned a lot about the Russian military there.
COLLINS: Yes. Well when Trump says, he could solve what's happening there, in 24 hours, what's your reaction to that?
COATS: The only way to do this, in 24 hours, is give Putin everything he wanted. And I don't think that we should do that.
COLLINS: But do you think -- I mean, you served with Trump. I mean, you saw how he treated Putin. I mean, you were there, when he sided with Putin, over U.S. Intelligence agencies.
COATS: I don't -- I can't answer that. Maybe he just threw that out. There's no way, in 24 hours, you're going to stop, what's happening there.
But more importantly, we have to stand by, and stand with the Ukrainians, because the consequences of this, is not just simply something over there, in Eastern Europe. The consequences will ripple across all of Europe, all of Scandinavia, and we'll be back into a world situation that we do not want to get into.
COLLINS: And you had a pretty blunt response, I should note, after Trump did side with Putin, on that stage, over U.S. Intelligence agencies.
But when you talked about the importance of Ukraine, being successful here, and you see Republicans, and your party, a party, you have long been a member of, the Republican Party, doubting the idea of funding Ukraine, of supporting Ukraine, I mean, what is your message to them?
COATS: If they're worried about spending some money, here, to help Ukraine, win this war? They're going to be really concerned, about the amount of money that's going to have to be spent, to stop Russia, from what they're doing. And that's going to bring us into -- it's going to bring it into us -- us into a terrible situation, in Eastern Europe, moving all the way back through the West.
All of our NATO allies say, "You got to stay with us. We've got to stay together." Putin will just keep going. And we got to stop him, now. If we don't, we're going to pay a high price.
COLLINS: You are here with me, tonight. You have obviously spoken out about the importance of securing U.S. elections. We're approaching another election. How are you approaching that Republican primary?
COATS: Well, on the primary, I think we have some very good candidates. And I'm not sure how all of this is going to end up. I don't think we should make a decision, at this particular point in time that one person is going to win, and nobody else should. Who knows what's going to happen in the next months or so?
But in terms of the 2024 election, I'm working with this group, Republicans and Democrats that have retired, or out of Congress, and so forth. We're a split team. And we've all agreed, taking -- totally taking politics out of this. And making sure we can ensure the American people that would -- we will make this a legitimate election. And we have -- you have to have confidence in this, or we will lose our democracy.
And so, we're making every effort. Tim -- fellow, of Indiana, Tim Roemer, who was -- we both were ambassadors. He's a Democrat. I'm a Republican. I said, "Tim, I can't join up for something for the, who win or whatever." He said, "No, we all have had to say, we're going to focus everything, on getting it legitimate. If the other guys win, we (ph) win."
COATS: We win. We will win.
COLLINS: And you've said that you are -- Mike Pence, obviously you are both from the same home state.
COLLINS: He's running against Donald Trump. And he's not running with him on the same ticket, as he did, last time.
COATS: Yes, I am supporting him. And I think he did the right thing, at the right time, to save our democracy, under tremendous pressure. He did what our Founding Fathers gave us. It was a gift, the gift of America, freedom.
COLLINS: You're talking about January 6th?
COATS: Yes, yes, a very generous gift. And we have to maintain that.
COLLINS: And what did Donald Trump, do on that day, in your view?
COATS: And Mike saved us, from that.
Otherwise, we'd been a third-world nation. The tough guy wins. And then, all shuts down. There would have been riots across this country, it have been terrible.
But he followed his oath of office. He followed the Constitution. He did the right thing, at the right time.
COLLINS: What does it say that he's running against your former boss that Mike Pompeo has said he's not going to support him. Bill Barr has said similar that you've seen so many people that you served with, in that cabinet, that you look at those first meetings, from 2017, who had now are either running against him, or say they won't support Donald Trump?
COATS: Well, I mean, each person that comes to whatever they think, is best.
Obviously, I'm a Republican. I think we have some very, very good candidates. I'm not making any decisions, in terms of what I'm going to be doing. But I'm supporting Mike. And we'll see what happens. Before making a decision that you've asked, I'm just going to see how it plays out.
COLLINS: Dan Coats, thank you so much, for joining us.
COATS: You're welcome.
COLLINS: On a very timely subject, tonight. We really appreciate your time.
COATS: Yes, sure.
COLLINS: Thank you.
COATS: Thank you.
COLLINS: Up next, the political calculus, of these new charges, against Donald Trump. Will they actually hinder his run for the White House, or bolster his support, within the party?
COLLINS: Back now, with our breaking news. The new legal peril, for the former President, is quite clear, tonight, with those new charges. But the political fallout could potentially be a boon, to his ongoing presidential campaign.
Joining me now, Ashley Allison, the former National Coalitions Director for the Biden-Harris 2020 campaign; and Doug Heye, the former Communications Director, for the Republican National Committee.
And, Doug, we'll start with you, since it's your party.
DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST, FORMER RNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Yes. Thank you.
COLLINS: The people are raising questions about it. I mean, what we're hearing from the Trump team, tonight, Trump's calling this election interference. His campaign says it's nothing more than a continued and desperate attempt to harass him. I mean, how are Republicans going to respond to these new charges from Jack Smith?
HEYE: Yes. I think what we've seen, in the primary, so far, and nothing is going to suggest that it changes. I'm reminded of the Talking Heads song, where they, "Once in a lifetime," where they sing, "Same as it ever was, same as it ever was."
We're going to see the immediate term, which is Donald Trump's going to say what he said. He's going to raise a lot of money from it. We know that's going to happen.
We can assume that his Republican candidates are going to be shy, to criticize Trump, directly, on this, for a whole lot of reasons.
The long-term still looks very dangerous for Donald Trump. And that's what he's referring to, I would say, incorrectly, into what the political implications could be, come next November.
COLLINS: Yes. Well, they're not only not criticizing him, they're defending him.
ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER NATIONAL COALITIONS DIRECTOR, BIDEN-HARRIS 2020: Yes.
COLLINS: I mean, Elise Stefanik, the number three Republican, in the House, says "It is no coincidence that the day after a federal judge" threw out Biden -- Hunter Biden's plea deal, yesterday, she said, "Sweetheart plea bargain," she goes, quote, "Biden's weaponized DOJ continues its witchhunt against President Trump," says "Our Republic is in peril," and our justice -- system of justice is "Broken."
ALLISON: Well, I think we all agree that if we were going to be talking about criminal justice reform, in this election campaign, we will be talking about the disparities between crack cocaine, and powder cocaine.
But instead, we're talking about a sitting president, who was caught on tape, we have text messages, is now being indicted, for potentially knowing he did something wrong. So, destroying the evidence that to try and keep him out of court. This system is not being bullied against Donald Trump.
Donald Trump needs to get out of the race. Republicans need to have a backbone, and say, "This is not good for our party. This is not good for our country. And enough is enough." They won't do that, because, for whatever reason, they think it's a good brand. But it's not a good brand, in the general election.
Republican candidates, you would hope that when something like this comes out, they might say something. Republicans that support Trump, you would hope they would turn their backs. But they're not going to say something. But I will tell you, general election voters, those Independent voters, those folks who sided with Joe Biden, even though they voted for Donald Trump, in 2016, they're not going to go back to that party, if he's on the top of the ticket again.
COLLINS: I mean, and so how do Republicans handle that?
Because often -- we had Doug Burgum on, the other night, the Governor of North Dakota, who's running. And when we asked him, about Trump's legal issues, he said -- he talked about what he was hearing from voters, on the campaign trail, obviously, issues that are critically important, when it comes to inflation, and other issues.
But given that, I mean, this is something that they just kind of deflect on, it appears.
HEYE: There's a can, and they keep kicking it down the road. And there are reasons for that that are somewhat understandable, given Trump's hold with the base. When you see the polling, it reinforces -- because of what is happening, reinforces Trump's message, which I would say, is the wrong one. But it reinforces Trump's message that the system is rigged. They feel stuck.
But the reality is in any other race, against any other person, when your opponent is indicted, multiple times, you don't wait and see, you don't look at the larger picture. You use that.
And I've told Republican campaigns who say, "Look, we're going to wait to draw our contrast," which is the campaign term that we sometimes use, "and we have a debate coming up in about a month. So maybe that's an opportunity."
Indictments are opportunities. And we learned from Star Wars. Luke Skywalker had to confront Darth Vader. He didn't sit back and hope that the Force or Han Solo would take care of it.
And you would agree.
ALLISON: But can I --
HEYE: Hope is not a strategy.
ALLISON: Let me just say this. How are you going to draw contrast on a debate stage, when the person doesn't even show up? He's not even going to come to that debate.
And if you're polling at zero, 2 percent, 1 percent, your strategy of defending this man is not working. Take a stand, go to voters, who want something else and say, "I'm going to be the leader that you're looking for," and tell them the policies, and leave Donald Trump alone. But -- meaning like, leave him out of the political race completely.
HEYE: I think you can talk about Donald Trump.
ALLISON: But -- HEYE: And talk about those voters you referenced, and say "Donald Trump cannot win. He will not bring those voters back home. I'm the candidate, who'll do so. And Donald Trump is distracted," and all these other things. You can use this, because it's what we would normally do, in politics.
And sometimes, you have to, in Donald Trump World, treat things normally, believe it or not.
COLLINS: Well, "Believe it or not," "Normally," we'll define "Normally."
Doug Heye, Ashley Allison, thank you both, for being here.
We'll stay with this breaking news. The Special Counsel has just leveled major new additional accusations, against former President Donald Trump, in the classified documents case, as he is waiting on a potential other indictment, in another case.
We're going to discuss all of this, with someone, who has some familiarity, with this subject. Former Nixon White House Counsel, John Dean, joins me next.
COLLINS: We're back on tonight's breaking news. Former President Trump is facing, major new charges, in the Mar-a-Lago documents case, while a third potential indictment, in the other investigation being conducted by Jack Smith, still looms on the horizon. His attorneys are still waiting for word, on that.
Perspective now, from John Dean, the former White House Counsel, to President Nixon.
Good evening, John. And thank you for joining.
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Yes.
COLLINS: They say history does not repeat itself. But it certainly does rhyme.
And hearing about an alleged attempt, in these new documents, to hide recordings, and keep them out of the hands of investigators, I wonder what went through your mind when you heard that?
DEAN: First reaction was we don't learn much from history. We certainly are inclined to make the same mistakes over and over and over again. Anyone familiar with Watergate would have avoided the exact trap that Trump put himself into, with his documents situation.
COLLINS: And it's not even just -- it's not just keeping the documents. It's the cover-up. I mean, we knew about the obstruction before. Reporters behind-the-scenes had obviously heard about the surveillance footage. But the allegation that his aides that, at his request, it seems like, went to lengths, to delete surveillance footage here?
DEAN: It's quite remarkable.
The obstruction of justice crime was not well-known before Watergate. I had never heard of it in law school. I never taught anything about it. Only a few prosecutors knew about it. After Watergate, everybody knows about obstruction, and how easy it is to do, to interfere with any investigation. So, I think, everybody's antenna has been up, post- Watergate.
Trump committed alleged obstruction, during the Russia investigation, as he was charged, by the then-special investigation. So, he knows what it is to, to hide things, and to obstruct. And it's just such a strong case they've made against him, because he seems to have made every bad move, you can make, in obstructing.
COLLINS: What about his co-defendants here? Walt Nauta, we knew. Now, Carlos has been added to this. I mean, if you could speak to them, tonight, I mean, what would you say to them? They were working at his direction, clearly.
DEAN: Well, they would have been smart. And I'm surprised, you know, I don't know their lawyer. I don't think I do. I actually may know one by name. But somebody should have counseled them that they might have done a deal, early, and walked away from this.
Trump might have done a deal, early. These cases typically are not prosecuted. It's not the -- it's really not the fact that he's got the classified information that is the big issue here. He had a right to it, and the way he got it was legitimate. He kept it, when he was asked to return it. And he obstructed. And that's where he got himself in trouble.
So, I would tell them, both, "Cooperate. Do the right thing. Come forward. Protect the national security. Don't let this be a scar forever on your life. Otherwise, you're facing some very serious federal prison time."
COLLINS: Yes. And, right now, we know that both of their attorneys are people -- attorneys, who are paid through by obviously those political donations that Trump gets through, through Save America.
John Dean, you have better perspective, than anyone, on this. Thank you, for that perspective, tonight.
And we'll be right back, just in a moment.
DEAN: Thanks, Kaitlan.
[22:00:00] COLLINS: And thank you so much, for joining me, tonight.
"CNN PRIMETIME" with Abby Phillip, starts, right now, with a lot of news, Abby.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST, CNN PRIMETIME: Quite a lot of news, as usual, around here. Thank you, Kaitlan.
And good evening, everyone. I'm Abby Phillip.