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The Source with Kaitlan Collins
Special Counsel: January 6 Insurrection Was "Fueled By Lies" Told By Then-President Donald Trump; Trump Attorney On New Indictment: "We've Now Entered A Constitutional Abyss"; Trump Indictment Includes Six Unnamed Co-Conspirators. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired August 01, 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 CO-HOST: Two and a half years, after a mob of his supporters, attacked the U.S. Capitol, Donald John Trump, 45th President of the United States, has been charged, in the effort, to overturn the election, he lost, which culminated in such violence, to people, property, and democracy, that day.
If you are just joining us, I'm here, in New York, along with CNN's Jake Tapper, in Washington, and Kaitlan Collins, outside the D.C. Federal Courthouse, where the former President will be arraigned, Thursday afternoon.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And Anderson, we just heard, from the D.C. Metro Police, the Department saying they are working, with federal law enforcement, in preparation, for the arraignment, on Thursday.
As for Special Counsel, Jack Smith, from whom we last heard, after the first, of now two federal indictments, in the documents case, he spoke again, briefly, this evening. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACK SMITH, SPECIAL COUNSEL: The attack on our nation's capital on January 6th, 2021, was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy. As described in the indictment, it was fueled by lies. Lies by the defendant targeted at obstructing a bedrock function of the U.S. government, the nation's process of collecting, counting, and certifying the results of the presidential election.
Since the attack on our Capitol, the Department of Justice has remained committed to ensuring accountability for those criminally responsible for what happened that day. This case is brought consistent with that commitment, and our investigation of other individuals continues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, Special Counsel Smith singled out members, of law enforcement, who had been defending, the Capitol, on January 6th. They are patriots, he said, and they're the very best of us. KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Yes, Jake.
And as obviously for the former President here, he is now facing multiple criminal charges here, four criminal counts, in this.
Obviously, they are conspiracy, to defraud the United States, two counts relating to obstruction of an official proceeding, and a charge, under a law, against conspiring to deprive people, of civil rights, provided under federal law or the Constitution. All of this is what came down today.
Also mentioned, but not named, are six unindicted co-conspirators here. They're not named in the indictment. But CNN has been able to identify the five that you see there, on the screen. We're still working to confirm the sixth one, here.
Former President Trump's attorneys, Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Sidney Powell, all names that you see here, all people who are often in the Oval Office, at that time. Also, the former Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark, and the pro-Trump lawyer, Kenneth Chesebro, all here.
Shortly after the indictment was unsealed, today, the Attorney General, Merrick Garland, also spoke, something we don't often see him, here -- and hear him do. He weighed in, on this, from Philadelphia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Jack Smith, as Special Counsel, to take on the ongoing investigation, in order to underline the Department's commitment, to accountability and independence. Mr. Smith and his team of experienced, principled career agents and prosecutors have followed the facts and the law wherever they lead.
Any questions about this matter will have to be answered by the filings made in the courtroom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Joining me now is the former President's newest attorney to his team, John Lauro.
John, thanks so much, for being here, tonight.
You've read through this indictment. What is your defense going to look like?
JOHN LAURO, TRUMP ATTORNEY: Well, it's basically a regurgitation of the J6 committee report. But our focus is on the fact that this is an attack on free speech, and political advocacy. And there's nothing that's more protected, under the First Amendment, than political speech. So, at the end, our defense is going to be focusing on the fact that what we have now is an administration that has criminalized the free speech, and advocacy, of a prior administration, during the time that there is a political election going on. That's unprecedented. We've never seen that in the United States, in the history of the United States.
So literally, what we have is an attack, and really, an effort, to not only criminalize but also censor free speech.
Donald Trump had every right, to advocate for his position. While he was president, he saw irregularities, he saw deficiencies, in the election process. He raised those.
He was being told, under oath, by people, around the country, that there were problems with the election. He also saw, in real-time, that the rules were changing, without the state legislatures weighing in.
And ultimately, he had every right, in fact a responsibility, as the United States President, to raise those issues. And now, his advocacy is being criminalized.
COLLINS: Well, those are Secretaries of State, who were making those changes, in those States, because of the Pandemic that was happening.
You talk about free speech.
Jack Smith noted Trump's right to free speech, and to contest the election results.
But what he says, in this indictment, is that when that did not work, the defendant, your client, pursued unlawful means, of discounting legitimate votes, and subverting the election results. And that that is why he is being charged here, not because of anything related to free speech.
LAURO: Yes, but that's factually inaccurate, because the ultimate request that Mr. Trump made, to Vice President Pence, was pause the vote counting, allow the States to weigh in, ultimately, an audit or recertify. And under Article II, Section 1, Clause 2, the actual responsibility for qualifying electors, is in the state legislatures.
Mr. Trump had the advice of counsel, Mr. Eastman, who was one of the most respected constitutional scholars, in the United States, giving him advice and guidance.
That's pure politics. You may disagree with it. And people have spirited arguments about the law all the time. And that's why lawyers are in business. But we've never had a situation, where a spirited debate, about the Constitution, has become a criminal case.
What's going to happen when there's a Republican administration? Is there going to be an effort to criminalize speech by Democrats? Is there going to be an effort to characterize something that a Democrat politician says, that's not -- that doesn't meet some kind of truth standard, at the Department of Justice, that that's going to be the subject of a criminal indictment? We've now entered a constitutional abyss --
COLLINS: Well --
LAURO: -- as a result of this indictment.
COLLINS: But John, I should note that you're saying that he was just asking him, to send them back.
I was just talking to the Chief of Staff, who was with Pence that day. He said he was being asked to do something illegal, and that Pence did not have the right to do, to reject them.
And you mentioned the attorneys there that you say. John Eastman, he's a co-conspirator, in this indictment, I should note.
And the indictment lists all of the people, who told Trump that his claims, about election fraud, weren't true, including the Vice President, senior Justice Department leaders, the Director of National Intelligence, CISA, which of course is in charge of making sure elections in the U.S. are secure.
LAURO: Well --
COLLINS: Senior White House attorneys, campaign staffers --
LAURO: OK. But what was not true?
COLLINS: -- state legislatures that you just mentioned there, and the courts.
LAURO: Right. What was not true that there were States, where ballots were sent out, without people asking for them, where there were changes, in verification, where there were instances, where ballots were not being supervised, at drop-off places?
The President was told, given advice, that under these circumstances, the state legislatures have the ultimate ability, to qualify electors. He followed that advice.
Now, you may disagree, as to whether or not those things actually occurred or not. That's why we have political debate. We don't have criminal trials, over that. We have the discussion, like we're just having.
COLLINS: But it matters, if those things actually occurred or not, John.
LAURO: Not under the First Amendment.
COLLINS: But it matters if those things actually occurred.
COLLINS: Because --
LAURO: Not at all, because under the First Amendment --
COLLINS: It does matter, if there was actually fraud.
LAURO: No. No. The First Amendment allows --
COLLINS: But John, let me stop you there.
COLLINS: Because if he's saying that there was fraud, the First Amendment doesn't allow the President of the United States, to go and claim there was fraud, when he was told there was not fraud, and then try to subvert the election, by overturning legitimate electors.
LAURO: The First Amendment protects all speech.
COLLINS: I mean, it says it right here, in the actual indictment.
LAURO: Absolutely. The First Amendment protects all speech
COLLINS: So, it protects --
LAURO: If we're going to have a situation, where the Department of Justice is going to fact-check politicians, and indict politicians, for political speech, and whether or not they're factually accurate, then this country will shut down, politically, because it's a never- ending cycle of tit for tat. And that's the risk of injecting politics into the criminal justice system.
So, right now, people disagree with President Trump. What's going to happen, four years from now, if somebody disagrees with President Biden, in terms of what he said during the election? That's why we don't criminalize political speech.
Political speech, under the First Amendment, has an almost absolute protection. Nobody gets to judge, whether it's true or not, except the American people. And we do that in an election.
COLLINS: But John?
LAURO: We do that in an election. We do that in the case of a President, by impeachment. But we don't indict people --
LAURO: -- for speech.
COLLINS: I got to stop you there.
But Trump is not being indicted, for lying here. He is being indicted for using unlawful means, of discounting legitimate votes, and trying to subvert the election results. LAURO: Well what's the unlawful means? There was an effort, to get alternate electors --
COLLINS: That he was trying to overturn legitimate --
LAURO: -- which is a protocol that was --
COLLINS: Yes, fake electors, who were not legitimate.
LAURO: -- that was used in 1960, by John Kennedy. And it was a protocol that was constitutionally-accepted. So, there's nothing wrong about that. In fact, in the indictment itself, it doesn't allege that there was anything wrong.
And the final ask that Mr. Trump made, to Vice President Pence, was simply pause the voting. There's nothing inherently unconstitutional or illegal about that. In fact, he had an opinion, from a very well- known constitutional scholar that said, that's fine, that that's legal. Mr. Trump is not a lawyer. He's a businessman.
COLLINS: His own Attorney General, and officials, said that that was --
COLLINS: -- that that was not fine, that that was certainly illegal, that he was asking them.
LAURO: Absolutely not.
COLLINS: They weren't just asking for a pause. He was asking to overturn the legitimate results.
But John, let me ask you, because you're running point on this.
LAURO: He was -- he was asked --
COLLINS: Is Trump going to show up in person?
LAURO: He was asked -- he was asked --
COLLINS: John, let me ask you this.
LAURO: Let me just finish that. He was asked to pause.
COLLINS: Is Trump going to show up in person, for his arraignment, on Thursday?
LAURO: That's up to the court. The court makes those decisions. So, we're prepared to follow whatever the court rules are.
COLLINS: John? He --
LAURO: The judge issued a summons, and he will appear either virtually or in person.
COLLINS: OK. So, it's not clear, if it's virtually or in-person. But one thing to get back to there. He's not just asking for a pause.
LAURO: It's up to -- it's up to the judge and the Marshals office.
COLLINS: Your client --
LAURO: No, no, you have to look at his last --
LAURO: You have to look at what he said --
COLLINS: Your client is on tape.
LAURO: You have to look at what he said, at The Ellipse. Have you read The Ellipse speech?
COLLINS: John, you got to let me finish my point, here.
LAURO: No, no, no. When you --
COLLINS: Your client, John, is on tape with the former -- the Secretary of State, of the State of Georgia.
LAURO: When you look at The Ellipse speech, it had exactly said.
COLLINS: John, you got to let me finish my point here.
LAURO: Go ahead.
COLLINS: I'm letting you finish your point.
LAURO: Absolutely. Go ahead.
COLLINS: But he -- your client is on tape, with the former -- with the Secretary of State, from the State of Georgia, asking him to find him one more vote than he would need to win the State. That's not asking for a pause.
LAURO: He --
COLLINS: He's asking for votes that he did not get, in that election.
LAURO: He was asking for the Secretary of State, to identify votes that were not counted properly, and factor that in.
And, by the way, that discussion took place, with dozens of people, on a phone call, with lawyers involved. And no one was suggesting doing anything illegal. And no one, during that call said, "Mr. President, that's beyond the bounds."
This is politics. This indictment is about pure politics. We engage in vigorous debate, in this country, about politics. What we don't do is criminalize political speech.
This indictment is a game-changer. It's the first time that we've taken political speech, and said, "We're going to criminalize it" by the party that's in control, against the party, that's contesting the next election, where the two individuals involved, are going to be running for office. That is an incredible set of circumstances.
COLLINS: John, if you believe that you have a good defense here, for your client, do you believe that this trial should happen before the 2024 election?
LAURO: It should not interfere with the election.
But really what the indictment has done is identify seven States, where there --
COLLINS: But should it happen before the election?
LAURO: -- where there were irregularities.
I need to look at what so-called evidence is going to be presented. I could see this trial, lasting nine months or a year. But it's going to take -- Mr. Trump is entitled to a defense.
The government has had three years, to investigate this. And now, they want to rush this to trial, in the middle of a political season. What does that tell you?
We deserve as much time, as any American citizen, to defend on these issues, as anyone else. And for the government, to have three years to do it, and then expect us to do it, in three weeks, or four weeks, is just ridiculous. Every single person, in the United States, is entitled to due process, including the former President.
COLLINS: OK, John.
Well, just notable, given your client was saying that they took too long, to make these charges.
But John Lauro, thank you for joining us. I know that we will see you --
LAURO: Good to see you. I hope to see you again.
COLLINS: -- many times, going forward, as you're representing the former President, in this case.
Anderson, back to you.
COOPER: Kaitlan, thanks.
Back with Van Jones, Jessica Roth, Elie Honig, Alyssa Farah Griffin, David Urban, and Geoff Duncan.
We certainly heard a lot there from the President's -- former President's new attorney. Elie, what do you make of his case?
ELIE HONIG, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Interesting take. I'm unconvinced by the First Amendment argument. And here's why. Even if you take it as a given that the First Amendment is extremely broad, especially in the arena, of political speech, it's simply not true that to quote the lawyer, just there, as he said, "First Amendment protects all speech." That's not true.
One of the lines, even if you go all the way out to the margins, is fraud. Now, lying itself is usually protected, by the First Amendment. But lying to steal something? That is criminal, and that is fraud. And the theory made, in this indictment, is that he lied, in order to steal the election.
There's also factual problems. One of them being that a lot of these statements, in the indictment, were not made, behind a podium, were not made, to the media. They were made, by Donald Trump, and others, behind-the-scenes, to try to influence people. And so, there's much less of a First Amendment concern there. But I think that's a really fascinating insight, into the way they intend to defend this case.
JESSICA ROTH, PROFESSOR, CARDOZO SCHOOL OF LAW: Yes. I mean, I think what we just heard is a preview of the defense that they're going to be making, to the American people, up until the trial, if there is a trial, and at trial, and really try to re-litigate, also whether or not the election was stolen, I mean, which I find remarkable.
I mean, there have been finding after fight after finding by courts that there was no election fraud. And yet, the defense, clearly, is going to be that there was. And an argument for delaying the trial is going to be "We have to investigate whether there was election fraud."
COOPER: Also, the argument he was making was that "Well, the President's not a lawyer. He was listening to great constitutional scholars."
COOPER: I'm not sure if that's Rudy Giuliani or Mr. Eastman, both who now are co-conspirators, here, unindicted, at this point.
Is that a valid argument?
ROTH: Well, there is such a defense, called advice of counsel defense.
ROTH: But it requires good-faith reliance, on advice, from your attorney.
COOPER: Because there were plenty of attorneys telling him --
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. Like the Attorney --
COOPER: I mean, his actual attorneys, not the --
JONES: -- like the Attorney General of the United States. ROTH: Like the Attorney General, the top officials, of the Department of Justice, who he had appointed, like officials --
COOPER: The top White House attorneys, as well.
ROTH: Top White House Counsel's Office.
So all the people, who he had hired, and he clearly had enough respect for, to put into the highest offices, at the Department of Justice, in the land, were telling him, "There is nothing to these theories that these other people, who we are trying very hard to sideline, and not let them speak to you. There's nothing to these theories. They are false."
And so, one way, in which the indictment, I think, is structured masterfully, so that it is readable, is it goes through all the schemes, with respect to each of the contested States, and talks about how Trump floated a theory that he was given by the lawyers, who should not have been participating, in these discussions, how he has been told, by the lawyers, who know better, the ones, he has appointed to government positions, that these are false.
And then, Trump goes on to repeat them as though they are truth. And so, you just see that as a reprise, throughout the indictment. He says something. He's told by the lawyers who know better, that that's false. And then, he goes on again and repeats it.
JONES: The reason, it's politically effective, for Trump to do this.
First of all, there's no excuse for what he did. And so, the last refuge of the scoundrel is the so-called First Amendment.
But, in this case, in particular, the idea "We're being silenced," the kind of grievance culture that Trump has kind of created, that there's a group of people, and Americans, traditional Americans are being silenced by somebody.
So he's slipped these -- he puts himself right in that. "See, all I'm doing is talk. I'm just trying to. They won't even let me talk." And that is, I think, the great tragedy, the poison in the political culture that allows this type of thing, to actually resonate with you.
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, and this is clearly going to be one of the most watched trials, in American history. And I think that he's playing very much into the PR of trying to convey to the public, this argument, around the First Amendment.
The reality is this, at least in the time that I was there, and the days afterward is very sound, serious, respected attorneys, across the board, gave him the same advice. Pat Philbin, Pat Cipollone, his own Attorney General.
He instead decided to bring in, actively sought out bad counsel, from bad-faith actors, I will remind you. COOPER: Who, by the way, had no real skin in the, game who were just kind of free-floating organisms, who just sort of showed up.
FARAH GRIFFIN: Correct. And you do recall --
COOPER: With the people, who were actually employed, by the White House, by the Department of Justice, who had responsibilities --
FARAH GRIFFIN: Right, exactly.
COOPER: -- were giving him responsible advice.
FARAH GRIFFIN: These were being paid directly, and it may not have been paid by him.
You'll recall, on Election Night, Rudy Giuliani saying, "Just go out and say you win -- you won." This is -- these are not good-faith actors. So, I think that's also going to be a hard thing to convey is.
But, I mean, listen, he is going to throw every one of those attorneys, under the bus, to protect himself, and to try to stay out of jail in this.
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Because they're all active members of the bar, at least they were, at some point.
HONIG: Not anymore.
ROTH: Not anymore.
URBAN: I know. I said, at least they were, at some point, right, when they're given advice. And he picked and chose -- he picked his counsel, there. He was given advice by lots of people.
I know that when I spoke to the President, after the election, and I said that he lost, he said, "I'm not so sure I lost." And that was only a few days afterwards. So, I don't know, at what point, he was convinced. I know, Alyssa has a different -- some different experiences, with the former President.
But if he believes he didn't, like his lawyer just said, if he believes that he really didn't lose, and he was -- his right to fight? That's what you're going to hear more and more of. And you're going to have this intersection again, between, political activity, legal advocacy, and criminal conspiracy. And where do those meet? We're going to find out in this trial.
COOPER: What were the words he spoke to you? "I can't believe I lost to this guy?"
FARAH GRIFFIN: "Can't believe I lost to this effing guy," pointing to Joe Biden, on Fox News.
And I would just note this. I don't know if he eventually self- radicalized and convinced himself that he did, in fact, win the election. I can't speak to that about his mindset. But the most compelling legal argument that I believe he could make, as a non-attorney is, "I thought that I had won. I didn't. I was wrong. I was too foolish to realize that." But Donald Trump will not do that.
So, this, from what I get from John Lauro is it's going to turn into this show trial. They're going to go to seven States. They're going to re-litigate that the election was stolen, and they're going to try to drag this on, drag the American public, through it, past Election Day. And then, who knows what happens?
COOPER: Just on --
FARAH GRIFFIN: He's banking on winning.
COOPER: -- on the timing of this? His point is, "Well, it took them two and a half years to bring these charges. You want us to -- you know, we should have all the time in the world to defend our client."
ROTH: Yes. I mean, they're trying to have it both ways, obviously, by making that argument.
I think that there they don't need that much time, because these things have been thoroughly litigated.
COOPER: I mean, these have been battled out in dozens of court cases.
ROTH: And rejected out of hand.
COOPER: None of which --
JONES: 34 (ph).
ROTH: Every single time.
JONES: 34 (ph).
ROTH: Right, which also goes to why he didn't rely on the advice of counsel, in good faith. He was getting feedback, in real-time, from the courts, as well as from the responsible attorneys, in the government, that these claims were ludicrous, so.
And back to the reliance on counsel, right? And the fact that these attorneys are named as co-conspirators, right?
JONES: That's something.
ROTH: Not by name? There's no defense that you can -- that you can rely upon, on advice of counsel, when the attorneys are part of the conspiracy. And that is what is alleged, here.
COOPER: Geoff, also, as somebody from Lieutenant Governor -- former Lieutenant Governor, in Georgia, he is now re-litigating what he was saying, on that call that oh, well, would they -- he just wanted to find legitimate votes that were out there.
GEOFF DUNCAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not a lawyer. And you all don't even let me play one on TV.
So, I see this as -- that indictment is 45 pages, calling Donald Trump a liar. And his early signs of defense are he was dumb, like both disqualify you, politically, from being the President of the United States.
And the big winner, in this process, continues to be Joe Biden, right? Nobody in the Republican Party talked about his failing record, his unpopular polling numbers, what he's done, on the border, his lack of progress, all across the economy.
We got downgraded today, by Fitch. Our long-term debt got downgraded, as U.S., today. Who's mentioned it, in the Republican Party? All we've done is try to defend Donald Trump, his failed record, his embarrassing activities, as president, and afterwards.
URBAN: I mean, Geoff, The New York Times just had a poll that hasn't (ph) beaten Joe Biden today, you know?
DUNCAN: I don't think leaders run on polls.
URBAN: No, no, I understand.
DUNCAN: Leaders -- leaders in this country --
URBAN: I'm just -- I get it. I get it.
DUNCAN: -- in this day and age need -- with this party needs leadership, this country needs leadership. And if we want to follow polls, we're going to get more of what we got now.
DUNCAN: And that's lack of leadership.
URBAN: I understand. But if you're out there saying, if you're going to be a principled candidate, in this current debate, you're going to go stand on the stage, on August 23rd, in Milwaukee, and you're going to -- you'll say, your piece, you'll get out there and say your piece, and it's going to fall on deaf ears.
FARAH GRIFFIN: But --
DUNCAN: The winning strategy has got to be two-fold. You have to assume that this is going to carry too much weight, and Donald Trump's going to fall. If he doesn't fall, he's the nominee, and then he gets beat by Joe Biden. If he falls, and this starts to weigh on him? We have a candidate that's willing to stand up and talk about the issues, that talks about looking forward, and leading.
URBAN: But what if he doesn't -- what if he doesn't fall?
DUNCAN: Then he -- URBAN: What if he doesn't?
FARAH GRIFFIN: Then we're going to --
URBAN: Then, trial goes on afterwards.
DUNCAN: Then, he loses to Joe Biden.
URBAN: Well what if he doesn't lose to Joe Biden?
DUNCAN: But he will.
URBAN: No, I'm not so sure.
FARAH GRIFFIN: And if he doesn't? Well no, no. But let's go further of that.
URBAN: I'm not so sure.
DUNCAN: If he doesn't, I'd more worried --
FARAH GRIFFIN: If he doesn't lose to Joe Biden?
DUNCAN: -- about his second term, as president --
URBAN: Well --
DUNCAN: -- than I did his first term.
FARAH GRIFFIN: I think his gutting the Department of Justice, I think, that he's laid out pretty clearly, what a second term would look like. I think it's incredibly damaging for the country. But, by the way, seven to 10 Americans don't want Joe Biden or Donald Trump. That's the reality we're in. It's a sad day for America.
COOPER: Let's go back to Jake, in D.C. Jake?
TAPPER: Anderson, thanks so much.
Back now with the panel here, Abby Phillip, Dana Bash, Jamie Gangel, and Andrew McCabe.
Andy, let me start with you. Because one of the strengths to the case put forward by both the Special Counsel, and also the January 6th committee, is how much of the testimony is from, not just Republicans, but from Trump-supporting Republicans, people who are with him, at the very, very end?
And one of them is the then-acting Attorney General -- Acting Deputy Attorney General, rather, Richard Donoghue.
And I interviewed Donoghue. And I talked to him, some months ago, about the scheme, put forward by Jeffrey Clark, who's mentioned as, I think, co-conspirator number four, in which he was trying to get Donoghue, and the acting Attorney General, Jeffrey Rosen, to write letters, to States, specifically Georgia, but also others, saying that -- lying that there were -- that the Justice Department had identified serious problems, with the election.
And I asked Donoghue, about that. Let's roll that clip, if we can.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That a letter claimed that the U.S. Department of Justice's investigations have, quote, "identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states, including the State of Georgia."
Was that true?
RICHARD DONOGHUE, FORMER ACTING DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: No.
Would have created chaos in the States. I think that would have been disastrous, for our country, and our Constitution.
TAPPER: But wasn't that the point of it, the letter, to create that chaos?
DONOGHUE: I think so. Yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So, this isn't a First Amendment issue, despite the fact that Trump's lawyer there was talking about that. It's a scheme, it's a conspiracy, to lie, to undo the election, and perhaps even cause riots, in the street?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: That's absolutely right. So -- and I think Elie Honig put it really well, in the last segment.
You cannot lie, for the purpose of cheating, and stealing people, of anything, right? There are multiple criminal statutes in this country, wire fraud, mail fraud. All of these statutes criminalize people, who use deceit, to steal from others.
What you see, in this 45-page indictment, is a sweeping effort, by the former President of the United States, to basically steal the franchise from over 81 million Americans. That's what's happening here. He is trying to steal the election.
It is the heart of what's referred to in 18 USC 1512, the obstructing official proceeding. It is required that your obstruction be corrupt. This is the heart of corruption. He's doing it, to bring himself back, into the most sacred office, in our country.
And all of his co-conspirators, Jeffrey Clark, first among them, are going along with it, are perpetuating these lies, like the letter you just referred to, in an effort, to secure power, and position, and seem esteemed to themselves.
And Jeffrey Clark, when confronted by, I think it's the Deputy White House Counsel, having that conversation? The Deputy White House Counsel says to him, that essentially what he is provoking will be riots, in the streets.
Jeffrey Clark says, "Well, that's what the Insurrection Act is for," like, acknowledging "I know that this scheme may result in massive social and political unrest and potentially rioting and violence." But he's OK with that, because of what's in it for him.
TAPPER: Yes, and well, it also -- but what you mean by that, that's what the Insurrection Act is for, then Donald Trump will be able to use the Military --
MCCABE: That's right.
TAPPER: -- to suppress --
MCCABE: Flood the streets with military.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
MCCABE: And suppress the rebellion.
TAPPER: But this idea, I mean, this argument that we heard that the First Amendment protects all speech? It does not.
MCCABE: It doesn't.
TAPPER: That is a lie.
MCCABE: That's right.
TAPPER: I mean, like they can't even tell the truth, when they're outlining their defense.
GANGEL: And here we go, again. I mean, this proceeding is now going to become an extension of election denial, and what Donald Trump did.
Liz Cheney has said many times, both during the hearing and since that Donald Trump remains a clear and present danger, because he has perpetuated this. We just saw one of his counsel, walking down the same road.
TAPPER: And let me pick up on that because we've talked so much, about what's in this indictment, really being very reminiscent, even Trump's lawyer said so, of what the January 6th committee spelled out.
When Liz Cheney, the Republican, the Vice Chair of the Committee, when she concluded her remarks, she outlined Trump's campaign, in so many ways, the conspiracy that's laid out here, to lie about the election, the pressure, on the Vice President, to not count the electoral votes, efforts to corrupt the Justice Department, the push on legislators, and election officials, in the States, to change the results, the fake electors scheme, summoning the mob, to the Capitol, directing the mob to the Capitol. And she said this, after outlining all of those different parts, of the conspiracy, on successive days.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY), (R) VICE CHAIR, JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE: Every one of these elements of the planning for January 6th is an independently serious matter. They were all ultimately focused on overturning the election. And they all have one other thing in common. Donald Trump participated in each substantially, and personally. He oversaw or directed the activity of those involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: She sacrificed her political career, to make that argument, before the American people, one of the most conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And what she said is echoed, in various ways, in this indictment. Even goes a little further. She's saying that he was involved. And what this indictment is saying is that he directed it.
TAPPER: Well it's no -- that's what she said. He oversaw or directed it.
BASH: Yes, I mean.
BASH: And this gives a little bit more meat on the bone, to the directing it, because they had access, to documents and the witnesses, that the January 6th committee didn't have.
And just to sort of add to that, particularly what you were talking about, Jamie, about Donald Trump, using this, and will use this, to once again, try to re-litigate the election lies?
The fact that we have seen Republican presidential candidate after candidate after candidate come out, this evening, his opponents, people who want to beat him, in the race, to be the Republican nominee, totally sidestepping, the core and the substance of what this is, and just going on.
Even somebody like Tim Scott, who like other members of Congress, was there, on January 6th, his response is, "I'm concerned about the weaponization of Biden's DOJ, and its immense power," and it's like cut and paste.
BASH: Whatever it is that they think that they need to say.
[21:30:00] And the only person, or the only a few people who have actually addressed the claims, were Mike Pence, because he didn't have any choice, because of the fact that he was so involved in this.
And the two people, Hutchinson, who you had on, and I haven't seen Chris Christie's but I'm sure he'll say the same thing. The people who are -- the rest of the people, who are running against him, are running towards him, and helping to support these lies, and doing so.
TAPPER: And what's important, Abby Phillip is we don't hear most of these Republicans, who are still afraid, of offending Trump's base, addressing any of the facts and findings and evidence that are laid out here. Not at all.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, because I think, on the one hand, a lot of it is not defensible. They all know, just like we do that these were lies.
But the Republican base actually does believe a lot of this stuff. You even heard it from Trump's lawyer, tonight, John Lauro, sort of sugarcoating it, and saying, "Well, Trump had doubts about whether the state legislatures had the authority to do that."
The indictment actually talks about Trump literally making things up, out of whole cloth, talking about dead voters, in Georgia, and then being explicitly told that that was not true, his own campaign staff, saying that this was all made-up stuff.
The other things that's striking to me about this indictment, and I think the other thing that Republicans, who are running for president, don't want to acknowledge, is that if any one of these things had succeeded, we would be having an entirely different conversation.
I think the Trump defense will hinge on this idea that it was just words and that the words are meaningless, and that they don't hurt anybody, because it's all politics. They can only do that because this stuff did not succeed.
Had any of these plots succeeded, the fake electors, the effort to use Mike Pence, to roll back the election results, the effort to install officials, into the DOJ, to use the Justice Department, to overturn election results? If any of those things had actually succeeded, we would be having a totally different conversation.
It would have been, you would see, in this document, Trump really being charged with trying to steal, I mean, trying to steal an election. And I think that would be even harder --
TAPPER: Unless he --
PHILLIP: -- for Republicans to discount.
TAPPER: Unless he succeeded, of course.
TAPPER: We're going to have to leave it there.
Coming up next, ace New York Times reporter, and best-selling Trump biographer, Maggie Haberman, will join us.
COLLINS: We got our first inkling that an indictment was coming, when the former President posted, on his social network, earlier today. This began with an attack, on the Special Counsel, Jack Smith, which doesn't bear repeating, I should note, but it's something that you see frequently, from the former President.
Joining us now is someone, who knows the former President, backward and forward, CNN Political Analyst, and New York Times Senior Washington Correspondent, and best-selling Trump biographer, Maggie Haberman.
Maggie, thank you, for joining me, tonight.
I wonder, as you know, we had been bracing for this indictment, waiting for it to come down, as you've read through it, what stood out to you?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: A couple of things, Kaitlan.
Number one. Much of this was known, much of this was in the public domain, or it was uncovered by the House Select Committee, run by Liz Cheney, and some of her colleagues.
And so, you look at this, two years of investigative work that preceded this. And it's all there. It's all very clear. There were a couple of threads that they boiled down, Jack Smith's team boiled down, into three conspiracies that he says took place, and that Trump was at the center of.
What is striking is the very few new details they have, are from say, Mike Pence, who clearly talked to investigators, about private conversations, he had, with Trump, who had, I'm told, his notes, subpoenaed, which is why they show up there.
There is an effort, by Jack Smith, in this indictment, to say that what Trump did, goes beyond free speech, and goes beyond free political expression, and was using the government, to try to carry out these conspiracies.
You're going to hear Trump's team respond that this was free speech, and he believed the election was stolen, and you will continue hearing that.
COLLINS: Yes, we just heard that from John Lauro, a few moments ago, trying to make that argument, about the fake electors scheme, remarkably.
But as we often know, Maggie? You and I have covered Trump, for several years, you much longer than I have. But he often tries to kind of project a sense of bravado, when something like this is coming. He announced before the indictment had actually come down that he believed it was coming.
But what is your sense of what he really feels, about this indictment, and the charges, and the people that the Special Counsel has spoken to, in this?
HABERMAN: It's a great question, Kaitlan. And you're correct. He loves to project bravado. He also loves to be in control, and have every moment that happens in his life exist, on his terms. And so, that's why he has tried to narrate his own indictments, over the three that have happened so far, his three and a half, if you count last week.
But privately, behind-the-scenes, he's very angry. He is much more rattled than he is projecting being, again, as you say everything with him is about appearances. And he wants to give up the appearance that everything is fine.
He is very upset. Folks around him are very upset. On the one hand, they were relieved reading this indictment that there were not more details that they didn't know that were in it. On the other, there was a reference to six co-conspirators. And that raises questions about will anyone else face charges? And will more details be revealed if that happens?
COLLINS: And I think that's really critical here. Because we are -- you're right about the new details. It came to Pence's notes. I think, the, Pat Cipollone asking him to stand down on the election, rejecting certifying the votes part.
But the fact that there are six unindicted co-conspirators here, who could very soon become indicted co-conspirators here, I mean, the idea those indictments could shed a lot of light, on what they were also doing behind-the-scenes?
HABERMAN: That's right. And again, to be clear, they have not named these people, and we don't know that they will face charges.
But the way we have seen Jack Smith do these indictments, so far, is he starts out, with a certain piece, and then he expands. We saw him expand, in the documents case, last week, with a superseding indictment, and a new co-defendant for Trump, who works for him.
You were seeing in this sprawl, around Trump's world, how many people this indictment touches on. And I think that that always creates a sense of anxiety, for Trump, because, as we said before, he likes to project control, and have control so much.
COLLINS: And what about Mark Meadows? I mean, the idea, he's not mentioned here, by name, in this indictment. Obviously, there's been suspicion, in Trump world that he was cooperating, with the Special Counsel's team. What is your sense of his role in all of this, and, of course, whether or not Trump believes he's actually cooperating? HABERMAN: Well, Trump is very suspicious about Meadows, and has been for some time. But Trump is suspicious about a very wide range of people, and it often doesn't necessarily mean anything.
I don't know that Meadows is cooperating, Kaitlan. I don't think that anybody knows except for Mark Meadows, and his lawyer, and maybe one or two other people.
But it's clear that Mark Meadows, we know that he testified, we know that he spoke with investigators. It's clear there are some scenes in there that he had knowledge of, and I suspect they asked him about it, and that they used what he said, if it was confirming for what the better picture that they were looking at.
But there's nothing in there so far that suggests either that Mark Meadows was providing extensive information that they didn't have access to, already, or that Mark Meadows might face charges.
Again, we don't know what we don't know. We don't know what else prosecutors have. But on the face of it, that's what this looks like. There's shades of Meadows in there. There's shades of Mike Pence in there. But beyond that, it doesn't look like there's a lot to grab onto.
COLLINS: Maggie Haberman, thank you.
Anderson, back to you.
COOPER: Kaitlan, thanks.
My next guest, former Federal Appeals Court Judge, Michael Luttig, provided a stark warning, in his testimony, before the January 6th Select Committee. He said our democracy is on a knife's edge.
Reacting tonight, Judge Luttig writes, quote, "The former President is neither a victim nor a martyr today. America is Donald Trump's victim and Donald Trump has martyred America for his own selfish personal and political ambitions."
Judge Luttig joins me now.
Appreciate you being with us, on this sad day.
You also said, in your statement, tonight, that, quote, "These are as grave of offenses against the United States as a president could commit, save possibly treason?"
Are you satisfied with the scope, the substance of the indictment?
J. MICHAEL LUTTIG, FORMER JUDGE, U.S. COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT: Anderson, thank you, for having me, with you, tonight.
This is an historic day. It's also a tragic day. And it is also a regrettable day for America. For the first time in American history, a President of the United States has been indicted. He will be prosecuted now. He will be tried, for grave offenses, against the United States.
Those grave offenses are the offenses that he committed in and around January 6th, in his efforts, to overturn the 2020 presidential election, and for his role, in the attack, on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, in order to obstruct and impede the Joint Session and its counting of the electoral votes.
I have not had an opportunity, to study the indictment, Anderson. But it's pretty straightforward. And all that Jack Smith's has really done here is charge the President, with the specific crimes, under the specific provisions, of the Criminal Code, that relate to his effort, to overturn the election, and the attack on the U.S. Capitol.
These are grave offenses. As you said, they are as grave offenses as an incumbent president could commit, against the United States, with the possible exception of treason.
Donald Trump, though, has decided to inflict this ordeal, on the nation. On any day, since January 6th, he could have avoided and prevented this indictment, today. He chose not to.
And so, the nation's in, for a spectacle, a spectacle that the former President wanted. That means for the next year and a half, former President will be on trial, for criminal offenses, against the United States, while he's campaigning for the presidency, as the presumptive Republican nominee --
LUTTIG: -- for the American presidency.
COOPER: The former President and his allies are making the argument that he was just exercising his First Amendment right to question the integrity of the election. Is that a valid argument?
LUTTIG: It is not, Anderson. The President does not -- former President does not have a First Amendment defense, of any sort, to the specific charges that have now been lodged against him, by the grand jury, and Jack Smith.
COOPER: We should note that you advised then-Vice President Pence not to interfere with the Electoral College certification. There are six co-conspirators, alleged in the indictment, none of them has been charged as of yet. Why do you think that might be?
LUTTIG: I don't know. And we don't know, Anderson.
One possibility, and it's only a possibility, is that Jack Smith wanted to indict the former President, before indicting the co- conspirators, so that he could he could circle back around to the co- conspirators, and ask them if they had, if they would like to cooperate with the investigation, in return, either for a plea, or for their testimony, against the former President at trial.
COOPER: The Special Counsel made a point of saying that he wants this to be a speedy trial.
I'm wondering if you have an opinion of what do you think a reasonable timeline is for the trial? And do you think the American public has a compelling interest, to see this adjudicated, before the 2024 election, before they cast a vote?
LUTTIG: Let me answer that second question, first, Anderson. I believe that the American public does have a compelling interest, in having the President try -- former President tried, before the 2024 election. And I do believe that he will be tried before the election occurs.
Now, the case is within the federal court system, the Federal Judiciary will determine the timeline. Already, in the classified documents case, the federal judge has set the trial for, I believe, April, long before the election. I expect the federal district judge, in this case, to set the trial, for this set of offenses, in or around the same date.
In either event, it gives the federal judiciary, and the defendant, former President, more than ample opportunity, under due process, to have his case heard, by a jury of his peers.
COOPER: Just finally, one of the things, you said in your statement, I just wanted to read, to people, you said, "These events will forever scar and stain the United States, and they will forever scar and stain the United States, in the eyes of the world. Never again will the world be inspired by America's democracy, in the way that it has been inspired, since America's founding almost 250 years ago."
That is a profoundly grave assessment.
LUTTIG: It is, Anderson. But I believe it's so correct. And I believe it's warranted.
If you just think about what's happened here, you have a President of the United States of America, who sought to overturn a presidential election that he had lost fair and square.
And in order to accomplish that, he gave rise, to an attack, on the United States Capitol, for the purpose, and with the intent of disrupting, if not preventing altogether, the counting of the electoral votes, for the Presidency of the United States, which is, in America, a sacred proceeding, of our democracy, Anderson.
LUTTIG: It just does not get much graver than that, if any at all.
COOPER: Judge Luttig, I appreciate you being with us, tonight. Thank you.
LUTTIG: You bet. Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: Just ahead, we're going to speak to a top elections official, from Michigan, who was interviewed, by prosecutors.
Plus, we'll go back to the Federal Courthouse, in Washington, D.C.
TAPPER: The State of Michigan was mentioned at least 39 times, in the indictment, in large part because of the State's role, in the fake electors conspiracy.
I'm joined now, by Michigan Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson.
Secretary Benson, thanks so much for joining us.
So, you were interviewed, back in March, by federal prosecutors. What is your reaction, to the indictment, today?
JOCELYN BENSON, (D) MICHIGAN SECRETARY OF STATE: I just have two emotions.
One, an enormous sense of gratitude, for the hard work that the very meticulous work that went into these indictments, these historic indictments that are rooted, in a really broad-ranging investigation that will, I believe, support the indictments, in a court of law.
The second is kind of a reminder of what we lived through in 2020. And just how unprecedented, it was, to have, when you clear the smoke and the mirrors away, it was really just an attempt, by the President of the United States, at the time, to overturn a legitimate presidential election, and leading to violence, outside our state Capitol and our U.S. Capitol, on January 6th, just the unprecedented extraordinary events that unfolded.
And coupled with my gratitude that we will see accountability, I hope, and consequences for those actions, kind of combined to, color my response, today, but -- and my reaction today, and then just hope that we can ultimately move forward, from this, and have a stronger, a more robust democracy, as we head into 2024.
TAPPER: Federal prosecutors lay out in the indictment how Michigan was one of the seven battleground States, allegedly targeted by Trump, and his co-conspirators, with this fake electors scheme.
Obviously, just two weeks ago, the Michigan Attorney General filed felony charges, against 16 people, in that scheme. There were other charges laid out, today, against two other individuals.
How critical do you think what happened in Michigan is to this federal case?
BENSON: We were the eye of the storm, in many ways, in Michigan, as well as certainly Georgia, and other States that were mentioned, in the indictment.
But what we went through in Michigan, also because we were the first state, to go through the certification process, really was an attempt, to set the tone, for what would be attempted in other States. [21:55:00]
And there is a rich collection of facts, and individuals behind those facts, of the attempts that were made, and the levers that were pulled, to try to block the will of the people, which was abundantly clear, throughout the post-election process.
And so, I, again, I'm not surprised that Michigan continues to be the centerpiece of this investigation, because as we lived through it, in the post-election era of 2020, we certainly knew that, that our work, in Michigan, to protect the election results, was going to, in many ways, set the tone, for what happened, in other States, and at the national level.
TAPPER: And the indictment lays out the many instances, in which Trump publicly claimed, there were suspicious vote dumps, in Detroit, which were not suspicious, after all, for anybody who had been paying attention.
Not to mention, his repeated attempts to get key Republicans, in Michigan, to go along with his lies, about fraud. And they refused, in the indictment, and they told Trump, repeatedly, there was not fraud, on any scale, that would have changed the outcome of the election.
The indictment alleges Trump knew his claims of fraud were false. Are you confident that that's true that he knows it's false?
BENSON: I mean he either knows they were false, or is living in a state of denialism, despite an abundance of facts that would indicate they were false, both of which are troubling, to me, both of which potential realities are troubling.
The reality is the false slate of electors was submitted, long after the legal process had been exhausted, long after a lot of the arguments have been made, and rejected, by individuals, lawmakers, on both sides of the aisle, as well as in courts of law.
So, there's no reason, for anyone to believe, in my view, after the certification process, and the challenges had been dismissed, that the results of Michigan's elections, were anything, but an accurate reflection of the will of the people.
But notably, as more evidence built, showing that those results were accurate, the attempts to overturn those results escalated, and became more vitriolic, and more potentially violent, of course, leading into the tragedy of January 6th. So that was what was also really confounding at the time.
TAPPER: Secretary Benson, thanks so much for your time, this evening. Appreciate it.
COLLINS: Yes, Jake, great to get her perspective on this. Obviously, she's been at the center of it.
I'm joined now by CNN's Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent, Paula Reid.
Paula, we've been tracking all this all day. And now, the question is what does Thursday look like? And Trump's attorney is leaving open the possibility that it could be in-person, that it could be virtual. I mean, what are the options here?
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, they have the option, to do this via Zoom, right? He can appear via screen, inside the court, to handle his initial appearance and/or arraignment.
Now, we know he has appeared, at the previous two initial appearances, and arraignments. You and I were there in Manhattan. That was a circus. And then, we were also in Miami, when he did this. And he got a little photo-op, because there were some space between the motorcade, and the entrance to the courthouse.
But if he comes here, it's unlikely he's even going to get his photo- op, because he would likely come in, in the garage. This courthouse, here in D.C., very used to dealing with VIPs. So, he wouldn't necessarily get the photo-op. It's a huge hassle for him.
So it seems like -- while, I understand, the recovering lawyer in me, showing up in-person, showing respect for the process, showing you're taking it seriously. Given all the logistics that come with a former President, he may want to explore the Zoom option, make it easy on everybody.
COLLINS: And what do we know about the judge, here? Obviously, she's, I know, weighed in on January 6th investigations, before, and those rioters, that have been prosecuted, at this very courthouse, behind us.
REID: Well, it's always known that D.C. was not going to be a friendly district, for a lot of reasons.
Now, of course, down in Florida, he has a completely different situation, because the judge, who was going to hear that case, Judge Cannon, who he hasn't been before yet, he appointed that judge, which is, of course, a very unusual, unprecedented circumstance.
But here, he'll initially go before a magistrate judge, and then this will be assigned to a judge.
And look, the jury pool is arguably the bigger obstacle, for him. His own lawyers have said they're concerned that he won't be able to get a fair jury, here in D.C. But that's a long way off.
COLLINS: But it's still remarkable to hear John Lauro say that he -- they could potentially take this, to, this case, to trial, in nine months to a year, was the timeline that he provided, which kind of surprised me, given that would obviously be before the election.
REID: That would. That would surprise me too, if they really wanted to put their client, through a trial, before the 2024 election. Because they've been very clear, down in Florida, they've argued that it would be quote, "Unfair," to do this while he is running for the White House.
So yes, maybe technically, he can do it in nine to 12 months. But I'm not sure I believe they actually want to do that. But we'll see. I mean, you can also make the argument, if you believe your client is innocent, why not clear his name before the election?
COLLINS: Yes. We'll see what they decide to do.
Paula Reid, I'm sure we'll be here, on Thursday. Thank you.
COOPER: And Kaitlan, it seems like we're always saying words to the effect that this day or that one has been historic. At some point, perhaps we'll also find the right way, to describe the sensation, knowing that the next one is just days away.
TAPPER: And it is, Thursday, just two days from now, whether in-person or by video link, a former American president will face charges, for doing what no president has ever been accused of before.
COLLINS: And, of course, we will be there, when he does.
Right now, though, the news is going to continue. Thank you, so much, for joining us. But we'll now turn things over, to "CNN PRIMETIME," with Laura Coates, and Erin Burnett.