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State of the Race with Kasie Hunt

Court Rules Trump Has No Presidential Immunity In Jan. 6 Case; The Ruling Is A Major Blow To Trump's Defense In The Federal Election Subversion Case That Was Brought By Special Counsel Jack Smith; Donald Trump Is Probably Going To Make The Case As He Has Till February 12 To Try To Seek Supreme Court Intervention Here That This Is Something That The Supreme Court Itself Should Resolve. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired February 06, 2024 - 11:00   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST, STATE OF THE RACE: All right. We start with breaking news here on State of the Race. This is what we've been waiting for. A

federal appeals court has ruled that Donald Trump is not immune from prosecution for alleged crimes he committed during his presidency to try to

reverse the 2020 election results. The ruling is a major blow to Trump's defense in the federal election subversion case that was brought by Special

Counsel Jack Smith. He has argued he was simply acting in his official duties as President.

Here is what the three-judge panel from the D.C. Circuit Appeals Court said in their decision, "For the purpose of this criminal case, former President

Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant. But any executive immunity that may have protected him

while he served as President no longer protects him against this prosecution."

Trump's team has been quick to fire back, his campaign releasing the statement, "If immunity is not granted to a President, every future

President who leaves office will be immediately indicted by the opposing party. Without complete immunity, a President of the United States would

not be able to properly function. Prosecuting a President for official acts violates the Constitution and threatens the bedrock of our Republic."

All right. We're going to get more on this right now from CNN's Kristen Holmes, who joins us. Kristen, the judges pushed back in the ruling. They

offered a defense that basically argues against the statement that the Trump team just put out that we just read, which basically says and cites

other previous presidents who have acknowledged that if in fact a President is immune from prosecution, then effectively they're -- that is completely

unacceptable because it would make our system of government null and void in some ways. What is your latest reporting in talking to the Trump team,

and what do you think we should highlight in this ruling?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN U.S. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, here is the thing to point out about Donald Trump and the immunity ruling overall. This is a

core argument for the former President. It's not just his legal arguments really become part of his political argument as well, saying that he should

be immune, that every President should be immune, essentially arguing that presidents can't not have immunity or else they'll be indicted as soon as

they leave office. Now, the appeals court actually pushes back directly on this claim, saying that past presidents have seemed to acknowledge that

they knew that they could be prosecuted while they were in office. And that's the way that the system has continued to work.

Now, when I'm talking to Trump's team, you have to remember, this is a huge loss. Part of this is not just the loss of the fact that he lost the appeal

but it's also the fact that this could change the date. And they actually put a timing on this to give him timing to appeal to the Supreme Court that

he has to appeal by February 12. Now, the reason why this is so interesting is because it's essentially speeding up the process. As we know, this was a

trial that was supposed to take place in Washington, D.C. in March. Last week, they strapped that off the table, putting it on almost an infinite

delay. That was a win for Donald Trump's team. That has been their tactic this entire time, to delay, delay, delay, hopefully pushing back all of

these legal issues beyond the 2024 election.

Now, with this small timeline or quick timeline that he can appeal to SCOTUS, to the Supreme Court of the United States, that could put a

calendar date before 2024 for this trial, something that Trump's team absolutely does not want. So, that's why this is a loss in two general

ways. The other part of this is that we know that if he does apply -- he does -- excuse me, appeal this to the Supreme Court that there will be a

stay, meaning another delay. So, that's something that they're likely going to take them up on, because again, this is all part of a larger tactic here

to try and push his legal issues to be on the election.

HUNT: All right. Kristen Holmes for us as we cover this breaking news. Kristen, thank you very much.

We're going to dive into all of this with today's panel, Matt Mowers, a former Trump Administration Advisor and the President of Valcour, a global

strategy firm; Susan Page is USA Today's Washington Bureau Chief, and Alayna Treene covers presidential politics for us here at CNN.

And Alayna, let me just pick up with you, because you and Kristen are often our team covering Donald Trump. And in one of the like interesting lines of

reporting that's come out in recent days is how Trump's team has underscored to him that he needs to win his reelection bid in order to

solve many of his legal problems. What are you learning in your conversations? I know you've been on the phone with Trump people. How are

they -- what's their posture? Is this something that has put them back on their heels? Made them -- are you picking up stress from them? And what do

you think the next move is?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Well, this is definitely very concerning for them. And they do plan to appeal it, as they said in that statement that

you had read. The question is, do they appeal it to the Supreme Court, or try to go through the more normal process of first going to en banc and

going back to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals? It seems more likely that they'll appeal this to the Supreme Court, just given that that is what

stops the clock here. If they can appeal to the Supreme Court, they get more time to delay this trial, which is exactly what they want, and as

Kristen had pointed out.


The thing with this trial especially as well is this is one of the most concerning trials in cases that Donald Trump is facing, and I hear that a

lot from Donald Trump's advisors, and that's because, one, they do not think that they will get a fair jury in Washington, D.C., but they also

recognize the substance of this case and what Jack Smith and his team have dealt.

HUNT: You mean they think there is they're more likely to get convicted because they don't like the jury pool.

TREENE: I wouldn't go as far as saying that he expects being convicted in this case, but this is the one that they are very concerned about because

of the jury pool, because of the judge. And the other thing is, as Kristen mentioned that, we saw last week Judge Tanya Chutkan take this off the

calendar and they were very happy about that. And they thought that maybe - - that means that another case the Manhattan Attorney General Alvin Bragg, his case looking at payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels, that one

would go first. That's the case just for comparison that they find far weaker, that they wanted to set the tone for all of his potential trials,

because they figured that's when they can call political, can keep building his support when it comes to his legal battles. This is not that.

And so, what they're probably going to do here is try to go the appeals route to the Supreme Court to delay this further and see how much time they

can continue to get, and hopefully, ultimately try to push this back until after the election.

HUNT: Right. Well, and also, I just do want to underscore that in -- you're reporting on what they're telling you, in what they're saying is a

fundamental questioning of the system and argument that this system is going to be rigged against them, which is something that we have obviously

seen them do over and over and over again, and that is a political argument.

Susan Page, you have covered this town. Your expertise is deep. You have seen all kinds of misconduct by politicians that you have covered. I kind

of want to go big picture here, because in this ruling, there are some significant statements about the nature of presidential power. Right? I

mean, this is a very existential question for our democracy. So, we said -- we talked at the top about how they said President Trump has become citizen

Trump. They go on to write, "It would be a striking paradox if the President, who alone is vested with the constitutional duty to 'take Care

of the law -- that the Laws be faithfully executed' were the sole officer capable of defying those laws with impunity."

And when you put it in those terms, it does kind of -- it underscores the fact that in the United States, we have a President. We don't have a king.

When you see this ruling and as you've been going through it, what is your kind of broad sense of what this means for not just Donald Trump, but for

us as a country?

SUSAN PAGE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, USA TODAY: On the one hand, it is not a surprising ruling. I think this is a ruling we expected, although the

fact that it's unanimous and so emphatic is interesting, but it is such an important ruling. And one reason is because it affects the definition of

the powers of a President when he is in office and otherwise. And one reason that the Trump people have been so focused on this trial, it is the

one with the most political punch as well.

This is an issue that if he got convicted of this, we know from polling that there are any number of people who are inclined to vote for Trump, who

would have second thoughts. That may not be true for the other cases against him, for cases involving misuse of sensitive documents, for

instance. That may not strike people as being as serious hush money payments. They've already come to terms with some aspects of Donald Trump's

behavior. But, this goes to the heart of what a President can do. And if he loses on this and then is convicted at trial, I think that is -- the case,

it has the most potential to really change the outcome of the presidential election.

HUNT: Right. So, let's talk about that. Matt Mowers, you've been a Republican candidate yourself. You worked in the Trump administration. You

understand how people are thinking about this. And one of the things we've been learning as we've started to finally hear from voters in the

Republican primary in Iowa and New Hampshire is that there does seem to be a contingent of people who feel differently about voting for former

President Trump, if he is convicted versus if he is not. What do you think the implications are politically of what we're learning today?


today's case actually changes much, right, because at the end of the day, Susan is right. Most legal scholars didn't anticipate that this was going

to be ruled any differently. And I don't think even President Trump's team truly believed that today was going to have a different outcome or a

different ruling.

The political implication comes from, how does this impact the timing of the other cases? How does this determine whether the D.C. case is actually

heard before November? What impact could it potentially even have on the case coming out of Florida, and then also the timing of it? Alayna is

absolutely right. The political implications of the Alvin Bragg case going first are going to help Donald Trump immensely. Most observers, including

mainstream Republicans, some who are disinclined to support Donald Trump, believe that the Bragg case is politically motivated, the weakest of the

bunch, and is one that if you are Donald Trump, you want to go first because you have no better adversary, no better opponent than Alvin Bragg,

who is a liberal prosecutor from New York City.

HUNT: Right.

MOWERS: You couldn't design a better political foil than someone like Alvin Bragg for Donald Trump.


HUNT: Right. And it's also, Treene, he is pretty comfortable fighting on. I mean, he has been --he spent how many hours in New York courtrooms?

MOWERS: Never.

HUNT: This federal election subversion case is a different animal.

All right. Let's bring in now CNN's Senior Supreme Court Analyst Joan Biskupic, because, Joan, as we know and Alayna walked us through kind of

the choices facing the Trump team in terms of how far to appeal this, but it is clear that we are on track based on the seriousness of the discussion

in this ruling about presidential powers and our democracy itself. This is headed for the Supreme Court. What did you read into what these appellate

judges wrote in this ruling that you think we should be paying close attention to, and what might some of the things in this ruling say about

how the Supreme Court is going to handle this?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Thanks, Kasie. This opinion is very forcefully written. It's unanimous. It hits all the right

notes about what the law has said that would stop President Trump -- former President Trump from having absolute immunity from criminal prosecution

after leaving office. So, it relied on past Supreme Court cases. It thoroughly dissected his arguments. As we've said from the beginning, the

law really isn't on the side of Donald Trump. But, it's important that the Supreme Court itself has never definitively ruled on whether a former

President is absolutely immune. And Donald Trump is probably going to make the case as he has till February 12 to try to seek Supreme Court

intervention here that this is something that the Supreme Court itself should resolve.

Now, this is going to be a tough choice for the Supreme Court. I think there is going to be a lot of incentive inside not to want to take it up.

The D.C. circuit panel here did a very solid job of explaining why Donald Trump should not be shielded from prosecution that that trial should go

forward. So -- and also, as we know and you probably already laid out, the Supreme Court will be hearing the important Colorado case on Thursday,

testing whether Donald Trump can remain on the ballot in Colorado and on other state ballots nationwide. The Colorado Supreme Court had said he is

disqualified from future office because of his role in the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

So, the justices already have a difficult case that involves Donald Trump who is always problematic for him one way or another, and as a case that's

going to play into the election. Do they want to take yet another case that will be so politically charged? But, I do have to say it only takes four

votes to grant a petition for certiorari, as it's called, an appeal from a lower court. It takes five votes to kind of stop any kind of motion, but

just four votes to grant a case. So, it's hard for me to say that absolutely they will not take this case up.

But, we do know that the clock is going to still run for another week or two because Donald Trump has appealed (ph) the 12th. I presume that the

justices will then ask for some sort of response from Jack Smith to say, do you think this -- we should take it up? And Jack Smith, once upon a time,

wanted the justices to take it up, said this was very important. But, that was before there was any kind of answer from at least this important

appellate court resolving the issue.

HUNT: Yeah. So, Joan, just to -- you've really laid this out so well. I just want to be clear for people who aren't as deeply embedded in and how

this was going to work. The next steps here, Donald Trump has until February 12 to appeal. They've said that they're going to appeal. We're

going to get a chance for Jack Smith to weigh in. And then, the court, can you just explain --


HUNT: -- which four justices, for example, you think might vote to take this up?


HUNT: What is the decision mechanism going to be?

BISKUPIC: So, this is what happens. Right. No. I think this is good. That's why -- nothing is going to happen tomorrow. Nothing is going to happen like

on February 13. This whole process, takes some time. Now, they'll probably expedite the process just as the D.C. Circuit did. They'll move fast. They

won't -- typically, a party that's lost in a lower court has 90 days to appeal. That's not happening here. And the D.C. Circuit has already said,

you only have to get -- you have 12 days to get up to the Supreme Court.

But, the Supreme Court could then issue an order on December 12 or 13, saying Jack Smith has until such and such deadline to respond. Jack Smith,

just to remind our audience, he is representing the United States here, the Department of Justice, in bringing these charges against Donald Trump and

trying to seek a trial to hold him accountable for his actions in the wake of the 2020 election.


So, the justices will then hear from both sides. Typically, the party that starts this whole thing gets a chance to respond, submit a reply brief to

whatever the opposing party has. So, that would run for a couple of days. That would actually -- that could easily run, frankly, for a couple of

weeks. But, maybe the court will say, no, we want to resolve this very fast. There is a sense of urgency here. The trial date had been set for

March 4. It will not go on, on March 4, at this point, for sure. But, maybe the court will think we want to at least give this trial a chance to get

started by April so that there could be some conclusion by summer. And that -- the trial itself is --

HUNT: Right.

BISKUPIC: -- not heading right up to the election.

HUNT: Right.

BISKUPIC: So, I would think --

HUNT: And so, we would have an answer before Election Day.

BISKUPIC: Kasie, just to say -- OK. Let's just say -- Yeah. Let's just say that things run on a fairly fast path here. Maybe within two weeks or even

sooner, we'd have a decision from the Supreme Court saying, we're not going to intervene. And if they don't intervene, then it all goes back down to

the trial court judge who had originally scheduled that March 4 trial start, and maybe it will only be postponed till like, say, April 4. But,

the justices could take a little bit more time to even decide whether to take it or not take it. Maybe there'll be a justice or two that wants to

dissent from that order and take some time to write a dissent. And we've got some wildcards on this court. It's a six to three conservative liberal

bench, six Republican appointees, three of them by Donald Trump.

Things don't always break down on partisan lines. But, that is a factor that you just can't ignore sometimes.

HUNT: You can't. All right. Joan Biskupic, thank you very much for that. And Joan really gave us a very clear kind of reality check on what the

timing of this could be, and that is just incredibly important to how the politics of this story are going to play out and to the nature of the

choice that Americans are going to be facing come November. We're going to have much more on this story with our panel up after a quick break. Don't

go anywhere.




HUNT: All right. Welcome back to State of the Race where we are covering breaking news that is going to have a significant impact on our

presidential election here in the U.S.

CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson is live with us in New York to talk more about this appellate court decision that says Donald Trump is not immune

from prosecution in the January 6 case. And Joey, it's always wonderful to have you. Thank you for being here.

I just want to start for people who are just joining us and catching up to speed, the line, the key line from this ruling says, "For the purpose of

this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant. But any executive

immunity that may have protected him while he served as President no longer protects him against this prosecution." How do you view this ruling? And

how -- especially, it sounds like the Trump team is planning to appeal this to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is likely to rule -- to view it.

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah, Kasie. To say that it's a big deal would be an understatement. Right? Obviously, it's a case of first

impression. What does that mean? It means that the court really is in terrain that they haven't been in. But, when looking at it, what struck me

in the case was that they said, look, presidents have contemplated that they could be prosecuted. And the significance of that is that law is about

precedent and history.

And specifically to that point, Kasie, they point to the issue of -- if you remember President Ford and the pardon of Nixon. There would be no basis to

pardon President Nixon at the time if the Constitution did not or if the laws did not contemplate, right, the prosecution of the President. They

went into Bill Clinton in the ruling and spoke to the issue of, prior to him leaving office, he agreed to a five-year forfeiture of his license and

a fine in lieu of being prosecuted later. And so, all that significant, because it gives really some context with respect to why they are ruling,

that is the court, Kasie, why they're making these and drawing these conclusions.

So, I think on the law, it's very sound to the basic point of essentially a President being a citizen. At the end of the day, you cannot use your

office in a way that would be devoid of any type of legality. They talk about the clause to faithfully execute the laws, which is significant. And

so, I think just on par with a legal precedent, on par with legal analysis, on par with legal rulings, I just think that, I'm not going to say

unassailable, perhaps that's an overstatement, but I just think that the analysis employed by this court is extraordinarily sound. And I just -- of

course, the President can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. But, I do not see at this point an identifiable basis to overturn this decision, as it's

been written and constituted.

HUNT: So, Joey, Donald Trump Jr. is posting on -- there is a response from him on the platform formerly known as Twitter, but he encapsulates one of

the arguments that Trump campaign has been making, which is that prosecuting a former President, "If it were to become the norm", Donald

Trump Jr. writes, "would a Trump DOJ prosecute Obama for" he says "droning an American?" and for killing an American citizen by -- with a drone

strike. There is a lot kind of going on in this statement, some of it is political, right, the idea that we can't trust our justice system enough to

not engage in non-political approaches to these types of prosecutions. I want to set that aside.

I'm wondering, from a legal perspective, does the Supreme Court need to lay out like -- are there different categories of crimes that a President of

the United States could commit, and might there be circumstances where they should be protected? And how does -- I mean, this one is so specific. I

mean, he is trying to overthrow the will of the people in a free and fair election. Right? I mean, that is the crime that we are talking about. And

it is different from -- I mean, in my opinion -- in my sense, as someone who tries to cover this democracy every day, it makes it very different

from many other things, many other crimes someone could commit.

JACKSON: Yeah. Kasie, at the end of the day, there is always going to be the argument in terms of whether or not a prosecution is political. We know

that prosecutors have a vast amount of discretion, right, with respect to laws that they attempt to prosecute. However, with that discretion, there

are also layers in the criminal system. There is a Department of Justice who investigates these cases. There is a grand jury that gets empaneled to

evaluate these cases. The grand jury would then issue what's called a true bill if they believe that it's appropriate.


There is reasonable cause to believe a crime was committed, and in this case a President committed it. And then there is another layer which a case

then goes to trial. And so, at the end of the day, you have to have a system that really treats everyone like everyone else. And you can't just

say that because you're President you have these broad-ranging powers and you can be prosecuted for some crimes, but not so much prosecuted for other

crimes. And if it's really a serious crime, no. Not how the system works.

And so, I don't know how we take out the notion, right, discretion, because prosecutors are always going to have that. But, I think the essence of the

decision is, of course DOJ will evaluate it. If it's not worthy for prosecution, it won't come forward. But, if it is, right, remember this,

Kasie, the President has not been convicted. This court of appeals decision did not pass any judgment on the merits of the case. That's for a separate

trial, a separate jury and a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt if we get there. But, I think the notion of a President who couldn't be

prosecuted if you transgress the laws is important. And according to this particular circuit court, they said, you know what? You're like anybody

else for those purposes. You're not above the law. And if you're deemed to be prosecutable, you will and can be.

HUNT: No. Citizen Trump, that phrase, I think, is going to -- I almost wanted to put that on the little tab down here in front of us on the

screen. Joey Jackson, thank you very much for being with us. I always appreciate your expertise.

Our panel is back here, Matt, Susan are with me. And joining us is also Democratic Strategist Brad Woodhouse.

Susan Page, what do you make of how -- first, Joan Biskupic kind of laid out for us what this could look like with the Supreme Court. Joey kind of

dug into some of these legal questions. It does seem to repeatedly come back to the timeline. Can this actually unfold before the election?

PAGE: And Democrats desperately want it to unfold before the election, because it's such an important case, because it has the potential to change

the dynamics of this race. And Trump supporters just as fiercely want to delay it because, you know what happens if Trump is elected President and

this case hasn't been resolved? It's up to him to whether it proceeds or not. And if you think Trump will proceed with a prosecution of himself, I

don't think so.

HUNT: Again, it's reportedly why his aides have said over and over again, you got to win this election because your freedom may or may not be on the

line here.

Brad Woodhouse, I mean, let's sort of help explain why it is that what Susan laid out is the case, which is, in the NBC News poll, the recent poll

of -- national poll, Trump versus Biden, the standard way we would measure this where we just ask people, yes/no, 47 percent say they'd vote for

Donald Trump. Joe Biden is at 42 percent. Then they asked, if Trump was convicted, would your vote change? And the numbers go from, again, 47

percent-42 percent, to Donald Trump 43 percent, Joe Biden 45 percent. What do you make of those numbers?

BRAD WOODHOUSE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think we've seen that. We saw that in the -- in some of the exit polls out of the two first primary

states or caucus state in Iowa, that people -- a number of people were concerned, even Republicans would be less likely to support Trump if he is

convicted of one of these crimes somewhere. I would just say from a campaign perspective, no one is banking on that. No one is running a

campaign based on that being the best path for Joe Biden to become President of the United States. I mean, that's why the President is out

there communicating his message, running, obviously, very well. And the one primary that we've had so far --

HUNT: Why is he not doing a Super Bowl interview if that's the case?

WOODHOUSE: Well, I have no idea. Maybe he just wants to prepare some chips and salsa -


WOODHOUSE: But -- so, I don't think anyone in the campaign. I know what the DNC is like counting on these prosecutions to be the panacea for Joe Biden.

We're going to run a campaign.

HUNT: Matt, what do you see in these numbers?

MOWERS: Oh, look, what I'm seeing is that if you're Donald Trump right now, in some ways he can run prevent defense. Right? Like, you want nothing to

change between now and November if you're up. And that's one of the reasons. All of the noise, and it really is, all the legal cases right now

at this point are just white noise to most of the American public until an actual trial comes, until there is actually a conviction, if there is one.

I mean, one thing that's not also talked about, how -- what's the impact if he is acquitted? What impact does that have on the American public and how

they're viewing the entire set of the court cases against Donald Trump right now? Those are the things that we don't know right now.

What we do know right now is that on the issues and of the status quo, Donald Trump is leading in key swing states right now. As you saw in the

recent polling, he is actually leading nationally right now. If you're Joe Biden, you need either the Supreme Court to step in, or maybe some other

act of God coming out here in the next few weeks to come and try -- bring in some more voters to actually like get you across the finish line.

PAGE: One thing that's remarkable is we've gone through since 2015 with nothing affecting Trump's support, except making it stronger. And the

polling that we've seen with NBC and others indicate that this is the one thing that might be actually have the effect of peeling away his support,

which is one reason it matters so much.


But, you make such a great point. What if he is acquitted? If the trial unfolds just as quickly as Democrats hope and he is acquitted, that would

be quite the powerful argument for Donald Trump to make that the prosecution wasn't warranted.

MOWERS: He said complete and total vindication after Russia. Imagine what he is going to say if somehow he beats the charges here, if they come?

WOODHOUSE: I mean, he is acquitted with one holdout. I mean, 11 for conviction. I mean -- I think there is some in between there on how the

people -- American people will take this. There is no in between on how he'll react. I understand. But, he is acquitted because of -- well, he

wouldn't be acquitted 11 to one, but there might be a hung jury and he would take that as a victory, and that would be really interesting.

HUNT: So, we have gone into some messy territory. Yeah, I mean, that would put us in unprecedented --


HUNT: -- territory that could I think set off some pretty unpredictable things.

OK. We're going to have much more on the story with our panel after a quick break. Don't go anywhere.


HUNT: All right. Welcome back. I want to bring in Attorney Nick Akerman to talk more about this. He was an Assistant Prosecutor in the Watergate Case

against former President Richard Nixon, and he was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York. Nick, thank you so much for

being here. I think the thing that we're really kind of digging into here in this ruling is the idea that they laid out past precedent, some of the

things that you dealt with as a Watergate prosecutor where it's clear that other presidents expected that they would be prosecuted for be in trouble

for misconduct. Hence, Joey Jackson mentioned the eventual pardon of Richard Nixon. As you have dug into this ruling and considering your past

experience thinking about President's power, crimes while in office, what stands out to you?


that in Watergate we actually considered indicting Richard Nixon. All the evidence pointed to him being the actual ringleader of the cover-up



And we were going to indict. We were recommending to Leon Jaworski. We indict. But, we decided to defer because of the impeachment proceedings

that were going on at the time. If it hadn't been for the impeachment proceedings, we would have gone ahead and indicted Richard Nixon. As you

might recall, Richard Nixon was named in the Watergate cover-up trial as an unindicted co-conspirator. He had to be named because he was involved in so

many of the tape conversations that related to organizing and orchestrating that cover-up.

So, the idea that a President would be immune from criminal activity was so far from our minds, so out of the realm of what we were considering at the

time, including even indicting Richard Nixon for having cheated on his income taxes, for having backdated a deed of gift of presidential papers,

to the National Archives.

HUNT: What has changed, Nick, in the years since Watergate in our laws, if that's the case, but also in our politics that have us in a completely

different place than what you just outlined?

AKERMAN: Well, in terms of law, nothing has changed. What did change after Watergate was that the Department of Justice came down with this internal

rule that's really not based on any Supreme Court law. In fact, it's not really based on any law that a U.S. President cannot be indicted while he

is a sitting President. That is not the law. It is not something that we worked under on Watergate.

In terms of the politics, what is different now is the polarization that Donald Trump has basically gone out, unlike any other President that we've

had, and gone out and just blatantly lied about what he has done. In fact, all of his criminal activities based on this January 6 election

interference is based on the big lie that the election was rigged in 2020. I mean, that just was false. And built upon that falsehood, he did a whole

bunch of other things in terms of trying to get his attorney general move down somebody else in to send a letter to the state legislatures to change

the electoral votes, calling the Secretary of State in Georgia and trying to get him to fix the vote, etcetera, etcetera.

So, I think what's really changed is Donald Trump that we have Donald Trump. We have never had a President like this who has been so involved and

so micromanaged in criminal activity.

HUNT: All right. Nick Akerman, former Watergate Special Prosecutor, Nick, thank you very much for the very valuable perspective. I really appreciate


All right. Let's go now to get a little bit more from CNN's Kristen Holmes who has been in touch with Trump sources throughout as this is unfolding.

Kristen, what are you hearing? What are you learning? What is their posture around this?

HOLMES: Yeah. Kasie, it was actually just so stunning to hear Nick talking about how things have become so different, because already our colleagues

on Capitol Hill are talking to these Republican lawmakers who are essentially siding with Donald Trump. They're saying that he has been under

attack for years that he should have every right to seek immunity. Now, when it comes to Trump's team themselves, they are saying that they are

going to appeal this. And the one thing we should watch for is them trying to delay this as long as possible. That means filing motions to stay this

trial. What they want is they don't want this trial to happen before the 2024 election in November.

Last week, they had a huge win when Judge Chutkan, the judge in this case, essentially took this trial off of the calendar. They believe that that was

a very good thing for them. They've been trying to delay it. This is a case they are very concerned about. Now, with this ruling, with the timeline put

on this, it could move up that trial date, again, probably not March as it was supposed to be, but it could be May, April event. So, that's one thing

you're going to see in terms of their strategy is how to delay that. The other question is going to be --

HUNT: Can I just stop you for one second?


HUNT: I just want to kind of ask a slightly far out there question just because I remember the interregnum period before January 6 as being a very

tense and important one. And I guess I'm conceiving of a world where this trial plays out and Trump potentially wins the election but then gets

convicted before he takes office. I mean, is that something that they are thinking about, because what a nightmare that would be?

HOLMES: That's not really one of the possibilities that they floated to me.

HUNT: A legal nightmare, to be clear. I'm not saying --

HOLMES: Yeah. Exactly. No, no, no. But, for them, the idea is that once he is -- if he is elected, it would be much harder in any way to bring him to

trial. So, even if it is an interim period, a slow period, he would technically be the incoming President and there are all kinds of legalities

around that, around bringing an incoming President or a President to trial.


That is why you're seeing them push this and push this. So, in terms of that small period where he is not quite President, I don't -- haven't had

any conversations with his team as though they are looking at that period. The other thing to keep in mind here is that there is still a belief that

the closer and closer you get to the election, the harder and harder it is going to be for Judge Chutkan, for Jack Smith, for the Justice Department,

to bring these trials because they can continue to argue this election interference. I, Donald Trump, and the GOP nominee, I'm leading --

HUNT: Yeah.

HOLMES: -- in the polls, etcetera. And the closer to the election, the more they believe that argument is viable.

HUNT: Yeah. It's -- it does get harder and harder as time passes, which as you say is the Trump's strategy. Kristen Holmes, thank you very much for

that reporting.

We're going to have much more on the story after a quick break here. Don't go anywhere.


HUNT: Welcome back. Our panel is back with us with more of this breaking news, Brad Woodhouse and Matt Mowers. Brad, I want to start with you on

what we were just hearing from Nick Akerman and from Kristen Holmes, but particularly what Nick was talking about in terms of what has changed since

the Watergate era, since that is probably, I mean, in terms of trying to figure out a precedent for what we're dealing with here. It's that. And he

sort of -- he talked about both the ways in which kind of illegal process, the precedents that kind of rules, that the Justice Department follows are

a little bit different than what they were following in the Nixon era, but also kind of just the sheer, the partisanship, the division. What did you

make of what he said, and how does it apply to this election?

WOODHOUSE: Well, look, it's striking, right, because what happened, and I was pretty young at the time, but, I mean, history will show what happened

during Watergate was Nixon support within the Congress, among Republicans collapsed, and he was forced to resign.


There is no indication that regardless of what Donald Trump does, the insurrection of January 6, or what he says, I'll be a dictator on day one,

that he will lose Republican support. I mean, Republicans on the Hill, as was reported, are sticking with him on an immunity claim where his lawyer

said, yeah, sure, SEAL Team Six could take out his political opponent and he couldn't be prosecuted because he is immune from prosecution. So, the

loyalty to Donald Trump, unblinding, unflinching loyalty to him is vastly different than I think what we saw in Watergate, where Nixon was forced to

resign because the sport collapsed.

HUNT: It's actually really -- it's a remarkable point, and we've talked so much about those Republican senators. I mean, Brad, I flashback to the

comment that Trump made in his first round, right, where he said I could shoot people on Fifth Avenue and my supporters would still be with me. I

mean, as a Democrat who has tried to figure out how to run against him, what is it about him that you think makes this true?

WOODHOUSE: Well, I mean, look, he is just -- he has captured the imagination of this MAGA. I mean, he founded MAGA, obviously, Make America

Great Again. He is -- he -- people believe he reflects their values. He speaks their truth. And they are unflinchingly laud him. The one time he

really did lose support for a bit was after the 2022 election where people really felt his obsession with 2020. His support of election deniers really

cost Republicans a better election, the election that they were expecting, including taking back the House and -- or the Senate. And his support

dropped and DeSantis actually went ahead of him.

So, I think there are -- there might be a limit to this. But, as -- I think Susan said earlier, more often than not, he has been able to hold on and

consolidate his power within the Republican Party. And I don't think this ruling today is going to change that.

HUNT: Well, Susan, I mean, your name was invoked. What's your -- what do you think?

PAGE: I can't believe, Kasie, that we're now looking to the Nixon era as the golden age of American politics. But, in some ways, it was. You had a

bipartisan impeachment effort. You had reaped senior Republicans going to the President, the Republican President, saying, your time is up. Your

impeachment is certain. Your conviction is certain. And you have the President deciding to resign rather than take extraordinary measures to try

to stay in power. And at the moment, that seems pretty admirable.

HUNT: It's -- yes. It's very stark way to put it. Instead, what we have, Matt Mowers, is the President -- the former President already fundraising

off of this, saying that this is a witch hunt, and trying to raise money. And the reality that we've been talking about here is that so far it's

worked for him. I mean, what is your sense of -- is Brad right that 2022 was the one moment when maybe there was a break? I know -- I mean, you ran

in that election. Yes.


HUNT: Is that true, and what is behind this?

MOWERS: Well, I think mostly what it has to do with right now is the fact that shows you just how partisan the environment is right now, and then

also how intertwined a legal strategy and a public opinion strategy are for Donald Trump right now. I mean, it's not the Rose Garden, but we

essentially have a courthouse strategy right now where he is currently doing most of his press conferences in front of some sort of statue of

justice. Sometimes, that's in front of a courthouse. And so, he is so intertwined.

And what does is it does two things. One, it serves to fire up his base, because if you talk to the conservative Republican base, they believe this

is all political. This is all partisan. They think this is no different than the stuff that the State Department condemns in places like Venezuela

and around the world. They think it's the beginning of a banana republic. And it also does one other thing by having him in these courtrooms day

after day after day, even when he is not required to be there, as it starts to desensitize the American public to the image of him being in the

courtroom at a time when he is going to have to be further down when there are these criminal cases coming down the pike.

HUNT: That is an interesting way to think about it. I mean, Brad, if you're the Biden team, I mean, we've had these Republican candidates basically

complain that these indictments sucked all the oxygen out of the room for them and made it impossible for them to run against him. I mean, it's not

that dissimilar to what people said in 2016 that they couldn't get any oxygen when Donald Trump was in the room. If you're the Biden team, does

this courthouse strategy concern you the way he has been using it effectively, frankly?

WOODHOUSE: Well, look, I think Donald Trump sucks the oxygen out of the room regardless of whether or not he is in the courtroom or not. I mean,

when he is out on the campaign trail, saying outrageous things, it's reported on incessantly. I think -- look, I think there is something else

going on here, though. Let's remember this. Donald Trump got just plus 50 percent in Iowa, got just plus 50 percent in New Hampshire. I think he'll

probably do better in South Carolina. And Nikki Haley is still in the race, saying chaos, chaos, chaos, chaos, and she started to talk about some of

these cases.


I don't think that it's true that these cases have all helped him. I think there is a cohort of voters that supported Haley, that supported DeSantis

and Haley in Iowa, that are kind of fed up with this. And there is no guarantee that Donald Trump is going to get all those people back.

HUNT: It's an interesting way to think about it, because, Susan, I mean, somebody -- people are powering Nikki Haley's campaign. Right? I mean,

there are big donors that are still with her. And there are clearly a lot of small donors who have heard her start to try to attack the President

more, who are giving her little bits of money. She has clearly tapped into the sentiment in the country that is very much opposed to Donald Trump. I

mean, how do you see that power dynamic?

PAGE: Well, there are some Republicans and some former Republicans who are opposed to Donald Trump and who are supporting Nikki Haley, and she has

become increasingly aggressive in criticizing Trump in ways she never did in earlier months of her campaign. On the other hand, for the most of the

Republican Party, they're behind Donald Trump at this moment. It is hard to see a path with money or without money that she -- he has denied the

nomination, Kasie.

HUNT: Really remarkable reality here.

All right. It's time for a quick break. But, don't go anywhere. Our panel is going to be back with one more thing, as we continue to cover this

breaking news.


HUNT: All right. Welcome back to State of the Race. My panel rejoins me. At the end of the show, we always typically asked for one more thing from our

panelists. I'm curious for all of you. What is the next thing in this particular arc you think we should be paying attention to, something in

this ruling or part of the discussion we've been talking about today? I mean, Matt, what do you think we should be focused on?

MOWERS: I mean, it's all going to come down to the Supreme Court. And the most interesting thing is, despite all of the shade that President Trump

often throws at President Bush, it could be Chief Justice John Roberts, a Bush appointee, that comes down and either continues this case or steps in

and maybe ends it.

HUNT: That's actually really very, very interesting. He has been such a fascinating figure as this court has evolved. Brad Woodhouse, what are you

watching for?

WOODHOUSE: Well, what I'm watching for is to see the Supreme Court actually takes up this appeal that will be coming from Donald Trump on immunity.

Others below him that are subject to the Georgia case have claimed immunity. They've been denied. So, the federal courts have been pretty

consistent in this regard. So, it might be that the Supreme Court doesn't take up the case, and it's either decided here or it's decided en banc at

the Court of Appeals in D.C.

HUNT: Brad, do you think -- I mean, would it be viewed as legitimate if that were to be the case?

WOODHOUSE: Well, I think the Supreme Court would have reasoning looking at the unanimous -- the Chutkan's decision, the unanimous decision of this

three-judge panel, with the en banc panel were to have a decision that was unanimous or near unanimous. Plus, Meadows has been through this. There is

others in the January 6 case that have had these claims adjudicated. So, they might be able to say that the federal courts are in alignment here on

this issue of immunity.

HUNT: Yeah. It's an interesting way to think about it. There is also the question of whether the court may -- there may be members of the court who

want to use the -- use it to delay what's going on. Susan Page, what are you watching?

PAGE: We're always trying to look ahead. I think it's important to look at what happened in the last few hours. We had an emphatic unanimous verdict

from the Appeals Court rebuffing Donald Trump on the idea of presidential immunity. That has repercussions not only for Trump and for this election,

but for presidents to follow.

HUNT: Yeah. No. It's a good -- it's a really good point. Big picture. And - - I mean, Susan, I would just say, from that perspective, I mean, you've covered the court and its members extensively as well in your time in

Washington. I mean, what is the imperative for them in that kind of big picture?

PAGE: The Supreme Court is on trial here too. We've seen big erosion in faith and trust in the Supreme Court, and increasing feeling that it's a

partisan body, just like everybody else in Washington.


This case may be the biggest case they have during their 10 years to try to deal with that perception, which is really corrosive and goes to the rule

of law.

HUNT: Yeah. It absolutely does. And I will say one more thing that we are watching today too. President Biden is going to speak shortly from the

State Dining Room from the White House. He had planned those remarks around the border deal that he and his administration had worked hard to

negotiate. That seems to have fallen apart before it could get together again because of the presidential campaign that we have been talking about

here today.

I want to thank all of you for joining us for this breaking news coverage. We're going to continue with it. I'm Kasie Hunt. Don't go anywhere. One

World is up next.