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State of the Union

Interview With Presidential Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy; Interview With Rep. Daniel Goldman (D-NY); Interview With Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH); Interview With Fmr. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired June 11, 2023 - 09:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Unprecedented. A defiant Donald Trump faces federal charges after a special counsel details how far the former president allegedly went to hide classified documents.

JACK SMITH, SPECIAL COUNSEL: My office will seek a speedy trial.

BASH: Can Trump overcome this case?

House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan will join me next.

And political shockwave. The historic indictment further unsettles the presidential contest.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a horrible thing for this country.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have never once suggested to the Justice Department what they should do or not do.

BASH: Will Trump be on trial while he's on the trail? I will speak to former impeachment prosecutor and Democratic Congressman Dan Goldman ahead.

Plus: pardon power. One Republican presidential candidate says he'd pardon Trump if he wins.

VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is not about politics to me. This is about principle.

BASH: Another says Trump needs to drop out.

FMR. GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The country doesn't need this distraction.

BASH: How does the indictment change the GOP race? Two presidential hopefuls, Vivek Ramaswamy and Asa Hutchinson, join me in moments.


BASH: Hello. I'm Dana in Washington, where the state of our union is once again in unchartered waters.

This weekend, a defiant Donald Trump is once again preparing to appear in court, this time on Tuesday in Miami, where the former president will face 37 federal counts over mishandling classified documents and obstructing an investigation after he left office.

At campaign events on Saturday, Trump lashed out at the Justice Department and predicted the charges would only help his standing as the GOP front-runner.


TRUMP: The baseless indictment of me by the Biden administration's weaponized department of injustice will go down as among the most horrific abuses of power in the history of our country.


BASH: It is an extraordinary situation, the first ever U.S. president under federal indictment who could stand trial in the middle of his reelection campaign against a sitting president.

The charges against Trump range from willful retention of national defense information to obstruction.

And the indictment unsealed on Friday is detailed and stark, accusing Trump of illegally keeping highly classified government documents on America's nuclear secrets and military vulnerabilities, among others, in unsecured areas of his resort, and conspiring with an aide, who is also charged, to hide some of those boxes from his own lawyers to prevent them from fully complying with a federal subpoena.

Here with me is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jim Jordan.

Thank you for joining me this morning, sir.

The indictment does say...

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Good to be with you, Dana.

BASH: Thank you.

The indictment does say, as I mentioned, the documents included U.S. defense, nuclear capabilities, potential U.S. vulnerabilities to a military attack. They were kept in unsecure areas, like a bathroom, a ballroom, a bedroom.

And the indictment says that Donald Trump lied to lawyers, his own lawyers, which resulted in false statements to the FBI, so that he could keep those documents. Is all of that, any of that acceptable to you?

JORDAN: Dana, the standard is clear. The standard is Navy v. Egan, a 1988 case, unanimous decision from the courts, from the court, that -- Justice Blackmun wrote the opinion. And it said the president's ability to classify and control access to national security information flows from the Constitution. He decides. He alone decides. He said he declassified this material. He can put it wherever he wants. He can handle it however he wants. That's the law.

That's the standard. And Jack Smith can do all this 37 different counts and whatever he wants to do, but that doesn't change the standard. The standard that the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, said was that he can classify and he can control access. He has the sole authority.

BASH: In this indictment, he states on at least one occasion that he did not declassify the information.

When he's showing a document to somebody who doesn't have a security clearance, I might add, he says explicitly that it is classified. He didn't declassify it.

JORDAN: Dana, he has said time and time again he's declassified all this material.

This is -- this is the most political thing I have ever seen. They have been out to get President -- they're going to -- they're indicting President Trump on Tuesday for having material that he declassified that was protected by the Secret Service.


BASH: Where -- when did...

JORDAN: And the people who are doing it is the administration, the Justice Department from his opponent in the upcoming presidential election.

This is as political as it gets. And, frankly, Dana, it's part of a pattern. We have seen it time and time again with the president over the last seven years. They try one thing. Then they try another. They have continued to go after him. And I think anyone with common sense can see that.

BASH: OK, this is a very detailed indictment. A couple of things that you just said.

Number one, the Secret Service, they are charged with protecting the president. They didn't even know, according to the indictment, that those documents were there. So, that -- that wasn't their job.

Number two, do you have evidence that the president, when he was president, now former president, actually declassified these documents before he took them?

JORDAN: I go on the president's word, and he said he did. And the Supreme Court said that's what counts.

So, we can have all the -- all the things Jack Smith wants to say, but everyone sees this for the political operation it is. The standard is the standard. I didn't set the standard. The Constitution and Supreme Court did. And they did it in a unanimous fashion, and it was an opinion written by Justice Blackmun.

So that's the standard. That's the fact. Jack Smith can write whatever he wants. But this is a -- this is so political. In 2016 -- I mean, every election, we have now seen this, Dana. 2016, it was a dossier that they used. They knew it was false. They used it to go get a warrant to spy on his campaign. 2018, it was the Mueller investigation.

BASH: OK, let me just -- let me just -- let me just stop you.

JORDAN: 2020, they suppressed the Biden laptop story with the 51 former intel officials.

2022, they raided his home 91 days before an election.

BASH: Let me stop you right there, sir. First of all, I want to go back to just one of the things that you.

JORDAN: And now they're indicting him before the 2024 presidential race.

BASH: On July 21...

JORDAN: Every single election, they have done something.

BASH: On July 21, a recording of a conversation that he had said -- quote -- "As president, I could have declassified it," talking about a document he was holding. "Now I can't."

That means it wasn't declassified.

But I want to move on to what's in this indictment. I'm sure you have seen the photos from the indictment.

JORDAN: Saying he could is not the same -- saying he could is not the same as saying he didn't.

BASH: I'm sure you have seen the photos from the indictment.

There are classified documents in a bathroom, in a ballroom stage, and classified information that he -- that -- we're talking about information that the United States shares with its allies, critical information, strewn on the floor. Does that look secure to you?

JORDAN: Again, Dana, the standard is the standard.

The president of the United States, he can classify and he can control access to national security information however he wants. That's the standard. That's the Constitution. That's what the court said in Navy v. Egan in a 1988 case. I don't know how many more times I can say it.

BASH: But he -- OK, but...

JORDAN: So, if he wants to store -- if he wants to store material in a box in a bathroom, if he wants to store it in a box on a stage, he can do that.

That is the -- that is just what the law and the standard is.

BASH: That's not...

JORDAN: So, again, I think this just underscores how political this whole thing is.

Jack Smith -- do you know how political is when they selected Jack Smith as a special counsel? I actually said in a deposition with Jack Smith -- we deposed him on May 29, 2014, because he was looking to prosecute people who were targeted by Obama's IRS, people Lois Lerner was going after.

BASH: Sir, you can keep talking about this.

JORDAN: We actually had to depose Jack Smith. And that's the guy Garland picks.

BASH: I want to talk about the substance of this indictment. I want to talk about the alleged obstruction in the indictment.

JORDAN: And I have told you time and time again what the standard is.

BASH: I want to talk about the alleged obstruction in this indictment.

Here is what -- here...

JORDAN: You can't obstruct when there was not an underlying crime.

BASH: Here is what the indictment said. The indictment said Trump "directed Nauta, who's his personal aide, to move boxes before Trump Attorney 1's June 2 review, so that many boxes were not searched and many documents responsive to the May 11 subpoena could not be found and were, in fact, not found by Trump Attorney 1."

In plain English, this alleges that Trump instructed his aide to help him remove sensitive documents, in defiance of a federal subpoena. A, does that trouble you? And, B, if he thought that he had the right to have these documents, why was he trying so hard to hide them?

JORDAN: No, it doesn't bother me, because, again, you can't have obstruction of something when there was no underlying crime.

The standard is set. The standard is -- the standard is what the Constitution says. And the commander in chief, the president of the United States, has the ability to classify and control access to information. That's what the Constitution...


BASH: ... the United States anymore.

JORDAN: ... and the court have said.

So you can't obstruct when there's -- there's -- well, you can't obstruct when there's no underlying crime.

BASH: He is not the president of the United States.

JORDAN: That is the fundamental flaw.

BASH: If you -- and you're just taking him at his word.

JORDAN: And when he was president, he declassified the material. He's been very clear about that.

BASH: But he says point blank -- he says point blank on tape: "As president, I could have declassified it. Now I can't."

He says in his own words -- it's on tape as part of this indictment -- that he did not declassify the material. Therefore, it is classified.


JORDAN: Dana, saying he -- he could have, saying he could have is not the same as saying he didn't.

BASH: He said: "Now I can't."

JORDAN: He said that he has declassified this material. He said that.

I mean, now he can't, right, because he's not president now. But when he was president, he did declassify.

BASH: Which means that it's classified. Which means that what he was holding was classified.

JORDAN: No, not when -- not when he -- not if he -- not if he declassified it when he was president of the United States, for goodness' sakes.

Again, this is -- this is...

BASH: But he's saying point blank in this audiotape that he did not declassify it.

What you're saying just doesn't make sense on its face.

JORDAN: Dana, this is -- what this -- what this truly is, Dana, is an affront to the rule of law. It's an affront to consistent application of the law.

You had Secretary Clinton, who had classified material on a server. She was not president of the United States. She was Secretary Clinton. You have that happen. Nothing happens to her. When you have two people who do the same thing, and one has the standard that I have talked about, but the only one who gets indicted is the Republican, the only one who gets indicted...


JORDAN: ... is the one who was actually president, who did it the right way, oh, my goodness. That is what the American people see.

And the other thing that troubles me about this -- and this is total affront to the rule of law is that they -- that they -- Jack Smith went and got the president lawyer's notes.

BASH: OK. All right, let's talk about that. Let's talk about that indictment.

JORDAN: You talk about a violation of fundamental liberty, when they can get access to attorney-client privilege.

BASH: Sir, I want to go back -- there's a lot to unpack here. I want to go back to something that you said.

JORDAN: Attorney-client privilege is important. And they violated that.

BASH: We were going back about the classified documents.

But there's something else I want to point out, which is that the Presidential Records Act says that: "On the conclusion of a president's term in office, that the president should not have" -- I'm reading here -- "The archivist of the United States shall assume responsibility for the custody, control and preservation of and access to the presidential records of that president."

In English, that means that even if what he had was declassified, it was not his document. They were not his documents to have. They are the American people's documents. That is the Presidential Records Act.

JORDAN: I don't think the Presidential Records Act was mentioned anywhere in the indictment, 44 pages, 45 pages. I don't think it was mentioned.

There's always a back-and-forth between administrations when they leave, the president and the National Archives. That's just normal -- normal course of business, but not this time. They decided once again they were going to go after President Trump, something the country has seen the left do, seen the Democrats do for the past seven years.

And they continued all the way up to an indictment that's going to happen on Tuesday.

BASH: Mr. Chairman, there is an investigation going. There is an investigation going of Joe Biden as we speak. It's not as if they just went after Donald Trump. There's investigation of Joe Biden on the issue of having documents. We're waiting for that to come out.

I want to read something that you said about classified information on Hillary Clinton's e-mail.

JORDAN: We haven't heard a thing. You are right. We are waiting. And I think the whole country is waiting.

BASH: I want to read something that you said about Hillary Clinton's e-mail server in 2016. You wrote in an opinion article -- quote -- "Whether through

incompetence or willful disregard for security protocol, Hillary Clinton jeopardized national security for personal gain."

Why do you think this behavior is horrible when Democrats mishandle classified information, allegedly, but there is nothing wrong at all when Republicans do it?

JORDAN: No, you're missing -- you're missing the key -- you're missing the fundamental distinction.

She was secretary of state. President Trump was president of the United States. The Supreme Court decision in Navy v. Egan wasn't about the secretary of state. The Constitution doesn't say, oh, the secretary of state can classify and can control access to national security information. It says the president.

That is the key distinction. But the left doesn't care. They are so determined to get President Trump, they have been going after him since before he ran, when they took a dossier they knew was false, took it to a secret court, got a warrant that was filed on four American citizens associated with his campaign.

BASH: OK. If that was...

JORDAN: And it's continued to this day.

BASH: If that was the -- OK.

JORDAN: And anyone with common sense can see that.

BASH: If that was the case about Hillary Clinton, then why didn't the Trump Justice Department during the four years that they were in office prosecute her?

And I should say that there's no evidence that there was actually classified e-mail...

JORDAN: Because President Trump is not like President Biden.

President Trump doesn't go after his political enemies. He knew what it would do to the country.

BASH: You are head of the...

JORDAN: Because President Biden and the left and the Democrats do not care.

BASH: You were head of the Judiciary Committee in the House. You said Congress should have an oversight role here. What actions are you going to take?

Are you going to call Jack Smith to testify? Are you going to subpoena him?

JORDAN: We've already asked for it. We have asked for -- typically, there's a scope memo that goes along with the scope order for a special counsel. We have asked Merrick Garland to give us the scope memo, much like the one Rod Rosenstein wrote to Bob Mueller that outlined a bigger, broader picture of what this investigation was about.

I will tell you this. Last Wednesday, we actually deposed Steve D'Antuono, the head of the Washington field office, who was running that Washington field office when they raided President Trump's home.

BASH: That's...

JORDAN: The things he told us, he -- he actually told the Justice Department, where's the U.S. attorney assigned to this case? We shouldn't do the same thing we did with Crossfire Hurricane.

They said, no, we're going to run it out of headquarters.


BASH: I'm sure all of that is going to be part of the trial. I'm sure all of that is going to be part of the trial that the Trump defense team is going to have.

I want to play...

JORDAN: We depose people every single -- we depose people every single week to try to get to the bottom of how these federal agencies have been turned on the American people. And we're going to continue to do that important work.

BASH: I want to play some sound of fellow Republicans who have a very different view of this indictment.


FMR. GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The fact is that these -- these facts are devastating dating. The conduct that Donald Trump engaged in was completely self-inflicted.

ALBERTO GONZALES, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: This issue of mishandling, of classified information is a very, very serious one.

HUTCHINSON: These are serious charges that merit serious consideration by the public.


BASH: Your response?

JORDAN: Well, I mean, look, I disagree, and I think the American people disagree.

And the real jury is the jury that will be there on no November 5, 2024, when President Trump runs against President Biden. And I think the American people are going to put President Trump back in the White House because they know, when he was there, we had a guy who did more what he said he would do than any president certainly in my lifetime.

He knows that there was a big difference between his presidency and what we have now. Under President Trump, we had a secure border. Now we have chaos. Under President Trump, we had $2 dollar gas. Now we got $4 gas. Under President Trump, we had safe streets. Now we have record crime.

Under President Trump, we had stable prices. Now we have record inflation. And, oh, by the way, under President Trump, Russia didn't invade Ukraine. I will take that -- I will take his record over what we have right now any day.

And I think the real jury, the American people, will make that same choice and same decision November 5, 2024.

BASH: Well, and he is going to face -- certainly, there is a political jury, as you call it, the voters, but he is going to face a jury of his peers and his adopted state of Florida as well.

Before I let you go, I have to ask about what we're hearing from some members of your party alluding to possible violence after this indictment. Congressman Andy Biggs says we're entering a -- quote -- "war phase."

Congressman Clay Higgins tweeted some cryptic references to possible war plans. Kari Lake said the DOJ will have to go through millions of NRA members to get Trump.

Will you be clear that no Americans should be violent?

JORDAN: Of course we don't want violence. We have condemned violence every time it happened.

I have condemned it when it happened on January 6. I condemned it when it happened in the summer of 2020. It would have been nice if the left would have done the same, because what I saw -- actually, frankly, I saw it on your network. I saw a reporter standing in front of a burning building saying, oh, it's mostly peaceful protests, in 2020.

Let's condemn the violence every time it happens. Let's don't have violence, but let's have the rule of law. Let's have equal application of the law. Let's have that in America. That's what our great country is supposed to be about. Unfortunately, in this administration, they're trampling, I think, the fundamental liberties that we enjoy as citizens.


And just to be clear, again, they are investigating with the special counsel Joe Biden.

I also neglected to mention that Mike Pence, who is a Republican, was cleared. So, there are bits of evidence and there are examples of justice being...

JORDAN: Only one of them was president. BASH: ... being investigated...

JORDAN: Only President Trump. Let's see what happens with -- let's see what...

BASH: ... on both sides of the aisle.

JORDAN: We will see what happens with Mr. Hur's special counsel.

BASH: Mr. Jordan, House Judiciary chairman, thank you so much for joining me this morning.

JORDAN: OK. Dana, thank you.

BASH: And he's a former federal prosecutor who led impeachment proceedings against former President Trump. Democratic Congressman and member of the Oversight Committee Dan Goldman joins me to respond next.

And a potential trial of -- in the middle of a 2024 presidential campaign. Two Republican candidates in that race will join me ahead.



BASH: Welcome back to the STATE OF THE UNION.

Until this week, the Justice Department has never charged a former U.S. president. And their case against Trump, which will be tried in his adopted home state of Florida, will come under unprecedented scrutiny.

I want to bring in a Democrat who has experience going up against the former president's legal team, a former federal attorney who took the lead in prosecuting Trump's first impeachment, Congressman Daniel Goldman of New York.

So, you just heard the House Judiciary chairman, Jim Jordan, say over and over that Trump could declassify any of these documents in question and did. What's your response?

REP. DANIEL GOLDMAN (D-NY): Well, that is true. As president, when he is a sitting president, he can -- he has classified vacation authority and can declassify documents.

After he leaves the Oval Office, he cannot do so. So the question then becomes, did he know whether or not these documents were classified or did he declassify them? And you quoted a couple of lines in the indictment. And, by the way, this is as devastating and specific of an indictment that I think I have ever seen. And I drafted a fair number of them to present to a grand jury when I was a federal prosecutor.

But when Donald Trump is showing military plans to those who don't have security clearances somewhere at Trump Bedminster, which is not a secure location, he referred to the document. He said: "Except it is, like, highly confidential."

Then he says "secret. This is secret information." He says: "Yes, we will have to try to declassify it. As president, I could have declassified it. Now I can't. But this is still a secret."

So there is no question, based on his private, recorded conversations, that he did not declassify these documents. Mr. Jordan and Donald Trump and his defense team can try to spin this any way they want, but the evidence, based on his own recording, his own voice, says to the contrary.

BASH: President Biden is, of course, running for reelection. Donald Trump is the front-runner to win the Republican nomination.

Some Republicans are already accusing Biden, as you just heard, of targeting his political opponent in the middle of the election. Are you worried that half the country just will not see these charges as legitimate?

GOLDMAN: No, I think, as this plays out and you start to realize what the point of a special counsel is -- I don't hear anyone complaining that there's a special counsel that was appointed, John Durham, to investigate Crossfire Hurricane, or a special counsel that was appointed to investigate the president.


The point of the special counsel is that it is independent from the administration. And what you're basically saying here with this argument is that, if anyone announces that they are running for president, that they cannot be charged.

That is preposterous. And Mr. Jordan cites the rule of law, but he's got it backwards. The rule of law in this country says that we are a government of laws, not people, and that no one is above the law. When you read this indictment and you think to yourself, man, this person should not be charged with it, the only person that should -- you're basically saying, as Mr. Jordan is, that Mr. Trump is above the law.

And that is not how our rule of law works. That's not how our system works.

BASH: President Biden also has a special counsel looking into the way he classified -- excuse me -- he handled classified documents after he left the White House.

He is also a candidate for president. Do you want the Justice Department to move quickly on their investigation of Biden, so that the American people have information about what's going on with that investigation, just as much as Trump?

GOLDMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely.

I think it's very important that the special counsel do a thorough investigation to determine whether President Biden willfully concealed classified information and knew that he was doing it. And that's the critical distinction here between Mr. Trump and former

Vice President Pence, President Biden, Secretary Clinton, is that there was no evidence that they willfully concealed material that was national defense information and that they attempted to obstruct the efforts by the National Archives and the Department of Justice to retrieve that information.

When Vice President Pence learned he had that information, when President Biden learned that he had that information, they immediately notified the authorities and turned it back over. And that's the critical distinction here that Mr. Jordan wants to ignore and all of the House Republicans want to ignore in their whataboutism.

Unless there's evidence of knowingly and intentionally holding this information that is material to the national defense, then there is no criminal charge.

BASH: I want you to listen to what a former attorney for president, former President Trump, Tim Parlatore, said Friday about something that caught his eye in the indictment.


TIMOTHY PARLATORE, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: One of the, I guess, most disturbing things in here to me is that they, in my opinion, improperly pierced the attorney-client privilege, and then used attorney-client privilege discussions to form the basis of charges. I do see a viable motion to dismiss.


BASH: Do you share his concerns?

GOLDMAN: Well, that was not Jack Smith who made that decision. That was a district court judge who determined that those conversations were -- pursuant to the crime-fraud exception, were exempt from the attorney-client privilege.

And that's why they used it, not because Jack Smith decided to use it, but because a district court judge -- and I believe it was appealed to the Court of Appeals as well. The judiciary decided that that was fair game for them. But that is just one piece of many, many damning pieces of evidence.

You have recordings. You have text messages. You have video surveillance. You obviously have testimony.

This is an overwhelmingly devastating indictment that demonstrated Donald Trump believed the law does not apply to him, and that he would do anything he could to conceal and maintain possession of highly, highly classified national security information that would jeopardize our national security and would jeopardize the good men and women of the United States intelligence community who risk their lives to gather that information.

This is of serious, serious importance to our national security.

BASH: Dan Goldman, Congressman from New York, former federal prosecutor, appreciate your time.

GOLDMAN: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: And my next guest said he'd pardon Donald Trump if he's elected president. But now that he's actually read the Trump indictment, does he feel any differently?

Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy is here next.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

Most of the Republicans running against former President Trump defended him after his indictment this week, but only one has gone as far as my next guest.

Here with me now is Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy.

Thank you so much for joining me.

So, before you heard any details of the allegations in the Trump indictment, you put out a statement saying, if you become president, you would pardon Donald Trump on day one.

Now you have seen the allegations, and you have seen that he stored highly classified information, like nuclear secrets and others, in unsecured areas of his country club. Given everything that you have seen, do you stand by your promise to pardon him if he's convicted?

RAMASWAMY: Reading that indictment and looking at the selective omissions of both fact and law, Dana, I'm even more convinced that a pardon is the right answer here.

BASH: Why?

RAMASWAMY: The top question, actually, we should be asking is, what did Biden tell Merrick Garland? What did Merrick Garland tell Jack Smith?

Because what I see in that document is deeply politicized, not a single mention of the Presidential Records Act, the most relevant statute to the actual alleged crime here, selective statements from President Trump's, statements on the campaign trail in 2016 about classification and how he'd treat it, without one mention of the fact that he actually, after he was elected in 2016, said he would not prosecute Hillary Clinton and would not want to see her prosecuted.


And, by the way, no one's mentioned this yet. This was what stood out to me. The classification scheme itself was defined not by statute, but by executive order, which is interesting, because executive, orders appellate courts have held, do not bind a U.S. president with the force of law.

So this is selective prosecution. I think it's irresponsible not to have included any treatment of those facts or law in this indictment. It reeks of politicization, which is why I want to go back to the top question that the media actually should be asking.

What did Biden tell Garland? What did Garland tell Jack Smith? That's what you need to begin to the bottom of.

BASH: Well, the White House insists that he has absolutely no connection to this, that the whole reason the special counsel was put in place is to take it out of politics.

RAMASWAMY: That's a fig leaf.

BASH: But I want to read something -- I want to read something that Bill Barr, President Trump's own attorney general, said just this morning on another network.

He said -- quote -- "If even half of it is true," speaking of the indictment, "then he's toast. It is a very detailed indictment, and it's very, very damning."

This is the former president's own former attorney general.

RAMASWAMY: I think we have to be able to draw a distinction between bad judgments -- I would not have made the judgments that President Trump made.

It's a big part of why I'm in this race is, I think that I would have made different judgments than Trump made.

BASH: Like what? What would you have done differently?

RAMASWAMY: Well, I would not have taken those documents with me, and I would have returned them on demand, because that would have actually set up for a much more constructive discussion.

But there's difference between a bad judgment and breaking the law. And when especially the federal police apparatus conflates the two, that's a threat to liberty for everyone, not just President Trump, but every American, where every misjudgment is treated as a violation of law.

What really matters is the relevant law, including, by the way, how Judge Jackson interpreted the Presidential Records Act in 2012 in the Clinton sock drawer case. Not a single mention of the most relevant statute in that document means that indictment is a politicized document.

So I want to get back to the bottom of the politics behind it, and we need transparency there. BASH: According to the indictment -- quote -- "The classified

documents Trump stored in his boxes included information regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries, United States nuclear programs, potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attacks -- attack, and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack."

So, we are talking about very, very sensitive information, which, again, Trump allegedly stored in a bathroom, ballroom, in his bedroom. Isn't it -- is that more than just bad judgment?

RAMASWAMY: It's very bad judgment, no doubt about it.

BASH: So, you do have issues with that?

RAMASWAMY: I do, if those allegations are true.

By the way, the reason we have a court of law is -- and I am personally deeply skeptical of everything in that indictment, so I will not believe it until we actually see it aired in a court of law. And the reason I don't believe it, Dana, is the selective omission of a bunch of other facts that should have been in that indictment, a treatment of a bunch of other statutes that are relevant to this alleged crime that were mentioned nowhere, that I personally have no faith whatsoever in those vague allegations.

So, if those are true, yes, I think that's reflective of very bad judgment. I'm skeptical that it even is true. But the bottom line is, we cannot conflate a bad judgment with a violation of the law. That's what is at issue here.

BASH: And we should note, as you know, when an indictment is -- in order to get an indictment, it has to be approved by a grand jury.


RAMASWAMY: What they taught us in law school is that you can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. It's well known in the law.


Just on principle, just on principle. do you think it will be -- it would be a mistake for the Republican Party to nominate somebody who is facing serious federal criminal charges?

RAMASWAMY: Look, I'm in this race to win this race, because I think we need to move forward as a country. I think we go forward with the agenda if we're grounded in first principles and moral authority.

That's why I'm in this race. But that's not for you or I or certainly the federal administrative police state to decide. That's for the people of this country to decide.

BASH: Federal administrative police state? That's pretty strong.

RAMASWAMY: That's exactly what is at work here, right? You have a federal administrative state. The police arm of that state

is, for the first time in U.S. history, not only indicting a former president, but indicting currently a lead candidate against the U.S. president. That is not the stuff of the United States of America. That is the stuff of banana republics.

BASH: Well...

RAMASWAMY: And if there was ever going to be a case brought against a lead political rival for a sitting U.S. president, it better be locked down and airtight, not an indictment that fails to mention the most relevant statute that's actually at issue.

BASH: Yes, well, it is -- obviously, as you said, it is unprecedented.

I should say that there have been democracies that have prosecuted -- put criminal prosecution of former leaders, because those times have been so extraordinary.

RAMASWAMY: And here in the middle of an election, in the middle of an election.


BASH: And there -- and this -- and this obviously is very extraordinary.

RAMASWAMY: I disagree with the allegations. I just think -- I do not believe those allegations because of, I think, the intellectual dishonesty in that indictment.

So, I think the federal court is actually -- I think, based on the precedent of the Clinton sock drawer case, where, effectively, Judge Jackson said that it is at the president's -- her language, not mine -- sole discretion as to what is and is not covered as a presidential record, I think the court will acquit him.

But that's beside the point of the judgment that President Biden made. And if Trump's judgment was bad, President Biden's judgment is worse for actually bringing a prosecution. He should have done what Trump did.

BASH: He didn't -- President Biden didn't bring a prosecution.

RAMASWAMY: The Department of Justice reports into the president of the United States. And so this is a fig leaf.

BASH: There's -- OK, but there's...

RAMASWAMY: Which is why I think the media needs to get to the bottom of this.

BASH: But there's no evidence, there's absolutely no evidence...

RAMASWAMY: Dana... BASH: ... unless you can show me some, that President Biden has had anything to do with this prosecution.


BASH: That's why he put two layers in between, with the special counsel.

RAMASWAMY: With due respect, I think it is shameful that I, as a competitor to President Trump in this race, have to ask questions that the media isn't asking.

The job of the political media, if it has one job, is to hold the U.S. government accountable.

BASH: Yes, we know that.

RAMASWAMY: And, instead, we're doing the bidding -- you're seeing the media doing the bidding of the U.S. government.


RAMASWAMY: Ask the question. Get to the bottom of what Biden told Garland and what Garland told Jack Smith.

If the same shoe fit the other foot, you would not take their word at face value. Do not take their word now. Get to the bottom of it. Let's actually restore journalism in this country. That's what's actually missing is getting to the truth.


BASH: Thank you. OK, thank you for that. We are absolutely asking these questions.


BASH: And we know how to be good journalists because we do it every single day.

Last question is, on the fundamentals, do you believe that Donald Trump should be above the law or should he be held to the same standard as every citizen in this country?

RAMASWAMY: Every citizen in this country is held and should be held to the same standard. That includes Joe Biden. That includes Hillary Clinton. That includes Mike Pence. That includes me. That includes every citizen across this country.

What we're seeing here, though, is a selective prosecution. And there's a difference between Donald Trump, when he left office as president, versus Joe Biden, who is a U.S. senator.

BASH: Couldn't it be true that...

RAMASWAMY: ... or Hillary Clinton, who is a secretary of state, none of whom are covered by the Presidential Records Act.


Couldn't it be true that it's not so much a selective prosecution; it's just that the allegations of what Donald Trump did is just different and allegedly much more egregious than what we have seen anywhere else?

RAMASWAMY: There are a few things that are just different about the presidency, and we have to accept that we have this as law in this country, Dana.

And if you don't like the law, we should change the law. But the law says there's a Presidential Records Act that specifically gives U.S. presidents jurisdiction and authority over deciding what is and isn't a presidential record. And executive orders bind the rest of the country. That's the classification scheme. They don't bind the U.S. president.

Again, these are questions for the courts. So I'm not substituting my opinion for the judgment of the court.

BASH: Right.

RAMASWAMY: But I'm saying the fact that those distinctions did not even appear in this indictment, to me, reek of politicization, which is why I am deeply skeptical of the face-value claim that the White House wasn't involved.


RAMASWAMY: That's what I want to get to the bottom of.

BASH: Vivek Ramaswamy, candidate for the Republican nomination, thank you for your time, sir.

RAMASWAMY: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: Appreciate it.

And my next guest is also running for the Republican nomination, slightly different take, though, on the case against Donald Trump. Asa Hutchinson joins me to respond after a quick break.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

Not all of Donald Trump's GOP competitors criticized the Justice Department indictment this week.

Here with me now is GOP presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson.

You are a former federal prosecutor, sir. Have you ever seen an indictment like this before?

HUTCHINSON: Not to this level of specificity and detail.

It's obviously a very solid indictment. The grand jury found probable cause for it. Now, I do think Jack Smith is going to have a challenging time making the case in court, not because the facts are weak, but simply because you're going after a former president, and you just have one juror that happens to be a Trump supporter or happens to be of a different viewpoint, you're not going to be able to get a conviction.

And so this is a challenging case for the government, and it'll be interesting to see how it proceeds forward. This is an unprecedented time, whenever you think about the president of the United States, Joe Biden, under investigation. You think about the former president, who's running for office, who is under indictment and continues under investigation.

This is a challenging time for our country. We need to take a deep breath and let the criminal justice system work. And let's look at our future, and, particularly, what kind of a leader do we need as commander in chief in the future? We need somebody who has a high regard for military secrets, for classified documents, and for the rule of law.

BASH: You just heard your fellow 2024 candidate Vivek Ramaswamy say that he would pardon Donald Trump on his first day in office.

What's your reaction?

HUTCHINSON: Well, that's wrong. It is simply wrong for a candidate to use the pardon power of the United States, of the president, in order to curry votes and in order to get an applause line.

It's just wrong, and it shouldn't happen that way. If you start down that path, it is unending. And so we shouldn't be promising and holding out the fig leaf of a pardon, because that undermines our jury system. It undermines the grand jury that found probable cause to have -- say, well, there's going to be a pardon anyway for this.

And so that really undermines the rule of law in our country that I have served my lifetime supporting. And it's offensive to me that anyone would be holding out a pardon under these circumstances.


BASH: You have said Donald Trump should drop out of the race for the good of the country.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, his former vice president, says that's premature and that Trump is innocent until proven guilty. Is he wrong about that?

HUTCHINSON: Well, certainly he's innocent until proven guilty, absolutely. And we know that Donald Trump is not going to drop out of the race.

This is going to be an issue that the voters have to decide. My point is that this is bad for our country, bad for the presidency, and it is a legitimate campaign issue.

We do not need to have our commander in chief of this country not protecting our nation's secrets. Think about -- when you talk about the equal application of the law, if these allegations and probable cause had been found against any military person or any public servant that wasn't named Donald Trump, they would have been indicted a long time ago.

And so this is equal application of the law, and we don't need to -- and it will be an issue in the campaign. And so that's something that Vivek and I agree upon, that we don't need a commander in chief that disregards the nation's secrets, from our nuclear secrets to our military responses to particular worldwide events.

These are things that should not be disclosed as entertainment value to a political contact that you're speaking with.

BASH: One last quick question.

Are you concerned that this all is going to help Donald Trump in his race against you and others?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I suspect that he's going to raise money on the indictment, as he did before, and, obviously, with a lot of Republican leaders saying that this is selective prosecution, that this is unfair, that there's a sympathy factor that's built in.

All I can do is speak the truth and say what I believe is important in this case, that these are serious allegations that are relevant in this campaign, and it should not be dismissed lightly. The Republican Party stands for the rule of law and our system of justice. Let's not undermine that by our rhetoric, by making up facts, and by accusing the Department of Justice of things that there's no evidence of.

And so let's let -- let's build confidence on our institutions of democracy and justice, and not undermine those. That's my hope and prayer. And I think, as time goes on, you will see more Republicans responding to that message.

BASH: Governor Asa Hutchinson, thank you so much for your time this morning. I really appreciate it.

HUTCHINSON: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: And coming up, a big, consequential political week.

More on that next.


[09:57:13] BASH: In addition to co-hosting this show, starting tomorrow, I will be seeing you every weekday right here on CNN as the new host of "INSIDE POLITICS." I hope that you will tune in.

Thank you so much for spending your Sunday morning with us.

The news continues next.