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Transcript: Preet Bharara, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, on "Face the Nation," June 2, 2024

Bharara: GOP characterizationsTrump trial are "completely silly"
Preet Bharara says characterizations by GOP of Trump's trial are "completely silly" 07:42

The following is a transcript of an interview with Preet Bharara, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, on "Face the Nation" that aired on June 2, 2024.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we turn now to former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, who endorsed Alvin Bragg, the District Attorney of Manhattan in his election. He also used to work with, and actually hired, Trump's attorney in the case, Todd Blanche. Good morning to you Preet.

PREET BHARARA: Good morning. I just want a quick correction. I didn't hire Todd Blanche, but I did promote him twice. And I consider both Alvin Bragg and Todd Blanche to be friends of mine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And to be- he was Mr. Trump's attorney in this trial. So what does having this criminal record now do for Donald Trump with these other three criminal cases?

BHARARA: Well, so that's an interesting question. You know, there's a lot of speculation about whether or not this criminal conviction will result in a- in a incarcerated period for Donald Trump. That's up in the air, there are arguments in favor, there are arguments against. But whatever happens, the fact of this criminal conviction will be on his record if it- if it remains. At such a time as the future criminal trials take place, and if he gets a conviction on the federal counts in the future, the fact of this conviction here, if it's still on the books, would result in a potential higher prison sentence in those future cases. So it does have a consequence, because he will now, unlike a week ago, have a criminal record and criminal records are taken into account in meeting out punishment.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Important point. You said you had promoted the president's attorney when you used to work together. Would you promote him based on his performance in court defending Mr. Trump?

BHARARA: You know, it's a very easy thing that- that I do and other people do on the panel, and criticize people's performances. Sometimes it's the case that someone could do a better job at trial. Trials are difficult and there's a lot of scrutiny here. But sometimes the facts and the law are what the facts of the law are. And sometimes terrific defense lawyers, who performed very, very well, lose, and sometimes not good defense lawyers win because the government hasn't proven its case. So I'm not gonna take potshots at Adam. I thought- I think he could have been stronger in some of the cross examinations. And I'll leave it at that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, sentencing is July 4, excuse me, July 11, four days before the convention, as we mentioned. What grounds for appeal do you think Mr. Trump has here?

BHARARA: So I think they'll make a number of key points. You know, Donald Trump does not want to leave anything on the cutting room floor. I think some of his arguments are non frivolous. I agree with what Jan said, that in the ordinary course, it's very, very difficult to get a criminal conviction overturned, but it happens. It's happened to me, it's happened to any good prosecutor's office that brings aggressive cases. Nobody has a 100% record on appeal. That said, it's a very low percentage. I think a number of things, including the fact that the judge didn't change the venue, the fact that the judge didn't recuse himself. I don't think those are strong, but I think those will be made. The fact that Stormy Daniels testified a bit broadly about some of the scurrilous details of their sexual encounter, they will argue were prejudicial and should not have been allowed to come in, although they opened the door to that, arguably. And then there's this sort of technical business that I'm sure causes lay people's eyes to glaze over. And that is the degree to which the second crime, the thing that made and transformed the misdemeanor into a felony, the basis of that did not have to be decided unanimously by the jury. So the- the further crime, the felony, was appropriate, based on the jury's decision, if there was- the falsification of the business documents was done to further or to conceal or to commit some other crime, namely, an election crime in New York, and that could have been done three different ways.


BHARARA: --Jury instructions, and they don't have to be unanimous on those three different ways. And that's- that's probably an issue for appeal.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Let me zero in on that, because that has been something that- that Mr. Trump and his allies have talked about. In terms of this case, this was about trying to manipulate an election and fraud related to that. His allies say this was just, it was a paperwork thing, somebody mislabeled this as a legal expense. How would you tell the lay person to understand this?

BHARARA: Look, the underlying misdemeanor and that's why it's a misdemeanor, is falsifying business records. But the reason it becomes a felony, not the most serious felony on the books in New York, but a felony that any felony is serious, is if that crime, that misdemeanor crime was done to conceal or commit some other crime and that other crime that the prosecutors alleged and got the convictions on, was the unla- promoting someone's election by unlawful means.


BHARARA: Either done by the falsification of other documents or committing some other tax crime or in further election fraud crime. And so the prosecution, I think, did it as well as anybody could do for lay people because the jury obviously was a series of lay people. But this was a serious thing that undermined and interfered with the election in 2016. And that's serious and not to be taken lightly.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you know, we're seeing some rhetoric from Republican lawmakers, including Senator Marco Rubio, who said Mr. Trump was held hostage, the victim of a sham political show trial, like the ones the communists used in Cuba and the Soviet Union, railing against the ruling class. In terms of our judicial system in this country, how should someone understand a characterization like that?

BHARARA: Well, I think you know, it's silly. It's completely silly. The trial, and all aspects of the trial were done openly and in public. The jury selection process, someone needs to be reminded, was participated in by the Trump legal team as well. They had all the peremptory challenges that they're accorded by law. The judge, although there's some, you know, accusations made about his impartiality, or lack thereof, his rulings are there to see, as other people have pointed out. He ruled in favor of the Trump team sometimes, he ruled against the Trump team sometimes. He was pretty fair and even handed. A jury of 12 people--


BHARARA: --Who were selected and approved by both sides brought- brought in the verdict.


BHARARA: So I don't know what- what a sham about it. The rules of evidence were followed and complied with. So I don't really know what's happening here.


BHARARA: Other than pure partisan politics.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, yesterday, President Biden was spending time with his son, Hunter. And tomorrow, in another unusual situation our country is in, the Biden Justice Department will begin a trial in Delaware against the president's son where Hunter faces three felony gun possession charges, maximum 25 years prison. How much hot water is he in here?

BHARARA: He's in substantial hot water, because he's been charged federally, just like Donald Trump is in a lot of hot water being charged in a state court. But I think an important thing to consider here, by the way, in the wake of your question about the- the accusations of this vast conspiracy by both state prosecutors and the- and the federal Justice Department that is acting in a witch hunt fashion, in a partisan fashion to bring down the Republican Party. Here you have the son of the sitting President of the United States of America going to trial at the hands of his own Justice Department. In a million years, can anyone listening to this broadcast understand and expect that if- if Donald Trump was elected again, and a Biden holdover US attorney were to indict Donald Trump Jr., that Donald Trump wouldn't do something about it in the way that Joe Biden has stayed out of it? I don't think so. So that's an important thing to remember. And also, the other thing that's happening this week is a continuation of the trial against Democratic senior and important Senator Bob Menendez--


BHARARA: --By the same Justice Department that these politicians are accusing of being partisan.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. Preet Bharara, thank you for your insight and analysis. We're gonna have to leave it there. And Face the Nation will be back in a minute.

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