Transcript: Rikki Klieman, Bill Bratton and Robert Costa "Face the Nation" panel, March 26, 2023
The following is a transcript of a panel with CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman, former New York City police commissioner Bill Bratton and CBS News chief election and campaign correspondent Robert Costa, that aired on "Face the Nation" on Sunday, March 26, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We now return to former President Trump's legal problems and that Manhattan case being prosecuted by District Attorney Alvin Bragg. We're joined once again by our Robert Costa, and joining us remotely, our CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman, along with former New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who also happens to be Ricky's husband in full disclosure. They are both in Naples, Florida, and we're so glad that they can join us together, because I do want to start on the legal and security aspects of this case. Rikki, last night, the former president told reporters he thinks the case against him has been dropped. We've seen no evidence to back that up. What is reality about what to expect in the coming days from this grand jury?
RIKKI KLIEMAN: From all of the information that we have, the grand jury is set to meet as usual on Monday. The grand jury usually sIts Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. We do not know if they are done with their evidence yet, but when they finish, we assume that Alvin Bragg's office will come to them with a draft indictment, at which point he will put forward the charges that he intends to prosecute. The district attorney or his people are excused from the room, The grand jurors deliberate. It takes a vote of 12 out of 23 grand jurors to return an indictment. It could happen as early as this week.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It could happen. Commissioner, the Manhattan District Attorney in the past few days has already received threats. The former president but- besides the rhetoric that he has issued, reposting images of himself with a baseball bat, he's vowed 'death and destruction.' We also had this example of a white powder being sent to the office of the district attorney. Can you just give us a snapshot of the threat level right now?
BILL BRATTON: Well, as you might expect, the threats that are being made by the former president, which are unfortunate, Law enforcement officials will be responding accordingly in the sense of ramping up security certainly around the district attorney and others affiliated with this case. The district attorney is normally provided New York City police protection, that protection has in fact been expanded. There is significant protection around that courthouse, in that courthouse, if in fact that is the courthouse that is going to be used for an arraignment if there is an indictment. Law enforcement is monitoring social media very closely and will respond, as they always will, with speed and intensity to any threats made against any of the individuals in this case.
MARGARET BRENNAN: If there is an indictment, Commissioner, how- can you walk us through what an arrest of a former president looks like? I mean, this seems unprecedented. Will, anyone even be handcuffing him, for example?
BRATTON: If there are handcuffs, the President is going to have to bring them himself. I don't imagine that the court officials will require handcuffs be placed on the former president. That's a policy decision. It's thought that the President would like to have that photo, but I don't think the officials in New York are gonna provide that opportunity. If there is an indictment or indictments, the President will be required to surrender someplace in Manhattan at one of the courthouses where he would be basically fingerprinted electronically, photographed, and basically given a booking number, if you will, at which time he would then be taken before a judge to be arraigned on the charges contained in the indictment. The way it works is the- if you will, the booking would be supervised by people from Alvin Bragg's office, New York police to the- for security purposes, Secret Service would be there every step of the way, as they are required to do to protect the President. So the process has been negotiated as to where and how it will be done. It's a exceptional process, as you might expect, for this particular case, for this particular individual.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Exceptional is- is certainly the word. Rikki, you know, past Manhattan District Attorney's have chosen not to move forward with this case. There have been questions about the legal theory, that part of it at least is based on. If the indictment happens, do we know what the charges would be? And what is the likelihood it goes to trial?
KLIEMAN: We do not yet know what the charges will be, but we certainly have a very good idea of what some of them will be. And we have that idea not only because of Michael Cohen speaking outside to the press after he has testified, but we also know that the district attorney's office has spoken with Stormy Daniels. And we also know that from Joe Tacopina, the president- former president's lawyer, as what they expect, as I say some of the charges to be, because there may be additional charges. And what the charge that is expected has to do with the hush money payment that was made by Michael Cohen, he says at the behest of Mr. Trump, in order to buy her silence, in order to have it not come out on the eve of the 2016 election. The difficulties with this case, and no one would say this case is easy, is that you take misdemeanor charges for falsifying business records, because the payments back to Michael Cohen are written off as legal fees against a retainer. You take those as falsifying business records, you couple them with a federal election violation in order to up the misdemeanor to a felony. That's a unique theory. It is novel, it has not been tested before. But Alvin Bragg certainly feels that it will pass muster under the law. Ultimately, will the case go to trial? I believe so if there is an indictment. Will the case be won? While a jury in Manhattan may want to convict Donald Trump on the evidence presented, the question may be for a judge as to whether or not the facts constitute a crime under the laws of New York. Keep in mind one other thing, Margaret. This may not be the only charge, there may be tax evasion charges. There may be other kinds of charges that have been looked at by Mr. Bragg's predecessor, which had to do with inflation and deflation of property values that are currently being looked at in a civil case by the New York Attorney General. So we don't ultimately know what the final charges will be if there is an indictment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: If. Commissioner Bratton, the District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, is a Democrat. Mr. Trump has really taken aim at that fact and his record on crime. What should people at home know about Bragg? Is he an effective District Attorney?
BRATTON: Bragg has been controversial since his election relative to the issues of crime in New York City, particularly in Manhattan, his jurisdiction. Crime has gone up recently, shootings and murders are down but overall crime is continuing to go up. So, his effectiveness, his progressive policies have been very much under debate in terms of people in New York City. I'm somebody who's criticized very frequently, his actions or inactions relative to that crime situation. But we need to take that and separate it from this current situation, this current case, they are two separate issues entirely.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Commissioner and Rikki, thank you for your analysis. I want to ask Bob Costa, who is here in studio with me about the reporting you have gathered on this case. Is it all about Michael Cohen?
ROBERT COSTA: It is not all about Michael Cohen. After being outside the Manhattan criminal court all week. It's clear, based on our conversations with sources, that the District Attorney has documents in his possession that would be central to any case he eventually decides to mount, should it move in that direction, that it's not just about Michael Cohen's testimony. So often we hear about this case, and we hear Michael Cohen's testimony would be the keystone for any sort of prosecution. It would certainly be critical, but not the only component.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do we have any details about what might be in those records?
COSTA: To build on Ricky's point, we are hearing there are business records, emails, financial records, that the District Attorney has compiled, that this is not just about bringing in Michael Cohen and Bob Costello. We do wonder at this point, who else is going to come in this week potentially? We spoke to Bob Costello, the final witness, potentially, last night and he told CBS News he does not expect to be called this week.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Bob Costa, we'll continue to follow this story and we'll be right back.
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