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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Conservative Group Gets Largest Political Donation; Trump Asking For Third-Party Attorney; Flash Floods In Dallas After 24 Hours Of Rain; Marijuana Use On The Rise; Poll: Dems Close Enthusiasm Gap With GOP Ahead Of Midterms; Poll: Americans Say Threat To Democracy Most Important Issue Facing The Country; Striking Teachers Begin Picketing In Columbus, Ohio; Court Filing: ICE Officials Under Trump Told To Wipe Phones When Leaving Agency; Some Tesla Supporters Use Their Kids As Props To Test The "Self-Driving" Feature. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired August 22, 2022 - 17:00   ET




DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This IRS document obtained by CNN is evidence of the largest anonymous dark money political donation ever reported, $1.6 billion. It is, according to experts, a staggering amount.

ROBERT MAGUIRE, RESEARCH DIRECTOR, CREW: I am just stunned. We are talking about income that is many multiples larger than the largest dark money groups ever found.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): And it's going to a new organization called Marble Freedom Trust. While you have probably never heard of it or the man in charge of it, the whole country is familiar with his work. His name is Leonard Leo, a devout Catholic known as Donald Trump's Supreme Court whisperer.

LEONARD LEO, CO-CHAIRMAN, FEDERALIST SOCIETY: There are lots of really smart people, Margaret, who can serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Dozens and dozens, but you need people who have courage.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Leo helped usher in the most conservative Supreme Court in decades. Along with helping block Merrick Garland from the court, he and his colleagues at the Federalist Society are given credit for the confirmations of Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.

MAGUIRE: It was Leo who was in the driver's seat of those nominations. Leo is the person who can raise the money and has the background to put in place judges who will build a conservative judicial infrastructure around the country.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Leonard Leo now has an unprecedented amount of cash to spend on whatever political projects he likes. And while the donation was meant to be kept secret, name and address withheld on the IRS form, CNN has confirmed the source is 90-year-old businessman and philanthropist Barre Seid who donated the stock of his entire company, the Tripp Lite company of Chicago to Marble Freedom Trust, which turned around and sold it for $1.6 billion.

CNN has attempted to reach Mr. Seid without response. His donation will leave behind a dark money political legacy that could last decades. Already, Marble Freedom Trust has given more than $200 million to other causes including $40 million to donor's trust, which has doled out millions to conservative causes.

In a statement to CNN, Leonard Leo said, "It's high time for the conservative movement to be among the ranks of George Soros and other left-wing philanthropists going toe to toe in the fight to defend our Constitution and its ideals."


GRIFFIN (on camera): Jake, that is an understatement. This amount of money dwarfs any previous dark money single contribution we could find, and certainly dwarves the liberal funds Leonard Leo is referencing. One other note of significance, according to tax experts we've talked to, this deal looks like it's set up so an entire company is donated and then sold tax-free by everyone involved. A $1.6 billion transaction with no tax. Jake?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Of course. Drew Griffin, thanks.

Turning to breaking news now in our "Politics Lead," Donald Trump is seeking what is known as a special master, this would be a third-party attorney who would review whether materials that the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago could be used in a criminal investigation.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz and Kaitlan Collins are tracking this legal development, the first that the former president has made since his private residence was searched. Katelyn Polantz, let me start with you. What is Trump's legal team asking for in their new filing?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR REPORTER, CRIME AND JUSTICE: Well, essentially, Jake, Donald Trump and his legal team want to pump the brakes on anything that the Justice Department collected and would be going through now in this ongoing criminal investigation. So, to do that, they're asking if four things.

They're asking for a special master, so a third party that would be appointed by the court to make sure what is collected in the evidence is the sort of thing investigators can use as they continue investigating. He also wants to pause the Justice Department from reviewing that information, that's number two.

Number three, he wants a more detailed receipt of the property that was provided to him. Now, we do know that the Justice Department or the FBI provided two receipts to him that his lawyer signed at the end of that search when they removed 33 items, but he wants more detail about that.

And four, he wants the Justice Department to return any items that they say would not be within the scope of the search warrant that would be found to be that way by this special master if it would be appointed. So, those are all of the things he's asking for. He's also making some legal claims saying that his constitutional rights may be violated, that there are potentially privileged materials that had been taken out of Mar-a-Lago.

But of course, Jake, we need to make -- put some caveats in this, in that there was a hearing last week. There were lots of chances for Donald Trump's team to speak up in court. They did not do that. It has been two weeks since this search, since the Justice Department has had all of this evidence in their possession.


And we also know that the FBI did receive many things, go through them, and their filter team was at work and even returned to Trump and his team things that they didn't need in that investigation, including two expired passports and a diplomatic passport for the former president. So, we'll see what the judge does here. There hasn't been a response yet in court yet to this.

TAPPER: And Kaitlan Collins, what else are you discovering in this document?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A lot, Jake. It's actually pretty detailed about their view of how all of this transpired leading up to this search of Mar-a-Lago. We should note it also reveals that the search warrant was actually signed on August 5th, that Friday before it was actually carried out at Mar-a-Lago. They're raising the question in this filing about why the search warrant was signed at 12:12 p.m. on that Friday, August 5th, and the search wasn't carried out until Monday.

Of course, as Katelyn noted, we have not heard a response from the Justice Department on this matter, but they do note that they say that Jay Bratt, who was this Justice Department official who visited Mar-a- Lago at the previously reported June 3rd meeting, was the one who arrived.

He called Trump's counsel and then asked Trump's counsel to turn the cameras off at Mar-a-Lago. Of course, that's been a point of dispute. There is one really fascinating thing in this filing, Jake, and it is confirmation from Trump's legal team that they did try to pass a message along to Attorney General Garland.

And on it, it says that August 11th, three days after this search was carried out, Trump's counsel called Jay Bratt who is this Justice Department official who is really leading this investigation, and asked him to pass along this message from Trump to Attorney General Garland.

I'm going to read it in full, Jake, because it says, "President Trump wants the attorney general to know that he has been hearing from people all over the country about the raid. If there was one word to describe the mood, it is angry. The heat is building up, the pressure is building up. Whatever I can do to take the heat down, to bring the pressure down, just let us know."

Jake, previously, officials had not confirmed, people around Trump had not confirmed that he did try to get a message to Attorney General Garland. They are confirming it in this filing, which is just remarkable in and of itself really, Jake.

The other thing I want to note is it's been two weeks since the search of Mar-a-Lago happened. There had been some disagreement in Trump's orbit, I was told by sources, over whether or not to seek this special master and how quickly to do it with some criticism that they had kind of missed the window, they should have done it sooner rather than later.

Of course, it is now two weeks since the search happened and they're taking their first legal action here. It does show that there is some disagreement behind the scenes over what is the best strategy going forward and coalescing around a singular strategy here, but clearly, this is now a decision they're making.

They do have one thing in mind here, Jake. Having this search for a special master could potentially slow things down since they are asking investigators to pause their work until a special master, this third-party attorney, would be appointed.

TAPPER: Let's bring in CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig as well. Elie, what do you think of Trump's chances in terms of succeeding in this filing and getting a special master to be appointed to go through all of the material collected at Mar-a-Lago before the Justice Department takes whatever they find relevant?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Jake, on the special master request, I think Donald Trump has a fairly good chance of prevailing. It's a reasonable request. It's actually not unprecedented. The idea is let's get an outside third party. Typically, you'd have a retired federal judge come in and review these documents and make sure that there's nothing that's attorney/client privilege, potentially executive privilege.

If there is, that special master will hold on to it and it will not pass through the prosecutors. There is precedent for this. I think most memorably when DOJ did a search warrant on Michael Cohen in 2018, there was a special master appointed, a former federal judge from the Southern District of New York, Barbara Jones.

She went through the documents. She only passed along to prosecutors those documents that were not privileged. So, as Kaitlan notes though, this will take time if the request is granted. It probably should have been made, the request, a couple weeks ago, shortly after the search was made because for all we know, DOJ is already going through that information. But this is not an unusual request and I think it's fairly well grounded.

TAPPER: And you heard Kaitlan just report that Trump's legal team tried to contact Attorney General Garland with this message about how angry people are across the country. What did you make of that?

HONIG: Well, wildly inappropriate at a minimum. Look, you are not supposed to, you are not allowed to try to influence a prosecution in any way if you're a subject or a target or any person. And reaching out to the attorney general himself with the kind of message, whether it sounds like they're trying to bring the temperature down or not is really inappropriate and I think ill-advised.

TAPPER: I just want to bring in Kaitlan for a second. We do hear this a lot, Kaitlan, from Trump allies along the lines of, you know, the FBI better not do this, there's going to be, like, bad things are going to happen. Sometimes it's a vague threat, sometimes it's pretty direct.

COLLINS: I also think an interesting aspect of this is the political -- the political argument that they're making in this filing, Jake, which is they say Trump who has not yet declared that he is running for office in 2024, is the clear front-runner in the Republican presidential primary and in the 2024 general election should he decide to run.


They're also bringing the midterm elections into this, Jake. Basically, trying to make this argument that what Trump has been saying since the day that he confirmed this search, which is his claim it's politically motivated. They cite the press conference by the attorney general. And basically, they're saying, for example, let me read you part of this, Jake, just to show you the argument that Trump's legal team is making.

"On August 8, 2022, in a shockingly aggressive move and with no understanding of the distress that it would cause most Americans, roughly two dozen special agents of the FBI directed by the Justice Department went to Trump's home." So that is how they're framing it, Jake. That is the right off the bat in this motion that they're filing. Their first legal motion we are getting from the Trump team.

They are trying to say that this is a politically motivated attack against Trump and saying that it's because he's the front-runner. That has kind of been their strategy all along and what they're using in a public court of opinion, certainly, Jake, as they've been making most of their legal arguments on television.

This is the first time they're making an argument in a court filing. And as Katelyn noted, they've had opportunities to do so previously and have not yet done so.

TAPPER: And Elie, Congressman Dan Crenshaw, Republican of Texas, was on "State of the Union" yesterday and he made a similar argument about just the inherently political nature of this search. Take a listen.


REP. DAN CRENSHAW (R-TX): We are going after an ex-president who may run again. This is automatically political. You can't -- you cannot separate the legal aspects of this from the political aspects of it, you can't. And it doesn't seem to me like they've acted responsibly as a result of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Elie, what did you think when you heard Congressman Crenshaw

say that?

HONIG: Well, Jake, I'm not sure Dan Crenshaw has a basis to say the DOJ has not acted responsibly here. He, like all of us, has not yet seen the affidavit. But I do think he has a good point that this prosecution or investigation is inherently political. And prosecutors like to and rightly strive to operate separate and apart from politics, but prosecutors also operate in reality.

We can't operate in a vacuum as much as we strive for that at DOJ, and I think he's right that the closer we get to the midterms and the 2024 presidential election cycle, the more fraught, the more potentially difficult it gets to charge, to investigate, to indict, potentially to convict anyone, never mind somebody who may well be the front-runner. I think that's just reality.

TAPPER: Yes. Although I would also observe that if they decided not to investigate potential law breaking because of the political dimension, that is also a political decision. Katelyn Polantz, how might all of this -- this filing today and this request for a special master and all that, how might that complicate Thursday's hearing which is about how much of the affidavit to release to the public?

POLANTZ: Right. Well, that would be a court filing that the Justice Department will be putting in under seal in court. And actually, one of the things that's fascinating about this new filing is it puts into the court record for the first time more of the narrative of the investigation.

That was something that had only been spoken about in media interviews, in reports from various news outlets, but there is a recitation of what happened in June, that crucial time when the FBI, the Justice Department, top investigators on this, visited Mar-a-Lago and Donald Trump's team says that Donald Trump himself greeted them in the dining room at Mar-a-Lago.

He said to Mr. Bratt, Jay Bratt, the Justice Department prosecutor and FBI agents, whatever you need, just let us know. That's in this court filing. They're also putting at Trump's feet quite a few other things that he himself was doing and giving permission to during this investigation.

They're saying the FBI agents thanked him at one point and said you did not need to show us the storage room. We appreciate it. This all makes sense. Trump then when asked to secure that room, said he directed his staff to place a second lock on the door. They also write, the Trump team says President Trump continued to assist the government, not others around him, him himself.

He himself, and that Trump himself was the person who gave the direction to comply with that subpoena to hand over surveillance footage of the areas inside Mar-a-Lago that the Justice Department wanted to observe. So, they really are saying what Trump's agency was here and potentially hoping to couch that in the guise of the power of the presidency that he may have. So, it really isn't others that they're putting this on. It is Trump.

TAPPER: All right, Katelyn Polantz, Elie Honig, Kaitlan Collins, thanks to all of you, appreciate it, coming in with this breaking news report.

It is flooding down in Texas, the Dallas area already seeing 10 inches of rain in less than 24 hours, and that threat is not over.

Then, teachers in one state's largest school district are going on strike just days before classes start and they're not alone. Bus drivers and custodians are also striking in a different city. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our "Earth Matters" series, a summer's worth of rain dumped on Dallas in just a matter of hours. The impact of the climate crisis leading to extreme flash flooding and dozens of water rescues overnight and throughout today.

Flood water submerged cars and trucks forcing drivers to try to swim away in dangerous conditions. This as nearly 15 million people are under flood alerts from the southwest into the southeast of the United States. CNN's Ed Lavandera is in Dallas where nearly 10 inches of rain resulted in a one in 100-year threshold. Ed, tell us more about the chaotic scenes unfolding in the area.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, a breathtaking 24 hours here in the Dallas Ft. Worth area. Nearly 400 high water rescues in Dallas and Ft. Worth. You add in many more of those rescues happening in the suburbs and the cities around the area, and this has been a historic day of flooding all around the area and it has been chaotic.

The rainfall, as much as 10 inches of rain falling in some places here, especially in Dallas County in the southeast part of the county, which took the brunt of this heavy rainfall.


And Jake, you can see behind me, you know, we have been talking for weeks and months about the low levels, the dropping lake levels evaporating because of extreme drought, extreme heat. All of this essentially vanishing in less than 24 hours. This is one of those spillways in east Dallas where the water in the spillway where this has been bone dry for weeks. It is now a rushing river, and scenes like this playing out in many areas across north Texas this afternoon.

A sliver of good news is that the rain has finally moved out of the Dallas-Ft. Worth area into east Texas. And as we've been driving around here this afternoon, Jake, the water levels are quickly receding, especially in the areas where as much as three to four feet of water got into some homes and into neighborhoods as well. So, as quickly as it came in, it seems to be moving out and receding just as quickly as well. Jake?

TAPPER: Alright, Ed Lavandera in Dallas, thank you so much. How long will the rain last in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area? Let's bring in CNN meteorologist Tom Sater to find out. Tom, explain how extreme this rainfall has been.

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's just crazy. The rain is coming to an end in Dallas. However, it's moving eastward. But Dallas just ended, Jake, the second longest dry stretch in history. And the records go back to 1899. Since the beginning of the year, they had a deficit of 10 inches and they got it all in one day. You mentioned a one in 100-year event, but this total of 15 in east Dallas, that's a one in 1,000-year event.

So, again, yes, a summer's worth of rainfall in 24 hours, second highest August rainfall. They are just a third of an inch from the wettest August in history. You got to go back to, you know, 1915 for that one. But part of the problem, it's all runoff, is the drought we've been in. If you look at the 10, top 10 driest years, San Antonio, this is the driest ever. Second for College Station. Third, San Angelo. Dallas, the fifth driest.

So, it's just hitting this ground. What we really need is just weeks of a nice light rainfall to seep into the ground. But all of this is moving away from the area. But if you expand out a little bit, we now have warnings down in the Austin area. At least that line is moving.

This weather setup, Jake, is much like we had a few weeks ago from that one in 1,000-year event from St. Louis and the tragedy in Kentucky. This is how much rain fell. And for the most part, the models two days ago and even yesterday were predicting a good 6 to 10 inches of rain. But now it's extending eastward, where it's been raining even more across areas of Louisiana and toward Mississippi.

So, the watch is extended in this area and there's much more on the way. So again, now the threat is going to continue as it moves into Louisiana, Mississippi, and later on Alabama.

TAPPER: Alright, Tom Sater, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, these times are changing and so are Americans' habits.

Plus, women around the world showing off their dance moves to show their support for the Finnish prime minister who is in the middle of a rather bizarre dance scandal. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our "Health Lead," new evidence that the times as well as people's smoking habits are changing. A new study funded by the National Institutes of Health shows the use of marijuana and hallucinogens among young people, people between 19 and 30 are at all- time highs. This comes as for the first time ever, more people say they used weed

than tobacco cigarettes. CNN's Harry Enten who usually keeps his eye on politics has been inhaling some different kinds of numbers today. Harry, what did you find?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: Oh, my god. If I can get through this segment without laughing it would be a miracle. Look, have you smoked or ever tried marijuana? Currently, look at this, 16 percent of Americans say yes. That is an all-time high. You know, we also have this ever-tried marijuana part of the screen. And I want to know, back in October of 1969, just 4 percent of Americans said they ever tried marijuana.

So, we've been seeing this continuous up trend. And you can see ever tried now up to 48 percent. Now, what's really interesting to me is have you smoked cigarettes in the last week? The trend is going in the exact opposite direction, Jake. So now, just 11 percent of Americans say they have in fact smokes cigarettes in the last week. That's an all-time low.

Go back to July of '69. Look at that. It was nearly half the population of 40 percent. So, marijuana smoking, record high. Smoking cigarettes, record low.

TAPPER: I imagine, Harry, that there's a big divide when it comes to age.

ENTEN: There is a huge divide when it comes to age. So, if we go to my age bracket, right, the age 18 to 34, 30 percent say they currently smoke marijuana. I'm not sure where you fit in, Jake. I'm not going to try and guess. I did look it up.

TAPPER: I'm 53. I'm in the middle.

ENTEN: There you go. There, you're in the middle. It's 16 percent.

TAPPER: I mean, the fact that you were wondering about it is offensive, like, okay, but keep going. Keep going.

ENTEN: I'll keep going.

TAPPER: Keep going.

ENTEN: You go to my mother's age bracket, it's just 7 percent. Look at smoke's cigarettes in the last week. It's the opposite age pattern. Age 55 and over, 14 percent say they smoked cigarettes in the last week. Ages 35 to 54, 10. And look at that, in my age bracket, just 8 percent. So, many more people in my age bracket are smoking marijuana than they are smoking cigarettes.

TAPPER: And how do Americans feel about the idea of legalizing marijuana today?

ENTEN: Yes, so again, this goes with the trend that we saw in the prior slides. More Americans are smoking marijuana, and more than that, more Americans believe it should be legalized. Look at this, in October of 2021, 68 percent, the vast majority said they believe that marijuana use should be legal.

Go back to October of 1969. It was just 12 percent of Americans. And we've seen this steady up climb, 31 percent in September of 2000. And then October of 2011, it was 50/50.


And now the clear vast majority believe that marijuana should be legal. Now, compare this to something that I think is interesting on cigarette smoking, right? The vast majority of people believe that smoking cigarettes at least in your home should be illegal, but make smoking cigarettes illegal in public places. You look back in July of 2001, it was 39 percent. You look back in July of 2007, 40 percent. Then all of a sudden, in the last decade, we have crossed the majority threshold.

Most Americans believe that smoking cigarettes should, in fact, be illegal in public places. And at the same time now, most Americans believe that smoking or at least being able to smoke marijuana somewhere should be illegal. So very differentiating trends. And the age gap really explains a lot of it, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Harry Enten going one toke over the line for us. Thank you so much. I hear you (INAUDIBLE).

ENTEN: Love that song.

TAPPER: I hear you. All right.

Turning to our world lead, people across the globe posting videos of themselves dancing in a show of solidarity with Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, critics have called her recent behavior inappropriate that's after a leaked video showed her horror upon horrors dancing at a party. Marin said she was drinking lightly but had not been taking drugs.

Today the Prime Minister is backing up that statement saying a drug test showed she had no narcotics in her system. The leaked video prompted some of Marin's opponents to criticize her behavior is unbecoming of a prime minister. Marin maintained that she was still in an appropriate state to leave the country and appropriate state to leave the country and express frustration that the video had been released when it was filmed in a private space.

A new poll from NBC News shows some potentially good news for Democrats heading into November's midterm elections, which are now just over 11 weeks away. Democrats have nearly eliminated their enthusiasm gap with Republican voters. 66 percent of Democratic voters expressing a high level of interest in the upcoming election, compared with 68 percent of Republicans.

In May Republicans held a 17-point advantage on enthusiasm. I know what happened to change that. Let's discuss it. But before, I have an all-woman panel, which is not an infrequent occurrence. I just wonder anybody want to weigh in on this scandalous behavior of the Finnish Prime Minister, who I understand, was dancing at a private party? NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, she looks like she was having fun. I think leaders are allowed to have fun who taped it and released it and why became a scandal, I can't imagine. I think it's partly because she's a woman. She is an attractive woman. And I think that's what it's getting at. And it's unfortunate.

TAPPER: If that's the worst thing they have their politicians --


TAPPER: -- doing in their country, I mean, seriously, we have insurrections here. Anyway, so let's talk about all the changes going on. Alencia, let me start with you. These new enthusiasm numbers for Democrats comes amid falling gas prices, some significant legislative achievements for Democrats. And what I suspect -- I want to talk to you about this afterwards -- most importantly, growing backlash to Roe v. Wade being overturned, how do you see the outlooking for Democrats?

ALENCIA JOHNSON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER, BIDEN CAMPAIGN: You know, I still think it's going to be a little bit of an uphill battle for us. However, to your point, yes, the achievements from the Biden administration and our slim majority in Congress in the Senate, and also Roe v. Wade, being overturned, has made more people pay attention. The one thing I am concerned about that's in that polling is the enthusiasm gap among young voters and rural voters. And we really need young voters who actually show up so that we can hold on to the slim majority in November.

But to the point around the Dobbs decision, that is something that's galvanizing young voters and it's also firing up women voters who are showing the enthusiasm. So, you know, President Biden is hitting the campaign trail this week, he's starting in Maryland to hopefully have the first black governor of Maryland. And then at the same time, his administration is going to be out here touting the achievements of the the long forgotten, it seems like the infrastructure bill that was passed by a bipartisan Senate as well as the Inflation Reduction Act.

And so having these conversations in the public, I think, is only going to help us come November.

TAPPER: Is it the overturning of Roe v. Wade, that's really driving the enthusiasm -- the improved enthusiasm numbers among Democrats?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It's -- correlation is not causation, but there's a pretty strong correlation between the moment that the polling really began to turn a little bit more in Democrats favor and the decision. It's important to note the leaked decision did not actually change the polls. It wasn't until the Supreme Court actually made that ruling in Dobbs that you began to see that change.

Now can you disentangle it from the fact that gas is now $4 a gallon instead of $5 a gallon? It's hard to say exactly which factor but I strongly suspect that for some Democrats, particularly younger Democrats, that had been a big vulnerability headed into the midterms, this was something that made a lot of young voters go, ah, maybe I do need to go vote.

TAPPER: Yes. And Sabrina, one thing that could explain the better outlook for Democrats, in addition, is that as inflation has cooled, voters no longer see the cost of living as the number one issue facing the country.

SABRINA RODRIGUEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Absolutely. I mean, we've definitely seen that shift. What I'm curious to see is what the administration is going to do on messaging with that because they're talking very much about how they want to tout their achievements, their congressional achievements so far. They want to tout that the economy is stronger than ever.


Are they going to pivot to talking more about the threat to democracy which now seems to be the number one issue on Americans' minds. And they've tried to steer clear of that to some extent, and focus on the economy and grocery prices and gas prices. But that shift may come if we see more polling that shows that this is the number one thing on their mind.

TAPPER: Yes. And Nia-Malika, 21 percent of Americans say threats to democracy is the most important issue facing the country that's ahead of the cost of living ahead of the economy, which are underneath 16 percent and 14 percent. Republicans were counting on running on the economy. But they are also, we should point out, Republicans are nominating a lot of election liars in Arizona and Pennsylvania. And people are paying attention.

HENDERSON: People are paying attention and Republicans are a bit worried about some of the folks who have emerged from these primaries, in Senate and gubernatorial races. The idea now is that they have to sort of take the big lie not just to a small population of Republican base voters who are enthused by Trump, enthused by Trump's lies. They have to take it more broadly to independent voters who are turned off by some of this.

It also doesn't help that Donald Trump is now in the news more than ever, because of this FBI raid, obviously, because of the January 6 hearings as well, that doesn't help Republicans. They want to keep it on high gas prices. They even want to keep it on sort of COVID mismanagement, or some of the things that went on in some of these states over the last years that some people started to bristle against. But now turning to this, you know, sort of Trump center, a campaign that some of these Senate and gubernatorial candidates are running. Democrats feel a little better now. And Republicans somewhat worried that Trump inserted himself into these campaigns, and he didn't necessarily have to.

TAPPER: I've seen some polling suggesting that Trump did get a boost among Republican voters after the FBI raid. Again, I don't know of correlation causation, et cetera, as you note. What is -- what has been the effect that you've seen? And what's the effect on independent voters who, obviously, you're going to make the big difference in a lot of these races? ANDERSON: Well, by putting Trump back front and center, it's putting the focus on things that Republicans would be less likely to want to talk about them, things like cost of living, then things that are more sort of uniformly viewed as a problem. In that poll that we just talked about, with the threats to democracy being top of the list, the problem that Republicans are facing internally, is that, you know, the reason why that number, it shows that that's the top issue across the board for Americans is because both Republicans and Democrats are putting that in their top three.

That's not the case for issues like immigration, which is high for Republicans, but low for Democrats or something like abortion, high for Democrats, but low for Republicans. But for Republicans, what we saw, you know, with the FBI raid and Mar-a-Lago, et cetera, that's got a lot of Republican saying, I view that as a threat to democracy. So you see something like that rise to the top of a poll, not because Republicans and Democrats are in agreement about what the threats to democracy are, but rather than they could read a lot into that phrase, it's a chooser and adventure kind of statement.

TAPPER: Right. A threat to democracy to somebody who believes Donald Trump's lies about the election, they might think a threat to democracy is this software that the Italians are controlling and sending in Martians to come in and like, you know, switch votes for, you know, in favor of Joe Biden, they might interpret it that way.

JOHNSON: You know, it's -- it is interesting, and what Kristen said is like, it's the interpretation, right, that we're talking about among the parties. And, you know, before the insurrection, Democrats were saying, when Donald Trump was actually elected, Democrats were saying that democracy is under attack, and now with the Supreme Court decisions, all these investigations into President Donald Trump.

And then on the other side, Republicans are like, oh, no, they're coming for our power. They're coming from our seats and our positions, right? And so, there's this kind of tension of what does that look like. And, you know, you had Mitch McConnell say that's not a top issue for him. He felt like democracy is kind of stable. And so it'll be interesting to see how this feeling of a threat to democracy will play out among voters on both sides in November.

TAPPER: So Biden's going to go on the road. He's going to try to talk about all the accomplishments of the administration and just stepping away aside from it. First of all, there were like a number of huge bipartisan achievements. And Joe Biden gets credit for that. I mean, Mitch McConnell gets credit for it. Also, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer.

And then you have these big bills that are partisan, but also significant in terms of their size and scope, even if people don't like them. Why has the -- why have the Democrats not been able to connect on this yet? I mean, people do not feel even obviously inflation remains a problem. But there are good numbers out there in terms of jobs, job numbers, unemployment numbers, wages are up, the number of people who don't have health insurance is down. Where's the disconnect here? RODRIGUEZ: The reality is that a lot of this is hard to talk about. I mean, explaining why inflation -- why things have changed with inflation, when it was up, when it's down, when it's moving is difficult to explain to the average American. Gas prices going up hard to explain, grocery prices hard to explain why these things are happening.


And the reality is with the achievements that the administration has had, that's a challenge too. Right now, we're going to see it when the administration is on the road and Biden's on the road of touting these victories and being able to explain, yes, that billion dollars, OK, you're going to see it at the terminals and LAX, you're going to see it in that road, but you complain about when you're driving.

But making those connections is going to be key for November because touting a bipartisan bill, if you don't know why it affects your life, why would that move you to go vote in November.

TAPPER: And Nia-Malika, if somebody had told me a year ago that one of the nastiest races in the United States in 2022 was going to be between Congressman Jerrold Nadler, a Liberal Democrat and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney --

HENDERSON: Another one is Liberal Democrat, both from Manhattan, I wouldn't have any idea what they were talking about. But take a listen to this.



REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D-NY): I think that you should read the editorial in the New York Post today. They call him senile. They fight his performance at the debate where he couldn't even remember who he was re-impeached.


TAPPER: Carolyn Maloney, citing Rupert Murdoch's New York Post, calling Jerrold Nadler senile.

HENDERSON: Her friend, right? I mean, at least this was her friend, they had been in Congress together for something like 30 years. And now because of this redistricting mess that was set up by the Democrats, they're fighting each other. We don't know who's going to emerge from this. We don't know when we'll know it could be a mess in terms of county votes, as well as it has been before --

TAPPER: Usually is, yes.

HENDERSON: -- in New York. But it is so, so very nasty between these two. And it really has become an identity contest. She's running on the fact that she's a woman he's leaning into his Jewish roots and there's another gentleman who's an Indian American and he's talking about, you know, just a break and diversity and a break into a new generation. But my goodness, we'll see when we know who works.

TAPPER: Yes, pretty harsh.


TAPPER: Thanks one and all. Appreciate it.

Coming up, just days before kids are set to return to the classroom, teachers in one major city go on strike and they're not the only one. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, in a couple of major cities, back to school season is turning into back to labor troubles and back to the picket lines. CNN's Brynn Gingras is keeping track of the biggest controversies. Brynn, teachers strike started today in Columbus, Ohio?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jake. So Columbus school districts set a gave this teachers union, you know, in the largest school district there in the state, it's best and final offer and about 94 percent of that union, which represents the teacher said, not good enough. So that sent about 4,000 teachers to the picket line starting today. And the deadline for any negotiations to sort of be finalized, is Wednesday, the start of school. So it's certainly around the corner.

Now at issue here as they want smaller class sizes for, one, they also just want, you know, the heating and the AC units inside the school buildings to be working. And that's a major issue for many of these teachers as well as just a single day that they can get some planning. It just the demands that they're asking for, it just shows sort of the fed upness notice that they've had dealing with the pandemic.

These last couple of years, the teacher shortages is just very obvious in what they are asking for. But the district says hey, listen, we have come to you to negotiate 22 times and we can't reach an agreement. So they said school could possibly start on Wednesday, and students will be learning online with substitute teachers that this could possibly affect sports, because a lot of these teachers are also sporting coaches.

And the teachers' union essentially says, you know what, we're not just doing this for us, we're doing this for the students as well. Take a listen.


REGINA FUENTES, COLUMBUS EDUCATION ASSOCIATION SPOKESPERSON: We understand that parents are in a difficult space right now. But we also want them to understand that we are doing this for the students of Columbus, and that we are -- we truly are making the sacrifice because we want the schools that Columbus students deserve.


GINGRAS: Now, Jake, the school board is going back behind closed doors tonight at 8:00 p.m. to figure out what their next steps are going to be. So we'll see what comes out of that meeting.

TAPPER: Brynn, meanwhile, in the great city of Philadelphia, about 2,000 school employees, including school bus drivers, also just authorized a strike.

GINGRAS: Yes, that's right. And so, they have a little bit longer because the start of school isn't until next week. So it's possible that there could be some agreement. But yes, this is dealing with school bus drivers, the bus mechanics, people who clean the schools. They essentially just want more training. They're -- and higher pay.

They're saying, listen, we put in so much work for you. We were there for you during the pandemic. It's about time that we are given back the things that we want, including active shooting -- active shooter training, for example.

So the school district says there's hope that they'll come to an agreement here, but again, this is just another sign seeing this in Philadelphia and also Columbus that, you know, these teachers, these people who work in these schools, they're fed up. They want more, you know, they want to be paid back for the time that they spent during this pandemic and dealt with so much and were there for the kids in the school districts. Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Brynn Gingras, thanks so much.

Coming up --


TAPPER: -- now you see it, now you don't. A new court filing claims top immigration officials under Trump were told to wipe their cell phones. The details ahead.



TAPPER: In our politics lead now, the phones belonging to several top Trump era immigration officials were allegedly wiped and deactivated after they left their positions. The revelation coming from a dispute between ICE and the watchdog group American Oversight.

CNN's Tom Foreman joins us now to tell us more time. Tom, what do we know about what the Trump administration was telling these officials to do with their phones?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We know that there was a dictum from 2017 and reiterated in 2018. That said people from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, when they left these top positions and turned in their phones or went somewhere else, that they were supposed to wipe everything off the phones, all the messages, all of that and turn the phone in and theoretically that they might personally keep these records but not under the government's purview.

This of course fits into the story we've heard now with several different groups out there where people have been concerned that under the Trump administration, there wasn't a lot of interest in keeping records that actually do belong to the public. Now ICE is essentially said that things have changed, Homeland Security says things have changed then they -- it's not clear if they can find these records again.


The group that raised the complaints as their fear is that these were actually taken away after they launched a lawsuit saying we need to know what's going on with his agency that that's when it was all wiped out. We'll find out, Jake. It's just new now, but it certainly is fitting into a pattern that many would consider concerning here.

TAPPER: All right, Tom Foreman, thanks so much.

Coming up, why some parents are having their own children stand in front of speeding Tesla's. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our money lead, some Tesla supporters are videotaping their own children standing in front of moving Tesla's to show that the car is self-driving feature really works. This trend comes after a software CEO called for the feature to be banned until Tesla CEO Elon Musk can, quote, prove it won't mow down children. While some Tesla enthusiast sought out to defend the company, others noted the self- driving feature is not perfect.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says people should never attempt to create their own tests or use real people. God.

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Our coverage now continues with one Mr. Alex Marquardt in for Wolf Blitzer right next door in a place I'd like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM". See you tomorrow.