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DeSantis Attacks Trump for COVID Response, National Debt; Uvalde Families Sue Manufacturer of Gun Used in Massacre; WAPO: Trump Workers Moved Boxes Day Before Mar-a-Lago Search. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 25, 2023 - 15:30   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Well, just hours after his glitch-plagued Twitter campaign launch, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis went where no other GOP candidate seemingly has dared to go. He directly attacked Donald Trump. In a radio interview earlier today, DeSantis blasted how the former president handled the COVID pandemic. Have a listen.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think he did great for three years, but when he turned the country over to Fauci in March of 2020, that destroyed millions of people's lives. When people look back, you know that 2020 year was not a good year for the country as a whole. We will absolutely reduce federal spending. We will fight with the Congress on that. I mean, I think the debt has gone up on both Republican and Democrat. I mean, we act like it's just Biden. You know, it went up $8 trillion -- the debt -- under Trump, as well.


SCIUTTO: A couple of broadsides against the former president. As DeSantis ramps up his attacks on Trump, he will also hit the campaign trail next week for the first time as a presidential candidate. He will make a four-state swing through the early contest states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

Joining me now Molly Ball. She's a national political correspondent for "Time." Has also written a cover story on DeSantis. First, let me ask you, because this thing has already been spun so many times. If you are inside the DeSantis campaign right now, do you think it was a major flop last night, the campaign announcement? Do you think that has lasting implications from their point of view?

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "TIME": I think they cannot possibly be happy about it. There's no way that went according to plan. And I think, you know, we see signs that there's a little turmoil behind the scenes. It was obviously a bit of a last-minute decision to launch in that way rather than to do something more traditional. You know, I have been hearing previously that maybe he was going to do something in Miami, right, a big sort of swing county that he won big. Where you can have a big diverse, multiethnic crowd and really showcase his popularity back home. Instead, we get this mess. So, it is quite possible that this will all

be lost to the sands of time and nobody will remember it in a few weeks. But it certainly is not the foot that they were hoping to get off on.

SCIUTTO: Yes, or is it Dukakis with that helmet on in the tank, right?

BALL: Well, I can remember Trump launching with the crazy escalator ride and the people who were paid to come in off the street. That was like a disaster and ended up OK.


SCIUTTO: And turned around, absolutely right. And what's interesting, his attack on the president on the pandemic response is a deliberate effort, right, to look at his success in Florida, right. At the time, he took a lot of grief, but he gets -- it's one of the reasons he was elected with a 19 percent margin there, for opening things up before others did.

And I wonder, when I was watching that -- watching him attack Trump and seeing that record, which many Americans, even of other parties, non-Republicans will say that the shutdowns went too far. Why hasn't DeSantis focused more on that part of his record to run in the national campaign as opposed to these cultural issues, you know, or six-week abortion ban for instance, which God knows, do not have that level of support?

BALL: Well, I mean, the campaign literally started yesterday. So, I think this is a line that you're going to hear a lot more from him. A major, major part of his popularity in Florida, probably much more so than some of the controversial stuff, the war on woke and so on, you know. I think, you know, DeSantis and his team took that 19-point victory as a mandate on everything that he's done. Including really pushing the envelope far to the right in Florida with the help of the legislature there.

But the source of his popularity, if you talk to Floridians, really has much more to do with opening the schools in particular, creating that free state of Florida where you didn't have to wear a mask and could go to the beach and so on. So, I think we're going to be hearing a lot about that. And the question will just be, you know, Trump wants this to be a personality contest. And he's going to make a lot of personal attacks. DeSantis wants to make this about substance and about policy and about things like the record on COVID. What do voters really care about? I don't think they know.

SCIUTTO: Tell me about his attacks on Trump here. Because is his calculation in effect -- what a lot of folks even watching this race will say, is that Trump has a certain portion of the Republican voting population locked up. They're never going to move from him. But that say 35 percent, DeSantis could still get some of the other 65 percent and win the nomination. I mean, is that is his affective calculation?

BALL: That is definitely the case. And I think we see some evidence for that, whether it's polls and focus groups that Republican pollsters have done. Whether it's going back to November, right, when DeSantis won big, Trump looked like a loser and was blamed for having lost the Republican Party three national elections and you saw the polls really go the other way. You saw DeSantis start to come out on top.

So that indicates that, you know, a lot of those voters clearly have wandered back to Trump now. They always liked Trump. They never disliked him. But they had doubts. And so, the question is, now that he's the won who has sort of been in the barrel and gotten bruised up, can DeSantis get those voters to give him another look. But there clearly has been an openness for candidates other than Trump, and we know that Trump also may have a lot more drama coming up for him in the next few months.

SCIUTTO: Yes, legal drama, more of the drama, right? And, I mean, listen, that's part of the message here from these multiple candidates running and challenging the president is they see him as potentially vulnerable. Well, we'll have a lot to watch. Molly Ball, thanks so much. And we'll be right back.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: This is 11-year-old Maya Zamora, throwing out the first pitch at a Houston Astros game last year. She is a survivor of the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas. She was critically injured, shot in the chest, the back, the arms and the hands. She had to be airlifted to a San Antonio Hospital after the shooting where she spent more than two months recovering.

Now the Zamora family has joined other victims' families to sue the manufacturer of the AR-15 style rifle that was used in the shooting. A Georgia -- it's a Georgia-based company that's called Daniel Defense.

Criminal defense attorney Mark O'Mara is joining us now on this story. So, this is a suit, Mark, that says Daniel Defense is not covered by what is really a broad immunity that gun manufacturers enjoy in America. And they're not covered, this lawsuit says, because of how Daniel Defense marketed this particular firearm. For instance, "call of duty" placed heavy in these ads. Do these families have a case?

MARK O'MARA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: They have a slight chance. Don't forget, again, as you said, Congress has passed a very broad immunity. Saying gun manufacturers, because of the Second Amendment and all of that, gun manufacturers will not be held liable if and when their guns are used in a criminal act. And if that's true, they're not liable at all.

But what the lawsuit is trying to say, is that may be good, but if you are so abusing your privilege as an immune company by focusing on children, by doing it in a way that makes it sexy or something that people want, and there by getting these children who use these guns criminally, then you should not have the benefit of that immunity. It's close. This company does seem to really focus on romanticizing their weapons to children or young adults. So, they have a chance. KEILAR: The families of Sandy Hook -- it's worth mentioning -- the

families of victims in Sandy Hook, they actually won $73 million from the gunmaker Remington. What's different about this case now?


O'MARA: So, the problem with the Remington, it was in bankruptcy, so it wasn't quite the same punch, right? It was in bankruptcy court where that company in bankruptcy was trying to get back out of bankruptcy. In order to do so, they pay off the creditors, the creditors being the families who sued. So, it wasn't quite the watershed decision that you might have thought otherwise.

This Uvalde case, if they can convince a judge or jury that they should be taken out of the immunity because of the way they marketed, that would be watershed, that would be a massive change in the way gun manufacturers are going to have to do it.

And Brianna, remember, it's a little bit like, you know, cars. You can't market cars to children or else they'll drive the cars that they're not allowed to. It's like, if this manufacturing -- gun manufacturer said for example, we're going to give felons half price or something silly like that. Or guns to gang members, come to us for 25 percent off. Something like that would take them easily right out of the immunity protection that they have under the Congressional statute.

But this is somewhere way in the middle, where they're doing it, but their hopefully, in their minds, doing it in a way that their marketing is still protected. But I think we're in a new age where people are going to look at this and say, your guns keep being used. Keep them away from children.

KEILAR: Well, Mark, let's take that a step further. We're talking about someone marketing a car, and yes, we are talking about guns. It's a different product. But if someone was marketing their car in sort of a videogame that you could use to just plow through things -- and some video games do. I mean, you can run into everything. You could certainly injure someone with a car, presumably with some of the damage you could cause in a video game.

It's hard to see how that would fly. You can see how someone might have a case in that regard. Is that exactly the same kind of thing or is it different because it's a gun?

O'MARA: Well, you know, it's similar but another good example, Brianna, would be cigarettes. Don't forget, you know, cigarettes, without question, were and in some people's, minds still are -- particularly, you know, the vape pens and things like that -- are being marketed to children. And we know now that cigarettes are horrible for children and for the rest of us.

So those companies got in trouble for marketing their cigarettes to children -- Joe Camel and some of these other ones. So, there is a basis, if you think about it, to hold manufacturers responsible if they improperly market to an audience that they should not. In this case, children with cigarettes and children with guns.

KEILAR: All right. Mark, thank you so much. I mean, we're going to be following this case. We'll see if it does proceed and if they have this slight chance here. Mark O'Mara, thank you so much -- Boris.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Coming up, a new report claims investigators looking into Trump's handling of classified documents have potentially critical evidence of possible obstruction of justice. We'll break it down when we come back.



SANCHEZ: This just into CNN. "The Washington Post" is now reporting that workers at Mar-a-Lago moved boxes just one day before FBI agents arrived and searched the property. It also says Donald Trump and his aides allegedly did a dress rehearsal for moving sensitive papers even before his office received a subpoena in May of last year. We're joined now by Josh Dawsey, who's with "The Washington Post," and is part of the team that broke this news. He joins us over the phone. Josh, this is significant reporting. Walk us through it.

JOSH DAWSEY, POLITICAL INVESTIGATIONS REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST (via phone): Right, Boris. What we're reporting here is that the night before federal authorities came to Mar-a-Lago to collect material from a grand jury subpoena, that two employees to former President Trump moved boxes back into a storage room at Mar-a-Lago.

If you remember, former President Trump and his lawyers say to the FBI agents, say to the government officials, we'll take you, you can see the storage room, you can see the boxes. We are going to give you a tour of the storage room and then barred them from actually looking inside the boxes.

But what we now know based on an account of a lawyer for one of the workers, who says -- that's on the record -- that security cam footage shows him and Walt Nauta, a valet for former president Trump, moving boxes back into the storage room the day before federal authorities show up to collect subpoena material.

SANCHEZ: We should point out Trump has denied any wrongdoing in this case. Please, josh if you could, outline for us the detail in this reporting about the dress rehearsal that apparently workers at Mar-a- Lago conducted, even before President Trump was served a subpoena.

DAWSEY: So, if you remember before the Justice Department gets involved in this saga, you have the National Archives. And they're asking at first gently and then more aggressively for former President Trump to give everything back.

And in a sealed court filing, Beryl Howell writes -- she was a chief judge for the D.C. district -- that what they did in obstructing the NARA's processes, how they didn't give documents back to NARA. The way that they threw documents away. And behaved during that period was analogous to a dress rehearsal for what happened when the subpoena came from the Department of Justice. Essentially, further tactics were the exact same or very similar for the National Archives and later for the Department of Justice.

SANCHEZ: And Josh, the timeline here is what is most significant, right? Because if you're a prosecutor in this case and Trump is having aides move boxes the day before folks from the FBI and a prosecutor visit the president's estate, that to prosecutors reveals something about intent, doesn't it?

DAWSEY: Right. Well, former president Trump and his team said that the classified material were stored in the storage room, right, and they did a search of the storage room. And all the boxes were in the storage room and that's where the material was. But what this shows is that it was not always there, right? It was moved from the storage room and it was moved back the day before.

And then what's important to remember here is when federal authorities come in August and they do the search, the raid on his property, as you remember, they find more than 100 classified documents in other parts of the residence. In his bedroom, in his office and various places at Mar-a-Lago. So those documents were not in the boxes that were taken back to the storage room.

One other thing that I want to point out that we reported in our story, Boris. Is that federal authorities know of multiple witnesses who say that former President Trump kept classified materials in his office, and out, you know, for people to see and sometimes showed them to visitors who came to Mar-a-Lago. And that's also of interest to them, because it kind of contradicts a claim, oh, we accidentally took these materials. It's in the storage room.

What they have learned now from multiple people who came into the grand jury, who came in to meet with federal authorities, is that he actually took the material out and was showing it.

SANCHEZ: It is fascinating reporting. And as you point out in the story, it appears that a charging decision from special counsel Jack Smith is getting closer. Josh Dawsey, thank you so much for all of your insight.

DAWSEY: Thank you so much. Bye-bye.

SANCHEZ: Of course -- Brianna.


KEILAR: Coming up, the tribute to Tina Turner that has people stepping up in a special way down under. The superstar, of course, passed away yesterday at age 83. So, hear why Australians are honoring the queen of rock 'n' roll by getting on their feet.


KEILAR: All right, so we're leaving you today with the dance from down under for Tina Turner, because Australians are really getting to their feet in tribute to the superstar who passed away yesterday at the age of 83.

This is called the Nutbush. It's considered the unofficial national dance there. Turner actually sang the song "Nutbush City Limits" after her hometown, Nutbush, Tennessee. And "The New York Times" reports that when news of her passing spread, Aussies felt compared to honor her by doing the dance.

So, here you are looking at staffers of the U.S. Embassy in Australia, expressing their Nutbush love for and to the queen of rock 'n' roll. Here it is.


KEILAR: You guys are going to do it with me, right?

SANCHEZ: Yes, and we should point out there is a person --

SCIUTTO: We're going to follow your lead.

KEILAR: Here it is.

SANCHEZ: Because Brianna was born in Australia.

KEILAR: Don't try to waste time. You're just trying to get out of --

SANCHEZ: I was trying to filibuster.

SANCHEZ AND SCIUTTO: Three, two, one.

SANCHEZ: It's with music, right?

KEILAR: Side, side -- you've got to go to the side.

SANCHEZ AND SCIUTTO: Back, back. Side, side. Kick, kick.


KEILAR: Little kick. Big kick. Big kick. something, something, spin, spin.


KEILAR: There's no clap.

SANCHEZ: It's like the electric slide.

KEILAR: There's no clap.

SANCHEZ: There's no clap.

KEILAR: No clap.

SCIUTTO: I'm still dancing. They're just still talking about it.

KEILAR: OK, back, back, back.

SANCHEZ: Hey, thank you so much for joining us on CNN NEWS Central. The only place you're going to find this.

"THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.