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Representative Perry's Involvement in Trump's Bid to Retain Office Revealed in Messages; Migrants Face New Challenges; After Moving to Northern Cities, Migrants Now Endure Frigid Temperatures; Unique Discussion Between DeSantis and Newsom; Republicans Express Concern as Trump Brings Obamacare Back into Spotlight; Haley Seeks "Moral clarity" in First Advertisement. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired November 30, 2023 - 10:30   ET




SARA SIDNER, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: All new this morning, newly revealed text illuminate how Former President Donald Trump used powerful allies to challenge the 2020 election results in those revealing messages between Congressman Scott Perry and then Justice Department Official Jeffrey Clark. Perry reassures Clark that Trump wanted him for the attorney general job.

Joining us now is CNN's Katelyn Polantz. Katelyn, Perry isn't facing any charges, but given these texts exchanged, could that change potentially?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Sara, we just don't know what's going to happen in this investigation if it picks up again. But it is being fought over still how much investigators can access these Scott Perry text messages. It's been in the courts for a long time.

And actually, the judge here in Washington, D.C.'s federal court, Judge Howell, she illuminated what these text messages were in an opinion that was under seal confidential two years ago, and now we're just getting a glimpse of it because of an unsealing briefly that happened yesterday.

What these text messages are between Scott Perry and others, top administration officials, including Jeffrey Clark at the Justice Department. We knew the gist of them, that Perry wanted to find ways to try and help Trump after the election. But now we're getting the exact wording, specifically his texts to Jeff Clark at the Justice Department at a time that Trump was considering installing Clark as Attorney General.

Perry wrote, POTUS seems very happy with your response. I read it just as you dictated. Clark responded to him, I'm praying. This makes me quite nervous and wonder if I'm worthy or ready. And then Scott Perry, the Republican Congressman responds, you are the man. I have confirmed it. God does what he does for a reason. So, the representation here is that Scott Perry, a member of Congress, is coaching an administration official to try and help Trump and also is acting as somewhat of a go between Jeff Clark and Donald Trump at a really crucial moment after the election. We will have to see if these text messages come into play at the upcoming trial of Donald Trump as well. Sara.

SIDNER: Of course. And you have some new reporting, I understand, about the classified documents case. What can you tell us?

POLANTZ: Well, in that case, "ABC News" put out a report yesterday about what one of the attorneys who was around Donald Trump at the time he had documents at Mar-a-Lago after the presidency, what she told investigators. We knew a lot about what these exchanges sounded like generally, but now we know that this attorney, Jennifer Little, had been very clear in warning Donald Trump that you got a subpoena to return classified records to the federal government now that you're no longer president and you must comply. You've got to comply were the words that "ABC News" reported, Jennifer Little told investigators.

We also know that Evan Corcoran, another for -- attorney for Donald Trump, was very strong in his warnings to the former president. You've got to turnover what you have. Not all of those documents were turned over. They were later -- several were later found in an FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. And it's very possible that both Jennifer Little and Evan Corcoran could be called to testify against him -- Donald Trump in that upcoming trial scheduled for next May.


SIDNER: Yes, and we also -- Donald Trump in public saying over and over again that he didn't have to turnover some of these or he didn't believe he had to. So, he did have advice from counsel. Thank you so much, Katelyn Polantz, for all of that reporting.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEWS CENTRAL CO-ANCHOR: Right. With us now is CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig. Inside that AB New -- "ABC News" report on Jennifer Little, the Trump attorney, there are some doozy words, I will call them, they teach that at law school. Jennifer Little told investigators she very clearly, in quotation marks, told Donald Trump that if he failed to comply but said he did it with turning over documents, "It's going to be a crime," and she said, "He absolutely understood."


ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY, AND FORMER FEDERAL AND NEW JERSEY STATE PROSECUTOR: This is a bullseye for prosecutors. It's right down the middle of what they have to prove for obstruction of justice. And let's remember, this is the Mar-a-Lago federal classified documents case. Part of the indictment hand -- relates to the mishandling of classified documents, but part of it relates to obstruction of justice. If you're a prosecutor and you have to prove obstruction, you have to show that the defendant, in this case Donald Trump, knew he had a subpoena, knew we had to comply, and intentionally did not do so. And this witness, Trump's former and by the way, current lawyer has told the grand jury that she said straight up, no ambiguity. You have to comply. If you don't, it's a crime. And he said, I got it. I understand. If the jury accepts that. Game over. He's guilty.

BERMAN: Yes, I call them doozy words. You call them legally relevant. Does that mean that she is likely to testify in the Mar-a-Lago documents case?

HONIG: If I'm a prosecutor, she's 100 percent on my witness list. Now, people may be wondering, well, hold on. She's the attorney, isn't there this thing called attorney-client privilege? The answer is, yes. But prosecutors were able to show, at least at the grand jury level, that they were entitled to break through that attorney-client privilege because they showed something called the crime fraud exception.

Meaning, if the communication between the attorney and the client goes to some crime, some ongoing crime, then you can use the evidence. So, Trump's going to still get to contest that. But to me, it seems clear that this is, this is going to come in and Jennifer Little will be a witness at this trial for the prosecution.

BERMAN: Talk about Congressman Scott Perry and these text messages that were released, perhaps inadvertently. The person he was texting with, Jeffrey Clark, has been charged in Georgia in a conspiracy.


BERMAN: Scott Perry, these texts seem to suggest, is in the middle of it, whatever it is. Prosecutors think it is a conspiracy. Why has this got Perry charged?

HONIG: Right, it's a great question, and I echo that. Let's remember here, Donald Trump is trying to, sort of, weaponize DOJ in the run up before January 6th. And his plan is, I'm going to install Jeffrey Clark as the Attorney General and then DOJ is going to bolster my false claims of election fraud.

The middleman there, we just saw the text. is Scott Perry, member of Congress, by the way, at the time and now. And the question is, well, look, Donald Trump has been charged federally and in Georgia for this, among other things. Jeffrey Clark, on the other side has been charged in Georgia, and he's named as a co-conspirator, not charged, but named as a co-conspirator federally.

Scott Perry, nothing. Nothing. Is it because he's a member of Congress? Maybe. But let's remember, members of Congress have gotten special treatment throughout this case. Go back to the January 6th committee. Six of them, Including Scott Perry got subpoenas. Scott Perry and all the others, Jim Jordan, McCarthy, completely ignored them. Other people got held in contempt. Other people got prosecuted. Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro are going to go to jail. Nothing happened to the members of Congress.

BERMAN: If you were a lawyer for a member of Congress, for Scott Perry in this case though, why would you argue? How would you argue that his status as a member of Congress might exempt in here?

HONIG: Well, there's no legal argument that his status as a member of Congress unless you could argue that it falls under this sort of obscure speech and debate clause.

BERMAN: They would -- I think they would say --


BERMAN: -- it falls under that, and that's part of the -- where this case is. What would -- what does that mean, and how could they argue that?

HONIG: Yes, it means that anything that a member of Congress does in his legislative capacity as a member of Congress, he's immune for. So, that would be the argument that the defense lawyer would make strikes me as a bit of a stretch here given what he actually did. But yes, that would be the argument. But interesting, there's nothing preventing prosecutors from naming him as a co-conspirator. It seems to be very much of a hands-off approach to these members of Congress.

BERMAN: Elie Honig, great to see you.

HONIG: Thanks.

BERMAN: Thanks very much.


SIDNER: All right. As we enter the winter months, frigid overnight temps up north are leaving some migrants more vulnerable than ever. Up next, we'll take a look at what's being done to try to protect those with nowhere else to go, that's ahead.



BERMAN: This morning, temperatures in the northern United States just above freezing. That, as Texas Governor Greg Abbott continues to send thousands of migrants to northern cities. So, what are city officials doing to prepare? CNN's Whitney Wild in Chicago with the latest on this. What are you seeing, Whitney?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, when we come out to the 10th Police District here in Chicago, this is what you see. You see tents lining the sidewalk. It has looked like this for months. And when the weather was warm, it was not as dangerous. But now that this weather is going down, now that we have winter on the horizon here in Chicago, notorious for brutal weather that is putting added pressure on officials. Just this week, John, temperatures dipped into the teens overnight. The wind chill was at zero or below in some places. So, that prompting city and state officials to act as fast as they can. But still, with this migrant crisis, with more migrants coming to Chicago, it's -- it seems as if these actions just can't keep up with the pace of migrants who are coming here.

And you point out, Greg Abbott says that flow of migrants to Chicago, not stopping at all. And, in fact, he plans to send 20,000 migrants to Chicago. That, in addition to other cities like New York, where he says he plans to send 25,000 migrants. Cities like L.A., Denver, where he plans to send thousands more migrants.

Again, the situation here is -- can be particularly dangerous because the weather gets so cold here. So, what are city officials doing? They are working, they say, as rapidly as they can to get migrants off the street. Because when you look out here, John, you see that they have little to protect them from these frigid temperatures aside from tents and tarps. The plan now is to open up a base camp in the Brighton Neighbor -- Brighton Park neighborhood.


That though comes with its own controversy because neighbors in that area are adamantly against it. There have been very vocal protests against the base camp at that location where you could see hundreds, if not thousands, of migrants housed. In addition, there are questions about whether that site is even safe. Here are two older people I spoke with this week who gave us a really broad range of viewpoints on what's going on and how city officials are handling this.


ANDRE VASQUEZ, CHICAGO ALDERPERSON: I mean, my biggest fear thinking about it right now, wintertime is the most immediate. Snow's going to hit. If we don't find decompression and really find other spaces for folks to live in and get to work, it's really concerning.

JULIA RAMIREZ, CHICAGO ALDERPERSON: When we're thinking about the most vulnerable, whether it's the residents of Brighton Park or asylum seekers, they deserve to have a humane and dignified process to make sure they get shelter.


WILD: John, construction at that site already underway and environmental assessment to determine whether or not it's safe won't be finished until tomorrow. They say, that will be publicly released. Meantime, officials say no one is moving into that site unless it is safe. Right now, they're targeting mid-December. Again, it cannot come fast enough when people are living like this. Back to you.

BERMAN: Whitney Wild in Chicago for us. Whitney, thank you very much.

Sara. SIDNER: All right. The California governor, Gavin Newsom, and Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, they're going to go toe to toe in a debate tonight. One of them is not running for president. The other one is a second in a primary. Why are they doing it? We'll discuss it, that's coming up.



SIDNER: Tonight, an unusual primetime debate, it's being belled as a showdown between red and blue states, East Coast vs. West Coast. Not the rappers, but the politicians. Florida against California. That's right. Governor Ron DeSantis will square off with Governor Gavin Newsom and they'll do it in Georgia. The 90-minute spectacle will be moderated by "Fox News" host Sean Hannity.

Let's discuss all this with CNN's Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny. So glad to see you, Jeff. Unusual for a presidential candidate to debate someone who has not declared that he is making a run for the White House, although there's a lot of speculation. What is the point of this?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF U.S. NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Sara, the point of this is for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to have an hour on "Fox News" to a conservative audience to make his point that he would be the strongest Republican presidential candidate. This has been in the works for months and months. And at the time it seemed, when this was first settled on early summer, I believe, it seemed sort of strange because at that point the Florida governor was riding far higher in the presidential polls than he is now.

Now, he certainly is not. His campaign has retreated. All of his hopes basically are hinging on Iowa. But his campaign now believes that this is still a great opportunity for him to, again, have that conservative audience to go after what he believes is a liberal governor in California.

Now, Gavin Newsom actually is on "Fox" quite often. He's on Sean Hannity quite often. He likes to spar in these settings. But for the Florida governor, it's actually probably riskier than it seemed several months ago because he, certainly his campaign is weaker than it was. So, they will be facing off tonight, and to make it all even more interesting, in Georgia, as you said, which is one of the nation's top battleground states.

So, look, look for immigration to be talked about and many other matters. But for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, it's simply a time to try and get his name and face out there when there aren't any other Republicans, at least, on stage.

SIDNER: Yes, we are seeing a lot of the candidates, or not a lot of the candidates. We're seeing the word Obamacare come back into the fray. Is this going to be an issue again in the presidential campaign, with Donald Trump, of course, bringing it up, and then everyone starting talking about it again?

ZELENY: It sure seems to be. And look, a little bit of history here, Republicans in the Trump administration, they tried to repeal and replace Obamacare, that was a central anthem of the Trump administration, the Trump campaign. They did not do it. They were not able to get it done, even when Republicans were in control of the House. And there's a new ad out that you're seeing there on screen, that President Biden's campaign is putting out, really reminding people what would happen if Obamacare, if the Affordable Care Act went away?

So, this is something that has really changed over time. Of course, initially a decade or so ago, the Affordable Care Act was not popular. Now, it is much, much, much more popular because it has widened the access for health insurance for many Americans. This ad also points out that the Biden administration has lowered the cost of prescription drugs.

So, this is an issue that most Republicans would have preferred have gone away. But Donald Trump has decided to revive it. Talking about repealing Obamacare again, and it's really caused shock waves throughout the Republican Party. So, now this is going to be an issue in the campaign, and the Biden campaign is certainly seizing upon that.

SIDNER: Right, he's the leading candidate for the Republican Party right now. I do want to ask you about Nikki Haley.


SIDNER: She also has a new TV ad that has come out. She's just got a huge boost from the Koch brothers. They are backing her and throwing a bunch of money at her. Give us some sense of what this means.

ZELENY: Well, look, this new ad that she's releasing, the first ad that she has released, up until now she has really struggled financially. Now, that's not the case. A lot of donors. So, she's introducing herself as a central foreign policy actor. The ad you can see right there, she talks about chaos on the streets. And she also -- it talks about chaos inside the Republican Party. She said it's time to move beyond. Look, it says, leave behind the chaos and the drama. Of course, she's talking about Donald Trump.


So, this is the latest effort for Nikki Haley, the Former South Carolina governor, to make her way in this Republican primary campaign. She's gotten a lot more attention over the last few weeks. So, we will see if this draws more scrutiny to her candidacy. But certainly, she is playing the role now of second place in most states. That's what Ron DeSantis had hoped to do. But as it turns out, he's debating the California governor who's not even running for president. So, that is where we are today in this very interesting cycle of politics, Sara.

SIDNER: Such interesting times. A bit stressful. A bit anxiety producing. But always interesting. Jeff Zeleny, you're always interesting as well. Thank you so much for joining us.


BERMAN: Right. Angry and defiant. Congressman George Santos says he will not resign ahead of tomorrow's expected expulsion vote. And now, he says he's ready to dish out dirt on other members of Congress.