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Biden Slams Special Counsel's Report Questioning His Memory; Supreme Court Could Decide Soon In Colorado Ballot Case. Aired 11- 11:30a ET

Aired February 09, 2024 - 11:00   ET




SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: President Joe Biden defending his memory in a fiery White House remarks. Details on his behind the scenes fury after the release of special counsel report that has become a political bombshell. Top Republicans now suggesting the President is unfit for office.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Vladimir Putin gets what he wants out of Tucker Carlson and then some, new fallout from the two-hour video that they filmed together.

SIDNER: Plus, we are counting down to kickoff in Las Vegas. Will the 49ers or the Chiefs lift up the Vince Lombardi trophy on Sunday night? We're going to find out on Sunday night, aren't we? Kate Bolduan is out. I'm Sara Sidner with John Berman. This is CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

Angry, defiant and emotional, those are just some of the few words being used to describe President Biden and how he reacted both behind doors, closed doors and in front of cameras after the final report on his classified documents probe dropped yesterday. The report questions his mental fitness and claimed that he couldn't remember when his son Beau died.

Now GOP lawmakers are using this as a springboard to call for Biden's removal from office under the 25th Amendment. The House GOP leadership saying he is, quote, certainly unfit for the Oval Office. CNN's MJ Lee is with us from the White House. MJ, President Biden was livid reportedly that his son was brought into this the way he was and then put out for the public to see. What are you learning at this hour? Because one of the headlines here that we should mention is he was not charged in this case.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Sara, this was as livid, I think, as we have seen the President recently making clear that he has serious issues with the way that this investigation was handled. And if you look at this lengthy report, it makes many, many references to alleged memory problems that the President has. It said at one point that the President has diminished faculties and faulty memory. At another point in the report, it said that he did not remember even within several years when his son, Beau, died. And as you saw last night, that probably more than anything else was what made the President angriest. We saw an emotional response to that from the President last night, as he basically said to Robert Hur, how dare he ask that question. And we're also learning this morning that in private yesterday, he really erupted in anger again about that issue related to his son. But he said in a private meeting with Democrats in Virginia, how would I effing forget that?

Now, obviously, the issue here that we are talking about is not just narrowly about the White House taking issue with these unflattering and gratuitous, according to them, comments about his memory lapses and, you know, recall problems, it is that they do speak to this broader issue that voters have raised about his age and his mental acuity that is going to be a big issue heading into November.

Here are some of the ways that the President answered a number of those questions last night.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm well me. And I'm an elderly man. And I know what the hell I'm doing. I'm totally --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How bad is your memory and can you continue as president?

BIDEN: My memory is so bad, I let you speak. That's the --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you feel memory had gotten worst --

BIDEN: Now, look, because I'm the most qualified person in this country to be president of the United States and finish the job I started.


LEE: And by the way, Sara, the White House did acknowledge yesterday that the weekend that the President was interviewed by Robert Hur here at the White House back in October, he was understandably distracted. You'll remember that this all happened as the war in Israel was breaking out. And they said none of this suggests a bigger memory issue for the problem. But all in all, Sara, this is a White House and a President fuming about the fact that there were almost 400 pages that were released by Robert Hur when at the end of the day, as you said, there were no criminal charge is brought against the President.


SIDNER: All right, MJ Lee, thank you so much for reporting there for us from the White House. John?

BERMAN: All right, President Biden made some claims in his defense on the substance of this report. How do some of those claims hold up? With us now, CNN senior reporter Daniel Dale. Great to see you, by the way, Daniel. I haven't seen you in a while. One thing that President Biden said is basically that he stored the documents in filing cabinets that could be locked. Let's listen.


BIDEN: All the stuff that was in my home was in filing cabinets that were either locked or able to be locked.


BERMAN: Daniel?

DANIEL DALE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Just not true, John. This report from the special counsel includes photos. Those photos include shots of a box just sitting in President Biden's Delaware garage. The special counsel described it as a badly damaged box sitting amid household detritus. So there was some material that was in cabinets locked or lockable, as the president said. But all of it is certainly not. And that open, unsealed, damaged box included, according to the special counsel, highly sensitive top secret material about the war in Afghanistan.

BERMAN: OK. Another claim that President Biden made, none of the documents were highly classified. Let's listen.


BIDEN: None of it was high classified, didn't have any of that red stuff on it, you know what I mean around the corners? None of that.


BERMAN: Daniel?

DALE: That claim that he didn't have any material that was, quote unquote, high classified is also not true, John. The special counsel's report says that the President possessed multiple highly classified documents that were indeed marked as being highly classified documents, including some marked as top secret/SCI sensitive compartmented information. That is a very high level of classification. For example, Special Counsel Hur discussed two top secret documents about Afghanistan found in that open, unsealed damage box in the garage, one of which Hur said, contains highly sensitive info about military programs and another that contains info about sensitive intelligence and sources and methods.

Now, it's not clear, John, if any of those Biden documents had those colored borders. We saw on classified docs that former President Trump had, which I think is what President Biden was referring to when he talked about red around the corners. But still, whatever coloring these documents had, the special counsel says they were clearly marked as highly classified.

And then, I should add, Hur also said that investigators analysis of Biden's own handwritten notes from his time as vice president showed that these notebooks also contained highly classified info, though those were not marked. And Hur said a sampling of 37 excerpts found that, quote, eight are top secret with sensitive compartmented information, seven of which include information concerning human intelligence sources, plus six others that were top secret.

BERMAN: And then the third claim that he made, Daniel, there, was that he did not share classified information with a ghostwriter on a book he was working on. Listen to that.


BIDEN: I did not share classified information. I did not share it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With your ghostwriter.

BIDEN: With my ghostwriter. I did not, guarantee you did not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But counsel said it --

BIDEN: Well, no, I did not say that.


BIDEN: I did not say that.


DALE: So he's entitled to say he didn't do it. He can defend himself. But he also said the special counsel didn't say that he did share that classified info with the ghostwriter. Except, John, the special counsel did say that explicitly. Hur wrote, quote, Mr. Biden shared information, including some classified information from those notebooks with his ghostwriter. So there it is in black and white.

Now, Hur did elaborate that Biden shared classified info with the ghostwriter by reading nearly verbatim from the notebooks on at least three occasions, including notes from meetings in the situation room. He did find that Biden, quote, at times tried to avoid sharing classified info, like by skipping over certain material as he was reading them to the ghostwriter. And Hur did write that the evidence does not show that Biden knew the info was classified.

Nonetheless, even though the special counsel did clearly give him some material to defend himself with, this is not a factual defense. So he could cite the factual stuff, you know, Hur said, didn't know it was intentional, et cetera. But declaring the special counsel just did not say what he said, John, is not a factual defense.

BERMAN: Important to note. Daniel Dale, always great to have you. Thanks so much. Sara?

SIDNER: All right, let's continue the discussion with former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent. First of all, you look at the special counsel's report, and what's your takeaway from this because it was quite personal. It did put a lot of details in there, but ultimately he was exonerated. He's not being charged in this.


CHARLIE DENT (R-PA), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Yes, I think in many respects, Sara, that the -- President Biden is a little bit lucky that he was not prosecuted, because when you get beyond, you know, he's an older gentleman with a faulty memory. But you look at the substance of the matter, you know, he willfully retained classified material. It does not appear that he retained it in a way that was incidental or accidental. He knew he had it and he shared it with his ghostwriter. And it was obviously not properly secured in his home.

So I think this is a real problem for the President, both substantively and certainly on the political side, based on, you know, the faulty memory. So I think this is a really bad look for Joe Biden in so many ways. And again, as a former member of Congress, I can tell you I had the privilege to have access to classified material, and there was no walking out of a skiff with classified material.

I'm not sure what goes on in the White House or at the Naval Observatory at the vice president's residency, how they handle that material, but we've seen problems, not just with Joe Biden, but with Mike Pence and certainly with Donald Trump. And so there is a big problem here. And I think Biden is lucky that he's not prosecuted. It was probably a close call, and the prosecutor decided he was not going to bring charges.

SIDNER: I want to ask you about the politics of all this. Attorney General Garland appointed a Trump appointee to try and show fairness, but the Trump appointee was a special counsel in all this. I want you to listen to what Democrat Dan Goldman said about the details of this report and have you respond on the other side.


REP. DAN GOLDMAN (D-NY): It was just a political potshot in the middle of an election year, when the special counsel knows that it's two elderly men who are running for president, and this one, who was appointed by Donald Trump, wanted to make sure that he got his licks in.


SIDNER: Is this, in your mind, purely political? You just said you think that there's a -- there's a there, there.

DENT: Yes. Look, I understand Congressman Goldman's comments, and you can make the case that this is a bit gratuitous. There's a Comeyesque feeling to this whole thing, you know, when James Comey basically chose not to bring charges against Hillary Clinton because of her mishandling classified material through her private server. But then he went on to indict her politically, saying she was careless and reckless in handling that material, so it kind of felt like that.

But having said that, you know, the politics of this is just bad for Joe Biden. Look, Donald Trump behaved horribly with classified material and was uncooperative. But this issue now is kind of a wash politically because I'm not sure how Biden's going to be able to criticize Trump on this. And by the way, Trump is in real legal peril because of his horrible handling of these materials. So I think right now, politically, though, Biden doesn't have much to stand on. In fact, the bigger problem, though, is the issue of his memory, that the special prosecutor essentially reinforced the narrative out there that Joe Biden is too old and he's got diminished faculties, diminished capacity. So that's what really hurts the Biden people. And I understand why they're upset about it. But, hey, this is politics. It's a rough arena.

SIDNER: It is a very rough arena. And we are in the middle of it. We're less than a month away from the primaries. I mean, we are just in the midst of everyone talking about this one particular issue. I do want to ask you about the 25th Amendment. You have Republicans already bringing that up saying we're going to -- that should be used to take him out office. Do you agree?

DENT: No, I would not go down that road. Look, Joe Biden is acting like a man who's maybe 80 years old, and he is. And I'm not saying he's -- he has -- I tend to think he has diminished capacities. Is he still capable? Yes. Is he able to do his job? Yes. But I don't think we have reached that point where you have to think about removing him from office. I think that's unfair. I know this happened to Donald Trump. People wanted to remove him, but I feel it's a little bit tit for tat.

SIDNER: Yes. The economy is going up. There's a lot of things happening in his favor that he has had. Some of his policies have been working. But this has been a huge talking point, the age, mental acuity, and I'm sure it will continue to be. Charlie Dent, thank you so much for coming on. Appreciate your time this morning.

DENT: Thank you, Sara.


BERMAN: All right, new reporting this morning on the fallout from Vladimir Putin's two-hour appearance with Tucker Carlson. So how do Colorado officials feel this morning after the Supreme Court seemed to reject their arguments that Donald Trump should not be on their state ballot?


And then football fanfare and Taylor Swift, sounds like enough for Super Bowl Sunday, right? But no, you also need kittens, and we have them.


BERMAN: So now we wait, after the Supreme Court heard oral arguments over whether Colorado can keep Donald Trump off its state ballot because of the 14th Amendment's ban on insurrectionists. With us now is Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold. Thank you so much for being with us. I don't think I've found one analyst out there on planet Earth this morning who thinks the Supreme Court hinted that they're going to side with Colorado in this case. How do you feel it went? [11:20:06]

JENA GRISWOLD (D-CO), SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, first off, thank you for having me on. And we know this is a court that has not been friendly to democracy, voting rights, and fundamental freedoms. I think ultimately, this case is really important, and, you know, it was stunning yesterday. We can just see the Capitol right across the street, reimagine what it was like, those Congress people running for their lives, a violent mob going to stop the peaceful transfer of power, and then being in the Supreme Court and hearing Donald Trump continue to lie about his role in the insurrection. So it was a bit surreal. And just like all Americans across the country, I'm waiting to see what the Supreme Court ultimately will decide.

BERMAN: But you don't think after yesterday that you're going to win, do you?

GRISWOLD: I think it's important to explore Section 3 of the 14th Amendment because it was designed for this exact situation. It was designed with the understanding that insurrectionists in office is tremendously dangerous, that insurrectionists, if they are elected, can destroy democracy from within. So ultimately, we'll see what the court ends up holding. I'm always hesitant to take too much from oral argument, and I'm going to wait to see what the ultimate decision is.

BERMAN: What do you make of the fact that we barely heard, as part of these oral arguments, or certainly as part of the questions from the justices, they didn't seem to delve into the issue of whether Donald Trump committed insurrection at all. What was your takeaway on that?

GRISWOLD: I would say the one thing they delved into was, how the heck would they ever define insurrection? Which was a bit shocking to me, because it's the United States Supreme Court, they have all the tools to be able to define what an insurrection is. But to your point, it is surprising we are only before the Supreme Court and in the middle of the case, because there's the unprecedented situation of a President trying to hold on to power by inciting in an insurrection.

Make no mistake, Donald Trump broke the laws. He incited that violent mob, some of whom had plans to hang the vice president of the United States to try to steal the presidency. So I do think it was really remarkable that the court did not really get into the specifics of January 6th, which, of course, was just part of Donald Trump's plot to steal the American election, the presidency, from the American people.

BERMAN: If there was one consistent thread that seemed to unite most of the justices who asked questions, it was that, look, how is it that one state can decide what happens in a federal election? They seem to have real issues with that. What would your response be?

GRISWOLD: Well, two part response. First off, how one state has that ability is the United States Constitution, which gives states the ability to regulate our elections. And Colorado has for decades and decades kept ineligible candidates off our ballots, as have other states. But on top of that, I found that line of argument or questions from the Supreme Court justices a little ironic because if they are looking at the politics of how the Constitution should work, if they are concerned that one state can flip a presidential election, well, then they better go and do another review to all the voter suppression laws in Georgia, which are there to try to suppress the vote of certain people.

They should then go to Florida, in Texas, in Montana, every single state that has tried to restrict the vote for electoral gain under the Supreme Court's now concern about that should be susceptible to this line of argument.

BERMAN: So what happens now?

GRISWOLD: Now we wait. Ballots go out to Colorado primary voters next week. The county clerks can start sending them on Monday, but then have to get them in the mail by Friday. And I do urge the Supreme Court, number one, to affirm our state power to keep an oath breaking insurrectionist off the ballot, but also to render their decision quickly because Coloradans deserve to know whether their vote for Donald Trump is going to count. And Americans deserve to know whether this Supreme Court thinks that an insurrectionist has all the right to be president of the United States.

BERMAN: Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, we appreciate your time today. Thank you.

GRISWOLD: Thank you.


SIDNER: It was a great interview, John. Thank you.


Still ahead, a stunning sit down in Moscow. Tucker Carlson going one- on-one with Vladimir Putin. What the Russian president is saying about Carlson's request to take a jailed American journalist home with him.

Plus, he lied and lied and lied and got kicked out of Congress. Now, a fiery debate night in the race to replace former Congressman George Santos, we will show you how heated the affair got the national stakes of this special election. That is ahead.