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Don Lemon Tonight

DOJ In The Process Of A Criminal Investigation; Trump's Team Sees Classified Documents As Regular Notes; Obstruction Of Justice And Espionage Is Mundane For Trump's Lawyer; Former President Not Writing His Own Memoir; Messy Documents Pictured In Trump's Mar-A-Lago Office; President Biden From Uniter To A Divider. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired August 31, 2022 - 22:00   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. That's it for me. DON LEMON TONIGHT starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: OK. I have a story for you, Victor. So, we're watching Serena. Did, wait, did you see Spike Lee, by the way?

BLACKWELL: No, I did. I did.

LEMON: Because you -- you were working, you missed it.


LEMON: So, Spike is jumping up and down. I'm like Spike, sit down, but I was just I'm joking. I love Spike.


LEMON: And he's wearing like plaid and he's being all Spike Lee. But right at the tiebreaker. Tim and I are watching.


LEMON: The dog jumps on the bed, hits the remote and turns the television off.

BLACKWELL: No, no, no, no.

LEMON: And we turned it back on because it's streaming, right?


LEMON: It was, we are watching it on the streaming service that it had to catch up or whatever, and we missed the tiebreaker. But I did get to see the win in my office. You didn't get to see it.

BLACKWELL: I didn't get to see the win. I've been watching clips --

(CROSSTALK) LEMON: Twirling and everything.

BLACKWELL: I've been watching clips on social media, Don. I'm doing the best I can.

LEMON: Why are you working? The boss is watching, Victor.

BLACKWELL: We got through the show. I mean, come on now. I did it.

LEMON: Can you imagine you're 26 years old and you, I mean, an icon, a legend you're up against Serena Williams and what she says, I won't say retirement. She says it's the next --


BLACKWELL: Evolving away. Yes.

LEMON: Evolving away.


LEMON: But can you imagine the pressure for both of them? The pressure for both of them.

BLACKWELL: Especially when you've got the entire crowd on her side.

LEMON: Yes. I mean, what are you going to do?

BLACKWELL: She's earned it.

LEMON: What are you going to do.

BLACKWELL: She's earned it?

LEMON: Yes. I mean, come on. She's she'll be 41 soon. An amazing 41- year-old soon.

BLACKWELL: Yes. She's my birthday twin.

LEMON: Well, what are you trying to say?


LEMON: What are you trying to say?

BLACKWELL: I'm saying is she's my birthday twin, Don.

LEMON: That you're a legend too? Come on, down.

BLACKWELL: That's all I'm saying.

LEMON: All right. I'm getting out of here with that.

BLACKWELL: All right.

LEMON: I'm the 26-year-old then. And you're the 41. Thank you, Victor.

BLACKWELL: I'll take it.

LEMON: I'll see you later.

BLACKWELL: See you, Don.

LEMON: This is DON LEMON TONIGHT. Thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it.

Listen, last night we were here and we had, we were waiting for the DOJ, right, to respond to Trump's team, wanting to a special master. Now, team Trump is responding in court tonight to that blockbuster DOJ following about the Mar-a-Lago investigation, doubling down on their plea for a special master and acknowledging, acknowledging classified material was found at Mar-a-Lago, but essentially claiming that's no big deal, not even a big deal.

So, imagine this you, right, you get in some legal trouble. Try that defense for yourself if you're under investigation for potentially breaking a law and see how that goes for you.

Quote, "the purported justification for the initiation of this criminal probe was the allege discovery of sensitive information contained within the 15 boxes of presidential records. But this discovery was to be fully anticipated given the very nature of presidential records, simply put the notion that presidential records would contain sensitive information should have never -- have never been caused for alarm. Alarm."

My mouth to work, which completely ignores the fact that those documents did not belong to the ex-president. So, he shouldn't have had them in the first place. That's been my point all the -- all along. They did not belong to him regardless of how they got there. They should not have been there. And the buck stops with him.

And it ignores the fact that the sensitive information not being kept in a secure location could pose a risk to our national security. That is a big deal, regardless of which president you are or which part you belong to. It's wrong, no matter who it is.

So, there's lots to talk about and we're just hours away from the showdown in the Florida courtroom. The hearing to consider this request for a special master. Now I want you to be clear, let's be clear about this.

The former president has not been charged with anything, but let's remember what this is all about. OK. The Justice Department saying in its filing, the DOJ is in the midst of an ongoing criminal investigation pertaining to potential violations of the Espionage Act, as well as obstruction of justice and unlawful concealment or removal of government records.

That is a big deal. The Justice Department saying in its filing, the DOJ is in the midst of an ongoing criminal investigation, a criminal investigation pertaining to potential violations of the Espionage Act, as well as obstruction of justice and unlawful, and unlawful concealment or removal of government records. Criminal investigation of who?


And you would think even the former president's defenders might, just might take all of this somewhat seriously. Well, then you would think wrong. One of his attorneys calling espionage and obstruction, quote, "mundane statutes."


ALINA HABBA, DONALD TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: What they did was to try and criminalize Donald Trump, as they always do. They found these three mundane statutes, espionage and the two others, obstruction, and they're trying to claim that there was some sort of criminal activity.


LEMON: Mundane. So, I'm going to say the obvious here, there's nothing at all mundane about espionage or obstruction. And then there's Congressman Ken Buck of Colorado, who you may remember signed a brief asking the Supreme Court to consider overturning the 2020 election, which did not happen.

Now he is apparently arguing some kind of that writing that, you know, he was writing his autobiography exemption, which makes it OK for the former president to take documents that don't belong to him.


REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): He may be writing a memoir. He may be writing an autobiography and the fact that he had documents in and of itself isn't a concern.


LEMON: Say that you are the biggest Donald Trump supporter ever. Do you actually think Donald Trump is writing his own memoir? Seriously, does anyone actually think Donald Trump is sitting down with notes and top-secret information and writing his own memoir?

And how about this? This is from House judiciary Republicans, joking about Time magazine covers while ignoring all those documents marked top secret and secret, you know, it could be a huge threat to our national security. Multiple documents marked secret and top secret that never should have been at Mar-a-Lago in the first place. And you're concerned about Time magazines.

If the wrong people got to look at them that could sure cause damage to our national security.

Let's discuss now. I want to bring in CNN in senior legal analyst, Laura Coates, also former assistant special Watergate prosecutor, Nick Akerman, and former DOJ national security official and prosecutor, Brandon Van Grack. Good evening to one and all. Laura, where have you been all my life? I miss you. Good to see you. Let's talk about --


LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I've been chairing on Serena Williams.

LEMON: I -- I'm not even mad. We all have. But listen, Laura, I've been wanting to get your perspective on this. Can you sum up for our audience what the Trump team is arguing in their response to last night's blockbuster DOJ brief.

COATES: Well, one, to answer your question, no. No one thinks Donald Trump is actually writing a memoir and that's why he has in the possession at Mar-a-Lago documents that ought to have been returned a long time ago.

But their argument is simply this. We don't trust you, Department of Justice, to have conducted an investigation that would honor whatever privilege claims we think we have, whether they're good or not. We think if you're Trump's team that we have executive privilege claims and we have attorney-client privilege. Although you had a separate team go in and try to ensure those guard rails were up, we couldn't see those. We don't trust that we want our own person.

Their second argument of course, is that they don't understand why there was any shock by the archives or anyone else that there were classified documents in the boxes that were at Mar-a-Lago, because of course they're classified, they're presidential records, which makes you scratch your head here, Don. Right?

Because the whole point of this whole exercise has been, you don't have the right to have presidential records because you're no longer the president of the United States. And so, if you're on the one head admitting that you had them, and saying that classified documents were contained in them, you've made part of the Department of Justice's arguments to suggest why you're not supposed to have any of it.

But ultimately, this whole thing comes down to this particular motion they're doing right now, says they want to have a special master. They don't trust the Department of Justice. And really, what they made the case for is why the archives and DOJ cannot trust them to have returned anything they're supposed to. All of what they're supposed to or give some reason why they shouldn't have had to.

LEMON: Nick, let's talk a little bit more about what Laura is saying, that she's saying that Trump lawyer -- lawyers -- Trump's lawyers are arguing that classified materials should have been -- have been expected to be found in those 15 boxes taken from Mar-a-Lago, claiming that it's just the nature of presidential records. Does that argument hold water, especially given the top-secret documents at issue here.

NICK AKERMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: No, not, of course not. I mean, this is stuff that is national security secrets. And I think what really cause the archives to send this over to DOJ for an investigation wasn't just the fact that there were classified documents, but that they were messed in with a lot of other irrelevant documents that just showed that the whole thing was one big mess.


And so, they were concerned as to what was happening with these documents, who was looking at them and who had access to them. So, it's much more beyond, and by the way, the papers that the Trump people put in just refer to them as sensitive documents. I mean, they try and downplay everything in this brief and don't even acknowledge that there are highly classified documents, that are an issue with this search.

LEMON: Yes. They do. Everything, except they were hyperventilating they had the vapors about expired passports and Time magazines. So, yes, you're quite right with that, Nick.

Brandon, I'm -- it's good to have you back here. And especially because you specialize in mishandling, the mishandling of classified documents, Trump team is expressing outrage over the photo. We'll put it up now. The photo that was included in the DOJ filing, calling it gratuitous. What do you think of that? What's your reaction?

BRANDON VAN GRACK, NATIONAL SECURITY ATTORNEY: So, this is, this is what happens when you collect evidence in, in particular, if you're collecting classified evidence. This isn't an indication of what it looked like. This is an indication trying to demonstrate this is the material that was seized from this particular location.

And one of the things that jumps out is, or are, I should say, these what are called cover sheets. When you have classified documents, they're not just marked top secret or secret, there's a cover sheet. And the point of that cover sheet is to scream at anyone in the room that this material is classified so that you don't trip over it, so that there aren't accidents.

And so, when you see these cover sheets, and you learn that there were hundreds of classified documents, it indicates that it would have been difficult to miss this material.

LEMON: I just -- it shouldn't all -- I mean, shouldn't all of this have gone either in a shredder or be discarded or whatever it is, however it is that they handle it. There is a process for this and that process does not include, you know, it being on a former president's, you know, bedside table or desk or whatever, however, it was stored. It should be secured and under government protection. Am I wrong about that?

VAN GRACK: Well, it -- so it's not, I would even take it a step beyond that, which is, it's not about what should have happened on January 20 with respect to these documents because I think the point was made earlier. If, if all of these classified documents and I think we're at over 300 classified documents that were at Mar-a-Lago, if they were all returned to the archives in January, we wouldn't be having a discussion about a criminal investigation and we wouldn't be having a discussion.

It's, so it's not what happened to those documents on January 20th. People do make mistakes. Many cases involving the mishandling of classified information are ultimately not prosecuted. People do make mistakes. It's what happened after that. And I think that's sort of a key point here, that the bottom line is it's not that there were classified documents there. It's that, at when there was notice that there were these documents there ultimately, they remained.


LEMON: Laura, what's not in here, right, is any mention of declassified documents or the response to the government saying that Trump moved documents and tried to obstruct the investigation. Why is that not in there.

COATES: Because there's not really likely a legitimate defense to those notions. They're trying to hone in and be very narrow in their focus in front of this particular judge. Remember, this is just for the audience's clarification. This is not the same judge who, you know, signed off on the search warrant. They have to give a different judge the context, the comprehensive information to rule on things that they were asked about, which is the special master.

They're trying to focus on that particular aspect of it, as I think a bit of a, not a distraction to be nefarious, but their strongest arguments that they have are in favor of why they believe a neutral figure in a case such as this, an extraordinary public interest ought to check and make sure that every I was dotted and T was crossed.

But I just want to underscore this point that you made and Brandon as well. We should not be here.

LEMON: Right.

COATES: We should not be here because there should have been the cooperation from a former president to provide documents back to the National Archives. Yes, mistakes have been made. We most notably hear the analogy all the time raised about former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and her retention of documents on a private e-mail server.

Guess what the distinction here so far has been. That there was cooperation to provide documentation. The reason we're already here at the point in time when we're talking about an execution of a search warrant, where you got the legal filing, suggesting to them that look, all you were supposed to do here was not have a criminal referral, but you should have gone back to the archives, that would've been standard back and forth.

Well, that's not what has happened in the past. It's not what should have to happen at all when we're dealing with documents of this nature. We should never be here. We should never know about this. The story should have ended when the first 15 boxes were returned and that should have been all of them.


LEMON: Is this a, is this similar, Laura, when you're talking about the distinction, is it like is there a presiding judge in a magistrate that sort of rules on things? Is that how this works. Is that what they're --


COATES: Yes. Well, there's a -- there's different intermediate judges.

LEMON: Got it.

COATES: There's a magistrate who rules on evidentiary things --


COATES: -- about whether search warrants should be executed. They normally don't hear trials. The trial judges, usually the federal district judge who will hear the case ultimately.

LEMON: OK. So, Nick, what about this idea that Trump had an expectation of privacy at his residence, which, which is a golf course that's open to members and where he was apparently keeping classified documents. The government wanted back. He was keeping him in his desk.

AKERMAN: Well, that's the whole point of the fourth amendment. I mean, there is an expectation of privacy, and there is a, the amendment, basically the fourth amendment says that you're going to be secure in your home, in your possessions and any searches have to be reasonable.

And so, to have a reasonable search, the government had to come in as they did here and provide probable cause that there was evidence of a crime, a crime had been committed and evidence of that crime existed at Mar-a-Lago.

They certainly did that. And the proof is in the pudding and what they came up with and they took. I mean, what the papers that were filed today completely try and downplay the whole business about what occurred in June. And then later, in terms of turning over other documents and responding to a grand jury subpoena. They try and portray this as just the usual give and take when the archives get involved with the president who's setting up his papers, and this was basically just giving security advice.

I mean, that's how they portray what in effect is concealment in a false affidavit that was offered by Trump's own attorney, saying that they had done an adequate search and had looked everywhere for all the classified documents. That did not happen.

LEMON: Brandon, before we get out of here, I have to ask you, what do you expect from the DOJ? What will they do next?

VAN GRACK: They're going to do what they've continued to do. In fact, really the special master here, it -- it's a bit of a distraction. The special master at most is going to potentially withhold some small amount of documents or delay it. Like the investigation is ongoing. And what the Department of Justice now instead of two threads, one is being led by the Justice Department and FBI where they're determining what happened and why.

They're determining why these classified documents were taken to Mar- a-Lago, why they weren't all provided returned to the archives. Why they weren't provided when there was a subpoena, why there were representations made on June 3rd that ultimately turned out to be false.

There's also what the intelligence community is doing. And it's not just to determine what potential risks there were to national security and how to mitigate those risks. They are doing a classification review. Are these documents actually still classified? That's relevant to potential charges.

They're fingerprinting these documents. They're trying to determine -- can they determine who accessed them. That is relevant to potential criminal charges. They're also building a timeline to understand why these documents, in particular, were in the possession of the president.

And so, they're going through all of that information and they're also, if we advance, if the investigation advances, what the Justice Department would be doing is determining can any of these documents actually be shown to a jury? Can we use these in trials? So, there's still a lot of work to be done.

LEMON: Wow. Brandon, you know your stuff. That's why you're here, as well as Laura and Nick, they all know their stuff. Thank you very much. I'll see you guys soon.

COATES: Thank you.

AKERMAN: Thank you.

LEMON: So, is the photo that -- it's the photo that showed us some of the actual secret and top secret documents the FBI found at Mar-a-Lago but there's a lot more to it than meets the eye.

And you know, who has the expertise on that? That's CNN's Josh Campbell, a former FBI special agent. He's going to break it all down. He's at the magic wall. That's next.



LEMON: So, at the end of the DOJ's filing late last night was a single photo, a single photo showing multiple documents found at the former president's Florida residents. Among them, a number of documents label secret SCI and top-secret SCI. But tonight, his legal team filed a brief saying classified material should have been expected in presidential records found at Mar-a-Lago. So, I want to bring in now CNN security correspondent, Mr. Josh

Campbell who is standing by for us at the magic wall, and Steve Hall, a CNN national security analyst joins us as well.

Gents, good evening to you. Josh, I'm going to start with you. So, will you take us through this photo from the Justice Department's filing? There are clearly, they -- there are clearly labeled documents top secret SCI sensitive information. Are these to be expected in the home of a former president?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the court will have to make that determination, Don. I can tell you if my friend Steve Hall and I, when we were dealing with top secret information in the government, if we had left government service and maintained these kinds of records and refused to give them back, we would be in serious legal jeopardy.

But what the president, former president is saying tonight in this filing, I'll read part of it. He says this discovery of classified information was to be fully anticipated given the very nature of presidential records. The notion that presidential records would contain sensitive information should have never been caused for alarm.

But of course, the alarm it did cause. And I'll tell you why. Because as you look at this FBI photo, you can see here the types of information that they found. We're talking about secret information and top-secret information. What is that? The definition within the intelligence community, if secret information falls into the wrong hands it could cause serious damage to national security. Top secret. We're talking about grave damage to national security.

So again, the former president is claiming he's done nothing wrong. He says that this is to be expected. That will have to be litigated in this court, but this is unprecedented, whether it's a Republican or a Democratic former president, we have never seen one holding onto this type of sensitive information.

LEMON: Can we dig in a little bit more, Josh? And can you talk about what kind of information these documents labeled like these -- that you see there? What would it contain?


CAMPBELL: So, this here is a cover sheet. And this is what my former DOJ colleague Brandon Van Grack talked about in the last segment. This sits on top of classified information. It tells the person holding those documents what is behind it, how sensitive that information is.

And I want to specifically focus on these initials you see here. These are the types of controls, additional levels of sensitivity. And this is what was found at Donald Trump's residence according to the FBI. What do these acronyms mean? We're talking about human control. This refers to spies that are run overseas. Like Steve Hall used to run as a CIA officer.

Highly sensitive information. We're also talking about what's called special intelligence. This has been within the realm of the National Security Agency. Think about wireless, wire taps. Think about signals intelligence collection.

And this last part here, talent keyhole. That's not a household name, but that is a reference to a highly classified U.S. government satellite program. And again, we don't know what was exactly in these documents, but looking at these cover sheets, we can tell that this information was potentially highly sensitive, Don.

LEMON: Steve Hall, what could happen if some of these top-secret SCI documents were expose?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I, you know, nothing good, all sorts of bad stuff. And I think a lot of people are con -- are confused, Don, maybe with, you know, well, we need to protect sources and methods. You hear a lot about that. And that's certainly true in the case of human intelligence. You know, we have -- we don't want our spies executed in foreign countries where they're working with us, and the methodologies by which we collect other information.

All of that, that's very important. But there's more than that. I mean, you're -- we're talking about, you know, protecting national security. We're talking about things like protecting troops in the field. For example, remember -- remember the raid against Osama bin Laden during the Obama administration.

What if that information had been laying around on somebody's desk and somebody had seen it and reported it back to the bad guys. And in that case, you know, the, the Navy Seals would've landed, you know, to a whole bunch of Al-Qaeda guys who would've killed them.

So, we're talking about lives of Americans. We're talking about national security issues, as well as trying to protect the people who are, who are actually providing us with this very sensitive stuff. Those cover documents that Josh was just referring to, it's really important.

I mean, when I was sitting in my desk at CIA, if I got one of those cover sheets on my desk, I didn't just, at the end of the day, pick up and go home. That stuff had to be stored securely even inside of CIA headquarters in a safe.

So, this is really, really, and by the way, one other thing, I forgot to mention, it's critically important. The stuff that goes to the president of the United States is not just common stuff. I mean, If I collected something at CIA, from a human source that ended up on the president's desk. I get pats on the back. I get promotions because it's really the -- it's the top 1 percent that goes to the president, not the less important, less sensitive stuff.

LEMON: Right. The stuff that he needs to know about the urgent, immediate stuff. Steve, I want you to respond to this. OK?

HALL: Yes.

LEMON: So, take a -- take a look. This is Trump's lawyers just on Fox and you got to hear what she said.


HABBA: I have been down there. I'm down there frequently. I have never seen that. I have never, ever seen that. That is not the way his office looks. Anybody that knows President Trump's office he has guests frequently there.


LEMON: OK. So, you just said he has guests frequently there, Steven, she proving the point of just how dangerous is this?

HALL: Yes, absolutely. And you know, first of all, no surprise, we know what kind of person Donald Trump is in terms of, you know, he likes to have lots of people around him. And we saw this even when he was in the White House, you remember the time when he had the Russian foreign minister, you know, in the Oval Office and spilled some very sensitive intelligence that we got from the Israelis.

But the fact that there's people in his office, this is why you have a thing called a SCIF, which is, you know, a facility that is specifically designed to make sure that people can't see it, that's classified information unless of course you're allowed in the SCIF and it's correctly protected.

It's clear from that picture, big glass window behind him. you know, a cell phone sitting on his desk. These things are anathema to good security to stopping the bad guys from seeing the very sensitive stuff that the American intelligence community collects.

LEMON: Boy. Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate it.

He frequently has guests there. A scandal over classified documents, democracy increasingly at risk and President Biden, increasingly taking aim at what he calls MAGA Republicans. A lot to talk about with Fareed Zakaria. Fareed after the break.



LEMON: You want to watch this segment? You know how I know because it's Fareed Zakaria. So, let me just tell you something before I introduce him. The former president's legal team telling a court sensitive material should have been expected. And presidential records found at Mar-a-Lago. That, as President Biden is set to deliver a major speech on the future of democracy tomorrow night.

There he is Fareed Zakaria, the host of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS. So good to see you, my friend.

There's a lot going on, let's dig into it. So, I want to start with this investigation into the former president at, for keeping this classified information at his beach resort. What are -- what are our allies thinking about this, Fareed? Are they watching all of these details about the nature of the classified information coming out, knowing that their intelligence, their secrets may have been compromised?


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: Sure. I mean, particularly those governments that deal with the United States very regularly share very sensitive material. I'm sure they're worried could some of our stuff be in here, you know, depending on what the markings are. Sometimes you can tell, sometimes you can't.

What we can tell is a lot of this was highly classified, but you know, many governments, most of our closest allies, most of America's closest allies had very poor relations with President Trump when he was -- when he was in office and they routinely saw that he would, you know, tell the Russian government things that he was not supposed to do. Tell the Russian ambassador things that he was not supposed to do. Tell Kim Jong-un things that he was not supposed to do.

So, you know, in a sense it's part of a pattern. You know, there are a few governments that the ones that thought they could manipulate him well. You know, some Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, maybe Russia that liked the kind of bizarre, chaotic, lack of respect for any kind of institutions norms that Trump had.

But most governments looked at the Trump's conduct of foreign policy with a great deal of anxiety. And this probably is in a sense, just a case where it reminds them of just what an unsettling period in American foreign policy that was.

LEMON: Yes. I remember the meeting, I forget which G -- which summit it was where they were, there was a hot mic situation. It may have been the same one where he elbowed the world leader out of the way because he was standing in front and then they were all standing there having a cocktail and they were kind of talking a little bit of smack about Donald Trump. It shows you the kind of relationship they had with him.

Let's talk about Lindsey Graham, though. Now people like Lindsey Graham, Fareed, I should say. And then warning about riots in the streets if Trump were to be charged. What are the consequences for democracy if he is charged or if he isn't charged?

ZAKARIA: Well, what Lindsey Graham said was truly dangerous. And you know, what has to understand it is, it's really dangerous for anyone to say, and it's dangerous for a U.S. senator to say. What Lindsey Graham was saying is I don't care if Trump broke the law. You can't indict him because there'll be riots on the street.

That is, you know, for a party, the Republican Party that has historically claimed that it was the party of law and order. Essentially, that is a claim that somebody is above the law. And it's important to remember it, you know, the big picture here is that Donald Trump does appear to have broken the law. There are laws about, you know, about how you handle classified documents. He broke them. There are laws about obstruction of justice. You know, that his team seems to have lied to the FBI. And this is part of a pattern, whatever one may think about the Mueller investigation, and, you know, I have mixed views about it, but Mueller details, I think four or five occasions of clear obstruction of justice.

The only thing that stopped him was the legal, the memo that said that you can't indict a sitting president. There's no question there was obstruction of justice. So, if you have a case where there are clear violations of the law for a United States senators to say, well, I don't care about that. This guy is very popular.

I mean, that sounds to me like a banana Republic where you are not -- now, you can say, look, you've got to be, think about this politically as I do. I do think it's very important for the Justice Department and, Merrick Garland to explain what is going on here. Why are these things so important? What is the procedure being followed?

All that, that's perfectly fine, but to say, as Lindsey Graham. I don't care whether he broke the law. If you indict him, there's going to be, you know, riots in the streets. That is fundamentally a claim that Donald Trump is above the law.

LEMON: Or banana Republic or just bananas. Right? I want to turn down to the -- take us ahead to the current president, Biden's primetime speech tomorrow. It's being built as a focus on what he calls the battle for the soul of our nation. That's what he ran on the battle for the soul of the nation.

Two years into his presidency he is turning to the sort of language and campaigning away from the -- from the sort of language campaigning that got him elected. No? Is that a smart move? Do you think he's turning towards the car away from it because he was supposed to be the great, you know, unifier. But do you think that what he's doing is unifying or is this what he needs to do?

ZAKARIA: It will -- it will depend on how he does it. You ask a very important question, Don, because in some sense he is reminding people of something that is real, which is, you know, let's not forget in the middle of all this conversation about inflation being up or down. You have this really serious problem that we, that, you know, it, it gets boring to repeat.


But you have the Republican Party putting in place at, at Donald Trump's behest. A series of moves in state legislatures that appeared to be to allow it to not pay attention to the will of the voters in the 2024 election. To, in a sense, make it impossible for the Brad Raffensperger of the world who stopped, who did not yield to Trump's pressure in 2020.

If that happens, you have a huge constitutional crisis, you know, here. Now, how should we deal with this? How should the President Biden deal with this? I'm not sure. I think that part of the challenge here is that there are just vast numbers of Republicans who believe this nonsense. It's a -- it's a series of lies. It's, you know, it's destructive, dangerous lies. But there is evidence they believe it.

Look at what happened to Liz Cheney. Liz Cheney is a conservative Republican. She's a social conservative, she's an economic conservative, she's a national security conservative. She probably agrees with Donald Trump and voted mostly almost entirely with him.

The one issue on which she disagrees is that he was trying to overturn the 2020 election. And she thinks that's a deeply dangerous thing to do in a democracy. And look what happened to her.

So, I hope Biden approaches it from the point of view of trying to persuade these people, to make them understand just how important the stakes are, and whatever you may think of Trump and his policies and his style, maybe you like them, maybe you like his policies. There is this much more important issue, which is, we have got to preserve the institutional safeguards, the norms, the procedures for Republic, for democracy and to remind all Americans this stuff is fragile.

There's been Democratic backsliding all over the world from Hungary to Poland, to India, to Turkey. And you know, it's happening because people are frustrated. But the United States is the oldest constitutional democracy in the world. If it happens here the effects could be irreversible, not just in the United States but around the world.

LEMON: Fareed Zakaria, everyone. We'll be back.



LEMON: President Biden set to deliver a major speech in Philadelphia tomorrow night. The president making what he calls MAGA Republicans a target of his midterm campaign blitz.

CNN political analyst Scott Jennings is here along with CNN political analyst Natasha Alford.

Good evening to both of you.

Scott, by this time tomorrow night, the president will have made his speech about the battle for the soul of the nation. He has been calling out the Maga Republicans who support the president's anti- democratic move seemingly no matter what. And we don't -- don't we have evidence of that just today that no matter what, they don't really call him out. I mean, you got the ton of this and you got this and they're not calling it out. They're making excuses.

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Joe Biden wants to make this election about Donald Trump and Republicans want to make the election about Joe Biden and inflation and other things. I mean, this is the -- this is the eternal battle that's going on between the two parties right now. And unfortunately, Donald Trump often gives Joe Biden the ammunition

to do it. And so, you know, this is a raw political matter. Every day we're talking about this. There's a day we're not talking about the stuff that voters care about and that would actually move people in elections. And so.

LEMON: Do you think voters care about this?

JENNINGS: No. I'm saying Republicans. Every day that Republicans are focused on, you know, having to defend Donald Trump or deal with whatever Donald Trump is doing is the day they're not dealing with the inflation and economy.


JENNINGS: The messages that would work for them in an election.

LEMON: Well, so, well then perhaps maybe the response should be different than this. This is a Republican reaction to the Donald Trump keeping top secret -- top secret documents at his home. This is Republican Congressman Ken Buck. Watch.


BUCK: I understand that former president's, former secretary of states may very well have classified information. He may be writing a memoir, he may be writing an autobiography, and the fact that he had documents in and of itself, isn't a concern how he treated those documents. And what negotiations occurred with the archivist. We just don't know at this point.


LEMON: Scott?

JENNINGS: I mean, the -- I mean, come on. I mean, look. Several things --


LEMON: You think Donald Trump is writing a memoir using notes from at --

JENNINGS: No, no, I don't. No.

LEMON: OK. I asked that question at the beginning of the show. I'm just --

JENNINGS: I mean, look, several things can be true. Number one, it was wrong for him to have the documents and stupid and whatever. Number two.

LEMON: Wait, say that again. Why can't people just say that?

JENNINGS: Yes. I mean, it's true. It's objectively true number. We still don't know what was in them exactly. That's not been precisely revealed.

LEMON: Right. That's true.

JENNINGS: So, we're still engaging in a lot of speculation. And number three, you know, there's competing viewpoints out there in narratives about, whether he's going to be indicted or not. I mean, there was some writing in the New York Times article about the documents this morning that indicated they may not be moving swiftly to indict him.

Although there's some other conservative legal commentators I read tonight, Andy McCarthy, over at National Review, who thinks it was a clear statement that they are going to indict him. So, it's like not clear what's going to happen here, but what is objectively true is you don't have to sit around and speculate and make up reasons why he might or might not have done it.

You can just simply say, well, I don't know that he should have done it, but I don't know what's in the document so I'm withholding judgment. That's a better option than musing about that.

LEMON: Well, I think a better option is what you said, is that he shouldn't have -- he should not have had the documents that's objectively true.


LEMON: But whether or not he, I think what -- I think what is true is that the archives and the DOJ, they just, they wanted the records back and they went in and got them. I think that's all, whether he's going to be indicted, you're right about that.


I think we will cross that bridge when we get to it. But the point is, aren't they running out of excuses? Don't you think Republicans are running out of excuses on this?

NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. So, I think that it's a reflection of the state of politics right now. Right. Where we can't even agree on just basic common sense. The clip that we saw, the reach as the kids say, don't your arms hurt from reaching, like that? Like, it just doesn't make sense.

And we're in this world right now where the big lie continues to thrive. And we have elected officials who actually know better who are insisting that things are true, knowing that it's stopped because they want to remain in power.

And I think that is the concern. And I think that is what President Biden is starting to shift his messaging too, right? Away from this idealism of bipartisanship and how he was going to bring us together to the realism of the moment and saying, this is what's at stake. Right? We're concerned about the outcomes of elections actually being fair because people are being elected to office to change the outcome. LEMON: So, my question to Fareed earlier was, is he shifting towards the language he used during his -- when he was running or is he shifting away from that? Because this is a definite shift in the way he's been governing according to you, right?

ALFORD: Yes. I, I think it's a shift away from that language, right?


ALFORD: The bipartisanship, yes, it felt like a nice bullet point on the resume, but I think we're all in this space where we realize that's just not a reflection of where we are as a country. People are very, very divided and in their camps and sort of entrenched even further in those camps.

So, I think he's moving away from that language. And he's trying to appeal to, again, the soul of the nation, right? Talking about Uvalde and not being able to identify the bodies of children. That's an appeal to humanity in the heart. It doesn't matter whether you're Republican or a Democrat. I think we can both agree that that is a problem. And people have grown so numb to this problem because Congress hasn't done anything about it. So, he's trying to make that appeal.

LEMON: Well, today, yesterday, he was talking about -- he was pushing an assault weapons ban, and then tomorrow he's going to be talking about, you know, the soul of our nation and democracy.

JENNINGS: Yes. I mean, look, my views on this are a little different. I do agree it's a shift away. I mean, if you go back and listen to his inaugural address and then you listen to the way he's talking about Republicans now, I mean, he's not trying to unify the country.

LEMON: Yes. But a lot has happened between now and his inaugural dress.

JENNINGS: I understand.

LEMON: I mean, there was --


JENNINGS: But he ran his campaign on I'm going to unify the country.


JENNINGS: His message to the nation was we're all in this together. I'm going to unify the country. And now he's out saying two things. One, lots of you all are fascists. And by the way, if you vote Republican, there's a decent chance that our democracy is no longer going to exist. These are not unifying messages by any stretch.

ALFORD: But he can't turn a blind eye to that.

LEMON: Right.

ALFORD: I think you and I both agree he's doing it for --


LEMON: Can the unifying message be that some of what he's saying is true, because there are a lot of people, I got to tell you, Scott, a lot of folks would go, where's the lie. I don't see no lies detective.

JENNINGS: I think there are 70, 80 million Americans who would say just because I choose to vote Republican doesn't make me a fascist and it doesn't make me --


LEMON: But he did not call --

JENNINGS: -- want to --

LEMON: Scott, I got to be honest with you. He did not call all Republicans fascists. And 80 million Americans he said MAGA Republican --


ALFORD: Extreme.

LEMON: And he made it into distinction and he also pointed out Republicans who were not part of what you're saying. Look, I know it's a good campaign.

JENNINGS: Listen, there -- it's why is it up to Joe Biden to divide up the Republicans? When Republicans go to the vote --


LEMON: Well, he's running. He's a --

JENNINGS: -- when they, but listen.

LEMON: OK, Scott, listen.


LEMON: No, no, no, no, no, no. Listen, the former president every single day talk shit about everybody, including other presidents, including members of his own party, probably you on CNN and now everybody is all of a sudden, they've got the vapors about one statement that Joe Biden made in the entire year and a half of his presidency.

JENNINGS: They're not the ones --


LEMON: It's just, I mean, spare me the --

JENNINGS: But Republicans aren't the ones who had -- who had Joe Biden out every day saying I'm going to unify the country. We're all in this together. We're all -- we're not enemies.


LEMON: But --

ALFORD: You call a thing, a thing.

LEMON: He is also telling the truth, Scott.

ALFORD: That's right.

LEMON: He's telling the truth about what is happening in the country in the most part. I'm not saying that everybody is fascist.

JENNINGS: You go to --

LEMON: Listen, hang on, hang on. I'm not even saying, I don't think it's, it was the best thing for him to use that language. But you have to call a thing, a thing. You have to call it what it is. You can't, you know, that that is unifying.


LEMON: By bringing people around to the reality of what is.

JENNINGS: If you go to the average Republican who, I don't know what they consider themselves, whether they're MAGA, regular Republican, whatever. But if you go to the average Republican who went into the voting booth in November 2020 and said, well, I'm going to vote Republican this election, or they're planning to do that in this election.

And you tell them, Joe Biden may think that you're a fascist or semi- fascist, whatever that means. He may, we're not sure, but he might think that. And he's also arguing that if you choose to vote Republican, then you're essentially trying to end American democracy. A, it's not unifying. B, it's not within the character of what he said he was going to be. And C, that's not how any average Republican would view what he's saying.



LEMON: What you are not -- what you are not understanding is there was no crystal ball in that, in November of 2020. There was no insurrection that was part of the record in 2020. There was no the election --


JENNINGS: There was an inauguration day.

LEMON: All right.

JENNINGS: It just happened. LEMON: No, you said in the voting booth, you said you, if you asked

any Republican, so there was no insurrection. There was no, the election is a lie that Joe Biden is not the duly elected president. There was no denial of reality of what is happening.

So, I think, you know, yes, in that moment, OK, fine. But that's not what has happened over the last year and a half. Last year and a half, a lot of things have happened. And I say, all Republicans, Republicans who come on CNN like you and leaders, they've got a lot to answer for because they've made excuses for this president's behavior the entire time he was in office.

And now that he's out of office, when it -- when it is blatantly obvious that many of the things he did, were wrong.

JENNINGS: And a Republican response to that would be, look, I might agree with you on a lot of what you say about Donald Trump's behavior --


JENNINGS: -- and what he has said and done, but that doesn't mean I have to reflexively accept or support what Joe Biden is doing to the country.

LEMON: No, no. That's not what I'm saying.

JENNINGS: And that's the choice he's lying.

LEMON: that's not -- I'm not saying that.

JENNINGS: That's what he's laying out.

LEMON: I'm saying, I think Republicans in this moment should spare me the hysteria about something that this current president, one thing that he said when every single day I sat here for five years and listened to Donald Trump called people, call country shithole, call people sons of bitches, made fun of reporters for having, you know, for their disabilities.

All kinds of things where he talked about people's mother, where he made fun of gold star families. And now all of a sudden, Republicans, my gosh. He said that there was a semi-fascist tinge to the Republican. I'm just saying have the same energy for Joe Biden or for, excuse me, for Donald Trump, as you have for Joe Biden, when there's something you don't like coming out of his mouth.

JENNINGS: First of all, not hysterical about it. Second of all, is that the bar you're setting for Joe Biden?

LEMON: No. It's not the bar.

JENNINGS: And say, well, Donald Trump was mean. So, it's OK.


JENNINGS: I mean, that's not -- that's a low bar.


ALFORD: That's (Inaudible) mean as being accurate. Right?

LEMON: Right.

ALFORD: We're talking about fascism. It's not about hurting people's feelings. And I -- it's problematic that people are more upset about the term semi-fascist than the actual elected officials who are threatening violence, who are saying things like, you know, Chuck, Dr. Fauci out of the way, this is Ron DeSantis who is supposed to be a governor.


ALFORD: Political violence is a part of America's DNA. We can't find that.

LEMON: I am so -- I'm in so much trouble. We'll be right back. Thank you, guys. Thank you.