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Migrants Flown by Florida Governor to Martha's Vineyard Headed to Cape Cod Base; Judge Appointments Special Master to Review Documents Seized at Mar-a-Lago, Rejects DOJ Bid to Resume Criminal Probe; About 40 Chartered Buses of Migrants Sent from El Paso to New York. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired September 16, 2022 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It is the top of the hour, good morning, everyone, I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Jim Sciutto. Right now we are watching these live pictures. They are migrants being loaded on buses. This in Martha's Vineyard.

And where they are going, we're told by Massachusetts officials they'll be taken first by bus and then by ferry to Joint Base Cape Cod, where they will have food and shelter and other essential services.

They are there in the first place because Florida governor Ron DeSantis flew them there without advance notice to local officials, saying, quote, "Every community in America should be sharing in the burdens," end quote, of immigration.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Those people in D.C. and New York were beating their chests when Trump was president, saying they were so proud to be sanctuary jurisdictions, saying how bad it was to have a secure border.

The minute even a small fraction of what those border towns deal with every day is brought to their front door, they all of a sudden go berserk and they're so upset that this is happening.


SCIUTTO: President Biden responded overnight, accusing DeSantis and others of, quote, "playing politics with human beings," suggesting that those governors such as DeSantis should not interfere in the immigration process.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Instead of working with us on solutions, Republicans are playing politics with human beings, using them as props. What they're doing is simply wrong. It is un-American, it is reckless.


SCIUTTO: The U.S. attorney for Massachusetts will speak with the Justice Department about DeSantis transporting migrants to Martha's Vineyard as other lawmakers are calling for an investigation. We'll take you there live in just in a moment.

But we begin with a setback for the Justice Department in one of its investigations. A judge has named a special master to review documents seized at Mar-a-Lago but it also paused the criminal investigation into classified materials confiscated, you see them there, from former president Trump's Florida home.

HARLOW: Senior judge Raymond Dearie will be the independent arbiter tasked with reviewing the documents. He was nominated by president Reagan in 1986 and he retired in 2011 and is now a senior judge in the district.

He'll have to complete this review by November the 30th. Katelyn Polantz joins us from Washington.

This is not over. There is still a dispute over what judge could do and it will be appealed to the 11th Circuit, no?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That certainly seems like it. And we don't know when this will be over. Right now the timeline is set so that judge Raymond Dearie, he has until about November 30th, right around the holidays, to finish his work and make recommendations.

But it is totally possible that things could go on longer related to these documents that he's going to be working through with the Trump team and the Justice Department to determine whether they could be part of this criminal investigation.

They're going to -- it could go on longer because anything that he decides that the Trump team doesn't agree with or that the Justice Department doesn't agree with, that can go back to Judge Cannon, the judge that appointed Dearie yesterday to do this work.

So right now the criminal investigation is paused because they can't be using these documents. Judge Dearie, when he is going to be getting to work, he's focusing first with the teams on about 100 classified reports that were taken out of those -- or that are part of those boxes that were removed from Mar-a-Lago.

Those are the records, the records that were marked as classified, that the Justice Department has really been most alarmed about. They would be at the heart of any potential criminal case.

They are the ones that the Justice Department has limited access to, that they didn't want the special master to be working with at all, because the Justice Department and the Biden administration, the intelligence community has wanted to figure out whether or not those are classified and how sensitive they are.

Congress also has wanted to know what those are and how potentially damaging it is that these documents, about 100, that they were kept at Mar-a-Lago outside of the hands of the federal government in a restricted way so long after Trump had left office.

And so that focus remains on those particular records. But Judge Cannon, this judge who appointed the special master last night, she did write that she suggested she may not believe there is that much harm in how these were kept.

She wrote there has been no actual suggestion by the government of any identifiable emergency or imminent disclosure of classified information arising from the plaintiffs, Trump's allegedly unlawful retention of the seized property. And she suggests that it is possible --


HARLOW: -- they weren't even shared with anyone in any way that could cause harm. So we're waiting this morning to see what the Justice Department's next move is -- Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Katelyn, thank you very much for the reporting.

Let's talk about all of these developments with Renato Mariotti, former federal prosecutor and host of "The Great Podcast," on topic; and David Priess, former CIA intelligence officer and publisher and chief operating officer of "The Lawfare Blog," a great podcast, a great blog, two wiggle rhymes (ph).

Thank you both very much.

Renato, what do you think here?

There have been so many prominent legal minds who have disagreed with Judge Cannon along here, especially on her interpretation of executive privilege as it applies here.

Now they agreed on the special master but the question is the scope and what they can do and what DOJ is barred from doing while his work goes on.

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, Poppy, it is really hard for me to explain to the viewers at home how unusual this ruling is. I have been practicing criminal law, for example, either for or against the Justice Department for 20 years. I've never seen anything even close to approaching this.

If this was an -- let's just say it is classified documents; this was a drug case or an ordinary fraud case. The idea that someone would be entitled to have judicial oversight of a search before they're indicted is unheard of. And then separately, it's something that almost never happens. And

then separately, typically, when dealing with a national security case and there are top secret documents involved, there are so much deference usually given to the executive branch in these weighty national security concerns.

So the fact that the judge is not concerned about the stated concerns of the government and not -- also giving this unusual relief to the defense here, very, very unusual ruling.

I have to say, I'm surprised she didn't moderate or back down on her ruling at all in the face of a potential appeal. And the DOJ is going to be concerned about doing that.

SCIUTTO: David Priess, the judge, as Katelyn was saying there, says that the Justice Department in effect, she says, hasn't suggested, I feel like I've seen they've suggested at least but hasn't proven imminent disclosure of those documents held there.

To my knowledge, that is not the way the law or regulations are written regarding handling classified material. For instance, Sandy Berger, David Petraeus, who face charges, there was no proof that that was then handed to Chinese; it was that they took them home.

They took them out of where they were supposed to look at. When I had my security clearance, no one said to me this is only a problem if someone gets it; otherwise, take it to your vacation home and paste it on your bedroom walls.

What is the actual law?

DAVID PRIESS, FORMER CIA INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: We did have the issue with Petraeus, that he did share it with someone who was not allowed to see it, his biographer. But in the Sandy Berger case, there was no such evidence that I'm aware of. The issue is whether you're properly storing and treating the classified information in the first --

SCIUTTO: Is that the how the law is written -- ?

PRIESS: Yes. It does not matter if I have those documents sitting in my closet or in my desk at home, just by myself in a nonsecure environment or whether I have a bunch of people coming in. If I do, then there may be additional issues involving --

SCIUTTO: That makes it worse.

PRIESS: Yes. But the core issue of the classification of these documents is pretty simple. This judge has no experience working with national security information and it shows because she says that the government cannot conduct interviews with witnesses using the content of the documents.

Well, imagine what that actually looks like. Let's say I'm interviewing you about these documents.

And I say, will you tell us what happened with these documents? And you just say which one?

I'm done. I can't investigate at that point because I can't refer to the title of the document; I can't refer to the subject of it or the sources and methods to trigger your memory about any of the documents. I just have to say, oh, one of those 100 or so documents that I can't tell you about.

It shows a real lack of understanding how this classified information works.

HARLOW: In reading her ruling from yesterday, she tried to clarify that point. And she said that DOJ can continue to investigate, quote, "the movement and storage of seized materials" while they're in possession of a special master but they can't present them to witnesses or to a grand jury.

So given all of those restrictions, can you explain to our viewers what the question will be before those appellate judges, what the 11th Circuit is going to have to consider here, should DOJ, in all likelihood, appeal?

MARIOTTI: Yes, I will say, that is a little bit of an open question in terms of how broadly the DOJ will appeal.

In other words, will they appeal it more broadly or is it narrowly focused as this latest motion was?

I think that remains to be seen. I will say that passage you just meant also flies in the face of the declaration put before the judge evidence, put before the judge regarding how that process works.

I think that, at the very least, the Justice Department is going to be appealing the denial of this most recent motion --


MARIOTTI: -- that basically said that they could not use these documents in their ongoing investigations, including as David very aptly explained, would be done to assess the national security risk that was posed by those documents being outside of a secure facility for so long.

SCIUTTO: Before we go, David Priess, Renato pointed out another line from Judge Cannon's filing, "Based on the nature of this action, the principles of equity require the court to consider the specific context at issue.

"And that consideration is inherently impacted by the position formerly held by the plaintiff."

Renato reads that as saying, this former president is different because he's a former president.


SCIUTTO: Holding above the law?

There is no other way of reading it, really.

PRIESS: The whole argument that she makes is based around that, that we must show special deference in this case because she's talking about principles of equity and then the only thing she mentions is the former position.

That does say that, at least in her mind, which I don't know if the 11th Circuit will agree with, that all of these standard issues that Renato talked about are either minimized or thrown out because he's a former president.

SCIUTTO: Well, on to the 11th Circuit and maybe on to the Supreme Court from there.

Renato Mariotti, David Priess, thanks so much to both of you.


SCIUTTO: Coming up next, we are live in Martha's Vineyard as we hear from migrants flown from Florida to Massachusetts in what some, including the president and others, have called a political stunt.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: "There were three options," he said, "Washington, Utah and here in Massachusetts, whatever was available. The plane left and brought us here."

SCIUTTO: So what is happening now, we've been watching the migrants boarding buses and then a ferry for a National Guard base, where Massachusetts officials say they have been able to coordinate services for them. We'll have details on what is coming up.

Plus CNN has learned the United Nations is sending a team to assess the situation in Izyum after what was found, Ukrainian officials say, 440 graves in a mass burial site.

HARLOW: Also King Charles is in Wales and the U.K. And the world continue to mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth.






HARLOW (voice-over): Those are cheers in Martha's Vineyard this morning, just before migrants boarded buses to go on to Joint Base Cape Cod to receive humanitarian support and shelter. The governor of Massachusetts said they will receive, in addition to

shelter and food and essential services. Yesterday in Martha's Vineyard, they were left scrambling when Florida's governor flew 50 migrants there willingly but with no warning.

SCIUTTO: Now the state's U.S. attorney wants the Justice Department to look into this.


RACHAEL ROLLINS, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR MASSACHUSETTS: Massachusetts isn't the only place where this has happened. We have several other sister communities, whether it is D.C., New York, California, where we've seen things like this.

And we're hoping to get some input from the Department of Justice about what our next steps might be, if any at all.


SCIUTTO: CNN senior national correspondent Miguel Marquez is in Martha's Vineyard this morning, speaking to migrants.

Miguel, I wonder, a key question, because Republican governors and others have sent the migrants, who said it is their choice, oftentimes have signed some sort of agreement to say that they're OK being moved. You've spoken to them.

To your knowledge, is that true?

MARQUEZ: They are happy for help. They would like, I think, to know exactly what that help is and where they will be and what they are going on to because all of these people have refugee claims. There is a legal process they have to partake in.

Many of them we spoke to have hearings coming up in Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Washington State, D.C., back in Texas. And getting to that and keeping up with that process, remaining legal during that process, is complicated by the fact that they were brought to Martha's Vineyard.

There is no doubt that the people stepped up here and helped them out and got their essential needs met. It was incredibly emotional to watch them, one by one, with the few pieces of clothing that they had and the few things that they were given here, loading on to buses to get on to the ferry, to get to the mainland and start yet another phase of a remarkable journey that they've already been on.

I have the town administrator.

And I wanted to chat with you about sort of what we just witnessed here. This was obviously a coordinated effort to help these people get to the next stage.

How tough was it to absorb 50 migrants without any sense of where they (INAUDIBLE) what they needed? JAMES HAGERTY, TOWN ADMINISTRATOR, EDGARTOWN, MASSACHUSETTS: It was

very last minute and it was very tough initially. They came very quickly, 50 individuals we were notified. Within two or three hours we this set up.

The outpouring by the community, the graciousness with regard to food, clothes; when the first 12 hours became so enormous we had to tell them to cease, stop, we have too many supplies, too many gifts and too many donations. There has been tens of thousands of dollars donated. The outpouring was tremendous.

It showed a lot from the island community.

MARQUEZ: To see that, we spoke to Lisa, who was managing all of this. She broke down in tears just trying to spell her name for me. This was incredibly emotional and touching. This was two days of their lives and these lives came together.

What does it say about Martha's Vineyard and the towns here?

HAGERTY: It says sometimes we're alone and unafraid out here but we understand the path of travel and we understand that we're a community that ultimately wants to help people. And they had their first and one stop on the island; who knows, maybe they will come back.


HAGERTY: But again, they saw the graciousness of this community.

MARQUEZ: And immigration is an issue for the country. But you can absorb this sort of stuff.

Would people from Massachusetts and Martha's Vineyard be happy to do this if there were a coordinated way in which it happened?

HAGERTY: Absolutely. We saw a coordinated way that became more and more coordinated as this progressed. We utilized our state partners and ultimately we can't provide a holistic level of services that are required. By this transport, immigration lawyers, connectivity, all those factors which will ultimately be beneficial, will be beneficial -- excuse me -- on their journey.

MARQUEZ: All right, thank you so very much. Really nice to meet you. Really appreciate it.

So 50 migrants from Venezuela, on to the next journey, the next part of the journey that has already been absolutely head-spinning. Back to you guys.

SCIUTTO: Yes, by plane and by bus and now by ferry. Miguel Marquez, good to have you there. Thank you so much.

I'm joining by Mario D'Agostino, he's the deputy city manager for the city of El Paso, Texas.

Sir, thanks so much for joining us this morning. MARIO D'AGOSTINO, DEPUTY CITY MANAGER, CITY OF EL PASO, TEXAS: Thank

you. Good morning.

SCIUTTO: So first of all, as I understand it, El Paso has sent some 40 migrants from Texas to New York City. Just a very basic question here.

In your view, is it in the interest of the migrants themselves, as they await the adjudication of their asylum claims, to be moved to cities further away from the border?

D'AGOSTINO: So I'm going to start with it was 41 charters, not 41 people.


SCIUTTO: OK, 41 charters.

D'AGOSTINO: (INAUDIBLE). And the way we've approach it, we're looking at the migrant and we're taking care of their needs. So as they're released into our communities, where those who don't have transportation, we're asking where they want to go. These destinations have been their choice. And so that is where we're sending them to.

SCIUTTO: OK, so you're saying you're asking them where they want to go. Now Manuel Castro, he's New York City's commissioner for the mayor's office, he met with some of the migrants coming in.

And to be clear this is not to our knowledge, buses from El Paso. But I want to get -- share his experience speaking to some of them. Have a listen.


MANUEL CASTRO, NEW YORK CITY COMMISSIONER FOR THE MAYOR'S OFFICE: Standing at Port Authority, he asked me, "And how do I get to Portland, Oregon?

"How do I get to Portland, Oregon, from here?"

And there I knew that governor Abbott was taking advantage of these asylum seekers.


SCIUTTO: So those apparently migrants sent by the governor as opposed to by the city of El Paso, I just wonder, though, there is signing a document and giving consent to be moved.

And then there is signing a document giving consent with some confusion, questions, perhaps a lack of understanding where you are going, for how long and what will happen there.

Are you confident that the migrants El Paso has sent have a full understanding that they're going to be dropped off in New York City? D'AGOSTINO: I'm confident in the efforts we're doing to ensure we're

sending to the location that they actually want to go to. As they're brought into our welcome center, which we've stood up, we're actually asking them at the onset, do you have a means, what is it you need from us?

What are those basic needs (INAUDIBLE)?

People sent us (ph) these Venezuelans who do have the financial means. So their -- they schedule their travel and they move on, on their own. We might provide a shuttle service to the airport or the bus terminals from our center but that is about as far as that.

For the others, the other 50 percent, that's where we start asking, where is it you want to go. And we ask them how the process (ph). And time and time again we're hearing New York City, Chicago; we've heard a few other small -- different locations but we haven't gotten enough to charter that yet.

So we're looking at other avenues. A lot of times the NGOs, as we all know, they'll provide travels for the ones and twos that don't have means to get there so they are assisting with those destinations.

SCIUTTO: Did you coordinate with New York before you sent these 41 charter buses?

D'AGOSTINO: That is correct. So when we first sent the first one back on August 23rd and it was truly because it was backlogging the system here. So to speak to that is, we only have so many shelter beds available.

And so when you get people who don't have a means to move on, you start tying up resources. So they reached out to us, our homeless shelters, asked if we could help. We asked them to poll the community and see where it was they were going.

That is where we got the first charter to New York City. At that point in time, we brought in a charter and we sent them on their way. We made contact with the New York City Watch Desk for Emergency Management as well as and Grandees Fund (ph).

We were told they're one of the NGOs that would be welcoming them there. So we did communicate with them. Since then we've met with New York City officials down in El Paso.

They've toured and we've been in followup communications with them. They've expressed some of these concerns that, when they get there, they're like, well, I just wanted to get there so I could go on to my next destination.

They're not being up front with us at this point. As I said, we continue to (INAUDIBLE) them; we continue to screen them and we're trying to make sure we're connecting them to their correct destination.

[10:25:00] SCIUTTO: OK. One thing that should be clear for people who are following this -- and you know this perhaps better than me -- and that is that these are not illegal immigrants. They are people who are in an asylum process; they come here and they claim asylum, perhaps either for imminent danger at home.

And then they await their chance to be heard, in effect. And this has been the law for some number of years.

Given your experience with this today and the growing numbers of migrants in this category, what fixes to the current asylum law would you like to see to help address this problem?

Because Republicans and Democrats have attempted this and they have not been able to come to any sort of agreement.

D'AGOSTINO: You know, as far as for the law, we got to look at what our options are.

Is there any Title 42 availability?

Is there anything we could communicate with Venezuela themselves to control the flow?

We also need to stop or direct that flow more to the interior of the United States. We continue to release that flow right here on the border. We're putting in smaller communities.

El Paso is a population of 800,000 but we are limited to one airport and a bus terminal. So we don't have the capacity to keep up with the sheer volumes.

Another option would be, if the flow is going to continue, they could stand up a federal facility that can hold numbers, such as a military installation. We've seen that happen with the Afghan evacuation.

And at this current pace we're not -- this is going to make the Afghan operation look simple. That is the direness (ph) of this situation that we have right now.

SCIUTTO: Well, to your point, for instance, those that go to Martha's Vineyard, they're now going to a National Guard place in Cape Cod.

Mario D'Agostino, thank you very much for joining us.

D'AGOSTINO: Thank you.

HARLOW: Today President Biden is set to meet with the families of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, both still in custody in Russia. This is the first meeting that the president will have with their families. This message from the administration, what they want to send and to the other families of detained Americans overseas. That is next.