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Migrants Flown To Martha's Vineyard Arrive At Cape Cod Base; Judge Appoint Special Master To Review Docs Seized At Mar-a-Lago; GOP Nominee Abruptly Reverses Support For Election Lies After Win. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 16, 2022 - 14:00   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell, good to be with you. We begin with humanitarian support and the new political fallout over the 50 Venezuelan migrants who were flown from Texas to Martha's Vineyard without warning this week. Last hour, those families arrived at nearby Joint Base Cape Cod. The Massachusetts governor provided bus transport. It was voluntary. No one forced to go. Now, on the Base, it was also once used to help survivors of Hurricane Katrina. The migrants will be given temporary housing, food, legal, and health assistance.

CAMEROTA: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis chartered two flights to drop off these 50 people in Martha's Vineyard, community members there then scrambled to provide support and housing in a church for the past two days. CNN's Miguel Marquez spoke to one of the Venezuelan migrants caught in the middle of the chaos.


UBALDO ARCAYA, VENEZUELAN MIGRANT: Speaking in a foreign language.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There were three options, he says, Washington, Utah, here in Massachusetts, whatever was available. The plane left and brought us here. When you step on American soil, you feel at ease that you're here and well protected, you lose the stress of the journey we had to go through in seven countries. Very stressful across all of Central America.


CAMEROTA: Well, a U.S. attorney says she wants the Department of Justice to get involved to see if Governor DeSantis's actions are criminal. CNN's Miguel Marquez joins us now from Martha's Vineyard. So, Miguel, what's the latest on the island?

MARQUEZ: The 50 or so immigrants that were here have now moved on, as you guys mentioned at the very top. It was -- it was mentioned. Look, they were here for about 48 hours in total. All their immediate needs met. It wasn't impossible or even difficult, really, for Martha's Vineyard of the towns here to step up to help these people. But it was confusing. They come with a lot of -- not a lot of baggage, not a lot of physical goods, but they have a very, very complicated life.

These people had just completed a month and a half, two, maybe three- month journey from Venezuela through Central America, the Darien Gap, which is no roads and jungle and extremely dangerous to cross up through Mexico into Texas. And then they were brought here without a lot of understanding of what -- where they were, what they were doing, and why they were brought here. They all have asylum cases that are pending in different parts of the country. Some have to be in Los Angeles, some in Washington State, some in Cincinnati, some back in Texas.

So, all of that combines to make a very -- a situation where their lives are very complicated already, even more so by bringing them to a place or sending them to a place like Martha's Vineyard. One of the organizers we spoke to, talked about just the intersection of their lives, the people on this island with these people from Venezuela that came together over the last couple of days.


LISA BELCASTRO, VOLUNTEER: My heart breaks for them because they were not the first priority but I hope that for all of them that in all of their troubles that they've had right now that these three days, I hope they feel exceptionally love. There in my heart, frankly.


MARQUEZ: That Martha's Vineyard Community Services has raised about $175,000 so far for these 50 or so migrants. They say that all of that money will attend to their needs going forward. So even though they're off the island, they're going to continue to help them. They provided cell phones for the ones that didn't have cell phones and needed them. They gave them a $50 visa card today as well. So they are going to be cared for from the people of Martha's Vineyard, but they are concerned about sort of the wrinkles in their case ahead because of this sort of weird situation where they ended up here, rather than where they probably should have wanted to go. Back to you guys.

BLACKWELL: Certainly. Miguel Marquez, with the reporting there from Martha's Vineyard, thank you.

Officials in the Biden administration are meeting today to discuss immigration. Even before this week's stunts by GOP lawmakers, the justice and homeland security departments were already talking about potential litigation over Republican governors moving migrants out of the state.

CAMEROTA: CNN's Kaitlan Collins is for us at the White House. Kaitlan, so today's meeting, as Victor just said was planned before this whole situation in Martha's Vineyard. What's the administration's plan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: They say it was planned before this, but obviously this is now going to be one of the main things that they are discussing. One big question is a big one -- been whether or not they're going to pursue any kind of litigation when it comes to the steps that these Republican governors have taken by busing or flying these migrants up north.


The White House says that's going to be something that's left up to the Justice Department to decide. But there is this meeting with cabinet officials, top administration officials to discuss not only this but obviously the migration issue as a whole, just something that they have been dealing with, obviously, ever since Biden took office. There's been a discussion lately after Vice President Harris said she did believe the border was secure in the way that it is now. And so that is going to be obviously a massive topic of discussion.

And it is something that the White House has been heavily critical of when it comes to what you're seeing here with these buses and these flights of these migrants being sent up north. And this is something that The White House says these Republican governors are using these people as political props. Here's what Karine Jean-Pierre just said at the briefing a few moments ago.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: These vulnerable migrants were reportedly misled about where they were heading, promised shelter, refuge benefits, and more. These are the kinds of tactics we see from smugglers in places like Mexico and Guatemala. And for what, a photo op? Because these governors care about creating political theater than creating actual solutions.


COLLINS: President Biden himself has even weighed in saying that he believes they are using humans to play politics with this. So obviously, that is something that the White House is staying on top of today. But in addition to that, President Biden has a slew of other meetings here. He's meeting with the South African President any moment now. They are going to be talking about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, of course, many other topics also on the agenda for them.

And then President Biden later on today is going to be meeting for the first time with the families of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. Those are those two Americans who are being held prisoner in Russia. There has been an intensive effort on the White House's behalf to try to bring them home. But those efforts have been unsuccessful so far, including in a prisoner swap exchange that they had proposed happening to Russia. They would trade a Russian arms dealer in exchange for getting Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner back home. That is something that Russia has not really responded to. And so these families have been really intensifying pressure on Biden to keep the pressure up on Russia to try to get this release of these two Americans secured, it's not been one that's been successful so far.

When I asked the White House yesterday, is there going to be any kind of update that these families are looking for this meeting today? They said they don't think there is going to be, but they want to have the meeting to show these families that this is very much still something that is on President Biden's priority list.

BLACKWELL: Absolutely. Kaitlan Collins for us there at the White House, we'll see what comes out of that meeting, thank you.

CAMEROTA: Now to this. A federal judge named an independent special master to review the documents that were seized from Mar-a-Lago. Senior judge Raymond Dearie was put forward by Trump's legal team and endorsed by the DOJ for this position. Dearie will oversee the investigation and filter through the potentially privileged documents.

BLACKWELL: Now, his appointment effectively pauses the criminal investigation into the materials taken from Trump's Florida home. CNN's Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig is here to explain all of this to us. The judge also provided guidelines for the review. How will this work?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, good news, we finally know exactly how this special master process will play out. So first of all, FBI seized about 11,000 documents from Mar-a-Lago back last month, those documents were now filtered through the parties and then they will go to the Special Master. We now know who the Special Master is. It is senior Judge Raymond Dearie. He's actually been a federal judge since 1986. He was put on the bench by Ronald Reagan, but he has a reputation that really transcends political partisanship.

The special master will then take out any documents that may be covered by attorney-client privilege or executive privilege. And the remaining documents will go over to the Justice Department, which is then free to use them in its continuing investigation. Now, in a ruling by the judge presiding over this whole case, Judge Cannon last night, she gave Donald Trump's team almost everything they asked for. Not quite everything, but almost everything. And she gave DOJ next to nothing that they wanted.

First of all, the judge ruled that the special master, Judge Dearie, can review all documents, including classified documents for all privileges, including executive privilege. DOJ did not want the special master looking at that. The judge did rule that Donald Trump has to foot the bill here. Donald Trump's the one who wanted the special master, so Trump had said let's split it 50-50. The judge said no, you're going to pay, Donald Trump. And finally, the judge set a target completion date of November 30. Trump's team had said this should take into December, DOJ wanted it done by October 17, so she sort of found a middle there.

BLACKWELL: But, Elie, we speak about these documents as if they fit neatly into one pile or another.


BLACKWELL: Is it possible that a document can be both covered by executive privilege and classified? HONIG: Yes. So that's a great question. The answer is, theoretically, yes. Let's say you had the president who had a conversation with the Secretary of Defense about military strategy or nuclear strategy relating to a certain foreign country and then it was written up in a memo.


Certainly, that will be classified, and arguably, that will be covered by executive privilege too. So Trump's team here isn't saying we necessarily own these documents or they have to be brought back to us but they're saying, if they're privileged, you cannot then use them against us in court.

CAMEROTA: So the DOJ is now going to appeal. How long is that going to take?

HONIG: Yes. A couple of different layers here with the appeals. So DOJ has filed as -- filed a notice of appeal. At this point, we are at the district court level in federal court down in Florida. That is the trial level. They have said they're going to appeal. If they appeal, they will go up to the 11th circuit court of Appeals. But that takes a lot of time, especially if they're going to appeal the whole special master ruling.

So in the meantime, what DOJ has said they're going to do is ask for a stay, which is basically asking the court of appeals for a pause. And specifically what they're focused on, what DOJ is focused on is those 100 classified documents. Now, this is out of the 11,000 total. So we're talking about 1 percent of documents, but the most important documents. So that could happen much more quickly. And again, that will go to the same court of appeals, the 11th circuit. So we could have two, sort of parallel tracks here, the quicker track for the stay, the longer track for the substantive appeal itself.

Important note about the 11th circuit. This is one of the most conservative courts of appeals that we have in the entire country. If you do the breakdown out of active judges, seven of them are Republican appointees, six Trump's actually, four of them Democratic. If you include senior judges who have a sort of reduced caseload, five more Republican nominated, four a more democratic nominated, the way it works on appeal is you don't just get one of them. You get three randomly chosen at your panel.

I actually ran this by my brother-in-law, who's a physics Ph.D. I said, what are the odds here? He said it is 65.5 percent that you'll have two or more Republican nominees on that three-judge panel and 34.5 percent that you'll have two or more blue Democratic nominees.

BLACKWELL: Shout-out to the brother-in-law playing the rule today. So let's talk about the timeline now. How long will this process take?

HONIG: Yes. So the calendar is really important. Let's remember. That search of Mar-a-Lago happened August 8, Monday night. We are now today, breaking news, September 16. So we are already almost six weeks out from the search and the special master hasn't even begun yet. A couple of other really important dates, midterms, November 8, circle that date and the judge has given a deadline now, oops, of November 30. So that tells us first of all this review will carry on past midterms. That can be important politically.

Also, DOJ is not going to be able to fully access these documents until the review is done. We're now talking what, December 2022 into 2023. You all know what happens. You don't need me to tell you in the year before a presidential election, people start declaring. If Donald Trump declares could add another political wrinkle and complication into all of this.

CAMEROTA: All right. Elie, I thank you very much for explaining all the complications and making it a family affair on your side.

HONIG: I always try to bring it home. Thanks so much.

CAMEROTA: You did it. Thank you so much. All right, more on the fallout from Governor Ron DeSantis's move to send migrants unannounced up north. The Democrat trying to unseat him says the DOJ should now get involved. Charlie Crist is going to make his case here next.

BLACKWELL: And former President Trump says there will be big problems if he's indicted over his handling of classified documents. Was that a threat? CNN's Jake Tapper joins us to discuss next.



CAMEROTA: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is talking about his unannounced flights on migrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard.


GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R-FL): It's only when you have 50 illegal aliens end up in a very wealthy rich sanctuary enclave that he decides to scramble on this instead of scrambling and worrying about a bunch of rich people and having 50. And oh, by the way, they already bus them out. They're gone. They said -- they said we want everyone, no one's illegal, and they're gone within 48 hours.


CAMEROTA: He also claimed that his team gave those migrants a map of Martha's Vineyard. So he says it should have been obvious where they were going. We're joined now by Charlie Crist. He is running against Ron DeSantis for Governor of Florida and the election is less than 60 days away. We also did invite Governor DeSantis on the show. His office declined. Congressman, thanks so much for being here. Do you have a response to what you just heard from Governor DeSantis there?

CHARLIE CRIST, DEMOCRATIC GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE, FLORIDA: I don't know what that gibberish even means. All I do know is this governor chartered two planes from Texas, kidnaps 50 people, shipped them off to Massachusetts, they have no idea where they are. There's children on the plane with them. This inhumane unconscionable act is disgusting. And it's embarrassing to have a governor named DeSantis in the Sunshine State of Florida today. It's appalling. How does somebody do that? And how does he use state funds to do that?


CRIST: I mean, clearly, this is a political stunt, Alisyn. And I just can't believe the guy's doing it. And that's why I think the Department of Justice needs to look into it.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about that because you just call it a kidnapping and I know that you have been talking about how the DOJ should look into it. You're not alone. Yes, they were lowered on false pretenses. That's true. But when they got to Martha's Vineyard, they were certainly treated very humanely. I mean, they have been helped since they got there. It sounds like the entire island came together to find them shelter and to get them food and to get them to a place where they could be processed. Is that really kidnapping? How do you define it?

CRIST: Well, thanks for the kindness of the people of Martha's Vineyard, and no thanks to Governor DeSantis for his lack of kindness, compassion, and caring.


I mean, what he did was outrageous. He had nothing to do with the kindness that was exuded by the great American people on Martha's Vineyard, and kudos to them. I mean, thank God, there is some decency. Has this governor no decency? It appears that's the case. And you have children, and they don't know where they're going, they show up on Martha's Vineyard, those people are nice to him. Thank God almighty that they were.

I mean, it's just -- it's outrageous what he's done. This is Hispanic Heritage Month and this is how he treats Hispanics in our country? It's unbelievable. It is beyond the pale. The guy has no moral compass. I mean, I just can't believe it. And another example of it is how he treats women in my state, taking away their right to choose, and then signs a law that doesn't even give exceptions for rape or incest.


CRIST: It's beyond the pale. If people want to help us, they should go to because Florida needs help and we need it now.

CAMEROTA: Well, let's talk about a solution, Congressman. Because yes, it's a political stunt, obviously, anytime you lower somebody somewhere on false pretenses. This is a political stunt. However, do you agree if there is a crisis at the southern border? I mean, the -- you know, border patrol agents say that they are having to encounter something like 200,000 migrants a month that it has spiked to that level. I mean, it's unsustainable, they're saying. Do you agree that it's a crisis?

CRIST: There's a challenge at the border. There's no question about it. But there are ways to deal with it that are responsible, and ways that are irresponsible.

CAMEROTA: But what are the solutions? I mean, such as?

CRIST: In out here, responsible governor DeSantis is doing it all wrong. I'm sorry.

CAMEROTA: What's the solution?

CRIST: Well, the solution is to be smart about it, to be humane about it, to not be barbaric about it, treat these people are like human beings that they are not throw them into a -- lure them into an airplane. And I don't know how he chartered this thing. How does the governor of Florida send an airplane to Texas and lure people to get on it and fly up to the northern part of our country? I mean, this is a weird story, let's be honest about it. And that's why I've asked through a Freedom of Information Act request to the governor's office for every text, for every e-mail, of how this diabolical plot was created. I mean, it's just outrageous. And it begs so many questions. It's unbelievable.


CRIST: The way to do it is to be humane, is to express your concern about the border, and try to work with our federal officials to do what's right, and secure our border properly. It's not to use children and people as pawns and cattle. They treat them like cattle by shipping them all over the place. This is outrageous.


CRIST: It's beyond the pale.

CAMEROTA: I think what they would say is -- I mean I think that what -- the -- some of the governors along the border, like for instance, Abbott in Texas, would say is they've tried that, they've tried to get the country's attention that it's overwhelming. They feel overwhelmed. Do you think that some other states such as Massachusetts, non-border states, should have to shoulder the burden of this migrant influx that's been coming in in unprecedented numbers?

CRIST: Listen, we're not even a border state. We're surrounded by water. The only borders we have are with Alabama and Georgia. So to say that we're overwhelmed in Florida is ridiculous. Texas may have an issue, but for the governor of Florida to go to Texas and kidnap his you know migrants that have come into his state and make it some kind of crisis in Florida, we have the Gulf of Mexico, we have the Atlantic Ocean, we have the border of Alabama and the border of Georgia. I mean, this is absurd. It is absurd. It's a political stunt. He's trying to create theater.

Evidently, it's working but it's not working for the people in my state. They care about a woman's right to choose. They care about an economy that they can afford. They care about a governor who has their back. This guy's out running for president. That is crystal clear. He doesn't care about Florida anymore if he ever did. CAMEROTA: Charlie Crist, thank you very much for your perspective and your time. Obviously, this story is not going anywhere, and we'll continue to cover it. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate Don Bolduc campaigned for months on the false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. But then, after he won the nomination this week, he changed that tune.


DON BOLDUC, REPUBLICAN SENATE CANDIDATE, NEW HAMPSHIRE: I signed a letter with 120 other generals and admirals saying that Trump won the election, and dammit I stand by my (INAUDIBLE).

I've come to the conclusion and I want to be definitive on this. The election was not stolen. Was there fraud? Yes. President Biden is the legitimate president of this country.


CAMEROTA: CNN anchor and Chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper joins us now. Jake, great to see you. How can voters trust what Don Bolduc says since he changed his position so radically from last month to now after he says thanks to some research?


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean it's very clear that a lot of these candidates are embracing Donald Trump's election lies in order to get his support and then win the primaries. You heard the exuberant cheering for him at that Republican debate in New Hampshire from a few weeks ago. But the real question is not just what will voters -- you know, for voters in New Hampshire, the real question is not just well, was he lying then, or is he lying now, or did he evolve?

It's really -- if the 2024 election goes to Congress, what is -- what would a senator Bolduc do? Can you trust him to uphold the rule of law? Can you trust him to uphold the U.S. Constitution? Or do you have reason to question that because he embraced Donald Trump's election lies in order to win the primary? Because this is not theoretical, this happened in 2020 and January 2021. And the forces of MAGA are setting the stage to do it again, except successfully in 2024. That's what's been very clear from the January 6 hearings.

BLACKWELL: To that point, you sat down with Congresswoman Liz Cheney, J. Michael Luttig, to talk about their concerns about the dangers of these election deniers running for office. This is for your documentary, "AMERICAN COUP." Let's take a look.


TAPPER: A lot of the people we've interviewed have expressed concerns not just about what happened, but what will happen. In fact, we see a whole bunch of election liars running for office. Are you worried? REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R-WY): I'm very worried. The responsibility that we all have to make sure that we defend our republic and that we defend our institutions has to be above politics. There are people running so that they are in a position that they will be able to certify the results only for Donald Trump. And that's obviously fundamentally a threat to the survival of the Republic. And I think those people have all got to be defeated.

TAPPER: You've been shouting from the rooftops. This is not just about 2020. You're worried about 2024. You're worried about future elections.

J. MICHAEL LUTTIG, RETIRED U.S. FEDERAL JUDGE: I am. And right now, the former president and his allies and supporters, including in Congress, and including in the states represent a clear and present danger to American democracy. That's not because of what they did on January 6, it's because of what they pledged to do in 2024.

TAPPER: Do you think that Republicans are hearing what you're saying?

LUTTIG: I hope they are. There's no evidence that they've heard anything to date.


BLACKWELL: He hopes they are. No evidence, Jake. Tell us more about what we're looking forward to in this documentary.

TAPPER: Well, first of all, before I do, I just want to underline the point. Those are two of the most conservative Republicans in public life today, Congresswoman Liz Cheney and former federal judge J. Michael Luttig, who is on President Bush's shortlist for the U.S. Supreme Court. There is no world in which those two are not conservative. The only reason that they are on outs -- on the outs in any way with Republicans is because they are standing up for democracy and against these lies.

Now, to your point -- to your question, Victor and Alisyn, what we've done is we've taken the elements, the evidence, the testimony from these nine or so hearings that the January 6 committee has put together. And we've taken it and -- you know, taking it down to its essence. So the people who have not watched all the hearings, as you and I have can watch this and say, these are the facts. This is what Donald Trump was doing.

The January 6 committee has laid out the comprehensive complex scheme that Trump and his allies had. Let's look at the evidence here. So people can watch it and make up their minds about what they think of what Donald Trump tried to do, but it's all very they -- very clear the committee did a great job, and we're just trying to present it in as coherent fashion as possible.

CAMEROTA: It looks great, and we can't wait to watch it. Meanwhile, Jake, as you know, President Trump -- former President Trump was on a radio show this week. And he basically said that if he's indicted -- there are all sorts of investigations, as you know. If he's indicted, he thinks that it will cause problems like we've never seen in this country. And, of course, after January 6, it's -- that's a believable statement. Do you think that the DOJ is using that as part of their calculus?

TAPPER: No. Donald Trump will make whatever threats he makes. And look, he has a very allegiant obedient core that takes orders from him, whether it's the Proud Boys or the Oath Keepers, or just Mom and Pop MAGA supporters from the middle of the country. And there is no question that Donald Trump's threats are carried out by his supporters. That's one of the strategies.