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DOJ Hints It May Go To Supreme Court In Dispute Over Mar-A-Lago Special Master; Migrants' Lawyers Brochures "Used To Entice" Them To Martha's Vineyard; Puerto Rico Slammed By Fiona On 5th Anniversary Of Hurricane Maria. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired September 20, 2022 - 15:00   ET


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Also here CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig.

So, Kara, let's start with you. What happened?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, Victor and Alison, you can see just over my shoulder that the lawyers for the former president are just now leaving the courthouse. Just before them, the Department of Justice attorneys exited. This hearing lasted about 45 minutes and Judge Raymond Dearie who, in this case, is the special master.

He appeared on the bench, was wearing a suit signifying that he is not serving in the role of a judge, so there was a lot of back and forth. But he really cut to the chase of the issue here. One of the big questions has been the issue of the classified documents, of course, and how those will be handled and reviewed.

Judge Dearie posed a question to Trump's team where he said to them, if he gets a prima facie case that the documents are classified, perhaps, by the markings. And if Trump's teams don't tell him that these documents were declassified, he said he essentially would - as far as he is concerned, he would go with the prima facie case and that would be the end of it.

So really putting the issue to Trump's lawyers, he noted that the burden was on them in this case for them to decide if they were going to put forward any position that any of these documents had been declassified. And as we've been talking, that is something that the former president has said publicly on his social media feed, but it is not an argument that his attorneys have made yet in this case. And his lawyer said that they were not making that, yet they hope to push that issue down the road, because it also raises the stakes of how would they support that.

It could involve affidavits, witness statements, sworn statements under oath which could become a very interesting strategic decision for them to make, which they even noted as part of their defense if there ever is a subsequent indictment in this case. So really getting to the heart of this issue here over the classified documents and what position Trump's teams will take.

Now, the judge also on a practical matter said that Trump's lawyers have until Friday to choose one of five vendors put forward by the Department of Justice. They will kick-start the process of reviewing these materials, allowing both sides to categorize them as to whether things are personal, privileged or presidential, then this schedule will kick into place.

Now, the judge has not released a final version of that schedule. He says he will do so in short order following today's hearing. That really was the crux of it. I mean, the Department of Justice, another matter hanging over this is whether the 11th circuit will grant their stay that is to carve out the classified documents from this review. DOJ attorneys in court saying that if they lose that fight, they are very likely to appeal it further.

So we could see this get kind of truncated if they're - if this goes on to appeal on the classified documents, as well as this other review looking at the other documents that are all part of this investigation. Victor, Alisyn?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Okay. Yes, Kara, thank you very much for all that reporting, stand by.

Elie, that's interesting. Why isn't the Trump team calling these documents declassified since that's what Donald Trump has claimed there?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, there's only so long that Donald Trump's lawyers can keep dodging this declassification issue. There has been a notable split between what Donald Trump is saying and truth socializing publicly, which is I declassified everything and what his lawyers are saying in the papers, which is sort of we'll get to that later, it's not relevant now. Let's not address this now.

I think there's an obvious reason for that, lawyers have to be very careful. You have a lot of leeway in the things you can argue but you cannot go into court and say something that you know is false and I think that's probably why. And so this judge, this special master is now saying, look, you got to put up or shut up. Are you saying these were declassified and if so, you have to give me something. You have to give me some piece of evidence. At this point, that would be an affidavit, a sworn affirmation from somebody, maybe Donald Trump, maybe a witness saying, yes, Donald Trump did declassify.

And if they can't do that, then it seems like this judge is going to rule, okay, those documents were classified. It doesn't necessarily end the question, but that's an important decision to make.

BLACKWELL: Is it completely unreasonable for the Trump attorneys to say answering the question on classification is not part of your mandate.

HONIG: Right.

BLACKWELL: So that we shouldn't have to answer that at this point.

HONIG: I think that's exactly the argument I would be making. I would argue if I was Donald Trump's attorney, the judge presiding over this case, Judge Cannon in Florida told you that you're here to review for privilege, attorney-client privilege, which is fairly undisputed at this point that he will be reviewing for attorney-client privilege and executive privilege. But deciding whether documents are classified is really not within the purview, I would argue, to the special master.

It's also not unreasonable or uncommon for people in the position of a defense lawyer, Donald Trump's not been charged of anything, so it's not technically a defense situation. But to say, we don't need to answer that right now. This may be part of our defense down the line. We don't want to answer that right now. I know sometimes you have to.

But no, I think that's a good argument that Trump's team should be making, which is it's not about classification. It's about privilege, which is a different issue.

CAMEROTA: Kara, I know it's often hard to read judicial tea leaves there. The judges are so inscrutable at times, but could you tell if the judge was sympathetic to one side or the other?

SCANNELL: Alisyn, the judge was really saying he had an open mind about this.


He did make that statement about the classification but essentially just telling Trump's lawyers this is where I see this. So unless you give me something else to work with, I'm going to have to call the balls and strikes as I see them. He was open. He initially was going to have Trump's attorneys pick their vendor by tomorrow after more arguments to give them until Friday.

I mean, another point of debate that came up here was that the Department of Justice was making this point that Elie was making, that it's really the executive branch that decides what is classified. And the judge was saying - and the Department of Justice attorney was saying - and it's on a need to know basis. They really did not want the breadth of people that could potentially view these documents grow beyond those that couldn't.

Even making the point, again, as they have said before that there are some members on their team that do not have high enough level clearance to see some of the materials that were seized. They did not go into any detail about the nature of those materials for obvious reasons, but they said that it's still a big issue that Trump's attorneys were arguing that they believe that they have a need to know.

One of the attorneys said he has top secret clearance but the others do not and they were asking the judge to expedite that. But Judge Dearie saying that in - if he could make the determination that documents were classified without actually seeing the underlying materials, he would prefer to do that because he respected the classification status and just the sensitivity of these records.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Kara Scannell, Elie Honig, thank you very much for helping us understand this breaking news. BLACKWELL: Delaware is now preparing for possible migrant arrivals

after reports of a new flight from Texas. Lawyers for a group of migrants recently flew to Martha's Vineyard. They say that their clients were duped into traveling under false pretenses.

CAMEROTA: The attorneys say the migrants were given highly misleading brochures, promising cash, support and jobs. Florida taxpayers paid for the flights from Texas and Gov. Ron DeSantis defends the move. CNN's Gloria Pazmino is covering all of these new developments for us.

Gloria, okay, tell us about these possible new flights.

GLORIA PAZMINO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So we know as of right now no plane has landed at Delaware, but there have been reports that have emerged over the last couple of hours. And volunteers and state officials in Delaware have told us that they are preparing for the possibility of these planes landing today or maybe over the next couple of days. This is exactly what's been happening in other places, people have certainly not been given a heads up, that planes are landing anywhere.

So now the government of Delaware and local organizations there are trying to prepare in the eventuality that more migrants do in fact dropped off there.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And that has been the concern from some of these jurisdictions. We heard from Mayor Adams who said that we're not going to turn these buses back around, but let's coordinate so that we know that they're coming and we can prepare for them and apparently they're doing that in Delaware. Gloria, thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks so much, Gloria.

Javier Salazar is the sheriff for Bexar County, Texas. He's a Democrat and has launched a criminal investigation into those migrant flights from Texas to Martha's Vineyard. Sheriff, thank you so much for being here. Just quickly, before we get to the larger issue. Do you know anything about these flights headed for Delaware?

SHERIFF JAVIER SALAZAR, (D) BEXAR COUNTY, TX: Well, we had Word this morning that there was going to be a flight leaving - arriving to San Antonio and then leaving with a plane load of migrants toward Delaware. But my understanding is that at the last minute we received word that that flight was postponed. I don't know why, I don't know until when, but we just know that it did not happen today, at least not here in my location.

CAMEROTA: Okay. So let's talk about what Ron DeSantis did with that flight to Martha's Vineyard. Obviously, it's morally wrong, luring people onto a plane without telling them what's really happening or where they're going is wrong. But is it a crime?

SALAZAR: Well, I - this certainly disagree with the political motives behind it. I mean, let's just get that out right off the bat. I disagree with the way it's being done. They're using these people as a political pawn and hoping to overwhelm the place that they're taking them to and it would appear that that did not necessarily happen with regard to Martha's Vineyard, so I disagree with the moral side of it.

Now, with that being said, my - what I'm trying to determine right now is was the law broken here in Texas, namely in Bexar County where I'm the sheriff. That's what we're trying to determine right now. We've got allegations that that has occurred. We've got a name of a possible - a couple of possible persons of interest and I'm not at liberty to release those names just yet. What we're still trying to determine is was the law broken here in Bexar County and then what are we going to do about it.

CAMEROTA: In terms of the people of possible interest, are you talking about Ron DeSantis or are you talking about the woman that we've heard about some of the migrants have spoken of, this woman named - who use the name Perla who was giving them brochures, who got them to a hotel, who got them back to the airport, who told them they would be taken care of, that person?

SALAZAR: No. Look, at this point, I have not said and nor will I say that I'm - that I've got the governor under investigation, but I do, from what we're hearing, people that may have been associated with him or may have been employed by him or contracted by him or his folks, may have broken the law here in Bexar County.


That still remains to be seen. We need to talk to the victims in Boston to find out what exactly occurred. So I'm keeping an open mind about it. We may get to Boston and these people tell us, no, everything was fine. We weren't lied to and we love it here in Martha's Vineyard. We're great - we're glad to be here.

If that's the case, case closed, then we're done. But from what I understand now, preliminarily what we're hearing, they feel they were lied to, they feel that they were deceived in being taken from Bexar County from San Antonio, Texas to where they eventually ended up. They feel like that was done through deceptive means, that could be a crime here in Texas and we will handle it as such.

CAMEROTA: Well, Gov. DeSantis is painting the rosier picture that you just talked about. I mean, he's basically saying that they only helped them, so here's what he said today.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R) FLORIDA: They all sign consent forms to go and then the vendor that is doing this for Florida, provided them with a packet that had a map of Martha's Vineyard. It had the numbers for different services on Martha's Vineyard. Why wouldn't they want to go given where they were, they were in really, really bad shape and they got to be cleaned up everything treated well.


CAMEROTA: Okay. He said that last night. What do you say to that?

ZALAZAR: Well, I mean, look, of course, they're going to paint a rosy picture and maybe in their mind, it is a rosy picture. But unfortunately, for them, they've got people that feel otherwise that they feel they were used as pawns to make some sort of a political statement and these are real people with real families and real lives. I just don't think it's fair to treat them that way.

And so as long as they're making the criminal complaint, we're going to investigate it. It may amount to nothing, but it may amount to criminal charges for whoever it was that actively lied to these people here in Bexar County.

CAMEROTA: So Sheriff, I don't have to tell you about the numbers. I mean, this fiscal year, they're seeing the highest number of migrant encounters, according to the Customs and Border Patrol agency that they've had in any kind of recent memory, what's the solution to what's happening at the border?

SALAZAR: We've - I mean, I think at some point, you're going to have to embrace the fact that this is happening to a certain extent. I would say, look, we've got people that want to work, they want to do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay not for slave wages, give them an honest day's pay, and you've got a shortage of workers. If you go to any restaurant in San Antonio, Texas, right now, you're going to wait a long time to get your table, even though there's empty tables because there's not enough wait staff to wait on you.

They're - you're going to wait a long time for your food, because there's not enough people to cook it in the back. Half of the cooks maybe aren't showing up to work or they've quit. Hire these folks. Give them the opportunity to work legally and then make sure that the employers that are employing them are doing it the right way and paying them correctly.

And then here's the catch, tax them on it so that they're paying taxes on any income that they're making. They're not making any more than anybody else. But they're not making any less than anybody else, either, and they're paying their fair share of taxes. I really think to a certain extent - no, obviously, I know we can't let anybody into the county - into the country. There's going to be people that are undesirables. They may have a terrorist background. They may have a criminal background.

Keep those folks in their country of origin, but people that just want to do a hard day's work for a hard day's pay, bring them on in and let's put them to work. Let's let them do some stuff.

CAMEROTA: Vice President Harris has gotten some criticism for an interview that she gave this month where she talked about the border being secure. So let me play this for you.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The border is secure, but we also have a broken immigration system in particular over the last four years before we came in and it needs to be fixed.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CAMEROTA: Do you agree with that Sheriff that the border is secure?

SALAZAR: I don't think that the border is as secure as the folks in D.C. might believe. I've talked to lots of my fellow sheriffs here in the state of Texas, Republican and Democrat. With regard to Texas sheriffs, we don't - it's not about red or blue with us. It's about the gold in our badge and it's about the knowledge that if any part of our state, in other words, our little piece of the pie, our county is weak than the whole state is weak. And so we work together really, really well across party lines.

And yes, I think that if the White House came down and got an eye on Texas and saw firsthand, which is what I've been asking them for, for a while, come down here and get an eye on the problem, I would beg to differ. I don't think the border is as secure as what folks are maybe telling them.

With that being said, I think there's some solutions to be had. But it's going to start with somebody from D.C. making the trip down here and talking to us.

CAMEROTA: Do you understand why your governor, Greg Abbott in Texas is allowing Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, to use Texas for his own political ploys?

SALAZAR: I don't know. I don't know what - if our governor is even a party to what the Florida Governor is doing. But I mean, I think - I would think a governor of the state of Florida has enough things to worry about without coming on a hunting expedition for people here in Bexar County to then take from here to Florida and then to Martha's Vineyard.


I think that's a whole lot to go through just to try to make a political statement.

CAMEROTA: So Sheriff, basically, to wrap it up, your feeling is that you could use help, but you could also use more immigration, legal immigration. I mean, your feeling is that there's a compromise to be had here.

SALAZAR: I think there is. Look, I think we need some workers here in our country. I think we got thousands of people that are willing to do the work that clearly Americans aren't willing to do. It's - or otherwise we wouldn't have manpower shortages every, literally, any store or restaurant that you go into, they're going to be having manpower issues.

I'd say let's set up some sort of a system where we legally allowed these folks to be vetted, not let anybody - just anybody in, let them be vetted, and then put them to work legally and for a fair wage and let them pay taxes on it.

CAMEROTA: Well, Sheriff Javier Salazar, thank you very much. Let us know what happens with your investigation into what's behind these flights. We really appreciate your time.

SALAZAR: Absolutely. Thank you so much, be safe.

CAMEROTA: You too.

BLACKWELL: Surveillance video obtained by CNN shows a fake Trump elector spending hours inside of Georgia elections office on the same day it was breached.

CAMEROTA: And Hurricane Fiona is now pummeling Turks and Caicos as Puerto Rico tries to restore power and water to more than 1 million people.



CAMEROTA: We're tracking the deadly path of Hurricane Fiona. It's now a category three hurricane currently battering Turks and Caicos with heavy rain. The storm has already killed five people and wreaked havoc across the Caribbean. Assessing the impact in Puerto Rico is only just beginning as massive flooding, power outages and mudslides have hammered the island.

BLACKWELL: The governor says more than 1 million people still do not have power. Sixty percent 60 percent of the island has no access to running water and treatment plants are only working at half their capacity. This is all too reminiscent of 2017's Hurricane Maria which hit exactly five years ago today.

CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray is tracking Fiona's path. Is this storm expected to strengthen?

JENNIFER GRAY, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: It is. We're talking about a category four storm possibly as early as tomorrow, at the latest, Thursday morning. But this storm is basically strengthening right over Turks and Caicos and it has winds of 115 miles per hour, gust of 140.

You can see the Eye of the Storm starting to pop in those last couple of frames that signals intensify intensification. So we're looking at a strengthening storm right over Turks and Caicos and we still have those hurricane warnings in place, tropical storm warnings. We are looking at five to eight feet of storm surge here.

So not only you're going to see that devastating amount of rainfall, we're going to get the storm surge. So you basically have water coming at you at every direction. So there's a look and you can get a better look at that eye that's really starting to pop. So we are going to see the storm strengthen not only through the overnight hours but into tomorrow. This could be a category four storm as early as tomorrow afternoon.

But the National Hurricane Center labels it by Thursday morning 140 mile per hour winds. And then look at this, it stays very strong all the way up to Canada. We're looking at a category two storm impacting Canada over the weekend. We haven't seen a category two storm impact Canada since 2003. So that's going to be significant as well. It's going to make a very close pass with Bermuda before impacting Canada. So guys, this is a storm we'll continue to watch all the way through the weekend.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Jennifer Gray, thank you for keeping an eye on it for all of us.

BLACKWELL: And Puerto Rico's Governor described Fiona's damage as devastating but said it's too early to know the full scope.

CAMEROTA: CNN's Leyla Santiago just rode along with the National Guard into the interior of the island, looking for people who may be trapped or isolated by the mudslide. So Leyla, tell us what you saw.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, the mudslides are a problem in the interior part of the island. That mountainous area where I was. It's the - Cayey is the municipality really showed that today as we were with the National Guard trying to gain access on some of those roads. I ended up being able to talk to one of the neighbors there and I want you to listen to what he told me.


CARLOS VARGAS, CAYEY RESIDENT: Power, we know that, we're going to face that and we can deal with that. But the biggest concern is with the water. We can't live without water. So, I guess, we had to find a way to deal with the water situation and then to store water or maybe the company should find a way to have some kind of tank or something, emergency tank that we can still have water here on the mountain when the water is not available.


SANTIAGO: I will say while I was in Cayey, I did see one gentleman, and this is quite common, we see it quite often after hurricanes grabbing water from the mountain side that they would be using. But let's get to power, because we also in that press conference that Victor was just talking about from the Governor, we also heard him say something key in which he says he's pretty confident that by the end of the day tomorrow a good chunk of the island will have power restored, one exception, here where we are right now, the southern part of the island.

I am in Ponce where I've been talking to these neighbors who are still cleaning up and it's been kind of raining on and off all day and they're still stuck with the mud with no idea of when they will get power or water back on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria making landfall here.


BLACKWELL: Leyla Santiago for us there. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: And so for more information about how you can help victims of Hurricane Fiona, go to BLACKWELL: It's the first Adnan Syed is spending outside of prison in

more than 20 years. Why the judge vacated his murder conviction and what happens now? That's next.