Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Unrest In Russia; Trump Facing Fraud Lawsuit In New York; Appeals Court Allows FBI To Access Classified Mar-A-Lago Documents. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired September 22, 2022 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: He made those comments in the early 2000s. A spokesperson for his campaign now tell CNN Gibbs believes women should have the right to vote.

A new CNN poll of polls shows Democrats with a narrow edge over Republicans on the question of, who do you plan to vote for Congress this year? Democrats 46 percent, Republicans 43. Plus, President Biden's job approval rating now at 43 percent. That is low, but improving. He hit a low of 36 percent in August.

Thanks for your time today on INSIDE POLITICS. We will see you tomorrow.

Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello. Thank you for joining us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

And we're tracking two major legal blows for Donald Trump. An appeals court has now ruled that the criminal investigation into the classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago can proceed. They sided with the Justice Department here. That's 103 classified documents, including some that are reportedly so secret they're usually kept under lock and key. I will note two of the three judges on this ruling work Trump-appointed judges.

But they said the law was not on his side. They dismantled the Trump team's vague claims that the documents aren't actually classified, claims like this one:


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you're the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying, I'm -- it's declassified, even by thinking about it, because you're sending it to Mar-a-Lago or to wherever you're sending it.

And there doesn't have to be a process.


CABRERA: The ruling came on the heels of a massive civil suit filed by the New York attorney general against Trump, his family and his business. The suit alleges a quarter-billion dollars in financial fraud, including purposely inflated property values.

We will show you the stunning moment when Trump didn't deny that key allegation.

CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig is here now to break down all these developments.

Elie, let's start with the appeals court ruling, this major rebuke of Trump and his legal team. Fill us in.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Ana, big win for DOJ. They have their classified documents back.

Now, this started about two weeks ago, when the district judge presiding over this case said, yes, we are going to have a special master. DOJ did not want that. They objected. They lost. The way this was going to work was, all 11,000 documents that the FBI recovered at Mar-a-Lago were going to run through the special master. They have now chosen the special master, this senior U.S. district judge.

He would then take out anything privileged. All the other documents will go over to DOJ to use in their investigation. Now, DOJ brought a very narrow, targeted appeal. Of those 11,000 total documents, they objected only to the 100 classified documents. They said Donald Trump has no legitimate legal right to those documents. We need them for our classification review and for our investigation, and they should not go to the special master.

Well, last night, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals completely ruled for DOJ, as you said, three-judge panel, unanimous. Two of the three were Trump nominees. They have life tenure, though. They don't owe him anything. There's nothing he can do to them.

A couple of notable lines from the appeals opinion -- quote -- "The record contains no evidence that any of these records were declassified," yet another source saying not declassified. No, you cannot declassify merely by thinking it, as we just heard from Donald Trump.

And then another quote from the 11th Circuit: "The public has a strong interest in ensuring that the storage of classified records did not result in exceptionally grave damage to the national security."

And, by contrast, Ana, the court said Donald Trump has no legal interest. So, DOJ now has those 100 classified documents back. The special masters is still going to review the other 10,900.

CABRERA: So, is this the final word or can Trump appeal?

HONIG: I think it will be the final word. Yes, he can do two things.

So here we are at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. That's who ruled last night. He can go back and say I would like the entire circuit court, all 11 judges, to rule on this. It's very unusual that they will grant that. I don't think they will grant that here. He also can ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take a look. It's up to them. I also doubt that they will take this if he tries.

CABRERA: OK, stand by, because I am just getting word we need to go to our Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, who has some brand-new reporting, with top Republicans now rejecting Trump's declassification comments, Manu?


And this is much different than what we have seen in the past month in the aftermath of the search at Mar-a-Lago, which a number of top Republicans either sidestepped questions about it, like Mitch McConnell declined to comment about what happened there, or people like Republican Leader Mitch McCarthy -- or Kevin McCarthy in the House, who has said that -- essentially defended Donald Trump and attacked the FBI.

But a difference here, in that some Republican senators reacted to the aftermath of Donald Trump's comments last night, in which he suggested there was no process for declassifying records and that he could simply think about an even and declassify those records.

And when I put that question to those key Republican senators, they pushed back.


SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): I think there's a process for declassifying documents. And I think it ought to be adhered to and followed.


SEN. THOM TILLIS (R-NC): I believe there's a formal process that needs to go through it -- that needs to be gone through and documented.

As I understand the executive branch requirements, there is a process that one must go through.

SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R-SD): I think anyone who takes the time to appropriately protect that information and who has taken the time to see what's in the information would have serious concerns about how items could be accessed if they're not stored properly.


RAJU: So, breaking from the former president and his allies, who said that everything was handled appropriately.

Now, there are still some serious questions on both sides of the aisle here on the Hill about what exactly were in those documents. They have demanded briefings among the top intelligence community leaders, and as well as the top leaders in Congress.

And I am told that there is an expectation that that briefing among the top members could happen as soon as next week, could give the Hill, key lawmakers their first glimpse about what was retrieved at Mar-a-Lago last month -- Ana.

CABRERA: OK, Manu Raju on Capitol Hill for us, thank you for bringing us that reporting.

I want to bring back Elie Honig now, because there's the other legal bombshell, the New York attorney general's fraud lawsuit against Trump, his family, business. Set the scene for us on this one.


So the lawsuit is against Donald Trump and his family members and his businesses. I think we have lost the wall. But that's OK. We can talk it out here.

The suit is a civil suit, first of all. It's not a criminal lawsuit. So that means, first of all, we're talking about money penalties, and we are talking about other remedies that could take Donald Trump out of business. He has been sued along -- here we go -- with his family members and his businesses.

Now, the key allegation here is that Donald Trump and his businesses overinflated, vastly overinflated the value of certain properties, 200-plus examples given in the complaint. Here are a couple that I think were quite notable. 40 Wall Street actually worth $200 million. Trump and his people claimed more than double that, $530 million value.


HONIG: Mar-a-Lago itself, actually worth around $75 million, they multiplied that by almost 10, $739 million.

And, of course, Donald Trump's apartment in Trump Tower, it was appraised at 11,000 square feet. He almost tripled that to 30,000 square feet, which would make it worth $327 million. So, those are the key pieces of evidence that the attorney general has put forward.

Now, how is Donald Trump going to defend himself? Well, he's going to argue these transactions were blessed by lawyers and accountants, both sides looked at it, these are experts, they know what they're doing. They -- he's going to argue, I repaid most or all of those loans. This isn't a case where I was defrauding people and stealing the money. The banks all got paid.

He's going to argue there's some subjectivity to how you value these things. Kind of hard to justify 10 times the valuation, but that will be one of the arguments. And he will argue that this is politically motivated by the New York attorney general, Letitia James, and she has given him some ammunition.

When she was campaigning for office and raising funds, she campaigned explicitly on a platform of, vote for me and I will get Donald Trump. And she even said the day after she was elected and took office, she said: "We're going to definitely sue him. We're going to be a real pain in the ass. He's going to know my name personally."

Is that enough for Trump to get the suit thrown out? Probably not legally. But Letitia James has given Donald Trump ample ammunition to argue this is a politically motivated case.

CABRERA: And Trump is now reacting. In fact, last night, he was on FOX with Sean Hannity. And here's what he said about these allegedly inflated property values. Listen.


TRUMP: We have a disclaimer right on the front. And it basically says, get your own people, you're at your own risk. This was done by management. It wasn't done by -- it was done by management. So don't rely on the statement that you're getting.

It basically says to an institution, you're going to loan money, you have to go out and make sure that you get your own appraises, your own lawyers, everything.

These are banks that have the best lawyers in the world.


CABRERA: Is that a viable defense?

HONIG: In short, no. You can't say, hey, we warned the people we were doing business with. This may be fraud. You're on your own. That is not going to stand up.

CABRERA: OK, Elie Honig, good to have you on.

HONIG: All right, Ana, thanks.

CABRERA: Thank you. Way to juggle the wall when technology doesn't work.

HONIG: It's the beauty of live TV.


CABRERA: You were tested, and you passed the test.


CABRERA: OK, for more now on all of this, I want to bring in Donald Trump biographer and author of "The Truth About Trump" Michael D'Antonio.

Michael, thanks for being here.

This New York lawsuit, it's not the first time Trump's businesses have been under intense legal scrutiny, as you know. In the past, though, Trump always seems to find an out or has settled. Is this time different?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he has always found an out.

And this goes back to the 1970s. Whenever federal or state or even Manhattan authorities have gone after him, for some reason, they have always backed off and accepted a settlement, whether it's just a guarantee to change racist rental practices at their apartment complexes or a promise to do better when it came to running their businesses. The Trumps always seemed to get away with it.


So in this case, the attorney general's insistence on going forward and her resistance to a settlement is pretty much unique. This is opposite from civil claims made by individuals. Donald Trump once said to me that these are all slip-and-fall cases, and he won't settle.

But, in fact, he does settle.


D'ANTONIO: He settles a lot, he settles more often than he goes to trial.

CABRERA: It's interesting that it's not just Donald Trump we're talking about, right? His kids are a part of this lawsuit. Talk to us about the family dynamics, given Ivanka, Don Jr., Eric.

They're all named in the civil suit, and they stand to lose a lot of future business as well.

D'ANTONIO: They do stand to lose a lot.

One of the penalties that the attorney general is suggesting is that they not be allowed to run the Trump Organization for at least five years. There's also the idea of a monitor being installed to look at what the executives are -- who are left are doing.

So, they would be stripped of all authority, of all dealmaking power. I think this is a big blow to them. I think that if the businesses are sharply devalued, what does that do to financing, even the existing financing, which lenders will want to renegotiate, or, going forward, who's going to trust these people?


D'ANTONIO: And that really does fall on the children. Donald Trump has been easing out of his businesses since about 2015. The younger Trumps have been anticipating taking over and, in fact, talked to me about turning it into a more normal business, less revolved around publicity, less revolving around the personality of Donald Trump.

This blows that all up. And the last thing I'd say is, I think this makes the former president absolutely furious. The legacy he wanted to leave is financial. I don't think he cared very much about history's verdict on him as president, but he wanted to leave billions to his children.

And I don't think, should this -- should the A.G. prevail, that he will be able to do that.

CABRERA: We have some reporting from Maggie Haberman's new book about Trump's business dealings.

And she says, back in 1998, that a lease holder paid Trump with gold bricks to cover the portion of a lease on a parking garage. And she also writes that Trump, in interviews that she did with him, suggested that he may have had interactions with the mob in some of his business dealings, although he's super fuzzy on details around that.

Does any of that surprise you?

D'ANTONIO: No, not at all, although I would say the gold bar deal is one of the most Trumpy things I have ever heard about.

This relationship with the mob goes back to his father. And it includes the construction of Trump Tower. In those years, the entire concrete business was controlled by organized crime. So he had few options but to deal with them, but it still shows that he's familiar with these kinds of folks, and he knows how to work with them.

The gold bar thing is so crazy that it's almost hard to imagine. First of all, if he's -- if Maggie is reporting several dozen gold bars, that's 1,000 pounds worth of gold, and it's worth about $15 million. That's back then. So, how crazy is it that, as Maggie reported, he accepted this as payment, and then it disappeared into his apartment?

And the last thing I'd say is, who has $15 million worth of gold hanging around?


D'ANTONIO: Its crooks.

CABRERA: Well, it is all very interesting, and, yes, Maggie Haberman's reporting and some of these tales coming from Trump himself in her interviews.

Thank you so much, Michael D'Antonio, for shedding some light and providing your insights.

D'ANTONIO: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: They are now reportedly Googling how to break their own arms to avoid Putin's war. Military divisions, protests, flights out of Russia all spiking after the Kremlin calls on more of its people to join the invasion of Ukraine. Can Putin stay in power?


Plus, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who promoted that lie that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax, is back on the stand today. Hear how he sounds when he's under oath.

And good news on cancer in America. Why more people are surviving than ever before. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


CABRERA: Today, Russian resistance growing by the numbers.

More than 1300 protesters now detained as Russian President Vladimir Putin cracks down on anti-war movements. And look at these lines of cars, bumper to bumper, at both Russia's border with Finland and Kazakstan, thousands of people wanting out. We're also tracking increasing demand for flights out of Russia.

Plus, a disturbing report. One of the top Google searches in Russia right now, how to break arm at home, signaling some may be thinking about harming themselves to avoid being called up to fight. Putin is facing not only this opposition as he seeks to add 300,000 soldiers to his failing war in Ukraine, but also new divisions within Russia's military ranks.

CNN's Alex Marquardt has those details for us.

Alex, what are you learning?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, it's almost seven months since Russia launched this war. And the more that we are learning about Russia's military, the more that we are seeing that they're severely dysfunctioning. They are having major command-and-control issues.

All of this coming, of course, as Ukraine has made major gains, claiming that they have taken back thousands of square miles of territory that had been to occupied by the Russian forces. Now, we are understanding from U.S. officials that there are divisions, that there are disagreements among Russian generals, officers about how to counter those Ukrainian offenses, not just in the east, where Russia had made significant gains, but also in the south, particularly around the region of Kherson, which is one of the main provinces that Russia has controlled over the past several months.

Now, one source telling our colleague Katie Bo Lillis that there are intelligence intercepts that indicate the depths of that frustration, that show Russian officers arguing amongst themselves over what should be done to counter these Ukrainian offenses and to shore up those Russian defensive lines, that there are also intercepts of those Russian officers calling home speaking with friends and family and disgusted and angry about the lack of direction coming from Moscow.

And then, Ana, perhaps most shockingly, multiple sources telling CNN that President Putin himself is giving directives to Russian generals on the battlefield about how to carry out the Russian military action in Ukraine. This, of course, is not something that happens in a functioning army. A commander in chief, a head of state is not supposed to be giving those directives, giving those commands to those carrying out those orders on the battlefield.

Of course, Ana, all of this as President Putin says that some 300,000 reservists are going to be called up for this effort in Ukraine -- Ana.

CABRERA: Alex Marquardt, thank you for your reporting.

And, by the way, congratulations on your recent wedding. Welcome back.

MARQUARDT: Thank you very much.

CABRERA: All right, let's discuss now with former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark and former CIA Chief of Russia Operations Steve Hall.

General Clark, first, your reaction to the divisions within the Russian military right now and the fact that Putin himself is giving direct orders to generals in the field. Might that have something to do with the problems they're experiencing?

WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Certainly. And it's not surprising.

First of all, an army that's losing is always going to turn in on itself. And this is -- the Russian army is a losing army. So they're going to ask a lot of questions. That's just normal for any organization, and there's going to be discouragement and morale problems and so forth. We're picking it up. Hopefully, we're broadcasting it. Hopefully, we're feeding that disillusionment in the Russian military and reusing it to strengthen Western resolve.

As far as Putin giving the orders, Stalin gave the orders directly to field commanders during World War II. And Putin always considers himself like the heir of Stalin. He's going to restore the Soviet Union. He's a strongman. He's a great leader, but, unlike Stalin, he doesn't have any military experience.

CABRERA: And so, Steve, some of this, as we just discussed, is coming from the intel intercepts that reveal the Russian officers are arguing amongst themselves, complaining about the decision-making coming from Moscow.

You couple that with mass protests now across Russia, long lines to get out of Russia, these reports of Russians looking up how to break their arms to avoid war, where do you think this is headed?

STEVE HALL, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Well, Ana, it's interesting.

We always have seen in the past protests. When I served in Moscow, there were certainly protests in the streets at the time, the Bolotnaya protests. So, protests aren't uncommon necessarily in Russia.

What is uncommon is the Russian intelligence services' capability to monitor, penetrate, and basically make them ineffectual. And so Putin will certainly do that. However, the people that are surrounding Putin, his loyal lieutenants, the head of his intelligence services, the head of some of the military components, these are the guys who are watching to see exactly how bad the war is going and how bad the social structure is fraying inside of Russia. [13:25:11]

Because if the Russian system starts to come apart too much, then you're going to have these very strong guys inside of Russia who are going to start thinking among themselves, look, is it time to question whether Putin is the best person to lead the country, based on how things are going?

So that's what we really have to be focused on when we're talking about these problems in the military and people in the streets in Moscow and other countries in Russia.

CABRERA: General, in his speech, Putin called this a partial mobilization, only military reservists, people with some kind of military experience.

But then if you read the actual Russian decree signed by Putin, it says the only people that it doesn't apply to are those who are ineligible because of age, sickness, or imprisonment. So, is this just more deception on Putin's part?

CLARK: No, he's trying to soften the blow to the Russian public of the mobilization. And he's also trying to conceal the failure as much as he can.

He has to do this. This statement is sort of the minimum essential he needs to keep himself in position. As Steve was saying, if the apparatchik around him lose confidence in him, no matter how good his security, no matter what is total control is or his wealth, he's in trouble. He knows it. So this is a -- this is like a placeholder. These soldiers or people that are reservists recalled, they're not going to get to the battlefield tomorrow.

And if they get there tomorrow, they don't have the equipment, and they don't have the modern equipment necessary. So this is his sort of way of saying, here's my answer, don't lose faith in me. And, along with that, he repeats the nuclear issue.


CLARK: This is a man who's losing and in deep trouble.

CABRERA: Steve, Putin has been able to weather the blowback of this war in part so far because of countries like China and India that have remained mostly neutral and are still helping to kind of prop up the economy.

But those two key nations seemingly started to distance themselves from Putin this week. So, if these two countries break from Russia, what does that mean for him?

HALL: Well, it's more bad news for him, Ana. It's kind of bad news everywhere he turns.

And, again, the very strong people in Moscow inside the Kremlin are watching this. So, Xi gave him -- gave Putin sort of a gentle wag of the finger behind closed doors. Modi did it in front of a whole bunch of journalists. And this is something that Putin is -- doesn't appreciate and won't forget.

You could see he was sitting in a chair with his knee tapping, almost like he was in front of the principal. But when you have a failing country like Russia that is embarrassing everybody internationally, even some that share its own values, you're talking about sovereignty. If you take over another country, China, India, they're all going to say, wait a second, we have issues on our borders too. Sovereignty is a very important thing. Don't mess it up, Putin.

And this is what's going on, I think, through the allies that remain for Russia on the international scene, Ana.

CABRERA: Appreciate the discussion.

Steve Hall, General Wesley Clark, thank you both. Good to have you here.

CLARK: Sure.

CABRERA: Now to some brighter news amid the brutality.

The wife of a Ukrainian marine today celebrating and hopefully soon reuniting with her husband after he was set free from Russian custody. Artem Volovyk was captured while fighting at that Azovstal steel plant, remember, in Mariupol. But, yesterday, he and more than 200 others were released in a prisoner swap.

And Volovyk's wife told CNN, when she first spoke to him, she just started screaming and shaking, adding that she is now the happiest woman in the world.

Alex Jones is back on the stand today, where he can't lie. Up next, what he's saying about his bizarre claims under oath.