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Biden Classified Documents Probe Wrapped Up; New Poll Numbers on Trump; Supreme Court Hearing on Trump Ballot Ban; Debate in Race to Replace Santos. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired February 08, 2024 - 08:30   ET




PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR: One year after it began, the investigation into possible mishandling of classified document by President Biden is over. The Justice Department notifying Congress that the White House Counsel's Office is now reviewing Special Counsel Robert Hur's final report for possible executive privilege issues.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Arlette Saenz is at the White House with the latest.

Good morning, Arlette.

I wonder what the Biden administration is saying so far.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, White House aides have been preparing for the release of this report for quite some time now. And Biden allies fully anticipate that Republicans will try to use this as political ammunition against the president in this election year. The existence of these classified documents from President Biden's time as vice president first came to light a little over a year ago. That is when Robert Hur was appointed as special counsel to look in to whether the Biden team had mishandled these secret government documents that were found at a private office here in Washington, D.C., and at his home in Wilmington, Delaware. That review - the year-long review is now complete.

Attorney General Merrick Garland notified lawmakers of that just yesterday. He said that eventually they will be providing that report to lawmakers. And he also said in a statement, quote, "as I have made clear regarding each special counsel who has served since I have taken office, I am committed to making as much of the special counsel's report public as possible."

The White House Counsel's Office is currently reviewing the report to see if there are any executive privilege issues, and they anticipate that review will be concluded by the end of the week. President Biden himself sat down for two days of interviews with special counsel Robert Hur's team exactly four months ago today. And one thing that our reporting has indicated is that the - Hur's team is not planning to include any criminal charges in this report. [08:35:08]

But it is expected to have a very detailed and critical look at how Biden and his advisors handled the secret government documents when he had left office.

Biden's allies anticipate that Republicans will try to use this against President Biden and also try to conflate this incident with former President Donald Trump's mis - or handling of classified documents, even as the cases are incredibly different. That is something that White House advisers have tried to stress throughout this whole process, that Biden complied, cooperated with this investigation as soon as they found these documents. They called the National Archives. That is something President Biden himself would likely also try to argue once this report comes out. We anticipate it will be out in the coming days.

HARLOW: OK, Arlette, at the White House, thanks very much.

We are minutes away from really an historic oral argument at the Supreme Court about Donald Trump's ballot eligibility. Our legal experts with us to answer all your questions. Not our questions. Your questions. They're next.


MATTINGLY: Well, we're minutes away from the historic oral argument at the Supreme Court as the court takes up the case that will decide if Donald Trump can be removed from election ballots over the 14th Amendment's insurrectionist clause.


Now, Trump spoke to "The Nevada Globe" before today's hearing and told the paper, quote, "I can't imagine that a court would take away the vote from millions of people." So, how do those people -- how does America feel about the prospect of Trump getting kicked off the ballot? Only one man knows. Senior political data reporter Harry Enten is here with us. He's got the numbers.

How are Americans feeling about the idea of Trump getting kicked off the ballot?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Yes, great write-it. It leads right into this first slide beautifully. All right, support Colorado and Maine's decision to keep Trump off the ballot. Look, we are a 50/50 nation and not really surprisingly here we see a same, similar split, right? Forty-nine percent actually support that decision. So, that actually goes a little bit against Trump's quote, right? Where, in fact, the plurality do support the decision to keep Trump off the ballot. Of course we have 46 percent here who are opposed. If you look at it by party lines, not surprisingly, Republicans oppose the idea of keeping him off the ballot. While Democrats, of course, support it. Independents, right down there in the middle.

Of course, we'll also be dealing with a Supreme Court, right? I think there are going to potentially be a lot of important decisions coming from the Supreme Court about the 2024 election or things that could impact it. So, trust the Supreme Court to make the right decisions on legal cases related to the 2024 election. This, on the other hand, is not a 50/50 split. We see just 42 percent of Americans have a great deal or moderate amount of confidence in this court to make the right decision. The clear majority, 58 percent, have just some or not at all, Phil. And I will note, this is something we've seen across the polling data whereby support for the court, confidence in the court, has been going down, down, down over the last few years based upon some of their decisions.

MATTINGLY: Can we track back a couple days. I'm not sure which day it was. A little bit like blursday at this point in my life.


MATTINGLY: But the immunity decision by the appeals court. Where are Americans on immunity, right? That was very steadfast, very significant, very unequivocal. What about the American public?

ENTEN: Yes, they may be split on this idea to keep Trump off the ballot, but what they're definitely not split on is the idea that Trump should be immune from prosecution. So, should Trump have immunity from prosecution for his actions taken while president? Just 34 percent of Americans say yes according to a recent Marist College poll. Look at this, Phil, the vast majority of Americans, two-thirds, say no.

But I think -- I want to take another step back and just note that the decisions that could be coming, the ideas of Trump in court could have a massive impact on the election overall because take a look here, this is the Biden versus Trump margin. Currently we have Trump plus two. But look, if Trump is convicted, in polling out this week, look at that, Biden goes up four.

So, a lot of important decisions coming from the court and they could have a major impact on how Americans view the 2024 election.

MATTINGLY: You'll be tracking it every step of the way. Thank you, my friend.

ENTEN: Thank you.


HARLOW: So, we know you probably have a lot of questions about what is going to happen in like 25 minutes at the Supreme Court. CNN's senior Supreme Court analyst, Joan Biskupic, here to answer a lot of those.

I love these viewer questions that came in.

This comes from Dave in Texas, "can Trump be prevented from being on all election ballots in 2024?"

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Hey, Poppy, it's good to see you and Phil. I'm moving closer and closer to the Supreme Court since we did this just about an hour ago.

Yes, the Supreme Court is looking specifically at the Colorado case and the Colorado Supreme Court decision knocking him off the ballot. But however they rule here will affect all 50 states. So, that's why this is being so closely watched. The Supreme Court's decision will apply everywhere, to Maine, which as Harry said has also tried to keep him off the ballot, but even to other states that might be contemplating that.

MATTINGLY: You just feel the energy from Joan as she gets closer to her second home.

HARLOW: Very excited.

BISKUPIC: I know, I'm edging toward the door, Phil.

MATTINGLY: Next question from Peter in Florida. He says, "if you are indicted, are you presumed innocent? If a person has not been found guilty, how can they be barred from an election?"

BISKUPIC: That's an excellent question. And that's one that was taken up by the trial judge here in the Colorado case. She said, in this case, Donald Trump didn't need to have been actually indicted and convicted of insurrection. There was lots of testimony taken. That trial took about a week. And some of the evidence that was presented in that trial came from the January 6th committee and all sorts of evidence from that situation.

So, in this particular case, where they're talking about actually a constitutional amendment that bars someone from holding future office who has engaged in an insurrection, the terms are quite different. At least that's what both the trial judge in Colorado said and the Colorado Supreme Court said. And it will be up to the U.S. Supreme Court now to buy that or not.

HARLOW: What about this question from Eldon who writes, "Trump lawyers say because the 14th Amendment doesn't specifically say 'president' that it doesn't pertain to Trump. It does say that anyone holding office that has sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution cannot hold office if they participate in an insurrection.


The presidency is the highest office in the USA. This has to make him," being Trump, "accountable. Am I correct?"

BISKUPIC: You know what, this viewer is asking something that the justices themselves are going to be asking in just a few minutes. It sounds kind of, you know, hyper technical and arcane given that the phrase that they will parse is "an officer of the United States," but that's exactly where the Trump lawyers are kind of hanging their money, saying, the way that phrase is used in the Constitution - and remember we're talking, you know, late 1800s, the way it's used in the Constitution, it does not apply to the president because there were other officers actually named in that section and there's other parts of the Constitution that do not treat, quote, "officer" to encompass the presidency.

So, that's a good question. And we're going to hear a lot about that in just about 35 minutes.

MATTINGLY: And, Joan, we are going to watch as you continue to creep closer to the Supreme Court as we head towards special coverage here in about 15 minutes.


MATTINGLY: Follow that coverage. Follow what Joan's writing and talking about throughout the course of the day on CNN.

Joan Biskupic for us. Thank you.

Well, today, the candidates battling to replace expelled Congressman George Santos hit the debate stage. The single issue voters say is driving them to the polls in New York.

And in a moment, you will meet the men who are helping people heal one note at a time.


CROWD (singing): Oh, Amelia (ph), Amelia, bless your heart.




HARLOW: A crucial debate happens today in the special election to replace expelled New York Congressman George Santos. A race that could narrow the Republicans already slim majority in the House. Democrat Tom Suozzi and Republican Mazi Pilip will face off in the heavily suburban third congressional district, just outside New York City. The results of Tuesday's election could signal how some of those voters in the suburbs are feeling as we head into November.

MATTINGLY: CNN's Miguel Marquez spoke to voters in the district where immigration has been a central issue.

This is a nationalized race. This is a big race. What did you hear?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is nationalized. Immigration is massive. And as I'm talking to voters now that are actually voting in early voting, I hear a lot of them talking about George Santos and how upset they are with him. He made a national joke out of the New York Third District and the race to replace him couldn't be more serious.


MARQUEZ (voice over): The opening salvo in the 2024 election cycle is on. Early voting in the special election to replace George Santos. Voters of all stripes say, more than anything, they want moderation and political leaders who will work together.

MARQUEZ: Was there one motivation that got you to come down here to cast your vote early?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want a sane person in the government. I'm done.

DAVID BACKERMAN, VOTED FOR REPUBLICAN MAZI PILIP: I don't like the direction the country is going currently, and I think it's an important election, and we have to go towards the middle more.

MARQUEZ (voice over): The issues motivating many voters in this suburban New York largely Jewish district, Israel, abortion, crime and taxes. But seemingly none bigger than --

MARQUEZ: Immigration? How big a concern of - for immigration?


MARQUEZ: Number one concern for you. Is it about stopping them coming in, or handling the chaos on the border?

MCNAIR: Well, I mean it's both. You have - you have a chaotic situation at the border. You're spending a ton of money to try to manage the situation. We don't have jobs for the people when they come in. They're being dispersed. We lose complete control of where they are once they're in the country.

MARQUEZ: What would you like to see happen with immigration?

HARRIETT AYMONG, VOTED FOR DEMOCRAT TOM SUOZZI: I don't have the answer, but I know what's happening now isn't good, but we have to figure it out. Everyone has to get together and figure it out and talk.

MARQUEZ (voice over): The district is mostly in Nassau County, on New York's Long Island, and a small sliver in Queens. Total active voters, just over 530,000. In early voting, more than 31,000 have already cast their ballots. Nassau County, where most voters live, breaks it down by party, giving some glimpse into who so far is coming out. Through four days of voting in Nassau, 43 percent are registered Democrats, 35 percent registered Republicans, and 19 percent unaffiliated with any party.

Democrat Tom Suozzi, his run all out in a short but well-funded campaign raising $4.5 million compared to his Republican challenger Mazi Pilip, who's raised only $1.3 million.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tom Suozzi will work with both parties.

MARQUEZ (voice over): To date, Suozzi and his allies have nearly doubled Pilip and her backers in spending on advertising in the pricey New York market, $13 million to $6.7 million. With the potential rematch looming this November between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and Congress narrowly divided, voters here in this suburban battleground district see the outcome next Tuesday as sending an early message to both parties. MARC BRODY, VOTED FOR DEMOCRAT TOM SUOZZI: I would like to see this

country united. I do not want to see somebody who is elect that separates and creates a partition in the country. It's not good for us.

CHARLES GIBNEY, VOTED FOR REPUBLICAN MAZI PILIP: I think that Trump did a heck of a good job. Would I vote for him again? That's another question.

MARQUEZ: So, as a tried and true Republicans who wants to see Republicans here, you're not sure if you'll vote for Donald Trump in November.

GIBNEY: I would rather say I'm not going to. But if he runs, I - I will have to vote for him.


MARQUEZ (on camera): So, the other thing to consider here is that turnout is expected to be small, about 25 percent. The Democrats are running up the numbers now in early voting, but the Republicans, Nassau County has a machine out there, the Republican Party. It's expected that they will get the vote out on Election Day.


We'll see. Whoever wins is going to have -- reverberate throughout the nation.

MATTINGLY: No question about it. Miguel, great piece. Thank you.


MATTINGLY: Well, we could all use a little joy these days, and that's what drives the Nashville Music Medics.


CROWD (singing): Oh, Amelia (ph), Amelia, bless your heart.


MATTINGLY: The Music Medics have been spreading joy with their barber shop music at children's hospital, assisted living facilities and hospice centers for years.

HARLOW: Not even a pandemic could stop them. Thanks to Zoom, they hardly missed a beat.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody needs some sunshine in their life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be able to be blessed by bringing a minute a comfort, a minute of piece, a minute of joy, we're able to connect through music. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: You won't find any doctors in the Music Medics, just some former military and insurance salesmen and a civil engineer united by a common cause, spreading joy through song.


CROWD (singing): Shooby-doo-wa. Wa.


HARLOW: Huge fan. Huge fan.

MATTINGLY: Great stuff. Big fan. Big fan.

CNN's special coverage of the Supreme Court hearing on Trump's ballot case, it starts after the break.

Stay with us.