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Erin Burnett Outfront

Biden Condemns "Sickening" FBI Attacks After Mar-a-Lago Search; Awaiting DOJ's Response To Trump Request For A Special Master To Oversee FBI's Review Of Docs Seized At Mar-a-Lago; Trump Adds Florida Attorney To Legal Team Weeks After Mar-a-Lago Search; Biden Lays Out Plan To Combat Crime, Wants To "Fund The Police"; Michel Gorbachev, Last Leader Of Soviet Union, Dead At 91; Mikhail Gorbachev, Last Leader Of Soviet Union, Dead At 91; Sources: Melania Trump "Annoyed" FBI Searched Her Things. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired August 30, 2022 - 19:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, Biden takes on Trump. The president slamming his predecessor and supporters for attacking the FBI. This as we're awaiting new documents from the Justice Department to drop at any moment.

Plus, one of the most significant political leaders of the 20th century, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is dead. David Gergen who has met knows him is OUTFRONT with us this evening.

And Melania Trump behind closed doors tonight. Her response to the FBI searching Mar-a-Lago and her new business venture.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in for Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, Biden fights back after an onslaught of attacks against the FBI after the search of Mar-a-Lago. The president today did not hold back.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now it's sickening to see the new attacks on the FBI, threatening the life of law enforcement agents and their families for simply carrying out the law and doing their job.

Look, I want to say this clear as I can. There's no place in this country, no place for endangering the lives of law enforcement. No place. None, never, period.


HARLOW: Yet today, former President Trump spending much of the day lashing out continuously against the FBI and the men and women who work there, sharing more than 60 posts in 12 hours on his Truth Social site, posts that are often delusional and many of them just plain untrue, like claiming the FBI helped rig the election and sharing one message that reads, quote, we can't let the FBI break the American spirit.

Well, this all comes as we're standing by any moment for the Justice Department to respond to Trump's request for a special master to review documents seized from Mar-a-Lago. That response could come, as I said, any moment. It will come at some point tonight and it is expected to be roughly pages and available for the public to read, transparency.

The agency is also providing a detailed list of the materials that were taken from Mar-a-Lago earlier this month. That list, though, will remain sealed.

So, let's begin tonight with our colleague, Evan Perez. He is OUTFRONT live in Washington.

And, Evan, let's begin with what more you can tell us about when and what to expect from this filing, this 40-page filing from DOJ.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Poppy. We're waiting -- look, they have until midnight to file this document. If the past is prologue, it's probably going to be 11:59:59 before we see it.

But, look, at this point we know that the department is looking to what they say they're going to address some legal and factual issues with the filing that the former president made in his lawsuit against the government over the -- this effort to get a special master, a third party lawyer to look over the shoulder of the FBI and look at what they have been reviewing in these documents and to see whether or not there's any privilege issues that he believes should be addressed by a judge, should be overseen by a judge.

The language that we saw from the Justice Department in the last 24 hours tells us a little bit. It says essentially that we can expect them to push back on some of the things that Trump has been claiming, his grievances against the FBI and the Justice Department, and also his claim that he has been very cooperative with this investigation, which you and I know from reading some of the court filings indicates that is not the case, Poppy.

HARLOW: That's right. Just point of fact, it wouldn't have taken this long and we wouldn't be at this point had the Trump team cooperated over the months and months that NARA and the FBI patiently waited for them to do.

But, Evan, before you go, we have seen today in particular Trump lashing out all day on Truth Social. What more can you tell us?

PEREZ: Well, these -- as you mentioned, there were about 60 posts in about 12 hours. And, you know, my colleagues Gabby Orr and Kristen Holmes have been reporting on the state of mind of the former president. He's hired a new legal team to try to help him with his legal troubles. And it is definitely clear that he believes that he is at least

beginning to dawn on him that there's some legal issues for him that he needs to address. He's asking people whether he might be indicted.

So you see in some of these posts he's claiming that the FBI is out to get him, that they're biased. That's the sign of somebody who does not really believe that this is going to go away any time soon, Poppy.

HARLOW: Evan, thank you for the reporting on both fronts.

OUTFRONT now, Kathleen Belew, author of "Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America". She's also an associate professor of history at Northwestern, and David Priess, former CIA officer, now publisher of the national security blog, Lawfare.

Thank you both for being here, especially given all of these posts, Kathleen, from the president today, former president. I want to begin with that.

I mean, you have tracked extremist groups for more than a decade. How do you expect that members of those groups currently would see former President Trump's posts?

KATHLEEN BELEW, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY: The thing about these groups, Poppy, is that this is a loose affiliation of opportunistic activists. They will use any available window to do what they have set out to do, which is to recruit and radicalize others.

Now here we have the former president retweeting things directly from QAnon, including things that are -- can be interpreted by activists as lists of (AUDIO GAP), as battle cries, as calls to arms. These should not be taken lightly because real people find themselves in the crosshair of these calls for attack, including FBI agents but also other targeted communities.

HARLOW: I wonder, David, seeing what we saw on January 6th and then, you know, looking back at the president's statements leading up to it and looking back to a number of social media posts and what folks wrote online before that, when you see posts like this, and we all recall what happened, do you have concern that Trump's posts now could cause something akin to January 6th?

DAVID PRIESS, FORMER CIA OFFICER: Absolutely. I mean, we've got a combination of two things. We have some of the same rhetoric or similar rhetoric.

HARLOW: Right.

PRIESS: Including the most recent charge of we can't let the FBI get away with this. But we also have the lessons of January 6th itself.

Now, there is some criminal accountability going on in the courts. People are being held accountable for some of their actions on the capitol grounds. But we still don't have full political accountability. And that's the intersection here, is you have one of the people who was perhaps the person who was primarily involved in ramping up the aggression to January 6th is doing it again in a time when he has not been brought to political account for those actions.

Part of that is the timeline of the January 6th committee. Frankly part of that was the job of the Senate in the impeachment trial. And that has not happened, which makes this rhetoric even more dangerous because the lessons of the people listening to it are, we did it before, and he's still allowed to be riling us up. So at some level it's still okay to use political violence.

HARLOW: That's such an interesting point. On top of it is what are other key lawmakers saying. Kathleen, I want you to listen to something that Senator Lindsey Graham told CNN affiliate WCSC. This is after on Sunday, we'll all recall, he said, quote: There literally will be riots in the streets if Trump is indicted for handling -- for mishandling classified documents.

Here's what he's saying now.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I reject violence. I'm not calling for violence. Violence is not the answer.


HARLOW: So his office says he was not clarifying, just expounding on his remarks from the weekend. But can you put the genie back in the bottle?

BELEW: The thing is, you really cannot. So one thing we saw in the infamous Proud Boys "stand back, stand by" comment that the former president made in one of the debates is that there is a direct through line from remarks like that or remarks like Senator Grahams to violent action and other kinds of extremist activity.

What we can do is make it more difficult for disinformation and calls for violence to spread around. So today, for instance, the Google Play Store removed Truth Social from its platform. That's a great step in the right direction.

Everyone can ask for Apple to do the same with the App Store. We can take action as citizens when there are these calls for violence circulating in our society as well. And the research shows that deplatforming, even if we can't get this content completely off the Internet, we never (AUDIO GAP) the research does show that these deplatforming efforts really slow down momentum.

HARLOW: It's what we saw happen with Parler, right, after January 6th.

David, President Biden also responded to Senator Graham's comments today. I want to everyone to hear what the president said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: No one expects politics to be a patty-cake, sometimes it's as mean as hell. But the idea you turn on a television and see senior senators and congressmen saying if such and such happens, there will be blood in the street. Where the hell are we?


HARLOW: What do you think, David? What does it all tell us about where we are?

PRIESS: Yeah, it's a sad day when Lindsey Graham, who at one point did know better is saying things like this and then barely clarifying it afterwards.


There is some silver lining to it, however, which is this is Lindsey Graham saying it. And Lindsey Graham is the follower. Lindsey Graham is the pilot fish. It's not that radical extremists are taking their marching orders implicitly or explicitly from Lindsey Graham.

But it does give even more of a green light to those around the former president to say, oh, if senators even now aren't leaving us behind, if they're piling on to what I say, it does encourage that to continue, as Kathleen mentioned earlier.

I think the danger isn't Lindsey Graham. I think the danger is what Lindsey Graham represents for those around the former president.

HARLOW: David Priess, Kathleen Belew, thank you both for your expertise tonight on this.

And OUTFRONT now, Elie Honig, our senior legal analyst and a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Elie, thanks so much for waiting, right? I mean, this could drop any moment from DOJ, they have to file this tonight.

What do you expect from this filing that is, by the way, twice as long as the court initially said it should be.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So, Poppy, I think we're going to see some serious straightening of the record here.

It is, by the way, quite unusual to request a double length brief. You don't do that because you want to throw in a bunch of legal boiler plate, you do that because you have something to say.

I think we'll see DOJ, first of all, defend itself. This is really the first time they had the chance to go on the record in response to Donald Trump's claims that this is politicized or he's being targeted. I also think on the law, on the special master request, we're going to see DOJ argue that they believe Donald Trump has no executive privilege argument and they have not found any such documents perhaps.

On the attorney/client privilege, I think DOJ is going to say, they've already said in the prior filing, we did our own internal review. We had a separate team that went through these carefully and that should be good enough.

HARLOW: Can I ask you this? Is there an argument to be made that this is such an unprecedented scenario in every aspect that perhaps DOJ should just accept the request for a special master, maybe put some time confines around it so you've got a few weeks to get this done the judge could say for example, what is the harm and what is the gain?

HONIG: I think it's quite possible we see that. Lawyers love to argue in the alternative. We want this --

HARLOW: Do you?

HONIG: If not this, then that. So, I think they could say a special master is necessary --

HARLOW: But --

HONIG: -- but if you disagree, Judge, then we're going to ask you to set strict time limits on this because I think they're wary of delay. Prosecutors hate delay. We're impatient people, but it's not good for your case either.

And big picture here, if there is a special master, the downside for DOJ is just that, delay. But the upside is it enables people to say, look, we had an independent outside third party come in and review these so there cannot be a legitimate complaint about the fairness.

HARLOW: Does the upside outweigh the downside in this moment?

HONIG: That will be up to the judge. I mean, the question people have I think is how much delay. If you look back at the special master in the Michael Cohen case, it took that former judge, Barbara Jones, about four months to get through the documents. I've heard people say my gosh, that's way long. That's way more. We're talking laptops, phones.

This is a much smaller set of documents. If I'm DOJ, I'd push let's get this done in a month.

HARLOW: And then we'll have the response from Trump's team by tomorrow, that they have to give.

Elie Honig, thank you very, very much.

HONIG: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: OUTFRONT next, Trump beefing up his legal team bringing on Florida's former solicitor general. How tough of a case could he be facing?

Plus, Biden turns the tables on Republicans who claim to be the party of law and order, yet some defend the rioters on January 6th.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: Being on the side of the mob or the side of the police.


HARLOW: Also, Melania Trump's life at Mar-a-Lago. She sleeps in her own bedroom and according to one source was annoyed at the FBI search because she would never allow her husband to store his things in her space. We have new reporting on that tonight.



HARLOW: Tonight, Trump hiring another lawyer to defend him as the FBI reviews classified documents seized at Mar-a-Lago. CNN learning Trump's legal team is bringing on Florida's former solicitor general, an attorney by the name of Chris Kise, after weeks of struggling the hire a prominent lawyer in the state. He joins a team as sources tell CNN that Trump is questioning his own inner circle about whether or not he could be indicted.

So let's talk about this. OUTFRONT now, Dave Aronberg, the Democratic state attorney for Palm Beach County, and Jon Sale, former Watergate prosecutor who declined to represent Trump after being approached by his legal time just a few weeks ago.

And I should say, Jon, it's because of the amount of work it would be, not manageable on top of all of your other clients. I understand that. We'll get to your thoughts in just a moment.

But, Dave, I mean, you know Trump's new attorney, Chris Kise. You know him well, and you think this is a really strong lawyer. This is a big get for the team.

However, as I understand it, you still think an indictment could be coming. So how tough of a case would he be facing?

DAVE ARONBERG (D), STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY: Oh, it's a tough one, Poppy. You've got a tough defense and a defense that keeps changing on Trump's part. Plus you've got a high maintenance, unpredictable client. I think that's the reason why so few lawyers want to take up this job. They couldn't get Jon Sale, that's a big loss, but they got Chris Kise.

And Chris is a big get because he was the solicitor general in Florida when I was a state senator. He's well-respected in legal and political circles and he is the only lawyer on this team with a bar license and that's important. He knows his way around a Florida courtroom. They're not going to get thrown out of a court because of lack of knowledge about procedure or what forms to use.

And I think he's a big get because he also has political chops. You know, he was involved in the gubernatorial race. He was able to obtain and distribute negative information about DeSantis' opponent, Andrew Gillum, and later became part of his transition team. So this is a good acquisition for team Trump. HARLOW: So, Jon, I know you've been cautioning against a rush to

judgment in that case. Explain why that is and feel free to why you said no to taking this gig.

JON SALE, FLORIDA DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, the department of justice has a whole task force with only one case and that's investigate Donald Trump. So I think building a team like they're doing, and they're starting to get the expertise they need.


I think they should add someone with national security experience. And I think what they should do is in court, they should stick to the law and the facts and not put in all the political rhetoric because in federal court, in all my experience, judges just disregard that.

HARLOW: Just to be fair, just to be fair here, the filing from Trump's team on a special master was full of political rhetoric.

SALE: That's what I'm referring to.

HARLOW: Right. You're saying, don't do that in response.

SALE: Absolutely. But the rush to judgment, the government said that this is the beginning or early part of their investigation. Document review is one of the first things you do.

It's more important to get this right than to follow a political timetable. So I think they need to do all the other things, interview witnesses and employ all the other investigative techniques that they have referred to.

As I said, in Water -- when I was in Watergate, we issued a trial subpoena to the White House for documents, and it was litigated and it went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States and we got a decision within 60 days.

So rather than follow a political clock, before you indict a former president of the United States to restore or keep confidence in the criminal justice system, let's just do it right.

HARLOW: So, Dave, to the point about timing here that Jon makes, which I think is important, right, especially what we're hearing from a number of Republicans questioning the timing of this search. I want you to listen to two.


GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: This has been a year and a half in the making, right? The former President Trump has been out of office for going on two years now. Where -- why -- do you think this is a coincidence just happening a few months before the midterm elections?

SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): What I wonder about is why this could go on for almost two years and less than 100 days before the election suddenly we're talking about this rather than the economy or inflation.


HARLOW: So just one fact here, if team Trump had cooperated months ago, this would have happened sooner, not now. But I wonder what you make to this argument, that's Governor Sununu and Senator Blunt. But there are others.

ARONBERG: Sununu wants to run for president so he's on team Trump for this one. This is an ever-changing defense here. First, it was the FBI planted it, right?

And then it was Trump declassified the documents. Then it was Obama was worse. And then, it was it's Trump's documents, not the government's.

So, now, they have settled on the timing is suspect. I think that's like the last refuge of the scoundrel, because as you said, the timing would have been sooner, but Trump pushed back. He was obfuscating on the documents.

And then in the end, his team lied to the feds. They signed a document saying that they had given back all the classified information. That wasn't true.

So what do they want the feds to do? Do they want to wait until after the midterms when Mar-a-Lago is open for business and lots of guests and possible spies are rummaging through the place?

That doesn't make sense. That's not good for national security, although I guess it's good for politics.

HARLOW: Jon, what do you think?

SALE: Yeah, I understand what Dave is saying. There was a case out of the United States court of appeals for the fourth circuit involving a search warrant in which the court said we prefer a special masters to filter teams. They said the duty of the prosecutor is not only to do justice but to appear to do justice.

I think if we had an independent review maybe we could defuse some of the rhetoric. I don't think our country has ever been this divisive since the Civil War. We need to do everything we can to denounce the threats on law enforcement, threats on the judge, and lower the temperature. That's why I think a special master is a good idea. And I think the Justice Department, they're not asking me for advice, should agree to it.

HARLOW: We'll see what's in their filing at some point tonight.

SALE: I look forward to it.

HARLOW: So do we.

Jon Sale, Dave Aronberg, thank you both.

SALE: Thank you.

ARONBERG: Thanks for having me.

SALE: It's a pleasure to be on.

HARLOW: Of course.

OUTFRONT next, President Biden making a passionate case for an assault weapons ban tonight.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm determined to ban assault weapons in this country.


HARLOW: Is that a winning message for Democrats isn't the midterms?

Also, former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, the man who helped end the Cold War, has died. In the West, he is being remembered as a reformer, a hero to many. But in Russia, there's a much different story tonight.



HARLOW: Tonight, President Biden rebuking the progressive wing of his party by laying out a plan to, quote, fund the police and slamming Republicans who say they support law enforcement while praising the rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6th.


BIDEN: Let me say this to my MAGA Republican friends in Congress, don't tell me you support law enforcement if you won't condemn what happened on the 6th.

For god sake, whose side are you on? You're either on the side of a mob or the side of the police. You can't be pro-law enforcement and pro-insurrection. You can't be a party of law and order and call the people who attacked the police on January 6th patriots. You can't do it.


HARLOW: OUTFRONT now, Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst, Kristen Soltis Anderson, CNN political commentator and Republican pollster and strategist, and Xochitl Hinojosa, former communications director for the Democratic National Committee.

Great to have you.

And, Ron, let's start there. Biden never supported defunding the police like some in his party. But this issue, because of what some in his party have said, some run on, has plagued him, to be honest, and now he's turning the table on the idea that Democrats are weak on crime. He's linking lawlessness to January 6th.

How effective do you think that will be?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first, you have to separate President Biden personally from the party overall. I think he is generally less vulnerable to those attacks because of his long history supporting the hundred thousand cops in the 1994 crime bill, for example, and continuing a version of that in what he's advocating for now.


But, overall, Poppy, I think that the president's arguments today are less likely to reduce the Democratic vulnerability on crime than they are to increase the Republican vulnerability on extremism.

I think the voters are concerned about crime. We see in polling like the NBC poll out a couple of days ago, 3/5 of them say they are voting Republican for Congress.

On the other hand, concerns about democracy and the threat to democracy that Donald Trump and his movement represent are rising in prominence among voters. About 2/3 of those voters say they are voting Democratic for Congress. I think the president is probably more likely to stick that collar around Republicans than he is to erase the concern about crime with his own party.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Really interesting point in comparison.

I mean, Sochi, Biden laying out this plan to bolster police forces across the country. That plan includes hiring, as Ron said, in training 100,000 more officers in the next five years.

But when you look at the polling, he's way behind, 58 percent of Americans right now according to this CBS poll disapprove of Biden's handling of crime. Only 42 percent approve. If you look at major cities, crime is way up from a year ago.

Robberies right here in New York up 39 percent from a year ago, up 19 percent in Chicago, up 18 percent in Los Angeles. A look at all the shootings we saw just over the weekend across the country.

Why do you think so many Americans do not trust Biden on this issue?

XOCHITL HINOJOSA, FORMER DNC COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, I think that the president and the White House see the polling and they know that president Biden does well when he addresses an issue head on, when he tackles it head on. That's exactly why he was put in office. They wanted him to tackle issues like crime and the pandemic and other issues that are front and center on Americans' minds.

One thing about President Biden is that, you know, this is what he does best. He goes out, he gives a speech, he speaks passionate and forcefully and he is the force of reason. That is what the White House wants to see from President Biden, what the American people want to see.

They want him to be the voice of reason, the person who is out there saying I want to protect your families. I want to -- I'm going to fund law enforcement. He is getting out in front of an attack, unlike in 2020 when Democrats failed to respond to the "defund the police" allegation for quite some time. And instead he's turning the table on Republicans.

I think it is a smart thing to do. This is an issue front and center with school shootings. You have children going back to school this week and the issue that's front of mind is violence in schools and shootings in schools. It's not COVID anymore.

So the president uses opportunity to not only highlight the issues that Americans care about, the issues that he is putting forward and passing like legislation like the gun reform bill and showing the contrast with Republicans.

HARLOW: Kris, one issue that is really helping Democrats it seems if you look at the last few races is abortion. Last night on the program, I had Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin. She is a Democrat running in a really tough race right now in a swing district in Michigan. And she thinks Democrats could narrowly -- possibly hold the House in large part because of the abortion issue.

Listen to what she told me.


REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): I'm in a very Republican-leaning district. And the sheer number of Republican women, people describing themselves as pro-life who have come up to me in the past, you know, I would say two or three months and just want to privately talk to me about how they might not be able to choose to ever have an abortion, but they have never walked in another woman's shoes and wouldn't tell another woman how to live her life.


HARLOW: So that's in her district. You are a Republican strategist and pollster. Do you think that is happening across the country?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the data say that about one-third of Republican women opposed overturning Roe versus Wade but a majority didn't. The gender gap among Republicans isn't perhaps as large as you might think so I have no doubt those conversations are happening.

Ultimately, I think the way that the abortion issue is likely to affect the midterms is less that there are Republican voters who might secretly vote for Democrats because of it and more that it re- energized a piece of the Democratic coalition that had otherwise not been as enthusiastic about these upcoming midterms. One of the biggest reaches why you've seen a shift in the polls and why Republicans have begun to get a little more nervous about what ought to be a pretty good midterm for them is because that enthusiasm gap that was really big in the spring with Republicans fired up and some pieces of the Democratic coalition less so, that gap has really closed. You're seeing that show up in a lot of these polls about who will win in November.

HARLOW: And, Xochitl, you brought up school shootings and, you know, across the country. A number of folks just sent their kids back to school last week and this week and I'll send mine back to school next week. And the president addressed that today, making it very personal when he talked about what happened in Uvalde.

Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know what some of the parents had to do? Supply DNA. Supply DNA. The AR-15 just rips the body apart. Could not identify, could not identify the body. A 20- year-old kid can walk in and buy one?

DNA, to say that's my baby. What the hell is the matter with us?


HARLOW: The assault weapons ban, right, just listening to that, right? But the assault weapons ban is a nonstarter, Xochitl, for a number of Republicans. I wonder if you think that could hurt vulnerable Democrats for Biden to be making that a centerpiece of his agenda. What do you think?

HINOJOSA: I don't think that it will hurt Democrats. I think that -- I am from Texas. There are many parents who a year ago would never embrace any sort of gun reforms and now they are. This isn't a partisan issue. This is about keeping your kids safe. And the president is right to show empathy and frustration and the pain.

He's lost a child before. He understands the pain. And so I think we need to see more of that from President Biden and Democrats should embrace that and really talk to parents about what we can do to keep their kids safe.

HARLOW: Kristen, what do you think, knowing what the polling shows?

ANDERSON: I mean the polling still does show that the gun issue does remain a partisan issue, but it also shows that while a couple of months ago it was sort of rising in importance with voters, it is still far below things like the price of gas, inflation, as well as -- for Democratic voters at least, the issue of abortion.

So while I understand President Biden's remarks and the emotion that he's put into the issue, the polls don't necessarily show that guns are a top issue headed into the midterms.

HARLOW: Ron, for anyone who hasn't read it yet, you wrote a fascinating piece published today arguing, look, this expected Republican tsunami in the upcoming midterms has turned into a, quote, puddle. Not exactly what the GOP wanted. But in it, you quote a Republican strategist who told you that the focus on issues like abortion and guns and not just the economy or inflation has changed the dynamic of the midterms.

Can you explain how that may help Democrats?

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah. Well, the election has transformed from a classic referendum on the party in power, which is how midterms usually unfold, to one which is becoming in many races much more of a choice between two antithetical directions for the country. I mean, in 2021 and early 2022, the issues that we were focusing on primarily inflation, the stalling of Biden's legislative agenda, uncertainty about the economy, uncertainty about the next stages of the pandemic, all of those encouraged voters to view the election primarily as a up or down, thumbs up, thumbs down referendum on the party in power. And Biden and Democrats were struggling in that construct.

But a series of events, and I would argue that guns are one of them after the Uvalde shooting. All of the revelations about the January -- from the January 6th committee and the search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, the passage of the climate -- of the reconciliation bill with big climate provisions and above all the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe has introduced a whole series of other issues into the election, almost like one weather front pushing out another.

These are issues that tend to, as Kristen was saying, energize the Democratic base but also remind some swing voters of why they were so hesitant about the Trump stamped Republican Party in 2018 and 2020.

So those Republican advantage issues are not gone, but they are now no longer the soul determinant of the election atmosphere and that creates a much more competitive environment, a much bigger opportunity for a split decision than we saw earlier this year.

HARLOW: Keep all of you much, much busier in the coming ways.

Ron, Kris and Xochitl, thanks very, very much.

OUTFRONT next, he was the focus of one of Ronald Reagan's most famous quotes.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.


HARLOW: Mikhail Gorbachev has died at the age of 91. David Gergen, who has met him several times, will join us OUTFRONT next.

Also, Melania Trump so far mum on the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. But tonight, we're learning what she's saying privately.


[19:43:27] HARLOW: Tonight, death of a reformer. Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader who accepted end the Cold War, has died at the age of 91. Gorbachev who was credited with introducing key political and economic reforms to the USSR had been in failing health for some time.

OUTFRONT now, CNN senior political analyst, David Gergen, a former advisor to four U.S. presidents and who had met Gorbachev several times.

So, David, thank you so much for being here tonight.

Let's just begin with how you think the world will remember him.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think a lot depends whether you're a Russian, American, or European.


GERGEN: I think the Americans and Europeans will see him as a towering figure who helped to end the Cold War, accelerated the end of the Cold War, and permitted freedom to spread in Eastern Europe and has always looked back on what Gorbachev did. That's what liberated so much of Europe.

So, there was a lot about that that the Americans came to appreciate, that the Europeans came to appreciate, but the Russian people did not agree with that. And for them, there have been many hardships that they still experience. Gorbachev did not bring the end of the battle with the West. It continued from the point of view of the Soviets.

And I think at the end of the day if you ask that question, who ended the Cold War, many historians will say Gorbachev ended the Cold War. From an American perspective, someone who was obviously biased, I must tell you that I think Reagan was part of that story. I don't think he was the driving force, but Reagan was the one who saw that maybe he could work with this visionary, unlike the other people who preceded Gorbachev, maybe Reagan can get along with him.


Nancy saw the possibility of Reagan being the great peacemaker of the 20th century. It didn't work out in the way they hoped, but it came out one heck of a lot better and you didn't have this sort of really bloody internal revolution.

HARLOW: Right. You'll remember in '88, Reagan talking about going into potentially a new era --


HARLOW: -- with Russia.

But let's play that moment, the unforgettable moment that so many in the West associate with Gorbachev. Here is former President Reagan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.


HARLOW: So that's what we saw, David. But we didn't know him. You knew him. What was he like on a personal level?

GERGEN: Well, I wouldn't claim to know him and be close to him. I was part of a staff that worked with him and with his people around him and some in a journalistic capacity.

But he was a -- he was a very brilliant man in a lot of ways and well- educated. You compare him to Khrushchev. Khrushchev was a much cruder figure, and Gorbachev was more urbane and, you know, I think really did have a vision that extended far beyond what most other leaders did.

So you have to give Gorbachev a lot of credit for the kind of personality. The fact that Reagan would come close to trusting him, Reagan also famously said about the U.S. and Russia, we should trust but verify, and he followed that. But he saw that if he trusted and could verify, you could really change the world.

Reagan joined in that. I think he felt that Star Wars would be the strategic defense initiative would be -- would shape his presidency and shape the end of the Cold War. And it did. It made a big difference.

HARLOW: Yeah, certainly and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.

GERGEN: The Nobel Peace Prize in '90, yep.

HARLOW: David Gergen, thank you for being with us tonight.

GERGEN: Thank you. Good to talk to you.

HARLOW: Well, OUTFRONT next, Melania Trump's response to the search at Mar-a-Lago. CNN learning that she was annoyed at the search, but not because of what FBI agents might find. We'll explain next.

And an update tonight on the 12-year-old little leaguer who was critically injured after falling from a bunk bed.


EASTON OLIVERSON, LITTLE LEAGUER: Hi, everyone. This is Easton. Thank you for all of your prayers.




HARLOW: Tonight, too close for comfort. Sources telling CNN the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago, quote, annoyed former First Lady Melania Trump because it reached her private quarters. But she didn't worry about what federal agents would find there. One source tells she would never have left her husband keep his belongings in her room.

Our Kate Bennett is OUTFRONT.


KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As Donald Trump rains against the FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago earlier this month, his wife, Melania Trump, is doing what she often does, staying quiet. Those who spoke to CNN say privately Melania Trump was, quote, annoyed by federal agents searching her home. Her things displaced, her closets up ended.

Her husband posting, just learned agents went through the first lady's closets and rummaged through her clothing and personal times. Surprisingly, left the area in a relative mess.

The ever-private former first lady lives full time at Mar-a-Lago. She's retreated out of the public eye since leaving Washington. One of the last sightings of her was last month parting the funeral service for Ivana Trump. But little else, in July, she released a public statement confirming CNN reporting she wasn't paying attention to the raid on the Capitol, on January 6th, 2021, instead overseeing a photo shoot of a rug inside the White House.

On January 6, 2021, I was fulfilling one of my duties as first lady of the United States of America. And accordingly, I was unaware what was simultaneously transpiring at the U.S. Capitol building. Her only media post White House this May, before the FBI search.

IVANKA TRUMP, FORMER FIRST LADY: Time flies fast, and we are just -- everybody is doing very well.

BENNETT: Those who know her tell CNN there would be nothing of Donald Trump's in Melania Trump's living quarters. Not only do the couple have separate bedrooms, one person says Melania would, quote, never allow the former president to store his items in her space.

Her interest of late, Melania Trump has apparently become an entrepreneur in the NFT cryptocurrency retail business, promoting a little known website, selling digital collectibles with America related themes, and moments from the Trump administration, featuring her picture.

It's the hawking of memorabilia by a former first lady for profit. There is no charitable component to the website she has promoted, to her millions of Twitter followers, that had raised eyebrows.

I. TRUMP: I have been working on my NFT projects since I left the White House. My NFTs, they are available on and

BENNETT: One former adviser going so far as to say, quote, it's weird. It is unusual for a former first lady to spend her post-White House

popularity and platform on an endeavor in a narrow niche and not a global initiative.

CNN has reached out several times for clarity on whether funds have gone to any specific children's charities, and has never received a response.

I. TRUMP: People I see always criticize me whatever I do. I'm used to that. I move forward.


HARLOW: So, Kate, I mean, this NFT venture in your report, it looks like, as you reported, a for-profit business, do we know what the motive is for starting it?

BENNETT: So, I spoke to several people who talk to Melania Trump and certainly, they say there is concern and worry not knowing what the legal issues involving Donald Trump.


But I will say, former first ladies only get a $20,000 a year pension after their husbands die. It's sort of a paltry sum when you think about it, considering what the president gets to bill his own office.

So, you know, Melania Trump has always been smart about looking down the road and perhaps that's what she's doing.

HARLOW: Kate Bennett, thanks for the reporting tonight.

BENNETT: Thanks.

HARLOW: OUTFRONT next, the 12-year-old little leaguer. We'll have an update on him. He was critically injured after falling out of a bunk bed. He's speaking out tonight. We'll have an update on his condition, next.


HARLOW: Finally tonight, an update to a story we've been following. Easton Oliverson, the 12-year-old who was critically injured after falling from a bunk bed at the Little League World Series is speaking out. He's offering thanks in an Instagram post for the well-wishes he received since fracturing his skull earlier this month.


OLIVERSON: Hi, everyone. This is Easton. Thank you for all of your prayers. Please keep praying for me, as I continue to get better.


HARLOW: So glad he's getting better. He still has a long road ahead, but Easton, he's now back home in his home state of Utah after making strides in his recovery.

Keep you posted.

Thanks so much for joining us tonight.

"AC360" starts now.