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Wash Post: DOJ Investigating Trump's Actions; Justice Department Looking Trump's Actions In Criminal Probe; Biden Out Of Covid Isolation, Says He's "Feeling Great"; Biden: I Got Through Covid With No Fear; Today: Federal Reserve Expected To Raise Interest Rates Again; Mortgage Rates Have Nearly Doubled In Past Year. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired July 27, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing a very busy news day with us. President Joe Biden test negative for Coronavirus, fresh off isolation, the president reemergence in the Rose Garden.


JOE BIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRESIDENT: God bless you all. And now, I get to go back to the Oval Office. Thank you all very much.


KING: Plus, Donald Trump's actions under investigation. New reporting provides a much clearer picture of the sweeping Justice Department probe into the insurrection and confirms that yes, that investigation goes all the way to the top. And go big or go small, the Fed all but certain to jack up interest rates this afternoon. But how big a hike, will tell us a lot about the inflation problem as new numbers on housing and what we're buying do spell more economic trouble.

Up first, though, that critical new reporting and the details that point a glaring legal spotlight at the former President Donald Trump. This banner headline, courtesy of the Washington Post, the Justice Department investigating Trump's actions in January 6 criminal probe.

The New York Times adding critical detail, previously unreported emails detailing the fake electoral scheme, including references to the president being looped in. The post account says, prosecutors have spent hours in recent days asking witnesses about conversations with Trump, his lawyers and others in the former president's inner circle.

The questions revolve around that fake electors' plot and what instructions Trump may or may not have given to his lawyers and advisors. We do know there has been an uptick in grand jury activity here in Washington, including testimony from two top Mike Pence aides who were in the room when Trump tried to get his vice president to go along with the fake electro scam. New comments from the attorney general are telling, Merrick Garland could have stopped that just saying, no one is above the law and all potential criminal activity is being investigated. But in an interview with NBC News, he was much more specific.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Say again, that we will hold accountable anyone who was criminally responsible for attempting to interfere with the transfer, legitimate lawful transfer of power from one administration to the next.


KING: Let's get straight to CNN's Kara Scannell. Kara, attorney general's comments, they're talking about a specific, a very specific potential crime and we're learning a lot more about a very busy grand jury and investigation.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John. We are getting all sorts of signals that the Department of Justice investigation is intensifying. And we hear Attorney General Merrick Garland in that interview with NBC News, he makes clear that this is one of the most important and most wide-ranging investigations in the department's history. He emphasizes that no one is above the law. And he also said that they will hold anyone accountable who was in attempting to interfere with the transfer of power.

There have been a number of significant steps that the department has taken in recent weeks. One of the most significant is bringing before a federal grand jury, Vice President Mike Pence's former chief of staff, and also bringing before that grand jury, Pence's former counsel, Greg Jacob. Those two were in the room with Pence on a number of occasions in several key meetings.

And as we learned from the Washington Post, a number of questions that they've asked witnesses, have focused on Trump's role, Trump's role in the fake electoral scheme, his role in the pressure campaign against Mike Pence to have him not certify the election to transfer the victory in affirming Biden's victory, a number of significant steps.

We've also learned today that the Department of Justice has reached out to several former White House officials who worked in the Trump administration. We learned that from a one former official herself. So, we are seeing a number of steps here that the department is really ramping this up. They've sent subpoenas to all seven battleground states to have people there who are involved in that fake electro-pop plot.

And what we've learned from those subpoenas is that they want to know any communications that they had with the Trump campaign, with the Trump White House and with Trump's attorney. So definitely narrowing in on the White House in this investigation, John?

KING: Remarkable. Just in recent days for months behind the curtain, we are starting to learn some of the important new details. Kara Scannell, appreciate, you're kicking us off. With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN's Evan Perez, Leigh Ann Caldwell, The Washington Post, and the former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams.

I want to get to the specifics in a minute because that is where it's so important. You're building a case with documentation, but we rarely hear from the attorney general on this. So, I want to listen more to the words of Merrick Garland. Again, he could have easily said, no one is above the law. We have an investigation. I can't say anything else, instead, Evan, he said this.



GARLAND: We pursue justice without fear or favor. We intend to hold everyone, anyone who was criminally responsible for the events surrounding January 6, or any attempt to interfere with the lawful transfer of power from one administration to another, accountable. That's what we do. We don't pay any attention to other issues with respect to that.


KING: The other issues with respect for that was the context of if Donald Trump was a candidate to run again, if you're in a political environment. But the specificity twice, Merrick Garland talked about the lawful transfer of power from one administration to the next.

When you take those words, and then add them in what we now know about the subpoena to the battleground states, Kara talked about it, about getting two officials who work for Mike Pence, who were in the room when this scheme was talked about. That tells you quite a bit.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It really does. Look, what he was doing is giving us the wide lens of what this entails. And it does entail everything, as you pointed out, from the pressure campaign on the former vice president to block the certification of the Joe Biden's victory, as well as this effort to try to seek these fake electors, these people who were going to essentially try to keep Donald Trump in power.

And you can see from some of those emails that The New York Times obtained, that even among those electors, they believed that there was some dubious legal ground that they were on. So, look, in January we heard the Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, who is the one by the way, who is direct oversight over this investigation. She told us in an interview with CNN, that they were looking into the electors, and that was my first indication that this is where this was going to go.

We learned a couple of months ago that they were sending subpoenas and talking to people involved in the electors again, those steps do not get taken without Merrick Garland and Lisa Monaco deciding that there are some legal implications for the former president, and they need to cross that bridge. And clearly that bridge (Inaudible). KING: You worked in the building? You know how sensitive this investigation is? You're talking about, you know, the president's Chief of Staff Rudy Giuliani, once an icon New York City Mayor. And potentially the former president himself, based what we know now. What we have learned in the last 36 hours, is there any doubt in your mind that Donald Trump is a target, is a critical word. Is it targets are critical word that we will be care about, a subject or a focus?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Subject is the word targets, not, no doubt in my mind, I did work there for several years, ending as deputy assistant attorney general. Look, two things can be true here, John. Number one, that the Justice Department was investigating this all along, but also that they've started talking about it more publicly, on account perhaps of some of the public pressure.

Think about some of the actions that were taken. Number one, subpoenas issued to former White House staff. I think going as far back as April that we know about. Number two, Jeffrey Clark, the former senior Justice Department official, dragged out of his house in June. All of these steps would have taken weeks, if not months of preparation before that.

The difference is and this is a big criticism of the Justice Department, they just don't talk about the work they're doing. And I think some of that, there was a tension with what the public wanted to hear. But it's clear there's an investigation happening and in some way Donald Trump is being considered as an aspect.

KING: And again, sometimes the behind the curtain part can be frustrating in the 24-hour news cycle in the age of politics. You have many Democrats up on Capitol Hill saying, hey, we're giving you all this great evidence from our January 6 committee hearings. Why is the Justice Department doing more, which makes, both of you touched on this?

I'm going to read this from the Washington Post reporting. Justice Department investigators in April, in April received phone records of key officials and aides in the Trump Administration, including the former chief of staff Mark Meadows, according to two people familiar with the matter.

That effort is another indicator of how expensive the January 6 probe had become well before high profile televised house hearings in June and July on the subject. So, you have to be careful about trying to predict what's happening behind the Justice Department curtain. We know a lot more right now than we did even just a week ago.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: That's absolutely right. And there was a lot of frustration among Democrats on Capitol Hill about the Justice Department thinking that Democrats thinking that they weren't doing enough. So that's also a sign that the Justice Department which they can't and shouldn't really is not communicating very much with members of Congress with the January 6 select committee, because the January 6 select committees in the dark on what the Justice Department is doing. The question I have, is the, are the phone records the information they received from Mark Meadows. In addition to what the January 6 select committee was able to receive because we know Mark Meadows cooperated a little bit, turned over thousands of text messages. And if the Justice Department has more than that, they just have a lot more access and a lot more information.

KING: Right. We have to always be careful in our business and you should be at home, there's some things we just don't know and sometimes you have to wait for them. Merrick Garland says in this interview, the committee is going to find some things that we don't have. And guess what, we're going to find some things that they don't have.


And to that point, this is Alyssa Farah, who worked in the Trump White House who resigned late in the Trump administration because of conduct like this. This morning we know that two top aides to Marc Short have been before the grand jury. There were some reports that maybe other former administration officials have already been before the grand jury, and Alyssa Farah says this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the DOJ talk to you?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: They've not spoken to me. I am aware of other White House officials who have been reached out to by DOJ and are planning to cooperate.


KING: So, you see the bill that Elliot talks about. You can't just hold the vice president's former chief of staff for grand jury, you have to build a predicate case first, to give you probable cause and a good reason to do that.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. I mean, we have had basically two tracks going right, the public one with these hearings that have been going on for the last several weeks then in the more private DOJ investigation. We know some of what they've done in terms of going after some of the more low-level folks, 800 people or so have been arrested, a 50 or so have been charged and sentenced.

And so, now we get to see a bit of what's going on with the DOJ. As you said there has been this public pressure, right. What is Merrick Garland going to do? Is he going to slope? He's been out in public saying many things before but nothing as detailed, as he said just now. You know, previously, it was just like, you know, we're going to follow the law, we have a process of it.

So, I think Democrats who've been wandering and just Americans in general, wondering about whether or not anybody is going to be held accountable at a high level, including Trump and below. I think they look at what Merrick Garland is saying in this wide-ranging investigation and see that maybe some progress has been made and people that hope.

KING: And history tells you because of the sensitivity or any complicated investigation these things takes time, go back to Watergate, go back to Iran-Contra, go back even Ken Starr's investigation of Bill Clinton. It took a long time to build the information that then got Bill Clinton before the grand jury, for example, where Bill Clinton admitted under oath that his story had to change.

I'll leave it at that for that if the specifics don't matter, which gets me to this. This is from the New York Times story about some of these emails back and forth, the documentary evidence, and email from an Arizona lawyer to Boris Epshteyn, a close aide to Donald Trump. In one of his email says the president was liked what was going on.

But in this one, we would just be sending in fake electoral votes to Pence, so that someone in Congress can make an objection when they start counting votes and start arguing that the fake votes should be counted. And then alternative votes is probably better than the fake votes with an emoji there. They knew.

WILLIAMS: They knew. No. They knew when they were covering their tracks. This is lock stock and barrel evidence of criminal intent and knowledge. You know, and saying, the emoji, I'm talking about alternate versus fake. It's like saying, let's not call it bank robbery, let's just call it appropriation of funds from the bank with criminal intent.

KING: But if you're trying to prosecute a case that that, if the acknowledge that what you're doing is across the line, and then you try to connect it to who in the White House knew and what were their discussion, right?

WILLIAMS: And also covering up how you talk about it. It's absolutely knowledge of intent, and it will come up.

KING: All right. More investigative details to discuss later in the program. But next for us, President Biden is out of COVID isolation. He says he's proof that his COVID strategy is working.




KING: Just moments ago, the President United States Joe Biden, reemerging in the Rose Garden. The president making his first public appearance since testing negative for Coronavirus. He tested negative last night, and then again, this morning. President says he's returning now to in person work and he thanked the White House medical team.

Biden add his recovery was quick, calling it a testament to the progress the United States has made in the COVID fight, on things like masks, on boosters, on antiviral medicine and more. Biden also warning though COVID has not gone, and he says anyone, everywhere, still needs to be on guard especially against the new variant.

Let's get to our chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, who's in the outside of the White House. Now, Kaitlan, you are in the Rose Garden. The president was in good spirits.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he was. This was the first time we saw President Biden in person since last Wednesday. Of course, he tested positive last Thursday morning. He has been isolated in the White House president since then. And he has been doing some virtual meetings. But of course, we're not actually seeing him in person as they were keeping a very limited presence around him, given he does - he did have they believe the BA.5 variant, which is supposed to be highly contagious.

And John, what you've heard from the president was really talking about his own experience as a sign of a successful campaign against COVID-19. And the way that if you do get vaccinated, and you do get boosted, and you do take the treatments that are available, you can have a pretty mild case of it, even at his age 79, which is obviously in a greater risk category than some others. And he was talking about not just his own experience, but also how he believes that is going to be helpful to the broader snapshot, as cases are rising across the United States.


PRES. BIDEN: COVID isn't gone. But even with cases climbing in his country, COVID deaths are down nearly 90 percent. And when I took office, that's 90 percent difference for the day and when I took office. That's what's new. That's what's new in COVID response, different from where we were just a year ago.


COLLINS: And John, when he was talking about different from where we were just a year ago, he also was talking about how different his experience was than the last president who got COVID-19. President Trump, who of course had to go to Walter Reed. He was hospitalized for several days on several different treatments there and at the time, because that was before vaccinations were available to everyone.

And so, he was talking about how successful it is and the difference that getting those vaccinations can make. After he made those remarks, John, he turned and went to the Oval Office that he was going back to work. He's got a big call with Chinese President Xi Jinping tomorrow.

KING: Straight back to the big business. Kaitlan Collins, live at the White House. Kaitlan, thank you. Let's get some perspective now from the former Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. She's also of course a CNN medical analyst.

Dr. Wen, the other day you wrote a column in the Washington Post, saying the president's battle with COVID could be a teachable moment for the country. You heard him today, he said he is proof. Number one, that you can still work even if you have COVID. You just have to mask up and be careful. With the new antivirals you're going to be back to work pretty quickly. What else?


DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I definitely think that there are a lot of teaching moments that the president has done right. The fact that we are all going to be exposed to COVID just given how transmissible these strings are and that's why we have to prepare for it. So don't feel ashamed if you end up contracting the virus, but rather know that if you're going to be exposed to it, here are the steps that you should take in advance.

And so, things like making sure that you're optimally protected through vaccines and boosters. That's why the president has done so well. I'm glad he's done so well, but also, I'm not surprised, because he's vaccinated and twice boosted getting Paxlovid.

Everyone should know, are they eligible for Paxlovid? And some people are taking medications like President Biden that might interfere with Paxlovid. Can they stop it during those times? How will they access the medication? Everybody should know in advance of getting COVID what medications they should be taking.

And then I think the president is also illustrating the importance of testing, everybody should have tests on hand, at least two tests per family member. And that way they can test as soon as they're symptomatic. They can also test before seeing vulnerable loved ones to make sure that they're not passing on COVID to others.

And also testing out of isolation is one way to see whether you're still contagious, and also to enjoy isolation potentially sooner, which I think a lot of people would find to be a major inconvenience if they keep on - if they have to keep isolating for longer.

KING: One of the things the president's doctor said in his daily memo to the press secretary, was he will keep an eye. He says president is doing great, the president is ready to get back to work. But they will keep an eye and keep testing him because of these occasional cases where patients who take Paxlovid, then have what's called a rebound case. So, walk us through what that looks like and what you're looking for?

DR. WEN: Paxlovid is a very effective antiviral medication. And it works by stopping viral replication. And one thought is that the Paxlovid may be working really well during the five days that you're taking it. But then after you stopped taking it, maybe there's still some virus and it's stacked up against your body. And people, some people may experience a relapse in their symptoms.

You know, that's nothing to worry about, in the sense that that's not a reason not to take Paxlovid, you should still be taking Paxlovid to prevent you from getting severely ill, but you should be able to lookout for them. If you have a recurrence of your symptoms, that's what I would recommend for my patients. It sounds like the president's doctors taking further steps to continuing to test him to make sure that he doesn't test positive.

But again, I really don't want for people to get the message them, while Paxlovid is not a good medication. If the president does end up getting relapse, of course, we don't know how this is going to turn out. But if he ends up getting relapse, the message should be the entire point of Paxlovid is to prevent you from getting severely ill. The president never got severely ill, and therefore vaccines and treatments have been effective.

KING: Dr. Wen, thank you. Coming up for us, Democrats scrambling to avoid a midterm shellacking. Some brand-new CNN reporting on the growing pushing the party to brand Republicans as "extremists."




KING: Just a bit later this afternoon, the Federal Reserve poised to raise interest rates for the fourth time this year. And for the first time in a generation, we are looking for a back-to-back increase of three quarters of a point. The move is to calm inflation. But it does mean your borrowing costs will go up, making it more expensive, for example, to get a mortgage or borrow for a car and pay your credit cards down. CNN's Matt Egan is here and he's live with the latest. Matt, what are we looking for? And why does it matter?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Well, John, no secret the American people are not happy with the economy. The cost of living is way too high. And while the president and his party are taking the political hits, this is really the responsibility of the Federal Reserve to try to get inflation under control. So, in just about 90 minutes, we are expected to hear from the Federal Reserve, their investors are anticipating three quarters of a percentage point rate increase from the Fed.

As you mentioned, we haven't seen anything like that and back-to-back meetings in modern fed history. But we're not in normal times right now. Consumer prices are rising at the fastest pace since the 1980s. And so, the Fed is stepping in and trying to act like the firefighter, put this inflation fire out. And there's real world implications here.

Just look what's happening in the housing market. Mortgage rates have nearly doubled from a year ago, 2.8 percent this time a year go over 5.5 percent. Now that is a big deal because the higher rates go, the less home you can afford.

Let me show you what I mean. Simply because the cost of borrowing has gone up, homebuyers are spending $320 more per month on a $250,000 home, $640 more on a half a million-dollar home. And remember that is not going to get you a bigger garage or a second bedroom. All of that money is going to the bank. John, another reminder of how high inflation and the war on high inflation is impacting all of us.

KING: Matt Egan, covering that big announcement, a little bit from now. Matt, appreciate the preview and we will see what we get, just a little bit later today. Thank you, Matt. Let's move on now to some new CNN reporting on an urgent effort among Democrats to change the midterm mood.

The calendar is the most-biggest factor driving this conversation, the election 103 days away. And more and more Democrats say, it is simply foolish to bet on the president's poll numbers improving much by then. Or to the conversation we were just having, foolish Democrats think to bet on inflation to disappear or at least significantly recede by the election.

So, some Democrats in Congress and campaign strategist want major party focus now on labeling Republicans as extremists, and urging voters to think twice about giving those Republicans control of Congress or the governor's mansions.

CNN's Edward-Isaac Dovere spoke to several members of Congress and messaging experts for this report, and he joins our panel.