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DHS To Stop Wiping Phones Without Backups Following Firestorm Over Missing Texts; Sinema Breaks With Dems On "Carried Interest," Corporate Tax Rate. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 04, 2022 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: I want to bring you now some important first on CNN reporting, the Department of Homeland Security now plans to immediately stop wiping devices assigned to high level officials and political appointees. That of course, after scores of texts went MIA from former senior Trump officials and Secret Service agents in the day surrounding the January 6th insurrection. Let's get the latest now from our CNN Whitney Wild. Whitney, walk us through this.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was in a memo that was sent out to agency leadership just minutes ago. And what it says, John, is that they're going to start this working group to review best practices and federal and private sector organizations for figuring out how to retain this information automatically.

What they do now is they leave it up to the individual to retain text messages, chats, social media, direct messages, but they've realized over the last couple of weeks that that process is not suitable that the public won't stand for it and Congress won't stand for it as well. Further, this memo outlines that the department is going to provide recommendations regarding communications and training for employees options for automatically backing up these text messages and chats and the possibility of restricting electronic messages.


And further, they're going to look at crafting new DHS policies for retaining records. Importantly, John, they are going to stop the practice of wiping phones for top level Senior Executive Service employees as well as political appointees. Here's a quote from that memo. DHS agencies and officers are directed to preserve either the actual mobile devices, and accompanying access information, or complete fully accessible backups of all device content for all members of the Senior Executive Service or equivalent and political appointees whenever such an employee departs or would otherwise have their device wiped for any reason.

And that specifies that these mobile devices includes smartphones, tablets, and anything that's in that space. And John, this comes after a lot of criticism of the Department of Homeland Security after it was revealed that the device is for Ken Cuccinelli for Chad Wolf are wiped after those men left their positions. But seemingly after there were other oversight bodies and oversight groups who had requested that information.

So really an internal acknowledgement within the Department of Homeland Security that right now what they're doing is not working, that the public isn't going to stand for it. And so they're looking at ways to try to fix this. A senior officials at the agency told CNN, that while the agency believes that they followed all of the applicable policies and laws in this space, what's become very clear is, there is just a very major gap between what the public expects and what the policy requires, John.

KING: Whitney Wild, appreciate that breaking reporting. Let's get some perspective now from the former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams. OK, so I'm going to take this as, after being shown how incompetent and horrible we are, it's something that's pretty simple, basic and commonplace in the digital age. Now we're going to try to figure it out.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Whitney's last sentence was the most important one, which is there's a gap between what the public expects and what government does. And there's a lot of government think and government speak. And she talked about the Senior Executive Service, which I was a part of, in government. It would boggle the public's mind to know that it's up to individual members of the government to decide whether to back their own devices and documents up. But that's just the way it works. Unless Congress or the Department of Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies put policies like that in place requiring it.

KING: You say it's how it works out. What about leadership in the agencies. This is not, you know, it's the Department of Homeland Security we're talking about here. It's the Secret Service we're talking about here. It's the Department of Defense separately. This is a DHS reporting that Whitney is talking about but the Department of Defense texted the laws as well. These are sensitive agencies involved in law enforcement matters, protecting important people of the United States government. Shouldn't these rules have been in place sort of the day after the smartphone was invented?

WILLIAMS: The day -- and I think something people don't know is that text messages just aren't permanent. We think of Instagram and the Internet and everything living on forever, your text messages are actually quite fleeting and unless someone chooses to back them up. Now, any of these government agencies, the FBI, you know, things that people have heard about, could put in place data retention policies that either required a specific kind of device or a specific kind of software that saved text messages. But this is evidence you're talking about, John, both in cases that they're bringing but also right now in the January 6th investigation that might be lost forever.

KING: They get it right now. I guess that's the start. But, yes, OK. Elliot Williams, grateful for the perspective.

[12:38:40] Up next, 49 plus one equals 50. Simple math, right, except when the one is Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, and she wants changes to the Democrats new climate and health care plan.


KING: Senate Democrats are not shielding their frustration with one of their own Senator Kyrsten Sinema over the party sweeping and high stakes economic proposals. CNN reports the Arizona Democratic senator privately raising concerns over the bills proposed 15 percent minimum tax on corporations. That's something she wants called a quote, common sense initiative. Plus, Senator Sinema is publicly speaking out against increasing taxes on private equity and hedge fund managers, a provision known as the carried interest loophole.

The second highest Democrat in the Senate won't say if the party is willing to strip that provision. But he does say listen closely, it's time for Sinema to support the team.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), MAJORITY WHIP: I hope she'll consider supporting the Democratic position. Carried interest is a travesty. There are some of the richest people in America wealthiest millionaires and billionaires who are capitalizing on this loophole.


KING: That sounds pretty low key there, Senator Durbin, but he's speaking of another Democrat. I hope she'll consider supporting the Democratic position, essentially, are you in the party or not?

NICHOLAS WU, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes, I mean, right now, Democrats are, you know, once again poised to -- they're almost there on this deal, right? You have, you know, you got one problem child aboard, Manchin. But now they're, you know, everyone's trying to see where Sinema lands here. And that's really the fly in the ointment.

The question for Democrats is whether or not, you know, they are willing to make these sorts of concessions that the senator wants to actually clinch this deal, because if this is able to clear the Senate, this is probably the kind of thing that the House will take and pass.

KING: So we've seen this movie before on the much bigger Democratic plan. And then Manchin, they couldn't get Manchin or Sinema to the finish line on that one and it collapsed. Now you are, you know, inside three months from election and Democrats are telling their voters here we are. We have a big piece of it. We have landmark climate investments. We have some big healthcare changes. Listen to some of these Democrats. This is the Punchbowl in today's newsletter. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, we will be on the same page when we get to this weekend. Mark Kelly, fellow Arizona senator, ask her about anything related to her. Jon Tester, we're going to all going to analyze it. Mazie Hirono, there are things she has supported in the past, hope that's good enough. And Sheldon Whitehouse, not going to second guess Schumer on this.


The question is, do Democrats, and I guess just this one particular, does Senator Sinema understand if the Democrats make this promise again, and then pull it back, what happens?

ASMA KHALID, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: I mean, I think if they can get it across the finish line as they're trying to do right now. And I think that it's noteworthy to me also, the reframing of this, right, this is now called an Inflation Reduction Act. This is what they are hoping that they can take out to their districts and campaigned on otherwise Republicans are running rampant on the fact that inflation is at sky high levels, and Democrats really need to offer voters something tangible, they think, in order to be able to turn the narrative around.

And this is their best chance of showing that they were able to deliver something. I'm not going to second guess and say, well, I know what Sinema is gonna do. I think nobody really knows what she's ultimately going to do. But I do think even the opposition to the carried cleat of closing the carried interest loophole to me is interesting, because, you know, in this bill, they're not even closing the carried interest loophole, they are merely narrowing it.

So that is, in some ways, you could argue already a bit of a concession. And it doesn't seem like that she's willing yet to get on board in that.

KING: Right. The next move we're waiting for, and forgive me America, but it's a big Washington thing, and it's very important, is the Senate parliamentarian to decide if this is within the rules. Can the Democrats do under this so called reconciliation package, which means they only need 50 votes to pass it, 50 plus the Vice President of the United States otherwise you could have the filibuster and everything else. So they were waiting for that. More talk about that tomorrow.

One of the interesting things to watch, though, is if you go back to when Democrats won the two Georgia Senate seats, then they've thought, wow, we have the President, we have the House and we have the Senate. And so they had this giant package. It was healthcare, it was climate, it was child tax credits, it was in home dependent care. Now it's significantly pared back a key progressive in the Senate, Bernie Sanders, he'll vote for this package in the end, but he's not happy.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): This is an extremely modest piece of legislation that does virtually nothing. This is the last reconciliation bill that we will be considering this year. It is the only opportunity that we have to do something significant for the American people that requires only 50 votes and that cannot be filibustered.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Extremely modest, he says but he'll vote for it in the end. He gets it. He's a pragmatist when it comes down to it. On the House side though this is Ro Khanna another one of the progressives over there talking about other things, the CHIPS bill and the reconciliation deal about showing progressives can build a governing coalition and it's not just aspiration. So a more of a realistic approach there. And I think progressives understanding, we've been blamed in the past for asking for too much. We're willing to go along here. Where are you, Senator Sinema?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. I think that it's a little bit of a belated realization that if you wanted to show that progressives are capable of making those kinds of ruthless, pragmatic compromises with the Manchins and Sinemas of the world, actually had an opportunity to do that about a 10 or 11 months ago, the first time we did have the whole Bill Back Better deal, right. By the standards of modern American legislation, this is not a very modest bill, right? This is the landmark achievement on a whole bunch of fronts most of all on fighting climate change.

But by the standards of what Bernie Sanders first put forward last summer in his role atop a Senate budget, can a $6 trillion reshape the American economy and social safety net from top to bottom? This is much, much narrower than that. That was obviously never really a realistic possibility. I think even Sanders recognized that at a time. But the assumption, I think, on the left was that you could get to somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 trillion, and you're going to get a small fraction of that.

I do think progressives ought to ask themselves some tough questions about how come their attitude took so long to develop up to this point. And what would it actually take politically to get them where they hoped they would be this time.

KING: It's a fascinating conversation. Hopefully, we'll have the answers in the next several days as to whether the Democrats actually have the votes.

Up next for us, an apology of sorts from the New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney for saying this about President Biden.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should President Biden run again in 2024?


REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D-NY): I don't believe he's running for reelection.



KING: Topping our Political Radar today, big news out of the Justice Department. The Attorney General Merrick Garland announcing last hour for current and former Louisville police officers had been charged with federal civil rights offenses connected to the death of Breonna Taylor including unlawful conspiracies and unconstitutional use of force. Taylor was killed in a Kentucky police raid two and a half years ago.

Today we're waiting on a verdict in the Alex Jones trial that after a judge denied a defense motion for a mistrial. It follows a very strange twist. The January 6th Committee and some law enforcement agencies now want Jones's text messages according to the plaintiff's attorney. That after Jones's lawyers accidentally sent those files containing two years' worth of Jones phone records to the plaintiffs. The jury now deciding how much money the conspiracy theorist will owe parents of a Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victim, that after Jones used his platform to push lies about the massacre. Now on the witness stand, a very different tune.



ALEX JONES, DEFENDANT: I think Sandy Hook happened. And I think it's a terrible event. And I think we need to protect our children from mentally ill psychopaths.


KING: New York Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney doing some cleanup. Today, she apologized to the President of the United States and said she very much wants him to run in 2024.


MALONEY: Mr. President, I apologize. I want you to run. I happen to think you won't be running. But when you run or if you run, I will be there, 100 percent. You have deserved it. You are a great president. And thank you for everything you've done for my state and all the states and all the cities in America. Thank you, Mr. President.


KING: It was just Tuesday night in the candidates' debate, she was asked if the President should run again and Congressman Maloney said she didn't believe he would run.

Thanks for your time today in Inside Politics. We'll see you back here tomorrow. Erica Hill picks up our coverage after a quick break.