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Biden Takes Victory Lap After Key Legislative Wins; Trump Vs. Pence Proxy Fight Underway In WI GOP Gov. Primary; FBI Executes Warrant At Trump's Mar-A-Lago Home. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 09, 2022 - 12:30   ET



AYESHA RASCOE, NPR HOST, "WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY" AND "UP FIRST": It's a big deal. You know, as, you know, Biden would say he might throw another word in there. But it is a very big deal. And look, this is a President who has had a lot of problems over these past few weeks. And we've gotten in here and talked about how inflation is bad, and this is bad, and that is bad. But now he's getting some wins. And so you got to give him -- give the man credit. He's getting some wins.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Let's not overstate it. Again, we're 90 days away from the midterm elections. But Biden has had a recent string of actually Congress getting stuff done. He's not on the ballot, they are, the members of Congress. They do feel better when you talk to them. They feel significantly better actually now compared to even like three or four weeks ago.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Absolutely. They think they have a lot of momentum headed into the August recess. This is where they're going home to talk to voters. Gary Peters, the head of the DSCC, he told me that, yes, there has been a momentum shift, especially in the last 10 days or so. And they feel really good. And they're going to use this bipartisan accomplishments alongside with a partisan accomplishments with the health care climate change bill, and they're going to sell the heck out of it to voters.

KING: Right. And the question is, can they, in the sense that we have these conversations in Washington, and they are getting things done after months of not getting things done. So the conversation here has shifted quite dramatically. The question is, is that how it's processed out there in the real America when you go state by state for the elections? But the President, in addition to signing meaningful legislation, can also be grateful that if you look at gas prices in the country right now, it's $4.03 a gallon on average, that's not great. That's not great by any means.

You look at $3.19 a year ago, but it is down significantly from just a month ago, and this online survey of people who are buying online, there is evidence and electronics, toys, apparel, their prices are coming down a little bit. The President and the Democrats need that trajectory to continue but again, it is -- it gives you some basis, some fact points for optimism. KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And that's what they've been trying to hammer home because there are a few good positive economic signs. The question is whether or not they have enough time to actually change voters' minds, because for the last several months, the White House had been basically hammering home, the good points about the economy, saying that the economy is in a good position, we're in a better standing than other countries that have also been coming back from supply chain issues, the COVID pandemic, dealing with Russia's invasion of Ukraine, voters have not felt that.

So they knew that is going to be their chief obstacle. It's all in the name of the act that was just passed by the Senate on Sunday, that's now going to the House and the White House hopes heading to President Biden's desk. It used to be known as Build Back Better. Now that it's a few trillion dollars short, it is now known as the Inflation Reduction Act. That is on purpose because they know that is the chief concern that so many voters have.

So that is what they're going to try to do, though. And the question that some outside observers who are allies in this White House have told me they have is, is there enough time to push this good message of what they have seen? But the White House is certainly feeling boosted by this.

KING: And if you listen to the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi has been -- it's not her first rodeo, she has been through the highs and the lows of midterm elections, highs for parties and lows for parties. Listen, how she characterizes today and what Democrats are doing.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: It's pretty exciting. And when you see it in the context of all the other legislation and tomorrow, signing the PACT Act to protect our veterans. It has an integrity to it. And yes, it is about meeting the needs of America's working families, for the people, not politics. That's what we'll be talking about in the election.


KOTB: I listened carefully to her words. They were trying to get her to talk about the search at Trump's Mar-a-Lago and she wouldn't say much. She just said, you know, she just wouldn't. She said we need to know the facts. We don't know it. But then she's asked about this and she says integrity to it. That's not an accident. It's not an accident that she uses the word integrity after not talking about Donald Trump.

CALDWELL: Yes, they're trying to draw contrast, absolutely.


KING: Up next for us, it is primary day in four states, Trump versus the establishment again, as Wisconsin Republicans pick a candidate for governor and a special House election in Minnesota is getting outsized attention.


KING: Today, voting underway right now in four states, elections in Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont and Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, it's a Trump versus Pence proxy battle again, that's in the Republican primary for governor. Trump endorsed candidate Tim Michels is facing Pence endorsed candidate Rebecca Kleefisch. In Minnesota, a congressional race there could paint a much more clear picture of how abortion could factor into the midterms.

Our great reporters are back with us. Let's start with the Wisconsin primary on Tim Michels versus Rebecca Kleefisch. And it's interesting in this race, in the sense of, well, let's just listen to a bit of the ads and that'll lay out the establishment Trump versus the establishment.


TIM MICHELS, ENDORSED BY PRESIDENT TRUMP: Trump called for a southern border wall. I didn't just agree, I built him a prototype.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tim Michels endorsed by President Trump.

SCOTT WALKER, FORMER GOVERNOR OF WISCONSIN: There's only one conservative fighter in the race for governor. Her name is Rebecca Kleefisch.


KING: See the former Governor Scott Walker there, Mike Pence is also for Kleefisch. We've seen this race after race after race, Trump versus the Republican establishment.

RASCOE: Yes. And I mean, and in this race, you have them fighting over the fact of like, who is, you know, going to say that the 2020 election was fake enough. You have Michels basically saying that he would try to, you know, pool the registration or whatever that Wisconsin did for the 2020 election. And Kleefisch is the moderate I guess and just by saying you can't constitutionally do that, like the 2020 election is over. We can't take it back. Like that is how extreme this is right now.

KING: He certify the 2020 election two years after the fact or three by the time he was sworn in, it would be I guess two and a half years after the fact, what whatever.

COLLINS: And Wisconsin is obviously 18 months where we are now. Wisconsin is obviously something Trump watches closely. He pays very close attention to this. It is interesting to see this playing out again of him and Pence. He and Pence being pitted against one another when it comes to who they've endorsed, and it is -- it does come down to these candidates of who is often the loudest voice who is the who was stringent against pushing back on the outcome of the election and what they're saying.

[12:40:21] Mike Pence is not endorsing someone who's not conservative, but the idea of how this is being played out, and how it's being portrayed to voters does show you not just what the primaries are looking like now, what the midterm elections are going to look like, but also 2024 and what that looks like.

KING: The Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, governor's races are going to tell us a lot about the 2024 climate in middle America, and blue collar America. This Minnesota race, it's a special election. It's to replace the Republican incumbent died back in February. So you have two candidates, both in their ads, spending a lot of time talking inflation. Listen.


JEFF ETTINGER, CANDIDATE FOR MINNESOTA'S FIRST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: I'm Jeff Ettinger. My business was making food affordable, so I know how to fight inflation.

BRAD FINSTAD, CANDIDATE FOR MINNESOTA'S FIRST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: I'm Brad Finstad. As a farmer and father of seven, I know Biden's inflation has made it hard on families.


KING: This is one of our post-Kansas laboratories in the sense that Kansas sent this message to the politicians after Roe v. Wade, now Dobbs is the law of the land, when Kansas Republicans refused to open their state Constitution to allow more restrictive abortion measures. Everyone is watching this district because it's a republican district, the Republican -- what's supposed to be a Republican year should win easily. And yet Democrats are waiting to see again, on abortion rights, what the turnout is.

CALDWELL: Yes, absolutely. Because in Kansas, of course, it was a ballot initiative, they are focusing, they are voting on the issue. This time they're voting on candidates. And that's why Democrats are really interested to see if this translates from a direct vote on an issue to a candidate. And so, yes, the, you know, they're -- they have a lot of ads on abortion, or excuse me on inflation, but abortion is definitely a key issue here.

KING: And we were talking earlier, Democrats, I don't overstate this, but Democrats feel better now than they did a few weeks ago. That doesn't mean it's not a tough midterm climate but they feel better now. One of the reasons is they believe that abortion, the abortion decision by the Supreme Court will help motivate voters. And other reasons they go state by state and look at these candidates, which is why these primaries are so important. Who do you nominate for governor?

Who do you nominate for Senate? In Georgia, the two Senate seats there, of course, gave Democrats the 50-50 split in the Senate. Herschel Walker is the Republican candidate. This is from a Republican group. This is -- this ad is put up about $100,000 behind it by a Republican group that doesn't like the drift of the party under Donald Trump and people that Trump supports, like Herschel Walker. This is bruising.


CINDY GROSSMAN, HERSCHEL WALKER'S EX-WIFE: His eyes would become very evil. The guns and knives, I got into a few choking things with him. The first time he held the gun to my head, he held the gun to my temple and said, he's going to blow my brains out.


KING: That's her Herschel Walker's ex-wife. Again, that had been run by a group called the Republican Accountability Project. This is one of the things Republicans were worried about when a celebrity former NFL star got into the race was -- had he been properly vetted. Were there things that even if he won the nomination, which he now has, could undermine his candidacy.

COLLINS: And that's why Republicans are fretting over this is because this shouldn't be a pretty easy race for them to win, typically. But when you look at the candidates, and there are people like Herschel Walker, who you're not only seeing, you know, on a human level, how disturbing that allegation from his ex-wife is, but also the other things that have come out where he is admitted to fathering children that he's not in touch with, all of these other aspects that have come out about him.

And it is a question about who are you vetting? Is it just the person who is the most likely to endorse whatever it is that Trump has put out on the platform? And so I think that is why Republicans have struggled with this because they feel like if they look at the external political factors, inflation, the economy, those factors of what voters are feeling, they think it should be easy for them to win. They have candidates that make it seem in doubt, potentially.

KING: Candidates do matter. I just want to make clear, we've reached out to the Walker campaign for response, we have not received one. If we do get one, we will promise to bring it to you.

I'm going to show you some video, and guess what, this is 48 years ago today, 48 years ago today, Richard Nixon, leaving the White House in disgrace. Well, Donald Trump compares yesterday's FBI search at Mar-a- Lago to the Watergate break-in. The Nixon White House Counsel John Dean joins us next to explain why Trump is wrong.



JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I began by telling the President that there was a cancer growing on the presidency. And if the cancer was not removed, the President himself would be killed by it.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Donald Trump is comparing the unprecedented FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago estate to the 1972 breaking at the Watergate Hotel. The former president asked this, what is the difference between this and Watergate, where operatives broke into the Democratic National Committee? Here, in reverse Democrats broke into the home of the 45th President of the United States.

Well, let's explain the difference. The Watergate breaking was illegal, a burglary by Nixon henchmen. The Mar-a-Lago search was conducted by FBI agents who knocked at the door and served a search warrant. A warrant issued by a federal judge who reviewed evidence and determined there was probable cause who suspect illegal activity at the former president's home. Let's discuss this with a man who understands presidential scandal quite well, the former Nixon White House Counsel, John Dean. John, you know, Trump likes to make historical comparisons. He likes to play victim. But on the facts here, he's flat out wrong, right?


DEAN: He doesn't understand what happened during Watergate or he's just trying to distort what happened during his -- at his home, and it doesn't work at all the analogy.

KING: And so, walk me through your thoughts, you know, you get interviewed all the time about your days. And Nixon, you're also, you know, you're a former White House Counsel, you're pretty smart legal mind that the FBI and that attorney general would sign off on a warrant for the former president of the United States to go search his residence in Florida. What does that tell you about the state of this investigation?

DEAN: What it tells me, John, is that they were cooperating. But somehow, Trump cut them off and did something that provoked this action. They obviously are very aware of what he has, they may have an inside source that sees some abuse of that material. So they had to take an extraordinary action to protect the national security documents. And that's appears what this is.

The NARA, the National Archives is very aggressive with this sort of thing. I had know a former Nixon White House aide who happened to not get all his papers turned in, later cooperated with a journalist on a book. Next morning, the FBI was at his door, and they weren't -- it was not a friendly visit. So this is something they're very concerned about that national security information and presidential records are not where they should be.

KING: So take us back through your experience and connect the dots where you can and make important distinctions, maybe where you cannot in the sense that the investigation of Nixon, you know, took quite a long time, there was testimony like yours, there were tapes that were ultimately turned up, there were documents. But the building blocks of that took some time. When you're watching this play out today, what seems familiar and what's different?

DEAN: Well, what I -- what -- one of my first reaction when I heard about the serving the search warrant, that I figured which investigation is this, that they think they have documents. It wasn't until later and actually in Trump's response when he said Hillary Clinton got away with her e-mails. While I said, uh-uh, that means he's dealing with documents that are missing that he hasn't turned in, or something of that nature.

So yes, this has been in months in development, you've got an agency that's very protective of its documents, and wants them and wants to -- this is a perfect example to make a point that not even a former president can walk off with classified documents. If you recall, Sandy Berger, who was Bill Clinton's National Security Adviser, went out and tried to take some documents from the National Archives. And he got to -- he didn't go to jail for it. But he got a heavy fine. The judge fined him $50,000 and really scolded him, because it was a stupid thing he did.

So this is something that is aggressively pursued. It appears to be separate from Trump's many other problems. But while they were there and serving that subpoena, if they saw anything related to his involvement in the overturn of the election, they were -- they could take that. So we don't know. And what Trump should do is turn over and open up the warrant, and let us all see what they wanted.

KING: It would be great to see what they wanted. I'm sure that the Justice Department they want to wait until they get to the key point of the investigation. Before I let you go, just an observation, it's hard for me to believe, I don't know what they're called irony or what. They were having this conversation 48 years to the day of Richard Nixon leaving the White House, 48 years ago in this hour, Gerald Ford being sworn in as President of the United States. What goes through your mind?

DEAN: Well, who would have thought that we'd have a president that is more troublesome than Richard Nixon? I never dreamed that someone would make him look like a choirboy. But here we are. And we -- he looks awfully good today, as opposed to the problems we got with Trump.

KING: John Dean, grateful for your time today. I remember sitting with my father. I was 10 years old on this day back when this happened and he said things about Richard Nixon, I will not say on live television. John Dean, appreciate your time. Thanks so much.


Ahead for us to January 6th Committee meets with two witnesses including one who's running for governor seat.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today, a big development in the House's battle to get a hold of Donald Trump's tax returns. The D.C. Court of Appeals signing off this morning on the House Ways and Means Committee's request for the former President's tax records. The Trump legal team now has seven days to file an appeal, but the Committee says it expects to get those returns and the audits of Donald Trump immediately.

Today, two key interviews for the January 6th Committee, the panel wrapped up a virtual interview with the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano, that lasting only 15 minutes. A source tells CNN, Mastriano did not answer a single question. He played a key role in trying to help trouble return the 2020 election results in the Commonwealth. The panel will also meet virtually with the former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who served in Trump's cabinet for three years.

Nearly two years' worth of text messages from the right wing conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, are now in the hands of that same January 6th Committee, that's according to a source familiar with the investigation. Those texts you might remember were sent over by the attorney who represented two Sandy Hook parents in a lawsuit against Jones. During the trial, it was revealed that Jones's lawyers accidentally sent those records over to the opposing legal team.


Thanks for your time today on a very busy INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.