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Inside Politics

FBI Searches Mar-a-Lago, Seizes Top Secret Documents; Liz Cheney Braces For Likely GOP Primary Loss in Wyoming; Biden Celebrates String Of Legislative Wins; Republicans Attack FBI After Mar-a-Lago Search; Fetterman Returns To The Campaign Trail. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired August 14, 2022 - 08:00   ET





PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST (voice-over): Search and seizure.

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly without fear or favor.

MATTINGLY: A nation divided as the FBI removes top secret documents from Donald Trump's home. Republicans are standing up for the former president.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): The FBI raid of President Trump is a complete abuse and overreach of its authority.

MATTINGLY: But has he faced his greatest pearl yet?

Plus, Biden's winning streak.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In America, everything is possible. Today, America is delivering.

MATTINGLY: The president signs two bipartisan bills into law as Democrats muscle through their historic health care and climate bill.

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): The choice is going to be clear that we're a governing party getting things done, and the Republicans have been getting in the way.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The Democrats will destroy our economy and mortgage your future.

MATTINGLY: With the winds suddenly at their backs, could Democrats surprise everyone in November?

And Liz Cheney's lonely last stand.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): No matter how long we must fight, this is a battle we will win.

MATTINGLY: Will Tuesday's premier mark the end of her career or the start of an insurgent run for the White House?

INSIDE POLTICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.


MATTINGLY (on camera): Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Phil Mattingly, in for Abby Phillip.

It was a stunning, unprecedented act by the FBI in response to a stunning unprecedented move by a former president. Last week, federal agents seized documents, including those marked top secret that Donald Trump had brought from the White House to his Florida home. A search warrant shows them investigating multiple acts to the former president, including violating the Espionage act.

When news broke of the search of Mar-a-Lago, Trump allies wasted no time backing hm and attacking the FBI.


SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): Going in and raiding President Trump's home sends a message that they can do this to you because they have now done it to him.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): And the FBI and the Department of Justice are going to give Trump a fair and impartial firing squad.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): So many of these people have made a career after just going after Donald Trump because they hate him.


MATTINGLY: And, yesterday, two top Democrats requested a national security damage assessment from the director of national intelligence. The documents probe is just one of many civil and criminal investigations Trump is facing. Also last week, he sat for a deposition with the New York City general part of a probe into his taxes. He took the fifth more than 200 times.

Well, to discuss this all and much more with Leigh Ann Caldwell of "The Washington Post", Mario Parker of "Bloomberg", Laura Barron-Lopez of "PBS NewsHour" and CNN's own Katelyn Polantz.

Katelyn, I want to start with you. To some degree, you kind of want to yell, let's take a breath. A lot has happened. There are a lot of stories, a lot of threats, but there has tom some space between speculation and down plague criminal actions. What do we actually know?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Phil, we actually know a lot more than we knew one week ago at this time. At that point in time, this was not the most serious risk that was facing Donald Trump, at least in what we were of the belief of and also what his lawyers believed. That was January 6th. There was a lot of discussion there about what

will happen with executive privilege. Will he be under investigation related to January 6.

So this went from 10 to 100 in a couple of days because we know exactly what is being investigated here and we know there was a significant amount of evidence collected as part of that investigation.

Also, the other thing that's really important to remember about this is that what's under investigation here is the Espionage Act. That is not an area of law that is foreign to the Justice Department. They have brought many cases in that before.

It's an old law, more than 100 years old. Julian Assange has been charged with it. Edward Snowden has been charged with it. Julian and Ethel Rosenberg were charged with this particular act. It's not untested. So they have a route in the courts if they do want to bring a case.

Also, obstruction of justice, that is the other thing that's very significant here that we know is under investigation. Obstruction of justice comes into play when people who are part of a criminal investigation know a criminal investigation is going on and might take steps to forge something or sign something that's incorrect.

In this case, the criminal investigation has been known to the Trump world and general public for more than a year, for quite some time. And of course the other thing that's really significant about this for Donald Trump and January 6th, we have talked about that so much, that was all about actions he took while president. There's all kinds of thorny constitutional issues that rise up around that.

What's under investigation here is what happened after the Trump presidency, once he became a private citizen, and the people around him no longer have the protections of the White House.

MATTINGLY: It's not just the protections of the White House, it's also what came that Trump folks have landed on as their rationale or defense here. You can go through a rolling of defenses that have popped up from Trump and his allies, whether the FBI planted evidence, which is bizarre, the judge who signed the warrant is biased, Obama did it, really what Clinton did was worse -- now, the usual kind of list.

But they seemed to land on the idea that Trump could declassify whatever he wants when he was president, and he declassified all these before he left the White House. Is that a viable defense?

POLANTZ: Well, potentially. I mean, he did have that authority when he was president. So, it's possible.

I want to get back to the declassification.

MATTINGLY: Yeah. POLANTZ: But before -- we do have reporting on both the GSA idea that it was a mistake. The federal agency, the GSA has come out and said, no, it wasn't a mistake. You were in charge of these documents.

And then also that Obama did this too. The National Archives released a statement saying, we are knocking this down. He had those maintained correctly. We're maintaining them as the National Archives.

But on the classification issue, there are three things. As soon as Trump left the presidency, he lost the power to declassify anything. So if he hadn't done it while president, he couldn't do that anymore.

So, this idea he declassified everything -- the other issue here is there's a formal process for declassification. The federal government usually maintains records about these things. You can't just think as president something is declassified and it is so.

And we saw that during the presidency when he wanted to declassify things, he would tweet it and then when tested in court, the answer would ultimately be no, he actually wasn't declassifying something just because he said it was so.

And then the other thing about this I think is really important to note is that whether or not these records are classified at this time is pretty immaterial in this situation. Because the charges or the -- not the charges, the statutes that are under investigation here that could result in charges don't require that any documents mishandled are classified.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, they're entirely dependent on it. It might not be dependent on it at all, part of the major issues they're facing right now.

Laura, the Republican response to this -- you saw an initial burst of outrage, defense to defund the FBI, dismantle the FBI, it's a fascinating turn of events in terms of defunding law enforcement for the Republican Party.

But you also had people like Mike Turner, the congressman trying to find a middle ground here. Take a listen.


REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): It depends on what the nuclear information is. You can say nuclear weapons, but there are thing that are highly, highly classified. There are things that are not extremely classified but that are nonetheless classified.


MATTINGLY: Contrary to talking about some of the things that may be in there, he's considered one of the more sober Republicans on Capitol Hill in terms of how he analyzes things obviously, very important role as well. What's your sense now of how Republicans are trying to navigate this? Because you have seen them pull back a bit over the last several days as more has come out. LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: A little

bit, that's right, but the goal post continued to move given that list you showed everyone. Which is first it was like, oh, this would have to deal with nuclear weapons for it to even rise to the level of an FBI search, and when it became true that that was the case, it became what kind of nuclear information was at Mar-a-Lago and the idea that Trump declassified these ahead of time.

So the goal posts have continued to shift over the last week. But in contrast to Turner, a lot of Republicans have come out trying to show distrust of the FBI and of law enforcement, trying to attack the Justice Department as though this is not a fair investigation.

You know, as I've talked to extremism experts and experts in what actually starts civil war, which we've heard calls for that from some Trump supporters, is that ultimately when elected officials say things like that and show distrust about the institution and justice system, that that can lead to Trump supporters to have no trust in democracy, which then you know leads to a further degradation of the republic.


MATTINGLY: Yeah, we're going to get on that specific issue in a couple of minutes.

Mario, I do want to ask, one of the interesting things was the idea that this was actually great for Trump politically, right? I'll pull up some of the headlines right now. They have established Trump is the alpha dog in the Republican Party.

"New York Times" opinion -- did the FBI just re-elect Donald Trump? This takes me back to take a breath. Let's see how this plays out, but is this your sense that this has boosted him at the time when people are wondering, is his grip slipping a little bit?

MARIO PARKER, NATIONAL POLITICS TEAM LEADER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: It does appear to be that way. The duration of the primaries had been gauging Trump's grip on a Republican Party. There were signs it has been loosening until Monday night, right? When you saw an immediate defense of the former president.

While the response has been a little more muted over the last 48-72 hours, checking in with sources yesterday, they still maintain this shows Trump has his grip firmly on the help party, that he remains the presumptive 2024 nominee should he follow through on his teases to make another White House run.

And this also through the context of the investigations he's been mired in does still show some distrust in the FBI's investigation and kind of gives an example of partisanship plague out, whether the merits of the warrant are correct or not, but this is a framing Republicans are looking to present to voters.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, I think it becomes a political issue, and that becomes a problem when it becomes a serious legal issue. We don't know how all that is gong to play out. Leigh Ann, you are very well-sourced on the Democratic Party on Capitol Hill and the party writ large. I have been kind of interested to watch how Democrats have respond today this. It's been a little more cautious in circumspect. I think they think it's damaging and not a good thing in any way, shape, or form.

But you haven't seen the jump all in, he's going to jail, he's going to jail, when are they going to be marching him out of wherever he is at this time. Why?

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, WASHINGTON POST: Well, they have held back because first of all, they were also taken by surprise with this. No one knows all the facts yet. We have a lot more information now than we did last Monday when this happened.

But throughout this process, Democrats also know Merrick Garland very well. They know how thorough he is. They have trust in him and the Department of Justice, so they are just going to see what happens because they also think the Republicans are overreaching by far here.

They jumped to conclusions so quickly after this search was announced on Monday night that they think Republicans are kind of sewing their own seeds and could regret a lot of their statements depending on what moves forward.

And as far as Donald Trump is concerned, Democrats still think Donald Trump is the best Republican nominee for Democrats to run against. They think he is politically weak not only with Democrats but with moderate and independent voters as well.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, careful what you wish for on that one as I think a lot of Democrats learned in 2016. There's a ton for more to play out.

Katelyn, thank you so much for walking us through all the legal eccentricities. We have a lot more work to do on this story, no question about it.

All right. Coming up next, Liz Cheney looks likely to lose her primary on Tuesday, but is she setting her sights on an even bigger race in 2024?



MATTINGLY: Voters in Wyoming head to the polls Tuesday for one of this cycle's closely watched primaries.

Liz Cheney is fighting for her political life against a very MAGA challenger.


CHENEY: The lie that the 2020 election was stolen is insidious. It preys on those who love their country. It is a door Donald Trump opened to manipulate Americans to abandon their principles. This is Donald Trump's legacy but it cannot be the future of our nation.

AD NARRATOR: Liz Cheney, she's made her time in Congress and this election all about her. Well, it's not about her. It's about you. Wyoming deserves a voice in Congress to fight for our values, our way of life.


MATTINGLY: Now, a recent poll shows Cheney is far behind her challenger Harriet Hageman. She would be the fourth House Republican voted to impeach Trump to lose a primary if she loses. Four others have announced their retirements.

CNN's Isaac Dovere joined the conversation.

But, Laura, I want to start with you. You're just back from Wyoming. Look, Cheney has made this entire campaign about Donald Trump. She's kind of made her whole existence about Donald Trump at this point. That's not a winning message in a state that Trump is very popular. He won quite handily. What's your read on things having been on the ground?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yeah. I mean, almost every single Republican I spoke to was against Cheney. And the reason all across the board was because of her time on the January 6th committee and what she's doing to essentially hold Trump accountable, but they don't see it that way. They see it as she's on a witch hunt. They see it was she's -- that that the evidence that has been presented is not factual.


Almost every single Republican that I spoke to also repeated lies about election fraud. And when you asked them, well, there were a number of audits held and what about Wyoming itself? They said, well, there was no fraud in Wyoming and I don't believe the other states. There's no way Joe Biden could have won.

So, essentially, they disagree with everything that Cheney is doing.

Now, what's also striking was every single Democrat I spoke with was switching parties to vote for Cheney in the primary and their entire reasoning was also about her work on the January 6th committee and was the fact that they feel as though she's standing up for the truth.

MATTINGLY: Which is great unless you're in a state where only 15 percent of the population is registered Democrat. It creates a problem when you're in a Republican Party even if they do switch.

I think the interesting question is Cheney knows all of this and she's very aware of this. So the big question has been why? What's going through?

And I think there's a very clear rationale and her father kind of repeated it too, they do view the former president as an existential threat to the country. But there's also a potential 2024 run as well. Mark Leibovich has a

piece in "The Atlantic" right now, talking about a potential of a Cheney primary. It would almost certainly be another losing primary for here. Yet it would nonetheless be a fascinating matchup.

It's hard to imagine DeSantis or Pence seriously mocking Trump for losing to Brandon, Joe Biden, in 2020 or challenging his election lies, or slamming him for his complicity and desertion in January 6, or mentioning the FBI's search into his resident or need to plead the Fifth.

I mean, Cheney would do all those things and played a very prominent ole in doing so. Is that the goal, the point, the end game now?

ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: I think the goal is to keep Donald Trump from being the president of the United States again. That seems to be driving her throughout. She stands for that and her principal and what she's doing on the January 6th committee in her mind.

She seems okay with losing her primary. I do think there's another possibility to consider is she might not run in a Republican primary. Second decide to not go down that route and again and run as an independent.

If she ran as a Republican, second probably end up in the Republican debates and force these issues there. If she rant as a Republican and Donald Trump ends up being the nominee for the Republicans, you look at what happened in 2016 when Trump won with 46 percent of the vote.

Instead of Jill Steen leeching some votes from Democrats, and Gary Johnson leaching votes from Democrats, what happened in 2016, she's leeching votes form Republicans, it might make it easier for a Democrat, whoever that Democrat might be, and it seems like Joe Biden is intent it's going to be him to make a run for the White House.

MATTINGLY: Yeah, no, it's going to be fascinating to watch. No matter what happens on Tuesday, Liz Cheney is not going anywhere. I think that's very, very true.

There is another primary on Tuesday. Mario, I want to start with you. Sarah Palin could be headed to the House depending on what happens probably a month or two based on ranked choice voting in Alaska, one of the questions I've had, is she going to win, right?

She has name recognition. She has celebrity. But this is a very real race of another Republican and Democrat, ranked choice voting. What's your sense of the race right now?

PARKER: Well, again, ranked choice voting will be the wild card in that race ion Alaska, right? But again, the name ID, the celebrity, et cetera, she's essentially the proto-Trump as well. Those are all in her favor. The question is if she wins, is Congress big enough for her and Marjorie Taylor Greene in that wing of the party as well.

MATTINGLY: Yeah. No, that's what I was going to ask you, you lived on the hill in the Capitol Hill building for many years. We didn't live together, right?

But celebrity freshman is always a piece of fascination at the start of any new congress, but I don't know if you know if you're Sarah Palin what it's like to be a back bench member of the House when you land there. What does a Congresswoman Palin look like?

CALDWELL: Well, what's also interesting to compare it with Don Young, the former congressman from Alaska who's sent millions and millions of dollars back to Alaska. That is why he was in Congress one of the most prolific fundraisers as far as Alaskans are concerned, appropriating a lot of money there.

And Sarah Palin, does she have those policy chops? Does she have that influence among the rest of members if she does win and able to send and direct that money back to Alaska? So, we'll see. But Sarah Palin will probably get a lot of media attention at the beginning, but will she be an effective member of Congress should she win?

MATTINGLY: Yeah, open question. Appropriations matters in Alaska as any of those senators, where former, Don Young, rest in peace, could tell you.

We will have to wait and see. It's a very real race, by the way, up there ion Alaska.

All right. Coming up next, the Biden reboot, the White House celebrates passage of a historic bill to fight climate change and lower health care costs. Can it save Democrats in November?



MATTINGLY: A tale of two headlines. While the GOP 2024 front runner was dealing with an investigation and the classified documents found at his own, President Biden got a massive win when the Congress passed the historic health care and climate bill.

Now, that Biden kept another good week, I'd say probably the best week for a president who desperately needed it. He also signed bipartisan bills to boost manufacturing and protect veterans health care.


BIDEN: Decades from now, people are going to look back at this week, and all we passed, and all we moved on, that we met the moment at this inflection point in history, a moment when we bet on ourselves, believed in ourselves and we captured the story, the spirit, and the soul of this nation.


MATTINGLY: CNN's Isaac Dovere has new reporting this morning on the White House's plan to sell their accomplishments, including in his very good story, which you should read. "Biden and his team are rushing to reset the image they allowed to settle in of a doddering president willing away his days in the Oval Office as time passed him by. It's a sprint aimed at defying history by salvaging the Democratic majorities in Congress in the November midterm elections."

It's a great piece, and I think it's just kind of a fascinating moment of a flash back three weeks ago when everything was collapsing and the world was ending and Joe Biden was a listless individual kind of wandering around the Oval Office to like holy cow, if you look at the legislative achievements, not just over the course of the last several weeks but all encompassing over the course of the first 20 months, it's pretty extraordinary in terms of scale.

Is there a -- is there a way to us -- is this a vibe shift moment? Can we call it -- can we be "New York Magazine" and call this like a vibe shift moment for the White House?

DOVERE: It certainly -- I mean it certainly feels like vibe shift moment if you walk around the White House these days. They are in a much better mood there than they were. And look, the problem that they have is deep. There was polling over the summer that I reported in the story that had Biden behind in Delaware -- Delaware, where he's like the patron saint. They named the train station and the rest stop after him before he was even elected president.

There's a lot of work to be done here to repair the image. But they feel like, number one, there's a lot to work with now with these things. And as a Biden advisor said to me, this didn't happen overnight, so that they can take things that they did and now explain to people why they weren't seeing more of the president.

Now people on the Hill, other observers would say, oh, they're trying to say he didn't do anything and that was actually doing something, and they're trying to put a good spin on it. But there were things that they were doing behind the scenes and moments that actually proved to be pretty important.

For example, I report in the story that when there was a lot of pressure for Biden to declare climate emergency after Joe Manchin had seemed to tank the deal to do anything on climate, the Biden folks were in conversation with Schumer's office, with Manchin's office saying, look, we've got this ready, but we're going to hold back, here's the language we're going to use. And that was all part of not rocking the boat too much so Manchin didn't get up from the table.

And then what happened is they got these climate provisions, all these investments in electric vehicles and carbon (INAUDIBLE) -- all these things that are really significant and of course are part of legislation now, not part of an executive order that could be rescinded by another president.

MATTINGLY: Yes, which is huge and a critical piece of this.

Laura, you know one of the things -- I want to pull up -- there's a headline from "New York Magazine". It says "Joe Biden's best week ever". And it's a good story but I have to say, it's also hilarious the White House officials tweeting on headline given that headline is on things that outraged them more than anything else in my off the record emails.

But, you know, I think Isaac makes a really great point here in terms of how do you sell this? How do you actually make this land? Because they have other legislative accomplishments that simply haven't seemed to resonate.

What is the plan here because they have about 85 days to turn things around in a pretty major way?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Well, one of the biggest things is that the White House really still views the best message for the president, the best message for Democrats heading into the mid terms is all about how these legislative accomplishments apply to people's pocketbooks.

So it's about the economy still. Even though that's clearly one of the reasons that Biden's numbers are so low and have remained low. But they keep hammering home gas prices have gone down.

And then look at all these other things that we've done like the prescription drug reform that is going to impact people's pocketbooks. Ultimately because you ask them, are you guys going to shift it all and talk more about democracy or you're going to shift it all and talk more about, you know, the investigations that the former president is under.

And they pretty much say, no, they're going to stay away from those, because they want those to stand on their own and they're going to very much focus on exactly what is in these bills.

And you know, they have been saying for a while that the president is going to get out there and travel more. I think we may finally see some of that.

MATTINGLY: Yes. It's a key point. I think one of the interesting things too is this isn't happening in isolation. There are some other dynamics at play here. We've seen some early indications.

You look at two special elections in particular, Minnesota's first district, Nebraska's first district -- Democrats lost both of them, but they were in difficult places than they were in terms of the final numbers --


MATTINGLY: -- compared to Trump. Now Nebraska a little bit not quite apples and apples. There were some redistricting issues but they clearly did better there than I think they were expecting, and then special election in a midterm year.

And then you had Kansas too on the issue of abortion. I think a lot of people are pointing to Dobbs in the Supreme Court decision.


MATTINGLY: But what's your sense right now? Are things like really significantly shifting for the long term? Is this sustainable or is this kind of a blip before things move back towards Republicans?

CALDWELL: We'll have to wait and see. It all depends on the --


MATTINGLY: That is not an acceptable answer. I need --

CALDWELL: First though, we have to check the gas prices in a month.

MATTINGLY: That's true.

CALDWELL: It is true. But also, they just feel really good now heading back home for this August recess.

I was talking to Representative Tim Ryan on Friday, and he's running for senate in Ohio. And he says now Democrats finally have a lot of things where they can compare and contrast with Republicans. They can say that Republicans they say are the party of extremists, they point to Roe, they point to the 2020 election rhetoric, they point to January 6.

And they say -- he says Democrats now have bipartisan legislation that they've passed. They have the campaign promises that they have been promising for two decades, 20 years that they have finally accomplished, including prescription drugs in this, you know, Inflation Reduction Act.

And so, you know -- but ultimately it comes down to what people are feeling in their economic pocketbooks at that moment when November rolls around, so we'll have to see.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's the great state of Ohio too when you say --

CALDWELL: It's great.

MATTINGLY: I think one of the interesting elements now is if you look at the polling, I think there also has to be a recognition, I think you kind of give this in the story. But if you talk to Democrats, they recognize like it's not all turned around. There's a ton of work left to do.

You pull up, you know, Fox poll the recent one that came out -- Biden's polling at 42 percent right now, a little bit higher than some of the other folks. Generic ballot has started to shift back towards Democrats with plus 6 in May, now it's tied.

And yet if the generic ballot is tied, that's a problem for Democrats if you look historically, usually they need to be a couple up to start to be in a good position.

And it's that Biden approval that I think you talk to Democratic strategists and they're like, look, if he's in 38, 39, 40, like we're in big trouble no matter what. That has to start to move.

Do you think that that's going to start to move now? It's not just turning for the party, it also turns for Biden.

PARKER: No. Absolutely. I was speaking with some Democratic strategists yesterday about this very point wondering about how this has to translate into the midterms, the generic ballot, for example.

They're still cautiously optimistic, right, they know they have some wins. They have stopped digging in the proverbial if you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you got to do, right.

So they're turning that around, but they're still cautious about expressing any type of exuberance and that's because they feel as though Republicans have the intensity on their side, right. Republicans are fired up, historical, that we see that play out historically in midterms as well.

Democrats say it's not looking like the 2010 shellacking, which is good, but they're also not running around saying hey we're going to win the midterms. They feel good about the house -- I mean excuse me, they feel good about the Senate, but the House, of course, is still not looking that great with Biden's approval rating.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And there's a lot that's still going to play out, probably 8 million new (INAUDIBLE) over the course of the next 80 plus days.

When you look at the issues too, you know, Republicans leading border security, inflation, crime -- most everything Republicans have a pretty sizable advantage on right now. We'll see if those start to shift as well.

Inflation, inflation, inflation -- leveling off a little bit, will that decelerate? A lot of things that we can get into when we have a ten-hour show. It's impossible with one hour show.

All right. Coming up next, escalating threats of violence in the wake of FBI searching Mar-a-Lago. This Republican rhetoric, is the former president to blame for this moment?



MATTINGLY: The FBI is warning of a quote, "unprecedented number of threats to law enforcement and government facilities after the Mar-a- Lago search last week. That includes threats to the judge who signed off on the search warrant and the agents who carried it out. Some Republican lawmakers at this point seem to be egging it on with the rhetoric.


SENATOR RICK SCOTT (R-FL): The way (INAUDIBLE) has gone it's like what we thought about the Gestapo and people like that that they just go after people.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): These agencies are paid for by hardworking taxpayer dollars. And if you can do this to a former president of the United States, every American is fearful.

REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): Those of us who believe in the rule of law and believe in the constitution are absolutely furious and we are ready for battle.


MATTINGLY: Congressman. Paul Gosar called the FBI quote, "Democrat brownshirts". Kari Lake, the GOP candidate for Arizona governor said these tyrants will stop at nothing to silence patriots.

Look, I understand patriotism (ph), I even understand skepticism of the FBI and Justice Department if you're a Trump supporter in the wake of the five years prior. What I don't understand is comparisons to Nazis tactics, Nazism to some degree. But there was a gunman in Ohio who tried to attack an FBI office.

Is there a sense right now that if you look at some of his tweets on Truth Social or tweets on an account bearing his name, this is your call to arms for me. Get whatever you need for combat. Evil already won. You know there's examples of this on all social media right now.

Are we on the verge of some very real world violence here because of some of the rhetoric?

CALDWELL: We could be and that's what people are very afraid of. And that's why Merrick Garland in his press conference said -- defended the men and women of the FBI and said that escalations need to stop.

At press conference Friday morning was insane that I was out with Republicans. Mike Turner was there, and he was trying to be very middle of the road and say we just want information and transparency, and then someone like Representative Elise Stefanik steps up repeats all of the same very aggressive talking points while Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican member of Congress and only former member of the FBI in Congress stood there and tried to defend the men and women of the FBI while his colleagues -- some of his colleagues came in and said that the FBI are a major problem.

So Republicans are going to have to figure out how they move forward with this, but they have not really deescalated even with more information coming out.

MATTINGLY: Laura, you have a really great piece going back to Charlottesville, five years since the Charlottesville kind of horrific night moment in Charlottesville.

Republicans were pretty unified in speaking out against hateful rhetoric, with the exception of the president and some of his closest supporters back then. I guess my question is do you think that's still the case now? Has the party shifted dramatically on that front from the leadership on down? LOPEZ: I think that they have. I mean some of the most obvious

evidence is the fact that lawmakers like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar are not reprimanded at all, that the people that are kicked out of the party are people like Liz Cheney who are trying to hold the former president accountable whereas ones who are trying to stoke fear, trying to say that we're ready to be called to arms, that we're ready to confront the FBI, that the FBI should be destroyed.

That is where the majority, think of the Republican Party is at right now. And you also hear the voters saying it.


LOPEZ: Again, I was just in Wyoming and so many of the voters were talking negatively about the FBI and law enforcement, were saying that they don't trust institutions.

And I think it's important to remember that recently, Viktor Orban, the Hungary prime minister was speaking at CPAC. He is considered an autocrat by all of the experts and authoritarian experts in the U.S. And he uses similar tactics, and that's how he's gained more control in Hungary, which is essentially to label institutions like the Justice Department or you know, law enforcement as inefficient and is not democratic. And you increasingly see that from the Republicans.

MATTINGLY: And I think that brings me to the big question I had this week, which is Merrick Garland's decision to speak publicly, which is rare particularly for him on this particular issue. Did he expect the blow back that came with the search, and did that go into the decision to make that public statement that he made this week?

POLANTZ: I mean that's quite possible. Obviously there were people within the Justice Department who wanted him to make a statement pretty soon after in the days leading up to that statement that he made.

The one thing that was really poignant about what he said was Garland said that the Justice Department applies the law without fear or favor, without fear being an important piece of that in this reminder to the people he's leading.

So when Garland is speaking and also when, you know, Chris Wray is sending a note to -- or a memo to everyone in the FBI, they are speaking as leaders of organizations where they have to make sure that the people who work at the Justice Department believe and trust in what they're doing.

So that really was an important thing that he did. It wasn't just him responding to politics. It was also him speaking as the leader.

MATTINGLY: Yes. I think a recognition of a very volatile moment in the country and with law enforcement and those who support him and those who very clearly do not at this point.

All right. Coming up, John Fetterman returns to the Pennsylvania campaign trail three months after a stroke that nearly killed him. [08:46:57]


MATTINGLY: It was not your typical stump speech. Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman told supporters he's lucky to be alive after suffering a stroke three months ago. Friday's rally in Erie was his first public event since then.


JOHN FETTERMAN (D), PENNSYLVANIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Three months ago my life could have ended. It's the truth. But I'm so grateful to be here tonight as well.

MATTINGLY: Now even though he was off the trail this summer, recent polls have shown Fetterman building a steady lead over celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Mario, I want to start with you on this and first I want to pull up some graphics of some of John Fetterman's tweets which is essentially over the course of the last several months, what his campaign has been known for. Raising a ton of money, somehow growing a pretty sizeable lead in a very important swing state, and trolling. Trolling repeatedly over and over is the one basically saying he's kind of a weirdo, to some degree, and then others saying he's a carpetbagger. A lot of talk about New Jersey.

Is this an effective strategy in a general election in Pennsylvania?

PARKER: Appears to be. He's trolling his way into a lead in a seat that was held by a Republican in a key swing state. No one would have saw this coming. He's essentially -- he's enlisting people like Snooki to troll Oz.

And you can see that Oz is off-balance with this. He's trying to answer this debate on Twitter. And it's just not his comfort zone at all. He seemed very, very awkward and Fetterman has been able to define the battleground for this race.

MATTINGLY: You can feel it, to some degree, when Oz speaks. He generally speaks on Fox News at this point in time. It's caused a lot of concern for Republicans. But listen to how he framed Fetterman's basically strategy up to this point.


DR. MEHMET OZ (R), PENNSYLVANIA SENATOR CANDIDATE: There's no actual policies behind these snarky tweets. And that's why it's a con job. We have to get Pennsylvanians and people across the country to wake up to what this guy represents. And you know what, they're starting to.


MATTINGLY: Are they? I mean, are they starting to? Again, it's a sizeable lead. It's polling, so you can take it for whatever it's worth but it's pretty consistent. Is Oz, and I know you talk to a lot of Republicans behind the scenes. There's probable concern right now that this might be a problem for them.

But Republicans say that they've got a message. They're starting to launch attacks as well. Does this even out at some point in the next couple of weeks?

CALDWELL: We'll see. And that's exactly what I was going to say. After the primary in Pennsylvania, Republicans were very confident that that was going to be a seat that they could keep. Now, they are very nervous about this race.

Of course, we're getting into prime campaign season right now and there's going to be attacks on both sides. But Fetterman seems to be doing a lot better than Oz, even though he's not really on the campaign trail.

MATTINGLY: And Isaac, one of the interesting things is, you know, you talk to Republicans saying, look, this guy endorsed Bernie in 2016. This is a progressive and a state that isn't necessarily that way. That's why it's a swing state without any question. Kind of Lamb was supposed to be the perfect Democratic candidate, Fetterman won for any number of reasons.

But listen to what voters told our colleague Eva McKend at the rally in Erie.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I seem to be in tune with his politics. And I'm hoping to get at least some moderate person into the Senate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a moderate progressive candidate, which I like. And compared to all the moderate Democrats that have been coming out lately.


MATTINGLY: I mean if you're a Democrat, you're like, yes, this is perfect.

DOVERE: And they felt that way for a while about Fetterman. He connects with people in sort of a visceral way. I think Oz has somewhat of a point here. People aren't really thinking about his policies. They're thinking what they like about Fetterman personally.


DOVERE: And in the same way they're not thinking about Oz's policies. But what I think is really notable here is that Oz from the beginning did not live in Pennsylvania, was fighting that, had a rough primary and did not take advantage of the fact that all summer long when Fetterman was off the trail, he could have been there on the stump, doing all sorts of things.

Instead, he let him feed into this idea that he actually isn't from Pennsylvania because he hasn't been there that much. He hasn't been doing that much on the trail.

LOPEZ: And one of the big things that Fetterman repeated again during his stump speech was that he is willing to be the senator that votes to carve out the filibuster. And then to help pass a lot of Democratic wish list items. So, that seems to not be turning off moderate Democrats because again, I think no matter whether they're moderate or, you know, progressive, when you talk to them out in the country or when you're also hearing what they're saying in focus groups, they're very frustrated by the two senators, Senator Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema who they feel as though is stopping President Biden and other Democrats from passing a lot of other things that they want to see passed.

MATTINGLY: Yes. I mean it seems that 80 plus days and I think the biggest question right now, is has Fetterman already defined Oz? Has he defined parameters of the race? We'll see.

There's a lot of money to be spent, a lot of messaging to go out in the weeks and months ahead.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS.

Up next, CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" with Brianna Keilar who's filling in for Jake and Dana. Her guests include Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, plus the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee Mike Turner.

Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. Have a fantastic day.