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Inside Politics

Trump Seeks "Special Master" To Review Seized Docs; National Archives Wanted Intelligence Community To Do Damage Assessment On Docs Retrieved From Trump's Home; Trump Legal Team Argues Search Violated His Constitutional Rights; Lawsuit: Trump Wanted Garland To Know People Were "Angry" About Search; Nadler vs. Maloney In NY's Newly Redrawn 12th District; 2 Top House Dems Face Off In NY Congressional Primary; 13 Candidates Vying For Dem Nomination In NY's 10th District. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 23, 2022 - 12:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm Abby Phillip in for John King in Washington. Donald Trump's lawyers have finally weighed in on the case against the former president by sending a message to the attorney general.


ERIC TRUMP, FORMER PRES. TRUMP'S SON: The raid was a farce. The whole country is revolting over it. It's a weaponization of law enforcement in this country.


PHILLIP: Plus, a New York primary will put one powerful Democrat out of work.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): I think it's probably about my voting record, more than anything else.

REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D-NY): I think that you should read the editorial in the New York Post today and they call him senile. They cite his performance at the debate where he couldn't even remember who he impeached.


PHILLIP: And an up and down week on Wall Street and fears that recession could be around the corner.


NEEL KASHKARI, MINNEAPOLIS FEDERAL RESERVE: And so, the question right now is, can we bring inflation down without triggering a recession? And my answer to that question is, I don't know. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: But at first new CNN reporting on the national security fallout from Donald Trump, keeping reams of classified documents at his beach house in Mar-a-Lago. CNN confirming that the National Archives retrieved more than one hundred classified documents back in January, some 700 pages worth of material.

The confirmation comes from a letter from the archives that was addressed to Trump's own attorneys. But we are also learning that the archives were so concerned about what they uncovered at Trump's home that it asked the intelligence community to assess potential damage, if there was any national security risk posed by how those documents were handled and stored.

Now, the other major news this hour, Donald Trump entered the fight over the affidavit to search Mar-a-Lago. The 27-page legal filing from team Trump requests a special master, which is a third-party attorney that could be used to sort through the documents that were seized from the resort. And it also puts this on page one, "politics cannot be allowed to impact the administration of justice. President Donald J. Trump is the clear frontrunner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary and in the 2024 general election."

Now, here with me in studio to share their reporting and insights, CNN's Evan Perez, CNN's Phil Mattingly, Jackie Kucinich of The Daily Beast, and former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams. We have so much to cover on this. I mean, not the least of which is that we know the 2024 presidential frontrunner, according to Donald J. Trump. But Evan, in case you didn't know, but Evan this new document, really - this is a letter from the archives to Trump's team that Trump's own team revealed. So, what did we learn?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're learning that, you know, what the archives found when they got these 15 boxes of documents from Mar-a-Lago earlier this year, they found more than 700 pages, a hundred documents with classified information, including some for the first time now we're seeing in just in print, right, from the archives, that some of it included these things called Special Access Programs.

Now, this is stuff that is so classified that even if you have the top security clearance, you need additional clearance in order to be able to access some of these documents. And so, you know, for the first time, we're seeing what the archives is saying. And again, they're concerned, and you can see this now over what you see in this letter, you can see that they were so concerned, they wanted the FBI to come in and do a review of damage assessment.

And you see, for the first time that there was this really long process going on behind the scenes, with the Trump team asking for a delay four weeks before allowing the FBI to even go in and do this, this classified review. So, look, it's not a good letter for team Trump.

PHILLIP: Which is a really important point because first of all, it confirms a lot of the reporting that there were hundreds of documents involved, including some of the most sensitive documents there are. But why Even, why this letter was basically leaked? I think we could describe it by someone in Trump's own orbit to make some kind of point and what is that?

PEREZ: The point that they're trying to make is playing that this is all about politics. The first line that you saw that you just quoted from the former president's special master requests, right, that this is all about politics, that the Biden White House was actually involved in the early part of this process.


But the letter if you read it, actually it describes a pretty routine process, and frankly it just describes a very deferential treatment by a team Biden, by the Biden White House going, look you archives, you guys make the decision. They're almost like reluctant to allow this FBI review, which is clearly needs to happen because of the classified nature of stuff.

PHILLIP: And this is happening at the same time that the Trump team has put forward this 27-page legal filing two weeks after the search of Mar-a-Lago to retrieve those documents. In that legal filing, they are making a lot of claims, some of them very political in nature, but one of them has to do with this idea of privilege. They write that "merely 'adequate' safeguards are not acceptable, when the matter at hand involves not only the constitutional rights of President Trump, but also the preservation of executive privilege."

They're saying that to argue for a special master to review these documents. But Elliot, I want to get you on this because this letter that Evan was just discussing also talks about the privilege claim. And it says, the assistant, so attorney general has advised the archivist that there is no precedent for the assertion of executive privilege by a former president against an incumbent president, especially when the materials involve national security documents.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There's two issues there. Number one, it's the assertion of privilege, just as they say, in the letter of a former president, when the current president has inserted. And number two, the point of the privilege is preventing the disclosure of presidential documents to the outside, outside of the executive branch.

When the Justice Department, which is part of the executive branch is investigating the White House, there's no executive privilege claim. So, what they're doing is throwing out a term that people don't really understand, this is lofty, had a constitutional business. But at the end of the day, they don't have an executive privilege claim here against their own Justice Department.

PHILLIP: I mean, sometimes it seems like the Trump team just throws out executive privilege kind of willy-nilly. And that it may cease to have some meaning. But in this particular case, this is serious stuff. It's a question of whether there were serious, very sensitive classified materials. I guess, in some ways, Evan, it's not even a question of whether Trump had the right to have them. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn't, but how they were being handled in a room at a public private club, a private club, that is accessed by not just the president, but by other people.

PEREZ: You know, look, I mean, first of all, I do think we do have to back that up a little bit. And it is true that these are government documents. So no, he didn't have a right to have them. These were presidential records. And under the law, they belong with the National Archives. So that's the first part of this.

And then secondly, you know, again, these frivolous claims about executive privilege, especially when you're now talking about a criminal investigation, right, that trumps a lot, no pun intended, that trumps a lot of these claims.

WILLIAMS: Excuse me. One quickly, quick thing here. So, look, I was in government for 15 years, had a top-secret clearance for a lot of that time. Regardless of what anyone thinks of Donald Trump, there is never any point and for TS/SCI documents, Top Secret / Sensitive Compartmented Information ever to be out of a secure government facility, that does not belong in someone's shed or beach house or whatever else, even if you're a Trump supporter, that is wrong.


JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They trying to say that there was like the standing member that the - I can't remember what gen this of explanation this was, the standing declassification order that Trump said he had, that he, you know, if he left the White House with it, it was therefore declassified.

Now, there was reporting that, you know, none of his advisors actually knew about this either and that is not really a thing. There was no evidence of it. But it's just an yet another explanation. In another way that they're trying to muddy the water and create time, so perhaps there won't be any consequence.

PHILLIP: We got to talk about this part of many perplexing things in this filing, the 27-page filing. One of them is confirmation that Trump did, in fact, try to get a message to the Attorney General Merrick Garland. And the message said, according to the filing, that the heat is building, the pressure is building.

Whatever I can do to take the heat down, to bring the pressure down, just let us know. So, he sent that message to Garland. Meanwhile, he is attacking the FBI agents who conducted the search. He is attacking the Justice Department publicly. What do you make of that?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean, Abby, the way you frame that, you're implying that perhaps you don't believe he was genuine in what he sent to the attorney general.

PHILLIP: I'm just wondering what the intention was? I mean, I think that's the question. MATTINGLY: I think the difficulty, and look, I haven't spoken to the president about the message he sent to the attorney general. I haven't spoken to the attorney general either, Evan or that's going to shock you. I would never trample on your justice. Evan, I know that's your coverage area.

Look, I think it's difficult not to read it based on everything we know about the former president, how he's operated both in business and at the White House. The message was intended to send a message, right? It is not intended to say explicitly, look I'm here to help, you know, I'm going to help. I know you just hit a bunch of FBI agents into my home, but that's cool, I want to - I'm on your side and we're going to try and figure this out.


It rings very much like a, things are getting pretty ugly here. Don't you think? It's a threat, it's a bad thing. And again, it's not explicit. But if you listen to people who've worked with the former president, both in business and in the White House, he tends to operate like that, where he never says it explicitly. But the implication is very, very clear. And that very much comes across like that in the message that was sent to the attorney general.

PHILLIP: What's also clear is that, even though in the court filing the Trump team makes great pains to claim that they were being extraordinarily cooperative with the Department of Justice on this, that that clearly wasn't happening.

This letter from the National Archives is an indication, they say in the letter, we've been trying to get your cooperation to just let the FBI look through these documents and ensure there was no damage to national security. And you all have been at the very least, pushing back or delaying this. They were not cooperating fully, clearly based on all of this evidence.

KUCINICH: Well, clearly because the FBI showed up to get what still belonged in the archives. But listen, you saw this in the Trump - in the Trump filing. They were saying that, oh, no, he was so accommodating when they were initially there. No, you should look around. And allegedly, someone said, no, no, we're good. We trust you. I mean, it really did paint a very Trump positive narrative. And that's what they're going to keep pushing out there.

I mean, the idea that he sent this message to Merrick Garland when we also have reporting, that there was talk among his advisers about using the FBI footage for a campaign video, potentially as he's plotting terror, potentially planning to launch aid and using it as a springboard to watch a 2024 campaign.

PEREZ: Which tells us really, that this filing, this court filing yesterday, this lawsuit was not much a legal document, it was more of a PR stunt, right. And it really was, again, they don't make - a lot of the legal claims that they could have made it, including a Fourth Amendment claim. They did not make. They could have done this two weeks ago and may actually have succeeded on the question of whether this was a warrant that was overly broad. They might have gotten a special master two weeks ago. I just don't know why they read it.

PHILLIP: But two weeks later, it's very hard. I mean, the genie is out of the bottle perhaps on this. Evan, thanks so much for joining us for this. And a busy month ahead, primaries ends today with Florida and New York taking center stage. And in the empire state, a heated race between two longtime colleagues gets really ugly in the final days.




PHILLIP: It's election day in three states New York, Florida and Oklahoma, and a New York voters will make their pick and a primary that's included some name calling. Longtime congressional colleagues Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler are going head-to-head. Here to share his reporting and insights a senior political reporter Isaac Dovere. Isaac, got me (Inaudible). Isaac, you've been up in New York, your old stomping grounds.

And you had some very interesting reporting in a run in with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. Are you right that Maloney has dodged questions about her comments? And when a CNN reporter tracked her down on Monday, at a campaign stop on the Upper West Side to ask her about her comments. She began running down the sidewalk to a waiting car, while one of her daughters repeatedly positioned herself with her hands and legs out in an attempt to block further questions.

So, after that ordeal of yours, you were the reporter obviously referenced in that interaction. Tell us about what's going on in that race. I mean, maybe a little bit of a microcosm of how kind of wild this matchup has become between Maloney and Nadler?

EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Yes. Well, let's remember this race only happened because of redistricting. It put these two people who have both been in Congress since 1992, serving alongside each other on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, as colleagues and usually getting along and working together. They're running against each other. They weren't planning to, but neither of them wanted to be the one forced to leave.

And so, it has gotten pretty intense in the closing days here. And Maloney has been telling people a report that she thinks now there's half dead, repeating claims that he's senile. Her campaign has spread an idea that now they're collapsed at a campaign stop last week. And I went to try to ask her about this and she did go literally running down the street. I've never - I've had candidates run away from me before. I've never had a candidates adult child try to block me who spread eagle like, Maloney's daughter did.

And, you know, it's really just a simple question. I was trying to ask her, why is the race ending in that way? And I think it's ending in that way, because it has really gotten down to the finish line here. And one of these people is at least not going to be in Congress come January, maybe both of them. PHILLIP: And the two of them are making their pitches to the voters. And it's really about kind of what differentiates them from each other. Let's just play a little bit of what Nadler and Maloney are saying out there.


REP. NADLER: He's probably got my voting record, more than anything else. I mean, people understand that I took principled progressive votes.

REP. MALONEY: There is one thing that remains that I have not been able to do, and that is to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and put women in the constitution. Please send me back to finish the job.


PHILLIP: Now there is another candidate in the race Suraj Patel, who is in some ways making a generational argument. What is different about his pitch?

DOVERE: Well, look, what he says is, he's a better fit for the district now than Nadler or Maloney are that. Manhattan has changed, that he is a young guy. He teaches business ethics at New York University. He's 38 years old, basically half as old as Maloney and Nadler, that he can bring that fresh blood and fresh perspective to Congress.


He said to me when I was out campaigning with him on Sunday, that he's seen that people thought that the status quo in Washington was broken, but what surprised him is that people feel like the status quo in New York is broken. And that these two members of Congress who are trying to play on their experience are not really in touch with where the politics of this, he thinks need to go.

PHILLIP: All right. Isaac Dovere, thanks so much for joining us.

DOVERE: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And here to share her reporting and insights is Sally Goldenberg. She's the City Hall bureau chief for POLITICO New York. So, Sally, these candidates are making their closing arguments in a race that has become pretty nasty. And but at the end of the day, when you look at both Nadler and Maloney, they have such similar resumes. How do you think this plays out tonight?

SALLY GOLDENBERG, CITY HALL BUREAU CHIEF. POLITICO NEW YORK: Well, thank you for having me. I think that the real difference in this race, I mean, there are different people and Nadler will tell everybody who listens that he has a different voting record on the Iraq war, on the Patriot Act on the Iran nuclear deal. Carolyn Maloney will say, she is more spry, and that she's sort of more in line with one of the major issues of our time Roe v. Wade. But I think that what this race will come down to, is which one of them represents a district that is more active. Jerry Nadler is from the Upper West Side. That is pretty consistently in New York City elections, the highest turnout district are among the highest turnout districts in the city, more so than the Upper East Side where Carolyn Maloney represents.

And so, I think it's really a turnout race. And then you have as you mentioned, Suraj Patel, hoping to eat into both of those bases, but I think campaigning more in like a midtown area where they're slightly younger people, families, with young children. But I think, you know, you're going to see potentially the power of just a very, very civically active set of neighborhoods on the Upper West Side. If they come out in full force for Jerry Nadler, those numbers, you know, if history repeats itself will be higher than then her base.

PHILLIP: And as we were just discussing with Isaac, there is a little bit of a kind of almost generational progressive centrist divide playing on some of these primaries, but especially in New York, 17th congressional district where you have Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, going up against state senator Alessandra Biaggi. It's become a little bit of a proxy fight. What do you think this race tells us?

GOLDENBERG: Yes. I think you're absolutely right. I think it is a proxy fight. I think that state senator Biaggi is making an argument - excuse me, partially on aging generation, like Mr. Patel in the 12th district. But also on, you know, establishment versus outsider, you know, she was in office in Albany, so she's not a "outsider." But she is really kind of trying to frame this as somebody who can come in and like bring in the left wing of the Democratic Party that is perhaps dissatisfied, and has kind of shown it, you know, in the polls recently, some dissatisfaction with establishment Democrats.

So, she's trying to create that distinction between the two of them, since he's, you know, a party leader, and also saying that she's more progressive and trying to appeal to younger people, people of color. You know, it seems like a tough fight for her based on just the makeup of that district. You know, but we will say---

PHILLIP: The other race that I think redistricting really created a bit of a mess in is the crowded New York 10th congressional district. Our primary, Congressman Mondaire Jones is going up against, you know, more than a handful of others, including Dan Goldman, a former impeachment manager and several others making cases on race and gender ideology. Even can Mondaire Jones fend off some of these other candidates and stay in the House of Representatives?

GOLDENBERG: I think it's really hard. You know, he's not from the area, so he doesn't have the built-in base of support that somebody like Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou, or city council member Carlina Rivera have, or Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, all of whom represent parts of the district and have loyal bases.

And then you have Dan Goldman, the Trump impeachment attorney who has put in something on the order of $4 million of his own personal wealth into the race, got the endorsement of the New York Times, which is pretty important in areas like Park Slope and Cobble Hill, you know, kind of high information areas where voters look to the times editorial board.

I think, Representative Jones has a tough race ahead of him. I don't - I wouldn't, look it's an impossible race to predict. I wouldn't make a prediction, but I wouldn't call him the frontrunner. I think he was boxed out of his other district and, you know, would say he came here to kind of fight the good fight in a place where he thought he had a better shot.


But it is hard to go somewhere and where you don't have roots and you don't have a base, especially in such a short window as this race, you know, I think redistricting maps came out like May 20 or something like that. So, it wasn't a lot of time for him.

PHILLIP: Yes. Well, we'll be watching to see what happens tonight, and hopefully we get some results tonight. I know, New York can sometimes take their time with those counting. Sally, thanks so much for joining us today.

GOLDENBERG: Thank you.

PHILLIP: And up next, a CNN exclusive, the Justice Department issuing a new subpoena to the National Archives, which is a sign that the investigation of the Capitol riots could be widened.