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Win In NY Special Fuels Midterm Hopes For Dems; Maloney After Loss: "Sexist Systems" Dragged Down My Campaign; Biden To Cancel $10K In Student Loan Debt For Borrowers Making Less Than $125K/Year. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 24, 2022 - 12:00   ET




ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I am Abby Phillip, in for John King, in Washington.

An outlier, or a midterm inflection point? Democrats say a win, in New York, proves abortion is on the ballot, in November.


PAT RYAN, (D) NEW YORK CONG-ELECT: When the Supreme Court ripped away, reproductive freedoms, access to abortion rights, we said, this is not what America stands for.



PHILLIP: Plus, President Biden following through on a core campaign pledge, wiping away thousands of dollars in student loan debt.

And Russia's war on Ukraine turns 6-months-old, today, still locked in a bloody stalemate.


PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE (through translator): We're holding on for six months. It's difficult for us. But we clenched our fists, fighting for our fate.


PHILLIP: But up first, is it momentum, or just a moment? Democratic lawmakers and strategists hope a win in New York special election stopped some midterm drift, just 11 weeks before November.

Now, the verdict, out of Hudson Valley, is that Democrat Pat Ryan will now represent New York's 19th District. That's where President Biden won, in 2020, by just 1.5 percentage points.

But Democrats see major national political implications, in Ryan's surprise win, because the candidate made abortion, the centerpiece of his campaign.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The sad truth? Marc Molinaro and the Republicans oppose a woman's right to choose. Republicans will allow women and their doctors to be prosecuted for getting abortions. Molinaro stands with them. The sad truth? Marc Molinaro and the Republicans are two extreme on women's rights.


PHILLIP: Here to share their reporting, and their insights, CNN's Manu Raju; Laura Barron-Lopez, of PBS NewsHour; and Politico's Sabrina Rodriguez.

There is nothing that Washington loves better than a special election that might be a bellwether. And we have the proof, which is some of these headlines. "Punchbowl," Did 2022 just get reset? Playbook: Dems flip 2022 on its head. And "The Washington Post," the special election results give Democrats hope that November won't be so bad.

But it's not just this special election, right? It's the Kansas referendum. It's the generic ballot, which has been pretty definitively moving, in Democrats' favor, over the last few months. Are things looking better?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, look, the environment is improving, for Democrats. No question about it.

There had been a major enthusiasm gap that they had suffered, for much of this cycle that changed in the aftermath of the decision, to overturn Roe v. Wade, by the Supreme Court. You've seen Democratic candidates, like we saw in that special election, in New York, really lean in to the issue of abortion. We're seeing Senate candidates do the same.

The Senate map, favorable for Democrats, right now. They can hold the majority, in large part because the candidate quality, on the Republican side, is not as top tier, as Republican leaders would like, to put it gently.

The House is still difficult, to keep, for the Democrats. The narrows - the majorities are so narrow, that Democrats have they face historical trends that are against them, at the moment. Redistricting didn't go exactly the way they wanted. And Republicans have - are definitely favored, to take back the House.

But soon as - but if you're a Democrat, you're breathing a little easier today.

PHILLIP: And abortion, obviously playing a key role here?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, @LBARRONLOPEZ: A huge role, and which is that, Democrats were pretty hopeful, after they saw the Kansas ballot initiative, which you mentioned, Abby. But now, this is another data point, right, that they're seeing that abortion is a good and effective, for them, argument, against the attacks, on the economy, and what the President has been doing to address inflation.

They're starting to see - Republicans are starting to see that the attacks on - against Democrats, on inflation, is not working, as well, as they had previously hoped it would, heading into the midterm elections.

And so, a lot of the Democrats, the question is, how much do they lean in? There are a number of frontline Democrats in House races that are starting to talk more about abortion, but not all of them. There are a lot of senators that are talking about it that are up for reelection, but not all of them as well. So, maybe they see the results, last night, and decide to make that more of an issue, heading into November.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, and just a key reminder, Molinaro, Ryan's opponent, in that race, he ran on crime. He ran on the economy. He ran on the baby formula shortage. It didn't work.


But turning to the special - not the special election - the redistricting primary, between Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler, Nadler with a blowout win, and Maloney framing this, as about sexism.


REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D-NY): I am proud to have followed in the footsteps and stand on the shoulders of the strong New York women, who opened doors, and took on the tough battles. Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug and Geraldine Ferraro, to name just a few.


MALONEY: These heroic women fought sexist systems, and misogyny that continues today, as we know from my own campaign.


PHILLIP: She made that pitch directly to voters. It didn't work. But wow, what a nasty primary that was!

SABRINA RODRIGUEZ, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO, @SABROD123: Absolutely. I mean, and one of the things that we've seen here, though, is just how competitive - this blew up in Democrats' face, with redistricting, in New York.

I mean, we didn't expect to be talking about this now, and talking about what was happening, in the state, whether it was in that district, or other districts, and just how competitive. So, seeing just the impact of redistricting, here, and seeing that, in some cases, playing up the aspect of being a woman didn't work out.

PHILLIP: Not even, in this environment, in which abortion is a big factor.

But guys, stay with me.

We're going to go to Florida, now, and the fight over who gets to face off against a Republican heavyweight, in November. Congressman Charlie Crist has won the Democratic gubernatorial primary, by a pretty healthy margin, and he'll now go head-to-head with Ron DeSantis, in November.

Joining our conversation is Tampa Bay Times Political Editor, Emily Mahoney.

Emily, so Crist has won this. But he is a quite an unconventional candidate, a former Republican himself. Is he the candidate that DeSantis wants to face off with, this November?

EMILY MAHONEY, POLITICAL EDITOR, TAMPA BAY TIMES, @MAHONEYSTHENAME: I think there is reason to suspect that the DeSantis' campaign is ready to take on Charlie Crist.

And perhaps the - Charlie Crist's main candidate, or I'm sorry, main opponent, in the primary, Nikki Fried was obviously a female candidate. She would have been running to be Florida's first female governor, and really made abortion her issue.

And Charlie Crist, being a former Republican, I think, has a more complex history, on that issue. He used to describe himself as pro- life. He still does sort of describe himself as pro-life even though he is very much for protecting abortion access now.

So, I think that the DeSantis' campaign is ready to go with some attacks, on Charlie Crist's history, calling him a flip-flopper. And I think that we're going to see a lot of that in the race to come.

PHILLIP: And the other big contest, in Florida, is the one between Val Demings - Congresswoman Val Demings, and Marco Rubio, the incumbent. There is a lot of money on the Demings side. This is a race that has kind of flown under the radar until now. We are in the general election phase. What are you looking at?

MAHONEY: I think you're absolutely right. I think that in Florida, in particular, the Demings race and her fundraising success, thus far, is seen as a bright spot, for Democrats.

And we saw, last night, when Charlie Crist, came out to make his victory speech, he mentioned Val Demings, very early in that speech, sort of framing them, as a ticket, together, a Democratic ticket.

And so, I think, we're going to see the Democrats trying to sort of seize on the momentum, and the fundraising success that she has had, to try to bring in sort of that air support, for other races, including Charlie Crist, where he could really use additional fundraising, to go up against the massive amount of money that Ron DeSantis has, right now.

PHILLIP: All right, we'll be watching all of that. Thank you so much, Emily.

Let's bring back our panel here in the room with me.

The Charlie Crist-Ron DeSantis race is now basically a proxy fight. And Crist is leaning into this. He's saying, this is our opportunity, to stop Ron DeSantis, before he runs for president.

RAJU: Yes. And it's going to be really hard. I mean, DeSantis has a massive war chest.

And Florida has become a state that is not particularly friendly, for Democrats. They have really struggled, in the last cycle, in South Florida. That had been the area which, of course, they could lean unexpectedly the high - major, big margins of victory in the state. They'll have to turn that around to win, and beat DeSantis. So, they are the clear underdogs there.

And also, Val Demings, yes, she has raised a ton more money than Marco Rubio. Democrats have been more successful, in raising money, online. But she is still the underdog, headed into there. But if Democrats somehow pull off victories there, in both races, then they're almost certainly, in the majority, in the Senate, and that can be obviously a big problem for Ron DeSantis--

PHILLIP: One major--

RAJU: --if he wants to run again.

PHILLIP: Yes, absolutely. And one major thing that looms large, for Val Demings, is she is a former law enforcement officer. It's this issue of crime. She could get hit, on both sides, of this, and she knows it.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes, she certainly knows it. I mean, she definitely has tried to strike this balance, of leaning into the fact that she has experience that a number of other candidates don't necessarily have, with her past law enforcement experience.


But she's also been trying to show that, like other members, of the Congressional Black Caucus, in the House, that she has tried to be front and center on these issues, when they have tried to address Police reform, and when they have tried to address other civil rights issues. So certainly, it's going to be something that she has to continue, to balance, heading towards November.

PHILLIP: One thing to look for is how pragmatic Florida Democrats are knowing that that state is, we used to call it a purple state. It's looking pretty red, these days. But we'll have more coming on that.

Soon, a big announcement, from the White House that could bring relief, for millions of Americans, who've been burdened with student loan debt. We'll have all the details, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIP: Big news, today, for millions of Americans, with student loan debt. President Biden is announcing his administration's plans, to forgive some debt, for those making less than $125,000 a year.

The White House hopes the voters see it as a campaign promise, kept, by Biden, heading into the midterms.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We have to make sure that you get the opportunity. That's why I'm going to eliminate a lot of your student debt, if you, in fact are - if you come from a family, less than $125,000, and you went to a public university. I'm going to make sure that everybody, in this generation, gets $10,000 knocked off of their student debt.


PHILLIP: CNN's Jeremy Diamond joins us, from the White House.

Jeremy, the White House giving us now the details of their plans. What are you hearing?


President Biden taking to Twitter, as he returned to the White House, from Delaware. And he said on Twitter that this is in keeping with his campaign promise, his administration is quote, "Announcing a plan to give working and middle class families breathing room as they prepare to resume federal student loan payments in January of 2023."

Now, let's get into the details of what the President is going to announce, as we expect to hear from him, in the next couple of hours.

Canceling up to $10,000 of student debt for borrowers making under $125,000.

And then those who received Pell Grants, meaning those who were in most financial need, when they went to college, if they're under that income threshold, they get an additional $10,000 also forgiven. That apparently is the majority, about 60 percent of federal student debt borrowers.

And then also extending the loan repayment freeze until December 31st. So, kicking that can down the road, another four months, for what the White House says will be the final time.

Now, of course, we know that while this is getting some praise, from some folks, on the Left, there is also some criticism, including from parts - segments of the Democratic Party, some economists, who served in Democratic administrations, expressing concerns that this is going to contribute to inflation. I just asked a senior Administration official, about some of those criticisms. And this official said that they believe that the combination of starting those repayments again, after that moratorium expires, in combination with this debt forgiveness plan, they believe that those two things will offset each other. Of course, some economists disagree.

And then beyond that, of course, we have this broader idea that on the left, some are saying that this doesn't go far enough, they would have liked to see more debt canceled.


PHILLIP: Jeremy Diamond, thank you so much.

And back here, in the room, with our panel.

This is a long time coming. But they have landed the plane on student loans. Will it be enough especially dissatisfying (ph) - I mean, this is being done largely to make sure that he has checked his boxes with the base. Will it be enough?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Look, this is a - this has been a long road, for President Biden. Early on, in the campaign, he did not support doing this, via Executive action. He wanted Congress to do this.

So the fact that he has come to this point is a pretty big deal, and clearly, is a testament to the fact that a lot of progressives have been pushing him, since that campaign, all the way to now. And they were even pushing him, in the final hours, leading up to this decision, to get the additional $20,000 in the Pell - for Pell Grant recipients, because they wanted much more than the $10,000 for non- Pell Grantees.

I mean, of course, they still are going to push him even beyond this. I'm told by multiple progressives that once the payments restart, for borrowers, in January, because the White House has said that they're only going to extend it to December, the current pause, that that is when they see a whole resetting of, again, another push, on the White House, to try to forgive more, for non-Pell Grantees.

RAJU: Yes, I mean, look, they are going to face some criticism, from the left, because the Democratic leaders wanted to go - to have at least $50,000 wiped away.

PHILLIP: I mean, Schumer personally lobbied--

RAJU: Yes. Schumer, he was lobbying for $50,000.

PHILLIP: --as recently as this week, about this.

RAJU: No question. And Elizabeth Warren wanted $50,000 as well. The $10,000 is something that they at least will - are welcoming right now. $20,000 for Pell Grant, as you - as Laura mentioned, is very important, particularly for those who are concerned about the impact, on low-income workers. But yes, the Democrats are not united, because there are people, who are concerned about the fact that this is going to drive up the deficit, after they just passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which would drive down the deficit that could essentially wipe away those deficit savings. It could drive up inflation. There's a clear concern about that.

And you're seeing Republicans bash this move. One after another, are calling it socialism, calling it unfair, calling it saying blue-collar workers are going to be the ones, who are - the ones, who are paying for this, ultimately. So, how voters will respond remains to be seen.

But it doesn't resolve one big issue. The college affordability is still a problem in this country.

PHILLIP: Yes, absolutely. And, I mean, to the point about inflation, there are concerns from economists. But obviously, it's become a political talking point. The estimates were that just the $10,000, in forgiveness, for those making under $120,000 a year could cost about $329 billion over a decade.

But it's also worth noting that on the broader issue, the Biden administration has kind of been chipping away at this, for some time. They have been doing bits and pieces of it.

And it does add up to something. I mean, he's canceled more student loan debt than any other President, extended pandemic - the repayment, up until this point, and now, another four months. And he's extended this Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and also created a plan to help borrowers exit default.


There's a lot being done here. But, from the political messaging part, do you think that this is something that Democrats can actually message effectively?

Because Republicans are saying the ads write themselves, the people who didn't take out debt are going to be angry that their debt is not being forgiven? Can Democrats get past that?

RODRIGUEZ: I think it's an open question, just how many people will be angry by it. Because there's been plenty of conversations--


RODRIGUEZ: --with voters on the ground that will tell you, "Yes, I took out loans, and I paid them off, and I don't care if - and I don't care if he's going to"--


RODRIGUEZ: --"forgive other people's loans. That's great." So, it is a question of just where the numbers lie on this.

But the reality for the administration is that while Biden on the campaign trail, didn't actually promise to do this via Executive action, the headline has been "Biden promised to do this, and hasn't done it." I mean, that's the popular belief, the popular notion around this has been that.

So, for him, to now deliver that, while he's been doing all these things, over the past two years, now is the actual headline that he is forgiving the $10,000 that people believe he promised he was going to do.

BARRON-LOPEZ: And if I could just add that, polls show that some 57 percent of people actually support this action, the $10,000 forgiveness in debt.


BARRON-LOPEZ: And then also, and when we talk about the impact, when I came in, today, to CNN, there were three people, in the greenroom, news associates, who when I told them the news about the $20,000 in Pell Grants, they said - they gasped, and they said, "Oh my God, that impacts me." So, I think there's a lot of people around the country that it's definitely going to affect this.

PHILLIP: And Biden's approval, with younger voters, has been really, in the tank, frankly.

RAJU: Yes.


RAJU: We can't separate out how closest it's to the midterms.

PHILLIP: Exactly. So, that's one of the reasons, why this is happening as well.

But up ahead for us, Trump's legal team faces a new deadline, regarding the search in Mar-a-Lago.



PHILLIP: A federal judge, with a message, to Donald Trump's lawyers: "Try again."

Trump's legal team now has until Friday, to better-explain why they want a Special Master to sort through the documents that the FBI gathered from Trump's Mar-a-Lago home.

CNN Crime and Justice Reporter, Katelyn Polantz, has been covering all the twists and turns, of the story for us.

Katelyn, what did we learn from this response from the judge in this case?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER, @KPOLANTZ: Well, Abby, essentially, this is a federal judge, Aileen Cannon, in the Southern District of Florida, telling Donald Trump's team that she needs more information, before she can really consider this Special Master request that he wants to have someone make sure the Justice Department is handling that evidence appropriately.

So, what the judge is asking Donald Trump's attorneys, to clarify, in a filing, tomorrow, is the quote-unquote, "Precise relief sought." So Abby, in judge-speak, that is "I don't know what you're asking me to do. Can you please come back to the court, and be a little bit more specific?"

The judge is also asking them to explain why the court has jurisdictions, what legal standards apply here, so, what the law is that the judge can work off of, to try and appoint a Special Master, and then also, whether or not Donald Trump is seeking immediate injunction, meaning immediate emergency action.

That wasn't something he asked for, in this motion. And so, normally, lawsuits take a long time. The judge wants to know whether that is indeed something he wants, here, or if he wants something quickly.

And then finally, this Special Master request is potentially impacting the transparency discussion, or at least the judge here wants to know, does this Special Master request impact the Justice Department trying to make redactions in an affidavit?

That's something that they're going to be submitting to court, separately, to a different judge, a magistrate judge, under seal, tomorrow, as the process moves forward, on whether or not we can learn more about, what happened, in this investigation, and why it was so necessary, for the Justice Department, to go to Mar-a-Lago, and seize all of those documents, including ones marked "Classified."


PHILLIP: All right, Katelyn, thanks so much for that.

And CNN's Legal and National Security Analyst, Carrie Cordero, joins us here, and joins our conversation.

Carrie, so much of this filing, on its face, as a non-lawyer, myself, seemed a little bit off. And I think the judge is basically saying, "Why didn't you just do a lot of these basic things?" What do you read into her response to their filing?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, @CARRIECORDERO: Well, what the judge is basically telling the Trump team is "Do your job better. Make your arguments, lay out what the law is, lay out what you're asking me to do, in this particular case." So, I think that's the dynamics of what's going on in the judge's response.

But as to the substance, of the arguments that the Trump team seems to be trying to make, one is a Fourth Amendment argument. They're arguing that the search is overbroad. And what's unusual in this case is that they're making these arguments before this evidence that's been gathered has been used in any way. Usually, we would see individuals, who have been actually charged with something, make arguments that the Fourth Amendment was violated, or the search was overbroad, because that information is going to be used against them. And so that scenario doesn't exist.

And then they're making privilege claims. And the difficulty, in particular, with the executive privilege claims that his team seems to be trying to make is that he's not the president anymore. And so, those privileges don't apply--


CORDERO: --to him, in his personal capacity, anymore.

PHILLIP: What impact do you think this will have on the other part of this, which is the judge, who is overseeing the potential release of this affidavit, and has asked the federal government to tell us what kind of redactions, do you want?