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Noon Deadline for DOJ to Submit Redacted Version of Mar-a-Lago Affidavit; Biden: "I Don't Have Any Advanced Notice" of Mar-a-Lago Search; Heightened Fears After Power issue at Ukraine Nuclear Plant; Poll: 56 Percent of Voters Say Abortion is "Very Important" For Vote. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 25, 2022 - 12:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm Abby Phillip in for John King in Washington. Right now, the Justice Department deadline, prosecutors outline what they want to keep secret from the Mar-a-Lago affidavit. Plus, the president runs into second guessing legal, economic and political over his plan to cancel some student loan debt.


MIGUEL CARDONA, EDUCATION SECRETARY: In the details of our plan, we're working really hard not only on loan forgiveness, but fixing a broken system.


PHILLIP: And rain submerges entire towns in the south flash floods fuel a life-or-death scramble to stay alive.


JOHN BILBRO, PEACH TREE VILLAGE ASSISTED LIVING: We got everybody out. And that's the most important thing. Everybody is safe. We got all the staff and the residents out. We can replace the stuff, but the people are out. So, that's a good thing.


PHILLIP: But at first, the legal back and forth over what stays secret from the Mar-a-Lago affidavit, we just passed a 12noon deadline for the Justice Department lawyers to submit redactions to a federal judge. Let's get straight to CNN's Katelyn Polantz for the latest on this. So, Katelyn, when can we expect to learn from the judge what is going to happen in this case?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Abby, when really is the question today, and it's quite possible. We don't see anything today out of the court, as this process moves forward on this affidavit, what's going to be confidential there and what's not. This filing that the Justice Department is submitting today, it's supposed to come in under seal. Both the proposals that the Justice Department has to keep redacted the details of their investigation that would be included in that affidavit that backed up the search warrant, and also their legal arguments, any arguments that they would make about why those things need to stay confidential.

Now the judge is privately going to review all of those papers. And the judge is going to think about what the public need here is, what the public interest is. If there is some unsealing, the archives has put some details out. The Trump team has put some details out. So, there are questions about will those things be unveiled? We don't know. But right now, the Justice Department is mostly concerned about their ongoing criminal investigation.

We know there is obstruction of justice under investigation here. They are very concerned about protecting witnesses, and of course, obstruction of justice. It's not some legal words only. It means that if there could be some sort of tampering, it could harm that investigation going forward. So, that is the chief concern the judge is going to be looking at and the Justice Department is going to want to keep a lot of things secret here. Abby?

PHILLIP: Thank you so much for that Katelyn Polantz. Now with the waiting game begins. But here to share the reporting and insights is CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, and NPR's Claudia Grisales, Yasmeen Abutaleb at the Washington Post, and former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams, who now lives on this set with us.

So, Elliot, I will start with you because the question this week is, what does the Justice Department want to keep secret, which is probably everything? But what will they allow to be left unredacted? Before you jump in, I do want to play Andrew McCabe's take on all of this. He is former FBI deputy director, so he knows a bit about what might be at stake here. Take a listen?


ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: From the FBI perspective, they are going to be incredibly sensitive about revealing any fact that could in any way shed light on the identity of a cooperating witness or an informant. What DOJ is likely trying to avoid in this situation is turning over an overly redacted report that might provoke the judge into sending it back to them and telling them to take another shot at it and to try to do better, to try to reveal more.


PHILLIP: The risk of course, the conspiracy theories is ever present these days. And the judge has made it clear he wants to release something, so they've got to throw him a bone.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He did, however the judge did, as judges always do. When I clerked on the Southern District of Florida, he left that question saying, even after this is redacted, I may take a look at it and say that there's no way that releasing this will be in the public interest because it may be so redacted.

Now to answer your question, Abby, and to my roommates here. This is a great set of roommates here and let's be clear. But to answer your question, it's not just witnesses that they're trying to protect. It's also people who might be charged with crimes one day, the Justice Department doesn't want to tip off what their names might be.


So, my guess is what the Justice Department would allow you to get out are number one, the names of the three crimes that they're investigating. We knew that from the statute, maybe a sentence or two about why they think there may have been violations there.

And then the address of Mar-a-Lago, beyond that, if you're a prosecutor, I just don't see how you would want to consent to much more than that being out. And that's going to be the back and forth with the judge in some private hearing, whether that happens today or down the road.

PHILLIP: And this could take some time because there might be an appeal process. And the team, I mean, does it make sense to you that they're still not weighing in here?

WILLIAMS: I mean, yes, and no. Number one, they could be making a political statement about it. But the dispute is between the Justice Department and the court, it's the Justice Department search warrant document, and the court has to decide what's in the public interest, literally, that term for releasing it. Trump can weigh in and say, well, you know, this should all be out there, and maybe just make a public statement about it. But he doesn't have as much legal entitlement to it, that the Justice Department does.

PHILLIP: We're also learning that the Trump team was in a lot of communication with the National Archives about these documents for a long period of time. And here is CNN's latest reporting on this. The Trump era records were not returned to the government during the waning days of Donald Trump's presidency, despite a determination by his White House counsel, that would be Pat Cipollone, that they should be according to an email that the National Archives and Records Administration Chief Counsel Gary Stern sent to Trump lawyers in May of 2021.

So, the picture that is being painted by so much of the reporting out here is that they - many people around Trump, were aware that these documents needed to be returned. And yet, there was delay after delay after delay in actually doing that, to the point that we are at a subpoena.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. You know, and sort of the Trump team and his allies are essentially saying, you know, why did they go to these lengths finally, to get these documents. But come to find out, they were trying in a sort of easy pleading way for months and months and months to return these documents. They initially knew that there were papers like, you know, the letter that Obama gave to Trump when he came into office, that Kim Jong Un letter as well.

But then, of course, they found out there were many more classified documents. And so, time after time, Trump, possibly believing that these documents actually belong to him and not to the American people, not to the U.S. government, held onto them and refused these multiple attempts to get these documents, until finally you had what they want to call the FBI raid, which really was a search and recovery effort.

And listen, they're going to try politically to make this about, you know, the FBI overstepping a reckless Biden administration of politicizing the Justice Department. But in fact, they kind of treated, you know, Trump almost with kid gloves for months and months and months and months, until the FBI intervene.

PHILLIP: And you know, who made that very point, Andrew McCarthy, who is a - very much not and never Trumper. This is a publican lawyer who writes in the national review that given that the former president was not responsibly securing the government's most closely held intelligence, that he was trying to prevent the FBI from examining what he'd returned, and his lawyers were either misinformed or lying about the classified information still retained at Mar-a-Lago, and that even the issuance of a grand jury subpoena had not succeeded in getting Trump to hand off the remaining classified information.

What options short of a search warrant would have sufficed? And he also goes on to say, the Biden administration really slow walk this whole thing, which actually brings us to the next question, which is President Biden, and the White House not really wanting to touch this with a 10-foot pole? Take a listen to Biden, yesterday when asked about this rate?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, how much advance notice that you have of the FBI's plan to search Mar-a-Lago?

JOE BIDEN, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRESIDENT: I didn't have any events, notice none, zero, not one single zero.



YASMEEN ABUTALEB, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER. THE WASHINGTON POST: This is this is a really politically difficult issue for President Biden. I mean, not least because there is a not insignificant chance that President Biden and former President Trump end up running against each other in a couple of years. And so, he doesn't want to make it look like he is weaponizing his Justice Department or he sent the FBI or the Justice Department at his direction to go execute this search, which you know, Trump is already claiming is politically motivated, and a witch hunt and getting his supporters really worked up.

President Biden wants to make clear that he is, you know, as you said, standing with a 10-foot pole away from the Justice Department. This is Merrick Garland's call. This is the FBI's called. The president has no part in this. And I think really, it's mostly downside for him if it looks like he is involved in any way and that's why you saw the day after the search became public. His press secretary came out and said no, the president had no advance warning. They've been pretty consistent in wanting to make clear the president has no involvement in this.


PHILLIP: There is more, I think, to be learned about what involvement they had to have because of the nature of this situation. But everyone standby, we've got to get to a developing story out of Ukraine now about anxiety, about a potential catastrophe at Europe's largest nuclear plant. Let's get to CNN's Sam Kiley, who is in Kyiv. Sam, so what is behind these elevated concerns of some kind of accident at this plant?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest concern regarding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant relates to a Ukrainian confirmation of Russian claims that the one and only power line to the nuclear power station that is still functioning was cut. Now that is potentially catastrophic. The Russian say it was cut as a result of a fire and the result of the fire was caused by shelling, both sides blame each other for the shelling.

But the consequences of cutting power to this nuclear power station means that the cooling system would then have to rely on diesel backup generators. And if they failed, you get a nuclear meltdown of the light kind we've seen in the past in Chernobyl. That is the ultimate doomsday scenario.

Mercifully, this power line was restored pretty rapidly. The Russian authorities say, and now the power is being supplied, and indeed Zaporizhzhia was supplying power back into the Ukrainian grid. But there remain allegedly Russian plans to actually cut that route of power supply and move it into Russian controlled networks. And if they did that again, Ukrainian authorities are saying it risks a meltdown, if there was a failure on these diesel generators.

And in the last couple of days, we've also spoken to the head of the Ukrainian nuclear power organization here in Ukraine. He says the other problem is that, as far as he's aware, the Russians are storing trucks inside the nuclear power station very close to the reactor inside the turbine oil hall. And they are believed to be explosives on those trucks, if they were to catch fire or cause an explosion again, a meltdown could follow. Abby?

PHILLIP: A very dangerous situation and an important story. Sam Kiley, thank you so much. And up next for us. Today new restrictive laws banning abortion take effect in three states. We'll take a look at the post-roe landscape heading into the midterms.



(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIP: This week, abortion access could be limited for millions of women across the country in Idaho, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas, so called trigger laws will take effect, meaning that abortion will be restricted. However, in an Idaho district court yesterday, a judge temporarily blocked the state's abortion ban in cases where it conflicts with the federal standard of emergency care.

As written, Idaho's ban only includes exceptions for an abortion when a pregnant woman may die, not if she could suffer other serious health risks. Now the White House praises the ruling saying in part, Americans across the country and of all backgrounds agree that women should have the right to make their own personal healthcare decisions and to receive lifesaving medical care without interference from politicians.

My panel is back with me. Now, this is just the tip of the iceberg of what the next few months and years could look like. But the Idaho case reminds me very much of this viral video, frankly, of a South Carolina state House Representative discovering, what some of these unintended consequences could look like, listen?


NEAL COLLINS, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA STATE HOUSE: First, she's going to pass this fetus in the toilet. She's going to have to deal with that on her own. There is a 50 percent chance, greater than 50 percent chance that she's going to lose her uterus. There's a 10 percent chance that she will develop sepsis in herself die. That weighs on me. I voted for that bill. These are affecting people.


PHILLIP: I've said it before. And I'll say it again, the problem now from a political perspective for Republicans is that the reality of these laws, some of them trigger laws that were put in place thinking Roe v. Wade will prevent them from going into effect, those realities are starting to really sink in for Americans.

ABUTALEB: Absolutely. And I think also for Republicans, the Kansas referendum was a huge wake-up call that many Americans including and deep red states do not support these massive restrictions on abortion. And I think the other complicating factor here is, these laws are really complicated and there's a patchwork. So, you know, what's allowed in Idaho was different than what's allowed in Texas, even though they both have extremely restrictive trigger laws that have gone into effect today.

So you know, I think you're going to hear more of the stories of women who have some kind of complication and don't have a viable fetus, who needed medical attention, who didn't receive it, because a provider didn't know if they were in compliance with the law or whether they would be prosecuted, because a lot of these laws actually go after abortion providers pretty severely if they provide, you know, unlawful abortions, and it's actually unclear what falls into that category. So, I think we'll start to see more of that. PHILLIP: The one of the things, though, that is also problematic is that the momentum here for Republicans, right, is that the momentum here is clearly in the Democrats direction. If you take a look at some of the recent polling, the question being abortion is very important for my vote. That number has gone from 40 percent in July and August to 56 percent - July and August of 2020 to 56 percent in August of 2022. That's a huge shift. You don't often see those kinds of shifts in politics.


CLAUDIA GRISALES, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, NPR: Right. I think the Kansas example is a great one in terms of seeing how energized voters are when we're seeing some of these primary races that also include amendments as we saw in Kansas, trying to push further on these restrictions and having voters come out and say no, that's not the direction we want to go in even in some of these deep red areas.

So, this is a trend that we could continue to see throughout the country, especially as these trigger laws take effect slowly across the country. Voters are getting informed and saying, that's not the direction I want to go in at least we look at the majority. So, a lot is at stake here for Democrats, they've energized a lot of their voters and Republicans, yes, are looking at the impacts, the negative impacts of those that will be affected by these laws inadvertently, that they did not see coming.

HENDERSON: Yes. Listen, I think Republicans really wanted that case of the Ohio girl who was raped to not be true, because it was a devastating story. The idea that she had to travel to another state to get an abortion, I think you're going to see that time and time again in states. Maybe it's a 15-year-old girl who you know, was having sex with her 15-year-old boyfriend and now she's pregnant. And she doesn't want to keep the baby because she's a sophomore in high school.

So, I think you're going to see that happen again and again. Democrats didn't really know how to fight the abortion, sort of culture war for years and years. I think they found their footing. They found some language around it. You saw that in the special election, a race where it was about freedom, right? And you saw that he was able to win that race, a district that Biden won, but he was able to do a little bit better.

So definitely the Democrats, the wind is at their back because this is affecting real people. Republicans, Democrats, independents, men and women, obviously, but men as well, who don't necessarily want to be saddled with the economic burden of a child.

PHILLIP: Yes. It was very difficult for Democrats to figure out the messaging for years because Roe was there. But with Roe gone all bets are off, everyone standby for us just in the CNN confirmation now that the Justice Department has formally filed a proposed redaction for the Mar-a-Lago affidavit with the federal judge. Government lawyers filed the response under seal.

But CNN's Katelyn Polantz is back with us with more details. Katelyn, what's the latest on that?

POLANTZ: Well, Abby, we did see this come into the docket. And then very soon after the Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley, said that this submission has been made under seal to the court in the Southern District of Florida. The Justice Department respectfully declines further comment as the court considers the matter. That is what Coley said.

And one thing that is clear about this Justice Department under Merrick Garland is the policy is that they speak through court filings. We don't know what this court filing says. The judge is going to look at it. It's going to ultimately be up to the judge what the public sees what the Trump team sees, and what details might be revealed about this ongoing investigation. But Abby, for now, we wait.

PHILLIP: We wait. Thanks for bringing that to us, Katelyn. And coming up next, critics and supporters are in full voice over President Biden's move to cancel some student loan debt. We will sift through the noise to break down what you need to know next.




PHILLIP: New fractures at a Goldilocks problem on canceling student debt for President Biden. Many Democrats think it's the pre midterms boost that they need. But progressives, they still want more. And some Republicans say any relief is going to make inflation worse. Biden was pressed by reporters yesterday on concerns that his plan isn't fair.


PRES. BIDEN: It was fair for people who in fact, do not own more than a billion-dollar businesses there. I see one of these guys get more access, is that fair? What do you think?


PHILLIP: Elliot Williams, is back with us here at the table. This is going to be - it seems like and actually I have to say, I'm a little surprised by how vehemently Republicans have pushed back on this. But this is going to be both a political battlefield and a legal battlefield. So, the question is, is it legal? I want to do this, and you are the man to answer that?

WILLIAMS: Well, here's a good way to put it. Remember when Bill Clinton said it depends on what the meaning of the word is, is this content? No, but in a different context. This might come down to if there's any definition of the word any literally, there's a law from 2003 that says the secretary of education can take any waiver or - waive or modify any provision of student loan repayment, you know, regulation right.

Now, that's pretty broad, and he has very broad authority under the law. But it's open to being challenged. That's number one. Number two is, who actually files the lawsuit? You have to have been harmed legally in order to file a lawsuit. Now the question is, is that borrowers, is that loan processors like Sallie Mae, is it states and each of these parties has a complicated path to being able to file a lawsuit? So, it's going to be very tricky. I assure you there are very smart, very high paid lawyers right now prepping very serious legal challenges to all of this. It's going to be a long time.

PHILLIP: Yes. And the other part of this is, he is using this COVID state of emergency to justify it. The courts have also weighed in on other kind of COVID era emergency restrictions. Is that going to be a good battlefield for the Biden administration?

WILLIAMS: It's a very important battlefield because that any waiver modify language, is if there is a national emergency. Now look, President Trump declared a national emergency in March of 2020. So, there is one.