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DOJ: Team Already Addressing Privilege Issues For "Limited Set" Of Material Found In Mar-a-Lago Search; Intl Community Assessing Potential Damage Of Mar-a-Lago Docs; Affidavit: Trump Docs Contained Info About Covert Operatives; Garland Faces Unprecedented Decision To Prosecute Trump; Census: Highest Rate Of Bachelor's Degrees In Northeast States; Poll: 54 Percent Of Voters Approve Of Biden's Student Loan Forgiveness Plan; Mar-a-Lago Search Puts GOP At A Crossroads Ahead Of Midterms; Graham Warns Trump Indictment Will Cause "Riots In The Streets". Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 29, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your busy news day with us. Damage assessment, the U.S. intelligence chief tells Congress a review is now underway to determine the national security impact of keeping top secret documents at Mar-a-Lago.

Plus, a critical mission. Nuclear watchdogs finally get access to Ukrainian power plant hot in the crossfire. And a new midterm campaign brawl over student loans. Republicans called the Biden forgiveness plan unfair and get this. Some Democrats agree.


SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): The president has done what he can do with the tool in front of him.

REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): And I think a targeted approach right now really does send the wrong message. There's a lot of people out there, making 30-40 grand a year that didn't go to college. And they need help as well.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): The truth is, in a sense, that criticism is correct, but the answer is not to deny help to people who cannot deal with these horrendous student debts.


KING: That debate in a moment, but up first for us today, a national security gut check now underway. The top U.S. intelligence official making an important disclosure over the weekend. Avril Haines the Director of National Intelligence informing Congress, government experts are now assessing if the classified documents kept at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago have compromised how the United States spies on its adversaries. One of the hard questions, if the 184 documents were unclassified markings and who had access to them potentially exposed confidential human sources. And just today a new filing from the Justice Department lawyers telling a federal judge, they've already identified potentially privileged documents in their review of items seized from the former president's home.

With me to share their expertise and their insights, CNN's Evan Perez, former federal prosecutor Shan Wu, and former director of communication for the U.S. National Intelligence, Shawn Turner. Evan, let's start with you in this new filing. Trump's lawyers were late well after the search went to court saying, hey, we want a special master to see if any of these materials are protected by attorney client privilege. The Justice Department already doing that. What did we learn today?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. The Justice Department notified the judge who was over the weekend at least notified everybody that she was at least preliminarily leaning in forward - leaning forward to towards possibly providing this kind of special master that the Trump team was asking for she was saying, essentially, you know, I think I'm going to do that.

But she's giving the Justice Department some time. The Justice Department coming in and saying, well judge, this is nice of you to say that, pretty unusual thing for her to do. But we already have a team that has been reviewing these documents. And according to them, they've already identified things that could have potential privilege issues and they've separated them out.

And there's already a procedure that was contemplated when the search warrant was approved by another judge to deal with these issues sheet. So, you know, I think the Justice Department is gently trying to tell the judge, you know, you don't need to butt in here because we already have a procedure in place.

KING: You have been on the inside as a prosecutor, you're on the outside now. What is the big issue here where the president's - former president's lawyer is too late in asking for this?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Absolutely, they're too late. I mean, not only on this bunch, but the previous bunch was already been reviewed by the FBI as well. I personally think that this judge should not be interfering in the criminal investigation. I think DOJ should fight this more vehemently. They're being very polite, very deferential towards it. But their point is well taken, which is this is too late. We are already looking at this material, and we've got a process in place to protect it.

KING: And so, let's move and review at home. It's easy to get confused, right? They were talking here now about this special master in the search warrant seized as part of a criminal investigation of those documents and how they were handled or mishandled at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago.

The director of National Intelligence over the weekend, told two key congressional committees, she is conducting her own assessment of where those documents removed from the White House taken to Mar-a- Lago, have they impacted. U.S. national security has nothing to do with the criminal investigation.

So, Shawn Turner, coming to this conversation, I want you to listen to her. This is Mary McCord, who is the former acting Attorney General for National Security. She has read everything that's been published about what was seized and she has these questions.


MARY MCCORD, FORMER ACTING ASST. ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Do we have confidential human sources who are in danger right now? Do we have intelligence collection methods that are in danger because they may be revealed to those foreign adversaries and others who should not know about them, which could mean we would need to change some of our intelligence collection practices. So, wholly apart from the criminal investigation, the national security implications of what was found at Mar-a-Lago are very significant.



KING: Shawn, how does it work and what is the significance of the DNI telling these congressional committees, yes, we are going to make this assessment?

SHAWN TURNER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATION FOR U.S. NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well John, first, I have to say that this is the right call by the Director of National Intelligence. Look, just like Mary said, it's really important that we understand the degree to which these documents have been compromised. And so, what's going to happen now is that you'll have a team of intelligence professionals who are assembled over the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

They will sit down and to the degree that they can understand what's in these documents. And I don't think they will have all those details, but to the degree that they can understand the substance of these documents, what they'll be looking at, is not only, you know, whether or not that information is critical information as it relates to sources of methods and ongoing intelligence activities. But they will also be very interested in what will really be a criminal side of this.

Look, if you're going to understand the vulnerabilities here, you will need to know who access these documents and under what circumstances. So, there will be, even though it's in the intelligence community, there will be an interest in understanding who went into Mar-a-Lago, where these documents were stored and when? So that we can understand whether or not those individuals would have interest in the substance of those documents.

I would want to be able to take a look at every digital device that's in that space. So, I can understand whether or not there have been copies made, or whether those documents have been given to someone else. So, a very complex, but the right thing to do.

KING: I don't know if this is a fair question based on the reporting. But do we know anything about the here? And now if you're conducting a national intelligence assessment of human sources overseas with compromised. Have activities overseas, maybe in the past, but the sources and methods used to conduct those, are those clues out there? Do we know anything about what's happening right now? Are there people being moved around the world, operations being impacted by this? Or is that all still hypothetical?

PEREZ: It's a bit of a hypothetical. I think a lot of that already, John, is happening. Because even, you know, when the Justice Department and when the FBI first went in to do the take a look at the 15, the original 15 boxes, right? That's one of the first things they did. They call the CIA, the NSA, and had them help look through these documents. So, some of this assessment that Shawn's describing is already ongoing behind the scenes.

This is a more formal process that I think that the committees on the Hill want to get briefed on. But that's the kind of thing you're talking about is exactly the issue. If you need to move someone out of a dangerous situation, because they're a source of the CIA, that person needs to be pulled out immediately. And same thing with the NSA's program.

KING: So, Shawn, a layman reading at home, including the anchor, even though I've spent years covering the White House and going through this. You read - I'm going to read some of the affidavit. I want you to help us through the alphabet soup of this because you understand the sensitivity more than others would because of your work.

The FBI agents observed markings reflecting the following compartments, dissemination controls: HCS, FISA, ORCON, NOFORN, and SI. Based on my experience, this is the affidavit the person, the agent filed the affidavit. I know the documents classified these levels typically contain NDI. Several of the documents also contain what appears to be the former president United States handwritten notes. When you see HCS, FISA, ORCON, NOFORN, what goes through your mind?

TURNER: So, what goes through my mind is that this is really a very serious situation where those documents should never have been taken out of a secure facility. HCS, we are talking about human intelligence control system. That necessarily means that on the other end of that intelligence, we're talking about a person, we're talking about people who may be helping the United States.

ORCON, another very important, very highly classified document, that's originator control, that means that the agency is responsible for controlling how that information is handled. NOFORN, that means that no one who is not a U.S. citizen with the proper access should be able to access that document.

So, when I see these markings, John, what that tells me is that, is that these are not your run of the mill classified documents that that we want to keep out of the public view. These are the most highly classified most sensitive documents. And again, it gets back to the basic question. Why are these documents in Mar-a-Lago and not insecure space inside a government facility?

KING: And so, trying to answer that question, Shawn, is the Attorney General of the United States and his team are very experienced national security, prosecutors looking at all of this. Shawn just laid out the stakes here and how these documents never ever should have left a secure government facility, let alone go to a hotel. Essentially, the former president lives in a hotel.

The New York Times puts it this way, the Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, now faces the prospect of having to decide whether to file criminal charges against a former president and likely 2024 Republican candidate, a step without any historical parallel, a decision to prosecute or to decline to prosecute has political implications that Mr. Garland cannot escape.

And no matter of judiciousness can change the fact he's operating in America as politically divided, as it has been a decade. Put yourself in that room. Well, based on what Shawn just explained about the stake of these documents, what's the decision for the Attorney General?


WU: Well, I think the importance of these documents with regard to the criminal investigation is it shows just how dangerous the exposure is. And that sense I like it to a strict liability standard for dangerous product. It's unreasonably dangerous to have them exposed. So, if I'm the attorney general, I know they're having some real serious white- knuckle meetings trying to decide this. You have to move forward with the investigation.

And if the evidence is leading towards sufficient evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt, even then you have to move forward with it. Because if you're too concerned with being political, you end up being political. And that's the dilemma facing.

PEREZ: Is what happened in 2016?

WU: Right, exactly.

KING: Exactly, what happened in 2016. And that parallel being brought up a lot. Gentlemen, thank you. We'll continue this conversation need to move on now, though, to some big news out of Georgia Governor Brian Kemp's grand jury appearance is now delayed until after the November election. That's 10 weeks from tomorrow.

The Republican incumbent was subpoenaed to testify as part of the Fulton County District Attorney's criminal investigation into the 2020 election and Donald Trump's effort to overturn the Georgia results, camp, tried to quash that subpoena altogether. That is a move the judge denied. Let's get to CNN's Sara Murray. She's live with the latest. Sara, what happened here?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Brian Kemp, the governor had been arguing that he had a sovereign immunity that he has governor should not have to show up and have to testify before the grand jury. The judge who is overseeing this grand jury in Georgia into this, this criminal investigation is not buying that. He said, look, all of these other state officials have showed up before the grand jury to testify and you're going to have to do the same.

But he also took pains to point out, look, I understand you're running for reelection. I don't want anyone. I don't want the district attorney. I don't want your opponent in this race, trying to use this appearance against you. And so, that was the reasoning for delaying his testimony until after the midterm election. And of course, this comes as there has been this flurry of activity surrounding the grand jury. South Carolina, Senator Lindsey Graham, has also been fighting an attempt to get his testimony before the grand jury.

The DA put in a court filing today, where they said they believe Graham is taking an extreme position and trying to quash the subpoena for his testimony. And they argue that he's trying to say that he essentially stands above the power to be questioned. So, we still don't have a final decision yet on whether Senator Graham doesn't have to testify before that grand jury, John?

KING: But a reminder with the Kemp decision, the coming election again 10 weeks from tomorrow. Could hit the pause button, not only this investigation we may see that elsewhere as well. Sara Murray, thanks so much. Next President Biden student loan forgiveness plan ignites a political battle within the president's Democratic Party.




KING: President Biden's new student loan forgiveness plan is exposing a telling divide in American politics, including within the president's own Democratic Party. Liberals pressured the president for months and months and months to wipe out college debt. And while they now praised the new White House announcement, many progressives say he could have done even more. But some Democrats are echoing the Republican criticism. There's a proposal helps people who have college degrees but does nothing for those who don't.

With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Dana bash, Seung Min Kim of the Associated Press, and Washington correspondent the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Tia Mitchell. You brought this up yesterday, I thought it was interesting. Tim Ryan, Democratic member of the House running an uphill race but a competitive race for the Senate this year in the state of Ohio, says Mr. President, no.


REP. RYAN: People were getting crushed with inflation, crushed with gas prices, food prices and all the rest. And I think a targeted approach right now really does send the wrong message. There's a lot of people out there making 30-40 grand a year that didn't go to college. And they need help as well. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: This, I want to show this map. This is not so much if you're a Democrat or Republican, although you see that divide, but this is about where you are. This is Ohio. The darker the color is the higher degree of college education in your state. Ohio is in the middle toward the starting on the backside. He has to campaign for the votes of a ton of blue-collar people with high school degrees who think this is unfair, where's my help.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And the reason he is in a competitive race, one that people didn't think would be as competitive. It is competitive for a lot of reasons. But this is one of them, because he's running on the kind of message that you just heard him make, not just on student loans, but more broadly, about trying to connect better with the working class as a Democratic candidate and as a Democratic leader.

And I asked him about that, just broadly, why are the Democrats? What are you doing, the Democrats aren't doing elsewhere? And he said just that, that we have to make people understand that we don't just appeal to those with college degrees. We don't appeal just to - he didn't say this, but the gist of it was the coastal elites. We are also going back to our roots, and that's why he is aggressively campaigning for those voters, this issue and another issue.

KING: And so, taking, it's not even a different view. If you listen, I'm going to play Bernie Sanders, the independent caucuses with the Democrats from Vermont. One of the progressives, who's for months and months and months have been saying, Mr. President, you need to do more to help here. He says, Tim Ryan's right. But if you can't help everybody, at least help somebody.


SANDERS: The truth is, in a sense, that criticism is correct. But the answer is not to deny help to people who cannot deal with these horrendous student debts. The answer is not to do what Republicans want to do. It's like all it's unfair to this person, because we're helping that person. The answer is maybe to create a government, which works for all people and not just for wealthy campaign contributors.


KING: He closes with the wealthy campaign contributors. But again, if you look here, I circled Vermont and Massachusetts. You see some other areas, do I'll come back to Massachusetts a minute. Vermont has among the highest college education rates in the country. So, at home, Bernie Sanders is on safe ground.


SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Exactly, exactly. And I think another interesting state there is Georgia, because it's not just - not all vulnerable Democrats, Senate Democrats are being critical. This proposal I think people forget that one of the most vocal proponents of canceling student debt is actually Raphael Warnock.

He is one of the senators who had met several times with President Biden, with Ron Klain to push for this. And I think he sees it as politically advantageous as his day because it is relatively more educated. He sees us as a base turnout election, helpful with black and young voters. But it does play differently and the different Senate races and it's really interesting to see the different tactics that candidates have taken.

KING: It depends almost where you're from as much as if not more than which party you belong to?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT. ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Yes. And it also, you know, there's a lot of nuances here that, of course, you know, when Republicans are attacking Democrats on the issue, they boil it down to college educated elites. But the truth is that a lot of the people with college debt didn't get degrees. And that's why that debt has saddled them so much, because they don't necessarily have the upward mobility to pay it off.

And of course, we know, there is a racial element to it. Black and brown families are going to benefit at a greater rate than white families. So that's another reason why it plays out well in Georgia, where candidates like Warnock need their base to believe in them and believe that they're doing what they promised they would do.

KING: And so, another progressives, the reason I circled Massachusetts earlier, when I circled Vermont, as well, as Elizabeth Warren, who says, look, we want the president to do a lot more, but we'll take what we can get.


SEN. WARREN: We have a lot of problems in the whole system. The president has done what he can do with the tool in front of him. And that is he's helped relieve the debt burden for millions of Americans. 20 million Americans woke up and said, for the first time in their adult lives, they will not owe student loan debt, another 23 million are going to be helped.


KING: Get her point. And again, Joe Biden changed his position on this during the presidential campaign. And then he thought about this for months and months and months, we finally get the decision now. Is this a coastal issue? Is it an urban suburban versus rural issue?

BASH: Kind of all the above. I think, maybe it is two things. It's geographic and it's also what you pointed out in that map, which is really fascinating, which it is by education, obviously, by definition, this is about student loan debt. So, it is by education, this issue does break along those lines.

But it's illustrative of a larger trend in politics right now, which is that Democrat and Republican are starting to fall on educational lines, as opposed to geographic lines and other areas that used to divide and define the parties. It is changing and education is one of them.

KING: And part of the challenge is, we are talking about this from an education standpoint. The president wants to push this from an achievement standpoint. Now it's another thing I have done for you as he goes out. He's going to travel more. Again, the midterm elections, we count the votes, a lot of people will vote early, but we count the votes 10 weeks from tomorrow.

Here is some recent polling, the CBS YouGov poll. The inflation Reduction Act 55 percent approve, 45 percent disapprove. The student loan debt relief plan 54 percent to 46 percent, similar numbers, which reflects the divided America. If you're the president, you're grateful you're above 50, that at least a majority. But if you want to in a midterm election year where the wind is in your face a bit, what's the plan to take those numbers up? Do they have one?

KIM: I think they say their plan is for President Biden to go out there and communicate his accomplishments, whether it is student loan relief or the Inflation Reduction Act, but a variety of things that he has done over his presidency. But whether that overcomes the voters' concerns and what Republicans are capitalizing on, which is the economy inflation, I think it's still - we're still waiting to see it.

KING: Well, we have 10 awesome weeks ahead of us, as we try to sort all this out. Up next, riots in the streets. That's what Senator Lindsey Graham predicts, if the Feds charged Donald Trump, with mishandling classified materials.




KING: Lock her up is giving way now to leave him alone. Donald Trump's most vocal allies, you will remember savage the FBI for its recommendation to not prosecute Hillary Clinton for sending emails with classified information through a private server at her home. But now that former President Trump is being investigated for more serious allegations, physically taking top secret documents to Mar-a-Lago when he left office, Trump allies see a double standard. Senator Lindsey Graham makes that point and as a prediction.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): If there's a prosecution of Donald Trump for mishandling classified information, after the Clinton debacle, which you presided over and did a hell of a good job. There'll be riots in the streets.


KING: The last part, riots in the streets, some could take that as just a statement of fact and observation. Some could take that Lindsey Graham and accomplished attorney in his own right, in the military system, as a message to Merrick Garland, think twice. MITCHELL: Yes. And it seemed like a message a warning. And I mean, I'm sure Senator Graham will say, he was just trying to let people know what he's hearing and what could happen. I'm more concerned. You know, we live through January 6, and one of the lessons we're supposed to have learned from January 6, is what do we do with these warnings? How do we try to prevent violence? How do those who can influence those who could be - those who are more prone to carrying out violence? How do you project to those people? Hey, don't do this, it's not right. That's not the way to do it.