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Republicans Suggest DOJ Is Playing Politics With Search; Dem Charlie Crist Pleads For Cash In Florida Gov. Race; NASA Postpones Artemis Launch Due To Engine Issues. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 29, 2022 - 12:30   ET



TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: -- 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. So that's what I would like to hear not just from Senator Graham, of course, but for other leaders, those who are allied with President Trump, they respond to certain messages from certain individuals and those individuals could be speaking out right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And some of them also respond to what they're hearing from the voters back where they live in the sense that you had a conversation yesterday with the Republican governor of New Hampshire, who was a frequent Trump critic, not a fan of Donald Trump, has said publicly he thinks the party needs to move on from Donald Trump. Roy Blunt, is a Republican senator who was retiring, you would think that would give him a bit more freedom. Listen to the points they want to make about the search of Mar-a-Lago and whether the issue is Donald Trump, or transparency at the Justice Department.


GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): My biggest criticism and I think the concern of most of the country is where's the transparency, right? We want to see it. And one thing I was very aggressive about was saying, look, if you're going to take unprecedented action and raid a former president's house, well, you better have a strategy for unprecedented transparency.

SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): He should have turned the documents over and apparently had turned a number of documents over. George, what I wonder about is why this could go on for almost two years, in less than 100 days before the election, suddenly, we're talking about this.


KING: They want to talk about process, not about the former president physically taking some of the most highly sensitive documents to Mar- a-Lago.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. And I had to try to almost physically steer the conversation back to substance, which is about the fundamental question of was it appropriate for the former president to take what the Justice Department would a grand jury seem to agree with was inappropriate, taking of documents and some of the nation's top secrets that could be a potential security risk, maybe a huge security risk.

And the thing about the midterms, I think this is important to say both of them, they obviously were on the same page, maybe quite literally, we don't know. But when you look at the actual timeline of what happened, I said this to Governor Sununu, it's not as if DOJ woke up one day and said, oh, OK, we're going to go into the President's summer home or winter home and get the documents. No, this is after about 20 months of toing and froing and the President and his attorneys trying to stop them at every move. And even when they did give boxes, it turns out, it wasn't entirely everything he had.

KING: Right. But back to Lindsey Graham's analogy, imagine what Republicans would be saying if Hillary Clinton drew out for 18 or 19 months, the conversation about whether or not she should give back documents in her possession. Just imagine what they would say, just try to apply the same standard, which I know it's not that, it doesn't happen in today's Washington. But we're having a conversation about Trump and these documents. The FBI did raid, searched the president's home for these documents. And so you get this Republican signal worries about Trump in the midterms, because you can't -- normally a midterm election, and we'll see how this one turns out in 10 weeks is about the President in power.

Democrat or Republican, Joe Biden is a Democrat. Usually it's about the President in his party, the first midterm. Republicans seemed nervous, you see this from "The New York Times" story, few Republicans appeared on the major Sunday shows to defend the former president. Those who did indicated they'd rather be talking about almost anything else. It is the view of most Republicans that if Trump is in the news, it is bad for them at the ballot.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, you saw the White House tried to turn this into a contrast race, which is very difficult to do for the party in the White House by talking a lot about the Republicans, for example, Medicare plans, focusing on Rick Scott. But it's kind of turned just by the virtue of Trump being in the news so much, you know, a setting aside all the details and all the kind of the latest developments about what the Justice Department is doing. The fact that Trump is so out there with a news developments happening on that front almost every day has kind of at this points sort of turned almost into a contrast election, which is again, very rare to do in a midterm, and whether it pans out and whether Republicans do not do as well in November, as was expected much earlier in the cycle.

Again, I still think it's too early to tell. But this is certainly a conversation that Republicans do not want to be having. They want to be talking about. They want to be talking about inflation, you know, grocery store prices, President Biden's policies and they aren't able to do that at this front.

KING: At this point in 2018, we had a pretty clear sense. At this point in 2010, we had a pretty clear sense. At this point in 2022, I'm not so sure, a lot of question marks heading in to the final 10 weeks, which we'll continue the conversation.


When we come back next, will it be a red ripple or a red wave? Maryland's Republican governor sees the ripple playing out in November including in key State House races.


KING: Ten weeks from tomorrow, we count your midterm votes, which means some big decisions are being made right now about who gets the attention and the generosity of major political donors. Florida's Democratic nominee for governor is waving his hand and warning donors will live to regret it if they don't flood him with money.

Democrat Charlie Crist is running against incumbent Republican Ron DeSantis who is considered a likely if not definite 2024 presidential candidate if he wins reelection this year. Governor DeSantis has a reported war chest of some, get this $132 million. Crist spent most of the 14 million he has raised so far to win the Democratic primary. A Florida based Democratic fundraiser telling CNN quote, Charlie has a better chance of getting a large check from the tooth fairy under his pillow than he does from national donors. Adding, I think their focused on winnable seats.


Our reporters, some who had a chuckle with that quote are back with us. It's fascinating because if you are a prominent Democrat, Ron DeSantis has emerged as a somebody to worry about, a threat. He's very popular in the state. He's very popular with the Trump base.

Maybe you don't think he can win national, but you would think that they would say, all right, let's help Charlie Crist. But here's one of the issues, Democrats are trying, you look at these red seats, the Republican races, Democrats think maybe we can flip Arizona. Democrats think Tia Mitchell, maybe we can flip Georgia, there's Charlie Crist get ignored, because that's viewed as a tougher state or is it, let's try to get Ron DeSantis?

MITCHELL: Yes, I mean, I think Charlie Crist, I don't, you know, don't hate on his method for trying to raise money, because in a way he is right. You know, Ron DeSantis's star is rising on the Republican Party. And one way to stop him is if you keep him from winning reelection. That being said, Florida is a pretty red state right now. And as you mentioned, there are states that are more winnable. And I think that the National Democratic Party is saying, listen, we don't have enough to give every -- we want you to win, but we're going to probably put our resources in seats that are a little bit more winnable, more of our swinging your states and that's just the truth of the matter.

KING: If you're a question mark like that, to the big donors, you have a couple of weeks essentially, to have some polling come out to show you're actually credible, and then maybe they take another chance. You look at Florida, and one of the things Donald Trump did in Florida was cut in among the Latino votes make, inroads among Latinos votes. Charlie Crist has picked for his running mate, Karla Hernandez-Mats. She's his Democratic pick for lieutenant governor, head of the Teacher's Union, Miami Dade County, which is where a lot of the Latinos who switched from Democrat to Republican in 2016 and 2020 from 2016 to 2020, 2010, Teacher for the Year, Vice President of the Teachers Union. That's the play there. Trying to make education, DeSantis has made education a huge issue, saying parents deserve more voice. Charlie Crist, picking a Teachers Union official there, you have a contrast. I don't know if it works. But you have a contrast.

KIM: I thought it was a really fascinating pick, because you're right, it does put educator -- that -- it does signal that Democrats think education couldn't be a winning issue for them in Florida, but Republicans have felt pretty optimistic about education in the last couple of years. Obviously, Glenn Youngkin in Virginia campaigned on keeping schools open, credit a lot of that to his victory in Virginia and winning back that governor's mansion from Democrats. DeSantis clearly sees education as a winning issue for them. So who is right at the end of the day, it will be really interesting to see.

KING: All right, and all, most Democrats, I shouldn't say all Democrats, most Democrats are also going to campaign heavily on abortion. Let's come back to that Georgia race, again. It's Brian Kemp, the Republican incumbent versus Stacey Abrams. She told NPR this. We're not a hyper conservative state. We're a divided state, but that division disappears when you look at what's happening around the issue of abortion. I'm not sure if I would agree disappears. Now, but she is testing the idea that a lot of suburban Republicans or at least former Republicans and independents who might be inclined in Joe Biden's first midterm to vote Republican now in the Dobbs world, not Roe world I might say.

BASH: Stacey Abrams campaign changed dramatically when Dobbs happened. She's very open about it in terms of what she talks about how her campaign is operating, that she believes that she has a much better chance because of the anger about abortion in Georgia. And you talk about the differences of different campaigns in different states go back to Tim Ryan in Ohio. He's barely talking about abortion, because that doesn't play for Democrats as well, in a state like Ohio, where he thinks the best path to win is through the working class, who think that maybe the Democrats had forgotten them there. It just shows these candidates have to know their constituents who they hope to be their constituents right now, their voters. And in Georgia, clearly they believe it's about abortion, other places, not so much.

KING: And so again, it gets back to the point where a lot of question marks tomorrow is 10 weeks to Election Day. This is Larry Hogan. I want you to listen to him here. He's the Republican governor of Maryland, but he's a more moderate centrist Republican governor, again, not a fan of Donald Trump. And he says that if you go back a few months to today, he sees a very different, less promising environment for Republicans.


GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): But we could blow it by nominating unelectable people. And that's exactly what's happening across the country and why the wave is going to be more of a ripple rather than a tidal wave. What Mitch McConnell is saying there -- we may not win the Senate. It's why we were hoping to pick up seats and governor's races and now we're not. It's why the margin in the House is so much smaller.


KING: Do we know this to be true or is this Democrats legitimately feel better when you talk to Democrats, they feel better, because gas prices are down because they've passed some things they think go home and sell to the American people. Republicans are trying to say, well, maybe we might just take the House. How much of this is spin and how much of it is fact?

KIM: Democrats legitimately do feel better. You know, President Biden's approval ratings have ticked up a little bit but they still have ticked up somewhat. And as you know, the Maryland Governor appoints out in key races for governor's mansions and Senate races, Republican voters have nominated people who may be -- who may have find it difficult to win in a general election. Now I think because Republicans only have a small handful of seats to pick up in the House, they still feel favored to win the house by the end of the day. But I think in -- but I think a key Senate races, especially governor's mansion, it seems more like a coin flip than it did before.


BASH: As Joe Biden says, it's not between me and the Almighty. It's between me and the alternative. And that's what Democrats are banking on what Larry Hogan just said about these Republican candidates that they even some Republican and independent voters don't think that they represent the mainstream of the GOP, nevermind the states and districts.

KING: Seventy-one fascinating and very, very consequential days ahead.

Up next for us, we shift to the global stage, the latest and the critical Ukraine flashpoint shelling dangerously close to Europe's largest nuclear power plant.



KING: Live pictures there at the Launchpad, Kennedy Space Center, Florida which tells you NASA's long awaited Artemis I lunar launch was scrubbed. Technical issues blamed for that delay today, new launch window set for Friday. Today was supposed to be the first in a series of tests designed to get astronauts back on the moon for the first time in 50 years. CNN's Kristin Fisher has been following all of this from the Kennedy Space Center. Kristen, what went wrong?

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: There was a problem with one of the main engines that powers the rocket, we're still trying to figure out if this is a big problem, or a quick fix that they can make at the pads. So that's the big question right now is, is NASA going to try again on Friday or Monday? Or are they going to have to roll this entire rocket back to the vertical Assembly building for bigger, more intensive repairs? But, you know, this was always built to be a test flight. And that's something that NASA Administrator Bill Nelson really tried to hit home in his first remarks after the scrub. Listen here.


BILL NELSON, NASA ADMINISTRATOR: We don't launch until it's right. I think it's just illustrative that this is a very complicated machine, a very complicated system. And all those things have to work. And you don't want to light the candle until it's ready to go.


FISHER: And we should be getting some hard answers about what exactly went wrong at NASA's first post scrub press conference at the top of the hour. And John, one more thing since this is inside politics, you know, Vice President Kamala Harris did come down here as the head of the National Space Council to see this launch. She was supposed to deliver remarks, but those were scrubbed, given the fact that the launch was scrubbed. But fascinating that, John, this is one of the very few things that has survived the presidential transition from the Biden administration, or the Trump administration to the Biden administration, John.

KING: One of my favorite moments as a child watching the Moon landings, fingers crossed for Friday, Kristin, fingers crossed for Friday. Appreciate the live report from Kennedy Space Center.

Let's move on to global stage now. International inspectors say they will head to Europe's largest nuclear plant this week amid massive wartime safety concerns. City officials in Zaporizhzhia, get this, now handing out iodine pills to residents as fears rise over a potential nuclear accident. Overnight, at least nine people were killed when a nearby town was shelled. Meanwhile, the former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko telling CNN, a counter offensive is now underway in the Russian held south. CNN's Sam Kiley has the latest.

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has confirmed that an offensive is currently underway in the south along the southern battlefields predominantly in Mykolaiv and Kherson provinces. And this is because clearly their target is going to be the city of Kherson which sits not only on the Dnipro but at the head of a canal supplying water to Crimea, which the Ukrainians cut in 2014.

Kherson was among the first targets, first cities captured by the Russian so it's clearly a very, very important strategic location. This is also a very important moment for Ukraine. Just over six months into the war, they've been talking a lot about a counter-offensive. My colleague Jim Sciutto says that his sources are describing these early stages as what they call the shaping operations going after command and control systems, air defenses, and so on. But we're also hearing anecdotally on the ground from soldiers that a number of small villages may already have been captured as the Ukrainians tried to get on the front foot in this war. And all that is coming at a time when the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station remains itself on the front line, the United Nations saying that it is hoping to get inspectors into that location with the agreement of the Russians and the Ukrainians in the next few days.

Sam Kiley, CNN, in Zaporizhzhia.


KING: Up next for us, a Republican governor demands an apology from President Biden over comments describing the MAGA philosophy as quote, semi fascist.


KING: Topping our political radar today, President Biden heading to Wisconsin and Pennsylvania next Monday Labor Day to celebrate the holiday, the President planning to make stops in Milwaukee and in Pittsburgh. Apologize, that's the message Republican Governor Chris Sununu has for the president. In a meeting with Democratic donors last week, you'll recall the president suggested quote semi fascism was the reason some Republicans support the former President Donald Trump. On CNN, Governor Sununu accused the President of fueling divisiveness.


SUNUNU: He's trying to stir up this anti-Republican sentiment right before the election. It's just -- it's horribly inappropriate. It's insulting. And people should be insulted by it and he should apologize.


KING: This coming Friday. The Biden administration says it will end a government program offering free at home COVID tests. The White House wants to continue that programming posting on its website though Congress has not approved additional funding to replenish the supply of those tests.


This quick programming note, you do not want to miss. They risked their lives to bring us the biggest headlines from around the world, No Ordinary Life. A new CNN film shares the remarkable story of five female photo journalists. It premieres next Monday at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Right here on CNN.

Appreciate your time today in Inside Politics. We'll see you tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.