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Inside Politics

Judge Grants Special Master To Review Seized Mar-a-Lago Documents; Biden Starts Final Midterm Sprint With Stops In PA, WI; Abortion A Driving Issue For Michigan Voters; Poll: Biden Wins In 2024 Matchup Vs Trump; Trump Calls Biden "An Enemy Of The State" For Slamming MAGA GOP; Poll: Trump's Favorability Rating Trails Biden; Trump Rally Highlights Jan 6 Case Of Alleged Nazi Sympathizer. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 05, 2022 - 12:00   ET



KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But really, we're going to have to see how quickly the judge moves here and what kind of the deadlines she may or may not impose once the special master is set up, Boris?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR AT THIS HOUR: Again, this just into CNN. Kara Scannell, thanks for walking us through it. We have a lot to read through, so we appreciate the update. Again, an attorney ruling that a third party from outside the government will be brought in to review the documents that the Department of Justice seized from former President Donald Trump's residence at Mar-a-Lago. It has enormous implications for the investigation.

We'll of course, keep you updated with the very latest. We appreciate you watching At This Hour. I'm Boris Sanchez. I'm going to turn it over now to John King with Inside Politics. Thanks for joining us.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your Labor Day with us. The midterm sprint starts now. Joe Biden touching down in Wisconsin, his Labor Day pitch then moves the Pennsylvania, another battleground state with critical midterm contests for Senate and for governor.

Plus, Donald Trump wants to shape the midterm stretch too. And that makes many Republicans nervous. Trump calls President Biden "an enemy of the state" and the FBI "vicious monsters." And the latest Trump rally features a woman who praised the January 6 rioters including, an alleged Nazi sympathizer.

And Labor Day climate extremes. Today, 50 million Americans are under heat advisories. 80 million under flood watch. Major cities bracing for another brutal reminder of climate crisis consequences. To the president on the campaign trail in a moment, but first, some important breaking news, just in about the federal case against Donald Trump.

A federal judge granting the former president's request for a special master, a third party to review the material the FBI took under search warrant from his Mar-a-Lago home. Let's get straight to our justice correspondent, Evan Perez. Evan, what do we know?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, Donald Trump and his legal team got a big, big, big victory today from this judge, Aileen Cannon, who has said that the Justice Department essentially has to stop using these documents that were for its investigation, these documents that were retrieved from Mar-a-Lago last month.

What she is saying, is that there is intelligence community review that can continue. But for the Justice Department investigation, they can no longer have access to these documents, while this special master does its review.

Just to remind people, the reason why we have this is the former president, his legal team waited about three weeks. And then they made this request to this judge to ask for this third-party lawyer to come in and review these documents. They say they don't trust the Justice Department. They don't trust the FBI to do this fairly.

Their chief issue is with the issue of attorney client privilege material, which the Justice Department, by the way, says is an issue and they already have a special team that is isolated about 500 pages of documents that they say could, could be part of this attorney client privilege issue.

But right now, the judge says, none of that matters. They're going to have someone else come in and essentially look over the shoulder of the FBI off the prosecutors to make sure that everything that should be removed is removed. So right now, what this means, John, is that, at least for now, there's a delay in this investigation

KING: At least for now a delay. Evan, standby. Let's bring our - your colleague CNN's Kara Scannell into the conversation as well. Kara, as Evan noticed, the judge gave both sides Trump's lawyers and the Justice Department till next week to come forward with a proposal now for how this special master process should work out. So, it delays, we don't know how long but it definitely delays the Justice Department investigative review of all those classified records taken from Mar-a- Lago. What else is important in this ruling?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. That's right. So, this will delay the review. And according to the filing, they'll have until Friday to come up with a list of candidates. And then that that begins this process. And what we've seen in other special master cases, is that the review can take several months. So, we're looking at what's potentially a lengthy delay in this investigation.

Now there would likely be a delay anyway, because of the midterm elections and DOJ policy of not taking any overt steps in a politically sensitive case, but it will slow down this review. And, you know, there are often disputes that have to be settled by the special master that can be appealed to the judge.

So, it's certainly going to, you know, really slow this down and limit the ability of the Justice Department to look at these 11,000 pages of documents that they picked up in the seizure at Mar-a-Lago. I mean, the judge also in this ruling, though, noting that, you know, she found that casting some doubt on the independence of the FBI filter reviews, saying that she thought that it did show harm.

And that was one of the reasons why she was granting Trump's request for a special master here, particularly when we haven't had special masters review executive privilege issues. So, certainly siding with Trump's team here, giving him this short-term victory in this investigation. John?


KING: Let's bring in additional perspective, the former federal prosecutor, Jennifer Rodgers. Jennifer, I was trying to read this ruling as quick as I could. It came out just before we came on the air. And to Kara's point judge Cannon here is rejecting the Justice Department's narrow view of executive privilege. The Justice Department view as Donald Trump is no longer president. He does not have executive privilege.

The judge here doesn't say he definitely does. But she says, it's an open question. It's not a closed case. And that should be explored. She also writes in the making the case for a special master. She says the investigation and treatment of a former president is of unique interest to the general public. And the country is served best by an orderly process that promotes the interest and perception of fairness. So, Judge Cannon saying, slowing down here is good for everybody. You made the point in a conversation last week that you thought this was out of bounds, what now?

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I still think that it's legally unjustified, John, because I don't think you can show irreparable harm. There's just never been a case where irreparable harm has been shown by being under criminal investigation. That's one of the key things that the Justice Department does, the executive branch does, is criminally investigate people. So, the notion that that can establish irreparable harm to me still says that this is a legally wrong decision.

On the other hand, you know, this notion that this is so extraordinary, and that she's granting it, because it's the former president. I think is sort of good news for the Justice Department because one of the problems with this was that it sets a precedent for other defendants down the road who say, hey, wait a minute, you've searched my stuff, I want a special master, even though it's not my lawyer's office, and there's no reason to believe a lot of privileges apply.

So, I think that that piece of it is good. And I also think there's a little bit of a silver lining here in the sense that I don't think that ultimately there are going to be a lot of privileged documents found very, very few attorney client privilege documents.

And even on the executive privilege side, executive privilege would only pertain if documents were created in the executive branch really at the White House. And so many of these documents are going to have been created other places. So, while it does delay things and slow it down, which of course, is bad for DOJ in their case, I think at the end of the day, we're not going to see a lot of documents pulled by the special master.

KING: As we wait the process before we move on, Kara, Evan, just jump in. We obviously had some questions partly unfair, because this just happened. And we're waiting for Justice Department reaction. But do we have any indication, any reporting that suggests, you know, the judge had leaned in, saying she was likely to do this. With the Justice Department trying to appeal this, tried to fight this at a higher court? Or will they eat the ether piece, if you will?

PEREZ: Yes, I mean, I think Kara was in court last week, during some of this. And one of the things that we heard from the Justice Department is that they asked specifically for the judge to structure her ruling in a way that they can appeal it. So, we'll see what happens in the next few days. Because, you know, as Jennifer points out, you know, this issue of executive privileges is sort of just a strange one, right? Because it's never been fought over in something like this.

And so, we don't know where the courts are going to end up with this, John, and certainly, we don't know, you're just going to have to go all the way to the Supreme Court before we even are able to move on. I don't know what else Kara might have some thoughts on that.

SCANNELL; Yes. I mean, I think to whatever its point with the Justice Department prosecutors in court yesterday or last week, were saying they wanted this in a way that it was something that they could potentially appeal. They didn't say that they would definitely do. So, I think part of that would depend on the contours of this order that just came down moments ago.

You know, one of the issues that DOJ said quite firmly in the hearing was that, you know, the former president has no claims of executive privilege here. And they really argued strenuously that there was no grounds for the judge to do this at all. So, you know, now that this essentially gives Trump the win that he wanted and enjoins their investigation. Yes, we're just waiting to see how DOJ is going to formally respond here.

KING: We will wait and come back if we get any word during this hour. Kara Scannell, thank you. Evan and Jennifer will join us a bit later on another topic in the program. Let's move on to politics now. Goodbye summer. Hello to the final stretch of a hugely consequential and fluid, very fluid midterm election season.

Labor Day marks 64 days out from the November vote. We enter those final nine weeks with more and more indicators of a toss-up midterm election climate. President Biden landing in Milwaukee just moments ago, where he will attend labor fest. It's one of two big Biden holiday events today. Pennsylvania is stopped too. It's the president's third visit there in a week, two swing states Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, two certain 2024 battlegrounds, two tug of war midterm prices with crucial races for governor, for Senate and more.

Let's get straight to Milwaukee, CNN's Omar Jimenez on the ground, awaiting the president. Omar, what do you know? OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, at this point, people are starting to fill in as we expect the president to speak next hour. As you mentioned, he has landed here in Milwaukee. And the White House says, his message is going to center on celebrating the dignity of American workers on this Labor Day, which is again apropos here to labor fests, a festival put on by unions, various ones represented here.


But of course, Wisconsin is a state that President Biden won by just a little more than 20,000 votes back in 2020, and of course when you translate that to the midterms, you look at the tightly contested Senate race here between Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes and the incumbent Senator Ron Johnson.

No word on if Barnes will appear with President Biden. His campaign generally said that Barnes will be out and about, but we do expect Governor Tony Evers to be here. He of course, is in his own gubernatorial race for reelection here in this state.

Once President Biden finishes here, he'll head on to Pennsylvania where of course there are other tightly contested races for Senate with John Fetterman, trying to get that - not that seat there, along with Josh Shapiro trying to get the governor seat as well, all as part of a day whereas you mentioned, John, this is the beginning of crunch time leading up to November 8, that'll be here before we know.

KING: A crunch time. Omar Jimenez on the ground in one of the most critical states in that crunch time. Omar, thank you so much. Let's bring the conversation in the room with me to share their reporting and their insights, Francesca chambers of USA Today, Zolan Kanno- Youngs at the New York Times, and Politico's Marianne LeVine.

So, let's just look at the climate. If you were at this table, let's say before the Dobbs decision in late June. We'd be talking about how big of a red year? How big? Is it a ripple? Is it a wave? Is it a tsunami? Now look at where we are. Generic ballot race for Congress. Wall Street Journal poll last week.

If you go back to March, Republicans had a three-point lead, who you going to vote for when you cast your ballot for Congress? If you look at today, the Democrats have a three-point lead. Is that enough to keep control of the House? Probably not. But look at the trajectory. If it keeps going up like that, maybe it is, then you come over to the issues terrain, and this is where it gets interesting.

Republicans have an advantage on the economy. Republicans have a significant advantage on crime. Republicans have an advantage on inflation. Democrats have a giant advantage on abortion. The Dobbs decision has changed the terrain. The president would argue - President Biden would argue the return of Donald Trump questions about democracy of well. Listen to the vice president United States in Boston a short time ago, this is about abortion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT UNITED SATES: We must recognize there are those who are fighting to drag us back. In Congress, in state houses across our nation, extremist, so called leaders are fighting to turn back the clock.


KING: We are just in a very uncertain moment at this Labor Day, where if you look back to June, even July, you didn't think so.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: And the VP appearing in Boston, which by the way, is an important media market for New Hampshire, which has a very important Senate race on the ballot this year. So, you can see that the president and vice president are in full swing in terms of campaigning.

But when you look at that issues poll that you pointed out, it's true. Republicans have a significant advantage when it comes to issues like inflation. But the question is what's going to be a bigger driver to the polls. The Wall Street Journal survey also showing that abortion rights is actually a bigger driver for voters than actually, the economy, and inflation at this current point in cycle.

KING: And we're talking, the president is in Wisconsin, and then to Pennsylvania today, in the middle there is Michigan. Another one of the huge presidential battlegrounds always close, critical this year again, races for governor, Democrats think there'll be OK in the Senate race there, but we'll see.

Secretary of State rates could be hugely important to counting votes in next election. The governor's race is Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic incumbent, Tudor Dixon the Republican nominee, who has said she's 100 percent prolife. That's what she said, she's beginning, there's some indications she might rather identify. She was out there at the state fair. Listen closely.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Has abortion ever been an issue that has driven your vote before?


BASH: It's new this year?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People who are more so in the middle, like my mom, they will be more so pushed to vote for people who are going to protect their reproductive rights.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I could not have said that better myself.

BASH: Do you like Tudor Dixon?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I did, everything except the abortion issue. But they - it seems like she's - you're going to be more liberal with that abortion situation.


KING: Real voters, real Republican leaning voters, that proved to you the data we are seeing, whether it's in the polling, whether it's in the dramatic increase in voter registration, particularly among women, that this issue, that issue more than anything else has changed the campaign dynamic.

MARIANNE LEVINE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes. And it's clear that Democrats definitely see this as a winning issue for them. I mean, you're seeing Mandela Barnes really attack Ron Johnson on this issue in Wisconsin. We're seeing Fetterman make the pitch that he will be the vote to get rid of the filibuster when he comes - if he's elected to the Senate in Pennsylvania.

So, the data definitely shows that there is a lot of motivation for Democratic voters to come out. Now, whether that outweighs the concerns about the economy, which has historically been a very big driver for voters. I think we don't quite know yet.


KING: And the president is always the north star in a first midterm election, just is, now he wants to make the choice smartly. The president's trying to make it, you know, Donald Trump's threat to democracy, a lot of on Trump supporters a threat to democracy. So, you look at the strength of President Biden, his approval rating is up, it's still historically low but it is up.

It's trending again, just like the generic ballot, you want to be going that way. You want to be going up, heading toward election day. We'll see if it continues to go up. This is one interesting thing for me. So, for the Wall Street Journal poll, if you go back to November, in a hypothetical 2024 matchup, it was essentially tied. Biden and Trump essentially tied. In March, it was tie.

Now, again, Biden's numbers are going up. You could argue, Republicans will argue they're still relatively weak, but he's trending in the right direction with nine weeks to go.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: He isn't, it's coming as there's is now almost a recalculated messaging strategy from the White House that really dates back planning wise to early this summer. And that's looking at the Dobbs decision. Framing language around, not just abortion rights, but also the removal of a constitutional right.

And putting that under the umbrella of as you were saying, this choice is not a referendum on my administration. That's the intention by the White House to try and make this not a referendum on their record, but more so a choice and a vote, basically, that signals if you're voting for the GOP, you're voting for the side of extremists. That is the messaging coming out of the White House right now.

The challenge here and the tricky thing is going to be one balancing with also celebrating and talking about a recent slate of legislative achievements. But also, can this message overcome real economic frustrations that still many Americans are facing.

KING: Right. And part of that is, I mentioned the president, the democratic numbers going up, do gas prices keep coming down. Do food prices start to come down nine weeks, nine very interesting weeks, and to your point the art of the segue. Up next. Donald Trump joins the midterm campaign debate, attacking law enforcement and sharing his rally stage with a woman who praises a January 6 rioter, who's an alleged Nazi sympathizer.




KING: More now and the important breaking news we shared with you at the top of the hour, a federal judge has said yes to a Trump legal team request for a special master. That's an independent third party to review the documents the FBI took using a search warrant, during last month's unprecedented search and seizure of Donald Trump's Mar-a- Lago home.

Our justice correspondent Evan Perez, back with us. Evan, we're still reading through this, trying to learn the context in the important details. What else do we know?

PEREZ: That's right, John. We're going through these documents here. And the judge really buys into a lot of what the former president was saying, with regard to bias and so on. She cites the swirl of allegations of bias. And she immediately that she says is part of the reason why that goes into why she has made the decision that she did.

One of the things that is interesting. However, we learned that the FBI sees among the items that they seize were medical and tax related information belonging to the former president. Now this as appears to be in a report that is still under seal that the Justice Department provided to the judge, describing the types of documents that they've already isolated, things that they this filter team was already isolating.

And it was about 500 pages in that, and it appears that among the items were some documents related to medical information and tax information, according to the judge, again, citing this is another reason why she was ruling in his favor. The other last thing I'll point out, she says, you know, even though maybe Donald Trump doesn't own these documents, it doesn't mean that he didn't have a right to possess them.

So that's an interesting wrinkle in the way she's describing all of this, again, some of this, she's still holding off on a final ruling on some parts of what the former president is asking, including, John, the idea that he should have all of his property returned.

KING: So still some questions. But I want to come back to what you just noted again, about the tax records and the medical records. The FBI, the Justice Department told the court that its filter team had separated those documents out, presumably correct me if I'm wrong, saying they're not covered by the search warrant, so they would be returned. But the judge still says, ha ha, that makes me suspicious. Therefore, I need a special master even though the Justice Department says it did exactly what it supposed to do.

PEREZ: Right, exactly. And keep in mind, the whole process, this filter team process is - the entire thing is set up so that a judge can review that, John, but she's not satisfied with that, she thinks a third party needs to come in to do a whole new review of the documents.

KING: Evan, we appreciate the hustle. We'll stay on top of this as we still await Justice Department reaction. And this yet another important development in the investigations involving Donald Trump happening, as the former president is also getting more busy trying to shape your midterm vote, and that has a lot of smart Republican campaign strategist, very nervous.

The former president held a big weekend event in Pennsylvania. It was his first rally since the FBI served its search warrant and remove those records we were just talking about from Mar-a-Lago. Trump spoke for two hours at the rally, lying again about the 2020 election results and adding new attacks on law enforcement and on President Biden.

The former president taking issue with the current president speech in Philadelphia last week, where Mr. Biden said Trump and "the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the foundations of our republic.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: Joe Biden came to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to give the most vicious, hateful and divisive speech ever delivered by an American president. He's an enemy of the state. You want to know the truth. The danger to democracy comes from the radical left, not from the right.


KING: Our great reporters back with me to discuss. When you talk to Republicans trying to win these races or governor's race, Senate race in Pennsylvania, some critical House races in Pennsylvania. We could move on to other states as well. What do they say the Republicans, the Democrats are thrilled, he's back? They think it helps them.


What are smart Republicans say, there's an argument that it's a midterm election, you want to turn out your base. Trump has a loyal base, especially in Pennsylvania. So, you could argue. If his people come out of the woodwork that's good. So, why are Republican so nervous? KANNO-YOUNGS: Some were trying to have it both ways, but I think the nerves come from the fact that especially when you talk to Republicans in Congress and are currently in office, there was an intention and kind of a real want to have this focus on the flaws of the current administration. Well, approval numbers of the current administration, the economic concerns that so many people are feeling right now.

But when you have now, the former president going and giving a speech like this, not only does it one feed into the messaging that the White House is putting out, that he is criticizing law enforcement, attacking the federal law enforcement apparatus, but it's also a distraction now from the current administration of White House. That's where some of the nerves are coming from when I talked to.

KING: And it's fascinating and in some ways, just uncharted territory to have a former president so active in the midterm campaign. It's normally about the current president, right? You saw, Joe Biden is not on the ballot, Donald Trump's not on the ballot, there are 435 House races that will determine who speaker, 30 plus Senate races, 30 plus governor's races, critical races for state legislature because of the abortion, politics and other issues, critical races for secretary of state because of election questions.

But if you look at the two top guys, if you want to say, the president and the former president, Donald Trump's net favorability rating is minus 19. Joe Biden's is minus eight. So, Joe Biden is in trouble underwater, but Donald Trump is deeper underwater.

LEVINE: Yes. And I think it's telling when you talk to Senate Republicans about the former president, they don't want to talk about him. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has consistently said, I'm focused on the future whenever he's asked about Trump.

Senator Ron Johnson, when I spoke to him before the recess, and asked, do you want the president to run - the former president to run for a second term. He said that's up to him. So, it's clear that Republicans don't view him as a winning person to be associated with as they're trying to win some these tough Senate races.

KING: And some Republicans are trying to make an issue of something Joe Biden, the president said in a private fundraiser. We talked about semi fascism - semi fascist elements in what he calls the MAGA movement, right. The White House has tried to say, he means Trump. And he means like Marjorie Taylor Greene, members of Congress officials, who they don't respect democracy. That's what the White House says.

The Trump team is trying to make it, he's insulting the millions and millions of Trump voters. Just when the Republicans think they could make this an issue, you judge somebody by the company, they keep, right. That's an old standard. Donald Trump allows to speak at his rally in Pennsylvania, Cynthia Hughes. We can show you her pictures.

She runs a support group for people charged in the January 6 attack on the United States Capitol. She says and spoke out in support of a man she says is her nephew. We don't know that that's true or not. His name is Timothy Hill, who Spinelli. You can see pictures here from the Justice Department case against Mr. Cuccinelli, not charged with any violent crimes.

But the judge in charge of his case wanted to keep him in prison, because of his things he has said, I'll say allegedly as said here, that he wished Hitler would have finished the job, antisemitic things, hateful things. How? Or how should voters process that that's who Donald Trump wants to speak at his rallies?

CHAMBERS: Optics are everything is, you know, in politics, John, and as you can see there, the former president United States has run into some issues with optics coming out of his rally this week. And at the same time, you also saw President Biden come into some criticism for optics coming out of his event this week, not comparing those two, but just saying that both President Biden and former President Trump are having some difficulties when it comes to optical issues that both could have avoided in the past week.

And I wanted to say something about the Pennsylvania Senate race. We were talking about, you know, both presidents being in the state of Pennsylvania this past week. Look, that race was already leaning democratic before either of them got to the state, we haven't really seen polling to see how either of them are going to have an effect in the state. But certainly, regardless of Joe Biden, regardless of Donald Trump, already leaning towards Democrats/

KANNO-YOUNGS: I was just going to say the is also the images that we saw there as well. And kind of the presence of individuals like that at a rally does also connect to a genuine concern in the White House when I talked to folks there as well. The current president is concerned about the level of extremism in the country right now.

Also, there's facts underlying that kind of describe the current environment. Just a reminder, Homeland Security and FBI is still saying that political rhetoric is still a prime motivating factor in potential political violence currently. So, you know, to have you know, that presence there, it is also indicative of a larger trend that's concerning across.

CHAMBERS: And certainly not something that again, Republicans want to be associated with well heading into the midterm elections.

KING: But to that point, that's the point I was just going to make this should not be about Democratic or Republican, this should be about decency. This should be about decency, and what we - any stage or platform that we might have in life, who we allow to share it. I would love to be reading you all the Republican statements saying, Donald Trump made a big mistake there that woman should not have spoken at that rally.