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Inside Politics

Election Guidance Raises Dilemma For DOJ Probe; Liz Truss To Replace Boris Johnson As British Prime Minister; Ex-Police Officer Gets Record 10-Year Sentence Over Capitol Riots. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 05, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: 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 women should not have spoken at that rally. I would love to be reading all those statements to you. I don't have any.

Up next, the political calendar and the Department of Justice. There are two federal investigations of Donald Trump, one of Hunter Biden, what happens to them as we approach 60 days to the election.



KING: The Justice Department now on the midterm clock. We are 64 days from counting your votes, meaning this week we hit 60 days, an unofficial but important Justice Department benchmark.

The tradition is keep quiet about highly sensitive investigations that could impact how people vote. There are two investigations of Donald Trump underway by the Justice Department, one of presidential son Hunter Biden, highly sensitive is an understatement.

Evan Perez, Jennifer Rodgers are back with us. The former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe also joins us.

Let's start number one, just put up the calendar we hit 60 days on Friday. Let's start with Donald Trump. We know of two federal investigations. One is the federal investigation based here in Washington of the January 6 plot, overturning the election possible obstruction of the transfer of power.

Then we have the FBI investigation into the sensitive documents classified documents that Donald Trump took to Mar-a-Lago taken back in a search warrant, we talked earlier about a new special master.

Now, Jennifer Rodgers, let me start with you for Merrick Garland 60 days out does what to those investigations?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, he's certainly not going to charge anything. And honestly, the Justice Department doesn't seem close to charging the former president in either of those cases. Anyway, they've just recently executed a search warrant in the documents case, and January 6, also doesn't seem close to charging.

So I don't think that the DOJ guidance around not charging sensitive cases before an election impacts the investigations into the former president. I mean, I'm wondering, given the pace of these investigations, whether they'll run up against this in 2024. But certainly for this election, they're not going to be anywhere close to charging so it won't matter.

KING: And Andy McCabe, what if you're an FBI team assigned to that one of those two cases about Donald Trump? Do you do anything different? Or do you just make extra careful extra precautions that you're really quiet about it?

ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: Well, if you're an FBI team investigating either of these cases, you are chomping at the bit to go forward because that's what FBI teams do.

And so likely what they're doing is creating problems and awkward moments for DOJ. Ultimately, they will move forward under the guidance and at the direction of how DO -- taking steps that DOJ is comfortable with.

So investigation will go on. Witnesses will be contacted, many of them will be interviewed, some of them will be subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury, which is a process that on the government side anyway, typically stays absolutely quiet. So I'll protected by Grand Jury secrecy.

So there are still many things you can subpoena documents, you can review those documents, phone records, all kinds of work that probably has to get done in both of these big complicated investigations that can be done quietly without violating that policy. So I think that that work goes on.

KING: So again, in the context of Donald Trump before we move on to Hunter Biden, in the context of Donald Trump, you were standing outside the courthouse the other day, when the former Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, his former deputy, Pat Philbin came in with Merrick Garland and he says, You continue your work there.

You can sit outside the courtroom and watch people go into a grand jury room. Would he do that inside 60 days? Or would those things be postponed? Do we know? Do we know where he draws the line on what we can do? And what we will not do?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I think bringing people to the grand jury, even though obviously, it's a secret process. We can see people coming in into the courthouse. And so I think those would fall under the overt steps that they're trying to make sure don't happen. Keep in mind though, John, part of this Mar-a-Lago, the search for these documents, you know, Trump played a great role in where we are and why we're here. Because by he tried, he tried his best to delay this, right. They spent months talking back and forth. And then of course, now he's raising the prospect of announcing, thinking that that could perhaps color with Justice Department.

KING: Let me move on to Hunter Biden. You had a -- you were here at this table a couple of months ago.


KING: Saying there -- they were at a critical point in this investigation. Obviously they stalled somehow. This goes back at least to 2018. A, do we know how quickly they're moving, and B, same thing? Do you hit 60 days? And Joe Biden is not on the ballot, but he's depressed United States? Do you just pause?

PEREZ: Right. We know that this decision is now in the hands of the U.S. Attorney in Delaware, because he is the one that's running this case. This is a Trump appointee who is running this case. One of the things that they've decided is, you know, that Hunter Biden is not on the ballot, and he's not, you know, not at all related to the election.

However, you can also see that people could interpret that in different ways. So what -- the best we've been able to determine is that this is likely not to happen before this the 60 day deadline. So probably now we're looking at after the election.

KING: So Andy and Jennifer a quick thought each on how do you internally deal with that Hunter Biden?


MCCABE: I think you what's good for the goose is good for the gander. I think Merrick Garland is a cautious guy. I think -- I don't think that either Trump case even comes close to being implicated or a big decision on them in the next 60 days. So it's not a real problem there.

But to err on the side of caution, I see Garland taking hitting the pause button on anything coming from Hunter Biden, even if there's anything coming. We don't know that just yet. But I would expect they'll try to keep their heads down for the next 60 days.

RODGERS: Yes, I agree. I mean, Hunter Biden has become such a lightning rod for Republicans to attack him that even though the charges that are being publicly talked about a gun charge and tax charges don't have anything to do with a famous laptop or anything that's really political. I still think that that Garland would not charge Hunter Biden before the election, given that the state that he's played in in Republican talking points.

KING: We have been surprised in the past we'll keep our eye on these things. But Evan, Jennifer, Andy, appreciate the important insights. Up next. Live to 10 Downing Street, the UK has a new prime minister, and she faces giant immediate challenges.



KING: Liz Truss today won the Conservative Party leadership race and is Prime Minister elect of the United Kingdom. Tomorrow, she moves into 10 Downing and replaces the scandal plagued Boris Johnson. CNN's Nina dos Santos live outside 10 Downing Street with more for us. And the UK is new leader and Nina her giant immediate challenges.

NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN EUROPE EDITOR: Yes, that's right, John. She's got a huge inbox of things to tackle not least the worst cost of living crisis and easily for decades and overburdened healthcare systems that's creaking thanks to the pandemic.

And she's also got to try and figure out how to stop this economy here, G7 economy from heading into reverse year, after of course, the spiking energy costs that we're seeing after the war in Ukraine.

These are just some of the issues she's got to fix amid a divided party as well. She's got to get some MPs on her side that don't like her to vote for her legislation.

But aside from all of that, there's also the international reaction to Liz Truss winning this Conservative Party leadership race to consider as well, in particular coming from the EU. She's had a thorny relationship with them both as Foreign Secretary but also when she took on the Brexit and trade briefs.

We see the EU warning her not to shred their tenuous Brexit deal with her. And of course, there's a lot of people waiting to see how the special relationship with the U.S. will evolve under this trust.

KING: Fascinating moment. We'll continue to watch it as the new prime minister takes office. Nina thanks so much outside of 10 Downing, Up next for us, the January 6 prosecutions by the numbers. 245 rioters sentence so far, including a record setting prison sentence for one.



KING: 10 years it's the longest prison sentence handed down to any January 6 defendants so far. Last week in a D.C. courtroom, former New York City police officer Thomas Webster tried to claim he was acting in self-defense when he assaulted a D.C. police officer. In all, more than 870 people have been charged with January 6 related offenses.

Webster sentenced the toughest so far among the 126 defendants who have received jail time. CNN's Marshall Cohen meticulously stays on top of all this for us, Jennifer Rodgers back with us to help with how it all adds up. So Marshall, walk us through the numbers.

MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: John, remember this is the biggest FBI investigation in American history. So here's where everything stands. As you mentioned, 870 people have been charged, 385 convicted so far. The vast majority of those convictions, guilty pleas although there have been about two dozen trials, just one acquittal.

Moving on to the punishments, the sentences for the convicted rioters, 245 have been sentenced. About half have received jail or prison 126 of them. Most of those cases are the misdemeanor. So we're talking weeks or a couple of months in prison.

But as you mentioned, the more serious cases are now coming down the pike, years, years for assaults against police and other property destruction and things like that. But it's not all about prison or jail. There are financial elements of this too. Most of the rioters have been ordered to pay restitution to the government.

If you tally it all up, it's more than $337,000 for the individual family. If you're ordered to pay 100 -- 500 bucks or 1000 bucks, that could really have an impact on your budget.

But the $300,000 going back to the government is a tiny sliver of the millions of dollars in damages that were done to the Capitol and the millions of dollars that are being spent to secure the capitol.

KING: Jennifer Rodgers, as a former federal prosecutor, you watch this play out early on there was some reporting that Merrick Garland didn't like. The Attorney General didn't like a lot of these cases. He want them disposed of as quickly as possible.

Now you see, Josh Pruitt, 55 months. He was a Proud Boy who came within seconds of Senator Schumer on January 6. Mr. Webster, I just mentioned, Thomas Webster, former NYPD police officer gets 10 years. 10 years for assaulting that officer of the Capitol, do you see a pattern here? Is it case by case? Is it, you know, was there specific violence involved?

RODGERS: Well, it's always case by case, John, that's how sentencing has to be done. But this defendant did commit specific violence. He was one of the instigators. He's a former police officer wearing body armor, bought a gun with him, although not onto the ground. So it was a very serious case.

And I think we're seeing the cases that Merrick Garland doesn't mind having charged and is happy to charge the very serious cases, including those charging seditious conspiracy which haven't yet been resolved.

So now I think we are going to see increased sentences, heavy sentences for some of the worst instigators in relation to the January 6 violence and that's as it should be.

KING: And what do you look for coming next? What's next? The big, big one or two?

COHEN: Well, eventually, you know, these Oath Keepers and Proud Boys who have been charged with seditious conspiracy, they will eventually go to trial. That's a very rare occurrence. There are not a lot of sedition trials in this country. So whenever that does come hopefully soon no more delays that will be a huge moment in our history.


KING: Bring it back and talk that as well. Marshall, Jennifer Rodgers, thanks so much and thanks for your time today on this holiday edition of Inside politics. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage after a quick break. Have a good afternoon.