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WAPO: FBI Found File On Foreign Nation's Nuke Defenses At Mar- a-Lago: Eric Trump: Classified Docs Investigation "A Fishing Expedition"; Barr: Judge's Decision To Grant Special Master Is "Deeply Flawed"; Bannon Expected To Surrender On NY State Criminal Charges; McConnell Super PAC Preps Ad Blitz As Money Floods Airwaves; CNN Projects: Dem AG Maura Healey Will Face Off Against Trump-Backed Geoff Diehl In MA Gov Race. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 07, 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 day with us. Why? Why were nuclear secrets in Donald Trump's home? New reporting says the former president kept a document so classified. Only a handful officials in the entire government can view it.

Plus, Massachusetts Republicans nominate a MAGA candidate for governor. More proof as this primary season winds down, that Trumpism is wiping away a more moderate republican brand. And a celebration that reminds us friends can also be rivals. President Biden welcomes President Obama back to the White House, Michelle Obama too reports is unveiling.

Up first for us though, the shocking and the giant national security concerns this hour sparked by the former president of the United States. The Washington Post reporting today that among the documents recovered at Mar-a-Lago was one detailing a foreign government's military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities.

The document the Post reports is so secret, it requires a need-to-know clearance, so secret, it is supposed to be under watch and under lock and key 24/7. It is unclear at this moment just where on Trump's resort, the FBI agents found that document or what country's defense secrets it could expose. What is clear, the document was never supposed to be there?


MARK ESPER, FORMER TRUMP DEFENSE SECRETARY: It's very, very troubling that this type of information would be there anywhere for that matter. The issue is not just about the content of the report, but what it may reveal about our sources and methods. You don't want your adversaries to know that you know what they have or what they can do.


KING: Also, today, an immediate demand up on Capitol Hill to know more. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RON WYDEN (D-OR): I definitely want to know what's in there. I mean, accounts that have been made with respect to national security in our documents, documents involving foreign nations are of enormous importance.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): He could use a broken wall. And why there's some investigations underway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not saying I'm not concerned about the whole situation. I'm just saying I don't have the facts.


KING: With me this hour to share their expertise and their insights, CNN's Sara Murray, the former CIA, Moscow station chief Steve Hall, and former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers. Steve Hall, I want to start with you. And I put a map up on the screen. These are the countries we know around the world who have nuclear weapons.

This document, according to The Washington Post detailed to some of the nuclear capabilities of one of those countries, unless there's a surprise out there. How damaging is it both to U.S. national security and to potential assets overseas? If this is a document detailing another country's nuclear capabilities, that information could come from human sources, could come from highly sensitive technical surveillance, how damaging is this?

STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, if it gets out, it's extremely damaging, John. I mean, there's basically three things that could have happened to this information. I mean, the first thing, we have no reporting yet that this has happened. But the first thing is that Donald Trump could have just bragged about it, two, either people at Mar-a-Lago, Americans or worst foreigners.

Now, well, there is no reporting to that yet, we have seen this before this sort of behavior, or you're recalling that when the Russian foreign minister came to the Oval Office and the president - then President Donald Trump share some very sensitive Israeli information with him. So, he has been played fast and loose with intelligence before.

The second thing is, of course, much darker, he could have exchanged the information for something that he wanted. Again, we have no information that this has actually happened. But you know, if Donald Trump has financial problems, this information is absolutely worth a lot of people who are probably trying to get at it and find out what's going on.

And then of course, the last thing is, is it that foreign intelligence services have already identified Mar-a-Lago as a place that they should be taking a look at, in trying to get into and trying to get somebody to get access to this information, which is not stored securely. So, any of those things could have happened and they're all extremely bad, especially with this particular nuclear topic and the sensitivity of these sources and methods.

KING: And Jennifer Rodgers, we know there's a criminal investigation into the mishandling, potential mishandling of the secrets and that the former president United States is a piece of that. So are those who carry the documents, they're those allegedly I guess who's supposed to secure the documents.

The Washington Post says this, some of the seized documents detailed top secret U.S. operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about them. Only the president, some members of his cabinet or a near cabinet official could authorize other government officials to know details of these Special Access Programs.


If you are prosecuting a case or trying to build the case to prosecute. Does that matter that these are the most secret or close to most secret documents as opposed to, we know there were countless, dozens of sensitive documents? Does the severity impact the weighing the balance of is this a criminal case?

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It does, John, not because it needs an element that they, you know, that can't be met with a less sensitive document. But because it makes the conduct more serious, the conduct in illegally taking improperly handling and obstructing an investigation into classified and other national defense information is more serious if the - and worse conduct than if the information is less sensitive.

So, I do think it pushes prosecutors towards charging. The one wrinkle here is that prosecutors are so reluctant to charge these cases sometimes because of the gray male problem, the possibility that in criminal litigation, some of this information comes to light, if you're litigating over a document like this. At minimum, the defendant and his defense team usually have to be able to see the information and that's often problematic.

So, I would expect this to push DOJ folks towards charging a case, but maybe not actually based on this particular document. Luckily, they have some 200 other classified documents and thousands and thousands of other government documents to choose from.

KING: It's interesting, Sara Murray listening to our colleague Manu Raju and others up on Capitol Hill, trying to get reaction from senators. And most of them being very careful saying we need more information. I didn't see any Republicans rushing to defend Donald Trump here. This is Donald Trump's son, though who says, even despite what we have learned now, this?


ERIC TRUMP, PRES. TRUMP'S SON: This whole thing is corrupt as hell. Everybody knows this thing is corrupt. It's sad. We shouldn't be here. The FBI knows that they cannot take attorney client information. They also know that they can't take medical records, but the whole thing was a fishing expedition. That's all they wanted. They want to try and find anything they could on Donald Trump, because we're 60 days away from midterm elections and they wanted to embarrass him. It's another hoax.


KING: So, you listen to Eric Trump there. If we could just put up on the screen, the photograph the FBI provided in the dispute over a special master, add in The Washington Post reporting that one of the documents involves a foreign nation's nuclear capabilities top secret human sources. This is not a force in a fishing expedition. Donald Trump has every right to complain if a document of personal private document was taken and wasn't returned fast enough. But you hear the political argument?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, we do hear the political argument. It's not a fishing expedition. It's expedition. Donald Trump is in this position because he did not return the documents. When the archives asked, he did not return all the documents and he was subpoenaed to return documents. So here we are.

Bill Barr was on Fox earlier today, pointing out that you can take all of these documents, it's not illegal. They were not stolen. This is part of gathering evidence, is figuring out how these documents were stored. And the things that weren't Donald Trump's personal property are going to be returned to him. And that is all been sifted through by the FBI.

Now we know there's a special master that will be named at some point, who is also going to sit through this. What we are just hearing is incendiary language from Donald Trump, from Eric Trump, from some of these Trump allies. It's designed to get the base riled up to turn this into a political investigation. When even the judge in Florida, even the Trump appointed judge in Florida, noted that there was no evidence that the former president's rights have been violated.

KING: No evidence, no. So, that's an important point. And Jennifer Rodgers, this adds more complication to this question. The judge has decided, we'll see if the Justice Department appeals, but as of now to go ahead with this special master an independent third party to review these documents. Among those, I know, you think it's a bad idea and bad law the judge decided, among those who agree with you is Donald Trump's former Attorney General William Barr. Listen?


WILLIAM BARR, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY GENERAL: The opinion, I think was wrong. And I think the government should appeal it is deeply flawed in a number of ways. I don't think the appointment of a special master is going to hold up. But even if it does, I don't see it fundamentally changing the trajectory. In other words, I don't think it changes the ballgame so much as maybe we'll have a rain delay for a couple of innings.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: As an interesting way to put it a rain delay for a couple of innings. But how much more complicated? Is it now that we understand again, even more so I guess is the right way to put it? The gravity of these documents. Who could be the special master? If you're going to look at a document that includes nuclear secrets of a foreign nation, potential human intelligence assets overseas?

RODGERS: Yes. That's a great question because they're talking about the special master as if it's just going to be someone appointed on Friday, and they're off to the races, but the person has to be properly cleared. And just taking someone who has a regular old top- secret clearance, isn't going to cut it with this special programs' information.

So, I did speak to Andy McCabe about how long it would take to do an emergency clearance. And he said about a week so, presumably someone can be cleared quickly to do this, but it does put us back a bit in terms of time.

KING: Steve, quickly before we move on. Just as someone who has been involved in such sensitive secret, top-secret operations. Just help people who might not understand what we're talking about here.


HALL: Well, what we're really talking about is, you know, the most sensitive information that could compromise, you know, people, spies who are working for the U.S. government inside of foreign governments, and you know, could be killed or sensitive technical collection. I think if viewers are confused a little bit about, you know, the difference between what the DNI is doing for a damage assessment, and then the legal stuff.

So, the DNI will sit down and look at this information and go, what's the worst that could happen if this guy out? Who could be compromised? What could be compromised? And then they'll look to the FBI and say, OK, did it happen? Did it actually get out there?

The former, I think, if I understand correctly, the judge has said, yes, DNI can do its thing, but the latter is going to take a little bit of time. It's incredibly time sensitive. We got to know whether information has gotten outside of the Mar-a-Lago, if we're to have a meaningful understanding as to how much damage has been done to national security, John?

KING: Every day. Every day, a new questions and new brave questions. Jennifer, Steve, Sara, appreciate it very much. Another important story to bring to you here. Donald Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon expected we are told to surrender tomorrow to face new criminal charges in New York State. This is a new indictment. Remember, Trump pardoned his longtime ally on similar federal charges.

Bannon accused of defrauding donors in a "Build the Wall" fundraising scheme. Now Bannon calls these charges phony saying, "this is nothing more than a partisan political weaponization of the criminal justice system? Up next for us. A Republican rivalry at the worst possible moment. New reporting about GOP infighting and its potential impact on critical, November senate races.




KING: New concerns today that a bitter feud brewing in the GOP could impact the party's ability to take the Senate this fall. That feud mostly between the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the man tasked with winning the majority, the National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman, Senator Rick Scott. The two senators and their aides, the aide part is important. I've been trading swipes for several weeks now.

Now most of these Washington rivalries and dramas likely bore you. This one, however, could impact your life, by impacting which party controls the Senate come January. CNN's Manu Raju, live up on Capitol Hill with some new reporting on this tension, and its impact including this clear effort from Senator Scott to tone things down, "I think Leader McConnell and I are in the same position. We want to win the races."

Manu is live for us now on Capitol Hill. Trying to turn down the volume there, Manu, but this one is real. And unlike a lot of Washington dramas, it actually could matter?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, because it's a disagreement over strategy and also about money and money, of course is essential to taking back the Senate and is going to play of course a central factor in determining whether or not Republicans are successful and taking back the House majority.

Rick Scott runs main Senate Republican campaign committee, but it is having fundraising problems and Republicans are trying to move figure out a way to overcome this cash shortfall at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, trying to take matters into their own hands, fundraising directly with candidates.

And there is a real concern that the committee will not be able to help with the effort they traditionally, does to target voters urge voters to get to the polls on election day through direct mail. That is a major concern among Republicans right now. Look at the numbers here, tells the story. $182 million raised by the National Republican Senatorial Committee this cycle, $23 million is left on hand.

Look at what the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has raised in the interim $173 million, it has $54 million on hand, a significant difference there. Now the committee says, it has spent a lot of its money early on advertising and is looking at other ways to make up for the shortfall. Mitch McConnell is concerned.

Behind the scenes, he's making phone calls to a range of donors going beyond his traditional donor list to try to give them money to a separate organization, his Super PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, which is planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in these key Senate races, in large part because of concerns, but the National Republican Senatorial Committee will not be able to play in this at this moment.

And John, this back and forth has concerned Republican senators because Scott went after McConnell last week in an explosive op ed good raising concerns about some of McConnell's past comments. Scott downplayed that yesterday, but in talking to Republican senators, they want to get on the same page and get some unity as they head into a critical moment in this campaign. John?

KING: Manu Raju, live for us on Capitol Hill, important reporting. Let's bring the conversation in the room, with me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Dana Bash, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, and Asma Khalid of NPR. Manu noted the effort to like, can we please quiet this down? We're 60 days from pretty important election. We think we could win the majority unless we blow it. That's what they're worried about.

John Cornyn, Republican Senator McConnell ally concerns me a lot. As long as we have enough money to tell our story, we'll be fine. Terry Moran of Kansas, we can't afford to have divisions within our conference. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, we need to be united in our message. In my almost 40 years doing this, it tends to be Democrats at the end. In the circular firing squad, this tells you - this was supposed to be a Republican year. This tells you something.

DANA BASH, CNN CO-ANCHOR, STATE OF THE UNION: I literally just said that to a Republican source like 10 minutes ago, coming on the air. That wait a minute, you guys are acting like Democrats tend to act. But it does tell you something. A few things. One is, you heard Manu refer to this. I talked to a source at the Republican senatorial committee, this is the Rick Scott camp, if you will.

Who noted that they spent $45 million on television early between May and now basically, and their goal was to prop up the Republicans because there are a lot of vulnerable Democrats, incumbent Democrats who are on the ballot? And so that was intentional and admittedly different from what the NRSC does generally speaking.

And that they know that the Senate Leadership Fund, again, this is like alphabet soup, but what it means is it's Mitch McConnell Super PAC. It's Mitch McConnell's group where he can help raise unlimited amounts of money and spend it. They always do that. They tend to do it more in the fall. So yes, there is a difference. Maybe there is a communication issue, but there is very real tension.


KING: There are Some Republican senators who under their breath think Rick Scott is running for president. And using this platform to do it or they think that consultants are making way too much money with the burn rate of all that money and it's not going to ask. But you mentioned the Mitch McConnell Super PAC and we apologize for the alphabet soup. It can be confusing.

They're essentially the fire department right now. There's some new spending, they have booked; Pennsylvania $3.7 million, Georgia $3.7 million, Ohio $3 million, Wisconsin, Nevada. Asma, they're rushing money into these places. Again, if you roll back the tape six months ago, a Republicans would like to have looked you in the eye, then and say we will have at least half of those locked up by now but they don't.

ASMA KHALID, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: I wish to tell you when I was going out, you know, six, seven months ago, speaking with voters, I was personally rather convinced that this map looked favorable for Republicans. You'd hear, you know, concerns about the economy, inflation for voters continuously. But I think in the last couple of months, I think particularly after the Dobbs decision, the momentum has shifted.

We've seen that in some of these special elections, where Democrats have done really well. But I think money is part of this. I also think as we've heard McConnell himself say, part of this comes down to candidate quality. He's been very outspoken about that that he thinks some of the Republicans who are running for Senate in the states are just not particularly appealing candidate.

KING: And those two things are very connected in the sense that whether you're giving five bucks or 500,000 bucks, you want to give it to somebody you think is going to win. Do you think it's going to win? And so, look at this fundraising disparity. Ohio, J. D. Vance is the Republican nominee, he should be favored in this race. It's Ohio and a midterm election year.

Look at how much more money, Tim Ryan $22 million, move on to Arizona. Senator Kelly is the Democratic incumbent, 54 million to 5 million. You know, you don't need to be a math expert, to see that one. And look at Georgia, Senator Warnock, the Democratic incumbent, Herschel Walker, 85 million to 20 million, it matters.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It matters. I mean, it's not everything money in politics, but eating is a major factor. Listen, if you look at some of these disparities, or some of these folks are raising money, maybe out of state but listen, that helps them in a race, particularly in these tight Senate races. The issue is a lot of these candidate Republicans that they ended up nominating, they were Trump back candidates and they're first-time candidates and they're going up against pretty talented incumbent politicians.

So, it's going to be that much different. The issue terrain has very much shifted from what are Republicans hoped it would be about the economy, inflation, critical race theory, any of those issues. And also, Trump being everywhere at this point doesn't help the Republican brand at all. So, listen, you talked to Democrats, maybe two or three months ago, they were panic.

Now you got this from Republicans who are panic that things don't look as good as they thought they did because things have shifted. As they do in politics, and listen, we still have weeks and weeks to go, so they can shift again. KING: And as you button that up, you mentioned these Trump candidates. Now a lot of Republicans saying, you endorsed these candidates, you have an obligation to come help them. Mitt Romney, in a great piece in The Washington Post today, are saying I hope President Trump would use some of that money he's got to jump in. Donald Trump does not have a history of spending his money on other people. Anyone think he's going to come to the rescue here?

BASH: No, absolutely. Never mind the fact that he's gotten a lot of money that he'd spend on his own. Not just his political issues, but his legal issues. And those are all very much connected right now for him.

KING: Up next, we continue the midterm conversation. Trumpism scores a big primary win in Massachusetts. But is it yet another GOP choice that makes life easier for Democrats?




KING: Massachusetts voted yesterday in the penultimate primary of this midterm season and the results include another win for Trump and for Trumpism. This will be the lineup for governor. The democratic Attorney General Maura Healey running against Jeff Dill, a Republican who supports Trump and Trumpism. Someone who questions the 2020 election results, Dill winning the Republican primary over a more centrist Republican candidate.

The moderate republican governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker, not running for re-election. Massachusetts is part of a pattern. If you look through the primaries, Trump like candidates, Trump is candidates winning. Let's say here, near Washington D.C. in the Republican primary for Governor of Maryland, Dan Cox, again an election denier, defeating the candidate endorsed by that state's moderate Republican Governor Larry Hogan.

It happened in Maryland and in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial primary. Doug Mastriano, you see the salmon color, that means a Trump endorsement winning the Republican nomination for Governor over several other Republicans including two who if you notice performed better in the suburbs, which tend to decide close election. So, Trumpism is winning in the primaries. The question is what happens in November, the two candidates in Massachusetts last night saying game on.


MAURA HEALEY, (D) MASSACHUSETTS GOV. CANDIDATE: The choice in this election could not be more clear. It's a choice between partisanship and progress, between dividing people and delivering for people.

GEOFF DIEHL (R) MASSACHUSETTS GOV. CANDIDATE: I believe, right election integrity and government accountability, Maura Healey, she's bought and paid for by this alphabet soup of special interests in our state. So, we've got to empower also parents to keep that political agenda out of the classrooms.


KING: Let's get some insights from two tested campaign pros. Our CNN political commentator, Democratic strategist Paul Begala, and CNN political commentator Republican strategist, David urban. David, I want to start with you. If you're Donald Trump or somebody who backs Trumpism you look at Massachusetts last night. You look at Maryland a little ways back, you look at Pennsylvania in these gubernatorial primaries. So, you're celebrating. Your side is winning and defeating a more moderate republican brand.

However, a lot of smart Republicans would say that means you're going to definitely have a new Democratic governor of Massachusetts. You're going to have a Democratic governor in Maryland, and you're likely to have a Democratic governor reelected in Pennsylvania. Is winning in the primaries for Trumpism, hurting the Republicans come November?