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Inside Politics

Judge Names Special Master, Denying DOJ Access To Classified Docs; Judge Sets Nov 30 Deadline For Special Master To Review Trump Docs; Trump: "Big Problems" If I'm Indicted; Judge Laments "Leaks To The Media" About Trump Investigation; Biden Admin Discussing Legal Options Over Migrant Transports; GOP's DeSantis Defends Sending Migrants To Martha's Vineyard; Abbott: Migrants Bused From TX Signed Authorization Forms; Dems More Optimistic About Midterms As Poll Numbers Improve. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 16, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. A federal judge sides with Donald Trump. A special master will now review material the FBI recovered at Mar-a-Lago. And that special master will get much more time than the Justice Department would like. The judge also tosses a legal curveball, questioning if the government can decide just what is classified.

Plus, brand new CNN reporting about Nancy Pelosi's future. Democrats now going on the record to say if they lose the House in November, then it's time for a new leader. And stuck in the middle, migrants at the center of a big immigration fight between Republican governors and the Democratic White House.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R) FLORIDA: The minute even a small fraction of what those border towns deal with every day as brought to their front door. They all of a sudden go berserk and they're so upset that this is happening.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Republicans are playing politics with human babies using them as props. What they're doing is simply wrong. It's on American, it's reckless.


KING: Up first for us this hour, Donald Trump gets the delay he wanted. A federal judge appointed by Trump ruled in favor of the former president last night. That order from Judge Aileen Cannon grants the Trump legal teams requests for a special master. That's a third-party attorney to page through the materials the FBI took using its search warrant from Mar-a-Lago.

Cannon named Raymond Dearie. He's a senior judge from New York's eastern district to review the documents. She gave him until November 30 to do so. That adds an extra month to the timeline proposed by the Justice Department. The ruling is a giant legal hiccup in the Justice Department's investigation of the former president and his handling of some of the government's most sensitive secrets. The ruling also freezes the national security review of the documents for a time to be determined.

With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Evan Perez, CNN's Katelyn Polantz, and the former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams. Number one let's get into the details as we go on. But the biggest piece of this is it slows things down.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It really does. And what this means is that the Justice Department still can't review these documents, or at least, that's the reading of what she wrote, what the judge wrote. And part of the problem with it, what this judge wrote in her order is, there is some very opaque, some very vague language in there that suggests that if the Justice Department wants to look at certain parts of the documents for its criminal investigation.

Because it's so intertwined with the review, the risk assessment that's being done by the intelligence community, then she's OK with that. And she's leaving it up to them to sort of decide that, but if you're the Justice Department, you know, there's real parallel to that. So, they're just not going to do that, because it raises real problems for them.

There's a lot of issues for the Justice Department to figure out before they file their appeal. So that's what they're doing right now. It could come today, John. They're going to go to the appeals court in Atlanta. But you know, there's a lot of new things that she brought up in this order that they're going to have to confront.

KING: So, whether they appeal that takes weeks, if not longer.

PEREZ: Oh, yes.

KING: If the judge the - you know, the senior judge starts the special master process that will take at least through November 30 is the timeline she laid out, wo knows if can be done that quickly. Maggie Haberman, the New York Times noting, she covered this judge a long time ago. A New York operative reminds me a key fact about Dearie, whose courthouse I covered two decades ago, he's known as exceptionally slow in his pace. That's what the Trump team was looking for. Delay is something, stall is something we have seen. Pick your investigation over the last several years that the Trump team seems to be their default.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. And even on top of that, November 30, is that deadline that she wrote in the order that she wants to hurry to be done by. We're going to hear what he actually has to say about that in the coming days. But if the Trump side or the Justice Department side disagrees with any decision Dearie makes about any of the documents he's reviewing here on privilege, whether or not they can be part of the criminal investigation, they can appeal.

And Cannon can do essentially whatever she wants, that's she wrote that into the order as well. And so that could further delay things. She's not sending any timetable for herself to work through this. But at the end of the day, there is a priority here and it is on the one hundred or so documents that are classified. These are the ones that the Justice Department really does not want to be part of whatever the special master is going to do.

It's going to be the biggest issue in this appeal, whenever they file - whatever they may file, they've already made that very clear. And so, those should be the priority here that Dearie will work through. And those are going to be the most, obviously the most contentious things that are the heart of whatever could arise if there is a case.


KING: So, Elliot Williams, put yourself in the shoes of one of the prosecutors working on this investigation. The order as of now says, you cannot use these documents to go to a grand jury, you cannot use these documents to interview the next witness, if you will, some other witness about this.

And the judge also just casting essentially doubt on the government's credibility here saying this, the court does not find it appropriate to accept the government's conclusions on these important and disputed issues without further review by a neutral third party in an expedited in orderly fashion. Essentially saying, I don't trust the Justice Department. Is that your read of that?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It really is. It's a remarkable statement that we don't trust the government to say when and how documents are classified. And oddly enough, a former president was at the center of how documents were classified because of a president's role as what's called an original classifying authority. So, it's a little odd to now say, you know, we have documents that are probably clearly marked as classified, but we don't believe necessarily that they're classified.

So, on to your question, John, what do you do if you're the Justice Department? Well, that's very perplexing, because think about it. If you can't ask someone about the documents, you bring someone in for an interview, and you say, OK, well, how'd you get the intro? Sorry, I can't ask you about that either, because it ties to the document.

So, everything sort of touches the documents. Now, certainly the Justice Department will have other witnesses and other information, they can probably rely on. But it's just hard to see how you can work a case or work with the intelligence community on the review that Evan talked about a moment ago. So, it's just a little bit perplexing where they go from here. And the big question is do they appealing?

KING: And that is the question. And we've talked about this for some time, because that in and of itself adds weeks, if not more, to the process if you do that. So, it's for the Justice Department to eat our piece and deal with this ruling we don't like, or do we try to appeal it? I am guessing part of the calculation is the tone that this judge takes, which is consistently on Trump's favor, including this. There are no actual suggestion by the government of any identifiable emergency or imminent disclosure of classified information arising from plaintiffs allegedly unlawful retention of the seized property. Instead, and unfortunately, the unwarranted disclosures that flowed out in the background had been leaked to the media about the underlying seizure. Again, this judge is saying leaks from the Justice Department are more of a problem than Donald Trump having documents that he had no right to take in the first place.

PEREZ: Those sentences could have been written. And you know, I mean, you could be mistaken for thinking that they were written by Trump's legal team. What this judge has done is, is turned everything on its head. She's saying that, because this is a former president, that this is such an unusual case, that all the rules that we normally operate, that the courts normally operate on, are thrown out that we're going to make these new rules as we go along because this is an unusual case.

Usually what courts say is, you know, this is such an unusual case. We got to stick to all of the rules that are in place. And that includes the fact that you accept when the government testifies, and they signed papers saying this is classified, because after all, it's the CIA, it's the NSA. That is the classification authority that a judge accepts that, right? And this judge is saying, I don't trust anything.

POLANTZ: And what's even more unusual about this is that this is a judge that may not even be the judge. If there was a case charge to handles it, the grand jury, we understand is would be working with D.C. potentially. And this judge is right now communicating and writing things about the investigation. And also, she's going to be may calling balls and strikes on what could potentially be evidence in a case that she might never even see.

KING: Elliot, let me play devil's advocate to a degree in the sense that, you know, Trump is going to attack this. He's already attacking this, this political You know, Trump is going to attack this as the deep state. He suggested the FBI has planted evidence. Is there in an odd way? Maybe it's backwards, maybe you think it's outside of the law.

Can the Justice Department turn this to its advantage in the sense that we had a judge who disagreed with us? We went through a process we thought was unnecessary. We weren't going to be able to do anything before the election anyway, because of the political protocols at the Justice Department. Can you come out on the other side of this and say, we went through a process we thought was completely unnecessary, that we thought was overly burdensome, but we succeeded, now we move forward?

WILLIAMS: Well, it's hard to say how you measure success, but you're really good at making lemonade, John. So, I got out of lemons. I commend you there. You know, on the one hand, though, I would say that the appointment of judge Dearie is actually a bit of a win for the Justice Department, because a lot of these questions over, what is classified and what isn't would otherwise have gone to judge Cannon. The judge holding the case, who has already proven that I mean, I think frankly, she's a little bit out of her depth on some of these national securities issues. I don't say that to be disparaging, but look at judge Dearie's background, having been a forum, a former Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge. He understands this stuff better, and I think we'll probably do a better job with it than judge Cannon would have done.


So, to that extent it's going to take longer, but it's probably a better outcome for the Justice Department in the end. But at the end of the day, they are now losing a bunch of time on this. But you're absolutely right. They wouldn't have charged anyone with a crime between now and November. They probably wouldn't have done search warrants or any major actions between now and November. So, we'll see how much this stretches in the next year, though, and how much it stops the Justice Department what they want to do.

KING: And we have had consistently sort of the public track and the legal track. Donald Trump's lawyers have never argued in court that he declassified these documents. The former president himself did say that in an interview with Hugh Hewitt saying, he had this blanket declassification.

They have not argued that in court where if it were true, we would think that would be a pretty powerful argument to make to a judge about this search warrant. Something else the former president said in that interview, has a lot of people on it. Let's give (Inaudible), listen.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT, (voiceover): If it happened, I think you'd have problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we've never seen before. I don't think the people of the United States would stand for it.

HUGH HEWITT, HOST, SALEM RADIO NETWORK (voiceover): What kind of problems, Mr. President?

PRES. TRUMP (voiceover): I think they'd have big problems, big problems. I just don't think that stand for it. They will not, they will not sit still and stand for this ultimate of hoaxes.


KING: The correct answer is, me and my legal team would fight it in court and prove my innocence, as oppose he raises the specter, and he would say he's not saying any such thing. But we all live through January 6. We understand how Trump supporters take cues from the former president. How does the Justice Department deal with that knowing, knowing that he is going to show this up?

PEREZ: No. I mean, look, you cannot ignore something like that because it is, it is a threat. I mean, let's be clear. That is a threat. And you already see that in these documents, they're hiding the names. They're shielding the names of some of the lawyers and some of the agents that are working on this case, because of the threats that they're receiving from the former president's supporters. That's not normal.

KING: Not normal, that's an understatement. Evan, Katelyn, Elliot, thank you so much. Up next for us. The Biden administration officials meeting today to discuss pressing immigration issues this, as the president terms on American and reckless moves by Republican governors to Boston fly migrants across the country.




KING: The governor of Massachusetts announcing today the 50 migrants flown to Martha's Vineyard by the governor of Florida will be relocated to a military base. Buses carrying the migrants are traveling right now. They came by ferry from Martha's Vineyard to the Massachusetts mainland. You see them, they're traveling to a military base on Cape Cod. Governor Baker says, the national guard will assist, will be activated to assist in providing shelter and other critical services.

Here in Washington today, Biden administration officials are meeting to discuss immigration issues including, how to better handle those who crossed the border seeking asylum and whether there are any legal options to counter recent moves by Republican governors to send migrants to blue states. President Biden last night lashing out at those Republicans.


PRES. BIDEN: Instead of working with us on solutions, Republicans are playing politics with human babies, using them as props. What they're doing is simply wrong. It's un-American, it's reckless. And we have a process in place to manage migrants at the border. We're working to make sure it's safe and orderly and humane. It's long overdue for Senate Republicans that come to the table provide a pathway for citizenship, for dreamers, those in temporary status, foreign workers and essential workers.


KING: With us to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Melanie Zanona, Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times, and Margaret Talev of Axios. Zolan, let's start with today's meeting. Biden administration to say this was pre planned. That it's not a reaction to whether it's the migrants going to Martha's Vineyard or busloads of migrants dropped off across the street from the vice president's residence here in Washington D.C.

Does the administration believe they have some legal response to this that what the Republican governors are doing violates the law? Those governors say it does not. Does the administration think it might?

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: There's from the former immigration policy makers I made and just people around the White House that I talked to. There's a little bit of doubt around what you could exactly point to an immigration law, that you could actually go and try to push back against this when it comes to Republican governors. The issue at hand here is, when a migrant crosses the border, and they are apprehended by border patrol and essentially serve their court documents.

At that point, there's a few that they are essentially out of federal custody, whether it's a nonprofit that's paying for their transportation, whether it's a state, in this case that may be paying for their transportation, whether they're paying for it on their own. And remember, in years past, this is not new. Migrants don't tend to stay at the border. They tend to go to coastal cities to reunite with their family or look for work.

The question here though, talking to lawyers that I've been - according to lawyers, I've been speaking to is whether or not these migrants were given misleading information before boarding these flights. where they told, hey, you're going to a sanctuary cities, such as Boston or New York City, and then you're dropped off on Martha's Vineyard.

I just talked to a lawyer representing some of those migrants who were dropped off in the vineyard, who said all of his clients were told that they would be going to New York or Boston. That's what they're looking at right now.

One other thing to look out for we reported this in our story today, just as their meeting today also looked out for any solutions or plans that the Biden administration is forming right now to look at not just this issue, but longstanding issues with the immigration system that is broken.

We do know that ICE as recently as yesterday, and DHS sent a memo to the White House, saying essentially, look, there is overcrowding at the border. Why don't you let ICE and us fly migrants to other parts of the country to lessen that pressure? We know the White House has been reluctant to do that.

MARGARET TALEV, MANAGING EDITOR. AXIOS: I mean there a lot of other elements, right? If you are an asylum seeker is different than if you're trying to sneak across the border and you get apprehended and you don't say you're there to seek asylum. You're not trying to go through a process. They'll also look to the former Trump administration's ultimately decision, not to try to do this themselves as nationalized policy.


So, there are a number of things that this administration is looking at, but the bottom line is, are these Republican governors are using these migrants to as a political stunt. Yes, of course, are they getting what they wanted out of it. Yes, it's a national conversation. It's reframing asylum seekers as, you know, hordes of migrants, and it's moving the issue away from abortion and to immigration, which is where Republicans would rather be playing in the final (crosstalk)

KING: Right. It is certainly getting a ton of attention in that regard. The question is, do people at home, a de-voter see this as even the Republican governor of Massachusetts says, this is just a bad, this is a bad thing to do to human beings, solve the policy problem, don't make women and children and families, the victims of it. But to your point, Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida apologetic. He says, we have to deal with this, you should too.


GOV. DESANTIS: Every community in America should be sharing in the burdens and shouldn't all fall on a handful of red states. We are not a sanctuary state. And it's better to be able to go to a sanctuary jurisdiction. And yes, we will help facilitate that transport for you to be able to go to greener pastures.


KING: The issue is incredibly complicated. There are some Democrats in Florida who want to look very closely at the Florida law that authorized money to fly, they believe illegal, those who illegally crossed the border. If you're seeking asylum, like the people who were flown to Martha's Vineyard, those migrants have temporary status. They came to the United States, they applied for asylum, which means you can stay until that is litigated. So, there are some saying they think Ron DeSantis may have gone outside, but will they have any luck?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Right. I mean, that is obviously the big question. As you pointed out, there is a difference between someone who's seeking asylum. Another complicating factor here is that these people have court dates and now they're stranded in places across the country. But back to Ron DeSantis, the other element here, of course, is that he might be running for president in 2024.

And we saw how Donald Trump use the border wall as a signature issue in 2016. Clearly, DeSantis and Abbott are both trying to claim that MAGA mantle, they're trying to outdo each other. But I do have a question about whether it's a miscalculation here. It works with the conservative base, but does it work with the general electorate, especially when the party has been making such inroads with Hispanic voters.

KANNO-YOUNGS: What irony here too is, Republicans will often talk about, we need more deterrence at the border. We need to prevent these crossings. We need to prevent asylum seekers who are fleeing persecution and fleeing poverty from coming into the country. Essentially, what you're doing here is also giving people lift into the country.

This doesn't do anything to deter any crossings, if that's your measure of success at the border. So, just also something look for you. And I will know whether or not you're illegally crossing the border or illegally, you still have a right to ask for asylum, either way. So that's also something to watch that out for.

KING: Right. And to your point, this has become a Governor Ducey in Arizona, Governor Abbott in Texas, Governor DeSantis of Florida, all mentioned as possible. Presidential candidates down the road Abbott and DeSantis. More so, Governor Abbott today saying, we're extra careful about this. We make sure everybody signs a form. They all intentionally volunteer to be moved.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R) TEXAS: Texas has moved. They sign an authorization to go to the destination that we drove them to. And so, there's been zero people that Texas has misled.


KING: In 53 days we have an election. These are conversations that go back to the Bush White House, the George W. Bush White House, different pieces the immigration policy have caused quicksand and problems in American politics going back 20 plus years. Is there any prospect, in my arm I just being an idiot and naive? Or that after this election, people can finally say, can we sit down and have a policy conversation?

ZANONA: This is an issue that is a vexed Washington Congress, past administrations, it is not unique to the Biden administration. Republicans obviously, are trying to use these buses of migrants to try to argue that the immigration system is broken. But there are other ways to prove that point. And that is something that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on is the need for reform. But it's a lot more difficult actually agreeing on a remedy for that.

KANNO-YOUNGS: One interesting thing here too, is the conversation around the broken system has always focused on the border. It's always worth reminding viewers and readers too. Most people would say you're not going to fix the problems at the border without fixing a court backlog of more than a million cases at this point, need Congress's help to do that.

KING: Right. And there is DACA and the dreamers, which should be low hanging fruit that they could fix like that, but they don't because all the other issues come in, you don't see it, OK. Up next for us. New evidence and midterm election climate is improving for the president and his party but it's important but, is it improving enough the Democrats to keep control of Congress?




KING: Fresh evidence today the midterm election climate is looking better for Democrats. A New York Times/Siena College poll finds a jump in President Biden's approval rating. The improvement comes as Democrats feel significantly better about their president's job performance. The president standing among independents in that poll is better too. But is it moving enough to give Democrats a chance to defy midterm history?

Joining me now to dig deeper, the publisher, editor in chief of The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter. Grateful you're here because we were talking about this before we came on the air. If you just looked at this poll and had no knowledge of the last six months, having the experience we have in midterm elections, you would say the Democrats are in deep trouble. The president's numbers are low.

If you look at the views on the economy, like however, if you understand the past six months and you look at this poll, you think that trajectory is going good for Democrats. So, let's just start with the generic congressional ballot. Who you're going to vote for when you vote for Congress? Democrats get 46 percent now, 44 percent for Republicans. So, a two-point advantage for the Democrats. That's better than being behind.