Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

New Filing: Trump Lawyers Ask To Keep Hold On DOJ Investigation; Arrests At U.S.-Mexico Border Top 2M In A Year For First Time; Fiona Strengthens, Bears Down On Turks & Caicos. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired September 20, 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 today. Donald Trump's lawyers and the Justice Department, back in court. It follows a big admission from Team Trump that yes, the former President of United States may be indicted.

(inaudible) powerless. Hurricane Fiona tears through Puerto Rico, plunging millions into a nightmare without power without water, and with no idea when help will arrive. And Florida spends more money so its Republican governor can make a midterm immigration point as a Texas Sheriff makes him the target of a criminal investigation.

Ron DeSantis, though defends his mood.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): They all signed consent forms to go. And then the vendor that is doing this for Florida provided them with a packet that had a map of Martha's Vineyard. It had the numbers for different services on Martha's Vineyard.

What we've been able to do is show that this border is a disaster. Biden has failed on this as much or more than on any other policy. And now people are talking about it.


KING: Up first for us, though, some breaking news in the case against Donald Trump. A brand new court filing from the former president's lawyers just hit the docket. In it, the Trump legal team asked to keep in place a stop on the Justice Department investigation of those documents seized from an FBI search warrant served at Mar-a-Lago. The Trump lawyers called the DOJ probe, quote, misguided, and they argue the Justice Department hasn't proven that any of those documents taken from his Mar-a-Lago home are indeed classified. CNN's Evan Perez has more on this new response.

Former Federal Prosecutor Elliot Williams is also with us. This filing just made with the 11th circuit court of appeals. What's the big headline? EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the headline here, John, is that the former president is arguing that keeping this - this order from a lower court judge that prevents the Justice Department from continuing to investigate these documents, particularly the 100 or so classified documents that were seized from Mar-a-Lago.

He's saying that keeping that stay in process that that prohibition against the government is a sensible, preliminary step toward restoring order from chaos. He's saying that the government should not be allowed to investigate these documents, while the special master process is ongoing. And then it comes with this argument, which is that the government has not proven that the documents in question are actually classified.

It says that the government is assuming without either side presenting proof that, that these documents are classified. That's from the filing. And of course, the irony here being that the former president has not actually even claimed that he declassified these documents, at least not in court, he said this on his social media platform. He said it in TV interviews, but he's not actually said this in court.

But right now, the sort of the ambiguity of this. He's saying it's the government's fault, essentially, because they haven't actually proven that the documents are classified.

KING: Haven't actually proven in the view of the Trump lawyers, Elliot Williams. We saw the photo released by the FBI in a previous court filing that showed the stamps on so many of those documents.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The standard documents are clearly stamped. And you know, there's a really good chance that if they were declassified at the point at which Donald Trump had them in his possession, his own government, his own justice department was the entity or FBI or whomever else that classified these documents, number one.

Number two, it simply does not matter for the various statutes that the Justice Department's looking into here, whether these documents are classified or not. And people should burn that into their heads, John, that if we're talking about obstruction of justice, or mishandling Defense Information, or mutilating or removing documents, which are the three crimes that we at least know for now the justice departments looking into.

It doesn't matter whether they're declassified or not. So I think it's a little bit of smoke and mirrors.

PEREZ: Not to mention real quick, one of the possible crimes that the Justice Department is investigating is whether Donald Trump disobeyed a subpoena, right? He got a subpoena in May for him to turn over documents that are marked as classified. According to the FBI, by the fact that they got these documents when they went there in August, he disobeyed that subpoena. That is not answered in this document.

KING: I was looking quickly through this, I'm not a lawyer, not a lawyer, but they said they're trying to make a distinction between presidential records and personal records saying Donald Trump has every right to take personal records with him. This document seems to ignore the months and months and months of negotiations where Trump's lawyers conceded in back and forth with the government that there was legitimate dispute over what should be returned.

WILLIAMS: And moreover, a lot of those - pretty much anything that's not a personal record, a purely personal record, set aside this classification argument, they are government records that by law would belong in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration.


WILLIAMS: Like I mean, I think we're getting bogged down in this classified versus declassified versus SEI versus all that sort of mumbo jumbo acronyms. The simple fact is they belong to the government by law. And when you walk out of the government, the law says they have to belong there, even if you're a former president.

KING: Stay with us because this is complicated and jump in if I say anything, that's not entirely correct, according to the law, but this brief filed with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is Justice Department appealing a Florida judge's, a federal judge in Florida's decision to stop the process.

As this appeal goes forward, that Florida judge did name a Special Master to look through an independent party to look through the Masters. Just a while from now about two hours from now Trump lawyers and the Justice Department will meet inside a New York courtroom with that Special Master, Judge Raymond Dearie.

Today that judge and the lawyers are supposed to plot a roadmap on how to proceed. Again that appeal is pending. But until you hear from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Special Master has this case. Last night, another Trump legal filing put on the record and in writing the stakes facing the former president.

His lawyers say they're hesitant in a legal filing to backup Trump's claim, his public claim that he declassified boxes of the material. Their reason, that might be a possible defense they would use should the Justice Department indict the former president. CNN's Kara Scannell is outside the courtroom in New York where this will play out. Kara, what do we expect?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, as you say, the special master in this case Judge Raymond Dearie is holding the first public hearing over this matter. And on the agenda is how they are going to go through 11,000 documents by the November 30th deadlines set by the judge in Florida.

Now Judge Dearie was appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan. He has been serving for more than 35 years, and he has a very well regarded reputation amongst the public defender's amongst federal prosecutors I've spoken to. In fact, the atrium in the courthouse behind me is named after the judge, Judge Raymond Dearie. That's the kind of respect that he has among this community. So he's setting the table today saying OK, let's figure out the agenda, how we're going to go through this. He was also Trump's pick for Special Master that the Justice Department did not object to, but the Trump team is already finding some issues with some of the ideas that he's put forward.

The Judge Raymond Dearie, saying we should go through categorizing these documents. What is personal, what is presidential, what is privileged by October 7. Trump's team saying we might want to push back these deadlines and have more time. Now in addition, this issue of classification, Judge Dearie, the Special Master hitting that right on the head saying he wants specific information from the Trump team about declassification.

Now, Trump's lawyer saying in their filing last night, that this is premature, that they in fact, don't want to say anything about it, because it could go to a possible defense if there is an indictment down the road. So we expect these issues to come to a head in the hearing. Now the Department of Justice in their filing pushing for a quick move on this thing.

They want to go through 500 pages a day, and they're hoping to have weekly review sessions with the judge to try to keep this on track, John.

KING: Kara Scannell outside the courtroom in New York. Kara, thanks, keep us posted as things develop later today. Let's come back to the table with Evan Perez, Elliot Williams. Elliot, from a lawyer perspective, first just explain to the viewer who might not be following this on an hourly basis like we do, that you have an appeal to the 11th Circuit Court Of Appeals.

But this is essentially until that is decided a full speed ahead before Judge Dearie.

WILLIAMS: Right. The 11th circuit can - where I was a law clerk many years ago can step in and put the whole proceedings, the entire proceedings on hold and say, you know what, we're we've got this now, please don't move forward. Until that point, you know, this is with the court that's hearing it and I think Judge Dearie is proceeding as if as well, he should proceeding as if nothing's been put on hold yet.

KING: And as that plays out, again, I want to read Kara just mentioned this. Trump publicly has said he declassified these documents. His lawyers have never argued including in this latest court filing. They have never argued in an official legal document where they are bound by oath that he declassified the documents. Judge Dearie says prove it. Prove it.

It's a key issue in this case, please show me the evidence. As I can - As I review these documents prove to me that I should defer to Donald Trump and say he deferred these. Trump's legal team says the draft plan requires the plaintiff disclose specific information regarding declassification to the court and to the government.

The Special Master process will force the plaintiff to fully and specifically disclose a defense to the merits of any subsequent indictment, without - indictment without such a requirement. Being in a district court order. The Trump team essentially saying no, now what happens?

PEREZ: Right? They want the ambiguity of this - ambiguity, by the way, which they alone are creating, right because the government isn't even saying necessarily that you know, they're just - they're arguing that these are the arguments that are - that are marked as classified. And that that is the violation they're investigating. So the former President is trying to have it both ways.


PEREZ: He's trying to say look, we're not going to say whether these are classified or not because that might be our defense at a later point if he gets indicted but at the same time they are - they want this - this Special Master to set aside these documents and essentially rule what is personal and what isn't.

WILLIAMS: And to be more direct if in fact, they're not declassified and they put that in a court filing that they were, that's lying to the court like you even used the words under oath, John. Even - not even filing it to the court, making that statement to a Federal officer would itself be a crime.

And so they have to be very, maybe they're declassified, I don't know. But all signs suggest that they're not and -

KING: And another Trump lawyer in a previous assertion to the Justice Department, another Trump lawyer had written in a letter that all the classified materials had been returned.


KING: Then you saw in the search warrant that according to the government, and according to your eyes, those photographs they had not so they're sort of in a box.

WILLIAMS: They cannot legally write in a court filing that these documents are declassified because there's even more trouble than they already might be in if they go there.

KING: It's a somewhat complicated proceeding, but it is important. We will stay on top of it. Gentlemen, thank you. Kara Scannell as well. Up next immigration battle. A surge at the border as the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis defends his decision to fly migrants to blue states.




KING: New numbers from the Biden Administration detail a surge of enforcement action at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Customs and Border Protection numbers show, you see them there, 203,000 encounters just last month and immigration arrests have passed the 2 million mark this year for the first time.

Now those new numbers come as the immigration issue looms front and center because several red state governors are transporting to blue States, migrants who do make it across the border. Lawyers for migrants recently flown to Martha's Vineyard Massachusetts are crying foul. They say migrants were misled, including given those brochures you see right there promising support and jobs. Florida paid for the flights to Martha's Vineyard. And Governor Ron DeSantis is strongly defending his move.

With me now to share their reporting and their insights, Laura Barron- Lopez of the PBS NewsHour, Seung Min Kim of the Associated Press and Carl Hulse of the New York Times. Two things can be true at once, we see often. Number one, if you look at those numbers, it shows there is a problem at the border.

Now the administration could argue we're enforcing it we're arresting, we're turning people away. The red state governors say too many are still getting across. And then there's the question of Is this a stunt? Is it just for politics, putting migrants on plane and shipping them out?

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Right. Well, on the one hand, if you want to understand why Republican governors are doing this, they say that they want to illustrate to the rest of the country what border communities have to deal with on a daily basis, particularly in Texas.

You actually saw Mitch McConnell echoed that message earlier this morning. But if you want to understand another reason why Republican governors are doing this. You can look at the poll from your newspaper last week that said the Republican Party does have a 14 point advantage when it comes to immigration with voters on which party would handle it better.

We've seen immigration be sort of a backburner issue for some time, while we've talked about the economy, inflation and abortion and this certainly does get this back on the radar, like Republicans want.

KING: Right and it's to that point, to that point, to the politics that Mitch McConnell gave a speech on the Senate floor tomorrow - this morning. I mean, you've been there for years, you know, he sees it, the election of seven weeks from today. He sees the abortion issue, particularly the Dobbs decision hurting Republicans in the suburbs. How to get those voters back, whether they're moderate Republicans or Independents.

The immigration issue has proven to be successful for Republicans in the past. Look at this ad spending details right here. In the last month - In the last month, look at the money spent on immigration ads. The red the Republicans tells you everything you need to know. 11.5 million dollars, 65 of the ads, Democrats a small portion of that. Republicans think - CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: This is their issue, right. They want to elevate this. They're getting hurt badly on abortion rights. So they're trying to make immigration try and tying it to crime somewhat. But it's a risky business here. This is the, you know, Republicans have been making inroads with Hispanic voters. Is this going to turn them off?

You know, you're seeing these people used somewhat as pawns. And I think, you know, they - they risk a backlash here. We'll see how it plays out. Obviously, Governor DeSantis thinks this is great for him. But I think we still have to see how people are going to respond to--

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: And it's potentially risky because of the Latinos that are coming across the border that are declaring asylum. One, they have, you know, legal rights when you declare asylum within the U.S. and then two, a number of these are Venezuelans. They're not Latinos that are coming from Mexico or Mexicans. A lot of them are from other countries, not from the typical Northern Triangle countries.

And so in a place like Florida, where the Latino population there is Cuban, is Venezuelan, and they see these people coming, leaving dictatorships, trying to create a better life. And that could potentially backfire with the Latino base in states like Florida, which Republicans have been relying on year after year and Democrats have struggled to make inroads.

KING: It's an interesting test case. We're going to talk more about the specific Latino vote later in the program, but Ron DeSantis, look he wants to run for president, 2024. He's also on the ballot this year though. This is one of his campaign ads, trying to say on the immigration issue, he is to borrow a word from Trump, strong.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When our middle son Brandon left to go to work, he was only 21 years old. And the last words I said to him is I love you. And a twice deported illegal ran into him and hit him so hard that he caused Brandon's car to flip, and he killed him. My child is killed by someone who should not have been here. This is what happens when we have open borders.


KING: We'll see what the voters say seven weeks from today, but DeSantis views his reelection campaign. He thinks he's going to win again, we'll see what the voters say. This is the testing laboratory for him.

MIN KIM: Right. Right. And I think that if there is some sort of backlash, especially among voters in southern Florida, where there is a vibrant Venezuelan population, I think DeSantis is willing to take that hit for the broader impact that'll have in the Republican primary because as we know, he is eyeing a presidential bid in 2024.

[12:20:00] MIN KIM: There are few issues that get the Republican base riled up more than immigration. And I think this is - he's thinking that this is the - this is the issue that he can you can really make his mark on as he looks at a national bid.

KING: The migrants DeSantis paid to go to Martha's Vineyard came from San Antonio, Texas, Bexar County. The sheriff there says, I think something is wrong here and I'm going to investigate.


SHERIFF JAVIER SALAZAR, BEXAR COUNTY, TEXAS: I believe that they were preyed upon, somebody came from out of state, preyed upon these people, lured them with promises of a better life, which is what they're absolutely looking for, and hoodwinked into making this trip to Florida, and then onward to Martha's Vineyard for what I believe to be nothing more than political posturing.


KING: Yes, who knows, in the sense that you have a local sheriff in a democratic area saying, I'm going to investigate this, but you start asking for documents, who knows what you see.

BARRON-LOPEZ: And what they're particularly looking at is whether or not these migrants were lured and told you were going to get a job when you reach Martha's Vineyard and whether or not that's, you know, violating human trafficking laws as well as the funds that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is you using to move them to Martha's Vineyard?

HULSE: I don't think Governor DeSantis minds that fight. You know, this is - this is his moment to say I'm going to - I'm going to take these folks on but I do think there are questions about the money that and how this was handled. And you know, it doesn't take much slippage among Hispanics in Florida to make a difference in the - in the outcome.

KING: Complicated issue. Up next for us, a White House scramble to clean up a presidential ad lib. President Biden says the Pandemic is over. His team says not exactly.




KING: Hurricane Fiona is now a category three storm battering the Turks and Caicos Islands after delivering a devastating blow to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Most of Puerto Rico remains without power. Many people have no running water. Some places have seen up to 30 inches of rain, triggering catastrophic flooding and even mudslides. Four deaths now tied to the storm.

More than 1000 people have been rescued. Many more may still trapped. Let's get the very latest from CNN meteorologist Chad Myers, who joins us from the weather center. So Chad, what do we know?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: John, the storm just moved too slowly. wouldn't have been so bad. You know, everybody say hey, Chad, it's only a Cat 1. No, there is no such thing as only a Cat 1 that moves at eight miles per hour, because it just rained for 48 hours.

Now it's only moving nine not much better into the Turks and Caicos right now, moved over Grand Turk earlier in the day. At least the rain is gone for Puerto Rico. There'll be a few showers but 32 inches in Ponce. That's just a number you can't put your head around in 72 hours.

Well, now I'm seeing an eye develop here. See that little bit of a lighter spot. That means the storm is growing. This is what it looked like over Grand Turk, we know there was some damage there. This is not Grace Bay and Providenciales as everyone kind of sees in the pictures. But there was some damage here on some of these outer and Eastern islands.

We still have a hurricane warning, obviously still could see some surge during high tide really, but this is where it goes. It goes toward Bermuda. But notice Bermuda, you're not in the cone any longer. That's still OK. Not all storms stay in the cone. Here's what I don't like John, a left turn at the very end.

We know a storm that did that. First Name, first letter was s, we don't want left turning storms.

KING: No, we do not had. Chad Myers in the weather center. Chad, we will check into the days ahead, we know you'll stay on top of it. And for more information on how you can help those affected by Hurricane Fiona, please go to

Today, the Surgeon General on television saying this is what the President meant to say.


DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: What the President is reflecting is the fact that we've made tremendous progress against COVID-19. We're in a very different place now than we were at the beginning of this pandemic.


KING: Call that cleanup because this is what the president did say.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We're still doing a lot of work on it. It's - but the pandemic is over. If you notice no one's wearing masks, everybody seems to be in pretty good shape.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Words indeed do have consequences. Republicans on Capitol Hill were already skeptical of major new COVID funding. Now they quickly suggests the President himself just said the Pandemic is over. Our reporters are back with us. Let's start with our White House reporters here.

President knows he's giving an interview to 60 minutes, there's a way to say we're in much better shape, which is what he said on the back half of that. But the pandemic is over. According to Politico today, two reporters in Politico, 'when the White House reviewed a transcript of Biden's comments after the interview, which was taped earlier in the week, it did not alert its COVID Team leaving the administration without a coordinated response for the immediate aftermath. Huh?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes, I mean, which essentially left people like the Surgeon General, like Anthony Fauci to have to go out there this, you know, in the past few days to say, well, this is actually what the President meant. Meaning that he is saying that, you know, they're being translators, which doesn't look good for President Biden.

It isn't good for the White House, particularly when there are still I think, roughly 300 people dying a day of COVID. And so that's what the White House has to be out there you know, talking about especially as they want to be getting all this funding from Congress to keep up vaccine research, to still provide all of these potential benefits.