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Inside Politics

N.Y. Attorney General Sues Trump For Fraud; McConnell: Failed Dem Policies "Unleashed" Immigration Crisis; Wide Partisan Gap On Immigration, Abortion Ad Spending; Graham Defends Push For National Abortion Ban: "Mitch Is Wrong". Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 21, 2022 - 12:30   ET



KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Have been valued around $75 million, but instead they say that the Trump Organization valued at almost 10 times, that at $739 million disregarding what she said Trump knew because he had signed deeds that explained that there were restrictions on development. But instead, Leticia James's offices alleging that Trump nonetheless inflated those valuations.

And they also look at some of these other properties where, you know, she says, from one year it was valued at around $200 million and then it jumps up the next year. She also said in this lawsuit that there were some properties that in the same year were valued based on different strategies, different metrics. So they weren't even following a consistent pattern, devalue the properties, all of which goes to what she says was an effort to just goose the numbers, to inflate the valuations. And that in turn, help the Trump Organization and the former president personally, she alleges, by inflating his net worth, giving him better interest rates, giving him better tax breaks. It's all part of what she said was the scheme that really was expansive and seemed to allegedly cover the breadth of the Trump Organization.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: It's a fascinating case, we watch it go forward.

And counselor, back to you, Shan Wu, in the idea of the -- just help viewers understand, we often focus on criminal trials, we know that our federal grand jury is looking into January 6, for example, a federal investigation of the classified documents taken to Mar-a-Lago, but in terms of when you go after a business, take the Trump name out of it, you go after a business in a civil filing, essentially alleging bank fraud, insurance fraud, tax fraud, cheating, lying, stealing, how does this play up?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, when you're going after a business this way, you're really going after the root of how they make money. And that's what this is geared towards is trying to take apart, how they've made money, and to stop them from making it the wrong way. I mean, as Dan alluded to that very compelling phrase, it's a tale of two justice systems. That's what this is trying to take apart.

I think one of the bigger questions is the question of how did he and others perhaps like him get away with that? That's the real two justice systems is that these big banks, accounting firms, they look the other way. And that's a question I hope will be answered to.

KING: Look the other way because they can make money too.

WU: Right.

KING: They can make. And in terms of using the civil process to try to essentially handcuff Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump in their ability, Mr. Weisselberg as well and the other chief financial, the other financial officer, just actually handcuffed them from being able to have major corporate roles, the impact on that of your future, if you will, career.

WU: Yes, enormous on them. I mean, the business can go to another place, but folks like Weisselberg, this has been his living, and it stops him from doing that in the future. And the advantage of this little process, lower standard of proof.

KING: Lower standard of proof. And we'll watch that process play out. Appreciate the conversation here.

Next, the other big story of the day, the President United States with a direct response to the Russian President Vladimir Putin. This, after Moscow says it will send more troops to Ukraine's frontlines.



KING: It's dramatic day on the global stage headlined by speeches by both the President of the United States and the president of Russia. President Biden today addressing the United Nations General Assembly, that a few hours after Vladimir Putin delivered a provocative speech about the future of the war in Ukraine. President Biden saying the U.S. will not shrink from this new Russian provocation, Vladimir Putin's decision to call up more troops to the frontlines.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This war should see these outrageous acts for what they are. Putin claims he had to act because Russia was threatened. But no one threatened Russia and no one other than Russia sought conflict.

This war is about extinguishing Ukraine's right to exist as a state, plain and simple. And Ukraine's right to exist as a people. Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you believe, that should not -- that should make your blood run cold.


KING: CNN is covering this critical speech, critical moment from New York and around the globe. CNN's Phil Mattingly is at the White House, our Kylie Atwood is inside the United Nations -- outside the United Nations, Matthew Chance standing by for us in London. Phil, let's begin at the White House. The President is in a stare down with Vladimir Putin. For seven months he has kept the coalition together. What was the main White House objective today, especially after Putin began the day with that provocative speech?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, I think these were remarks that were as explicit as they were unsparing. They were obviously a direct condemnation not just of Russian's -- Russia's actions, but also of President Vladimir Putin directly. But I also think it gives a window into what White House officials are seeing and thinking at this moment. They obviously watched with great interest President Putin's taped speech earlier. They recognize this very clear escalation, though they see it as a moment of weakness, not just in terms of how Russia is operating but as it pertains to the entire world, the international order right now.

You take a close listen to the speech the President Biden laid out today. It was a message not just to the alliance that has come to Ukraine's aid over the course of the last seven months, it was a very clear message to the entire international order. The other 191 members beyond Russia in the United States of the United Nations, they sense a moment of weakness not just in Russia, but in perhaps some of Russia's closest allies. And they want to try and make that point and perhaps bring them over or at least bring them away from Russia at this moment of weakness for President Putin.

KING: And so Matthew Chance, come into the conversation at that point. You have extensive experience covering Mr. Putin. In his speech today he said he was having a mobilization to send 1000s -- 10s of 1000s of more troops to the frontlines. And listen to this part where he essentially said, if you violate Russia's sovereignty, if you defy me, I do not take any options off the table. Listen.


PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA: (through translator): If you believe this is not a bluff, the citizens of Russia can be sure that the territorial integrity of our homeland, our independence and freedom will be ensured. And those who tried to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the prevailing winds can turn in their direction.



KING: The United States would argue there's nobody blackmailing him with nuclear weapons, that he is the one. But Matthew, given your experience, what was your biggest takeaway from Putin here defiant saying he will achieve his goals in Ukraine, but saying that after several weeks now have losses on the battlefield?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and it's because of those lawsuits that has been forced into taking this action. It's interesting that nuclear threat, you get a lot of that out of Russia, it's amplified on the state media. And it's usually dismissed by serious military observers because the consequences for Russia would be enormous as well if we carried them out. And that's not often sort of set out by Vladimir Putin.

But why it's important now is that it set against the backdrop of a number of referendums that have been announced in the areas that Russia occupies inside Ukraine, they're undoubtedly going to be voting to join the Russian Federation. Russia will then consider those areas to be part of the motherland, part of Mother Russia. And it's what Putin is doing then is underlying that any attack on any part of Russia could potentially be met with nuclear weapons. And so, his gamble is that that's going to change the calculus of Ukraine and its Western backers. It's not clear that it will, but it's also not altogether clear that Putin is bluffing because he is an unpredictable character.

KING: He is indeed.

And Kylie Atwood, Matthew talks about the gamble. The challenge for the president United States is to keep together the global coalition that he has managed quite effectively for the past seven months. The question is, if you consider the long term Russian view, Vladimir Putin thinks, yes, perhaps the world has stayed resolved for now. He is hoping the world essentially loses patience, loses the financial commitment to Ukraine here. In your conversations at the United Nations, how tight, how resolved is the broader coalition?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the coalition does seem pretty tight right now, you heard from other countries that have come on side of the United States to support Ukraine. And when it comes to his comments surrounding the nuclear threat and the nuclear buildup of countries, I do think it's significant that he called out Russia specifically for their concerning remarks, President Putin's, in his word, irresponsible threats when it comes to nuclear threats.

But he also spoke to the concerns about China and their buildup of nuclear weapons that he said is happening in a fashion that is not transparent. And when it comes to Iran, he said, the United States is committed to making sure they don't acquire a nuclear weapon. And he doubled down on diplomacy with Iran, but of course we've seen that stalled in recent weeks.

KING: Stalled in recent weeks. A fascinating day.

Kylie Atwood, Matthew Chance, Phil Mattingly, appreciate your important reporting.

Up next for us, the midterm message where Republicans try to steer the conversation to inflation and immigration. One of their own though, complicates things by focusing on abortion.



KING: Florida's Republican governor now faces a class action lawsuit over his decision to fly migrants to Martha's Vineyard. That lawsuit alleges those migrants were targeted, manipulated. And it alleges made false promises, including being told to sign a document they didn't understand in exchange for a $10 McDonald's gift card. Governor Ron DeSantis says everything was done aboveboard and the transportation he says was voluntary.

Now inside 50 days to the midterm vote, Governor DeSantis getting some high profile support.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: There's nothing compassionate or humane about the border crisis that Democrats mixed signals and failed policies have unleashed. So these well to do blue enclaves are finally witnessing the smallest fraction of the challenges that open borders have forced on working class communities all across our country.


KING: So, are Republicans right to see this as a winning issue? Let's get some insights from Hilary Rosen, Democratic Strategist, and Republican Scott Jennings, he's a former McConnell campaign adviser.

Hilary, let me start with you. Mitch McConnell is a very disciplined man as you know, if he's talking about this, using his time to talk about this, he thinks it can help him. If a Democrat in a competitive statewide race called you up and says, how do I deal with this issue, your answer is what?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think you just have to point out how ridiculously cruel it is to use human beings as political pawns, and I don't think the country is for that. You know, a candidate or a Democratic candidate can say, look, the federal government has an obligation to help states that are spending money for people illegally crossing and we ought to do that. But we ought not treat these people like animals and cart them around the country without their consent. It's just not right. And I don't think people are for that at all.

KING: Scott Jennings, to that point. I just want to show you ad spending over the last month. Republicans are spending away a lot more than Democrats on immigration, but it is dwarfed by what Democrats are spending on the abortion issue. Democrats believe the Dobbs decision helps them in the suburbs with moderate Republicans, with Independents. Republicans are clearly trying to turn the conversation back to immigration and to crime to target those same voters. Walk through that tug of war if you're inside a campaign war room.


SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes two different conversations going on with two different kinds of voters. Republicans want to run this thing on inflation, immigration crime, Democrats want to run it on Trump and abortion and maybe climate change and gun violence, really two different conversations. And in the NBC News poll that came out on Sunday, there was a question, it was what's more important to you, your a candidates view on cost of living or a candidate's view on abortion. Cost of living one, 59 percent to 37 percent in that survey, this was among registered voters. So I think if Republicans can stay disciplined on cost of living and immigration, it is a winning issue for them. Although, I would just point out, the Senate races are taking place in very purple states and the races are incredibly close.

KING: You mentioned the word discipline there, so that's my gateway to bring Lindsey Graham. That's my gateway to bring Lindsey Graham into the conversation. The Dobbs decision, essentially, the Supreme Court, like it or don't like it, Supreme Court said abortion is now up to the states. Lindsey Graham says it shouldn't be. Listen.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I am going to advocate a national minimum standard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitch McConnell doesn't want you to do this.

GRAHAM: Well, you know, that -- this -- the prolife community wants me to do it, and I'm going to do it.

Let me tell you why I think Mitch is wrong. People need to know who you are and where you are. So what would I do if I were running? I've won four times. I would look the Cameron Dine and say that my opponent supports aborting a baby up to the moment of birth with taxpayer dollars.


KING: In many races, Hilary, is that not a gift to Democrats, Lindsey Graham saying I want a national ban?

ROSEN: Look, it is it is a gift to Democrats but it's just an awful situation. I mean, this country does not want to see doctors put in jail when women have to have, you know, critical and health decisions. They do not want this to be as harsh a law as the Supreme Court is making it and Republicans are responsible for that.

I do think that what we're seeing, you know, is -- look, this is a fairly divided country, but we are not divided actually on this issue. And that's why you're going to see Democrats on these issues that do get the middle, it's abortion, it's gun violence, it is the cost of living and quality of life and, you know, corporate subsidies and things like that. And so, the Democrats are fighting for the middle. Republicans seem to be trying to gin up their red meat base, and I just don't think that's a winning strategy right now.

KING: Scott, Senator Graham there said he'd won four times, but he's won in South Carolina. Does that hurt Republicans in places like Pennsylvania, in places like Colorado, places maybe like Arizona where the more moderate suburbs are so critical? JENNINGS: I actually think his position is really defensible. I think the state's rights versus federal thing is an interesting conversation. There aren't 60 votes for anything, there aren't 60 votes for Schumer's position, there aren't 60 votes for Lindsay's position, most of this is going to get settled at the state level. It's no secret that Republican candidates are running under the banner of the prolife party.

So, I actually disagree with Hilary, we are very divided on Lindsey's question of 15 weeks and the three exceptions in the Politico/Morning Consult Poll this morning it was literally 50-50. So, very divided and he's got a defensible spot there.

KING: Over watch how it plays out 48 days to go. Scott Jennings, Hilary Rosen, grateful for your time tonight.

Up next for us, the midterm map, as I noted, 48 days out, new lines in Ohio test the staying power of a veteran House Democrat.



KING: The battle to control the House in the midterms is a district by district puzzle. Today, a little slice of the campaign trail from Ohio. One place where a veteran Democrat convinced a giant new challenge, lines of her district are redrawn. She needs to win over conservative voters.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Your national party understand Democrats you represent

MARCY KAPTUR (D-OH): It's harder for us. What the coastal people, God bless them, don't understand is that we lost our middle class. We lost so many people who worked hard all their lives, including in many of these small towns.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Agriculture Committee --

BASH (voice-over): Whether Kaptur wins this new battleground district will determine whether Democrats keep control of Congress or how steep the losses could be. She's relying on voters like Joe Stollbow (ph).

JOE STOLLBOW (PH), OHIO VOTER: I'm in the Sheet Metal Workers Local 33 Toledo District.

BASH (voice-over): A union that endorsed Ohio's Republican Governor Mike DeWine and Kaptur. His top issue this election year,

STOLLBOW: This time around, it would be women's rights.

BASH (on camera): Really?

STOLLBOW: Yes, absolutely. What matters to me is that it's your decision to make, that person's, that woman's decision to make, nobody else's.

BASH (voice-over): These men gather most mornings at Bud's restaurant in defiance, a new conservative part of Kaptur's district.

(on camera): Is Marcy Kaptur somebody you'll vote for?



KING: That a bass back at the table. It's tough for the veteran incumbent suddenly new district.

BASH: It's very hard for her. She's running against somebody who was at the Capitol on January 6. So though, he says that he left before it, quote unquote, "got ugly," he is an election denier. But the whole race seems to be focused on her, 40 years almost in Congress.

What was so striking to me, what you're talking about in the last segment and what you heard from that union worker, a man, a burly guy, married with grown kids, I open ended question, what's your top issue? He says women's rights. And the fact is that he said, you know, from my perspective, I'm working in the trades, and everybody in the trades is treated the same no matter what your gender and that should be the case in all aspects of life.


Certainly it does not translate that issue as a plus for Democrats like Marcy Kaptur in the more conservative districts, but even -- more conservative areas, but even in some of those areas, I was surprise that Republicans are bringing the issue up as the fact that the party potentially has gone too far.

KING: Fascinating to watch as the mask play out. Thanks for your time Today.

Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.