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Some PA Conservative Voters Support Oz Unenthusiastically; New Ad Spending Shows Dem Focus On Abortion, GOP Focus On Crime; Book: Jones Day Lawyers Turned Government Into "Political Appendage" Of Trump's Orbit. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 23, 2022 - 12:30   ET



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST: -- Mehmet Oz, the Republican candidate. I wanted to get a listen from what our colleague Jessica Dean picked up when she was on the ground.


CLAY BUCKINGHAM, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: I'm sorry that I shouldn't have to vote for him. But I'd rather see him as Senator than see Fetterman.

TERRI MITCHELL, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: Obviously, he's our candidate of choice now. So we need to back him because red is better than blue.

NED FREAR, PENNSYLVANIA VOTER: My choice, Trump's candidate. He's not (inaudible). People are better candidate here, probably going to hold their noses and vote for him.


MATTINGLY: Alex Burns, it's a tight race no matter what. It's a serious problem if Republicans aren't voting for the Republican nominee. They seem to be holding their nose to do it. What do you take away from that anecdotal piece of evidence?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I think it's a super interesting spot to look at both in terms of control of the Senate and also Trump's control of the Republican Party. Right, look, the reality check here is that an unenthusiastic vote counts every bit as much as an enthusiastic vote. So if Republicans do show up and vote for him, then whatever, maybe he gets over the finish line.

But the fact that we're even at a point right now, where there are Republican voters or Republican leaning voters it sounded like saying, that's Trump's candidate, that's not my candidate, or, you know, I will hold my nose and vote for him, but, you know, I'm not super jazzed about it, right? That is a night and day difference from, you know, 2020, 2018, where Trump laying on hands with a candidate was this, you know, virtually a holy act politically, in the Republican Party.

And even this year in other states, there are places where he has chosen candidates that inspire more energy and more genuine affection from the Republican base. But the sense that you have, you know, the sense that I think many of us had for years, that there's no distinction between sort of the mind of Trump and the will of Trump and the will of the Republican base, it's clearly not quite true anymore.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: But it's also why Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says that candidates matter, because --

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: You get quality. That was the code word, quality.

CALDWELL: Candidate quality, because yes, and enthusiastic vote counts the same as a non-enthusiastic vote, but those non enthusiastic votes have to show up. And in a year, when Republicans were supposedly much more motivated to vote, if they are not motivated or inspired by their candidate, maybe they stay home and that is just as detrimental for them.

MATTINGLY: One thing, Audie, I want to close with, you just saw some numbers, I want to bring it back up again, Senate and governor's races, you assume everybody that's voting from Oz is probably voting for Mastriano. And yet, there's a pretty sharp divergence right now in the polling, both are trailing but Mastriano is trailing Josh Shapiro by a lot. Why is that? And what's your view about how that action --

CORNISH: One thing to keep in mind that quote you heard earlier, red is better than blue, there's this idea that people see a real consequence to the Senate, that they understand that the balance of the Senate is meaningful to kind of the overall policies. I feel like governor is one of those roles where people are a little more thinking like this is going to affect my life, my state, my topics, it's still has at least a whiff of like local politics to it and even in this age.

And so you can't sort of look at those numbers the same way. I think people are very capable of looking at a Senate race and saying, as long as it's in our favor, that's a good enough vote for me. Whereas for governor, they might think differently, I'm from Massachusetts, where in the past, there was a lot of sort of cross party voting for various reasons. So maybe I'm biased. But I do think there's a difference in how people --

MATTINGLY: That's really good point. And it's interesting, it's treasonous. See -- we'll see how those numbers line up at the very end.


All right, coming up, allies of Donald Trump launch a new Super PAC to boost midterm candidates as the ex-president faces heat for not dishing out the cash.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTINGLY: Top Trump allies are launching a new Super PAC to help Republicans in the midterms. Trump himself has been criticized even by Republicans for spending little of the 103 million in his giant campaign war chest. The new venture is called MAGA Inc. and will merge with another existing Trump sanctioned Super PAC.

Joining me now is Democratic pollster Margie Omero and Republican strategist and pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson. Guys, I want to start briefly with Trump because he's obviously been the subject to a lot of news over the course of the last several weeks. I think Democrats are quietly quite pleased with that. But we do have new numbers from New York Times poll that shows that despite the investigations, and this was before, the most recent one from Letitia James, but mostly unmoved, 44 percent favorable, 53 percent unfavorable. I feel like we're at the point where we need to stop being surprised in any way that his numbers don't move. But what's your read on that?

KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: People know how they feel about Donald Trump. They know whether they like him. They know whether they don't. They usually have pretty strong feelings about him one way or another, but those are not flexible feelings. So it doesn't surprise me at all to see that he is still sitting about the same regardless of what's happened with the FBI, with January 6th Committee with any of it.

MATTINGLY: Yes, one of the things, Margie, I want to play some sound from you that our colleague Jeff Zeleny got in New Hampshire because it kind of hits directly at this point that one people have been writing about, but also I know White House officials have seen this as well, this idea that there's kind of two different elections going on at this point in time with the various bases, take a listen.


MARYLOU BLAISDELL, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: He would have said to me four years ago, Roe v. Wade will be overturned, I would have said you're crazy. That'll never happen. But it happened.

MIKE GILLESPIE, NEW HAMPSHIRE VOTER: And my costs to operate my business are astronomically more than they used to be. Finding employees is next to impossible.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Do you hope that November brings a change in Washington in terms of who controls Congress?

GILLESPIE: Absolutely. Absolutely.


MATTINGLY: So take two voters for what they're worth, two voters, two votes. What wins in that battle of, you know, abortion rights which is obviously fired up the Democratic base, inflation which is certainly fired up for a number of different reasons, the Republican base but also a lot of other people that have to buy groceries, how does this play out? [12:40:15]

MARGIE OMERO, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Well, I wouldn't see it as an either or, you're playing, you know, those are quotes from people who have perhaps made up their mind already. But there are a lot of voters who say, I care about all of these things. And you're seeing candidates, you're seeing Democratic candidates talk about a variety of things. You have the Inflation Reduction Act, which Republicans oppose. And you have Republicans scrubbing their websites, because they don't want to talk about abortion. So these are two issues that a lot of voters say, I want to know where you stand, and Democrats are, you know, a strong Democratic candidate should be able to talk about all of it.

ANDERSON: Yes, I think that in this case, inflation is still likely to be the bigger driver, I think, because inflation is something that people are experiencing day in and day out. And it's hitting pretty much every type of American. That's the thing that I think is going to play a bigger role. And it gives Republicans an advantage. When you ask voters in polls, which party do you trust more to handle issues like cost of living and the economy, the Republican Party has an advantage, and it's not a small one in a lot of surveys. That's why Republicans want to keep the focus on that issue set where they have that bigger advantage.

MATTINGLY: You mentioned the Inflation Reduction Act, obviously, we covered it intensively here in Washington. It gives Democrats something to point to, does it have an effect? Do people say, oh, yes, I know that multi provision $700 billion piece of legislation?

OMERO: Well, we ask about this, actually pretty regularly in qualitative and quantitative focus groups and surveys. And you know, people know that something happened. Of course, not everybody knows all the details, and we shouldn't expect people to. So that's the job of a campaign, it's a job of elected official to make sure people know about. When we read sort of simple explanations of what happened, it's very popular. It's been consistently popular. We've seen it in our regular surveys for navigator research, which are all public. We see it in focus groups where people say, well, that's great.

I didn't know about this. I didn't know about all that, that's great. So it is important that, you know, Democrats talk about what they've done and what they stand for not just abortion, not just on abortion, but also on the economy.

MATTINGLY: Real quick, Kristen, I want to bring up some numbers, Republican spending when it comes to advertisements on crime, 21 million, Democrats to 5 million. When it comes to abortion, Democrats 46 million, Republicans 4 million, follow the money if you want to get a sense of what messages they think are going to work. I want to ask you about crime now, you've seen House Democrats passed to policing bill yesterday, I think two of them. How does that end up affecting the overall kind of dynamics here?

ANDERSON: Well, crime is another issue where when you ask voters which party they trust more to handle it, Republicans come out on top, but I think a big thread that sort of weaves together both the issue of crime, abortion, inflation, all of it is that voters don't feel secure. They feel like everything's kind of teetering on the edge that we're -- just lots of things don't feel like they are stable and secure. And whether that's do you feel safe walking to your car at night? Or do you feel safe, that the rights you've enjoyed for a long time would still be there? Do you feel safe that you can continue making ends meet?

I mean, a lot of things are making Americans feel very insecure about the future. That's why that question, do you think the country is on the right track or the wrong track, we're seeing really high wrong track numbers from voters of both sides. But it doesn't make me surprised at all to see Republicans trying to focus on the issues where they know voters trust them more.

MATTINGLY: Real quick and the control room is going to punch me in the face. But one word answer, is Democratic momentum which Democrats think they have, is that real or is it a little bit overstated right now?

ANDERSON: Overstated at the moment.

OMERO: It's real.

MATTINGLY: There you go. That's your answer. We'll see in about 45 days.


All right, coming up next, a new book exposes the deep connections between Donald Trump and a law firm, with a big sway in your life.


MATTINGLY: Now to a new book about a law firm that has changed your life. Jones Day is a law firm you've probably never heard of if you live outside Washington. But they represent a host of infamous clients, big tobacco, big pharma, Donald Trump, John Tate -- John King taped this conversation with the new book's author.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Joining me now, David Enrich of The New York Times. He's the author of this great new book, "Servants of the Damned: Giant Law Firms, Donald Trump, and the Corruption of Justice." Our CNN senior Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic also joins our conversation.

David, help Americans who might not know the name Jones Day understand what you found in all this research. And I just want to show on the screen as we do. This is just some of the Jones Day lawyers who came into the Trump administration, some then went out, Don McGahn, of course was the President's White House Counsel, Noel Francisco, the Solicitor General arguing cases before the Supreme Court. That number one, the number two in the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department. It looks swampy, but you detail in the book how it was swampy, explain?

DAVID ENRICH, BUSINESS INVESTIGATIONS EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, this is a law firm that for many years, for more than a century, it was really just a big kind of hard-nosed corporate litigation firm and in recent years, though, developed, strong taste for conservative politics, got on board with the Trump campaign very early on in early 2015. And essentially use Trump and his campaign as a vehicle to achieve the ambitions political and legal of a great many people on the right side of the Republican Party.

And so as you said the Trump administration ended up being stocked with dozens of very senior lawyers from Jones Day who often returned to the firm and they in the federal judiciary also got stuck by some of these ones in future Jones Day lawyers and including some Jones Day lawyers who ended up with lifetime appointments to the bench. So the law firm has gone from being just this run of the mill Cleveland based law firm to one of the real power centers in today's Republican Party.


KING: The firm would argue or guys and women were asked to serve they served, we're sure we have clients, but I just wanted to let go through some of these clients again, R.J. Reynolds, Purdue Pharma, Abbott Laboratories, Johnson & Johnson, Marathon Oil, Colt Firearms. Explain what happens when you have a law firm that has a history a list of these clients and their people are going into the White House into the Justice Department and also throughout the regulatory agencies that have power and purview over those very clients?

ENRICH: Well, I think two main things happen. One is that the tactics that Jones Day learned representing clients like R.J. R, they that they imported to the political realm. So this is a style of lawyer and that is basically a complete smash mouth approach to the law. That means steamrolling anything and everything that gets in the way of Jones Day and other law firms historically, have resorted to really aggressive tactics to win at all costs on behalf of their tobacco clients. They started using those tactics in the political realm.

The second big thing though, is that as Jones Day lawyers joined the Trump administration, in particular, the Justice Department at very senior levels, it made it much easier for lawyers who were still at the firm with -- who had clients who had business before the federal government, to at least get an audience and in some cases, in the case of Walmart, for example, which was under federal investigation for its role in dispensing opioids, and Jones Day managed to get an audience with very senior people at the Justice Department, who until recently had worked at the law firm, and it helped quash a criminal investigation into the company.

KING: And Joan walk through your view on this. It's for people at home, you could say Jones Day, Don McGahn, and then just look at the Trump picks to the Supreme Court, Don McGahn was instrumental, he was the lead on all of those. Plus, all the other picks in the federal judiciary, Don McGahn was the lead. But it's more than that. It's deeper than that. JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: It's deeper than that. What I'd have to say about what David came up with here is that, you know, we have this phrase that we've often used on the U.S. Solicitor General's office as the 10th Justice, the handmaiden to the court. This SG normally represents all the federal positions. It says, if Jones Day has become a new handmaiden to the court. Obviously, Noel Francisco from Jones Day was the Solicitor General, but so many of the other lawyers infiltrated various parts of the Trump administration.

As I was reading his book, I was aware of key figures who were behind the scenes on the citizenship question on the census questionnaire, the Affordable Care Act contraceptive mandate, so many different issues from social policy involving reproductive rights to regulatory issues. So a very important set of tentacles throughout all different parts of government.

Now, you know, you mentioned, John, you know, of course, corporate law firms have always had an influence, but it was -- it's been a disproportionate influence. And it's going to continue because some of the Jones Day people are now on federal courts. And there it -- and I'll even start with the three Trump appointees, the youngest being Amy Coney Barrett, who is handpicked by Don McGahn.

KING: Right, the legacy of this will go on to 20, 25, 30 years or more. David, another key point, we just talked about the levers, the in and out of government, if you will, the revolving door of government, you also make the point that they were trying to help Donald Trump when he was fighting the election results. Jones Day and its lawyers were trying to stop votes from being counted not because they thought there was something improper underway, because they detected an opportunity to use the law to give their side a political edge in the firm's calculus, the consequences, fanning fears of fraud that would two months later erupt into a violent assault on democracy or immaterial. Immaterial?

ENRICH: Well, no one anticipated obviously exactly what would happen on January 6th. But, you know, Jones Day is an expert on going as far as they can go under, you know, official legal ethics and the law to do whatever they can for clients. And in this case, they were pushing really hard to make it harder for absentee and mail-in votes in Pennsylvania to count. And Pennsylvania was a key swing state, and they just wanted -- they want to do whatever they could to win.

KING: It's remarkable inside account of the influence of this one and other big law firms. David Enrich, Joan Biskupic, thank you so much.

ENRICH: Thank you.



MATTINGLY: And coming up, top House Republicans rollout a new agenda, bottom path back to power.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MATTINGLY: Topping our Political Radar, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy laid out his legislative agenda this morning dubbed a commitment to America. It focuses on the economy, crime, and border security, education and government accountability.

And the Republican running to oversee Arizona's elections doubled down on conspiracy theories about the 2020 election even though there is no widespread fraud. Joe Biden won Mark Finchem insisted again last night, votes from some Arizona counties should be set aside. The Democratic challenger Adrian Fontes called the comments dangerous for America.

And House Republican campaign arm is canceling more than $700,000 in ad support for an Ohio congressional nominee. That's after the Associated Press reported J.R. Majewski misrepresented his military service, now that the NRCC nor Majewski have commented on the move.


And a quick programming note, who's talking to some of the biggest names around, catch Who's Talking to Chris Wallace Sunday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN. Thanks so much for joining Inside Politics. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.