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Republican Ads Focus On Crime, Inflation In Closing Midterms Weeks; Opening Statements Right Now In Historic Oath Keepers Trial; CNN Identifies Woman Who Allegedly Helped Arrange Migrants Flights. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 03, 2022 - 12:30   ET




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- creating heroin injection sites in our neighborhoods.

DR. MEHMET OZ (R-PA), SENATE CANDIDATE: Fetterman's ideas are radical, deadly, and wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two years ago, most families could afford to fill this up. But now, it's more like this. That's concerning for North Carolina families. You're being forced to make hard choices, because Joe Biden made bad decisions.


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: You note the Joe Biden at the end of the Ted Budd ad in North Carolina. Republicans are running a pretty traditional midterm strategy, crime and inflate -- crime and immigration and then inflation trying to tie every Democrat to the President.

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Fundamentally, it does -- every time the new shifts when you've nationalized all the races, I feel like it's going to affect things as we get closer, maybe some of those more local or state level things become of interest to the voters and can help with these candidates. But I do think the abortion issue because it is consequential, meaning state by state, you will begin to see enforcement mechanisms, things on ballots, this can have an effect that's why Democrats are leaning so hard because it's not a hey, what if, what if, what if, they actually can say this is the world that is being designed by the opposition party? How do you feel about that?

KING: And the Democratic pollster, Celinda Lake, makes an interesting take on the abortion. We've talked about, we saw the Kansas referendum, we've watched in the suburbs, and that's where we focus most of our attention, moderate Republican Women, moderate independence in the suburbs. Celinda Lake makes an important point. It's a theory I guess, that what about rural pro-life voters thinking maybe we won, right, we won. We got the Supreme Court did what, for years we've wanted them to do, so we don't have to, you know, we don't have to be as energized anymore.

So a lot of rural voters, they're more conservative, religiously, very mobilized by abortion, and now they think they've won. Whenever you see a kind of falling off a pro-life voters because they're less engaged, you're going to see that particularly in rural areas. So Kansas governor's race, parts of Pennsylvania get very rural, you can -- parts of North Carolina, that's another thing again, another conflicting data point, what are we watching for in these final five weeks.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I'm watching the economy. And the reality is as much as abortion is absolutely going to be a driver of turnout and excitement and energy on one side and perhaps some of the other and as rural voters who are also driven by the economy, their gas tanks, which is still expensive. I mean, it's not as expensive but it is still more expensive than it was before. So look at the end of the day, I think that we'll know in five weeks or six weeks what the election is about, but we know it will be about the economy to a central point here.

Interestingly, though, about the Oz and Fetterman race there, that's going to be one of the closest to watch. But these races aren't happening necessarily in a vacuum. They have governor's races. So many interesting states now have those sort of intertwined. And in Pennsylvania, the Democrat there, Josh Shapiro, the Attorney General candidate is running away at least as of now with a Republican in Georgia Governor Brian Kemp of the Republican incumbent is a stronger so. There's going to be a lot of help there from the governor's races in influencing the Senate races as well.

KING: It's a great point. Ticket splitting has all but disappeared in presidential years. Do we get a lot of it in this midterm year or some of those candidates whether it's a Democrat in one state Republican another poll people over the line, right, interesting weeks ahead.


Right now the historic sedition trial against five members of the Oath Keepers is underway here in Washington, D.C. The Justice Department argues these defendants plan quote, an armed rebellion on January 6th.


KING: Right now in a federal courtroom right here in Washington, D.C. opening statements are underway in the historic trial of the Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and four of his top lieutenants for their roles in the January 6th insurrection. This morning, Prosecutor Jeffrey Nestler, saying the defendants quote concocted a plan for armed rebellion to shatter the bedrock of American democracy. These are the five defendants right here. Stewart Rhodes is the Oath Keepers leader. He is in the middle, the four deputies there. This is the government's case against them that they plotted to stop the lawful transfer of power by storming the Capitol that they were prepared to answer Stewart Rhodes call to arms, that they amassed and distributed firearms outside of Washington, D.C. in advance of January 6th, that they coordinated travel to the Capitol again with the intent of disrupting the peaceful transfer of power, the certification of the Electoral College vote.

Let's get some expertise. Our CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig is with us. He's a former state and federal prosecutor. Elie you see these charges here. I just want to bring up seditious conspiracy. If two or more persons conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the government of the United States or to delay the execution of any law. The last part is significant as well. Not in 50 years, as this charge been brought into a federal courtroom. How significant is this trial among all the January 6th trials?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, John, what makes this charge different than the hundreds of other charges we've seen thus far brought by DOJ against rioters is that this involves a charge of seditious conspiracy. This is a very rarely used statute. And it's very serious. Essentially, what prosecutors want to show here is, one, a conspiracy, which just means an agreement between two or more people. Two to use force, and that's what makes this different, the use of force. And three, not just to interrupt any proceeding, but to interrupt the actual processes of government. And here the allegation is that that's the counting of the electoral votes by Congress.

KING: And so let's walk through, I want to begin with the defense. The opening statements are underway now come to some prosecution evidence in a moment. But the defense here is provocative. You tell me whether you think it's outrageous or not, but Stewart Rhodes in a pretrial motion argued they expected President Trump to invoke the insurrection act, to say that it was Joe Biden who was trying to steal the election, that it was members of Congress who are trying to help him steal the election. The government would like this court to believe that it is sedition. When in fact it is the opposite, it is loyalty to an oath taken in defense of the country. Can you sell that to a judge and a jury?


HONIG: Look, John, everyone is entitled to a defense. But to me, this is utterly ridiculous. First of all, they did storm the Capitol. This wasn't just some plan that never came to fruition. They did go into the Capitol using tactics, using formation. Second of all, this idea that Donald Trump was going to invoke the Insurrection Act. First of all, he never did invoke the Insurrection Act. Second of all, that's not how the Insurrection Act works. It doesn't mean you can call on random civilians to go and attack government.

So this defense really, there's some nerve behind this defense. I expect it'll backfire. But sometimes you just have to do the best you can do as a defense lawyer and defendant.

KING: And now as a former prosecutor, what you want as a prosecutor is to lay out this is a conspiracy. You want to lay out when it began, how it was built. And then the big day, if you go back, this is Stewart Rhodes just two days after the November election, just two days after the November election. We aren't getting through this without a civil war. Too late for that. Prepare your mind, your body, and your spirit, that from the Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes. And you mentioned they did storm the Capitol, the January 6th Committee has evidence right here. Rhodes himself did not go in and one of his lieutenants did not but you see members of the Oath Keepers right here, including three of the defendants in a stack pattern going into the Capitol. How important is it to be able to go back to right after the election. This was not born on January 6th. This goes all the way back to days after the election straight through this.

HONIG: Yes, John, one of the things that I think makes prosecutors case so powerful here is you don't have to ask the jury to take the word of some coconspirator. You use these defendants own words against them. You use videotapes, you use encrypted communications, like the one you just showed from Stewart Rhodes. The defendants own words that they typed sent to each other said that makes the strongest case against them. Prosecutors love that kind of case, because you're basically asking the jury to convict the defendants based on their own words and based on videotapes of their own actions.

KING: Ellie Honig appreciate the insights and we'll stay on top of this trial as it plays out this week and probably into next week in D.C. Thank you.

Ahead for us, new details on the woman who allegedly helped arrange those migrant flights from Texas to Martha's Vineyard.



KING: There's some new CNN reporting now. CNN has now identified the woman who allegedly arranged those controversial flights of migrants to Martha's Vineyard from Texas last month. CNN's Ed Lavandera joins us now with the details. Ed, what do we know?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, her name is Perla Huerta. We've been hearing her name for quite some time. Remember when this group of 50 Venezuelan migrants mostly were flown on two flights from San Antonio to Martha's Vineyard, they had said that there was a woman named Perla that was behind all of this. There was also another migrant who was working with her. And we have spoken with her. He told us last week that he had been lured by Perla and offered clothing, shelter, food for some time in exchange for helping recruit other migrants fill these flights to Martha's Vineyard.

Now, we don't know much about Perla Huerta at this point. We do know that she is -- has connections in Florida with addresses there and that she served more than 20 years in the U.S. Army, serving in a counter intelligence unit, serving in Iraq, in Afghanistan as well. But she still remains, John, a mysterious figure. Many of the migrants that we have spoken with said they feel in the end deceived by what she told them. The migrant who was helping recruit other migrants said that she -- that he had been told by Perla that it was a quote, benefactor who was behind this. He said that at the time, he had no idea that this was a plane and a flight orchestrated by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. But what kind of connection there is between Perla Huerta and the governor's office or the people behind all of this in Florida is still something we are digging into at this point, John. KING: Ed Lavandera live for us in Dallas. Ed, appreciate that.

Panel of reporters back with me at the table, some of the details that were first reported by "The New York Times," you hear me talk about this, former counterintelligence office, army officer, it just does add to the mystery and the intrigue, and some are making the case that these migrants were defrauded or misled into these flights. Can you make a case of that?

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: I mean, yes, perhaps people didn't know where they were going when they were getting on this. They were promised a job in some cases and a place to stay. And then they ended up in Martha's Vineyard. "The New York Times" story said that they were really freaked out when they realized they were on an island and couldn't get off and looking for a bridge.

But the reality here is that DeSantis is, this was a tactic. This was not something that has advanced any sort of solution for the issue. It's not like he was talking and working closely with governors to try to come up with a plan if there was an overflow of migrants. And so this hasn't advanced anything. This was a political tactic, and we'll see if it backfires on him not only in this election that he's up, but in 2024 too.

KING: And, you know, DeSantis, the governor of Florida mentioned as the likely 2024 presidential candidate. He's up for reelection this year, five weeks from tomorrow. So as Governor Greg Abbott, the Texas Republican governor, just today, another busload of migrants were dropped off across from the Vice President's residence here in Washington, D.C. That was from Governor Abbott. Governor DeSantis flew the migrants to Martha's Vineyard. This came up, Governor Abbott is running against Democrat Beto O'Rourke and this came up in their debate and Governor Abbott first here saying I'm just trying to make Texas safer.



GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): What we're doing is making sure that we are keeping our community safe. And this is completely different than the way things would be under Beto because he said months ago, there is no problem on the border.

BETO O'ROURKE (D-TX), GOV. CANDIDATE: When the governor spent 4 billion of our tax dollars on what has turned out to be political theater for his political career. He promised us that it would deter people from coming to this country. You've only seen more people come.


KING: You mentioned earlier in the program, voters get their say, and that's to say that matters most five weeks from tomorrow. It's an issue in the Texas governor's race. It's an issue in the Florida's governor's race. I suspect it will be an issue. Democrats are arguing. How about a solution Republicans? Where's your compassion Republicans? This issue generally, though, has favored Republicans. I guess we find out in five weeks if it still does.

CORNISH: Well, just to add something from earlier. I believe that if you have coerced or misled people in this manner, it's actually a violation of federal law. That's why people care about this story. It's not hunting down this person with an interesting name. The other thing I think, is that there's an ongoing debate between state and the federal government about immigration. I point to on CNN's own website, Ron Brownstein has written about this beautifully, the idea that if you keep pushing the envelope, you perhaps create a legal scenario of which you can challenge the federal government's ability to deal with immigration law. And that's just something I think it's a bit of context for people to understand about why these little fights are happening. They're about a bigger picture.

KING: And you have a go -- you go back and forth, again, you can look at the history of this issue, you can go back 25 years but the intractability, the inability of this town to do anything about it. And then you look at who does it benefit politically in a midterm year. The Hill newspaper today, Sunday, writing this, Democrats have a playbook to portray immigration hard-line Republicans as anti- immigrant, a playbook that's turned California into the political crown jewel for the party, made Arizona competitive, but has yet to work in Texas. Florida, Republicans say that playbook will fail again, against their border security and law and order arguments.

It is interesting that if you go state by state Democrats against the former Governor Pete Wilson, a long time ago in California, Wilson used it successfully first, then Democrats flipped it. It -- we don't know. I mean, it's different in different states.

ZELENY: It absolutely is and, you know, it's exhibit A, B and C probably about how the Latino vote is not a monolith for me here. But the reality is, I've talked to some evangelical Republicans and others in Florida who just questioned the meanness aspect of this, the lack of decency aspect of this. And we'll see if that has a big effect for Governor DeSantis or Governor Abbott, I think that it probably won't cost either one of them their races. They're both in very strong positions to win here.

But I do think overall, I mean, this country has a tradition, even Republican governors of welcoming in refugees and other things. So there is a decency argument to be made. But in the short term, I'm not sure that there's that much of a political risk here for either of them. You know, which I guess is sad. But in terms of, you know, there hasn't even been an attempt to do immigration reform or a solution based really in, you know, in three presidents ago.

KING: Perhaps we'll be surprised. But given the current political environment of Washington unlikely, no matter how the election it turns out that there'll be the margins or the willingness to do something about it.


Up next for us, the Trump tapes, the former president was interviewed three times, three times for new book by Maggie Haberman of The New York Times and some of what Trump says about January 6th, some of what he says about Kim Jong-un simply doesn't add up.


KING: Topping our political radar today, it is Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson's first day on the bench as the Supreme Court today opened its new term. In the weeks ahead the court will hear cases on affirmative action voting and discrimination against gay couples.

Eric Herschmann, you'll remember, a top Trump lawyer turned key witness in the house insurrection investigation is now the lead counsel for the NFL Hall of Famer Brett Favre. That's according to Axios. Mississippi's Department of Human Services filed a civil lawsuit against Favre in May, alleging the former Green Bay Packers quarterback and others quote squandered more than $20 million for an anti-poverty program. Axios calls this scandal Mississippi's biggest ever public corruption case.

Brand new audio the interviews Donald Trump did with Maggie Haberman of The New York Times. Trump claims he didn't keep too many important documents from his time at the White House.


MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Did you leave the White House with anything in particular? Are there any memento documents you took with you? Anything of note?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nothing of great urgency. I have great things there, you know, the letters to Kim Jong- un, letters, and many of them.

HABERMAN: You were able to take those with you?

TRUMP: Look at what's happened. I think that has the -- I think that's in the Archives, but most of it's in the Archives.


KING: But we now know letters from the North Korean leader were in the boxes turned over from Mar-a-Lago to the National Archives early this year. Something else that doesn't match up, Trump told Haberman, he wasn't watching T.V. as rioters breached the Capitol back on January 6th, that goes against sworn testimony from several people very close for the former President.

Kim Kardashian has agreed to pay the Securities and Exchange Commission nearly $1.3 million. The fine comes after the reality T.V. star failed to disclose she was paid $250,000 to tout a crypto asset company on social media.

Stanley Tucci searching for Italy is back. Join Stanley as he takes you to all the new regions of Italy for more delicious food, more fun and amazing adventures, the all new season of the Emmy award winning Stanley Tucci Searching for Italy premieres this Sunday 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific right here on CNN.


Thanks for your time today in INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you back here tomorrow. Erica Hill picks up our coverage right now.