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Sen. Kelly Warns "Wheels" Could "Come Off Our Democracy" Because Of Election Conspiracies From Masters And Others; Book: Trump Describes Possible 2024 Rival DeSantis As "Fat," "Whiny"; Hunter Biden Could Be Charged With Tax Crimes, False Statement. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired October 07, 2022 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But I do think that I was in Georgia earlier this week, I interviewed a lot of voters. What was interesting is that voter's views are very entrenched at this moment. We are -- we didn't really get a sense of the real or true real swing voters were undecided. There are so many people who are decided this key moment. So it's just finding those small pocket of voters who could tilt the race one way or the other. That's going to be the challenge for both camps.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: That's -- which is why you need all hands on deck at the staff level. So it'd be interesting to watch as that plays out. I want to come back to this Arizona Senate debate and then more broadly. The state of Arizona, we have election deniers running on the Republican ticket across the country, at every level for just about every level of office. Arizona might be the biggest laboratory of it because you have a Republican candidate for governor who says Trump won, he did not.
You have Blake Masters in the Senate race, who's throughout the primaries said Trump won and he believes the election was stolen now trying to say well, Biden's, you know, Biden is the President. You have a Republican candidate for Secretary of State there, the person who counts the votes, would count the votes in 2024, who says Donald Trump won, and the election was stolen. Senator Kelly last night trying to make this an issue, listen.
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SEN. MARK KELLY (D-AZ): I'm worried about what's going to happen here, you know, this election in 2024. I mean, we could wind up in a situation where the wheels come off of our democracy. And it's because of folks like Blake Masters that are questioning the integrity of an election.
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KING: Kyung noted the middle. We live in a polarized times, Democrats or Republicans tend to stay in their corners. It's hard to get them out. Do we know, will this issue work election integrity, decency, honesty, respecting math and respecting the process, I guess, do we have to wait until Election Day to find out the power with general election voters?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I just don't think we know yet, John. I think we have seen indication in some polls, that it's raising as an issue. And I think in part as you have seen Democrats focusing on it more and more. That is clearly what Mark Kelly is trying to do. But you watch that debate and it is really striking that you would think people were existing in two different universes. I mean, Mark Kelly is talking about, you know, democracy, and he is having a very specific argument. And Masters is trying to sort of, you know, sidestep specific issues about Trump.
And then, in a weird way, run a more conventional race where he's just trying to tie Mark Kelly to Joe Biden in terms of voting with him, I don't know which version of reality ends up succeeding on the ballot, we'll find out.
KING: In his case, Masters case, he's tried to get back to the middle. We've seen the New Hampshire Senate candidate General Bolduc say, Trump won, nevermind. I did a lot of research, and Biden one to now saying again, I don't know despite, I guess, all of that research, who won. Again, we -- we're going to have to wait, I guess until Tuesday, Wednesday, when we're counting votes to see, the voters look at it and just say, you know, is it hypocrisy? Is it flip flopping? Is it if you keep going back and forth and forget the specifics? If you keep going back and forth on this, why do I trust you on taxes or security or anything else?
OLIVIER KNOX, AUTHOR, WASHINGTON POST'S "THE DAILY 202" NEWSLETTER: Yes, I think that's really an important point that it's not just the whole democracies on the ballot, it's, you know, well, look, in the primary, he said one thing, now he's saying in other, can you really trust this candidate, which is a really basic political message, right? And so maybe it doesn't matter quite as much. What proportion of those, what was it, 15 percent of Arizona voters are registered as independents. Maybe it doesn't matter so much what they think about the whole democracy is on the ballot question.
Maybe what matters is, look, you just can't -- Mark Kelly saying, look, this guy, this guy told you one thing, he said one thing on the primary, saying one thing now, can you really trust him? Same dynamic in Wisconsin, where Ron Johnson has been kind of all over the place on whether Biden's legitimate on what proper federal policy towards abortion is. Same deal, New Hampshire, same basic premise. So it's not just the core issue, which is extremely important. It's also the way that these candidates are being portrayed almost on a private, well, not almost on a personal level it terms of their personal integrity.
RAJU: -- about Wisconsin, though Johnson has very much leaned into his very conservative views on a lot of these issues has not necessarily, recast himself as a moderate running for reelection in a perennial swing state and that's his calculation drive of the base, win over a handful of voters, and may disqualify the other guy and we'll see if it works.
KING: We will see if it works again, it's just over 30 days out.
Up next for us, "Confidence Man," Maggie Haberman takes us inside her new book about Donald Trump.
KING: Donald Trump, of course is not on the midterm ballot, but his influence is very, very easy to find. Georgia Senate race and the controversy swirling right now around the Republican nominee Herschel Walker is just one example. In her great new book, "Confidence Man," the journalist Maggie Haberman explores Trump's dramatic influence on the Republican Party and on American politics more broadly, including the question of whether his knack for surviving scandal could be a template for others, including Walker. Haberman writes are bringing up Walker's complicated past in an interview with Trump. That past includes assault accusations. And this was Trump's response, 10 years ago, maybe it would have been a problem. Twenty years ago, would have been a bigger problem. I don't think it's a problem today, Trump said. Why is that Maggie asked? Why do you think that's changed? Trump's answer, because the world is changing.
Maggie Haberman is still with us. And you write that he didn't say it. But the world is changing at least in his world change he rewrote the rules. I guess the question is, do those new rules, do the Trump rules apply to Herschel Walker? Do they apply to Democrats or Republicans or is it just Trump?
HABERMAN: We're going to find out, John. And I would say that Trump is not the same as Herschel Walker. Walker is a known commodity, former sports star, that's part of what the appeal was and having him run for that seat for a lot of people and Trump talked about that at length when we were talking. He talked about, you know, his various trophies and his wins and so forth. Trump was part of pop culture fabric in the U.S. for 30 years. And he was so synonymous with wealth that voters thought they knew everything about him. And I think what we discovered in the media was things that had previously been disqualifying or would be disqualifying to another candidate if weren't for him.
These allegations with Walker are different. Now they -- and they are more specific and they're not as diffuse and everywhere. There were so much volume with Trump. We're going to find out, I'm not convinced that if Walker loses I'm not convinced this will be why, we'll see.
KING: We'll see. We will see. I want to go through some of the pieces of the book a little bit of a random order, but you've done a ton of interviews here. Talking, just talking about how Trump's mind works in the sense that this is Ron DeSantis, the Florida Governor potential rival of Trumps in 2024, someone Trump believes he is deeply involved in his Ron DeSantis success. But because he's trying to take some of the same space Trump gets mad, or you pick a better word.
I heard that Trump was describing the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, in similar terms to Christie, meaning Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor, calling him fat, phony, and whiny while claiming credit for making his candidacy in 2018. Why, why, why doesn't he just let it go? Why does he feel the need to disparage people that he views as somehow threatening?
HABERMAN: Because that is how he operates on everything. I have some reporting in the book about how Mitch McConnell would ask Trump in 2016, why do you respond to everything? Why is everything, you know, require your meeting it? And his answer was I have to defend myself. And that is how he looks at every single incident in his life. It's some kind of attack. In the case of DeSantis and in this part, he did say to me, you know, his disparaging of him, he's been doing privately, but he was very clear on you know, I made him, he was at 3 percent. He begged for my endorsement is the kind of thing we've heard him say over and over again. But he really does believe that and there is some truth to the fact that DeSantis got a huge bump Trump.
KING: Absolutely. And that's one of the great things about the book as you trace that, the behavior now you see, you might say it's petty about other politicians, you find it during business deals and real estate deals back early in Donald Trump's career. This one struck me, everybody remembers James Comey after Donald Trump wins the presidency, the FBI Director then goes up to brief him on the so called steal dossier, and essentially telling him this is out there about you. And in this, it's telling here, the brief interaction between the two men turned out to set the term for Mr. Trump's interactions with his intelligence and law enforcement chiefs for his entire time in office, two weeks before he would be sworn in the presidency had begun.
Jumped out at me even though we know the episode because of your point that he is a first reaction kind of guy. He didn't like Comey. He was suspicious of Comey. And that carried over not over to only to Comey but to just about anybody who did anything in the same universe.
HABERMAN: And he has been suspicious of the intelligence community even prior to becoming president. But that's certainly added to it. And I do think this one interaction, just, you know, foretold what was going to come over the previous four years. One thing about that I should point out, and I just mentioned the date in the book, I was a little surprised to go back in the in the reporting for the book and see this date, the date of that briefing was January 6th, 2017. January 6th, turns out to be a pretty pivotal book end in the Trump presidency.
KING: And so Donald Trump may run again, he wants to run again, although you talk about maybe his heart is not in it, but he thinks he has to. So the last piece of the book, it just jumps out at me, because of our conversations about him over the years, when you were covering the White House more. I spent the four years of his presidency, getting asked by people to decipher why he was doing what he was doing. But the truth is, ultimately, almost no one really knows him. Some know him better than others. But he is often simply purely opaque, permitting people to read meaning and depth into every action, no matter how empty they may be.
So for all we learned about Donald Trump, during his presidency, and in a time since, for all you learned about going all the way back to the beginning, some of its helpful some of it may not be because what, he will do whatever it takes to get through the next challenge, even if it's contrary to everything in here?
HABERMAN: Correct. He has a couple of, he has a hand -- and I write about this. He has a handful of moves that he uses over and over again over the course of his, you know, last 40, 50 years in public life. It's just that figuring out which move can be challenging. And lots of times, you know, again, he will do something. He will do a social media post and people will say why is he doing that? And they assume and we had this happen a lot in the White House, the all caps tweets, you know, were him fuming. He was often laughing as he did these things. So it's just trying to figure out he has a few id-like impulses on trade, on alliances, on other countries quote unquote, ripping the U.S. off. But he can sublimate those if he thinks he's going to get something else in return.
KING: All right, so one last one here. This is about what to do, try to challenge the election, quizzing nearly everyone even the valet who brought him Diet Cokes after he pressed a red button on the Resolute Desk about which different options would lead to success. A, is that real? And B, in the context I'm not making the White House valets are incredibly hardworking people who love the institution of the building. But if Donald Trump runs again, who will be around him?
HABERMAN: I mean, you just hit on the important, most important point about a future Donald Trump presidency. I know there's some theory that he's figured out how to do it better next time and that's not really true. What he is obsessed with personnel, everything with Donald Trump comes down to personnel where's my Roy Cohn, searching for his fixers, now what he did figure out in 2020 is that he finally had the quote unquote right people who he thought would help him. Those are the kinds of folks he would turn to.
KING: All right, it's fascinating. It's great from beginning to end. I highly recommend it is as a, well as I told you in the greenroom as an AP wire guy, you read the prologue and you think do I need to read the rest because the prologue is so good, you need to read the rest. It's great. Maggie, thank you very much.
Up next, prosecutors weighing the evidence against Hunter Biden, the President's son. New details on potential charges, that's next.
KING: Federal prosecutors believe they have enough evidence to charge Hunter Biden, that's according to sources familiar with the case. But a final decision has not been made. And that decision not expected before the midterm election. CNN though is told the President's son could be charged on two fronts, tax crimes and a false statement related to a gun purchase. With us to share his reporting on this, our senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez, back with us for context, the defense attorney, former federal prosecutor Shan Wu. Just walk us through, this has been a long investigation, the U.S. Attorney in Delaware. So what is it that they believe they could successfully prosecute?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the argument inside the Justice Department has been how strong this case has been is, right? And the investigators certainly believe that there's enough evidence to prove that he broke tax laws using certain bank accounts to hide money. They believe they can document that. They're also can plainly say that when he bought a firearm while he was addicted to drugs, which by the way, he has now admitted in his book, interviews on television, he has said he was addicted to drugs during this period. And yet he bought a firearm which ended up being discarded and reported to the police that that was also a paper violation, essentially, a false statements because when you buy a gun, you have to say you're not addicted to drugs. And he has now said he was. And so that's where this case now land.
KING: So the question then becomes if the team working on the case believes they could prosecute, they can successfully prosecute on those charges is that the consensus within the DOJ goes to the U.S. Attorney in Delaware through Washington of course.
PEREZ: Right, now, there have been a number of meetings over this investigation. And certainly the investigative team, as often happens in these cases, the IRS guys, the FBI guys who have been doing this, they believe they have a strong case, there was pushback initially from the Justice Department saying, look, this is not a great case. In the end, I think they have relented and the reporting we have certainly from the last couple of months, is that it's in the hands of the U.S. Attorney in Delaware, a Trump appointee who is kept on specifically to run this case.
The bottom line is that, you know, certainly people who've been watching your program, John, know that this is a serious case. There have been people around the former president, I'm sorry, the current president and around Hunter Biden who have tried to minimize and tried to say that this is not going to happen. It very well could happen. And certainly I think a lot of people are now starting to realize that, certainly "The Washington Post" matching some of our reporting yesterday indicates that this is where people think, you know, this decision is obviously pending after the election. And we'll see what the U.S. Attorney decides.
KING: So you used to work in the Justice Department, justice is supposed to be blind, Hunter Biden is supposed to be treated like anybody else in the United States of America. But let's be real, Hunter Biden is the President's son. What do you do? How does this get handled? And how stressful is it inside the system?
SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It's pretty stressful. There would be a lot of meetings about this. Certainly, originally, I would have thought this would have been case number one on Garland's first day, but other events took that over. They've really taken his hands off approach. It's a big signal to keep the original U.S. attorney on the case. It signals that you're letting the investigation run its course. From the publicly reported facts, this is really something that should plead out. I mean, tax cases, the false statement on the gun purchase, there's not a lot of defenses to that.
PEREZ: He's a first time offender.
WU: Right, yes. I mean, it's not like he's going to jail for life here, and these sorts of criminal tax cases.
KING: Let me jump in there, to plead it out, you make a key point. Most of these cases are settled before and we don't even hear about them, because they're normal members of the society. But the defendant or the person being investigated has to be willing to play out, number one, and then you have to negotiate what the Justice Department views as an acceptable deal. Do we know anything? Is that process underway? Or is that a TBD?
PEREZ: We know that there have been discussions. We don't know whether that is in the cards, so to speak. I mean, that -- you're right. That's exactly how normally these things work. But this is not normal person being investigated. And so that's why we are where we are.
WU: Right. And I think for DOJ, they have to think of the repercussions of the deal. If it looks too sweet, that's bad for them.
KING: Fascinating. Appreciate the reporting and the insights.
When we come back, the New York City Mayor Eric Adams declaring a state of emergency, we'll tell you why. That's next.
KING: Topping our Political Radar today. You see it right here. All nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court posing for the new class photo today. The newest member, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, was the first African American woman on the bench. The High Court as a six-three conservative majority, you see there four women including all three of the liberals.
The New York City Mayor Eric Adams declaring a state of emergency today over the influx of migrants, the mayor calling the situation quote, a humanitarian crisis accelerated by American political dynamics, Mayor Adams says he expected to cost the city at least $1 billion this year.
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MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-NY): We will surpass the highest number of people in recorded history in our city's shelter system and every day going forward that we add more to this count, you break another record.
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KING: The former President Donald Trump finally digging into his wallet of political campaign cash, the new Trump line Super PAC, MAGA Inc., just placed its first T.V. ad buys, it is spending $1.3 million on ads to support Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance in Ohio and nearly 900,000 on the Republican candidate Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, that according to AdImpact. The former president has been under pressure from Republicans to support and spend money on candidates he back to the primaries.
Thanks for your time this week on Inside Politics. Hope to see you Monday. Have a peaceful weekend. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.