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Steve Bannon Sentenced To Four Months In Prison; Bannon Won't Serve Time Before Appeal Plays Out; Inside Elections: 13 Of 21 House Races Shift Toward GOP; 18 Days Until Midterms: Key Shifts Show GOP Momentum; Inside Elections: IA Senate Shifts From Solid GOP To Likely GOP; Biden Slams "Mega-MAGA Trickle-Down" Policies In Midterm Pitch; Dem Midterm Strategy Light On Surrogates; GOP Using Heavily. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired October 21, 2022 - 12:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: He is still under a parliamentary investigation and was criticized heavily for damaging the reputation of the party. So, very controversial indeed.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST, AT THIS HOUR: It seems that confidence and the level of confidence might be very relative these days, when it comes to leadership in the U.K. It is good to see you. Bianca, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. And thank you all so much for being with us today. I'm Kate Bolduan. Inside Politics, starts right now.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. Thanks for joining us this afternoon. I'm Abby Phillip in for John King. Four months, Steve Bannon, the former Trump chief strategist has been sentenced to prison time for defying a congressional subpoena. A federal judge last hour handing down that four-month sentence, Bannon though, will remain free while an appeal plays out. But outside the courthouse minutes after learning his fate, Bannon thank the judge, and then immediately attacked Democrats.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP CHIEF STRATEGIST: On November 8, on November 8, vote on November 8, there's going to have judgment on the illegitimate Biden regime, and quite frankly, and quite frankly, the Nancy Pelosi in the entire committee. Or they're about to be beaten like Lauria and others, or they will lose their power and becoming a minority. The American people are weighing and measuring what went on with the Justice Department and how they comported themselves.


PHILLIP: We're going to take you straight outside of the courthouse where CNN's Sara Murray has been covering all of the developments inside. Sara, the judge seemed pretty dismissive of Biden - of Bannon's efforts to defy the subpoena, but ultimately Bannon got jail time, which is more or less what the government wanted.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean, this sentence is a little bit less than what the government was asking for, they wanted him to have six months behind bars, a $200,000 fine. The judge settled on four months behind bars and a $6,500 fine. You know, Bannon didn't want any jail time at all. He wanted probation. The judge made pretty clear today, that was not going to happen.

There was going to be some period of incarceration, but you know, a big win for Bannon. The judge said, all of this is going to be delayed, pending his appeal. So, if Bannon is successful in his appeal, if he's able to overturn his conviction, of course, he would not face any time behind bars. If he is not successful, he's looking at that four-months and he's looking at that fine.

You know, one of the things that judge made clear, as we were going through the sentencing today, as he pointed out that Steve Bannon really didn't show any remorse for defying a subpoena, for testimony as well as for documents. And he pointed out that there are some documents that he certainly could have provided that Steve Bannon has been out of the government for a long period of time that there were ways he could have been more responsive.

And the judge also pointed out that this needs to be a deterrent to other people, a signal that you can't just, you know, get a subpoena and have your lawyer send a letter, and then refuse to provide anything or, you know, even lay out a list of, sort of what your objections are document by document. I think that is the message that judge was hoping to send, you know, ultimately Bannon team feels like this is a victory for them in some ways, because the sentence is delayed. I'm told that he has headed home to film his podcast for the day. Abby?

PHILLIP: As one could expect from Steve Bannon. Sara Murray, thank you so much. And here to walk us through some of the details of the legal part of this sentencing is CNN's legal analyst and former prosecutor Paul Callan. So, Paul, as Sara just described, the judge did hand down jail time, but not as much as the government wanted and not as much as he could have gotten up to a year in jail. And then the financial part of this was pretty small as well. What do you make of how the judge came down on those friends?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It looks to me Abby, like a compromise sentenced. He threw a little bit to both sides. That would have been a staggeringly high fine, the $200,000 fine, the Department of Justice requested. And of course, they wanted six months in prison. The judge settled on four months. But the judge also leaned in Bannon's favor in another area by saying, I'm going to give you an opportunity to appeal this case, and you will not have to go to jail during that time, he granted a stay.

And there are interesting issues that are raised here. One is, it's called the defense of counsel advice. Bannon's contention has always been that ex-President Trump invoked the executive privilege doctrine and that his attorney advised him not to go to Congress and not to answer any questions in Congress. And that concept is now going to be tested in an appellate court. This judge gave them the opportunity to do that. PHILLIP: Yes. To that point, Paul, the Bannon's attorneys earlier this week argued exactly that they asked in a sentencing memo, should a person who spent a lifetime listening to experts as a naval officer, investment banker and corporate executive and presidential advisor, be jailed for relying on the advice of his lawyers. This particular judge said, the answer to that question, is yes, but an appeal could further reveal whether or not, he will actually end up serving time.


I did also want to ask you, Paul, about this idea that Bannon, his lawyers made the case to the judge today that he doesn't need to be deterred, that there's no sort of need to penalize him. But Bannon outside of the courthouse seem to be completely unrepentant about any of this. I mean, is there not a need to send a signal in terms of the rule of law here?

CALLAN: Well, you know, Bannon is about the most unremarkable character in the entire political system, as best I can see. He's very aggressive in his podcasts. And he has never expressed an ounce of remorse for defying Congress with respect to the subpoena. And the judge, I think, emphasize that saying that's one of the reasons, the most important reason that he was getting four months in prison.

And as for that second thing that you raised, the deterrence. I think the judge, in his reference to deterrence said, it's not to deter Bannon from committing another crime, it's to send a message to other people who might want to try to defy a congressional subpoena, that you're facing jail time and a substantial fine. And that's why he was proceeding with this sentence. Even though he conceded there were some issues that an appellate court might want to look at.

PHILLIP: And that has, of course, been the significance of this Bannon trial all along. What it means for other people who might want to stiff arm, the congressional subpoena process. Paul Callan, thank you so much for that breakdown. And here to help us break the rest of all of it down is CNN's Kasie Hunt, CNN's Jeff Zeleny, and Francesca Chambers of USA Today. Classic Steve Bannon outside of that courthouse today. He is clearly really eager to come out of this a martyr.

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: He is certainly trying to, and I think that that's what his audience, quite frankly, was looking for from him, because I think one of the interesting things about Bannon, as a figure in all of this is that he really had lost the support of anyone in establishment, Washington no matter what party they were a part of.

I mean, there were Republicans on the Hill, Trump supporters on the Hill, who were very frustrated with how he dealt with the intelligence committee, for example, and that kind of went all the way through, you know, up to how the Trump, the former president handled the trial piece and kind of how he was involved in this case. So, I don't know if it's going to provide any other lessons for others on the committee for that reason. But certainly, Bannon is going to try to use it to increase his own notoriety. PHILLIP: And I just want to remind folks about why Bannon was such a crucial witness for the January 6 committee. It's because he was in the lead up to January 6, basically previewing what Trump was going to do - I am sorry, I should say, in the lead up to the election previewing what Trump was going to do after the election, and also previewing what was going to happen on January 6. Just take a listen to what we heard from the committee in the last few weeks.


BANNON: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. Just understand this. All hell is going to break loose tomorrow. It's not going to happen like you think it's going to happen. OK. It's going to be quite extraordinarily different. And all I can say is strap in, the war room a posse. You've made this happen, and tomorrow, it's game day. So, strap in.


FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: And one of the arguments that prosecutors made in this case, Abby, was this wasn't defying any congressional subpoena. This was a congressional subpoena, specifically relating to January 6, where democracy was just under attack, where the Capitol building was under attack.

So, they really were arguing that they saw this as much more serious than some of these other cases, then you heard the attorneys for Bannon arguing that there were other individuals who weren't charged for defying congressional subpoenas. But a key thing in this case had been, that he wasn't working for the White House at the time when he made those comments, and therefore executive privilege was something that he had claimed didn't apply in this case.

PHILLIP: I mean, it's always been interesting to me, interesting. But interesting to me that he would claim executive privilege without - it's not clear even in that clip that we just played. What the president had to do with any of that? I mean, Bannon will never have to explain what he knew and why he knew it because he didn't ultimately respond to the subpoena. Now, he might go to jail, and pay a small fine, but we will never know from a factual perspective what he knew.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Right. And I think it's, I mean, he left the White House in 2018. And he was one of the many people who left in the earliest stages of the first term. There were so many people are leaving at the time. But look, he remained very central to the former president at the time. We weren't sure how often they spoke, but it was pretty often. But Steve Bannon, there was just, I mean, he offered the most clear-eyed preview of what was going to happen on January 6.


I think, you know, had all of us been paying attention to that strap in. I guess that's what he was talking about. But look, we won't know for history what exactly he knew in terms of his conversations with the former president, but I don't think this is a deterrent for others necessarily at all. And we'll see if he ends up serving prison time or not, but he's going to capitalize off this. I mean he knew there were live cameras up there. All the cable networks were taking him live and he was trying to pivot toward November 8. So, he loved today. We'll see how he enjoys prison if he serves it.

PHILLIP: Yes. Certainly not a deterrent, in part also because other people who defied subpoenas were never taken to court at all. But standby for us. Join Drew Griffin for an investigation into Steve Bannon and his master plan to reshape the United States government and the Republican Party. A CNN special report 'Divided We Fall' airs tonight at 11pm Eastern time. And 18 days from the midterms and the ratings now show that the map is tilting in the favor of Republicans. We will break down those numbers, next.




PHILLIP: Just 18 days remain until the midterms and Inside Elections is giving us a preview of its brand-new ratings for the House and for the Senate. The big takeaway here, Republicans have momentum. Inside Elections is now shifting 21 House races, 13, more than half in favor of the GOP. Joining our conversation is Nathan Gonzales. He's the Editor and Publisher of Inside Elections.

So, Nathan, some shifts happening, that's kind of mirroring, you know, the vibe shift that I think everybody's experiencing right now in elections. But just to show people what's happening here. This is where we stood in terms of the House ratings before the changes that you are making today. We had 19 toss ups, but generally speaking, you know, 25 tilt, or lean democratic seats, 13 total lean Republican seats. Let's take a look at where we are today. Now, fewer toss ups, fewer solidly democratic seats, and more seats now leaning in the Republican direction.

NATHAN GONZALES, EDITOR & PUBLISHER, INSIDE ELECTIONS: Right. And we've changed our overall range from a Republican gain of eight to 20 seats to eight to 25 seats. So, we've upped that range. And the part of it is that, if you look at our - look at our ratings, and everything breaks, as they're supposed to be that would be on the lower end of that range.

But Democrats are significantly - there's more vulnerability, they're just more-softer Democratic seats, and they're so close. And if undecided voters who are prioritizing the economy, they don't think President Biden's doing a good job. If they break for Republican candidates, that's when Republicans start to get on the upper end of that range.

PHILLIP: This is just really emphasizing the degree to which all these little tiny shifts could mean, the difference between the Democratic House and a Republican House. And it's happening at a time when there's no question, everyone agrees, the momentum on the ground is shifting.

HUNT: It does seem to be shifting. And I think the question, the question I had is, how fast is it shifting? And is there still an opportunity for Democrats to kind of at least hold the momentum is going in Republicans directions now. I mean, everything is starting to move faster in our politics along with our information media environment. So, we're still a couple of weeks out. There's still room for this to change.

But if it's moving as fast as it appears to, what we would be looking at, and you know, I think Nathan's data lays this out is some seriously surprising losses, potentially some bigger name Democrats that we didn't expect to lose their seats in the House. I mean, I everyone I talked to, Democrats in public will try to tell you that there's a chance they're going to keep the House in private. No one is saying that.

PHILLIP: Yes. Nathan, I want to touch on the Senate, though. You made one shift in the Senate landscape. Tell us about that.

GONZALES: We moved the Iowa Senate race where Senator Chuck Grassley is running for reelection from solid Republican to likely Republican, and it might be a little bit surprising. But one of the key pieces of data I think, is actually the poll done by the Des Moines Register that buy and sell to who's the kind of gold standard in Iowa that had Grassley ahead 46 to 43 against Democrat Mike Franken.

Now, those of you who are - any of us that have doubted insults in the past have not lived, we barely lived to tell the story. So, that is something that I think we take seriously. Republicans have their own poll. They think Grassley is going to be fine.

PHILLIP: But we know better.

GONZALES: Yes. Grassley has the advantage, but I think this is going to be a much closer race and we're seeing it at the district level too. There are three competitive House districts in Iowa and Grassley's numbers have been soft for months.

ZELENY: What that poll did, though, was a big favor for Chuck Grassley because he came on the air this week with an ad, against Mike Franken tying him to Joe Biden. So, if there was any sort of sense of closeness there that probably is changing because polls are always look, what has happened or backwards, not forward. But Iowa Democrats are pretty dispirited about their chances. The governor's race there is so important.

So that's one of the many examples, which is really so fascinating. How many governor's races are tied to the Senate races as well. And Kim Reynolds, the Republican governor is likely to win going away there. So, not that Chuck Grassley needs much help, but she'll help them somewhat.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, it's a few things surprising, just this race was not really on anybody's radar. And in some ways, it almost seems like it wasn't on Chuck Grassley's radar, that he would be in a bit of a fight here. This is a bit of what he was saying. He put out a Twitter video earlier today. Just to kind of give you a sense of where he's at in this race.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): Would you please tell me how the high cost of gasoline and food has affected your family budget?


PHILLIP: He's in, what looked like his Senate office at the time, not in the state. But this is someone who's an incumbent, an incumbent of incumbents and is suddenly kind of, well having a little bit of a fight for his.

HUNT: I mean, if, look, the quality of the video, I mean, if anyone who's follows Chuck Grassley knows, this is sort of his Twitter feed has been sort of cast as part of his eye with charm. It's an entertaining follow for sure, if you're at all interested in politics, yes, and the mentions of various animals that come through, I mean, it's a lot, (crosstalk) and that too.


But look, I think that the real risk here is that anyone, any politician who gets caught flat footed because they're not paying attention, potentially can get surprised. I mean, it happened to Eric Cantor, for example, was a high-profile example of a leadership, person leadership who was really, you know, caught.

I don't quite what to say with their pants down sighs it would happen but basically caught unawares of what was going on around him. And I think Chuck Grassley may be in a similar situation, I think, to Jeff's point, if that poll gave him enough of a heads up to get on the air, to get some of the gears moving. Hopefully, you know, from their perspective, he may be able to protect them himself, but it's just not me. We'll see.

PHILLIP: And we thank you, by the way, for your---

CHAMBERS: A very kind with respect to morning register, Paul, which is the USA Today network paper. But you know, the poll did show him 46- 43. That's by no means saying that Chuck Grassley, you know, was on the ropes in this race. But it is a shift as I think you were saying too, likely Republican and from solidly Republican which by the way, it's still all Republican in that race. I don't think anyone thinks that the balance of the Senate is going to tip on the Iowa Senate races.

PHILLIP: Looking at all the Senate landscape remains very tight, Nathan, right? I just want to show folks. This is the map of where, you know, Inside Elections has this as the battleground effectively. The yellow that you're seeing on your map, those are really the toss ups in Nevada, Georgia and Pennsylvania. All the rest of them lean in one direction or another. But they're within the realm of the battleground. So, what are you - what is the takeaway about how - who needs to do what in order to get control of the Senate?

GONZALES: Well, they need to win every seat possible. Our range continues to be anything from a Republican gain of a seat to a democratic gain of a seat, which leaves room for either party could win. But within those, two of those three circumstances or scenarios would be Democratic control, including the 50-50. I continue to believe whichever party wins two out of three out of Nevada, Georgia and Pennsylvania, will probably be in control.

The races to watch now are probably New Hampshire and Arizona, which haven't been getting a lot of attention because of Senator Kelly's advantage, or Republicans not getting their top candidate in New Hampshire. Are those coming online? They are online. But are they coming into tide scenarios, which Republicans are feeling very bullish about both races.

ZELENY: And New Hampshire, that's another example of how a popular Republican governor could potentially play a role in the Senate race because a Governor Sununu is almost certain to win, and he could help pull a boulder over. But also, one thing to keep in mind and all that next week probably for all the debates we've seen snippets of Tuesday night in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

That is when John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz are coming face to face for a debate. And I think that will actually potentially help shape that race. So, all eyes will be on Pennsylvania on election night. And then Georgia into the next month because Georgia is the only state of those battlegrounds that as a runoff election. As you know, so they have to get 50 percent, so that'll probably. If control of the Senate hinges on Georgia, we're going to be at this at least for another month.

PHILLIP: Yes, I look. We are three weeks out. The momentum could shift a few times between now and November 8. So, everybody standby on all of that. Coming up next for us. President Biden makes his own midterm prediction for Democrats, and he tests out a new midterm slogan.




PHILLIP: Just in the last hour, President Biden had a prediction. He said, there will be a shift back towards Democrats this midterm cycle. He acknowledged that the party is having trouble in polling leading up to the midterms but remained optimistic and slammed Republicans with a new catchphrase.


PRES. JOE BIDEN, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Polls have been all over the place. I think that we're going to see one more shift back to our side the closing days. And let me tell you why I think that. We're starting to see some of the good news on the economy. It's mega-MAGA trickle-down. Mega-MAGA trickle-down. The kind of policies that have failed the country before and I'll fail it again. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: Those comments coming as part of an event where President Biden touted his administration's strategy on deficit reduction. And it's also part of this carefully crafted midterm strategy to highlight policy wins, while being aware that his on the ground presence in some of these tight races is risky.

On Thursday, though President Biden brought his political wait to Pennsylvania to campaign for John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate for the Senate seat there. And it was a relatively low-key event, a speech at a fundraiser and touting his bipartisan infrastructure law. But notably, no stump speech, no raucous rally, very different from the GOP midterm strategy.

My panel is back with me to discuss. Very different, frankly, from what other presidents have done. But the Washington Post notes this about where Democrats find themselves. The Democratic dynamic contrasts sharply with the landscape on the Republican side.

Republican stars such as GOP Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, and former Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina have crisscrossed the country for Republican House and Senate hopefuls, especially those in tight or in pivotal races. There is a bit of a bench on the Republican side and on the Democratic side, perhaps not so much.

ZELENY: Not quite as much. But look, there's some Democrats out there as well. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg judge is campaigning a lot. Ro Khanna is campaigning, Senator Bernie Sanders just going out, former President Barack Obama is going out, and Joe Biden is probably the biggest democratic star on the campaign trail.