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Inside Politics

Trump's Lawyers In Closed-Door Hearing With DOJ Lawyers Today; 13.8M+ Early Votes Cast Across 44 States; Tightening Battleground Races As Midterms Shift Away From Dems; Cheney To Campaign For Democrat Slotkin Next Week In Michigan; Fetterman: Debating Oz "Wasn't Exactly Easy"; Trump To Rally In IA, PA, OH, FL In Final Midterms Push; Trump Super PAC Airing Ads In Final Weeks Of Key Midterm Races; Arizona: Break-In & Burglary At Dem Campaign Office. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 27, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your busy news day with us. President Biden hits the road, as we hit 12 days to election day. A handful of key Senate contests are tossup. Republicans now increasingly confident by capturing the House, early voting way up. Some Democrats do see some hope there of defying midterm history.

Plus, get this quote, security is a joke. We have some new CNN reporting shows millions of your tax dollars, Aramark to protect election workers have not been spent and it leaves the people who count your votes, vulnerable to threats.

And Donald Trump sets campaign closing rallies in Iowa, in Pennsylvania, in Ohio and in Florida. His election lies echo across this year's Republican campaigns, a new snub of a potential rival more proof, Trump is thinking 2024 combat.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: And now, in order to make our country successful, safe and glorious again, I will probably have to do it again. But first we have to win a historic victory for the Republican Party this November.


KING: We begin the hour though with breaking legal news involving Donald Trump, the former president. His lawyers right now inside a Washington D.C. federal courthouse. That are part of a big battle with the Justice Department in a secret dispute. Stemming from that unprecedented FBI serving of search warrant at Mar-a-Lago.

CNN spotted Mr. Trump's lawyers and several Justice Department prosecutors known to be working on this highly sensitive case this morning. Let's get straight to CNN's Kaitlan Collins for more. Kaitlan, what do we know? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR, CNN THIS MORNING: Yes, John. This is really interesting, really for what we don't know because you see these three attorneys here going into this federal courthouse in Washington this morning. Jim Trusty, Lindsey Halligan and Evan Corcoran, they are the three that are primarily handling the Mar-a- Lago documents investigation.

And what's notable is where they are, they are in Washington today, going into this courthouse for the sealed proceeding, where they're in the room with Justice Department, prosecutors and the Chief Judge Beryl Howell. But typically, John, we see them in court in Florida. We have seen them in front of the special master in Brooklyn. We have not seen them before, based on my knowledge covering this closely going into the D.C. courthouse.

And so, it raises a lot of questions of what this secret proceeding means. And what they are at dispute over in the courthouse right now, which we believe is still going on. We have not seen the attorneys for the former president exit yet. They did not answer reporters' questions going in for why they are there today. But it does come as we know what's really still at the heart of this investigation, which is the documents that Trump took with him when he left office to Mar- a-Lago.

And the concerns that the Justice Department has made quite clear they still have, which is whether or not all of those documents had been returned to the possession of the federal government. And they have made clear, they do not believe that they are and so they are in this proceeding right now. We are still waiting to find out what exactly is going on behind closed doors here because we've seen other Trump attorneys and Trump former aides go into this courthouse.

A lot of them talking to the grand jury about this investigation that has been underway. We haven't yet seen this legal team that is the legal team of counsel of record, when it comes to this investigation going into the D.C. federal courthouse. So, a lot of questions raised by this appearance, John?

KING: A new twist and a secret proceeding. We will try to get more information as it plays out. Appreciate the breaking news from Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, thank you. Come back when we do learn more. Now to the midterms and the shifting campaign debate as we are now just 12 days. 12 days away from your votes, coloring in this map.

President Biden story in the conversation today. He's heading to New York to celebrate some new technology jobs. Watch sources tell us for the president to deliver a blunt warning that in his view, giving Republicans control of Congress will endanger the economy. The president will make the case, it will endanger your family's bottom line. That the president will be in New York, a blue state is a reminder, Democrats are on defense in this final stretch.

Now, if there is one source of democratic hope, it is the record setting early voting numbers. Get this, 13.8 million votes so far across 44 states, but Republicans say things are trending their way in most places anyway. Let's take a look and set the states, 12 days up. We will fill this in again. 12 days from today. Let's look at the current House. Just for perspective. Democrats have a narrow majority, 220 to 212. Republicans now increasingly confident. They will not only take the House, but they will take it with decent numbers. One of the ways you see the Democrats are on defense. If you look at the 78 races that CNN and our partner Inside Elections defined as competitive seats.


Look at all the blue, 78 of them, you'll notice 53 and 22, that's 75. Three of these competitive districts are new districts drawn up after redistricting, but Democrats on defense defending more than twice as many seats as Republicans. And if you look at these democratic seats, look at the blue on this map. They're in New England, in Maine, in New Hampshire, in Rhode Island. There's a bunch of them in New York.

You come down to Virginia, some out here in the Midwest and even out on the West Coast. You have Democrats defending in blue states. Two seats in Oregon. Democrats are defending back on their heels. Look in California, it's among the - it's the largest, most populous blue state of the nine competitive districts out there, eight of them held by Democrats there.

So, in the House race, Democrats back on their heels. Republicans thinking, we might win, not only the five we need maybe 15, maybe 20. Some Republicans are talking 25 or more as we head into the final days. Then you come over to the Senate map. 35-contest at all, and some key shifts were waiting, of course to see the follow up from the big debate in Pennsylvania the other night. Democrat John Fetterman against the Republican Mehmet Oz, that is a key contest.

New developments today in Georgia, and among the new developments today out here in Arizona. This A, seat where the Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly running for reelection. The Republican candidate Blake Masters. Just today the respected Cook Political Report moving this seat, again Democrats need to hold it to keep their Senate majority. Cook Political Report moving this from lean Democrat to toss up, so another shift against the Democrats, pro-Republican in the campaign final days.

Let's discuss, with me in studio to share their reporting and their insights CNN's Dana Bash, Cleve Wootson of The Washington Post, and NPR's Asma Khalid. And Dana, when you get to the shifts, I just showed the competitive House races. More of them, the Democrats on their heels. Now The Cook Political Report moving this race from lean toward Mark Kelly to true tossup. In the final 12 days, Republicans are feeling more and more confident.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And it's understandable given where we are right now with regard to the economy. Arizona, I was just there actually came back yesterday, was there. I was in Nevada this week. And you can feel the anxiety on the ground, talking to voters rather it's palpable.

It's not to say that other issues are not driving voters to the polls. Still, the abortion issue was actually kind of surprising to me, given the state of the economy right now. How in Arizona, I was with a Republican candidate in one of those toss up districts and he was going up to voters just to say please, you know, vote for me the way he should.

And he unsolicited said, what do - he solicited what do you care about? And the answer from several the women he talked to was abortion. And it's, again, it's not to say that the economy is not driving, but it also was an indicator and a reminder to me that in these districts, you were saying the numbers, early voting numbers are high, Democrats are saying, OK, well, maybe that's a good sign. It might be a little bit of a saving grace, because they had this abortion.

KING: So that's why we would say 12 days out, be careful. Just be careful in the sense that our early voting did help the Democrats in 2020. There's no doubt that it did. The question is, will it happen in 2022? If you look, though, at some of the fundamentals, the president's approval rating, normally the north star and the midterm election, this is our CNN averaging the poll of polls, approval 41, disapprove 56.

That believes Joe Biden about where Donald Trump was about where Barack Obama was a little below where Barack Obama was, and they both lost the House in their first midterm. You make a key point, when you show the Democrats, you know, defending in all those House districts, defending in some of the Senate races now, that forces the money to go to defensive races not trying to get takeaways

CLEVE WOOTSON, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. I was just in North Carolina, for example with Cheri Beasley, right? And Democrats there are begging screaming, put more money in here, we can win this seat if we have more money for ads or whatever. But if you're defending in Arizona, which is now a toss-up. If you're in Pennsylvania, or wherever else, that money is finite, and you don't have that money to go to other races. So, defense has an effect, not just where that particular place is going on, but ripples all across the map.

KING: And you have a number of interesting wrinkles. I'm going to share one with you right now. The Republican conservative Congresswoman Liz Cheney is going to Michigan next week to campaign for Democrat Elissa Slotkin, in one of those frontline vulnerable democratic districts. Again, the fundamentals tell you that it's trending toward Republicans, then you get these little examples of things just outside the box.

ASMA KHALID, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: That's true. I mean, in Slotkin's district, to me is one of the most interesting the entire country, and you know, I went out there months ago to look at how voters were feeling about inflation. And even back at that time, I would say she, Democrats on the ground there wanted to hear more from the White House, about the economy.

You know, I've been trying to track this inflation through forever in the past year. And there was a sense initially that the White House was a bit slow to respond. I think they certainly have tried to be more aggressive on that front. We see that with the president today trying to, you know, portray this clear contrast on the economy. But the question is, for a lot of voters, you know, they have sort of baked in sentiments about the economy. And, you know, when you look at inflation, the numbers aren't great.


KING: And to the point about the president, there has been a lot of pressure for him to focus more on the cost of living, the stresses on people's lives. Yes, to say, we've done some things, but to not lead with that. To lead first with, I'll share your pain essentially to borrow a phrase. He's going to go today. He's going to talk about new technology jobs but the White House, our Phil Mattingly and our White House team reporting, he's going to try to draw a sharper contrast saying, you might be mad at me, you might be frustrated with things, but if the Republicans run the House in the Senate, things will get worse.

WOOTSON: Yes. And it's one of the fascinating things is that like, GDP is up. So, Biden is going to try to find a way to work that into his speech or trying to find a way to implement that that Democrats gives you a better future than Republicans do. But by and large, the voters that I've talked to have said, they associate the negative, you know, economic numbers with Biden over and over again. And when you have so many voters that have already cast, you know, baked in their votes already, you know, is there really any way for that argument that's going to make sense for Biden?

KING: And another one of the races outside the box because uncharted territory is the Pennsylvania Senate race. Again, that's a Republican incumbent who's not running for reelection. So, Democrats hope can we pick that up because maybe we're going to lose Arizona, maybe we're going to lose Nevada. If we want to keep the majority, we need to pick something up somewhere.

John Fetterman had a difficult debate performance the other night. He is five months into recovery from a stroke. Republicans see that as more evidence that race could trend their way. Fetterman trying to assure voters last night, OK, that was tough, but I'm with you.


LT. GOV. JOHN FETTERMAN (D) PENNSYLVANIA SENATE NOMINEE: During that debate wasn't exactly easy. You know, neither it wasn't going to be easy after having a stroke after five months. I may not get every, every word the right way, but I will always do the right thing in Washington, D.C.


KING: We won't know for some time, but it will be fascinating to see how the debate performance plays out in the sense that he's in a very competitive race. There's sort of a tug of war in the suburbs where this will be decided, abortion breaks for the Democrats, crime breaks for the Republicans, inflation breaks for the Republicans. Trump vote breaks for the Democrats. So, you have this tug of war. How does the debate performance factor in?

KHALID: I think a lot of this comes down to the candidate quality, right? And there are voters that you hear from Pennsylvania who have serious questions about Mehmet Oz's record, the Republican who's running there for Senate. And I saw this in Georgia, similarly in the Senate race there, as much as there are these nationalized issues.

I kept hearing from split ticket voters, which I think, you know, many of us thought were kind of unicorns, a bit of an extinct species. People who said they were voting for the Republican for governor, but we're voting third party or Democrat for Senate, because it came down to these specific qualities that they see in the candidate in Fetterman.

KING: And that's a critical point. And it says, I just want to put up that these are just Senate races. The Georgia Senate race, you know, just outside the margin of error viewed as a tossup race. The Pennsylvania Senate races a statistical tie. The Nevada Senate race, we're going to talk about more later in the program is a statistical tie. The Wisconsin race is this statistical tie.

So, you're in the final 12 days. A, I've been covering midterm elections for a long time. And this one may be - it may be different. We may get ticket splitters again, because you have incumbent governors in Ohio, for example, and in New Hampshire and in Georgia, who are running for reelection, who seem OK. Does that help Republican candidates or not in their states? But normally they break and when they break late, they tend to break one way, that's in the rearview mirror. We have no idea what's happening that way.

BASH: We don't, I mean, just anecdote. My Uber driver yesterday morning in Phoenix was a ticket splitter. He was going to vote for the Republican for governor and the Democrat in the Senate. And there could be more of that because voters have become not that they weren't sophisticated before, but in today's information age, even more sophisticated, especially in states where they have been engaged in recent years like Georgia, like Arizona. And but, the question is whether the historical gravity is going to take hold?

KING: Right. You make a key point to that, they're stressed. They're stressed about COVID. They're stressed about inflation. It's been several years of stress. And when voters have stressed, they go into the voting booth. You can take it out in incumbents, you can take it out in the party in power in your state that might be different, that Democratic president might be different, interesting. It's fascinating as we go forward.

We'll continue to talk about it in the hour ahead, including this. Up next. The Trump factor in the midterm. More rallies in the closing days, as the former president aims to boost both 2022 Republican candidates, and yes, his own 2024 standard.




KING: We now know Donald Trump plans a four-state rally swing to close the midterm campaign. Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida on the former president's schedule, all four states have important Senate contests. Plus, some critical down ballot races as well. And all four of course, also play into Trump's intensifying 2024 planning as well.

Our great reporters are back with us. And if you look at that map. If we could put it back up, important Senate races, important down ballot races. Then you look at their Trump's new home state. He's left New York and he's now a Floridian. He's having a rally that he arranged with Marco Rubio, Dana Bash, and he did not tell the Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who is also up for reelection.

BASH: Oh, he told them. He told them. He told them what he can do with the idea of coming to a rally with him by not inviting him, the message was incredibly loud and incredibly clear. And first of all, let's just talk about just for five seconds about the richness of the Marco Rubio and Donald Trump. It wasn't that long ago that 2016 happened and we all remember some of those wild debates between two of them - disparaging in a lot of ways that are not - it's not appropriate for noon Eastern time.

But back to this particular year, the fact that Florida has shifted a little bit, and Marco Rubio does need Donald Trump in Florida for a whole host of reasons. But it seems to me that it's much more about Donald Trump, wanting to make the point that he wants to go with Marco Rubio and not Ron DeSantis than anything else. It's about 2024.


KING: And to that point, CNN's Gabby Orr, Kristen Holmes have reporting on. Trump has spent the closing weeks of the 2020 cycle, preparing his political operation for another presidential campaign, including assembling his campaign leadership, hatching plans for the remaining midterm rallies, and searching for venue from which to launch his perceived political comeback. That will come after the midterms. But just before the midterms, so essentially lay a marker that says, essentially Ron DeSantis, I'm running. Go ahead, do it if you wish, but?

KHALID: I mean, but in some ways, I just went from selling midterms for a sec, because to me, this is the biggest gift the Democrats could ask for just a couple of days before election day. I mean, there is nobody who riles up Democrats and fires them up in the way that Donald Trump does. And, you know, one of the things I've been struck by as we talked earlier about President Biden's approval rating.

If you look under the hood, he doesn't have amazing numbers with young voters, even with some Democratic voters, he doesn't pull as high with his own party as a Donald Trump did in 2018. And yet, you throw Donald Trump into the mix, and Democrats get really energized and that is something that President Biden himself cannot do for his own party. And Democrats are - because I talked to are excited about this.

KING: It's a great point in the sense that Trump is going. If you look at the map again, to places that are relatively safe for him. The question is, does the national coverage stir up the suburban revolt? The Suburban right now, you know, Democrats are worried about inflation and crime, playing against them in the suburbs to those same suburban voters see Donald Trump back on the stage, and say, woof, and go the other way.

One thing that Trump has done for months and months and months and months, Republicans have been saying, you raise all this money, why don't you spend some on the actual this election as opposed to saving it all for yours? His super PAC, if you look, has come in late, it's a relatively modest amount of money, but they've spent about $3 million in Arizona. This is for ads in the final month of the campaign.

About $2.6 in Pennsylvania, $2.6 million in Georgia, $2.3 million in the Ohio Senate race, Nevada Senate race $2 million, Michigan governor's race $1 million up late to the game. It's a small slice of all the money Donald Trump has raised, but finally at least he listened in States that are important to him.

WOOTSON: Sure. And late to the, again, look at all those early voting numbers, right? So very late. People have already banked those ballots, right? They cast those votes already. But there's also just this question of like, whether Trump's campaign apparatus benefits anybody that's not Donald Trump. If there are some residual benefits and all of that stuff, that's great. But in the end, what Trump is doing is sort of very clearly laying down the groundwork for his own run or for his own influence.

BASH: Can I just add one little anecdote to help bolster the point you were making, not just about Trump riling up Democratic voters, but the fact that in, well, maybe this is the same sort of idea, which is in swing districts. I was in one yesterday in Arizona. Arizona six, wants his company is the Republican there and he has not been endorsed by Donald Trump.

I asked if that was a good thing. And his answer was basically, I'm running my own race. Smile, wink nod. Donald Trump is endorsed everybody up the ballot, and the Republicans are wanted it at the time. This is different because it's a very tight district.

KING: It depends where you are. And I think it raises just a fascinating question. We'll know the answer on election day. To your point about talking to voters, you go to Pennsylvania, there are a lot of Trump voters who aren't sure Oz is one of them. So, Trump gives him the validation. But at the same time, does he then turn away? People in the suburbs who are hoping that Oz is more of a moderate centrist conservative. So, in Ohio, the same thing as J. D. Vance a Trumpy. We'll see it as it plays out. It's one of the fascinating questions. Again, 12 days left.

Up next. We go live to the campaign trail. The headquarters of Arizona's Democratic candidate for governor was burglarized. Plus, Herschel Walker says another woman is lying. And will go to Wisconsin too. The Senate race there is close and contentious is an understatement.




KING: Let's check in with some of our correspondents on the trail right now for look at the latest. Today three midterm battlegrounds in Arizona, accusations flying after a campaign break in in burglary, in Georgia. Another allegation about Herschel Walker as Republican big shots try to boost his Senate campaign. Plus, you might say all about the base. The closing messages in Arizona is close Wisconsin - excuse me, close Senate race.

First, let's go to Arizona, where the Democratic nominee for governor had her campaign headquarters burglarized that Democrat Katie Hobbs, placing the blame on Republican Kari Lake. CNN's Kyung Lah is live in Arizona. Kyung, tell us more.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're really seeing these accusations truly flying as you are talking about. Kari Lake has responded in kind, and basically, she is saying, in regards to Katie Hobbs, blaming rhetoric from the Kari Lake campaign. She saying essentially, are you kidding me? Take a listen.


KARI LAKE (R) ARIZONA GOVERNOR NOMINEE: That is absolutely absurd. And are you guys buying that? Are you really buying that. Because this sounds like a Jussie Smollett part 2.


LAH: And Jussie Smollett, of course, is the actor who had, according to what he was convicted by making up a complaint. And then he has now been sentenced and has been spending time in prison because of that false police report. So essentially, she is saying that the Hobbs' campaign is making up a story about this burglary.

John, I should point out that there is a police report. There are pictures of somebody who they think did the break in. And here we are back 12 weeks - 12 days, excuse me, until the election day and these attacks have lying back and forth. John?

KING: A new twist on crime and law and order, I guess you might say in the Arizona governor's campaign. Kyung Lah will stay on top of that story for us. Now, we go to Georgia.