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Biden Proposes Making South Carolina First Dem Primary; Court Halts Special Master Review Of Mar-A-Lago Documents; China Moves To Ease COVID Restrictions After Protests. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 02, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Just back from the meeting where Democrats are talking about, there have been a whole number of proposals for as long as I've been doing this, which is long, long, long time. This one seems to have bones. And because he's the incumbent president, is he going to get his way?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it would be extraordinary if he wouldn't, because he's the leader of the party. And this is what the White House send out in a letter and he had a private conversation with the leaders of the Rules and Bylaws Committee, it's called. It's in the weeds, but it's very important, of course. So, yes, most certainly he will get his way.

There is some grumbling, though, of course, from Iowa, of course, from New Hampshire. And, you know, we're likely to see some fights. New Hampshire believes it's their God given right really to have the first in the nation of primary and they may go forward with it. We've seen that before they can be stripped of delegates. But look, this is actually what this is, is the Biden Protection Act.

If someone else tries to challenge him in 2024, if he runs, this really squelches the opportunity for that in a more progressive place like New Hampshire, or Iowa, or in Nevada. So this really helps his own, the question is, is he actually going to run? We don't know the answer to that yet.

But there's no question Iowa and New Hampshire are not diverse. We should also remember history. Barack Obama believes that he would not have become the nominee, if he wouldn't have started in Iowa. Iowa, that win as Margaret remembers, we covered the Obama campaign closely together, Iowa propelled him to finally win in South Carolina. So we'll see how that works if South Carolina goes first, but the history is important to this, but the Biden team wants to blow this all up.

KING: So let me let me flip it for the very same reason. Iowa propelled Barack Obama, Iowa propelled Jimmy Carter.

ZELENY: It did.

KING: Iowa sent Joe Biden packing. That's where I first met Joe Biden, 35 years ago this winter in Iowa in the 1988 campaign, it didn't happen. And then again --

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And in 2008, I think it's about 1 percent, right? That's when he dropped out and ultimately became a Barack Obama --



KING: And to your point, in your point, if Joe Biden runs for reelection, he is most likely almost certain to win the Democratic nomination. But do you get embarrassed by a challenger. And in the age we live in, somebody is going to run? And so do you get embarrassed? And where might somebody get 25 or 30 percent and somewhat embarrassed the incumbent president, Iowa a lot more likely than South Carolina?

RAJU: Yes. And that's exactly as Jeff was saying, part of the reason here, it is causing a lot of tension, as Jeff was referring to as well, among these Democrats in these key states. I talked to one of them this morning, Ann Kuster. She's a New Hampshire Democrat. She said that they made the case to the White House as a delegation, urging them not to move forward, she indicated that no matter what New Hampshire was still going to try to move up its primary, they believe -- it's -- they say in state law for them to be first in the nation. And they may do that. So we're going to see some internal party tension. And we'll see the impacts of it as well.

TALEV: But look, I think, the Biden has the benefit of the backdrop of this, the argument also being true. There is more diversity and size of these other states. It is important for African Americans to have a stronger voice in the Democratic Party nominating contests, all of these things, you know, happen to be true. And yes, Obama benefited from the Iowa caucuses. But the second time around, South Carolina was happy to embrace them.

And I can say the first time around, it was much closer than anybody thought it would be. Black Democrats in South Carolina fell in love with Barack Obama in 2008. And we're really divided between the Clinton dynasty once that Clinton dynasty was --


TALEV: Yes, it was complicated a little bit. You're right. So I just think, aside from the Biden Protection Act, which is exactly what's going on here and a reward to Jim Clyburn, and a nod to the demographics, there's something else going on here, which is that in the Democratic Party, there's a lot of consternation about whether the left or the progressive base has too much sway over Democratic Party politics, and whether that hurts them and nationalized races, by moving the contests to slightly more establishment grounds while diversifying them.

I think you get away from that. And it changes the context and the dynamics of the policy debates that are -- it's not just about the candidates, but what are the policy debates -- KING: You have a more diverse economy, you have a more diverse population in a South Carolina or Georgia or Michigan, but you also have a more diverse economy, more interesting stretch of younger voters, older voters, different voters, Latino voters, Asian voters are growing in many of these states. So there's a good argument for the changes on the demographic level and the face in having more diversity in every way.

But there's also the question that, you know, if you're Joe Biden, this is you look at how did I get here, everybody? They don't they usually don't change the rules, because that's how a president, during a presidency, because that's how they got there. But he stumbled in the first reason, he's thinking well, wait a minute, actually, he -- in his mind, it started in South Carolina.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: When did his momentum change in the 2020 election, right? I mean, it was really especially after South Carolina has, especially after Clyburn's endorsement as well. No doubt that for in race elections, you know, going back historically, black voters specifically, especially black voters in a state like South Carolina have been the reliable coalition for the Democratic Party.

It's also been the coalition that has benefited -- that has supported now President Biden. And you saw them the 2020 election. So as these questions continue about 2024 and his electability, it's clear that we can say that this would be a lift.


KING: So help me with a little Friday mischief. Parties can do this anyway. Parties can do it, if they pay for it, they can do it anywhere they want. But normally what you want is for the state government to adopt it, so you use the state political system, the state government pays for it. So if you're Nikki Haley, do you want South Carolina to, yes, jump and move up first, say take that Donald Trump, I'm going to put South Carolina first if you're Donald Trump, do you pick up the phone of the South Carolina governor and say, don't you dare? Don't you dare -- I mean what happens to the Republicans here, Georgia, again, if you're going to have a primary system, and the state pays for it, Georgia would have to move as well. You have a Republican governor there. This could get interesting.

ZELENY: It's going to get very interesting and it could. The parties have not always aligned exactly on the same calendar, right? There have been instances in recent history where they've been on different days, but they've largely been the same early four states. It's a huge problem necessarily, because Nikki Haley, say if she was running, some other Republicans may skip South Carolina because they think it's her home trip. But I think a bigger thing about this, just aside from South Carolina is Georgia and Michigan, very, very important, really changing demographics in Georgia, in particular.

But Michigan, I was talking to some people this morning at the meeting, Michigan does not have party registration, they don't register by Democrat or Republican. So is there a chance for mischief or wherever Republicans to come over into the Democratic primary if there are number four or five in the calendar? So a lot of things are being discussed about this.

KING: That's what they'll -- remember, for years, New Hampshire has the open primary as well, people talking about this. So this is the beginning of a very interesting conversation. We'll follow through on it. Up next, some giant legal setbacks for Donald Trump and some giant decisions, as the January 6th Committee holds a key meeting today to discuss his final report.



KING: Another major legal defeat for the former President Donald Trump, a federal appeals court scrapping the special master review of the documents seized from Mar-a-Lago. Trump now has seven days to appeal. But the court was unanimous in rejecting Trump's argument and in rebuking the lower court judge who granted the request for a third party to review those documents recovered when the FBI served its search warrant at Trump's Mar-a-Lago.

Let's discuss. Joining me now CNN's Paula Reid, CNN's Sara Murray, and a former federal prosecutor, Renato Mariotti. Paula Reid to you first, the Justice Department had said this as an overreach, it was unnecessary, it doesn't need a special master now that the special master will go away assuming Trump either doesn't appeal or loses that appeal, which most people think is likely. What is this due to the pace of the investigation?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: This allows the special counsel to move this along. We know time is of the essence, a lot of concerns about this investigation going too far into the 2024 presidential cycle. But this was the first big public victory for the newly appointed special counsel. And this removes an obstacle to his investigation because the special master was this independently appointed third party going through all these documents trying to decipher what could be privileged what should investigators not have, and that slows down the entire investigation.

And we knew this wasn't going to go well. I was down in Atlanta for these arguments, three GOP appointed judges, two appointed by Trump. And it was clear that they had concerns they said, look, if defendants even former presidents can interfere in investigations like this, that would be a problem. Now to the question of appeal that you mentioned, they're mulling it over right now. But we know one of the one of the tactics the former President always uses right is delay. It's not expected that he would succeed. But even if he appeals and loses, that could delay. It is just a little bit longer.

KING: And Renato to that point. Sometimes, especially when you get to the appellate level, the justice will say this is a tough call. And this is how we decided to do it. It was a tough call. But here's where we see it. These three judges saw no tough call, they write the law is clear. We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so. Either approach would be a radical reordering of our case law limiting the federal courts involvement in criminal investigations. And both would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations.

If you read this decision, Paula notes you could get some delay out of appealing. It doesn't sound to me, this is your wheelhouse, that there's any legal grounds.

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Not at all. I would be absolutely flabbergasted if the former president won an appeal. Just to be clear, John, you know, I am a criminal defense attorney now. And if I had the ability to do this, every time any one of my clients had their premises searched. I'd be initiating lawsuits trying to get special masters, the federal courts will be swamped with claims from people who had their home search, their car search, they don't want that. So I just can't imagine the federal judiciary agreeing to that that's why Judge Cannon's ruling was so outside the mainstream.

KING: Sara Murray, you're up on Capitol Hill, the January 6th Committee, a big meeting today. They're trying to come to agreement on their final report, exactly how to order it, what to put in there, what to emphasize, including whether to make specific criminal referrals to the Justice Department and including, what do they say about the one, two, three, four, five Republican members of the House who refused essentially to cooperate, including the Republican leader, and the man who will be the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. What are we expecting?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You know, this meeting has wrapped up. So we're trying to get some more details about what went on. But we didn't expect any major decisions today. I mean, the reality is they know that they are up against a deadline. When you talk to committee members, they keep saying, we're about to put our pens down. We know we need to get this report to the printer. But they also need to make, as you said, a number of serious decisions. You know, they've talked about criminal referrals very seriously. Obviously, the Justice Department does not take their cues from Congress, but this committee believes that they could be sending a strong signal about people who they believed may have committed crimes and so they were expected to be discussing that today.


You know they also just wanted to talk about how do you put forward potential evidence of perjury, potential evidence of obstruction of justice, potential evidence of witness tampering in an effective way. And when it comes to these Republican lawmakers, you know, I was talking to Bennie Thompson about this yesterday, he said, essentially three options, Ethics Committee, contempt of Congress, or do nothing.

KING: And Renato as we wait for the January 6th Committee and those questions typically of criminal referrals to the Justice Department. What do you make of this, the judge ordered the number one of the number two in the Trump legal counsel's office Pat Cipollone and Patrick Philbin to further cooperate, additionally cooperate with the federal grand jury and we have video of Mr. Cipollone actually going into the courthouse today. It is, well, you helped me on the question of how unusual that the White House counsel and the deputy White House counsel would be told you must cooperate with his criminal investigation into January 6th than other election interference questions.

MARIOTTI: You know, actually, John, I'm not surprised by that ruling. And ironically, there's some very strong precedent that was established by Brett Kavanaugh when he was working for Kenneth Starr. The -- Kenneth Starr was trying to obtain testimony of the deputy White House counsel in that investigation and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals made absolutely crystal clear that the need for criminal investigation and a grand jury to obtain testimony outweighed not only executive privilege but any attorney-client privilege between the President and government attorney. So very big advantage for the government there and why they're basing that investigation out a very strong precedent.

KING: I was covering the White House back in those days. You just sent me back on memory lane with the Brett Kavanaugh or Ken Starr decision there. Renato Mariotti, Sara Murray, Paula Reid, grateful for you coming in to explain all this to us. We'll stay on top of those stories.

And up next, to the global stage and signs of change in China, some tough COVID restrictions are being eased that after widespread protests across the country.



KING: Top officials in China say the country is entering what they call a new stage and mission in its fight against the Coronavirus. New video show some residents tearing down barriers despite strict COVID lockdown measures and some restrictions are being eased days after we saw of course, unprecedented public protests in at least 19 Chinese cities. CNN's Ivan Watson tells us more from Hong Kong.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, the Chinese government has not declared that it is ending its strict zero COVID policy. Instead, senior officials are saying they want to tweak it. They want to make it less painful basically, for the Chinese population. And this is as we continue to see these kinds of spasms of frustration and anger from ordinary residents. At least three different videos emerging from three different cities of ordinary Chinese people breaking down the barriers that authorities erect around their communities, when there are fears of a COVID outbreak, trying to cut them off from the rest of society.

And we're seeing a kind of piecemeal response from different cities. One city saying OK, we're going to reduce lockdowns, lift them in some neighborhoods, another city saying you don't have to get a COVID test every 72 hours to ride public transport, these types of measures, but we are also seeing kind of the lengths that police will go to try to prevent organized shows of dissent, calling a protest who participated in a protest in Beijing Sunday night. We've heard a recording of this with a police officer saying we know you were at the protest because we detected your phone there. Come down to the police station. We're going to interrogate you.

That shows you the almost the paranoia that the security forces have about organized protest. But meanwhile, the costs continue to add up for society. Formula One just announced that it is not going to hold the 2023 China Grand Prix in China due to the COVID restrictions and difficulties, John.

KING: Thanks to Ivan Watson for that.


Up next for us, another setback for the President's student loan forgiveness plan. His last hope now, the Supreme Court.


KING: Topping our political radar today, an important rebuke to the reprehensible, a lashing tweet from the President of the United States that restates a clear truth. Quote, the Holocaust happened. Hitler was a demonic figure. And instead of giving it a platform, our political leaders should be calling out and rejecting anti-Semitism wherever it hides. Silence is complicity. That sentiment from the President is undeniable. The reason unrepented anti-Semitism spewed by the rapper Ye, formally Kanye West. And the very conspicuous silence from most Republicans. Ye just yesterday, gracing the airways of Alex Jones, a conspiracy megaphone and expressing his love, yes, his love for Hitler and the Nazis.

Twenty-six million Americans hoping for up to $20,000 in student debt relief now will have to wait on the Supreme Court. The justices will hear oral arguments on the President's student loan forgiveness program as soon as February. No decision expected though until probably next June.

The last of Arizona's 15 counties, Cochise, has now certified the midterm election results, Cochise doing that only after a judge's order. Two Republicans previously had delayed it, statewide certification now on Monday.

Soon, President Biden heads to Boston for a royal meet and greet with the Prince of Wales. The royal couple have traveled across the pond for an award ceremony, but made some time to visit the TD Garden. Watch the Celtics take on the heat.

The President was out late last night for his first and a star studded state dinner, beats to Julia Louis-Dreyfus returning to the White House, the singer John Legend along with his wife Chrissy Teigen and also among those dining on butter poached lobster and caviar, along with the comedian, Stephen Colbert. The President and the First Lady's posing for photos before the event, Jill Biden and Oscar de la Renta, Brigitte Macron wearing Louis Vuitton. And the Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy was asked about dining in the same house, as Hunter Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [13:00:28]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- knowing that many people in your caucus want to investigate him?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Well, I'm at dinner with my mom, so we're going to have a great time.


KING: Thanks for your time. Have a good weekend. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.