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Biden Confirms More Classified Docs Discovered In His Delaware Home; George Santos: I've Lived An Honest Life; At Least 5 House GOP Call On George Santos To Resign. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 12, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to Inside politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. A Wilmington garage. Joe Biden's lawyers confirmed, a second batch of classified files were discovered in his Delaware home. The president says he's fully cooperating but can't resist sniping at reporters' questions.


REPORTER: Classified - classified material, next year Corvette? What were you thinking?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me. I'm going to get a chance to speak on all this God willing soon but as I said earlier this week, people and by the way my Corvettes in a locked garage. OK? So it's not like you're sitting on the street


KING: Plus, a picture of fraud. More and more Republicans plead with Congressman George Santos to quit as we get a glimpse of his resume chock full of outright lies, and American families exhale as new data shows inflation is easing. Is it a return to normal? Or is a recession still on the table?

Up first for us though the Attorney General makes a public statement next hour as questions mount about how he will handle a blossoming controversy involving his boss. Joe Biden also had classified files in his Delaware garage this morning. The President and his attorneys confirming the existence of a second batch of classified materials dating back to Mr. Biden's time as vice president.

The search teams were told completed this review yesterday, searching Biden residences in Wilmington, and in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. The new documents were unclassified markets - markings, the statement from Biden's counsel says were found in his Wilmington garage and a neighboring room. The documents we are told were mixed in with other papers. Let's get straight to our CNN Senior Justice Correspondent, Evan Perez. Evan, we will hear from the Attorney General, next hour. Do we know it is about this? EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: We anticipate John that it is about this. The Justice Department is in a very tight spot here. They're in a very difficult position because obviously the President and his team did not tell the full story when they issued a statement on Monday about finding a batch of documents, classified documents, they said at the time, fewer than a dozen.

What they didn't tell us was that in subsequent search, that there were additional documents that were found. And the question is, when did they have that information? And why didn't they tell the world immediately because now there's a perception that has been created, that they're hiding something and that is put the Attorney General now in a position where, you know, he might have to appoint a special counsel or at least open a fuller investigation of this matter.

Just to catch people up, what the President at what the White House says happened is that they found a second set of documents, classified documents in a in a garage and in an adjacent room at the president's home in Wilmington, Delaware. They also did a search of his beach home in Rehoboth, Delaware. They didn't find anything there.

They say that all those searches were concluded last night. And that's the reason why they are now confirming the finding of this second set of documents. What they're not saying, however, is when exactly they found this second set. Did they know this on Monday, and they just didn't tell the world? That's the - that's one of the questions that we still have outstanding with the White House, John.

And so we expect the Attorney General will - will have to explain what exactly course he's going to take now.

KING: Remarkable moment, Evan Perez kicking us off from the Justice Department, again. We'll hear from the Attorney General next hour. We will bring that to you, of course right here on CNN. Evan, thank you.

With me in studio to continue the conversation share their reporting, and their insights, CNN's Arlette Saenz; CNN's Paula Reid and the Former Federal Prosecutor Elliot Williams.

Paula, to you first. And the Attorney General here, what is the process? Look, there's a lot of politics here. There's a separate investigation of Donald Trump for similar not exactly the same but classified documents removed from government property. The President has sort of rolled his eyes at Donald Trump. If you're the Attorney General of the United States, do you have a choice, now?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Big question is when did they find these documents and what did the U.S. attorney in Chicago know? Because what we know at this point is Garland has already taken the appropriate first step, which is he tapped a Trump appointed U.S. attorney in Chicago to review, we know the first set of documents is 10 classified documents that were found in a former office here in DC.

So the question is how much of these additional documents were you know, were known by -how many were known by the U.S. attorney. He didn't know if this is new, perhaps they expand that review, right? Read up it because based on our sources, that review was done earlier this week, so perhaps he has to expand it or extend it.

But if you have to tap a special counsel, there's a very short list of people if you want to go through that process of people who are able and even shorter list of people who are willing. So it's very difficult and made further complicated by the fact that we don't have a lot of the facts here.


KING: You've served inside the building, Elliot. Justice is supposed to be blind. Investigation A is never supposed to have anything to do with investigation B. They are separate based on the facts. However, Merrick Garland lives in Washington, DC, he knows what Republicans in Congress are saying he knows what the former president of the United States is saying, does he have a choice here, really? Or is the best course legally and politically to say I'm going to find, maybe it's a short list, maybe it's hard to find somebody, but I'm going to find somebody who has the credentials to do this. Let them do an independent review. Then they will speak and then Congress can ask them questions?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: IT'S not just that it's Washington, DC. It's that it's not fantasyland. John. The simple fact is we live in a world where people ascribe political motivations to legal decisions all the time. What - so let's look at what's happening here.

What Donald Trump has right now is a legal problem based on that search warrant, based on everything else. What President Biden has is a PR problem. This is something that they have not managed effectively, and not really managed well. The way around that is to sort of minimize some of the political considerations and probably to appoint a special counsel.

Look, I as I told you months ago, I think the Justice Department's perfectly capable of investigating something in an apolitical way, but it's how the public sees it. And I think in what the risk of appearing to be political, so they probably don't have much of a choice here.

KING: And so Arlette, what has that done to the mood at the White House and the mood of the president. And as I say, so remember, he was president when we - first disclosure, the President was in Mexico City at a very important international meeting, he finally talked about it, but he didn't want to.

Today at the White House, he wants to celebrate data, we'll get to it later in the program that does show inflation is easing. And that's an accomplishment mostly for the American people. But it's good news politically for the President of the United States, but he had to deal with this. This is what new - this is the new nugget he gave us.


BIDEN: People know, I take classified documents and classified material seriously. I also said we're cooperating fully completely with the Justice Department's review. They discovered a small number of documents of classified markings in storage areas, and file cabinets in my home in my - in my - my personal library. The Department of Justice was immediately notified.

And the lawyers arranged for the Department of Justice to take possession of the document. So you're going to see - we're going to see all this unfold.


KING: I get it. It is very sensitive. And the President's trying to say I wish I could tell you more, but I have to wait. OK, that's true. Are they done? Are they sure? Are they sure they have searched now everywhere where there might be documents and there's not going to be a third day of this?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't exactly know if that's the answer. Just now we know that he has that home in Wilmington. He has that home in Rehoboth. And then he had been working out of the Penn-Biden center. It's unclear if there were other possible places.

But you know, the President has been very limited in what he can say, his lawyers have been limited in what they can say. But there are so many answers that they still need to discuss. He suggested the review is complete soon that he will have more to share. But there's questions about how did documents - how did they handle documents when they left the VP's office during the transition period as he was setting up those various offices, who like would have been responsible for packing up some of these documents?

Could some of these documents have been holdovers that he had taken to his home in Wilmington on a weekend, for instance? So there's so many issues that are at hand right now? Is this a political headache that's turning kind of into a lingering migraine for them, but it really, you know, they it gives Republicans such an opening, to be able to criticize Biden on this at a time when the Biden Administration is trying to make these distinctions about the way that the former President Donald Trump handled it, and the way he has handled it. But that's been a very difficult.

KING: And to that point, let's segue to the politics in the sense that if Republicans say they Democrats in the Senate, the bipartisan Intelligence Committee says they want answers. In the House, Republicans say they believe they should have hearings on this. It is worth noting at home, they don't say President Biden and President Trump, the Republicans in the House are ignoring President Trump and based on everything we know President Biden has a problem. President Trump has a bigger problem when it comes to this, based on everything we know to date. But listen to the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy saying Aha.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Not once, but now we're finding in two different locations, classified information just out there in the open. I think Congress has to investigate this. Here's an individual that's been in office for more than 40 years. Here's an individual that sat on 60 minutes that was so concerned about President Trump's documents locked in behind and now we find it just as the Vice President keeping it for years out in the open in different locations.


KING: Again, no mention that why don't we investigate Trump and Biden at the same time and look into this whole issue of the security of classified documents? That's not what they're saying. People at home can make their political judgments on that. But to Arlette's point, this is T ball for the Republicans because Joe Biden did say what Donald Trump did was reckless and irresponsible. And now Voila.

REID: Absolutely. He's really given them an opening here and we know that voters if they feel like they're not getting all the information, the White House's making the strategic decision not to get out in front of this, to allow these details to leak out through the media.


And what we saw with the Hillary Clinton email investigation is if you allow information to come out that way, voters feel like they're not getting details, there's any quote unquote, cover up, this can metastasize into a serious political liability. But I do have to fact check the speaker here in terms of the differences between these two cases.

Yes, in both instances, Trump and Biden we have classified documents found in multiple locations. But when it comes to the volume of material, and cooperation, completely different based on what the Biden team is telling us so far.

The former president is of course under investigation for obstruction of justice and other crimes, because of the way he and his attorneys have handled that matter. But again, this Biden matter, still relatively new to us. The other ones been going on for a lot longer

KING: And Elliot, in both of these investigations, whether it's what about Donald Trump or President Biden, you try to do chain of custody, you try to do intent. Was this done - done deliberately? Were you taking these documents or did you just see them for a briefing and forget to return them? They can answer all those factual questions.

Help me understand in the digital age, when you check a bag on a plane, by the time you get to the seat, you get a text on your airplane app that your bag has been loaded on the plane, why can we not keep better track of classified documents and where they are so that the archives knows at any given moment, so the intelligence community knows at any given moment, this document is not where it's supposed to be?

WILLIAMS: Yes, I think part of the issue in the federal government where I served for 15 years is that adding in any new technology is itself a potential vulnerability, right? If you start adding in barcodes and scanning and screening, you might invite more abilities for hacking and so on. But look, the big picture, John, is we have a problem if multiple president and frankly and this - and this is far beyond Trump and Biden, every President has slipped up in some way.

What this all comes down to is a word you said a moment ago, intent. Can prosecutors prove that someone either willfully or knowingly got documents out of the way? That is just not present as of today, in the - in the President Biden investigation in a way that with former President Trump, as Paula had said, you're just seeing intent and possible obstruction from the former president. So it's just a little tricky to compare the two of them.

KING: Tricky to compare the two and I get your point. Respect your point about, you add more technology, you add more risk. But--


KING: - at the end of this, we have two different cases that need to be sorted through. This should be a serious conversation like can we do a better job? I'm not smart enough to know how but can we do a better job of deciding this is not where it is supposed to be? Let's go find it.

Up next for us, we'll play for you, the embattled Congressman George Santos' extended public remarks on camera, as calls from fellow Republicans for him to resign because of his lies are growing louder.




KING: Republican calls for one of their own Congressman George Santos to resign are growing. Now the number in the house is up to five that we know of including for fellow New York Republican freshmen. Santos though remains defiant. Listen to him just moments ago. Matt Gaetz filling in for Steve Bannon get that on Bannon's War Room podcast, listen.


REP. ELECT GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): I wish well all of their opinions. But I was elected by 142,000 people. Until those same 142,000 people tell me they don't want me, we'll find out in two years. I've worked my entire life. I've lived in honest life. I've never been accused shoot of anything bad doing.


KING: Our chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju joins us live on Capitol Hill. Manu, right there, I've lived an honest life. I've never been accused. More lies from George Santos. The question is a lot of Republicans think this is terrible for the brand. What's going to happen? MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, more lies. And he has admitted to a lot of those lies. And he also could be facing potential charges, fraud charges in Brazil, all raising questions about whether he can effectively serve this district and talking to a number of New York Republicans, the answer that they believe that he cannot serve effectively and more and more Republicans calling for his resignation.


REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): He's lost the confidence of people in his own community. So I - you know, I think he needs to seriously consider whether or not he can actually do his job effectively and right now, it's pretty clear he can't.

REP. MARC MOINARO (R-NY): I don't think there's any way he could possibly perform his duty.

RAJU: So are you saying that he should resign?

MOINARO: No way, I believe he can fully fulfill his responsibilities.


RAJU: But he does have some critical support, John, and that is from Kevin McCarthy, the House Speaker who does not plan to call on him to resign. In fact, he says it is up to the voters to decide, that this will go through the House Ethics Committee at that point, they will decide what to do.

I asked McCarthy if he's comfortable if he trusts George Santos getting access to classified information. And he suggested that - he said he would not get classified information, but he will as a member of Congress have access to the same kind of classified briefings as any other member of Congress. He also will get committee assignments. That is the expectation next week, McCarthy says he will be held to the same standard as other members of Congress who if they are charged, they would lose committee assignments, and then other actions could potentially be taken.

But the only other action John, if he does not resign is to expel him from the House, which requires a two-thirds majority. And that support simply is not there with the support of Kevin McCarthy, who of course needs that seat because if it were to open up, it could be a big Democratic pickup opportunity in that New York District, John.

KING: Manu Raju, important developments on the Hill. Manu, thanks so much. Let's bring the conversation in the room and joining our conversations Michael Scherer of the Washington Post, Tia Mitchell of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Michael, let's listen to the Speaker. Manu Raju just mentioned Kevin McCarthy, the local Republican Party. Republicans always say defer to local people, right?

That's our philosophy. Get your information with - the local Republican Party says he's got to go. So fellow New York freshmen who were elected with him and the big surprise out of New York in the midterm elections say he's got to go. Kevin McCarthy needs that vote says not so fast.


MCCARTHY: He's got a long way to go to earn trust. But the one thing I do know is you apply the constitution equal to all Americans. The voters of his district have elected him. He is seated. He is part of the Republican Conference. There are concerns however so he will go before ethics. If anything is found to be him wrong, he will be held accountable.


KING: A quick hypocrisy point from me, the voters of America elected Joe Biden and Kevin McCarthy, even after the insurrection tried to block Biden's transition to the White House, but this is different now because it's about Kevin McCarthy and his power, right?

MICHAEL SCHERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, that's right. He's going to hold on to that vote as long as he can. But it's - he's wrong. It's not a long way to go. I mean, the clock is ticking here. At most, it's two years. Santos' talking point today is 142,000 people elected me. Those 142,000 people are not going to be there if the whole Republican establishment in Nassau County is not with him.

So you know, he's - he's not going to win reelection. Plus he has several investigations and the biggest questions outstanding are where did the $700,000 loan that he made to his campaign come from, he didn't have that real income, it looks like.

And there's also questions being raised now about a separate fundraising effort, a donor in the New York Times saying I gave $25,000 to the Super PAC, but I don't know what happened to the money. I don't know where that money went. I mean, there's a lot of unanswered questions. And when you come to issues like straw donations and things like that, those are real crimes that the federal government will go after.

KING: Real crimes, but crimes that take months and months to document and prove. And then if there - if there are charges or regulatory or administrative charges, like the FEC or something like that, their appeals process, this can go on for months and months and months. Is that McCarthy's end goal? Michael mentioned two years.

Look, Republicans will primary George Santos if he survives two years, they will run a primary campaign against him to try to keep the seat, is that McCarthy's goal. I've got a very narrow majority, I need to keep this guy around as much as it stinks.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSITUTUION: It's sure what it looks like. I mean, at the end of the day, Santos has proven to be a reliable McCarthy vote. He voted for McCarthy for 15 rounds during the speakership race. You know, I think McCarthy is kind of keeping Santos loyal by saying these things about Representative Santos. At the end of the day, if Santos resigns, there would probably be a special election that Democrats would try really hard to pick up that seat. So the political upsides are for McCarthy to keep Santos there, but maybe keep him at arm's length. Keep him, you know, in a bubble, so to speak. That's just the politics of this situation.

KING: Power over principle, not the first time we've said that. And Democrats, I assume at the White House, they feel this way. Democrats in Congress certainly love it. This is Ted Lieu Democrat of California. "Dear Speaker McCarthy, Article 1, Section 5 of the Constitution explicitly authorizes Congress to expel a member with a two-thirds vote. I ask you to follow your own words and stick to the Constitution by allowing a floor vote on whether or not to expel George Santos."

That would be a rich moment for the Democrats early in the new Republican majority. Number one, they think the facts are on their side and decency is on their side. But number two, that would be a rich political moment, force it.

SAENZ: Yes. And really, this is all creating so much of a distraction for what Republicans are actually trying to do, as they take over control of the House when it comes to those investigations into the Biden Administration, or other fights that they've been teeing up.

Now there's so much energy and the George Santos story, is it really sucking all the oxygen out of the room, we'll see if any of that would eventually have an influence on Kevin McCarthy but I think as everyone has said, he wants to keep control and that New York seat is going to be incredibly important. And so for the time being, it seems like he's just going to side with Santos.

KING: And so you look at this, and you listen to rank and file Republicans, and they think this is just horrible for the brand, we are embracing a liar, or embracing a liar. In the age of Trump, maybe that's less of an issue for them than you know, I think it is or that people history, history might think it is.

But let's look the New York Times obtained George Santos' resume, and I'm going to go through two pages here. Might be hard to read at home, you can find this online, you can see it, but there's a whole bunch in here where he said he worked for companies. That never happened, it just simply didn't happen. He didn't work there.

But the rich part here is I was joking with these guys, before we came on the air. We go around the table and ask everybody their GPA. My writing on it is not coming through to you on the screen. But George Santos claimed he had, I believe a 3.89 GPA at a college he didn't attend. That's pretty good achievement.

SCHERER: And the resume leaves out that he was a star volleyball striker at Baruch College, which also wasn't true that he told somebody in the county party. So yes, there's, you know, it's - it's, I think, pathological what we're looking at. It's not just someone who embellish their resume. This is a totally different scale of someone who's lived their life, sort of as a con man, and finally got the brass ring and then then the spotlight came onto him.

KING: Is there, is there a tipping point for McCarthy? I get the raw politics of this. I get the narrow margin. I'm not agreeing with it. But I get the math of why Kevin McCarthy would want to keep George Santos around as long as he can. However, he says and he did. He made a whole lot of concessions saying we have a big tent. We're going to listen to everybody. Does this get to a point where if enough rank and file say Come on, we can't do this, you're touring all of us?

MITCHELL: I think the tipping point what we've seen is when there's a lack of accountability, the tipping point usually comes from the people. When the voters at home start leaning on the elected officials and saying you're supporting a guy who's a liar and a fraud and we don't like it and then those elected officials start leaning on Kevin McCarthy to say hey we're going back home and we're getting yelled at in the grocery store and our people are saying, What are you guys doing in Washington?


To me, that's what creates the tipping point. Until that groundswell happens. I don't think we'll see much here in Washington.

KING: Oh, wait, and we will watch. Up next for us relief for your family budget. Yes, inflation is easing, and the President wants some of the credit. Plus, the price of winning the Speaker's gavel, Freedom Caucus members get more top tier committee roles as we learn more and more about what Kevin McCarthy traded are the final votes.