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National Archives Asks Ex-Presidents, Vice Presidents To Re- Check Their Records For Classified Documents; 73 Percent Think House GOP Leaders Have Wrong Priorities; Meta To Restore Donald Trump's Facebook & Instagram Accounts. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 26, 2023 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: I want to bring you some brand new CNN reporting now about the government efforts to hunt down classified documents. Today, sources telling CNN the National Archives has formally asked all former presidents and vice presidents to scour their records to look for any classified materials. CNN's Jamie Gangel joins us at the table. Former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams is back with us as is Phil Mattingly our chief White House correspondent. Jamie is dealing with a little laryngitis. So have some patients at home as we go through this.

But so the National Archives is this out of an abundance of caution or they have some reason to believe there are even more records missing. So please President Obama, President Clinton, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Vice President Quayle, and so on look in your records.


JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: I think this is they don't know what they don't know. But after Trump, Biden, and now Pence, sorry about my voice, they're just asking everyone to go back, triple check, quadruple check. We should say that over the past weeks, CNN has reached out to all the former presidents, all the former vice presidents, their representatives, everyone has said that they don't have anything if they've turned it all over.

But that's what Mike Pence thought. And that's what Biden thought. So what they've said, we've reviewed a copy of the letter that went out. And it says, we request you conduct an assessment of any materials you have to determine whether bodies previously assumed to be personal in nature, might, and here's the key word, inadvertently contain presidential or vice presidential records, subject to the PRA, Presidential Records Act, whether classified or unclassified.

KING: So we will wait to see how that plays out. And whether anybody out there raises their hand and say, I found this. I want to stick with you, you mentioned Mike Pence and said I don't have any. I'm very careful. I didn't do it. And it turned out he had some. You have some new reporting, one source says some of those classified documents were likely used to prepare Pence for foreign meetings while he was vice president and may have been overlooked during the packing process that's during the transition, because they were tucked into old binders. What more do we know?

GANGEL: So for clarity, we don't know about all 12 documents, we have a window into a couple of the documents. In that case, what it appears happened is these records were packed up at the vice president's residence in the final days. And there were trip binders, travel binders that presidents and vice presidents are given for foreign trips. And I think what happened was when they put it in the boxes, nobody went through it page by page.

But when they did the search at Pence's Indiana home, someone did go through them finally contempt in there were classified memos kind of thing that a president or vice president is given to prepare to meet of foreign leader or government official.

KING: Right. So the Senate Intelligence Committee, Phil, wants to know exactly what was found at Mar-a-Lago, what was recovered, search warrant it took for Trump it's very different facts, set of facts, what was recovered there, what did vice president, now President Biden have or Senator Biden, some of them go back to those days, what did Mike Pence have?

So far they say they're not getting good answers. Mark Warner says, Congress says he's a Democrat, the chairman says, Congress has an oversight responsibility. The Biden administration better help us. Republicans are mad too. And Tom Cotton says he may hold up nominees, hold up other things in the Senate, will the Biden White House pick up the phone of the Justice Department to the Director of National Intelligence and said tell them?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think it'd be very unlikely just because they don't want to be seen as having any direct contact in anything that relates to their investigation. And I think that also underscores the reality here of this isn't just a Biden or Democrat thing, this isn't just a Trump or Mar-a-Lago or Republican thing. The frustration and why it is bipartisan covering from Senator Mark Warner and Senator Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio, is that it's all of them. And that's what they want information on.

And I think, for anybody who's covered Capitol Hill and has covered the intelligence committees in particular, particularly the Senate Intelligence Committee, when it comes to matters like this, there's a pretty good reason on the law enforcement side not to share a lot of stuff with Capitol Hill. It tends to not stay inside on Capitol Hill. That's not the case with the Senate Intelligence Committee. And I think that's where you see the kind of growing rage to some degree or at least anger is we don't operate like that is essentially what you're hearing from them. You owe us this, and we work in this space every single day, there's no reason to keep us out of it.

That pressure is going to increase in Congress threat on nominees and in terms of confirmations is something that might trigger some things a little bit. But in terms of how the White House operates, they can't afford to be seen pressing anybody out. KING: And so every piece of this, every dynamic is most some involving some of the most sensitive questions you deal with in the United States government, including the idea when they had several different episodes, they found a documented Biden's office, then they found a documented Biden's home, then they found more, the Justice Department finds, we want to send in our own people to look, right?

And I want to be clear about this, there was no threat of a search warrant. They went and said, can we. And the Biden people said yes, absolutely, you can. They fully cooperated. But we are told in our reporting, federal investigators were also prepared to seek a warrant if they did not get consent. Again, I want to be clear to our viewers, they didn't have to threaten a warrant. The Biden people said, please send your people in. And it was a voluntary, what, 13-hour search. But the fact that they were prepared to do that, what does it tell you?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, every investigation, this is how, whether Congress is running its own investigations or the Justice Department is, you start by asking nicely, and most of the time you can get the person to open their door to their house, either because they don't know they can say no or either because they have nothing to hide, right? Then sometimes things get ratcheted up and escalated to the point that you have to execute a search warrant. It's just very important, John, in all of this to remember, there's two different questions here.

One, the possible criminal exposure, maybe somebody has if somebody really wanted to take documents out but also the bigger sort of national security question of what were these documents and sort of, you know, how might they have harmed us as a nation. We shouldn't sort of conflate the two, and they're very, very different. And that's the important when you start talking about briefing memoranda. You know, this isn't a law enforcement question. It might be a national security one, right?


KING: Right, right. What is in there about a foreign leader, about a foreign business, about something that could be in there, we'll continue to stay on top of this story.

Up next for us, though some brand new CNN polling and the giant enormous disconnect between what you care most about and what the new Republican House majority is putting first.



KING: Had some brand new CNN polling now on what you think matters most and whether you believe the new leaders in the House are off to a good start. Republicans now three weeks into the new house majority and our new poll numbers tell us most of you are not impressed. Fewer than one-third of Americans think the Republican leaders in the House are putting the most important issues. First, let's bring in our CNN political director, David Chalian, he's here to break down the new numbers. David, what do they tell us?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know that it's been three weeks, John, since the Republicans took over the House. Of course, most of that first week was just about getting Kevin McCarthy elected speaker. But when we asked Americans in our brand new poll conducted by SSRS, whether or not House Republican leaders have the right priorities, nearly three quarters of Americans, 73 percent say no, they do not, even more politically interesting perhaps for Kevin McCarthy is that Republicans and Republican leaning independents are rather split on this topic, 46 percent of Republican and Republican leaning independents in this poll agree with the majority of the public at large.

They don't think that Republican leaders in Congress are on the right priorities. As for that early report card, just approval and disapproval, you see here 67 percent of Americans in our new poll disapprove of how the Republicans in Congress, the leadership there are handling their jobs. Dems don't have a lot to cheer about, but they're a bit better than the Republicans. But there also majority disapproval, 59 percent of Americans in this poll disapprove how the Democratic leaders in Congress are handling their jobs, John.

KING: David, come on over join the table in the conversation. Laura Barron-Lopez, it matters a lot more a year from now, when we're in an election year what the voters think of the Congress, but particularly this new House majority, if they want to keep it in a presidential year, they're going to forget about the business the American people care about. If you look at the poll, the most important issue facing the United States, it's not a surprise to anybody, nearly half 48 percent say it's the economy, immigration is well behind it, crime and guns well behind it, government spending well behind it.

And yet, in the early days of the new Congress, yes, the Republicans say they will get around if they can agree amongst themselves, first the economy, they've been talking about investigation, investigation, investigation, listen.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: We have a constitutional responsibility to oversee the Justice Department. And that also means these individuals investigating.

REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY): This is a long standing national security threat. Setting aside the very important fact that Hunter Biden also had access and used as his home address where those classified documents were improperly and illegally stored. This will be a part of the oversight agenda.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): What we're going to be doing a big border security package.


KING: Is there a sense here? And again, it's really there three weeks in, but that they should have done economy first, even if that other stuff is critically important to them? We know it's important to their base. And I suspect that would be the answer to the question.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, they are clearly playing to their base right now. They also started on abortion and a bill that would have that would prosecute doctors who conduct the procedure. And even after a midterm election cycle where abortion didn't necessarily help Republicans, it actually helped Democrats and help Democrats, battle Republicans almost to a standstill on the economy, because of course, voters did favor Republicans on the economy. And right now they're not focused on the economy.

You see, as a split screen, President Biden, you know, today talking about the economy next week, he's headed to Baltimore, he's headed to New York to focus on infrastructure, and is really trying to argue this case that he's focused on blue collar jobs since Democrats have lost a lot of white blue collar voters in the past few cycles, and that that's where his focus is, while Republicans are focused on a number of other red meat issues.

KING: Another fascinating thing to me going through the numbers, the tea, you're up there every day is that the new leaders, look, Nancy Pelosi was, you know, the Democratic leader for 20 years. She's gone. Hakeem Jeffries is new. His name is known maybe to people but they don't know him as leader even Kevin McCarthy was the Republican leader. Look at this poll, only 19 percent of people say have a favorable opinion of Kevin McCarthy. Only 21 percent that have a Hakeem Jeffries know his negatives. Kevin McCarthy, the new speaker, their higher, Hakeem Jeffries this is what's fascinating, 43 percent of Americans say they're unsure about the Speaker of the House. That's an incredibly important job.

Nearly six in 10 Americans say they're unsure about the new Democratic leader. So they have an opportunity if you will to fill in the slate. The question for Speaker McCarthy is knowing that, shouldn't you maybe have juggled this, should you have juggled your priorities, what you do first, how you communicate first?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Well, I think he did juggle his priorities, which was becoming speaker was his top priority. And he had to spend a week getting there. And as a result --

KING: To win Washington, he may have lost the country for a while.

MITCHELL: I think so. Well, that's the risk. That's the thin line. We've been talking about him having to walk for the next two years and beyond because to become speaker, he had to appease the far right members of his Republican conference. And how that's going to play out is going to be really interesting on these issues of the economy, abortion, immigration. And if he is forced to do things that don't play well publicly but that are required for him to keep his majority then that could make him a very unpopular speaker.


KING: We showed you the graphic, nearly half of Americans by far are way bigger than any other issue think the economy is number one. We also asked in our poll are things in the country going well, and if you look over time, back in July, 21 percent, October 26 percent, in December it was up to 35 percent, right now, it's about 30 percent. That's the terrain filled the President's walking on, that people feel a little bit better than they did last year 35 to 30. So it's down a little bit in the last month or so.

But you know, they feel a little better than they did last year, the new numbers today about GDP are good. So the President wants to be optimistic, but there's a risk of sounding disconnected from people who are still dealing with inflation, et cetera.

MATTINGLY: Sure, you don't want to have a July 4th moment 2021 when it comes to COVID, declaring it over and then having delta wave. And I'm not saying that's going to happen right now. But I also think that that's why does this recalibrated in their message in terms of making clear, they believe they've made significant progress, but they're not done yet. I think it's going to be a pretty significant theme of the State of the Union as well. And what he's going to be talking about over the course of the next couple of trips that he has, watch how much they talk about what's coming online, what's being implemented and the effects that will have, that's where they will point to. More good things are coming. And we don't even have to go through Congress to get them.

CHALIAN: And I would just note in our poll, also that I thought was so interesting. Yes, Kevin McCarthy has work to do. That's pretty clear. The country is expecting him to be in the driver's seat, though, 60 percent in our poll, say they expect the Republican leaders in Congress to have more influence on the direction of the country over these next few years than just the 37 percent who say that about Biden.

KING: And the doubts you show that even Republicans have about the Republican leadership just tell you it's not just about speaking McCarthy, the giant question among Republicans is who are we? Where are we going? Who's our leader? What should we care most about? It's a fascinating question. David, thanks for coming in. Thanks everybody else for joining us.

You don't go away yet. It's already becoming the hottest ticket, the latest member of the House to jump into what we expect to be a very crowded at least Democratic California Senate race, next.



KING: California Congressman Adam Schiff, just announcing he's running for the United States Senate. The former Trump impeachment manager joins fellow Democrat Katie Porter in officially launching a campaign for the seat currently held by the incumbent Dianne Feinstein who has not said publicly whether she's going to run again. If Schiff isn't successful in actually Senate primary, he would be forced to give up that House seat. Well watch that race. It's going to be fascinating.

Now, to the former President Donald Trump, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram will restore the former president's accounts in the coming weeks. Trump was suspended of course you'll remember after the deadly January 6th insurrection. He responded to this news on Truth Social last night quote, Facebook which has lost billions of dollars in value, since deplatforming your favorite president, me, has just announced they are reinstating my account. Such a thing should never again happen.

Our reporters are back with us. I haven't had to read a Donald Trump --


MATTINGLY: You're following me on Truth Social.

KING: And so he is criticizing the decision to kick him off. Let's remember his last post before his suspension was about the insurrection. It was 6 o'clock at night. The Capitol was a mess, defiled, there was violence, there was blood. These are the things that events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously viciously stripped away from great patriots who had been badly unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love and peace. Remember this day forever.

And so here's a competition, if you will, between that which is reprehensible and wrong and vile, and the First Amendment which says this is America and so you're allowed to say things that are reprehensible wrong and vile.

MITCHELL: As well, as you know, he's a candidate for president. And it's important to be able to hear from our elected officials or potential elected officials. That's part of how our democracy works. I think what's going to be interesting is what kind of safeguards that Meta is going to put on his account. They say that they're already briefing Trump and his team on, OK, we're going to let you back. But here are the new rules that we expect you to abide by.

And of course, what does that mean for True Social. There are people who poured a lot of money investing in this new social media platform, because Trump said he didn't need Facebook. But if he comes back, what does that say about that relationship?

KING: Well, his campaign wants him to come back, his joint fundraising committee, main vehicle political money, this is from POLITICO, they spent just 2.3 million on Facebook ads on nearly a dozen pages. So different pages, they find other places to advertise, then they fundraise off that advertising. That compares to more than 113 million on his main page, which turns into caching a lot of cash. That's the benefit for Trump to get back.

MATTINGLY: I don't think there's any question. It's a campaign benefit, right? Whatever you want to do about social media and who's reading it and who's actually on Facebook still, and I'm not totally sure who is, it drives significant campaign fundraising, it drives significant campaign, viral messaging, all of those things, and nobody did it better than the Trump team in '16 and '20.

KING: Meta says he cannot criticize the 2024 election. He can talk -- he can still say 2020 was stolen from him.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Because a lot of it has to do with the fact that he was kicked off for incitement. It wasn't, you know, the dangerous rhetoric and what could potentially come from that the violence that could potentially come from that. And so if he's trying to sow doubt about 2024, you know, that has impact on the future election has impact on what could happen around that election.


KING: It's fascinating to watch as it plays out. Again, we cherish the First Amendment. We shall see what happens to it in the months and days ahead.

Thanks for joining us today on INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you tomorrow. Abby Phillip picks up our coverage right now.