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Nikki Haley Formally Announces Presidential Run; Michigan State to Hold Vigil for Mass Shooting Victims; DOJ Alleges Crime to Compel Trump Attorney to Testify; DOJ Won't Charge Rep. Gaetz in Sex- Trafficking Probe. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired February 15, 2023 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We won't win the fight for the 21st century if we keep trusting politicians from the 20th century.
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JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR OF 'INSIDE POLITICS': With me in studio to share their reporting and insights, CNN's Jeff Zeleny; Leigh Ann Caldwell, The Washington Post; ** of the New York Times. Leigh ann, let's start with a little more from Governor Haley, Ambassador Haley just moments ago on this generational pitch. She mentioned Trump later in the speech. How much does she mean Trump here?
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KING: Sorry, a little technical issue with that bite right there. "I know America is better than all the divisions and distractions that we have today. We're ready. Ready to move past the stale ideas, the faded names of the past, and ready for a new generation."
Divisions and distractions, you could argue she might mean Donald J. Trump. At the moment, it is Trump and it is Haley. Those are the two declared candidates.
LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yeah, that is absolutely right. When I first heard her say that, I thought it was absolutely Donald Trump she was speaking about. She says, her campaign says that they are talking mostly about President Biden and that's who she's running against. But when she goes on to say the next line that we need a new generation, she's talking about both Biden and Trump.
And I thought her message today was very clear. Because Haley over the past couple of years has really struggled to find out -- figure out what her message is. But today, I feel like she brought the optimistic Haley and I feel like she was -- had a coherent and very targeted message in trying to, you know, find her space in this Republican primary.
KING: And so, Jeff, you see what happens going forward. Again, for many candidates who run for president, this is their best day, their announcement day. You have a loving crowd around you and you go. The question is can she build from here, a very well done event. A very well produced, looked great with the crowd right there. Does she have Donald Trump's attention? Well, the answer is yes.
This is four pages when it print it out, of opposition research from the Trump Campaign. Not from Trump himself, those statement from Trump. But she once said nice things about Hillary Clinton. She supported Paul Ryan's plan to trim Medicare and Social Security. It goes on and on. Said she's weak on immigration. Said she did not support the transgender bathroom bill. Says she flip-flops on 2024. She's got his attention.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN'S CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Sure. I mean, welcome to the race. I mean she of course knew all of these things were coming. I think this was a hometown crowd of people who twice elected her as Governor of South Carolina in a historic move of its own. This is -- she has a clear base of supporters there. The question is, as she moves down the field here, she'll be in Iowa next week, what's her reception there?
There is no doubt, there is an appetite for a new generation of leaders. She spoke to that. I almost lost track of the number of double entendres, if you will. Was she talking about Biden or Trump during this talking about the age? But she did say something interesting. She wanted to have a mental acuity test for politicians over 75. She could have said 80. That would have applied to Biden. She said 75, it applies to President Trump as well.
But look, the bottom line here, her ability to move forward is going to depend on how she straddles that line of mega supporters who she needs versus really the old Republican Party. I was struck she came onto the stage with the theme song "The Eye of the Tiger." That is the song Newt Gingrich played again and again and he won South Carolina in 2012. So there is a hungering and appetite among Republicans for a new way. Is she the candidate? We'll see. But she did herself a lot of good getting in early and this was a very good event for her. We'll see what comes next, day two is harder.
KING: Right, the day two is harder. Day two means you build. And again, she made the decision. There was a hesitancy for anyone, Trump was declared. Who's going to get in and risk his ire first. She decided to do it. Now she goes to Iowa and New Hampshire. There were some contradiction in her announcement there. There is some straddling where she goes to the pre-Trump Republican Party.
She sounds like a neocon on some issues, where she is Trumpy on other issues. She is going to have to sort all that out, but when you look at her Former Governor of South Carolina, an optimistic candidate. Candidates like that sometimes get enough appeal in Iowa. If you have Nikki Haley that can do something in Iowa, if the Republican Governor of New Hampshire Chris Sununu runs, then she gets to South Carolina. There's a long way to go but you can get the strategy in that, wait a minute, there is a -- there is a path.
ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Optimistic at least for now. Leading with that optimism at least in the initial part of her campaign. But still, as you noted, there were some contradictions. She almost tried to bridge the flank a little bit. I did hear a lot about this rosy kind of depiction of the nation. But then in the beginning, you also heard about drugs flooding onto streets as well, crime rising. Now of course, she later took an optimistic source spin on that, saying the solution is to back police and didn't focus as much on crime. But you did see her try to kind of play the middle. I was also surprised just how much she leaned into foreign policy. And I thought that was some of the, the intention behind that was likely some of the more points of criticism against the current administration.
She used dark terms to describe the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the haphazard withdrawal from Afghanistan. She talked about as well the handling of negotiations for denuclearization in Iran. How often do we hear that now in day-to-day speeches among our politicians that we cover? A lot dedicated to foreign policy as well.
KING: In part, Scott Jennings says part about live coverage made an interesting point, there is isolationist wing of the Republican Party and at times Donald Trump is part of it. America First to many has meant American withdrawing from the world. She wants to fight that fight and that does put her more in the camp of Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush, or George W. Bush, or Marco Rubio, who she had endorsed in 2016 against Donald Trump.
CALDWELL: Yeah. The Republican Party is at a point right now where it's trying to figure out what it is, how it moves forward, and foreign policy is one of those issues. So she might have also focused on foreign policy not only because she has a lot of background on that, but also Mike Pompeo, Former Secretary of State is expected to get in the race as well. And we're going to see here in Washington big fights moving forward about foreign policy, about funding for Ukraine, defense spending, and so this is an issue that is going to infuse the presidential primary as well.
KING: They have to be thrilled if you're on team Haley on that day one. It was a well produced event. She delivered the speech well for someone who has been off the bike for a while, in terms of running for elective office. The question is what are the challenges on day two, day three, week four, week five.
ZELENY: And fund-raising today and the next coming days is going to be critical for them. That's the biggest reason she jumped in so early here, because she is a unique figure in this race.
KING: And again, Nikki Haley now the second declared Republican candidate for president. Donald Trump went first late last year. Nikki Haley is in. Just want to show you some pictures right now at Tallahassee, Florida. This tells you progressives believe Ron DeSantis is about to get into this race as well in the near future. Reverend Al Sharpton leading hundreds protesting the Florida Governor Republican Ron DeSantis.
The Governor says Florida Public Schools will not teach an advanced placement African-American studies course because the Governor says it includes concepts like queer theory, concepts DeSantis labels as indoctrination. So, you see protests there, Democrats making clear they understand they disagree with this policy of Governor. They also expect him to very soon be in the Republican race for president. Again, Governor Haley, the second candidate today.
When we come back tonight, Michigan State families comes together to remember the victims of a horrific mass shooting. This as we're now hearing the stories from survivors. Students who lived through not just this latest tragedy but two years ago survived a mass shooting, yes, at a Michigan High School.
KING: Tonight, Michigan State University will hold a vigil to remember the victims of Monday's mass shooting. We now know the names of the three students who were killed and you see them there. They are 20- year-old Brian Fraser, 19-year-old Arielle Anderson and 20-year-old Alexandria Verner. Fraser was the president of his fraternity. Family members say Anderson was studying to become a surgeon. And a family friend remembers Verner as "Everything you'd want your daughter or your friend to be." They were all from suburban Detroit. CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is live on the campus. She joins us now from East Lansing with the very latest. Adrienne, what is the latest?
ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): John, in just under six hours, people will gather here in front of the Sparty statue which is behind me to hold vigil. They will reflect on eight of the victims. And when I say eight, we're talking about the three deceased who you just mentioned as well as the other five who are in critical condition, still fighting for their lives after that shooting on Monday night. We have learned the name of one of the five and that is Guadalupe Huapilla-Perez.
Her family says they are thankful she's still here but they also said they are devastated, telling us that Guadalupe has a long road ahead when it comes to recovery. They say it will take months, including the rehabilitation process. Meanwhile, people still wanting to know why did this happen, and that is unclear. Investigators are still trying to find out how that 43-year-old shooter, who had no ties to MSU according to police, obtained the gun.
Meanwhile I spoke to a senior a short time ago. She wept as she shared what was on her heart, trying to cope with what happened here Monday. She reminded me of something that all freshmen do when they start school here. They take a picture in front of Sparty. I did it some 21 years ago. And she says that reason we take the picture in front of Sparty is to see how far you're come and how much you've changed when it's time to graduate. She said the freshmen who took the picture here had no idea what would be ahead. She is now a mass shooting survivor. John.
KING: Simply a tragic and remarkable moment on campus Adrienne brought us. We are grateful you are there to help chronicle it, Adrienne, thank you. This is the second mass shooting some of the survivors have experienced. Understand that, the second mass shooting some of these survivors have experience, including for Andrea Ferguson. Less than 15 months ago, Ferguson was a student at Michigan's Oxford High School when four students were killed.
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AVA FERGUSON, SURVIVOR OF MSU AND OXFORD HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTINGS: I was flabbergasted to say the least. After Oxford, they said that this wasn't going to happen again, that we were going to be safe going back to school and that's just not the case. It was like traumatizing all over again. I'm still a little shaken up by it. At the time, we didn't know any information. I didn't know where the shooter was. I thought I was in like imminent danger. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And the father of another survivor of both shootings says he's just simply in disbelief this could happen twice.
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MATT RIDDLE, DAUGHTER SURVIVED MSU AND OXFORD HIGH SCHOOL SHOOTINGS: One of the things that has been heart breaking for me is for her to acknowledge this time may be easier because she has tools that she developed the last time she went through this. And I can remember thinking after the Oxford shooting that, "OK, you survived and it's tragic and you lost friends, but this will never happen again, right? It just can't."
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KING: Authorities tell us to expect to learn more about the information on the investigation tomorrow morning. We're looking for that announcement sometime around 10 O'clock.
Up next, the Trump Special Counsel gets aggressive in the classified documents case, demanding testimony from a Donald Trump lawyer by arguing he has evidence of a crime and that that wipes away the traditional attorney/client privilege.
KING: The Trump Special Counsel is taking another aggressive step, this time in the investigation of all those classified documents the former president took to Mar-a-Lago. The Special Counsel Jack Smith now asking a Federal Judge to invoke what's known as the crime fraud exception. That would allow prosecutors to bypass traditional attorney/client privilege and to force one of Trump's attorneys, Evan Corcoran, to answer more questions. It's a huge step and it tells us prosecutors are prepared to argue in court that Trump or someone in his orbit used Corcoran to further a crime.
A spokesman for the former president calls this move, "a targeted politically motivated witch hunt" designed to keep Trump out of the White House. Joining our conversation, CNN's Paula Reid and the former Federal Prosecutor Elliot Williams. Paula, let's start with you. It's a very aggressive move to try to puncture the tradition of attorney/client privilege. To get a judge to sign off, you have to present evidence, at least probable cause, that the lawyer was involved in a crime. What are we going to see?
PAULA REID, CNN'S SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It's not a very high bar and this is the first time we've seen this from Special Counsel Jack Smith. Of course, previously the Justice Department had to present probable cause of a possible crime we'd say in order to get the warrant to search Mar-a-Lago. But here you see them, they want to bring back Evan Corcoran and they want to ask about the events leading up to the search of Mar-a-Lago.
So they are arguing to a judge, they are trying to convince the court to allow them to use one of these few exceptions to attorney/client privilege saying, "Look, we believe that Corcoran or his legal advice were used in furtherance of a crime." Not a high bar. It's likely they will be successful. Literally (ph) interesting to see how much evidence they can get out of him. But look, it's never a good day when one of your lawyers goes before a grand jury and now we're up to three Trump attorneys going before the same grand jury.
KING: And part of the argument of the prosecutors is that the lawyers helped Trump or someone in his orbit, again be careful.
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN'S LEGAL ANALYST: Yeah.
Essentially, keeps saying we gave you all the documents, there's nothing else here, and the Justice Department kept finding out through witnesses and video, there's more, there's more, there's more. Brandon Van Grack who is one of the lead prosecutors for Bob Mueller looks at this and says this. "These are the final steps in this investigation. Paul Manafort was indicted just a few weeks after Chief Judge Howell in D.C. ruled Mueller could use in crime fraud exception. Shouldn't be a long delay for charging decision once the judge rules on this one." Do you agree with that?
WILLIAMS: I do and it's a big deal given how important the attorney/client privilege is. You want to protect conversations that happen between attorneys and their clients except when they're using those conversations to possibly further a crime. As Paula had said, you don't need to convict the person of a crime, you merely need to just have a credible allegation that they did. So this is quite significant. What a lot of analysts who are looking at this are saying, "Yes, the Manafort case is a good guide here given that charges came soon after." KING: Help me with credible allegation. Is it probable cause, is it some documentary evidence or just prosecutors stipulating, "Hey Judge, we believe this?"
WILLIAMS: I mean stipulating to the point that the judge can be convinced of it to some extent. But you don't need to bring it before a jury and convict the individual here.
KING: So you make a key point. Paula, three judge, Alina Habba, Evan Corcoran, Christina Bobb.
KING: Have been called before this grand jury. These are the people who are supposed to be keeping Donald Trump out of trouble, if you will.
KING: Telling him where the legal lines are.
REID: How did they do (ph), I guess.
KING: Instead they're called before this grand jury. Again, that's an aggressive tactic by any prosecutor.
KING: And reading the tea leaves is, when Jack Smith got to Washington and suddenly he has both feet on the gas. Is that fair?
REIG: It is fair. He's taken a lot of steps in the past few weeks since he returned from Europe here. He has been issue subpoenas, then gathering evidence. They have so much evidence that we know some things have been submitted. The files haven't even been opened yet. But as you noted, this are three attorneys. This is a lot of work to get these attorneys in and then bring them back in, if you can pierce the attorney/client privilege, and what they're asking them about is not so much necessarily the handling of classified information, but possible obstruction. And each of these individuals potentially has evidence about what happened leading up to the search of Mar-a-Lago.
KING: Intent, is that the idea?
WILLIAMS: It is absolutely intent and that's incredibly valuable information. Sort of building, like (INAUDIBLE). Look John, you can always prove that the thing happened. You have to prove that the defendant intended for it to happen in a criminal manner and that can be a challenge.
KING: Before we look, Paula, separate case you've been on top of. Matt Gaetz was under investigation for some time and the Justice Department has made a big decision.
REID: That's right. Today, the Justice Department is formally informing key witnesses and victims in the case that they will not proceed with charges against Congressman Matt Gaetz. A couple of years now, he has been under investigation for allegedly having sex with an underage girl, for potential sex trafficking and possible obstruction.
We've learned in our reporting is that ultimately investigators recommended not going forward with the case because there were concerns about key witnesses, including his long-time friend and wingman Joel Greenberg who's currently in prison for over a decade. After he pleaded guilty to several felonies. There was also concerns about other women in the case. And overall, they said, "Look, there's a lot of drugs and alcohol involved in these key events. It would be very difficult to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt." So even though they had a lot evidence, ultimately they didn't believe it could be a successful prosecution.
KING: Important decision there for Congressman Gaetz. We'll watch as that plays out. Thanks for your time today and a very busy "Inside Politics." Kasie Hunt picks up our coverage after a quick break. Good afternoon.