Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Supreme Court Hearing Student Debt Relief Case; Hundreds Rally As Justices Hear Student Debt Case; 1 In 5 Americans Have Student Loans, Two-Thirds Under 40; Fox Chief Admits Network Broadcast Election Lies; Murdoch: 2020 Election "Was On The Up-And-Up"; Fox Hosts Gave Airtime To Trump's Election Lies; Murdoch: Some Fox Hosts "Endorsed" Election Lies. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 28, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, everybody, welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. High stakes at the high court. 40 million Americans have $400 billion on the line as the Supreme Court today ways whether the Biden plan to erase student debt is constitutional.

Plus, a new legal filing details how Fox put profit ahead of facts and politics ahead of fairness, broadcasting election lies they knew were BS and tipping off the Trump campaign about Joe Biden's advertising buys. And today a nine-way brawl for mayor in Chicago, where crime concerns could leave the incumbent mayor Lori Lightfoot locked out of an April runoff.

Up first for us though, right now the Supreme Court hearing arguments in a case that impacts millions of Americans. The case involves President Biden's student debt relief program. We know the program is massive, it would wipe out more than $430 billion in federal loans. An estimated 40 million people qualify. It forgives $10,000 in loans for borrowers who make less than $125,000 a year, and up to $20,000 for those who get Pell Grants.

Today, the nine justices are hearing two cases on this issue. One is a challenge from six Republican led states who want to block Biden's executive actions. They say the administration exceeded its legal, its constitutional authority here. Plus, the second case is two individual borrowers who are suing because they are not eligible for debt relief.

Rene Marsh is with the crowds outside of the court protesting and demonstrating. We begin with CNN's Jessica Schneider, who's been listening to the arguments today. Jess, what are we learning?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we are seeing a lot of push back from these conservative justices here, really, they're pointing to the price tag of this program, more than $400 billion. And they're also questioning the authority of the president by way of the education secretary to even implement this program, because that is the big question in this case, whether the president has the power to implement this sweeping debt relief for millions of students. The solicitor general arguing for the Biden administration is saying yes, that under something called the Heroes Act. The education secretary has this power to waive or modify loan provisions in the event of an emergency. And of course, they are pointing to the ongoing COVID pandemic as that emergency.

But interestingly here, the Chief Justice John Roberts, he really pushed back repeatedly on this. And he actually pointed to a Trump administration program that the Supreme Court previously struck down when he stressed the limits of presidential power. Take a listen?


JOHN ROBERTS, CHIEF JUSTICE (voiceover): The case reminds me of the one we had a few years ago under a different administration, where the administration tried acting on its own to cancel the dreamers' program and we blocked that effort. And I just wonder given the posture of the case and given our historic concern about separation of powers that you would recognize at least that this is a case that presents extraordinarily serious, important issues about the role of Congress and about the role that we should exercise in scrutinizing that.


SCHNEIDER: And it wasn't just separation of powers. The chief justice along with other conservative justices also pointed to the price tag of this program, more than $400 billion to ask whether this should actually be in the purview of Congress to decide whether to cancel this debt. And then there was Justice Court Gorsuch, seizing on this idea of fairness.


NEIL GORSUCH, JUSTICE (voiceover): What I think they argue that is missing is cost to other persons in terms of fairness, for example, people who've paid their loans, people who don't plan their lives around not seeking loans, and people who are not eligible for loans in the first place. And that a half a trillion dollars is being diverted to one group of favored persons over others.


SCHNEIDER: So, a lot is on the line. In this case, 16 million borrowers have already been approved for this debt forgiveness, if in fact, the Supreme Court upholds this program. But a lot of court watchers are thinking that the Supreme Court might strike down this program. If that were to happen, John, you know, all of these loan payments have actually been on pause.

In the meantime, the Biden administration says that if they're to go back into effect, and if this loan forgiveness program is not put back into effect, those payments would be due 60 days after a decision in this case, likely the end of June. John?

[12:05:00] KING: Likely the end of June. So, we wait for the final word from the justice. Jessica Schneider, appreciate you're setting that up for us. Let's get outside the court right now. You see right there the crowds, hundreds rallying in favor of debt relief, some opponents as well. CNN's Rene Marsh is there live on the ground. Rene, what are you seeing?

RENE MARSH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'll tell you that a lot of other people out here who actually hold the student loans, they feel like they're in a state of limbo here as this all works itself out and works its way through the nation's highest court. But in the crowd here, we've got students, we have graduates, we have advocates, all of whom are rallying around this issue of forgiveness of student loan debt.

And the word I keep on hearing or the phrase I keep on hearing out here is generational wealth. It is very clear and spending time amongst the people hear in the crowd that they understand that this is not just about the student loans itself, but it's about the repercussions that it will have on their life for years to come. Their financial freedom for years to come.

We spoke to people who traveled hundreds of miles to be here. People whose camped out outside of the court overnight to make sure they had a spot here, because they understand that impact, the impact that it will have on them, the impact it will have on their children. And again, for years to come, John?

KING: Rene Marsh, for us outside the court, those waiting on the arguments and of course, we'll wait months for the decision. Rene, thank you. Jessica Schneider, as well. Let's bring the conversation in the room. With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Phil Mattingly, Seung Min Kim of The Associated Press, and Rhonda Colvin of The Washington Post.

Interesting to hear Justice Gorsuch talked about the fairness argument, because that was one of Joe Biden's arguments. If you go back to the 2020 campaign where he did not want to be - he wanted a more modest program and less generous program, then progressives like Elizabeth Warren.

Joe Biden making the case of well, let's not fair to some people who have already paid off their loans, or who go to a less expensive college because they understand they don't want to take on a big loan debt. So, it's interesting to hear Justice Gorsuch to making that argument, essentially, against President Biden now.

RHONDA COLVIN, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. I actually interviewed Senator Warren about the cancellation program last year when it was in discussion. And she was one of the Senate Democrats pushing Biden to do a cancellation program. And I asked her that exact question, you know, people are going to argue, this is just not fair. I paid off my loans or I went to a cheaper school.

And she said, her answer is always that, you know, she's from Massachusetts, she may never drive on roads in Utah, but because she is a taxpayer, she's paying for that. And we all have to invest in something that America needs. And that is her argument.

And she certainly has been continuously vocal on this issue, as has Senator Schumer, he was another person pushing Biden to do this cancellation program. So, it's really interesting to see this play out right now, especially when you see people there who say that this really matters to them, and really discussing how this is going to impact to them.

KING: And the impact is just the reason yet, the politics and illegal art (Ph) is so important to so many people are affected, one in five Americans hold student debt, one in five Americans, 20 percent of Americans, 67 percent of them are under 40.

District of Columbia, Maryland and Georgia have the highest federal student debt when you look at it. So, this is a decision obviously, that impacts the president United States heading into a reelection campaign. It does get at this balance of power shouldn't Congress make these decisions. How much should executive power happened, but it affects a whole lot of especially younger Americans.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Younger Americans, particularly people who don't - aren't living on such high incomes. So, they really do have to plan month to month where their expenses would go. And particularly under the Trump administration, under the Biden administration, they've had this, you know, payment, pause, extended over and over.

And now, you know, late last year, they felt they were finally getting some relief then the Supreme Court kind of intervenes. And so yes, this is an issue that certainly affects younger Americans. This is an issue that the White House felt would energize younger voters, particularly before the midterms, when President Biden took this action in late August.

And I also feel too, that even if the Supreme Court does rule against the administration on this, which it kind of sounds like they make from Justice Roberts' comments earlier this morning, that the White House feels they might be able to win by losing. They're really going to anger, you know, younger voters who may be mad that this conservative Supreme Court took away this thing that they were supposed to get. And we know from the midterms that anger is a great motivator in politics.

KING: Right. And the president will make the argument who side, you know, who do you want on your side. If he has to take this into a reelection campaign, having lost at the Supreme Court. And we go back a few months and listen to the president. A lot of people do say, wow, that's a lot of money. That's a lot of money for the federal government to be wiping off the books in loans. The president listen to him here, he says, money well spent.


JOE BIDEN, 46TH U.S. PRESIDENT: People do start finally crawl out from under that mountain of debt. Again, on top of their rent utilities, to finally think about buying a home or starting a family or starting a business. And by the way, when this happens, the whole economy is better off.


KING: It is, I don't know what the right word is somewhat odd in the sense that he was - I don't know if late to this is the right way to put it. President Biden, he's certainly not as aggressive or as progressive as the Senator Warren is. But now he has a signature issue before the High Court that could end up being a big deal in the campaign.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: His skepticism was based on merit. And I think this was why the Gorsuch argument was interesting. This debate which was a very tortured one behind the scenes for months and months and months was not that the president was against his own campaign promise of wiping off $10,000 in debt. He wanted to make sure it was very targeted.

That's why you have the income thresholds. That's why the Pell Grant recipients, which is a really important constituency, and primarily almost entirely lower income to maybe moderate income and best was such a key focus of theirs.

Look, without getting into the weeds of a scoring debate, as much as I know (Inaudible) would really love that right now. There is a very real argument to be made in terms of, OK, $430 billion, with the CBO is scoring this without getting into the fact that this is payments over time that there is economic benefit to wiping this away from people and what that actually produces in terms of what consumers can spend, how they can operate going forward.

I think the bigger issue for the Biden administration, beyond the fact that they're still confident that they're going to win this case, primarily on a standing basis, rather than necessarily the merits, that they believe that merits are there is they believe that this is a very, very important issue as (Inaudible) was saying.

For their voters, they believe it's a very real issue for people and while it might not be 200 million people, for those 40 million people, it is extraordinarily tangible, not just for political activation standpoint, but from an economic life standpoint.

KING: Now, one of the many fascinating cases before this court that we will go through and learn about in the months ahead. Up next for us. An eye-opening admission, yes, beyond eye-opening admission. From the head of Fox, CEO Rupert Murdoch says, several Fox personalities pushed election fraud claims they knew, they knew to be lies.



KING: Now to a jaw dropping, court filing that lays bare a stunning breach of basic journalism, and yes, a stunning breach of common decency. Fox's Chairman Rupert Murdoch admits, the network repeatedly broadcast election fraud claims it knew were false. And that Fox knowingly, knowingly lied to its viewers.

Bullshit and damaging. Those are Rupert Murdoch's words to describe Donald Trump's election lies. You see them right there. Yet, of the many network hosts who promoted the BS on air, Murdoch says yes, they endorsed the former president's falsehoods.

The Murdoch deposition is part of a defamation lawsuit, filed against Fox by Dominion Voting Systems. Murdoch told Dominion lawyers, he could have stopped the network from putting liars like Rudy Giuliani and Michael Sandel on the air over and over and over again. But he didn't because of money. Again, from that court filing, "when asked why Fox continues to give a platform to Lindell, who continues to this day to spout lies about Dominion, Murdoch agreed. It is not red or blue, it is green."

Our CNN legal analyst, Carrie Cordero joins the conversation. Carrie, I guess you have to applaud the honesty. He's under oath. I guess he has no choice. Rupert Murdoch saying, this was about green, meaning money. We're going to go through a lot of this in the minutes ahead. There's a lot of really embarrassing things here for Fox News. But does it meet the bar, pretty high bar of defamation?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: All right. Well, so defamation cases have a very high standard. It's the first amendment that we're talking about here. And people in organizations have to have flexibility and freedom under the First Amendment, to be able to say things and not automatically turn out to be liable if those things turn out to be wrong.

But in the defamation case, with Dominion the voting system company has to show is they have to show that there were false statements. So, they're going to be able to provide evidence that there were numerous false statements made on their air. They're going to have to show that that information was published or broadcast.

And it looks like from the filings so far, they'd be able to show that multiple, multiple times again and again and again, these false statements were broadcast. And then they're going to have to show malice. And what that means in this context, is that there was a reckless disregard for the truth. And that is a very high standard in and of itself, because they have to make that showing based on clear and convincing standards.

So, in addition to the fact that they're going to have to show actual business harm to their company. So, defamation is a very high bar. But they certainly in these filings so far, and in the depositions do seem like they have actual evidence and actual admissions from people in charge. KING: So, let's stay on that for one second. And let's stay with Rupert Murdoch. Here's a piece of the deposition. Question, is it fair to say, you seriously doubted any claim of massive election fraud? Murdock, oh, yes. And you seriously doubted it from the very beginning? Yes. I mean, we thought everything was on the up-and-up. Up-and-up meaning that the election was free and fair.

So again, getting to the point of malice, the CEO clearly concedes right there under oath. From the very beginning, he knew this was BS and let it - get he let it happen on his network, day after day after day after day, show after show after show after show. If that's not malice, what is it? Just, I don't care.

CORDERO: Right. Well, that's why this case is going to be such a significant case, if this really does go to trial. Remember, this is just the pre-trial phase right now. He said the statements under oath in depositions that as part of the pre-trial.

And so, if this really does go to trial, then then we will see if new law is made in this big media case as to whether or not that standard has been met in this case. If they knew and it's demonstrated under oath that people in charge knew that the statements were untrue and continued to allow them whether that meets the new defamation standard.

KING: That is a fascinating. And you're right, consequential case as it plays out. Carrie Cordero, thank you. Let's bring the conversation back into the room with our great reporters. Here's what Fox responded to Dominion's following, by saying Dominion, lards up its brief with any cherry-picked statement that it can muster from any corner of Fox News to try to demonstrate that Fox writ large, not the specific person at Fox News responsible for any given statement, knew the allegations against Dominion were false. Fox writ large. Rupert Murdoch is the CEO, isn't he Fox writ large?


KIM: I mean, he is. And certainly, of course there are reporters at Fox News who were saying the truth about the election. But the fact that this, its own CEO, the boss says many of its personalities who are - by the way, the most influential personalities on air that they were the ones saying this is really, really quite remarkable. And I would be - I'm very, like, anxious to see how this turns out.

And I also think the other thing that was really interesting to me about all of this is just that scramble and the concern from behind the scenes about how if they do tell the truth about the election, that they are concerned, that they will lose their viewers, lose their viewers to another channel like Newsmax or OAN. And the reason I find that interesting on many levels, one of them is that, you know, former President Trump is actually trying to capitalize on that.

You saw a comment from him yesterday at his social media site, where he said, you know, when he was criticizing Ron DeSantis, who is now not a fan of saying, you know, isn't there a big, beautiful network which wants to do well and make a fortune when taking a shot at Fox News, which now is kind of seeming to get on the DeSantis train. So, there's just a lot of direct political impact here, in addition to just the fact that they're not telling the truth.

KING: And Paul Ryan, the former House Speaker, who I believe at the time was on the Fox board. I know he was on the Fox board at one point, rights to Rupert Murdoch essentially saying, you got to stop. You got to stop this. You're damaging your own brand and you're ruining the country. God, forbid we put to think about the country, that you're ruining the country by lying to your viewers and telling there was fraud.

Murdoch response, Thanks Paul. Wake-up call for Hannity, who has been privately disgusted by Trump for weeks, but was scared to lose viewers. That's straight to the point Seung Min just made that, I'm sorry, it's inexcusable.

COLVIN: Right, privately disgusted about it. But you know, in public, not so much. My mind went back to the January 6 hearings. When I heard these revelations from the Murdoch testimony and how - when I covered it, there was so much evidence that showed that Fox played some sort of role. Their hosts discussing the election lie. The panel, the January 6 panel continuously mentioned that they kind of dropped breadcrumbs suggesting what Murdoch has just confirmed.

But I was also thinking about how, when I was sitting in that hearing room, and I would hear testimony whether the live testimony of one of the writers who was there and told his story, or some of the taped interviews, how baked in the misinformation was. How people said, yes, I believed that the election was stolen.

And I kept thinking to myself, how did they get to that point that they stormed the Capitol. And I feel like this is just a personification. They are a personification of what we've heard from Murdoch that the misinformation did lead to these events.

KING: Right. It has been a long, long, long time since especially in primetime. Fox is not about news, it's about opinion. But Rupert Murdoch, specifically named Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro, and Lou Dobbs, there are others as well. If you go back in time, Phil Mattingly, it was not just once, it was not twice, it was this, over and over and over again.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX HOST: It will be impossible to ever know the true, fair, accurate election results.

MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX HOST: Sidney Powell is leading the charge against Dominion, and she says she has enough evidence of fraud to launch a massive criminal investigation.

JEANINE PIRRO, FOX HOST: President's lawyers alleging a company called Dominion, which they say started in Venezuela with Cuban money and with the assistance of Smartmatic software. A backdoor is capable of flipping votes.


KING: All lies, and all lies that at least the CEO knew about. If and he says that the individuals did as well. You made a key point. I reached out just tell our viewers. I asked this show staff to reach out to all you guys before because I don't want to put you in a tough spot. I used to cover the White House. I covered a beat. I know it's hard sometimes.

You make a key point that when I covered the White House, there was Jim Angle and Wendell Goler, are two great guys who worked for Fox News in those days. They were good reporters. There are a lot of good Fox reporters out there who get blown out of the water by that.

MATTINGLY: No question about it. Look, these filings are laying bare the fallacy of the idea that there is a separation between opinion and editorial. And yet, on the editorial side, there are real reporters, real producers, real photojournalists who go to work every day and do their job in a very professional manner.

And I think my frustration, look, I understand that the broader systemic issues, the dangers, the absurdity of everything that's going on here. But there's also real-life people and you're watching text messages about wanting to get - one of my colleagues at the White House fired because she told the truth. One of their colleagues who now works with us to delete tweets or get fired because they told the truth, telling him to shut up because they're killing the stock price.

These are journalists that are trying to do it the right way. And yes, they may have different angles, different approaches, different questions than I might have, or Seung Min might have. But they are professional and how they do things, and they work hard.


And what they were doing was simply telling the truth. And that was enough to have these personalities which very clearly have more power than anybody else. Try and have them fired. And I think the thing that just keeps catching me as I go through these filings beyond kind of being mind-blown that what we all kind of thought or perceived is very much the reality here.

Isn't there are, people who work at Fox News who are providing for the families, going to work every day doing good reporting, working hard, even if it's a different angle, and perhaps you might take and they are being thrown under the bus not just in terms of the perception of the network. They're being potentially destroyed career wise, because they dared tell the truth and that's as offensive as anything else you could possibly imagine.

KING: And if it sounds ridiculous, but if you think it's the fraud, the dishonesty is limited just to the election lies. Just one last one before we go. This is from the for filing. During Trump's campaign, Rupert provided Trump's so-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, with Fox confidential information about Biden's ads, along with debate strategy. That is putting your thumb on the scale, period. To borrow a phrase, we report you decide. Soon, President Biden heads to Virginia. On tap a warning Republicans are a threat to your healthcare. This as the administration says those who want new federal money for technology plants need to promise childcare for their employees.