Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Special Counsel Probing Trump Org's Handling Of Mar-a-Lago Footage; Special Counsel Sat In On Pence's Testimony To Grand Jury; Top Oversight Republicans Allege Biden "Criminal Scheme"; Attorneys For E. Jean Carroll Expected To Rest Case In Civil Trial. Aired 12:30- 1p ET

Aired May 04, 2023 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: He said, I'm the good guy here.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They rated Mar-a- Lago. Viciously rated Mar-a-Lago. I have tape and I gave them tapes. You know, I gave them tapes of storage areas. I gave it to them. I could have held that back. I wasn't holding anything back that I cared about. I gave them tape.


KING: I suspect here that what he says and what they, being they being the investigators think, or again, kind of different?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. I mean, the tapes were subpoenaed. So, he wasn't being generous. He actually was, you know, complying with an order from the court. And as Paula points out, you know, certainly the obstruction part of this investigation is why the former president is in the legal jeopardy that he is in, right?

The fact is that they received subpoenas. They were ordered to return -- all of these documents -- they did not. And even after receiving them, there were documents being moved from the room that they had promised to secure. They had promised to put an extra lock on it. And so that's the reason why what Jack Smith is doing.

And, you know, I think Paula hints at it there. The prosecutors seem to or believe that they know something, and that's the reason why they're bringing these people in to ask these questions, because they clearly seem to have information that they believe these men could shed light on.

KING: So help us, as a former prosecutor, and you're in the room and you're trying to build your case, and you have -- your testimony from individuals, including the Trump aide who acknowledged to the grand jury that was him on the videotape.

But now you have Matthew Calamari Sr.,who has handled security issues for Donald Trump for decades, a long time. His son is the director of security now. So you're bringing them in and you have the footage. Just help me put together the pieces of what you're looking for to build a case and why the video footage matters.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, so just a level set on this investigation generally, though, Evan is actually so correct in this, in that -- this is a former president we're talking about. Had it been determined, the Justice Department told him, we think you have classified documents, he provided them all, that would have been the end of this, the end.

And instead, this obstruction part and the growing piece of it is why there is so much legal jeopardy and why it continues to expand to a broader array of people who potentially had either involvement or knowledge of the obstruction of this investigation. So the video evidence is critical because it shows what would happen.

Video evidence is one of the best pieces of types of evidence in addition to, you know, text messages or emails, but sort of that documentary evidence because it shows what it shows. It's not reliant on a particular person's reputation in terms of their own testimony. So then they bring these people in, they're going to get their potentially corroboration of what's on the videos, and they need to get the story behind of how it is that information was delayed and being provided.

KING: And so --

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: We also learned from our reporting that one of the reasons they're particularly interested in Matthew Calamari Sr., this is a guy who's worked for Trump for decades. He's the chief operating officer of the organization.

Because he -- according to our reporting, he received a text message from Walt Nauta, asking if he had time to talk. And investigators were particularly interested in the conversations that then happened offline and whether there was any discussion of this video footage.

KING: Right, and maybe -- yes, what did you want to talk about?

REID: Exactly.

KING: Was he asked to do something by somebody? So this is a dramatic escalation of the special counsel's investigation of this piece of it, the classified documents, which is one. Two is the events to try to disrupt, ignore, stay in power after the election, which goes from election night, essentially through Inauguration Day, really. But January 6 being a seminal event in that.

In that, Mike Pence, because he -- special counsel won in court, Mike Pence had to testify to the grand jury and he had to testify at times about direct conversations with the president. In our exclusive reporting yesterday, "Special Counsel Jack Smith and Pence interacted while Pence was at the courthouse, and one source described the interaction as respectful. Smith's appearance is the first known time the special counsel has attended a grand jury proceeding in the investigation."

Out of respect because it's the former vice president and it is such an extraordinarily legal and constitutional moment, or here's a guy who might be a very important witness someday. I'm the chief prosecutor. I want to eyeball this.

PEREZ: I think it's the latter. I mean, the former vice president is one of the key witnesses, one of the most important witnesses, and certainly one of the witnesses they've waited the longest to try to bring in to this grand jury. But, you know, you -- you know, I think we have a list there of all of the members who have gone in recently, right?

You have --

KING: People -- some of them have had to come back because Jack Smith has won in court saying, no, they need to tell more.

PEREZ: Right. Because the former president was arguing for executive privilege. But the importance here is that, you know, one picture is not on that screen right now. And that's Mark Meadows.

KING: Right.

PEREZ: He is probably loom's largest of the witnesses that, you know, we haven't seen come in yet, or at least we haven't witnessed him come in. And that's important because we, you know, certainly believe that this investigation is coming near the end. I mean, there seems to be a lot of work still going, but Mark Meadows could very well be one of the final witnesses before they make a decision on whether to bring charges.


KING: And a man who had eyes on just about everything.

PEREZ: On everything.

KING: Just about everything.

PEREZ: In both investigations.

KING: In both investigations. That's right. I appreciate everybody coming in.

Carrie, going to hold you for one more conversation.

Next, a stunning allegation. Joe Biden taking foreign money to shape U.S. policy. Also stunning, I would argue more stunning. The Republicans making this claim admit they have no evidence. Just an unverified tip.


[12:40:08] KING: For major escalation now in Republicans investigations into President Biden and his family. The House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer has issued a new subpoena to the FBI, citing a whistleblower complaint. Comer and Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa writing to the FBI, demanding a form they say, quote, "describes an alleged criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Biden and a foreign national relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions."

The White House is dismissing the claim. It says Republicans are, quote, trafficking in innuendo.

Let's get the details. CNN's Sara Murray joins us now with the latest. Sara, what's at play here?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, look, this is an explosive claim coming from two Republicans who have spent a whole lot of time investigating the Bidens. And they say they've heard from an unnamed whistleblower who insists the FBI has some kind of evidence that Joe Biden, when he was vice president, was involved in this criminal scheme that involved paying off a foreign national.

Now, we should note, they don't offer any evidence to back this claim up. They don't offer it in their press release, they don't offer it in subsequent interviews that Chuck Grassley has done on this. But Comer still has issued this subpoena to the FBI. He's asking for documents that are supposedly related to this.

And these documents, John, are the kinds of forms the FBI would fill out when they have someone who comes in. They're memorializing an interview or they're trying to take information down from a confidential source. But essentially what these forms do is they document allegations. They don't document information that's been corroborated by the FBI.

So, again, these are unverified claims. And we should note that while James Comer has been doing this Biden investigation, he has done plenty of subpoenas quietly outside of the public view. So it was a clear, deliberate political move for him and Chuck Grassley to decide they were going to go out publicly, announce the subpoena publicly with no information at this point to back it up, John.

KING: A very -- you're right, calculated decisions.

Sara Murray, important reporting. Thank you.

Let's continue the conversation. With me to share their reporting and their insights. Sabrina Siddiqui of The Wall Street Journal, Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times and Camila DeChalus of The Washington Post. Carrie Cordero is still with us.

Let me start with you. So the White House knew this was coming when the Republicans took the House. And as Sara notes, some of this has been done privately. And the White House has said, if we can, we'll try to cooperate.

When they issue a subpoena to the FBI and then essentially say publicly, we think Joe Biden's a crook. What does the White House do?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, White House spokesman Ian Sams has slammed these allegations and accused Republicans of floating innuendo that is in turn being amplified by their right-wing allies. That's what the White House is saying and tying it back to what they say is a yearslong effort by Republicans in Congress to advance what the White House says are politically motivated attacks against the President and his family.

Both the White House and Democrats see this as nothing more than a distraction, that they say is really designed to deflect from, you know, the policy debates on Capitol Hill and the fact that they believe Republicans have not put forward a clear policy agenda.

I think, you know, ultimately the White House tends to ignore these investigations when it comes to publicly commenting on them. But right now, he just announced his reelection campaign, President Biden. And the case they're making is this is really about their -- appeasing the Republican base. Most of the American electorate is not interested in these investigations.

KING: Come back to some of that and the reaction a minute, but I asked Carrie to stay for the legal perspective on this. Here's what they're looking for. It's a June 2020 FD-1023 form. Form documents interview with a source. The form is possibly classified. Comer set a May 10 deadline.

So if you're in the government, there are hundreds and hundreds of these forms. People call up all the time and say, this person did this. You got to look into it, if it's serious. Do you, at the FBI say, here it is, even if it exists? Or do you say, you know, what, hold a hearing? Let me testify under oath. We looked into this, and it's bogus? What do you do?

CORDERO: Yes, I mean, well, they have to look at what the particular piece of information is within the FBI and within the Justice Department. And one of the questions that I would have is, is this something that actually resulted in an investigation?

Because if it's an actual investigation that was followed upon, in other words, a complaint that was made to the FBI that then triggered the opening of a threat assessment or preliminary investigation or a full investigation, then that would be the time that the FBI would say, this is the subject of an ongoing investigation.

And we don't normally provide information, certainly not publicly, then there's the option of whether or not they would offer to do a briefing to the oversight committee. But they're going to be very careful if they think that this is part of just a political inquiry and not substantive oversight.

KING: So I don't want to put words in your mouth. You mean they'd be more likely to get that briefing if they asked for it privately as opposed to doing what they did publicly?

CORDERO: Again, it depends on whether or not it's an actual investigation. But yes, it matters whether they think that this is just politics or whether there's some actual oversight being done.

KING: Right. And again, if there's something to it, it should be investigated. They have a hearing. They can put people under oath and get to it. But the way the Republicans operate is what makes this town interesting right now.


This is Senator Ron Johnson among the Republicans who keep saying that we see smoke, maybe there's fire. Listen to how he characterizes this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about the allegations? Will the American people see them?

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: Well, we'll have to see what's in them. Let's see whether credible allegations, whether they connect to other wrongdoing by the Biden family.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And if they turn out to not be credible, sir, will your colleagues acknowledge that you think? Only got a couple of seconds left.

JOHNSON: That'll be up to them. They're the ones that will get the documents.


KING: At least he was asked. If it turns out not to be credible, well, your colleagues raise their hand and say, oh, we made a mistake here. I wouldn't hold your breath for it.

But there is this pattern. Now I'm a dinosaur. So it's newish to me of, let's announce the verdict and then hold the trial. You heard he says, we don't know if these are credible. But then he went on to say, if they connect to other wrongdoing by the Biden family. This is how they do it nowadays.

CAMILA DECHALUS, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. You had Senator Grassley talk to reporters earlier today, and even in that, we asked him point blank whether he's talked to the whistleblower that is providing information about this alleged scheme. And, you know, he said that he just didn't answer the question. He kind of talked around it.

This is not surprising that Republicans are investigating any allegation into Biden, whether substantiated it or not, because they said that once they took back control of the House, that they were going to do it. What is interesting to see is that there are several congressional Republicans that are saying, hey, you know, I know we said we were going to carry out these investigations, but there are several pressing issues at hand.

There's the looming bank crisis, there's the debt ceiling crisis that still needs to be addressed and could possibly lead to the U.S. default. And so they're just kind of saying, I know we're investigating these investigations, but there's other pressing issues at hand, and constituents are telling us that we need to focus on those as well.

KING: I think part of the challenge is, though, when those Republicans say that, they probably are from vulnerable or competitive areas and you have someone like Homer who goes home to a district he almost can't lose unless he gets primary from the right. But my question, you make a great point about how the White House wants to just say most of this is political bogus.

But Joe Biden is President of the United States because of 100,000 votes spread around six states. I mean, we live in such a competitive environment. Do they worry, do they worry that they need to be more forceful in answering this stuff, even if they think it's bogus? Because if it sways a small amount of independent or, you know, movable voters?

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think there was definitely initial anxiety in the White House. I mean, we know that they were bringing in more resources for their legal counsel. I know in the example of DHS, when it came to the investigation into Ale Mayorkas, that DHS was preparing and having meetings as well with the White House to kind of prepare for these investigations.

There was definitely an initial concern about how much time this would take, these investigations would take, as well as some of the headlines that would get out there. But now, fast forward to now, as Sabrina was saying, look, you had expectations put out there by Republicans.

Before the Mayorkas investigation, they said they wanted to impeach him, you know. Before any of these allegations are unveiled, you already have them coming out with a verdict, as you were saying. But, thus far, the investigations really haven't shown all that much, which has led to memos that you were reading from Ian Sams, basically saying, well, what is there here?

KING: What was the old campaign line long time ago? Where's the beef? That was Gary Hart. Very, very long time ago.

Up next, live to the Manhattan courthouse. Some big decisions in the battery and defamation lawsuit against Donald Trump.



KING: Now what might be the final day of testimony in Donald Trump's civil trial. Attorneys for E. Jean Carroll expect to rest their case today. Mr. Trump, from one of his golf courses, this one in Ireland today, calling this case an attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: This is a -- let me just tell you, this is a political attack. This is a political attack. This is the only way they think they can win the election, because they're losing. Biden's losing. He's down by 11, and my Republican opponent is down by 45. He's disappeared. But this is a political attack. But I'm going to go back early. It's a disgrace that it can happen.


KING: We'll leave the president's mysterious poll numbers there for another day. Let's get straight to CNN's Kara Scannell outside the courthouse in New York. Kara, what are we hearing?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, today the jury heard about 30 minutes and watched this video deposition that former President Donald Trump gave in October. And on this deposition, Trump is sitting mostly hunched over with his hands clasped, and he's saying -- you know, he's shown some of the allegedly defamatory statements in this case where he says of E. Jean Carroll, she's not my type. I don't know her, and calling her allegations of rape a hoax.

He's looking at these documents and he says, yes, I wrote that. He's also shown a black and white photo of him and E. Jean Carroll a few years before the alleged rape in the Bergdorf Goodman department store. And he's holding the photo in his hands. He's seeing next to him as his wife, Ivana Trump.

He notices E. Jean Carroll's husband, and then he points to the photo and says, that's Marla. That's my wife. And he's corrected by one of the attorneys as saying, no, that's E. Jean Carroll. But he was adamant. He kept pointing at the photo.

Now, that's something that Carroll's attorneys want to use to show that maybe E. Jean Carroll was his type at the alleged assault, which was back in the mid-90s. He's also shown the Access Hollywood tape. He showed no visible reaction to it. He reaffirmed that he believed that was locker room talk.

And he was asked, you know, is that something that you think stars can do? And he said, historically, yes, that's something stars can do. Because on the tape, he's saying he just kissed his women. You know, he can't help himself. It's like a magnet.

You know, he -- so double down on his view of E. Jean Carroll, he called her a liar. The only time that he appeared to become physically agitated on this videotape was when he was asked about the alleged rape. And he said, you know, she's accusing me of rape. That's the worst thing you can do. It's the worst charge. I have no idea who she is.


Now, they're at a lunch break right now. When they return, there'll be two more witnesses that E. Jean Carroll is going to call, and then we're watching just how this case plays out. John?

KING: Kara Scannell outside the courthouse. Appreciate that reporting. Thank you.

I want to bring you now that we're getting word of a verdict in another big legal case, the Ed Sheeran trial. The artist accused of cribbing from the legendary Marvin Gaye stealing the allegation is the classic. Let's get it on and repurposing it as thinking out loud.

That jury had the case for about three hours. Again, word of the verdict, it has not been read out in court yet. We'll bring it to you the second we get it. And stand by for that.

Thanks for your time today in INSIDE POLITICS. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL", we'll bring you that news after a quick break.