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Trump Attorneys Turned Over Materials In March After Subpoena Regarding Classified Iran Doc; Trump Attorneys Have Not Found Classified Doc, Trump Referred To On Tape Following Subpoena; Trump Subpoenaed For Records After Recording Surfaced Discussing Classified Doc On Iran; DOJ: No Charges In Pence Docs Probe; Tonight: Biden's Oval Office Speech; 339,000 New Jobs Added In May; Wage Growth Slows Some In May. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 02, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King in Washington. Up first and important breaking an exclusive new CNN reporting about the special counsel investigation and that audio recording of the former President Donald Trump. Sources now telling CNN that Trump attorneys turned over material in mid- March, two and a half months ago. In mid-March connected to a classified military document.

The one prosecutor is here, Mr. Trump describe on that audio recording now in their possession. That tape prompting a fresh subpoena from Special Counsel Jack Smith's investigators for any and all documents related to Mark Milley, General Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs Chair or Iran. Sources telling CNN, there's also a big unknown whether that document in question, in Iran attack plan was ever actually returned to the government.

Let's break down this important reporting. It's beginning with the team behind is CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us from New York, CNN's Paula Reid is here with me in Washington, along with the former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams.

Kaitlan Collins, let me start with you. And I just want to go through a little bit of the timeline. We reported yesterday the prosecutors have this audio recording of Donald Trump talking about having a classified document. Saying on that audio recording that he wishes he could share it, but he knows he can't which is important.

Now in this new reporting, you and your colleagues, number one, there's a Trump aide Margo Martin who goes before the grand jury. When she goes before the grand jury, they have an audio recording. And after her testimony they send a subpoena to Trump attorneys. Walk us through the significance of this?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. So, Margo Martin, who is a former White House press aide, who followed Trump and works in his post presidency office down in Mar-a-Lago with before investigators back in mid-March. She was there when she testified, they played this audio recording that we broke the reporting on for her. We are told that shortly after she left that, that is when prosecutors sent a subpoena asking for any and all documents related to General Mark Milley, who is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Iran (Ph). They were seeking any of these documents, but I'm told it was also made clear to the Trump legal team that prosecutors specifically wanted the document that Trump references on that audio recording.

We know that document is related to Iran. We know that it is also related to General Milley. That's what Trump indicated in that audio recording that prosecutors now have in their possession. But here's what's key here.

I am told that Trump's attorneys were unable to find this document. They turned over some material to related to this federal subpoena that they got seeking this information related to Iran and General Mark Milley. But the document itself that Trump references on that audio recording, they were unable to provide to the federal government.

So, of course, that has raised a lot of questions about that document in and of itself. When I asked Jim Trusty Trump's attorney about this the other night, whether or not that document had been returned to the National Archives, he declined to say and he also declined to tell Abby Phillip whether or not it had been declassified.

But it does speak to the level of difficulty that the government has had in getting these documents back. I mean, we've seen how this fight has played out where they turned over boxes of documents. Then the search warrant was of course executed at Mar-a-Lago where they brought more documents back to the federal government.

But it's this document specifically that I am told they were seeking after Margo Martin came before the before the investigators back in mid-March. They turned over other stuff, but they could not locate this document itself to turn over.

KING: Kaitlan standby. So, Paula Reid, we go back through this time. I want to do it with as much specificity as we can. Number one, the Trump aide goes before the grand jury. Number two, shortly thereafter, your reporting is very quickly, thereafter they issue this subpoena. And then there is a, forgive my language for people at home sort of a holy moment among all the attorneys because the Trump legal team again blindsided by something.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Sure, very shortly after Margo Martin and her attorney left the courthouse, one of Trump's attorneys have received a subpoena for any all materials related to Iran and or General Milley. And initially, there was a little bit of confusion.

Wait, why are they asking for this specifically, and then shortly thereafter, they weren't able to kind of figure out what had happened. Margo had been asked about this. And it was surprising to me to learn from our sources that this was the first time we're told that the legal team heard anything about this recording or about this specific meeting. So, they tried to comply with the subpoena. We're told they went. They spoke to aids, and they got some transcripts, other materials that were responsive to the specific requests from the Justice Department, but they were not able to find this document. And at this point, it is unclear if the government has it. Now, I will note that of course the Trump team did give 15 boxes of materials to the archives.


They've said in a letter to Congress that they did not go through those before they sent them to the archives and also of course, the FBI search Mar-a-Lago and took some classified documents. Now you would think if the government already had it. They wouldn't ask for it again, but at this point we know the Trump team could not find it and it's unclear if the government has this.

KING: And Kaitlan Collins, before this new wave of reporting, the additional reporting last night at a town hall with Sean Hannity, Trump was asked about the CNN reporting just about the audio tape. This was his answer.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: I don't know anything about it. All I know is this, everything I did was right. We have the Presidential Records Act, which I abided by 100 percent. It's a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time, it's a hoax. And it has to do, it has to do more than anything else with trying to interfere with the election.


KING: I'll come back to this point a little bit later. Let me make it quickly. Now, you asked much more specific and smarter questions when you had them in a town hall. We will get to some of that and the significance of it actually, the very important significance in a moment. But the question is, Trump says he doesn't know anything about it. From our reporting, where's the document? Does anybody know?

COLLINS: It's a good question. What we do about the document itself is that it is related to Iran. You know, we are told when we were first reporting on this, that it actually wasn't something that was produced by General Milley, the dates on it predated when he became chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, something I should know he was picked by Trump to do that job. He became that in 2019. So, it was before that that this document was created.

We are told that Trump was essentially using it to say that it would undermine and undercut what Milley was saying in reporting about him. For the document itself, that's a good question. I mean, what we do know is the prosecutors wanted this specific document themselves. Of course, the question is, whether it's to fingerprint it, what to do with it. It's not totally clear.

I should also note that our reporting, we've asked a lot of people when Trump was in that summer 2021 meeting, did he actually have the document in his hand as you could hear it being rustled around to paper in that audio? Or was he simply referencing this document? Those have been questions that we've asked his attorneys, they have not offered specifics on that.

And so, I do think that is a big question, because clearly what prosecutors wanted here was seeking the document that Trump believed he had in his possession. They wanted to have their own hands on it. Now they could certainly have copies of it from the Pentagon. That's something that is still also remained unclear.

But what is clear is that Trump's attorneys went and looked for this document because they knew prosecutors were looking for it, but they weren't able to find it to turn it over to them. That comes after they turned over 15 boxes. In the first tranche that was sent back that comes after the search warrant happened.

They took hundreds of documents, then they still were unable to find this document specifically, which we know had been taken to Bedminster, oh we believe had been taken to Bedminster because Trump was referencing it in that Bedminster meeting, that's his New Jersey club. And so, there are still big questions of where this document is today. And when we've asked Trump's attorneys, has this specific one been returned to the National Archives? They declined to answer.

KING: And so, again, Elliot, come to you in a second. Just forgive us. Before I just want to stick with this important reporting in the sense of what we know and what we don't know because that's part of the building of this. So, we talked about this specific document still remains a mystery.

But when you listen to everything you're reporting today and an additional reporting about they have the recording, they bring in the Trump media aide who was in the room in Bedminster when all of this happened. There may be some open questions for prosecutors, but it is clear that they are methodically compiling audio evidence who was in the room. They are documenting this in a pretty methodical way.

REID: Absolutely. We know that this audio recording has been a focus for the Justice Department in recent months. But over the course of this entire investigation, the Justice Department has repeatedly expressed skepticism about whether the former president and his team have turned over all of the classified materials and that has turned out to be a well-founded concerns.

It's of course, they asked for the materials to be turned over. They met with Trump attorneys and the FBI, did a search at Mar-a-Lago. Then there were subsequent hearings, discussing the need for additional searches, which were conducted by investigators hired by the Trump team, some additional documents did turn up.

I will also note that one of Trump's now former attorney's Tim Parlatore, did say that he got some resistance to the idea of doing that subsequent search of Bedminster late last year. And there's a question about whether this document this recording whether that was part of the reason there was resistance. But at this point, again, we don't know where the document is. KING: All right. Elliot Williams, been very patient. Thank you. Put yourself in the prosecutors' war room essentially, and you're building your case and all the evidence we just went through, including this new reporting, that not only did have the audio tape, but they had an aide come in and testify before the grand jury who was in the room when it was made. They immediately issue a subpoena.

Then in mid-March of this year. Remember the Trump people said a long time ago, they'd returned all the documents. In mid-March of this year, they're getting new documents. They might not all be classified documents. They could be just simply related to the subpoena. But what does that tell you?


ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, it's a couple things. Number one, to backup Paula's point, they are built -- you got to have the person to testify about it. The person to testify about the evidence and also the video evidence and someone to authenticate the video. That's just sort of the nuts and bolts of prosecuting. What we're not talking about those the substance of the document, which is itself relevant to at least one criminal statute.

When you mishandle, possess or transfer information related to the national defense or that you believe could be used to the injury of the United States, that's itself a federal crime, regardless of whether the documents have been declassified or not. And I think the president is not getting this point that, look, maybe declassified it sure, you did, but it's still a defense document. And that under one of the statutes that they are investigating is itself a crime.

KING: Which is why, again, as we build methodically through these different pieces of what we do know from these great reporters. Now we know there's a lot we don't know. This is why I think the significance of what Donald Trump told Kaitlan Collins at the CNN town hall, could come back to bite him a bit. Let's listen?


TRUMP: No, no, I don't have anything. I have no classified documents. And by the way, they become automatically declassified when I took them. You have the Presidential Records Act. I was there and I took what I took, and it gets declassified.

COLLINS: Did you ever show those classified documents to anyone?

TRUMP: Not really. I would have the right to. By the way, they were declassified.

COLLINS: What do you mean not really?

TRUMP: Not -- not that I can think of. Let me just tell you, I have the absolute right to do whatever I want with them.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: We know by law. He does not have the absolute right to do whatever he wants. Nobody does. Nobody does. He does have significant -- a president has significant power. A lot of this happens when he's a former president, which is a distinction the prosecutors and I go through. But Elliot right there in that 26 second clip. When I took them, I was there, I took them. What I took, gets declassified. Not really about to show it anyway. But he candidly there several times says, I took things.

WILLIAMS: He isn't knowing possession of government records. That is the language of a federal criminal statute, full stop. It does not matter if he declassified them. They're separate crimes for dealing with classified information, but merely the government records, the defense records, and possibly obstructing the investigation into those records. Those are all possible crimes, and the president and the folks around him in a different way than Mike Pence or Joe Biden ought to be concerned.

KING: And just to button this up. I have the absolute right to do whatever I want with them. He keeps saying that. It is not true, correct?

WILLIAMS: It's not true. Look, the president has -- the president is a classifying authority under the law, but there's a process for doing it. It's just like ordering an airstrike, John, or a military attack. Yes, he can do it. But there's a process for doing it and as a matter of practice is just ought not happen.

REID: And it's also based on our reporting of what he says on this recording. He undercuts that argument. He says, I'd really like to show this to you, but I can't now that I'm out of office.

KING: He undercuts himself in recording a significant point. Kaitlan Collins, Paula Reid, Elliot Williams appreciate it. I want to move on to now to a somewhat related development and there'll be no charges in this one. CNN learning today. The federal investigation into how the former Vice President Mike Pence handled classified documents is now closed.

The probe ending just days before Pence announces a 2024 bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Let's bring in CNN's Katelyn Polantz. She has the details. Katelyn, tell us what we know?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, John, a very different situation than what you were just discussing related to Donald Trump in that criminal investigation. This is Mike Pence. So, as that shadow of the Trump document discoveries at Mar-a-Lago last year was ongoing. And there were also classified documents found in President Joe Biden's home and his office.

There was a moment in time where Mike Pence decided to send a lawyer to his home in Indiana to look and see if he had any federal records in January as well that he needed to get back in the hands of the federal government. And they found some. They found about a dozen. And then very soon after the Justice Department was called. They picked up those documents, recovered them, Pence said that mistakes were made. He was taking responsibility. He was being cooperative. They were getting those back into the hands of the federal government. And then now the Justice Department just a few months later is saying, there will be no criminal charges whatsoever. This investigation is over. John?

KING: Katelyn Polantz, appreciate that reporting to. And a very important point you made at the top of it, just the context and how different it is the size, the scope, the number of documents, the former vice president and how they got there with the president, the former president United States. Katelyn Polantz, thank you.

Up next for us. President Biden tonight delivers his first Oval Office address, with a blockbuster jobs report and a big debt ceiling deal now in the president's back pocket.




KING: Two headlines that break Joe Biden's wait. Today simply stunning jobs numbers, 339,000 new jobs added in May. Yes, unemployment did tick up a bit. But the top line numbers shattering expectations and it confirms the United States labor market remains red hot. You can be sure the president will mention that as he celebrates a crisis dodging debt deal in the first of his presidency event tonight. The president will deliver an Oval Office address 7pm, addressed to the nation to celebrate that debt deal.

The president has kept quiet for much of this week, while the debt pack wound its way through the Capitol. Now that it's clear both the House and the Senate, the president will hold it up. It's more proof he gets big things done. Even now, with the challenges of divided government and the early, but loud 2024 campaign incoming.

Let's go to the White House now, CNN's Jeremy Diamond standing by live for us. Jeremy, the president was going to address the nation. We knew that before the jobs report then good numbers. What are we going to hear?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, John, as he did in a statement this morning, I think it's very clear that the president sees these two things, these good jobs numbers and this debt ceiling deal as very much intertwined. He points to this strong jobs' report today as evidence that his economic policies are working. And he believes that this debt ceiling deal allows those economic policies to continue to move forward.

And that's because unlike the Republican bill that was passed in April that would have taken a sledgehammer to a slew of those Biden economic policies. This latest bill actually protects a majority of them. And that is certainly the case that I think we can expect the president to make tonight. And as you said, he has been relatively quiet throughout these negotiations, allowing the process to play out behind closed doors.


It was just a few days ago in fact that the president said, he didn't think it would be helpful to get the votes needed to pass this, if you were to tout the benefits of this bill to talk about what a great deal it is. This will certainly be an opportunity, the first opportunity, perhaps for the president to do just that. And so, we will see if indeed, he makes that case.

White House officials that I've been talking to have said that look, this debt ceiling deal, in addition to averting that economic catastrophe of default in the short term, it also clears the decks for the rest of the president's term, avoiding another debt ceiling fiasco, and also incentivizing lawmakers to fund the government at the end of this year, and likely avert another government shutdown. John?

KING: Jeremy Diamond, live at the White House. Jeremy, appreciate it. A long day for you ahead as the president speaks to the nation tonight. Now, let's take a deeper look, closer look at that big job waiting for the president, that number 339,000 well above expectations and proof. The labor market at least so far, relatively undeterred, by the Feds attempt to slow the economy down.

Here to help us dig deeper on the numbers is Kai Ryssdal. Kai, 339,000, the experts again wrong. What is it that is driving the job growth, despite the Feds efforts to cool the economy down?

KAI RYSSDAL, HOST, PUBLIC RADIO'S MARKETPLACE: I'll tell you what. You could get Jay Powell in a room and sit him down and say, Jay, what is going on? And he would say, I don't know. And I'm sure the Fed chair is immensely frustrated, he's pleased. These numbers are so big, because he wants people to have jobs because that's what drives the economy. But why it's happening? Anybody's guess, John, truly.

KING: And so, if you look, we can show them month over month numbers. And it's a remarkable number. The president United States benefiting from the comeback from the pandemic certainly, those are month by month job numbers that are better than any that Donald Trump had during his presidency. And again, presidents get too much credit or too much blame. They don't have as much power over the economy.

But the big conversation has been, I heard the Philadelphia Fed president on NPR this morning saying, he prefers to skip next time they have the Fed has an interest rate decision, maybe not completely pause but take a skip, let the data pour in. Does this hot jobs' report increase the likelihood? There actually, is a rate hike? Or do you think they'll still wait?

RYSSDAL: I think actually they're going to wait to see the data, not only did Patrick Harker say that this morning on marketplace. But it was also Philip Jefferson, the other day, the incoming vice chair of the Fed who said, listen, let's take a beat, see what's going on and see more data. And if you know anything about the Fed, you know that they love to fall back on that, let's see what the data line says. And when somebody as high up as the incoming vice chair says, let's look at the data. I think that's a pretty good indication that they're going to take this meeting on the 13th and 14th of June, and sit back and say, all right, let's see what happens. Let's take a beat now. Let's skip a meeting. We're not going to pause for a long time. But we're going to skip this time, and then maybe see what the data says.

KING: And so, we can look at this from an economic perspective, which is most important and how does this affect the American people? Can they find a job? Are they going to get paid more? Or you can look -- but if you look at it this way, wages and inflation. If you look at that green line, that is the inflation line, the consumer price index, the blue line is wages. You saw inflation by far.

If you go back a few months ago, the inflation by far outpacing the growth in wages. So, you might be getting paid more, but you don't feel it. You look at those lines. Look, they're about to intersect, or they look like -- they look like they're about to intersect.

If that happens from a political perspective, that would be a gift to the president, right? Because he has strong jobs growth. He has a historically low unemployment rate. It is inflation that is kind of the two by four to his head.

RYSSDAL: Right. I think that's exactly right. And the other part of that inflation in wage calculators that wages at the bottom end of the income spectrum, have grown the fastest, right? So, you have the people are the most vulnerable in this economy, getting the most benefit. And when that all lines up, and the president now goes in 2024, saying, I've taken care of the debt limit.

As you and Jeremy were just talking about, don't have to deal with that again. He's going to talk about that tonight, for sure. And then you can say, wages mentioned inflation. And oh, by the way, if you look in the last three to six months, inflation is actually declining at a pretty steady pace, and not fast enough, but pretty steadily. The president seems to be in a good position.

KING: Kai Ryssdal, grateful for the insights.

RYSSDAL: Thank you.

KING: Thank you, sir. Let's bring the conversation in the room now. With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Manu Raju, Rhonda Colvin of The Washington Post, and Axios' Alex Thompson. So, where are we? We've spent the last week mostly focusing on the House Republicans, because that was the big question. Could you get the debt deal through?

But the president is going to speak tonight. He has this deal. He believes that we'll see him make the case tonight that he protected most of his big priorities in this. He didn't give the Republicans what he wanted to.

Read a line from David Ignatius today in The Washington Post. Biden delivering on his most far-fetched pledge, compromise. President Biden this week accomplished what America elected him to do. Govern from the center and make deals that solve problems. Biden's critics missed the glaringly obvious fact, he's behaving precisely as he said he would. Unlike the Republicans, he doesn't face a serious primary challenges. So, can he make centrism, compromise, sexy?

ALEX THOMPSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: I mean, that's why he was doing this unlawful. You can tell that he is taking great pride and that he got this deal done. You know, during the Obama years, he always really loved being sent to Capitol Hill, you know, to cut a deal. And part of that was that he always thought that he could do this better than President Obama.


He thought his experience made him uniquely able to actually sort of bring the temperature down, calm the waters. You know, he always had an expression, don't die in a small cross, get the deal across the line, which is why he sent Steve Ricchetti down there, a long time Capitol Hill dealmaker, former lobbyists. And you can tell that this is sort of a key part of his promise that he thinks this is why he was elected at this time in history.

KING: And if you listen to the Republicans campaigning for president, they say the economy is horrible. They say, it's terrible. And Trump himself says, we should go back to his economy, which was the best ever. Ron DeSantis today making light or trying to connect somehow.

The president stumbled yesterday. We can show you the video, he stumbled after giving a commencement address yesterday. There was a sandbag on the stage, and he tripped over it. Ron DeSantis, saying, you know, that's like the country. It's a metaphor for the country, which is just stumbling around.

But if you took inflation out of this, I mean, the president could do full hand stance on the economy. It's just a fact. The numbers support that whether you're Democrat or Republican whenever. I guess the challenge is, can you fix, that's the last -- that's the last like hard number for the president, right?

RHONDA COLVIN, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: It is. And the economy, of course, is always going to be a vulnerable issue for an incumbent person running for president again. So, I agree definitely with your point that he is going to use this speech tonight to sort of underscore that he is the man of the moment. He was able to get bipartisanship during what was a tense set of months, actually going back to January when it was really a question, if any of this with the debt limit would pass.

So, he'll likely underscore that and highlight that tonight. But I'm really wondering, you know, what type of tone does he said when he's talking to the American people? Because I was thinking back to conversations I had outside of the Capitol last week, where there was a group of activists, who said, we're really concerned that they will take us into default, and I'm worried about the services that might be interrupted. So, is it going to talk to Americans tonight about what happened and try to bring some reassurance in. MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And I think we're going to see a president really shift into reelection focus here. I mean, there's not going to be any real serious legislative done for the next two years. It just really is not unless there's a crisis, unless they have to actually deal with some APAC, supplemental funding package for Ukraine or other issues like that.

Yes, they got to fund the government. We'll see how that plays out. But this president is going to try to go and try to take the suggests he won this fight. Even though if you look at the policy, look, none of these things the president wanted to do, whether it was work requirements, whether it's capping spending for the next two years, a whole host of cuts.

They want to just raise the debt ceiling without any conditions. On the policy, they lost, but they're trying to win the upper hand on the political argument. And they may be helped by this, John, the fact that more Democrats in the Senate voted for this last night, and a fraction of Senate Republicans voted for final passage. And more Republicans and more Democrats in the House voted for it, than Republicans, that helps his argument going forward, even if he may have lost in the policy.

KING: So, help we with this. You're right, more Democrats voted for it in the Senate. Those who voted no and complained publicly about it. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, two of the most prominent progressives, right? You could make the case if the president believes the election will be won in the middle. That's good for him. The left is mad at me. The right is mad at me. I'm in a happy place.

But in a close election, you also need everybody to turn out. So, do we know the question of that is the progressive anger about this? Is that a potential is that something the president needs to work on?

THOMPSON: Well, clearly, you mentioned earlier that he doesn't have a primary challenge. No one from the left has really -- has really, you know, they may dissent here and there. But no one's really taking serious shots at Joe Biden.

You know, if anything, when they were complaining, they were talking about how the Republicans took them hostage. The (Inaudible), Manu was exactly right. The president's team was much more concerned about a revolt from Kevin McCarthy's right wing than they were from a revolt from their left wing. And you saw a lot of progressives actually vote for the bill in the end.

RAJU: Yes. I did talk a ton about progressives. And a lot of them -- yes, they're upset about the policy. They're upset what Republicans did. But they really pulled their punches on the president, which is says something I mean, they were upset the way he handled it, the way the White House message did that he left him them on alerts for somebody to take a bad vote on a bill that in like, but ultimately, they blame the GOP.

KING: First Oval Office address, this far into the presidency. Something to watch tonight. It's important. Up next for us, punch -- counter punch, repeat. That's the Republican campaign trail at the moment. Trump and Governor Ron DeSantis going toe-to-toe. The others running way back in the pack. Hope that fighting somehow creates an opening for them.