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Inside Politics

Trump Vents Fury At Third Indictment; Trump: "If You Can't Beat Them, You Persecute Them"; Trump Attorney's Go On TV After Client's Day In Court; McCarthy Defends Trump, Muddles History; House Dems Push For Trump Trial To Be Televised; Strategist: Revisiting 2020 Will Hurt GOP In 2024; Poll: 45 Percent Of GOP Would Not Vote For Trump If He Is Convicted; 52 Percent Would Not Vote For Him If In Prison. Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired August 04, 2023 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Today on INSIDE POLITICS, a burden of proof and politics. The trial against Donald Trump takes shape as a federal judge sets the date to decide when prosecutors will present their case. A timeline careening into a campaign and now the former president issued a plea to the Supreme Court.

Plus, Kevin McCarthy auditions for a supporting role in the Trump defense. The House speaker unloads an angry tirade over the special counsel indictment. sidestepping the former president's election lies that led to a deadly attack on the Capitol where Kevin McCarthy serves. And made by Bidenomics. New CNN reporting spotlights the White House strategy to make sure Americans know their roads, dams and ports and the jobs attached to them, are thanks to Joe Biden.

I'm Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at INSIDE POLITICS.

Up first, Donald Trump's anger and anxiety triggered by a looming trial for alleged election crimes. The former president's public posture is defiance. Today, Donald Trump made a demand that the Supreme Court get involved, but behind closed doors we were told Mr. Trump enraged by the third indictment, made clear that he was not happy with what happened inside that courtroom. What he sees as an insult from the judge who oversaw Thursday's historic arraignment.

Let's talk more about that with our panel here to share their insights, CNN's Evan Perez, CNN's Katelyn Polantz, former FBI director, Andrew McCabe, and former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams. Happy Friday, everybody. It feels like a Friday. It's been a very, very long week.

Let's just start with where Donald Trump left us after he was serving inside, when he came for the arraignment. And this is what he said to reporters. He was very brief, a very deliberate.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: This is a persecution of a political opponent. This was never supposed to happen in America. This is the persecution of the person that's leading by very, very substantial numbers in the Republican primary and leading Biden by a lot. So, if you can't beat him, you persecute him or you prosecute him.


BASH: Katelyn, I want to have you talked about that. But also, you were inside the courtroom. You both were about, what exactly the former president's posture was because some of the color and kind of the scene, it was really fascinating?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: It was. And one of the things coming up to this hearing was that the court took great pains to make sure that the public had access to it, but also the Donald Trump was treated like any criminal defendant in that court. And the thing that, Evan, and I both were in this hearing, as well as the hearing in Florida, which we got to witness, two federal courts, they did it so differently.

In Florida, he was addressed by the magistrate judge, as the former president. He was already seated in the room whenever the public was able to come in and see it. So, the whole courtroom was sort of set before the hearing. This it was not like that at all. He was brought in. He was the last person into the courtroom.

So, you had him, witness him, walk in with the marshal surrounding him, the secret service surrounding him, sitting down at that table, addressed by the magistrate judge as Mr. Trump, which I thought I caught a grimace whenever it was -- that was said by the magistrate judge. And then Kaitlan Collins reported last night that he was indeed quite irked that he wasn't addressed as Mr. President or the former president.

And then the way the proceeding played out is there were several moments where he was asked to do a lot more than he did in Florida. He had to sign his bond paperwork. He was asked to speak. He was sworn in twice. He personally entered his not guilty plea in Florida. His lawyers did all of that. He was barely engaged, wasn't directly addressed by the judge. He didn't say a single word.


But you know, even though this proceeding felt like really any proceeding of a criminal defendant in the D.C. district court when they make their initial appearance. It was unusual, there was so much security around it. Even with the court doing their normal course of business, seven judges took time out of their day to come into that courtroom sit in the back row and observe. It really was.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: And one of the -- this magistrate judge actually emphasizing that the former president is not allowed to intimidate witnesses. It's the thing that, you know, you might see maybe in like a mob trial or something like that, where that's an issue. You know -- -

BASH: Did you see his reaction when she said that? POLANTZ: Yes. And one of his lawyers even looked down and sort of and smiled at that point in time, because they had already been through the terms with him. You can't commit crimes when you're out. Do you understand that? Yes, yes, yes, these are your bond terms. And then she went back to it and said, just make sure -- -

PEREZ: And made him respond in the affirmative that he understood because he had just shaking his head before. So, there was absolutely all of the things that the former president has done in all his other cases, absolutely was a fixture, was part of -- was the extra character in this courtroom because, again, because of the history of the former president.

BASH: Standby, everybody. I want to get to Alayna Treene, who is covering the former president in New Jersey. Alayna, what are you hearing from your sources about the former president's sort of posture today?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Well, Dana, he's very frustrated. He is very angered by the mounting legal troubles that he is facing. And you could see some of that yesterday, some of our great reporters, including those on your panel, or inside the courtroom yesterday and noted that he did appear somber, that he did appear a bit dejected.

And I also picked that up when you could see him speaking with reporters before boarding his plane back to New Jersey last night, following his arraignment. He likes to normally be defiant when he's speaking publicly. He likes to seem energized, even though we know behind the scenes, he's very concerned and frustrated about these charges. But he didn't really give a lot of that off yesterday.

And you know, he is going to Alabama tonight. He'll be addressing Republicans there. And I do think he's going to try to go back to using the defiant rhetoric and the bravado that he often tries to use when he's talking to supporters. But it's starting to really weigh on him. And you're starting to see that bleed into the public a little bit more.

Now, I also just want to point to some things that he's been saying today on Truth Social. He's been railing against these charges as he has been all week. But he also had an interesting point today about the Supreme Court. He said this morning, it is election interference, and the Supreme Court must intercede.

Also in this Truth Social post, he noted that he's frustrated about how much money is being dedicated to his defense team. He said, "my political opponent has hit me with a barrage of weak lawsuits, including DA, AG, and others, which require massive amounts of my time and money to adjudicate." And so, you can clearly see here how angered Donald Trump is by this and frustrated behind the scenes. Dana?

BASH: All right, Alayna. Thank you so much. Appreciate it. And back here. He's angry. I mean, probably there are a lot of people who are angry who were inside the Capitol, who still have some, the ramifications of it, the family members of those people who passed away are probably angry as well. We can keep going down that list. But let's talk about the case itself. One of the former president's attorneys, actually a lot of them have been on TV, trying to kind of make their case in the court of public opinion. One, Alina Habba made an interesting claim. And I want to get both of your reaction to it.


ALINA HABBA, TRUMP ATTORNEY: I think that everybody was made aware that he lost the election. But that doesn't mean that that was the only advice he was given. As anybody understands what happens in the Oval Office. There are a numerous amount of advisors and politicians and lawyers, not just one or two that are giving you advice.


BASH: So, it's this particular defense as he was led to believe that he actually won the election by a certain set of lawyers that he chose to believe.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Right, right. That's, that may work on television, and it may be appealing to his supporters, but it's not likely to work in the court of law and for a variety of reasons. It's interesting to me that the way she phrased that seems to be a little bit of a softening of the prior statements we've heard, which were more focused on.

I was absolutely following counsel. And, you know, I thought that the election have been stolen. That this seems to be a slightly backtracking from that saying, well, he was told by others that the election had been stolen from him.


Nevertheless, the offenses he's been charged with, it will not be an effective defense to say, I thought that the election had been stolen from because he's not being charged for saying the election was stolen. He's being charged for entering into conspiracies to commit fraud.

And even if you think you're right, even if you think something has been taken from you, and therefore you're going to enter into this conspiracy to get it back, the conspiracy is still a crime.

BASH: Such an important point.

MCCABE: So, the fact that he may have actually thought though the election was stolen, although that's highly debatable. And many people I'm sure will come forward to say, he knew it, would was legitimate election. Either way, it's not like (crosstalk).

PEREZ: You're not allowed to go rob a bank, because you believe that the money in there is yours. And if you're delusional, and you believe that money is yours, you go rob a bank, it's not an excuse.

POLANTZ: There's even a clear, like piece of this, in the January 6 rioters believe the election was stolen. There are judges that say, you can believe this. That doesn't mean it wasn't a crime and we see that (crosstalk) yes.

POLANTZ: In the same courthouse.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, it's not. I want to be clear that it's not an entirely unfair argument for the president's attorneys to make at least as a defense to say that, well, there was a multiplicity of ideas around me from attorneys and staff and so on. And it was confusing. We took opinions from a lot of people.

Now, I think it's really undermine though, by a few things. Number one, one of those people's the attorney general the United States, one is the director of the Office of National Intelligence and on down. And moreover, prior to that point they'd filed I believe, it was like something 62 lawsuits around the country, all of which they lost.

And so, yes, there were a lot of ideas around the president. But the simple fact is, there was an overwhelming weight of evidence, sort of, to the opposite point. And I think it'll speak to, well, maybe there are a lot of ideas, right, because you were recklessly disregarding an obvious truth.

BASH: What about quickly, what about timing? Did we think that the August 28 date the next trial, the next day to present their (crosstalk)

PEREZ: The judge we expect is going to stick to her guns too to set a trial date. The question is, whether that's -- that whatever date she chooses, whether that is set in stone is another matter, right? Because in the end, she has to be careful to make sure that the defendant has a fair trial. He has a right to that and they're going to try everything they can to try to muck that up.

BASH: OK. Thank you so much. Everybody standby. In an attempt to defend former President Trump after his third arraignment, third indictment. How speaker Kevin McCarthy angrily tries to rewrite history. That's next.




BASH: House Speaker Kevin McCarthy made a history lesson. The California Republican falsely equated Donald Trump's 2020 election conspiracies, which led to his supporters ransack in the U.S. Capitol on January 6, two actions taken by Hillary Clinton and Al Gore.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R-CA): I can say the same thing that Hillary Clinton says about her election that she lost. I can say the same thing about the DNC who said it about the 2016 race. I can say the same thing about those in the Democratic Party from the leadership on down about George Bush not winning, that Al Gore did. But were any of them prosecuted? Were any of them put in jail? Were any of them held with no response be able to get out? The answer is no. So, yes, you can raise that, that someone raised a question. And you know, in America, you are entitled to raise a question. You're entitled to question whether it was honest or not. That's the uniqueness of the First Amendment. That's the uniqueness of America. But you know what, you shouldn't be prosecuted for your thoughts.


BASH: He is right. Democrats were angry after Hillary Clinton lost, after Al Gore lost. And there were some challenges to that. But here's the big difference in the fact check. Both of those Democratic candidates ultimately conceded.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I still believe in America, and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I accept the finality of this outcome, which will be ratified next Monday in the electoral college. And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.


BASH: Few weeks after that speech, Al Gore, who was vice president at the time, he even presided over the congressional session, approving the electoral college results that he lost, and George W. Bush won. I know that because I was there, and I watched it.

Let's go live to CNN's Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill. Lauren, this underscores Donald Trump's influence over the GOP, of course, what are you hearing?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And it's not that different, Dana, than what we have seen from the House speaker. Time and time again, remember, this isn't Trump's first indictment. And we have pressed him before on previous indictments. The last time when it was about classified documents, he often would try to move the conversation back to Joe Biden. What about Joe Biden's classified documents?

Of course, those are two very different instances, two very different cases. And clearly what he is doing here, is trying to remain close to his right flank to remind them that he is standing with the former president. And that is no coincidence.

In the weeks leading up to the indictment on Tuesday, there was a lot of coordination, a lot of collaboration with Trump's team to ensure that Republicans in the House of Representatives were ready to come to his defense swiftly. And that is exactly precisely what you're seeing in that clip there from Kevin McCarthy. BASH: And Lauren, talk about the House Democrats because one of the political rules of thumb is that if your opponent is in trouble, you kind of step back and let them continue to be in that state. Sounds like House Democrats are getting involved, though at least trying to.


FOX: Yes. There's a number of House Democrats who sent a letter recently to the Judicial Conference asking for a change to the statutes as it relates to having cameras in federal court. Arguing that the latest indictment against Donald Trump is a moment when we should start to see cameras in the courtroom for this case. They're asking for an exception.

And I just want to read you part of the letter it says. "If the public is to fully accept the outcome, it will be vitally important for it to witness as directly as possible, how the trials are conducted, the strength of the evidence adduced and the credibility of witnesses."

Now, we should say, cameras are not allowed in federal courtrooms when it comes to a criminal trial. So, asking for this exception, obviously would cast a lot of questions about whether or not this is fair. And given the fact that the Justice Department has tried time and time again, to make the case, they are treating Trump like every other person. This would obviously cast that into question. Dana?

BASH: Yes. It sure would. There's a whole argument under discussion about the fact that there, it is 2023 and there are no cameras in federal courtrooms, but maybe a different time in a different place to continue that conversation. We'll see. Thank you so much for that reporting, Lauren.

Here to share their insights, Marianna Sotomayor of The Washington Post, Jackie Kucinich of The Boston Globe, and Margaret Talev of Axios. Nice to see you all. Let's just start quickly, where she left out off just on the Democrats. Because as I mentioned, it's kind of politics one-on-one to take a step back and not get involved and insert yourself when your political opponent is having trouble. Is this the right move for Democrats?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: I mean, if you're a Democrat, why wouldn't you love watching Kevin McCarthy do the false equivalency tango because otherwise, what can they say? I mean, you did see them react to the indictment. They did. You saw a bunch of statements. But otherwise, why wouldn't you?

BASH: Yes, yes. OK, let's turn to the issue at hand, which is the fundamentals of how this latest indictment and all of them put together affect the election year. And I want to show you something that a man named Michael Duncan, who is a GOP digital consultant said to the guys on the ruthless podcast. Here's what he said.

If this is the conversation, meaning about election denialism, we're going to have over the next year and a half, it's going to be tough for Republicans, particularly in suburban areas. Now, presumably, he's making that statement based on what happened in 2022. When that it's precisely the problem for Republicans, Republicans lost because this is the conversation that we're having, because a lot of the election deniers and Republican primaries won. Thanks to Donald Trump.

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, AXIOS: Absolutely, there is a dissonance here. The GOP primary base is still to a large extent, animated by the idea that there's some deep state effort to censor people or that there's two systems of justice or that Donald Trump has been wrong. The general electorate does not feel that way. And the kind of swing voters that you can imagine, are really not interested in relitigating the 2020 election.

They know what happened. Joe Biden won the election. And so, Biden's biggest vulnerability from a general election perspective is the economy. That's what a Republican strategist want to be talking about. You know, you can make the argument as economists aren't as Biden is that the inflation numbers have improved, that things are actually a lot rosier than they look like. But in their pocketbooks, people feel the lingering cost of inflation. That's what they want to be talking about for the next year, not Donald Trump.

KUCINICH: And it's another reason why Democrats are just kind of sitting back because there's what -- they're watching as Republicans who are sitting in districts would have voted for Joe Biden, and no, that's their path back to the majority. And those people might end up having to vote on a Biden impeachment, because that's where McCarthy's conference is headed.

BASH: I want to go to a new poll by Reuters/Ipsos, and it's -- I'm looking at this these numbers and thinking, I can't believe that this is actually a thing that we have to ask, but it is. Would you vote for Trump in 2024? If he is convicted of a felony -- what a country. It's yes. Is 35 percent, not sure or no adds up to 65 percent. But then look at another question about would you vote for Trump if he is serving time in prison? Yes 28, no 52, not sure 20?

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. I mean, the noes are still significant here. Obviously, you see that difference if he is in jail versus if he is just charged. But people aren't excited in the general election to be talking about this?

I mean, yes, the '22 midterms actually showed and showed a lot of vulnerable Republicans who literally do not want to be talking about this, do not want to take votes on expungement, do not want to be just at all close to what McCarthy is trying to tell a number of these House Republicans to do, because they saw in their own elections.


We saw these vulnerable Republicans win in states where economy was the bigger issue, where you know, we did have candidates that were talking about, let's relitigate the 2020 election. If that becomes the mantra of the party in the general election. If Trump does not stay away from that. If he is the nominee, it is going to be very tough for Republicans. It seems like he'll win.

TALEV: Right. And parental rights and the economy, parental rights and the excerpts economy nationwide, those are strong issues for Republicans, maybe crime. And abortion and Donald Trump, not a winning recipe.

BASH: And yes. OK. It is. We have to say this all the time. It is until it's not, but it is very early, and yet, in a national matchups snapshot of the mood of the country. It's Biden and Trump even?

KUCINICH: Right. And what you're also seeing in those polls is that, is the people who never want to vote for Trump. They are saying, I guess, I'll vote for Biden, but the lack of enthusiasm on the Democratic side right now. And they're just kind of -- they're settling for Biden because he's there and everyone's decided that that's who is going to be their nominee. That isn't getting people out to vote and that's where it's going to be -- that might people who are staying home, that's where the Democrats are going to have a problem.

BASH: OK. Everybody standby. Because coming up, somebody who was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump over January 6. Former GOP congressman Fred Upton will join me live, next.