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Prosecutors Have Text, Emails, Directly Connecting Trump Lawyers To Georgia Voting System Breach; Trump's Base Fueled By His Legal Troubles; Garland Appoints Hunter Biden Special Counsel; GOP Hopefuls Flock To Iowa State Fair; Abortion Rights Win In Ohio Energizes Dems Ahead of 2024. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired August 13, 2023 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KASIE HUNT, CNN HOST: All eyes on Georgia and a potential fourth Donald Trump indictment.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every time the radical left Democrats indict me, I considered a great, great, great, badge of honor.
HUNT: As new CNN reporting links a post-election break-in back to the former president's lawyers.
Plus, the president's son and the special prosecutor.
MERRICK GARLAND UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: He has been granted ultimate authority over this matter, including the responsibility for deciding where, when, and whether to file charges.
HUNT: The Biden attorney general names a special counsel and guarantees an election year collision between law and politics.
And the fair brings a faceoff over January 6.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump, did you intend to overturn the 2020 election?
TRUMP: You know the answer.
HUNT: Fried Oreos and overheated hecklers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My question is this, why did you commit treason?
HUNT: And gives one candidate one shot.
Good morning and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Kasie Hunt in for Abby Phillip this morning.
This weekend, the politics of the campaign playing out right alongside the various legal trials and tribulations of the former president of the United States and now of Hunter Biden, the son of the current president of the United States. More on that new special counsel in just a moment.
But first, what is par for Donald Trump's legal course? Another new indictment. Soon, Georgia prosecutors will ask a grand jury to return charges related to Mr. Trump's plot to overturn the 2020 election.
We learned that one witness, former Georgia Lieutenant Governor, Geoff Duncan, has been told to appear before a grand jury on Tuesday. And new and exclusive CNN reporting now reveals that Georgia prosecutors have text messages and e-mails that connect the dots between a 2021 breach of Georgia voting systems and Donald Trump's own campaign lawyers and that's where we start in Atlanta with CNN's Zachary Cohen.
Zack, you are breaking this reporting this morning. What have we learned?
ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, Kasie. This potentially new details about potentially pivotal evidence in this investigation here in Georgia related to Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
As you mentioned, these are text messages that show and lay out a plan to gain access to voting systems in a rural Georgia County, Coffee County, Georgia. We know that Trump operatives did breach the voting systems in Coffee County on January 7th, 2021.
But these texts show that in the days leading up to that these -- the Trump campaign lawyers were working with operatives on the ground to secure a written invitation to come in to the elections office there and examined the voting systems in that elections office and Coffee County.
HUNT: So, Zach, just how high up the chain did this plan go?
COHEN: Yes. We know that this plan was discussed or at least referenced in a December 18, 2020 Oval Office meeting where Donald Trump himself was present. But as were campaign lawyers such as Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, Michael Flynn, as well, and Rudy Giuliani is the one, according to January 6 House Select Committee, January 6 Committee testimony, is the one who brought this up in that Oval Office meeting in front of Trump's.
This idea that they could recruit sympathetic election officials who could give them access to voting systems that they weren't allowed to have access to. And as we know on January 7th, 2021, that did play out in Coffee County. And these texts really do take us inside the planning and the lead up that connects the dots between the campaign lawyers like Rudy Giuliani, and those operatives on the ground who did ultimately get access to those voting systems.
HUNT: Pretty remarkable. Zach, thank you very much for that reporting.
And let's discuss that and more with Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post, Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times, The Bulwark's Sarah Longwell, and former federal prosecutor, Elliot Williams. Welcome all. Never a dull moment in campaign 2024, already underway here in August. But, Elliot, look, this is going to be about these court cases at the end of the day. Let's talk about Zach's new reporting for a second. I mean, what did you hear though, the idea that Donald Trump was in an Oval Office meeting where there was a discussion of actually interfering in counting votes?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. So what I hear are the words computer trespass, which is in effect a crime in Georgia law. What it looks like is that the district attorney is putting together a racketeering or RICO case that involves, in effect, proving that a criminal enterprise exists to commit at least two different crimes in the state of Georgia, computer trespass, election interference, forgery tampering, or all the kinds, election interference, or all the kinds of things that can be brought in. And I think that's what it seems like she's doing.
WILLIAMS: So we shall see from there. And then there's a host of other crimes as well.
HUNT: Right. And politically, they're investigating. So there's the efforts to pressure election officials. We remember the perfect phone call, which we may play in a little bit. There's the plot to put forward the fake electors. And now there's this voting system breach in rural Coffee County. These are sort of three separate pieces here.
We know Jack Smith is zeroing in on fake electors. Josh Dawsey, when you think about how this Georgia case plays in to Trump's challenges overall, and how he's going to deal with this campaign going forward, how do you see it?
JOSH DAWSEY, WASHINGTON POST POLITICAL INVESTIGATIONS REPORTER: Yes. I mean, there's a panoply now of these trials and indictments that he faces. And you have, you know, a judge in D.C. that says, we want a trial in January 2nd, remember for the Iowa caucuses on the January 6 case. The documents cases, obviously, are likely going to trial next year.
There's a New York case that really doesn't get talked about it anymore, because that was two indictments ago. That's probably going to trial next year.
HUNT: And that's probably the weakest one of the bunch, anyway.
DAWSEY: A lot of that legal experts sort of see that.
HUNT: Right, yes.
DAWSEY: And now you have this. We don't know what this will be, though. We expect a lot of charges and his team is telegraphing that he expects to be charged. So you have sort of an unprecedented situation where you're going to have, you know, a front runner for the GOP nomination, cycling in and out of courtrooms and trials. I mean, think about all the things, and Elliot knows this better than I do, that you have, the other motions, all the hearings, all of the -- all the various kind of storming during that even leads up to a trial that often a defendant has to be involved in.
And it's hard to imagine a scenario next year where you have, you know, Trump on the trail in Iowa and South Carolina, and New Hampshire and then having to fly into courtrooms and meet with his lawyers. I mean, it's going to be --
DAWSEY: -- something that we've never covered before on the campaign trail.
HUNT: I don't want to interrupt you, but we can actually lay this out for our viewers because we also noticed, Josh, exactly what you noticed, which is starting on January 2nd, we can go through these dates. There they are, circled on the calendar. These are Trump's entanglements, legally and politically.
So starting with January 2nd at the potential trial, there's the E. Jean Carroll defamation trial, January 15th, the Iowa caucuses, March 5th Super Tuesday. These trials continue.
Of course, Zolan, you have what Josh outlined, which is the president's -- former president's challenges politically. There's also the bigger picture of the Republican Party, which is to say that this overlaps squarely with the nominating process, but a lot of it plays out before we get to the convention.
And, Sarah, I want you to weigh in on this too. But I mean, what happens if he's convicted in one or any of these, and he's still the choice for voters on the Republican Party?
ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And it's -- one, it commands the attention as well while other candidates may be trying to compete here, and also immediately prompts the question of the pardon question again, if he's convicted. Each candidate may be pressed at that point of what they would do if they were elected when it comes to whether or not to pardon the former president as well.
There's also just with all these different investigations and indictment and immediate impact of financially too for the former president. I know you've been reporting on this extensively as well.
But just, you know, early this year, you're already seeing him spend millions on these legal fees, and how that will impact the ability to also have something like campaign rallies, which have been a staple of the Trump campaign moving forward. It'll be interesting to see how that plays forward as well.
SARAH LONGWELL, PUBLISHER, THE BULWARK: Yes. And let me just tell you, when it comes to these Republican voters, we've been asking in focus groups for months about the indictment. And we'll say, did the indictments make you want to support Trump less, supportive more? Or is it neutral? And people either say it makes them support him more or they're neutral.
And, you know, I think that there was a period of time where we hoped that these sort of cumulative effect of all of these indictments would really start to break through to voters. But when I ask primary voters, it's the opposite, the accumulated weight just white noise, it sort of washes over them.
And they will tell you straightforwardly another day, another indictment, I don't care, and it's just I'm trying to get Trump and it's more evidence that he's the most dangerous one. He's the one they don't want to see there, because he knows he's a threat to the deep state or he's a threat to the establishment.
HUNT: You know, we actually have a quick soundbite of a Trump supporter kind of trying to explain, and this was a sympathetic audience in Iowa, sympathetic platform in Iowa, but listen to what this voter had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I'm going to vote for the man with the most impeachments and the most indictments because guess what, he knows where all this corruption is now and he's going to go in, he's going to clean up..
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Josh, you're laughing.
DAWSEY: Well, it's quite a take. I mean, traditionally, in politics being indicted multiple times would not help you raise money and help you get elected, but it certainly seems to be helping you among Republican voters. It's unclear if it will help him among general election voters which he needs to win obviously become president.
I mean, your question that basically to the Republican Party. You know, in the past when Trump has done things that sort of Republican establishment low, think about the Access Hollywood tape and they tried to get him to drop out. And they've sort of had these efforts. I don't think they're going to do that this time.
I mean, my reporting indicates that if he's convicted of a felony, and the Republican voters put him as a ticket, the party is going to, you know, sort of have to deal with what they're dealt with. They're not going to dry and remove him.
I mean, it's sort of the GOP is in a tough spot here. Because whatever happens to him, as you saw in that clip, the voters -- a lot of the voters are still with him no matter what. So what do you do if you're the party? You sort of go along for the bumpy ride. I think that's what they're going to do.
LONGWELL: Yes, this is 100 percent true. I mean, five years ago, we would have all sat around saying, oh, well, voters aren't going to tolerate this. We've learned a lot since then. And we know that Trump can get away with this and that the Republican Party, they will accept it, they will lean in, they will just take it for what it is. And they're not going to push back.
HUNT: So -- I absolutely -- all of my reporting is exact -- exactly lines up with both of you. And obviously, we've seen no indication that anything else is going to play out. But the challenge is when you get to the general election, because we've also seen repeatedly that the general electorate is kind of over this, right?
I mean, they have rejected, not just Trump himself in the 2020 election against Joe Biden, but also a series of other Republican candidates down the ballot when they have embraced Trump too much. So I mean, where does this -- where does this leave your -- it's -- it is your current party, right? You have actually left the party of have --
LONGWELL: I have nothing to do with the Trump version of the Republican Party.
LONGWELL: Look, I'm out here. I would like to see somebody defeat him. But the problem is, like, you can't beat something with nothing. And right now --
LONGWELL: -- these other candidates are giving us nothing. But when it comes to swing voters, look, I think -- I was thinking about how a Trump-Biden rematch, how that feels almost boring on the surface. And yet, it's going to be the wildest campaign election we've ever seen with him on trial.
And, yes, swing voters, they hate that stuff. They hate the idea that Trump's being currently indicted. And the more that that is at the top of their minds as they're voting, I think the worse it is for Trump.
HUNT: Yes. So I want to circle back to Georgia here kind of as we wrap up the legal portion of this discussion, because we got a little bit of a taste from Trump himself about how he may talk about some of the things that Zach Cohen reported, the charges that we may see unfold in Georgia. He was asked about this in Des Moines on Saturday. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you defend the actions of your allies following the 2020 election in Georgia?
TRUMP: Many of the allies I don't know, because to be honest, we have so many allies, and a lot of them I don't know. So I don't know exactly know what you're talking about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, Elliot, that sounds like what his defense is going to be so many allies. We have so many allies. I don't know. WILLIAMS: Yes. So I think that is a defense, one, to a racketeering
charge into a conspiracy charge. If he can claim that this was a lot of rogue actors not working in concert, then they can't -- the prosecutors can't establish a conspiracy.
Now, the problem for the former president is that there's, Lordy, there are the tapes and the text messages and communications between him and members of his team, and him and the Georgia Secretary of State directly.
So, you know, it's kind of hard to run away from a conspiracy when you're on the record, talking to a lot of the individuals who probably are going to --
HUNT: And, you know, since we -- since we have it, let's just remind everybody, this is the tape that Elliot is talking about, the phone call between Trump and the Georgia Secretary of State. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So look, all I want to do is this, I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have, because we won the state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So any staffer who prepped him for that call could potentially be charged with conspiracy. So debunking this idea of, well, it was a lot of people acting alone. Anybody who was on the call, because as I understand he wasn't alone on the call, and there might have been folks listening, could potentially be charged with a crime.
And so, yes, it is entirely fair for someone charged with a conspiracy to say no, no, no, that's the guys on the other side of the room. But I just think the facts, as we know them now, seem to poke some holes in that.
HUNT: And the more facts that we learn --
HUNT: -- certainly this this new CNN reporting that there was an Oval Office meeting where perhaps this came up all.
Contributors, it's going to be a wild week, folks, so.
Coming up next, a sitting president, his son, and now a special counsel. Biden's reelection bid just got a whole lot more complicated. That's coming up.
HUNT: You can't always get what you want. But even when you try sometimes, suddenly, it's not enough. This week, Republicans got a long sought-after wish for the Biden Justice Department to name a special counsel to oversee the prosecution into President Biden's son, Hunter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARLAND: This appointment confirms my commitment to provide Mr. Weiss all the resources he requests. It also reaffirms that Mr. Weiss has the authority he needs to conduct a thorough investigation and to continue to take the steps he deems appropriate independently based only on the facts and the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: The announcement and the court filing that came along with it signaling that plea talks with Hunter Biden had broken down and they sentenced the Biden campaign to a certain fate.
Politico," Biden world resigned to a campaigns shadowed by Hunter drama."
But let's listen to what Republican lawmakers, since the appointment, they say the new special counsel falls -- fails the smell test.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I don't trust the Weiss team to get to the bottom of what Hunter Biden and Joe Biden may have done.
REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): How ironic the day after I announced that we put together a case that I believe will win in court to subpoena Joe Biden's bank records, lo and behold, Merrick Garland tracks again.
REP. MATT ROSENDALE (R-MT): What has just been put into play is a big hoax on the American people.
REP. MARK ALFORD (R-MO): It sounds good on the surface, right? The problem is, this could slow down on impeachment inquiry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Times' Molly Ball also joins our conversation now. And, Molly, I'll start with you. I'm tempted to say that these guys do protest too much. This was something that they had originally wanted but then after the plea deal came out, they decided they didn't trust this attorney or this prosecutor anymore.
And so now you have this outcome. But I want to say that kind of what I'm hearing from my sources necessarily lines up with what they're saying in public. I feel like there's actually a little bit more like, OK, yes, we did actually get what we want. We just can't say it out loud. What's going on?
MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME MAGAZINE: There is a little bit of that. And I think, you know, for Republicans who just want to damage Joe Biden politically, this is a bit of a blessing in that it extends the process, right, between the plea deal falling apart, and the appointment of a special counsel.
We know, you know, is that headline you just played says that this is going to be a saga that continues to shadow the campaign, continues to be an issue. And so if you're a Republican, you know, they're -- they are saying that, you know, yes, we wanted a special counsel, but not this special counsel, even if we did say we wanted this special counsel before it became this special counsel.
So there is a bit of cognitive dissonance there. But I think there is a sense, you know, on both sides, that this is just going to be a continuing headache for Biden and his campaign.
HUNT: Yes. So, Zolan, I mean, you cover the White House day in and day out. The president has not, I mean, if anything, he's put Hunter further on display lately. I mean, just a couple days after the original plea deal was announced they, you know, he was at the state dinner that Merrick Garland also attended. I mean, I think we have some pictures of -- you know, there they are walking together. I mean, you just sort of -- I feel like, you know, maybe we were all just paying closer attention.
But his face has been next to his father's out in public quite a bit as this is all unfolded. What is the thinking for the White House there? Are we going to see less of this now that the special counsel has been announced? I mean, how are they approaching it?
KANNO-YOUNGS: I've heard nothing that would suggest that you would see less of a -- of a visible presence of Hunter Biden. I think there will be a collective silence on the actual criminal proceeding, the actual trial, the actual investigation, potential trial or investigation, both from DNC and White House.
But let's be clear, there was also a sort of -- the White House wanted -- there was going to be a sigh of relief from both Democrats and the White House if a plea deal had been reached. The fact of the matter is that when that didn't happen, there is now as anxiety that is growing in the DNC and the White House over the fact that any update with this special counsel review will be a distraction at a time that the White House is aggressively trying to get out and turn the tide on voter sentiment around the economy.
I was speaking to Biden allies this weekend who were saying, it's not exactly the review itself or the practical impact of it, it's the fact that right now, we need to go out and message to voters around what we have done. And with this lingering and overshadowing that, it's a distraction against our message at a time where, remember, polls show that still a lot of people don't have clarity or understand exactly the bills that they have passed thus far.
HUNT: Right. Well, I mean, and I think, you know, one of the risks to big picture here is that this is going to put the Hunter stuff in front of a lot more voters and a lot more people than maybe perhaps weren't paying attention to the way like, say, the right wing echo chamber was covering this.
Josh, I want to play for you kind of how Republicans candidates are handling this on the trail. We have Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis talking about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Holy where he turned out to be. He was in some dark places.
At some point, Joe is going to have to say, you know, this son thing just isn't working out.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): If he were a Republican, he'd be in jail by now. And we all know that. You know, the good thing about us is, you know, my kids are 6, 5, and 3, so they aren't going to be bringing any cocaine into the White House when I'm president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So I mean, let's just say what it is, which is they all do seem to be willing to forgive Trump the sins that the Justice Department is, you know, prosecuting him for. They're not so quick to do that in this particular case, but they are casting it as a political Justice Department.
Do you think this is something that's going to break through outside of the right wing echo chamber as we head into the fall? Or how do you see it playing out?
DAWSEY: Well, I don't think we know, yes, but I do think a lot of the Republicans, when they've been asked about Trump, and we watch Kevin McCarthy, you watch others, as soon as the question comes, they immediately just talk about Hunter Biden. So it has given them sort of a way to pivot immediately from whatever the question is of an uncomfortable revelation about Trump or a new indictment or a new sort of damning notion that came out about him. They sort of pivot Hunter Biden.
I think the argument a lot of the Republicans are making is they think that the Trump family, at least to the ones that I've talked to, if they would have done some of the things that Hunter Biden had done, there would have been a lot more coverage and attention on it.
They believe that sort of idea of fairness and Hunter Biden, obviously, had a lot of foreign entangled, it's a lot of money they don't really know how far it gets up in the family. But there's like legitimate questions there, right, on sort of his dealings and what he did while his father has had a very powerful role in this country.
So I think they'll certainly try to talk about it. Anytime that Trump comes up whether that sort of permeates with voters. I don't really think we know yet where that goes.
KANNO-YOUNGS: Dawsey is hitting on something, though, that that is another concern for Democrats I talked to. All this fuels the whataboutism of it all really. Even if you have Biden surrogates, going out and trying to talk about the criminal indictments that Trump is facing this, the Hunter Biden basically, a special counsel being appointed, it allows different Republicans to continue to point at the Justice Department and continue to say, well, what about that case?
HUNT: Although we should, I think, underscoring -- I mean, you mentioned this, Josh, the foreign entanglements question. Republicans have yet to find evidence that directly ties the president himself --
HUNT: -- to anything improper in terms of Hunter's potential crimes.
Now -- but we also have touched on another thing, though, I mean, yes, it's whataboutism. The flip side, of course, of the way that Trump has, you know, completely overtaken on politics, in the way that we think about it, is that maybe for Democrats, that means that this actually doesn't matter, the way that it might have mattered before.
Here's the New Hampshire Democratic Party chair.
Oh, sorry. Yes. So this is what he said as a quote, "Prior to Trump, this would be a big deal." This is Ray Buckley speaking. "Now, I don't think this means anything. I don't think it means anything. Trump has made everyone so numb to this stuff." I mean, is he right, Sarah?
LONGWELL: Yes. I mean, I'll just say when I talked to swing voters, when we asked about Hunter Biden, they basically say, you know, there's someone like this in every family. They treat it like it's a family matter, a personal matter.
I agree with you that the more that this proceeds through the general election, the more kind of muddies the waters because it allows people to just say, indictments on all sides, you know, corruption on all sides.
But as for right now, what I'm hearing from swing voters is, as long as it's not tied to Joe Biden, they will continue to treat it as a family personal thing.
HUNT: Yes. And you know what, we actually have some swing voters today that were part of a focus group in Michigan talking about -- actually making the very point, Sarah, you just made. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just don't care, unless it directly has something to do with President Biden doing something illegal with China and stuff like that. And I haven't seen anything even remotely close to it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've seen a lot of nepotism in careers and people that throw out names and stuff. I'm such and such's family member just to move ahead. That doesn't necessarily make it the President's fault because his son did something stupid. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Prior presidencies, other family members have benefited from every single person in office, it seems like. You can't necessarily control what your family members are doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: I mean, it's a fair point, Molly Ball, where we all responsible for the sins of our children, I think, you know, there would be -- it would be -- it would be quite a bit. I mean, people -- these voters do seem willing to forgive the president for the sins of his son.
BALL: Yes. Well, I do think though, as Sarah said, it muddies the waters in a way that really plays into, you know, having just been in Iowa and talking to a lot of voters, not even necessarily all Republican base voters. There's a sense that the whole system is corrupt.
BALL: And this has been the sense of a lot of voters for a long time now. And I don't think that Biden or his campaign really have an answer to that. You know, it's not true when Trump says he's going to drain the swamp or that he did anything to that effect as president. But he has an argument about that he is speaking to voters who believe that the system is corrupt.
And I don't think that the Biden administration has an answer to them besides saying no, it's not.
BALL: So that is something that you do hear from a lot of voters. And you even heard from the voters in that focus group is just a sense that this is so pervasive that maybe it doesn't matter, but that means that it doesn't matter when Trump does it either.
HUNT: Right. Even though it's Trump, the candidate himself, not the son, not in the Republican side.
All right. Coming up. Fried Oreos, corndogs, nut rolls and cheese curds stirring a cup of presidential hopefuls and you've got yourself the Iowa State Fair. We've got all the fun and games, coming up next.
HUNT: Admiring butter sculpture as well, buttering up some voters that's tradition at the Iowa State Fair, Presidential candidates favorite place to try to win over the Hawkeye State. This year is no different. Most of the GOP hopefuls hit the stage to sell their platforms and prove just how much they love Iowa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Everything starts in Iowa. We all know that, don't we.
NIKKI HALEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Y'all have chicken in a waffle on a stick? I got to try that one.
RON DESANTIS, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And he stops and he says, daddy, is this heaven? I said no son, it's Iowa.
HUNT: Frontrunner President Trump has skipped out on those stump speeches, but that did not stop him from becoming the fair's main attraction. He was swarmed with cheering crowds, and some questions about his mounting legal troubles.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump, did you intend to overturn the 2020 election?
DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: You know the answer to that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trump, will you comply with the protective order from the judge?
HUNT: All right, let's discuss, Molly Ball, you were just back from the Iowa State Fair. I think you brought the --
BALL: Still wearing my bracelet, yeah.
HUNT: I love it. I was really sad to miss this year. Actually, I've been to -- God knows, how many of them at this point. But it's --
BALL: -- her regards.
HUNT: Thank you. I really appreciate it. The visuals that we have from the ground there and I know you -- you talked to Ron DeSantis last night and I would like to hear about that. But I kind of want to give people a sense. This is a view from the Ferris wheel of the crowd surrounding Donald Trump. Somebody took this image. So, that -- for people who are uninitiated, I mean, the State Fair, yes, it's crowded, but it's like any fair there's plenty of room to walk typically like you wouldn't really have too much trouble getting close to the candidate. Trump that's not the case. We'll look at just absolutely look at that crowd, and I think we also have some pictures we can show of a slightly more manageable crowd that was present at the, "fair side chat with Ron DeSantis." Is that what we're looking at right now? Or is this still Trump?
[11:35:18] OK, so this is -- this is the crowd that was there for Ron DeSantis. Not bad. Not bad, but not quite the swarm that you saw for -- for Trump? Was that how you experienced it on the ground? And what does that say about the state of the race?
BALL: Yeah, I mean, clearly, Trump is just a magnet for attention. Now, I will say, you know, he was appearing in a rather small sort of restaurant on the grounds of the Fair -- of the Fair. And so there wasn't room for a lot of people inside. And so for people to be in his vicinity, they had to sort of crowd around outside and I counted, as you could see in those photos, there were 30 -- 30 deep at one point on all sides of that venue just straining to catch a glimpse or hear a little snippet of what he was saying. He spoke very briefly, and roamed around very briefly and then was back off on his plane.
But it really symbolizes the way in which Donald Trump is the center of attention in the primary and the way that his sort of quasi- incumbent status gives him, you know, a platform that none of the other candidates have, they are just not going to be able to compete with that level of attention.
Now, you know, as I remember, trying to teach my three-year-old at one point, attention can be good or bad. Not all attention is good attention, right? A lesson that seemingly Donald Trump never learned in his childhood. But -- but that being said, you know, that is I think the biggest problem for all these candidates is you think Trump just has that ability to draw crowds.
HUNT: Yeah. Oh, well, in some ways, you know, all press is good press. The old adage also says that the toddler version of good attention is -- is it anything -- anything goes. I mean, one of the challenges as you were kind of outlining that is also that these, these people that are running against Trump are sort of constrained in their ability to criticize him because the base is so fervent. I mean, the trolling from the Trump campaign in Iowa, do we have the airplane that flew with the be likable, Ron?
Now, there's a lot of jokes in there. It's a reference to his, you know, his own notes to himself, but also Ron, that's the same font as Jeb exclamation point from 2016. Who was the first, you know, major candidate that Trump a crushed on his way to the White House. This isn't -- this kind of thing, this is the Trump campaign going after his top rival Ron DeSantis. Ron DeSantis can't do anything like this.
DAWSEY: Well, that's what they view obviously as his biggest fall, DeSantis trying to make him seem not that personable, awkward. That's easy for Trump, he will bring that up repeatedly.
But you're right, Kasie, and that Trump, if you -- imagine any other Republican in the field, had been indicted, what Trump would say about them. I mean, when others have gotten in trouble in the past, he slashed him. I mean, he's attacked people for far less. And yet, a lot of them, a lot of them are defending Trump. I mean, you have Chris Christie out there who's been pretty critical of Trump, pretty regularly and pretty slashing terms. Asa Hutchinson, but I don't think he has a lot of relevance right now and the Republican primary field. One of these guys, even Mike Pence, at times has been critical of
Trump, but he's defended him at times, as well. He sort of straddled the line. A lot of these others want to keep Trump's voters as still liking them. Particularly maybe as a second choice. I'm not exactly sure what the strategy is. But they don't want to alienate these people. So they refuse to criticize him.
DAWSEY: He's sort of at him blanketing the airwaves and criticizing everyone else. I mean, he criticizes DeSantis sometimes 10, 15 times a day with all sorts of monikers nicknames policy, which is everything he goes after Mike Pence, he goes after everyone. And the response back is fairly muted. And I don't understand that and maybe others are smarter than me, and we'll figure this out how you will beat someone if you're unwilling to take them on that --
HUNT: Well, it's the point you can't beat someone with nothing, something with nothing. And I want to play, Sarah, has been talking to Republican voters, about Ron DeSantis. And that banner really underscores one of the central problems that we are hearing from some of these voters. Take a look at what they had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN P.: When DeSantis said he was running, I was pretty happy about that. But he's getting killed in the polls. He's kind of acted weird. It just seems like he lost all his competence that he used to have when he was a governor.
MCKAYLA H.: Something weird is going on. His whole personality just changed. He's not as mouthy as he used to be.
PAUL B.: There might be a couple things about his personality that seem a little wooden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: Weird, wooden, what else have you learned?
LONGWELL: I got to tell you he has been getting killed in the focus groups and not even -- it's not even that kind of criticism. We always ask people who do you want to see be the 2024 nominee? And six months ago, Ron DeSantis, he would always come up. He was the first one if it wasn't Trump, it was him. People don't even mention him right now. We've had two groups in a row where nobody's even said his name. They've said Tim Scott, they've said Vivek Ramaswamy and he's just not even getting mentioned. There was one I liked him and he said, you know, he's fine -- he's fine. That is brutal.
HUNT: Ringing endorsement.
KANNO-YOUNGS: This is so interesting, too, because is there another candidate in the GOP right now, who has tried to compete with Trump in almost the Trump lane as much as DeSantis. And though and we're hearing comments like that, and we're seeing his campaign go this way. He's almost tried throughout this campaign to oust Trump -- Trump to compete with him on the right. And you're still seeing voters disappointed with his performance.
HUNT: Right. Well, and this is all of course, heading into the first debate. We're going to learn this week, whether or not Donald Trump is going to participate. But I just want to remind everybody what it was like last time when Donald Trump was on stage with some of these other candidates, and how we saw this phenomenon that we've just been talking about play out. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you're on the wrong side of this if you're still arguing for a single player.
TRUMP: I'm not -- I'm not -- I don't think you heard me. You're having a hard time tonight.
Excuse me, one second.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
TRUMP: I didn't want --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The simple fact is, Donald.
TRUMP: Yeah. Oh, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You cannot take --
TRUMP: More energy tonight, I liked that. I really --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald, relax.
TRUMP: Go ahead, I'm relaxing. It's the best in case.
Sorry about it, little Marco.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LONGWELL: Oh, God, I'm having PTSD from 2016. But here's the problem, they're all doing that again, right? Like Ron DeSantis and these other candidates are building the permission structure for voters to not care about Donald Trump's indictments because they rushed to his defense. And as a result, as you were saying earlier, they become these big players in the central drama around Donald Trump and he's just like at the center of the stage, and there's no oxygen for anybody else. And this is how Trump is walking to this nomination.
HUNT: Walking. All right, coming up, a major wind in Ohio raises Democrats hopes for 2024 and sets off alarm bells for the anti- abortion rights movement, that's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
HUNT: Welcome back, could abortion politics prove even more potent in 2024. Democrats are already eyeing a major win for abortion advocates in Ohio this past week as a powerful blueprint heading into the next election cycle. Ohio voters resoundingly rejected a statewide referendum that would have made it tougher to enshrine abortion rights in the Ohio constitution.
And opposition to the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe versus Wade also remains steady across key groups nationwide, including nearly 70% of independents and even one out of every three Republicans. And I mean, Molly Ball, abortion rights advocates are really on a roll here. There's no sign that the enthusiasm has waned since we first had a real test of this on a ballot in Kansas in 2022 after this was overturned. I mean, I want you to look at these numbers, 3 million people turned out in this Ohio special election. That's nearly double the number that voted in the primary in 2020 to 1.6 million people. I mean, people really care about this.
BALL: Yes. So on the one hand, the evidence continues to mount in case there was any doubt that this is a powerfully galvanizing issue. It hits voters across the political spectrum where they live, I mean, think about it, every human being has the opportunity to reproduce in some way. And so this is an issue that touches every person, every American, and people clearly feel that, feel the urgency of it, and clearly are on the generally the pro-choice side, although, and we see a lot of disarray on the other side, too, right? Republicans not having figured out whether or how they can mount a winning argument in the other direction.
On the other hand, you know, we do see these ballot initiatives that are single issue where abortion is the central issue, doing much better than candidates trying to put it at the center of their campaign.
HUNT: Yeah, well, let's put that up here because we have a comparison for how these ballot measures performed in key states, Ohio, Kansas, and Kentucky were these -- I should say, these are states that have had this test of the abortion test on their ballot, look at how they compare to votes for Democratic candidates, those top numbers, they're the ballot initiatives, the bottom what Biden earned in those states in 2020.
So I mean, when you look at these numbers, Sarah, I mean, one of the things Democrats are thinking about trying to do now is make sure that this is an issue that's on the ballot in 2024 in places like Florida and Arizona, if you were advising them on how to win here, I mean, there seems to be some tension in the party, between people who want to tie this explicitly, their candidates try to help their candidates and others who say no, this issue is too important all by itself. We need to use the blueprint, we had in Kansas, where it was a nonpartisan issue that, you know, the advocacy campaigns that were run there took a different took a different tone. If you're trying to advise them on how to win on this issue. What do you tell them?
LONGWELL: I'm advising Democrats now?
LONGWELL: I mean, I would tell them to put it on a ballot in places where it can help them. It does turn people out. You know, one of the things I've been thinking about, though, is if it was Ron DeSantis, on the ballot in 2024, where he's pushed a six-week abortion ban. I think that abortion really works for Dems than at a national level.
HUNT: That's interesting.
LONGWELL: Here's the thing, though, if it's Trump, Trump, one of his secret weapons is that he's sort of a social moderate.
LONGWELL: People do not see him as a cultural warrior on things like abortion, and so I do not think it helps Democrats nationally as much if Trump is at the top of the ticket than somebody else.
HUNT: In fact, let me show everybody what we have from the Republican field. We've got Mike Pence, Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, all talking about the abortion issue. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe the time has come as we advance the cause of life in every state in the nation, that we embrace a minimum national standard of 15 weeks for all of the American people.
TRUMP: The greatest progress for a pro-life is now being made in the states where everyone wanted to be. That's one of -- one of the reasons they wanted Roe v. Wade terminate. However, there, of course remains a vital role for the federal government in protecting unborn life.
DESANTIS: We have a diverse country on this issue. There's going to be debates, I think those debates are best had and communities locally and have a bottom that movement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So, Josh, I mean that last comment from DeSantis in particular is interesting. I mean, this is tough for Republicans to talk about?
DAWSEY: Right. Well, and the Republican Party is sort of all over the place on this, right? I mean, DeSantis pass a bill in Florida that a lot of his donors and allies were really frustrated by and said that it was not helpful to give Pence obviously looking for a national band. You have folks like Ron McDaniel, Lindsey Graham, Susan B. Anthony groups trying to get Republicans to embrace a 15-week ban, to say we need to have some issue here, where the polling has shown to in Republican circles that I've seen internal polling is that most people do not like overturning Roe v. Wade, even higher numbers that you have on the screen. And the Republican Party is really trying some of its leaders at least are really trying to get a message on abortion. That doesn't hurt them with voters, because right now they don't seem to have one.
HUNT: Yeah, for sure. All right. Coming up next. He's not Slim Shady, No, he's not the real shady. He's just imitating a 2024 hopeful stands up and wraps at the Iowa State Fair, his name is what? We'll tell you next.
HUNT: May I have your attention please, Vivek Ramaswamy is singing for the moment, well, rapping the Republican presidential candidate had one shot to woo the Iowa faithful at the fair so he tried to seize the