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Trump Co-Conspirators Face Aug 25 Deadline To Surrender; Trump To Release Report Filled With Election Lies; Giuliani Bristles At Law He Used To Prosecute Mob Bosses Being Used To Indict Him In Georgia; Trump's Rivals Blame "Weaponized" DOJ For Indictment; The Atlantic: Why Does Pence "Think People Who Wanted To Kill Him Will Vote For Him?"; Biden To Travel To Hawaii Monday To See Wildfire Devastation. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 16, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JESSICA DEAN, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Today on Inside Politics, under the cover of darkness or in the plain blinding light of day in cameras. The Georgia indictment puts a now familiar question on Donald Trump's plate, just when and how will he turn himself in?

Plus, Joe Biden tries to conquer confusion. And just a few hours, the president will use the White House as a stage to explain to American voters that his economic plans one year after becoming law, the court. And the politics of Mr. Polite. Tim Scott uses Iowa as a test kitchen to see if voters just might prefer a happy warrior over an aggrieved former president.

I'm Jessica Dean in for Dana Bash. Today, let's go behind the headlines at Inside Politics.

Up first today, Donald Trump and his 18 co-conspirators face in August 25 surrender deadline in Georgia. The Fulton County sheriff says, they can turn themselves in anytime between now and then, no matter rain nor sleet nor snow nor time of day. Also, between now and then expect a glut of legal maneuvers to mockup the criminal case against the former president.

CNN's Nick Valencia is live in Georgia for us. Nick, so far, no sign of any of the defendants.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. According to Fulton County Sheriff's Office, none of the defendants have turned themselves and that's according to Natalie Ammons with the sheriff's office. That was as of this morning.

But we do know a little bit of details as far as how the former president is going to turn himself in. The Fulton County sheriff, you're saying that he's not going to treat the former president or the 18 co-defendants any different than anyone else here who gets indicted in Fulton County, which means that they will be mugshot, fingerprinted and processed through the infamous Fulton County jail.

We're also getting a taste of the potential defense strategy from the former president. Its former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows filing a formal petition, trying to get a change of venue moving it from state court to federal court, arguing that any federal official who is accused of a criminal activity while operating as a federal official should have their criminal proceedings heard in front of a federal court.

This is what they're saying in part of that filing. Saying, "nothing Mr. Meadows is alleged in the indictment to have done is criminal per se, arranging Oval Office meetings, contacting state officials on the president's behalf, visiting a state government building and setting up a phone call for the president. One would expect a chief of staff to the president United States to do these sorts of things."

Mark Meadows has been charged with two counts, racketeering as well as violation of the oath of public office. He and his team say that they're going to file a longer more formal complaint at a later date. But we know that this matter is currently in the hands of the U.S. district judge here in Georgia. Jessica?

DEAN: All right, Nick Valencia for us. Thanks so much. And here to share their insights on all of this a former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams, CNN's Evan Perez, CNN's Katelyn Polantz, and former U.S. Attorney Michael Moore, who's also joining us.

Michael, I want to go out to you really quickly first and talk about what Trump's surrender might possibly look like. Because you're down there, and you know the intricacies of how that all works. This is both ordinary and extraordinary in a lot of ways.

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, MIDDLE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA: It is. I'm glad to be with all of you. You know, typically when somebody surrenders, they go to the jail. There's a little bit of a process and they give some background information. There's the usual fingerprints, and we've all seen it on TV, and of course, a mugshots taken.

I really think probably the sheriff's bravado at this point is misplaced. And I hope you'll rethink how he's doing. This idea that we're going to treat a former president, because of all the security concerns and everything else, we're going to treat the former president just like everybody else.

Well, they're not many times at the courthouse has been cordoned off and barricades set up and all because of a particular defendant in a case. And so, he's already being treated different than everybody else. There's no reason to kind of go through this nonsense, the mugshot there, and more pictures of the former president out there than you could want.

So, there'd be nothing compelling him really to go ahead and have a mugshot. I'd also have some concern, frankly, given the leak and the error that came out of the court before the indictment was handed up, which essentially detailed and outline the expected charges.

I'd be worried about any claim that's a mugshot can be protected from in an app online and made buffoonery. So, you know, it's a standard process, just surrender that that will happen. We saw it in New York, but there are some things that should be done, I think, under these circumstances.


DEAN: And, Evan, you've now been here for all of these other indictments. There are three other additional indictments. There were certain concessions made, they are working with the secret service in other cases. Do you expect that in this case?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They'll have to, obviously, this is not any other defendant, despite what as Michael was saying, despite what the sheriff is saying. What's been interesting, right, is that, you know, the federal system and the New York system, they all have the same requirements, right? You take a mugshot. You do the fingerprinting and all that stuff.

Certainly, when he went into the custody of the marshals, you know, one of the things they did not do was take a mugshot, which is the standard process. And one of the reasons why it was obviously, he is one of the most recognizable people, had the fear of him absconding of being able to get away is pretty minimal.

And then secondly, you know, the federal system doesn't release mugshots anyway. So that's, you know, another thing. But the other part that I think people don't talk about is that, you know, Trump and his campaign have openly said that one of the things they want to do is use the mugshot to fundraise.

And I think, from the official level of the authorities, they don't want to necessarily play into that. And so that's part of what is guided everything. We'll see whether Georgia has decides, you know, at some point that the sheriff says, you know, if he's ordered, otherwise, he will follow those rules.

So, the judge could say something. D.A. could change the rules. But it plays into what Trump has been trying to do with this, right? The former president wants to make this a show. He wants to make this as you know, lucrative as for his fundraising as possible.

DEAN: And Elliot, I want to read from John Malcolm's column from the Washington Post. He's a former federal prosecutor. He said, what about the right, when you believe allegations to be true, or you have some evidence to support the allegations to seek redress? And all of a sudden, they're perpetrating a conspiracy? I think that's astonishingly dangerous.

Again, kind of having a different opinion than we've heard from so many people. What do you make of that? You're also a former prosecutor yourself.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Look, every defendant is entitled to have his day in court and challenge the charges that are brought against him. And I don't think anybody credibly is saying that the president does not have an opportunity to seek redress and challenge questions that may come up in the context of the court.

Look, Mark Meadows has filed a motion to move this to federal court. The president will likely move to dismiss the case. And they will have ample opportunity to litigate these very complicated and very fair questions of law. But I just think it's very easy to sort of wag fingers and say that, you know, everything's being criminalized now. And the former president has been targeted.

PEREZ: I think what he's doing, but he's getting at is the idea that Trump and his allies didn't have the right to challenge the election results, which they did, right? And they lost every single challenge that they mounted.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: And they didn't take some of the opportunities that they could have had to challenge that results in the ways that are set up to do that.

PEREZ: And to address Mark Meadows' claimed right, that what he was doing was part of his official duties. I mean, part of his official duties wasn't calling the Justice Department to pressure them to look into Italian satellites, changing the votes. I mean, that's beyond what normally happens with a chief of staff.

DEAN: Right, right. And, Katelyn, let's talk a little bit about what Trump is promising on Monday. This news conference, he wants to present this information that he says is going to exonerate him. The New York Times said, "the reporting question, according to people familiar with the matter is a document of more than 100 pages that was compiled, at least in part by Liz Harrington, a Trump communications aide, who's often described as among the true believers in his false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him through widespread fraud."

And so, this is this document he wants to put out. Here's his former attorney last night, and Katelyn, I want to get your thoughts on that.


TY COBB, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE LAWYER: There's a good chance that whatever document he produces, ends up as evidence against him. It could even end up, you know, as the basis for an obstruction count against the author because it's likely to be fiction, and solely for the purpose of contaminating the jury pool.


DEAN: What do you think about that?

POLANTZ: Well, Ty Cobb is a really good lawyer, and he knows what he's talking about. And so, I believe it when Ty says that that could become evidence in the case. But one of the things you're even seeing Trump doing this in court in some ways. Now, we don't know exactly what he's going to be putting out on Monday. But he's still fending off lawsuits related to January 6.

And just recently, there was a filing where his lawyers, they were trying to get the lawsuit put on hold. So, a procedural thing that they're asking the court to do, but they talked in a paragraph, talking about how Donald Trump was the bastion of order on January 6. He was the one that wanted public safety. He was the one that was making sure law enforcement was ready for what would happen that day and that's just not what happened.


And so, you're starting to even see these things come into how he's litigating in court, he probably will be doing this in his criminal cases to trying to say, like, I'm the one that wanted to secure the election. I'm the one that wanted no violence on January 6, but evidence is evidence. And we will see evidence on camera, hopefully, in Georgia as that case goes forward. And we'll hear it at a trial in federal court in D.C.

DEAN: Right, facts are facts. Elliot, I see you scribbling notes. So, I feel like you want to add something? Yes.

WILLIAMS: No. I'd like my Sharpies. You know, those are all valid points for the president to attempt to make because they are defenses to whether he had the intent to have committed the offenses. Now, from where you and I and everyone sits, well, look, that seems ludicrous. But that's what happens in litigation, which is charges are brought against the defendant.

He says, well, either I didn't do it, or these are the things I did. And this is why I did them. And that's perfectly fair game, even if it sorts of smell, sort of fishy from, even a common sense (crosstalk).

POLANTZ: But it's up to the jury.


POLANTZ: Right. It's up to the jury of peers who will be seated fairly in this case overseas by the time.

DEAN: I want to get back out to Michael quickly before we go. Michael, obviously, Rudy Giuliani is one of the co-conspirators that is named in this indictment. The Wall Street Journal saying, Mr. RICO, just got RICO-ed, referring, of course, to the types of charges that they're facing. We also heard from him. I want to play that clip.


RUDY GIULIANI, FRM. MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: This is a ridiculous application of the racketeering statute. There's probably no one that knows it better than I do. Probably some that know it as well. I was the first one to use it in white-collar cases. This is not meant for election disputes. I mean, this is ridiculous what she's doing.


DEAN: It is ironic that he himself used that in another life and is now charged with it in this one. Michael, do you feel like this is the appropriate use of RICO here?

MOORE: I think it's a legitimate use. I mean, look, there's no question the statute was intended for mob cases and drug cartel cases, drug distribution organizations, those types of criminal enterprises that we think about, but it can be used for this. And that's why Georgia has a statute that allows for this kind of case to go forward.

It's been used in other cases in Georgia. It was used against some schoolteachers and administrators in Fulton County, as a matter of fact. So, I mean, I think Atlanta public schools was -- they were employed there.

So, you know, this is not a necessarily novel approach. It is novel, frankly, to have a presidential campaign. People so high up in a political party associated with this idea that they are a corrupt organization, and whether or not a jury will go that far, we don't know. But I mean, this is -- this will be the chaos of the case going forward and how that plays out.

DEAN: It's just so many factors here. All right. Our thanks to you, Michael, and to you here all of the panel here in studio with us. Great to see all of you. Former Vice President Mike Pence weighs in for the first time on Trump's Georgia indictment, because the echo his 2024 rivals' accusations of the weaponization of government or is he charting his own course. Perfect details on that next.




DEAN: Today, the former Vice President Mike Pence breaking his silence on the sweeping indictment out of Georgia, accusing his former boss of trying to steal the 2020 election in the state.


MIKE PENCE, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Despite what the former president and his allies have said for now more than two and a half years and continue to insist that this very hour. The Georgia election was not stolen, and I had no right to overturn the election on January 6.


DEAN: But Donald Trump's leading Republican rivals are unsurprisingly singing a different tune, defending the frontrunner and blaming the system.


GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we need to do is get a president obviously can beat Biden, but that could actually end the weaponization of federal power through the DOJ the FBI.

SEN. TIM SCOTT, (R-SC): We see the legal system being weaponized against political opponents that is un-American and unacceptable.

VIVEK RAMASWAMY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: These are politicized persecutions through prosecution.


DEAN: And here to share their reporting, their insights CNN's Jeff Zeleny, CNN's Kayla Tausche, and Toluse Olorunnipa of The Washington Post. Great to have all of you here. Jeff, weaponization, weaponized, we heard it over and over again from so many of the Republican people seeking the Republican nomination. We also hear it from House Republicans and off the Hill.

Is that something that is politically savvy? And does it depend on what you're talking about? If you're talking about a primary voter or a general voter?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, I mean, look, with the exception of Mike Pence there and Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson, no one else is really speaking out about this. With the sort of inclusion of Nikki Haley, she says enough of the drama, that's how far she goes. But everyone else to a person talks about the weaponization of the DOJ. And that is simply what the Republican base wants to hear. It's what they see on the channels that they watch. But there are some risks in this.

I asked a Republican voter late last week in Iowa. What he thought of the indictments and he's a Trump supporter, but he said, look, he said, I asked that question of Governor Ron DeSantis. And he said, it's all made up, basically. So, he's like, if Trump's rivals are saying this, you know, there's -- it's sort of the permission structure to, not to Trump in a different way, but we'll see how this goes.

I mean, I think that at this point, they're just singing from the same song with Cuba. Once this becomes a trial, and other things, there are many other Republicans speaking out like Jeff Duncan and others, Governor Brian Kemp in Georgia saying this election was not stolen, so it's going to get messy for them. But I think they're losing an opportunity here in some respects to make that argument to the part of the Republican base and Republican voters who want to turn the page to give them a reason to do so.


DEAN: Right. There's a lot of ways to do it and a lot of nuanced ways to do it. Toluse, I want to show everyone, we made a list of different ways that former President Trump actually weaponized the government. Here are some issues here that Trump pressures the Justice Department to investigate crooked Hillary 2020 where are all the arrests? 2022 John Kelly says Trump wanted to get the IRS on James Comey. And also in 2022, Cassidy Hutchinson was one of the January 6 witnesses Trump world sought to influence.

The irony is thick. And we see this a lot with Trump and his world. It's almost saying, it's like projecting out what maybe they've been doing onto other people.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: And the argument from Trump and his allies, isn't that the Department of Justice shouldn't be weaponized at this point. It's saying that we should weaponize the Justice Department against liberals. He says, I'm going to be your candidate of retribution, that I'm going to go after the "Biden crime family," and all the Democrats who have been weaponizing government against the conservatives for a long time.

So, this is a revenge strategy that he's taking. And it seems to be what animates the base of his party. It seems to be why you're hearing this from other Republicans, because they know that a number of voters within the Republican Party are animated by this, they're energized by this idea that we could use government for our ends, we could use it to go after our enemies. And obviously, Trump did that during his first term. And he's pledging to do it pretty openly if he went to another term.

DEAN: It is interesting that there's this this undercurrent of using the gov like the underdog, with the underdog, the government's being used against us. Now, we should turn around and weaponize it against our enemies.

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And that's one of the reasons why President Biden has been so quiet on the issue, but it's sort of a lose, lose situation for the White House, because on one hand, you know, he's trying to let Republican speak for themselves, the law speak for itself, the facts of the case speak for themselves, but the oxygen is being taken out of the room. And essentially, the president has no message on this.

On the other hand, if he does decide to weigh in, then he's going to be seen as putting his thumb on the scale and influencing the outcome of this and essentially, you know, being seen as having a chip on his shoulder about the 2020 election. If he comes out and says, you know what, Mike Pence has said, what Governor Brian Kemp have said that the Georgia election was not stolen. Then, you know, that's being seen as him revisiting the facts on his own.

So, the White House is trying to stay out of this, but I think to lose point, you know, for the former president, yes, the base is animated by this. But I think independence polling is starting to show their viewing this as a very serious matter, their Trump fatigue is getting a little stronger. And you know, while the base could be animated, while you know, perhaps the Iowa voter is animated.

You know, when you have mainstream establishment Republicans like Brian Kemp and Jeff Duncan in Georgia, who are essentially putting this fracture down the middle of the Republican Party. You know, it's going to be impossible for President Trump to win a state like that in 2024. And independents and other swing states, which I know, you know, both of you guys have traveled to are starting to feel that fatigue too.

DEAN: And let's talk about Mike Pence for a second because he is in a unique position as being playing this key role in an in, of course, the federal indictment in January 6 was there and at the center of all of this, and we've really seen him kind of arrive at this evolution of his messaging on this. Where now he keeps saying essentially a version of, he wanted -- Trump wanting me to overturn the constitution. And anyone that does that and puts themselves before the constitution doesn't have a right to be president.

We had an interesting headline from the Atlantic. The agony of Mike Pence. Why does he think the people who wanted to kill him will vote for him?

ZELENY: Well, I'm not sure he does. But I mean, there's at least half of the Republican Party perhaps more that wants to turn the page from Donald Trump. So that, of course is the group and of a Republicans that Pence is going after, and even some of them aren't necessarily thrilled with him. But look, what he is doing is sort of speaking truth to power. And he -- I was standing in an audience last week when someone said, why did you commit treason on January 6. He welcomes those questions. He welcomes the chance to explain this.

Now. He didn't really at the time. And you wonder, would all of this have been slightly different. If he would have been sort of a leading voice on this. But look on the debate stage next week in Milwaukee, he of course will be talking about this. But he's one of the few who is, you know, calling it like it is now and most of his rivals aren't.

DEAN: Yes. No, it is interesting to kind of see where he is on all of that and where he has evolved on that because it almost seemed like he was hesitant to really go there until this indictment of these last two indictments came out. All right, they're going to stay with us.


It's been one year since the Biden's landmark Inflation Reduction Act, but voters still don't know what's actually in the legislation. Can the administration sell the plan before it's too late? We're going to talk about it.


DEAN: Just this morning the White House announced President Biden will head to Hawaii Monday. And while there, he will view firsthand the destruction caused by the massive wildfires that have killed at least 106 people.

But first, today, a momentous occasion for the White House as President Biden takes a victory lap, celebrating the one-year anniversary of the $750 billion Inflation Reduction Act.