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Inside Politics

Meadows Decision Looms Over Georgia Trump Case; Congress Set To Return Amid New Race To Avoid Shutdown; McCarthy Facing Shutdown Showdown This Month; GOP Hard-Liners Threaten Shutdown Unless Demands Are Met; White House Focused On Whether McCarthy Can Summon Votes To Proceed With Impeachment Inquiry. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 04, 2023 - 12:30   ET



MANU RAJU, CNN HOST: I want to just get your sense on this Mark Meadows case. He is making the case to move his case to federal court, the Georgia election version case. He said this in his filing. "There's a role for the chief of staff to make sure those campaign goals and objectives are implemented at the federal level, trying to make the case that this should move to the federal level away from Georgia."

First of all, when is this ruling actually going happen? We've been waiting for some time for it to happen. And how likely is he to succeed in this?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think the timing is imminent. I think that's the word of the month so far. I think he has not really indicated when it might happen. He told Meadows, you know, don't wait on me. You need to show up for your arraignment, arrange all that. It's a mixed bag for Meadows.

I mean, the judge is clearly taking it quite seriously. He asked that additional question about whether the overt acts could make a difference. The reason that's a mixed bag is because it shows the judge is thinking that some of the overt acts may not be within Meadow's official capacity and some may be without.

And his whole argument here is everything I did was within my official capacity. In fact, even that statement we just showed is kind of questionable because the chief of staff is not meant to be liaisoning and working on the campaign. So it's definitely a mixed bag for him.

RAJU: Look, there's all this discussion effort by the Trump team. He's got four indictments. He wants these all to move past the election, including the federal election subversion case. You talk to the Justice Department all the time, Evan. They want this done obviously before November 2024.

There was a comment from a former U.S. attorney in Tampa, Linda McNamara. She said -- in the Washington Post -- she said, "Most people think a person can appeal anything they don't like in a case along the way, and that's just not how the system works. There's very little he can do at this point to slow things down via the appeal process". Referring to trying to delay this after the election. What are you hearing from the Justice Department about what they believe about whether this can actually be done, the Federal election case before the --

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's 100 percent true, and it all depends on the judge. If you have a judge like the one in Florida, that has been very permissive, you know, they've allowed -- the judges there in Southern District of Florida have allowed people to spend -- eat up a month of the calendar just to get arraigned right, which is just unusual.

And, you know, especially with claiming that they can't get a lawyer and all this stuff. You know, so there's been some signal from some judges that they're willing to go along with some of Trump and his associates' effort to delay. The judge here in Washington, Judge Tanya Chutkan has shown none of that patience.

And you don't get to appeal every single thing. You know, in some cases, you have to ask for her permission to appeal certain things. And she's very, very clear that she believes that the public interest is greater to get this thing done as soon as possible.

RAJU: Joey Jackson, what do you think the likelihood of these two cases, the Georgia case and the federal case, are to getting this done, these completed before the November 2024 election?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Manu. I think that there's a significant likelihood of that happening, you know. Of course, there's an election and that election will be proceeding as planned. But there's certainly justice that's on the horizon and the justice, to Shan's point, imminent the word of the month. I think it certainly is.

And the fact is is that if you look at the motions that are being made, we have the Meadows motion in terms of removing the Georgia case to federal court. Whether that's granted is an open question. Certainly the judge saying if one or more of his activities, what are -- have been fallen in his federal capacity, does that elevate it?

So I think we'll see action on that. And notwithstanding claims in terms of whether or not parties should be severed and separated, should his case go, should the others not, what that looks like, I think the train will move on. And that means that adjudicating the Georgia case, whether it be in Georgia, Manu, or in the federal court in Georgia, both Georgia, different form.

And then finally, certainly as it relates to the federal case on the horizon, Evan spoke to the Judge Chutkan activities, I think March is fair and appropriate, right, just before Super Tuesday. But it's not about the election, it's not about politics, it's about when a judicial trial should move forward and whether the attorneys will be appropriately prepared.

Have they evaluated the discovery and are they are in position to fairly represent their clients? And I think that's what the focus needs to and should be.

RAJU: Do you agree, Shan?

WU: Yes, I do. And I think particularly switching defendants for a second, you know, one of Trump's ideas for delay is that there's no time to prepare going what Joey said. On the other hand, other defendants have said, bring it on, hurry up, speedy trial.

So, obviously, it's possible to be prepared theoretically for that case. And when you think about Chutkan's situation, one thing she has indicated is she really wants to press forward with things, but she does have to be careful. And she knows this. She's a former very good defense attorney not to actually prejudice the defendant's ability to prepare. So there's always that balance going on.


RAJU: Yes. So much to look out for, I'll say, to dissect. Thank you, guys, for unpacking that for us.

Coming up, a whole lot of differences without a whole lot of time through to resolve them. Can Congress avoid smashing the U.S. into a shutdown? We'll have details on that next.


RAJU: Congress is coming back to town after the summer recess with a very full plate. For starters, they have to pass spending bills to keep government open by the end of the month. And as Melanie Zanona and I reported over the weekend, that will be no easy task for Speaker McCarthy.


Plus, FEMA is running out of cash. Ukraine needs more aid. The Pentagon needs its nominees for its top jobs confirmed. And on top of that, House Republicans may move forward with an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. Punchbowl News put it this way, "Welcome back. Things are a mess."

Now CNN's Melanie Zanona joins us now from Capitol Hill. Melanie, Speaker McCarthy has 26 days to fund the government. Does he have a plan yet to do that?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, a key part of Speaker McCarthy's strategy has been trying to convince hardline conservatives to back down. As you and I reported, McCarthy held a conference call with his members last week.

And he argued that they should save these funding fights for later in the year when they actually do their long term spending bills and essentially said, now is not the time or place to make these demands about the border, Department of Justice, other things that conservatives have been digging in over.

But Kevin McCarthy is going to have to make a decision pretty soon here about what to do with supplemental funding and whether and how that's going to hitch a ride potentially on a short term spending bill. The White House requested $40 billion for both Ukraine aid and disaster relief.

But hardliners want to see those issues delinked because they don't want to support any more money for Ukraine. So that really sets up a potential showdown with both Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans, who mostly do support more money for Ukraine.

And I think Republican Congressman Mike Simpson, who serves on the appropriations panel, summed it up best when he told me, "I tell people to buckle up. It's going to be crazy for September, October, November, December. The next four months are going to be wild".

And hanging over all of this is the motion to vacate the speaker's chair. That is a procedural tool that would force a vote on ousting the sitting speaker. It's something conservatives are threatening to use if they don't get their way in funding fights. So just a very complicated dynamic for Kevin McCarthy and not a lot of time to figure it out, Manu.

RAJU: Yes, not a lot of time. The Senate back tomorrow. The House not back until next week. And then there's just dwindling number of legislative days to figure all this out. Lots of meetings ahead.

Melanie Zanona, thank you for joining us. A lonely Capitol Hill at the moment. We'll get very busy starting tomorrow.

Kayla, one of the things that McCarthy is going to have to decide immediately is how to deal with tens of billions of dollars in extra funding for Ukraine as well as disaster. Now, the White House and Democrats want to keep this together, tied to this must pass bill to avoid a government shutdown.

There are a growing number of conservatives who want to split it apart say, let's move disaster aid with the short term spending bill, separate that from Ukraine. That's a non-starter for the White House. Do you think they'll compromise on that?

KAYLA TAUSCHE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, if they compromise, it's not going to be until the 11th hour, because they want to keep this strategy in place at least through the next several weeks. I mean, the White House has tried to have its cake and eat its too by playing spectator in all of this and saying it's up to Congress to do its job while also making the initial proposal for the supplemental that had those two things linked in a very strategic way.

So clearly, they're not backing down on that. The White House just last week, for the first time, said that it believes that a short term spending bill will be needed, suggesting that this supplemental be tied into it. So they're not changing tactic (ph).

RAJU: And it's a challenge for the speaker. He's got to decide, work with Democrats, try to get this done, and then anger folks on his far- right. And that has other implications associated with it if he were to do that.

One of those members on the far-right, Marjorie Taylor Greene, someone who actually has quite a bit of influence with the speaker of the House. This is what she said and how she would vote.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R), GEORGIA: I've already decided. I will not vote to fund the government unless we have passed an impeachment inquiry on Joe Biden. I'm not going to continue to fund the Biden regime's weaponized government. So there should be no funding for Jack Smith's special counsel.

And lastly, my red line in the sand has always been, I will not vote to fund a war in Ukraine. We have to have peace.


RAJU: Tia, you covered Marjorie Taylor Greene for the Atlanta Journal- Constitution. Obviously, she is among the outliner on some of these key issues. But there are a sizable number of Republicans in the House GOP conference who agree with her.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Right. And there are other House Republicans who are making other lines in the sand. We've heard Chip Roy of Texas talk about not wanting to do temporary funding unless it includes something to address immigration at the southern border.

Andrew Clyde has said he won't support a continuing resolution unless there's language that would defund some of these Trump prosecutions. So they may not all be saying the same thing. But if there are enough of these hardliners who want something from Speaker McCarthy, then that still creates these headaches for him to build the coalition. He needs to pass funding again with not very much time when the House returns next week.

RAJU: And, look, we're talking about the implications. One of those is so-called vacate the chair, motion to vacate.


One member, this is a deal that the speaker cut back in January to become speaker to allow a single member to essentially call for a vote, ousting them from the speakership. Now, that threat has been raised after the debt ceiling deal that was cut, hardliners backed off of it. But they have kept this out there in the upcoming round of spending. And this is what we reported, Melanie and I, reported over the weekend.

"One GOP lawmaker acknowledged there have been conversations among conservative hardliners about using a motion to vacate a procedural tool that forces a floor vote to oust the speaker, to gain leverage in the funding fight, if they feel like McCarthy isn't sticking to his spending promises or gives too much away to Democrats." The question, Alayna, is whether these folks on the right will actually move forward with this or whether they just want that threat out there to get the speaker to agree with them.

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Right. Well, the leverage here and I think that's a key part of that quote, the leverage that they can hold using that threat of a motion to vacate is something that is very much going to be playing out over the next several weeks.

And listen, we know that a lot of Republicans were very angry over how the debt ceiling fight was handled, and they've been saying for months now that they wanted to address a lot of those concerns that they had with the spending fight. And now we're here again, very little time, a very short deadline for Congress to work this out.

And I do think you're going to hear a lot of talk about whether they're going to have a vote to vacate the chair.

RAJU: Yes.

TREENE: And it's something that McCarthy is going to have to navigate. We'll see if he can do it as well as he did with the debt ceiling. But there are a lot of people here who are very angry about how he's been handling a lot of these key issues, thinking that he's giving in too much to Democrats and to the Biden administration.

And I do think there's going to be a lot of talk of that, not just this month, depending on what they do with the short term bill, but continuing through the end of the year.

RAJU: And let's not forget how we got here, too. Remember, the White House cut a deal with the speaker to raise the debt limit. They agreed on federal spending levels.

TREENE: Right.

RAJU: They agreed on a top line number. Then those same hardliners said no way. They held the House hostage for about a week. Speaker came back, agreed to cut federal spending even further. That is a non- starter for the White House Democrats and some Republicans in the Senate.

So they got to resolve all these issues, try to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month, pass a short term bill, then try to avoid another shutdown in the fall. All really complicated issues that we'll be, of course, watching very, very closely here.

And one of the things, impeachment. Does Kevin McCarthy have the votes to launch a Biden impeachment effort? That's what the White House wants to know. Stay with us.



RAJU: Republicans on Capitol Hill are pressing ahead with their efforts to impeach Biden, and now the White House is going on the offensive, enlisting two dozen lawyers and legislative liaisons to counter those efforts and paying very close attention as whether or not Kevin McCarthy actually has the votes to move forward.

Kayla Tausche is here with us. She got -- you got brand new reporting about this. What are you learning?

TAUSCHE: Well, the White House has, for the better part of a year, been preparing this counterpunch to all the investigations and oversight and now the growing chorus of Republicans who are threatening to impeach the president. But at this point, I'm not sure if it's fair to say they're in a holding pattern. But one thing that they're watching very closely is whether Kevin McCarthy actually has a vote.

I mean, sources took note on Friday when McCarthy did an interview with Breitbart News, where he said that he wasn't going to be moving forward with an impeachment inquiry based on the unilateral proclamation of one person, which at the time was seen as an apparent reference to singular members like Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who had said that they wouldn't vote for certain things unless there was an impeachment inquiry as well.

The McCarthy camp, for its part, says no, that was a reference to former Speaker Nancy Pelosi moving ahead with her impeachment inquiry without a vote. But regardless, the White House is saying, let's see if McCarthy can cobble together the support to even move forward before we show our cards, before we figure out how we're going to move forward.

But there is, you know, a challenge in that thinking, too, which is that the White House also didn't think that McCarthy could cobble together the votes for the skinny budget package that he did get Republican support for back in the spring. That led to a one-month scramble to avert the debt ceiling. These are obviously two totally different situations.

RAJU: Right. They figure out a way to get it done.

TAUSCHE: But, yes, the underestimation could prove problematic.

RAJU: Yes. And Pelosi, they impeached President Trump at the time. And about a week after January 6, they did have a vote on the impeachment inquiry, on the first impeachment but about a month or so after the investigation actually happened. McCarthy is saying he's going to have a vote to open up an impeachment inquiry if they go that route.

Does he have the votes as Kayla noted? You have 18 Republicans in Biden districts. Number of them are just not there yet, ready to vote for this. Do you think he moves ahead?

TREENE: I think there's a huge difference between opening an inquiry and then moving forward with voting on articles, as we were discussing, Manu. And I think that's going to be the key here. I think it's going to be very difficult to get a lot of these modern members behind him, but I can see them more so being supportive of an inquiry and, you know, arguing that we want more tools to investigate and using that in order to gain their support.

But it'll be interesting to see how this goes further because once you open an inquiry, it's very hard --

RAJU: Yes.

TREENE: -- to turn back. We already see that pressure from the former President Donald Trump saying, move forward with impeachment. Why are we talking about an inquiry?


I think there's going to be a lot of pressure if they end up going forward, and that's going to be what can really put a lot of these Biden district Republicans in a very tough place.

RAJU: I mean, politically, the White House thinks that it could backfire on the Republicans.

MITCHELL: Right. I think the White House is nervous because once you open up the box, the White House is a little bit nervous because thing can come. You know, Bill Clinton ended up -- started at one place, ended up at another.

I'm not saying that those kind of skeletons are in President Biden's closet, but when you go looking for stuff, you can still find it. That being said, it's still risky on the Republicans' part because right now there is no there there.

RAJU: Yes. And that's the big question, what will they find, what will they do?

All right, thank you all for joining us. And thanks for joining us on Inside Politics. CNN News Central starts after a break.