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Inside Politics

Poll: Massive Divide Over Whether Trump Charges Disqualify Him; Biden Ad Kicks Off With Start Of NFL Season; Meadows, Five Others Plead Not Guilty In Georgia; Special Counsel Election Probe Continues With Focus On Fundraising, Voting Equipment Breaches; Federal Court Blocks Newly-Drawn Alabama Congressional Map. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 05, 2023 - 12:30   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: And now more from our brand new CNN poll and a story of contrast inside the numbers, a gap that suggests Donald Trump may face a steep climb in the general election.

CNN Political Director David Chalian is back with us. Here we are. What did we find when it comes to this question?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. So, just a steep climb when it comes to Americans' perceptions about his indictments. We don't know necessarily if he has a steep climb to the presidency, but take a look at the difference between how the overall population feels versus Republicans.

So we asked, are you seriously concerned that criminal charges might negatively impact Trump's ability to serve a full term? 56 percent of Americans down in our poll, 56 percent are seriously concerned. Only 30 percent of Republicans say that, OK?

Here, 60 percent of Americans, even more say they are seriously concerned that it negatively impacts Trump's ability to be an effective president. Only a third of Republicans feel that way. And then we asked just of Republicans, do you think that these criminal charges might negatively impact his electability, his ability to win in November of 2024?

A majority of Republican and Republican leaners say no, they're not concerned about that. 56 percent say, though, a little more than four in 10 Republicans and Republican leaners say yes, they are concerned that the criminal charges will negatively impact his ability to win.

BASH: What about the notion of whether or not he should be disqualified? It was the question that a lot of his -- all of his competitors got at the debate?

CHALIAN: That's true. And we looked at this in terms of the federal Jack Smith case as it relates to January 6 and the Georgia case. So the stuff dealing with overturning the 2020 election or attempting to do so.

So we asked here, if true, the charges against Donald Trump regarding efforts to overturn the election, should it disqualify him for the presidency? 48 percent of Americans overall in our poll, nearly half say, yes, it's disqualifying. That is a hard number for him, right?

BASH: Number.

CHALIAN: 19 percent say it cast doubts on his fitness for office. A third say not relevant to his fitness for office. Compare it again to the Republicans. Only 13 percent say it disqualifies him, 13 percent versus 48 percent overall.

How about when it comes to the January 6 issue about charges regarding the January 6 attack on the Capitol? Overall, a majority of Americans in this poll, 51 percent say he should be disqualified from the presidency for that. Only 16 percent of Republicans and Republican leaners see that as disqualifying them.

BASH: Even more evidence of how incredibly divided this country is, especially when it comes to Donald Trump. And that last point is something that you hear routinely about what David was talking about from Trump's rivals on the campaign trail that Republicans do not care about January 6.


VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Many of these prosecutions against Donald Trump are outright, downright politicized persecutions through prosecution that set an awful precedent for our country. I do not want to see us become a banana republic where the administrative police state uses police force to eliminate opponents from competition.

I do draw a distinction, George, between bad behavior and illegal behavior. And once we start conflating those two things, I think we're in a long downward slide as a country.


BASH: We're back to talk about these new numbers from the poll. Jackie, what do you make of what David just talked about with regard to -- well, all of it, but specifically the divide among Republicans and Democrats on the question of how much indictments or even potential convictions should matter?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, it very much tracks, and particularly, I mean, all you need to do is look at the Republican field. I mean, Ramaswamy was there, but the others, many of the others other than Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson have basically been in lockstep behind Trump as -- to varying degrees.

You know, not everyone is as strong, but none of them are really going at Trump over these indictments, and that is because of the electorate. So it really -- it tracks. It completely tracks. And you can see it by, you know, hands raised on the stage during that Fox News debate as how many have supported him no matter what, basically.

BASH: Jeff? JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: It does raise a question about the general election, though. I mean, right now --

BASH: Sure.

MASON: -- there's one job if you're a Republican presidential candidate, it's to win the nomination. And to do that, clearly, this field has largely decided to stay supportive of Donald Trump even though they're trying to knock him off.

That strategy is not probably going to be effective for whether it ends up being President Trump or one of the other candidates in a general election because of the figures that show Democrats are absolutely worried about these indictments.

And, I mean, just think next year, we're going to have these court cases on national television. There's going to be a lot more drilling down into the details of what he is alleged to have done, that is going to affect some people in the electorate, maybe not the Republicans.

BASH: Yes, and we actually have some additional data on that very point, Jeff, the question of Trump facing so many criminal charges, first of all, because of his own actions. Democrats say 83, that's not a surprise. 10 percent among Republicans, that's not a surprise.


What is interesting is the 48 percent when it comes to independents who are, you know, ostensibly the swing voters. Let me just show one other question on this same topic. Trump faces so many criminal charges because of political abuse of the justice system. This is something you hear from Republicans. So not surprising, 60 percent, Democrats, only 9 percent, Independents, 25 percent.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, listen, I think if you're a Democrat and you're sort of bidding on independence being completely turned off by Donald Trump in states like Michigan, in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, those numbers so far probably don't give you a lot of comfort. It is going to be a close race, precinct by precinct, a couple of thousand votes here and there.

In some ways, we already saw that in 2020 and so much has happened since then and so much more is going to happen. But I think no Democrat is necessarily thinking that Donald Trump is an easy out, right? He wasn't before. He certainly won in 2016, much to many Democrats surprise.

So this idea that somehow this coalition is going to strongly include independence and they're going to be absolutely turned off by Donald Trump and pull the lever for Biden, I don't think the numbers bear that out.

CHALIAN: Though, clearly, independents in that last graph you just said are not buying the Trump argument that this is an abuse of the justice system. MASON: Yes.

CHALIAN: Only 25 percent of Independents --

BASH: Right.

CHALIAN: -- say that versus 60 percent of Republicans. So that argument that Trump and a lot of Republicans are making does not seem to be breaking through to the independence. My big question though, to your point, Nia, because I agree, it's going to be -- I don't see how it's not going to be in, you know, four battleground states and come down to tens of thousands of voters in those states.

But is this issue, are his indictments, is this issue of democracy that we did see play in the 2022 midterms, is this going to be a salient issue come a year from now for everyone, for Democrats, for Independents? Or is there going to be something else at play here, whether it's the economy or it's abortion rights or what have you, is this going to be the issue of 2024? We don't know the answer to that yet, but I'm curious to find out.

BASH: Right now at this point, the Biden reelection campaign is putting all their eggs in the economy basket right now. And we know that because they are going to launch an ad during the beginning of NFL football season. It's going to run in the battlegrounds of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And here's a snippet of the ANDERSON:.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said millions would lose their jobs and the economy would collapse, but this president refused to let that happen. Instead, he got to work fixing supply chains, fighting corporate greed, passing laws to lower the cost of medicine, cut utility bills, and make us more energy independent. Today, inflation is down to 3 percent, unemployment, the lowest in decades.


KUCINICH: This is mirroring what you're hearing on the campaign trail as well. I mean, he gave that speech in Philadelphia yesterday, and they really are -- they're trying to stress the projects that he is bringing home to some of these states, even the states that didn't vote for him. And I think we're going to hear that refrain. Whether an NFL audience is going to be receptive to that, I don't know. But it's a big audience.


BASH: And this -- I mean, you cover the White House, this is their big challenge.

MASON: Yes, and they realize they're vulnerable on it. But I think it is a question about the democracy piece. President Biden went hard on that in 2022 --

BASH: Yes.

MASON: -- and it paid off.

BASH: It did pay off.

All right, everybody. Coming up, breaking news out of Georgia, where the former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows just moments ago pleaded not guilty. Also, we have exclusive new CNN reporting showing the widening scope of the federal investigation into attempts to overturn the 2020 election. More on that after a break.



BASH: Not guilty. This morning, the former Trump White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, formally entered that plea in the Fulton County election interference case. I'm going to go straight to Sara Murray. Sara, what exactly happened with his plea, and what does it mean?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, it means it's going to be a lackluster arraignment day that was scheduled for tomorrow in state court in Fulton County, Georgia. And we've now seen Mark Meadows, as well as several other defendants in the case, pro- Trump attorney John Eastman, Jeffrey Clark, who was a former Justice Department official, enter their pleas of not guilty and waive their arraignment. So it means they're not going to have to show up in person.

And essentially, it'll be up to the state court judge to now figure out how he wants to divvy up these defendants, what he wants to do about folks who want to go to speedy trial, what he wants to do about folks who don't want to be tried alongside their other co-defendants. And of course, Mark Meadows is in an interesting position because he put in this not guilty plea while he's waiting to see if his case is actually going to play out in state court.

A federal judge heard several hours of arguments from Meadows team insisting that his activities around the 2020 election were related to his role as White House Chief of Staff. And because of that, his case should be moved to federal court. The judge asked for additional filings in that case, which came through last week.

And now we are waiting for this judge to rule on whether Mark Meadows is going to be successful in his attempt to move to federal court, something the Trump legal team is going to watching very closely as they weigh doing the same thing for the former president, Dana.


BASH: I'm reluctant to ask you the unanswerable, but I'll do it anyway. Do we have any idea what the timing is of the judge's decision on whether Meadows will be successful in moving his case to federal court?

MURRAY: You know, he suggested he would move expeditiously, but he did not give a date about when he is going to issue this ruling by the fact that Mark Meadows actually put in this not guilty plea. He's not waiting it out. He's not cutting to the deadline, waiting to see if this federal judge is going to save him from having to actually show up in person tomorrow. And that's why we saw this plea on paper. So we'll see.

BASH: Very interesting. Sara, thank you so much for that reporting.

And now to a CNN scoop about what the special counsel is up to and how his Trump investigation is still very much happening even after indicting President Trump. CNN's Paula Reid joins me now. Paula, it was your scoop. Tell us what you learned.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Remember about a month ago, when the special counsel filed their indictment related to January 6, there was some surprise that only former President Trump was charged. Now, we've learned that this case was narrowly tailored.

They're really trying to design this so they can bring it to trial before the 2024 election. But we haven't forgotten that there were six co-conspirators referenced in that indictment. So our colleague Zach Cohen and I set out to try to find out if it's likely that any of them will be charged.

And what we've learned is that even over the past few weeks, special counsel investigators, they've been asking witnesses a lot of questions about Sidney Powell, one of those co-conspirators. She's, of course, a Trump aligned lawyer who was heavily involved in pushing these false claims of voter fraud and these efforts to overturn the election.

And the questions about Powell have focused on three specific things. The first is asking witnesses if Powell ever presented them evidence or proof of these claims of voter fraud that she was making. And so far, we've learned that the witnesses have said no.

They're also interested in Powell's nonprofit, defending the Republic, because that group was profiting and fundraising off of these lies. But according to an invoice obtained by CNN, that organization also paid for forensic experts that were able to breach voting systems in four states that now President Biden won.

And that's the last thing that they're interested in, these efforts to breach these voting systems. So it's clear, the investigators, they are still hard at work. They are asking questions about other co- conspirators, but there's clearly a focus on Sidney Powell.

But, Dana, we do not know if Powell or anyone else is going to be charged. But our initial impression of this case was that the federal case was going to be narrow, focused on Trump, and then it was going to be left up to the state case in Georgia for the more broad set of charges against Powell, Giuliani and others. But according to this reporting, that may not be the case.

BASH: That may not be the case at all. Really interesting. Great reporting as always. Nice to see you, Paula. REID: Likewise.

BASH: And a federal court strikes down Alabama's newly drawn congressional map. What are the implications of that and what comes next? Stay with us.



BASH: Some big news this morning in the battle for control of the House. A federal court once again struck down Alabama's congressional map after the legislature basically ignored a Supreme Court ruling to create a second majority black district. If and when the map is redrawn, Democrats are likely to pick up a seat.

CNN's Joan Biskupic has more on the ruling for us. Joan, this is maybe a bit complicated on the surface, but it has very important national and legal implications.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: That's right. On the ground in Alabama, it's very important for black voting rights. But you're right about the national scene and with the U.S. House of Representatives so narrowly divided. These redistricting battles could eventually flip the Republicans majority control.

What happened in Alabama is that it's a state with about 27 percent black population. But the state legislature has repeatedly drawn only one district where blacks would have an opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice out of the seven total districts. So black voters had sued.

And back in 2022, a special three judge panel had said, under the Voting Rights Act, the state is diluting the power of black voters. And that court undertook extensive hearings to just show how much the Voting Rights Act was violated. Alabama challenged that ruling at the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court allowed that map to be used for the 2022 elections.

But then in June, the Supreme Court ruled five to four that that lower court panel was correct and sent the case back and said, Alabama redraw that map. Alabama dug in, defiant and did not alter the map with another black opportunity. Black majority district still just the one.

And the three judge panel, same one that had heard it before, said, are you kidding me? You didn't follow what was said.

BASH: So they're trying to get it back to the Supreme Court?

BISKUPIC: Still trying to get it back. And this is what the judges said this morning. "We are deeply troubled that the state enacted a map that the state readily admits does not provide the remedy that we said federal law requires. The law requires the creation of an additional district that affords Black Alabamians, like everyone else, a fair and reasonable opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. The 2023 plan plainly doesn't do it."


And stress that, "Based on the evidence before us, including testimony from the legislators, we have no reason to believe that allowing the legislature yet another opportunity to draw yet another map will yield a map that includes an additional district".

So what this court did this morning, Dana, was set a September 25 deadline for a special master to draw new districts. But you're right that Alabama is not going to go away. We haven't heard yet whether it's going to appeal to the Supreme Court, but I think what they're aiming for is another round at the Supreme Court and hoping that the court sides with Alabama.

I don't think that's going to happen. I think that Alabama is destined to have two black majority districts, but we'll see.

BASH: Which is telling again, not just for Alabama, but it would set precedent when it comes to voting rights nationally if the Supreme Court said that.

Thank you so much, Joan. Appreciate you breaking it all down for us.

Thank you for joining Inside Politics. CNN News Central starts after the break.