Return to Transcripts main page
Hunter Biden Atty.: DOJ Caved To "Republican MAGA Crazies"; Twitter Turned Over Trump's Direct Messages To Special Counsel; Trump: I'll Testify I Didn't Order Surveillance Footage Deleted; DeSantis & Trump Headline Dueling Conservative Summits; Key States Are Preparing To Respond To Legal Challenges To Keep Trump's Name Off The Ballot. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired September 15, 2023 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And we actually have a poll from the AP out this week saying half of Americans don't believe the Justice Department is handling its investigation into Hunter Biden in a fair and nonpartisan way.
And if Biden's really started to weigh in saying this is my son, he's being unfairly targeted, and even with -- even giving the sentiments of an emotional father, I think that would really -- I think -- that would be a really difficult position for the president to do.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST: It's interesting that you said that because Jen Psaki, the former Press Secretary, of course, now on MSNBC, signaled, almost tried to maybe channel her ideas through the cable airwaves to the White House. Let's listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Millions of Americans have dealt with family members who haven't dealt with drug addiction, who've dealt with alcohol addiction, who have dealt with a range of addiction. My bet is, right now, this is a heartbroken president in the White House who is worried about his son.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: So that's basically what you're saying, but the question is whether or not the President thinks that he can even go there right now.
MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, he can't. But I think, on the one hand, like, just think about this logically. The Biden administration, or President Biden and his reelection effort has been combating this sort of argument that the justice system has been weaponized. That he has weaponized the justice system because he's the president of the United States.
Well, if anything disproves that, I mean, his son's being indicted. So if he were really pulling the, you know, if he was the puppeteer of the politicized Justice Department, his son wouldn't be under, you know, indictment right now.
On the other hand the fact that this is now going to push into an election year, a prosecution of his son, keep it in the news, allow for the equivalency arguments, give House Republicans a predicate to have hearings about things, that is problematic for the President.
BASH: And there are a whole bunch of questions about whether -- I mean, you heard Abbe Lowell say that we're going to move to dismiss this.
BASH: Just even on the guns which already happened because there's a -- this is moving through the courts. The Second Amendment supporters say that this kind of law shouldn't even be on the books. It wouldn't have been there for him to even allegedly break this gun law.
PAUL KANE, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: I don't think this is a highly prosecuted crime. If the NRA were being honest, they would be out probably defending Hunter Biden right now saying he shouldn't be prosecuted on this gun charge. But my colleagues covering the White House have a story out this morning in which the Biden strategy is going to try to be stay above it, stay above the fray and just keep doing your job, just keep working for the American people --
KANE: -- the workers in Michigan and Ohio. But as you saw at the very end of that statement, he got shouted a question, should Hunter be pardoned?
BASH: Yes. It's going to be very hard.
KANE: This is going to come to him.
BASH: And there's all bunch of swirl on a bunch of different issues. And on that, I want to go to, Katelyn, who has some news about the special counsel's election interference investigation. Katelyn Polantz is tracking this for us. Katelyn, what are you learning?
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Dana, we're now just getting a little bit more information about when the special counsel's office, the federal prosecutors, were fighting, over whether they would have to tell Donald Trump about the access that they wanted to his Twitter account when they were investigating him in this January 6 investigation that ultimately did lead to charges against him.
And the new information that we are getting here in these filings that are coming out in court just today, we've gotten some filings in the past, new filings today. We're still reading through them. But the main thing is that there are 32 direct messages, at least, that existed in that Twitter account of Donald Trump, at realDonaldTrump, that was being used up to and through January 6 of 2021. 32 direct messages that Twitter turned over to the special counsel's office and became part of their investigation. The reason that they didn't want to tell Donald Trump, that they were going after those messages is because they were very afraid that he would obstruct their investigation, and they also outlined that to the judge in these documents that we're now reading through now.
They are talking to the courts about how he was disparaging the special counsel in the course of this investigation earlier this year. How he was paying the legal fees of witnesses, how that there was a significant risk that Donald Trump would want to tamper with evidence or intimidate potential witnesses if he knew that they were going after what was happening in his Twitter account around the late 2020 and 2021, especially with those direct messages.
But on the other side, Twitter, that company, they didn't want to have to have this ban on telling Donald Trump that they got this search warrant from the Justice Department.
They wanted to be able to tell him because they wanted to give him an opportunity to try and protect those direct messages, potentially other things, in case they had some sort of executive privilege around them. That ultimately was not a argument from Twitter that was able to fly with any of the courts here because this wasn't something at the time that Twitter was able to tell Donald Trump about.
Ultimately, he did learn about this Twitter search warrant, but it just is giving us another window into the ongoing battles of this special counsel investigation when it was happening up to even in the spring of this year, Dana, and how the Justice Department did get access to material that we just haven't seen. We don't know what it says. We don't know what those direct messages are.
BASH: Well, that was going to be my next question is, I'm guessing we don't know what those 32 direct messages say, what the contents are, but the upshot is that the special counsel's office has them.
POLANTZ: That's right. They do. And one of the things that is happening in this investigation right now is we know it is continuing on. There has been continued grand jury activity. That doesn't necessarily mean that they plan on charging more in for -- more against Donald Trump or bringing more for another case.
But we do know just from what was in the indictment against Donald in this case in federal court from the special counsel's office, everything about Twitter is what's in the public sphere, what he was saying publicly. And so, the fact that they were able to look under the hood and see what was happening behind the scenes, maybe see what others were sending on his behalf, in this account or what people were sending to him as direct messages.
That was, at one point in time, very important to the special counsel's office that they got that information. They did get that information. They did it in a way that wouldn't tip off Trump so that he could potentially obstruct it as they feared. And they had it and they were able to look at it before they charged the case. Whether it evolves into anything else is still going to be a question to be seen, or if it were to be something that would come up at trial.
BASH: Yes, very, very interesting. I think all of us want to see that. And I bet everybody is going to look at his probably different now, but at his former Twitter account to see who he was following, to see who he could even communicate with.
Katelyn, thank you so much. Appreciate that.
Up next, will Donald Trump testify under oath that he never asked anyone to delete security footage from Mar-a-Lago? We'll talk about that next.
BASH: And I'll believe it when I see it, promise, from the former president. In his first broadcast TV interview since leaving office, Donald Trump says he'll go under oath and directly deny what's alleged by the special counsel.
CNN's Kristen Holmes joins us live. Kristen, what did he say exactly?
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Dana, this was about the question of whether or not he directed someone, an employee of his, to delete those security tapes. And he said that not only did he not do that, but that he would testify under oath to that. And then he continued on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: I want to ask you about the case related to Mar-a-Lago. A new charge suggests you asked a staffer to delete security camera footage so it wouldn't get into the hands of investigators. Did you do that?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's false.
WELKER: It's false.
TRUMP: But let me tell you --
WELKER: Would you testify to that under oath?
TRUMP: I'm going to testify to that.
WELKER: You testify to that under oath?
TRUMP: It's a fake charge by this deranged lunatic prosecutor who lost in the Supreme Court nine to nothing and he tried to destroy lots of lives. He's a lunatic. So it's a fake charge. But more importantly, the tapes weren't deleted. In other words, there was nothing done to them. And they were my tapes. I could have fought them. (END VIDEO CLIP)
HOLMES: So the thing to keep in mind here is that, yes, the tapes were not deleted. That has not been charged by the prosecutors. But when you talk -- hear him talk about those tapes as they were his, he could have fought them.
I do want to remind our viewers that there was multiple federal subpoenas to get those tapes. So it's not as though he just cooperated and handed them over. And when it come to him actually testifying under oath, there is no indication that that's going to happen, that his lawyers would want that to happen and open the door to all sorts of legal liability.
And it's important to note that he has said this before. He has said that he wants to testify in various legal matters only to not actually do so. And most cases when he is testifying, it is because he is deposed and forced to do so by the court. And there's really no indication here that this would be any different.
And, of course, as you said, Dana, we'll believe it when we see it. But there's no real indication from anyone, lawyers or Trump himself, that this would be a good idea or that they would allow him to do so.
BASH: Yes, exactly. We've, as you said, we've heard it before. Also, my impression is that the allegation is that he directed his employee to delete the tape, not that the tapes were deleted. That's a whole other conversation.
Thank you so much for that reporting, Kristen.
And today, Republican candidates are making a sales pitch to a block of voters who might not be in the market for anything new. Here in Washington, 2024 rivals get a direct audience with evangelicals at a pair of confabs.
They quote the quote "Pray Vote Stand Summit", and also concern women for America. You can judge by the names and you can tell it is certain to be a key area where they are going to discuss abortion and family values. These are issues that used to be central to sketching a path to the presidency for a Republican.
Let's go back around the table. And I want to start by reading a quote from Penny Nance, who's the CEO of the Concern Women for America, one of those groups holding the event today. "Women are not looking for a pastor or a husband when considering a presidential candidate, they are looking for a bodyguard, someone who will fight for them and their families on the issues they hold dear".
AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: I love you. I pulled this exact quote. I'm obsessed. Like that was absolutely perfect to me because so much media questioning is like, how could anyone go for a guy who's been indicted, or had an affair, or had a da da? And she just put it in the plainest way possible. Like, we're not looking for someone to be with. We're looking for someone to represent us. I think the more we, in the media, pay attention to that, the better.
KANE: Yes. Look, the evangelical vote looks at Donald Trump and sees the person who delivered the Dobbs ruling on abortion. That's the type of fighting that they're looking for. They kind of understand they wouldn't want him as their father or their husband. They just want somebody who delivered the Supreme Court justices that gave them that ruling on abortion.
BASH: And let's listen to the kind of thing that we are likely going to hear from Ron DeSantis and others, but particularly this is Ron DeSantis. It's an example of something that he said in one of his campaign ads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As president of the United States, I will lead the effort to restore full religious liberty in the United States of America.
This is a time to proudly put on the full armor of God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CORNISH: It's subtle.
TALEV: That's not a general election message, is it? No. But the challenge for Ron DeSantis and the other Republicans who want to go hardcore into the anti-abortion argument is that Donald Trump already did it. He brought home those victories.
I just think there's almost no issue more than abortion where there is this dichotomy between how it plays in the primary election and how it will play in the general election in the Democratic Party and President Biden's reelection campaign is counting on the fact that majorities of Americans support women's right to make choices about their reproductive freedoms, and that it was abortion was an argument that significantly helped Democrats in the last election, and could be --
TALEV: -- the difference maker for turnout in a general election.
BASH: Although, I agree with you, where there's kind of a question and I find this very interesting and maybe a bit confounding, this is one of the recent CNN polls and the question is which Republican presidential candidate can best handle abortion, Donald Trump is at 44 percent.
BASH: And the reason it's confounding is because many people, including those who run the groups that these candidates are going to speak to today on the evangelical right are annoyed with Donald Trump because he is not supporting a national ban on abortion. This poll shows, for the voters, it doesn't matter. KIM: It really doesn't matter. And that's why you've seen efforts from people like Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence, and Tim Scott really try for that evangelical vote, but they really haven't made any inroads because President Trump, throughout since his first run for president back, you know, many years ago, really started to have that lock on the evangelical vote.
And I think those voters were looked to the fact that like we said, he already did this. He delivered the justices that eventually delivered the Dobbs ruling. And I do think it's interesting that he feels comfortable enough to criticize, for example, around the stances on the fact that he feels he has gone too far by enacting a six-week ban in Florida.
So he is finding that it's politically tenable for him to not take a position on a national ban and to point out what things he feels that things have gone too far.
BASH: And at the beginning of the -- this cycle, the question -- there were lots of questions about whether evangelicals have soured on Donald Trump because of his actions, lots of his actions and his behavior, in the presidency and post presidency. But again, according to, a recent Des Moines Register poll, no. 47 percent say that they support him.
BASH: And we -- as somebody who covered, we all covered Trump in the first run, in the 2016 run, everyone was like, wow, how can evangelicals support him? It was his promise on Roe.
BASH: It was his promise on the Supreme Court. And now that's happened, and it's in the past, and they still support him.
CORNISH: Well, it's not in the past. As we know, the abortion conversation is live and active in many states and will certainly be discussed going forward.
Since this is a show about getting in the weeds, I want to say I'm interested in what Nikki Haley's going to say. She's taken a very specific line in public about what should be done on abortion, what's going too far or not? Is she going to say that in front of these people? Tim Scott flubbed this question when he was first asked --
CORNISH: -- it a few months ago. Has he improved? Does he have a plan? What is he going to say? So there's other people to keep an eye out for out of this summit.
BASH: You can take this wherever you want to take it, Audie Cornish. Any time. Guys, thank you so much. Have a good weekend.
But stay right there because up next, we're going to look at whether states really can use the 14th Amendment to keep Donald Trump off the ballot. I'm going to ask New Hampshire's top election official that very question next.
BASH: Efforts to keep Donald Trump off the 2024 ballot are gaining momentum. Election officials in several key states are bracing for lawsuits in response to legal challenges to Donald Trump's candidacy. There are calls to disqualify the former president under the 14th Amendment, but some Secretary of State State, those in both parties say they just don't think that they have the kind of power to do that, hinting that this battle may end up in the courts.
New Hampshire's Secretary of State David Scanlan joins me now. Thank you so much for joining me. There are very prominent legal scholars, Laurence Tribe, Michael Ludwig, who argue that secretaries of state like you, you do have a legal basis to invoke the 14th Amendment, remove the former president from the primary ballot. You don't agree with him. Why not?
DAVID SCANLAN, NEW HAMPSHIRE SECRETARY OF STATE: No, there's a couple of points to make on this. First, our state law is very clear that when a presidential candidate comes in and fills out their declaration of candidacy, they're swearing under the penalties of perjury that they meet the Article II qualifications to be president.
They're 35 years old. Natural born United States citizen, and they lived in the country for 14 years. Those are all easy things to prove. And as long as they pay their $1,000 filing fee in New Hampshire, they're on the ballot. And that's not discretionary for the secretary of state.
The Article 14 issue is a disqualification issue and that amendment actually says that a former office holder cannot hold office, it doesn't say anything about the election process. So there's no guidance there. And we're actually talking about with the presidential primary in New Hampshire or the Iowa caucus is that those are nominating events where each state is determining delegates to be awarded.
BASH: Got it. So is there a different --
SCANLAN: And then they make a decision --
BASH: Is there a different question for the general election then, post primary?
SCANLAN: Well, I believe so, because, I mean, if somebody is disqualified under the 14th Amendment, it either applies across the board or it doesn't and that needs to be determined by probably the United States Supreme Court, who is privy to all of the facts involved and can make that final determination.
BASH: So I just kind of taking this conversation one step further. If you believe -- you've made the point that as we, you just did that 14th Amendment questions would be appropriate in the general election, are you saying that you think that there may be merit to that argument?
SCANLAN: No, I'm not saying that there's merit to the argument and I'm not saying there's not merit to the argument. I'm just saying that as a chief election official in New Hampshire, as the secretary of state, I don't have the facts and the information available to me to (INAUDIBLE) determination.
BASH: I want you to listen to what Congressman Adam Schiff has to say about this subject.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I think he is disqualified under the 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment provides that if you take the oath of office and then you engage in acts of insurrection or rebellion, you're disqualified from holding office. Under those very plain terms and according to both very conservative as well as liberal constitutional scholars, he's disqualified and should not be placed on the ballot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: What's your response?
SCANLAN: Well, I think that's an opinion. And, you know, he's basing that opinion on the information that he has. But again, as the Secretary of State of New Hampshire, I am not privy to all of the facts that apply to the situation in this case.
And there would have to be some adjudication of those facts in the court and probably Supreme Court of the United States to determine whether somebody is disqualified because of a 14th Amendment issue.
BASH: Is it your expectation that that is going to happen, that this is going to be adjudicated by the court?
SCANLAN: It could very well be. I mean, New Hampshire has a lawsuit that has been filed to place an injunction on me from putting Trump's name on the ballot. And I know that there are similar activities going on in other states. And it is probably likely that one of those lawsuits will filter its way up to the Supreme Court.
But it doesn't make sense to me that the delegate nomination process where you have some states that are taking the name off the ballot and other states relieving the name on the ballot --
SCANLAN: -- that will just cause confusion. BASH: Yes. Talk about something that's unprecedented add this question to the list. David Scanlan, the New Hampshire Secretary of State. Hopefully I will see you up there shortly as people start to come and file. Thanks for joining me.
SCANLAN: We look forward to it.
BASH: And a programming note, I will sit down with California Governor Gavin Newsom for a special one-on-one interview on Monday. Tune in to see it at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
Thank you so much for joining INSIDE POLITICS, "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts right now.