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Trump In Court For Closed Hearing On Classified Documents Case; Trump: I Wouldn't Necessarily Protect NATO Allies From Russia; Sen. Rubio: I Have "Zero Concern" About Trump's NATO Threat; European Leaders Say Trump Comments Put Allies At Risk; GOP Rep. Mike Gallagher Announces Retirement; Pro-RFK Jr. Super Pac Buys $7 Million Super Bowl Ad; Biden Campaign Joins TikTok To Connect With Young Voters; Tom Suozzi Makes His Case In Critical NY Special Election. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 12, 2024 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Today on Inside Politics, another day, another courtroom. Donald Trump and his lawyers are behind closed doors right now meeting with the judge in his classified documents case. This says the GOP frontrunner faces criticism on both sides of the Atlantic for threatening to throw NATO allies to the wolves.

Plus, a Kennedy family feud. RFK Jr. is apologizing to his estranged relatives for a Super Bowl spot that copies a famous 1960 campaign ad from his uncle, John F. Kennedy. Apologizing even though it's still pinned to the top of his social media feed.

And George Santos 2.0. That's how the Democrat trying to replace the disgraced former congressman is describing his Republican opponent now and especial election critical to the House GOP is already narrow majority. I spoke to both candidates on the ballot in New York's 3rd District. Those interviews are coming up.

I'm Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at Inside Politics.

We start in Florida where Donald Trump is at a closed-door hearing for his classified documents case. The issue, whether Trump's team can get access to highly classified evidence as the clock ticks down to a potential trial date.

CNN's Evan Perez is there. Evan, give our viewers a sense of what the significance is of this particular day in court for Donald Trump?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN, SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, this is all about the classified documents and the current classified documents that are relevant to Donald Trump's trial. Right now, that trial is set for May, but it is unclear whether that date holds. Right now, what the Trump -- Mr. -- the former president and his lawyers are doing is meeting with the judge, discussing some of the documents that are at issue. In some cases, the Special Counsel Jack Smith is arguing that they should not be allowed to see the documents themselves. They should be able to see only summaries of some of those documents. Also looking for some of the access to some of those documents is the defendant Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, the codefendants of the former president.

Again, this is a hearing that has been going on for about three hours. We expect that the former president is going to be in there for another hour or so before the special counsel, the government get their turn to meet with the judge and make their arguments for continuing to restrict the access of some of these documents.

Again, we're talking about some of the most classified highly sensitive documents. In some cases, they're only able to look at them in a special room that's designed for classified documents here in the courthouse behind me, Dana?

BASH: So, Evan, while that's happening there, there is another very important move in a critical case here in Washington. And that is the deadline for Trump's legal team to file an appeal at the Supreme Court in his immunity case.

PEREZ: Right, exactly. And what the former president has to do is simply tell the Supreme Court that he is appealing that ruling from the federal appeals court in Washington, and that will buy him additional time now what he's trying to do is prevent this case from going back. Two, the judge who's overseeing it. This is the January 6 case. That judge is prepared to proceed to trial.

Right now, we don't know whether the -- you know, when she will reschedule it. It was supposed to start in early March. But you know, if the former president files as we expect, he will in the next few hours. That'll buy him additional time because then the Supreme Court will signal that they'll hear his appeal, and that could then buy him additional time, Dana?

BASH: Evan, thank you so much for that reporting. Appreciate it. The other big Trump story is blowback over comments he made over the weekend about America's NATO allies. He told this story about a warning he says he gave to an American ally in Europe about NATO nations who don't spend enough on defense.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the presidents of a big country stood up said, well sir, if we don't pay and we're attacked by Russia, will you protect us? I said you didn't pay your delinquent. He said, yes. Let's say that happened. No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want.


[12:05:00] BASH: My panel joins me now CNN's David Chalian, Seung Min Kim of the Associated Press and CNN's Jim Sciutto, who is the author of the upcoming book The Return of Great Powers: Russia, China, and the Next World War. I do not know. Do you just not sleep? So, I want to talk about the domestic politics, of course.

But let's start with you and the geopolitics. And I want to read something that Peter Baker wrote in the New York Times. The scorn for NATO that Mr. Trump expresses is based on a false premise that he is repeated for years even after being corrected, a sign that he is either incapable of processing information that conflicts with an idea fixed in his head. Or willing to distort facts to suit his preferred dispute, rather his preferred narrative. What are you hearing from sources globally about the impact of this?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: They take this very seriously. As do his own former senior advisors, the idea that this is just sort of the national security equivalent of locker room talk is not based in reality because he has a record as president. And while he was president, he undermined NATO.

In 2018 at the NATO Summit, he nearly took the U.S. out of NATO. He reduced the U.S. force presence in Germany, kind of as a broadside to NATO is one of his last acts as commander in chief. And made other public pronouncements which do undermine confidence of allies and adversaries in U.S. mutual defense agreements and not just as relate to NATO, but even to South Korea, and Japan and Taiwan.

So, the idea that offense you heard from someone like a Senator Marco Rubio, that this is just talk belies his actual actions as president. And when you speak to his advisers about what's to come in a potential second Trump term as they believe he would take even more concrete action up to and including formally withdrawing from NATO.

BASH: Wow. I mean, that's a very big statement. You mentioned Marco Rubio. So, let's listen to some of what the senator who -- we should remind our viewers was a very critical opponent of Donald Trump. He also ran for president back in 2016, has since been on the Trump bandwagon has endorsed Trump this time around. Listen to what he told Jake.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): Donald Trump was president, and he didn't pull us out of NATO. In fact, American troops are stationed throughout Europe. He's not the first American president. In fact, virtually every American president at some point in some way has complained about other countries in NATO not doing enough. You know, Trump's just the first one to express it in these terms.


BASH: The other thing I should add to his resume for our viewers to understand is that he's a senior member of the Intelligence Committee as well, not to mention a big voice on foreign policy. So that's critical context for him just writing off what Trump said. DAVID CHALIAN, CNN, POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah. I mean -- to Jim's point, it makes perfect sense to me that our allies around the world would hear his retelling of the story that he told this weekend. And be concerned that it is a window and when he's thinking of what he wants to do in a second term.

And yet, it can also be perhaps not locker room talk. But it is classic Donald Trump. In fact, I don't know what new we learned in Trump's comments this weekend. His threat to pull out of NATO, he's constantly admonishing some of our closest allies, that they're not doing enough to lift up their end of the bargain.

As you noted through his presidency, this was a hallmark of his and it is not the first time he does this on the campaign trail. So, I look at this to sort of say Donald Trump offers a classic kind of like -- bit of his thinking that is designed to express to get outrage expressed by his opponents, by people in the press that then he feeds off of that outrage to court support from his base of support.

SCIUTTO: It's the first time though, he said Russia go ahead and attack allies -- that is different.

CHALIAN: Yes. But he was saying about the past. I'm not excusing what I'm saying. I'm just saying, let's just be clear. I get that there's a new word in there. But this -- this should not surprise anyone of how Donald Trump perceives this NATO alliance. I think it's been clear for quite some time.

BASH: Yeah. No, that is very true. And I think this sort of all goes under the umbrella. First, Kristen Holmes, who covers him every single day. Mentioned this morning that this is the classic Trump strongman argument, and it really very much appeals to his base.

But also the way that we need to be approaching Donald Trump now and in the future, which is, we can be shocked but not surprised because we have heard versions of this before, which leads to the next point that he made -- that caused some ripples over the weekend when she was making fun of Nikki Haley who is still in the race of the fact that her husband is not around.


Her husband is around because he's deployed. He is in the horn of Africa right now, serving America. She was on -- this morning she was on Fox. Listen to what she said about that and then the broader discussion about NATO.


NIKKI HALEY (R) 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You look at Trump, he goes off script from a teleprompter for two minutes. And he criticizes the military, mocks my husband. But he also goes and takes the side of Putin and NATO and says that he would actually encourage Putin to invade our allies. Anybody that excuses what he continues to say against the Military is hugely mistaken, because this is going to be the President of the United States. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, just the comments about major Haley that Donald Trump made is just another in the category that you've mentioned, of shocked but not surprised. We know that when Donald Trump has seen, you know, members of the military who served our country proudly.

When he seen them as a political opponent, he has disparaged them in very rude ways. I will never forget what he said about John McCain. I don't think any of us will. And I think that -- it is just a constant fixture of him that again doesn't surprise us anymore. But that isn't any less shocking at this point. And also, her point our NATO.

I'm just kind of going back to our discussion with what Senator Rubio said it's just this. There was a time when there was -- it was always kind of small but there was a vocal segment of Republican particularly elected officials, who had been able to speak out forcefully against Trump, whether it's on his actions on his words But -- that particularly on Capitol Hill, particularly in elected office is diminishing. And I think that is why -- that is one of the reasons why Donald Trump has been able to stay so strong ahead of the party. He's just kind of beaten everyone down.

BASH: Well, let me just switch and sort of use that comment that you made to talk for a moment about Mike Gallagher, Republican congressman from Wisconsin young, sort of considered a bright light, very, very focused on China. In fact, he's the chair of the special committee on China. He said this weekend, he's gone. He's retiring. He said electoral politics was never supposed to be a career, and trust me, Congress has no place to grow old. And he goes on from there.

He voted against his party this past week, against impeaching Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary. And so, it's not as if he hasn't been supportive of Donald Trump. He's not like a never Trumper. But it is another example of somebody who used to be the future of the Republican Party saying, I'm out of here. I don't have a place in this party.

SCIUTTO: And also, it's a dying breed that's willing to go out and say in public criticism that they know they might pay a political price for that. By the way, I will speak to Republicans on Capitol Hill, who knows these national security issues and will say in private, Trump is wrong on this, but will not say that in public. And the handful that would say in public are few and far between becoming fewer and farther between.

CHALIAN: And you know, when we just heard Nikki Haley say that nobody should excuse his disparaging remarks on the military. Just want to remind folks, she has sworn to support Donald Trump. She is going to be a Trump supporter when he's the nominee of the party. She raised her hand and said she would do so even if he's a convicted criminal.

So, while she's arguing to Republican voters, you can understand why it might be hard for her -- for folks that are not already with her to make a convincing case that her criticism is legitimate when they know she's going to be with them in November.

BASH: Important point always to keep reminding our viewers. Up next. The Super PAC supporting independent candidate. Robert Kennedy Jr. spent $7 million on a Super Bowl ad, cut to look just like his uncle's famous spot. The Kennedy clan is not happy. We'll explain next.




BASH: Last night Super Bowl had a little bit something for everyone. There was of course, the football with the Kansas City Chiefs winning a nail biter in overtime. Their second straight Super Bowl and third in five years. There was of course, the Taylor Swift of it all, celebrating her boyfriend Travis Kelce second straight championship. And it was a big night for music fans.

Usher's blockbuster halftime performance and Beyonce announcing her brand new album. And of course, there were politics too. My great panel is here to discuss all of this, but mostly the politics of it. Let's talk about the ad that I don't think any of us saw coming. An ad by a Super PAC supporting RFK Jr. who is a independent candidate running for president. Watch this?


BASH: Now for our more mature viewers that might look a little bit familiar. And the reason is because it's almost identical to the famous spot by his uncle John F. Kennedy in 1960. Watch?


BASH: Almost identical. The Kennedy clan many of his cousins did not like that. And after that RFK Jr. apologized. He said, I'm so sorry if the Super Bowl advertisement cause anyone in my family pain. The ad was created an aired by American values Super PAC without any involvement or approval from my campaign. FEC rules prohibit Super PACs from consulting with me or my staff. I love you all. God bless.


I should say that the America's values pack is supported by a longtime Trump donor whose name is Tim Mellon. I should also note as you said this morning that he's apologizing, but if you look at his social media feed, RFK, Jr. has this Super PAC ad pinned to the top of it.

CHALIAN: Yeah. Clearly, he hopes people will see it.

BASH: Yes.

CHALIAN: It is also amazing when you think about the uphill climb for third party candidates in this country, that there is a supportive Super PAC willing to spend $7 million on a Super Bowl ad for Kennedy's been here, right? That to me is in itself astonishing. Nevermind, the shot for shot trying to -- sort of make himself into his uncle. We should note, you said his cousins, many people in his family came out oppose this. They are also totally opposed to his candidacy from the get go.

BASH: That's right. I mean, that's an important point. They're very much pro Biden. And they do not like that he is running primarily because of the fact that, if you look at the polls and you see kind of how this could go down, he could take significant votes away from Joe Biden, which is why I wanted to mention the big donor for the Super PAC is pro Trump.

So, it's not as if -- I'm not saying that Tim Mellon doesn't love RFK Jr. But it also should be noted that he also liked Donald Trump and there may be a game of chess going on here.

MIN KIM: Right. A three-dimensional chess, certainly because if you're a voter, just turning into the Super Bowl, you haven't followed politics for the last several months, which we -- none of us here at the table blame you at all. You would think -- you would just feel that nostalgia, watching that campaign ad, think Kennedy Democrat and just give RFK potentially a second look or a third look.

But if you look -- if we just think of the fact that certainly that could siphon away votes from Biden in key states should RFK make the ballot. And we should point out he's only on the ballot in the state of Utah so far, that could certainly hurt President Biden's reelection chances.

And I think with President Trump or former President Donald Trump, he has a certain sort of ceiling. He can go with voters. So, a lot of their tactic is to take away voters that would otherwise support Biden and it's hard to see that ad not being a part of that tactic.

BASH: I want to turn -- since we have our China expert here to Joe Biden and TikTok. He joined TikTok. Let's listen to and watch part of what he said in his first tick tock post.


BASH: OK. First of all, that is funny. That is his kind of leaning into the whole conspiracy that it's the deep state that is pushing for Taylor Swift's boyfriend to win the Super Bowl. But what about the notion of him being on Tik Tok it which of course, his government says is a national security risk because of China for four years,

SCIUTTO: For years, folks I know in the intelligence world have told me just personally don't go on TikTok. It is a massive Chinese data gathering operation right, and don't have your children go on TikTok. I've heard that for years. And you've heard the public pronouncements of the connections and how exactly this could work. So, it's not insignificant that the president basically making a political calculation here that this is a great way to get in touch with young voters. He's on TikTok.

Now, of course, I'm sure he has all the security measures necessary, so that they're not stealing data from him by the fact that he has a -- you know, a campaign account on there. But in terms of messaging to the American people saying this is a threat, but by the way, you might see a few campaign (Inaudible) is notable.

BASH: And I'm glad you said that because I want to underscore. This is Joe Biden's campaign. The federal government isn't allowed to have TikTok.

CHALIAN: He's not posting from his ---

SCIUTTO: True. But in terms of public messaging, it's a notable cognitive dissonance (Inaudible)

BASH: All right, thanks. Great discussion. Appreciate it. Up next. Voters on Long Island head to the polls tomorrow for the first big election of 2024. Who will replace George Santos in the House. I went to Long Island to cover the race. My interviews with both candidates, next.




BASH: The political world is in a New York state of mind. Just hours from now, polls open in a New York special election that could have major implications for the rest of the country. Former Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi and Republican Mazi Pilip are duking it out in a very expensive race to fill George Santos's old seat.

How expensive? More than $21 million spent on campaign ads alone. I went to Long Island to spend time with both candidates. Here's part of my conversation with Democrat Tom Suozzi who held the seat for two terms but left for an unsuccessful bid for New York governor.


BASH: Why do you want to go back to Congress?

TOM SUOZZI, (D) NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: You know, our country is in a lot of trouble. And I feel like I have got a unique set of skills that can help during this difficult time. I think the biggest problem we're facing in the country, in addition to all the issues like immigration, and for me the state and local tax deduction, a whole bunch of other stuff is the country is so divided.

And I focused a lot of my career not just in Congress, but before that, I'm working across party lines to get things done. And I built a lot of relationships, certainly with the Democrats, but also with a lot of Republicans.