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Florida Judge Expected To Set Trial Date In Classified Docs Case; Trump, Special Counsel Jack Smith Both At Today's Florida Hearing; Soon: Hearing To Consider Removing D.A. From Georgia Election Case; Hunter Biden Defiant In Fiery Testimony With Congressional GOP; Haley: "No President Should Ever Be Above The Law"; Trump On Abortion Ban: "I Haven't Agreed To Any Number". Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 01, 2024 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Today on Inside Politics, court is now in session. Donald Trump is at one of his regular campaign stops of courtroom. This time in Florida. But there are actually two critical hearings that could determine if the former president will be on trial smack in the middle of the Republican convention. And we're going to check in on both.

Plus, 15 states, 865 GOP delegates one night. Super Tuesday is just four days away. I'll talk to Nikki Haley about how she'll move forward if Donald Trump runs the table next week. And the age old question. It's dominating the presidential race. This hour seniors in a pivotal swing state weigh in on whether Biden and Trump are both too old for the presidency.

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

First up, the clock is ticking just the way Donald Trump wants it. The former president is inside a federal courtroom right now as his lawyers pushed to delay a trial in his classified documents criminal case until after the November election.

CNN's Paula Reid is outside that courthouse in Fort Pierce, Florida. Paula, what's happening inside?

PAULA REID, CNN, CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: So, Dana, this hearing has been underway for about two hours now. And we've learned that the Judge Aileen Cannon, who's overseeing this case. She has been pressing lawyers from the special counsel's office and Trump's defense team about this issue of scheduling, pressing them both on their suggested start dates.

And the special counsel has said that they'd be OK with starting this trial in July, early in the month July 8. And Trump lawyers have though insisted that this should not go before the November election. They've said it would be quote, unfair to the American people and their client if he was in a courtroom instead of campaigning.

Now, we just got some news out of court. If you're wondering why I'm holding up a piece of notebook paper. We are not allowed to send any information from inside the court. So, we are relying on a team of our reporters inside who watch the proceedings, take detailed notes, and then they run down those stairs across four lanes of traffic and deliver us this news.

And this is a really significant development that we just got. Because there have been a lot of questions about how close to the election the Justice Department would be willing to take this case to trial. Historically, the Justice Department has had a policy of not taking significant investigative steps that could impact an election any closer than 60 days out of an election.

And they've been questions about whether that applied to trials and setting a trial date. Our colleague Evan Perez pressed the attorney general on that several months ago and he declined to answer. Well, the prosecutors gave us a very clear answer a few moments ago.

One of the special counsel prosecutors Jay Bratt, said that policy does not apply to setting a trial date. He said, quote, we are in full compliance of that policy that it does not apply to trial dates. So, this suggests that the special counsel would be open to bringing this to trial even as late as September or October. That is significant. But now again, all eyes are on the judge to see where she places this on that increasingly crowded calendar.

BASH: Do you have any sense -- and I know maybe this is a tough question to ask you. But I know you're in constant contact with our great team inside. Do you have any sense right now based on what you're hearing from the judge and how these arguments have been going for two hours of what she might want to do?

REID: Yeah. So based on these notes, the quotes we're getting from the judge, it doesn't look great for the special counsel to get their July 8 date, because she suggested that there were aspects of that that were quote, unreasonable. She also talked interestingly about Trump's upcoming criminal trial in New York.

He's currently scheduled to go to trial, the hush money case, which is being framed as an election interference case on March 25. That'll go about six weeks. Dana, as she said, that has to be taken into consideration because Trump has a right to attend hearings in this case. So, it's not looking great for the special counsel, but we're looking to see what she does.

BASH: Really interesting. Please tell our colleagues to be careful with four lanes of traffic. I'm watching it behind you, it looks really intense. Thank you for that great reporting. Here with me now to continue this conversation is Shan Wu, a former federal prosecutor, and Jeff Swartz. He's a former federal judge. He is in the state of Florida.


You're in Florida, I want to start with you, Judge Swartz. What is your takeaway from what -- first of all what Paula just reported about how things seem to be going in that hearing so far? JEFF SWARTZ, FORMER FLORIDA JUDGE: Well, welcome. And thanks for having me. Well, for the notes that we've heard from before that I've been following the reports that have been coming out. Clearly, they're not going to get a July 8 date. And I would have -- I'm not going to hesitate to say that Trump has to be careful because he might get what he's asking for which would open up trial dates for Chutkan after the Supreme Court comes back.

So, he needs to get something in late August, early September, to kind of interfere with that set -- that trial being set then. However, I think the Jack has a backup plan for that. And I think that -- I think that he'll get what he wants from Chutkan.

BASH: Which is?

SWARTZ: Probably sometime in late July, early August. I anticipate Supreme Court will wait until the very end of the term to issue their opinion. And I think that he's got a plan to avoid whatever Judge Cannon does.

BASH: OK. So, this is -- I know there is a lot because there's so many cases out there. Shan, I'm going to bring you in. You're talking about -- you're talking about the federal election subversion case in that particular comment.

SWARTZ: That's correct.

BASH: OK. Just wanted to make sure. Yeah. Just wanted to guide our viewers along here.

SWARTZ: That's what I'm talking about.

BASH: Yeah. OK. Thanks. Shan, I don't want to lose sight of the news that Paula just brought us, which is that Jack Smith's team said that they don't believe that the guidelines -- it's not a policy, certainly isn't a law in DOJ that you shouldn't bring charges against somebody who's running for office 60 days before that election. Does not apply here when it comes to the trial. It's maybe not a surprise, given the fact that they brought these charges months ago, but certainly significant to hear it in a court of law.

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes. And as you said, it's not that much of a surprise because the actual strict reading of that policy, it's not some law or something. Is really not to do anything, which is like opening an investigation, executing a search warrant. But it's fuzzy.

We talked about it within 60 days. We're not really sure if it's 60 days. But it's the idea that you don't want to do something which could really have a big effect on the election too close to it. So and he's technically correct because we're not talking about starting something, we're talking about simply setting the trial date.

I have to say, Merrick Garland has been very hands off with this. Sometimes I think to the detriment of the integrity of the case and the speed. He might lay in. If you're really talking about -- Jack Smith says, hey, I'm ready to go two weeks before the election. Garland might say, you know, that just looks bad for us. So, there's still some possibility that it might happen, even despite what Jay Bratt saying.

BASH: I heard you saying, uh, huh, Judge. I'm guessing if Merrick Garland did that and we're obviously talking hypotheticals here. There would be just a little bit of blowback from people in his party.

SWARTZ: There'd be a lot of blow back. There'd be a lot of blow back. I think that if they tried to start sometime in September, knowing they'd be finished in October. I think that would be OK. Anything that would carry the case beyond Election Day, that's going to be a problem. And I think that Merrick Garland will have to step in and say the policy applies.

BASH: But let's kind of broaden this out a little bit. And just to give our viewers a sense, so they can look at some of what we're talking about on a calendar. First, let's just start with later what is now this month, we're in March. If March 25, that's when a totally different trial, the New York criminal trial starts that has to do with out -- that's the Alvin Bragg case.

Then the week of April 22, that is going to be a big one. That's when the Supreme Court does hear the immunity case. And then you go to the end of June, that is when the Supreme Court typically recesses. So, we'll probably hear from them before that. And then you have, you know, July, that's the request for the start of the documents case. We're going to see how this trial and this hearing in Florida pans out today.

Remember, July 15, that's the RNC, that's the Republican National Convention. And then about a month later, that's when the former president wants to start the documents case. If you are dizzy looking at this, that's kind of the point. And I know you are both, you know, our legal experts. But I think we have to keep in mind here on Inside Politics that all of the delay tactics that Donald Trump's lawyers are employing are very much tied in with his political strategy. Shan?


WU: Yeah. And I think it's worked very well for him, particularly, the great culmination of that form is in the Supreme Court's delay here. Even though they can say that they're moving on expedited basis. It still has his effect of pushing everything very far off.

And when you look at that calendar, I mean you can really see what the judge was referring to, which is if Jack Smith tries to find a path for the federal cases, it's a very narrow path. Everything has to go exactly right. There can't be any winds that blow them off course, and Judge Aileen Cannon has in the past proven to be a pretty good wind.

BASH: Jeff Swartz, I just want to quickly before I let you go to look up a little bit northwest of where you are into Georgia. And what is your sense of what's going to happen because we are waiting for a hearing to start there on the question of whether Fani Willis will remain the lead prosecutor, the D.A. in Georgia will remain on the case against Donald Trump there.

SWARTZ: I think the only thing that's going to stand in the way of her staying on that case is going to be whether the judge feels that she and her lead prosecutor were deceptive and or committed perjury at the time that they testified. Other than that, I don't see any conflict of interest. It would call for her to be thrown off the case.

The fact that she may have had a relationship with someone she works with is not a basis to throw her and him off of the case and say they can't prosecute Donald Trump. That's not a conflict with Donald Trump and the other defendants. So, I think that's what's going to happen.

BASH: Thank you both for trying to make sense of what is very, very difficult to follow. But so incredibly important. I appreciate it. And coming up, what a week in politics. The 2024 of it all. And also, behind closed doors, Hunter Biden finally gets to tell Republicans going after him, how he really feels and vice versa.




BASH: Between court hearings, deposition transcripts and the former president wading into the abortion debate. There is a lot of politics to digest as we close out this week. And we're just talking about things that happened in the last 24 hours.

Joining me to do all of that is my great panel of reporters, CNN's MJ Lee, Aaron Blake of The Washington Post, and Margaret Talev of Axios. Nice to see you all. As I like to say Happy Friday to those who celebrate.

Let's just start with what I was talking about in the last block with just -- not just what's happening in Florida today, which is a procedural but very important political hearing, because it's going to determine the building blocks of the timeline for what he is going to have to face and what he isn't going into the fall.

But also, just the idea that with the Supreme Court, and perhaps what's going to happen in Florida. Things seem to be breaking Donald Trump's way -- in a big way, when it comes to his ultimate goal, which is delay, delay, delay.

MJ LEE, CNN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Delay, delay, delay has been Donald Trump's overarching strategy. If you can call it that. The ironic thing, of course, is that he has -- you know, railed against this legal system that is corrupt and is working against him and, you know, delving into sort of the conspiracy theory land many times.

But yeah, the truth of the matter is, we have seen a number of developments where that delaying tactic has definitely broken his way. We are now in a situation where we're not going to have some of these key decisions for months and months. And we know from public polling that, yes, there are people who would be really concerned if he ended up being convicted and that could sway their decision. But there's still a good segment of his base, but just doesn't care. You know, they don't care what ends up happening in the legal system. They're going to be behind them no matter what.

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, AXIOS: I think one of the questions here has always been, is the final outcome of the indictments, the criminal case, as well as the civil cases isn't going to be determined by the courts. Or is it going to be determined by the voters?

BASH: Yes.

TALEV: At this moment, it certainly looks like the voters are more likely to get the definitive crack at this before the courts do. And that is going to change a lot of the dynamics in those closing months of the campaign. It's going to be on the President Biden and his team to try to make a political case about turnout. His problem right now is not Democrats running towards Donald Trump. It's democratic apathy about -- and centrist apathy about turning out at all.

And then if we slide into November and all of this is still up in the air, there's going to be a number of conversations we haven't even begun to have yet about -- is Biden thinking about a pardon. What would happen if Trump won? What happens next? But the bottom line is right now, if you thought that the courts are going to weigh in firmly and solidly and dictate what happens after Labor Day, it does not look like -- that's on track.

BASH: And one of the things that we did see, and I don't want to do a total RIP to the Republican effort in the House to impeach Joe Biden, but it certainly didn't get any fuel from Hunter Biden. And the fact that he was on Capitol Hill this week. And there's just a lot of amazing insight that we can get into reading the transcript that Hunter Biden's lawyers demanded become public.

One of the things that I find most interesting is his exchange with Matt Gaetz and this behind closed doors, but obviously on the record hearing. I'm going to read some of it.

GAETZ: Were you on drugs when you were on the Burisma board?

H. BIDEN: Mr. Gaetz, look me in the eye. You really think that's appropriate to ask me?

GAETZ: Absolutely.

H. BIDEN: Of all the people sitting around this table, do you think that's appropriate to ask me?

GAETZ: Yeah. Are you going to answer it?

H. BIDEN: I'm sorry I'm an addict. I was an addict. I have been in recovery for over four years and a half years now, Mr. Gaetz. I work really, really hard at it. Let me answer. I work really hard at it, under enormous amount of pressure. Was I an addict. Yes, I was an addict. What does that have to do with whether or not you're going to go forward with impeachment of my father other than simply try to embarrass me.


BASH: I feel like that sums up the whole many hours of it all.

AARON BLAKE, AUTHOR, THE CAMPAIGN MOMENT NEWSLETTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: If you look at the transcript, one thing that really comes through is that, you know, we were talking for months about whether Hunter Biden was ultimately going to testify. He balked at it for a little while. Eventually this happened behind closed doors.

It does seem like there was a prepared kind of, you know, route to go with all these different things that Republicans have been airing publicly. So, they kind of knew what was going to be thrown at him and they were ready for it.

Congressman Andy Biggs was asked about this yesterday. And he basically said, look, he had a response for everything. And I think what this transcript kind of reinforces is that Republicans have kind of been pulling in all these threads. They have, you know, this little piece of evidence that they think is something here -- this little piece there.

And the process of kind of airing that publicly has allowed the people who are testifying this to know what's coming at them. And in this case, there doesn't seem to be kind of that one thing that actually move the ball forward for Republicans. And this comes at a time when a lot of them are kind of getting pretty skittish about actually doing the impeachment.

BASH: Guys, thank you. We're going to have to take a quick break. Coming up with four days until Super Tuesday. Nikki Haley will be here in studio. Stay tuned.




BASH: We are just four days away from Super Tuesday when GOP voters in 15 states will pick a nominee. The last person standing in the race against Donald Trump is Nikki Haley. She hasn't won a contest yet. But today she announced she raised $12 million in February.

Joining me now is Governor Haley. Thank you so much. It's great to see you in studio. I want to start with what's happening with Donald Trump today. He's back in Florida for one of the federal cases against him. Meanwhile, another the January 6 case.

The Supreme Court announced this week that it would hear arguments in April about whether or not he will get his push for immunity. So, this means that there's a very good chance that the trial -- if it does go forward won't happen until -- either right before or even during -- maybe even after the election. Should the Supreme Court expedite this?

NIKKI HALEY (R) 2024 GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think the Supreme Court should hear it because we do want to look at immunity. No president should ever be above the law. And you know, we've never really had to clarify this before. And I think it's important for the Supreme Court to clarify.

You know, would we like to see things go faster? Of course, we would. But do you think the judges and the lawyers are going to have that happen? I don't know. I mean, it could be that it takes a while. But I'm just glad that they're hearing. And I think that's important.

BASH: Is it important for voters to know how this trial and others wrap up before they go to the polls?

HALEY: Of course, of course. I mean, they're -- you know, you want people to have as much information about the people they're deciding will be president before they go to the polls. You know, that's the part that -- you know, we all should hope to have. I don't know that we'll have that clarity. But I think that that's something that voters would want.

BASH: Let's turn to abortion, because I want you to hear what the former president said last night about this issue.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: More and more, I'm hearing about 15 weeks, and I haven't decided yet. The number 15 is mentioned. I haven't agreed to any number. I'm going to see. We want to take an issue that was very polarizing and get it settled and solve, so everybody can be happy.


BASH: You've said repeatedly that you don't think a federal abortion ban is possible because of where the votes are. But should it be GOP policy? And what are your thoughts on what he said?

HALEY: I mean, look, you can put a number on it. But I think that's the problem. That's the problem because all that does is divide people and demonizes the issue. It gets people's backs up. That's the wrong way to look at how do you save as many babies as possible and support as many moms as possible. The only thing we should be talking about is consensus is what can 60 members of the Senate agree on.

BASH: Is that 15-week?

HALEY: I don't think it's 15 weeks. I don't -- if it was, you'd have it now. You don't have it now. And so that's the part is why talk about a number. Instead get the senators in a room and say, OK, where does 60 agree? That's the way we need to do it.

In order to find that consensus, the focus needs to be banning late term abortions, encouraging adoptions and making sure doctors and nurses who don't believe in abortion shouldn't have to perform them, having contraception be accessible, and making sure no state law says to a woman who's had an abortion that she's going to jail or getting the death penalty. Just start there.

The fellas just don't know how to talk about this. They've got to humanize this issue and stop demonizing it. This isn't about a number. This is about babies and women and a personal situation that they are in. And it should be handled with that kind of respect, not just throwing out numbers and then expecting people to choose.

BASH: I want to switch a little bit -- actually a lot to the issue of IVF. Earlier this week, Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi blocked a bill that would have been shrined federal protections for IVF and doctors who perform those procedures. Do you think there should be federal protections for IVF?

HALEY: I think we want IVF to be as accessible as possible to parents who are wanting those blessings of having a baby. I don't know the details of any of the bills. So, I can't weigh into that. But what I can tell you is, we don't want to take that away from parents who desperately want to have a child.

Michael and I got our children from fertility processes. We need to make sure that those are available that they're protected, that it's personal and that the whole situation is dealt with respect.