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Judge Dismisses Some Counts Against Trump In Georgia Case; Wisconsin Voter: Biden's State Of The Union "Energized Me" To Vote For Him; Biden, Trump Clinch Nominations To Set Up White House Rematch; Haley Won 77,000+ Votes In Georgia Primary After Dropping Out; Speaker Johnson Urges Senate To Pass Bill That Could Ban TikTok; Progressive Dems And GOP's Hard Right Join In Opposing TikTok Ban; TikTok Seeks Steep Increase In Users Getting News From App. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 13, 2024 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, a judge dismissed some of the charges against Donald Trump in the Georgia election case, including one related to that infamous call where Trump asked Georgia secretary of state to find thousands of votes. We're following all the breaking details from the ruling.

Plus, game set rematch. Joe Biden and Donald Trump officially clinched their party nominations. Last night setting up the longest general election campaign in American history and exposing serious warning signs for both candidates.

And TikTok. Will Congress shut it down? The House just passed a bill that bans the popular social media app unless the Chinese owner sells it. Xi Jinping government is now warning the move will quote backfire on the U.S.

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

First up, the breaking news out of Georgia. A judge in Fulton County just tossed out six of the 41 charges against Donald Trump and his co- defendants in the state's election racketeering case. This as we're standing by for a ruling on whether the D.A. spearheading the case will remain in charge or be thrown out because of ethics allegations.

CNN's Nick Valencia is following all these developments. Nick?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN, CORRESPONDENT: Dana, this is a big win for the defendants in this case, including the former president. This 41-count indictment, six of these charges have now been thrown out. Those charges having to deal with a solicitation of a violation of an oath of office by a public official.

The presiding judge in this case Scott McAfee saying that the D.A.'s office failed to provide enough details about what the violation would be, and the alleged crime would be that these defendants were allegedly soliciting. And this is what he's saying in part of his ruling. Quote, the courts concern is less than the state has failed to allege sufficient conduct of the defendants. In fact, it has alleged in abundance. However, the lack of detail concerning an essential legal element is in the undersigned's opinion fatal.

We should point out though, that Judge McAfee did leave the window open for a potential appeal. And said that once those details are fixed by the district attorney's office, they can reindict. But in the immediate, this is being celebrated by Trump's attorney. Here in this case, Steve Sadow saying that this is an indication that the entire indictment should be dismissed.

Now we don't want to confuse our viewers here. We are still waiting for Judge McAfee's decision as to whether he's going to remove Fani Willis from prosecuting this case. He did mention in a recent interview with WSB radio in Atlanta that he's going to have his decision by the end of this week.

It's something that he reiterated to us in a chance encounter earlier. Our supervising producer Jason Morris ran into Scott McAfee outside of the steps of the courthouse where he did reiterate to CNN that he plans to have a decision on the timeline that he has given himself. Dana?

BASH: OK. Nick, thanks so much for that reporting. Moments ago, we heard here in Washington from Congressman Jamie Raskin, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee whose says he's not concerned about the judges' partial dismissal, rather. Listen?


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): That to me is a reflection of the rule of law. I mean, without opining on the specific dismissal, I mean, I don't get upset when Trump's team wins a motion in civil or criminal court. That is the rule of law in the justice system.


BASH: I want to bring in former U.S. attorney and CNN legal analyst Michael Moore. Thanks for joining me from Georgia. What's your reaction to the ruling?

MICHAEL MOORE, CNN, LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'm glad to be with you. I'm not surprised to see it. I think that the use of a special demurrer, which is really just a challenge to the specificity of an indictment is a normal defense motion that we expect to see fall. And so, this simply is a chance for the court to look -- to see if the state provided an indictment that was perfect in form and substance.

And while that sounds like an impossible task, there are some off ramps that the state can take and some provisions that allow them to move forward. In this case, he simply said, look, you have laid out some allegations about soliciting public officials to violate their oath of office. But you haven't talked about their oath. You haven't talked about the specific violations and how that would impact their oath. [12:05:00]

And so, I'm going to throw those counts out. The state does have the chance to come back and reindict if they choose to. But he also had a footnote sort of gave a preview of what he's thinking. I think about timing. And that is he said, I wouldn't necessarily oppose that the case be immediately appealed to the issue because there's not precedent in this way. That's something that can certainly cause a delay. And I think he's expecting that.

So, it's a win for the defense team today. Cases like this, often die, the death of thousand cuts. And I'm not suggested that this case is there -- this indictment is going to be dismissed in total. But it's the -- these little learning mix, these little chops that take the tree down, and we see that at least six of the counts today, while the state has a chance to clean it up that those counts are gone as of right now.

BASH: One of those counts, Michael, was related to that infamous phone call on January 2, 2021. When then President Trump called the secretary of state in Georgia, Brad Raffensperger. Let's listen?


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (voiceover): All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have because we won the state.


BASH: Just to be clear, there is another charge related to that call that is still standing. But what is your rate of the dismissal of one of them? Does it suggest anything about whether that call is the smoking gun that people thought it was when we heard it back, I don't know, three years ago, four years ago, almost?

MOORE: Yeah. Well, I think the case could have been brought on that one can't alone. And that is his telephone call. And we'd be well down the road already through the trial and moving forward. But the dismissal of this count simply talks about as it relates to the solicitation of the secretary of state to commit a violation of his oath of office.

Well, I think what the court is looking for is the state to say the secretary of state's oath is x. It's spelled out in the constitution. It's spelled out in the statute. One of those provisions is that you have to support and defend the constitution both of the United States and the state of Georgia. Clearly, the right of people to vote and to have those votes counted as something that would be under the oath and considered the oath fair state.

So, I feel like they can clean it up if they choose to. But again, this demurrer -- and I don't want people to think this is the end of the case. It certainly is not. Plenty of chances for the state to go back if they want to reapply (Ph). But this demurrer is a tool that defense attorney use -- defense attorneys use. When you have a complex indictment, you have compound charges under one count of the indictment, complex allegations and compound allegations.

And so, at least as it related to these, it tells us the judge read very carefully the indictment -- consider very carefully the arguments that have looked at the specific warnings of the Georgia statute. And that's why we're -- that's why we're here today.

BASH: Those are -- first of all, thank you so much for putting all of that into context and perspective and explaining a lot of we just -- what we just saw because it is detailed, and it is complex. Michael, thank you. Good to see you.

MOORE: Good to seeing you. Thank you.

BASH: Now I'll turn the page moment. That's how the Biden campaign is describing the president securing the Democratic nomination effectively. So just hours after former Special Counsel Robert Hur testified on Capitol Hill about Biden's handling of classified documents.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where President Biden will be speaking later today. Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN, CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, the spotlight is shining on Wisconsin, really unlike any other battleground state. Of course, looking ahead to November because this is a very narrow margin. We think back to 2016, when Donald Trump carried the state by about 23,000 votes or so. Four years later, Joe Biden won it by about 21,000.

But not only that, of course, this is the city where Donald Trump will be renominated. The Republicans are holding their national convention here in July. All of this really boils together to make this state critically important, which is why President Biden is coming here. And their first order of business is trying to get some of those Democrats back on board, easing the concern about his fight for a reelection and trying to drum up some excitement.

We caught up with one of those voters LuVerda Martin. Who last year expressed some skepticism about Biden running again. This is what she says now.


LUVERDA MARTIN, WISCONSIN VOTER: I just don't think he gets credit simply because he's not as loud and boisterous about what he is doing. We tend to focus on the negative. We tend to think about what's not happening. What we saw with that state of the union, I am much more confident in his energy level and his health and his motivation and his ability too. He was quite energized and that energize me to be a little bit more motivated about it.


ZELENY: So, the White House certainly hopes that the president's roadshow if you will bring some of those Democratic voters back home, back into their campaign. And then they will start working on the independent voters that will indeed swing this election.


But Dana, there is no doubt this blue wall that Biden flipped from 2016 to 2020 is so critical to his path in November. So, he'll be coming here to Milwaukee later today. He'll be talking about one of his accomplishments, the infrastructure bill.

And specifically, the granularity of that expanding the sixth street corridor, not far from where I'm standing here in downtown Milwaukee -- there's some $36 million, making the point that his accomplishments actually help and benefit local citizens. As you know, Dana, a very divided state here in Wisconsin. It will be for the next eight months to come.

BASH: No question. You are definitely aware where it's at. And that's why the president is going there. I think you're going to be there a lot, Jeff. Appreciate it.

ZELENY: You bet.

BASH: We have an excellent panel here to discuss all of this in more, Jackie Kucinich of The Boston Globe, CNN's Isaac Dovere, and Leigh Ann Caldwell from the Washington Post. Nice to see all of you. Let's stick on the question of -- kind of the beginning of the next eight months. And we kind of said that last week, but now, it's mathematically the case that these two men are going to be their party's nominees.

Just starting on the Democratic side, the question of coming together and of President Biden getting the coalition starting to kind of patch it together and bring people who have been frustrated back home. Ilhan Omar was on CNN last night. And I want you to listen to what she told Abby Phillip.


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN, ANCHOR: If the election were held today, would you vote for Joe Biden? Can you confirm that he would have your vote today?

REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): Of course, democracy is on the line. We are facing down fascism. And I personally know what my life felt like having Trump as the president of this country. And I know what it felt like for my constituents and for people around this country and around the world. We have to do everything that we can to make sure that does not happen to our country again.


BASH: I mean, that's a big moment, Leigh Ann, given the fact that she is a member of the famous squad. She is somebody who has been very critical of the president on lots of things, especially these days on the Israel, Gaza war. She also told Abby that, she sees significant progress on the Biden administration's approach.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: I was not expecting that to be Ilhan Omar's response. When Abby asked her that question, I thought that she was going to say that the president has a lot of work to do. So that is absolutely a big moment for the president. And that is also what he needs, not with just people like Ilhan Omar, but people who are like minded Ilhan Omar who have a lot of concerns with the president.

But as you can see, the president seems to be listening. You saw in a State of the Union address announcements about Gaza. They're trying to open this humanitarian components there. And so, it seems to be the discontent with the president, especially on that issue seems to be seeping in and he's heeding their advice.

BASH: Isaac, you talk to Biden administration -- Biden campaign folks all the time. What should we know about how they're viewing and framing this next phase as they call it turning the corner or however turning the page?

ISAAC DOVERE, CNN, SENIOR REPORTER: Turning the page. Well, look, turning the page is, after this week, which they knew a lot of these pieces were going to be in -- where they landed. The State of the Union, they were gearing up for a long time. The way that that speech went, it's always theatrics of the State of the Union. They were prepared for those theatrics. They felt confident that it was going to give him a reboot in a lot of people's minds. You saw that with the voter in Wisconsin that Jeff was talking to.

Hur testimony yesterday, which seems to have really taken the legs out from that report, and the feeling that there were all these big questions with the president's mental state. So now, if you have a president who seems more energetic, who is not senile or whatever Hur was maybe trying to imply. And they say, look at Donald Trump. Look at what he really is and what it would be.

That's the crux of what Ilhan Omar was saying. It's not just like, oh, I'm feeling good about Joe Biden. She said, I remember what it was for my life when Donald Trump was president. And that -- you know, when it comes to Arab American voters, that's an argument that you will see made of -- yes, there is progress on how the president is approaching Israel and Gaza.

But also remember the Muslim there, remember all these things, right? And we'll see if that is more potent now than it was a couple of months ago when they were trying that out. And Arab Americans were saying, yeah, yeah, that doesn't mean anything to us.

BASH: Let's look at the other side of the ledger, if you will, to Donald Trump. And what some of the results that we saw last night in the primaries, particularly Georgia, tell us a warning sign for him. Nikki Haley got more than 77,000 votes. We were talking just before this about that infamous phone call in Georgia. When he was looking for votes, he lost to Joe Biden in Georgia by fewer than 12,000. 77,000 -- almost 78,000 votes. What kind of red flashing light is that?

[12:15:00] JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: What we saw -- there were some early votes. But the reporting out of Georgia is that a lot of those were protest votes against the former president. And that is -- that is a blinking red light for him. And that's not just in Georgia, we've seen this around the country -- excuse me, that these pockets of support for Nikki Haley.

Even when it was clear, she wasn't going to win, particularly in the suburbs, particularly among women and well-educated voters. That is going to be the hardest thing for the former president to bring those Republicans home because a lot of those folks probably voted for Biden in the last cycle. And as a result, he was not the president.

BASH: Yeah. I mean, you have this sort of the Omar example, which I don't think we can overstate. I think how significant that moment was. I agree with you. And then we have a very different sign on the Republican side. He has -- Trump has eight months to bring those people back. That's a long time.

Everybody standby. Up next. The House just passed a bill that could ban TikTok because of national security concerns. It now heads to the Senate. China isn't happy, neither our millions of young people.




BASH: TikTok on the clock and the party might stop. Congress took a big step this morning toward banning one of the world's most popular apps. The House overwhelmingly passed a bill requiring that TikTok's Chinese parent companies sell it. If they don't, it would be prohibited from app stores in the U.S. Now it goes to the Senate where there appears to be more opposition to it.

Lauren Fox is live on Capitol Hill. I can't stop singing the Kesha song today. Just why we wrote doing it -- the chorus (Ph). No. I always saying I'm going to do America a favor and not sing. Lauren?

LAUREN FOX, CNN, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Dana. Today, this vote was overwhelming. The House voting 352 to 65, 50 Democrats voting no, 15 Republicans voting against it. And those who were supportive of this bill, said it came down to national security for them.

Even as some acknowledged that there were other potential ways to deal with curtailing TikTok's ability to get information on Americans. But there were plenty of members who said that they could not support this. And they warned it could have negative effects for Biden as he tries to pick up young voters on the campaign trail.


REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): I know we're getting plenty of phone calls that young people really love TikTok. And I lift that up. I think that's terrific. But I want to protect them from a foreign adversary collecting their data and manipulating it.

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): I don't know why you want to upset young people and 170 million people on a platform. We need there's at least restrictive ways -- less restrictive ways of achieving the goal.

REP. DAN BISHOP (R-NC): The answer is not to go selectively banning the flow of information from particular nation. The way we defeat China is being more American, not less.


FOX: The next question is where does this go in the United States Senate? Already you have top Republicans and Democrats saying that they want to work to try to get this across the finish line. Mark Warner and Marco Rubio, put out a joint statement saying that they are committed to trying and pass this bill.

You also, though, are hearing some less than committed work from Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who said that they are going to review this legislation once it comes over from the House. He said nothing else. Dana?

BASH: That's very telling. Thank you so much for that reporting. Lauren, appreciate it. My panel is back. And Jackie, during the break you were talking about some reporting you have about this massive lobbying campaign that TikTok engaged in energizing and propelling the people who are on TikTok, users' influencers to call their congressmen.

KUCINICH: Yeah. Last week, when I was going through the Energy and Commerce Committee, you had this onslaught of TikTok users that were calling their members of Congress, so much so that people had to turn off their phones. And they found that a lot of them were kids who were calling people.

And some of the things that they were saying, there were reports, there were kind of disturbing, and it really just sort of -- to some of the holdouts who may have not voted for this. It kind of reinforced what they were worried about, which is the influence that TikTok has in this country, and they backfired.

BASH: That's so interesting. Leigh Ann, you have a story talking about the strange bedfellows that TikTok is bringing together. Let's just look at some of the votes this morning. Those who voted no, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the Democratic side, Andy Biggs on the Republican side, Ilhan Omar on the Democratic side, Marjorie Taylor Greene on the Republican side.

Voting Yes. More strange bedfellows. Nancy Pelosi and Chip Roy of Texas could not be more opposite in terms of their philosophy. Both voting yes. Lauren Boebert and Dan Goldman also polar opposites, voting yes. Bob Good and Hakeem Jeffries, same.

CALDWELL: Yeah. It's one of those issues that brings the left and the right together this weird coalition. And that's what we saw on this vote today. Now, I spoke to a lot of these people yesterday, who were -- who were opposed to this legislation.

Like Lauren said, they think there's other ways to regulate, not calling out a specific company and not forcing a private divesture, and that includes regulating the algorithms that people see on TikTok, or there's a data privacy that protect people's data are other ways to do it.


But these people who voted against it have concerns and there are multiple. They say, it's a free speech issue. They talk about government overreach. And they also say that some of the National Security Intelligence has not been convincing that there is actual threat to users. And they're just aren't convinced. So, there's a wide variety of issues, but it brings the American Conservative Union and the ACLU together in opposition to this bill.

BASH: Yeah. So, the threat is about, you know, getting information from your phone. The other part of the threat -- this is according to national security officials is the sort of chaos that China will use TikTok to stir up, not just societal, but as part of that with elections. Listen to some examples of this from some hearings earlier this week.


REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI, (D-IL): The CCP could again -- just like they did here, use TikTok as a platform to influence 2024 elections, right?

AVRIL HAINES, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We cannot rule out that the CCP could use it, correct?

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: The different kinds of influence operations you're describing are extraordinarily difficult to detect, which is part of what makes the national security concerns represented by TikTok so significant.


BASH: Isaac?

DOVERE: I think one of the things that happened after October 7 is that people in the White House were monitoring how they felt like there was a lot of pro-Palestinian anti-Israel content that was being pushed out. And that was China trying to put its finger on the scale, that obviously has an impact on the way people view things. It's not the only reason why things went the way they did. But -- and there's certainly things to be concerned about that are happening in Gaza, despite what the algorithm might say.

But when you look at how little things like that and the information that gets pushed into people can have an effect in that way. Think about on the scale of the election. I mean, how we're going to look at it -- we'll see videos of things, maybe there'll be AI generated, maybe they'll just be accentuating certain things versus other things. That has an influence on how people think, whether they vote, who they vote for and how they feel. Does that drive people to Trump? Does it drive people to Biden? Does it drive people to third party candidates? Because they feel disaffected. Do they just stay home?

Now, when you see that -- when China is looking at this election is a great article in the Washington Post today about, China trying to figure out this question between Trump and Biden, which is better for them. They have an interest. And this is one way of putting it through.

BASH: And just to sort of put a finer point on those really interesting perspectives. People are more and more getting their news from TikTok. And our team put together are really fascinating graph. We can show you this is based on Pew research, data. Facebook users are getting their news from Facebook, but that is going down. And TikTok users getting their news from that app has gone up from 22 percent to 43 percent, just in the three years between 2020 -- excuse me, 2020 and 2023.

KUCINICH: So, the fear of disinformation, particularly from China is very real. And that's what you've heard from, you know, intelligence agencies. But we'll have to see, you know, whether this is something that it could -- because it's always going to end up being like the next social media, right. So how do you regulate this?

BASH: Yeah. Well, you've mentioned regulating algorithms. I'm definitely not holding my breath on that right. They've been trying for years.


DOVERE: Better placed in Congress, that's described an algorithm.

BASH: I mean, exactly. Thanks, guys. Coming up. One Campaign is looking at jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a potential running mate. Will heat pass? Our jets fans going to face even more misery this fall. That's next. My dad will really like that one.