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Inside Politics

Today: Hearing In Florida On Whether To Dismiss Classified Docs Case; Ex-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Wants To Buy TikTok; Jim McGreevey Seeks Mayoral Run 20 Years After Coming Out As Gay And Resigning As NJ Governor. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 14, 2024 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, Donald Trump is inside a Florida courtroom as his lawyers tried to dismiss charges in his classified documents case or at least push back the trial. It's a strategy we've seen the Trump legal team use in practically every case -- delay, delay, delay.

CNNs Katelyn Polantz is outside the courthouse in Fort Pierce, Florida. What's happening inside Katelyn?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Dana, we're on a lunch break, but there has been a lot of arguments made already in court this morning. So far, Trump's lawyers are arguing that these are his personal records that he kept after the presidency, that Joe Biden had national security records too and was not charged with a crime.

But the morning's arguments were focused around one question, is the law clear enough about protecting national defense information? Trump's lawyers are saying to the judge, it's too vague. This case should be dismissed because Trump couldn't figure out that he would be breaking the law.

Now, Judge Cannon, she did respond to this argument at the very end of the two hours of this morning saying finding a statute unconstitutionally vague as Trump's team is asking, that would be an extraordinary step for her to take. So she is indicating a little bit there of what she thinks on that particular argument.

But there's more to come this afternoon and the Justice Department, Dana, is digging in here. They're pointing that Donald Trump should have known what was going on and what the law was not only because he was president, but also he acknowledged it on tape.

Here's him at Bedminster audio that the Justice Department also has and is using in this case.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: See as president I could have declassified it.


TRUMP: No, I can't, you know, but this is still a secret.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Now we have a problem.

TRUMP: Isn't that interesting?



POLANTZ: So, Dana, that discussion that Trump had on that audio recording, it was something that prosecutors referred to during the hearing this morning. They're back after lunch, and there's going to be more arguments being made. Back to you.

BASH: Katelyn, thank you so much for that.

I want to welcome my legal guests on this and many more topics related to Donald Trump and his court cases. CNN's Paula Reid and former Florida Judge Jeff Swartz.


Paula, I want to start with you here to kind of give it a big picture. Look at what we're seeing here. What -- first of all, what they're doing inside the courtroom today. I'm going to show our viewers a bit of the filing that the Special Counsel filed, as it relates to this Florida documents case.

"Trump's immunity claim here is so wholly without merit, that it is difficult to understand it except as part of a strategic effort to delay. The court should deny the dismissal motion and certify Trump's immunity claim as frivolous so that he cannot use this meritless argument."

You can almost feel the frustration coming off the page --


BASH: -- of this because -- and I'll show in a second what I mean by this. But this is only one of the cases where he is intentionally trying to delay hoping that he wins and all of this goes away.

REID: Exactly. Because if he can delay the two federal cases until after the election, he's reelected, he can make them go away. And every hearing, every filing, every motion delays things a few days, a few weeks.

So the fact that Judge Cannon is taking time to hear arguments on this case helps push it back. Though Judge Cannon has surprised us a few times. It's not expected that she will dismiss this case. This is all about timing, which isn't why another thing we're looking at today is any clue that she gives about when she's going to put this case on the calendar.

It's currently penciled in for May. About two weeks ago, she heard arguments on how far she can push it back. The Special Counsel is asking for July. She said that's unreasonable. So August is the earliest but even having these arguments, delays getting it on the calendar. Delay delay is the name of the game.

BASH: That's right. And Jeff Swartz, the apologist mentioned the reaction from the judge so far before the lunch break, Judge Cannon. And, you know, it sounds like we all like to read tea leaves when we listen to what judges say and don't say in these cases. She certainly seems open to the arguments that Donald Trump's lawyers are making.

JEFF SWARTZ, PROFESSOR, THOMAS M. COOLEY LAW SCHOOL TAMPA BAY CAMPUS: She seems to be open to them but I don't think she's going to go anywhere that close to dismissing the case. That's not something that she's already been spanked a couple of times by the 11th Circuit. I don't think she wants to face that a third time.

The real concern that I think she's going to look at is the trial date, the idea of occupying the space in the late summer and early fall, so that when the immunity case comes down, there's no room for Judge Chutkan to be able to set the D.C. election interference case for trial. This is really the strategy that is to eat up the space and leave no space for anybody else.

BASH: That's really interesting, especially if you look at the totality. And I mentioned I was going to get to this of what we're talking about. And we're going to put on the screen for our viewers the four remaining cases that he is facing, classified documents case, the earliest timeline would see trial in August.

This is -- Judge Cannon is the judge for this case. Federal election case, trial date decision waits for Supreme Court action in early July, the action about whether or not he will or won't be granted immunity. And then, of course, the Georgia election case, the trial is delayed because the judge is considering disqualifying Fani Willis to lead prosecutor. And then there is the New York hush money case there, the trial is scheduled to start March 25, Paula.

REID: Look, their strategy so far has been successful. They should be feeling quite pleased with themselves because they have tried every conceivable way to delay these cases. And you see right now the only one that we're confident is going to go for the election is the hush money case.

The district attorney is framing that as the 2016 election interference case, but it is arguably the runt of the litter when we talk about the seriousness of these four cases. And the charges there allegedly falsifying records over hush money payments made to an adult film star, it's not clear that even a conviction there would change the hearts and minds of voters. So if it turns out that's the only case that goes, that is an enormous victory for the strategy.

BASH: Jeff Swartz, can you just elaborate a little bit more on what you see as the tactics that Judge Cannon is using in Florida right now in the classified documents case --


BASH: -- as it relates to this very important question of the calendar?

SWARTZ: Sure. What's happening here is that she's taking a look at the time that it's going to take to try each case. She knows that Judge Chutkan on the D.C. case is tied up with a stay and that stay the earliest that will be lifted will be when the Supreme Court reaches their decision. I still think it's going to go all the way to the end of the term. So her idea is that the earliest Judge Chutkan could break her case to trial will be sometime in August or early September.


If she sets her case and sets it for the middle of August, Judge Chutkan in the D.C. case will not be able to set her case at least for five or six weeks into September -- well, all the way through September.

Now you're at October, and now you're looking at a case that could pass. If it starts in October, it could last as long as into the election itself. And that's something I don't think Merrick Garland will approve of. So she's trying to fill that gap and avoid anybody else from going to trial while she has her trial date set.

BASH: I know you want to jump in.

REID: And this has been one of the outstanding questions, is the Justice Department willing to take this case to trial super close to the election, even through the election? And in the last hearing before Judge Cannon, the Justice Department said those 60 days outside of the election were usually they don't take investigative steps.

They say that doesn't apply here. That does not and their viewpoints for some that ever said it applied to criminal cases. And I think that's something though, that would actually just spark more litigation if they tried to do it.

BASH: Yes. OK. So we've said this so many times that it's probably going to become a drinking game at this point. But we cannot say it enough that the Trump legal strategy and the Trump political strategy are so intertwined. They're basically the same.

Thank you so much for giving us the legal perspective. Appreciate it, both of you.

Up next, if TikTok is forced to sell, a former Trump cabinet member says he wants to buy it. That's next.



BASH: Former Trump Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says if TikTok is up for sale, he wants to buy it.


STEVEN MNUCHIN, FORMER TREASURY SECRETARY, TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: I think it should be sold. I understand that technology. It's a great business and I'm going to put together a group to buy TikTok.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're trying to buy TikTok?



BASH: Mnuchin says he's assembling a team of investors to make a bid if, a big if, Congress forces its Chinese owners to sell it. Axios Senior Media Reporter Sara Fischer joins me now. Sara, the first question is -- well, let's just assume just for the sake of this conversation, that the Senate passes it, and that the president signs it into law.

Big, big ifs, as I've said that that is 50-50 at best if that actually happens. But if it does, talk about the actual practical implications in the short term. Because if I have TikTok on my phone, that's not necessarily going away, right?

SARA FISCHER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Nope. So what they would do is they would remove it from App Stores like iOS App Store and Google's App Store. And what that means is that even though it doesn't go away from your phone, you can't update the app.

So in the short term, you would probably be able to use TikTok. But in the long term, if you can't update it, the app becomes obsolete. You can't get product features, new security things. But also in the short term, remember, TikTok will likely file an appeal. They can ask for a temporary injunction to stop the law from going into effect while it gets sorted out in the courts.

And if that's the case, then they wouldn't even have the power to immediately stop it from being downloaded in the App Stores. So people are wondering about the political implications of this ahead of the election. I don't even think that's a possibility at this point that we wouldn't get TikTok on our phones by them.

BASH: Yes, interesting. So the immediate reverberations would not happen pre-November, but just looking at it from a higher level. So you have Elon Musk, who owns Twitter, now X, in a world in which Donald Trump Treasury Secretary owns another huge media platform even though it would look very, very different, TikTok, what does that say about the influence over these really important social media companies and platforms that have so much impact on people's lives?

FISCHER: It's huge. I mean, the fact that you have Meta which is controlled essentially by one billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, you have Elon Musk controlling X now potentially TikTok, you have a lot of power concentrated in the few. And that's so ironic, Dana, because the whole point of these social media platforms is to democratize power, right, to democratize voices.

But I'm glad you brought up Steve Mnuchin's bid, because the key thing here is that what this law says is not that TikTok is banned, it said it will get banned if they don't sell it to a U.S. company or U.S. owners. And selling to a U.S. company would be really hard.

Today's antitrust climate makes it really tough to imagine that a company like Microsoft, or Oracle or Meta could just outright buy TikTok. Small companies wouldn't have the capital to do it. So you're looking at private investment groups being the most likely case. Now, can Steve Mnuchin rally enough American investment dollars? That is to be seen.

BASH: Yes. And never mind the fact that what makes TikTok TikTok is the algorithm.


BASH: Which are in China owned by China, they're blackbox in China, and they won't leave China, which is part of the reason we have to take a break. But that's part of the reason why national security experts are so worried about it because they don't know what is actually in those --

FISCHER: Absolutely.

BASH: -- algorithms would also change TikTok dramatically without those. We could talk all day about this.

FISCHER: Yes, we could.

BASH: A platform that I've never been on.

Up next, a secret life revealed the story behind Jim McGreevey, the former New Jersey governor and first openly gay governor in the U.S.



BASH: Former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey is hoping for a second act in politics 20 years after coming out as gay and resigning in the same speech. My colleague Jake Tapper spoke to McGreevey for his series "United States of Scandal."


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Governor, thanks so much for doing this.


TAPPER: So, your story is so interesting because you were living a lie, the secret life, how did you justify this to yourself? Was this just, well, this is what gay men have to do, and I just have to pretend to be something else and lots of other gay men are in politics pretending, like what -- MCGREEVEY: I mean, you know, I didn't wake up and say, you know, I'm

going to be deceptive for the sake of deceiving. I'm going to create this whole double ledger.


No, I didn't make that decision prior to gubernatorial campaign. I made it. I get seven or eight years old. I can remember this as if it were yesterday. I go to my local public library and I'm pulling out the card catalog, look up the word homosexuality and it said underneath, see psychiatric illness.

And it was just like, this thing, at least then in America called gay wasn't a good thing. I realized at that point in time that life is going to be a very painful trajectory if I own this, and you just try to make an accommodation albeit in an unhealthy accommodation.


BASH: OK, I'm hooked. You can catch the "United States of Scandal" on Sunday 9:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

Thank you so much for watching INSIDE POLITICS. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts after the break.