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Inside Politics

Trump Speaks Today At Fundraiser Hosted By Top Oil Executives; Biden Slams Trump's Post Of Video That Displayed "Unified Reich"; Trump Says He's Open To Birth Control Restrictions, Then Reverses; New Photos Show Trump Aide Moving Boxes Around Mar-a-Lago; Today: Judge Hears Arguments On Dismissing Charges In Docs Case; Why Jury Instructions Could Make Or Break Hush Money Case; Trump Makes Wild Claim About "Deadly Force" In Mar-a-Lago Search; FBI: Use Of Force Rules In Searches Are "Standard Policy". Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 22, 2024 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, walking it back. The former president is now backtracking after suggesting he's open to restrictions on birth control. And he deleted a social media video that referred to a quote, unified Reich, if he wins.

Plus, minority rules. Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries may not have the speaker's gavel. But could he be the most powerful person in the House anyway? We have new CNN reporting on how he's seizing on the GOP fracture majority to score wins for the Democrats.

And exasperated, underwhelmed and indifferent. That's how some swing voters are saying Joe Biden makes them feel. How big a problem is it for the president that voters say that they feel apathy. Alas two top pollsters this hour.

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

First up, they say everything is bigger in Texas. And today Donald Trump is hoping that applies to the checks that people are writing him. The former president is attending a series of fundraisers in the Lone Star State. And he is going to have top energy and oil executives there.

I'm going to go now to Kristen Holmes, who of course is covering the Trump campaign. What do we expect there, Kristen?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Dana. This is actually a pretty busy day. We know there's at least three of these events today, two luncheons in Houston and a dinner. And we're talking about some of the wealthiest people, not only just in Texas, but really across the country. So, I think we have one of the invitations here. This one, I believe that we're going to show you. This is going to benefit his Super PAC, and this is hosted by three oil executives.

OK. Nope, we have the other one. So, this is the joint fundraising committee. This is hosted by a several people as you can see there. Three of them are energy and oil executives. There is also another luncheon that is hosted by three oil executives. The reason why I'm pointing out these specific executives is because it comes after -- just about a month ago, Donald Trump hosted several of these executives at his home at Mar-a-Lago.

And according to reports, at one point, he essentially told these oil executives to donate $1 billion to his campaign, to essentially bring him back to the White House so that he could roll back so many of the restrictions, particularly environmental restrictions that the Biden administration has put in place.

So, he is clearly trying to woo them for a number of reasons here. Interesting to see how it goes. I will note he's back in New York later tonight. And tomorrow, he's actually hosting a rally in the Bronx.

BASH: OK. Be interesting to see how many people he's going to get to vote for him in the Bronx. I guess you never know. We'll talk about I'm sure that more tomorrow. Kristen, thank you so much for that reporting.

Let's talk to the three fantastic reporters and friends here at the table CNN' Phil Mattingly, Nia-Malika Henderson of CNN and Bloomberg, and Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times. Happy Wednesday, one and all.

Let's start where Kristen started, which is where Donald Trump is today. He turns out, he's not going to have court for the rest of the week. I guess, in fairness going into this, he didn't know it, which is probably why he was having -- planning on having something in the Bronx tomorrow. But today he is going to Texas and really hoping to juice his coffers.

And one of the questions is about where he's getting his money from? And whether or not as Kristen alluded to the oil money is -- if it comes without strings.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN ANCHOR & CHIEF DOMESTIC CORRESPONDENT: I mean, I don't know that any campaign donation comes out strings on some level. But the difference I think between the former president and his predecessors, and the president that followed him is he's very explicit about the strings that will be attached now.

Kristen referenced the fundraiser done at Mar-a-Lago where people who are in that fundraiser that I spoke to basically said it sounded like he was saying, we'll do whatever you want, just give us a billion dollars. It was described to me by others by saying, it's a little bit more flippant and kind of the Trump transactional way, like just give me a bunch of money. You know, what I'm going to do.


And to be very clear, we do know what he will do on the policy front. Him saying, I'm going to roll back all of what Biden did is not because he's going to get money, it's because that's where he and his advisors and the people who be in his agencies -- that's where they are on the policy, but it is a very, which I think real reality right now that these are people that know, if they weren't changes on the policy front, it's a binary choice, and Trump is the choice.

BASH: OK. So, I want to stick with you for a second because I'm glad to have your political brand, your reporting, and your knowledge of the economy and big companies, specifically these oil companies. Because our team looked into the profits of a couple of the very large oil companies. Chevron in 2022, under the Biden administration, $35.4 billion. Last year, 2023 was down but still record, record profits. Exxon 55.7 billion and 36 billion.

So, this is how oil companies are doing with Joe Biden in the White House. So, it begs the question, what do they expect to get when Donald Trump is in office that they're not getting with Joe Biden despite the regulations that Donald Trump talks about a lot.

MATTINGLY: Everything. I think they genuinely expect to get anything they want. I think the most near-term difference between where President Biden is and former president is on policy was the pause on LNG exports, which the Biden ministration put into place.

But if you look behind the scenes over the course of the last three and a half years, I think the company profits demonstrate that sort of oil production in the country, which has been at a record high now for several years, despite the attacks on regulations, completely squelching their ability to make any money.

The reality is that when these oil companies and what they're able to send back to their shareholders, they recognize that all the pads will be cleared. And I think that while they have done quite well, and I think they've had an uneasy, but very real relationship with the White House, particularly because of gas prices. What happened in Europe and Ukraine, that has actually been productive on some level over the course of the last few years.

The LNG paused, freaked them out. And they were surprised by it. They thought it was overkill. And they thought he was -- Biden was pivoting back hard towards climate policies and kind of climate hawks in a way that he hadn't -- because of the necessity to try and keep gas prices low.

BASH: I know you would know the answer, all of this. I want to shift to a couple of walk backs that the Trump campaign has had to do over the last -- I don't know 24 hours or so. Starting with something we touched on the show yesterday, which is a video that was initially forwarded and put on Trump's social media account, that talked about what he was going to do in the next term.

And in it, he didn't make it, but he forwarded. In it you'll see there it says, unified Reich. Not surprisingly, the Biden campaign, the president himself is jumping on it. Is this on his official account? Wow, a unified Reich, that's Hitler's language. That is not America's. He cares about holding on to power. I care about you.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah. Listen, I mean, this is disturbing because of what we know about Donald Trump. And so, the idea that this was sort of a mistake, or somebody who didn't know or whatever you can -- you can say about this. It's kind of hard to believe, given his rhetoric, whether it's about dictators, whether it's about, you know, the idea that maybe he's had feelings about Hitler, in terms of maybe Hitler did some good things or having minecon (Ph) on his nightstand. Things that we've heard about Donald Trump's past and his present rhetoric.

And listen, I think if you're the Biden team, you want to highlight these instances of Donald Trump seeming to embrace antisemitism in Nazism. And you know, I think voters should be concerned. I mean, if you have a campaign, and a presidential candidate who is embracing this idea of America.

BASH: And as you comment, I just want to read something from our friend Josh Green at Bloomberg, who wrote this. Trump's flirtation with smashing limits on presidential power, while thrilling to many of his followers, alarm other voters, including some who once supported him. Lori McCammon, a grandmother in Alma, Wisconsin, voted for Trump in 2016. But said she recoiled at his recent comments, and we'll be supporting him in November. She said, she's worried that Trump won't cede power if he's reelected.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES & CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This kind of reminds me of what -- mostly moderate Republicans have sort of voiced particularly around the last midterms, which is they're still this. I mean, Donald Trump is going to have moments like this. He's going to go back to the previous election and say that it was fraudulent.

And there's a lot of moderate Republicans that would rather the focus be on, sort of talking about some of the issues in present day that might be vulnerable for the Biden administration. Each of these kind of moments are going to also cause anxiety in the Republican Party because it could alienate some suburban voters, some independent voters that they might be trying to win.


If you're the Biden administration, to your point. I mean, this is a campaign. There has made democracy a central focus. And anytime you have a post that indicates any sort of signaling support for Nazis or dictators, that goes right into the messaging for the Biden campaign of saying, democracy is under threat.

BASH: But it's not yet showing up in polls. It's just not. Whether it's a national poll, which obviously is starting to matter less and less as we get closer to the election, or polls in these swing states, particularly among independent voters who are among the most important now.

One question is whether the comments that the former president made yesterday are going to matter. He was asked about contraception. Listen to what he said.


JON DELANO, KDKA MONEY & POLITICS EDITOR: Do you support any restrictions on a person's right to contraception?

DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're looking at that, and I'm going to have a policy on that very shortly. And I think it's something you'll find interesting.

DELANO: Well, that suggests that that you may want to support some restrictions.

TRUMP: We are also, you know, things really do -- have a lot to do with the states.


BASH: Well, what would you say? This is the way that Trump reversed of course on that, or at least tried to clarify, it is probably a better way to say it. I have never and will never advocate imposing restrictions on birth control or other contraceptions. This is a democratic fabricated lie. Even though we just heard him say that misinformation, disinformation, so on and so forth.

I mean, to me, it's like spinning the wheel of what happens when you ask Donald Trump a question. If he doesn't know the answer or doesn't have it fully formed. He says, we have a policy coming really soon. And then, oh, we're going to put it back in the states because that is a safe space for Republicans.

MATTINGLY: Let's be candid, both Matt answer in the head interview with time where he talked about the comps. He was asked what the Comstock actions related to all this. He said he would have a statement on a policy coming out in 10 days. And we were talking about this before. It shows that it's like, anytime Trump has no idea what he's talking about. He says he's going to do something about it in seven to 10 days, one week, two weeks, something along those lines.

And I think this is the case, I think he very clearly has shown that he has a gut instinct, which I think has been proven out by the polls that this is an issue just in general that he wants no part of. And he's tried to communicate that to Republican allies, like stay away from this, don't take hardline positions.

The reality is he's got a record. He has a four-year record. And you can talk about a nationwide ban. You can talk about IVF or Comstock Act or whatever. The people who are going to be in his agencies, who will be making the rules, who will be making the decisions on what's happening on the ground level, HHS, DOJ. They've proven his policy in the first term, and they were hardline, anti -- hardline. I don't mean that in a pejorative way.

They were anti-abortion. And they were very clear that they were going to use every lever of power they had in the government to implement what their goals were policy-wise, and Trump stayed out of the way. And there's no sign that's going to be different and it's right.

HENDERSON: Yeah. That is what's going to happen if Donald Trump is elected. They are going to try to severely restrict access to abortion around the country. I think this is why anti-abortion activists are sort of OK with his --

BASH: What about contraception?

HENDERSON: Yeah, possibly. I mean, in some ways, I think his answer there is right. I mean, I think if this is what -- you know, folks in his administration want to do, and certainly I think conservatives do want to restrict some of this, whether it's IVF, whether it's contraception. I think they will try to find ways to do that. And he will stand by and do.

KANNO-YOUNGS: And this might be why voters haven't been moved by some of these -- sort of moments where we're talking about extremists' language, right, because the policy record is there from the previous term. And if you're somebody that wants restrictions on abortion, Donald Trump's statements and rhetoric aside, he can try to separate himself from it all he wants. He's still being formed a Supreme Court that has done what we've seen.

BASH: Yeah, that's right. That's one of those. Remember what I did for you in the past, despite what I'm not saying about the future. Everybody standby. Up next. While we wait for closing arguments in Trump's hush money trial, there are big developments and one of his other criminal cases. New details about the classified documents charges, next.




BASH: Remember the classified documents case. Well today the judge is overseeing arguments from defense attorneys on two separate bids to throw out charges. The first motion is from Donald Trump's body man and co-defendant Walt Nauta, who is seen in these photos, moving boxes around Mar-a-Lago before Trump's attorney was set to review them.

CNN's Elliot Williams and Katelyn Polantz are here. Katelyn, I want to start with you. What is the significance of what we just showed, which we can put up again, those boxes being moved, especially as it relates to the hearing?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yeah. As it relates to the hearing is really significant because Walt Nauta is arguing in court today, in the Southern District of Florida for Aileen Cannon that he was retaliated against by the Justice Department. Because he told them, he didn't know much about the movement of boxes. At the time that they were asking him questions about that. He said that in his testimony to investigators.

And then the government gathered some more evidence. This sort of evidence showing him moving boxes at Mar-a-Lago, and then he clammed up. And so, he's saying he shouldn't have been charged with any crime. He was vindictively chosen to be a co-defendant of Donald Trump's the Justice Department says that's a bug. And that's what they're arguing today. He wants his case to be dismissed. So, he's making arguments to judge Cannon on that.

BASH: And then you've been doing one of your favorite things, I know Katelyn to do, which is going through court records. On this case in particular what have you found?


POLANTZ: Yeah. There's a lot new -- of new record records that are now available just this week because Judge Cannon is working through slowly a whole lot of things. One of the things that we just received yesterday is an opinion from Judge Beryl Howell, the judge in D.C. who allowed investigators a key part of the obstruction case against Donald Trump, to get the testimony from his former attorney Evan Corcoran on how he was being misled.

What's interesting about this is that one of the things that Judge Howell looked at was she looked at a lot of evidence, and she looked at what happened after the search of Mar-a-Lago in August of 2022. After that search, the Trump team went out scoured for more records and found more, including four records at Mar-a-Lago and an empty folder marked classified evening summary in Donald Trump's bedroom.

Judge Howell at the time said, this stinks I have, and this is the reason that we're -- I'm going to let you question. His lawyer breach attorney client privilege and get more information in this case. That though, is something that Donald Trump's team has not wanted to fully copy. They say, oh, we were trying to be very helpful after that search and found these things.

Here's one of the explanations about that classified folder in his bedroom that we heard previously on CNN more than a year ago.


TIM PARLATORE, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: He has one of those landline telephones next to his bed and it has a blue light on it. And it keeps him up at night. So, he took the manila folder and put it over it so that it would keep the light down, so he could sleep at night. And it's just this folder, it says classified evening brief -- evening summary on it is not a classification marking. It's not anything that is controlled in any way. There's nothing illegal about it. There's nothing in it.


POLANTZ: So, Dana, a lot of information in that case to remember that we're likely to hear at a trial someday, very far away from now.

BASH: An empty folder that says classified documents. Got it.


BASH: Let's turn to the case that we've been covering for weeks and weeks, that of course, is the hush money trial in New York. Now that we are waiting for next week, for each side to give closing arguments. Can you just kind of give our viewers a synopsis of where we are at this moment.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So yesterday was what was called the charge conference. And I don't know if most people really understand how critical jury instructions are this -- set of words that can take hours, almost a full day at times. Well, the judge explains everything from what is reasonable doubt? What is your role as jurors? What is evidence? And what exactly is the defendant charged with?

And they spent a lot of time yesterday, almost bickering or arguing before the judge about how to instruct the jury. And so, we have -- let's look at some of the things here. There's an open question as to how to read the actual statute of what Donald Trump has been charged with.

He's been charged with falsifying business records in this, and we have a graphic of it of the statute, falsifying business records in the first degree in New York law, which requires a finding that number one, business records were falsified. And here we have it, to aid in the -- with the intent to commit another crime or aid in the commission thereof.

Now, that language that's highlighted there to aid in the commission there or another crime goes into. The second thing here, which is well, what's the other crime? And do we even know what it is? Well, there's New York election law, which the Trump is -- the prosecutors have claimed that Donald Trump is violated. Conspiracy proven election, we have a graphic on this as well, where one seeks to prevent the election by unlawful means.

OK. So now, a lot of what they went back and forth on yesterday was how those two things fit together there that language of by unlawful means. How they fit together, right? And so, this question of what does unlawful means? Even mean is something a crime. And they -- and they argued back and forth about this?

Does the jury have to be unanimous on this question of whether an individual engaged in something by unlawful means. Do they -- can the prosecutors just say it or does the jury have to make it a separate finding? Did they have to -- do they have to prove that there was actually a conspiracy between Trump and David Pecker and Michael Cohen.

All of these things are -- were debated for hours yesterday in court. We will see once the judge does instruct the jury next week where he lands on a lot of these things, but they're very sensitive -- very complicated questions, and a place where a judge really can make a mistake and can get a whole case thrown out.

BASH: Oh, interesting. Thank you so much. This is so important because we've been sitting for days and days and hours and hours, listening to all kinds of testimony. And the question does boil down to what actually are the charges?

WILLIAMS: They literally debated the meaning of the word willfully for probably a half hour yesterday. [12:25:00]

BASH: Oh. You lawyers --

WILLIAMS: I know are guilty.

BASH: I don't mean to make fun.


BASH: We do want to know -- I'll turn to factcheck some frankly very dangerous accusations that are ricocheting through the conservative media echo chamber. Donald Trump is accusing President Biden of trying to quote, take me out. Yes, you heard that right, assassinate him.

This is a fundraising text, sent last night from the Trump campaign. DOJ was authorized to shoot me. They were locked and loaded for deadly force at Mar-a-Lago. He's basing that on documents released yesterday about the search of Mar-a-Lago. Documents taken wildly out of context by Trump and many of his allies.


JESSE WATTERS, FOX NEWS HOST: Biden unleashed armed agents into Trump's house, authorizing them to use deadly force.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Biden's politicize the Attorney General Merrick Garland at Joe Biden weaponized DOJ, actually authorized get this, the use of deadly force during that August 2022 raid at Mar-a-Lago.

STEVE BANNON, DONALD TRUMP ADVISOR: This was an attempted -- assassination attempt on Donald John Trump, or people associated with him. They wanted a gunfight.


BASH: I want to bring in Tom Foreman to help fact check these claims. Tom, you know, we don't often give oxygen to things that are just wildly exaggerated. But in this case, I think we all think including you, it is important to fact check and set the record straight and so forth.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. This is extremely important. If you are in MAGA world or you know anybody in MAGA world. It's important to understand right now what you just heard from those people is absolute poppycock. It is absolutely not true.

Nonetheless, Donald Trump is trying to raise funds off of it. He's got a post out there right now that goes on and on about how much he feels that people should be donating money to him because they were trying to take him out. He put out a Truth Social post, in which he said the FBI was authorized to use deadly lethal force. Now we know for sure that Joe Biden is a serious threat to democracy. This was his response to all of this.

And what has them so exercised? What has been going on with all these ridiculous claims? And they are ridiculous. Standard protocol for police agencies, not just the FBI. The judge said, yes, as part of this, where you see everything included -- including the standard police procedure, which is to say FBI agents should have their weapons with them in case something happens. They should have handcuffs with them in case something happens.

Remember, when they went out on this raid, they were wearing like normal polo shirts. They weren't wearing flak vests with FBI on it. That was also part of the order because they didn't want to create a big spectacle around this. But agents have to be ready in case something crazy happens out there. That's all this is about.

The bottom line is there was no thing different about it -- nothing different about this. And the FBI set itself. They followed standard protocol in this search as they do for all search warrants, which includes a standard policy statement limiting the use of deadly force. There was no departure from the norm in this matter.

That statement is the truth, not just based on what the FBI said. But based on decades and decades of me covering these things. This is what they do. And for Trump world to claim that this was something else is just a flat out lie top to bottom.

BASH: Tom Foreman, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Up next. New reporting on how House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries is seizing on the fractured Republican majority to wield unprecedented power for a minority leader. Stay with us.