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New Day

Biden Suddenly Becomes Legislatively Consequential President; Committee Asks for Alex Jones' Texts Mistakenly Sent During Trial; Texas Sends More Migrants on Buses to Liberal Cities, Including New York City. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired August 08, 2022 - 07:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's in the midst of a tour of the United States right now, and yet he's seemingly unconcerned about the impact that this could have on the Box Office. It remains to be seen, you know, when the tour is over and the receipts get calculated, how did that all play. But Roger Waters doesn't seem to care. He's going to go out and play his music and spread his political message at the same time.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And I think if I'm not mistaken that Chinese officials are actually retweeting a full clip of this interview, particularly that part of him remarking about China and Taiwan.

Michael, it's a terrific interview. Again, people should go watch the whole thing. I really enjoyed it. Thank you so much for being with us this morning.

SMERCONISH: Thank you. See you guys.

BERMAN: And New Day continues right now.

I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar on this New Day.

A major win in the Senate caps a string of legislative success for the Biden White House. So, will it push midterm voters to the polls?

And are celebrity candidates, including Mehmet Oz and Herschel Walker, threatening Mitch McConnell's hopes to retake the Senate?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: The January 6th committee confirming it is requesting a trove of Alex Jones' text messages mistakenly sent at trial. What they could reveal.

And what Actress Anne Heche said on her podcast before crashing her car into a home, causing it to burst into flames.

BERMAN: All right. I'm just going to keep going here.

Democrats in array, a string of legislative success, much of it bipartisan has the White House hoping it is gaining momentum heading into the midterms. The Inflation Reduction Act, it passed the Senate and now heads to the House for a vote as early as Friday.

KEILAR: This represents the largest investment to combat the climate crisis in U.S. history, $369 billion, major health care provisions, include allowing Medicare to negotiate the prices of some drugs, something that will take a few years to kick in, and to pay for it all, there are tax provisions, including a 15 percent minimum tax on the country's largest corporations.

It's been a remarkable turnaround for the Biden agenda but will it translate into success for Democrats at the ballot in the November midterm elections?

BERMAN: All right. Here now, CNN Senior Data Reporter Harry Enten. Harry, there are two questions, what does it mean for the people, what does it mean for the polls? We're going to talk about the polls first here. What are the betting odds say about where things stand heading into the midterms?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: So, we're three months out and I would just call the entire picture hazy, foggy, whatever weather you want to describe that just has some clouds in it. Look, in the House of Representatives, of course, the GOP needs a net gain of four seats, they are still the heavy favorites, an 82 percent chance of taking control in that chamber.

But look here in the Senate, we really don't talk that much about the United States Senate I think because the polling has been limited, but, in fact, we have basically a toss-up here for the United States Senate. Remember the GOP only needs a net gain of one seat. But at this particular point, it's not clear at all that they will actually get it.

BERMAN: There's something of a split between the president's approval rating and how people say they plan to vote for Congress at this point.

ENTEN: Yes. I think there is this whole idea that Joe Biden would be a drag on the Democrats running for the House and for the Senate, but take a look here at this trend line, right, Joe Biden's job approval rating back April 8th, June 8th, August 8th. If anything, it's been going down, right, 42, 40, 39 percent. But look at the congressional ballot, the generic congressional ballot, where are we right now? We are even on it. We are even on it and that is occurring -- look at that trend, GOP plus 3, GOP plus 3. So, even as Biden's job approval rating is going down, Democrats have actually been improving their fortunes on the congressional ballot.

BERMAN: What about specific races for Senate?

ENTEN: Yes. We mentioned Senate and the limited polling that we do have but I think there is this whole question -- okay. Joe Biden is massively unpopular but what about the Republicans running for Senate? You mentioned celebrity candidates, right? Take a look in Georgia, right? Herschel Walker, his net favorability rating, that's favorably minus unfavorable, under water at minus 5. Joe Biden under water even more at minus 15, but look at the Democratic senator, Raphael Warnock plus 1, the most popular.

Go over to Pennsylvania, look at Mehmet Oz, my goodness gracious, minus 20 points, 20 points under water. That's even worse than Joe Biden. Meanwhile, the Democratic candidate for Senate there, John Fetterman, at plus 15, running away there. It's not a surprise that in Georgia, the race is close but Warnock is leading in most of the polls, in Pennsylvania, Fetterman is up by about 10 points in the polls, not surprising to look at this data.

BERMAN: You're seeing just a complete separation there between Fetterman and Biden, a 30-point difference in favorability. I'm not sure I have seen anything quite like that.

What are voters saying the big issues are?


ENTEN: Yes. So, look, here are the top issues. Not surprisingly, we've spoken about it all the time, the economy and inflation, in general. Republicans are most stressed on that at by 18. But on the other top three issues, gun policy, voting rights and election integrity and abortion, Democrats are favored on those or tied and on abortion, specifically, Democrats hold a ten-point advantage.

BERMAN: The economic indicators the economy is a top issue. Harry, we are seeing some unprecedented things heading into the midterms.

ENTEN: Yes. Look at these economic indicators, right? So, we'll look at the five best unemployment rates and the five worst real disposable income growth rates. And look at this, 2022 is the worst on real disposable income but it is the best on unemployment. 2022 is the only cycle to appear on both lists. So, this is the really confusing picture, where if you look at one economic indicator, things are going well, if you look at another, it's going really poorly.

BERMAN: They are on the same board here, the good news and bad news, for the first time ever.

Harry, this Kansas vote on abortion, what can this tell us perhaps heading into the midterms?

ENTEN: Well, if there is this idea that abortion could rev up Democratic turnout, Kansas might be the case to be made, because look here at the primary turnout, Democrats compared to 2018, up 81 percent, Republicans just up 48. In all the other states that vote this primary, Democratic turnout was actually down. So, Democrats, abortion revved up the turnout tremendously. We'll see if it happens in other states.

BERMAN: Right. It mattered there, let's see if it translates in November. Harry Enten, thank you so much for that.

ENTEN: Thank you, sir.

KEILAR: All right. Joining us now, Joel Benenson, former Barack Obama campaign pollster, and Frank Luntz, pollster and communication strategist. Gentlemen, thank you so much to both of you for being with us.

Joel, I'm going to begin with you. Lots of things pulling the polls in different directions at this point. Undeniably, Biden has had so many successes. How do you see this playing out in terms of inflation in the midterms?

JOEL BENENSON, FORMER OBAMA CAMPAIGN POLLSTER: Well, I think, first of all, the polls at this point can skew one way or the other and it's going to have very little bearing on the midterms, particularly on the presidential approval rating. Voters are going to vote on issues that they care about that reflect their values, I think, as you just heard Harry mention about that Kansas ballot on choice, this issue has suddenly become front and center as one of the priority issues that we've seen in our polling. We did some work for a group called Center Forward recently. Choice was the number two issue people were going to vote on, including among not just Democrats, but independent voters.

That's a very significant warning sign for Republicans that they've got a significant problem going into these races.

BERMAN: So, Frank, what about you? Where do you see things now compared to where they were three or four months ago?

FRANK LUNTZ, POLLSTER AND COMMUNICATION STRATEGIST: Well, the public is even angrier today than they were three or four months ago, more divided, more hostile towards Washington, and that's never good for any incumbent. But what has not gone away is -- and we call it inflation. That's an economic term. It's affordability. Can I afford that extra package of meat? Can I afford to fill up my car?

And our polling shows that one out of five Americans literally when they reach the cash register have to return food because they can't afford the total bill. One out of two can't fill up their gas tank. That issue of affordability, prices, costs, is the number one issue and it's not necessarily good for Republicans, but it is bad for Democrats right now.

KEILAR: Because how can you animate, Joel, Democrats when it comes to Roe or even when it comes to stuff that does speak to affordability but it's down the line, you're talking about prescription drugs and things that are going to take a few years to kick in on this new bill, when it's about affordability right now?

BENENSON: Well, I think there are a couple of factors at work here. What's driving up the costs? When voters will hear that corporate profits are at a ten-year high, they're going to think twice about that. Where is that money going? Why isn't that money going back into the paychecks of people?

We've seen inflation has been a problem that people have felt in their pocketbooks week in and week out, but, ultimately, the question is who can make a better case about who is going to be the remedy for these problems and which party has been the cause of these problems?

Now, in midterms, you don't have a president on the ballot. Often, they have been viewed as referenda. I think we can overinterpret those. You may recall in the year 2010, the first term midterm for Barack Obama, Democrats got clocked every which way. And then he goes on two years later to become the first -- only the seventh president in history to be elected and reelected with 50 percent or more of the vote both times.

So, we can read into the tea leaves somewhat, but every election has its own dynamic and I don't think we're settled yet on where and how this is going to play out in November.

BERMAN: Frank, I'm interested that you pointed out what you see -- or what voters are telling you is divisiveness. Because if you look at the number of things that have been passed -- not the inflation reduction act, that was passed on a 50/50, but the CHIPS bill, you look at the gun safety legislation, you look back at infrastructure, you look back at the burn pits, there is actually a string of bipartisan success here that the White House and Mitch McConnell and others can point to here.


How much credit is the White House getting for this?

LUNTZ: I expect Joe Biden's numbers to go up a percent or two, but when you have had this acrimony for 18 or 20 months, when you had this -- and, yes, it goes back into the Trump administration as well. And the problem is they communicate a partisan victory rather than a bipartisan success, that they're communicating the difference, the tribes, the arguments rather than the unity that a majority of Americans still want. And that affects not just the House races and the Senate races, but if affects our entire mood.

You ask people is the country headed in the right direction. Overwhelmingly, the answer is no. Are you better off today than you were two years ago? Overwhelmingly, the answer is no. And when you ask these questions, it's not just Joe Biden they blame, they blame the Republicans as well, it's one of the reasons why this will not be a good year for incumbents as Americans try to send a message. They do, as Joel said, they're sending a referendum that they have had enough.

KEILAR: Frank, you heard Harry talking about celebrity candidates and how they've been a bit of a drag for Republicans who should be seizing every opportunity that they can take. Rick Scott was asked about this, obviously, you know, he is in control of things in the Senate campaign arm, and this is what he said, in particular, about one of these celebrity candidates. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Georgia, Herschel Walker, Republican Senate candidate, has lied about the number of children he has, about his business dealings, his ex-wife said he held a gun to her head and said I'm going to blow your f'ing brains out. In Arizona, the candidate, Blake Masters, called the Unabomber an underrated thinker. Would you hire these people to work for you?

SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): Well, you would go through each person, but I'm not the one doing it. It's the voters of those states are doing it. The voters of those states are going to make a choice.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're trying to help Senate Republicans and lead them to victory. These are your candidates.


KEILAR: And then, of course, there's also Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania who is not doing so well. What do you think about these candidates and about the spot Republicans are in?

LUNTZ: Well, look, these are our candidates because of Donald Trump. And Donald Trump is still -- even though his overall popularity is falling, even though you see in these early primary states other -- particularly Governor Ron DeSantis, Donald Trump is still the most popular Republican and he's had an influence. And if Republicans take the Senate, as I expect them to take the House, it means that Trump is effective and still influential across the political spectrum. But if Republicans lose the Senate and, quite frankly, at this point, I believe that they would, they're going to look towards Donald Trump like they did after the Georgia Senate races, and they're going to say, I'm sorry, sir, but you cost the GOP the Senate, we have had enough.

I think that this is a significant -- and you guys are correct to point this out -- that the Republican candidates being nominated are not the strongest candidates for November and the reason why they're getting the nomination is because of former President Donald Trump.

BERMAN: Joel, can I go back to the string of legislative accomplishments? Now, people can disagree with the policy or not, but things have been passed. Do you think the White House has started to do things differently? Why all of a sudden this summer have they wrapped up one thing after another?

BENENSON: Well, I think everything has its season, as it sits. And I think when you've got to overcome a lot of resistance in a recalcitrant, you know, Republican congressional body, and where they have some power, particularly in the Senate, you have got to work harder to get things done. They didn't give up. They kept fighting, they kept going.

We got things like Medicare negotiating for drug prices for the first time ever, which is going to help millions of families across America. I think it's a credit to them that they just plowed ahead, they didn't think they could throw a moon shot out there, they worked hard and they had boots on the ground to stir up public opinion on the issues they were fighting for.

KEILAR: What does Biden need to do, though, then? Because when you are talking about those negotiations, they don't kick in -- I think they start in 2026 and they go until 2029 when you are talking about the most expensive drugs, right, where people are really going to see a difference. So then what does he need to do in the meantime when it's so far out in the future?

BENENSON: Well, I think when things are far out in the future, what you have to do is try to bring it forward for people and remind them how long they've been struggling with these drug prices that have been uncontrolled that are going to get back in line. And he can say are they going to get back in line tomorrow?


No. I can't promise you that. But, certainly, in a couple of years, you folks are going to be looking back and saying what Joe Biden and the Congress did on drug prices is saving us a lot of money because the number of families who have people regularly taking prescription drugs in this country it's over 40 percent right now. It's going to be a meaningful difference for people.

KEILAR: Joel, thank you so much. Frank, thank you as well. I really appreciate the conversation.

BERMAN: So, the next big piece of evidence in the January 6th committee could be the text messages from Alex Jones. You will recall his legal team sent them by mistake to the attorney for two Sandy Hook parents who sued him for defamation. Now, the panel, the January 6th panel, wants to see them.

CNN Senior Crime and Justice Reporter Katelyn Polantz live in Washington with the details on this. Katelyn?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: John, that's right. The hunt is on for missing documents for the House select committee. Coming out of this trial of Alex Jones in Texas, the committee has made clear they're looking for that cache from Jones' phone that dates back two years, all his text messages, in which the lawyers suing him have obtained. But this weekend, Representative Zoe Lofgren said the committee has not yet seen them.

But the bigger situation here is that this pursuit of records by the committee has clearly become a focus in recent days as they try to figure out more about January 6 and about the Trump administration. Remember, there have been persistent reports of missing records after Donald Trump left office. Two prominent examples are the deleted early 2021 text messages at the Secret Service and among political leadership at Departments of Defense and at Homeland Security, and then there were also those 15 boxes of White House records found at Mar-a-Lago after Trump's presidency leading to even more investigations.

Here is what Lofgren had to say about it all on CNN yesterday.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: So, this was a concerted effort inside the Trump administration to make sure there was no paper trail, was it not?

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, it doesn't look good, does it? And the cover up always gets you, not always just the misconduct.

(END VIDEO CLIP) POLANTZ: So, she vowed that the committee would get to the bottom of these document handling situations, but some things federal officials just might not be able to recover. Brianna and John, we just heard Maggie Haberman and saw those photos of what she reports are Trump's own notes from during the presidency ripped up and clogging toilets. Back to you.

BERMAN: Documents in the toilet. Katelyn Polantz, thank you so much for your reporting.

KEILAR: We are getting a new inside look at what life was like for the generals who took their orders from President Trump. In our first look of a new book written by Susan Glasser and Peter Baker, the authors described the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, talking to the president before taking the job. And it reads, Milley assured him, Mr. President, you are going to be making the decisions. All I can guarantee for me is I'm going to give you an honest answer. And I'm not going to talk about it on the front page of The Washington Post. I will give you an honest answer on everything I can and you are going to make the decisions. And as long as they're legal I will support it. As long as they're legal, it was not clear, how much that caveat even registered with Trump.

Joining us now is Susan Glasser, CNN Global Affairs Analyst and Staff Writer at The New Yorker. She is the co-author of the book called The Divider, which is billed as the inside story of the four years when Donald Trump went to war with Washington.

And Susan, I really want to get to you speaking about your book but I want to talk about what may be the most interesting part of it, which is the resignation letter that Mark Milley wrote but didn't send. So, I'm just going to read a little bit about that so that you can speak about it.

This was drafted in June of 2020 after what happened in Washington outside the White House with the use of the military. And he said, it is my belief that you were doing great and irreparable harm to my country. I believe that you have made a concerted effort overtime to politicize the United States military. I thought that I could change that. I've come to the realization that I can't.

He goes on to say, you are using the military to create fear in the minds of the people. The American people trust their military and they trust us to protect them against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and our military will do just that.

And he says, third, I swore an oath to the Constitution of the United States that says all men and women are created equal. He says, it's obvious to me that you don't hold those values dear and the cause that I serve.

And, lastly, he said, it is my deeply-held belief that you are ruining the international order, which was instituted in 1949. He says, you don't understand what the war was about. In fact, you subscribe to many of the principles that we fought against.

But, Susan, he never sent it.

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, that's right. It's really powerful to hear. We may have had a sense of a conflict between Trump and many of the generals who worked with him, but to hear in their own words their fear that the president of the United States was, in effect, a rogue president, that he was not even a subscriber to many of the ideals of the Constitution.


After Lafayette Square, that was a mistake, that was a big disaster in many ways for Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the then-defense secretary, Mark Esper, marching through Lafayette Square. It gave the appearance of the military participating in politics. He apologized for it but he was agonized, according to our reporting, about whether or not to resign. He consulted with many who said, listen, we don't have a tradition of resignation in protest for our uniformed military and that it would actually be more important to remain in office.

Remember, this is six months before January 6, and so to read those words now when we know about the cataclysmic ending of the Trump presidency. But this was a through line we found in our reporting going all the way back to the beginning of the Trump presidency, the conflicts with the generals, current and former, began almost from day one of the Trump presidency because Trump was determined to challenge their conventions. At one point, a senior general even told him that's what dictators do, to something Trump wanted to do.

BERMAN: I mean, that's a hell of a resignation letter. Again, Mark Milley didn't send it, but he lists out the things there. That was remarkable to me that he even thought about sending that, and I guess we can debate for generations about whether or not it would have had a bigger impact had he quit at the time.

Susan, some other news from you in this book with Peter Baker, your husband, where Trump is quoted as telling his generals -- and I will read this -- you f'ing generals, why can't you be like the German generals, which generals, John Kelly asked, and then Trump said the German generals in World War II. That in and of itself interesting and maybe disturbing to some people, but then it went on from there, a little bit of a history lesson, Susan.

GLASSER: You know, John, it's breathtaking, honestly. You know, this is a confrontation, a conversation between the then-White House chief of staff, John Kelly, and Donald Trump. And, you know, you almost can't believe it, but the president of the United States was unhappy because he felt that his generals, as he called them, the American generals, were not as loyal as he perceived the Nazi generals under Hitler to be. He thought that was the better model for a general.

Now, John Kelly, as you said schooled Trump and tried to say, well, wait a minute, Mr. President, they weren't completely subservient and, actually, they tried to kill Hitler three times, and Trump interrupted him in this discussion and said, no, no, no, no, that's not right, they were completely loyal. Shocking. KEILAR: It is shocking. And the politicization of the military, which Milley talks about in his resignation letter that he never sent, right, the fact that the military is supposed to be apolitical is a hallmark of American society. And it's so interesting you're describing in such detail, Susan, how the military itself was fighting to preserve that as a civilian commander was fighting to bastardize that.

GLASSER: You know, I think you put your finger on it, Brianna. This is like there's no handbook, there is no guide in the Constitution for what to do when the president himself is a national security threat. And they believe, you know, that civil military relationship is almost a religion for the most senior generals, as you know, in our military.

And I think this conflict -- again, the through line -- this did not start after the November 2020 election, right? There were these conflicts about the role in the military, Trump wanted to cloak himself in the power and the photo ops and what he perceived to be the strength of the military from day one of his presidency.

And, you know, what I was struck by is the recurring theme of this. You know, there's a fight with the generals in the first summer of his presidency over a military parade. That was what I was mentioning about, the vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Oval Office telling him, no, Mr. President, we can't do the kind of parade you want, that's what dictators do, right there in the Oval Office. And so it was a conflict from day one.

BERMAN: What other juicy tidbits are going to be out in this book? Susan, we are just getting a taste of it now in The New Yorker, but what else do you got in there?

GLASSER: Well, it's coming soon, but, look, it's very -- this is significant. We felt that it was important to do a book on the four years of the Trump presidency and to really try to understand that this threat to democracy after the 2020 election did not come out of nowhere. And, in some ways, going back to the early years of the Trump administration, there were some extraordinary things that never became public that helped to understand the mess that it all ended up in.

KEILAR: Yes, it's so interesting. There's this whole academic realm of civilian military relations.


It can be kind of lofty, but we saw it all play out in very real terms under the Trump administration, and here you are writing this fantastic book taking us through all of it. Susan, thank you so much. And the book, of course, is The Divider, and you can pick that up soon.

BERMAN: This fall.

KEILAR: A growing showdown between Texas and liberal cities as migrants arrive in buses to New York City. BERMAN: Actress Anne Heche in the hospital after she crashed her car into a home. Why a podcast is raising new concerns and why investigators still have not spoken to her.

And a brazen heist in broad daylight, a group of masked men caught on video stealing $2 million worth of jewelry.


KEILAR: This morning, more migrants are taking shelter in New York City this time, courtesy of Texas Governor Greg Abbott. At least 68 migrants arrived in New York over the weekend on buses from Texas. Abbott has vowed to send migrants to both Washington, D.C. and New York in protest of what he calls the Biden administration's open border policies.