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New Day

Biden Zeroes in on Pennsylvania with Several Trips in Matter of Days; New York Times Reports, How a Record Cash Haul Vanished for Senate Republicans; Suspect Charged With Abduction of Missing Memphis Teacher. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 05, 2022 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It was electric. You had a feeling like one of these two guys is going to win the whole thing. That's what it felt like.

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: It would be for Kyrgios if he could do it.

BERMAN: All right. Carolyn Manno, great to see you.

New Day continues right now.

Happy Labor Day, the semi-official kickoff to the fall campaign season, ready or not, here they come. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.

And President Biden is hitting two key battleground states today, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. This will be his third visit to Pennsylvania in less than a week.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: The keystone state appears to be ground zero for Biden and Donald Trump with the former president holding a rally in Wilkes-Barre over the weekend, his first since the FBI's search of his Mar-a-Lago estate.

Trump took aim at the FBI, the DOJ and President Biden.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: He's an enemy of the state. You want to know the truth? The enemy of the state is him and the group that control him. The FBI and the Justice Department have become vicious monsters controlled by radical left scoundrels, lawyers and media who tell him what to do.


KEILAR: CNN Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny is live for us in Pittsburgh. And I want to ask you in particular about one moment over the weekend about the former president's rally, and it was very unusual. Cynthia Hughes, Jeff, who runs a support group for January 6th participants, spoke. She was given this platform to speak at Trump's rally and she was telling the story of her nephew who is a January 6th rioter and a Nazi sympathizer who once said that Hitler should have finished the job, which, you know, makes it kind of tough for Trump and his supporters to really push back on this semi-fascist moniker that Biden is giving.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Boy, it sure does. I mean, of all the defendants from January 6th the former president could have invited to speak at his rally for all of the supporters, this is who he chose.

So, certainly, this was for a reason. This was to pander to his base, if you will, excite his base, energize his base. It's a -- the latest chapter and example of a pattern we've seen from the former president trying to, you know, really have it both ways in some respects by really not apologizing or tuning right into this type of rhetoric.

But it certainly drew some strong comments from California Congresswoman Zero Lofgren, who, of course, is on the January 6th committee. She told CNN this yesterday.


REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Well, when President Biden warned that there were some elements in this extreme group that are really semi-fascist, maybe he didn't need to use semi. You know, being a supporter of Adolf Hitler does put you in the fascist category. There is no semi about it. So, I do think this is troubling.


ZELENY: So, for all of the outrage about President Biden's comments about semi-fascism, certainly, this does play directly into that. So, this is why many Republicans, Republican leaders, Republicans who are trying to win control of the Senate and indeed the House simply do not want the former president front and center in this midterm campaign, but there's no question two months before the midterm elections that's exactly where we are. Donald Trump is right at the middle of all of this.

KEILAR: And President Biden is right in the middle of Pennsylvania yet again because he is there for the third time in a week. He's also going to Wisconsin. What's his message today, Jeff?

ZELENY: Well, look, primarily location. Going to Wisconsin, of course, to try and win a Senate seat there, that is the seat of Republican Senator Ron Johnson. Democrats believe that that is the most vulnerable Republican incumbent senator, that the lieutenant governor, Mandela Barnes, the Democrat, is running against him.

So, President Biden going to Wisconsin to rally labor union members, of course, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has a strong labor tradition. So, trying to reach into working class voters and doing the same here tonight in Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania, of course, ground zero, as you said, for all midterm races, the governor's race, the Senate race here, there is an open Senate seat. Of course, John Fetterman, the Democrat, running against Mehmet Oz, the Republican, to fill this seat of retiring Senator Pat Toomey that is held by a Republican. So, Democrats believe that this seat here in Pennsylvania is a chance to pick up a seat.

So, for all of that, Brianna, it's more location than anything else. Yes, of course, President Biden will be talking about the importance of working class Americans, working class values, trying to get some of those voters who have gone toward the Republican side in recent years. But more than anything, it's location, location, location two months before the midterm elections.

KEILAR: All right. Jeff Zeleny live for us in Pittsburgh, thank you so much.


BERMAN: One thing you need if you are running for office, money. New reporting from The New York Times on a high priced gamble from the National Republican Senatorial Committee to spend big on digital outreach and other tactics, a gamble that according to The Times has not paid off.

Listen to this, by the end of July, the committee had collected a record $181 million but had already spent more than 95 percent of what it had brought in. The Republican group entered August with just $23 million on hand, less than half of what the Senate Democratic Committee had ahead of the final intense phase of the midterm elections.

Joining me now is the reporter behind that article, National Political Reporter for The New York Times Shane Goldmacher.

Just so people know, Shane, this is the committee of the Senate headed by Senator Rick Scott, they raise money to win elections for Republicans running for Senate and they don't have as much money as they thought they would have now.

SHANE GOLDMACHER, NATIONAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, this is the exclusive purpose of this committee. It exists to elect a Republican majority in the Senate. And sort of what was so interesting is last year they were announcing month after month they were breaking every record. They're bringing in more money than they ever had done before. And yet now, they have much less than the Democrats and they have even spent less on ads than the same committee did two years earlier.

And so I try to set out to answer the question, how does that come about? How do you raise more than ever before and somehow have less?

BERMAN: And the answer is.

GOLDMACHER: The answer is they tried to invest in a huge digital program. They thoughts we're going to spend tens of millions of dollars online, on Google ads, on Facebook ads, get people to click, give us your name, your email address, your cell phone number and we will hit you up for money. And they did raise more money but the problem is it cost them more than they brought in.

BERMAN: It costs money a lot of times to raise money and their investment, they're not seeing the return on the investment.

Let me just read the NRSC statement here because they say they are doing what you claim they said they were going to do. It's been our plan all along to spend early on campaigns and to grow the NRSC's housefile, that means the data, the mailing list, which is paying dividends now and will continue to in the future. We made the investment, we're glad we did. It will benefit the NRSC and the party as a whole for cycles to come, but not now.

GOLDMACHER: Yes. I mean, look, it's pretty unusual to say, we've made this investment, it may not be helping now but it's going to help over the long-term. And they might be right. Maybe years from now, this could benefit the Republican Party. But right now, it doesn't.

And one of the problems is that these lists, the emails and the phone numbers they've vacuumed up, the tactics that they were using, the tactics they used to raise the money from these people, people inside the Republican Party have been telling me these are exploitative tactics.

BERMAN: Explain this in detail because this is a really interesting aspect of this article.

GOLDMACHER: So, we found that there were text messages going out. They would find somebody's phone number and know that they were a Republican donor. So, in this sort of win red online donating system, your phone number, your credit card is all saved. So, they would send you a text message and say a provocative political question, do you think Joe Biden should resign? Would you vote for Donald Trump for a third time? Reply yes to donate $25. And that's the entirety of the text. It shows up from like a 1-855 number.

If you write back yes, if you are a Republican and, again, a lot of the people getting these messages are older people, you write back yes, you get a $25 donation processed immediately without clicking on single link, without a link to click to find out where the text was coming from to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. And this practice was actually blocked by win red, which is storing this credit card information.

They didn't provide any comment to me. The Senate committee wouldn't even comment or defend the tactics they were using. They are no longer being able to do this but they did this by some estimates tens of millions of these messages went out to Americans across the country.

BERMAN: And there is a metric for how much this has upset some people and that is --

GOLDMACHER: That's how much you have to refund in money, right? If people ask for their money back, it usually means they're unhappy. And the volume of refunds that the Senate Republican committee is giving, it's quadruple what it was in the previous cycle and it's far, far higher than the Democratic Senate committee's refund rate. BERMAN: Yes. So, not only do you not get to keep the money, you upset the very people that you're trying to get to support you.

GOLDMACHER: And, yes, so you look at that big haul, we brought in more money than ever but we also had to refund more than ever.

BERMAN: And just one last question on this. Rick Scott, the senator from Florida, has run this committee, Mitch McConnell is the Senate minority leader who would be majority leader. There has been tension between these two men already.

GOLDMACHER: Quite a bit of tension and public tension, which is really unusual between two leaders of the same party in the same chamber. They have disagreements over money and they have disagreements over candidates. Mitch McConnell, for the last decade, has said we have to intervene in these Republican primaries to get people who won't lose in November and Rick Scott, who the party opposed when he first ran for governor, is very much against that.

And so what you have is a series of candidates who emerged from the primaries, many of whom were backed from Donald Trump, many of whom were first-time candidates and the McConnell team, they are worried those candidates are going to lose in November. And the only thing Mitch McConnell cares about is winning the Senate in November.


BERMAN: Shane Goldmacher, as I said, it's a terrific article. Thank you so much for sharing your reporting with us this morning.

GOLDMACHER: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: There is a manhunt under way right now for two armed and dangerous suspects in a mass stabbing that rocked Canada on Sunday leaving at least 10 dead and 15 injured. The attacks spanned 13 separate crime scenes in an indigenous community in the surrounding area in Central Canada. And these suspects have been identified as Damien Sanderson and Myles Sanderson.

Police have not said whether they are related or what their motive might be. Authorities tell CNN some of the victims were chosen at random, some were specifically targeted.

Joining us now is CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey. He is also the former Philadelphia Police commissioner and the former Washington, D.C. Police chief. Charles, thank you so much for being with us.

What stands out to you in all of this the most?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, there are a couple things. First of all, they were able to identify them pretty quickly. I think within a couple hours, they knew who they were looking for, which is good because now at least they have photographs, they can alert the public and hopefully they can find this individual. But the fact that this is -- one, they're using knives, secondly, you know, it appears that they were just knocking on doors and stabbing people. Now, some were targeted, the police believe, others were just random in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But these individuals are on the run. The RCMP, I'm sure, is doing everything they possibly can, the search has expanded now to three different provinces. This is a remote area where this is occurring so it's going to make it very difficult in some regards to locate these individuals. I assume they know the landscape very well and probably can hide in a variety of different places. But there's a full-fledged manhunt and hopefully they can capture them before they're able to harm anyone else.

KEILAR: Have you ever seen anything like this, just the number of crime scenes, the number of victims, the fact that some were targeted and some were random?

RAMSEY: Well, that doesn't occur in this country very often because of the gun violence. I mean, we lose large numbers of people but usually it's in a very confined area because people are using assault weapons or whatever to commit mass murder. This is -- they're using knives. It is spread out over a wider area obviously, you know, and so it's quite different. But, again, you know, Canada is quite different from the United States in terms of a lot of things and certainly the way in which this kind of action takes place, the kind of violent action, they're not using guns, they're using knives, and that by itself makes it quite different.

KEILAR: Yes. The number of crime scenes is just astounding here when you're talking about the number of victims and fatalities here.

The assistant commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police actually sent the suspects a public message. They've been speaking directly to the suspects, and they asked them to turn themselves in immediately. In your experience, do messages like that work? Are they effective?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, you have to do everything you can to try to get people to turn themselves in, but they committed ten murders. I don't know if they were on drugs or what the situation was that caused them to commit a crime like that, but I wouldn't be surprised if they find them both dead, if they take their own lives as a result of that.

But, again, 13 different crime scenes, each one has to be protected. That's a lot of resources to use to process those scenes, but they're going to do everything they possibly can. They have been in touch with these individuals. Again, that's a positive sign. They know who they're looking for. The question is getting their hands on them.

KEILAR: We will be watching to see if this comes to a resolution here in the near term.

Chief, we appreciate your time this morning. Chief Charles Ramsey, thank you.

RAMSEY: Thank you.

BERMAN: This morning, a reporter from the Las Vegas Review-Journal is dead. Jeff German, a journalist whose career in the city spanned four decades, was found dead outside of his home with stab wounds. He joined the Review-Journal in 2010 after more than two decades at the Las Vegas Sun. One of German's former colleagues describes him as a hard-news guy who is dedicated to his craft. Another says he was the gold standard of the news business. Jeff German was 69. The police in the city say this investigation is now a top priority.

KEILAR: This morning, a suspect facing charges in the disappearance of Memphis teacher Eliza Fletcher. Investigators believe that she was abducted while she was jogging. The suspect, Cleotha Abston, is charged with especially aggravated kidnapping and tampering with evidence. Fletcher has still not been located.

CNN's Gary Tuchman is live for us in Memphis, Tennessee, with more on this case. Gary, what can you tell us?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, good morning to you. Three mornings ago, Eliza Fletcher was jogging on the street and was at this very intersection in the dark next to the University of Memphis when she was kidnapped.


The story is sad, the story is traumatic and the worst is feared.



TUCHMAN (voice over): A major break, but still no sign of Eliza Fletcher. Police have arrested a 38-year-old man claimed Cleotha Abston in connection with the Tennessee teacher's disappearance. He is now charged with kidnapping and tampering with evidence. It's unclear if he has an attorney.

The arrest comes after U.S. Marshals tracked down what a criminal complaint affidavit says is the SUV seen in this surveillance video. It shows 34-year-old Eliza Fletcher early Friday morning before dawn jogging next to the University of Memphis campus when the driver of this black suv forced her into the passenger's side of the vehicle.

The affidavit against Abston obtained by CNN reveals the SUV remained in a parking lot for about four minutes. It said there appeared to be a struggle between the two before the suspect drove away. U.S. Marshals found the GMC Terrain near Abston's home.

The vehicle had the same damage and partial license plate seen in the surveillance footage according to the affidavit. Investigators contacted Abston's employer to help confirm the vehicle believed to be involved in Eliza Fletcher's kidnapping belongs to a woman associated with his address. In addition, the affidavit reveals DNA recovered from a pair of sandals found at the crime scene helped investigators identify Abston. It said surveillance video from a local theater showed Abston wearing the same sandals the day before Eliza's disappearance. According to the affidavit, Abston has declined to share Eliza Fletcher's whereabouts.

MAJOR KAREN RUDOLPH, SPOKESWOMAN, MEMPHIS POLICE: Our concern is to locate Ms. Fletcher. So, if anybody knows where she's at, call the police immediately.

TUCHMAN: Eliza Fletcher, who goes by Liza, is a wife, a mother of two and a junior kindergarten teacher at the St. Mary's Episcopal School in Memphis. Her school, family and friends are pleading for help.

ROBINSON: She teaches and then she has two young boys that obviously we're worried about and just a great lady, really just the best mom.

TUCHMAN: Eliza Fletcher is an heiress whose late billionaire grandfather ran Orgill Incorporated. The Memphis-based company is the nation's largest independent distributor in its field of hardware and home improvement, according to Forbes.

CNN-affiliate WMC posted a video statement from Eliza's family members saying they have met with police and shared all the information they have. The family is offering a $50,000 reward for crime stoppers for information leading to her safe return.

MIKE KEENEY, ELIZA FLETCHER'S UNCLE: More than anything we want to see Liza returned home safely. The family has offered a reward for any information that leads to her safe return. We believe someone knows what happened and can help.


TUCHMAN: And, Brianna, this chilling note, this guy Abston, was found guilty back in 2000 of a kidnapping, kidnapping an attorney here in Memphis, a man who was able to escape. He ended up serving about 22 years in prison. He was released from prison in November of 2020, a little less than two years ago. Meanwhile, the search for this wife, mother and teacher continues. Brianna?

KEILAR: So terrible. Gary Tuchman, thank you for that report.

Former Trump Attorney General Bill Barr coming out swinging against his former boss and his handling of classified documents, even calling one of Trump's legal arguments a crock of you know what.

And the U.K. is about to learn its next prime minister. We will go live to London with the big announcement.

BERMAN: And a performance that will just give you chills, an emotional tribute for late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins. That was his son you saw before on the drums.



TRUMP: The FBI and the Justice Department have become vicious monsters.

They talk about documents not being properly stored, yet they go in and take documents, dump them on the floor, stage a photo shoot.

It was not just my home that was raided last month. It was the hopes and dreams of every citizen who I've been fighting for since the moment I came down the golden escalator.


BERMAN: Former President Trump in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, over the weekend lashing out at the FBI over its search of Mar-a-Lago. One January 6th committee member told CNN that Trump's attacks on the FBI could potentially amount to incitement.

Joining us now is CNN Political Analyst and Senior Correspondent for TheGrio Natasha Alford and CNN Senior Legal Analyst and former Federal Prosecutor Elie Honig.

Natasha, when you see the events Saturday night, it's interesting, because there was a Democratic strategist quoted in the papers over the weekend, but I heard from a Republican strategist who said the exact same thing over the weekend, which is that they said Donald Trump fell into Joe Biden's trap. Biden went and gave his big speech calling out Donald Trump Thursday night and this was Trump responding to it. What do you think?

NATASHA ALFORD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that I was curious, actually, about whether he was going to back down a little bit, right, because we saw the increase in threats against the FBI. This is a law and order president. But the fact that he didn't and the fact that he's leaning into this, it does concern me a little bit.

But I think it's part of a strategy. If you undermine the FBI, you undermine whatever it is that they find. And so whoever Donald Trump puts -- whoever Donald Trump mentions, he puts a target on their back. And so it may not be logical to people who are like on the left looking to see what the strategy is, but for his followers, this really works rhetorically.

BERMAN: For his followers, but in Pennsylvania, which is obviously a swing state, there is a contested governor's race there, a contested Senate race there, what's the risk/reward calculation? It was supposed to be a rally for Mehmet Oz and Mastriano and he barely mentioned those guys.

ALFORD: Yes. I do think there is a risk in doing that. But I think that Donald Trump, again, he is just somebody who is not traditional, right? He doesn't play by the rule book and so I think he's counting on putting this pressure on people within the GOP so that way he remains the lead in that party and continues to have this outsized influence.

BERMAN: So, Elie, what about the legal risk in all of that? In the sound bite we just played, you heard Donald Trump referring to the FBI dumping out cartons on the floor, which you can read -- actually, you could infer, then, that's an admission that the documents were there to begin with.

HONIG: Right. I mean, it sort of undermines the whole they were planted defense, doesn't it? Look, I have to object to the characterization, of course, as FBI agents and DOJ as, quote, vicious monsters. I mean, it should go without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway, that is utterly unacceptable. And, by the way, Donald Trump's whole categorization of this search is way out of line.

I mean, the notion that his place was raided with no warning and it was this drastic step, I mean, that is completely contradicted by the factual record here. If anything, you might ask why DOJ was so patient, was so solicitous by letting this drag out through informal negotiations through over a year, they asked politely, Archives asked politely, they use a subpoena. This search warrant -- DOJ and FBI had no choice but to execute this search warrant. So, let's get that part of the record straight.

BERMAN: But can any of this ultimately come back to haunt him legally? I mentioned the pouring out of the documents, he also had a statement on his social networking thing last week where he talked about these documents were headed to his library at some point.

HONIG: Yes. If there ever comes a day when Donald Trump or anybody in particular is charged, the statements that that person makes or his representatives absolutely can be used against him. We do need to distinguish because some of these defenses have been voiced by surrogates. So, you can't play, for example, Lindsey Graham making some excuse for what happened. But if Donald Trump acknowledges, yes, as you just essentially did, those documents were in my place, the documents were spread across my floor, he's acknowledging possession of them, which is not the entire case, but, yes, you would want to use that as part of a case.

BERMAN: But what about the changing justifications? Could that hurt him as well?

HONIG: Oh, absolutely. You can show a jury, say, well, the defense went from A to B to C, there are six or seven different defenses now. Why would someone change their story? What does that tell you? You absolutely can argue that to a jury.

BERMAN: All right. Bill Barr, the former attorney general of the United States, he did a round of interviews where he was just brutal toward Donald Trump here and defending the FBI and DOJ for what went on here. Let's listen.


WILLIAM BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERA: I can't think of a legitimate reason why they should have been -- could be taken out of the government, away from the government, if they're classified.

I think the driver on this from the beginning was, you know, loads of classified information sitting in Mar-a-Lago. People say this was unprecedented. Well, it's also unprecedented for a president to take all this classified information and put them in a country club, okay?


BERMAN: Again, as a political mind (ph), Natasha, I'm reminded the January 6 committee hearings. Bill Barr was a star. The committee, they loved nothing more than to put video clips of Bill Barr criticizing Donald Trump in their hearings.

ALFORD: It's fascinating. It feels like an alternate political universe, right? Bill Barr, who, to the end, supported Trump and was loyal, finally just sort of saying some common sense things, right? Why would you have documents past that time? Why would you even declassify documents? I thought that was a really important point. But if Donald Trump was really being responsible, why would he just blindly declassify all these documents if he had done so.

So, it was fascinating to watch that Bill Barr is actually taking this stance and doing so on Fox, by the way, reaching an audience that might not otherwise hear that different perspective. I thought it was fascinating that he's doing it now.

HONIG: Yes, I'm glad you pointed that out, Natasha. Because if you a person only started paying attention a year ago, you wouldn't understand who Bill Barr is. You would think he is this principled guy who had a very important position and is speaking truth, sometimes often, against Donald Trump's interests. But let's remember, he spent almost two years as attorney general as Donald Trump's number one cheerleader, number one protector. He bent the truth, he bent the law, he compromised his own integrity, he compromised DOJ's integrity. So, it hits extra hard now to hear Bill Barr come out and say, this is nonsense.

BERMAN: It's interesting as a matter of law, again, our interpretation, this is a guy who was a member of the Federal Society. He has been a supporter of executive power forever.


BERMAN: I mean, no stronger supporter of executive authority than Bill Barr. But he does seem to draw a line legally when it is about a former president.

HONIG: Yes, he does. I mean, look, Bill Barr is a proponent and a major proponent of what we call the unitary executive theory, which is this idea that, A, the executive branch has sort of reigned supreme and, B, the president is the executive branch. And he bent and distorted and used that theory to its extreme while Donald Trump was in office to protect him. Now, it's different, he's out of office.

I also would note on the classification issue. I mean, Bill Barr, if he is true to those beliefs, would say, yes, a president can declassify anything he wants. But Bill Barr has drawn a really important distinction. He said, but he didn't. There is no evidence that he did.


And I have to note, it's funny, because when Bill Barr was first announced, you know, back in 2018 as the person who Donald Trump was going to select.