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State of the Union
Interview With FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell; Interview With Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA); Interview With Washington Senatorial Candidate Tiffany Smiley; Politics of Abortion. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired September 04, 2022 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Race to the finish. Competitive midterm campaigns heat up, with candidates drawing stark contrasts on America's top issues.
TIFFANY SMILEY (R), WASHINGTON SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Patty Murray has spent millions to paint me as an extremist.
SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D-WA): We will not be silent. We will not back down.
BASH: Whose message is connecting more with voters? I will speak with two candidates in a key Senate race, Republican Tiffany Smiley and Democratic Senator Patty Murray, ahead.
And crisis mode. Mississippi's capital goes nearly a week without running water. As the city's supply returns, it is still not drinkable.
DEANNE CRISWELL, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: This is a really complex situation.
BASH: Who's to blame? And how vulnerable are other U.S. cities? I will speak with FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell next.
Plus: Rematch? President Biden gives a stark warning to Americans ahead of the midterms.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism.
BASH: As we learn more about Donald Trump's handling of classified material, three ex-advisers to the former president will join us.
BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash, and the state of our union is hitting the campaign trail.
Happy Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end to summer and kickoff to campaign season. President Biden is heading to key midterm states tomorrow, two of them. He's visiting Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, after he warned Americans that his predecessor, former President Trump, posed a threat to the future of American democracy.
Today, we're going to test how that speech and other top issues like the economy, education and abortion are resonating in the midterm campaigns. We're going to get the view from both candidates in a race that could determine control of the Senate, Democratic incumbent Senator Patty Murray and her Republican challenger, Tiffany Smiley.
But we begin this morning with a crisis that surpasses politics, Americans living in conditions unfathomable for most of the U.S. In the city of Jackson, Mississippi, today, water pressure is back for many of the thousands who have been without running water for a week, but the water is still not drinkable, after weeks of residents being told they needed to boil what comes out of their taps.
FEMA's director just visited Jackson. And she's here with us now to talk about efforts to fix this disaster, FEMA Director Deanne Criswell.
Thank you so much for being here.
I just want to start with what you saw on the ground there. You did get a firsthand look at Jackson. What did you hear from residents and officials on the ground? And when will full access to clean drinking water be restored?
CRISWELL: Good morning, Dana. Thanks so much for having me on here today.
Yes, I was able to go visit on Friday, traveled with the White House infrastructure director, Mitch Landrieu, to really talk to the mayor and talk to the plant workers to find out exactly what is going on.
As you said, there has been a lot of infrastructure damage that has been present for many years. And so where we are focused right now from FEMA is being able to make sure that we can provide and support the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency with bringing in safe drinking water, bottled water, supporting their operations, but, more importantly, bringing in our federal partners that can really understand what it's going to take to bring this plant back to full operational capacity.
BASH: When will that happen? When will they get clean drinking water in Jackson?
CRISWELL: Yes, I think it's still too early to tell, Dana.
I think that having EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, we had a really good conversation Friday about what it's going to take and the assessments they're doing. And so it's going to happen in phases, right? The focus right now is making sure we can get bottled water out.
But, also, we're providing temporary measures to help increase the water pressure, so people can at least flush their toilets and use the faucets. The longer term and the midterm about how long it's going to take to actually make it safe to drink, I think that we have a lot more to learn about what it's going to take to get that plant up and running.
BASH: It's just I'm listening to you, and I'm sure our viewers are listening and thinking, this is 2022. This is a state capital in the United States of America...
BASH: ... a city of more than 150,000 people, without running water for nearly a week.
And now, as you're saying, not only are they without safe drinking water. You don't have a timeline for when they're going to have that restored. Americans are lining up for hours in the heat just to get the bottles of water you're talking about.
Who's to blame for this?
CRISWELL: Yes, I think that there is a lot of information that we need to dig into to find out what is the actual cause of how we got to this point that we find ourselves in today.
But I think that we need to focus on what it's going to take to fix this. I mean, this is not OK for the residents of Jackson, Mississippi. And so our focus needs to be on what is it that we need to do today and in the coming days to make sure that, one, we get safe drinking water back, but that we make sure that this does not happen again.
BASH: I understand what you're saying, but when you -- you don't want to look back, but it's not even looking back, right?
It's current. There is no timeline that you have for telling the people of Jackson, 150,000 residents, when there is going to be clean drinking water for them. So, there has to be some root of the problem that you need to address, not just to blame, but you need to address in order to fix it. Can you talk about that?
CRISWELL: Yes, again, FEMA's role in this is to make sure that we're supporting this immediate crisis.
And I think that's coming through the bottled water and through bringing in our federal partners. I think the biggest part that we have is bringing in our federal partners, like the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA, who are doing that assessment right now, Dana.
I mean, they need to take the time to truly understand the extent of the problem and then how long it's going to take to be able to fix it, so they can let the residents of Jackson know how much longer they're going to have to deal with this.
BASH: Yes. Yes, and I understand. You're the federal government coming in to help.
So, on that note, President Biden approved emergency funds for Mississippi this week.
BASH: And he appeared pretty frustrated that the Mississippi governor, Tate Reeves, hasn't done more. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: We have offered every single thing available in Mississippi. The governor has to act. There's money to deal with this problem. We have given him everything there is to offer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Can you elaborate on that? What should Governor Reeves be doing that he isn't right now?
CRISWELL: You know, what I can tell you, Dana, that I saw on Friday is that it is a very cohesive working relationship between our federal, our state and our local partners.
Everybody is focused on the right thing right now, and they're focused on making sure that we are addressing the immediate needs and putting a plan in place for the long-term needs. This is a solid team. And I believe that we have the right people on the ground to help support the governor and the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, with what they're going to need, not just today, but into the future.
BASH: How vulnerable are other American cities to this same kind of water supply failure that we're seeing in Jackson?
CRISWELL: We have a lot of issues with our infrastructure around the nation. There is a lot of aging infrastructure that's out there.
And so I think that it's really prudent to have jurisdictions that are taking the time to really assess what their potential vulnerabilities are and what it's going to take to help bring them up into a level that we don't see a crisis like this in the future.
It's a longstanding issue with our infrastructure. And that's part of what the bipartisan infrastructure law is designed to support, right, is to help bring this infrastructure into current times, so we don't have crises like this again.
BASH: My colleague Rene Marsh reported this week about FEMA flood maps and how they're not keeping up with the reality of what we're seeing with the climate crisis.
The nonprofit First Street Foundation estimates six million property owners nationwide are unaware that they're actually at risk from severe flooding and likely don't have flood insurance because they don't know they're at risk.
Do you believe that there needs to be an update to FEMA's maps?
CRISWELL: Yes, so FEMA's maps right now are really focused on riverine flooding and coastal flooding in our maps.
And we work with local jurisdictions to update the maps when they have -- when they have -- when they ask us to provide additional assistance to update them. I think the part that's really difficult right now is the fact that our flood maps don't take into account excessive rain that comes in, when we're seeing these record rainfalls that are happening, St. Louis, right, record rainfall of over 100 years, that, when you have that amount of rain per hour, that's what our flood maps don't necessarily take into consideration.
BASH: So, that...
CRISWELL: We're really talking about inundation from rivers and coastal...
BASH: So, will you update them, given the changing in the climate?
CRISWELL: Yes, so I think there's a lot of work that needs to go into that, Dana. It's hard to predict when we're going to see rain events like that, right, and the status of the infrastructure to be able to support that.
We are going to continue to work with all of our local jurisdictions to help them better identify what their needs are and help them create better predictive models, because we have to start thinking about what the threats are going to be in the future as a result of climate change, so they can put the mitigation measures in place.
BASH: Yes, the climate crisis is here. We see that pretty much everywhere around the globe.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, thank you so much. We know you have a lot of work ahead in restoring drinking water in Jackson and everything else you're dealing with around the country. So, thank you for coming on this morning.
CRISWELL: Thanks, Dana. I appreciate it.
BASH: And the FBI found dozens of highly classified documents in former President Trump's Florida office. Why did he take them? I will ask three ex-advisers to the former president ahead.
And it's a key Senate race you might not have heard much about. We're going to talk to both candidates, Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley and incumbent Democratic Senator Patty Murray, ahead.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. Today, we're focusing on one fascinating midterm race that could help
determine control of the U.S. Senate.
It's in Washington state, where Democratic senator and chair of the powerful Health and Education Committee, Patty Murray, is hoping to fend off Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley, a former triage nurse and mom of three whose life changed when her Army officer husband was blinded by a suicide bomb in Iraq, and she successfully fought for him to stay on active-duty.
The Republican Senate nominee in Washington state, Tiffany Smiley, is here with me now.
Thank you so much for joining me.
You are a mom of three young boys.
BASH: You call yourself the new mom in town, which is a reference to your opponent, Patty Murray, who won 30 years ago calling herself just a mom in tennis shoes.
I want to ask you about some of the policies that Senator Murray supports that could help parents. And those policies are paid family leave, universal pre-K, spending more money on childcare.
Do you support any of those plans to help struggling moms and dads in Washington state?
TIFFANY SMILEY (R), WASHINGTON SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I absolutely do support those.
And, look, Patty Murray is chairwoman of the Health Committee, but my question is, we had a 90 percent out-of-stock formula rate here in Washington state, and she repeatedly refused to stand up and be a voice for moms here in Washington state that were looking for baby formula.
You know, I look forward to ensuring that women have access, affordable access to contraception, health care, childcare, and, unlike Patty Murray, I will get it done.
BASH: So, just confirming, you support paid family leave, just to take one of the things I listed off?
SMILEY: I do. I do.
BASH: Another issue...
SMILEY: Yes. Yes, we need to ensure that our children have access to education, yes, yes.
Another issue that is big on the campaign trail across the country, but particularly in your race, is abortion.
BASH: I want our viewers to listen to a clip from one of your recent television ads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMILEY: Patty Murray has spent millions to paint me as an extremist. I'm pro-life, but I oppose a federal abortion ban. Patty Murray wants to scare you. I want to serve you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: So, the state of Washington currently guarantees the right to an abortion up to fetal viability. Do you support that?
SMILEY: Viability, yes.
I do. I made it clear in my ad that I would not -- I am not for a federal abortion ban. You know, the extreme in this race is Patty Murray. She is for a -- federalizing abortion.
I respect the voters of Washington state. And they long decided where they stand on the issue. I think the question that we need to be asking Patty Murray is -- and you can ask her, Dana. You can ask her. Does she believe in any legal limitations to abortions?
I -- and, again, I look forward to ensuring that women have access to health care, contraception, that, in a time of crisis here in Washington state, that they have every resource that they need to make the best choice, that women know that choosing to keep your child isn't a ticket to a lack of education or poverty.
So, we need to ask Patty Murray, does she believe in any legal limitations?
BASH: Yes, and I'm going to...
SMILEY: Because, if there's one person who could Washington state law, it's Patty Murray.
BASH: I'm going to do that interview in a minute, but, right now, I'm interviewing you, so I just want to clarify what your position is.
And there were some reports that you supported the six-week ban in Texas, for example. You're saying that is not something you support? You support what is currently on the books in the state of Washington?
SMILEY: That's -- I had problems with the Texas law.
And, unfortunately, when it's in print, people can put a period where there's supposed to be a comma and they cut off my remarks. I didn't -- there were a lot of problems with the Texas bill.
I'm focused on Washington state, and I'm focused on delivering for the people of Washington state. I made that clear in my ad that I am there to combat inflation, get the cost of living under control...
SMILEY: ... lower gas prices, get our crime under control, get our small businesses back to work, workers back to work, so we have a thriving economy here in Washington state.
BASH: I want to ask about another issue that voters call a priority, and that is the state of American democracy.
I want to play a little bit of what President Biden said on Thursday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Now, I want to be very clear, very clear up front. Not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans.
MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution. They do not believe in the rule of law.
Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: When you think about the January 6 attack on the Capitol, the threats against the FBI, attempts to overturn the election, the former president floating pardons for insurrectionists, do you think that President Biden is right about some parts of your party?
SMILEY: I was very disappointed with his speech.
Look, as a family that has served and sacrificed for this country, when I was -- stood up and was a voice for my husband, and then went on for additional reform in the VA, we were fighting for every Democrat, Republican and independent, disabled veteran and their family.
So, I was extremely disappointed, because unity is not conformity. And I think President Biden got that really, really mixed up. You know, in fact, debate is the cornerstone of democracy. And you can ask Patty Murray when she comes on why she hasn't accepted debates that are on the calendar to debate me.
Healthy debate is who we are as a country. It's actually what makes us better. And that's what I look forward to fighting for and debating my opponent, Senator Patty Murray.
BASH: The point that President Biden was making is, election integrity is also a cornerstone of democracy. And it's a concern shared by some in your party, that the idea that there are election deniers that are sowing doubt about what happened in 2020. So, let's just drill down on this question. Simply yes or no, do you
believe that Joe Biden won the 2020 election fair and square?
SMILEY: Yes. He's our president, yes.
And, to be clear I think, in 2016, Hillary Clinton had concerns. Stacey Abrams had concerns. This is an issue on both sides of the aisle. This isn't a Democrat or Republican issue. We need to protect the integrity of our elections. They need to be easy to cheat -- or hard to cheat and easy to vote.
SMILEY: That is very clear.
BASH: And let me ask. I'm going to ask you about that in a second, but you said...
SMILEY: And that's for both sides of the aisle. This is not a divisive -- yes.
BASH: You said that President Biden is our president. Was he fairly elected, legitimately elected?
SMILEY: Yes, Joe Biden is our president.
And, look, my campaign has been so successful because, from day one, I am focused on the endorsement of the voters of Washington state and delivering results. I care about the people of Washington state. That's who I'm fighting for.
Unfortunately, Patty Murray fights for Washington, D.C. Her and Joe Biden have a combined 80 years in government, and we're just not any better off in Washington state because of that.
BASH: OK. You didn't say that he was legitimately elected. I just want to give you one chance to say that, or -- and if you are comfortable with your answer, we will move on.
SMILEY: Yes, I think I made it clear.
SMILEY: He is our president. And, again, I am focused on the voters of Washington state. I'm focused on the future and what I can deliver.
SMILEY: We have crisis here in Washington state. And I'm here to turn crisis into hope.
In March, you told McClatchy that you would welcome former President Donald Trump's endorsement. You said: "If the president wants to support us, that's awesome." Do you still want the former president's endorsement? Do you want him to come campaign for you in Washington state?
SMILEY: Look, Dana, again, this campaign has been so successful, we have a strong grassroots movement, because I am laser-focused on the endorsement of the voters of Washington state.
If someone from our party wants to endorse me, get behind me, support us, that's great. I am laser-focused on retiring career politician Patty Murray, who has forgotten about Washington state. She cares about Washington, D.C. She fights for Washington, D.C. I will fight for the voters of Washington state.
And there's real issues on the ballot, again, the rising cost of living, yes.
BASH: So, do you want the president -- the former president's endorsement...
SMILEY: I would love to address that.
BASH: ... yes or no? Do you want Donald Trump's endorsement?
SMILEY: I am laser -- I am laser-focused on delivering results for the voters of Washington state. And I have been clear about that from day one. I am focused on the future.
BASH: OK. Tiffany...
SMILEY: And we have a state to save. There are real people suffering here in Washington state.
BASH: Tiffany Smiley, thank you so much for joining me this morning. I appreciate it.
SMILEY: Thank you.
BASH: And the Democrat who's defending the Senate seat in Washington state -- we just heard her name -- Patty Murray, she has held that seat for almost 30 years.
She's going to respond next.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
You just heard from the Republican Senate nominee in Washington state.
Now we're going to talk to the woman who's defending her seat, Democrat Patty Murray. She's a member of the Senate leadership, running for her sixth term. And she first found her political voice when a lawmaker told her she
who never make a difference because she's just a mom in tennis shoes.
Well, here with me now is Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington state.
So, you just heard my interview with Tiffany Smiley. She is running against you as the new mom in town, a reference to that campaign message back in 1992. How do you respond to what you heard from her?
MURRAY: Look, I am proud of being a voice for the people and the policies that I represent here in Washington state, all over our beautiful state.
And I go to Washington, D.C., every day and think, what can I do to help make lives better? We have been in such a tremendous, challenging time. We're working hard to help people get back on their feet, to make sure we are manufacturing right here in our country chips, so that we can get the products we need.
We just passed a major climate change bill to really help lower energy costs for people. We just passed a bill that will help lower the cost of prescription drugs for people. Do we have more to do? Absolutely.
But what's on line in this election is, people here in Washington state have a voice they know is telling them what she believes, because that's what I have always said, rather than somebody who changes their view in order to get elected.
BASH: I wanted to ask about the issue of abortion. We talked to Tiffany Smiley about that. So, I want to get your position as well.
And your fellow Democrat running in Pennsylvania John Fetterman has said he does not believe there should be government limits on abortion at all. Do you support limits on abortion?
MURRAY: Dana, what I believe is that we have a constitutional right in this country under Roe by the Supreme Court that allowed women and their families and their faith and their doctor to make a decision for them about whether or not they should carry their pregnancy.
That is what the law and constitutional right of this land was, until this Supreme Court overturned that. I believe that is the policy That we should have. I do not believe that politicians should be making these decisions for women. That is what I support.
BASH: I want to ask you about COVID, Senator.
New numbers this week show test scores plummeted as children were kept home from school during the pandemic, the largest decline in reading in 30 years and the first decline ever in mathematics.
You're a former schoolteacher yourself. And you chair now one of the most powerful committees in the Senate overseeing health and education. Was it a mistake to keep children home for school so long during the pandemic?
MURRAY: Dana, this was a decision of local school officials and our scientific experts, trying to get their hands around a pandemic that was killing millions of Americans to protect their children, to protect their staff, to protect their communities.
I am proud that, when Democrats got control a year-and-a-half ago, Democrats voted for the American Rescue Plan that helped our kids get back into school safely, making sure that our schools had testing and supplies and ventilation and the ability to make sure their kids could be safe at school.
And, today, virtually every child is back in school. That is what I focused on, making sure that we were providing the resources to our schools so they could reopen safely. And that's what we have today.
MURRAY: Yes, we have an issue about kids being out of school. And I am very focused, Dana, on making sure that we help get our kids back to where they need to be.
BASH: Which is going to be a big challenge.
MURRAY: It is a challenge
BASH: ... no second thoughts? And I know hindsight is always 20/20, but, given the numbers that you're seeing and the decline that we just talked about, you still feel comfortable with the way that school districts, even in your home state, handled the pandemic?
MURRAY: I think we were under unprecedented times at that point, where people were struggling to figure out what was the best thing to do to make sure that their kids, their families, their children were safe.
Remember, people were dying by the hundreds of thousands. We did not want that to continue. People had to make choices based on the best scientific and personal evidence that they had.
Do I see now a point where we have our kids in school, and now what we need to focus on is making sure that we help those kids get back to where they need. Mental health is clearly an issue for a lot of our kids as they are struggling to come back and for our staff and personnel in our schools.
I'm working right now on bipartisan legislation to help make sure we are addressing mental health in our country. Do we have to continue to provide the resources to make sure that our schools have the ability to get our kids back to where they need to be? That's what I'm actually focused on.
BASH: Senator, I want to ask you about President Biden's speech -- it was quite scathing -- which he gave on Thursday. He labeled the former president in what he's calling the MAGA Republicans as threats to democracy.
"The Washington Post" editorial board wrote -- quote -- "You don't persuade people by scolding or demeaning them, but that's how the president's speech landed for many conservatives of goodwill."
I have watched you work across party lines in the Senate on several major issues. Given that experience that you have, does this kind of rhetoric from President Biden help you in that cause?
MURRAY: Well, Dana, this is what I know. I believe that our democracy is at risk today.
I was in the nation's Capitol on January 6. I wasn't able to escape. I was barricaded in an office. And I heard the pounding at the door, and I heard those who were outside of it willing to use brute force incited by President Trump to take over our country, to take over our democracy, to stop the transaction to a new presidency in a peaceful way, which is what a democracy is.
I believe a democracy is what we have all fought long and hard for, to use our voices and votes and opinions to guide us to where we need to be. I vote every day. I work every day, using my voice. Sometimes, I win. Sometimes, I lose.
MURRAY: But we have to get back to a point where we all say that brute force and incitement of that brute force, and the questions that the president and his followers continue to put out there about whether or not that election was legitimate incites that.
And we still have people today saying there will be violence on the streets. That is not what a democracy is. And we all have to point that out and work to make sure we move towards a democracy and keep that democracy.
BASH: On that note, the democracy that's going on now is campaigning, as you know, for the election in November.
BASH: And there's a national Democratic group, the Senate Majority PAC, spending millions of dollars ahead of next week's New Hampshire primary attacking a moderate candidate, moderate Republican Chuck Morse. He's currently trailing to a far-right election denier there.
If election deniers are a threat to democracy, are you OK with your fellow Democrats helping them win their primaries?
MURRAY: Well, here's what I know.
Here in my state, I work every day out across my state using my voice, using my ability to talk to people and to work with them on the issues they care about and to tell them where I stand. That's what every candidate needs to do.
BASH: Yes, but you're a member of the Democratic leadership.
As a Democratic leader, a national leader as well, are you OK with Democrats helping election deniers in Republican primaries like New Hampshire?
MURRAY: I believe what Democratic supporters are doing is working to make sure that we have a Democratic majority in the United States Senate and the Congress, so that we can restore the rights of women to make their own health care choices, so that we can continue to fight climate change, so that we can work to continue to put in place the policies that allow this economy to work for the men and women and working families across my state and across the nation.
BASH: OK. That sounded like a yes.
Senator Patty Murray, thank you for joining me this morning. I appreciate it.
MURRAY: Thank you.
BASH: And why was former President Trump keeping confidential government documents at his Florida resort?
Three women who worked for the Trump administration join me to discuss next.
BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
Former President Trump is under mounting legal pressure, as we get a better sense of the kinds of material he took with him from the White House to Mar-a-Lago.
During their search August 8, the FBI found thousands of nonclassified government documents, as well as 31 confidential, 54 secret, and 18 top secret documents.
Here to discuss are three ex-officials from the Trump administration, Alyssa Farah Griffin, former White House communications director and CNN political commentator, Olivia Troye, former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to Vice President Pence, and Stephanie Grisham, former White House communications director and chief of staff to Melania Trump.
Thank you so much to all of you for coming on.
So, Alyssa, let's start with you. Why do you think that the former president took all of these documents to Mar-a-Lago?
ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that's the million-dollar question.
And I think DOJ has an obligation at some point to give a sense, without revealing, of course, what's in these classified documents, but those 18 top secret documents, even the subject matter, because I think, knowing the former president, we have to kind of think about why he does things and his motivations behind things.
And one we have to keep in mind is leverage. Is this something that he's holding on to help his future political ambitions? Or is this simply that he took classified documents unknowingly, was warned, did not turn them back over, and there was no motive or intent in doing so?
But I think we really need -- the American public needs to know more about what's in these documents that again, if they're T.S., they're top secret, that means, in the wrong hands, they could pose a grave threat to U.S. national security.
BASH: And, Stephanie, what do you think is the likelier answer to what Alyssa just posed, especially when you see that this classified information was seemingly just put together with random press clippings, clothing, gifts?
How does that track with how he handled sensitive information? And, again, what do you think about why it's there?
STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You know, it tracks perfectly. That is exactly what his filing system was. It was just boxes of things randomly placed together.
When I saw the picture, though, and I saw the sheer volume of classified materials, and now we're hearing that some could be missing, I just don't know how that amount could be put in those boxes and not be seen and not be noticed.
So, my thought is, as Alyssa said earlier, I think it's some kind of a leverage. I do think -- believe some of it he just felt was cool. And I do believe some of it he just thinks he owns it, which, of course, he does not.
So -- and, also, the fact that he did not give things back when asked over and over again over the course of a year. So, I think there's something behind it. But, as Alyssa also said, it will be the million- dollar question to know what exactly it was.
BASH: And, Olivia, you worked with classified information all the time in your role in the administration.
What do you think would have happened to you if you took some of the documents that we now know were taken to Mar-a-Lago?
OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICIAL: I would be in jail. I wouldn't even -- I would be answering questions afterwards, to be honest.
And, honestly, even when finding classified information outside of where it should be stored, there was a responsibility to actually report that, to turn it in, and self-report. That is how seriously we take this.
So, you -- if anything like this were to be the case, anyone would be walked out. I saw people get walked out of the Pentagon for much less greater efforts like this. So, I mean, it is -- it is mind-blowing to think about the fact that these documents were down there.
BASH: And, Alyssa, I want you to hear about -- hear from, I should say, the former attorney general under Donald Trump, Bill Barr, and what he said about the Justice Department.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: 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 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, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FARAH GRIFFIN: Well, Bill Barr is absolutely correct on this.
BASH: Full-throated defense.
FARAH GRIFFIN: It's -- no, he's absolutely right.
BASH: Yes. Yes. Go ahead.
FARAH GRIFFIN: To Olivia's point, those of us -- every one of us, I believe, held a security clearance when we were in government.
There are very specific protocols for how you even handle these documents. If you physically take them out of a building, you need a certified carry card. You need a lead-covered bag, so that it can even evade X-rays. And this man's got them co-located with his "TIME" magazine covers at a country club in Florida that's been a target for espionage.
There is no way that this is acceptable, if you don't believe in a two-tiered system of justice where a former president is above the law. And I would just note, Trump rallied last night in Pennsylvania, and it descended into a "Lock her up" chant about Hillary Clinton, who, by the way, the reason Republicans like myself called for her to be investigated was for mishandling, allegedly mishandling classified information, exactly what Donald Trump, in fact, is doing in Mar-a- Lago.
BASH: And, Stephanie, Trump's legal team is on TV claiming he declassified all this material, but they're not actually making that argument in court.
And they have acknowledged that guests had access to rooms where classified information was being kept. And Trump has come dangerously close on social media to admitting that he knew this material in his home was there all along.
You used to be his communications director. Do you believe that he thinks this is a P.R. problem, and not really a legitimate legal threat?
GRISHAM: Oh, absolutely.
I mean, there's definitely two tracks going here, right? There's the legal issue, and there's the P.R. And, for Donald Trump, it's P.R. And I did not watch much of his rally last night, but from the clips I did see, you could tell he was reveling in finally having a voice.
They have had such a -- many, many missteps with regard to communications with the lawyers and what they have been saying publicly. And you're exactly right. Recently, he said on his TRUTH Social that those documents were in a carton and the FBI put them on the floor to make a mess.
So, I would say he has admitted that he knows it there. I would imagine that we're going to see a lot more rallies where he's going to feel he's got his voice. And he's going to continue to be divisive and blame everybody, and not take responsibility.
I think that -- well, actually I know that he doesn't think anybody's following the legal aspects of it and that all he has to say is his version of the truth, and the MAGA, extreme right-wing of the party will believe him. And, sadly, they will.
BASH: Yes, I mean, the hypocrisy there is -- is really something to watch.
I want to turn to what President Biden's speech this week did and said and the whole message there highlighting what he says he believes is a threat from Donald Trump and what he calls the MAGA Republicans.
You're all Republicans. You all broke with President Trump. And, in many ways, President Biden said that what you have all been saying for a long time now.
Olivia, I want to start with you. Did what President Biden say resonate with you?
TROYE: It did, absolutely.
Look, I'm a lifelong Republican voter who doesn't identify with this extremist wing of the party, who thinks that that far right-wing is dangerous, and it's emboldening divisiveness across the country, and it foments violence, and we have -- we have seen, we have seen in the lead-up to January 6, and we have seen what this leads to.
And I really just wish that they were running better candidates, more responsible candidates who actually represent traditional Republican values, instead of what this is, which is dangerous.
FARAH GRIFFIN: My one concern, I would just say -- and I agree with Olivia. i Think all of us think that the threats to democracy as one of the most important issues facing our country.
I do worry about Biden stepping into this very divisive rhetoric that paints too big of a swathe of the country as them vs. us. He needs an inclusive message, or that just ends up stoking and emboldening the Trump wing of the party.
BASH: Alyssa Farah Griffin, Olivia Troye, Stephanie Grisham...
GRISHAM: So, I agree...
BASH: Oh, go -- Stephanie, go ahead, real quick.
GRISHAM: No, I -- well, I -- what Alyssa said, how about that?
BASH: What she said.
BASH: All right, thanks, one and all. I really appreciate it.
FARAH GRIFFIN: Thanks.
GRISHAM: Thank you.
BASH: And the politics of abortion is scrambling key races this midterm cycle.
I went to Michigan to take a closer look at how the issue is playing in a competitive race for governor. That's next.
BASH: Democrats are hoping the reversal of Roe v. Wade helps them fend off losses to Republican candidates this fall.
One place where abortion rights is becoming a central issue is in Michigan, where Republican Tudor Dixon is challenging Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer for her job in November.
BASH (voice-over): At the Michigan State Fair, Labor Day weekend means livestock competitions.
Proud grandfather Dick Rossell came to watch his granddaughter Abby (ph) show her pigs.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my pig. Her name is Billie Jean. I love her to death.
BASH: Still, even here, Labor Day weekend also means Election Day is around the corner.
DICK ROSSELL, MICHIGAN VOTER: I lean towards the right. But I want what's best for the state and for the country when it comes to my politics.
BASH (on camera): So you're undecided?
DICK ROSSELL: Yes.
BASH (voice-over): His wife, Dawn, is undecided too. They're both Republican voters wary of a total ban on abortion.
(on camera): Has abortion ever been an issue that has driven your vote before?
DAWN ROSSELL, MICHIGAN VOTER: No.
BASH: It's new this year?
DAWN ROSSELL: Yes. I want to hear more what Tudor Dixon has to say about abortion before I decide if that's who I'm going to vote for.
BASH (voice-over): Tudor Dixon is Michigan's Republican nominee for governor. So far, most of what voters hear about her abortion position is from Democratic ads flooding the airwaves.
ANNOUNCER: She's told us exactly who she is.
QUESTION: Are you for the exemptions for rape and incest?
TUDOR DIXON (R), MICHIGAN GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I am not.
BASH: Since winning the Republican primary August 2, Dixon has kept a low profile on the campaign trail, her Democratic opponent, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, not so much.
GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): The only reason Michigan continues to be a pro-choice state is because of my veto and my lawsuit.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BASH: Even before Roe v. Wade was overturned, Whitmer filed a lawsuit to prevent a 1931 Michigan abortion ban from taking effect. The state Supreme Court now gets the chance to rule on whether an abortion rights measure that drew nearly 600,000 valid signatures will be on the ballot in November. WHITMER: The vast majority of people in this state support a woman
being able to make her own decision, whether it's one they would do or not.
BASH: It's a motivating issue for voters like Emily Shereda and her mother, Rhonda (ph), joined Governor Whitmer at a women's roundtable on Wednesday.
EMILY SHEREDA, MICHIGAN VOTER: People who are more so in the middle, like my mom, they will be more so pushed to vote for people who are going to protect their reproductive rights.
RHONDA SHEREDA, MICHIGAN VOTER: I could not have said that better myself.
BASH: Not everyone agrees.
AARON GARDNER (R), MICHIGAN STATE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think that the abortion issue is a big deal in Michigan.
BASH: Aaron Gardner, a Republican running for state Senate and Tudor Dixon supporter, was protesting outside a Whitmer campaign event.
GARDNER: Most of what people care about is money in their pockets. Let's be realistic. Gas prices have been skyrocketing through the roof. And our leadership in Michigan and in Lansing has filled the voters multiple times.
BASH: In Bay City, Whitmer touted job creation at a new manufacturing plant, addressing economic issues head on.
(on camera): How much of an uphill climb is it for you, as the incoming governor?
WHITMER: People are struggling to put food on. The table the cost of everything has gone up. We have seen the cost of gas continuously come down for the last month-and-a-half. That's a good thing. I'm trying to give people relief.
BASH (voice-over): Through a spokesman, Tudor Dixon declined our request for an interview. Her campaign but not share details on any public events or provide a surrogate for us to speak with.
DIXON: We want education freedom in the state of Michigan.
BASH: Dixon watched Virginia's Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin win his blue-leaning state last year by campaigning on the cultural divide in education. She's borrowing from his playbook.
DIXON: We think you should know what books are in your school library. And we think you should know what the class syllabus is for your child.
BASH: Whitmer seems to have learned too.
WHITMER: I have just created a parent advisory council. To me, I think it's really important not to be disconnected, but to really empower parents.
BASH: Michigan's governor became a national figure during the pandemic. Her decisions on closures and masks were not always popular.
We heard that back at the Michigan State Fair.
(on camera): What do you think of Governor Whitmer?
RON GORDON, MICHIGAN VOTER: I think she's done a bad job, especially with the COVID situation, shutting the state down.
BASH (voice-over): And yet:
(on camera): Do you like Tudor Dixon?
GORDON: Yes, I did, everything except the abortion issue. But they -- it seems like she's -- you have got to be more liberal with that abortion situation.
BASH (voice-over): Voters in a crucial battleground state up in the air, as summer comes to a close.
BASH: Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us.
Fareed Zakaria takes over right now.