Democrats celebrate legislative win in passing of climate, health and tax bill

Congressional Democrats are celebrating a landmark legislative victory after passing the Inflation Reduction Act, which President Biden is set to sign into law this week. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is investigating Donald Trump for potentially violating the Espionage Act after classified documents were found in his home. Special correspondent Jeff Greenfield joins Geoff Bennett to discuss.

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  • Geoff Bennett:

    Good evening. It's great to be with you. And we begin tonight with our weekend briefing. We now know the Department of Justice is investigating former President Trump for potentially violating the Espionage Act, among other laws after recovering highly classified government documents from his Mar-a-Lago estate.

    Meantime, President Biden and congressional Democrats are celebrating another landmark legislative victory after passing a massive climate health care and tax bill that President Biden is set to sign into law this coming week. Here to talk about that and more a special correspondent Jeff Greenfield, Jeff, it's great to have you back with us.

    And let's start with the case at Mar-a-Lago because today you have Trump allies, they're now pushing this claim that the that the documents retrieved from Mar-a-Lago were not classified that Donald Trump verbally declassified them, except that one, that's not how the process works, the declassification process works.

    And two, it doesn't matter, the FBI search warrant listed three statutes that make the violations a crime, regardless of whether or not the materials are classified. So what's your assessment of what we know? And what we don't know about this case?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    What we don't know because we're not seeing the affidavit in support of the search is what specifically, are they concerned about? They talk about documents related to nuclear weapons, that can mean all sorts of things from the relatively innocent to the really serious, potential breach of security at the highest level.

    When they talk about referencing a criminal statute that talks about taking documents to obstruct justice, are they talking about an attempt to cover up something? We don't know. What we do know, to be blunt, is that the various explanations that Trump and his allies have given keep changing.

    First, well, maybe the FBI was going to plant evidence that seemed a little unlikely, then as you pointed out, no problem he can declassify anything with a wave of his hand? Well, no, he can't. And as you pointed out, the statutes in question, don't talk about classified documents.

    The last point I would make is, he was — he Trump said at one point, we've given them everything they want it. Well, the New York Times reported not exactly. One of Trump's lawyers had signed a statement saying you now have everything that we can find it's classified. And the reason for the search warrant at Trump's property was the authorities were convinced with good reason it turns out that not everything had been turned over. So we're still kind of on a dark lean plane about the specifics about what we know raises some eyebrows and some pretty serious questions.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    At meantime, Donald Trump's standing, his political standing had been slipping among younger and college educated Republicans. One of the key questions now is will the Republican Party continue to circle the wagons and stick by him even as the picture potentially gets worse, not just with this case involving Mar-a-Lago, but you have civil action in New York and in the criminal probe in Georgia?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    I think the answer to your question for now lies in the primaries. People were saying, well, Trump's standing in the party has started to slip. With the exception of a few races in Georgia, almost every target Trump aimed his anger at has gone down to defeat often against people with very thin credentials other than that Trump supported.

    So when this story broke the first reaction of virtually every Republican, not just a MAGA zealots, but the officeholders was, as you put it, to circle the wagons and say, everything from this is an outrage to defund the FBI, which I have to admit, caused a certain amount of trouble since the Republicans are planning to make crime and their support for law enforcement a key to the midterms.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Speaking of the midterms, this was a big week for President Biden, another legislative win health care climate, deficit reduction that was included in the inflation Reduction Act. You see the totality of his legislative successes over the past year and a half. Gas prices are coming down. His approval rating is ticking up.

    White House officials telling me that they're going to hit the road over the coming weeks. And they're going to try to paint Republicans as stewards of special interests who are pursuing what they call an extreme MAGA agenda. Will that be an effective approach do you think?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    The first thing to be said is that the Trump story was not what the White House would have wanted. A day after the lower inflation act was passed, the day after this pretty impressive record after a long string of defeats or not getting things done, was about to be celebrated by the White House. Trump, as he says so often done, sucked all the oxygen out of the room.

    You know, Democrats have been arguing for a long time that Republicans are the party of special interest in that whether that political argument works really depends on facts on the ground. I think of all the things that the Democrats have done. Passing a bill that will get the government to regulate drug prices, even though that's a couple of years away, is to me the most effective argument saying this is the most serious economic issue we could deal with and every Republican voted against us. That's what I think might be effective.

    The other thing needs to be said is gas prices are not in control of Biden. He didn't deserve the blame when he went up. He doesn't deserve the credit when they were — when now that they're going down and they may be going up again by November.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Wyoming as a primary on Tuesday, Congresswoman Liz Cheney is likely on her way to a major defeat, given her role in trying to hold Donald Trump to account for inciting the Capitol insurrection. There are lots of Americans, Republicans and Democrats who really I think long for the days of the Republican Party that Liz Cheney represents. What's her next act as you see it?

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    The idea that Liz Cheney represents the kind of moderate republican that's just doesn't fit the history. What she is, is a very conservative Republican who was repelled by what Trump did when he lost the election. I think she will be a star on the cable television. Whether I think she has a future in the Republican Party. My answer to that is not very likely.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Special correspondent Jeff Greenfield. Thanks as always for your insights. Great to have you with us.

  • Jeff Greenfield:

    Nice to be here.

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