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The Lead with Jake Tapper
White House: Biden Team "Did The Right Thing" When Documents Were Found; Special Counsel Appointed In Biden Documents Investigation; Growing Number Of Republicans Calls On Rep. Santos To Resign; Paul Ryan On Biden's, Trump's Document Investigations. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired January 12, 2023 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: But here's the thing, they were transparent. There was -- there was transparency in doing what you're supposed to do when these -- when these items were discovered.
REPORTER: Not with the American people.
JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I am here standing in front of you answering these questions, right? The president took two questions this week on this. You've heard -- let me just answer.
You've heard from the White House counsel who put out multiple statements on this and so, again, this is an ongoing process. We want to respect the process and we have laid out very clearly what occurred and, again, don't want to get ahead of this. The Department of Justice, you all can -- will get your questions answered from them during this time and so I would just refer you to the Department of Justice and now as you all know there is a special counsel.
REPORTER: Thank you, Karein. Another one on garage-gate. What is the White House trying to hide?
REPORTER: Someone gave the president a statement to read on Tuesday that was incomplete at best, misleading at worst. Who?
JEAN-PIERRE: So I have read out the president's statement. I have read it out yesterday and what he said. He said that he respects or he takes classified information and documents very seriously. That's what he said.
He said he did not know that the records were there. He does not know what's in them. He said that. You heard from him directly on this and his team has been cooperating fully, fully and not only that, again, I'll say this, the attorney general said this himself, that he heard from the team shortly after.
So we have laid out, laid out what has occurred here. You heard from the White House counsel. I just read the statement from his lawyer and, again, you know, we take this very seriously and the president does as well.
REPORTER: When will the White House release a log of visitors to the Wilmington house?
JEAN-PIERRE: You know, Peter, you've asked this question or your colleagues have asked this question before. Let's not forget what we did here in this White House. We instituted something that the last administration got rid of, which is putting out the White House -- putting -- making sure there was a White House log, extensive White House log --
REPORTER: The Wilmington house where there is potentially unsecured classified material.
JEAN-PIERRE: Again -- again -- again, I'm telling you, we did something that the last administration got rid of which is instituting the White House log. Did you ask the last administration why they got rid of the White House logs?
Oh, let's go. Well, Fox did.
Go ahead, go ahead.
REPORTER: Delaware and the president's --
JEAN-PIERRE: I was calling the gentleman who wanted to ask a question not related to this.
REPORTER: I know I'm a little behind the news cycle. I want to go back to yesterday's op-ed from the president on the tech relation. In Washington state, we got the chair of the both Senate and the House Commerce Committee, and Congresswoman McMorris-Rodgers said let's do it, let's put forward this bill that passed for committee almost unanimously last congress, the Data Privacy Protection Act.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. As the White House continues to field questions, we saw the subject change. We will come back if we need to. We've been watching this briefing from White House Press Secretary Jean-Pierre. She's faced with this barrage of questions giving few actual answers after this major development in the investigation into President Biden's handling of classified documents.
I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.
This afternoon, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced he has appointed Robert Hur as a special counsel in this case. Hur is a D.C. lawyer right now. He previously served as a U.S. attorney in Maryland until 2021. He had been appointed by President Trump, the previous administration.
The announcement from Garland came just a few hours after the White House announced classified records had also been found at President Biden's home in Wilmington, Delaware, including some in his garage. This discovery was in addition to the classified records that had been found at Biden's private office in Washington, D.C., as Phil Mattingly reports for us now, the White House says it is confident the documents were, quote, inadvertently misplaced.
MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm here today to announce the appointment of Robert Hur as a special counsel.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For President Biden, the dramatic escalation of a perilous moment.
GARLAND: It was on the public interest to appoint a special counsel.
MATTINGLY: Attorney General Merrick Garland, appointing U.S. Attorney Robert Hur special counsel to investigate the mishandling of classified documents, and revealing a lot more detail about an issue Biden and his lawyers kept quiet for weeks and had desperately tried to manage since the story broke four days ago.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People know I take classified documents and classified material seriously.
MATTINGLY: The special announcement coming after Biden second public statement about the second set of classified documents found at a second location.
BIDEN: As part of that process, my lawyers reviewed other places where documents from my time as vice president were stored, and they finished the review last night. They discovered a small number of documents with classified markings in storage areas and file cabinets in my home and my personal library.
MATTINGLY: But Garland's detailed timeline underscored that at the time of Biden's first statement on the issue earlier this week --
BIDEN: We are cooperating fully, cooperating fully with the review which I hope will be finished soon.
MATTINGLY: -- his lawyers have been aware of the second set of documents discovered at his Wilmington home for nearly a month. It is a timeline that started with the November 2nd discovery of ten classified documents in a former think tank office which led Garland to appoint U.S. attorney John Lausch to investigate the matter less than two weeks later. On December 20th, more documents discovered.
MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: President Biden's personal counsel informed Mr. Lausch that additional documents bearing classification markings were identified in the garage of the president's private residence in Wilmington, Delaware.
MATTINGLY: All key factors for what Lausch would recommend to Garland last week.
GARLAND: On January 5th, 2023, Mr. Lausch briefed me on the results of his initial investigation. He advised me that further investigation by special counsel was warranted. MATTINGLY: A recommendation that came four days before the initial
discovery of classified documents leaked, and before dates the White House statements that intentionally avoided key details or obfuscated key matters altogether, in part out of an effort to avoid this very moment, sources said, and to follow strict limits set by his lawyers.
BIDEN: I'm going to get a chance to speak on all this, God willing, soon.
MATTINGLY: As a due diligence search for any more documents was still ongoing.
GARLAND: This morning, President Biden's personal counsel called Mr. Lausch and stated that an additional document bearing classification markings was identified at the president's personal residence in Wilmington, Delaware.
MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Jake, while there was not a lot of information from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre's press briefing that has been going on for the last hour, she did confirm that the at least internal review by President Biden's legal team is complete. There are no more areas that they are going to surge, as for the presidents position on the special counsel, the White House counsel's office is putting out a statement saying that we are confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced, and the president and his lawyers not to properly upon discovery of this mistake. They pledged full cooperation, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Phil Mattingly at the White House for us, thanks so much.
Joining us now, Republican Congressman Mike Turner of Ohio, the brand- new chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence.
Mr. Chairman, thanks so much for being here.
Do you think Attorney General Garland made the right decision of appointing the special counsel, not just a special counsel, but one who had previously been a U.S. attorney under Donald Trump?
REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): We really have no choice because he had so un-evenly handled this. It really is outrageous when you look at what happened with, you know, former President Clinton, Hillary Clinton, thousands of emails, and classified documents on a server in their home, President Trump's house being raided, and then we now have President Biden when he was vice president apparently took classified documents are in his home that he has had for a period of almost six years, maybe longer, we don't know when they came into his possession, or when he took them home.
Having appointed a special prosecutor for the Trump issue, he had really no choice to do this. He already lost a tremendous amount of credibility as a result that it was such an over abuse of discretion in the manner which the Trump matter was handled. So we had to appoint a special prosecution.
TAPPER: There is a significant difference, of course, in the sense that, classified documents are classified documents, whoever has them they should be dealt with appropriately. But from what we can see, President Biden, his team telling the National Archives, telling the Justice Department about it. President Trump resisting any negotiations, and also in terms of quantity it is quite different.
TURNER: Well, first of all, we don't -- we don t know how many he started with. There is a number of questions that need to be answered here. But we actually, with former President Trump, you know, he says that he was cooperating, all the way to the extent where there was an inspection of where he was holding the documents and he agreed to put an initial lock on. There were ongoing negotiations, but he also said that this had been declassified. There really here isn't from the aspect of why does he have him --
TAPPER: He said they're declassified because he -- because a president can just think about them being classified and that makes them declassified? I mean that's --
TURNER: He did at that, as I said with you before. That's a fact- based issue. He's going to have to deal with --
TURNER: -- with whether or not those were actually declassified.
But the issue here is of -- especially in the like of the, in the light of just the irony of President Biden being so scathing that these documents were found at Mar-a-Lago and now he has them in his garage behind his Corvette next to the leaf blower.
I mean, when he says that he took -- takes classified documents very seriously, and when I hear that in my mind I am thinking, he is obviously pretty serious when he takes classified documents.
The question is, why did he even have them to begin with, why were they in his home?
TAPPER: So, you don't believe the White House said it was inadvertent, an accident, you don't believe that?
TURNER: Well, what's inadvertent, when he took them? When he put them in his home? Where were they before they -- what is the chain of custody? Where were they before they ended in the back of his Corvette?
TAPPER: What do you say to a critic who says that you sound much more animated about this than you do about the hundreds of boxes of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago? TURNER: Well, I was very animated then and I am animated now. But the
issue here is not just the classified documents themselves. The issue is also the abuse of discretion by the Department of Justice, which you and I talked about before a number of times, the concern of the raiding of Mar-a-Lago.
The second issue here is the irony of the indignation from the Biden administration. The fact that they are the ones who ordered the raid, his political rival, he ordered the raid on -- the attorney general ordered the raid on his home. This is how outrageous this is. Imagine if someone at this point said, whether they were classified documents found at Biden's home, let's go look in Jill's closet. As you, know they looked in Melania's closet.
The behavior of the Department of Justice and the FBI was so outrageous, which now, before we were declaring it outrageous, and abuse of discretion, now when you look at the comparison between the two it even sheds light on really how outrageous it was.
TAPPER: Again, I would say from what we know, and again this is about what politicians tell us, but from what we know, the Biden people told the National Archives, told the Justice Department, said we have these on gave them over. From what we know about the Trump case, the Justice Department was told about it and the Trump people resisted it and didn't turn over these documents to the point that the FBI felt that they had to go there and get the documents back. And the only reason we know about that is because Trump announced it.
TURNER: There are a couple things here that you are missing. One, there are number of documents our surrendered in those negotiations --
TAPPER: Not all of them, though, that is a point.
TURNER: Secondly, the documents that have not yet been surrendered, the Biden team, excuse, me the Trump team view, they were in ongoing negotiations where they even secured the facility further.
Now, on the Biden team, the only reason that you and I know about it, is because somebody leaked it. They didn't go and say, oh, this is inadvertent, we now discovered this. It was leaked and now they're telling us more, and there are additional ones.
And then just the callousness of this being in boxes in the back of the garage shows that the disparate treatment between the two, the irony between the Biden administration's treatment of Trump and the that this is now an issue for President Biden I think it's something that the people should take note of.
TAPPER: So, I do want to ask you, because you're a new chairman. We talked about this before, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner and Marco Rubio -- I am sure they disagree on a lot of things. But that committee, at least from where I sit, seems to operate in a functionally bipartisan way. They seem to cooperate a lot. They seem to try to work together a lot.
The House Intelligence Committee, and you are just the first chairman, so I am not holding responsible for this --
TURNER: I don't have the members yet.
TAPPER: Right. But you will be -- but the House Intelligence Committee has not operated like that since the days of Mike Rogers, a different Mike Rogers than the guy who got in a fight with Gaetz, Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan and Dutch Ruppersberger. Years, it's been years since the House Intelligence Committee operated in a bipartisan way.
Is it your goal to do or do you see the House Intelligence Committee at the same way that, I guess, Jim Jordan looks at the Judiciary Committee? It's an operation, it's a place for the party in charge to be in charge?
TURNER: Well, and I've told you before, and this is something I don't just think as a goal. I think we're going to achieve it, and that is the intelligence committee is going to be focusing back on issues of classified information and on national security.
Senator Warner and I have had a number of meetings, we're even going to go to the part of not just working on a bipartisan basis, but on bicameral. And I believe the members of the committee, both Republican and Democrat, are ready for this committee to regain its focus.
My hope, and in many of these things that are being discussed that have a number of overlapping to major restrictions, it is that some of these areas will not be areas where our committee is handling them. We're only going to be handling with respect to national security, with respect to classified information, and these other committees are going to be better suited.
First off, they're public. So when they have a hearing, everybody gets to see, and the other aspect is some of these overlapping areas of jurisdiction are two oversight of areas of the government that really are not in our committee's jurisdiction.
TAPPER: Yeah, you know who the top Democrat is going to be an intelligence?
TURNER: No. There's a couple of names out there and I'm certainly looking forward to work with my counterpart.
TAPPER: Okay. Mr. Chairman, Mike Turner, good to see you.
TURNER: Thank you.
TAPPER: Thanks so much for being here.
Coming up, former House Speaker Paul Ryan is going to weigh in on Biden's classified documents and Trump's, and concessions made by the current House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, to get that gavel.
Also ahead, Republican Congressman George Santos continuing to resist growing calls to resign. What he says it will take for him to step down. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
TAPPER: And we're back with our politics lead. The new special counsel investigating President Biden's handling of classified documents.
Let's discuss with our all-star team here, CNN's Evan Perez and Jaime Gangel, and Carrie Cordero, former national security attorney at the Justice Department.
Evan, first of all, before we get to what happened today, I want you to give me a little reality check on what you heard from the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Turner, who made it sound as though Trump was cooperating, Trump wasn't doing anything wrong when it came to all of the classified documents in his possession. He was bending over backwards to work with the Justice Department and what Biden did was very egregious.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is just not true. I mean, the former president has fought every step of the way. He filed a lawsuit in court, in Florida, which forced the Justice Department to show a lot more of its investigation, right? They showed a search warrant. They showed pictures, and so on. All of these things came about because the former president went public and was fighting along the way.
He is, to this very, day in court trying to fight aspects of this. For instance, the Justice Department is simply trying to get the Trump team to say that there are no more documents, right? And this is a fight that is actually still happening in court, in behind the scenes at the federal court hearing in Washington.
So, the idea that the former president has been cooperative is just far from the truth.
TAPPER: So, let's talk about the current president, this process, how is it going to play out?
PEREZ: Well, you, know the problem, as I think we all know with special counsels is that they are easy to appoint, perhaps, as we have seen. They are hard to get rid of. and that's one of the reasons why Attorney General Merrick Garland was hesitant to do the first one on Donald Trump, and felt like he was forced to because of the situation of Donald Trump running for president and against his boss, and that he was forced to do this one.
Once you receive the recommendation from John Lausch, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, of the facts of what he had found, the attorney general felt like he had to take this step. And it didn't, of course, help that the Biden White House had had trouble putting out a straightforward timeline of what was found, and when, right? But certainly the attorney general made a quick decision, Jake, about what to do. The problem is, as you know, I mean, John Durham is still around, right? The special counsel was appointed two years ago.
PEREZ: So that's the reason why it is difficult to put a timeline on these things.
TAPPER: Yeah, people might not remember Ken Starr but I think that the original charge was not to be looking into whatever President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky were doing. I think it was about lat Whitewater, the land deal, right?
But in any case, back to this, do you think President Biden is going to talk to the special counsel? Is he going to be interviewed?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's a question for the investigation in terms of whether they think that there is a reason to talk to him. My guess would be that what they are going to do is first they're going to talk to everybody else.
So, I would think that the investigators would leave a current president to the very final person that they would investigative if they think they need a reason to interview him, I mean, interview.
And so, first, they're going to talk to all of the aides. I think one of the complications in this particular investigation is the time lapse. I mean, this is now we're talking years that these documents have been in these locations, presumably, since that time he was vice president.
And so, in some ways, it is a harder investigation than the former President Trump investigation because there is much more time, they have to go back and find people who were involved in the handling of these documents, many years ago. But I think President Biden would be one of the last, if not the last person that they would come to if they need to.
TAPPER: And, Jamie, put this into context for us, how unusual is it that to residents are being investigated by two different special counsels, both of them about their handling of classified information?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: In a word, never.
GANGEL: It's never happened before.
Let me just -- big picture, when you talk to former presidents, vice presidents, people at the archives, it is true, unclassified papers, things happen. Folders go astray, mistakes are made. Honest mistakes are made.
But looking back, we've reached out, Bush 41, Bush 43, Clinton, Obama, Quayle, Cheney, we have never seen anything like this before. Can I just go back to the word cooperation here, you know, when you
were talking to Chairman Rogers? The reality is, that this is one area where these two things are completely different. We don't know yet what's in the second batch of documents were found --
GANGEL: -- how sensitive it is, what the national security implications were, but as soon as they discovered that there was a problem, they immediately cooperated and that they called, and immediately turn things over.
TAPPER: Yeah, we still don't know, Evan, if there are other classified documents out there in the president's possession, President Biden's possession, or anywhere else.
PEREZ: Right. The presentation from the White House is that they've completed a search of all of the possible places that they can think of that would be relevant. The question, Jake, is going to be, when the special counsel sets up his office, and he gets his FBI people who are going to be doing this thing is, you know, how do you make sure that that's true, right? And do you get a representation from the president and his team that we can swear that there are no more documents, do they asked to go take a look? And those are going to be sensitive questions that are going to have to be approached.
The only reason why Donald Trump's house was searched in the way it was because they clearly had refused to turn over documents and they knew that documents were being moved after being told not to.
CORDERO: Well, and that's why I think Jamie's point is so important as these investigations continue because the most important thing that the Justice Department is going to have to flush out is the intent. All the criminal statutes that deal with the handling, or the mishandling of classified information in some way point to whether the conduct was knowing, whether the conduct was willful, whether there was an intent to mishandle or remove classified documents in an unauthorized way.
And so, both investigations of both the former president and the current president's handling of these classified documents is going to hinge on whether or not people were intentional in their mishandling, or whether it was all a big accident.
GANGEL: They are not politically, there is going to be a constant comparison between Trump and Biden.
TAPPER: All right. Jamie, Carrie, Evan, thanks so much for being here.
Coming up next, a growing calls for Republican Congressman George Santos to resign, and why the magic number to watch here might just be 142. Why? We'll tell you.
TAPPER: Today, embattled Republican Congressman George Santos is remaining defiant, dismissing the growing calls to resign from his fellow Republicans and refusing to answer where more than $700,000 he donated to his own campaign originally came from.
But as CNN's Manu Raju reports, Santos says there is one way that he will be willing to consider leaving office.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Freshman Congressman George Santos defiant.
REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): I will be continuing to hold my office elected by the people.
RAJU: Facing GOP calls for resignation over his web of lies, but saying he is not going anywhere after winning 142,000 votes last fall.
SANTOS: If 142 people ask for me to resign, I will resign.
RAJU: Refusing to answer questions about why he fabricated major portions of his life story.
Mr. Santos, why did you lie to your voters about your qualifications, your past, being Jewish? Why did you lie to them? Don't the voters deserve an explanation about widespread lies about your past? How can you be trusted with sensitive security information, Mr. Santos?
Telling the fellow Republican he's been honest.
SANTOS: I've worked my entire life. I've lived an honest life. I've never been accused of any bad doing.
RAJU: Yet Santos has admitted to lying, including by saying he's Jewish and that his family survived the Holocaust, that he owned 13 properties, that he worked for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, even saying he graduated from the top of his class at Baruch College and was a star volleyball player, none of which is true.
REP. MIKE LAWLER (R-NY): He's lost the confidence of people in his own community. You know, I think he needs to seriously consider whether or not he can actually do his job effectively. Right now, it's pretty clear he can't.
RAJU: Are you saying he should resign?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no way I fully believe he can fulfill his responsibilities.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fact that he claimed that he was Jewish, that he had family who escaped the Holocaust, that's just not something that I can tolerate. RAJU: He has full support from Speaker Kevin McCarthy who will not
call on him to resign.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The voters of his district have elected him. He is seated. He is part of the Republican Conference.
RAJU: Some raising national security concerns given Santos is potentially facing fraud charges in Brazil.
MCCARTHY: He's got a long way to earn trust. There are concerns. He will go before ethics. If anything is found to be wrong, he will be held accountable exactly as anybody else in this body would be.
RAJU: If Santos resigned he would vacate a district President Trump won by 8 points, giving Democrats a chance to cut into McCarthy's razor-thin House majority.
Is this someone who you trust to have access to the nation's secrets?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think we'll still keep looking at this and get the facts.
RAJU (on camera): Now, there is one New York Republican who is not calling on Santos to resign. That is Elise Stefanik, who is a member of the House Republican leadership. She also raised money for Santos in this past election cycle. She was asked by her colleague Melanie Zanona whether or not she agrees with these calls for him to resign? She said, it will play itself out. She said there are Democrats who have faced investigations before but she would not say whether she agrees -- whether she still supports him or not or any of the conversations she's had. She said, I'm not going to get into any private conversations -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill for us, thanks so much.
Coming up next, what former Speaker Paul Ryan is going to say and calls for Congressman Santos to resign. Plus, Paul Ryan, does he think that Speaker McCarthy gave away too much power?
Stay with us.
TAPPER: It is House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's first full week on the job. In a news conference today, Speaker McCarthy pledged that Republicans will not let Democrats, quote, spent money wastefully. That after McCarthy promised to tie raising the debt ceiling to specific spending cuts, setting up what will likely become a fiscal showdown between the two parties and between the House and Senate later this year.
Let's get some reaction on this and all the busy news in Washington from somebody who knows a little bit about the job.
And joining us now is the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Paul Ryan.
Good to see you, sir. Thanks for being here.
PAUL RYAN, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Good to see you, Jake. Nice to be here.
TAPPER: I want to get to Kevin McCarthy in a moment. But, first, with all this news about classified documents, whether President Biden or President Trump, I want to ask you as somebody who when you were speaker of the House who had access --
RYAN: Yeah, yeah.
TAPPER: -- to classified documents, if you could give us some sort of insight into how easy or not -- or difficult it might be to actually accidentally or --
RYAN: No, I never took them home. I left them in my safe in the office.
TAPPER: Is that right?
RYAN: They went from my safe in the office down to the SCIF and then back to the safe in the office. So, I never -- I never took them on my body. They were in locked briefcases. I never took them out of the office.
TAPPER: But I guess it would be different if you were president maybe? I'm trying to figure it out.
RYAN: I guess -- it's the system you put in place in your office, I guess.
TAPPER: And you had a rigid system?
RYAN: I had a rigid system, which they went from the intelligence community to a safe in my office, that one clear staffer of mine had access to. We would take them from the safe down be to the SCIF which is underground in the Capitol. I would read them there, discuss them there, have my briefings there. We'd go back to the office and they'd go in that safe either in the SCIF safe or in the safe in my office and they would go nowhere else.
TAPPER: Sounds like a pretty good process.
RYAN: That's the way we did things. Yeah.
TAPPER: Okay. Let's talk about the house race because this hasn't happened. We saw something last week. It hasn't happened in 100 years and longer if you want to go to the number of ballots. A serious battle on the floor of the House to be speaker of the House, and some very serious personal criticisms of the man who ultimately won election, Kevin McCarthy, including about whether or not he's trustworthy and the like.
As a friend of his, as somebody who was speaker when he was House majority leader, what was going through your mind when you watched it all play out?
RYAN: I thought he was going to gut it out. I didn't think it'd take 15 votes. So, I suppose between 4 and 14 I wasn't so sure, but I still thought -- there was no alternative. So, because there was really no alternative -- the dynamic was different when I was there because I was seen as the alternative. And I was not looking for the job. I sort of got drafted into it.
But that -- there was no dynamic like that at play here and Kevin had done so much more. First of all, remember, I came midterm. So, Boehner, it was the motion to vacate was placed on Boehner. I came midterm. Kevin had worked his tail off to campaign and fund raise and build over the last two cycles. And he did that.
So, it's different than what happened in 2015 with me, which was Kevin was the leader of the conference as the minority leader for two cycles, built that majority. And then there really wasn't another alternative for people to go to, so I really thought he would get through it, even with this tough margin.
I just didn't think it would take 15 votes and all the concessions that it took, but it did.
TAPPER: There's this moment, we'll show it right now, where obviously where Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers --
RYAN: You don't have to show me the pictures. I've seen it.
TAPPER: There he is lunging at Congressman Matt Gaetz after Gaetz did not vote aye, thus stopping McCarthy from winning on the 14th ballot.
Does this bode ill for your party's ability to unite and govern?
RYAN: Look, no, I mean, Mike's -- these guys are, that's Richard Hudson behind, are very good friends of mine. (INAUDIBLE) is a good friend of Mike's. Mike just got hot under the collar. He just got -- you know, they were pretty exasperated by that time.
My understanding is that Matt Gaetz was going to vote for him on the 14th vote and then changed his mind in the vote without telling anybody. That makes people pretty upset.
So, look, hot heads happen. Things like that occur. By the way, that's what the floor is like whenever you have any contentious vote. I just -- C-Span doesn't usually cover that because of the cameras, but it's always on the floor when you have difficult votes.
TAPPER: Should we have -- Gaetz wants the cameras and I have to say I support it -- RYAN: No, I'm not -- I'm not a fan of the performance art that has
overtaken our politics and the entertainment wings of both of our parties.
RYAN: This would just feed into that. So, no, I'm actually not a fan of that. But that is what the floor is like when you have tough, contentious votes. I've seen that movie a million times over. You just haven't seen it on C-Span.
No, I don't want to see that happen. They will play on the floor like they do everywhere else they do in politics these days.
TAPPER: Well, the counter argument would be, you also see the --
RYAN: A little too much entertainment in politics these days. I'd like to see that toned down. I don't want to add more gas to that fire.
TAPPER: Such a buzz kill.
McCarthy made so many concessions to this wing, Chip Roy, Matt Gaetz, however you want to call it, these insurgencies, rebels, to -- and he made these concessions to get their votes and without question the concessions weakened the speakership and empowered individual members.
The motion to vacate, which you mentioned, which got rid of John Boehner is back to one vote, as it was before, but there are other things in terms of who's on the rules committee, opening up the process. Anybody can offer a bill. Anybody can offer an amendment.
RYAN: I like some of those, by the way. Some of those are pretty good.
TAPPER: The 72-hour one is a good one. The idea you need 72 hours to read a bill before you can vote on it.
RYAN: No, but the appropriations ones I like that.
So, frankly, I think -- I didn't want to cut you off at your question but let me say this, I think I had too much power as speaker.
TAPPER: Oh, really?
RYAN: I really do. Yeah, absolutely. The thing that bothered me most were the omnibuses.
You know, a bill that thick that four people ultimately decide on.
TAPPER: Fifteen spending bills crunched together.
RYAN: Twelve crunched together and it's thousands of pages. It would be myself, Nancy, Chuck, and Mitch. I'm sorry, the House speaker --
TAPPER: We know who you're talking about. RYAN: You know what I'm talking about.
TAPPER: They were your friends.
RYAN: Basically -- well -- some of them are.
RYAN: Ish. We all got along.
RYAN: We all respected one another.
The problem is, no four people should be doing all of that, making those decisions. And, you know, frankly, I was making decisions on composition of spending bills. I think I'm a smart, principled person but the guy and the man and the woman who's in the committee, in the subcommittee spending two years reading inspector general reports, GAO reports, they should be making those decisions, not kicked up to elected leadership.
TAPPER: Are there any new rules or rule changes that concerned in terms of the free for all, in terms of whether or not what we saw last week is going to be kind of like the new normal?
RYAN: I think the vacate has become weaponized now. It's become normalized as an activity. I never worried about this myself, frankly, but that was because of my own dynamic, I suppose, but I think members now see this as sort of a tool they can take for a ride. I think that's bad for the institution.
The last thing John Boehner -- literally the last words John Boehner said to me as he walked out of the room of his smoke filled office that I took over was, don't forget your number one job is to preserve the institution, defend the institution.
If you are a committee chair, which is what I was, I was chair of ways at the time, I never really thought about that. Most members don't think about the institution.
RYAN: You're thinking about your policy agenda or whatever it is you want to do to get done in Congress. That's not normally what you're thinking of. So I became a big institutionalist but it took me a while once I became speaker because I realized just how important for our freedom, and our liberty, and our democracy this is.
TAPPER: We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, I'm going to ask Speaker Ryan about his party's trouble with persuasion. I'm going to ask him if he thinks Congressman George Santos should resign after being caught in lie after lie after lie.
Stick with us. We'll be right back.
TAPPER: We are back with more of my exclusive interview with former speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.
Let's talk about your book "American Renewal: A Conservative Plan to Strengthen the Social Contract and Save the Country's Finances".
We are currently, economists say if we are in a recession or not, they are definitely headed into something called a slow session.
TAPPER: This morning, new numbers showed the surge in prices fading slightly, inflation is still a threat. What if you were advising Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans right now, what would you tell them to do about the U.S. economy?
RYAN: Yeah, they know what I think. I'm still friends with these guys. I think, look, what I say in this book is, first of all, the best case for America is a long-lost generation, a stagflation that is going to last more than a Japanese lost decade if we don't get our act together. That's the best case scenario.
We are likely to have more of a debt crisis, which CBO talks about and projects which is really ugly. That means the social contract is unaffordable. That means if you think we are polarized today, wait until we have a debt crisis.
So, what we are putting all the solutions we think are necessary to make sure we can make good on our social contract which I would argue center-left and center-right we agree on.
We want health and retirement security. We want a safety net. We believe in Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, so let's make these things solvent. Let's make them work better. Let's make them guaranteed for the current retirees and make them solve for the next generation so that they only retire, that takes persuasion politics.
TAPPER: So, I know that when you were speaker and Donald Trump was president, you guys would talk about this. And he did not understand why you would ever want to do it because it's bad politics.
RYAN: That's right, that's right. He just didn't think it was ever popular. And --
TAPPER: He has, I'm not blaming this all on him, but he has certainly empowered the kind of populism you're talking about. Smash mouth, clicks, cable hits on Fox, et cetera, where you're a board member, by the way, he has popularized that, he has empowered that. We saw it last week.
So how can this be achieved even within the Republican Party -- RYAN: Yeah.
TAPPER: -- before you even get to the Democrats?
Couple of things, he's fading fast. He is a proven loser. He cost us the House in '18. He cost us the White House in '20. He cost us the Senate again and again.
And I think we all know that, and I think we're moving past Trump. I really think that's case. I do -- I can imagine getting him the nomination frankly and I don't mean this because I don't want him, to but I don't think he will, as an analytical point.
The thing I take solace in with all the machinations you saw last week, most of that wasn't personal. Most of that was around fiscal responsibility. Most of that was about a concern about spending inflation and debt. That's great.
I think you need to persuade the country as to the solutions and the problem and I don't think brinksmanship solves those things. But what's behind that is a good thing which is Republicans finally reacquiring their moorings on the party of fiscal responsibility and limited government. That to me is the good thing I see in all of this weird stuff. That's the good thing.
So, the question --
TAPPER: Yeah, it's a very positive interpretation.
RYAN: Yeah, well, I'm a Republican. I am not a member of an organized party. I am a Republican.
TAPPER: Republican, in fairness, little Will Rogers for you.
RYAN: So, the point I'm trying to make, those juices are flowing and I think we are hopefully and I think we are hopefully coming back full-circle to maybe being a populist party. That's great and fun. I want to be popular, but principled and with policies that solve problems.
TAPPER: With governance, yeah.
RYAN: Fiscal conservatism was a theme that you saw behind all of those tactics. That's a good thing.
TAPPER: When Congressman Chip Roy was on the State of the Union on Sunday, he said we know this debt crisis is coming with the ceiling.
RYAN: I like hearing that.
TAPPER: Let's get working on it now as opposed to July.
RYAN: Right. I don't think you will fix it with a debt crisis --
TAPPER: No. RYAN: -- but I think you need to persuade the country and offer solutions and having gavels and chairmanships, I had two of them. That's what you do.
You build the case in Ways and Means and Financial Services and budget committee, you show the public what's going on and why solutions are better and why, frankly, if you whistle past the graveyard and ignore these problems, you're hurting Americans. You're hurting the social --
TAPPER: Well, your kids and my kids.
RYAN: Not just our kids, but seniors.
TAPPER: Sure. Well, I meant like when you and I are seniors. That's what I was referring to.
The last quick question; Congressman George Santos, he's lied about apparently everything on his resume. At least six House Republicans that he should resign including five New York Republicans. Do you agree?
RYAN: Yes. Sure, I agree. My guess is, though, probably -- let the ethics committee run its course. It's a fraudulent candidacy. This is an embellished candidacy to fraudulent candidacy. He hoaxed his voters.
So, of course, he should step down. He doesn't strike me as an honorable person, though, I don't know the guy. So, my guess is it will go to the ethics course. I can't imagine the guy is going to stay very long.
TAPPER: All right. Former House Speaker Paul Ryan, good to see you, sir. Thanks for being here.
RYAN: You bet. Good to see you, Jake.
Coming up, another big interview. Texas Governor Greg Abbott is going to join me as he pushes President Biden to try to get a hold on the number -- the record number of migrants crossing into his state and the humanitarian crisis it's causing in American cities.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
This hour, the suspect in the murders of the four University of Idaho students returns to court. We'll tell you what happened and why we won't see him back in court for another six months.
Plus, thousands of migrants still crossing into United States every day, with no clear solution to the crisis on the table, and there's plenty of finger pointing from both sides.