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Now: Hearing In Georgia Subversion Case; McCarthy Allies React To Speaker's Dare To Oust Him; Birmingham Remembers Church Bombing That Killed Four Black Girls. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired September 14, 2023 - 11:30   ET



ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And point his finger, as close as I am to you, at the DAs.


HONIG: I mean, as much as I've seen, I've been there for plenty of courtroom histrionics, that's a lot for a -- for a pretrial hearing like this especially. And I watched what the judge did, it was sort of like the way a parent -- a good parent manages an unruly toddler. Just take the temperature down. OK, we're going to move on. We're going to focus on what's important here, you know, not further inflaming the situation.

And that's part of the trick for any judge is maintaining control of your courtroom, and he's kept the parties focused on the substance. He has not made the sort of inter-party tension any worse. He's trying to bring the temperature down. Keep them focused. I think that's a good sign for how this trial is going to play out.

SIDNER: John's going to bring the temperature back up because what did you really take away from this?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Again, I'm still fascinated by the fact, I think it is still the headline that there will be a trial. There is a trial scheduled for very soon. Five weeks from now, October 23, beginning November -- jury selection by November 5.

We should mention that the other major news today was that Donald Trump and every other co-defendant besides Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, their cases have been severed. That is not happening beginning October 23. Those are very much separate. So, it's only these two defendants who are on this extraordinarily fast track.

And, Caroline, if I can just ask before we go to break here, why would they -- why are they continuing to go on this faster, the defendants here?


BERMAN: Why would they want this so soon?


BERMAN: They don't show any sign of wavering.

POLISI: Yes. Well, a little-known fact, they can actually withdraw their speedy trial invocation. So, what we'll see what happens there. But I think they wanted to call Fani Willis's bluff hoping that she wasn't ready to try these 19 defendants. She is on record saying that she is going to --

SIDNER: Right. Going to all 19.

POLISI: This case is going to be the same for all 19 defendants. And that's obviously the nature of a RICO conspiracy. She needs to you know show evidence -- put on evidence relating to all 19 defendants in order to get a conviction just for these two.

I can't really describe how insane it is that they're going to trial this soon. Those defense attorneys have a lot of work ahead of them. I mean, just going through discovery, typically in a case like this could take you know, over a year. So, it's just mindboggling to me that they really wouldn't be ready in that short of a time.

SIDNER: She's had two and a half years or so, and she did present it to a grand jury or a special grand jury.


SIDNER: So, we'll have to see what happens. Counselor Polisi and you, Mr. Honig, thank you guys so much for being here with us on this really interesting day. And we're going to have another hearing we heard Wednesday.

BERMAN: Possibly, Wednesday.

SIDNER: Possibly. That's what this is --

BERMAN: If he needs it, he's free.

SIDNER: Yes. He's free on Wednesday.

BERMAN: (INAUDIBLE) If Judge McAfee has free on his calendar. Obviously, a lot going on. The hearing has concluded. We'll get some fallout from inside that room shortly. Much more news straight ahead.



SIDNER: F-bombs flying on Capitol Hill this morning. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy daring his caucus to try to oust him saying move the effing motion. This happened during a meeting that was supposed to focus on the Biden impeachment inquiry but quickly got heated.

CNN Congressional Correspondent Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill with the very latest for us. We've heard that from McCarthy. We know that happened. So, how have lawmakers reacted particularly those who have threatened to oust him like perhaps Matt Gaetz?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It didn't take long for Matt Gaetz to respond saying in a statement, how about you move the effing spending bills. And of course that is at the crux of this showdown between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and a handful of conservatives who want to see steeper cuts as part of the spending negotiations. And threatened yesterday to take a procedural vote -- a rule vote on the House floor on a single defense appropriations bill.

That has really made this week in the House of Representatives largely a wash on the floor, given the fact that the whole point of lawmakers coming back was to try and pass individual spending bills. They were unable to do that yesterday, given the fact that you had a handful of conservatives who wanted a lower spending number and therefore were willing to take that procedural step.

So, where do they go from here? House Speaker Kevin McCarthy again being defiant as he left that conference meeting this morning, saying that he isn't afraid, he doesn't feel threatened by these members and instead is willing to fight if that's what it takes. Meanwhile, allies of the House speaker had this to say about McCarthy's message this morning.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): He told the entire conference. He said if you want to throw in a motion to vacate, that's fine. I didn't -- I didn't survive 15 rounds for nothing. And I'll survive another 50 rounds.

REP. DUSTY JOHNSON (R-SD): Nothing has come easy to this guy in the last nine months. He has an incredible optimism. He's got resilience like all of us. He does occasionally get frustrated by how many members including myself can be knuckleheads in any given day. But listen. I mean, he understands that he's the right guy at this moment. And he's not going to be dissuaded by the fact that the job's hard.


FOX: McCarthy also told members this morning in that closed-door meeting that they need to pass something to show that they have some kind of negotiating hand when they go to the table with the Senate which is passing spending bills on a bipartisan and unified basis. He also said that when lawmakers return after this weekend that they should expect to be here until the government is funded. That they're going to keep working. They are not going home until a shutdown can be averted, Sara.


SIDNER: All right. Well, we have what? 17 days left to see if that is exactly what happens. Lauren Fox, thank you so much. Appreciate your reporting today. John?

BERMAN: All right with us now, Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna from California. And I should mention that Representative Khanna is on the Biden campaign advisory board. Congressman, you weren't invited to this Republican caucus meeting. What do you make of the chaos -- the F-bombs that were thrown about behind closed doors? And if there is a motion to vacate -- to oust Kevin McCarthy, do you think Democrats should lift a finger to try to save it?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Well, my problem is not the language. My problem is that we're not getting things done for the American people. We haven't had votes this week.

The speaker isn't living up to the deal that he cut with President Biden. We need to fund the government and we need to do it before September 30. In terms of what we will do, I will be taking direction from leader Jeffries and I will just say that the House Democratic Caucus will be unified, and we are having those conversations. But this is for their side to solve.

BERMAN: They -- Speaker McCarthy has called for an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. How do you feel that the president and the White House should respond to this?

KHANNA: I thought Senator Fetterman had the best response, which is that this is silly season. This is politics. I mean Speaker McCarthy doesn't have the votes of his own caucus to pass the inquiry.

When we impeached President Trump, Speaker Pelosi started the inquiry. But two weeks later, we had a vote on the House and the vote passed. And I guess my question for the speaker is why does he not even have the votes of his own side? It's because people know this is pure politics.

BERMAN: Speaker Pelosi. You do -- you did know correctly. It wasn't right away. The inquiry started and then there was a vote on the inquiry. But ultimately, a vote did happen on the first impeachment, although not the second impeachment. Do you feel that the president is fighting back as hard as you would like to see him do so on the issue of impeachment?

KHANNA: Yes, because it's just politics. I mean, there's no there there. And you have a case where you have one former president who has been twice impeached, and four times indicted, and the Trump campaign is talking to Republicans in the House and they want to try to have some black mark on President Biden. They've been trying this since President Biden ran in 2020 to create a false sense of equivalence. But the American people aren't going to buy it. And even the Republicans in the House don't bite it, let alone the Republican senators.

BERMAN: We are counting down -- the country is counting down. I think it's 13 hours now until the United Auto Workers could go on a strike. It may be a limited strike at first, at some of the auto plants for the Big Three around the country right now.

You just wrote an op-ed along I believe with the leader of the UAE -- UAW. What do you want to see here? Do you -- what concessions do you think the United Auto Workers if any should be willing to make here? KHANNA: John, here are the facts. The CEOs of these Big Three companies like Mary Barra are making $30 million a year. Their profits have gone up 40 percent. They're making three and as -- 365 times more than the median UAW worker, and they're getting billions of taxpayer dollar subsidies.

And all UAW is asking for, that we put out in the op-ed, is for these workers to be paid a reasonable family-supporting wage for them to be able to unionize. The Big Three need to do the right thing with all the subsidies that they're getting from the federal government and pay the workers fairly.

BERMAN: What are the issues, and it's not a direct issue in these negotiations because people who make batteries for electric cars, most of them in this country are not unionized right now, but it's a connected issue. One of the issues has to do with how much they are paid. They're paid less, by and large than members of the United Auto Workers Union.

One of the arguments being made by the Big Three automakers is look, if we pay these workers as much as we're paying the union members, Tesla's going to you know clean our clock Tesla's not paying these Union -- you know, them that much, so how can we afford to do so? What do you say there?

KHANNA: First of all, the big three have made $21 billion of profits over the last six months. They're getting extraordinary subsidies. And then you have experts who have said that Tesla's market share is going to drop from 70 percent to the teens because the big three EV pickup trucks and others are selling well and have huge scale advantages. So, that is just a red herring.

When the CEOs cut their pay from 30 million and don't have pay that is 400 times almost the average worker when they stopped doing five billion dollars in stock buybacks, they enrich their dividends instead of paying workers, then we can talk. But it's not like they have made any cuts when it comes to shareholders or their executive pay. And they're paying some of these workers 16 bucks an hour, it's outrageous, while being federally subsidized by your tax dollars.


BERMAN: Yes. I have to let you run. But is President Biden doing enough for the United Auto Workers in your mind?

KHANNA: I think he has. I think he has made the right decision by appointing Gene Sperling. Gene Sperling's sympathies are with the working class and he's going to do what it takes to get the UAW workers the right deal.

BERMAN: Representative Ro Khanna, thanks so much for being with us. A lot going on today.

KHANNA: Thank you, John.

BERMAN: Sara? SIDNER: And we have more news for you. The -- President Biden plans to deliver a speech focused on threats to democracy following the second Republican primary debate on September 27. This has just come into the newsroom. That is according to sources. We'll have much more on that ahead.

Also, this week marks the 60th anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham that killed four young black girls. I'll speak to the mayor about its lasting impact on civil rights in America. That's ahead.



SIDNER: Tomorrow, the nation marks a very dark moment in our history and a turning point really in the civil rights movement. 60 years ago, a bomb exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama killing four black girls who were in a lounge changing into their choir robes. The KKK, Ku Klux Klan was behind that deadly bombing. And it took decades for those families to see any sort of justice.

With me now. Birmingham, Alabama Mayor Randall Woodfin. Thank you, sir, for coming on to discuss this with us. I do want to start by asking you the impact this had on you in that city. You are now the mayor, you're a young mayor. But what impact would this have on you knowing that this happened to black folks in Birmingham back 60 years ago? I think tomorrow is the actual anniversary.

RANDALL WOODFIN, MAYOR OF BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA: Thank you, Sara. And you're right. Tomorrow is the actual moment we commemorate. 60 years ago a bomb tore through 16th Street Baptist Church. A form of domestic terrorism in our nation, killing four little girls and injuring so many more.

The impact it had on me what I can tell you is that I am reminded that in this office as mayor, I am responsible for social justice and racial equity at a local level. And this conversation is not isolated at the national and state level, that locally, there's still work to do 60 years later as well.

SIDNER: I want to ask you what it is the city has planned. I know that you have something planned to remember. And we're seeing the pictures of these four girls who lost their lives because of hatred just because of their skin color at a church, a place of pet prayer, and it's supposed to be a place of peace.

We're also looking at some pictures of the church now as it stands because the church had to be completely rebuilt. But there is something standing right in that spot in a remembrance. What are you all doing in the city to remember this day?

WOODFIN: The city of Birmingham along with his partners were proud to commemorate throughout the entire week, the 10th to the 16th, actually. And so tomorrow, we're proud to have Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson here in Birmingham to be the keynote as it relates to commemorating what happened here 60 years ago. And there also be a reef lane. And the bells will be told as we remember and pause and reflect on the loss of life of those four little girls as well as those who are hurt as well.

SIDNER: Can you give me some sense, Mayor, of how you feel like race relations are in the country today? This was 60 years ago. And some of the same themes, though not that kind of violence to four little girls at a church has happened, but the same things are still out there. What is your take on what's happening with race relations in our country now?

WOODFIN: Sara, I'm honest, and I think your question requires some -- I guess, very authentic answer, and that is racial relations still have a ways to go. I believe a lot of things came to a head. I'm doing Barack Obama's term in office for eight years but unfortunately, I think things accelerated during the four years after his term, where too many people in this -- in this country felt comfortable being racist, felt comfortable committing forms of domestic terrorism and hurting people in the name of hate in the form of racism. And so, I think we have a long way to go.

Even though it has been 60 years, there are things today that are still rocking our nation that we need to come to grips with. Anytime, people walk into dollar stores or grocery stores and kill multiple people who happen to be black, in the name of racism and hate. That tells me that as a country, we not just through laws, but through our own moral compass have a very long way to go.

SIDNER: I'm curious why you think it is that we're in the state that we're in. And you just mentioned two of those horrific shootings that were racially -- they were based on racism, and took out people just doing their every day -- going about their lives? Why are we here?


WOODFIN: I think part of the reason, Sara, is because we have allowed people who have -- who are elected officials have a platform that spews hate. I think they empower people who have on these social media screens, and the -- in these dark spaces on the dark web in the basements to come out because they feel empowered where people who are in my positions at the local level, people who are in position at the state level, and definitely people at the federal level, particularly in the -- in the legislative branch of government, they spew hate every day, Sara.

And I think that when people feel that they see their elected officials spewing hate, that gives them some form of cover, and they are exposed. And so, I think we as elected officials at all levels, have to do a better job of calling it out. Calling it what it is, racism, hate and it's wrong.

SIDNER: You are talking about leadership. Mayor Randall Woodfin, thank you so much. I know that you will be there throughout all of the ceremonies there for the 16th Street bombings that happened 60 years ago tomorrow. John? BERMAN: It's a reminder that anniversaries like this can't just be about the past.

SIDNER: That's right. That's right.

BERMAN: All right. Thank you all so much for joining us. This has been CNN NEWS CENTRAL. "INSIDE POLITICS" is up next.