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Biden Rallies G20 Leaders Against Russia's War in Ukraine; Did Putin Delay Retreat in Ukraine to Avoid Helping Biden?; Republicans Inch Closer to House Control. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired November 15, 2022 - 13:00   ET




SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): It already passed the House earlier this year with significant 47 Republican votes. And I'm optimistic we can achieve a similar result in this chamber.


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Appreciate your time today on INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you tomorrow.

Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage on a very busy day right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello. Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

The balance of power and the power struggle. Right now, House Republicans are on the cusp of taking control and are about to meet behind closed doors. The mission? Decide who will lead their conference and potentially succeed Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House. Current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wants the job, but we're learning at least one pro-Trump lawmaker will challenge him for the top spot.

But Republicans haven't quite secured the majority just yet. The number of seats needed for a House majority is 218. And here we are, one week after the election, neither party is there. Republicans are inching closer with 215. So far, we will talk about some of those remaining races in just a minute.

But, first, let's get to CNN's Manu Raju on the Hill.

And, Manu, how do Republicans expect things to shake out with this leadership vote today?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is going to be a crucial first test for Kevin McCarthy, who is expected to get the nomination from his conference in just a matter of moments to become the next speaker of the House.

Now, in order to do that, he just needs to get the support of a majority of House Republicans. But the big question is, how many Republicans will support him? Because in order to become speaker of the House in January, presuming Republicans are in the majority, he will need 218 votes of the full House.

And with all Democrats almost certain to vote against him, that means he will need to keep most of the House Republicans on his side. And we do expect, if there is a Republican majority, it will be a narrow one, meaning a handful of defections could be enough to keep them underneath that 218-vote threshold, which is why this vote that's going to happen behind closed doors by secret ballot, is so significant, because we will know how much work Kevin McCarthy has in order to secure that 218-vote threshold.

Now, he does have a challenger, Andy Biggs. He is a conservative member of that hard-line House Freedom Caucus. Biggs does not have the votes in order to become nominated the speaker, but his goal is to try to pull McCarthy below that 218-vote threshold in order to extract concessions, in which rank-and-file members as part of that Freedom Caucus want to exert more leverage, power over the speakership, weaken the speakership, something that McCarthy has resisted.

They want to try to get him to the negotiating table, have him cut some deals, before they would ultimately support him. So this first test will happen in just a matter of moments. We will see how McCarthy does and then it's several weeks ahead that he tries to lock down the votes here, Ana.

CABRERA: OK, Manu Raju, I also want to ask you about the Senate side because some high-profile Republicans are now apparently bristling at the idea of Mitch McConnell once again being their leader.

What are you hearing?

RAJU: Yes, right now, behind closed doors on the Senate side of the Capitol, we expect a venting session after the Republicans had a very disappointing night last Tuesday, failed to reach the Senate majority, and are some taking out their blame directly at the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, people like Senator Josh Hawley, who told me earlier today that he does not think that, if McConnell gets reelected as leader, he could bring them back to the majority.



SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): They didn't want to have an agenda. And you look at what were the priorities in the last two years for leadership, caving to Chuck Schumer on gun control, caving to Chuck Schumer on the climate agenda, so-called infrastructure, caving to Chuck Schumer on the debt ceiling.

It's not very inspiring, and then offering nothing affirmative to independent voters.

RAJU: You don't think he could get you back to the majority?



RAJU: Tough words from a member of McConnell's conference, but he is decidedly in the minority of Senate Republicans. We really only expect a handful of Republicans to defy McConnell, who will ultimately get the votes tomorrow and, then be reelected as leader, in which he'd become the longest-serving party leader in Senate history -- Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Manu, thank you.

I want to bring in John Berman now to explain what's left to determine House control.

You just are like the Energizer Bunny here. You keep going and going. Where do things stand?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: So there's not much left, and Republicans are tantalizingly close to getting the numbers they need.

We have called 215 races for the Republicans. They need 218 for control. That's pretty close. That's three seats away, and they're only 16 uncalled races at this point. In those 16 uncalled races, Republicans lead in six. Remember, they only need three. Democrats lead in 10. They would need 14. They're very far away right now.

They need three seats to take control. Where are those three seats? Well, they could all come in California, a very blue state, but there are some red districts there.


You can see right here, for instance, this is California's 41st Congressional District. Ken Calvert, who has been in Congress for decades at this point, he leads by some 5,000 votes. This is actually a Republican-leaning district. It's in R-plus one district. He might be favored at this point with 82 percent in.

There are other Republican districts right now, or at least districts where there are Republicans running as incumbents, where they're doing well. Michelle Steel, she's up by 13,000 votes, 78 percent in now. This is a Democratic-leaning district, but turnout can often favor Republicans there.

Then you go inland. You have California's Third Congressional District, Ken (sic) Kiley, 9,000 votes in, only 52 percent reporting. But, again, this is a Republican-leaning district. So I just mentioned three congressional districts. Those three alone could get the Republicans to 218.

And then there's Colorado, and I'm putting this in there just for you, Ana, Colorado, your home state right here. This is Colorado's Third Congressional District. Lauren Boebert, very controversial, a very conservative election denier, she is 1,100 votes ahead, 99 percent reporting right now. They're waiting for overseas and absentee ballots, but Republicans feel good about this race. So that would be four, more than enough for them to take the majority

at this point, Ana.

CABRERA: OK, so many close ones, and this could be a very, very close Republican vs. Democrat numbers when it's all said and done in the House.

Let's switch gears for a moment and look at the governor's race in Arizona, where another election denier was denied. Democrat Katie Hobbs narrowly edged out Trump-backed Republican Kari Lake. And there you see it, Hobbs up by less than 1 percentage point with 98 percent of the vote counted.

So it's close, but this is a flip now for Democrats and a major blow to the Trump wing of the GOP. Lake was one of the most outspoken proponents of the former president's lies about the 2020 election and his baseless conspiracies about Arizona's elections process.

And she ran a very Trump-style campaign. In defeat even, she's taking a page right out of the Trump playbook as well. Before the race was called, Lake was on FOX saying this election was -- quote -- "botched." And, as of now, she's yet to concede, but she has tweeted, posting: "Arizonans know B.S. when they see it." I quote her there.

John, set the record straight on this Hobbs win.

BERMAN: Well, it seems to be B.S. that Kari Lake is even complaining about this at this point.

You can see she's trailing by some 18,000 votes, Kari Lake is. I will write that down, 18,000 votes. That margin is actually -- actually more than Donald Trump lost by. So she's doing worse than Donald Trump did in Arizona. And there were more votes cast in that election. Not only that, come back to this year.

I want to show you Nevada, right? Again, I'm keeping that up there, 18,000 votes -- pardon me, Utah, for writing on you. But, in Nevada, for instance, in both the Senate race, only 8,000 votes separate the candidates in the Nevada Senate race, in the governor's race, 14,000 votes.

So, again, both of those are less than the 18,000 that Kari Lake is complaining about. And both candidates in Nevada, both the losing governor candidate and the losing Senate candidate, they have called and conceded. They have already conceded, and there's one person in each party.

So you can see what Kari Lake is doing compared to what other candidates have actually done across the country in this election year is just sour grapes.

CABRERA: OK. Thanks, John. Appreciate it.

Let's discuss all these political threads now with Republican strategist Doug Heye and former Obama administration official CNN political commentator Van Jones. Van, did Democrats overachieve in these midterms because of their platform or because they happened to be going up against people like Kari Lake, this Trumpian version of the GOP?


And, obviously, even Mitch McConnell said they had candidate quality problems. In other words, some of their people really sucked and were not going to be good in a general election.

But I think also some of the things that they thought, Republicans thought were going to be super weapons, talking about crime all the time, talking about the woke agenda, it just turned out to be it wasn't -- it did not help them in the way that they thought. I think people think that crime is a problem. I don't think people like cancel culture. I think people think the economy is bad.

But they didn't trust Republicans to fix any of it. They didn't understand what Republicans were going to do to fix any of it. And so I just think it turns out that people are a little bit more sophisticated than we thought. There is a constituency out there for democracy, for the rule of law, and for women's rights, and that trumped a whole bunch of other stuff.

But even the non-Trump Republicans did not do as well, because I think they thought they could just demagogue crime and the economy with no answers. And it didn't work. It didn't work.

CABRERA: But when you look at those who were maybe the Trumpiest candidates, those handpicked by Trump, there was a clear rejection of those MAGA election deniers in some of the most competitive races, right?


Trump is set to announce now his presidential run. And so I wonder, Doug, in what world do you look at these midterm results and think there's a path for Trump in 2024?

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, there's still a path for Trump because we saw him so often play the role of kingmaker.

Now, a lot of these candidates in the primaries didn't...

CABRERA: It didn't work. He wasn't able to be the kingmaker here. They all lost.

HEYE: That's part of the larger conversation Republicans have to have.

And so much of the conversation about Trump right now is that he's in a weakened position. I would applaud Donald Trump being in a weakened position. But the reality is, tonight, he's going to try and claim the attention that we know that he loves. And when so many stories are talking about him being weakened, 24 hours from now, we will see -- or from the speech, we will see his campaign put out information that he's raised a lot of money.

And they're going to start to try and drive a narrative that actually he's not weakened. And this is the battle and the internal conversation, external conversation too, that Republicans need to have, because Mitch McConnell was right. We had a candidate quality issue. And the Trumpiest of the Trump the candidates, whether it's Doug Mastriano, or Kari Lake, or Dr. Oz, they lost, and they deserved to lose.

CABRERA: Doug, is there a fear within the GOP that if Trump doesn't become the GOP nominee, he might just burn everything down?

HEYE: Look, every book and movie and TV show that we have seen on making a deal with the devil always gives the same moral of the story. When you make a deal with the devil, there's always a price to pay.

And with Donald Trump, there's always a price to pay. He's not somebody who scores points. He doesn't give you points. He only takes them away one at a time. And so, as a lot of independent voters are looking at the Republican Party these days and saying, this MyPillowization of the GOP isn't what we want is a check and balance on the Biden administration, it's a real problem for Republicans, because it's really difficult to see Donald Trump on a stage congratulating somebody else who's the Republican nominee.

That's just not how he rolls.

CABRERA: Van, there's still this run-off election next month for that outstanding Georgia Senate seat.

If Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock holds on to his seat, how would a 51-seat majority in the Senate change the way Democrats govern?

JONES: Well, it would be -- it would be a big diminishment for some of the more conservative voices in the Senate caucus.

For instance, Manchin would no longer be prime minister, since he's been able to basically hold the whole party back from certain things. But the reality is that, as long as the House is in Republican hands, you're still going to have divided government. So I think it's important, though, for Democrats to have that extra vote.

By the way, if one Democratic senator in a red state retires or gets sick or, unfortunately, might even die, the entire Senate could flip. If it's a 50/50 Senate, you're usually one bad accident from the thing flipping back the other direction. So I think the Democrats need the cushion. I think it would limit Joe Manchin's power a little bit, Kyrsten Sinema's power a little bit.

But you still would have divided government. And so it's hard to know exactly how it would impact Biden's ability to govern.

CABRERA: Warnock's competitor, of course, is Herschel Walker there in Georgia, Doug. And he made this comment related to climate policy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HERSCHEL WALKER (R), GEORGIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: If was ready for the green agenda, I would raise my hand right now, but we're not ready right now.

So don't let them fool you like this is a new agenda. This is not the new agenda. We're not prepared. We're not ready right now. What we need to do is keep having those gas-guzzling cars, because we got good emissions on those cars.


CABRERA: We need gas guzzling cars.

So now that the Senate majority is no longer on the line here, Brian Kemp is no longer on the ballot, Doug, are Republicans going to turn out and vote for Walker again?

HEYE: Well, I would say, for Herschel Walker, the best thing to do is focus less on policy and more on specifically what his presence in the Senate would mean.

And it does make a difference still, because, if Walker wins, then Republicans will have parity on committees. If Warnock wins, it means that Democrats will have one more committee slot than Republicans do on committees. That's really important, especially if you're talking about nominees, especially judicial nominees.

This is where Walker should be focused on, because when he starts talking about policy, he seems to be out of his depth pretty quickly.

CABRERA: Van, Republicans haven't taken the House majority yet, of course, as we discussed with John, but, if they win, and you talk about them having this razor-thin majority, I wonder if it makes it more or less likely for bipartisan legislation to pass?

JONES: Yes, it really just depends.

First of all, it seems like Herschel Walker has been inhaling some of those emissions he's talking about. I don't know what he's talking about. There's no good emissions from a gas-guzzling car, certainly not in black communities that suffer from asthma and everything else.


That said, when you think about a very, very narrow majority for the Republicans, that can be good or bad. It could force the speaker to find Democratic votes and more moderate Republican votes to get things done, like, for instance, to avoid a debt ceiling crisis. At the same time, if the Freedom Caucus is able to enforce this idea that there could be a snap election, and basically put a gun to the head of the speaker, which is what they want -- they want to be able to have a snap recall of the speaker if the speaker does anything like that -- then it could put the new speaker in a very precarious situation.

That's why Kevin McCarthy is holding out. He doesn't want to give this weapon to the Freedom Caucus. He wants to be able to govern. He is an institutionalist. He wants to be able to govern. So he could be able to work with moderate Republicans, moderate Democrats get some stuff done, but he could be held hostage to the Freedom Caucus.

We will just have to see, if they even get the majority.

CABRERA: All right, Van Jones and Doug Heye, good to see you both. Thank you so much.

HEYE: Thank you.

CABRERA: And don't forget to tune in tomorrow, when former Vice President Mike Pence joins Jake Tapper for a live CNN town hall at 9:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

Did Russia hold off announcing a major loss on the battlefield just to avoid giving President Biden a -- quote -- "win" before the midterms? We have new exclusive CNN reporting.

And after the crackdown, airlines are paying up. If you had a flight canceled or delayed since the start of the pandemic, you may be getting a refund.

Plus, critics called it a political stunt. Now new text messages reveal the high-level coordination between the Florida governor's office and a woman named Perla who was recruiting migrants for flights out of Florida. We will have more on how all this played out.



CABRERA: We're back with a CNN exclusive.

U.S. intelligence sources say Russia may have delayed announcing its retreat from the key Ukrainian city of Kherson until after the midterms. Why? To avoid giving the Biden administration and Democrats a perceived political win heading into the elections.

CNN reporter Katie Bo Lillis joins us live from Washington.

What more are you learning here, Katie Bo?

KATIE BO LILLIS, CNN REPORTER: Ana, what this intelligence shows is that Russian officials discussed the U.S. midterms as a factor in their deliberations over the timing of the announcement of the Russian withdrawal from the Ukrainian city of Kherson last week, which was a big military defeat for the Russians.

It suggests that Russia may have deliberately delayed that announcement to avoid giving Biden any kind of a political win with American voters who were heading to the polls for the U.S. midterms. Now, it's important to understand that this is just a single piece of intelligence reporting.

It's not clear that this was the decisive factor for Russia in determining the timing of this announcement. And, certainly, it would have been far from the only factor. Military analysts had been clear that Russia had few other operational options at this point in time, except for withdrawal, and certainly had been planning this pullback for four weeks.

But, that said, President Biden did hint publicly in remarks last week that the United States believed that the timing of the announcement, which took place the day after the U.S. midterms on Wednesday of last week, was more than mere coincidence.

Take a listen to what he had to say to reporters on Wednesday last week.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I found it interesting they waited until after the election to make that judgment, which we knew for some time that they were going to be doing. And it's evidence of the fact that they have some real problems, Russian -- the Russian military. Number one.


LILLIS: Ana, what's interesting here is, our sources say that this suggests not only that Russia has a continued interest in influencing American politics, in particular when it comes to Ukraine, but it also raises some questions about how well Russia actually understands American politics.

Multiple sources that we spoke to said it's not clear that Americans would even have noticed a particular Russian loss on a particular day in Ukraine, much less have changed their vote because of it.

CABRERA: Good point.

Katie Bo Lillis, thank you for your reporting.

President Biden remains overseas right now at the G20 summit rallying world leaders against Russia's war in Ukraine. The White House says most G20 members are expected to sign onto a statement condemning the war and the human suffering it has caused.

CNN White House correspondent M.J. Lee is traveling with the president in Bali, Indonesia.

And, M.J., the president has had a very busy schedule, but he skipped the gala dinner? What can you tell us about this?


And White House officials assure us that this was more of a scheduling thing. They made clear that it wasn't COVID. The reason that they clarified that at all was because he was in contact with the Cambodian prime minister, who did recently test positive for COVID. He will be participating in the other scheduled events tomorrow before he heads back home. But it is clear that there's no other issue that loomed larger over

this G20 summit that the president has participated in today than the war in Ukraine. And heading into this summit, U.S. officials made clear that they believe most of the participating G20 member countries do condemn the war.

So, there was this sort of recognition that there is this handful of countries, including countries like China, India, Saudi Arabia, and even, to some extent, the host country, Indonesia, that haven't always sort of fully and openly condemned this war. So that was certainly a bit of a complicating dynamic.

But it's clear that, for President Biden, the overarching goal was to sort of elevate and make louder and clearer the voices across the globe who have joined the U.S. in condemning this ongoing war.


Now, the only other thing I would also point out is the lack of Vladimir Putin at this summit. There was a lot of speculation heading into this summit on whether he would come. Could he participate virtually? But he wasn't there. He sent his foreign minister instead.

So, ultimately, President Biden and other foreign leaders ended up discussing Vladimir Putin and the very war that he started and is continuing to engage in, just without him actually physically in the room -- Ana.

CABRERA: M.J. Lee, thank you.

Former President Trump defying the January 6 Committee's subpoena. So what happens now?

That's next.