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Inside Politics

J.D. Vance Reverses Course On Trump As He Seeks Senate In Ohio; Two Men Charged With Conspiracy In Plot To Attack Democratic HQ; NY AG's Office To Question Gov. Cuomo In Sexual Harassment Probe. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 16, 2021 - 12:30   ET



CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Because he lost support of, you know, independence and moderate voters in the suburbs, and it's not clear if this strategy is going to work, you know, in trying to get any of those voters back, if you're trying to retake the House.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's recurring theme in American politics.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Yes, right.

MARTIN: They're tied to Trump because their primary voters like Trump, and like his politics, and don't care about January 6th. But they're undermined by Trump because the broader electorate does not like his style of politics. And so they're constantly having to walk on this, this balancing beam. And it creates all manner of challenges. And the House I think is especially tough because it's so driven now by primaries.

KING: Right.

MARTIN: And it's so shaped by gerrymandered seats that are safe, where the only election that matters is the primary. And Trump they think dominates the primaries. So here's the question, if some of these folks who voted for impeachment could still win their primaries next year, is that the moment the fever breaks?

KING: Right.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But even those voices are not pushing back at all in McCarthy's interactions with Trump. I talked to David Valadao yesterday who was one of the 10 that voted to impeach. And I asked, was it appropriate for your leader to be sitting with Donald Trump on that day? And he said that he believes that McCarthy is doing whatever he can for the Republican caucus.

KING: Right.

NOBLES: So you're not even seeing -- KING: Yes. That's the key point. I don't mean to jump in. But that is the key point right there, whatever he can for the Republican caucus. It's not about the country. It's not about the good of the party 20 years from now. It's not about the Constitution. It's about what gets Kevin McCarthy, the speaker gamble and the rest of us chairmanships.


KING: And in the majority. That's what this is about plain and simple. And I think to your point and your point, it matters where you are in the country, where's the district, they think this helps on the house map.


KING: In several other states, you can go to a state like Texas, and everything you need to know George P. Bush.


KING: Think of what, Donald Trump has said about the Bush family.


KING: About Jeb Bush in the primaries, about George Bush, the former of W. Bush, the former president. This is George P. Bush, he's pinned this tweet, which means it's at the top of his account, right? The left's out of control policies are eroding the fabric of our nation. It was great to see President Trump today and discuss how we must come together as a party to restore America First Priorities. Inside the Bush family that just has to be, that's like a hand grenade.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, that's what has happened with Republicans and Donald Trump. I mean, yes, the Bush families is another example. Think of all the animosity between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz during the primary, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio and how everyone once Donald Trump got into power just lined up at his feet too, because of the power that he holds in the Republican Party.

KING: Another example you make --

LUCEY: And of course P. Bush wants a future in Republican politics. And right now --

MARTIN: He's running the primary next year.

KING: Right. He's running.

MARTIN: -- the AG of Texas. That's what's in front of him.

KING: That's what's in front. And again, J.D. Vance, famous author, raised some huge moral questions about Donald Trump told Republicans we can't follow this guy because his moral character now says never mind, I take it all back, including this is what he said to "Time" last week. Trump is the leader of this movement, Vance tells me, Molly Ball wrote this piece, and if I actually care about these people and the things I say I care about, I just need to suck it up and support him.

MARTIN: Put that in the museum.

NOBLES: But Jonathan is so right about these upcoming elections involving that small group of Republicans that have actually been willing to buck the former president. You know, politicians only work off the last election. And so far, for the most part, Donald Trump is undefeated when it comes to Republican primaries. But if someone like Liz Cheney can win, if someone like Adam Kinzinger, they both decide to win. That could change the scope and the way that they treat Donald Trump at least on a small scale. At this point, there's no reason to believe that those type of politicians have a future of any kind.

MARTIN: Well, and just real fast. Yes, please go ahead.

KIM: No. And related to that and considering J.D. Vance is running for the Senate, one development that I saw this week that I found was kind of interesting was that in a couple of the Senate primary races where Donald Trump has made his preferences clear whether he's picked a candidate or made sure this is not the candidate that he wants. His sort of unfavored candidate has had significantly outraised the challengers.

So Senator Lisa Murkowski in Alaska obviously a Trump antagonist is one of them. And Katie Britt in Alabama, she's former chief of staff for Senator Richard Shelby. She significantly outraised Mo Brooks. And I think how that fundraising pans out for people who are not the favored Trump candidates will be really interesting to watch.

MARTIN: Yes. It's a great point. And just real fast, how the 10 folks in the House who voted to impeach Trump have acted since then, is a really fascinating story. Only a handful have first stuck to their guns like Kinzinger and Cheney, a lot of them have kind of receded.

NOBLES: Well, that was a good example.

MARTIN: Yes. Because the advice has been hanging back, you can win your primary but just stop talking about it.

KING: Not if you're talking -- not if you're keep talking about this.


All right, up next for us details of some very tense meetings as top Biden administration officials push Facebook to do more to stop the spread of COVID disinformation.


KING: A troubling new case of alleged domestic extremism today. Federal prosecutors now charging two California men with conspiracy, accusing them of plotting to blow up the Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento, the indictment says they plan to attack after the 2020 election and they hope to start a movement by hitting targets associated with Democrats. CNN's Whitney Wild is here with the details. It is a disturbing indictment. WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. This is the exact type of case that federal officials have been warning about when they have said over and over we remain in this heightened threat environment. Here are the details of the plan that investigators fortunately unraveled before it could affect any harm.

Federal officials say that these two men wanted to start a movement to overthrow the government. They were incensed by the fact that former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election that the planning began shortly after that election. What they wanted to do was target at places they associated with Democrats. The amount of planning that went into this, the amount of weapons that went into this alleged plot are enormous.


For example, upon investigating, investigators found at least one man 49 firearms, thousands of rounds of ammunition, five pipe bombs. This was a real threat. Unfortunately, it was dismantled, prior to any harm being affected. Here are the discussions that are just so chilling between these two men, one of them saying, I want to blow up a Democratic building bad. Another responding, plan attack. So that gives you a sense of just how much planning went into this.

Both men have since been arrested. They will appear in court in coming days. We reached out to one attorney, no answer, not clear if the other one has an attorney. But again, I think the final thing is that federal officials put in the indictment, that the political climate we're in is the same political climate we were in, in November. Nothing about what motivated them then has abated, that's the scariest thing moving forward, John.

KING: Yes. It is a scary thing. We'll track this case. And then sadly, there are others as we move forward. Whitney Wild, appreciate the new reporting there.

Some new reporting also today on what top White House officials see as a life and death threat. Life and Death face off now with Facebook. Source tells CNN that meetings between the social media giant and Biden administration officials in recent week have been tense, more than tense and that Facebook has been uncooperative at least in the White House view with the Biden effort to put health misinformation on mute.

Thursday, the White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki bringing this into the public view.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Facebook needs to move more quickly to remove harmful violative posts. Posts that will be within their policies for removal, often remain up for days. That's too long, the information spreads too quickly.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Let's bring in CNN's Donie O'Sullivan, who's tracking this story for us. Donie, the White House says Facebook essentially is putting people's lives at risk.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. And you know, this is a sticky one for the White House, right? Because there's a First Amendment after all, the government shouldn't be involved in policing speech as such. But there are two things the White House really wants. One is what Psaki mentioned there, just for Facebook to implement their own rules. They have these policies against COVID misinformation. But every day you go on their platforms, and you see vaccine misinformation, all this sort of stuff that should not be there.

The second thing the White House really wants is more information about what Americans, who are the Americans, and where are they that aren't seeing most of this vaccine misinformation. So the White House can then go and work to try and work harder to get those people to take the vaccine and to convince them for it.

Now, we have, of course been told that there have been behind the scenes meetings between White House officials and Facebook that have been growing increasingly tense. We've been told that essentially White House officials believe that Facebook either doesn't really care or aren't taking this serious enough, or that they're trying to hide something that they're not handing over to data to show really how big is this problem on their platform.

Facebook, of course, for their part deny -- essentially denies that they are saying that they are doing as much work as they possibly can. But, John, as you know, this is not just a Facebook problem. It's not just a social media problem. But in the White House's view from the officials we've spoken to. They do not view Facebook is doing enough work on this.

KING: Right. If you look at the COVID numbers, this should be an all hands on deck moment, even with privacy, First Amendment concerns and the like, Facebook should be, should be doing its part within any reason anyway. Donie appreciate the very important reporting. I know you'll stay on top of it as we go forward.


Up next for us, the climate crisis, wildfires, flooding, yet again, remind us of the urgency but do the politicians get it?


KING: Evidence of the climate crisis is sadly very, very easy to find severe droughts in some parts of the country, sprawling wildfires in the West, crippling floods in East and Midwest. One big difference is a White House right now that promises action at home and on the global stage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to up the ante. What will happen is we talked about when Paris accord was set, we thought we had established just how serious it was. But things have gotten much more dire since even that day.


KING: With us to share her expertise and her insights as a climate expert, Leah Stokes. She's an associate professor at the University of California Santa Barbara. Leah thanks for joining us today. I want to get into some of the specifics, including the details of the Biden of the Democratic plan. But I want to start with a big picture question in the sense that if you look at the news right now, it's depressing when you see the wildfires and you see the flooding. It can be quite depressing.

And yet some of the headlines this last week suggest that maybe at least climate is getting more attention that there might be a climate moment it's in the reconciliation package the Democrats are pushing. John Kerry the climate envoy went to Moscow and Vladimir Putin told them, yes, this is something on which we can cooperate. The European Union, China unveiling sweeping new plan to cut greenhouse-gas emissions. Help me with this, is this a glass half full or glass half empty moment?

LEAH STOKES, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UC SANTA BARBARA: Well, it's really tragic to be seeing the climate impacts all across the United States and really all across the world. We believe that more than 800 people have died in the West Coast heat waves that hit a couple weeks ago at the end of June. We've seen videos of torrential downpours in Detroit, New York, parts of Texas. I think a lot of people are really shocked.


And, you know, about 60 million Americans are currently in drought conditions. And that's going to fuel a real tinderbox of fires all across the west this summer. So it's a pretty dark time. And I think what it reminds us is that we have to act. Congress really needs to take action this summer on a bold climate package.

KING: And so let me jump in on that very point. This President says, hey, I'm not Donald Trump, I understand the science. I believe in the science, we're going to act. Democrats are putting some climate provisions into their reconciliation plan. We'll see what the exact details are, as they hash this out over the next couple of weeks. But you wrote in "The Atlantic," that the infrastructure plan the President is pushing, won't cut it, it's not enough.

We cannot address a small sliver of our carbon pollution and call it a victory. We have to tackle the problem at scale. I'm afraid that Congress will again fail to pass climate legislation that invests at the necessary level. What is that level? What are we talking about?

STOKES: Well, it's important for everybody to understand that we're currently talking about two packages that are moving forward in Congress. First, there's the bipartisan infrastructure framework, which has made a fair amount of progress this week. There have been markups in committee. And it includes some important investments in things like public transit, transmission to interconnect renewables from different parts of the country. There's some good things in that package.

But it is fundamentally not a climate bill. The vast majority of that spending is for important things like roads and bridges, but not for things that will cut pollution. Now, there's also been an agreement as of Wednesday to spend $3.5 trillion in a big Democratic package that would go through budget reconciliation. That's where the real climate provisions live.

Now, keep in mind, that whole package is not just for climate change it's also for families, things like health care, childcare, many other important investments. But on the climate front, we now know that there will be a clean electricity standard, a civilian climate corps, a host of other really important policies in that package that will start to tackle pollution and get on top of the climate crisis.

KING: One of the challenge is, even if you say that doesn't go far enough, but that they do some one of the challenges of coming back to do more, as you argue more as necessary, is keeping public opinion with you. These are Gallup numbers, I found kind of stunning, I guess maybe I shouldn't. I've been in this town long enough. But 38 percent of Americans say they believe seriousness of the climate change is exaggerated, is exaggerated.

Only 22 percent of Americans think the way we describe this, the way you describe this is about right. How important is it that the President that we have a different president now who actually says, yes, we have an existential crisis facing it. How important is it not just that he passed bills, but that he changed minds?

STOKES: Well, I think that's just one poll. We've seen a lot of other polls from Pew, CBS, of course, the Yale group that suggests that actually, public concern for climate change has been rising very dramatically since about 2018. And it's hard not to turn on the television day after day and see the flooding, the heat waves, the drought, the fires, the hurricanes, and think, wow, this isn't normal. This is the climate crisis. So I think a lot of Americans are awake.

But you're right, President by needs to help people make that connection. He needs to talk about, look at all these disasters, look at the people who are dying in the heat wave, more than 800, very tragic. And making that connection for people is really important because people need to understand that climate change is happening now. And quite frankly, this is the best summer we're going to have. If we don't stop polluting, it's going to get worse.

KING: Leah Stokes, grateful for your time and insights today. We'll continue the conversation. Thank you.

STOKES: Thanks so much.

KING: Thank you.


Ahead for us, a key moment in the sexual harassment investigation involving the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today, Andrew Cuomo in the witness chair. CNN has learned the New York Governor schedules to be questioned tomorrow by investigators for the State's Attorney General. It is a critical moment in the investigation of several sexual harassment allegations against the Governor. CNN's Brynn Gingras joins us now for the details of this. Brynn, this is a big deal.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is John. And listen, this report is, remember launched by the Attorney General's Office five months ago. So we've been waiting this long to see what comes out of it. And this appears to be part of the culmination, right? We know the investigators from the Attorney General's Office have talked to some of the woman sometimes multiple times who have accused the Governor of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior which of course he's denied and apologized for.

And we also know from other reporting that they've talked to people that are close to Cuomo, some of his senior staff. So you would imagine that the next step, the maybe final step would be to talk to the Governor himself, maybe once maybe twice we don't know that just yet. But we know it will begin tomorrow in Albany with details about these allegations.

And we know that the Cuomo Senior Advisor released a statement when this all went out yesterday. He said we have said repeatedly that the governor doesn't want to comment on this review until he has cooperated, but the continued leaks are more evidence of the transparent political motivation of the Attorney General's review, that him of course, taking a jab at the Attorney General Letitia James. There's wide speculation that she wants to run for Governor herself next year. So we'll see what comes out of this hopefully in the next couple of weeks, John.

KING: Fascinating moment as you know, that does suggest perhaps, perhaps we're getting close, close to the end of this investigation. Brynn Gingras appreciate the reporting very much right here.


This quick programming note, the conflict in Jerusalem centuries in the making new CNN original series takes you back 3,000 years through six epic battles for the most coveted city in the world. Jerusalem: City of Faith and Fury Sunday night only here on -- 10 o'clock here on CNN.

Have a great weekend. We'll see you back here on Monday. Ana Cabrera picks our coverage right now.